Monroe County Sheriff’s Office
Daily Crime and Information Report

Issued by the Media Relations Office,
Public Information Officer Deputy Becky Herrin


Click on the highlighted headlines to hear an audio recording of the story

November 30, 2005

Marathon man arrested for burglarizing restaurant/bar

A Marathon business owner was instrumental in catching the person who burglarized his restaurant and bar.

The owner said he arrived at work Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. to find the business had been burglarized. 15 bottles of of alcohol were missing, along with a cooler full of beer, seven stereo speakers, cash and other small items. He decided to look around the outside of the business to see if he could see any signs of the burglar or his missing property. He found the cooler, some bottles of alcohol and his speakers in a wooded area nearby. He, his brother and an employee decided to hide near the items and see if the suspect returned for them.

A couple of hours later, 20 year old Zachary Jefferson did return for the items. He was apprehended and admitted to the owner that he and another man had broken in and stolen the property. At that point, the Sheriff's Office was notified of the crime. Deputies responded and placed Jefferson under arrest. He was charged with burglary and theft and he was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

Marathon High School reports burglary

Sheriff's deputies and detectives are investigating a burglary at Marathon High School.

When teachers reported to work Monday morning at 7:30 in Portable #24, they found the door had been forced open and a number of items taken. The stolen items included a laptop computer, cash, jewelry, and some pens.

A crime scene investigator was assigned and took a number of items into evidence, including a juice bottle, a female condom wrapper found at the scene. Detectives will be investigating.

Anyone with information about this case can call Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. Callers may remain anonymous and if a tip leads to an arrest, the caller would be eligible for a cash reward. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS.

November 22, 2005

Marijuana in the mail leads to arrest

A Big Pine Key woman is under arrest for receiving marijuana in the mail.

47 year old Jeanette Ballato told investigators from the Sheriff's Office Special Investigations Division and the U.S. Postal Service that she sent her sister, who lives in Glendale Arizona, $850 in return for the 161 grams of marijuana. Postal inspectors were tipped off to the illegal package after an employee of the post office noticed a strong odor of marijuana coming from it. The employee reported it to the Postal Inspector's office in Miramar, Florida. Investigators from that office called the Sheriff's Office to assist.

Investigators from both agencies did a controlled delivery to Ballato at her workplace in Marathon. She admitted to the whole illegal exchange. Ballato later agreed to allow the investigators to search her Big Pine Key home. They found more evidence of drug use there, including drug paraphernalia and small amounts of marijuana. They also found a money gram receipt for $850 which Ballato used to pay her sister.

Ballato was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia and she was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

Three arrested for burglarizing sailboats

Three upper Keys men have been arrested, charged with burglarizing ten sail boats.At the time they were burglarized, the boats were secured in a sheltered mangrove area off shore in Dusenberry Creek, North Rock Harbor in preparation for the approach of Hurricane Wilma.

The Sheriff's Office was first called on October 21st by a Tavernier woman who said she'd found what she suspected were stolen boating items at her home. She said she suspected a young man she rented a room to, 19 year old Jordan Cassady, might be involved in stealing the items. While on the scene investigating those allegations, Sgt. David Carey spoke with someone who told him he'd seen three young men unloading boating equipment at the home and placing it in a storage room there. He was able to identify two of the three people he saw as Sam Carson and as someone named "Jordan".

Sgt. Carey interviewed 18 year old Samuel Carson about the equipment and Carson admitted that he and two others, Cassady and 18 year old Zach Noble, had broken into two vessels and had stolen items from them. In a later interview, Cassady also admitted to the crimes. The case was assigned to Detective Larry O'Neill and he later discovered that a total of ten vessels had been burglarized, all owned by members of the Upper Keys Sailing Club. Further questioning of the three suspects revealed they'd ridden in Carson's 17 foot boat out to where the boats were tied and had entered them, stealing large numbers of items including boat hooks, cushions, anchors and flags as well as fishing equipment and electronics.

Cassady and Carson have been arrested and Noble is expected to turn himself in today (Tuesday). All three face ten counts of burglary and grand theft charges. Carson's boat has been seized for possible forfeiture.

November 14, 2005

Drug sting on Stock Island

A drug sting operation on Stock Island Thursday night resulted in six arrests.

The Sheriff's Special Investigations Division, working with the Key West Police Department and Florida Department of Law Enforcement, placed an undercover operative on the street to sell cocaine. When people purchased cocaine from the operative, they were arrested.

Fire destroys business in Marathon

An early morning fire destroyed a Marathon business early today.

Firefighters, deputies and paramedics responded to Dana's Air Conditioning and Appliance Store on Aviation Boulevard just after 3 a.m. after a neighbor called to report seeing smoke coming from the building. Firefighters began efforts to put out the fire, but efforts were made more difficult due to problems obtaining water at the scene and by potentially dangerous chemicals contained in burning appliances. At one point, flames were reported to be in excess of 30 feet high and vehicles had to be moved farther away from the building. A Monroe County Public Works facility is located next door and a gas tank at that facility was less than 100 feet from the location of the fire.

The building was completely destroyed. The Fire Marshall's Office is investigating the cause of the blaze.

Student arrested for discharging pepper spray in classroom

Several classrooms were evacuated at Coral Shores High School after a student discharged a canister of pepper spray this morning.

At 8:30 a.m., a teacher and students in classroom 4204 were disturbed by a strong odor. They called for assistance from school administration. They were evacuated from the classroom along with students in adjacent classrooms. Deputy Beverly Brazil began investigating the cause of the odor. She received information from students that 15 year old Jeremy Toyota discharged a canister of pepper spray in class. When she confronted the boy he admitted to it and showed her where he'd discarded the canister of spray. He told her he'd sprayed it at the floor to "see what it would do."

A search of Toyota's backpack turned up a smoking pipe, rolling papers, cigarettes, cigars and a bottle of Bacardi rum. He was arrested and charged with possession of a weapon on school grounds, disruption of school functions, possession of alcohol and tobacco on school grounds by a minor, and possession of drug paraphernalia. More charges may be pending.

November 10, 2005

Key Largo man charged with sexual battery

A Key Largo man is in jail charged with sexually battering a 16 year old girl.

The girl told investigators from the Sheriff's Crimes Against Women and Children's Unit that 37 year old Steven Ocean gave her alcohol and drugs and had sexual relations with her on several occasions in August of this year. Detectives say their investigation supported the girl's story and Ocean was placed under arrest Wednesday charged with two counts of sexual battery on a 16 year old, battery and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Marathon man charged with burglarizing a boat

A Marathon man is in jail charged with burglarizing a boat moored in Boot Key Harbor in Marathon.

The victim called the Sheriff's Office to report that someone had stolen prescription drugs and a gun from his boat sometime the night of October 31st. According to deputies investigating the incident, a friend of the victim saw 32 year old Fredrick Herzog leaving the victim's boat the evening of October 31st carrying several bags.

On November 9th, Herzog was arrested at his home on 65th Street. At the time of his arrest, he turned over to deputies the stolen prescription drugs and the stolen handgun. He was charged with burglary and he was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

Woman arrested on warrant is also charged with drugs

A Florida City woman pulled over on a traffic stop was arrested on an outstanding warrant. She was further charged with possessing drugs when crack cocaine was found hidden in her hair.

Deputy Ryan Cowart pulled 25 year old Shandrica Redding over at 3 a.m. Wednesday for violating the Florida Move Over Act. When he ran a check on her name, he discovered an outstanding warrant for violation of probation so she was placed under arrest. During the course of the arrest, she was searched, and she was told to reveal any contraband she might have hidden on her person prior to arrival at the jail. Once at the jail a more thorough search turned up a small plastic bag with 40 crack cocaine rocks wrapped tightly in Redding's hair.

Redding was further charged with possession of cocaine and introduction of contraband into a corrections facility.

November 9, 2005

Trailer fire on Grassy Key

A fire which destroyed a trailer on Grassy Key may be the result of damage from Hurricane Wilma.

At 8 a.m. Tuesday, deputies and firefighters responded to Jolly Roger Trailer Park on Grassy Key to reports of a trailer on fire. When they arrived, they found the trailer on lot 4 on fire. The fire was extinguished but the trailer appears to have been completely destroyed. The owner said he'd been staying in another trailer in the park because he was having electrical problems with his trailer. It is possible that those electrical problems caused the fire. The State Fire Marshall's Office responded and will be investigating.

Virginia man dies while diving

A Virginia man diving on a wreck off of Key Largo died Tuesday.

47 year old Robert Smith of South Riding, Virginia was diving with a group of friends off of the dive boat "Cheeca View" from Horizon Divers when the incident took place at 10:40 a.m. He was reportedly ascending from a dive on the wreck Duane. He began to have trouble just before reaching the surface and was not breathing. Divers from the boat brought him on board and began Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation and he was brought to shore. Paramedics met the boat at shore and transported Smith to Mariner's Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The Sheriff's Office dive team returned to the scene of the incident to recover Smith's dive gear Tuesday. IT will be examined for possible evidence relating to the incident. An autopsy will be done on Smith to determine the possible cause of death.

November 7, 2005

Key West man charged with possessing cocaine

A man acting suspiciously was arrested by deputies Friday after he was caught with powdered cocaine.

Deputy David Lariz was on patrol Friday just after 11 p.m. when he saw a man walking on Fifth Street on Stock Island. When 25 year old Quincy Grazette saw the deputy he ducked behind a debris pile as if trying to hide. Deputy Lariz decided to find out why Grazette was hiding, so he approached the man. Grazette was visibly nervous and refused to answer the deputies questions. He continually reached into his pockets, even thoiugh the deputy told him to keep his hands in view. Finally, Deputy Lariz grabbed Grazette's arms and held him, then asked him if he had anything in his pockets he should be aware of. That is when Grazette admitted to having cocaine.

A search turned up over 13 grams of powdered cocaine. Grazette told Deputy Lariz he had just picked the cocaine up from someone and was going to take it into Key West and sell it. Grazette was arrested and charged with possession of the illegal substance with intent to distribute. He was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

November 3, 2005

Men arrested for burglaries in Marathon

Two Homestead men were arrested Wednesday after they were caught red handed loading other people's property into a U-Haul truck at a Marathon Storage business.

Deputies Jacques Rozak and Bobby Burkett responded to L & L Storage to reports of burglaries. The resident of a trailer on the property caught two men in a U Haul truck as they were trying to leave the property. The two men had burglarized two seperate trailers and three outbuildings taking a large number of tools, electronic equipment, a generator, kitchen knives, clothing and other items. The stolen items were found in the back of the truck and were returned to the owners. One victim said he'd seen the men on the property several weeks earlier and the men had identified themselves as "city officials" where were "checking the property".

36 year old Dexter Bowens and 29 year old Tomas Ramirez were arrested and charged with five counts of burglary and with theft. They were booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.