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


April 30, 2008

Georgia man dead after diving off of Key Largo

Key Largo - A Georgia man died today after diving offshore of Key Largo.

Sheriff's dispatchers were notified of an incident off shore at the Elbow, located several miles off shore of Key Largo. A dive boat was coming in to the dock at Garden Cove Drive with a man on board who was not breathing. They'd been performing Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation all the way in from the reef.

According to witnesses, 47 year old Allen Gregory Kay of Ringgold, Georgia went diving with a friend. He and the friend surfaced from the dive and were swimming toward the boat when Kay began to have trouble. He was pulled on the boat where it was discovered he was not breathing. CPR was administered until he could be returned to shore.

Paramedics transported Kay to Mariner's Hospital where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy will be done to determine the cause of his death.

April 28, 2007

Two arrested for reckless driving on an ATV

Key Largo - Deputies arrested a man and a woman for recklessly driving an ATV and fleeing on it from law enforcement officers Sunday night.

Just before midnight, Deputies Ryan Cowart and Richard Bellon responded to the vicinity of the 101 mile marker of the highway to reports of an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) speeding and driving recklessly through a residential neighborhood in that area. When Deputy Cowart arrived, he spotted the ATV with a male driver. A female passenger was with him. As the deputy pulled up, the ATV ran through a stop sign, so the deputy turned on his lights and siren to pull it over. Instead of stopping, the ATV sped away weaving through the neighborhood, turning multiple times at a high rate of speed in an attempt to elude the deputy. At one point, the driver tried to ram Deputy Bellon who had to take evasive action to keep from being hit.

After a considerable chase, the ATV driver fled down a trail through a wooded area and deputies couldn't follow. The deputies found the ATV abandoned a short distance away. They began to set up a perimeter in order to search for the driver and passenger. Just then, 21 year old Jessica Johnson walked out of a wooded area and surrendered herself, claiming to be the driver of the vehicle.

She continued to insist she was the driver and refused to cooperate with deputies for almost three hours. During that time, deputies were searching the area and spotted 24 year old Bryan Dozier several times as he swam canals and fled through back yards to get away. Deputies finally transported Johnson to jail to book her in. As she was being booked, Dozier appeared at the jail and said he wanted to turn himself in.

Both of them were charged with fleeing and eluding police, assault on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest without violence. Dozier was charged with reckless driving and driving with a suspended license. Johnson was charged with being an accessory after the fact. They were both booked into jail.

Detectives investigate break ins at occupied residences

Marathon - Sheriff's detectives are investigating a series of break-ins to occupied residences in Marathon.

In the month of April, Detectives say there have been eight break ins reported to homes or apartments; there were also four motel rooms entered under similar circumstances. There are similarities that may indicate the crimes are connected, but there are also some differences: the suspect or suspects entered during the night or early morning hours through unlocked doors; most of the time, only cash and cellular phones were taken.

To synopsize the crimes:

Detectives say most if not all of these cases could have been prevented if the victims had simply locked their doors. Many burglaries to homes and to vehicles are crimes of opportunity in which suspects simply look for an easy target. It doesn't take much time and effort to lock doors either when you leave your home or car, or when going to sleep at night. Taking just a minute or two to secure your property can save you from becoming a victim.

Detectives are looking for any information people might have that would lead them to a suspect in any or all of these cases. Information may be reported directly to the Sheriff's Office Detective Division at 289-2430 or callers may report the information to Crime Stoppers of the Florida keys. Callers to Crime Stoppers are eligible for a cash reward if the information leads to an arrest. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS.

April 27, 2008

Argument leads to arrest

Lower Keys - A Hialeah man is under arrest for holding a woman against her will and threatening her with a handgun.

Saturday afternoon, Deputy David Cruz responded to the Geiger Key Marina on Big Coppitt Key to reports of an argument between a man and a woman. He found 28 year old Josbel Diaz of Hialeah and 48 year old Esperanza Pastrana of Shark Key Channel. Diaz was holding a yellow purse later found to belong to Pastrana.

Pastrana told Deputy Cruz she and Diaz had been staying on her houseboat in Shark Key Channel. She said they argued during the night. She said she woke at 7 a.m. to find him holding a handgun to her head threatening to kill her.

She said she got her dog, her bird and some belongings and climbed into her dinghy. The dinghy wouldn't start so she untied it and drifted away. As she drifted, she said Diaz came on deck and began yelling and waving the gun around. She said at one point he fired one shot from the gun into the air. She took the cover off the dinghy's motor and discovered someone had disconnected the wires to the spark plugs. She reconnected them, started the motor and went to shore.

She said she didn't report the incident because she thought he'd get over it. Instead, she ran some errands, returning to Geiger Key Marina at 2:30 p.m. to find Diaz waiting for her.

They began arguing again. At one point, according to witnesses, Diaz pulled down his pants and showed his genitals. That is when she called the Sheriff's Office.

Diaz claimed not to know anything about a gun. He said he disabled the dinghy's motor to stop her from leaving. Marijuana was found in the purse he was holding. A handgun was found in the dinghy, unloaded. Diaz was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment, possession of marijuana and indecent exposure. He was booked into jail.

Man carjacked by his roommate

Stock Island - A Stock Island man was arrested on an outstanding warrant for carjacking his roommate in January.

The victim, 42 year old George Williams, called the Sheriff's Office to report his roommate, 34 year old David Morrell, had beaten him up and taken his truck. Another roommate had witnessed the incident and related the same story. She said Williams was getting into the truck when Morrell and another man attacked him, beat him, and then took the truck.

The truck was found parked at an apartment complex in the city of Key West. Blood from the encounter was found on the driver's side. It was towed. A warrant was subsequently issued for Morrell's arrest for carjacking and on Saturday morning, he was picked up by Deputy David Cruz. He was charged with the warrant, and with another warrant for possession of cocaine. He was booked into jail.

April 25, 2008

Search warrant results in drug arrest

Stock Island - A search warrant served at a Stock Island residence this morning resulted in two arrests on drug charges.

Detectives from the Sheriff's Special Investigations Division served the warrant at 6401 6th Avenue at 5:30 a.m. Inside, they found cocaine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia in various locations throughout. 39 year old Charles Rosado and 57 year old Pablo Ibarra were both arrested. Rosado was charged with possession of cocaine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia; Ibarra was charged with possession of cocaine. Both were booked into jail.

Detectives were assisted by Key West Police in the search.

Crime Stoppers tip leads to arrest

Marathon - A man wanted on an outstanding warrant was picked up Wednesday after the Sheriff's Office received a Crime Stoppers tip about his location.

31 year old George Stemage Jr. was picked up in Marathon on April 23rd. He was wanted on a warrant for multiple sexual offenses. The crimes took place in June of 2006. He was arrested shortly after the crimes were reported, then was transferred to a facility in Miami for medical treatment.

Earlier this month he was mistakenly released from that facility and when the mistake was discovered, a Monroe county warrant was issued to pick him up on the original charges, which were still outstanding. Bond on the warrant was set at $500,000.00. He is currently in custody in Monroe County.

April 23, 2008

Vehicle burglaries in Marathon

Marathon - Deputies responded to numerous reports of vehicle burglaries in Marathon Tuesday.

Although only eight victims wanted to make an official report, over 16 vehicles were entered with glove boxes and center consoles rifled through. Very little was taken in any of the burglaries. A cell phone was taken from a work van on 11th Street; a fishing knife, cash and a cell phone were taken from a rental vehicle parked at the Hammocks Inn on 16th Street; and a GPS was taken from truck at Galway Bay. Other vehicles on James Avenue, Knights Key and 17th Court were entered, but nothing was taken.

All the vehicles were left unlocked. Sheriff Rick Roth would like to remind everyone of how simple it is to prevent this type of crime. Most vehicle burglaries are crimes of opportunity where the perpetrators look for an easy target. In most cases, simply locking the car door when you exit the vehicle will deter them from entering the car. The Sheriff's Office also recommends that you remove valuables from the vehicle, or at least conceal them somewhere they cannot be seen easily through the car's windows.

April 22, 2008

Tampa man charged with racing his motorcycle, cocaine possession

Lower Keys - A Tampa man was booked into jail after a deputy caught him racing his motorcycle against another driver.

Deputy Evan Calhoun was operating his radar at the 7.5 mile marker of the highway at 2:45 a.m. today. He saw two motorcycles stop in the roadway, then suddenly take off, quickly reaching speeds in excess of 80 in a 55 mile per hour zone. The deputy turned on his car's lights and siren and pulled the two motorcycles over.

The drivers were identified as 30 year old Jeffrey Bognolo and 34 year old Shaun Morris, both of Tampa. Deputy Calhoun informed them racing was illegal. The two men said they were just having fun. Bognolo did not have a motorcycle endorsement, so he was placed under arrest. During a subsequent search, he took something out of one of his pockets and refused to hand it to the deputy. Instead, he threw it in nearby mangroves. It was later recovered and turned out to be a vial of cocaine.

As Deputy Calhoun tried to place handcuffs on Bognolo, he refused to place his hands behind his back. AFter several repeated orders, Deputy Calhoun pepper sprayed the suspect and he finally complied. He was charged with participating in an unlawful race, failing to have a motorcycle endorsement, resisting arrest without violence, possession of cocaine and drug paraphernalia and tampering with evidence. He was booked into jail. Morris was issued a criminal citation for racing on the highway and he was released.

April 15, 2008

Correction: Stock Island woman severely injured in possible fall – not dead

A Stock Island woman who was transported to a Miami hospital for treatment of injuries she may have sustained in a fall is not dead, as reported by the Sheriff’s Office yesterday.

Detectives say they received erroneous information that 45 year old Laurie Steele of Stock Island died Sunday night at Ryder Trauma Center. Today, they found out their information was not correct and that Steele is in critical condition. The Sheriff’s Office regrets the error.

Detectives say Steele may have fallen down steps in the early morning hours Friday. She was transported to Lower Keys Hospital at 12:30 a.m. Friday after neighbors found her at the bottom of six steps in front of the office at 6810 Front Street, at Safe Harbor Marina on Stock Island. Steele lives on board a boat at the marina with her boyfriend, Thomas Quinlan. She was last seen at the Hogfish Bar and Grill. She reportedly left on foot shortly after midnight Friday.

From Lower Keys Hospital she was transported to Ryder Trauma Center in Miami for treatment of head injuries. Detectives have been assigned to look into the incident.

Bondsman arrested for using inmate to solicit business

Plantation Key - A Miami bail bondsman was arrested Monday and charged with using an inmate at the Plantation Key jail to solicit business.

30 year old Torrey Williams works for Singh's Bail Bonds in Miami. In January, Detective Greg LaRochelle received information from a Corrections Officer that Williams was soliciting business using an inmate in the facility. Investigations revealed Williams is friends with 31 year old inmate Jovan Ferguson. When a new inmate was booked into jail, Ferguson allegedly arranged bond for the new inmate through Williams. In return, Williams agreed to pay Ferguson $150 for making the arrangement.

Further investigation revealed that Williams had known Ferguson for years and had on at least one occasion bailed him out of jail on felony charges of which he was later convicted. A warrant was obtained for Williams arrest. On Monday, he was charged with violating Florida Statute 648.44.8 which prohibits using a convicted felon as a bail bond agent.

Illinois man arrested for knife threats on a bus

Islamorada - An Illinois man was arrested after he caused a disturbance on a bus and pulled a knife, threatening a teenager on the bus.

The bus driver called Sheriff''s dispatchers just before 11 p.m. to report a fight on the bus. Deputy Joel Slough intercepted the bus at the 72 mile marker of the highway. When the bus stopped, a man jumped out of the door and began to run. Deputy Slough ran after him, ordering him to stop. 40 year old Kurtis Zimmerman finally obeyed the order to stop and was taken into custody. He smelled strongly of alcohol and a large knife was found in his back pocket.

Deputy Luis Blasco and a number of other officers arrived to assist. The driver, the 15 year old victim and a number of witnesses were interviewed. They all said Zimmerman confronted the victim, pushed him and threatened him with the knife.

Zimmerman was placed under arrest. He was found to be in possession of a number of different prescription medications for which he had no prescription in his name. He also had drug paraphernalia including hypodermic needles and rolling papers. The deputy asked him if he had any marijuana to go with the rolling papers, but he said he'd already smoked it. An open bottle of Jim Beam was also found which Zimmerman admitted was his. Zimmerman was charged with aggravated assault, battery, carrying a concealed weapon, disorderly intoxication, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was booked into jail.

April 14, 2008

Stock Island woman died in possible fall

Stock Island - A Stock Island woman is dead. Detectives say she may have fallen down steps in the early morning hours Friday.

45 year old Laurie Steele of Stock Island was transported to Lower Keys Hospital at 12:30 a.m. Friday after neighbors found her at the bottom of six steps in front of the office at 6810 Front Street, at Safe Harbor Marina on Stock Island. Steele lives on board a boat at the marina with her boyfriend, Thomas Quinlan. She was last seen at the Hogfish Bar and Grill. She reportedly left on foot shortly after midnight Friday.

From Lower Keys Hospital she was transported to Ryder Trauma Center in Miami for treatment of head injuries, where she died Sunday night. Detectives have been assigned to look into the incident.

Detectives want to dispel rumors

Lower Keys - Detectives from the Sheriff's Office and Key West Police would like to dispel rumors about three homeless men recently found dead in the Lower Keys.

In the past two weeks, two homeless men were found dead in Key West, and one at the Key Haven Boat Ramp at the 5.9 mile marker of Highway U.S. One.

The first case was March 31st at 2:30 p.m. when 59 year old Michael Stanier was found dead at the Key Haven Boat Ramp. He died of severe head trauma and detectives say he was murdered. They are actively investigating the case, and following up on a number of good leads.

The second death took place on April 3rd at Rest Beach in Key West. 38 year old Jessee Calderon died at 9:30 the beach.

The third death took place on April 7th. 49 year old Paul Potts was found dead on a bench in front of Office Max at K-Mart Plaza.

According to Key West Police, foul play was not suspected in either of their cases and autopsies done showed no suspicious circumstances, pending the return of toxicology results. Detectives from both agencies communicate frequently and have discussed these cases. All agree there is no connection between the three deaths and absolutely no resemblance between them when it comes to circumstances or cause of death.

April 12, 2008

Florida City man charged with sale of cocaine

Key Largo - A Florida City man was arrested Friday after detectives observed him in a drug transaction.

An undercover operative with the Sheriff's Office Special Investigations Division made arrangements to meet with 28 year old Jermaine Davis to purchase $500 worth of cocaine. They met in a parking lot at 5 p.m. Friday at the 98 mile marker of highway U.S. One.

Once the operative handed over the money, and Davis handed over the drugs, the detectives moved in and placed Davis under arrest. He tried to run away when he saw the detectives approach, but he was apprehended without incident. Davis was charged with resisting arrest without violence and sale of cocaine. He was booked into jail.

April 9, 2008

Detectives ask for help locating victim's family

Lower Keys - Detectives say they still haven't found the family of 59 year old Michael Stanier, whose murdered body was found at the Key Haven boat ramp on March 31st. They have decided to release his name in the hopes someone can help them locate them.

Preliminary autopsy results showed Stanier died of severe head trauma. He was found at 2:30 p.m. by an acquaintance who subsequently called 911 for help.

Stanier was homeless while in the Florida Keys, and records show a number of different addresses throughout Florida in the past. Anyone who has information about his family should contact Detective Mark Coleman at the Sheriff's Office Special Investigations Division, 305-289-2410.

Anyone with information about this case should contact the Sheriff’s Office or call Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. Callers to Crime Stoppers may remain anonymous and may receive a reward if their information leads to an arrest. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS.

April 6, 2008

Man arrested after seven hour stand off with law enforcement

Stock Island - A Stock Island man refused to come out of the boat he lives on and would not allow a woman and the child they reportedly have together to leave. He was finally forcibly removed from the boat early today.

Deputy John Underwood responded to reports of a domestic fight in progress on board a boat at 7007 Shrimp Road at 11 p.m. The caller said a man was beating a woman and that a child was also on the boat. When the deputy arrived, he knocked on the door of the boat. 39 year old Brian Scott refused to answer the door and instead began yelling and swearing at the deputy, telling him to get off his boat.

Deputy Underwood insisted he needed to see Scott, as well as the woman and child that were on board. Scott refused to cooperate and finally stopped communicating altogether with the deputy.

More officers were called to assist, including Hostage Negotiator Sgt. Bobby Randolph, the Sheriff's Office Special Weapons and Tactics Team and officers from other law enforcement agencies, including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. After trying to talk Scott peacefully out of the boat for four hours, the Sheriff's SWAT Team had to forcibly  remove him from the boat, seven hours after the incident began.

No one was injured during the incident and the woman and child were found inside the boat, uninjured. The victim is reported to be a 19 year old recent immigrant from Cuba. During the course of the stand off with Scott, he was heard telling her that if she left the boat or talked to officers she would be deported back to Cuba and her one year old child would be taken away.

Scott was charged with false imprisonment and with depriving the victim of a means to communicate because he refused to allow her to communicate with law enforcement during the incident and in fact used threats to keep her from communicating. He was booked into jail.

April 5, 2008

Home Invasion Robbery investigated in Marathon

Marathon - Sheriff's detectives are investigating a report of a home invasion robbery in Marathon.

The incident took place at 8 a.m. today (Saturday). One of the two  female victims said she was sleeping in the living room of the residence on Ocean Breeze Avenue when someone knocked on the sliding glass door. She said she opened the door and a young girl was outside. She asked to use the phone  to call home because she said her boyfriend took her phone from her.

The victim said she was suspicious of the girl's motives and tried to close the door. At that point, a man with a black colored handgun tried to force his way in. She continued trying to close the door, but the girl and two men forced their way inside. Her friend, who was in a back bedroom, heard the noise and came out. The three suspects yelled for her to sit down on the couch, but she does not speak English and did not understand. Because she didn't follow their orders, they fired the gun once at her feet, hitting the floor. Her friend then told her, in Spanish, to sit down and she did.

April 3, 2008

Search warrant leads to trafficking arrest

Key Largo - Sheriff's detectives from the Special Investigations Division served a search warrant at a Key Largo residence Wednesday afternoon, arresting one man for trafficking in cocaine.

At 4:40 p.m. the detectives served the warrant on the unlocked, unoccupied home at #6 Edward Place in Key Largo. A short time later, 32 year old Edward Portillo returned home to find them there. Once they explained why they were there, he agreed to cooperate. He directed them to his red Nissan parked in front. He told them to retrieve a metal tin from the trunk. Inside the tin, they found 35 plastic bags with white powder inside. The cocaine weighed a total of 31 grams.

Portillo also had $704.00 in cash which was seized. He was arrested, charged with trafficking in cocaine, and booked into jail. According to detectives, Portillo is an illegal alien from El Salvador who claims to be a member of the MS 13 gang, a known gang with ties to criminal activity of various sorts.

U.S. Border Patrol was notified of his arrest.

April 1, 2008

Autopsy shows head trauma

According to the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office, preliminary autopsy results on the man found dead at the Key Haven boat ramp Monday show he died of severe head trauma.

Sheriff's detectives say they do not want to me more specific about the injuries, nor do they want to discuss the possible cause of the injuries. They are still trying to locate family members for notification of the death, so they are also withholding his name for now.

Sheriff's Office dispatchers received a report from a passerby at 2:24 p.m. Monday that there was a dead body at the Key Haven Boat Ramp at 5991 Overseas Highway, at the 5.9 mile marker of the highway. When Deputy Liisa Thibideau arrived, she did indeed find the man deceased. Investigations are continuing.

Anyone with information about the case can contact Homicide Detectives Mark Coleman or Terry Smith at the Sheriff's Office. Callers may also contact Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. If a tip leads to an arrest, the caller would be eligible for a substantial cash reward. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS.

Big Coppitt Key woman arrested for drugs

Big Coppitt Key - Deputies on patrol arrested a Big Coppitt Key woman early today after they found cocaine in her purse.

Deputies Michael Claudy and Deborah Ryan were patrolling old Boca Chica Road at 4:50 a.m. when they spotted a car parked near the beach at the end of the road. A man and a woman were inside.

As Deputy Claudy talked with the male driver, Deputy Ryan spoke with the female passenger, 38 year old Wendy Bengtson-Woodruff of Big Coppitt Key. Bengtson-Woodruff had blood on her right forearm and claimed her cat had scratched her. Deputy Ryan asked her to step out of the car. on the floorboard of the passenger side of the car, she found a hypodermic syringe.

A check of the woman's purse revealed 18 grams of powdered cocaine. Bengtson-Woodruff was handcuffed and placed in the b back of the patrol car. A search of the car revealed a smoking pipe in the pocket of the passenger door. Bengtson-Woodruff was charged with possession of cocaine and drug paraphernalia and she was booked into jail.

 Labelled with ICRA