Monroe County Sheriff’s Office
Daily Crime and Information Report

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

Click here to read press releases on other Sheriff's Office events and occurrences

Click on the headlines to hear audio of our crime report stories


February 27, 2009

Man arrested on outstanding warrants for Big Pine crimes

Big Pine Key - A Big Pine Key man was arrested February 25th on outstanding warrants related to crimes committed on Big Pine Key this month.

47 year old Billy Welch was picked up February 25th in Marathon on an outstanding warrant for dealing in stolen property. The charges stem from an incident on the 24th. Deputies on patrol ran across Welch and his girlfriend, Beth Smith-Borden. Welch had a pillowcase with fishing poles and Penn reels in it. When confronted, he ran, escaping from the officers, but he left the pillowcase and the items inside behind. Borden was arrested when deputies found her to be in possession of a knife, concealed in the waistband of her pants. She later told the officers they were on their way to Stock Island to sell the items in the pillowcase. A check on the items revealed the items were stolen.

Upon questioning, Welch also admitted to committing a vehicle burglary at the Big Pine Motel between the evening of February 22 and the morning of the 23rd. He cut the top on a convertible and took a camera, rod and reel and some cigarettes. The camera was later recovered at an abandoned trailer on Big Pine Key where Welch sometimes stays. For that incident, he was further charged with criminal mischief, burglary and theft.

In addition, he was charged with an outstanding warrant for sale of cocaine for a drug incident which took place February 10th. On the night of the 10th, Welch sold cocaine to an undercover operative, then ran from detectives when they attempted to arrest him.

Detectives say their investigations into the recent burglaries on Big Pine Key, and Welch's possible involvement in them, continues.

February 27, 2009

Update on Gardner homicide case

Monroe County homicide detectives have retuned home from Utah. They say they have a few more details to release to the public.

Gardner's vehicle was recovered yesterday by law enforcement officers in the Memphis, Tennessee area. It was located within a few miles of the location where it was stopped by officers on the evening of February 12th. It will be processed by authorities in Memphis for possible evidence.

Detectives are now saying they definitely consider 32 year old Jonathon LeBaron and 40 year old Kristena Whitmore suspects in the homicide case. Today, they charged LeBaron with grand theft auto in the theft of Gardner's car.

They have not charged either suspect with homicide yet, although they say the Monroe County State Attorney's Office is reviewing details of the case to determine exactly what the charges might be. They do not know how long it will take to return the two to the Florida Keys once charges are brought.

Operation on Big Pine results in drug arrests

Overnight, Detectives from the Special Operations Division conducted a highway interdiction operation in Big Pine Key. This operation included members of the Highway Patrol, Patrol Deputies from sector one, Sheriff’s Office Traffic units and a Sheriff's Office K-9 Team.

During the operation, Detectives observed 42 year old Jesse Bebout running out of 201 County Rd Lot MH-1. Contact was made, and Bebout dropped 2 grams of cocaine on the floor. A search of Bebout revealed one more gram baggie of cocaine in his pocket. Bebout was charged with possession of cocaine.

Special Investigation detectives went to the house Bebout came from and made contact with 26 year old Andrew Fernandez at 201 County rd lot MH-1. He gave them permission to search the residence. While detectives were inside they observed several cut baggies. They also found 22.5 grams of cocaine, several controlled pills, one revolver, $1804 in cash that was with the drugs, a scale and several baggies. Fernandez was charged with Possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

During the operation 22 traffic citations were issued, 5 warnings, 3 notices to appear in court, and 2 arrest were made. In the attached photos, Deputy Ken Fricke is shown searching Jesse Bebout's vehicle, and there is a photo of Bebout in back of a patrol car. Other photos are of the search conducted at 201 County rd Lot MH-1.

February 26,2009

Note about Richard Gardiner homicide: Detectives say there is no new information to report to the media in this case. As of this morning (Thursday) there has been no arrest made and no warrants have been issued. They continue to investigate in Utah.

Burglary suspect caught

Tavernier - An alert neighbor helped a victim stop a burglary at his residence. Detectives arrested the suspect Wendesday.

On February 19th, a neighbor living in an apartment building at the 91.4 mile marker saw a man breaking into a nearby apartment. He knew the residents of the apartment, and knew the female resident worked across the street. He called her to tell her someone was breaking in. She called her husband, who called 911. The husband then went to his apartment to stop the burglar.

When he got there, he caught 49 year old Jorge Ramos of Key Largo leaving. He chased him down the stairs and into the parking lot. He caught him and confronted him. At that point, Ramos gave him back a number of the items he'd stolen. He then fled. Deputies arrived and took a report of what happened.

Later, the victim was talking with a friend. He described the burglar to the friend, who was able to tell him who the suspect was. Detective Greg LaRochelle was assigned to the case. He set up a photo line-up for the victim to view and the victim positively identified Ramos as the man he saw leaving his apartment.

A warrant was issued for Ramos arrest. On Wednesday, he was stopped while driving his car at the 103 mile marker of the highway. He was charged with burglary, grand theft and with an outstanding warrant for violation of probation. He was booked into jail.

Fight leaves one man cut on the side of the head

Key Largo - Two men fought Tuesday night over payment for some fishing poles. One man is in jail for cutting the other man on the side of the face during the fight.

The victim of the fight went to the hospital Tuesday night and told doctors he fell down because, he said, he didn't want to get his friend in trouble. The following day, he had second thoughts and called the Sheriff's Office to report the incident.

He said he and his friend, 42 year old Jorge Villareal, spent the day together. First, Villareal strung some fishing poles for him; then they went out on the boat together, just "drinking and driving around". Then they had dinner at a local restaurant, and returned to the victim's residence on Wildwood Circle in Key Largo to drink more alcohol.

He said Villareal began talking about some fishing poles he'd sold the victim three weeks before. He was upset because it had taken the victim a week to pay him for the poles. The victim told him to get over it and told Villareal he had to leave. They both got outside and a fight ensued. During the fight, Villareal struck the victim on the side of the head with an unknown sharp object, cutting him from his ear to his chin.

Deputy John Perez went to Villareal's home in Harry Harris Circle in Key Largo. Villareal admitted to fighting with the victim. He was placed under arrest, charged with aggravated battery and he was booked into jail.

February 25, 2009

Homicide update

Monroe County Homicide detectives remain in Utah, investigating the murder of 57 year old Richard Gardner on board his boat. Gardner's body was found on the boat, docked at Kings Pointe Marina on Stock Island February 13th.

Detective Sgt. Patricia Dally says she and Detective Terry Smith traveled to Utah Monday in the hopes of interviewing the two "persons of interest" in custody in Salt Lake City. She says the male has not been at all cooperative and is refusing to speak with them. The female has said she wants to speak with her attorney before talking with the detectives. Detectives are, meanwhile, working with Utah authorities to recover any and all information they can about the two people and their actions and activities before they were taken into custody.

Detective Sgt. Dally says they were able to do a photo line up with officers in Tennessee. Those officers stopped Gardner's car on February 12th near Memphis and questioned the two people inside. The photo line up confirmed the two people in the car are the same two people now in custody in Utah.

All in all, the investigation is proceeding well. "The detectives working on this case are doing an excellent job and I am confident their investigations will result in arrests in this case," said Sheriff Bob Peryam.

Detectives investigate burglaries on Big Pine Key

Detectives are spending great amounts of time and resources investigating a spate of burglaries taking place on Big Pine Key.

The burglaries are an ongoing problem. They have been plaguing the neighborhoods and businesses of Big Pine Key for several months. Since the beginning of the year, about 40 burglaries have been reported. These burglaries include residential, business and vehicle break ins.

Detectives are currently following up some strong leads and hope to make some arrests soon. They do not believe, however, that the people they expect to arrest are responsible for all the crimes that have taken place. There are, most likely, others involved in committing these crimes as well. Detectives say they need help from the public as they continue their investigations.

Anyone with information about these cases should contact the Sheriff's Office immediately. Callers who wish to remain anonymous should contact Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. If a caller's tip leads to an arrest, the tipster would be eligible for a cash reward. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS. Tips may also be submitted on line at


Big Pine man burned in fire

Big Pine Key - Deputies, Firefighters and Paramedics responded to a trailer on Big Pine Key Tuesday night to reports a man had been burned.

When Deputy Deborah Ryan arrived at the Avenue C home at 7:10 p.m. she found 64 year old Russell Bartruff on the floor. He'd fallen on a glass table and it had broken under him. A broken kerosene lamp was also found nearby. It appears the kerosene lamp was burning and somehow broke, catching Bartruff on fire.

Two people who told Deputy Ryan they live on Bartruff's front porch returned home to find him inside, screaming. When they went inside, they saw him on fire. There was a pot in the sink with water in it, which they threw on him to extinguish the fire.

Bartruff appeared to be burned primarily on the lower half of his body. He was airlifted to the Ryder Trauma Center by Monroe County's Trauma Star helicopter.

Islamorada man charged with firing gun

Islamorada - An Islamorada man was arrested Tuesday afternoon, charged with firing a gun at another man.

The victim called the Sheriff's Office at 3:45 p.m. to report being shot at. When Deputy Sheila Seago arrived at the 75.7 mile marker, she met with the victim. He said he'd had a dispute several days before with 73 year old David Winsberg. On Tuesday afternoon, he said he was visiting a friend and when he left and began getting into his truck, he was confronted by Winsberg.

During the confrontation, Winsberg pulled a revolver out of his waistband and pointed it at him. At one point, he said Winsberg fired one shot, which he said closely passed by his head.

Deputies Nelson Sanchez and Matt Koval arrived on the scene as back up. A few minutes later, the deputies saw Winsberg exit his motor home, parked nearby. They took him into custody. He told them he'd hidden the gun under a rock behind the motor home. The gun was recovered.

Winsberg was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and tampering with evidence and he was booked into jail.

February 24, 2009

Key Largo man stabbed; suspect in custody

Key Largo - A Key Largo man is in the hospital and another is in jail today after an argument between them led to a stabbing.

Deputies were called to Cafe Largo atthe 99.5 mile marker of the highway at 9 p.m. to reports a man had been stabbed. When they arrived, they found the victim, 36 year old Raul Morataya of Key Largo. He had a stab wound in his abdomen. He told them he'd been stabbed by 39 year old Victor Barragan-Arzola, who had then fled the scene in a green colored Blazer. A witness who works as a waitress at the restaurant said she saw the two men fighting outside, behind the kitchen. She said when she saw Barragan-Arzola pull out a knife, she ran to get help. When she returned, Morataya was wounded and the suspect was gone.

A notice to be on the lookout for the suspect, driving a green Blazer, was issued to all deputies in the area. A short time later, the 1995 Chevrolet Blazer was spotted southbound at the 100.6 mile marker by Sgt. Derek Paul. He pulled it over. Barragan-Arzola was driving. He admitted to stabbing the victim. He said they got into an argument over some things he lent to the victim.

Morataya was airlifted to the Ryder TrSauma Center in Miami where he is currently in good condition, after undergoing surgery for his injury. The suspect was charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and he was booked into jail.

Homicide victim identified by Medical Examiner

Monroe County - Based on dental records, the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office was able to confirm the identity of a man found murdered on board a boat February 13th.

The murder victim was identified as 57 year old Richard Gardner. He was found on board a boat registered to him, docked at the Kings Pointe Marina on Stock Island. An autopsy confirmed he'd been murdered.

Detectives from the Monroe County Sheriff's Office Homicide Division are currently in Salt Lake City, Utah interviewing two people who may have some connection with the case. The two were stopped in Tennessee on February 12th driving Gardner's car. They are currently in custody in Utah on unrelated charges.

February 23, 2009

Two “persons of interest” may be in custody in Utah

Monroe County – Monroe County Homicide detectives are currently en route to Utah. Authorities there have two people in custody who they believe may be the two “persons of interest” detectives here would like to speak to in connection with the homicide victim found on board a boat at Kings Pointe Marina on Stock Island on February 13th.

Detectives say they will work with Utah authorities to determine if the two people in custody are indeed the ones they want to talk to.  They were taken into custody Saturday in Salt Lake City, where they are being held on outstanding warrants and on local charges there.

February 22, 2009

Brush fire extinguished before damaging home

Sugarloaf Key - A fire on upper Sugarloaf Key Saturday evening was extinguished before it could damage a nearby home.

When Deputy Nick Oettinger arrived at 7:10 p.m., he found fire engulfing a fence and some palm trees, and it was moving toward a home at 19512 Aztec Street. He knocked on the door of the home and found no one there. He also knocked on the doors of surrounding houses to make homeowners aware of the danger.

Monroe County Firefighters arrived and were able to put out the fire before it damaged the nearby home. No one was at the residence at the time of the fire. The homeowners were contacted and made aware of the incident.

Teen arrested for drugs

Stock Island - A 16 year old Big Pine boy was arrested after he was caught with drugs in his car Saturday afternoon.

Sheriff's dispatchers received a call from someone driving southbound on the highway near Big Coppitt Key who said the car in front of him was tailgating other vehicles. He also said the people in the car were passing around something that looked like a cigar, and that he could smell the odor of marijuana coming from the car.

Deputy David Smith pulled the car over - a white colored 1997 Lincoln - at the five  mile marker of the highway. 16 year old Russell Kane of Big Pine Key was driving. Deputy Smith could smell marijuana when he stood next to the vehicle. The driver admitted that he and the others in the car had been smoking the illegal substance.

A search of the car turned up a can of engine degreaser which had a false bottom. In the can was a plastic bag of marijuana. A can of Gunk tire sealer was also found with a false bottom. Inside the deputy found two plastic bags of cocaine.

The others in the car denied knowing about the drugs. Kane was arrested. He was charged with possession of cocaine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia and he was booked at the Monroe County Detention Center.

February 19, 2009

Homestead man charged with stealing, pawning jewelry

Key Largo - A Homestead man has been arrested and charged with stealing jewelry from an Ocean Reef Club home and pawning it for cash.

22 year old Keith Weitzman was working as a handyman for a couple who lives in the Ocean Reef Club Community in Key Largo. When some of their jewelry went missing, the couple suspected he might have taken it. They reported the theft to the Sheriff's Office, saying it had been stolen sometime between November 5th and December 31st, while Weitzman was doing odd jobs for them.

Detective Jason Madnick was assigned to investigate. He found a number of pawn slips with Weitzman's name on them from various pawn shops in Homestead. The victims accompanied him to those shops and identified several items of their jewelry which had been pawned by Weitzman.

Detective Madnick then met with Weitzman, who was in jail in Miami-Dade County on unrelated charges. When confronted with the evidence, Weitzman admitted to the crime. On Wednesday, he was brought to Monroe County where he was charged with an outstanding warrant for two counts of grand theft and five counts of dealing in stolen property. Bond is set at $95,000.00.

Key Largo man charged with attempting to lure two boys to his house

Key Largo - A Key Largo man was arrested Wednesday, charged with attempting to lure two young boys to his home.

The two boys, aged 9 and 13, first told their parents about the incident after it happened on February 4th. They said they were crossing 3rd Road together at about 5:30 p.m. when a man in a white pickup truck pulled up to them. He reportedly told the boys to get into his truck and he would take them to his house "or someplace fun". At one point, he reportedly offered the boys candy, although he didn't show them any. The boys refused and walked away from the truck. They said they saw the man, later identified as 60 year old Robert Holeman, park his truck at his house at 330 3rd Road. They said he glared at them and "looked mean".

Detective Linda Mixon was assigned to investigate. After interviewing everyone involved, she obtained a warrant for the arrest of Holeman. He was charged with luring or enticing a child under 12 years of age, a first degree misdemeanor (Florida Statute 787.025.2a). Bond on the warrant is set at $50,000.00.

Teen charged with carrying weapon, improper exhibition of it

Stock Island - The Sheriff's Office arrested a 17 year old Stock Island teen Wednesday, after witnesses saw him with a handgun, pointing it at a group of people in Bernstein Park on Stock Island.

The witnesses told Sgt. Tom Walker they saw 17 year old Julian Barger in the park with another boy. They saw him pull what looked like a rifle out of his pants and hand it to his friend. He then pulled what looked like a handgun out of his pants and pointed it at a group of people sitting at a picnic table at the park.

Sgt. Walker stopped the two boys on 9th Avenue a short time later. He took the rifle - which later turned out to be an airsoft gun - away from Barger's 16 year old friend, who was openly carrying it. He then ordered Barger to slowly raise his shirt. When he did, Sgt. Walker saw what looked like a black colored Smith and Wesson handgun, in the cocked position, tucked in the waistband of his pants. Closer examination of the gun revealed it to be a BB pistol, however there were no marks or coloring on it to indicate it was not a real firearm.

A check in Sheriff's Office computers revealed Barger has been issued a trespass warning for Bernstein Park.

The 16 year old was turned over to the custody of his mother. Barger was arrested. He was charged with carrying a concealed weapon, improper exhibition of the weapon and trespass after warning. He was booked at the Monroe County Detention Center.

Suicide victim identified

Cudjoe Key – Detectives say they have located and notified the family of a man found dead off shore of Cudjoe Key on February 9th.

The body of 57 year old Michael Harper of Port Richey, Florida was pulled from the water near Tarpon Belly Key. He died of a gunshot wound to the head and detectives say all indications are he committed suicide.

Man found dead on Big Coppitt Key identified

Big Coppitt Key – Detectives say the man found dead in two feet of water past the barricades at the end of Old Boca Chica Road has been identified as 33 year old Osmany Garcia of Stock Island.

An autopsy has been done, but the Medical Examiner says he is unable to determine definitively why or how Garcia died. Cause of death will remain undetermined pending the results of toxicology tests. The autopsy did not reveal any injuries or evidence which might indicate foul play, however.

February 17, 2009

Detectives say they want to identify, talk to "persons of interest"

The photo links below depict four different views of the male "person of interest" in this case, and a photo of a car similar to the one belonging to Gardner, which was stopped in Memphis, Tennessee Thursday evening.

Sheriff's detectives from the Homicide Unit, assigned to investigate the murder of a man whose body was found on board a boat at a Stock Island marina Friday, say they need help identifying a man and a woman who they would like to talk with in connection with the slaying.

They stopped short of calling the two "suspects" instead calling them "persons of interest".

The couple were stopped in Memphis, Tennessee Thursday evening (by the Memphis and Shelby County Interstate Criminal Interdiction Task Force) driving a car belonging to the registered owner of the boat where the body was located. The body was found the next morning. A dashboard camera in the police vehicle captured video of the two people, who reportedly could not produce any identification. The male claimed the car belonged to his father. After lengthy questioning on the scene of the traffic stop, police had to let the pair go because they had no probable cause to detain them any longer or arrest them..

The car is a 1999 silver colored Mercury Marquis, four door, with a Florida tag J94KCX. The male in the car when it was stopped is approximately 35 - 36 years of age, 5' 9" tall, 170 - 180 pounds with medium length shaggy brown hair. He is unshaven with a possible goatee. His left eye is blackened by an injury. The female with him is described as approximately 40 years old, 5' 3" tall, 150 - 160 pounds. She has dreads in her hair and a swollen lip. They were traveling with a dog described as a black in color mini-Schnauzer. Click on the links below for photos of the male and of a car similar to the one they were driving.

The man's body was found Friday morning by law enforcement officers performing a well-being check at the King's Pointe Marine at the end of Maloney Avenue on Stock Island. Detectives say the boat where the body was found, and the car the couple were driving, were registered to a Richard Gardner who is from the Fort Myers / Cape Coral area. Gardner's family reported him missing to Cape Coral Police on Friday.

The Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office is still reluctant to positively identify the victim of the homicide. They say more information is needed before they can be sure who the victim is.

Anyone with information which might help identify and locate these "people of interest" should call Detective Terry Smith at 289-2410. Callers who wish to remain anonymous can contact Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. If a tip leads to an arrest in this case, the caller would be eligible for a substantial cash reward. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS or email tips can be submitted to

Detectives investigate death on Big Coppitt Key

Big Coppitt Key - Sheriff's detectives are investigating the death of a man whose body was found past the barricades at the end of Old Boca Chica Road Monday afternoon.

The man's body was found about 4 p.m., approximately a mile and a half past the barricades. He was floating in about two feet of water in a salt water pond. There were no signs of foul play in evidence on his body. His shoes and his wallet were found nearby, on shore. His credit cards, identification and cash were found in the wallet.

Detective Mark Coleman from the Sheriff's Homicide Unit has been assigned to the case. He says an autopsy will be done today to attempt to determine the cause of his death. He is reportedly a white male in his 30s with an address on Stock Island. His family has not yet been notified.

February 16, 2009

Highway Interdiction Operation results in two arrests

Islamorada - The Sheriff's Office conducted a "Highway Interdiction Operation" Friday, arresting two men on felony drug charges.

The Operation was an effort to catch people who are transporting drugs on the highway in Monroe County. Detectives from the Sheriff's Special Investigations Division worked with road patrol deputies, traffic enforcement officers and Florida Highway Patrol troopers.

Between 6 p.m. and midnight, as officers made traffic stops for various violations, detectives would respond to each scene and use Deputy Ken Fricke's K-9 partner Tracer to check each car for drugs. When Tracer alerted on a car, indicating the presence of drugs inside, the detectives would then search for the illegal substances.

On Friday night, Tracer indicated the presence of drugs on two separate traffic stops.

Just before 11 p.m., a red Pontiac was spotted northbound at the 88 mile marker with a headlight out. The car was pulled over and the driver was identified as 56 year old Steven Andrews of Islamorada. The detective who stopped the car could immediately smell the odor of marijuana coming from inside. Deputy Fricke and Tracer responded and the dog alerted on the car.

Inside, a search revealed a bag on the back seat. Inside the bag was 10 ounces of marijuana in small plastic bags, packaged for sale. Also in the bag was $4,190 in cash and a pipe used for smoking marijuana. An additional $1,290 in cash was found in Andrew's wallet.

Andrews was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of drug paraphernalia and he was booked into jail. The cash and drugs were seized.

A second man was arrested on another traffic stop after K-9 Tracer alerted on his car. 32 year old Robert Oden of Key Largo was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana after a search turned up a small amount of cocaine and marijuana in his car.

February 15, 2009

Stock Island trailer fire

Stock Island - A trailer on Stock Island was destroyed by fire early Saturday.

Deputies Caridad Bellon and Walter Kirchner responded to reports of a fight at Liz Trailer Park on Fourth Avenue at 4:30 a.m. When they arrived, they found a trailer fully engulfed in flames. They evacuated adjacent trailers in case the fire spread. Deputy Kirchner also disconnected a propane tank at the back of the trailer in an effort to keep it from igniting.

Monroe County Firefighters arrived and the fire was extinguished by 5:30 a.m. The fire marshall's Office was notified and responded to investigate the origin of the fire.

Autopsy confirms homicide

Stock Island - Sheriff's detectives and the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office say an autopsy performed yesterday on a man found dead on board a boat Friday confirm the man was murdered.

The man's body was found by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigations Friday morning. The agents were at Oceanside Marina on Stock Island to do a well being check when they smelled the odor of decay, entered the boat and found the man dead. They contacted the Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff's Homicide Investigations Unit is assigned to the case.

While detectives say the autopsy confirmed foul play in the man's death, they say the autopsy did not give them a definitive identification of the man. They say they are fairly certain they know who he is, but the Medical Examiner wants more information before confirming the identity officially. Detectives are currently working to find details which might help in this endeavor.

Detectives also refuse to discuss details of how the man was killed. Citing the ongoing investigation, they say they will not talk about what type of weapon or weapons may have been used, or what types of injuries were found on the body.

The investigation is continuing.

February 13, 2009

Homicide detectives investigate "suspicious death"

Stock Island - Sheriff's homicide detectives are on the scene of what they are calling a "death under suspicious circumstances" at the Oceanside Marina on Stock Island.

The body of a white male was found on board a boat called "Flo to me". The boat - a 43 foot Trojan - has reportedly been docked at Oceanside Marina for quite some time - perhaps as long as a couple of years.

The body was discovered after agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation responded to that location to do a welfare check. They smelled an odor coming from the boat and found the man dead inside. They notified the Sheriff's Office at 10:30 a.m.

Sheriff's Homicide Detective Terry Smith will be the lead investigator on the case. Detectives will not comment on any possible causes of the man's death until after the autopsy is performed Saturday. They also will not speculate on the man's identity at this time, because they have not had the opportunity to confirm it definitively.

February 12, 2009

Operation targets sales of alcohol to underage drinkers

Monroe County - As part of an ongoing effort to slow the proliferation of underaged drinking, the Sheriff's Office Special Investigations Division conducted a county-wide operation to target sale of alcohol to minors Wednesday.

Using an underage undercover operative, detectives went to 35 convenience stores, liquor stores and bars to see if the operative could purchase alcohol. Out of those 35 locations, six people were issued notices to appear in court for selling alcohol to a minor. During the operation, detectives also checked proper display of liquor licenses. Some of the businesses were put on notice for not displaying them properly.

The operation was coordinated with the Monroe County Coalition Against Underage Drinking.

The following people were issued notices to appear in court:

Noise complaint escalates into drug bust

Big Pine Key - Sheriffs deputies responding to a noise complaint on Big Pine Key wound up arresting three people on marijuana possession charges.

Sgt. Charlene Sprinkle-Huff and Deputy Christopher Rhinhart responded to a residence on County Road at 11:20 p.m. after dispatchers received a noise complaint. They knocked on the door of the home and 27 year old Robert Stevens answered the door. It was obvious to the officers that Stevens was trying not to open the door too widely. As they spoke to him about the noise complaint it became obvious why - they could smell a strong odor of marijuana smoke coming from inside.

Sgt. Sprinkle-Huff managed to get a look through the door and saw marijuana in plain view. At that point, she pulled Stevens outside and ordered the other two men and a woman who were in the house to come out as well. The residents of the home refused to consent to a search. Narcotics detectives from the Sheriff's Special Investigations Division were notified and responded.

A search warrant was obtained for the home. Inside, detectives found 22 ounces of marijuana packaged as if for sale. They also found seven Loratabs, numerous items of drug paraphernalia and $970 in cash believed to be the proceeds of drug transactions.

Robert Stevens was arrested, along with 22 year old Shane Stevens and 24 year old Christopher Ullrich. They were all charged with possession of marijuana with intent to sell, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. They were all booked into jail.


February 11, 2009

Fire destroys boat, damages Sea Lobster

Stock Island - Fire which started on a fishing boat spread to storage areas and an office owned by the Sea Lobster Fish Company on Stock Island overnight.

Deputies Caridad Bellon and Danielle Malone responded to the area of 5th Avenue on Stock Island around midnight and found a vessel moored near the Sea Lobster engulfed in flames. The fire appeared to be spreading to adjacent structures. The deputies began rousing people sleeping on nearby vessels in an attempt to evacuate everyone as the fire spread. Monroe County Firefighters also responded and began fighting the growing blaze.

By 4 a.m., the fire was extinguished. The boat was destroyed, with extensive damage to adjacent storage buildings and the office area of the business. Firefighters were called back to the scene at 8 a.m. for a possible "hot spot" in one of the wooden buildings there.The Fire Marshall's office was notified.

Man charged with cultivating marijuana

Marathon - Acting on a Crime Stoppers tip, Sheriff's detectives arrested a man for cultivation of marijuana Tuesday.

Detectives from the Sheriff's Special Operations Division went to Keys RV Park, Lot #83 West in Marathon Tuesday to check a tip they received from a caller to Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. The tip indicated 73 year old Michael Csernik was growing marijuana at that location.

Csernik was there when they arrived and gave permission for the detectives to search his property. They found 13 marijuana plants, a small amount of bagged marijuana and several marijuana pipes. The estimated street value of the drugs is $13,000.00.

Csernik was arrested and charged with cultivation of marijuana and possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. He was booked into jail.

More information about man found dead off shore of Cudjoe Key

Cudjoe Key - Detectives say they believe a man whose body was found off shore of Cudjoe Key Monday evening died of a self inflicted gun shot wound.

An autopsy performed Tuesday revealed the man died of a gunshot wound to his head. According to Homicide Detective Mark Coleman, all the evidence and information he has so far in this case indicates it was self inflicted. Sheriff's detectives and officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission returned to the location where the body was found today and recovered a gun and a single shell casing.

While Detective Coleman says he is still trying to confirm the man's identity and locate his family, he will say he believes the man comes from the area of New Port Richey and was in his 50s when he died.

February 10, 2009

Man found dead off shore of Cudjoe

Cudjoe Key - A man's body was pulled from the water off shore of Cudjoe Key Monday evening.

The Sheriff's Office and Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission responded off shore near the Tarpon Belly Keys at 6:15 p.m. to reports that a couple on a sailboat had spotted a body. They found the body of a white male face down in a muddy area. The man's kayak was nearby. A vehicle believed to belong to him was found parked on Blimp Road on Cudjoe Key.

The body was recovered and there is no immediate sign of foul play in evidence. An autopsy will be done to determine the cause of his death. A detective from the Sheriff's Homicide Unit has been assigned to investigate. The detective does have a tentative identification of the victim. Once that identification has been confirmed, and next of kin have been notified, his name will be released.

February 6, 2009

Two charged with robbing man at bus stop

Marathon - A man and a woman were arrested Thursday afternoon after witnesses saw them robbing a man at a bus stop at 55th Street in Marathon.

The victim was incapacitated, lying on the bus stop bench at 12:30 p.m. when Deputy James Jenkins arrived. He was transported to the hospital for treatment. According to paramedics who transported him, he roused enough to indicate to them he'd been struck by someone in the abdomen.

Witnesses still on the scene when Deputy Jenkins arrived told him they'd seen the 64 year old victim lying on the ground, as if knocked down; they then saw 49 year old Ofelia Lopez of Miami go through his pockets, taking approximately $80 in cash from the victim. Lopez gave some of the money to 37 year old Vernon Huson, of Marathon, who reportedly put the money in his sock. Lopez was gone when the deputy arrived, but Huson was still on the scene. Deputy Jenkins found a $20 bill in Huson's sock.

While the deputy was investigating, Lopez returned to the scene and was identified by the witnesses as the one who took the victim's money. Lopez and Huson were both arrested, charged with robbery and taken to the Monroe County Detention Center.

Traffic stop leads to marijuana arrest

Marathon - A man from the State of Maine was arrested Thursday evening after a traffic stop revealed he had marijuana in his vehicle.

Deputy Leon Bourcier was at 30th Street in Marathon at 8:30 p.m. when he spotted a brown car with a headlight out. He pulled in behind the car and attempted to pull it over. The driver finally pulled over about a mile down the road, at the north end of the Seven Mile Bridge.

Sgt. Susan Greenwood arrived to assist. The driver was identified as 72 year old Richard King of Eustis, Maine. Deputy Ken Fricke and his K-9 partner Tracer happened to be in the area and responded as well. Deputy Fricke walked Tracer around the car and the dog alerted, indicating drugs were inside. A search turned up eight plastic bags with a green leafy substance inside them. The bags were in a red book bag in the back seat. The substance tested positive as eight ounces of marijuana. Other smaller amounts of marijuana were found in various areas of the car and a small bag with five grams of marijuana was found in King's pocket, along with some rolling papers.

King was arrested and charged with fleeing and eluding police, possession of a felony amount of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was booked into jail.

Teen charged with burglary on Stock Island

Stock Island - Deputies were called to a burglary in progress on Stock Island early Thursday and apprehended the teen who committed the crime.

When Deputy Walter Kirchner arrived at 38 9th Avenue on Stock Island at 5:30 a.m., the residents of the home told him a man they knew by the street name of "cool lover" had broken into the residence. One woman told the deputy she woke to find the man in her bedroom. He fled, taking her purse. She found her purse elsewhere in the house, but her wallet was gone. The wallet was later found outside the home, where the suspect had apparently dropped it.

Sgt. Tom Walker arrived as back up. He was aware of a 17 year old by the name of Carlton Howard who goes by the street name of "cool lover". Howard's last know address was on 6th Avenue, Stock Island. The officers went to that location and found Howard hiding underneath a car parked in front of his last known residence.

Howard was detained. He was returned to the location of the burglary where he was positively identified as the person who broke in and took the purse and wallet. He was charged with burglary and he was booked at the Monroe County Detention Center.

February 5, 2009

Search warrant results in arrests

Deputy Francisco Gaete puts Derek Williams in his patrol car after his arrest.

Items of drug paraphernalia found at the home.

Three people were arrested at a Key Largo home after Detectives from the Special Investigations Division served a search warrant Wednesday afternoon.

The search warrant was served at 561 Palm Drive at 4 p.m. by Special Investigations detectives, assisted by Upper Keys detectives and road patrol deputies. The warrant was obtained after neighbors complained drugs were being sold at the residence. During the operation, a number of neighbors came out of their homes to give detectives a "thumbs up" for taking action on the complaints.

Three people were there when the warrant was served: 40 year old Ronald Williams, 19 year old Derek Williams - both of whom live there - and 20 year old Bryan Williams, who lives on Jewfish Avenue in Key Largo. The search turned up marijuana in numerous locations throughout the house, as well as many items of drug paraphernalia. Ronald Williams admitted to detectives the marijuana was his, so he was arrested for possession of the illegal substance.

Detectives had outstanding warrants for the other two men. On two occasions, an undercover operative purchased marijuana from Derek Williams, so he was arrested on two counts of sale of marijuana. Bryan Williams was caught with marijuana in his pocket in July of last year at Key Largo Community Park. He was arrested on a warrant for possession of the drug.

February 4, 2009

Marathon businessman charged with stolen jet ski, trailers

Marathon - The owner of Strama's Marine Service was arrested Tuesday on outstanding warrants after deputies found a stolen jet ski and two stolen trailers at his place of business at 1210 Overseas Highway in Marathon.

Deputies were at the business investigating two other criminal cases when they found the stolen items. They first noticed a double jet-ski trailer with a Yamaha jet ski on it. a check on the jet-ski's registration numbers came back to a Kawasaki jet ski belonging to 25 year old Jonn Strama's wife. It was apparent, upon investigation, that the Hull Identification Number (HIN) had been tampered with. They found the hidden factory HIN, which came back to a Miami woman. The jet ski turned out to have been stolen out of Miami. A check on the trailer revealed it had been stolen from a Marathon resident in January 2008.

A second trailer, a 24 foot Load Master trailer was found at the business, parked in front of a fire hydrant. The tag on the trailer was registered to Jonn Strama. Deputies attempted to find a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which is usually on the tongue of the trailer. A metal plate had been welded over that area and no VIN was visible. They towed the trailer for further investigation. Once the plate was removed, they discovered the VIN had been sanded off.

Deputies and detectives working together to continue the investigation called the owner of a Load Master trailer that had been stolen from a home on Harbor Drive in Marathon. The owner of that trailer was able to provide enough details about his trailer, and it's distinguishing marks, that detectives were able to positively identify it as the stolen trailer.

A warrant was obtained for Strama's arrest. He was picked up Tuesday and charged with three counts of grand theft and he was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

Detectives charge inmate with threats to his family

Stock Island - Sheriff's detectives charged an inmate at the Monroe County Detention Center with making violent threats to his own family.

On January 30th, Detention Center staff intercepted a letter written by 39 year old Alexis Perez of Homestead.

The intercepted letter, four pages in length, was written to his wife. It articulated his hatred of her, his children and other family members. He said they would be sorry if he was ever released. He specifically threatened to cut off his wife's head and perform a ritual of some sort. He said he "had the devil in him" and wanted to harm other members of his family as well.

Detective Juan Llera was assigned to investigate. A warrant was issued for Perez and, on Tuesday, he was charged with intimidation - written threats to kill, a second degree felony crime. Perez was originally arrested on charges he robbed Orion Bank in Marathon in December of 2006; he escaped from the Marathon Detention Center in September of 2008 and was immediately recaptured on board a northbound bus in Islamorada. When he was recaptured, he pulled a knife on deputies, and told one deputy he would "put a bullet in his head" after he was released from jail.

Perez continues to reside at the Monroe County Detention Center on Stock Island, in the high security portion of the facility.


he robbed the Orion Bank in Marathon in December of 2006.

37 year old Alexis Perez-Herrera is in the Monroe County Detention Center. In January 2007 he was identified as the man who robbed Orion Bank in Marathon on December 7th 2006. Detective identified him using surveillance tapes and fingerprints; a warrant was issued for his arrest just a month after the robbery, but he was in custody in Miami-Dade County for seven similar robberies in the Homestead area.

February 1, 2009

Two men caught with boat stolen from Miami

Islamorada - Two men were arrested Friday after they were caught on board a 33 foot Hydrosport boat stolen from Miami.

Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Officers were on patrol offshore of Islamorada Friday morning at 11:30 a.m. when they spotted the vessel and attempted to stop and check it. When the boat failed to stop, they activated emergency equipment, sped up and caught it. They immediately noticed a number of 15 gallon plastic containers filled with fuel on the deck of the boat. The two men on board were detained and taken to the Coast Guard Station in Islamorada.

A check of the boat revealed it had been reported stolen earlier that same morning from behind a home in Key Biscayne. The owner said he'd left the extra keys to the boat on board.

28 year old Pedro Ceballos of Key Largo and 31 year old Lazaro Rodriguez of Kendall were both questioned about the boat and where they were going. Ceballos said he was picked up at his girlfriend's house in Homestead by someone he doesn't know and taken to an unknown marina where he got onto the boat with Rodriguez; Rodriguez says he was picked up at an unknown marina by an unknown person on a jet ski and taken to the boat, which was already running with the extra fuel on board. Rodriguez said he wanted to return to Cuba because he was tired of living in the United States.

CBP contacted the Sheriff's Office and Deputy Nelson Sanchez responded to the Coast Guard station. He took both men into custody, charging hem with grand theft of the vessel. They were booked into jail.

Deputies break up party after reports of a fight

Key Largo - Five juveniles were issued Civil Citations and three adults were given notices to appear in court after deputies responded to a fight call on Tina Place in Key Largo early today.

Deputies Ian Barnett and Derek Paul responded to reports of a fight just after midnight. When they arrived at #39 Tina Place, they saw young people running - several ran into the house, and others ran into the back yard and over a side fence.

The deputies knocked on the door of the house but the people inside refused to answer. The deputies began checking around the house in an attempt to locate the victim of the reported fight. As they were searching the grounds, several juveniles exited the home and were taken into custody.

Inside the home, the deputies found numerous open bottles of alcohol, a large number of open beer bottles and eight glass pipes with the strong odor of marijuana in them. A small amount of marijuana was also found in a glass container.

Five juveniles aged 16 to 17 received Civil Citations for being in possession of alcohol; one of the five was also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of marijuana and for having an open house party.

Three adults were found at the residence; 19 year old Alonzo Nunez, 18 year old Noel Nunez and 18 year old Patrick Browning were all issued notices to appear in court for serving alcoholic beverages to minors. The juveniles were released to the custody of their parents.