Marilyn M. Aciego

Publisher Marilyn M. Aciego was born in Lake County and has lived here her entire life. She is a graduate of Umatilla High School and Lake-Sumter State College and began her journalism career at LSSC. She worked at the Daily Commercial while she was still in college and continued her career there as a reporter after she graduated. Marilyn covered many of the area’s top stories, including the death of beloved Lake County Sheriff Chris Daniels in 2006. The same year, she covered the disappearance of Trenton Duckett and still continues a close relationship with his family. She later worked for Lake Legal News and landed exclusive interviews and investigated and broke numerous stories in less than two years.

Man, 28, Arrested for Grabbing 81-Year-Old Man Who Ducked his Punch at Eustis Grocery Store

EUSTIS, Florida—A 28-year-old man is being held in the Lake County Jail on $5,000 bond after video surveillance showed him grabbing an elderly man and attempting to punch him at a Eustis grocery store Thursday afternoon., according to an arrest affidavit.

The victim, 81, told Eustis Police Department that a man, later identified as Jason David Payne, of Eustis, came into Winn-Dixie, 1995 North State Road 19 around 5 p.m. Thursday, “acting strange.” Payne was in and out of the store yelling and then threw down a display rack that struck the victim’s wife’s foot, the victim told police.

Jason Payne PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

The victim confronted Payne, and Payne grabbed him and swung at him, but the man ducked and Payne struck a counter, cutting his hand, the victim told EPD; the store’s video surveillance backed up the victim’s story. Payne left the store in a tan Honda CRV and a Winn-Dixie employee captured a photo of the license plate, the affidavit states.

The SUV was registered to a woman on Orange Avenue in Eustis and when EPD went to the home they found the vehicle and Payne. He was arrested for battery on a person over 65 and transported to LCJ.

9-Month Investigation Uncovers Conspiracy to Smuggle Drugs into Jail, 3 Arrested, Including Siblings

TAVARES, Florida—The Lake County Sheriff’s Office has arrested three people and is looking for a fourth person, it says conspired to smuggle drugs into the Lake County Detention Center, better known as the Lake County Jail or LCJ.

LCSO announced Friday it arrested Victoria Morrison, 24, of Lady Lake, Robert Morrison, 28, of Leesburg, and Anthony Arnold, 37, of Fruitland Park and a warrant has been issued for the arrest Patrick White, 40, of Okahumpka, according to a press release. Victoria Morrison and Robert Morrison are brother and sister, LCSO Lt. Fred Jones told Inside Lake.

According to LCSO, Victoria Morrison attempted to “introduce” fentanyl, methamphetamine and suboxone into LCJ with the help of her boyfriend, Tevaughn Johnson, who was locked up in the Marion County Jail. While cooperating with her brother, who was incarcerated at LCJ and two other inmates, Arnold and White, Victoria Morrison attempted to smuggle the drugs in, but they were intercepted by detectives before they entered the jail, the press release states.

For the next nine months, detectives investigated and intercepted contraband before it made its way into the jail. The probable cause affidavits are sealed and no other information is being released at this time.

Victoria Morrison was serving felony probation when she was arrested Thursday for trafficking in methamphetamine more than 28 grams, conspiracy to traffick in methamphetamine more than 28 grams, possession of suboxone with intent to deliver within 1,000 feet of a school and conspiracy to introduce contraband into a detention facility. Due to the probation violation, she is being held on no bond. Her boyfriend, Tevaughn Johnson, 29, was moved from the Marion County Jail to federal custody on a firearms violation and no charges were filed yet in this case; LCSO has forwarded the information to the U.S. Marshals.

Arnold, who was arrested last year for strangling and raping a woman, is scheduled to go to trial next month, and Victoria Morrison’s brother, Robert, who has been held in the Lake County since June 2022 on a tampering with evidence charge and possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, are each facing additional charges of conspiracy to possess contraband in a detention facility and unlawful use of a two-way communication device and are being held on no bond. White, who was released from LCJ in December 2022, is wanted for the same charges.

Motorcyclist Killed in Head-On Crash, Paisley Woman Airlifted Thursday

PAISLEY, Florida—A Daytona Beach man was killed Thursday afternoon when the motorcycle he was riding drifted into oncoming traffic and struck a car head-on, seriously injuring a Paisley woman, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The 72-year-old man was riding a 2007 Harley-Davidson eastbound on County Road 42 west of 4th Street when he entered the westbound lane and struck a 2017 Hyundai Veloster being driven by a 23-year-old woman shortly before 2 p.m. The impact caused the Hyundai to run off the road and strike several trees, FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi said in a press release.

The motorcycle rider was pronounced dead at the scene and the driver of the Hyundai was airlifted to HCA Florida Lake Monroe Hospital in Sanford in serious but stable condition, Crescenzi said. County Road 42 was still blocked at press time and the crash remains under investigation.

Hours After Alleged Crime, Eustis Attempted Rape Suspect Bitten by LCSO K9 and Taken into Custody Thursday

EUSTIS, Florida—The man accused of attempting to rape a woman at a Eustis massage business was bitten by a Lake County Sheriff’s Office K9 and taken into custody just hours after the crime, according to Eustis Police Department Capt. Dave Carney.

Surveillance video from a nearby business clearly showed the license plate of the vehicle the suspect was driving, and he was quickly identified as Timothy Paul Taylor, 35, by EPD. They went to his last known address in Eustis and neighbors told police he moved to Palmetto Street. Officers arrived at the home he shares with his mother and the vehicle used in the crime was in the driveway, Carney said. Taylor’s mother said he walked off in the woods and Carney called for assistance from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, including a K9 deputy and handler and LCSO’s helicopter, Eagle One. Multiple people called in to EPD and reported seeing Taylor running through several streets.

“He was going through people’s yards, jumping fences. The bird (Eagle One) finally found him,” Carney said.

Taylor was found hiding in heavy vegetation off Selleen Drive and refused to come out when ordered, Carney said, and an LCSO K9 was sent into the brush to apprehend him. Taylor was bitten several times and taken into custody. At press time, he was receiving treatment for the bites at a local hospital.

Taylor is accused of entering the back door of A-1 Massage and Spa, 1316 South Bay Street, and asking for a sex act Thursday morning, Carney said. The female victim told Taylor they did not perform sex acts and he pulled his pants down, grabbed her by the hair, put what police believe may have been a BB gun to her head, pulled his pants down and demanded the sex act. She told him no, he let go and told her he would come back and kill her if she called the police, Carney said.

The victim fled out the front door while Taylor fled out the back door to a black sedan. He popped the hood on the vehicle, closed it and then fled out of the parking lot onto Bay Street, Carney said. Police believe he may have put the gun under the hood of the vehicle before fleeing; a citizen found a BB gun nearby and called EPD; police believe it was the gun used in the crime, Carney said.

Taylor was arrested for attempted aggravated sex battery with a deadly weapon, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and resisting arrest. EPD detectives are requesting Taylor be held on no bond, Carney said.

PHOTO: Marilyn M. Aciego/Inside Lake

Eustis Police Searching for Armed Suspect Accused of Assaulting and Battering Woman Thursday

EUSTIS, Florida—Eustis Police Department is searching for an armed man, accused of assaulting and battering a woman at massage business Thursday morning.

A “younger” white male, approximately 5 feet 7 inches, wearing tan pants, a black hoodie, a red medical mask and armed with a gun entered the back door of A-1 Massage and Spa, 1316 South Bay Street, Thursday morning, EPD Capt. Dave Carney told Inside Lake.

He pulled his pants down, grabbed a female employee by the hair, put the gun to her head, pushed her head down and demanded a sex act. The woman was able to break free and run out the front door while the suspect ran out the back door to a black sedan. He popped the hood on the vehicle, closed it and then fled out of the parking lot onto Bay Street, Carney said, EPD detectives are interviewing the victim, but there is a language barrier. Surveillance video from a nearby business captured him on camera.

The suspect is facing multiple charges, Carney said,

This is a developing story.

Man Accused of Killing Family in 2019 DUI Christmas Eve Crash Leaves Trial for Lunch and Never Comes Back, Found Guilty in Absentia

TAVARES, Florida—A man on trial this week for killing three members of the same family on Christmas Eve 2019 is on the run after leaving his trial during a lunch break and never coming back—and was convicted the same day, according to Lake County Clerk of Court docket information.

Zachery Maurice Waldo, 36, is accused of killing Christopher Smith, 44, his wife, Jessica Smith,35, and their daughter Hailey Smith, 13, all of Eustis. Their son Hunter, just 11 years old, was the sole survivor in the vehicle his family was riding in. Christopher and Jessica died on the scene of the Christmas Eve 2019 crash and Hailey died on Christmas Day 2019.

Waldo was driving a 2019 Dodge Ram eastbound on Dixie Avenue, approaching Dozier Court when a 2018 Toyota Corolla being driven Christopher Smith attempted to make a left turn on Dozier Court. The front of the Ram struck the right side of the Corolla, killing the couple and injuring Hailey and Hunter, Leesburg Police Capt. Joe Iozzi said in 2019.

The event data recorder (EDR) for the Ram recorded the Ram’s speed at 84.5 mph one tenth of a second from the time of impact, but just 2 seconds before, the Ram was traveling at 96.3 mph, according to a report. The posted speed limit is 35 mph, and a witness told LPD the Ram did not slow down, and the brake lights did not illuminate. A witness also put Waldo behind the wheel just before the crash and DNA confirmed, Iozzi said.

Waldo and his passenger, Kevin Cunningham, 33 at the time, were taken to Ocala Regional Medical Center for their injuries. LPD obtained hospital records and Waldo was found to have an alcohol level twice the legal limit, along with amphetamines and benzos in his system, according to the report.

Upon searching the Ram, LPD found a loaded Ruger .40 caliber handgun stolen from Mount Dora, six sandwich bags containing 157.8 grams of marijuana and six cell phones, according to the report.

Lake County Courthouse PHOTO: Inside Lake

LPD obtained a warrant for Waldo’s arrest in August 2020 and he was nabbed by Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies and the U.S. Marshals. They were performing surveillance and spied Waldo get into a black Dodge SUV. Waldo drove out of a neighborhood on Chain O Lakes Road and rolled a stop sign at County Road 44, according to an arrest affidavit. An LCSO deputy attempted a traffic stop and Waldo sped off, running other vehicles off the road. Multiple USMS and LCSO units attempted to stop Waldo and he struck an LCSO patrol car and crashed through a fence on Tall Oak Court, the affidavit states.

Waldo fled on foot and hid in the bushes of a home on Grand Island Oaks Circle and asked for a ride from a man returning home from work. The man denied him the ride and Waldo took off again and jumped over a fence to Laurel Crest Court. He was found lying on the ground wearing nothing but underwear, the affidavit states.  

He was charged with a litany of offenses from the crash and his apprehension and was taken to the Lake County where he was released three days later on $148,000 bond.

He disappeared Tuesday, on the second day of his trial and he was tried and found guilty in absentia. If you have information on Waldo’s whereabouts, call Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS.   

Mount Dora Police Arrest Armed Man Accused of Shooting Woman Twice Sunday Night

MOUNT DORA, Florida—A Mount Dora man is being held on no bond after a woman told Mount Dora Police he shot her at least twice Sunday night, according to an arrest affidavit.

Shortly before 10:30 p.m. Sunday, Mount Dora Police Department responded to the 1500 block of Pine Avenue in reference to a shooting and when they arrived they found a woman in a 2010 Nissan passenger vehicle suffering from at least two gunshot wounds. The victim told police “Jason,” later identified as Jason Jameel Ganga shot her while she was attempting to leave and he was inside. There were two bullet holes through her driver’s side window, the arresting officer noted in the affidavit.

Jason Ganga PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

Officers heard voices as they approached the home and found Ganga’s brother in front of the home and he told them Ganga was in a bedroom inside. MDPD found Ganga underneath a bed, grabbed his legs and pulled him out, and as they pulled him out, they saw he was holding a .40 caliber semi-automatic Smith & Wesson handgun to his temple and actively pulling the trigger; the gun did not have a magazine. The gun was secured, Ganga was taken into custody and placed in the back of a patrol vehicle, the affidavit states.

There were multiple handguns and rifles in the home and ammunition was scattered about; the home had multiple exterior security cameras that likely captured the crime, the arresting officer noted. Ganga, who had alcohol emanating from his breath, refused to answer MDPD’s questions about the shooting.

Ganga, a convicted felon, was arrested on several charges, including attempted murder (domestic,) possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, use of a firearm under the influence of alcohol and shooting a missile into a vehicle. He was transported to the Lake County Jail, where he is being held on no bond.

Another $1 Million Scratch-Off Ticket Sold in Lake County

ASTATULA, Florida—An Astatula man is more than $800,000 richer after claiming a $1 million prize on a scratch-off ticket, the Florida Lottery announced Tuesday.

William Rundall, 69, claimed the prize at the Florida Lottery’s Orlando District Office and chose a one-time, lump sum payment of $820,000, lottery officials said.

Rundall bought the 500X THE CASH ticket for $50 at Food Mart, 13512 Georgia Avenue, Astatula; the store will receive $2,000 bonus commission for selling the ticket.

Just last month, Cynthia Jackubowski, 56, of Groveland claimed her $1 million prize from a ticket she purchased in Leesburg. She also chose a one-time, lump sum payment of $820,000.

Woman Arrested For Neglect After Leaving 2 Children with Store Employee Overnight

LADY LAKE, Florida—A woman is in the Lake County Jail after leaving two children overnight with a gas station employee she did not know, according to an arrest affidavit.

Around 6 a.m. Sunday, Lady Lake Police Department responded to Circle K, 3 La Grande Boulevard, Lady Lake on a report of two abandoned children. When they arrived, an employee told officers an unknown woman, later identified as April Maxwell, 39, came into the store around 10 p.m. Saturday and left the children, aged 7 and 13. The employee said he believed the woman was under the influence of narcotics due to her behavior and he kept an eye on the children throughout the night, according to the affidavit. The relationship between Maxwell and the children is redacted from the affidavit.

The store manager arrived at the store at 5 a.m. Sunday and reviewed store surveillance video that showed Maxwell entering the store at 9:55 p.m. Saturday with two children and then leaving by herself a short time later. The manager waited until 6 a.m. and when Maxwell still did not return, she called LLPD.

Officers found a man sleeping in a golf cart in front of the store and after several minutes he finally woke up and told police he was friends with Maxwell and he was watching the kids while she got air in her golf cart tire. “As I was speaking to (him) it took roughly five minutes to get a coherent statement out of him due to the level of intoxication and being under the influence of illegal narcotics,” the LLPD officer noted in the affidavit.

The man called Maxwell and told her cops were looking for her and about 45 minutes later Maxwell was spotted driving a golf cart south on La Grande Boulevard. She told officers she arrived at Circle K around 9:55 p.m. Saturday with three children and left two of the children with the male employee because he is an acquaintance and she “felt comfortable leaving the kids at the store with him,” the affidavit states.

She went on to explain the air was low in one of her golf cart tires, so she took a 4-year-old child with her to get air at Wawa in Sumter County, while leaving the two older children with the store clerk. Maxwell, who appeared to be under the influence of narcotics, told police she did not think leaving the children at the store put their lives in danger,” according to the affidavit.

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) responded to the scene; the agency had already been searching for Maxwell for about a week because of prior cases, the arresting officer noted. Maxwell refused a drug screen and she was arrested by LLPD for two counts of domestic child neglect and driving while license suspended.

The two older children were dirty and exhausted and DCF took them and the 4-year-old into its custody. Maxwell was transported to the Lake County Jail, where she is being held on $11,000 bond.

8-year-old Arrested for Cutting Foster Brother’s Throat, Kicking Deputy in the Stomach

CLERMONT, Florida—An 8-year-old boy was arrested Saturday after his foster brother told deputies he choked him and swung a kitchen knife at his throat, cutting his neck, according to an arrest affidavit.

Inside Lake is not naming the boy due to his age.

Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived at a home in unincorporated Clermont after receiving a weapons complaint shorty before 4:30 p.m. Saturday. When they arrived, a witness said the boy cut another child’s throat and was outside without the knife. Deputies found the boy outside banging on the front door of the home, “emotionally crying” and stating he did not want to be taken away. As deputies attempted to handcuff the boy, he pulled away multiple times and kicked a deputy in the stomach as they placed him in the back of a patrol car, according to the affidavit.

The victim, whose age is not listed in the affidavit, told LCSO the 4-feet tall, 100-pound boy jumped on him and elbowed him in the stomach earlier in the day. The victim approached the boy later and tried to apologize and the boy began to scream at him. The boy then grabbed the victim with both hands and squeezed the victim’s throat until he could not breathe. The victim kicked the boy and he released him and the victim restrained him by holding him down. The boy grabbed a kitchen knife and walked outside, according to the affidavit.

The victim followed him outside and attempted to speak with him and he swung the knife at him, cutting his neck and a neighborhood friend disarmed the boy and gave it to an adult witness. The boy then grabbed a stick from inside and tried to hit the victim, but was stopped by multiple children. The boy asked where the knife was and said he was going to kill everyone, and went back into the house to look for another knife, the affidavit states.

The victim had a laceration to his neck consistent with his story, the arresting deputy noted in the affidavit.

The boy, who has a history of violence, was arrested for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, battery by strangulation, battery on a law enforcement officer, aggravated assault and resisting arrest. He was transported to the Lake County Jail and turned over to the Department of Juvenile Justice.

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