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.
PAISLEY, Florida—A man just released from jail Wednesday after a domestic battery charge was dropped, went straight back to jail Friday after being accused of domestic battery again, and possession of methamphetamine.
James Cecil Smith, 37, of Paisley, was arrested Nov. 7 after he was accused of battering a woman during an argument about infidelity on Nov. 6, according to that arrest affidavit. The woman told Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies Smith, also known as “Nasty Cracker,” put his right forearm across her neck and attempted to cover her mouth when she yelled, the affidavit states.
The victim was able to grab her phone and hit the emergency call button and summon help. Smith was located the following day at the home on Hibiscus Avenue in Paisley and arrest for domestic battery. Smith was transported to the Lake County Jail, where he remained until Wednesday when the charge was dropped, according to Lake County Clerk of Court online records.
On Friday, LCSO responded to the same home on Hibiscus Avenue if reference to an open 9-1-1 line, and a female heard saying someone was trying to attack her and steal her curling iron, according to a second arrest affidavit. Due to redaction, it is unclear if the same female was the victim in both cases.
The victim told deputies Smith tried to take her phone from her hand while she was sleeping and squeezed her hand very hard. Smith was spotted on a bicycle near the home as deputies were leaving and he was taken into custody for domestic battery. Upon searching Smith, he was found with a bag of methamphetamine, the affidavit states.
Smith was transported to LCJ, where he is being held on $4,000 bond.
EUSTIS, Florida—The white powder sent to Eustis High School Monday that caused the school to be placed on lockdown was cornstarch, Eustis Police Chief Craig Capri said.
A package was opened shortly before noon Monday and contained an unknown white powder later determined to be cornstarch, Capri said. EHS was placed on lockdown out of abundance of caution, and students and faculty were not in danger, Capri said.
“We are following protocol to ensure the safety and students and faculty,” Capri told Inside Lake Monday afternoon.
Eustis Fire Department and Lake EMS also responded to the scene.
EUSTIS, Florida—Eustis Police Department is investigating a suspicious package sent to Eustis High School, Eustis Police Chief Craig Capri told Inside Lake.
“Everything is under control concerning the safety of the students,” Capri said.
The package was opened shortly before noon Monday and contained an unknown white powder that will be sent to a lab for testing, Capri said. EHS was placed on lockdown, and students and faculty are not in danger, Capri said.
“We are following protocol to ensure the safety and students and faculty,” Capri said.
Eustis Fire Department and Lake EMS were also on scene and staging in the area. This is one of several incidents around Lake County Monday involving a suspicious package, Capri said. Inside Lake is working to get more information on those incidents.
EUSTIS, Florida—An intoxicated combative patient on her way to the hospital attacked an EMT, opened the side door of the ambulance, attacked him again as they both fell out on the grass on the side of the road, attacked his partner as she tried to help and kicked a Eustis Police officer in the face after she arrived at the hospital Thanksgiving night, according to an arrest affidavit.
Ashley Polston, 34, is facing three charges of battery on a first responder after EPD responded to help Lake EMS EMTs after Polston attacked a male EMT in the back of an ambulance, opened the door of the ambulance and the fight spilled out onto the side of the 1200 block of Lakeshore Drive as his partner pulled the ambulance over around 8:45 p.m. Thursday, the affidavit states.
The male EMT told police Polston began unbuckling her seatbelts on the way to AdventHealth Waterman in Tavares; he told to her to keep them on for safety and Polston is alleged to have unbuckled the seatbelts, stood up and threw a punch at the EMT.
He blocked the punch and Polston opened the side door of the ambulance with her foot and as the EMT tried to exit, Polston grabbed him and they both fell into the grass, he told EPD. Polston attacked him again, swinging, punching and spitting as his female partner tried to help. The female EMT tried to secure Polston’s legs and Polston kicked her in the face, she told police. EPD then arrived on the scene and secured Polston in handcuffs and on a stretcher. She was transported to AdventHealth Waterman and when the EPD officer arrived at the hospital to assist, and Polston kicked him in the face as well, according to the affidavit.
Polston was released from the hospital and arrested for three counts of battery on a first responder. She was transported to the Lake County Jail, where she was released on $15,000 bond.
KISSIMMEE, Florida—The family of a missing Eustis man stood with Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez Saturday to ask for the public’s help finding him.
Herman McClenton, 73, went for a walk in Secret Key Cove in Kissimmee, where he and his family were visiting for Thanksgiving, around 4 p.m. Thursday. McClenton, who suffers from dementia, Lopez said, did not return from his walk.
The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) has utilized aviation and bloodhounds in their search, along with a computer-aided system to track grid searches to make sure they are thorough, Lopez said.
“We suspect no foul play at this time,” Lopez said. “We do have some video of him running behind houses, walking behind houses.”
McClenton’s daughter, Beverly Porter, spoke at the press conference and said, McClenton is the father of 13, and “We just want him home.”
“We’ve exhausted a lot of efforts,” Lopez said. “Now we’re asking for help from the media. McClenton was last seen wearing a red hat with a religious quote, a plaid shirt, jeans and black shoes. He is black, 6 feet, 1 inch tall, has black hair, brown eyes and weighs 197 pounds. If you have information on McClenton’s whereabouts, call OCSO at 407-348-2222 or call 9-1-1.
TAVARES, Florida—A Tavares mom on her way to work was alerted by her doorbell camera to a man trying to break into her house while her daughter was inside, and he was quickly apprehended by Tavares Police officers earlier this month, according to an arrest affidavit.
Jess Hubbard, 36, who has been booked into the Lake County Jail 17 times on a variety of charges including trespassing, possession of methamphetamine and violation of probation, was captured on video ringing the doorbell at a home on Palm Way in Tavares around 4:30 a.m. Nov. 8, according to the affidavit.
When no one answered the door, Hubbard tried to get into the home by repeatedly twisting and pushing the doorknob, prompting the woman’s daughter to call 9-1-1 and then her mom. Her mom immediately turned around and went back home just in time to see a shadow moving on the eastern side of her property. The woman screamed at Hubbard to get away from her house several times and after stating law enforcement had been called, Hubbard fled westbound down Palm Way.
Hubbard attempted to hide behind a home about a block away and was located by a TPD officer, according to the affidavit. He was taken into custody and arrested for loitering and prowling and transported to the Lake County Jail, where he remains on $1,000 bond.
SORRENTO, Florida—A man is being held in the Lake County Jail on $115,000 bond after intentionally running two people over earlier this month, according to an arrest affidavit.
Bryan Alexis Juarez, 34, of Sorrento is accused of hitting the man and woman as they walked near State Road 46 and Church Street shortly before 3:30 a.m. Nov. 13 and sending the woman to the hospital.
In the early morning hours of Nov. 13, Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to the area of Oasis Saloon, 23800 State Road 46, Sorrento on a report of a hit-and-run crash involving a pedestrian and a white SUV. While responding to that incident, another call came in from a woman reporting her boyfriend, Juarez, had taken her white Jeep Cherokee without permission.
The male victim told a Lake County Sheriff’s Office detective, Juarez followed and approached a group of females walking down the road after leaving a party and tried to convince several of them to ride with him and have sexual relations, the affidavit states.
The females rejected Juarez and he got angry and sped off towards the male and female who were near the corner of State Road 46 and Church Street, the male victim told a detective. Juarez swerved and hit the pair, injuring the woman seriously enough she had to be transported to HCA Florida Lake Monroe Hospital, formerly known as Central Florida Regional Hospital, in Sanford. The male victim jumped on the hood of the Cherokee to avoid injury, the affidavit states. He told LCSO believed the act was intentional.
While on the scene of the crash, Juarez’ girlfriend called LCSO back and informed them her boyfriend had returned home with her Cherokee. Deputies and a Florida Highway Patrol trooper responded to the home and took Juarez into custody. He was arrested for two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, driving while license suspended and causing serious bodily injury, and failure to remain at a crash involving serious bodily injury.
APOPKA, Florida—A Eustis man was killed Saturday night after the 2000 Ford Focus he was driving was struck head-on by a 2017 Dodge Ram 1500, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
A 38-year-old Apopka man was driving the Ram eastbound on South Binion Road, also known as County Road 437, near Sheaf Road when he failed to maintain his lane entered the westbound lane and struck the Focus being driven by a 65-year-old Eustis man, shortly before 9 p.m. Saturday, FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi said.
The impact caused the Ram to overturn on its right side and the driver was transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries. The Eustis man was transported to AdventHealth Apopka, where he was pronounced dead.
EUSTIS, Florida—The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating a crash that killed an elderly man and seriously injured a teenager Saturday afternoon.
The 73-year-old Villages man was traveling southbound in a 2021 Honda CRV on State Road 44 near Rory Lane in unincorporated Eustis just before 2 p.m. Saturday when he attempted to make a U-turn and entered the direct path of 2004 Chevrolet Tahoe also traveling southbound. The front of the Tahoe struck the left side of the CRV, according to FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi.
The impact ejected the Tahoe’s passenger, a 19-year-old male from Eustis; he was not wearing his seatbelt. He was transported to Central Florida Regional Medical Center in Sanford with serious injuries. The driver, of the Tahoe, an 18-year-old male, also of Eustis, was not injured; he was not wearing a seatbelt either, Crescenzi said in a press release.
The CRV’s driver, who was wearing a seatbelt, was transported to AdventHealth and pronounced deceased. The crash remains under investigation.
MONTVERDE, Florida—The man who hit a high school freshman earlier this week was found by his boss using a tracking device and turned over to the Florida Highway Patrol, along with the two occupants who were in the car with him, and the driver confessed to the crime, according to a report.
Owen Wells, 14, a ninth grader at Lake Minneola High School, was killed around 6:20 a.m. Thursday on County Road 455 near Willo Pines Lane when he was struck by a Pontiac G6 being driven by Enrique Ramirez, 57, of Winter Garden. The impact threw the teen into the southbound lane of County Road 455 and Owen was then struck a second time by a Dodge Ram being driven by Jeffrey Bolin, 59, of Ferndale. Bolin stopped after the crash, stayed on scene and gave troopers a statement; Ramirez stopped briefly and then fled the scene, he told troopers.
According to the arrest report, Ramirez said he was “scared” and believed because other people stopped, he did not have to; Ramirez had two of his coworkers in his car when he hit Owen. The trio fled to their boss’ house a few miles away, left the vehicle with the damaged left headlight, picked up a work truck for the landscaping business they work for and went about their day.
Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies located the vehicle in front of the home just a few miles from the scene of the crash. Troopers responded and observed damage consistent with the crash and it matched “perfectly” to reflectors and mirror housing parts left on the scene, according to the report. They spoke with Esdras Rivera, owner of the landscaping business, who told them Ramirez and his buddies, Alberto Perez Hernandez and Francisco Javier Zacarias Cononado, were “acting weird” and seemed “very short” when they arrived earlier to pick up the work truck.
Rivera told troopers he had a tracking device on the work truck and could locate Ramirez. The Pontiac was towed by FHP for processing with an FHP sergeant following close behind, according to the report. Rivera located Ramirez, Hernandez and Cononado, picked them up and took the trio to the FHP station on Semoran Boulevard in Orlando where they were questioned, the report states. Attempts to reach Rivera for comment were unsuccessful.
All three were interviewed by troopers and Ramirez admitted he was driving the Pontiac at about 40 miles per hour northbound on County Road 455 when he saw a person’s shadow on the roadway and swerved to avoid the person. He said he struck the person, and the person was struck by a truck, according to the report.
Ramirez said he stopped briefly, then left the scene because he was “scared” and “others had stopped so he thought he could leave,” the report states. Ramirez’ passengers, Hernandez and Cononado both admitted they were passengers in the car at the time of the crash and fled the scene. They have not been charged and FHP has turned its findings over to the State Attorney’s Office for review, FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi told Inside Lake.
Ramirez was arrested for leaving the scene of a crash involving death and transported to the Lake County Jail. Troopers requested no bond when he was booked into the jail, and the bond has since been lowered to $100,000. Ramirez remained in LCJ at press time.