Around the County

Apopka Man Arrested for Murder in Eustis Teen’s Overdose Death

EUSTIS, Florida—A 22-year-old Apopka man has been arrested in the death of a teenager who overdosed on fentanyl in her Eustis bedroom last month.

Zach Brandon Zorn, 22, was arrested by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office Thursday on a charge of murder by distribution of a controlled substance, a Eustis Police detective working the case said when he spoke exclusively with Inside Lake Friday.  

On the afternoon of Aug. 13, EPD patrol officers responded to a home on Cherry Blossom Court in reference to a death. They spoke with the homeowners, who told officers they found their 19-year-old daughter unresponsive in her bedroom. They attempted CPR while waiting on officers, but she was cold to the touch. Lake County Fire Rescue responded and pronounced the teen dead shortly after she was found.

Her father told police the family watched a movie together the night before and he thought his daughter had stayed home throughout the night, but he did find her keys in her hand while he was attempting to resuscitate his daughter.

The detective working the case responded to the scene and the teenager’s parents and brother told him she had a history of drug use and usually snorted fentanyl and her father said he found a small baggie with a brown substance in her vehicle just a few days before. Police searched her room and bathroom and found marijuana and paraphernalia, in addition to a baggie with a tiny amount of a white substance in her wallet. Another baggie with white residue was found in her vehicle. The substance, believed to fentanyl, was submitted to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for testing.

Last week, the medical examiner released its report to EPD; the teen’s death was found to be an accidental overdose of fentanyl.

The EPD detective began investigating the teenager’s known associates and secured a warrant for her phone, according to a report. The phone was a wealth of information, and showed the teen only communicated with Zorn the night before her death.  Their Snapchat messages are listed below.  

10:58 p.m.  (Zorn) Hay now I’m at mason street

                                       Hay

                                       Did u call

11:12 p.m.  (Teen) No

11:12 p.m. (Zorn) Are u heading this way

11:13 p.m. (Teen) Yes I will be there in 17 minutes

11:17 p.m. (Zorn) Heroine is boy and fetty is Fentanyl

                                    What u want

11:17 p.m. (Teen) Fetty ofc

11:32 p.m. (Zorn) “thumbs up emoji”

11:50 p.m. (Teen) I’m 5 minutes away

11:50 p.m. (Zorn) Oh ok

                                    Drive safely love

11:50 p.m. (Teen) I am

                                    I’m here

2:22 a.m. Aug. 13 (Teen) Is he almost done?

That was the only message sent on the day of the teen’s death, the detective noted in the report.

File photo

During his investigation, the EPD detective found that the teen met Zorn at Apopka High School and they began communicating in January 2018 and the teen discussed buying marijuana and THC from Zorn that year. They quit communicating for an extended amount of time and in March of this year, she messaged Zorn and said she was looking for a new “plug,” and asks if Zorn can get “some hydros or oxy?” The following day the teen messaged Zorn and states, “Loved the fent btw, thank you,” and the next day, March 26, she asks, “Is it possible to get more fent tonight?”  “Plug” is slang for a drug dealer.

Between April 4 and May 31, the teen discussed buying fentanyl from Zorn, and other drug-related transactions, a dozen times. Zorn gave the teen three different addresses in Apopka during this time to meet for drugs, including the home on Mason Street—the same home GPS data showed she met Zorn at the night before her death.

Zorn told a detective Thursday he would get drugs for the teen, and he would “tax” her for facilitating the transaction and keep a portion of the money she gave him. Zorn told the detective he facilitated the delivery of the lethal drugs to the teen the night before she died, but later changed his story when he found out the person he accused of giving her the drugs was incarcerated at the time of her death.

Zorn, who is on pre-trial intervention (PTI) for a different case, is being held in the Orange County Jail on $50,000 bond but will held on a no bond status after he is officially violated, for this new charge the detective said.

EPD Chief Craig Capri is proud of the work his detectives put in on this case and said they will continue to put dealers behind bars. “We will do everything in our power to stop the scourge of drug dealers in our city who prey on the victims who suffer from this illness.”

Just this week EPD worked three overdoses within 30 minutes of each other; the subjects were given Narcan and survived. 

PHOTO: Drug Policy Alliance

FHP Releases Details in Friday Morning Fatal Crash Near Mount Dora

ORANGE COUNTY, Florida—The Florida Highway Patrol has released details about the crash that killed a 28-year-old man before sunrise Friday morning.

The Sumterville man was traveling southbound on Orange Blossom Trail, also known as U.S. Highway 441, on a 2007 Harley Davidson Road King, when he was struck by 2007 Kia Sedona attempting to make a left turn onto Orange Blossom Trail off Willow Street, about 5 miles from the Lake County line around 6: 25 a.m. The intersection is in Orange County but has a Mount Dora address.

The left side of the Sedona struck the front of the motorcycle, killing its rider. The driver of the Sedona, a Mount Dora man, was transported to AdventHealth Apopka with minor injuries, according to FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi.

The crash closed all the southbound lanes and one northbound lane of Orange Blossom Trail for several hours and remains under investigation.

Previous story on Friday’s fatality.

Motorcycle Fatality Closes Most of Orange Blossom Trail Near Mount Dora Friday Morning

ORANGE COUNTY, Florida— A fatal crash has closed the southbound lanes and the inside northbound lane of Orange Blossom Trail at Willow Street, about 5 miles from the Lake County line Friday morning, according to Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Tara Crescenzi.

The intersection is in Orange County but has a Mount Dora address.

The crash involves a 2007 Kia Sedona being driven by a 37-year-old Mount Dora man and a 2007 Harley Davidson being ridden by a 28-year-old Sumterville man. The crash occurred around 6:25 a.m., killing the motorcycle rider and the Mount Dora man was transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, Crescenzi said.

The crash is still in the preliminary stages of the investigation and FHP has not released how the crash occurred.  

This is a developing story.

Update.

Written Threat Places Lake Minneola High School on Lockdown

MINNEOLA, Florida—The Lake County Sheriff’s Office is investigating after a written shooting threat was received at Lake Minneola High School Thursday afternoon, according to Lt. John Herrell.

The threat was received around 1:20 p.m., about 10 minutes before classes change and the school, located at 101 North Hancock Road, was placed on lockdown out of an abundance of caution, Herrell told Inside Lake. The school was checked and deemed safe. No one has been arrested.

The threat delayed dismissal for around 10 minutes and there is a heavy law enforcement presence at the school, Herrell said

A written threat to kill is a felony charge and the names of juveniles arrested for felonies are public record. This is at least the fourth incident in Lake County Schools since the school year began a little more than a month ago.

Tavares Police and LCSO Join Forces for Operation Aware

Operation Aware will provide wristbands and a database for first responders and the special needs community.

TAVARES, Florida—Two law enforcement agencies have joined forces to provide a new tool to the community that will give first responders valuable information when responding to calls for service in the special needs community.

Nearly a year in the making, Tavares Police Department began its Operation Aware initiative in November 2021 and has since teamed up with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office to provide wristbands to members of the community that may require a different response from law enforcement.

“We are big on community policing,” TPD Public Information Officer Courtney Sullivan told Inside Lake last year. “There are always ways we can be better,” she said, “and there are always opportunities for the community to teach us how to better serve them.”

Operation Aware is a “total approach” to the issues facing the special needs community and will provide education, outreach and follow up,” Sullivan said.

Newly-appointed Tavares Police Chief Sarah Coursey worked with Sullivan to get this program up and running. “Operation Aware is near and dear to my heart; it gives us the opportunity to serve our community in a unique way when our response requires a different approach,” Coursey told Inside Lake.

The wristbands are available for community members who have intellectual and developmental disorders, including, but not limited to, autism, dementia. PTSD and Alzheimer’s, according to Sullivan. Loved ones and caregivers are encouraged to reach out to TPD or LCSO and register special needs individuals to get them a wristband and enter them into the database.  

The bright blue wristbands will immediately let law enforcement officers know they are interacting with an individual with special needs, and provide them with vital information including names, addresses, emergency contacts and medical conditions. Officers and dispatchers will have access to the information and individual addresses will be flagged so the officer is aware of any special circumstances before they arrive to the call. Officers will know if the individual is non-verbal, has a sensitivity to lights and sirens and any other pertinent information that would be helpful to officers. They will also help reunification by giving officers and deputies information immediately that can be shared with media outlets and on social media, Sullivan said.  

The wristbands will also be a tool for the public; they will have a number and a QR code that can be scanned and will inform the public to call 9-1-1. The wristband never needs to be charged.    To register, please visit https://tavares.org/1327/Operation-Aware or https://lcso.org/oa/

Unborn Baby Killed in Head-On Collision Late Tuesday Night

EUSTIS, Florida—A head-on collision killed an unborn baby late Tuesday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

A 19-year-old Leesburg woman was westbound in a 2007 Cadillac DTS on County Road 44 near Sparrow Lane around 10: 45 p.m. Tuesday when a 2017 Ford Transit van traveling eastbound entered her lane. The van, being driven by a 34-year-old Eustis man, struck the left front of the Cadillac, causing critical injuries to the teenage driver, who was 30 weeks pregnant.

The unborn child did not survive.

The woman was airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center for treatment and the driver of the van was not injured; he remained on scene, according to FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi. Both drivers were wearing their seatbelts.

The crash remains under investigation.

2 Students Arrested for Making Threats Monday in Separate Incidents

LAKE COUNTY, Florida—A little more than a month into the new school year and two more Lake County Schools students have been arrested for threats, according to two arrest affidavits.

Christopher Joseph Wallace, 17, of East Ridge High School and Braedyn A. Auker, 16, of Tavares High School are each facing a felony charge of written threats to kill after they were arrested in separate incidents Monday.

A student came forward Monday morning at East Ridge High School in Clermont about some concerning texts Wallace had allegedly sent Friday, according to the affidavit. The student said Wallace sent texts that stated, “Because I know I can’t control myself; I’d hurt or possibly kill one of you, spread the message” in addition to, “…there isn’t a remorseful feeling in my body anymore and when I say kill, I mean beat one of you to the point of death; all of you having me feeling betrayed and just debating how I should handle it or leave it be and calm down, but I physically can’t mentally either.”

Wallace was questioned by a Lake County Sheriff’s Office school resource deputy (SRD) and members of administration, and he admitted he made “some statements” based on his “angry behavior” and does not always realize or remember what he said.

Wallace, who is already on probation, was arrested and transported to the Lake County Jail for booking.

Also on Monday, an assistant principal at Tavares High School brought some Snapchat posts to the attention of the SRD. The posts were threatening in nature and stated, “If you go to THS just know I didn’t give up. I’m coming back and when someone fuels the fire I won’t just sit there your (sic) gonna end up with Ur brains out on the school campus and ur momma pleading for doctors to keep you alive,” the affidavit states. “Yk (you know) who you are and I’m coming after u.”

The SRD investigated and identified the poster as Auker, based on another post that references dropping out of school; Auker and his mother met with school officials Thursday to discuss Auker dropping out, according to the affidavit. Auker was also identified in a photo on one of the posts, by an assistant principal. Auker was questioned and admitted making the threats; he said he was upset due to ongoing issues with friends and an ex-girlfriend. Auker arrested for written threats to kill and turned over to the Department of Juvenile Justice.

This is the second Tavares High School student arrested this school year for threats.   

Man Accused of Exposing Himself Fails to Show Up for Court

TAVARES, Florida—The man accused of exposing himself in his Eustis neighborhood last month is back in jail.

Mark Ronald Banks, 53, is in the Lake County Jail on no bond after failing to appear in court Sept. 7 on a charge of exposure of sexual organs stemming from an arrest in August.

In that case, a neighbor accused Banks of standing at his doorway naked and masturbating while facing Glover Street in Eustis on numerous occasions. The neighbor explained he has observed Banks masturbating naked two to three times a week at 7 a.m. for the past six months, according to an arrest affidavit.

A maintenance man for an apartment complex nearby Banks’ home told Eustis Police in August, he installed a fence panel to try to block Banks from view and the maintenance man said while he had never seen Banks masturbate, he had seen him stand naked in his doorway several times a week.

When officers located Banks, they explained there were some complaints about his sexual behavior, and he immediately said, “I don’t do that,” the affidavit states. He appeared nervous and again said, “I don’t do that.” He was questioned about both standing at his door naked and masturbating and repeated, “I don’t do that.”

He was arrested Aug. 12 on that charge and released the same day on $1,000 bond. He turned himself in on the warrant for failure to appear Sept. 8 and continues to be held on no bond. His next court date is scheduled for Sept. 28.

Click below to read Inside Lake’s previous story on Mark Banks.

Man Fires Shot Near SUV with Toddler In It, Police Say

TAVARES, Florida—An argument over an alleged affair led to an Apopka man firing a shot near an SUV with a toddler in it and landed the man in jail Thursday, according to an arrest affidavit.

Richard Joseph Kinchens, 39, pulled up in the front yard of a woman’s home Thursday at Palm Gardens Resort and began arguing with her because his girlfriend accused him of having a “fling” with the woman, she told Tavares Police Department.

A friend of the woman’s heard the argument and went to the home where he heard Kinchens call him a derogatory name, according to the affidavit. He confronted Kinchens as he walked to his car and Kinchens attempted to pull out. The man was blocking Kinchens in with his SUV and when he attempted to move it, Kinchens fired one shot in the direction of the SUV that had the man’s 3 -year-old son in it and another adult male. The bullet struck a trailer that was being towed by the SUV, the affidavit states.

Kinchens fled the scene in white hatchback and police received information Kinchens may be on Maplewood Street; they canvassed the area and found the car he fled in at a home and later contacted Kinchens by phone. He agreed to meet officers and denied shooting at anyone. He was taken into custody and found with a 9mm round in his pocket, he said he found. He was arrested for two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and two counts of possession of ammunition or firearm by a convicted felon. He was released on $24,000 bond.  

Man, 28, Killed Walking Across Turnpike Earlier This Month

CLERMONT, Florida—A 28-year-old Orlando man was killed earlier this month after he crashed vehicle on County Road 455 and walked across several lanes of Florida’s Turnpike, where he was struck by an SUV.

According to Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Tara Crescenzi, the man, whose name is not being released due to Marsy’s Law, crashed his 2015 Acura into an embankment on County Road 455. He exited the vehicle and walked across the southbound lanes of Florida’s Turnpike, crossed the concrete median and entered the northbound inside lane near mile marker 276, where he was struck by a 2020 Kia Soul around 9:45 p.m. on Sept. 8.  

The driver of the Kia, a 24-year-old Gainesville woman, was not injured. She remained on the scene and the man was pronounced deceased on the scene.

Both crashes remain under investigation.

Scroll to Top