Around the County

Eustis family trying to rebuild their lives after loss of home and dog to devastating fire

EUSTIS, Fla.—A Eustis family is trying to rebuild their lives after losing their home and beloved dog to a devastating fire around midnight Monday.

Amanda and Joe Mitchem and their son, Joey, 16, were able to escape the blaze, but lost everything they owned and their pup “Bitty Dog,” in the fire. Their daughter, Joni, 18, did not live at the home but was storing most of her belongings there, Amanda told Inside Lake.  The Mitchem family does not have insurance.

 

Joe and Amanda heard their breaker box making a “buzzing” sound late Sunday night and when Joe opened the box to inspect it, “It burst into flames,” Amanda said.

Joe used two fire extinguishers in an attempt to put out the fire at the mobile home on Old Chisholm Trail, but they were no match for the blaze. Authorities confirmed to the Mitchem family it was an electrical fire that started in the breaker box, she said.

The Mitchem family.

Losing “Bitty Dog” has left the family heartbroken. They adopted him when he was just 6 weeks old and he was part of the Mitchem family for more than five years, “He was our everything!” Amanda said. Joe desperately tried to save the pup, running into the fire three times to rescue him and severely burning his hands, Amanda said.

The Mitchems are currently staying with family while they try to rebuild their lives and move forward. Since the family did not have insurance, they have to replace everything they lost on their own. They have started a fundraising campaign to help with expenses; to donate to the Mitchem family, click here.

Eustis family trying to rebuild their lives after loss of home and dog to devastating fire Read More »

FHP: Boy, 6, seriously injured after jumping from moving SUV near Leesburg

LEESBURG, Fla.—The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating an incident that involved a child jumping out of a moving SUV in unincorporated Leesburg Wednesday, Trooper Migdalisis Garcia said.

A 2007 Dodge Durango was traveling northbound on County Road 33 with its windows down when the 6-year-old boy jumped out near Chipmunk Drive, Garcia said.

The boy was transported to Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children with serious injuries; the driver, a 36-year-old woman from Okahumpka, was not injured. The relationship between the boy and the woman was not released.

The incident remains under investigation.

FHP: Boy, 6, seriously injured after jumping from moving SUV near Leesburg Read More »

Lake County jury convicts man of shooting woman in Mount Dora last year

TAVARES, Fla.—A man accused of shooting a woman twice in Mount Dora last year was convicted by a Lake County jury Wednesday, according to the Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office.

In March 2023, Mount Dora Police Department responded to the 1500 block of Pine Avenue on a report of a shooting and when they arrived, they found a woman in a 2010 Nissan passenger vehicle suffering from 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, an affidavit in the case states.

MDPD found Ganga, who showed signs of alcohol intoxication, underneath a bed. Officers 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, and Ganga was taken into custody. He refused to cooperate with MDPD’s questioning and a search of the home revealed multiple firearms, including handguns and rifles, with ammunition scattered throughout the premises. He was arrested on multiple charges and has been held in the Lake County Jail since his arrest.

Ganga was found guilty of attempted second-degree murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle, and aggravated battery. He was represented by Spencer Rhodes of Orlando and prosecuted by Assistant State Attorneys Gabriel Lozano and Eddie Moffitt. He will be sentenced at a later date.

Previous story: Mount Dora Police Arrest Armed Man Accused of Shooting Woman Twice Sunday Night – Inside Lake

Lake County jury convicts man of shooting woman in Mount Dora last year Read More »

Tavares police thwart man’s plans to kill his father and beat him with a stick Wednesday

TAVARES, Fla.—A 27-year-old man is behind bars, accused of violating a New York injunction that prohibits him from possessing a firearm, after Tavares Police Department found him with a loaded 9mm he planned to use to “put all of the bullets into his father,” according to an arrest affidavit.

Tavares Police Department responded to a home on a request that Tyekwon A. Neal be evaluated because he was “acting crazy,” as he left the home on foot shortly before 1:30 pm. Wednesday. Neal’s father told officers Neal said he was going to make him pay for his mistakes and he did not care about anything, including himself, the affidavit states.

Officers began searching the area for Neal and found him at Disston Avenue and Esther Street, about a block away from the home. Neal appeared “agitated,” and was moving away from an officer when another officer pulled up and repeatedly asked Neal what was wrong and asked him to speak with her, the affidavit states.

He finally agreed to speak with officers in a “triangle formation” but continued to move away from them as they spoke; due to the statements Neal made, he was detained. As officers cuffed Neal, he told them he had his father’s loaded 9mm in the front pocket of his hoodie and gave them details on how he planned to kill his father, telling officers he was going to use the gun to “put all of the bullets in his father.” Officers found another loaded magazine in the front right pocket of his pants and a 4-foot-long stick in Neal’s left pant leg, he told police he also planned to use on his father. Neal, who said he was on medication for two mental health disorders but had only taken a partial dose Wednesday, was placed in the back of a patrol vehicle while the arresting officer ran a criminal history check.

She found Neal had been served an injunction in New York in 2020 that prohibited him from possessing a weapon, including a firearm. She confirmed he had to abide by the conditions of the injunction in Florida and he was arrested for violating an injunction. She also found multiple arrests in Buffalo, N.Y. It was unclear if Neal was convicted of any of his felony arrests, so he was not arrested for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He was not charged with any offenses related to the threats made to his father because his father was unsure if he had the firearm when he made the threats, TPD told Inside Lake.

Neal was transported to the Lake County Jail, where he pointed his finger in the shape of a gun at jail staff and threatened to shoot them while the officer completed her paperwork. He is being held on no bond.

Tavares police thwart man’s plans to kill his father and beat him with a stick Wednesday Read More »

Lady Lake police asking for tips to crack the case that left a young man dead last year

LADY LAKE, Fla.—It’s been nearly a year since 20-year-old Bryson Leverette was gunned down by a group of armed suspects in the Skyline Hills area of Lady Lake and Lady Lake Police Department has a new, seasoned detective on the case.

Leverette and another victim were leaving a home at 104 Caroline Avenue around 12:45 a.m. June 30, 2023, when they were approached by the group, armed with several firearms, Town of Lady Lake Spokesperson Elisha Pappacoda said in a press release.

LLPD responded to the home after a report of gunshots and found Leverette deceased, and a second person suffering from gunshot wounds was transported to a local hospital for treatment. The suspects fled the area in an unknown vehicle and no arrests have been made.

“Since his death, Leverette’s girlfriend gave birth to their son, and his mother continues to grieve his violent, unsolved death,” Pappacoda said.

Earlier this year, Det. James Dunagan joined LLPD after spending more than 20 years at Leesburg Police Department, and last month he took the case over. Dunagan worked many cases while at LPD, and the 2006 disappearance of Trenton Duckett was one of his most notable cases.

“I am committed to working toward a resolution for Bryson’s family. They deserve answers,” Dunagan said. “We ask that anyone with information come forward to help us bring justice in this case.”

If you have information, call Dunagan at 352-751-1565 or email him at [email protected]. Callers who wish to remain anonymous can call Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS (8477.)

Previous stories: Lady Lake Shooting Victim Identified – Inside Lake

Lady Lake Police Investigating Shooting that Killed One Person and Injured Another Early Friday – Inside Lake

Lady Lake police asking for tips to crack the case that left a young man dead last year Read More »

FWC: License-free freshwater fishing this weekend

FLORIDA—The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is hosting a license-free freshwater fishing weekend Saturday and Sunday

Florida residents and visitors of all ages and skill levels are encouraged to try recreational fishing this weekend and FWC has helpful resources for new anglers to get started.

Largemouth bass are Florida’s most popular freshwater fish and if you catch one 8 pounds or heavier, submit it to TrophyCatch. There is a special promotion this season where pink-tagged bass are swimming and worth extra prizes in five waterbodies across the state. Try your luck and you could even win sunglasses just for fishing in these five waters!

All other rules, such as seasons, bag and size limits apply during license-free fishing weekend.

Keep the fun going all year and buy a recreational freshwater fishing license, to renew or purchase a fishing license, visit GoOutdoorsFlorida.com.

FWC: License-free freshwater fishing this weekend Read More »

Leesburg police identify murder suspect, need public’s help finding him

LEESBURG, Fla.—Leesburg Police Department has identified the man they believe is responsible for a murder and armed robbery Thursday night.

A warrant has been issued for Alex Lopez, 25, of Wildwood for premeditated murder, armed robbery, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and using a firearm during a felony.

Shortly after 9 p.m. Thursday, a man believed to be Lopez, entered Fast Stop Superette, 3702 Picciola Road, and shot Raied Shihadeh, 51. He was airlifted to HCA Florida Ocala Hospital, where he died from his injuries, LPD Sgt. Shannon Walsh said.

The suspect, now identified as Lopez, fled the scene and despite an extensive search by K9 units and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office aviation unit, they were unable to apprehend him, Walsh said.

“Officers and detectives have attempted to locate Lopez since he was identified as a suspect with negative results.  We are now working with local, state, and federal authorities to locate and arrest Lopez,” Walsh said in a press release.

Lopez may be armed and dangerous and police are asking anyone with information on his whereabouts to call them at 352-787-2121 or call Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS (8477.) Crimeline callers may be eligible for a reward.

Leesburg police identify murder suspect, need public’s help finding him Read More »

Leesburg police release new photos of murder suspect in quest to identify him

LEESBURG, Fla.—Leesburg Police Department has released enhanced photos of the suspect who killed a store owner during a robbery Thursday night.

Shortly after 9 p.m. Thursday, the male suspect entered Fast Stop Superette, 3702 Picciola Road, and shot Raied Shihadeh, 51. He was airlifted to HCA Florida Ocala Hospital, where he died from his injuries, LPD Sgt. Shannon Walsh said.

The suspect fled the scene and despite an extensive search by K9 units and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office aviation unit, they were unable to apprehend him, Walsh said.

LPD quickly released a still photo and video following the senseless crime Thursday night and released more photos late Saturday morning in hopes of identifying him.

Police are asking anyone with information or video of the suspect to call them at 352-787-2121.

Previous stories: Leesburg robbery and shooting victim dies overnight, suspect on the run – Inside Lake

VIDEO: Leesburg Police release surveillance video of store robbery – Inside Lake

One shot in robbery at Leesburg store Thursday night, Leesburg Police searching for suspect – Inside Lake

Leesburg police release new photos of murder suspect in quest to identify him Read More »

Leesburg robbery and shooting victim dies overnight, suspect on the run

LEESBURG, Fla.—The store employee who was shot during a robbery in Leesburg Thursday night has died.

Raied Shihadeh, 51, was airlifted to HCA Florida Ocala Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries, Leesburg Police Department Sgt. Shannon Walsh said.

LPD responded to Fast Stop Superette, 3702 Picciola Road, at 9:08 p.m. Thursday on a report of a robbery and shooting and found Shihadeh unconscious. Lake EMS and Leesburg Fire Rescue responded to the scene to treat Shihadeh and he was airlifted due to the seriousness of his injuries, according to Walsh.

“Leesburg officers immediately established a perimeter and requested our K9 unit and LCSO (Lake County Sheriff’s Office) aviation to respond.  An extensive search was conducted with the K9 team and aviation; however, they were not successful in locating the suspect,” Walsh said in a press release. Leesburg detectives and CSI also responded.

The suspect is now described as a male, unconfirmed race, with a slim build. When Inside Lake broke the story Thursday, the scene was still very active, and information can change as detectives conduct their investigation and uncover more information.

Police are asking anyone with information or video of the suspect to call them at 352-787-2121.

Previous stories: VIDEO: Leesburg Police release surveillance video of store robbery – Inside Lake

One shot in robbery at Leesburg store Thursday night, Leesburg Police searching for suspect – Inside Lake

Leesburg robbery and shooting victim dies overnight, suspect on the run Read More »

LCSO Investigating possible murder-suicide in Umatilla

UMATILLA, Fla. – The Lake County Sheriff’s Office is investigating what may be a murder-suicide in Umatilla Friday morning.

LCSO and Umatilla Police Department responded to a home at 44 South Kentucky Avenue around 5:30 a.m. after a complainant reported receiving a “suspicious text message,” according to a press release.

When law enforcement arrived, they found Tracy Bean, 50, and Ki’anna Lister, 25, both deceased. Today is Lister’s birthday, according to the birthdate released by LCSO.

PHOTO: Marilyn M. Aciego/Inside Lake

“The victims displayed signs of homicidal trauma, Lake County detectives are on scene investigating the possible murder-suicide,” according to the press release.

The relationship between Bean and Lister has not been confirmed, LCSO said, the investigation is ongoing.

Inside Lake spoke briefly with Bean’s family member on scene, and she did not want to be identified or make a public comment.

No other victims were found and there are no signs of danger to the public, LCSO said.

LCSO Investigating possible murder-suicide in Umatilla Read More »

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