Eustis

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

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.

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.

Teen Wanted for Eustis Drive-By Shooting Arrested Tuesday

EUSTIS, Florida—The teenager wanted for shooting two people last week near a Eustis private school has been arrested.

Jaques J. Jenkins, 19, was wanted for shooting two people at the corner of Old Mount Dora Road and Grove Street shortly before 4 p.m. Sept. 7. The shots were fired at the stop sign near Faith Lutheran Church, which houses a private school and daycare. The school day had just ended less than 30 minutes before the shooting and the daycare was still open, according to a report.

Jenkins, who was driving a black Hyundai Elantra, fled east down Old Mount Dora Road and the victims fled to nearby Lake Hills Plaza in their maroon SUV.  The two victims, whose names are not being released due to Marsy’s Law, got out of the SUV near RaceTrac, 2850 South Bay Street, and began yelling for help; a good Samaritan transported the pair to the AdventHealth Waterman, which was placed on lockdown. Both victims, a male and a female, suffered gunshot wounds to their elbows.

The male victim told Eustis Police Department detectives there was an ongoing dispute between him and several members of GPG, Third World and 1DK and he believes Jenkins is a member of one of the gangs. The victim said he bought marijuana from Jenkins about 18 months ago and Jenkins also tried to sell him a gun. Around two months ago, gang members began to harass the male victim for unknown reasons and Jenkins showed him a gun in his waistband as the victim walked up to his apartment. Around the same time, the victim’s apartment was broken into, and a gun, cash and marijuana were stolen. About a week after the burglary, Jenkins and his associates began trash talking the victim on Instagram, according to the report.

Eustis Police Department investigates a drive-by shooting near RaceTrac Wednesday. Two people were shot in the arm. PHOTO: Marilyn M. Aciego/Inside Lake

Earlier this month, Jenkins chased the victim around Eustis after spotting him at a store on Palmetto Street. Video surveillance from near the store showed Jenkins driving the black Hyundai and both shooting victims identified the car in the video as the car involved in the shooting and identified Jenkins as the man who shot them, in a photo lineup.

Jenks was arrested in December 2021 for possession of a concealed firearm and possession of drug paraphernalia; those charges were dropped in January. In February, Jenkins was arrested again for battery and resisting an officer without violence. He was sentenced to one year of probation just last month.

In this case, Jenkins is facing a slew of charges, including two counts of attempted second degree murder, shooting a deadly missile into an occupied vehicle, discharging a firearm from a vehicle, and discharging a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school. He is also facing two counts of violation of probation and is being held on no bond.

Warrant Issued for Man Suspected in Eustis Drive-By Shooting Wednesday Afternoon

EUSTIS, Florida—A warrant has been issued for the arrest of a man suspected in a Eustis drive-by shooting Wednesday afternoon, according to Eustis Police Capt. Dave Carney

Jaques J. Jenkins, 19, is suspected of shooting at a male and female at the corner of Old Mount Dora Road and Grove Street shortly before 4 p.m.  Wednesday. Multiple shots were fired at the stop sign near Faith Lutheran Church, which houses a private school and daycare. The school day had just ended less than 30 minutes before the shooting and the daycare was still open, according to the report.

Jenkins, who was driving a black Hyundai Elantra, fled east down Old Mount Dora Road and the victims fled to nearby Lake Hills Plaza in their maroon SUV.  

The two victims, whose names are not being released due to Marsy’s Law, got out of the SUV near RaceTrac, 2850 South Bay Street, and began yelling for help. A good Samaritan transported the pair to the AdventHealth Waterman, which was placed on lockdown.

The male victim suffered two gunshots to his left elbow and the female victim suffered one shot to her left elbow, the report states.

The male victim told EPD he was driving home from work when a black car with a broken, dangling passenger mirror, swerved into his lane and ran him off the road. The victim continued to drive and noticed the same car speeding up behind him. The victim slowed for the stop sign and the car pulled up next to him in the opposite lane and pointed what he described as a black Glock handgun with an extended magazine and started shooting. The black car drove around the victim’s SUV in the grass and fled the scene.

The victim said the driver had “wicks” a slang term for short dreadlocks and he recognized him as “gbgquezz,” whose real name is Jaques and they went to middle school together. The suspect was soon positively identified as Jaques Jenkins. Jenkins’ Instagram username is “gbgquezz,” the report states.

The victim said there was an ongoing dispute between him and several members of GPG, Third World and 1DK and he believes Jenkins is a member of one of the gangs. The victim said he bought marijuana from Jenkins about 18 months ago and Jenkins also tried to sell him a gun. About two months ago, gang members began to harass the male victim for unknown reasons and Jenkins showed him a gun in his waistband as the victim walked up to his apartment. Around the same time, the victim’s apartment was broken into, and a gun, cash and marijuana were stolen. About a week after the burglary, Jenkins and his associates began trash talking the victim on Instagram, according to the report.

Jaques Jenkins is seen here in a February 2022 mugshot after he was arrested for battery and resisting an officer without violence. He is wanted for shooting two people Wednesday. PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

Earlier this month, on Sept. 1, Jenkins chased the victim around Eustis after spotting him at a store on Palmetto Street. Video surveillance from near the store showed Jenkins driving the black Hyundai and both shooting victims identified the car in the video as the car involved in the shooting and identified Jenkins as the man who shot them, in a photo lineup.

Jenks was arrested in December 2021 for possession of a concealed firearm and possession of drug paraphernalia; those charges were dropped in January. In February, Jenkins was arrested again for battery and resisting an officer without violence. He was sentenced to one year of probation just last month.

A warrant has been issued for Jenkins arrest; if you have information on his whereabouts, call EPD at 352-357-4121 or Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS.   

See Something, Say Something. Student Comes Forward after Seeing Gun on School Bus

MASCOTTE, Florida—A Lake Hills Academy student was arrested Thursday after another student came forward to the school’s administration about a gun on a school bus, according to Lake County Sheriff’s Office Lt. John Herrell.

Deputies had reason to believe the gun was left on the bus and went to the bus parking lot of Golf Links Avenue in Eustis and found the gun wrapped in a sweatshirt on a seat. The gun was not loaded.

LCSO retrieved video surveillance from the bus, and Trace James Richardson, 16, was seen on video removing his sweatshirt and leaving the Glock handgun on the seat.

Due to the video evidence and witness statements, Richardson was arrested for possessing a firearm on school property and turned over to the Department of Juvenile Justice. His booking photo was not available at press time.

Lake Hills Academy, 513 Albrook Street, Mascotte, is an alternative school, Herrell said.

Two Victims Injured in Drive-By Shooting Wednesday, Eustis Police Say

EUSTIS, Florida—Eustis Police Department is investigating a drive-by shooting that occurred Wednesday afternoon.

Two people were shot, a male and a female near the intersection of Old Mount Dora Road and Grove Street, EPD Capt. Jon Fahning told Inside Lake on the scene. The victims’ names and ages were not released, but one of them is a juvenile, Fahning said.

The victims left the scene of the shooting and the maroon Ford Escape they were in was left at Lake Hills Plaza, near the entrance of RaceTrac, 2850 South Bay Street with noticeable bullet holes.

Eustis Police Department investigates a drive-by shooting near RaceTrac Wednesday. Two people who were in a maroon Ford Escape were shot in the arm. PHOTO: Marilyn M. Aciego/Inside Lake

As they drove into the entrance of the plaza, they swerved and almost hit witness Teesa Cano and Cano helped the victims as they pulled over near RaceTrac.

“I tried to tourniquet her arm,” she told Inside Lake, and the female victim used her own shirt to try to stop the bleeding. Both victims were shot in the forearm, and the injuries did not appear to be serious, Cano said. Another individual transported them to the hospital, causing AdventHealth Waterman to be placed on lockdown; standard procedure when a shooting victim arrives at the hospital.  

“They’re OK, that’s the most important thing,” Cano said.  

EPD did not release a description of the shooter or the vehicle involved, and no one had been arrested at press time.

Florida Women and Children Fought in Busy Intersection Because of Past Problem, Suspect Tells Police

EUSTIS, Florida—A fight between two women spilled out into the street and small children joined in the brawl at a busy Eustis intersection Thursday morning, according to an arrest affidavit.  

Santana Potts, 35, of Leesburg, is accused of arguing with a woman near the intersection of Bay Street and Orange Avenue around 8:30 a.m. Thursday and then using her red Hyundai SUV to block the woman’s grey Toyota Camry.

Both women exited their vehicles and began fighting each other in front of numerous witnesses, including a Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent. A small child exited each vehicle and then the elementary-age children began fighting each other in the middle of the road, a witness at a nearby business told Eustis Police Department. Everyone then got back into the vehicles they were in and fled the scene.

EPD caught up with Potts at a nearby elementary school and she agreed to go to the department to be interviewed. She told police she was arguing with the victim due to a problem in the past, about five years earlier. She told police she saw she had space and placed her SUV in front of the victim’s car and the victim got out of her car and headed towards her. Potts said she got out too and the victim hit her first, and a child in the car with the victim got out and began to help the victim hit her.

EPD determined Potts had an opportunity to leave the scene and avoid conflict and instead blocked the victim in and began to fight in the middle of the road with a child in the car. Potts was arrested for affray and child neglect and transported to the Lake County Jail, where she was released on $3,000 bond.

In January 2020, Potts was shot twice, once in the arm and once under her armpit, by Keson Donaldson, after she allegedly slashed Donaldson in the face with a pink razor blade at Myung Sung, 201 Palmetto Street, Eustis. Donaldson was arrested for the shooting, but the charges were dropped in May 2021.

Man Accused of Biting One Officer, Kicking Another on Traffic Stop

EUSTIS, Florida—A traffic stop for an expired tag ended in a trip to jail for a Eustis man after he bit one police officer in the groin area and kicked another one in the chest several times early Monday morning.

Around 2:45 a.m. a Eustis Police officer spotted a white SUV with an expired tag near State Road 19 and County Road 452, he initiated a traffic stop near County Road 44 and the vehicle finally came to a stop near Pine Meadows Golf Course Road, according to an arrest affidavit.

The driver, identified as Michael Lloyd Rodebush, 35, of Eustis, appeared to be under the influence of an unknown substance, and told the officer he did not stop right away because he believed he was impersonating an officer, the affidavit states. The officer was driving a fully-marked patrol unit. Rodebush handed over his voided license, said it was suspended and made statements that did not make sense, the officer noted in the affidavit.

Officers arrived as backup, including a K9 handler with K9 Hulk and he alerted on the vehicle, giving officers probable cause to search. Officers found methamphetamine under Rodebush’s seat and ammunition in the passenger door pocket; Rodebush is a convicted felon, according to the affidavit.

Rodebush was taken into custody and placed into the back of a patrol car; an officer opened the back door to talk to Rodebush and he immediately tried to exit the patrol car and was acting “erratic,” the affidavit states.

Officers tried to put him back in the vehicle and he became “extremely aggressive,” biting one officer in the groin area and kicking another officer several times in the chest. He was placed into a five-point restraint and redirected back into the patrol car. Rodebush was arrested for possession of methamphetamine, two counts of battery on a law enforcement officer, possession of ammunition by a convicted felon, resisting with violence and driving on a suspended license. He transported to the Lake County Jail, where a nurse stated he need to be transported to the hospital. After he was cleared at AdventHealth Waterman, he was transported back to LCJ, where he is being held on $23,000 bond.

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