Eustis

Second Pedestrian Killed In Leesburg Thursday

LEESBURG, Florida—Another pedestrian was killed Thursday in Leesburg, unrelated to the crash that killed a man early Thursday morning, according to Leesburg Police Capt. Joe Iozzi.  

Jarret Roque, 40, of Howey-in-the-Hills, was observed by an independent witness standing in the center travel lane of U.S. Highway 441 just north of County Road 44A, around 11:50 p.m. Thursday, Iozzi said in a press release. Awilda Hernandez, 61, of Eustis, was southbound on U.S. Highway 441 in a 2021 Jeep SUV, when she collided with Roque.

Roque suffered life-threatening injuries and was transported by Lake EMS to UF Health-Leesburg, where he was pronounced dead. The crash closed U.S. Highway 441 southbound for about three hours.

“The crash remains under investigation, by the Leesburg Police Department Traffic Unit, however it appears the pedestrian was “at-fault” at this time,” Iozzi said. 

Leesburg Pedestrian Killed Thursday Morning

LEESBURG, Florida—Leesburg Police Department is investigating a crash that killed a pedestrian early Thursday morning, according to a press release.

The pedestrian, a 48-year old white male, was on a sidewalk when he suddenly entered the westbound lanes of South Street, near Bottle Brush Court, diverting traffic for about three hours, LPD Capt. Joe Iozzi said in the release. He collided with a 2011 Chevrolet Colorado being driven by 61-year-old Frederick Fashaw, of Eustis just before 1:15 a.m. and sustained life-threatening injuries.

The man who has not been identified publicly, pending notification of next of kin, was transported by Lake EMS to UF Health-Leesburg, where he was pronounced dead. Fashaw was not injured.

“The crash remains under investigation by the Leesburg Police Department Traffic Unit, however it appears the pedestrian was “at-fault” at this time,” Iozzi said.

Eustis Hosts Public Safety Engagement Day For Special Needs Community

EUSTIS, Florida— More than 100 special needs clients and caregivers came out to the Eustis Community Center Wednesday to meet Eustis first responders in the city’s first-ever Public Safety Engagement Day; an event aimed at engaging members of the special needs community with first responders in a relaxed atmosphere.

The event included demonstrations from Eustis Police Department’s K-9 unit and the SWAT bus was on hand for participants to look at. Participants also had an opportunity to hold a shield and try on body armor and check out a fire truck with Eustis Fire Department. 

Numerous firefighters and officers were on hand interacting with visitors while they enjoyed a hotdog lunch, in addition to EPD Chief Craig Capri and two members of his command staff and EFD Chief Michael Swanson and Deputy Chief Scott Davis.

Capri told Inside Lake it was a great turnout and there was “a bunch of hugs and a lot of love.” The event was a great opportunity to introduce first responders to the special needs community and “knock down barriers,” he said.

Mayor Michael Holland was also in attendance, along with City Commissioners Willie Hawkins and Nan Cobb.

“The special needs community often gets overlooked,” Hawkins told Inside Lake, and he spearheaded this event to help change that, he said. He reached out to several group homes in the area and invited caregivers and clients to come to the two-hour event and plans to make it an annual event in the future.

Holland is very supportive of the event and said he believes Eustis is the first city to sponsor an event of this nature.

“So often we’re quick to react when something happens in the community. We want to show the community Eustis is at the forefront. (The special needs community) is part of the population that is overlooked. That stops here.” 

Scheduled Holiday Closings And Modified Garbage Pickup

LAKE COUNTY, Florida—Many local government offices are scheduled to close this week in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Lake County Government offices will be closed Thursday and Friday and county garbage pickup regularly scheduled for Thursday will be Friday and regularly scheduled pickup for Friday will be Saturday. This includes Altoona, Astor, Ferndale, Grand Island, Okahumpka, Paisley, Sorrento and Yalaha. For more information, visit  https://lakecountyfl.gov/trash-recycling.

Most city government and town halls will be closed Thursday and Friday; this includes Clermont, Eustis, Fruitland Park, Groveland, Howey-In-The-Hills, Leesburg, Mascotte, Mount Dora, Tavares and Umatilla. Astatula, Lady Lake and Minneola are scheduled to close just on Thursday. Aligning with the county garbage pickup modified schedule; garbage pickup for Thursday will be Friday and pickup for Friday will be Saturday for most cities, except Lady Lake, Leesburg and Tavares.

Lady Lake’s and Leesburg’s garbage pickup will resume Monday and Tavares will resume Tuesday. 

Former Mount Dora Police Officer Arrested For Stalking Local Woman

EUSTIS, Florida—A former Mount Dora Police Officer and current Palm Beach Garden Police detective has been arrested for aggravated stalking and cyberstalking, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Bryan Craig Broehm, 53, is accused of stalking a woman who he was in a recent relationship with and worked with more than 20 years ago at MDPD, according to the affidavit. The woman was a dispatcher at the time, the affidavit states and according to Broehm’s Linked In account, he was a road patrol corporal and worked for the agency for 2.5 years.

A Lake County Sheriff’s deputy went to the woman’s home in Eustis at the request of the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department in September because it was conducting an internal affairs investigation into Broehm’s behavior toward the victim. The victim provided LCSO a 10-page statement detailing his behavior. A detective then met with the victim and she provided screenshots of harassing text messages, copies of emails and other evidence, according to the affidavit.

During the relationship, the victim gave Broehm access to her security cameras, but he accessed them on numerous occasions without permission and after she eliminated his access he continued to try to access them, she said, and he admitted to it in a text message that the victim provided to LCSO. She referred to the relationship as “toxic” and during a “fit of rage” he told her if she left him, he would “hunt her down,” and the victim believed his threats were due to his “uncontrollable anger, ”abnormal controlling behavior” and “position as a law enforcement officer.” Broehm continued to call her from “burner” phones and spoof numbers after she blocked him, she told LCSO; and made a fake account on Mercari, a buying and selling website, to inquire about buying something from her and asked her numerous personal questions before revealing himself.

Broehm was arrested Wednesday for one count of aggravated stalking and four counts of cyberstalking.

Early Morning Eustis Search Warrant Nets One Arrest

EUSTIS, Florida—In response to complaints about drug activity, Eustis Police Department, along with Mid Florida SWAT served a search warrant at a home on Woodward Avenue early Friday morning, according to EPD Chief Craig Capri.

“We needed to get out there and take care of it,” Capri told Inside Lake.

Two people were in the home at 357 W. Woodward Avenue Apartment B, including Antwan T. Cross, 34, and an elderly woman. Cross, who turns 35 Saturday, was charged with possession of methamphetamine, possession of paraphernalia and violation of probation. The woman is not facing any charges. 

Accused Church Burglar Captured By Eustis Police After Foot Chase

EUSTIS, Florida—A man is facing drug and burglary charges after a witness saw him break into a local church and run from police last week.

A nearby business owner spotted Chabazz Rionte Belle, 20, throw a bag onto the roof and enter Gethsemane Baptist Church, 505 S. Bay Street, around 8 a.m. Wednesday and he called Eustis Police Department, according to an arrest affidavit.

EPD responded and attempted to get in the building but found all the doors were locked. A church official responded to the scene with a key and officers announced themselves, causing Belle to flee the building. After a short foot pursuit, Belle was taken into custody.

When officers entered the sanctuary, they “smelled the strong odor of burnt marijuana” and found three baggies of marijuana, a lighter and a pack of wild berry cigars on a pew, the affidavit states. The church’s pastor told EPD no one should be inside, and he did not recognize Belle as a member of the church.

Belle told police he had been crawling through an unsecured window in the church for about a week to smoke marijuana, because it was a “quiet place.” According to the affidavit, Belle’s listed address is a group home, just a few blocks away from the church.

Belle was charged with burglary to a structure, possession of marijuana less than 20 grams, possession of drug paraphernalia and resisting without violence. He is being held in the Lake County Jail on $5,500 bond. 

Beer Can Helps Nab Eustis Man For ’96 Cold Case Murder

EUSTIS, Florida—A discarded beer can helped solve a quarter-century old brutal murder earlier this week, and resulted in the arrest of a Eustis man, according to an Orange County probable cause affidavit.

Kenneth Robert Stough, 54, of Eustis was arrested Tuesday for first degree murder and armed robbery by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

In 1996, Terrence Paquette, 31, was found stabbed multiple times in the bathroom of Lil’ Champ, 4510 Clarcona Ocoee Road, Orlando. The location is now a Kwik Stop, according to Google Maps. Paquette was found by OCSO deputies after receiving a call that the store was dark, and the doors were locked. Another employee stopped by the store when he saw deputies and let them inside with his key.

Upon searching the store, Paquette was found dead and his autopsy revealed he died from multiple penetrating wounds to his heart, lungs, head, chest and abdomen. He suffered a total of 73 injuries, the affidavit states.

Photo credit: Orange County Sheriff’s Office

Crime scene investigators located blood in several parts of the store other than the bathroom, and the pattern indicated the suspect injured himself during the attack and walked around the store. Paquette’s keys were not located in the store and still have never been found; money was also missing from the safe. Several blood samples were sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for analysis and it was determined that blood from a beverage freezer handle, a freezer flap, lottery machine, the key cylinder from the exterior door and a push bar from a door all came from the same individual and it was not Paquette.

On Sept. 29. 1997, the case was closed “pending further investigative leads.”

In 2003, the case was reopened, and no suspects were identified. In 2019, an OCSO detective began reviewing the case. In March of this year, FDLE contracted with an outside lab to obtain a sample for forensic genetic genealogy and the data was uploaded to genealogy databases. It was determined the sample had distant relatives to both Kenneth Stough’s parents. Stough’s parents had three sons.

The OCSO detective determined Stough lived just two blocks from Paquette at the time of the murder and were only three years apart in age. Stough was 28 at the time of the murder.

On Aug. 25, Lake County Circuit Judge Heidi Davis signed a GPS order for Stough’s 2007 black Chevrolet Equinox. On Sept. 14, OCSO began following Stough and followed him to a convenience store in Eustis. After making two trips into the store, Stough backed the Equinox next to a public dumpster and placed a grey plastic bag in the dumpster that appeared to be filled with beer cans.

The detective secured the dumpster and removed the grey plastic bag that had seven 16-ounce Budweiser beer cans. The cans were submitted to FDLE and a sample was obtained from one of the cans. The sample matched the DNA from the beverage freezer handle from the 1996 murder.

 A warrant was issued for Stough’s arrest Monday and he was picked up Tuesday. Stough, 54, is being held in the Orange County Jail on no bond. 

Eustis Woman Slaps Child Over Drink, Arrested For Child Abuse

DeLAND, Florida—An altercation between a group of children and adults over a drink landed a Eustis woman in jail on a child abuse charge Tuesday night.

Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a report of a gun complaint around 6:30 p.m. on Beech Avenue in the DeLand area of Lake County, according to an arrest affidavit. The complainant told deputies approximately 20 people were outside his home and they went back to their residence nearby. He said the argument was over a drink and when they went to check the mail, the altercation began. No gun was found.

Deputies spoke with a male witness who said a juvenile had been jumped by two other children and slapped in the face but an adult, identified as Samantha Gandy, 33. The witness provided the deputy with a video that showed Gandy slapping the child, the affidavit states.

A female witness told LCSO she lives near the incident location and also saw Gandy slap the child.  Gandy was taken to the Lake County Jail, where she was released on $5,000 bond. 

Plea Negotiation Conference Scheduled For Former EMT Facing Child Pornography Charges

TAVARES, Florida—A former Lake EMS EMT who was arrested by Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents in June for four counts of possessing child pornography and four counts of transmitting child pornography is now facing a total of 17 felony charges.

Acting on a CyberTip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), FDLE agents met James Bryan Hamrick, 30, in his Eustis driveway the morning of June 11 and took possession of his phone after obtaining a search warrant, according to an affidavit.

NCMEC’s CyberTipline Report included copies of the four videos Hamrick is accused of direct messaging (DM) on his Twitter account. The videos depict male and female children as young as 2, performing sex acts; the details of the abuse are too graphic for publication.  FDLE also received copies of Hamrick’s DMs and in those DMs, he indicates his interest in child pornography, according to the affidavit.

 When questioned by an FDLE agent, Hamrick admitted to downloading the kiddie porn from Kik (a messaging app) and participating in Twitter direct messages with the account “Pedo Chic.” He also admitted taking part in conversations about sexual activity with minors, but claimed, “it was for fantasy purposes only and he never touched a child inappropriately,” the affidavit states.

Hamrick, who worked at EMS for a little over a year, also engaged in a DM conversation with an account named “Mistress.” “Mistress” agrees to engage in a sexual conversation with Hamrick if he buys a $50 gift card and screenshots a copy of the receipt. Hamrick sent “Mistress” the screenshot of a receipt from his own PayPal account, according to the affidavit.

While exchanging DMs with “Mistress” Hamrick tells her to be patient with his slow responses because he is feeding an infant child. He then sends “Mistress” a photo of him holding an infant.

Hamrick, who was fired as soon as Lake EMS was informed of his arrest, has been held in the Lake County Jail since his arrest on $80,000 bond. Hamrick is represented by Assistant Public Defender Wanda T. Greene, who filed a motion in July requesting Hamrick be released on his own recognizance due to the state not filing charges. Later that same day, that state formally filed 17 charges.

Hamrick’s next plea negotiation conference is scheduled for Nov. 9.  

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