Eustis

Memorial Planned for Well-Known Homeless Man Who Passed Away Last Month

EUSTIS, Florida—A memorial has been set for a well-known homeless man who passed away last month.

Clyde “Eddie” Brooks, a loyal Dallas Cowboys fan, was found unresponsive Jan. 10 in Tavares by a mail carrier and transported to AdventHealth Waterman, where he died from an apparent medical episode. Known to most as “Clyde” he was well-liked and an earlier story about his death was shared more than 100 times and dozens of people commented and shared personal stories about Clyde.

“There were many people who touched his life, and he touched ours,” Jan Glessner told Inside Lake.

Glessner was a longtime friend and called him, “Eddie.” He stayed overnight at her home and spent some Thanksgivings with her as well. Other times she would put him in a motel during the holidays. “He was my buddy,” she told Inside Lake.

Pastor Kenneth Harley of DeBary will lead the service and was Clyde’s emergency contact. He has his cremains and will put them in a plot in Mount Dora, Glessner said.

The memorial is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, at Life Community Church, 2910 Dillard Road, Eustis. The public is welcome to attend and share their memories.

Man Murdered During Confrontation Identified, Eustis Police Announce $10K Reward

EUSTIS, Florida—The man shot in Eustis Monday night has been identified.

Wseni “Haitian Black” Laguerre, 39 was shot multiple times around 8:20 p.m. Monday following a confrontation with an unknown individual, Eustis Police Department Chief Craig Capri said.

EPD responded to the shooting at 202 Palm Ave near Grove Street and found Laguerre with multiple gunshot wounds. Witnesses told police an individual had some sort of confrontation with Laguerre and then shot him multiple times and fled the scene.

Detectives are currently interviewing witnesses and following up on leads, Capri said.

Laguerre was transported to AdventHealth Waterman in Tavares, causing the hospital to be placed on lockdown, standard procedure when a victim of violence in brought in for treatment. This prevents suspects from entering the hospital and causing more harm to the victim.

Eustis Police Department responds to a shooting on Palm Avenue Monday night. One man was killed. COURTESY PHOTO

Laguerre was pronounced dead a brief time later, according to Capri.

It appears he was targeted, and a $10,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to an arrest, Capri said.

If you have information on Laguerre’s murder, call EPD at 352-483-5400.

Man Dies After Being Shot in Eustis Monday Night

EUSTIS, Florida—The man shot in Eustis Monday night has died.

Eustis Police Department responded to a shooting on Palm Ave near Grove Street, just before 8:30 p.m. Monday, EPD Police Chief Craig Capri told Inside Lake.

The man was rushed to AdventHealth Waterman in Tavares, causing the hospital to be placed on lockdown, standard procedure when a victim of violence is brought in for treatment. He was pronounced dead a short time later, according to Capri. His name has not been publicly released.

It appears the man was targeted, and there was no information available on a suspect at press time.

More information is expected to be released Tuesday.

BREAKING NEWS: Man Shot in Eustis Monday Night

EUSTIS, Florida—Eustis Police Department is on the scene of a shooting on Palm Ave near Grove Street, EPD Police Chief Craig Capri told Inside Lake.

One man was shot and was rushed to a local hospital around 8:30 p.m. Monday. EPD detectives are enroute and road patrol officers are securing the crime scene, Capri said. There was no information available on the suspect(s) at press time.

Capri is headed to the scene and will update Inside Lake as soon as more information is available.

This is a developing story.

Eustis Man Nabbed After Exposing and Touching Himself at Laundromat While Watching 8-year-old Girl, Police Say

EUSTIS, Florida—A Eustis man is in the Lake County Jail accused of masturbating while watching a young girl as her mother did laundry late Friday night, according to an arrest affidavit.

Just before midnight Saturday morning, a woman called Eustis Police Department and reported a man was masturbating while looking at her daughter at Spin City, 320 Ardice Avenue, Eustis.

The girl’s father told police he was sitting in his vehicle while his wife and daughter – who is only 8 years old – were inside doing laundry. He said his daughter was playing near the vending machines when he saw a man, later identified as Jeremy Anton Jones, 28, sitting directly across from her. The man said Jones’ pants were down and he seemed to be masturbating while staring at the young girl, the affidavit states.

The man went into the laundromat to protect his daughter and confronted Jones. He shouted at Jones, which got his wife’s attention and she also saw Jones staring at her daughter and masturbating. Jones left when he was confronted and began walking towards Tractor Supply Co., according to the affidavit.  The couple described Jones as a black male, wearing a blue hoodie, dark-colored sweatpants and blue boxer shorts.

As the responding officer was leaving the scene, a call came in from RaceTrac, 2850 South Bay Street, just a block away. The caller stated a black male in a dark-colored hoodie was exposing himself at the gas station.  As the officer arrived, he spotted Jones, wearing a blue hoodie and grey sweatpants that were pulled down, exposing his blue boxer shorts, the affidavit states. The complainant never saw Jones expose himself in RaceTrac, but did witness him pulling his pants up.

Jones denied exposing himself and said a man tried to fight him at the laundromat. EPD ran Jones’ name and found he had been trespassed from RaceTrac in July 2021 and a few minutes later, the young girl’s mother showed up at the gas station and identified Jones as the culprit.

Jones was arrested for lewd and lascivious exhibition of a sexual organ and trespass after warning. He was transported to LCJ, where he is being held on $5,500 bond.

Wrong-Way Crash Just North of Eustis Sends 2 to the Hospital Friday

DONA VISTA, Florida—The Florida Highway Patrol continues to investigate a serious crash that occurred shortly before 10 p.m. Friday night.

A Nissan Versa being driven by a 37-year-old Leesburg man was traveling southbound on State Road 19 in the northbound inside lane, FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi told Inside Lake.  

As he approached Orange Avenue, a 36-year-old Umatilla man driving a Ford Taurus southbound on State Road 19 attempted to make a left turn on Orange Avenue and the front of the Nissan struck the left side of the Ford at 9:50 p.m., Crescenzi said.

The Umatilla man was airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center in critical but stable condition and the Leesburg man was transported to AdventHealth Waterman in Tavares with serious injuries and admitted. Both drivers were wearing their seatbelts.

“The investigating trooper advised he submitted (the Nissan driver) for a medical reexamination,” Crescenzi said in an email to Inside Lake. The crash remains under investigation.

Ocoee Man Killed in Astatula Head-On Crash Friday, Man and Young Girl in Stable Condition

ASTATULA, Florida—A head-on crash killed an Ocoee man Friday afternoon and sent a 7-year-old Eustis girl and a 36-year-old Eustis man to the hospital, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The 50-year-old Ocoee man was driving a grey Toyota Tacoma southbound on County Road 561, near Georgia Avenue in Astatula, when he traveled into the northbound lane and struck a white Dodge Ram being driven by a 36-year-old Eustis man around 4:15 p.m., FHP Lt. Channing Taylor said in a press release.

The Ocoee man was airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced deceased, Taylor said. The Eustis man and the young girl were transported to AdventHealth Waterman in Tavares and are in stable condition.

Eustis Head-On Collision Sends Man, 71, to the Hospital

EUSTIS, Florida— Only Inside Lake was on the scene of a head-on crash that injured a 71-year-old man early Thursday morning.

A Dodge Ram being driven by a 19-year-old Leesburg man collided with a black Toyota sedan being driven by a 71-year-old Zellwood man around 6:30 a.m. Thursday. The report was unavailable at press time, it is unknown how the crash occurred, and the drivers’ names were not released.

The Zellwood man was seriously injured and airlifted to a local hospital; he is expected to survive, Eustis Police Department Capt. Jon Fahning told Inside Lake. The driver of the truck suffered minor injuries.

The crash backed up traffic for more than an hour on both County 452 and County Road 44 and remains under investigation.

Former Police Chief Arrested for Aggravated Stalking of a Child, Facing Child Rape Charges in Sumter

TAVARES, Florida—The former police chief of Center Hill, arrested last month for raping a 14-year-old girl in Sumter County while holding her at gunpoint, is now facing stalking charges in Lake County.

William Ray Pruitt, 56, of Weirsdale, was arrested early Friday morning for stalking and aggravated stalking, according to Lake County Sheriff’s Office online booking records. Pruitt served as Center Hill Police chief in 1998 and 1999 and currently owns Pruitt Water in Leesburg, according to his booking information.

Pruitt is accused stalking the girl beginning in October 2021, when she was just 15 years old and continuing for more than a year, according to a probable cause affidavit.

In December 2022, the victim reported an incident that occurred at a local high school after hours to a school resource deputy. The following day, an LCSO detective spoke with the girl’s mother, and she said the girl met Pruitt around March 2020 when she was 14 years old and over time, she began to suspect Pruitt was “grooming” her teenage daughter and possibly having sexual relationship with her.

The victim’s mother said the girl denied the relationship until October 2022 when she disclosed three incidents of sexual battery in 2020 when she was 14, two in Sumter County and one in an unknown location, according to the affidavit.

The girl said she denied the allegations because Pruitt would harass and threaten her, including threatening to kill himself. He told the teen he was an “ex-cop” and he had detective friends who hacked her phone and tracked all her activity for him. She also said he became “controlling and possessive,” the affidavit states.

PHOTO: City of Center Hill

In 2021, the victim’s mom found a note on her tablet that confirmed her suspicions that Pruitt was having a relationship with her daughter. At one point, the girl went to stay with her father to distance herself from Pruitt and a private investigator, believed to be hired by Pruitt, showed up where the girl was. Due to heavy redaction in the affidavit, it is unclear where the private investigator showed up.

In November 2021, the girl saw Pruitt drive by her home in Lake County; she called LCSO and later filed for an injunction. She was granted the injunction but dropped it in February 2022 under the advice of her attorney because she was not being cooperative with the process, according to the affidavit. Sometime after February, the victim turned 16, and any further stalking became a misdemeanor, the detective noted.

In May 2022, a homemade sign appeared at an undisclosed location with “Ray Liberty” on one side and “Libby” on the other. Pruitt is alleged to have told the victim that if he got her pregnant from the sexual battery, he would name their daughter Liberty Ray, after himself and his mother, the affidavit states. In July, another sign with “8” “0” “8” appeared across from the girl’s home. In a forensic interview, the girl said Pruitt would send her “0” and that meant she had to “stay inside the circle” and she could not have any other friends or trust anyone but him.

In August 2022, Pruitt followed the girl from her high school, trying to force her off the road as she made her way to her cousin’s apartment in Eustis. The victim’s mother called Eustis Police Department and Pruitt called LCSO, claiming to be a “father figure” to the girl. Later the same month, one of Pruitt’s employees followed her and attempted to give her a note from Pruitt; the girl pulled into Tavares Police Department and reported the incident. Less than two months later, at an October high school football game, a different employee of Pruitt’s approached the girl and asked, “How’s Libby?’ referring to their hypothetical child.  The girl also reported getting anonymous texts referring to “Will.”

Almost exactly a month later, another homemade sign showed up on the side of State Road 19 near County Road 48, that said, “He’s OK!” and “3.” Pruitt had just had shoulder surgery and 3 is his favorite number, according to the affidavit.

William Pruitt PHOTO: Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office

And the stalking still continued.

Thanksgiving weekend, the girl spotted Pruitt driving by her house in a beige jeep that did not belong to him; and on Dec. 1, as the girl parked in her usual spot at her high school, she spotted yet another homemade sign taped in front of her parking spot that read “Liberty 3.” The sign was located and collected by the SRD and the following day, the teen filed for an injunction, and it was granted, according to the affidavit.

On Dec. 7, Sumter County Sheriff’s Office obtained a warrant for Pruitt for two counts of sexual battery on a victim 12 or older while utilizing a deadly weapon. According to that probable cause affidavit, Pruitt held a gun to the girl on two separate occasions and raped her in his truck.  

He was arrested Dec. 9 by the U.S. Marshal Caribbean Regional Fugitive Task Force with the assistance of the Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office on a traffic stop in Live Oak. According to that probable cause affidavit, agents received information Pruitt may be attempting “suicide by cop,” but he was taken into custody without incident.  Pruitt was held in the Suwannee County Jail until Friday when he was transferred to the Lake County Jail, where he is currently being held, and arrested for stalking and aggravated stalking.

“You’ll Remember This,” Granddaughter Tells Grandfather After Setting her Mattress Ablaze, Causing Fire that Destroyed Eustis Home

EUSTIS, Florida—A woman, apparently angry at her grandfather after an argument about money, set her mattress on fire Monday and almost set a vehicle on fire, but changed her mind, she told Eustis Police Department, according to an arrest affidavit.

Shortly before 6 p.m. Monday, EPD and Eustis Fire Department responded to a house fire at 2220 Titcomb Street; the victim told EPD he was sitting on the porch following an argument with granddaughter, Autumn Rose Walker, 22, when she came outside and said, “You’ll remember this,” and ran off down the road, the affidavit states.

Autumn Rose Walker PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

The victim looked inside the front door and saw smoke, went around to the back door and saw more smoke, and he rescued his dog and called 9-1-1, according to the affidavit. A witness told officers he saw a white female standing near the rear of a green SUV and she had what appeared to be a white rag and lit it on fire; when he came out of the daycare the home was on fire, the affidavit states.

Another witness told police she saw a woman stumbling down the road and provided a photo she took to police.  

Officers located Walker walking down Orange Avenue near Cricket Hollow Lane several hours later, wearing a long sleeve shirt, black pants and one sock—the sock matched a singed sock found on the scene of the fire, the arresting officer noted in the affidavit.

Walker was uncooperative, refused to answer questions and said she just wanted to sit down on the sidewalk. One officer began to walk down the sidewalk to search for evidence while another officer continued to speak with Walker, and she told the officer she set her mattress on fire, according to the affidavit.

Crews battle a fire on Titcomb Street in Eustis Monday night. Autumn Rose Walker was arrested for arson. PHOTO: Jolie Fowler/Inside Lake

Walker told EPD she was arguing with her grandfather about money and was “frustrated and wanted to escape from him.” She said she set the mattress of fire using a Seneca cigarette because she “did not want to have a place to come back to,” and she felt the only way to stay away from the house was to set the mattress on fire, so she did not have a place to sleep.

She told police when she left her bedroom the mattress was on fire, and she went outside and lit her sock on fire. She said she was going to put it in the gas tank of the SUV but changed her mind and left. Walker said she knew her grandfather was in the house and figured he would put the fire out.

Walker was arrested for domestic arson and upon searching her, police found a blue lighter and a pack of Seneca cigarettes and Walker said that was the lighter she used to torch the mattress. Before she was placed in the back of a patrol vehicle she reportedly exclaimed, “I’m going to kill him!”

Walker was transported to the Lake County Jail, where she is being held on no bond.

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