Fruitland Park

Fourth Annual Lake County Back the Blue Walk Scheduled for Saturday

TAVARES, Florida—Law enforcement and supporters will join forces for the fourth annual Lake County Back the Blue Walk at Wooton Park Saturday morning.

Scheduled for 9 a.m., this is one of many law enforcement events around Lake County held in May during Law Enforcement Appreciation Month. In its fourth year, the walk began in 2019 to show support for law enforcement during a time when the “defund the police” movement was making its way across the country, event organizer Shannon Cook told Inside Lake. Representatives from several law enforcement agencies and numerous public officials are expected to be in attendance.

“The good ones needed to know they were appreciated,” Cook said.

Cook has always had respect for law enforcement officers and the job they do, she said. Her close friend, Lake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Wayne Koester, was killed in the line of duty Feb. 9, 2005. Koester, who was 33 at the time, and two other deputies were ambushed while responding to a domestic violence call. All three deputies were shot, and Koester succumbed to his injuries; the other two deputies recovered. Jason Wheeler was shot and paralyzed during his capture and convicted in Koester’s death. Cook was also close to Chris Daniels, who was serving as Lake County Sheriff when he was tragically killed in a charity bus race in 2006 on his birthday.

Shannon Cook shows off one of the many gifts she has for the law enforcement officers who attend the walk Saturday. PHOTO: Shannon Cook

Cook told Inside Lake it is important the community show its support for all of the good officers and those who were lost in the line of duty. Usually a one-woman show, Cook has some help this year from Wayne Koester’s brother, Victor Koester, Jolie Fowler, owner of The Car Doctor Automotive Specialist Inc., in Eustis, Lt. Kristin Thompson of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and Nina Rosania, who is very active in the community, especially in her efforts helping out small businesses in Lake County.

Participants will meet a 9 a.m. at Wooton Park, 100 East Ruby Street, Tavares. The first stop will be the Lake County Administration Building, then a stop at the Tavares Public Safety Complex and the walk will end at Kalua Beach Bar with lunch. Donuts will be provided before the walk by Lake Tire & Auto in Tavares, and a hot dog lunch will be available at Kalua Beach Bar, provided by the restaurant and Duct-Man Mechanical LLC in Eustis.

Dry Conditions Force Countywide Burn Ban

LAKE COUNTY, Florida—Lake County officials imposed a burn ban effective Friday that will last indefinitely, according to a press release.

The burn ban is in effect for all of Lake County and prohibits the burning of yard debris, land and recreational fires but does not include outdoor fireplaces, barbecue grills and barbecue pits that have a total fuel area of 3 feet or less and 2 feet or less in height.

Dry conditions forced the move by county officials and surrounding counties have enacted similar bans. For more than three weeks, the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) rating has exceeded 500 and the ban is necessary for public safety, the press release stated.

When the KDBI rating falls below 500 for seven consecutive days, the county will lift the ban.

9-Month Investigation Uncovers Conspiracy to Smuggle Drugs into Jail, 3 Arrested, Including Siblings

TAVARES, Florida—The Lake County Sheriff’s Office has arrested three people and is looking for a fourth person, it says conspired to smuggle drugs into the Lake County Detention Center, better known as the Lake County Jail or LCJ.

LCSO announced Friday it arrested Victoria Morrison, 24, of Lady Lake, Robert Morrison, 28, of Leesburg, and Anthony Arnold, 37, of Fruitland Park and a warrant has been issued for the arrest Patrick White, 40, of Okahumpka, according to a press release. Victoria Morrison and Robert Morrison are brother and sister, LCSO Lt. Fred Jones told Inside Lake.

According to LCSO, Victoria Morrison attempted to “introduce” fentanyl, methamphetamine and suboxone into LCJ with the help of her boyfriend, Tevaughn Johnson, who was locked up in the Marion County Jail. While cooperating with her brother, who was incarcerated at LCJ and two other inmates, Arnold and White, Victoria Morrison attempted to smuggle the drugs in, but they were intercepted by detectives before they entered the jail, the press release states.

For the next nine months, detectives investigated and intercepted contraband before it made its way into the jail. The probable cause affidavits are sealed and no other information is being released at this time.

Victoria Morrison was serving felony probation when she was arrested Thursday for trafficking in methamphetamine more than 28 grams, conspiracy to traffick in methamphetamine more than 28 grams, possession of suboxone with intent to deliver within 1,000 feet of a school and conspiracy to introduce contraband into a detention facility. Due to the probation violation, she is being held on no bond. Her boyfriend, Tevaughn Johnson, 29, was moved from the Marion County Jail to federal custody on a firearms violation and no charges were filed yet in this case; LCSO has forwarded the information to the U.S. Marshals.

Arnold, who was arrested last year for strangling and raping a woman, is scheduled to go to trial next month, and Victoria Morrison’s brother, Robert, who has been held in the Lake County since June 2022 on a tampering with evidence charge and possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, are each facing additional charges of conspiracy to possess contraband in a detention facility and unlawful use of a two-way communication device and are being held on no bond. White, who was released from LCJ in December 2022, is wanted for the same charges.

Fruitland Park First Friday Market Set to Begin this Week

FRUITLAND PARK, Florida—A new, daytime monthly market is set to begin this Friday in Fruitland Park.

Orange Blossom Market Co. has partnered with the City of Fruitland Park to create the Fruitland Park First Friday Market. The market is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the first Friday of each month at Fruitland Park City Hall, 506 West Berckman Street and will run through May, taking a break during the sweltering summer months and kicking back off in September, Orange Blossom Market Co. Founder and Organizer Sheena Willis told Inside Lake.

“The market will be a place where locals can come together with small businesses from within their community to purchase fresh foods and unique finds in an atmosphere where guests will look forward to attending again,” Willis said.

More than 30 vendors will be on site with produce, handmade wares, baked goods and food trucks. Some of the vendors include Bite Out Of Hunger, specializing in dips and salsas, Sugar Valley Farms with its full line of maple products and Lady T Lemonade with its specialty fruit-infused lemonades.

Vendor spots are closed for the inaugural market this Friday, but Willis is accepting applications for the April market, she said. If you are interested in becoming a vendor at future Fruitland Park First Friday Markets, visit, Fruitland Park First Friday April application.

FHP: Suspect Fleeing Lady Lake Police Crashes Into SUV, Sends Woman, 2 Teens to the Hospital

FRUITLAND PARK, Florida—The Florida Highway Patrol has released information on the crash that killed a suspect and sent three people to the hospital Saturday afternoon.

A 35-year-old Orlando man driving a black Hyundai Elantra fled Lady Lake Police Department just after 4 p.m. Saturday and “due to its recklessness and speeds Lady Lake PD lost sight of (the car,) FHP Lt. Channing Taylor said.

The Hyundai continued to drive recklessly and began driving southbound in the northbound lanes of U.S. Highway 27/441 near 466A in Fruitland Park. The Hyundai struck a silver Kia Sportage being driven by a 43-year-old woman of The Villages. The driver of the Hyundai was pronounced dead at the scene and the woman was seriously injured. Her passengers, two teen girls, aged 13 and 14, also of The Villages, received minor injuries. All three were transported to area hospitals, Taylor said.

FHP was requested to assist in the crash investigation approximately two and a half hours after the crash.

Fruitland Park Police Chief Erik Luce released a statement on the crash late Saturday night.

FPPD was notified that LLPD was pursuing a vehicle into the city limits of Fruitland Park after a LLPD officer stated on the radio a suspect attempted to use their vehicle to run into an officer, Luce said in a press release.

The officer was investigating a theft at Home Depot, 871 U.S. Highway 27, Lady Lake when the incident occurred.

The suspect fled down U.S. Highway 27/441, crossed the center median and began driving southbound in the northbound lanes at an estimated 110 miles per hour. A Fruitland Park Police officer spotted the fleeing car and activated emergency lights but was unable to catch up to the vehicle, Luce said.

The incident remains under investigation.

Suspect Flees Lady Lake Police Wrong Way Down U.S. 27, Crashes into Vehicle, Suspect Dead, 3 Airlifted

FRUITLAND Park, Florida—A theft suspect is dead after fleeing from Lady Lake Police Department Saturday afternoon, crashing into an unsuspecting vehicle and sending three people to the hospital, according to Fruitland Park Police Chief Erik Luce.  

 FPPD was notified that Lady Lake Police Department was pursuing a vehicle into the city limits of Fruitland Park after a LLPD officer stated on the radio a suspect attempted to use their vehicle to run into an officer, Luce said in a press release.

The officer was investigating a theft at Home Depot, 871 U.S. Highway 27, Lady Lake when the incident occurred.

The suspect fled down U.S. Highway 27, crossed the center median and began driving southbound in the northbound lanes of U.S. Highway 27 at an estimated 110 miles per hour. A Fruitland Park Police officer spotted the fleeing car and activated emergency lights but was unable to catch up to the vehicle, Luce said.

The vehicle then struck another vehicle that was traveling in the proper direction; the suspect was pronounced dead on the scene and three occupants in the other vehicle were airlifted to local hospitals with serious injuries.

The Florida Highway Patrol is assisting FPPD with the crash investigation. According to FHP Lt. Channing Taylor, the deceased suspect was driving a black Hyundai and struck a Kia occupied by the three crash victims. No names have been released by either agency.

The crash closed U.S. Highway 27 for the rest of the afternoon Saturday and most of the night.

State Attorney Creates Animal Cruelty Task Force

OCALA, Florida—In an effort to streamline delivering justice to those who hurt animals, State Attorney Bill Gladson has created an Animal Cruelty Task Force for the Fifth Judicial Circuit that includes Lake, Citrus, Hernando, Marion and Sumter counties, his office said in a press release last week.

The task force includes the Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC,) county animal services, and local law enforcement agencies and the goal is for law enforcement, animal services and animal protection organizations to work together to investigate and prosecute animal cruelty crimes throughout the circuit, according to the press release.

State Attorney Bill Gladson PHOTO: Florida Bar

“My office is committed to aggressively prosecuting animal cruelty cases, and I am grateful for the team which shares our commitment,” Gladson stated. “The reach of these crimes goes beyond harm to innocent animals; these criminals pose a risk to the entire community.”

Animal abusers are five times more likely to commit violent crimes against people, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, nearly 70 percent have criminal records.

Windchills in the 20s and 30s Expected this Weekend, Cold Weather Shelters Activated

LAKE COUNTY, Florida—For the second time in less than a month, Lake County is scheduled to open two cold weather shelter locations in anticipation of this weekend’s near-freezing temperatures.

Both locations open Friday; Trinity Assembly of God, 200 Urick Street, Fruitland Park will open at 5:30 p.m. and remain open through 7 a.m. each day, Friday through Sunday, and LifePointe Church, 3551 East Orange Avenue will be open 5 p.m. through 8 a.m. each day through Sunday, according to Lake County Emergency Management.

A warming shelter will also be open from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Salvation Army, 2605 South Street, Leesburg,  

Lake Xpress will provide free transportation to cold weather shelters for those who need assistance traveling to a shelter. Schedules are available on Lake Xpress’ website. Residents who do not have access to a Lake Xpress fixed route must call 352-742-2612 to arrange transportation.

Friday night, cold temperatures and breezy winds will bring windchills in the upper 20s to lower 30s. A Wind Chill Advisory has been issued for east Central Florida, according to the U.S. National Weather Service, Melbourne.

Christmas Carjacking and Crash Into Blueberry Field Ends in a Trip to Jail

FRUITLAND PARK, Florida—A homeless man is accused of carjacking a taxi driver, crashing the car into a blueberry field and spitting on a firefighter’s boot Christmas night, according to an arrest affidavit.

A taxi driver received a call from staff at UF Health Leesburg Hospital to pick up Troy Ravin Yar, 23, who is listed as homeless, to transport him to a cold weather shelter around 6 p.m., the affidavit states.

As the pair drove to Fruitland Park, Yar struck the victim in the right side of his neck with his fist and said, “Get the (expletive) out, I’m going to (expletive) kill you,” near the intersection of Urick Street and Thomas Avenue, the victim told Fruitland Park Police Department. Trinity Assembly of God, 200 Urick Street, Fruitland Park, was the county’s only 24-hour cold weather shelter during the weekend’s “Arctic Blast.”

The victim exited the vehicle fearing Yar had a knife to his neck, he told police, and the victim had a large gash on the side of his neck, the arresting FPPD officer noted in the affidavit. Yar then took the vehicle and crashed in a nearby blueberry field and fled the scene. He was apprehended a short time later on County Road 468.

Yar told police he took the car because he wanted to see his brother; he then complained of knee pain and Lake County Fire Rescue responded to evaluate Yar. When they arrived, Yar allegedly said, “(Expletive) you, I’ll walk to the hospital,” and spit in the direction of a firefighter. The saliva landed on the firefighter’s boot.

Yar was arrested for carjacking, battery on a firefighter and leaving the scene of a crash involving damage. He is being held in the Lake County Jail on $30,500.

Tree Service Owner Picked Up on Warrant for Pilfering Packages from Customer in October

LEESBURG, Florida—The owner of a tree service company was caught on camera stealing packages from one of his customers, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Robert Wayne Williams, owner of Tree Life Services, was captured on surveillance video Oct. 29 stealing two Amazon packages from the victim who had hired Williams to do tree work on her Leesburg property, she told the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

The case was turned over to an LCSO detective, who viewed the video and was able to identify Williams from past encounters, the affidavit states. Williams, 48, of Leesburg, is seen exiting his white Ford truck, walking up to the victim’s porch and grabbing two packages containing jeans and shoes, valued at more than $120.

The detective made attempts to interview Williams, but “met with negative results due to Williams having an active warrant out of Marion County,” he stated in the affidavit.

Robert Wayne Williams PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

Officers from Fruitland Park Police Department attempted to pull Williams over Dec. 2, when officers spotted him at a Fruitland Park gas station, but he fled the stop and was later arrested by Leesburg Police Department. He was arrested for fleeing and eluding, in addition to petit theft and burglary in the Lake County case, and on warrants for three counts of burglary, two counts of grand theft auto, two counts of possession burglary tools, criminal mischief and grand theft from Marion County.

He was released from the Lake County Jail on $33,500 bond and is scheduled to appear in Lake County court Tuesday.

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