Leesburg Man Dies From Crash Injuries

LEESBURG, Florida—A 73-old Leesburg man has died from injuries he suffered in a crash earlier this week, according to Leesburg Police Capt. Joe Iozzi.

Shortly after 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, David Reno, 73, was driving a 2007 Chevrolet sedan north on U.S. Highway 441 when he attempted to make a left turn on Perkins Street and collided with a 2011 GMC pickup truck headed southbound and being driven by Terrin Lawson, 22, of Leesburg. Leesburg Police Department and Leesburg Fire Rescue responded to the crash scene.

Reno, Lawson, and Lawson’s passenger, 18-year-old Taraya McBride, also of Leesburg, were all transported to area hospitals for treatment. Reno later succumbed to his injuries, Iozzi said Friday. The crash remains under investigation.

Leesburg Police Investigating After 2 Teens Shot at Apartment Complex

LEESBURG, Florida—Leesburg Police Department is investigating after two teenagers were shot at an apartment complex Wednesday night, according to Leesburg Police Capt. Joe Iozzi.

LPD Capt. Joe Iozzi told Inside Lake two 17-year-old males were shot at Lake Harris Cove Apartments, 32511 Lake Harris Cove Avenue, near Lowe’s, located at 9540 U.S. Highway 441 shortly before 8 p.m. One teen is being treated at AdventHealth Waterman in Tavares, which caused the hospital to be placed on lockdown, Tavares Police Department Public Information Officer Courtney Sullivan said.

The second teen, who has a superficial wound to his finger, is in custody on an outstanding warrant for grand theft auto and other charges. He is not cooperating with police and the incident may be drug related, Iozzi said.

The investigation was still very active at press time and detectives are investigating whether the teens shot at each other; two types of shell casings were found at the scene. Neither victim has life-threatening injuries, according to Iozzi.

“It is an isolated incident and appears to be drug related,” Iozzi said.

Lady Lake Woman Accused of Killing Woman and Seriously Injuring Man in 2022 Hit-and-Run Crash Turns Herself in to FHP Thursday

LADY LAKE, Florida—A Lady Lake woman turned herself in at the Lake County Jail Thursday after a warrant was issued for her arrest for hitting and killing a woman and seriously injuring a man last year and fleeing the scene, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Tara Renee Schiessle, 31, is accused of striking the pair as they walked northbound on the grass shoulder of Rolling Acres Road near West Lakeview Street shortly before 9:45 p.m. Sept. 11, 2022. The impact killed the 40-year-old woman, and the 31-year-old man, identified as Jonathan Kirkland in a separate civil suit, was airlifted to Ocala Regional Medical Center with serious injuries. Schiessle fled the scene, FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi said last year.

After a 9-month investigation that included waiting for DNA evidence to come back from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab, troopers issued a warrant for Schiessle’s arrest for leaving the scene of a crash involving death, leaving the scene of a crash involving serious bodily injuries and false and fraudulent insurance claims, Crescenzi told Inside Lake. She met the investigating trooper at the Lake County Jail Thursday, turned herself in and was released the same day on $42,000 bond.  

Tavares Police Searching for Woman Missing Since Saturday

UPDATE: Celia Schwinden has been found safe.

TAVARES, Florida—Tavares Police Department is seeking the public’s assistance in locating a woman who was last seen at her home in the area of Dora Avenue Saturday.

Celia Schwinden, 67, is known to frequent Tavares, Eustis and Leesburg on foot and may be carrying bags with her. TPD is utilizing the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Real Time Crime Center, bloodhounds and pinged her cellphone with negative results. TPD has also issued a BOLO (be on the lookout) and reached out to surrounding law enforcement agencies, TPD Chief Sarah Coursey told Inside Lake.

“We have all hands on deck,” Coursey said.

Celia Schwinden, 67, is seen here entering her home in the Dora Avenue area Saturday. Tavares Police Department is trying to locate her to check on her well-being.

There has been no activity on Schwinden’s credit or debit cards. She apparently returned to her home Monday and left a note but left her home again. Police did not release what the note said.

“We need to check her well-being,” Coursey said.

TPD officers are canvassing the area and following up on leads, Coursey said, and Schwinden is believed to be wearing the clothing shown in the photos accompanying this article.

If you have information on Schwinden’s whereabouts, call TPD at 352-343-2101 and reference case T23050703.

Person Airlifted After Being Rescued from Fire Sunday Night, Deputy Transported

ALTOONA, Florida—One person was rescued and airlifted for treatment and a Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputy was transported to the hospital following a structure fire Sunday night, according to Umatilla Fire Department.

Numerous agencies responded to the fire in addition to UFD and LCSO, including Eustis Fire Department, Leesburg Fire Department, Lake County Fire Rescue, Marion County Fire Rescue and Lake EMS, a UFD social media post stated. An exact address for the fire was unavailable at press time, but numerous social media posts and comments said the fire was in the Shockley Heights area.

UFD was first on the scene of the fire that had one person trapped inside. The unidentified person was rescued and airlifted to a local hospital and a deputy was transported to an area hospital to get checked out, according to UFD. The fire was extinguished.

Motorcycle Crash Kills Leesburg Man, Injures Leesburg Woman

TAVARES, Florida—A late night motorcycle crash killed a Leesburg man and injured a Leesburg woman Wednesday night, according to Tavares Police Department.

A TPD officer was parked in the parking lot of the Tavares Recreational Park (TRP) boat ramp off U.S. Highway 441 and witnessed a 2007 Harley-Davidson with two riders appear to lose control near the entrance shortly before midnight, Courtney Sullivan, TPD Public Information Officer, told Inside Lake.

Gerald Hoffman, 48, was pronounced deceased on the scene and Laura Hoffman, 47, was transported to a local trauma center and suffered minor injuries. Neither rider was wearing a helmet and it is unknown which rider was operating the motorcycle, Sullivan said.  The crash closed the northbound lanes of U.S. Highway 441 for more than four hours and remains under investigation.

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.

CNA Admits to Abusing Elderly Woman and Posting it to Social Media to Get “Likes”

MOUNT DORA—A Leesburg woman was arrested Wednesday after an anonymous email was sent to her place of employment advising she was abusing an elderly patient and posting it on social media, according to an arrest affidavit.

Mount Dora Police Department responded to an assisted living facility in the city after an employee reported receiving the email that included a video posted to TikTok showing Gabriel V. Woods, 34, wearing a green work shirt and black pants, with “extremely distinct” gold and silver bracelets dancing to a song. The video was captioned “Nurse: The resident fell out of bed…Me: but this song hit I’ll pick her up in a min.”

The name of the facility is redacted from the affidavit.

The email also included a photo posted on Facebook of an arm with the same bracelets grabbing and twisting the lips of an 88-year-old dementia patient, according to the affidavit. The photo is captioned, “Twisting my Resident Lip Because Uon (Expletive) Before Shift Change.”

When Woods arrived at work Wednesday, MDPD questioned her and she admitted she was in the video and photo and the social media accounts belonged to her, the affidavit states. She said the video was not real and a there was no patient in need of assistance. She did admit to touching the woman in the photo, but said it was not forceful. She also told MDPD there no reason to touch the dementia patient’s mouth other than to make a post to gain social media likes.

Woods was arrested for abuse, aggravated abuse and neglect of an elderly person. She was transported to the Lake County Jail, where she was released on $2,000 bond.

Details Released After Fugitive Taken Into Custody Nearly 2 Months After Skipping Out on DUI Manslaughter Trial

MOUNT DORA, Florida— The Lake County Sheriff’s Office has released details about the apprehension of Zachery Waldo Wednesday.

Waldo, 36, was tracked down by the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force that includes a deputy from LCSO, LCSO Lt. Fred Jones told Inside Lake.

He was found at Lakeside Inn, 100 Alexander Street, a popular downtown Mount Dora hotel, shortly before 11 a.m.  

“They boxed him in, in the parking lot,” Jones said.

A $10,000 reward was being offered for information leading to Waldo’s capture, but no one will be getting the reward because the Marshals developed information on their own and found him, Jones said.

Waldo disappeared on a lunch break during his DUI manslaughter trial March 14 where he stood accused of killing three members of the same family in Leesburg in 2019.

On Christmas Eve 2019, Waldo was driving a 2019 Dodge Ram around 8:30 p.m. eastbound on Dixie Avenue approaching Dozier Court, when a 2018 Toyota Corolla being driven by Christopher Smith attempted to make a left turn on Dozier Court from westbound Dixie Avenue, Leesburg Police Capt. Joe Iozzi said following the crash.

The event data recorder (EDR) for the Ram recorded the Ram’s speed at 84.5 mph one tenth of a second from the time of impact, but just 2 seconds before the Ram was traveling at 96.3 mph, according to the report. The posted speed limit is 35 mph, and a witness told LPD the Ram did not slow down, and the brake lights did not illuminate. A witness also put Waldo behind the wheel just before the crash and DNA confirmed, Iozzi told Inside Lake.

The front of the Ram struck right side of the Toyota, killing Smith, 44, and his wife, Jessica Smith, 35, both of Eustis. They were pronounced dead on the scene. The couple’s two children,11-year-old Hunter and 13-year-old Hailey, who were passengers in the Toyota, were taken to Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children for treatment. Hailey succumbed to her injuries and died on Christmas Day.

Waldo and his passenger, Kevin Cunningham, 33, were taken to Ocala Regional Medical Center for their injuries. LPD obtained hospital records and Waldo was found to have an alcohol level twice the legal limit, along with amphetamines and benzos in his system, according to the report.

Upon searching the Ram, LPD found a loaded Ruger .40 caliber handgun stolen from Mount Dora, six sandwich bags containing 157.8 grams of marijuana and six cell phones, according to the report.  

A warrant was issued for Waldo’s arrest in 2020 and in August of that year, LCSO deputies and U.S. Marshals were conducting surveillance and spied Waldo getting into a black Dodge SUV. Waldo drove out of a neighborhood on Chain O Lakes Road near Grand Island and rolled a stop sign at County Road 44, according to an arrest affidavit. An LCSO deputy attempted a traffic stop and Waldo sped off, running other vehicles off the road. Multiple units attempted to stop Waldo and he struck an LCSO patrol car and crashed through a fence on Tall Oak Court, the affidavit states.

Waldo fled on foot and hid in the bushes of a home on Grand Island Oaks Circle and asked for a ride from a man returning home from work. The man denied him the ride and Waldo took off again and jumped over a fence to Laurel Crest Court. He was found lying on the ground wearing nothing but underwear, the affidavit states.  

Three days later, he posted a $148,000 bond and was released from LCJ.

Waldo stood trial in March 2023 for the crimes. He was still out on bond and not in custody, so he was allowed to leave the courthouse during a lunch break He never came back from that break on the second day of his trial. LPD, LCSO and U.S. Marshals began searching for him immediately and he was found guilty in absentia by a jury the same day.

A little more than a month ago, Waldo’s girlfriend, Melinesia Shauntel Jones, 32,  was arrested for her part in helping him elude capture. Jones was charged in March with principal to failure to appear, accessory after the fact to DUI manslaughter, false information to law enforcement in a felony investigation, and accessory after the fact to DUI with serious bodily injury. Her home on East Street in Leesburg was searched by U.S. Marshals and LPD, but Waldo was not there. Jones was arrested and held for a month at the Lake County Jail, before being released Thursday on $13,000 bond.

Waldo, now charged with failure to appear, is being held on no bond.

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