Lake County Schools to Follow Wednesday Schedule in Anticipation of Severe Weather Tuesday, After School Activities Canceled

LAKE COUNTY, Fla.—Lake County Schools will follow Wednesday schedules on Tuesday in anticipation of severe weather, according to an LCS spokesperson.

“Severe thunderstorms are in the forecast for tomorrow afternoon (Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024) in Lake County, particularly in areas on the northern end. In an effort to get as many students home before the worst of the storm begins, Lake County Schools will follow our Wednesday early dismissal schedule on Tuesday,” LCS Communications Coordinator Sherri Owens said in an email Monday night.

LCS will excuse weather-related absences and all after school outdoor activities are canceled. Extended Learning Centers (ELC) will be open, Owens said.

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BREAKING NEWS: Santa Claus is Coming to Town

LAKE COUNTY, Fla.—At press time Christmas Eve, the jolly fellow best known as Santa Claus was last spotted in Greenland and had delivered more than 5 billion gifts, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD.)

Little boys and girls (who should be in bed) can track the big guy’s movements online as he makes his way across the world with his trusty reindeer crew, by visiting NORAD Tracks Santa.

NORAD began tracking Santa in 1958 after taking over the duty from the U.S. Air Force.

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Lake-Sumter State College Foundation Honors Hall of Fame Recipients and Distinguished Alumni Tuesday Night, Including Inside Lake’s Own Marilyn Aciego

LEESBURG, Fla.—The Lake-Sumter State College Foundation honored its Distinguished Alumni and Hall of Fame recipients Tuesday night in a ceremony held at the Everett A. Kelly Convocation Center at the college’s Leesburg campus.

Nine individuals and a community organization were recognized for their achievements and contributions to the community in front of a large crowd that enjoyed a three-course dinner and video testimonials from the recipients.

Each year, the LSSC Foundation Board of Directors select the recipients from nominations made by the public to receive distinguished alumni awards. For the first time its 12-year history, two people were awarded the prestigious Professional Achievement Award, and one of the recipients was Inside Lake’s Publisher Marilyn Aciego.

Aciego discovered her passion for journalism at Lake-Sumter State College after taking a media class and later became editor of both The Angler and The Odyssey, LSSC’s student publications. She was hired by the Daily Commercial while she was still a student at LSSC and worked her way up to the lead cops and courts reporter. She covered numerous stories that gained national interest, including the death of beloved Sheriff Chris Daniels, a murder committed by identical twins and the disappearance of Trenton Duckett. Aciego’s coverage of these stories lead to appearances on Nancy Grace dozens of times and an episode of Evil Twins on Investigation Discovery.

Lake-Sumter State College Foundation 2023 Hall of Fame recipient Toni Upchurch and Distinguished Alumni recipient Marilyn Aciego.

She left the Daily Commercial in 2009 and began working for an international media organization in an entry-level position and was named Florida bureau chief just three years later. In 2010, she joined recently-retired attorney James Hope to write local stories for Hope’s Lake Legal News magazine, rising to editor-in-chief and then partnering with Hope to start the online edition that focused on breaking crime and public safety news.

In 2021, Aciego and Hope dissolved their partnership and Aciego rebranded Lake Legal News to Inside Lake and began covering general news along with crime news.

“Lake County was becoming a news desert,” Aciego said. “I knew it was time to start Inside Lake.

It was these achievements that earned Aciego the prestigious Professional Achievement Award and Tuesday night she shared that honor with Sandra Wilson, a 1989 graduate of LSSC.


Lake-Sumter State College Foundation Distinguished Alumni and Hall of Fame 2023

  • Marilyn Aciego—Distinguished Alumni, Professional Achievement Award
  • Sandra Wilson— Distinguished Alumni, Professional Achievement Award
  • Pat Atley— Distinguished Alumni, Scholar Award
  • Christine Boodhoo— Distinguished Alumni, Valor Award
  • Juliana Green— Distinguished Alumni, Community Engagement Award
  • Andrew LoFaro—Distinguished Alumni, Graduate of the Last Decade Award
  • Toni Upchurch— Hall of Fame, Faculty Award
  • Kevin Yurasek— Hall of Fame, Staff Award
  • Patrick Ryan— Hall of Fame, Athletics Award
  • The Live Well Foundation of South Lake— Hall of Fame, Community Partner Award

Lake-Sumter State College Foundation Honors Hall of Fame Recipients and Distinguished Alumni Tuesday Night, Including Inside Lake’s Own Marilyn Aciego Read More »

FWC Launches Online Reporting Tool to Help Combat Deadly Turtle Virus

LAKE COUNTY, Fla.—The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has launched a public reporting tool to help in its research on a virus that is killing Florida freshwater turtles.

FWC has been studying turtle fraservirus (TFV1) since 2018 and is now asking the public to report any sick or dead turtles to help them combat and understand this deadly virus. TFV1 has been found in Lake County, in addition to several other counties in Central Florida, but it could be present throughout the state, FWC warns; it has been identified in softshells, cooters, sliders and snapping turtles.

Signs a turtle could be infected:

  • Appears sluggish, unresponsive or reluctant to flee.
  • Stays in shallow water or beached on banks for prolonged periods of time.
  • Head and neck outstretched flat along the ground.
  • Sunken, swollen crusty and/or cloudy eyes.
  • Reddened skin on head, neck, limbs or bottom of shell.
  • Swims irregularly (sideways, in circles or is unable to submerge)
  • Sick sofshell turtles are slow and lethargic. PHOTO: FWC

In 2021, FWC enacted an executive order prohibiting unpermitted taking and transporting of softshell turtles and yellow-bellied sliders to reduce the spread of TFV1, Turtles should not be captured and transported to a new location even if they seem healthy.

To report a dead or sick turtle, click here.

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Ham Radio Field Day at Lake County Institute of Public Safety Showcases Lake Amateur Radio Association’s Ham Communication

TAVARES, Florida—The Lake Amateur Radio Association (LARA) hosted its annual Ham Radio Field Day event June 24 and 25 at the Lake County Institute of Public Safety, drawing enthusiasts from far and wide. The event, captured in a captivating photo, featured the club’s president, Glenn Casselman, and his spouse, Laura, who is also a Ham radio enthusiast. The picturesque location provided the perfect backdrop for a day filled with showcasing mobile command vehicles from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Lake County Fire Rescue, and, of course, the Lake Amateur Radio Association.

Established in 1952 by a group of Lake County/City radio amateurs, LARA has steadily grown over the years and now boasts a membership of more than 130 dedicated individuals. Not only do they own their own property, but they have also constructed a state-of-the-art clubhouse onsite. LARA’s primary focus lies in the fun hobby of Ham radio and service to the community. Furthermore, the club’s three VHF repeaters and three UHF repeaters, some of which are linked to Echolink, DMR and the IRLP network, enable worldwide communications, amplifying the club’s impact and reach.

PHOTO: Mark O’Keefe/Special to Inside Lake

The Ham Radio Field Day event at the Lake County Institute of Public Safety serves as a testament to LARA’s commitment to promoting the invaluable role of amateur radio in emergency situations. The event not only highlighted the association’s advanced communication capabilities but also fostered a sense of camaraderie among radio enthusiasts and local public safety agencies. As LARA continues to expand its membership and community involvement, their dedication to serving as a vital link during times of crisis remains unwavering. For more information, visit

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Mascotte Teen Accused Shooting Man in the Foot

MASCOTTE, Florida—A teeneger suspected of firing multiple shots at a Mascotte residence and shooting a man in the foot earlier this month was arrested Friday, according to an arrest affidavit.

Shortly before 10:45 p.m. June 8, Mascotte Police Department responded to the 300 block of Betty Lane on a report of a shooting. When officers arrived, they found a man suffering from a gunshot wound to the foot and multiple witnesses came forward and identified the shooter as Luis Antonio Lopez, 19, of Groveland, according to a probable cause affidavit.

The investigation revealed a fight occurred between multiple people and as the fight was ending, Lopez went to a silver Nissan Altima, retrieved a gun, and fired it multiple times at the home. The victim began running from the scene, tripped and fell to the ground. While on the ground, the victim heard another gunshot and felt a bullet strike his foot. It is unclear what started the altercation.

Video backed up the victim’s claims and showed Lopez firing two shots from outside the Altima and entering the passenger seat. As the Altima accelerated on Betty Lane, Lopez fired multiple shots and an unidentified person began shooting at the Altima as it fled the scene. At least one bullet struck a home on Betty Lane, entering through the garage and eventually stopping in the master bedroom, where a man was sleeping. The homeowner was also inside the residence watching a movie with her daughter, according to the affidavit. The people inside the home were not injured.

Lopez was picked up Friday in Mascotte on the warrant for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, shooting into an occupied dwelling and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon; he was transported to the Lake County Jail, where he is being held on $60,000 bond.

This is the second time in 18 months Lopez has been charged in a shooting. In November 2021, Lopez was accused of shooting at another home in Mascotte; a shot grazed one man, and another struck a juvenile male in the lower calf. The juvenile told MPD that shooting was over a girl and possibly a fight between older family members. One of the victims positively identified Lopez as the shooter and he was charged a few days later with attempted felony murder, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and discharging a firearm in public. In another case in November 2022, Lopez was arrested for four counts of tampering with or harassing a witness and one count of assault in a separate case, all the charges in both cases were later dropped.

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Woman Jailed After Dropping Towel in Parking Lot and Exposing Herself in Front of 2 Kids

MASCOTTE, Florida—A Mascotte woman clad only in a towel with a Four Loko in her hand was arrested Monday after exposing herself to two juveniles in the parking lot of a retail store, according to an arrest affidavit.

Mascotte Police Department responded to Dollar General, 451 East Myers Boulevard and found Giselle Noemi Robinson, 36, wearing just a towel and holding a can of the malt beverage. During questioning, she told an officer walking around in just a towel in public is normal to her, the affidavit states. She was taken into custody and placed in the back of a patrol unit.

Police spoke with the complainant, a store clerk, and the clerk said a juvenile reported Robinson was naked in the parking lot and he recorded it with his phone and sent the clerk the video. MPD spoke with both juveniles, and they said they saw Robinson walk from the Circle K over to the vehicle they were in and ask for a lighter. They asked why she did not have clothes on, and she reportedly said, “I was too lazy to put clothes on,” the affidavit states.

Robinson then dropped her towel and exposed her breasts and genitals to both kids. Surveillance video from the nearby Circle K showed Robinson was unable to keep her towel on as she walked across the parking lot, exposing her breasts before talking to the juveniles. Dollar General donated a t-shirt and athletic shorts to Robinson so she did not expose herself again on her trip to jail.

Robinson was arrested for two counts of lewd and lascivious exhibition and transported to the Lake County Jail, where she was booked for the 16th time since 2018. She was also charged with a violation of probation and is being held on no bond.

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Pickup Truck Hits Tractor-Trailer and Asphalt Truck Head-on Friday Morning, Killing 3 Mascotte Residents

CLERMONT, Florida—Three Mascotte residents were killed early Friday morning after the pickup truck they were in struck a tractor-trailer and an asphalt truck head-on, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

A 21-year-old woman was driving a 2019 Chevrolet Silverado southbound on State Road 33 near Bakers Lane shortly after 5:30 a.m., when it entered the northbound lane and struck a 1999 Freightliner tractor-trailer head-on, causing the tractor-trailer to run off the road and overturn on its right side, FHP Trooper Migdalisis Garcia said.

The Silverado continued to travel in the northbound lane and struck a 2018 Kenworth asphalt truck head-on, causing the asphalt truck to leave the roadway, collide with trees and overturn on its right side.   

The driver of the Silverado and her passengers, a 50-year-old woman and a 59-year-old man, all of Mascotte, were pronounced deceased on the scene. None of the occupants of the Silverado were wearing a seatbelt, according to Garcia.

The driver of the tractor-trailer, a 57-year- Kissimmee man and the driver of the asphalt truck, a 53-year-old man of Wimauma, Illinois suffered minor injuries and were transported to Orlando Health South Lake Hospital in Clermont. Lake County Fire Rescue and Groveland Fire Department also responded to the scene.

The crash remains under investigation.

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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.

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Tragic Crash Claims Lives of Mascotte Mom and Baby Monday

SUMTER COUNTY, Florida—A Mascotte mom and her 7-month-old daughter were tragically killed Monday morning after the mom ran a stop sign, struck a car and then a tractor-trailer, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Just before 9:15 a.m., the Mascotte mom was driving a sedan eastbound on County Road 476 in Sumter County when she ran a stop sign at the intersection of State Road 471 and struck another sedan being driven by a 32-year-old Mascotte woman. The second sedan rotated and came to a stop on the west shoulder of State Road 471. The woman driving the second sedan and a 3-year-old girl in the car with her suffered minor injuries. A 4-year-old girl, also in the car, was not injured, FHP Sgt. Steve Gaskins said in a press release.

The first sedan continued and collided with the rear of a tractor-trailer being driven by a 57-year-old man of Winnsboro, South Carolina. The Mascotte mom and her baby suffered fatal injuries; the driver of the tractor-trailer was not injured.

The crash closed the roadway for nearly 6 hours.

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