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

Account Established to Benefit Family of Lake Minneola High Senior Tragically Killed in School Bus Crash

MINNEOLA, Fla.—A fundraising account has been established to benefit the family of the Lake Minneola High School (LMHS) student who tragically passed away Monday.

Sherman “Isaiah” Vannoy, a 17-year-old senior, was on a bicycle when he was struck by a school bus before daylight Monday morning at the entrance of LMHS.

Mary Laurenzi, 78, of Leesburg, who was hired by Lake County Schools in November 2021, was driving the school bus southbound on Hancock Road, south of Fox Trail Avenue, in the left turn lane. Vannoy was riding a bicycle northbound on the north sidewalk of Hancock Road approaching the stop sign at the intersection. Vannoy entered the crosswalk and Laurenzi attempted to make a left turn to enter LMHS and struck Vannoy, Trooper Migdalisis Garcia said in a press release.

Laurenzi saw Vannoy in the crosswalk and swerved to the left, and the school bus collided with Vannoy and continued off the roadway and struck a stop sign and a chain-link fence, Garcia said. Vannoy was transported to South Lake Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries; Laurenzi and her passengers, a 55-year-old woman of Leesburg and an 18-year-old woman of Minneola were not injured. The crash remains under investigation.

Jennifer White, a member of Vannoy’s family, established the benefit account Tuesday morning and stated, “Sherman’s family is so thankful for the love and prayers you’ve sent their way.”

At press time, the account had raised $1,700 of its $10,000 goal; to donate click here.

Lake County Schools Releases Name of Student Tragically Killed in School Bus Collision Monday, Grief Counselors on Campus

MINNEOLA, Fla.— Lake County Schools (LCS) has released the names of the teen and the bus driver involved in a fatal crash Monday morning at Lake Minneola High School.

Sherman Vannoy, 17, was a senior at Lake Minneola High School, Sherri Owens spokesperson for LCS told Inside Lake.

“This was a very difficult day for all of us at Lake County Schools,” Owens said in an email. “We are in touch with the family and are offering our support. We have grief counselors on campus this week for any students or faculty members who may need their services.”

The bus driver, 78-year-old Mary Laurenzi, of Leesburg, was hired in November 2021, Owens said.

The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating the crash and said Laurenzi was driving the bus southbound on Hancock Road, south of Fox Trail Avenue, in the left turn lane. Vannoy was riding a bicycle northbound on the north sidewalk of Hancock Road approaching the stop sign at the intersection. Vannoy entered the crosswalk and Laurenzi attempted to make a left turn to enter Lake Minneola High School, Trooper Migdalisis Garcia said in a press release.

Laurenzi saw Vannoy in the crosswalk and swerved to the left, and the school bus collided with Vannoy and continued off the roadway and struck a stop sign and a chain-link fence, Garcia said. Vannoy was transported to South Lake Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. Laurenzi and her passengers, a 55-year-old woman of Leesburg and an 18-year-old woman of Minneola were not injured. The crash remains under investigation.

Teen Bicyclist Killed in Collision with School Bus near Lake Minneola High School

MINNEOLA, Fla.—The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating a crash that killed a 17-year-old bicyclist near Lake Minneola High School Monday morning.

“The crash occurred as the bus was turning left into the school from traveling southbound on Hancock Road,” Trooper Migdalisis Garcia told Inside Lake in an email.

The crash occurred at 6:50 a.m. near Hancock Road and Fox Trail Avenue and troopers are still investigating the sequence of events that resulted in the crash, Garcia said.

The 17-year-old Minneola boy was transported to South Lake Hospital where he was pronounced deceased. The bus driver, a 78-year-old woman from Leesburg, was not injured.

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.

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 www.k4fc.org

Minneola Man Captured on Video Stealing from Several Downtown Clermont Businesses

CLERMONT, Florida—A Minneola man is behind bars after video surveillance captured him stealing from several businesses at the Montrose Street Market early Monday.

Clermont Police responded to 793 West Montrose Street after the victim reported his security cameras caught a man, later identified as Michael Jacob Mathis, 21, entering the business around 2:30 a.m. through a door that was accidentally left unlocked by a cleaner, according to an arrest affidavit.

Mathis, wearing a white hoodie and dark pants, did not cover his face or wear gloves as he made his way through the market, which houses several vendors. He stole multiple items, including two iPhones, one from Design Sushi and a second one from Brave Burger; he also stole a tip jar from Brave Burger that contained approximately $10. He stole 50 cents from The Tasty Crepes and dropped a soda can, he then grabbed a drink and a tip jar that contained $70 from Pico Bistro, the affidavit states.

The video also showed Mathis wearing “very noticeable” tan work boots and carrying a black bag with a red stripe during his crime spree.

Later the same day, the complainant’s assistant reported seeing Mathis walking down Lake Minneola Shores Road in Minneola wearing the same boots and carrying the same bag, according to the affidavit. Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies stopped Mathis and upon running his name, they found he had a Marion County warrant for failure to appear for petit theft.

Mathis was searched and he was found with a small bag of methamphetamine, a glass pipe with residue, a cut straw and several small baggies that contained residue; he also had a small bag of marijuana, according to the affidavit.

Mathis denied being in the market but was found with the phone the belonged to Design Sushi and $72 in small denominations that would be consistent with cash in a tip jar. Mathis was arrested for burglary, four counts of petit theft, possession of methamphetamine, possession of marijuana and possession of paraphernalia. His bond on those charges is $18,000 but he is being held on a detainer for the Marion County warrant.

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.

Leesburg Man Accused of Shooting at Truck with 5-Year-old Child in it During Road Rage Incident on Florida’s Turnpike

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Florida—A Leesburg man is being held in the Osceola County Jail on no bond, accused of shooting a truck that contained a 5-year-old child in a road rage incident on Florida’s Turnpike Sunday, according to the Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Tara Crescenzi.

A trooper was conducting traffic enforcement in the median of Florida’s Turnpike near Kenansville shortly before 6:30 p.m. Sunday when he observed a white sedan driving recklessly and changing lanes around a white pickup truck in the northbound lanes.

The trooper made his way into traffic and watched the white car continue to improperly change lanes at speeds of more than 100 miles per hour until it was caught in traffic, according to an incident report. FHP pulled the car over and ordered the occupants to exit the vehicle. The driver, Zion Zaire Vincent Waller, 22, and his passenger, a 22-year-old woman from Minneola, exited the vehicle and Waller was immediately placed under arrest for reckless driving. His passenger was detained and placed in a patrol vehicle; Inside Lake is not naming the Minneola woman because she was not charged with a crime. Troopers began to inventory the vehicle before it was towed and discovered a Premier Firearms 556 rifle and a Glock 45 handgun in plain view, the report states.

Zion Waller is seen here in his January 2023 Lake County Jail mugshot. Waller was arrested in Lake County in January for domestic battery by strangulation and two counts of child abuse. The charges were dropped just two days before the road rage incident.

As they inventoried the car, a white pickup truck pulled up to the scene and the driver told troopers his truck had been shot by Waller and pointed to a bullet hole on the left side of the truck between the driver’s door and the passenger door. The driver said the white sedan had been driving erratically around the truck before shooting at it, while it contained him, another adult and a 5-year-old child, according to the report.

FHP questioned Waller, who said he was involved in a road rage incident with the truck several miles south and the driver of the truck pointed what appeared to be a weapon at him. Waller told troopers he feared for his life and shot one round at the truck and sped up to get away. Waller said he did not call 9-1-1 because he did not “feel safe” pulling over, the report states. His passenger, the Minneola woman, told troopers Waller shot at the truck, attempting to shoot at the tires.

A bullet hole in a truck is seen here following a road rage incident involving a Leesburg man Sunday. PHOTO: Florida Highway Patrol

The driver of the truck consented to a search and no weapons were found in the vehicle.

Waller was arrested for three counts of attempted murder, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, shooting into an occupied vehicle, carrying a concealed firearm and reckless driving. He was transported to the Osceola County Jail, where he is being held on no bond. The occupants of the truck were not injured.

Waller was arrested in Lake County in January for domestic battery by strangulation and two counts of child abuse. The charges were dropped just two days before the road rage incident.

4 Teenagers Arrested Sunday After Mount Dora Resident Catches Their Misdeeds on Camera

MOUNT DORA, Florida—Four suspected vehicle burglars were nabbed after a resident notified Mount Dora Police Department his home security system captured them checking the door handles of at least six vehicles early Sunday morning.

MDPD responded to the area of Mount Dora Apartments, 3001 Northland Road just before 5 a.m. Sunday after receiving a 9-1-1 call from a resident who said his cameras captured four teens in an older red Toyota sedan checking door handles, according to several arrest affidavits. An officer located the suspected vehicle nearby at Epic Theaters, 2300 Spring Harbor Boulevard and blocked it in and attempted a traffic stop in the parking lot. The Toyota stopped momentarily before fleeing off the pavement and then drove into a canal, and struck a tree and surrounding brush.

MDPD ordered the occupants out of the car at gunpoint and the foursome complied and were taken into custody and separated. They were identified as J’son Rashad Cyprian, 18, of Orlando, Nickoy Orlando Brown, 16, of Ocoee, Torey Williams, 17, of Minneola, and Joseph Faudy, 15, of Orlando. Police searched the rental car and found a small bag of marijuana in the right, front passenger door pocket and a red and black SCCY 9mm handgun was found tucked under the driver’s seat. Most of the interior of the gun was replaced with aluminum foil, and the plate containing the serial number was removed, the arresting officer noted in the affidavit.

J’son Cyprian PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

Officers found a drum magazine with 69 rounds laying on the floorboard of the front passenger seat, and two gloves and an empty holster were found in the back seat, according to the affidavit.

Cyprian, of Orlando, pleaded guilty to armed robbery less than a year ago and was adjudicated delinquent, the equivalent of a conviction for an adult. In this case, he was arrested for possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon, fleeing and eluding, altering a firearm, attempted burglary and three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He is being held in the Lake County Jail on $35,000 bond.

Faudy told police he was threatened with violence if he did not participate in the burglaries; he was arrested for attempted burglary and possession of marijuana. Williams and Brown were arrested for attempted burglary. It is unclear if Brown, Faudy and Williams were released to their parents, or if they were turned over to the Department of Juvenile Justice, due to incomplete paperwork.   

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