MOUNT DORA, Fla.—A reward is now being offered for information leading to the whereabouts of missing mother Nicole Baldwin.
Mount Dora Police Department announced the reward of up to $5,000 on its social media pages Tuesday morning; Baldwin, 41, was reported missing Nov. 5 and was last seen Nov. 2 at her home on Strathmore Circle in Lancaster at Loch Leven in Mount Dora. MDPD detectives have remained guarded about their investigation into the disappearance of the mom of three, but there has been a flurry of law enforcement activity at the home since Nov. 28. MDPD detectives, uniformed officers and Lake County Sheriff’s Office crime scene investigators have been at the home several times removing items and multiple sources have told Inside Lake vehicles and electronics have also been taken as possible evidence in the case. The Baldwin family has since moved out of the home, because their lease was up, Baldwin’s oldest daughter, Alisha told Inside Lake.
Two community searches, spearheaded by Terri Rogers, have been conducted since Baldwin went missing, but neither search turned up anything, Rogers told Inside Lake. The most recent search was Sunday afternoon, followed by a candlelight vigil. Only Inside Lake has been covering the case for nearly a month and was the first to interview Alisha nearly a month ago. Alisha attended both searches and the vigil Sunday and told Inside Lake she just wants her mom home.
Baldwin, 41, is considered “missing endangered” and is described as a white female, 5 feet, 5 inches tall, 135 pounds, with brown and (dyed) blonde hair, and hazel eyes. If you have information on Baldwin’s disappearance, call Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS. Crimeline callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for the reward.
MOUNT DORA, Fla.—Saturday marks one month since anyone has seen missing Mount Dora mom Nicole Baldwin and a community search and candlelight vigil are planned for Sunday.
Baldwin was last seen Nov. 2 at her home on Strathmore Circle in Mount Dora after celebrating her oldest daughter Alisha’s 20th birthday, Alisha told Inside Lake last month. Alisha was on the scene Tuesday as investigators searched the home nearly all day and removed what may be evidence in the disappearance of the mother of three.
Sources told Inside Lake Mount Dora Police Department towed Baldwin’s husband’s car Tuesday as possible evidence, and took electronics, including multiple cell phones before the Baldwin family moved out of the home on Strathmore Circle in Lancaster at Loch Leven this week, and investigators were back at the home Friday after the family moved out.
Tipsters have reached out to Inside Lake with theories and suspicions about people close to Baldwin and Inside Lake asked MDPD about some of the tips, but MDPD has remained tight-lipped and not released many details, citing an “active and ongoing investigation.”
MDPD began investigating Baldwin’s disappearance Nov. 5 when she was reported missing and multiple personal items of Baldwin’s were left at the home when she disappeared, including her phone, Apple watch, purse, debit card and all her shoes and she did not have her car, Alisha told Inside Lake earlier this month. A man Baldwin was dating was in possession of her car after her disappearance and he brought the white Chevy Cruze back to Alisha when she demanded he return it, Alisha said. Last month, the Cruze was seen in the driveway of the home on Strathmore Circle with what appeared to be evidence tape on the trunk and doors.
There has been no activity on Baldwin’s social media accounts and loved ones have not heard from her since Nov. 2.
A Facebook group, Help Find Nicole Baldwin started by Terri Rogers has grown to more than 400 members and Rogers is organizing the search and candlelight vigil planned for Sunday. Rogers never met Baldwin but was compelled to help as she continues to agonize with unanswered questions about the disappearance of her niece, Tonya Lee Whipp in Polk County. Whipp, 38, was last seen in Auburndale sometime between May 28 and June 1, but she was not reported missing until June 29, according to Auburndale Police Department.
A community search organized by Rogers is planned for 2 p.m. Sunday and searchers are being asked to meet at La Gracia Baptist Church, 19650 State Road 44, Eustis. Participants may encounter rough terrain and should wear appropriate clothing and shoes to join in the search. A candlelight vigil is scheduled to be held following the search, and Rogers has been working all week gathering milk jugs that will hold candles and feature a photo of Nicole. She plans on using the jugs to line the sidewalks leading to the Strathmore Circle home to symbolize lighting a path, “so she can find her way home,” Rogers told Inside Lake.
Baldwin, 41, is considered “missing endangered” and is described as a white female, 5 feet, 5 inches tall, 135 pounds, with brown and (dyed) blonde hair, and hazel eyes. If you have information on Baldwin’s disappearance, call MDPD at 352-735-7130.
MOUNT DORA, Fla.—Three years ago, Mount Dora was rocked by the double murders of two beloved store owners who were staples in the community and the identity of the person or people responsible for their murders remains a mystery.
Minh “Tina” Nguyen, 47, and Khiem “Ken” Ba Trinh, 56, were shot around 9 p.m. Nov. 30, 2020, at their popular store, T & N Market, 1345 North Grandview Street, just a few blocks from Mount Dora Police Department. The couple was found behind the counter suffering from multiple gunshot wounds and Nguyen was pronounced dead on the scene. Trinh was airlifted to a Sanford hospital where he succumbed to his injuries just a few days later on Dec. 3, 2020.
Mount Dora Police Department released two surveillance videos showing the gunman’s movements; one was from an outside camera that showed a single gunman running across the parking lot and accosting Trinh at his gray Honda minivan and forcing him back into the store at gunpoint and later shows the gunman fleeing the building and parking lot. A second video from inside the store shows the suspect—dressed in all black—arguing with the couple and fleeing the store. The suspect’s voice can be heard in the second video and when it was released, then-Interim Chief Brett Meade asked the public to watch and listen carefully to help identify the killer. Video of the actual shooting was not released to the public.
Dozens of people attended a candlelight vigil and balloon release held at the store the day after the shooting and a block party was held in their honor several days after the murders. The store, a staple in the northeast community of Mount Dora, had been in business for more than 30 years and many of its patrons frequented the store since they were children. Today, the storefront is empty.
The couple was well-liked in the community they served; numerous people expressed their sorrow on social media in the days following the tragedy. They left behind two sons, Ryan and Vincent.
A reward of $10,000 was offered for information leading to an arrest quickly after the murders occurred, and is still available, three years later, but MDPD has never received the information it needs to make an arrest. MDPD Det. Gary Hutcheson said the key to solving the case is someone coming forward with what they know.
Inside Lake recently sat down with Hutcheson in a face-to-face interview to get an update on the case.
Rumors have swirled for years, and several sources have told Inside Lake—as far back as just a few weeks after the murders—that a man well-known to Lake County law enforcement was responsible for the heinous crime. That man is currently serving a lengthy federal prison term for a gun charge, stemming from a case in another Lake County city. Inside Lake directly asked Hutcheson if he was the culprit.
“He was interviewed as part of this case, but I’ve never had enough probable cause to say he did it,” Hutcheson said. Inside Lake is not naming the man because he has not been charged in this case.
Based on the investigation, police believe the motive was robbery and a lack of physical evidence has been a major barrier in solving the case. It is unknown why the perpetrator murdered the couple in addition to the robbery, especially when he had completely disguised his appearance.
“He (the suspect) was covered head-to-toe, gloves, face mask, full head covering, all black. We don’t have any DNA nor touch DNA,” Hutcheson explained. Police did recover shell casings and projectiles but will not release the caliber of the gun. Tests have been performed on the evidence they do have, and surprisingly, does not match any other crimes MDPD is aware of.
There was no indication something like this might occur in the months leading up to the murders. There was a “neighborhood youth” the couple was apparently having some problems with, Hutcheson said, but there is not enough evidence to charge or clear the youth.
MDPD has received information that a getaway vehicle was waiting on Gorham Street, just one block from the store but police have never been able to verify it, Hutcheson said. There were no cameras on Gorham Street, but the exterior camera at T&N Market does show the suspect running through and out of the parking lot at an angle toward the area of Gorham Street following the crime.
Hutcheson said police have released all the information and evidence they can at this point. They do have persons of interest and have investigative leads they just cannot release because it is information only the police and the perpetrator or perpetrators would know. Releasing information too early could damage their case.
Hutcheson said cases like this are a joint effort and he appreciates the support he gets from other agencies. “I have to give a lot of kudos to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Every time we get a homicide, we give them a call and they show up in force,” Hutcheson said. “We couldn’t work these cases without their help.”
In the months following the murders, the was a lot of community chatter about who may be responsible, but no one has ever given MDPD the information they need to close the case. Hutcheson said he has chased down leads when he hears someone may know something, but some people have just refused to speak with him. “We’re going to need somebody to come forward.”
“There are people in this community and the surrounding communities that I know, know something about this case and they’re just not coming forward,” Hutcheson said. “I know the persons of interest in this case have spoken to people and made admissions. We just have to get those people to come forward and tell us. If somebody directly tells somebody that they did something, we can use that.”
If you have information on the murders of “Ken and Tina,” call Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS. Callers may be eligible for the $10,000 reward and can remain anonymous.
MOUNT DORA, Fla.—In its quest to find a missing mom, Mount Dora Police Department conducted a search at the home Tuesday where she was last seen.
It has been nearly a month since anyone has seen or heard from Nicole Baldwin, a mom of three, who was last seen Nov. 2 after celebrating her oldest daughter, Alisha’s’ birthday. MDPD has stayed tight-lipped since Baldwin was reported missing and Tuesday’s search is “part of their investigation,” City of Mount Dora Spokesperson Misty Sommer told Inside Lake.
Mount Dora Police Department began investigating Baldwin’s disappearance Nov. 4 when she was reported missing, and Tuesday morning MDPD was at her home, along with multiple crime scene investigators from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.
Baldwin’s personal belongings were left at the home, including her phone, Apple watch, purse, debit card and all her shoes and she did not have her car, Baldwin’s daughter, Alisha told Inside Lake earlier this month. Alisha stood across the street from her home Tuesday, as investigators searched and she told Inside Lake earlier this month, loved ones have not heard from Baldwin and there has been no activity on her social media accounts.
Baldwin, 41, is considered “missing endangered” and is described as a white female, 5 feet, 5 inches tall, 135 pounds, with brown and (dyed) blonde hair, and hazel eyes. If you have information on Baldwin’s disappearance, call MDPD at 352-735-7130.
MOUNT DORA, Fla.—It has been three weeks since anyone has seen missing mom Nicole Baldwin and Mount Dora Police Department is being tight-lipped about its investigation.
Baldwin was last seen at her home in Lancaster at Loch Leven off County Road 44 in Mount Dora around 11:30 p.m. Nov. 2 after celebrating her daughter Alisha’s 20th birthday, Alisha told Inside Lake earlier this month. Alisha lives at the home with her mother and other family members and said when she returned home a few days later, she found out her mother was missing.
MDPD began investigating her disappearance Nov. 5 when she was reported missing, and it is unknown what, if any evidence, detectives have uncovered. Detectives have not publicly named a suspect or a person of interest.
Good Samaritan Terri Rogers has put a lot of effort into finding Baldwin. Rogers does not know Baldwin but was compelled to help bring Baldwin home as she continues to suffer with unanswered questions about the mystery of her niece, Tonya Lee Whipp’s disappearance. Whipp, 38, was last seen in Auburndale in Polk County sometime between May 28 and June 1, but she was not reported missing until June 29, according to Auburndale Police Department.
Rogers organized a community search for Baldwin last weekend, but 25 to 30 searchers and K-9 Soldiers Gunner and Trigger from Storm First Responders were unsuccessful in their quest to find the missing mom of three children. They searched wooded areas and bodies of water near Baldwin’s home and Rogers’ friend also searched with his drone, she told Inside Lake.
Rogers has also started a Facebook group, Help Find Nicole Baldwin to try to gather information and keep Baldwin’s face in the public eye.
There has been no activity on Baldwin’s social media accounts and Alisha said Baldwin has taken some time to herself in the past, but never like this.
“She would never leave me in the dark like this,” Alisha told Inside Lake, a week after Baldwin went missing. “She just vanished into thin air.”
Baldwin’s personal belongings were still in the home, including her phone, Apple watch, purse, debit card and all her shoes and she did not have her vehicle. Inside Lake asked MDPD some questions earlier this week, but a detective on the case did not reveal what leads they are following, citing an, “active and ongoing investigation.”
Baldwin, 41, is considered “missing endangered” and MDPD is asking the public to come forward with any information about her disappearance.
Baldwin is described as a white female, 5 feet, 5 inches tall, 135 pounds, with brown and (dyed) blonde hair, and hazel eyes. If you have information on Baldwin’s disappearance, call MDPD at 352-735-7130.
TAVARES, Fla.—Tavares Police Department is investigating after multiple shots were fired at Rosewood Condominiums Monday afternoon.
TPD officers responded to the call just after 3:30 p.m. when children were playing outside and a busload full of children were pulling into the parking lot, TPD Public Information Officer Courtney Sullivan told Inside Lake.
“This occurred during a time frame when children were being dropped off,” Sullivan said. “This is a residential neighborhood.”
Police were searching for a victim and evidence, and a short time after the shots were fired, a victim with a gunshot wound arrived at AdventHealth Waterman in Tavares; his condition was not released. The victim said he was shot in Mount Dora, but no evidence of a shooting was found in Mount Dora at press time, City of Mount Dora Public Information Officer Misty Sommer said.
“We are assisting Tavares Police Department in the investigation,” Sommer told Inside Lake.
Detectives and crime scene investigators are on scene and the investigation is still active. TPD is asking residents to check their cameras and come forward with any information they may have. Witnesses can remain anonymous, Sullivan said.
If you have information, call TPD at 352-343-2101, extension 4.
MOUNT DORA, Fla.—A Mount Dora woman has been missing for a week and her daughter wants answers, she told Inside Lake Thursday.
Nicole H. Baldwin was last seen at her home in Lancaster at Loch Leven off County Road 44 in Mount Dora around 11:30 p.m. Nov. 2 after celebrating her daughter Alisha’s 20th birthday, Alisha told Inside Lake. Alisha lives at the home with her mother and other family members and said when she returned home Saturday, she found out her mother was missing.
Baldwin’s personal belongings were still in the home when Alisha realized she was missing, including her phone, Apple watch, purse, debit card and all her shoes and there has been no contact with her three children, or any friends Alisha has reached out to. The phone has been turned over to Mount Dora Police Department, she said, and MDPD posted a missing person crime bulletin earlier this week, asking for the public’s assistance to locate her. Inside Lake reached out to MDPD Thursday and city spokesperson Misty Sommer said there are currently no updates.
Alisha said a man her mother is dating had her car after she disappeared, and he has since returned it to Alisha. There has not been any activity on any of her credit cards and no large cash withdrawals, prior to, or after she disappeared. She feels like someone knows something they have not revealed yet and she wants answers.
Baldwin has taken some time to herself in the past, Alisha said, but never like this.
“She would never leave me in the dark like this,” Alisha told Inside Lake. “She just vanished into thin air.”
Alisha said Baldwin had plans and things to do, including toner to dye her hair and it just does not make sense that she would disappear—especially without letting anyone know she was OK.
If you have information on Baldwin’s whereabouts, call MDPD at 352-735-7130.
LEESBURG, Fla.—Dozens of vehicles lined both sides of Goose Prairie Road Tuesday night for a candlelight vigil held in remembrance of a teen who was killed in a crash Monday.
The Florida Highway Patrol confirmed the names of both teens to Inside Lake Tuesday afternoon and loved ones and friends gathered to honor Michael Pasternak, 16, of Umatilla, who was the passenger in a Jeep Wrangler that overturned several times, killing him and the driver shortly before 8 p.m. Monday.
Lane Johnson, 17, of Leesburg, was driving the 2016 Wrangler eastbound on Goose Prairie Road near Felkins Road when he attempted to pass a 2005 Ford F-150 in a no-passing zone, shortly before 8 p.m. Monday, FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi said.
The Wrangler entered the westbound lane and attempted to reenter the eastbound lane due to oncoming traffic. The rear of the Wrangler collided with the front of the F-150 and the Wrangler traveled onto the eastbound grass shoulder of the road. Johnson overcorrected, the Wrangler then traveled across both lanes, overturned several times and struck a wire fence, according to Crescenzi.
Johnson and Pasternak were pronounced deceased on the scene; they were both wearing their seatbelts. The teens were identified as adult males shortly after the crash by FHP and later confirmed to be teenagers in a media release Tuesday morning. Both teens’ next of kin were notified before their names were confirmed to Inside Lake.
The driver of the F-150 was not injured. His age and city were originally incorrect in the first media release; FHP later said he was a 38-year-old man from Umatilla.
Pasternak was a junior at Alee Academy Charter High School in Eustis and Director/Principal Cindy Emerick spoke to Inside Lake about him Tuesday afternoon. She described him as “always smiling” and he was “literally liked by everyone,” Emerick said.
“He had big plans,” Emerick said. “He was going to do something great.”
The school’s mantra is they are a “Fam-Alee” and the “Fam-Alee” bond between the students and faculty was apparent to Emerick Tuesday, she said.
“Our students had a rough day today. So did we,” she said.
Grief counselors were available on campus Tuesday and will continue to be available if needed, Emerick said.
TAVARES, Fla.—A man first arrested nearly two years ago for breaking his 8-month-old daughter’s leg is back in the Lake County Jail for failing to appear at a mandatory court date, according to documents in the case against him.
Dominic Ralston’s new legal troubles began in July when Circuit Judge James Baxley ordered him to appear in court Aug. 28. On Aug. 27, his attorney, Jaimie Washo Spivey, filed a motion to withdraw from his case stating in part, “The undersigned attorney has reached out via text to the Defendant numerous times since January 2023 and has not received any response.”
Baxley granted Washo Spivey’s request, forfeited his bond and issued a warrant for his arrest for failure to appear on Aug. 28 when he did not show for court, according to Lake County Clerk of Court online records.
Ralston, 24, was surrendered to LCJ by his bondsman Tuesday and is now being held on no bond. Ralston was arrested in November 2021 after it was discovered his daughter had a broken leg and bruised ribs after being alone with him. Ralston was interviewed by Mount Dora Police Department, and he denied knowing how she broke her leg and attempted to explain away the bruising, telling a detective she was accident prone. He refused to take a Controlled Voice Stress Analysis Test and was arrested for aggravated child abuse. He posted $10,000 bond, was released and retained Washo Spivey within days of his arrest. His next plea negotiation conference is scheduled for Dec. 12.
TAVARES, Florida—More than a year after a beloved local musician was killed in a hit-and-run crash, the driver pleaded guilty to leaving the scene and was sentenced to five years in prison Monday.
Inside Lake was in the courtroom when Justin Thomas Flower, 39, pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of the crash that killed Robert “Bobby” Wilson July 23, 2022. Flower was originally charged with manslaughter and leaving the scene of a crash causing death in November 2022, but as part of his plea agreement, the manslaughter charge was dropped, and he pleaded guilty to the remaining charge.
He was sentenced to five years in prison and must serve a minimum of four years but will get credit for the nearly four months he served following his arrest in November 2022; Flower was held on no bond in the Lake County Jail until the bond was reduced to $5,000 in late April, and as a condition of his bond he was fitted with a GPS ankle monitor. Flower will also lose his driver license for five years after he is released from prison.
Wilson’s mother, Valerie Newman and his son, Justin Wilson attended the hearing, but decided not to speak. Newman was visibly emotional as the charge and agreement was read in open court. She shared the statement she planned to read Monday with Inside Lake, and we chose to publish it in its entirety.
This is a heartbreaking day for me today. Part of me did not want to give any kind of a statement. But my heart needs to give a statement. I guess I just don’t understand why we even should be here. You and my son were friends, I thought. I just can’t understand, cannot comprehend, how you could be speeding down that road, hit and kill him, then drive away as if nothing ever happened. As if his life was worthless. But you did. But you need to know, his life was not worthless. Not only to his family, but to the hundreds, thousands, of people who have contacted us with broken hearts. He was precious to me, to his brother, to his stepfather, and to his children and grandchildren, and nieces and nephews. You will go to prison now. Sadly, if you hadn’t left him, you wouldn’t be. If you had stayed and called 911 immediately, his life might have been saved. But we will never know. I want you to know, however, that I do forgive you. I will pray for you. I will pray that you have an experience with God that will cushion you and guide you through the next few years. So that at some point in your life you can help to guide other young people into making the right decisions for their lives. I want Bobby’s life to be valuable and cherished. I want people to remember not only his music, but the amazing love he had for all of his friends, including you. – Valerie Newman
On July 23, 2022, Robert “Bobby” Wilson, 50, was attempting to push his minivan off a curb on Old U.S. Highway 441 across from Dairy Queen in Mount Dora when good Samaritan Michael Dickey saw him and stopped to help.
“I thought, man, somebody is going to hit him,” Dickey told Inside Lake earlier this year, “and I’ll be damned if what I thought happened.
Wilson’s tire could not gain any traction and after unsuccessfully trying to push the minivan off the curb, Dickey suggested they use his truck, a Nissan Frontier. Dickey had a flashlight in his hand and was starting to attach a strap to the minivan when the white 2015 Hyundai Genesis Flower was driving came speeding down Old U.S. Highway 441.
The Hyundai came straight at them, Dickey jumped out the way and the car struck Wilson first throwing him several feet, then struck the back end of Wilson’s minivan and finally Dickey’s truck, hitting it with such force, it spun around. All three vehicles were totaled.
Wilson was airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center after the crash, where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy later determined Wilson died from a skull fracture and brain bleed caused by the crash.
Flower fled the scene and managed to drive the mangled Hyundai about a half of a mile down the road. He got out of the car and, “He was pacing around and around,” Dickey told Inside Lake. Two unidentified women stopped to help him, and he reportedly told them he was fine, and “There’s a bad accident down there you need to go the other way.” The women continued toward the crash site, Dickey said, and “suddenly he (Flower) was gone,” but he left the disabled Hyundai in the middle of the road.
According to a probable cause affidavit, Mount Dora Police Department contacted the registered owner of the Hyundai and she said she lent the car to Flower and Flower was at a home on Morningside Drive, less than a mile from the crash site. MDPD spoke with Flower, and he said he struck a dog that jumped into the roadway. He claimed to have no memory of the crash and woke up the following morning at the home on Morningside Drive wondering how he got there. During later questioning Flower admitted to drinking “a beer and a shot” prior to the crash, the affidavit states.
Nearly three months later, a warrant was issued for Flower’s arrest, and he ran to Jackson County, North Carolina, Wilson’s daughter Emily Lowe told Inside Lake in January. He was apprehended in North Carolina in late November and extradited to Lake County Dec. 30 after he spent more than a month in jail in North Carolina, according to Lake County Clerk of Court online records. He was held in LCJ until he bonded out in April and was taken back into custody Monday after his plea.