Tavares

Memorial Planned for Well-Known Homeless Man Who Passed Away Last Month

EUSTIS, Florida—A memorial has been set for a well-known homeless man who passed away last month.

Clyde “Eddie” Brooks, a loyal Dallas Cowboys fan, was found unresponsive Jan. 10 in Tavares by a mail carrier and transported to AdventHealth Waterman, where he died from an apparent medical episode. Known to most as “Clyde” he was well-liked and an earlier story about his death was shared more than 100 times and dozens of people commented and shared personal stories about Clyde.

“There were many people who touched his life, and he touched ours,” Jan Glessner told Inside Lake.

Glessner was a longtime friend and called him, “Eddie.” He stayed overnight at her home and spent some Thanksgivings with her as well. Other times she would put him in a motel during the holidays. “He was my buddy,” she told Inside Lake.

Pastor Kenneth Harley of DeBary will lead the service and was Clyde’s emergency contact. He has his cremains and will put them in a plot in Mount Dora, Glessner said.

The memorial is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, at Life Community Church, 2910 Dillard Road, Eustis. The public is welcome to attend and share their memories.

Restaurant Manager Locked Up for Stealing $1,300 Cash from Elderly Customer’s Purse and $180 from her Job

TAVARES, Florida—The general manager of a Tavares sub shop is in the Lake County Jail accused of stealing cash from an elderly customer’s purse, she mistakenly left behind.

Tavares Police Department responded to Jimmy John’s, 458 East Burleigh Boulevard shortly before 2 p.m. Sunday on a report of a missing purse, according to an arrest affidavit.

The victim told TPD she stopped in the restaurant on her way home at approximately 7 p.m. Friday and when she arrived home, she realized she had left her purse at the restaurant. She called Jimmy John’s and was told the purse would be held in the safe for her to pick up on Saturday.

The victim arrived at the restaurant Saturday and was informed the general manager, Tonya Lynne White, of Tavares, had removed the purse from the safe and dropped it off at Tavares Police Department, however, officers did not receive any calls in reference to a purse, according to the affidavit.

The on-duty manager told an officer she found the purse shortly after the victim left and she and another coworker looked inside the purse attempting to find identification. They found a white envelope that contained a large amount of cash – $1,200 all in $100 denominations— in addition to $120 in a separate pocket, and the manager said she counted it for documentation purposes. She then placed it in the safe that is only accessible by managers, the affidavit states.

The on-duty manager arrived at work on Saturday, along with general manager, White, 48, and she informed White of the found purse. White told her she was going to take the purse to Tavares Police Department because of the large amount of cash, and “liability purposes.”

The manager provided text messages to TPD backing up her story.

Tonya White PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

A second officer contacted White by phone, and she told the officer she dropped the purse off at TPD. The officer told White no one had collected a purse, nor did they receive any calls for service in regard to a purse. White was “adamant” she dropped the purse off and created a story about a fictitious elderly woman in a flowered dress that flagged her down from the double doors of the public safety complex. Video surveillance showed White was never there.

White agreed to meet officers at the public safety complex and upon meeting, she provided a sworn written statement recounting her version of the story. She signed the statement was warned that fabricating a police report was a crime and would result in a criminal charge.

One of the officers began questioning White about inconsistencies in her initial story and her written statement and she ultimately confessed she took the elderly woman’s purse. She said she had $1,300 cash on her but threw the purse away at a gas station in Apopka, the affidavit states.

She removed $1,300 cash from her phone case, bra and purse and gave it to officers. Her purse was searched and a large amount a cash was found; White said most of it was her paycheck, but $180 was taken from the Jimmy John’s store. She claimed she took that money to trade it for smaller denominations, the affidavit states.

White was arrested for petit theft, grand theft, providing false information to law enforcement, tampering with evidence and theft from a person over 65.  She was booked into LCJ, where she remains on $8,000 bond.

Tavares Woman Arrested for Child Neglect and Animal Cruelty After Home Found Covered in Roaches, Feces and Urine

TAVARES, Florida—An allegation of poor living conditions to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) led to the arrest of a Tavares woman last week, according to an arrest affidavit.

Tavares Police responded to a home on Hunterwood Lane in reference to a DCF call alleging poor living conditions, including animal feces and a roach infestation on Jan. 14. As the arresting officer approached the home, she could “smell the strong odor of rotten meat and cat urine emitting through the closed garage door,” the arresting officer noted in the affidavit.

Melody Anne Sargent, 45, met DCF and TPD at the home and “immediately became hysterical” when she found out the reason for the visit. Sargent told them she was “trying to fix the issue” and was currently in the process of moving out because she could not control the cockroach infestation. She said she had a temporary place to stay while she moves her belongings into a storage unit, and she had been moving things for the past week, but later admitted that was a lie. She also said a juvenile in the home had been staying somewhere else, but later admitted that was a lie too.

She warned the officer and the investigator of the infestation inside the home and said her 1-year-old Husky had diarrhea and had been defecating throughout the home, along with three cats that have a litter box, but one was urinating and defecating throughout the home as well. She also said there was rotten meat inside an unplugged freezer in the garage that had been there about a month, the affidavit states.

Melody Sargent PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

The following was taken directly from Sargent’s arrest affidavit.

“As we entered the residence, the house appeared in disarray as items were throughout the living room area. The items were covered in cockroaches as well as the doors and walls as they were crawling throughout the home. The strong odor of rotten meat and cat urine was strong enough that l had to remove myself from the home multiple times/ (TPD) Officer walked through the residence with DCF observing multiple piles of feces throughout the floor. The feces and cat urine had been piled throughout the home as it was dry and had cockroaches on top. This continues through the dining room area and into the kitchen. The kitchen appeared to be unusable as there were items stacked all over the counter with a large number of cockroaches crawling in/on everything. We located what appeared to be two dog food containers which had cockroaches and maggots crawling in and around them, The food bowls were also covered in dry urine along with the majority of the floor, per (TPD) Officer. (TPD) Officer also located the above-mentioned Husky in a cage in the back room. The dog appeared to be underweight per (TPD) officer and was locked inside a cage with dried urine and feces in/around it. The dog had no direct access to any food or water as everything was covered in cockroaches or urine. “

DCF spoke with all the occupants in the home and one of them said the roach infestation began about a year ago and they attempted to control it with bug spray, but it got worse over time. Another occupant said they commonly stepped in dog feces and urine while trying to walk through the home.

Sargent admitted knowing the conditions were not suitable for any person or animal to live in and she was arrested for child neglect and animal cruelty. She was taken to the Lake County Jail, where she was released on $3,000 bond.

The child/children were placed in someone else’s care and the animals were turned over to Lake County Animal Services.

INSIDE LAKE EXCLUSIVE: Daughter of Local Musician Killed in Crash Last Summer and Crash Survivor Tell Their Story Only to Inside Lake

MOUNT DORA, Florida—It has been nearly six months since Emily Lowe got the call that changed her life.

In the early morning hours of July 23, 2022, Lowe’s father, beloved local musician Robert Wilson 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 week, “and I’ll be damned if what I thought happened.”  

Wilson’s tire was stuck on the curb and could not get any traction. After unsuccessfully trying to push the van off the curb, Dickey suggested they use his truck, a Nissan Frontier, to pull the minivan off the curb. Dickey, who was headed home after working late at his furniture refinishing shop in Tavares, had a flashlight in his hand and was starting to attach a strap to Wilson’s minivan when the white 2015 Hyundai Genesis Justin Thomas 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.

“My truck did a 180 spin, turned the opposite way it was parked,” Dickey said. Dickey injured his finger and held the flashlight through the entire ordeal, including questioning by Mount Dora Police Department. The crash sheared the bulb and bulb cover right off the handle.

“It knocked it clean off. I came close to dying, real close to dying,” Dickey said, shaking his head, “He never hit his brakes, never hit his brakes.”

Dickey still has the flashlight and held it during his interview with Inside Lake.

Michael Dickey reenacts the morning of July 23, 2022 when he jumped out the way when Justin Flower hit Robert Wilson, killing him. Flower also hit Wilson’s minivan and Dickey’s truck. Dickey is seen here holding the same flashlight he held during the crash. PHOTO: Marilyn M. Aciego/Inside Lake

Flower kept driving and got about a half of a mile down the road, “I don’t know how he made it that far,” Dickey said.

“I started screaming at him, stop! Stop! Stop!”

An unidentified man in a Honda Civic stopped and Dickey told him to get behind Flower so he could not leave, and he did, Dickey said. A minute or so later, someone handed Dickey a phone and said, “It’s 9-1-1,” and the man in the Honda drove by and said, “We’re good” and left. “I found out later he never even called 9-1-1,” Dickey said.

Flower got out of the car and, “He was pacing around and around.” 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.

The women stopped and helped Wilson and Dickey, and one woman removed her shirt, clad only in a bra, and wrapped it around Wilson’s head in attempt to help him and stop the bleeding, Dickey told Inside Lake.

Once MDPD arrived on scene Dickey said he felt like they treated him like a criminal. “I thought I was going to jail. They wouldn’t let me call my wife. I was furious.” He said he was interviewed by at least six MDPD officers. “My mouth was dry, I was exhausted. They wouldn’t even let me have a drink. “

Dickey was never interviewed again after the morning of the crash. “I called him (the crash investigator) three or four times and he never returned my call. Never would return an email.” Dickey said he called him two more times in the last few weeks and the investigator did not return those calls either.

Dickey still has a hard time understanding the crash, “How do you not react and hit the brakes?” Data from the vehicle later showed Flower was driving 42.87 miles per hour and never hit the brakes. The posted speed limit in that area is 35 miles per hour.

Wilson, 50, 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.

Top left to right: Robert Wilson’s minivan, Michael Dickey’s truck and the car Justin Flower was driving when he crashed into Wilson and the two vehicles in July 2022. PHOTOS: Michael Dickey

According to a probable cause affidavit, MDPD 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.

Dickey said he does not understand why Flower was not arrested right then, “How do you believe that lie?” he said.

During later questioning Flower admitted to drinking “a beer and a shot” prior to the crash, the affidavit states.

It took nearly three months for MDPD is issue a warrant for Flower for manslaughter and leaving the scene of a crash involving death. After the warrant was issued, he ran to Jackson County, North Carolina, Wilson’s daughter Emily Lowe told Inside Lake.

He was apprehended in North Carolina in late November extradited to Lake County Dec. 30, just one day before his 39th birthday after he spent more than a month in jail in North Carolina, according to Lake County Clerk of Court online records. He is being held in LCJ on no bond.

Justin Flower’s two mugshots. PHOTOS: Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (North Carolina) and Lake County Sheriff’s Office

Flower is scheduled to be arraigned Monday—exactly six months after the crash.

The pain is still raw for Lowe. She misses her dad tremendously and is angry he was taken from her.

“I can forgive but I can never forget,” she told Inside Lake.

Photo courtesy of Emily Lowe

Wilson was a well-known local musician, a friend, a son, Lowe said, but most importantly he was Dad to her and her three brothers and Pop Pop to his two grandsons and only granddaughter.  

“He was more than his music, more than a friend, He was a father and a grandfather. That’s who he was,” Lowe, 27, said. “My Dad was my absolute best friend, she said. “My rock, my safety net.”

Lowe rushed to ORMC when she found out what happened, and doctors told her he was brain dead and there was no chance at life. Lowe told Inside Lake she fell to the floor and begged him to wake up. But he never did. “This man (Flower) took my life from me in a way,” she said.

Photo courtesy of Emily Lowe

Lowe said her dad and Flower knew each other and she has received information they were both at Fat Cats, a nearby bar, the night of the crash. Flower was never tested for alcohol consumption by MDPD but did admit to drinking the night of the crash—doctors at ORMC told Lowe her father was not legally drunk, she said.

“He plowed my Dad,” Lowe said. “Justin Flower hit my Dad. He was brain dead on the scene.

Lowe said her dad was very musically gifted and a “great friend to all who knew him.” He was never a stranger to anyone and enjoyed a close with relationship with his granddaughter, 7. She misses him very much, Lowe said. Sometimes it is hard for Lowe to grieve her father, because she has to stay strong for her daughter and her grandmother.

“My grandma is not OK because she lost her son.”

Lowe said the whole ordeal has been terrible, but the added length of the investigation, lack of communication and Flower running has made things worse.  

“It’s been a nightmare to deal with. I just want justice for my Dad.”

Photo courtesy of Emily Lowe

Leesburg Teen Arrested for Manslaughter in December Death of Sumter County Boy, 15

TAVARES, Florida—A Leesburg teenager was arrested Friday by Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies for his role in the death of a Sumter County boy who was found dead in Bushnell in December.

Jontae Solomon Haywood was reported missing around 1:20 a.m. Dec. 16, according to the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO.) Deputies received information he may have been shot and he was found dead near County Road 557 in Bushnell later the same day. Haywood, an eighth grade student at South Sumter Prep, was just 15 years old.

Haywood enjoyed football, basketball, and fishing; and dreamed of becoming a professional rapper one day, according to his obituary. He enjoyed spending time with his father, was a “very polite and kind young man,” and showed “extreme compassion” to the elderly.

During its investigation, SCSO, found that Trevon Donte Battle, 16, of Leesburg and Tervaris Eugene Jackson Jr., 15, of Bushnell were negligently handling a firearm and it discharged, striking Haywood and killing him. Bradford Nethercot, 70, was “present during the incident and did not make any attempt to intervene to prevent the death of Jontae Haywood,” SCSO said in a press release.

Battle was arrested Friday by LCSO on the Sumter County warrant for aggravated manslaughter, improper disposal of human remains, possession of a firearm by a person under 18 and failure to report a death. He was booked into the Lake County Jail.

Jackson and Nethercot were both arrested by SCSO and booked into the Sumter County Jail. Jackson is facing the same charges as Battle— aggravated manslaughter, improper disposal of human remains, possession of a firearm by a person under 18 and failure to report a death. Nethercot is facing several charges, including child neglect with great bodily harm, three counts contributing to the delinquency of a minor, possession of marijuana under 20 grams and two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia.

Suspect in Mount Dora Double Slayings Indicted by Grand Jury

TAVARES, Florida—The woman accused of stabbing an elderly couple to death and stealing their SUV in December has been indicted by a grand jury for the crimes, State Attorney Bill Gladson announced Wednesday.

Vickie Lynn Williams, 50, of Savannah, Georgia is accused of brutally stabbing Darryl Getman, 83, and Sharon Getman, 80, to death sometime between the hours of 11 p.m. Dec. 30 and 2 a.m. Dec. 31. The Getmans’ bodies were found by Mount Dora Police Department after they received two 9-1-1 calls, with one caller stating two people had been killed, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Numerous bloody footprints and shoe prints were found inside the home on Lake Margaret Circle and in the garage where they normally kept their green Kia Soul. Police say Williams killed the elderly couple and stole the Kia, travelling first to South Carolina and then to Savannah, where she was apprehended by a Savannah Police officer at an Amtrak station on Jan. 2. She was still in possession of the Kia when she was taken into custody, the affidavit states.

Darryl and Sharon Getman were found murdered in their home Dec. 31.

When Williams was questioned, she told investigators she was given the Kia by a friend named “Fuller Blue.” She said was walking in Savannah Dec. 31 when “Fuller Blue” approached her. She told him she was homeless, and he offered her the Kia, she said. She drove around for “a bit” and then parked the Kia at the train station where she stayed for several days, she told investigators.

At the time of her arrest Williams had no known connection to the Getmans or Mount Dora, MDPD Interim Police Chief Michael Gibson said earlier this month, Williams was extradited back to Lake County Jan. 6 and is being held in the Lake County Jail on no bond.

Williams is represented by John Spivey of the Lake County Public Defender’s Office.

Former Police Chief Arrested for Aggravated Stalking of a Child, Facing Child Rape Charges in Sumter

TAVARES, Florida—The former police chief of Center Hill, arrested last month for raping a 14-year-old girl in Sumter County while holding her at gunpoint, is now facing stalking charges in Lake County.

William Ray Pruitt, 56, of Weirsdale, was arrested early Friday morning for stalking and aggravated stalking, according to Lake County Sheriff’s Office online booking records. Pruitt served as Center Hill Police chief in 1998 and 1999 and currently owns Pruitt Water in Leesburg, according to his booking information.

Pruitt is accused stalking the girl beginning in October 2021, when she was just 15 years old and continuing for more than a year, according to a probable cause affidavit.

In December 2022, the victim reported an incident that occurred at a local high school after hours to a school resource deputy. The following day, an LCSO detective spoke with the girl’s mother, and she said the girl met Pruitt around March 2020 when she was 14 years old and over time, she began to suspect Pruitt was “grooming” her teenage daughter and possibly having sexual relationship with her.

The victim’s mother said the girl denied the relationship until October 2022 when she disclosed three incidents of sexual battery in 2020 when she was 14, two in Sumter County and one in an unknown location, according to the affidavit.

The girl said she denied the allegations because Pruitt would harass and threaten her, including threatening to kill himself. He told the teen he was an “ex-cop” and he had detective friends who hacked her phone and tracked all her activity for him. She also said he became “controlling and possessive,” the affidavit states.

PHOTO: City of Center Hill

In 2021, the victim’s mom found a note on her tablet that confirmed her suspicions that Pruitt was having a relationship with her daughter. At one point, the girl went to stay with her father to distance herself from Pruitt and a private investigator, believed to be hired by Pruitt, showed up where the girl was. Due to heavy redaction in the affidavit, it is unclear where the private investigator showed up.

In November 2021, the girl saw Pruitt drive by her home in Lake County; she called LCSO and later filed for an injunction. She was granted the injunction but dropped it in February 2022 under the advice of her attorney because she was not being cooperative with the process, according to the affidavit. Sometime after February, the victim turned 16, and any further stalking became a misdemeanor, the detective noted.

In May 2022, a homemade sign appeared at an undisclosed location with “Ray Liberty” on one side and “Libby” on the other. Pruitt is alleged to have told the victim that if he got her pregnant from the sexual battery, he would name their daughter Liberty Ray, after himself and his mother, the affidavit states. In July, another sign with “8” “0” “8” appeared across from the girl’s home. In a forensic interview, the girl said Pruitt would send her “0” and that meant she had to “stay inside the circle” and she could not have any other friends or trust anyone but him.

In August 2022, Pruitt followed the girl from her high school, trying to force her off the road as she made her way to her cousin’s apartment in Eustis. The victim’s mother called Eustis Police Department and Pruitt called LCSO, claiming to be a “father figure” to the girl. Later the same month, one of Pruitt’s employees followed her and attempted to give her a note from Pruitt; the girl pulled into Tavares Police Department and reported the incident. Less than two months later, at an October high school football game, a different employee of Pruitt’s approached the girl and asked, “How’s Libby?’ referring to their hypothetical child.  The girl also reported getting anonymous texts referring to “Will.”

Almost exactly a month later, another homemade sign showed up on the side of State Road 19 near County Road 48, that said, “He’s OK!” and “3.” Pruitt had just had shoulder surgery and 3 is his favorite number, according to the affidavit.

William Pruitt PHOTO: Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office

And the stalking still continued.

Thanksgiving weekend, the girl spotted Pruitt driving by her house in a beige jeep that did not belong to him; and on Dec. 1, as the girl parked in her usual spot at her high school, she spotted yet another homemade sign taped in front of her parking spot that read “Liberty 3.” The sign was located and collected by the SRD and the following day, the teen filed for an injunction, and it was granted, according to the affidavit.

On Dec. 7, Sumter County Sheriff’s Office obtained a warrant for Pruitt for two counts of sexual battery on a victim 12 or older while utilizing a deadly weapon. According to that probable cause affidavit, Pruitt held a gun to the girl on two separate occasions and raped her in his truck.  

He was arrested Dec. 9 by the U.S. Marshal Caribbean Regional Fugitive Task Force with the assistance of the Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office on a traffic stop in Live Oak. According to that probable cause affidavit, agents received information Pruitt may be attempting “suicide by cop,” but he was taken into custody without incident.  Pruitt was held in the Suwannee County Jail until Friday when he was transferred to the Lake County Jail, where he is currently being held, and arrested for stalking and aggravated stalking.

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.

Homeless Man Known to Many Passes Away Earlier this Week

TAVARES, Florida—A homeless man known to many in Eustis and Tavares and described as a “nice guy” has passed away.

Clyde Edmond Brooks, 60, was well known to law enforcement and had been trespassed from many businesses but he was a “nice guy,” several law enforcement officers in Lake County told Inside Lake. When in Eustis he often could be seen in the area of the post office and officers said even when they had to arrest Clyde for trespassing after warning, he never gave them trouble and was always polite.

Known to many as just “Clyde,” he loved football, especially the Dallas Cowboys.

“We always talked about football, he was a huge Dallas Cowboys fan,” an officer told Inside Lake. “He was always happy to see me and would tell the firefighters and EMTs, ‘That’s my buddy.’

Clyde was found unresponsive Tuesday morning by a mail carrier outside of a Tavares business on Alfred Street and was transported to AdventHealth Waterman, where he died from an apparent medical episode.  

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