Head-On Collision Kills Umatilla Man, Shuts Down SR 46 Friday

SORRENTO, Fla.—The Florida Highway Patrol is on scene of a crash that killed a Umatilla man and shut down State Road 46 in both directions.

The preliminary investigation revealed a 2009 Hyundai Sonata being driven by a 42-year-old Umatilla man was traveling westbound on State Road 46 near Wekiva Pines Boulevard around 5:40 p.m. when he veered into the eastbound lane and collided with 2022 Ford E-350 being driven by a 49-year-old Deltona man, FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi said.

The Umatilla man was transported to HCA Florida Lake Monroe Hospital in Sanford, where he was pronounced deceased. The Deltona man and his passenger, a 14-year-old male, were also transported to HCA Lake Monroe Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The crash shut down State Road 46 between County Road 46A and Osprey Hammock Trail and it was still shut down at press time.

Potentially Contaminated Gas Sold in Lady Lake and Umatilla, Officials Warn

LAKE COUNTY, Fla.—The Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (FDACS) is warning consumers of potentially contaminated gas sold at numerous gas stations, including two different Lake County locations over the weekend.

“The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has identified a potentially widespread fuel contamination caused by human error at the Port of Tampa. Fuel purchased after 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 26, at stations supplied by CITGO from the Port of Tampa has a strong likelihood of being contaminated,” it said in a press release.

The gas stations impacted in Lake County are BJ’s Wholesale, 13585 Northeast 86th Path, Lady Lake and Choice Food & Gas, 310 North Central Avenue, Umatilla. FDACS relies on CITGO to provide a list of the impacted gas stations and more stations may be added. The stations have been asked to stop selling gas until the contaminated gas has been removed and the tanks cleaned, according to FDACS.

Contaminated gas can damage engines and cause vehicles and generators not to operate properly. FDACS has opened its consumer hotline, if you believe you purchased contaminated gas, call 1-800-HELP-FLA or visit Consumers can also file a claim with the CITGO Good Gas Guarantee Program by visiting

Man Arrested for Attacking Man with Metal Pipe at Umatilla Business

UMATILLA, Fla.—An Altoona man is being held in the Lake County Jail on $16,000 bond after allegedly striking another man in the head with a metal pipe at a Umatilla business.

Shortly before 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Umatilla Police Department responded to Kerr’s Tires, 501 North Central Avenue, Umatilla on a report of a fight in progress. A witness said a fight occurred between Jess Robert Kerr, 51, and another man outside the business.

The victim told police he saw Kerr wearing his wife’s hat and had a lighter that should have been in the victim’s car. He said he confronted Kerr, they got into a physical altercation and Kerr picked up a metal pipe and hit him in the head. Kerr then fled the scene on foot, according to the affidavit.

The victim had a large laceration above his right ear and a small laceration on the back of his head, the arresting officer noted in the affidavit.

A second victim told UPD Kerr scratched “fat boy” on the driver’s side door of his truck and also put a 3-inch screw in the driver’s side front tire.

Kerr was located at Palmetto Street and Umatilla Boulevard and arrested for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, burglary and criminal mischief.

Alachua County Wrong-Way Crash Leaves Umatilla Woman in Critical Condition

ALACHUA COUNTY, Florida—A Umatilla woman suffered critical injuries following a wrong-way crash Friday morning, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The 31-year-old woman was driving a white SUV northbound in the southbound lanes of U.S. Highway 301 near County Road 325 shortly before 10 a.m. Friday, when she collided with a tractor-trailer traveling southbound and being driven by a 33-year-old Jacksonville man. Both vehicles swerved to avoid the crash and it caused a T-bone impact, FHP said in a press release.

The woman was airlifted to UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville with life-threatening injuries; the tractor-trailer driver was not injured.

Former Lake County Firefighter Found Guilty of Sexually Abusing Young Boy

TAVARES, Florida—A jury has found a former Lake County firefighter guilty of sexually battering and molesting a young boy 15 years ago.

Steven Trent Ellis, 52, of Umatilla was arrested in July 2019 by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement after a tip and subsequent search warrant revealed multiple images of child pornography on his computer. Following his arrest, “several” individuals came forward and reported he had sexually abused them, according to a probable cause affidavit.

FDLE met with a victim in 2019 who said he had been abused by Ellis four to five times in 2008 when he was under 12 years old; his exact age is redacted from the affidavit. The boy and his family reported the abuse to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office in 2008 and the case remained open for more than 10 years pending further corroborating evidence.

Steven Ellis is seen here in his 2019 mugshot.

The statements the victim made in his original complaint in 2008 were consistent with statements he made in 2019; he told agents what Ellis did to him in great detail and said it happened at the home Ellis lived in on Fishermans Road in Paisley at the time.

In October 2019, Ellis was charged with sexual battery on a child under 12 and lewd or lascivious molestation, in addition to the child pornography charges. In 2020, he pleaded no contest to the child pornography charges and was sentenced to 15 years in prison in April 2021, and on Monday, Ellis stood trial for two counts of sexual battery on a child under 12 and one count of lewd or lascivious molestation. He was found guilty by a jury on all three counts and sentenced to life in prison.

Multitude of Crashes Keeps Law Enforcement Busy Saturday

LAKE COUNTY, Florida—It was a busy Saturday for the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Highway Patrol.

Deputies and troopers responded to a multitude of vehicle crashes in the Eustis, Paisley and Umatilla areas Saturday, according to LCSO Lt. Fred Jones. At County Road 42 and Deerhaven Road, a truck flipped and before deputies arrived, the driver fled the scene.

“The bloodhound and helicopter conducted an extensive search. The driver was not located,” Jones told Inside Lake.

The second crash was at County 437, south of State Road 44 in Eustis. The driver left the road, struck an oak tree and suffered severe head trauma. The driver was extracted from the vehicle and airlifted to AdventHealth Ocala; no other information was available at press time.

A third crash, at County Road 450A, just east of Crystal Lane in Umatilla, occurred around 10:45 p.m.

“When deputies arrived, they found the car split into two parts. The driver could not be located. An extensive search was conducted using a bloodhound and helicopter. The driver was eventually located at a friend’s house down the road from the crash,” Jones said in an email.

The 45-year-old Eustis man was driving a 2001 Acura CL Coupe when he crashed and told troopers he walked away from the crash because he did not have his phone, FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi told Inside Lake.

The driver was transported by ground to HCA Florida Lake Monroe Hospital in Sanford with non-life-threatening injuries, Crescenzi said.

If you have information on any of the crashes, call Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS.

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

Long Arm of the Law Catches Up with Umatilla Murder Suspect

UMATILLA, Florida—The third man suspected in the 2022 murder of a Umatilla man has been apprehended in Georgia, according to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

Marvin Habakkuk Ellison, Jr., 40, of Orlando, was taken into custody at an apartment complex in in DeKalb County, Georgia on Friday morning and a search warrant was executed where he was staying, LCSO said.

A warrant was issued for Ellison’s arrest earlier this year and he was located by LCSO detectives, investigators from the Orlando Police Department and U.S. Marshals; he may be involved with other cases, according to LCSO.  

Ellison and two other men, Deandre Bernard Anderson, 32, of Leesburg and Undray Tony Benson, 51, of Orlando are accused of murdering Antwain “Lil Daddy” Hart, 31, on Nov. 8, 2022. Hart was found with at least one gunshot wound in front of a home in the Southside area of unincorporated Umatilla and died during transport to AdventHealth Waterman in Tavares, Lake County Sheriff’s Office Lt. John Herrell told Inside Lake last year.

Antwain “Lil Daddy” Hart was murdered in Umatilla in 2022. Deputies have arrested three men for his murder. PHOTO: Hart Family

Only Inside Lake was on the scene following the shooting. Hart’s rental vehicle, a 2022 white Jeep Cherokee, was stolen at the time of his murder and found about 12 hours later behind the First Church of God Eustis, 1550 North Highway 19, by Eustis Police Department. The church is just 3.7 miles from the murder scene.

PHOTOS: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

Earlier this year, Benson and Anderson were arrested in Orange County, accused of Hart’s murder after LCSO developed leads in the case, but details of the murder and a motive are unclear because the probable cause affidavit in the case is sealed, according to Lake County Clerk of Court online records.

Anderson and Benson are both being held at LCJ on no bond and Ellison is awaiting extradition to Lake County. Ellison’s mugshot was not available at press time.

Motorcyclist Killed in Umatilla After Attempting to Pass Pickup Truck in No-Passing Zone, Witness Speaks Only to Inside Lake

UMATILLA, Florida— A motorcyclist was killed Sunday afternoon after he attempted to pass a pickup truck in a no-passing zone as the truck was making a left turn, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

A 51-year-old Enterprise man was riding a 2019 Ducati Panigale motorcycle southbound on County Road 44A approaching Bill Collins Road in unincorporated Umatilla when he attempted to pass a 2006 Chevrolet Silverado towing a boat just after 1:30 p.m., FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi said in an email.

As the 19-year-old Umatilla man driving the Silverado made a left turn onto Bill Collins Road, the motorcycle struck the left rear of the truck, Crescenzi said.

A witness to the crash, who wished to remain anonymous, told Inside Lake the motorcyclist was with a group of bikers when the crash happened.

“It was a group of eight to 10 sport bikes going 70 to 100 (miles per hour) and passing on the double line going south. The (teen) driving the pickup was making a left turn onto Bill Collins and the group of bikes was also going south and passing illegally at excessive speed – one of them, likely the first bike, ran into the side of the pickup catapulting the rider to his death,” the witness told Inside Lake. “The back wheel was off the bike and the bike was still running after the wreck.”

One of the bikers in the group was very aggressive toward a second witness and the driver of the truck, according to the witness who spoke to Inside Lake. The witness got in between that biker and the teen and told the teen to get back in the truck. The teen was not injured and remained on scene.  

The motorcyclist, who was wearing a helmet, was transported to AdventHealth Waterman in Tavares where he was pronounced deceased, Crescenzi said. His next of kin has been notified.

The crash remains under investigation.

Rush Hour Crash Kills 3 in Leesburg Wednesday Morning

LEESBURG, Florida—Three people were killed Wednesday morning in a crash that shut down U.S. Highway 441 for several hours, according to Leesburg Police Department.

A blue 2020 Ford Mustang being driven by a 77-year-old male of Mount Dora was southbound on U.S. Highway 441 near Sleepy Hollow Road when it rear-ended a 2023 Hyundai Tucson being driven by a 69-year-old woman, just before 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, LPD Capt. Joe Iozzi said in an email.

The Mustang then traveled over the center median into the northbound lanes where it struck a gray 2013 Hyundai Sonata being driven by a 42-year-old Umatilla man. A black 2012 Chevrolet Silverado then collided with the Sonata. The driver of the Mustang and the driver of the Sonata were both pronounced deceased on the scene; a passenger in the Sonata, a 66-year-old man, was transported to an area hospital, where he later died, Iozzi said.

PHOTO: Leesburg Fire Rescue

“Preliminary findings suggest the 2020 Ford Mustang was at fault in the crash, but a full investigation is currently being conducted,” Iozzi said.

Police are asking anyone with information to call the LPD Traffic Unit at 352-787-2121.

This is the second triple traffic fatality in Lake County in less than a week; two women and a man were killed Friday on State Road 33 near Clermont after the pickup truck they were in struck a semi and a dump truck head-on.

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