Man Flees Eustis Traffic Stop, Crashes

EUSTIS, Florida—A man accused of fleeing a traffic stop did not get very far when he crashed the vehicle, he was driving just a few blocks later, according to an arrest affidavit.

Eustis Police attempted to stop 2005 silver Honda without a front or rear bumper for running a stop sign at Park Avenue and Eustis Street shortly before 1 p.m. Tuesday. The car, being driven by Erin Tryon Dobson, 18, accelerated and fled the area when an EPD officer activated his lights and sirens, running several stop signs. The officer then terminated the stop, due to department policy, the affidavit states.

A short time later, a crash was reported at Bay Street and Pendleton Avenue and the same officer responded and found it was the vehicle that had just fled from him in the same area. Dobson, of Umatilla, was on scene when EPD arrived and admitted he was driving the car and apologized for fleeing because he did not have insurance, according to the affidavit.

A witness told EPD she saw three black males exit the car and two of them took off on foot behind an apartment complex nearby; Dobson said one of the males was his cousin, but he did not know the other male’s name.

Dobson was arrested for fleeing and eluding and reckless driving. He was transported to the Lake County Jail, where he was released on $10,500 bond.

Women Arrested for Burglary After Being Found Naked In Homeowner’s Bathtub

UMATILLA, Florida—A Umatilla woman was arrested by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office after being found naked in a whirlpool tub by the owner of the home around 1:15 a.m. Tuesday.

The victim told LCSO she awoke to find lights on in her kitchen and heard her whirlpool tub running at her home on Lake Smith Road in unincorporated Umatilla early Tuesday morning. She opened the door to her bathroom and found Amanda Nicole Toler, 32, naked, inside her bathtub. The victim asked Toler who she was and what she was doing and she reportedly said, “I’m Amanda, I have nowhere else to go. You can call the cops.”

The victim left the naked Toler in the bathroom and did just that, according to the affidavit. When LCSO arrived, Toler was still in the tub bathing and told a deputy, “I’m waiting to die,” the affidavit states. Toler said she knocked and entered the home through a window when she did not get an answer and had recently taken cocaine, but she did not how much. She did not know the homeowners, she told LCSO.

Toler was taken into custody and arrested for burglary of an occupied dwelling. She was transported to the Lake County Jail, where she is being held on $15,000 bond. Toler has been arrested four times in Lake County since 2020 for drug possession, battery and failure to appear, according to LCSO online records. 

Man Out On Bond For Child Molestation Arrested After Firing Two Shots Near Woman Who Did Not Want Him Around Her Daughter

UMATILLA, Florida—A man out on bond for molesting a 5-year-old girl in 2020, was arrested Saturday after firing two shots near a woman who did not want him around her daughter, according to an arrest affidavit.

Around 9 p.m. Saturday, Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to the Tropical Whisper mobile home park in unincorporated Umatilla in reference to a battery. The victim told LCSO she went to her neighbor’s house to retrieve her daughter, who was with Joshua “Boops” Leon Redmond Dudley, 28, and his girlfriend. Dudley is facing several sex-related charges involving a minor;  the victim’s daughter’s age is not listed in the affidavit.

The woman said Dudley began arguing with her and grabbed her by the hair and threw her down, the affidavit states. Dudley then pulled out a gun and the victim yelled at him to let her go. Dudley fired a shot into the air, while holding the victim down and then fired a second shot next to her head. The victim begged Dudley not to kill her because of her daughter and he reportedly said, “You should have thought about that first.”

Dudley then let her go and fled the area and was later apprehended near the now-defunct Pine Meadows Golf Course. He was arrested on two counts of aggravated battery with a weapon, discharging a firearm and carrying a concealed firearm.  The arresting deputy requested Dudley be held on no bond due to his unresolved lewd and lascivious molestation case.

In that case, Dudley was arrested after a woman called Leesburg Police on Aug. 25, 2020, and said LPD needed to respond quickly before she killed Dudley. The witness told police Dudley molested a young girl and she did not understand why he would do that. Police questioned Dudley who reportedly uttered, “Man I (expletive) up and going away for a long time I shouldn’t have done that,” and then said, “I don’t know why I did that there is something wrong with me,” the affidavit in that case states.

Dudley told police the victim — who was only 5 years old — began talking “sexual” to him and asked him to go to the laundry room with him.  A sex act took place in the laundry room for about five minutes until the witness entered the room, according to the affidavit.  

Dudley’s next court appearance in that case is scheduled for March 29.

Teen Arrested For Throwing Brick Through Vehicle Window At Umatilla Police Department

UMATILLA, Florida—A Umatilla High School was student was arrested last week for throwing a brick through the window of a police officer’s personal vehicle In January.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Umatilla Police responded to the area of Kentucky Avenue and Mitchner Street in reference to a subject matching the description of a retail theft suspect on Jan. 21.

Police approached a juvenile who matched the description of the thief, and he told the officer he stole a pack of cigarettes and a lighter from a Umatilla convenience store because he wanted to go to jail. The store refused to prosecute, and the 17-year-old was turned over to his father, the affidavit states. It is unclear what time that incident occurred. Inside Lake is not naming the juvenile, due to his age.

At 3 a.m. a police officer found a brick had been thrown through the rear window of his personal vehicle, causing more than $1,500 in damage and video surveillance from UPD’s parking lot showed the teen committing the crime. He was interviewed by UPD, and he admitted he threw the brick because he was “angry and wanted to go to jail,” and he thought the vehicle belonged to a police officer, the affidavit states.

He was taken into custody at Umatilla High School by the school resource deputy on a juvenile pickup order Feb. 22 for criminal mischief more than $1,000 and turned over to the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Against Domino’s and Delivery Driver In 2020 Death Of Pedestrian

TAVARES, Florida—A lawsuit has been filed in the death of a pedestrian who was killed while walking with her boyfriend down State Road 19 in Umatilla in 2020.

Rebecca “Becky” Lynn Carpenter, 39, was walking northbound along the shoulder of State Road 19 on the south end of Umatilla near the Dollar General that had recently opened with her boyfriend, Russell “Rusty” Gibbons, when she was struck by a sedan, also traveling northbound around 8 p.m. May 30, 2020.  The sedan was being driven by Frederick Martin Cole, of Eustis who was 29 and working for Domino’s, 1936 North State Road 19, Eustis at the time of the crash. Carpenter was pronounced dead on the scene; Gibbons was not hit, the Florida Highway Patrol said in 2020.  

The vehicle that struck Rebecca “Becky” Carpenter in 2020. Courtesy photo

According to the lawsuit filed in Lake County Circuit Court against Cole and ASR Pizza Inc. dba Domino’s Pizza LLC on Monday, Cole was “negligent and careless in the operation of his motor vehicle as to collide with Rebecca Carpenter, a pedestrian. As a direct and proximate result of the negligence of the defendant Frederick Martin Cole, the decedent, Rebecca Carpenter suffered serious and permanent injuries which led to her death.”

The suit, filed on behalf of Carpenter’s minor daughter, states ASR Pizza Inc. dba Domino’s Pizza LLC is vicariously liable for Cole’s actions. The plaintiff, who is represented by George Anderson III of Dan Newlin Injury Attorneys, is seeking more than $30,000 in damages.    

Man Arrested Exiting Forklift He Stole From Popular Church Construction Site

UMATILLA, Florida—A Umatilla man is accused of stealing a forklift from a popular church that is under construction Sunday, but he only made it across the street, according to an arrest affidavit.

Jordan Arthur Meadors, 25, was busted by Umatilla Police getting out of the forklift that was stolen from First Baptist Church Umatilla (FBCU,) just after 2:30 a.m. after someone reported a suspicious incident. Meadors told UPD he was just moving the forklift after a “guy that he had just met told him he was allowed to drive the forklift and park it across the street,’ the affidavit states.

First Baptist Church Umatilla construction site, left. Jordan Meadors, right.

UPD found that Meadors drove the $78,000 forklift through a fence at FBCU, causing $1,000 damage to the fence. Meadors was taken into custody and when he arrived at the Lake County Jail, he was found with methamphetamine in his jacket pocket. He is facing several charges, including possession of methamphetamine, introduction of contraband into a detention facility, loitering or prowling, criminal mischief, burglary and theft. He is being held in LCJ on no bond.   

Friends and Colleagues Remember Judge T. Michael Johnson

TAVARES, Florida— “A friend for the ages, for a lot of people.”

That is how retired Public Defender Howard “Skip” Babb describes his longtime best friend and former coworker T. Michael Johnson, who passed away Monday after suffering a heart attack.

Well known and well-respected, Johnson, who served as a circuit judge was appointed to the bench in 1995 by then-Gov. Lawton Chiles, and served until his retirement in 2011, and was a senior judge at the time of his passing. He presided over many trials in Lake County, including the first murder trial this reporter covered at the beginning of her professional career in 2005. He also presided over the trials of Donte Hall and Dante Hall, identical twins accused of robbery and murder in Eustis in 2006, a case that made national headlines.

Before he was appointed judge, Johnson worked at the Fifth Circuit Public Defender’s Office for 14 years under Babb in numerous roles, including chief assistant. During his time as a public defender, he represented Richard Henyard, who was convicted and later executed for the murders of two young sisters. Henyard was also convicted in the rape and attempted murder of the girls’ mother.

Babb said Johnson was born and raised in Sumter County and began his professional career at Sumter Correctional Institution.

“I was lucky to get him,“ Babb told Inside Lake. You are who you hire, and he was a good hire.”

Mike Graves, Phil Kairalla, T. Michael Johnson, Skip Babb and Mike Lupton tailgating at a Florida State University football game.

“Judge Johnson was a highly regarded, talented and effective defense attorney, who transferred his skills seamlessly to the judiciary. As a judge, he strove to be fair and was always practical in helping the parties come to a resolution. His sense of humor was legendary,” said James Hope, a former prosecutor and current criminal defense attorney, who has practiced law in Lake County for 35 years.

Johnson is survived by his wife, Michelle Morley, and she currently serves as a circuit judge in Sumter County. Kelly Bagwell, who is a paralegal for Hatfield and Stack in Tavares, credits Johnson and Morley for her decision to become a paralegal. She originally planned to be a nurse and after working for Morley, she changed her career path.

Judge. T. Michael Johnson marrying Kelly and Sterling Bagwell.

“They were so influential in my life,” she told Inside Lake. “He was just amazing.”

Johnson holds another special place in Bagwell’s life—he married her and her husband Sterling, 19 years ago. He recently told her they were the only couple he married that were still together.

Numerous posts and comments could be found about Johnson on social media Monday and Tuesday. “He touched a lot of people,” Babb said. “It’s a sad day.

Umatilla Man Busted For Buying Vehicles With Bum Checks in 2021, Tries Again With Stolen Credit Card

CLERMONT, Florida— A man arrested last year for scamming two local automobile dealerships has been arrested again for attempting a similar scam.

Prestin S. Carroll, 20, of Umatilla was arrested on warrant issued by Clermont Police Department Wednesday after a man complained his credit card was used fraudulently to charge $2,500 towards the purchase of a new vehicle, at Napleton Clermont Chrysler Jeep Dodge RAM , 15859 State Road 50, Clermont, according to a probable cause affidavit.

CPD investigated and found that Carroll, who was employed at the dealership as a detailer, was captured on video using the card to charge $2,000 and $500 in two separate transactions towards the purchase of a 2022 Jeep Compass, the affidavit states.

A warrant was issued for his arrest Tuesday, and he was booked into the Lake County Jail on one count of credit card fraud and one count of grand theft Wednesday and released on $4,000 bond.

2022 Jeep Compass PHOTO:

In April 2021, Carroll was arrested for two counts of grand theft auto and four counts of fraud stemming from scamming two dealerships in Eustis; he was unsuccessful in scamming two more. Eustis Police Department responded to Advantage Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM, 18311 U.S. Highway 441, Mount Dora on a report Carroll had purchased a 2021 Jeep Wrangler with a check written for $48,940.35 four days earlier. The check was returned the next day for insufficient funds and the manager contacted the bank and found the account the check was written on had been closed.  The manager requested Carroll bring in a cashier’s check or return the Jeep by the end of the day and Carroll agreed, according to that probable cause affidavit.

Just a week later, on April 23, another EPD officer responded to Danny Len Buick GMC, 17605 U.S. Highway 441, also on a fraud complaint. An employee told EPD Carroll came to the dealership on April 17— the same day the Jeep was returned— and wrote a $5,000 check to hold a 2013 Ford F150. On April 19, Carroll returned to the dealership and finished paperwork and wrote a check for the remaining balance on the truck— $14,857.78. The checks were returned as unpaid four days later and the employee attempted to contact Carroll to no avail and then called police.

Carroll told police he “must have accidently written checks from the wrong account,” the affidavit states; he later returned the truck. Carroll also attempted to purchase a Ford F150 Platinum worth $74,000 from Prestige Ford, 17701 U.S. Highway 441, Eustis but was unsuccessful. Carroll was also unsuccessful at Phillips Buick GMC, 2160 U.S. 441/27, Fruitland Park.

Carroll’s criminal history showed a prior arrest in Winter Haven and EPD contacted Winter Haven Police Department and found that Carroll had purchased a 2019 Chevrolet Camaro from a dealership in Winter Haven, with a worthless check in the amount of $28,379.59 The report in that case mentioned a similar case in Pasco County and EPD contacted Pasco County Sheriff’s office and found that Carroll had purchased a 2020 Toyota Tacoma from a dealership there and then traded it in on a 2021 Jeep Rubicon. He is alleged to have written two checks for those vehicles totaling nearly $75,000.

In the 2021 Lake County cases, Carroll agreed to a pre-trial intervention (PTI) program, according to Lake County Clerk of Court online records. One of Carroll’s requirements is, “The defendant agrees to refrain from any violations of law.” It is unclear how Carroll’s new charges will affect his prior cases.

Umatilla Man Killed in New Year ATV Crash

UMATILLA, Florida—The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating a fatal ATV crash that occurred just 30 minutes into the new year Saturday morning.

A 36-year-old Umatilla man was riding an ATV westbound on Lakeview Street near Lakeshore Avenue in the area of Lake Umatilla, when he lost control around 12:30 a.m., FHP Lt. Kim Montes said in a press release. The ATV overturned and landed on top of the man.

The man, who was not wearing a helmet, was transported to AdventHealth Waterman in Tavares, where he later died. The crash remains under investigation.

Umatilla Man Bonds Out On Child Pornography Charges

UMATILLA, Florida—A Umatilla man bonded out of jail just a day after Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) agents arrested him at his Umatilla home for four counts of possession of child pornography Thursday.

Working on a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) FDLE began investigating two images of child pornography that were reportedly found in a DropBox account in July.

User [email protected] uploaded two sexually explicit images of two little girls who appear to be 6 years old and 10 years old with adult men, on July 18, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Through its investigation, FDLE found that the email address belonged to Lewis Blanton III, of West Fifth Avenue in unincorporated Umatilla. FDLE obtained a search warrant for the DropBox account and found that it contained multiple images of Blanton and his girlfriend, in addition to personal information, including copies of Blanton’s driver license, documents for his military disability and photos of his residence, according to the affidavit. Two more exploitative images were also found; one that depicted girls believed to 6 years old and a teenager, and the second depicting two girls, believed to be 12 and 14.

Several of Lewis Blanton’s tattoos. PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

Agents also found evidence Blanton, 57, used cryptocurrency to purchase a link to a child pornography site on an anonymous browser. “…Your affiant knows through training an experience that child pornography collectors and those with an interest in child sex abuse material take significant measures to conceal their identities and IP addresses in order to avoid detection from law enforcement. The contents of the DropBox account give your affiant probable cause to believe that Lewis Blanton has dominion and control over the account containing child pornography and that he uses an Onion Router (TOR) and various VPNs to conceal his identity and activity,” the arresting agent stated in the affidavit.

Blanton was taken into custody at his home and transported to the Lake County Jail, where he was released on $40,000 bond. 

Scroll to Top