Unincorporated Lake

Car Collides with 2 Trees, Killing Driver and Passenger Early Sunday

DeLAND, Florida—Two men were killed early Sunday morning after the car they were in crashed into two trees, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

A 2015 Honda Civic was eastbound on County Road 42 in the DeLand area of Lake County when it crossed the center line, went across the westbound lane, left the roadway and struck a tree, near Crows Bluff Road, shortly before 1:30 a.m., Trooper Migdalisis Garcia said in a press release.

After striking the tree, the Honda continued in a northerly direction and struck a second tree; the crash killed the driver, a 23-year-old DeLand man and his passenger, a 21-year-old De Leon Springs man. Neither man was wearing a seatbelt and both men were pronounced deceased on the scene, Garcia said. The crash closed County Road 42 for several hours.

Sorrento Man Facing Multiple Charges After Shooting, Killing Man Friday Night

SORRENTO, Florida—A Sorrento man is facing a manslaughter charge and an aggravated battery charge after shooting a man and killing him Friday night, according to an arrest affidavit.

Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to Quaker Ridge Avenue on a report of a person being shot, and when they arrived, they found a man suffering from a gunshot wound to the chest. He was transported to AdventHealth Waterman in Tavares where he succumbed to his injury and was pronounced deceased. The victim’s name is redacted from the affidavit.

The investigation revealed Wallace Mannin Kirkland, 59, had shot the man once in the chest with a semi-automatic pistol and based on several interviews, LCSO found that Kirkland and the victim had multiple verbal altercations in the past, the affidavit states.

Wallace Kirkland PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

Prior to the shooting, Kirkland, his wife and a neighbor were standing on the side of Quaker Ridge Avenue when the victim drove by in a Can-Am Side-by-Side and Kirkland threw a beer can over the side-by-side as it drove past. The victim got out of the vehicle, approached Kirkland, and said something similar to “I’m going to kill you,” the affidavit states. Witnesses told LCSO they did not see a weapon in the victim’s hand, and he was outnumbered due to the neighbor standing with Kirkland. The victim was also smaller than Kirkland, whose booking sheet lists him at 6 feet, 1 inch tall and weighing 250 pounds.

When the victim got within 3 to 4 feet of the victim, witnesses heard a gunshot and then the victim said he could not believe Kirkland shot him, according to the affidavit. The victim returned to the side-by-side, drove a short distance and appeared to pass out. LCSO obtained a search warrant and found a gun with one spent casing in the chamber.

Kirkland was arrested for manslaughter and aggravated battery with a firearm and transported to the Lake County Jail, where he was released on $40,000 bond.

Person Airlifted After Being Rescued from Fire Sunday Night, Deputy Transported

ALTOONA, Florida—One person was rescued and airlifted for treatment and a Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputy was transported to the hospital following a structure fire Sunday night, according to Umatilla Fire Department.

Numerous agencies responded to the fire in addition to UFD and LCSO, including Eustis Fire Department, Leesburg Fire Department, Lake County Fire Rescue, Marion County Fire Rescue and Lake EMS, a UFD social media post stated. An exact address for the fire was unavailable at press time, but numerous social media posts and comments said the fire was in the Shockley Heights area.

UFD was first on the scene of the fire that had one person trapped inside. The unidentified person was rescued and airlifted to a local hospital and a deputy was transported to an area hospital to get checked out, according to UFD. The fire was extinguished.

Substitute Teacher Arrested For Child Abuse After Letting 7th Grader Hit Vape In Class. “I Was Just Trying To Fit In.”

EUSTIS, Florida—A substitute teacher was arrested Friday for child abuse after letting a 7th grade student hit a vape pen, because she was just trying to fit in, according to an arrest affidavit.

The student told the Eustis Police Department school resource officer (SRO) he and his friend were talking in their last class period Tuesday when the friend made a comment about vaping and Jennifer Gaine Hale, 50, of Mount Dora said she had one, the affidavit states; Hale was substituting at Eustis Middle School and in charge of the class.

The boy walked up to her desk and Hale pulled out a multi-colored nicotine vape and asked him if he wanted to “hit it.” Hale told the boy not to tell anyone because she did not want to get into trouble, according to the affidavit. The boy hit the vape once and gave it back to Hale. Hale is alleged to have told him to be careful because there was a salt-like substance on it, but the boy did not know what it was.

Another student reported the incident to the school’s administration and the EMS principal questioned Hale on Wednesday while she was on campus substituting for another class. Hale reportedly admitted the misdeed and told the principal, “I was just trying to fit in.”

The principal escorted Hale off campus and told her not to return and reported the incident to Lake County Schools Human Resources and reported it to the SRO.

The following day, the SRO and the principal met with the boy’s mom, who was “very upset” and told the SRO she wanted to press charges, the affidavit states. Hale was arrested for child abuse at her home in Mount Dora Friday and booked into the Lake County Jail; she was released Sunday on $1,000 bond.

Hale is no longer employed by Lake County Schools, LCS Administrative Coordinator of Communications Sherri Owens told Inside Lake Monday morning.

Late Night Crash Kills Bicyclist

SORRENTO, Florida—An Apopka man was killed Friday night after he rode his bicycle into the path of a pickup truck Friday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Shortly before 10:30 p.m., a 28-year-old Apopka man was driving a 2006 Ford F-150 westbound on State Road 46 east of Deal Drive when a westbound bicyclist, a 36-year-old Apopka man, began traveling southwest and entered the direct path of the truck, FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi said in a press release.

The bicyclist was pronounced deceased on the scene and the pickup driver and his passenger, a 2-year-old boy, were not injured, Crescenzi said.  

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.

Rollover Crash Kills Eustis Man Friday Morning

UMATILLA, Florida—A rollover crash killed a Eustis man just before daylight Friday morning, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The 41-year-old man was driving a 1997 Chevy GMT-400 northbound on State Road 19 near Baker Road just outside of Umatilla, when he lost control for an unknown reason while negotiating a lefthand curve around 6:35 a.m., FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi said in a press release.

The Eustis man overcorrected, causing the truck to overturn multiple times and come to a final rest on the west shoulder of State Road 19, Crescenzi said. He was pronounced deceased on the scene. The crash remains under investigation.

Man Attempts to Drive Himself to the Hospital Following Shooting Thursday Afternoon

EUSTIS, Florida—The Lake County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a shooting that occurred Thursday, according to LCSO Lt. Fred Jones.

A male was shot at a home on Southland Road in unincorporated Mount Dora around 4:15 p.m. Thursday during a dispute, Jones said.

The man attempted to drive himself to the hospital and had two small children in his vehicle, Eustis Police Chief Craig Capri told Inside Lake. His vehicle came to a rest in the parking lot of Golden Corral, 15810 U.S. Highway 441, Eustis and EPD officers responded and rendered aid, Capri said. The male was later airlifted to an Orlando hospital, Jones said.

This is a developing story.

A man was shot in unincorporated Mount Dora Thursday and attempted to drive himself to the hospital. He came to a stop in the parking lot of the Golden Corral in Eustis. PHOTO: Marilyn M. Aciego/Inside Lake

LCSO: Georgia Man Took $25K from Customers in Fence Scam

LAKE COUNTY, Florida—A Georgia man turned himself in at the Lake County Jail Saturday, accused of scamming nine people out of thousands of dollars for fences he failed to deliver.

Christopher Michael Graver, 42, of Cumming, Georgia is accused of taking down payments on fences from nine people for a total of more than $25,000, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Graver, who is the chief executive officer of Allstate Fence & Rail collected 50 percent down payments for fences between March 2021 and June 2021 and gave his customers numerous excuses as to why he could not install the fences, including a delay in materials, and problems with permits, according to the affidavit written by a Lake County Sheriff’s Office detective.

Financial records showed Graver paid off an American Express card that was used for personal expenses including family vacations, fine dining and alcohol. After the funds for the business were depleted, the business filed for bankruptcy in November 2021, the affidavit states.

A warrant was issued for Graver’s arrest in February for nine counts of grand theft and one count of scheme to defraud. He turned himself in at LCJ Saturday, where he was released on $23,000 bond.

Christopher Graver PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

Man Ejected and Killed in Friday Night Turnpike Crash

LAKE COUNTY, Florida—A Delray Beach man was killed Saturday night on Florida’s Turnpike after the SUV he was driving struck a tractor-trailer, a concrete barrier and the tractor-trailer again, causing the SUV to overturn and eject him, according to the Florida Highway Patrol

The 44-year-old Delray Beach man was driving a BMW X3 shortly before 10 p.m. Friday southbound on Florida’s Turnpike near mile marker 276 when he made an improper lane change, FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi said in a press release.

The right side of the BMW struck the left front of a tractor-trailer and the Delray Beach man overcorrected, ran off the roadway and struck a concrete barrier, Crescenzi said. The BMW then reentered the path of the tractor-trailer and the left rear of the BMW collided with the front right of the tractor-trailer.

The impact caused the BMW to overturn, ejecting the Delray Beach man, killing him. His passengers, a 39-year-old woman and an 8-year-old boy, both of Delray Beach, suffered minor injuries and were transported to South Lake Hospital. The driver of the tractor-trailer, a 47-year-old man of Orlando, was not injured. The crash remains under investigation.

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