Eustis man killed in early morning wrong-way crash

ZELLWOOD, Fla.—A Eustis man was killed early Sunday morning in a head-on crash, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The 42-year-old Eustis man was driving a 2013 Kia Optima northbound in the southbound lanes of Orange Blossom Trail/U.S. Highway 441 approaching Jones Avenue just before 2:30 a.m., when he collided with a 2012 Toyota Rav 4 being driven by a 51-year-old Orlando woman.

The Eustis man was transported to AdventHealth Apopka, where he was pronounced deceased; his next of kin has not been notified. The Orlando woman and her passenger, a 72-year-old woman, also of Orlando, were transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center with serious, but non-life-threatening injuries.

The crash remains under investigation.

Eustis man killed in early morning wrong-way crash Read More »

Eustis Police investigating apparent suicide at Eustis gas station

EUSTIS, Fla.—Eustis Police Department is investigating after a body was found Thursday morning at a busy gas station and police believe it was a suicide.

“It appears to be a suicide and there is no danger to the public,” EPD Chief Craig Capri told Inside Lake.

The body of a male in his 30s was found by a store employee around 9 a.m. Thursday in the area of the dumpster at 7-Eleven, 2002 North Highway 19, EPD Capt. Jon Fahning said. His name has not been released, pending notification of next of kin.

If you are struggling or having suicidal thoughts, help is available by calling the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline on your cell phone at 988. Local counseling is also available, visit MIKE Endowment | Mental Health | Suicide | Awareness | Lake County | FL (

Eustis Police investigating apparent suicide at Eustis gas station Read More »

5th Annual Lake County Back the Blue and Red Walk

Photos from the 5th Annual Back the Blue and Red Walk. Organizer Shannon Cook has been supporting law enforcement since 2019 with this walk. This year, firefighters were added to the event, and the name was changed. PHOTOS: Bonnie Whicher/Special to Inside Lake

5th Annual Lake County Back the Blue and Red Walk Read More »

5th Annual Lake County Back the Blue (and Red) Walk scheduled for Saturday; Firefighters added this year

TAVARES, Florida—For the fifth year in a row, law enforcement and supporters will join forces for the annual Lake County Back the Blue Walk at Wooton Park Saturday morning, and this year firefighters will join the fun. 

Scheduled for 9 a.m., this is one of many law enforcement events around Lake County held in May during Law Enforcement Appreciation Month and this year, Organizer Shannon Cook wanted to add firefighters to the appreciation walk to coincide with the Lake County Board of County Commissioners proclaiming May 4 “International Firefighters’ Day” in Lake County, she told Inside Lake.

“I figured what better day to honor our heroes in red,” Cook said.

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, Cook said, 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.

Ryan Koester, son of fallen Lake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Wayne Koester, left, and Deputy Koester’s brother Vic, right, at the 2023 Back the Blue Walk PHOTO: Shannon Cook

Cook’s 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.

Participants will meet at 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, provided by owner Randy Connor; come a little early to enjoy donuts and coffee donated by Greg Wilmore of New Life Baptist Church Leesburg. 


5th Annual Lake County Back the Blue (and Red) Walk scheduled for Saturday; Firefighters added this year Read More »

Domestic violence incident ends in “high-risk” traffic stop and arrest in downtown Eustis Wednesday night

EUSTIS, Fla.—A man accused of a domestic battery was arrested Wednesday night in downtown Eustis after leaving the scene of the incident with his mother.

Eustis Police Department responded to a home near the Lake County Fairgrounds around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday on a report of physical domestic altercation and possible kidnapping. As officers arrived, dispatch advised the children were no longer in the car that left the scene, and the victim told officers all her children were at the home and not in the vehicle with her ex-husband. She said her youngest son was in the car with him, but she was able to remove the boy before John Barry Bates III left with his mother, according to an arrest affidavit.

The victim told police Bates, 37, head-butted her and was taking her children he did not have custody of. She told police she was at a local campus where she takes classes when she received a “distressing call” from her sister-in-law stating Bates was threatening to harm her sister-in-law’s husband and son. Bates was at the home caring for the victim’s two children, 8, and 14, according to an affidavit.

The victim said she immediately left school and went to the home and saw Bates and his mother driving away in a silver Honda with her youngest son. She panicked and began following Bates and honking her horn; Bates eventually stopped in the neighborhood and the victim took the boy from the vehicle. Bates then head-butted her, causing a cut and bruise under her left eye, and took the boy again.

The victim then called police and began following Bates and his mother, believing they were leaving the area. She followed them back to the home and removed her son from the backseat. Bates knocked her to the ground, removed her glasses, got back into the vehicle and threw a cup at the victim’s car and fled the scene before police arrived, she told officers.

An EPD officer spotted the Honda at the intersection of County Road 44 and County Road 452. The officer waited for additional units and when they arrived, EPD performed a “high-risk” traffic stop in the area of Ferran Park and Bates and his mother were ordered out of the car at gunpoint and detained.

Bates was “uncooperative and disgruntled” but then began to comply and told officers he picks up his son every day at the home at 3:30 p.m. and when he picked the boy up Wednesday, his ex-wife arrived and started walking towards his car. He said he exited the car and when he approached her, she head-butted him. Bates had a small cut on his forehead, the officer noted in the affidavit. He said he did not retaliate and got back into the car and left with his mother, who was driving. They stopped a few streets away and Bates said he walked his son back to the residence and then left with his mother. Officers asked him if he pushed or struck the victim and he said he wished to speak with his lawyer, the affidavit states.

Bates’ mother told police she went to the home with her son to pick up her grandson and the victim “appeared out of nowhere” and head-butted Bates and threw him to the ground and started yelling and they both left the home; Bates is 7 inches taller than the victim, the officer noted. Due to the injuries to the victim and Bates, statements and physical evidence, Bates was arrested for domestic battery and transported to the Lake County Jail. At press time he was being held on no bond. Bates’ mother was released on the scene. Inside Lake is not naming her because she was not charged with a crime.

Domestic violence incident ends in “high-risk” traffic stop and arrest in downtown Eustis Wednesday night Read More »

Multiple law enforcement agencies search for missing Mount Dora mom Saturday

EUSTIS, Fla.—Only Inside Lake was on the scene as a large search was conducted Saturday by multiple law enforcement agencies for Mount Dora missing mom Nicole Baldwin.

Law enforcement officers and volunteers searched areas near the east side of Eustis for Baldwin, who has been missing since early November 2023. Inside Lake witnessed searchers on foot, along with additional searchers on ATVs and horses. The search spanned several hours and ended early in the afternoon Saturday.

PHOTO: Marilyn M. Aciego/Inside Lake

The search was planned for at least several weeks and a search of that magnitude involves a lot of preparation to coordinate with multiple agencies and units, MDPD Spokesperson Misty Sommer told Inside Lake.

“At this point in the investigation, Mount Dora Police Department is looking into all possible scenarios related to the search of Nicole Baldwin. This included a search, with our partner agencies, of nearby vacant lands that are in close proximity to her last known residence,” Sommer said.

Baldwin was last seen Nov. 2, 2023, at her Strathmore Circle home in Mount Dora and reported missing on Nov. 5, 2023. She was originally classified as “missing and endangered,” but a search warrant later stated police were looking for evidence in a second-degree murder investigation.

PHOTO: Marilyn M. Aciego/Inside Lake

This is the latest in a case that has seen many twists and turns; Baldwin’s husband, Brett, was arrested Dec.14, 2023 on federal child pornography charges and has been held on no bond in the Marion County Jail since his arrest. In January, investigators with MDPD and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement executed an electronics search warrant at the home of Terri Rogers, a volunteer and missing persons advocate who led several public searches for Baldwin. Rogers, who spoke exclusively with Inside Lake following the search, said investigators seized her phone, home security cameras, laptops and Amazon Alexa devices, among other electronics. Rogers has never been charged with a crime in this case.

Baldwin, 41, 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 a reward.

Previous stories: Missing Person Advocate Says Law Enforcement Turned on Her in Missing Mount Dora Mom Case – Inside Lake

Feds: More than 2 Dozen Child Porn Images and Videos Found on Phone Seized in Missing Mount Dora Mom Case; Husband Planned to Move to North Carolina – Inside Lake

Husband of Missing Mount Dora Mom Being Held on Federal Charges – Inside Lake

Husband of Missing Mount Dora Woman Taken into Custody Thursday Morning – Inside Lake

Reward Offered for Information Leading to the Whereabouts of Missing Mount Dora Mother – Inside Lake

Community Search and Vigil Planned for Mount Dora Mom Missing a Month – Inside Lake

Major Law Enforcement Activity at Mount Dora Home of Missing Mom – Inside Lake

3 Weeks and Still No Sign of Missing Mount Dora Mom – Inside Lake

Mount Dora Woman Missing a Week, Daughter Wants Answers – Inside Lake

Multiple law enforcement agencies search for missing Mount Dora mom Saturday Read More »

Man suspected of battering woman at Eustis grocery store apprehended Thursday

EUSTIS, Fla.—A man who was wanted for battery by one law enforcement agency and wanted for questioning by another was apprehended Thursday by Eustis Police Department.

According to an arrest affidavit, Deon Otis Grant, 18, was arrested for simple battery stemming from an incident Sunday at Winn Dixie, 1955 North State Road 19, Eustis. Around 5 p.m. EPD responded to the grocery store after the victim reported she was “inappropriately touched,” by a black male, later identified as Grant. She told officers she arrived at the store around 4:30 p.m. and noticed Grant “wandering” around the store without a shopping cart, which she thought was “strange.”

The victim finished her shopping and went to her vehicle to put her groceries away; Grant came up behind her and touched her buttocks “forcefully” with one hand. He then fled, running westbound through the parking lot and southbound on State Road 19. The victim said Grant never spoke to her, the affidavit states.

Police canvassed the area for Grant and were unable to find him. Surveillance video from Winn Dixie showed him walking into the store with a yellow bag and officers went to a nearby Dollar General store and obtained better footage of him in that store.

On Wednesday, Mount Dora Police Department released a “crime bulletin” with a photo of Grant taken from Target surveillance video. The bulletin stated Grant was taking photos of women at Target, 17450 U.S. Highway 441, Mount Dora. According to the bulletin, Target employees had been “aware of his presence for several weeks” and had asked him to leave the premises. Taking photos of someone in public is not a crime, but MDPD wanted to speak with him because his behavior was a “cause for concern.” Grant is not facing any criminal charges in Mount Dora, according to MDPD Spokesperson Misty Sommer, but he has been trespassed from Target.

EPD followed with its own bulletin Thursday and in a matter of hours, Grant was identified and taken into custody, EPD Sgt. Paul Barnett told Inside Lake.

“Patrol did a great job tracking him down,” Barnett said.

Shortly before 7:30 p.m. Thursday, a tipster called EPD and stated a man fitting Grant’s description was walking in the area of the Exxon gas station at State Road 19 and County Road 452, officers responded to the scene and spotted Grant. They approached him and identified him as the man in MDPD’s crime bulletin and Dollar General’s video surveillance. Grant was detained and admitted he was the man in both the crime bulletin and Dollar General’s surveillance video. When questioned about Winn Dixie, Grant invoked his right to an attorney, according to the affidavit. He was arrested for simple battery and transported to the Lake County Jail, where he is being held on $1,000 bond. Grant has no prior criminal history, according to the affidavit.


Man suspected of battering woman at Eustis grocery store apprehended Thursday Read More »

No charges expected in Eustis shooting Sunday

EUSTIS, Fla.—The man who shot his cousin Sunday in a dispute over a vehicle repair likely won’t be charged, according to Eustis Police Department.

Jamaal Jones, 32, got into a dispute with his cousin, Devante Simmons, 31, over Jones repairing Simmons’ transmission, EPD Sgt. Paul Barnett told Inside Lake. The altercation led to Jones shooting Simmons after warning him several times, Barnett said.

Simmons was shot in the left upper thigh and transported to HCA Florida Lake Monroe Hospital in Sanford with non-life-threatening injuries.

Previous story: BREAKING NEWS: Eustis Police investigating after dispute between cousins ends in shooting – Inside Lake

No charges expected in Eustis shooting Sunday Read More »

BREAKING NEWS: Eustis Police investigating after dispute between cousins ends in shooting

EUSTIS, Fla.—One man is in custody and one man is in the hospital after a dispute between cousins ended in a shooting Sunday, according to Eustis Police Department Chief Craig Capri.

The incident occurred around noon Sunday at 210 West Stevens Avenue near Titcomb Street. Police had not released names at press time, and Capri said detectives are investigating whether the incident was a case of self-defense.

The victim suffered a non-life-threatening injury and was transported to HCA Florida Lake Monroe Hospital in Sanford.

This is a developing story. 

BREAKING NEWS: Eustis Police investigating after dispute between cousins ends in shooting Read More »

More charges for accused Eustis serial burglar

EUSTIS, Fla.—The man accused of multiple thefts in Eustis and Mount Dora beginning in October 2023 is now facing more charges, according to Eustis Police Department.

Jordan Makuannen, 19, has been held in the Lake County Jail on no bond since he was arrested earlier this week after Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputies worked together and took him into custody after he bailed out of a stolen vehicle near the Lake County/Polk County line.

Makuannen is now facing additional charges related to the stolen Dodge Durango he dumped at Club at Eustis Apartments March 3, including burglary to an occupied dwelling, grand theft from a dwelling, grand theft, burglary of an unoccupied conveyance and grand theft auto.

In that case, Makuannen is believed to have climbed through a window of a home on East Atwater Avenue while a resident was asleep; he took electronics, the keys to the Durango and the Durango. This theft was just one day after he was captured on video stealing groceries off the porch of a home on Morin Street and at least the second time he is accused of entering a residence while someone was home.

After EPD officers recovered the stolen Durango, they found groceries that matched items stolen from Morin Street and located items that belong to a Eustis woman and were taken in a separate theft, according to an affidavit.

Makuannen is facing a slew of charges and is being held in the Lake County Jail on no bond due to his failure to appear in court for his October 2023 case.

Previous stories: Man arrested last year for multiple thefts in Eustis nabbed by deputies after bailing out of stolen SUV in South Lake early Monday – Inside Lake

Stepdad Turns Stepson in to Police After Finding Evidence of Multiple Burglaries in his Eustis Home Monday – Inside Lake

More charges for accused Eustis serial burglar Read More »

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