Groveland

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 »

FHP searching for suspect who carjacked Groveland man on I-75

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla.— The Florida Highway Patrol is seeking the public’s assistance in identifying a man who carjacked a Groveland man on Interstate 75 early Friday morning.

Around 2 a.m. Friday, a 38-year-old-old Groveland man, working as a supervisor for American Medical Response (AMR,) found a crashed pickup truck on the southbound I-75 exit ramp to westbound Interstate 4. The truck was later found to be stolen, according to FHP.

The Groveland man encountered a man who immediately fled on foot and then saw a second man standing in the road. The second man then jumped on the side of the of the AMR Chevrolet Tahoe the Groveland man was driving and climbed into the Tahoe. The Groveland man was able to open a door and escape, FHP Sgt. Steve Gaskins said in a press release.

The suspect fled in the Tahoe, sideswiped a Nissan Altima on the ramp and continued on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputies spotted the Tahoe and chased him, but he evaded capture. A camera system in the vehicle alerted AMR that the Tahoe had crashed at 3720 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Boulevard, Tampa and the suspect fled the scene before law enforcement arrived, abandoning the Tahoe.

If you have information on the suspect’s identity, call *FHP.

See videos of the suspect below. Courtesy of the Florida Highway Patrol 

 

 

 

FHP searching for suspect who carjacked Groveland man on I-75 Read More »

BREAKING NEWS: Santa Claus is Coming to Town

LAKE COUNTY, Fla.—At press time Christmas Eve, the jolly fellow best known as Santa Claus was last spotted in Greenland and had delivered more than 5 billion gifts, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD.)

Little boys and girls (who should be in bed) can track the big guy’s movements online as he makes his way across the world with his trusty reindeer crew, by visiting NORAD Tracks Santa.

NORAD began tracking Santa in 1958 after taking over the duty from the U.S. Air Force.

BREAKING NEWS: Santa Claus is Coming to Town Read More »

Details Released on Triple Fatality Near Groveland

GROVELAND, Fla.—The Florida Highway Patrol continues to investigate a crash that killed a man and two women near Groveland Tuesday.

Around 2 p.m., a 2018 Ford Explorer, being driven by a 47-year-old Grand Island man was stopped, facing east on Bridges Road at County Road 33 when it pulled into the direct path of a 1997 Ford dump truck being driven northbound on County Road 33, by a 63-year-old man of Mount Vernon, Maine. The front of the dump truck collided with the right side of the Explorer. The impact caused both vehicles to leave the roadway and travel into the tree line on County Road 33, according to Trooper Migdalisis Garcia.

The driver of the Explorer, and his two passengers, a 35-year-old woman of Longwood, and a 32-year-old woman of Orlando, were all pronounced deceased on the scene, Garcia said.  The dump truck driver suffered minor injuries.

Lake County Fire Rescue, Lake EMS, Groveland Fire Department and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office assisted FHP on the scene.

Details Released on Triple Fatality Near Groveland Read More »

3 Killed in Groveland Crash with Dump Truck Tuesday, CR 33 Shut Down

GROVELAND, Fla.—Three people were killed in a crash Tuesday afternoon in Groveland, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The crash occurred at County Road 33 and Bridges Road just before 2 p.m. and involves an SUV and a dump truck. County Road 33 is shut down, FHP said. No other information was available at press time. This is a developing story.

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Benefit for LCSO Deputy Diagnosed with Cancer Scheduled for Saturday

EUSTIS, Fla.—An event to benefit a Lake County Sheriff’s Office school resource deputy who was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year is scheduled for Saturday.

What started as chest pain in 2022 turned into a terrifying diagnosis last summer for LCSO Cpl. Adam Tytler. In November 2022, Tytler went to a cardiologist for ongoing chest pain, and after a EKG showed his heart was in good shape, the cardiologist told him the pain was likely gastrointestinal. The next month, on Christmas Eve, Tytler discovered a swollen lymph node on his neck and by February the lymph node had not gotten any better. He was also suffering from a sinus infection at the time and went to his primary care doctor for treatment and mentioned the lymph node. The doctor chalked it up to the infection, but during the spring Tytler’s chest pain continued and had also moved to his back, and then he began to find swollen lymph nodes on his chest.

Tytler went through a battery of tests and upon reviewing the results, his doctor said it was likely cancer. Tytler sought a second opinion from the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and his fears were confirmed when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkins Lymphoma in June 2023.

Tytler, his wife Tiffany, and two daughters, Shay 17, Lily, 14, are currently splitting their time between Mount Dora and Tampa for treatment and it is taking a financial toll on the family while already dealing with an emotional roller coaster. Tytler said he came forward with his struggle because cancer affects millions of people and often they go through it alone.

“I would have given up if it weren’t for my faith, my family and the support from the school resource deputy unit,” Tytler said. “I only wanted for those who are struggling to know they are not alone. Not now. Not ever and to never give up.”

Tytler’s struggle inspired Shannon Cook, organizer of Lake County’s annual Back the Blue Walk, and LCSO Lt. Kristin Thompson to create the benefit scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at That Place, 925 North Bay Street, Eustis.

Dinners will be available for purchase, along with an auction of numerous items, including a Back the Blue basket with items from multiple Lake County law enforcement agencies, tickets to various events, like New Kids on the Block concert tickets and Richard Petty Driving Experience, along with a Yeti cooler packed with alcohol, various craft items made by local residents, a high-end fishing pole and numerous other items. A poker scramble is also scheduled to start at 9 a.m. at Gator Harley-Davidson, 1745 U.S. Highway 441, Leesburg, and will include five stops, ending at That Place, Cook told Inside Lake.

Tytler has spent nearly his entire adult life at LCSO, and most recently worked as a corporal in the school resource deputy unit. He prevented a shooting on the Eustis High School campus during the 2018-2019 school year and was awarded the Lake County Officer of the Year in 2019 for his efforts.

He said he is excited he has only one treatment left, and it has been a difficult journey. “Truthfully, it’s been challenging and difficult treatment-wise, not just for me but my family also,” Tytler said.

He will have to wait until after the new year to find out if he is cancer-free, he said.

Tytler told Inside Lake saying thank you to all those who have helped him, and contributed to the benefit will never be enough.

“My family and I are so appreciative and overwhelmed of the outpouring of love and support from everyone. Especially from people I’ve never met,” he said.

For more information on the benefit, visit Corporal Adam Tytler Benefit.

Benefit for LCSO Deputy Diagnosed with Cancer Scheduled for Saturday Read More »

5 Arrested in Lake County Child Sex Sting

TAVARES, Fla.—The Lake County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrests of five people Monday who are accused of traveling with the intent to have sex with a juvenile earlier this month.

“After unknowingly talking online with an undercover detective, the subjects traveled to a predetermined location with the intent to have sex with a child. All suspects were taken into custody upon arrival,” LCSO said in a statement.

The suspects are:

  • Musa Sawaneh, 25, who traveled from Temple Terrace.
  • Jason Spencer, 40, who traveled from Tavares.
  • Kahlil Amilivia Rodriguez, 25, who traveled from Groveland.
  • Bhaveshkuma Vekaria, 45, who traveled from Orlando.
  • Nahuel Benjamin Hurtado Humeres, 20, who traveled from Dundee. Humeres is a Chilean citizen and is being for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Graphic: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

5 Arrested in Lake County Child Sex Sting Read More »

3 More Victims Come Forward and Allege Abuse by School Safety Officer

TAVARES, Fla.—Three more victims have come forward with accusations against a school safety officer arrested for child rape last month.

James Wolfe, 50, has been behind bars since his arrest Aug. 18 after the Department of Children and Families reported allegations of sexual abuse to Groveland Police Department.

“After a thorough investigation, Groveland Police detectives were able to confirm elements of the allegation and 50-year-old James Wolfe was arrested and charged with sexual battery, engaging in sexual battery with a child under 18 years of age and giving obscene material to a minor,” GPD spokesperson Sarah Panko said in an email last month.

Wolfe was employed as a school safety officer at Mount Dora High School at the time of his arrest and is a former Altamonte Springs police officer.

Following the investigation and Wolfe’s arrest, GPD began working with Altamonte Springs Police Department to identify more victims and three more victims came forward, Panko told Inside Lake.

Wolfe’s abuse of children may have spanned several years, and he is facing a total of 31 charges in Lake County, including 10 counts of sexual battery of a child, 10 counts of sexual battery, eight counts of lewd or lascivious molestation, and one count of giving obscene material to a minor. He continues to be held at the Lake County Jail on no bond.

Previous story: School Safety Officer Accused of Child Rape Held on No Bond – Inside Lake

3 More Victims Come Forward and Allege Abuse by School Safety Officer Read More »

School Safety Officer Accused of Child Rape Held on No Bond

GROVELAND, Florida—A Lake County Schools school safety officer assigned to Mount Dora High School has been arrested for multiple sex offenses involving a child, according to Groveland Police Department.

James William Wolfe, 50, of Groveland, was arrested Friday after the Department of Children and Families (DCF) reported allegations of sexual abuse to GPD, said Sarah Panko, spokesperson for GPD.

“After a thorough investigation, Groveland Police detectives were able to confirm elements of the allegation and 50-year-old James Wolfe was arrested and charged with sexual battery, engaging in sexual battery with a child under 18 years of age and giving obscene material to a minor,” Panko said in an email.

The abuse may have spanned for several years and similar crimes may have occurred in Altamonte Springs and GPD is working with Altamonte Springs Police Department to identify more victims, according to Panko.

“Allegations of this kind are deeply disturbing, and officers acted swiftly to make an arrest,” Panko said.

Mount Dora High School PHOTO: Mount Dora High School/Facebook

Wolfe was hired by Lake County Schools (LCS) in August 2021 and worked as a custodian at Seminole Springs Elementary School and later at Pine Ridge Elementary. On Aug. 9, of this year, he began working as a school safety officer at Mount Dora High School, according to LCS.

Wolfe is facing 10 counts of engaging in sexual battery with a child over 12 and under 18, 10 counts of sexual battery and one count each of giving obscene material to a minor and lewd or lascivious touching of a minor.

GPD is asking anyone with information about Wolfe to call them at 352-429-4166 or Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS.

School Safety Officer Accused of Child Rape Held on No Bond Read More »

Groveland Man Arrested for 2nd DUI in a Week, 4th in 2 Years

GROVELAND, Florida—A Groveland man is behind bars accused of DUI for the second time in a week and the fourth time since 2021.

Shortly before 5 p.m. Saturday, Groveland Police Department responded to the area of State Road 50 and State Road 33 on a report of man leaving a residence drunk. The complainant told GPD what the man was driving and that he had been arrested the week before for DUI. An officer spotted the red Hyundai Daniel Joseph Smrekar, 59, was driving leaving a nearby gas station and began following it.

The Hyundai had faulty brake lights and was missing its front bumper; when GPD ran the tag, the officer found Smrekar, the registered owner, had a suspended driver license and was wanted for a bond revocation, according to an arrest affidavit.

GPD initiated a traffic stop near Michigan Avenue and Beach Street and Smrekar came to a final stop in the driveway of his home on Beach Street. Smrekar, who had glassy, watery, bloodshot eyes, agreed to field sobriety exercises and was unsteady on his feet, the arresting officer noted. The officer believed Smrekar was drunk, and he was arrested and taken to the police department where he refused to submit to a breath test.

This was Smrekar’s second arrest for DUI in a week and fourth since 2021. He was arrested for DUI on July 23 and in August 2022 by GPD, and in 2021 by Clermont Police Department.

He was transported to the Lake County Jail, where he is being held on no bond due to the bond revocation for the 2022 DUI.

Groveland Man Arrested for 2nd DUI in a Week, 4th in 2 Years Read More »

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