EUSTIS, Fla.—Eustis Police Department investigated two separate incidents that happened within minutes Wednesday morning, one of which caused two schools to go into a brief lockdown.
Around 7:30 a.m. EPD responded to Little Oaks Apartments, 300 West Atwater Avenue, on a report of a possible stabbing. When officers arrived, they found no one had been stabbed but an altercation occurred between at least three family members, EPD said. One of the parties involved left the scene before officers arrived and they believed he ran from the scene toward Eustis Heights Elementary School and Lake Technical College.
EHES was locked down and an officer was positioned on campus throughout the duration of the lockdown. The man was located, detained and released, but the case remains under investigation. Students told Inside Lake that Lake Technical College was also placed on a brief lockdown.
In the second incident, just minutes later, a bicyclist was struck by a vehicle on Kurt Street near Lake Technical College. The bicyclist told police he rode the bike into the roadway and was struck by a vehicle he did not see. He suffered minor injuries, including road rash and superficial bruising and was released by Lake EMS on the scene, according to EPD.
LAKE COUNTY, Fla.—Lake County Schools will follow Wednesday schedules on Tuesday in anticipation of severe weather, according to an LCS spokesperson.
“Severe thunderstorms are in the forecast for tomorrow afternoon (Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024) in Lake County, particularly in areas on the northern end. In an effort to get as many students home before the worst of the storm begins, Lake County Schools will follow our Wednesday early dismissal schedule on Tuesday,” LCS Communications Coordinator Sherri Owens said in an email Monday night.
LCS will excuse weather-related absences and all after school outdoor activities are canceled. Extended Learning Centers (ELC) will be open, Owens said.
EUSTIS, Fla.—A Eustis Middle School employee who worked as both a teacher’s assistant and a family-school liaison was arrested for child abuse after a father reported she slapped his 14-year-old son across the face just before Thanksgiving break began earlier this month and according to Lake County Schools, she has been “alternatively placed in a role with no interaction with students.”
According to an arrest affidavit, on Nov. 17, the principal of EMS contacted the boy’s father and told him Ute Galloway, 61, had slapped his son across the face in front of other students and then pulled the boy aside to apologize to him, the father told police. He said the school’s administration told him they would “handle the situation” and call him at a later time to follow-up, but he never received a call.
Students and employees of Lake County Schools had the following week off and returned to school Monday and the father told a Eustis Police Department school resource officer (SRO) his son told him Galloway was still at the school and it “appeared there were no consequences for her actions,” the affidavit states.
He told the SRO his wife called the school to inquire why Galloway was still at the school and spoke with the principal who reportedly told her he could not go into detail about the investigation or provide what steps the school was taking while Galloway was under investigation, according to the affidavit.
The boy’s father said he was upset and wanted to press criminal charges against Galloway and the SRO told him it was a serious matter, and he would begin investigating it immediately. The SRO pulled video surveillance from the media center on Nov. 17 and observed the boy on his knees near where Galloway was sitting. The boy appeared to be drawing something on a piece of paper when Galloway unexpectedly slapped him on the left side of his face with an open hand.
The SRO called the boy in, and he told him he was playing a game with other students where they would draw parts of a turkey on a piece of paper. Galloway told the students not to look at the outline of the paper while drawing the turkey, but the boy looked at the outline anyway which “frustrated” Galloway. He continued to look at the outline to draw the turkey and Galloway “suddenly smacked” him across the face which shocked him and the students who witnessed it. Galloway immediately pulled him into a room, apologized and said she slapped him out of frustration, he told the SRO.
The SRO then spoke with two students who had similar stories, and one said Galloway told the students she was sorry, and she had slapped the boy out of frustration, “not to make a big deal out of it,” and not to tell anyone what happened.
The SRO did not interview Galloway, because, according to the affidavit, she was “suspended indefinitely from the school.”
Galloway, who has been employed at EMS since August 2022, was arrested for child abuse without great bodily harm at her home in Eustis around 7 p.m. Wednesday and transported to the Lake County Jail, where she was released on $5,000 bond.
Inside Lake reached out to Lake County Schools to inquire about Galloway’s employment status.
“The incident is alleged to have occurred on the morning of Nov. 17, the last day of school for students and teachers prior to the Thanksgiving break. Nov. 27 was the first day back after the break. Galloway reported to work, and Employee Relations (ER) requested information from the school regarding the claim. After receiving the information, Galloway was told to report to ER and was alternatively placed,” LCS Communications Officer Sherri Owens said in an email. “Galloway has been alternatively placed in a role with no interaction with students while we investigate.”
EUSTIS, Fla.—The driver who found the victim of a hit-and-run and used her school bus to shield the victim from oncoming traffic in Eustis last month was honored with Citizens Life Saving Award at the Eustis City Commission meeting Thursday night.
Eustis Police Chief Craig Capri presented a plaque to Stacey Hatcher, a 25-year veteran Lake County Schools bus driver for her “heroic act.”
“This is a great act of citizenship and caring about your fellow man,” Capri said.
Capri and Hatcher both believe the the height of the school bus helped her spot the victim lying in the road and Capri said Hatcher’s actions saved the victim’s life.
“Thank God Ms. Hatcher was in her school bus,” Capri said. “She’s an amazing person. She does an amazing job. We need more people, more citizens like this.”
Hatcher had just dropped off members of the Eustis High School Band at EHS, along with a second bus, and both drivers were headed to return the buses to the bus lot off Kurt Street when she found Abigail Stevens, 32, lying in the road on West Lakeview Avenue near the intersection of Morin Street, she told Inside Lake.
She called 9-1-1 and used her bus to shield Stevens from oncoming traffic while she waited for police to arrive. Stevens was suffering from serious injuries and has had several surgeries since she was struck and remains hospitalized.
Eustis Police Department is still investigating the case and said a white passenger car is the culprit. If you have information, call EPD at 352-357-4121.
EUSTIS, Fla.—Two 9-1-1 calls made following the hit-and-run crash that injured a pedestrian in Eustis Monday night have been released.
The calls made by two different people are difficult to listen to because both callers are emotional as they report the tragic situation. Stacey Hatcher, a Lake County Schools bus driver, found Abigail Stevens, 32, lying in the road on West Lakeview Avenue near Morin Street around 9 p.m. Monday night. Hatcher told Inside Lake in an exclusive interview Wednesday, God and fate put her in the right place at the right time.
Hatcher had just dropped off members of the Eustis High School Band at EHS, along with a second bus, and both drivers were headed to return the buses to the bus lot off Kurt Street when she found Stevens and called 9-1-1. Hatcher used her bus to shield Stevens from oncoming traffic, likely preventing her from getting hit by another vehicle and saving her life.
Listen to both 9-1-1 calls below:
“No way I would have let traffic through,” Hatcher said Wednesday. “Whoever hit her had to run her over or drag her. She was in bad shape.” Hatcher told Inside Lake, vehicles were trying to go around her and drivers were honking their horns—horns can be heard in the background of one of the 9-1-1 calls.
The community and Eustis Police Chief Craig Capri were quick call to Hatcher a hero.
“Mrs. (Stacey) Hatcher’s actions very likely saved a human life Monday,” Capri told Inside Lake.
At press time Thursday, Stevens remained hospitalized in stable condition, according to EPD Capt. Jon Fahning. Police are continuing to investigate and believe a white car may be involved. If you have information, call EPD at 352-357-4121.
EUSTIS, Fla.—The driver who found the victim of a hit-and-run and used her school bus to shield the victim from oncoming traffic in Eustis Monday night is being hailed a hero.
“Mrs. (Stacey) Hatcher’s actions very likely saved a human life Monday,” Eustis Police Chief Craig Capri said. “The world needs more people like her.”
Hatcher, a 25-year-veteran Lake County Schools bus driver, spoke only with Inside Lake Wednesday and said it was God and fate that put her in the right place at the right time around 9 p.m. Monday night.
“I just give God all the glory,” Hatcher said.
Hatcher had just dropped off members of the Eustis High School Band at EHS, along with a second bus, and both drivers were headed to return the buses to the bus lot off Kurt Street when she found Abigail Stevens, 32, lying in the road. As she sat at the light at East Lakeview Avenue and Bay Street, she made a last-minute decision to stay straight and cross over Bay Street to West Lakeview Avenue—a route she does not normally take, she told Inside Lake.
“I was actually talking to myself,” she said, “and something told me to go straight. I know it was fate.”
In an emotionally-charged interview, Hatcher told Inside Lake she is grateful she is the one who came through the intersection first because the buses sit so high, they allow the drivers to see more than a driver would see in regular vehicle.
“A car may have hit her,” she said.
As she approached the intersection of West Lakeview Avenue and Morin Street, she saw something in the road and thought it may be a Halloween prank. “What is that in the road?” she said to herself.
“I looked again and thought, ‘that can’t be a body,’ she told Inside Lake.
She quickly realized it was not a prank and started panicking a bit and called 9-1-1. She used her bus to shield Stevens from oncoming traffic while she waited for police to arrive. She said Stevens was suffering from serious injuries and an unknown person walked up and said, “That’s Abigail.” The person then left the scene.
“When I said, Abigail, she moved,” Hatcher said, and that was when she knew Stevens was alive.
Hatcher said other vehicles just kept driving by and some even honked their horns. “No way I would have let traffic through,” she said. “Whoever hit her had to run her over or drag her. She was in bad shape; her body was just twisted.”
Eustis Police Department is still investigating the case and they believe a white passenger car may be involved. They are asking residents and business owners to check their cameras and come forward if they have video footage or information.
Hatcher said she does not think she is a hero; she just did what she felt was right, but members of the community were quick to call her a hero and credit her with saving Stevens’ life when the story broke Tuesday.
MINNEOLA, Fla.—A fundraising account has been established to benefit the family of the Lake Minneola High School (LMHS) student who tragically passed away Monday.
Sherman “Isaiah” Vannoy, a 17-year-old senior, was on a bicycle when he was struck by a school bus before daylight Monday morning at the entrance of LMHS.
Mary Laurenzi, 78, of Leesburg, who was hired by Lake County Schools in November 2021, was driving the school bus southbound on Hancock Road, south of Fox Trail Avenue, in the left turn lane. Vannoy was riding a bicycle northbound on the north sidewalk of Hancock Road approaching the stop sign at the intersection. Vannoy entered the crosswalk and Laurenzi attempted to make a left turn to enter LMHS and struck Vannoy, Trooper Migdalisis Garcia said in a press release.
Laurenzi saw Vannoy in the crosswalk and swerved to the left, and the school bus collided with Vannoy and continued off the roadway and struck a stop sign and a chain-link fence, Garcia said. Vannoy was transported to South Lake Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries; Laurenzi and her passengers, a 55-year-old woman of Leesburg and an 18-year-old woman of Minneola were not injured. The crash remains under investigation.
Jennifer White, a member of Vannoy’s family, established the benefit account Tuesday morning and stated, “Sherman’s family is so thankful for the love and prayers you’ve sent their way.”
At press time, the account had raised $1,700 of its $10,000 goal; to donate click here.
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.
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.
MONTVERDE, Florida—A Lake Minneola High School freshman was killed Thursday after he was struck by a car that fled the scene and then struck by a second vehicle as he lay in the southbound lanes of County Road 455, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
The boy, whose name has not been released, was walking across the lanes of County Road 455 near Willow Pines Lane just before 6:30 a.m. when he entered the path of a 2007 Pontiac G6 and was struck by the front left of the car. The impact threw the teenager into the southbound lane of County Road 455, where he was struck a second time by a 2006 Dodge Ram being driven by a 59-year-old Ferndale man, FHP Lt Tara Crescenzi said.
The teen was a freshman at Lake Minneola High School, according to Lake County Schools Communications Officer Sherri Owens. The tragedy comes just two days before LCS students go on Thanksgiving break.
“It’s a tough day for all of us, especially those teachers, administrators and classmates who knew him well,” Owens said.
The Pontiac fled the scene and was found unoccupied in an undisclosed location by Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies and was taken into evidence, Crescenzi said. Troopers are interviewing the registered owner of the car and investigating who was driving at the time of the deadly crash. The driver of the Dodge remained on scene, and he was not injured.