Lake County

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 »

Suspect in Mount Dora slayings mentally incompetent, judge rules

TAVARES, Fla.—The woman suspected of brutally murdering an elderly Mount Dora couple “is incompetent to proceed” to her murder trial due to her mental illness, Lake Circuit Judge Cary Rada ruled earlier this week.

Vickie Lynn Williams, 51,  is accused of stabbing Darryl Getman, 83, and Sharon Getman, 80. The married couple was murdered in their Waterman Village home sometime between the hours of 11 p.m. Dec. 30, 2022, and 2 a.m. Dec. 31, 2022.

After murdering the couple, Williams stole their green Kia Soul and was still driving it when she was apprehended by a Savannah Police Department officer at a Georgia Amtrak station on Jan. 2, 2023. She was indicted later that month and prosecutors were seeking the death penalty in the case that shocked the community.

Darryl and Sharon Getman were found murdered in their home Dec. 31, 2022.

A competency hearing for Williams was held earlier last week and employees at the Lake County Jail testified, in addition to two experts for the defense and one for the state. Dr. Jason Demery Ph.D., expert for the state, “expressed concerns the Defendant was malingering (faking mental illness,) and further stated he would not opine an individual is incompetent if they are malingering,” Rada’s order states, but also said he had no opinion because Williams “failed to produce reliable data,” by not participating in the interview.

“Dr. (Jeffrery) Danzinger opined the Defendant has no rational understanding of the outcomes and penalties of her case, and that she has partial factual understanding of the roles of officers of the court. Dr. Danzinger further opined that Defendant would not be able to relevantly testify because of delusional beliefs and her inability to accurately recall information. Dr. Danzinger also opined that Defendant’s ability to consult with counsel is substantially impaired.” He stated Williams is “not competent to proceed due to what is likely schizophrenia in exacerbation,” and she “should be involuntarily committed because she has been aggressive and violent in jail,” but also said it is “reasonably probable competency could be restored in 6 months,” the order states.

Vickie Lynn Williams is seen here in an earlier court appearance.

According to reports by Dr. Bushan Agharkar, also an expert for the defense, found Williams to be “mentally ill and urgent need of psychiatric hospitalization and treatment.” He testified he met with her at her cell door because she refused to meet in an attorney booth at the jail, and said Williams was wearing a suicide smock, had poor hygiene and there was liquid on the cell floor he believed to be urine. Williams did not appear to be bothered by the odor and denied it was urine, he said.

During the proceedings Williams mumbled to herself, stated her name was “Candace” and urinated on herself, her chair and the floor while handcuffed and shackled to the defense table. She was removed from the courtroom to clean herself up and she refused to change her clothes. Her attorney, Assistant Public Defender Morris Carranza waived her appearance for the rest of the hearing.

Lake Circuit Judge Cary Rada

On Monday, less than a week after the hearing, Rada rendered his decision. He stated in his order that he took all the testimony into consideration but “competent substantial evidence outweighs any concerns of malingering,” and ordered Williams be committed to the Department of Children and Families to be placed in a mental health treatment facility. He further ordered DCF to report directly to the Court on issues of competency and the need for continued commitment. Williams will remain in the treatment facility until a further order from the Court.

Previous story: State to Seek Death Penalty in Brutal Murders of Elderly Mount Dora Couple – Inside Lake

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Deputies OK after Clermont woman sprays them with chemical during well-being check

CLERMONT, Fla.—Four Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies are OK after being doused with a substance Friday by a woman while they performed a well-being check, according to an arrest affidavit.

Deputies arrived at an apartment in unincorporated Clermont after a father requested a well-being check on his small child. The child’s age and address are redacted from the affidavit.

They attempted to contact Crystal Lorraine Velez, 36, at her apartment and she did not answer the door. They found the door was unlocked but barricaded and “due to concerns for persons inside the apartment” they removed the barricade, entered the apartment and began announcing themselves and clearing a path through the apartment that was flooded with water and cluttered, according to the affidavit.

They found one of the bedroom doors was locked and as they forced entry, they heard a woman screaming and a small child cooing or crying. They partially entered the room and Velez began “dousing” them with an unknown chemical from a spray bottle, believed to be a chemical degreaser. Velez was tased by a deputy and other deputies secured the child, and she was given to her father. Velez was taken into custody and the four deputies were taken to South Lake Emergency Room, where they were treated and released.

Velez was arrested for four counts of battery on a law enforcement officer and transported to the Lake County Jail.

Detectives spoke with a deputy who went into the apartment and the deputy said they could barely walk through the apartment because there was so much clutter. They spoke with the child’s father who said he left Velez approximately three months ago because of her mental health and the apartment was clean and orderly when he left. Detectives were also able to observe the child with her father, who “appeared healthy and happy,” the affidavit states.

Detectives secured a search warrant for the home and when they entered, they found every piece of furniture was overturned, every appliance was disconnected, including a moldy refrigerator. Windows were open, with only small objects or screens that could be easily moved or pushed by a small child. There was little food in house and every water source was turned on, causing the carpet to be saturated with water while every other floor had standing water, the detective noted.

Detectives determined Velez failed to provide the child with proper care and supervision and she was also charged with child neglect, in addition to the four counts of battery on a law enforcement officer. She continues to be held in LCJ on $10,000 bond.

Deputies OK after Clermont woman sprays them with chemical during well-being check Read More »

Leesburg selects 30-year veteran as new police chief

LEESBURG—Joe Iozzi, a 30-year veteran of Leesburg Police Department has been named as the city’s new top cop.

Iozzi replaces Rob Hicks, who was promoted earlier this month to deputy city manager. Iozzi began his career at LPD in 1994 and has served as bureau commander for Uniformed Services and Special Services and Investigations. He has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration from Columbia College and has completed the FBI National Academy, the Southern Police Institute Administrative Officers Course at the University of Louisville and Florida Police Chiefs Association’s “Future Chiefs” seminar.

Iozzi has been a command officer for a decade, supervising and managing personnel matters, department planning, training, policy creation, budgeting, and general department-related functions. Iozzi also served as LPD’s public information officer, working directly with the media.

“His belief in community-oriented policing has successfully developed cohesive relationships with citizens, business owners, elected officials, and community stakeholders throughout his career. He has a diverse understanding of policing concepts critical to all community-driven objectives. Chief Iozzi welcomes the opportunity to lead the men and women of the Leesburg Police Department as Chief of Police, and his nearly three decades of living and working in Leesburg make him a uniquely qualified leader for the position,” the City of Leesburg stated in a social media post.

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Man returns to Tavares business day after he was trespassed, punches cop in the mouth

TAVARES, Fla.—A 69-year-old man is being held in the Lake County Jail on $6,000 bond, accused of returning to a business he was trespassed from the day before and punching a Tavares Police Department officer in the mouth when he tried to take him into custody.

Shortly before 3 p.m. Friday, TPD responded to Japan Express, 456 East Burleigh Boulevard, in reference to Michael Stanley Bomber returning to the restaurant after he had been trespassed, according to a report.

The officer approached Bomber, confirmed his name and asked if he was aware of the trespass he was issued Thursday night. Bomber said he was aware of it and the officer told him he was under arrest. Bomber, whose last known address is in St. Petersburg, became combative and aggressive and reportedly told the officer, “If you touch me, I’ll punch you in the face.”

Bomber ignored verbal commands and when the officer stepped forward to take him into custody, Bomber allegedly punched him in the “upper left lip,” the report states.

Bomber was taken to the ground and eventually complied; he complained of chest pains and was taken to a local healthcare facility, where he was medically cleared. Bomber is facing charges of resisting arrest with violence and trespassing after warning; this was Bomber’s second trespassing arrest in two days by TPD. The details of Wednesday’s arrest were not available at press time.

Man returns to Tavares business day after he was trespassed, punches cop in the mouth Read More »

National Safe Boating Week kicks off Saturday

LITTLE LAKE HARRIS, Fla.—The unofficial start to summer is upon us and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is reminding boaters to stay safe during National Safe Boating Week that begins Saturday.

Inside Lake had the opportunity to speak with FWC’s Kristen Turner and Chad Weber, along with Hunter Bland of the National Safe Boating Council Friday about staying safe on the waterways. Florida is the “Boating Capital of the World,” with more than 1 million vessels registered in the state, according to FWC.

Florida does have some requirements for boating but common sense and taking simple precautions can prevent a tragedy. A boating safety course is required for anyone born after Jan. 1, 1988; classes are available in classroom setting and also online, FWC-approved courses can be found here.

All vessels are required to have personal flotation device (PFD) for each person onboard and FWC encourages everyone to wear it at all times. In an emergency situation, people often won’t have time to put on a PFD. This reporter and Inside Lake Photographer Bonnie Whicher were required to wear a PFD during a ride-along Friday. The weather cut the ride-along short, but Weber used that opportunity to educate the Inside Lake staff on how to handle changing weather conditions.

FWC Officer Chad Weber PHOTO: Bonnie Whicher/Inside Lake

“You need to know where you are at. (Bad weather) is one of the hidden dangers (people) overlook,” Weber said. “The best thing to do is get out of the water.”

Bland said often homeowners will let a vessel stay at their dock to ride out a storm and he’s even known people to invite boaters in their home to ride it out.

“There are good people out there,” Bland said.

Filing a “float plan can also save your life, Turner told Inside Lake. Though not required, a float plan is letting someone know where you are going and what time you expect to be back. The United States Coast Guard provides a fillable PDF float plan and suggests you provide it to a reliable person, along with a photo of the vessel. While the information would be extremely helpful in an emergency, Bland stressed that something as simple as a text message letting someone know your plans, would suffice.

FWC Northeast Region Public Information Director Kristen Turner PHOTO: Bonnie Whicher/Inside Lake

Weber also suggested other things to have onboard, such as rain jackets, a cooler with water and a first aid kit; tools and extra fuses can also come in handy, Bland added.

For more boating information from FWC, visit https://myfwc.com/boating/

National Safe Boating Council Program Director Hunter Bland PHOTO: Bonnie Whicher/Inside Lake

National Safe Boating Week kicks off Saturday 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 (themikeendowment.org).

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

Woman wanted for home invasion, impersonating law enforcement in custody

PAISLEY, Fla.—The woman accused of a weekend home invasion near Paisley is in the Lake County Jail on no bond.

Kayla Louise Berlinski, 31, of Paisley, was taken into custody Monday night, two hours after Inside Lake published its story on the incident that occurred around 12:30 p.m. Sunday. Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a home near Paisley after a friend who checks on Marvin Bottom Jr. regularly, reported finding him bound with zip ties.

Bottom Jr. said Berlinski arrived at his home Sunday, and he confronted her about a prior theft at his home. Berlinksi, wearing both a jacket and a hat emblazoned with “POLICE” told Bottom Jr. she was a law enforcement officer, and she was going to arrest him for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, a probable affidavit states.

Bottom Jr. reached for his phone, and a man, later identified as James Rohrer, then entered the victim’s home, took the phone and bound Bottom Jr.’s hands behind his back with zip ties. Berlinksi is accused of emptying the victim’s pockets as Rohrer went through the home and stole multiple items, including a .40 Glock handgun, cash and multiple electronics. Then they fled, leaving Bottom bound in his home.

Berlinski is facing charges of armed home invasion, kidnapping, grand theft, grand theft of a firearm and impersonating a law enforcement officer. Rohrer had not been apprehended at press time; if you have information on his whereabouts, call LCSO at 352-343-2101.

Previous story: Pair wanted for zip-tying Paisley man and invading his home Sunday, 1 suspect accused of impersonating police officer – Inside Lake

Woman wanted for home invasion, impersonating law enforcement in custody Read More »

Mount Dora to unveil sculpture by Joaquin Restrepo Wednesday

MOUNT DORA— The public is invited to the unveiling of “Temet Nosce,” a sculpture by international artist Joaquín Restrepo. Mount Dora Center for the Arts, in partnership with the City of Mount Dora has scheduled the unveiling for 5 p.m. Wednesday at Simpson Cove.

“Temet Nosce,” meaning “Know Thyself,” has been displayed in various countries and prominent cities around the world. Inspired by Carl Jung’s analytical psychology, the sculpture features intertwined heads that represent the complexity of identity, topped with a structure resembling a cage, symbolizing the self-imposed barriers to personal growth.

Mount Dora to unveil sculpture by Joaquin Restrepo Wednesday Read More »

Pair wanted for zip-tying Paisley man and invading his home Sunday, 1 suspect accused of impersonating police officer

PAISLEY, Fla.—A man and a woman are wanted by Lake County Sheriff’s Office detectives after a Paisley man was found bound with zip ties in his home Sunday afternoon.

LCSO responded to the home after someone reported finding the man with his hands bound behind his back, shortly before 12:30 p.m. Sunday, according to a probable cause affidavit.

The victim, Marvin Bottom Jr., said Kayla Berlinski, arrived at his home Sunday and he confronted her about $30 he believed she stole from him on a prior visist to his home. Berlinksi, wearing both a jacket and a hat emblazoned with “POLICE” told Bottom she was a law enforcement officer, and she was going to arrest Bottom for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, the affidavit states.

Bottom reached for his phone to call authorities and Berlinksi allegedly pushed his head toward the floor and a man, later identified as James Rohrer, then entered the victim’s home, took the phone and bound Bottom’s hands behind his back with zip ties.

Berlinksi is accused of emptying the victim’s pockets as Rohrer went through the home and stole multiple items, including a .40 Glock handgun, cash and multiple electronics.

The victim allowed detectives to view footage from his camera system and the video shows a man, positively identified by an LCSO detective as Rohrer, and Berlinksi, who was wearing a jacket “clearly marked” with “POLICE” on the left breast area and the back, in addition to a camouflage hat, also marked “POLICE,” the affidavit states.

Another video shows the pair leaving the home with a grey bag and electronics and then entering a black Nissan pickup truck with an identifiable license plate. A man identified as the registered owner of the truck was also captured on video entering the truck, and he was pulled over while travelling in the area and questioned by detectives. He said he picked the pair up at the victim’s address and dropped them off in Volusia County. He told detectives an unidentified person told him about the robbery later, but denied having any knowledge of it while it was occurring. Inside Lake is not naming him because he was not charged with a crime.

The pair is facing several serious charges, including armed home invasion, kidnapping, grand theft and grand theft of a firearm. Berlinski is facing an additional charge of impersonating a law enforcement officer. Recent photos of the suspects were unavailable at press time; if you have information on their whereabouts, call LCSO at 352-343-2101.

Pair wanted for zip-tying Paisley man and invading his home Sunday, 1 suspect accused of impersonating police officer Read More »

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