Leesburg Man Arrested in Summer Overdose Death

LADY LAKE, Florida—A Leesburg man has been arrested in the overdose death of a 38-year-old man in Lady Lake over the summer, according to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

Albert Robert Springs, 33, was taken into custody Wednesday after an investigation revealed Springs dealt Harry Cooper the lethal fentanyl that killed him on June 25. Cooper was found dead in a bedroom at a home at 4100 Holly Hill and the medical examiner’s office ruled his death an accidental overdose of fentanyl, LCSO Lt. John Herrell said.

“Detectives worked diligently throughout the course of this investigation,” Herrell said. Phone records and surveillance video helped detectives determine Springs was responsible for dealing the fentanyl to Cooper.

Springs was arrested for death by unlawful distribution of fentanyl and is being held in the Lake County Jail on no bond.

Crash Monday Kills One Man, Lands Another in Jail

LEESBURG, Florida—The driver who rear-ended a man, causing a chain-reaction crash Monday morning that killed the man, does not have a license, the Florida Highway Patrol said following the crash.

Around 7:20 a.m. Monday, Gustavo Martinez Cortez, 36, of Eustis was driving a 2003 Chevy Silverado southbound on County Road 44 when he failed to stop for a 2004 Toyota Corolla that was stopped in the southbound lane, waiting to turn on Silver Lake Road, FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi said.

The Silverado struck the Corolla, being driven by a 42-year-old Eustis man, and pushed it into the northbound lane, causing the front of a tractor-trailer to collide with the right side of the Corolla. The Corolla rotated, reentered the southbound lane, and struck a 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage head-on. The crash partially ejected the driver of the Corolla, and he was pronounced dead on the scene.

The driver of the Mirage, a 23-year-old DeLand woman was transported to a local hospital with minor injuries. The driver of the tractor-trailer, a 69-year-old Avon Park man, and Cortez were not injured, Crescenzi said. The crash shut down County Road 44 for most of the day Monday.

Cortez was arrested for driving without a license and causing death; he is being held in the Lake County Jail on no bond.

Fatal Crash Shuts Down CR 44 Monday Morning

LEESBURG, Florida—A fatal crash involving four vehicles has closed County Road 44 at Silver Lake Road in unincorporated Leesburg Monday morning, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The crash occurred around 7:20 a.m. Monday and killed a 42-year-old man from Eustis driving a 2004 Toyota Corolla, said FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi.

A 23-year-old DeLand woman driving a 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage was transported to a local hospital with minor injuries, Crescenzi said; a Eustis man, 36, driving a 2004 Chevy Silverado and a 69-year-old Avon Park man driving a 2021 tractor trailer were not injured.

Drivers are asked to seek an alternate route.

This is a developing story.

Chain Reaction Crash Kills Leesburg Man, Seriously Injures Good Samaritan

LEESBURG, Florida—A motorcyclist was killed late Saturday night after he was thrown from his motorcycle in one crash and then struck by his motorcycle after a second vehicle hit it and propelled into him and a good Samaritan near Leesburg, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

A 57-year-old Leesburg man was riding a 2016 Harley Davidson Street Glide in the inside lane northbound on County Road 473 approaching California Street when a 2004 Toyota Tacoma traveling southbound on County Road 473, attempted to make a left turn into a gas station parking lot and struck the motorcycle.  The motorcyclist was thrown from the bike, and it came to a final rest in the northbound inside lane of County Road 473 according to FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi.

A good Samaritan, a 51-year-old Leesburg woman, stopped to assist the motorcyclist, and they were both standing in the northbound lanes of County Road 473. A 2003 Buick Century, being driven by a 30-year-old Leesburg woman, collided with the motorcycle and propelled it into the motorcyclist and the good Samaritan, Crescenzi said.

The motorcyclist was pronounced dead on the scene, shortly before 10:30 p.m. and the good Samaritan was transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center with serious injuries. The driver of the Tacoma, a 59-year-old Leesburg man, and the driver of the Century were not injured.   

The crash remains under investigation.

Tavares Police and LCSO Join Forces for Operation Aware

Operation Aware will provide wristbands and a database for first responders and the special needs community.

TAVARES, Florida—Two law enforcement agencies have joined forces to provide a new tool to the community that will give first responders valuable information when responding to calls for service in the special needs community.

Nearly a year in the making, Tavares Police Department began its Operation Aware initiative in November 2021 and has since teamed up with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office to provide wristbands to members of the community that may require a different response from law enforcement.

“We are big on community policing,” TPD Public Information Officer Courtney Sullivan told Inside Lake last year. “There are always ways we can be better,” she said, “and there are always opportunities for the community to teach us how to better serve them.”

Operation Aware is a “total approach” to the issues facing the special needs community and will provide education, outreach and follow up,” Sullivan said.

Newly-appointed Tavares Police Chief Sarah Coursey worked with Sullivan to get this program up and running. “Operation Aware is near and dear to my heart; it gives us the opportunity to serve our community in a unique way when our response requires a different approach,” Coursey told Inside Lake.

The wristbands are available for community members who have intellectual and developmental disorders, including, but not limited to, autism, dementia. PTSD and Alzheimer’s, according to Sullivan. Loved ones and caregivers are encouraged to reach out to TPD or LCSO and register special needs individuals to get them a wristband and enter them into the database.  

The bright blue wristbands will immediately let law enforcement officers know they are interacting with an individual with special needs, and provide them with vital information including names, addresses, emergency contacts and medical conditions. Officers and dispatchers will have access to the information and individual addresses will be flagged so the officer is aware of any special circumstances before they arrive to the call. Officers will know if the individual is non-verbal, has a sensitivity to lights and sirens and any other pertinent information that would be helpful to officers. They will also help reunification by giving officers and deputies information immediately that can be shared with media outlets and on social media, Sullivan said.  

The wristbands will also be a tool for the public; they will have a number and a QR code that can be scanned and will inform the public to call 9-1-1. The wristband never needs to be charged.    To register, please visit https://tavares.org/1327/Operation-Aware or https://lcso.org/oa/

Unborn Baby Killed in Head-On Collision Late Tuesday Night

EUSTIS, Florida—A head-on collision killed an unborn baby late Tuesday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

A 19-year-old Leesburg woman was westbound in a 2007 Cadillac DTS on County Road 44 near Sparrow Lane around 10: 45 p.m. Tuesday when a 2017 Ford Transit van traveling eastbound entered her lane. The van, being driven by a 34-year-old Eustis man, struck the left front of the Cadillac, causing critical injuries to the teenage driver, who was 30 weeks pregnant.

The unborn child did not survive.

The woman was airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center for treatment and the driver of the van was not injured; he remained on scene, according to FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi. Both drivers were wearing their seatbelts.

The crash remains under investigation.

Leesburg Police Officer Injured in Fight Friday Morning

9:30 a.m. Update: The officer’s leg is broken. He was assisting a female officer who was trying to detain a Baker Act patient who was running in and out of traffic on U.S. Highway 27 near Palm Plaza, according to Leesburg Police Capt. Joe Iozzi.

LEESBURG, Florida—A Leesburg Police Officer was injured Friday, and may have a broken leg, according to Leesburg Police Department Capt. Joe Iozzi.

Numerous people saw the officer down during rush hour traffic Friday morning.

“An officer was injured fighting with a Baker Act (patient.) He may have a broken leg,” Iozzi told Inside Lake.

The officer’s name has not been released.

Missing Man Found Dead in Marion County, “Maniac” Arrested and Held on No Bond

LEESBURG, Florida—A man reported missing Wednesday has been found dead in Marion County and a Wildwood man has been arrested in his death, according to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

On Wednesday, a friend of Casey Dean’s told LCSO they heard Dean had been killed and was last seen with Matthew Luke “Maniac” Allen, 26, on Sunday riding with Allen and unidentified person in a red 2015 Dodge Ram.

Deputies went to a home on Misty Meadows Drive in attempt to find Dean, Allen or the truck and were unsuccessful. They found the door to the guest house on the property ajar and spoke to a woman at the main house and told her they were looking for Allen because he had several felony warrants. She told deputies Allen was a “bad man” who her daughter recently met on the dating app, “Plenty of Fish,” according to a probable cause affidavit.  

The woman called her daughter and asked her to come home and the daughter advised Allen had stolen the Ram and she was on her way home. When she arrived, she told deputies on Sunday afternoon, Allen was standing across from Dean with a coffee table in between them. A man identified by his nickname. “Meeche” was on the couch with his girlfriend and two juveniles were in the room, due to heavy redaction in the affidavit, it is unclear who the children belong to. Allen was yelling at Dean about a gun on the table that was believed to be inoperable. As the unidentified female went into the bathroom. Allen said, “Why would you pull a gun on people that doesn’t work?” immediately followed by a gunshot, the affidavit states.

Matthew “Maniac” Allen PHOTO: Marion County Sheriff’s Office

The unidentified woman ran from the bathroom and observed Dean bleeding heavily from his upper body and begging for help. Allen asked Dean if he could put the gun in his hand and make it look like a suicide and never called for help. Dean died from his injuries on the couch.

Allen threatened to kill the woman and her children if she did not help dispose of the body, and text messages found by LCSO corroborated her fears, a detective noted in the affidavit.

“Meeche” and Allen rolled Dean’s body up in an old rug and placed his body in the back of the Ram and Allen forced the woman to drive the children to their mother in Ocala. After they dropped the children off, they drove to a home near County Road 42 and County Road 25 in the Weirsdale area of Marion County and dumped Dean’s body near Allen’s friend’s house. Allen then forced the woman to drive to Orlando, where they dumped the rug in a dumpster on an unknown road.

They stayed in an undisclosed location until Wednesday when she convinced Allen to let her go home to get clothes since he planned on fleeing the state the following day. She was permitted to use a car and she dumped it at Brooks Buck and Does, 21075 Southeast Highway 42, Umatilla and called a friend to pick her up. She told deputies she believed Allen would kill her too, the affidavit states.

A search warrant at the guest house revealed blood evidence and a bullet lodged in the wall; the woman helped lead law enforcement to Dean’s body and he was later found to have died from a bullet wound to the neck.

 Detectives interviewed the juvenile witnesses, who corroborated the woman’s story and at least one of the children seemed traumatized by the killing, according to the affidavit. Allen was taken into custody by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office for several felony Sumter County warrants including drug charges and failure to appear. He is facing numerous charges in Dean’s death, including manslaughter, kidnapping, tampering with evidence, unlawful transportation of human remains, grand theft auto and child neglect. He is being held in the Marion County Jail on no bond.

Inmate Found With Shank In His Cell

TAVARES, Florida—A Leesburg man serving a 270-day sentence for domestic battery by strangulation and deprivation of 9-1-1 was found with a homemade shank in his jail cell and is last week, according to an arrest affidavit.

Lake County Jail correction staff members were conducting a search Joshua Jerome Robertson’s cell around 12:45 a.m. Aug. 13 when they found the stabbing weapon fashioned from a toothbrush. Robertson, 27, admitted it belonged to him, and is now facing a charge of possession of contraband, the affidavit states.  

Leesburg Man Charged in Woman’s Murder Earlier This Month

LEESBURG, Florida—Leesburg Police Department and the Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office has charged a man in the murder of a Leesburg woman earlier this month, according to LPD Capt. Joe Iozzi.

Alphonza Bryant, 40, also of Leesburg, is facing three charges, including first degree murder, armed burglary and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon.

Bryant has been in the Lake County Jail since Aug. 10—two days after the murder—for a violation of probation stemming from a battery case in April. On Aug. 8, LPD responded to a home on Penn Street after someone reported that they believed their friend, Melissa K. Smith, 37, was dead.

Alphonza Bryant PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

Officers found Smith’s body in a converted laundry room, and she had been shot, Iozzi said earlier this month. Detectives are still gathering evidence, but they do not believe any other suspects are involved, according to Iozzi.

“We hope these charges allow for some level of healing and relief for the family and friends of Ms. Smith,” Iozzi said. “We would especially like to thank our community for their assistance with this investigation.”  

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