Mount Dora

BREAKING NEWS: Suspected Mount Dora Prowler Identified and Arrested

MOUNT DORA, Fla.—Mount Dora Police Department has identified and arrested the man suspected of prowling the city’s west side last week while armed.

Dylan Michael Price, 29, of Mount Dora, was arrested Monday following a search warrant at his home and is facing two counts of armed trespassing and one count of petit theft, City of Mount Dora Spokesperson Misty Sommer said.

He spent just over two hours in jail before being released on $4,500 bond just before midnight Tuesday, according to Lake County Jail online booking records.

Previous story: Mount Dora Police Seeking Public’s Help with Identifying Suspected Burglar – Inside Lake

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Mount Dora Police Seeking Public’s Help with Identifying Suspected Burglar

MOUNT DORA, Fla.—Mount Dora Police Department is seeking the public’s assistance with identifying a man who is suspected of prowling and committing burglaries on the west side of the city and he may have been armed, according to a social media post.

A homeowner who lives near Crestview Drive and Normandy Drive told Inside Lake he awoke to the sound of several gunshots and a heavy police presence overnight Thursday and some of his neighbors captured the man on video surveillance. The homeowner said his home and vehicles were not burglarized but the gunshots sounded very close to his home.

MDPD released a photo of the suspect Friday and are asking anyone who can identify him to call them at 352-735-7130 or email  [email protected]

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Man Shot in November Pleads No Contest to Lying to Mount Dora Cops

MOUNT DORA, Fla.—A man who was a victim of a shooting, has pleaded no contest to a charge of filing a false report after Mount Dora Police Department determined he and his ex-girlfriend lied about the location where he was shot in November, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Around 3:30 p.m. Nov. 13, shots rang out at Rosewood Condominiums in Tavares, terrifying parents and a school bus full of children that had pulled into the parking lot; Rosewood has been the site of several shootings and violent crimes in recent years.

“This occurred during a time frame when children were being dropped off,” Tavares Police Department Public Information Officer Courtney Sullivan told Inside Lake in November. “This is a residential neighborhood.”

TPD responded to the scene and began searching for a victim and evidence and while they were investigating, Amarion Saucier, 21, showed up at AdventHealth Waterman in Tavares with his then-girlfriend, Josey Neat, 21. Saucier was suffering a gunshot wound to the buttocks.

Saucier and Neat told TPD Saucier was shot at Cauley Lott Park in Mount Dora and TPD requested Mount Dora Police Department’s assistance. A lieutenant with MDPD checked footage from cameras mounted in Cauley Lott Park and found no indication a shooting occurred there.

“In fact, children were observed playing on the swings, riding scooters and playing basketball within the 50-minute time frame of the recording,” an MDPD detective noted in the affidavit. “It is clear there was no shooting incident at the intersection of Highland Street and Pine Avenue inside Cauley Lott Park.”

The MDPD detective responded to the hospital to interview Saucier and Neat and when he arrived a TPD captain told him he warned the couple they could be arrested for giving a false statement to law enforcement, the affidavit states.

Tavares Police Department responds to a shooting at Rosewood Condominiums in November. Courtesy photo

Saucier and Neat told the detective the shooting did occur at Cauley Lott Park when he interviewed them separately. He told Neat the video surveillance from Cauley Lott Park did match her story and, “she insisted her story was true,” the affidavit states.

A warrant was issued for both Saucier and Neat Nov. 16, 2023, for false information to a law enforcement officer and they were picked up two months later on Jan. 16 when Neat called the police on Saucier. In that incident, she told MDPD she went to her now ex-boyfriend Saucier’s apartment in Spring Harbor Apartments in Mount Dora with her brother and another woman to get a phone for her daughter. Neat said the pair got into a verbal alteration and Saucier threatened to shoot her vehicle several times, though she did not see a weapon. Saucier then broke her window trying to get to Neat’s brother, according to Saucier’s arrest affidavit in that case.

When officers ran their names, they found Neat and Saucier had warrants and they were both taken into custody. Neat was released the following day on $1,000 bond. Saucier, was arrested for an additional charge of burglary for breaking the window and has since pleaded no contest to the false information charge. He is currently serving his sentence in the Lake County Jail; the burglary case remains open.

TPD continues to investigate the November shooting.

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Incident with Barricaded Mount Dora Man Ends Peacefully

MOUNT DORA, Fla.—An incident with a barricaded subject in Mount Dora came to a peaceful end about seven hours after it started Sunday night.

A man, who has not been identified publicly, was having a mental health crisis and barricaded himself in a building at Hammock Oaks Apartments, 3550 Lake Center Drive, Mount Dora, shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday.

Mount Dora Police Department responded to the scene and Tavares Police Department and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office assisted, City of Mount Dora Spokesperson Misty Sommer said, and some residents were evacuated from their homes.

The ordeal lasted until nearly midnight and ended with  a “peaceful resolution” and the subject was taken into custody, Sommer said. No other details were available at press time.

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Barricaded Subject Forces Mount Dora Residents Out of Their Homes

Update: Incident with Barricaded Mount Dora Man Ends Peacefully – Inside Lake

MOUNT DORA, Fla.—At least three law enforcement agencies are on scene at a Mount Dora apartment complex due to a barricaded subject.

Mount Dora Police Department, Tavares Police Department and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office responded to Hammock Oaks Apartments, 3550 Lake Center Drive, Mount Dora in reference to a subject having a “mental health crisis,” shortly before 5 p.m. TPD Public Information Officer Courtney Sullivan told Inside Lake.

Some residents were evacuated from their homes,” City of Mount Dora Spokesperson Misty Sommer said.

“We believe he’s isolated, Sullivan said. “We’re ensuring the safety of the residents.”PHOTO: Marilyn M. Aciego/Inside Lake

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Missing Person Advocate Says Law Enforcement Turned on Her in Missing Mount Dora Mom Case

TAVARES, Fla.—There has been another twist in the case of missing Mount Dora mom Nicole Baldwin.

Early Friday morning, Mount Dora Police Department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement executed a search warrant for electronics at the Tavares home of Terri Rogers, the woman who has organized search parties for Baldwin and gathered information in the case.

Rogers’ involvement in the case began about a week after Baldwin went missing, partially because Baldwin’s case is what Rogers calls “eerily similar” to her missing niece’s case. Rogers is the aunt of Tonya Whipp, a woman who has been missing in Polk County since last summer and told Inside Lake she was compelled to get involved in Baldwin’s case. Baldwin, who is from Germany, does not have family in the United States, other than her children and husband, and Rogers said she advocated for Baldwin because she did not have anyone else to do it for her. Soon after Inside Lake published its first article on the case, Rogers reached out to Baldwin’s oldest daughter Alisha to get flyers out and get her face out to the public, she told Inside Lake.

Rogers developed a relationship with Alisha and has spoken to her sporadically and even helped her move some things out of a storage unit. Rogers said Alisha has never told her she is involved in any way or given her any clue as to what may have happened to Baldwin.

Nicole Baldwin, left, and her daughter, Alisha, right are seen here in this undated photo,. Photo courtesy of Alisha Baldwin

Baldwin vanished in early November and was reported missing to MDPD. MDPD has remained tight-lipped throughout its investigation, leaving many questions unanswered. Inside Lake has asked numerous questions about the case but MDPD has revealed very little. The home where Baldwin lived on Strathmore Circle was searched by MDPD, FDLE and Lake County Sheriff’s Office crime scene investigators on Nov. 28 and has been searched several times since.

On Dec. 14, Baldwin’s husband, Brett, was arrested on federal child pornography charges as investigators found child sexual abuse material (CSAM) on a phone that was seized during the investigation. He continues to be held in the Marion County Jail on those charges.

In addition to the four community searches Rogers has organized, she has spent hours each day searching for Baldwin on her own or with a smaller team of two to three people. She has walked miles in wooded areas from Leesburg to Mount Dora looking for any trace of the mom of three.

Rogers provided a copy of the search warrant to Inside Lake and law enforcement apparently believes Baldwin is dead, as the warrant states Rogers’ electronics may be “evidence of or evidence relevant to proving” second degree murder.

Inside Lake asked MDPD why they would execute a search warrant on someone who has seemingly been forthcoming and helpful to its investigation and the city’s spokesperson responded with this text, “Court orders are approved by the State Attorney and the Court of Law. MDPD executed a lawful search warrant to continue the search for missing person Nicole Baldwin. The status of the investigation is ongoing.”

Rogers said an agent with FDLE told her they were confiscating her electronics because they believed she was hiding something and “protecting Alisha.” Rogers said she has been communicating with this agent for months and has always given her any information Rogers believes is pertinent to finding Baldwin. Rogers has screenshots of text messages she said were between her and the agent showing the agent gave her particular areas to search and a message stating Alisha had been “cleared,” she said

Rogers said she thought there was a trusting relationship between her and the agent, but after being surprised with the search warrant, she is upset and angry.

“All they had to do was ask and I would have given them my phone. I’m not hiding anything,” she told Inside Lake. “Hook me up to a lie detector test!”

Just before Christmas 2021, Rogers was the victim of a house fire and lost three dogs to smoke inhalation and the experience was extremely traumatic for Rogers. After the fire she rescued more dogs and purchased indoor cameras so she could keep an eye on them when she left her home.

“They have taken that ability from me; I feel like a prisoner in my own house. I’m not comfortable leaving my home if I can’t check on my rescue dogs,” Rogers told Inside Lake.

This forced Rogers to cancel a community search for Baldwin scheduled for Sunday.

She told Inside Lake her anxiety is off the charts now and she is in fear of law enforcement. Rogers feels she now needs legal counsel and her best friend has started a fundraising campaign to help with legal fees, to donate to the fundraising campaign, click here Missing Person Advocate Unjustly Targeted.

Missing Person Advocate Says Law Enforcement Turned on Her in Missing Mount Dora Mom Case Read More »

City in Turmoil: Law Firm’s Investigation into Mount Dora City Manager Reveals Distrust, Retaliation, Dereliction of Duty; Termination Recommended

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story stated the special meeting was scheduled for Wednesday. The meeting has since been rescheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Mount Dora City Hall Board Room, 510 North Baker Street.

MOUNT DORA, Fla.—The Mount Dora City Council has scheduled a special meeting for 6:30 p.m. Monday to discuss the findings of an investigation into City Manager Patrick Comiskey, and the recommendations of the investigator are to fire both Comiskey and his assistant, according to a document obtained by Inside Lake.

In July, DSK Law in Orlando was retained to investigate a complaint filed by Interim Human Resources Director Kimberly Helfant against City Manager Comiskey for whistleblower protection and retaliation. Helfant believes she was mistreated by Comiskey after initiating a survey into Comiskey’s management abilities as directed by the city council last summer after several months of Mayor Crissy Stile calling for his termination.

The investigation into Helfant’s claims revealed numerous issues, including Comiskey withholding critical information from Interim Police Chief Michael Gibson, retaliation and dereliction of duty. The findings were provided to the city council last week in a summary of interviews addressed to Vice Mayor Marc Crail in a letter dated Jan. 8 and available on the city’s website in the agenda packet for Wednesday’s meeting.

DSK Law Attorney Lindsay Greene conducted the investigation, “…while I question whether Ms. Helfant has any protections pursuant to State or Federal law, there is sufficient evidence that Mr. Comiskey took adverse actions against Ms. Helfant because of her role in the survey process.”

Those adverse actions included ramping up the search for a permanent human resources director, even though many other department heads held interim titles for months and even years; Gibson has held the position of interim police chief since June 2022, and is the fourth police chief in four and a half years. He was named interim police chief when Chief Brett Meade resigned in 2022 after Comiskey allegedly interfered with Meade’s ability to conduct internal investigations.

“Meade was given two options, either allow the city to violate the law by circumventing his responsibility to conduct internal investigations or be terminated.  As Meade had sworn to uphold the law, the only action he or any reasonable employee could have taken in that situation was to involuntarily resign in order to escape illegal employment requirements. The involuntary resignation on June 1, 2022, amounts to a constructive discharge in retaliation for engaging on protected activity in violation of Florida’s Public Whistleblowers Act,” a lawsuit Meade filed against the city states.

The investigation into Comiskey revealed a culture of favoritism for certain departments, employees and residents, while others were retaliated against for a variety of reasons, and Comiskey discouraged Interim Police Chief Gibson from having extra officers on hand for a scheduled protest, stating it would be “counter-productive”—a protest Comiskey’s wife and daughter were a part of. Gibson informed Comiskey that their crime analyst had contacted the organizers on social media but had not identified them. Comiskey never revealed his wife was leading the protest. Vershurn Ford, the city public information officer at the time, informed Gibson, “Jane was planning another demonstration.” Ford told Gibson “Jane” was Comiskey’s wife and Gibson told the investigator he was “floored” when he found out.

City Manager Patrick Comiskey PHOTO: City of Mount Dora

“The Chief said that the entire time that the City Manager was receiving intel and plans were being made by law enforcement to prepare for the demonstration, the City Manager said nothing. Mr. Comiskey did not inform the Chief of his conflict. He did not ask to not be included in the intel. He did not assist the Chief in determining what was best public safety response for the City, which the Chief believes was the City Manager’s primary duty,” Greene stated in her findings.

“The Chief said that he believes that it was Mrs. Comiskey’s involvement with the demonstration which led the City Manager to request a decreased presence of officers at the demonstration. He does not trust the City Manager and will never trust him because of the City Manager’s withholding of information leading up to the demonstration. He put demonstrators and officers at risk. Chief Gibson said, ‘I understand that I can never ever trust Patrick with sensitive law enforcement intelligence from that moment forward. And I never have,” the findings stated.

The investigator found Comiskey also took the hiring process away from Helfant’s human resources department, resulting in months of delays in filling open positions in various departments, a violation of city policy. Comiskey also removed Helfant’s ability to initiate investigations after his Executive Assistant Merry Lovern told him Helfant was investigating Lovern’s behavior. Comiskey failed to investigate this claim or even ask Helfant, he simply “imposed a new rule which potentially impacted all employees.”

In their interviews with Greene, several employees expressed their concerns about Lovern being cruel, mean-spirited and having too much power, going as far as threatening to break an employee’s hand if she went around her to get Comiskey’s signature. She made a remark stating she hoped a council member would break both of his hips, and she also told at least two employees she would uncover the identities of those who gave negative survey responses. Vershurn Ford, the city’s former public information officer stated in his interview, “The environment in the City Manager’s office was ‘toxic.’ He said that an employee’s relationship and access to Mr. Comiskey was reliant and dependent on their willingness to” kiss the ring” of Ms. Lovern.” Ford mentioned his inability to contact Comiskey for more than 24 hours in December 2022 when Darryl, 83, and Sharon Getman, 80, were found murdered in their Waterman Village apartment. Inside Lake was the first to reach out to Ford and struggled to get information for many hours after the Getmans were discovered.

Greene stated, “From all appearances Mr. Comiskey and Ms. Lovern took an ‘us against the world’ approach to running City Hall.”

“Mr. Comiskey made clear that he believed that Ms. Lovern had been treated unfairly. He believed that Ms. Lovern had been raked through the coals during Council meetings. Even if true, none of this justified his unreasonable and improper steps to protect Ms. Lovern. To be clear, Mr. Comiskey’s fiduciary duty, at all relevant times, was to the City of Mount Dora. He serves at the pleasure of the City Council, thus, to interfere with the City’s investigation procedures and negatively impact other employees seeking redress was highly inappropriate and a dereliction of his duties,” Greene stated in her findings. “Mr. Comiskey’s blind allegiance to Ms. Lovern further supported the notion that Ms. Lovern was protected and that as Mr. Ford described, employees needed to “kiss the ring” of Ms. Lovern to gain access to Mr. Comiskey.”

Greene recommended Comiskey be fired, “(Comiskey’s) conduct is evidence of wrongdoing and his failure to perform his duties and responsibilities. As the City Manager one of Mr. Comiskey’s primary duties was to promote the mission, goals, and policies of the City. Mr. Comiskey failed in that endeavor. For example, Mr. Comiskey’s treatment of Ms. Helfant in removing job functions from her and the Human Resources Department was unjustified and in exchange internal complaints went unresolved and hiring was severely delayed.”

Greene believes Lovern lied during a sworn deposition regarding the threat to break an employee’s hand and recommended she be fired as well.

“Ms. Lovern denied ever having made the comment. That was simply untrue. Ms. Lovern was under oath and was aware that her answers were being considered as part of an investigation. This is unacceptable. Finally, Ms. Lovern’s comments that she intended to uncover the identities of survey participants (which she also denied) are incredulous. Her behavior had a chilling effect on survey participants, as evidenced by employees amending their responses. Ms. Lovern’s desire to invoke fear, coupled with the knowledge that she had such power made her behavior all so much more troubling. Ms. Lovern’s ongoing “power trip” has been toxic and is unsustainable.”

Monday’s special meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Mount Dora City Hall Board Room, 510 North Baker Street.

Read the complete agenda packet here: January 17, 2024 City Council Special Meeting Agenda Packet

 

City in Turmoil: Law Firm’s Investigation into Mount Dora City Manager Reveals Distrust, Retaliation, Dereliction of Duty; Termination Recommended Read More »

Orange County Wrong-Way Crash Seriously Injures Mount Dora Woman, Kills Ocoee Woman

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla.—A Mount Dora woman was seriously injured, and an Ocoee woman was killed in a wrong-way crash on State Road 429 early Thursday morning, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Around 3:10 a.m., the Ocoee woman, 44, was driving a 2013 Nissan Altima northbound in the outside southbound lane near Orange Blossom Trail in the direct path of a 2020 Toyota Rav 4 being driven by a 29-year-old Mount Dora woman, FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi said.

The Mount Dora woman attempted to swerve to avoid the Altima, but the two vehicles collided, Crescenzi said. The Ocoee woman was transported to Advent Apopka Hospital, where she was pronounced deceased; the Mount Dora woman was transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center with serious, but non-life-threatening injuries.

Orange County Wrong-Way Crash Seriously Injures Mount Dora Woman, Kills Ocoee Woman Read More »

Details Emerge on Mount Dora Crash that Closed US Highway 441 for 8 Hours Last Week

MOUNT DORA, Fla.—A truck that ran a red light caused the crash that closed a major Mount Dora roadway for more than eight hours last week, according to Mont Dora Police Department.

Shortly before 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Johnny Fisher, 45, was driving a black 2009 Dodge pickup truck northbound on U.S. Highway 441 when he ran the traffic light at Eudora Road and was struck by a 2018 Honda passenger vehicle being driven by E. Addison Hulit, 84. The impact caused Fisher to lose control of the truck, veer off the road and overturn, MDPD Spokesperson Brittany Haller told Inside Lake.

Fisher was ejected from the truck and transported by helicopter to HCA Florida Ocala Hospital with life-threatening injuries; his condition at press time was unknown. Fisher’s passenger, a 10-year-old boy, was not injured, Haller said.

Hulit, and a passenger in the Honda, Linda Hulit, 82, were both transported to HCA Florida Mount Dora Emergency with non-life-threatening injuries.

The crash closed U.S. Highway 441 for eight hours and Eustis Police Department assisted with MDPD with traffic control. The crash remains under investigation and multiple witnesses are cooperating, Haller said.

Previous story: 2-Vehicle Crash Resulting in Multiple Injuries Snarls Traffic in Mount Dora Thursday Afternoon – Inside Lake

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