Mount Dora

Man Accused of Killing Family in 2019 DUI Christmas Eve Crash Leaves Trial for Lunch and Never Comes Back, Found Guilty in Absentia

TAVARES, Florida—A man on trial this week for killing three members of the same family on Christmas Eve 2019 is on the run after leaving his trial during a lunch break and never coming back—and was convicted the same day, according to Lake County Clerk of Court docket information.

Zachery Maurice Waldo, 36, is accused of killing Christopher Smith, 44, his wife, Jessica Smith,35, and their daughter Hailey Smith, 13, all of Eustis. Their son Hunter, just 11 years old, was the sole survivor in the vehicle his family was riding in. Christopher and Jessica died on the scene of the Christmas Eve 2019 crash and Hailey died on Christmas Day 2019.

Waldo was driving a 2019 Dodge Ram eastbound on Dixie Avenue, approaching Dozier Court when a 2018 Toyota Corolla being driven Christopher Smith attempted to make a left turn on Dozier Court. The front of the Ram struck the right side of the Corolla, killing the couple and injuring Hailey and Hunter, Leesburg Police Capt. Joe Iozzi said in 2019.

The event data recorder (EDR) for the Ram recorded the Ram’s speed at 84.5 mph one tenth of a second from the time of impact, but just 2 seconds before, the Ram was traveling at 96.3 mph, according to a report. The posted speed limit is 35 mph, and a witness told LPD the Ram did not slow down, and the brake lights did not illuminate. A witness also put Waldo behind the wheel just before the crash and DNA confirmed, Iozzi said.

Waldo and his passenger, Kevin Cunningham, 33 at the time, were taken to Ocala Regional Medical Center for their injuries. LPD obtained hospital records and Waldo was found to have an alcohol level twice the legal limit, along with amphetamines and benzos in his system, according to the report.

Upon searching the Ram, LPD found a loaded Ruger .40 caliber handgun stolen from Mount Dora, six sandwich bags containing 157.8 grams of marijuana and six cell phones, according to the report.

Lake County Courthouse PHOTO: Inside Lake

LPD obtained a warrant for Waldo’s arrest in August 2020 and he was nabbed by Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies and the U.S. Marshals. They were performing surveillance and spied Waldo get into a black Dodge SUV. Waldo drove out of a neighborhood on Chain O Lakes Road and rolled a stop sign at County Road 44, according to an arrest affidavit. An LCSO deputy attempted a traffic stop and Waldo sped off, running other vehicles off the road. Multiple USMS and LCSO units attempted to stop Waldo and he struck an LCSO patrol car and crashed through a fence on Tall Oak Court, the affidavit states.

Waldo fled on foot and hid in the bushes of a home on Grand Island Oaks Circle and asked for a ride from a man returning home from work. The man denied him the ride and Waldo took off again and jumped over a fence to Laurel Crest Court. He was found lying on the ground wearing nothing but underwear, the affidavit states.  

He was charged with a litany of offenses from the crash and his apprehension and was taken to the Lake County where he was released three days later on $148,000 bond.

He disappeared Tuesday, on the second day of his trial and he was tried and found guilty in absentia. If you have information on Waldo’s whereabouts, call Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS.   

Mount Dora Police Arrest Armed Man Accused of Shooting Woman Twice Sunday Night

MOUNT DORA, Florida—A Mount Dora man is being held on no bond after a woman told Mount Dora Police he shot her at least twice Sunday night, according to an arrest affidavit.

Shortly before 10:30 p.m. Sunday, Mount Dora Police Department responded to the 1500 block of Pine Avenue in reference to a shooting and when they arrived they found a woman in a 2010 Nissan passenger vehicle suffering from at least two gunshot wounds. The victim told police “Jason,” later identified as Jason Jameel Ganga shot her while she was attempting to leave and he was inside. There were two bullet holes through her driver’s side window, the arresting officer noted in the affidavit.

Jason Ganga PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

Officers heard voices as they approached the home and found Ganga’s brother in front of the home and he told them Ganga was in a bedroom inside. MDPD found Ganga underneath a bed, grabbed his legs and pulled him out, and as they pulled him out, they saw he was holding a .40 caliber semi-automatic Smith & Wesson handgun to his temple and actively pulling the trigger; the gun did not have a magazine. The gun was secured, Ganga was taken into custody and placed in the back of a patrol vehicle, the affidavit states.

There were multiple handguns and rifles in the home and ammunition was scattered about; the home had multiple exterior security cameras that likely captured the crime, the arresting officer noted. Ganga, who had alcohol emanating from his breath, refused to answer MDPD’s questions about the shooting.

Ganga, a convicted felon, was arrested on several charges, including attempted murder (domestic,) possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, use of a firearm under the influence of alcohol and shooting a missile into a vehicle. He was transported to the Lake County Jail, where he is being held on no bond.

Armed Robbery Suspect and Nephew Charged in 2022 Tavares Murder

TAVARES, Florida—Last August, only Inside Lake uncovered a man accused of multiple armed robberies across Lake County was suspected in the murder of Alejandro “Alex” Garcia.

On Thursday, Dustin “Chico” Perdue was charged with his murder; and on Monday night his nephew, Octavious Marquis Reed was nabbed by U.S. Marshals and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Street Crimes Unit, Tavares Police Detective Courtney Sullivan told Inside Lake.

Perdue, 27, and Reed, 23, are accused of shooting Garcia, 29, and Darnell Lester, 31, April 8, 2022 at Caroline Court Apartments, 1000 East Caroline Street in Tavares. Garcia, of Mount Dora, succumbed to his injuries and died and Lester—shot multiple times—attempted to drive himself away from the scene but crashed the bullet-ridden vehicle he was driving, Sullivan told Inside Lake the night of the incident. Sullivan is also TPD’s public information officer (PIO.)

Neither Garcia nor Lester lived at the complex but were known to hang out there and are related to each other, Sullivan said. Lester’s last known is address is Apopka.

TPD is not releasing much information in the case, including a motive and the probable cause affidavits in the case are sealed.

Perdue, who was already in the Lake County Jail on no bond facing 14 charges related to multiple armed robberies in Clermont, Mount Dora, Tavares and unincorporated Mount Dora, has been in LCJ since August 2022, when he was arrested on a traffic stop following an armed robbery in Clermont. His alleged accomplice in the robberies, Patrick Antonio Brown, 22, was also arrested and is being held on no bond. Brown is not a suspect in Garcia’s murder and Lester’s shooting in April, Sullivan said.   

In Garcia’s murder, Perdue and Reed are both facing one count each of first degree murder, attempted murder and discharging a firearm on residential property; Perdue is facing an additional charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. When Reed was taken into custody Monday, he was carrying a concealed firearm and marijuana and is facing two additional charges.

They are both being held in the Lake County Jail on no bond.

State to Seek Death Penalty in Brutal Murders of Elderly Mount Dora Couple

TAVARES, Florida—The woman accused of brutally stabbing an elderly Mount Dora couple in their Waterman Village home may pay for the crimes with her life.

On Thursday morning, Assistant State Attorney Jamie McManus e-filed a “notice of intent to seek the death penalty,” in the case against Vickie Lynn Williams, 50, for the murders of Darryl Getman, 83, and Sharon Getman, 80. The married couple was murdered in their home sometime between the hours of 11 p.m. Dec. 30, 2022, and 2 a.m. Dec. 31.

The Getmans’ bodies were found by Mount Dora Police officers after they received two 9-1-1 calls, with one caller stating two people had been killed, according to Williams’ probable cause affidavit.

Vickie Lynn Williams, 50, made her first appearance in front of Lake County Judge Emily Curington in January.

In a gruesome and bloody scene, numerous bloody footprints and shoe prints were found inside the home on Lake Margaret Circle and in the garage where the Getmans normally kept their green Kia Soul. Police say Williams killed the elderly couple and stole the Kia, travelling first to South Carolina and then to Savannah, where she was apprehended by a Savannah Police officer at an Amtrak station on Jan. 2. She was still in possession of the Kia when she was taken into custody, the affidavit states.

Williams had no known connection to the Getmans or Mount Dora.

Mount Dora Police Interim Chief Michael Gibson, FDLE SAC Lee Massie and Mount Dora Mayor Crissy Stile hold a press conference in January to discuss the murders of a married couple in their 80s found dead Dec. 31. PHOTO: Marilyn M. Aciego/Inside Lake

Williams was originally arrested just for grand theft auto, and two first-degree murder charges were added later; the cases have since been consolidated; Inside Lake was the first media organization to report the added charges and only Inside Lake discovered Mount Dora Police officers interacted with a woman believed to be Williams at a Mount Dora Hampton Inn just hours before the murder.

A discovery exhibit recently filed by the state contains 10 pages of witnesses’ names and addresses, including one witness with the same address as Hampton Inn, and several of the Getmans’ neighbors.

Williams next plea negotiation conference in scheduled for March 7, but it is common for murder cases, especially death penalty cases, to take more than a year to go to trial. She is represented by John Spivey of the Lake County Public Defender’s Office.

Lake County Tigers Secretary Turns Herself In After Being Accused of Stealing Thousands of Dollars

MOUNT DORA, Florida—For the second time in as many months a board member of a Lake County youth sports organization has been arrested for stealing funds meant to benefit the children.

Tamara Lamar Jones, 38, of Leesburg, is accused of stealing nearly $13,000 from Lake County Tigers Inc., a Mount Dora based youth softball organization, while she served as secretary, according to a probable cause affidavit.

From January 2022 through September 2022, Jones is accused of diverting $7,544 to her personal Venmo account and $5,274 to her Cash App account for a total of $12,818, the affidavit states.

The Lake County Sheriffs Office began investigating the thefts earlier this month when the Tigers’ president reported Jones has misappropriated the funds. The complainant reported Jones agreed to pay back the funds in full by Feb. 1 in a signed and notarized document but failed to pay back any of the funds. The president contacted Jones Feb. 2 to satisfy the contract and Jones reportedly said she could not pay it back.

A warrant was issued for Jones’ arrest for grand theft on Feb. 6 and she turned herself in on Valentine’s Day. She was released on $2,000 bond.

In December, the John Farley-Gleixner, 36, of Umatilla, who held the position of president of Umatilla Babe Ruth Inc., was arrested for stealing nearly $35,000 from his organization. He pleaded not guilty to the charge Monday, according to Lake County Clerk of Court online records.

Woman, 70, Hits Woman Blowing Leaves and Flees Because She Didn’t Want to be Late for Her Appointment, Suspect Tells FHP

MOUNT DORA, Florida—A Mount Dora woman was arrested Monday after hitting a woman blowing leaves and fleeing the scene, according to an arrest affidavit.

Florida Highway Patrol responded to Sullivan Ranch just before 11 a.m. Monday on a report of a hit-and-run crash. The victim, a 49-year-old woman, told a trooper she was blowing leaves on Sullivan Ranch Boulevard in unincorporated Mount Dora when an elderly woman hit her in a gray Toyota. The victim said she attempted to speak to the woman, but she said, “she did not have time to sit there and wait for someone to show up,” the affidavit states.

The victim was able to get the tag number on the car and said the car should have a damaged right mirror from the collision. FHP obtained a name and address for the registered owner and the victim said she was in a lot of pain and she was transported to AdventHealth Waterman in Tavares for treatment.

FHP went to the home of the registered owner, also in Sullivan Ranch, and spoke to him. He said his wife, Karin Elizabeth Sanfilippo was driving the Toyota Corolla that the trooper found had an extremely damaged right mirror. Sanfilippo, 70, admitted she was driving and said she “did not want to be late to an appointment she had,” the affidavit states.

Sanfilippo was arrested for leaving the scene of a crash with injuries and transported to the Lake County Jail, where she was released on $5,000 bond.  

City of Mount Dora Creates Controversy with New Social Media Policy

MOUNT DORA, Florida—A new social media policy enacted by the City of Mount Dora is creating quite a stir.

Officially beginning Friday, comments are no longer permitted on any of the city’s social media pages, according to posts on the city’s official Facebook page and Mount Dora Police Department’s Facebook page Wednesday.

The posts (identical on both pages) stated, “To better serve City of Mount Dora residents and visitors, we have made the conscious decision to turn off the commenting and messaging features on all of our social media accounts beginning Friday, January 27th, 2023. Moving forward each of our posts will include ways to connect with us directly based on the nature of the post. We are excited to be able to serve you more quickly and more efficiently. If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to us @ [email protected] or via phone @ (352) 735-7100 ext 1102. Thank you for your continued support!”

But residents and visitors aren’t buying it. Dozens of people have posted in popular local “word of mouth” Facebook groups and on their personal social media pages expressing their displeasure at the new policy. Ironically, comments were disabled for that post, despite it stating the policy would begin Friday.

Jennifer Etter, administrator of Mount Dora Florida Word of Mouth Facebook group will no longer allow the city to post in the group.  

“Censorship at its finest. Guess they don’t like hearing people express their feelings. From now on, I’m making the conscious decision to revoke their ability to post anything related to their office in this group, including fundraising and events. Sounds fair,” Etter posted when she shared the post from MDPD.

In a later comment, Etter, said, “They’re upset because they’re being held accountable. Disabling the comments is their version of “we won’t be held accountable if you can’t voice an opinion.”

The decision comes after three recent Facebook posts by Mount Dora Police Department that garnered more than 300 comments each, most of them unfavorable.  

Inside Lake asked City of Mount Dora Spokesperson Vershurn Ford several questions Friday morning, including the following:

“Why the new policy? Is it because the last three posts by Mount Dora Police Department (before the policy change) garnered more than 300 comments each, most of them unfavorable?” Inside Lake asked by email.

Ford responded, “With many different electronic formats to allow residents and visitors options to connect with us, we felt it was in our best interest here at the City to focus on those other formats. The City maintains social media accounts for many reasons, however, the main focus for us are to communicate policy, city-related services, changes in services, public notices and upcoming events, just to name a few. We will continue providing these elements.”

We asked Ford, “Many people are unable to make city meetings because of conflicting work and family obligations; doesn’t the city feel like this is silencing their voice and the city will lose opportunities for feedback to make the city better?”

Ford said, “Residents and visitors are always welcome to connect with us via phone, email, text and or by general inquiry on our website. The ways to connect with us are endless. We never want people to miss out on City meetings, but we get that life happens,” he said. “On our website we stream city meetings live and moments after, a copy is available for download.”

Etter disagrees, “I am anti-censorship as an American and I think censorship on social media has gotten out of control. People have a right to voice their concerns and as the admin for this group (Mount Dora Florida Word of Mouth,) I am not happy that they have chosen to censor their readers in an effort to thwart public scrutiny for their actions, whether positive, negative or perceived. People have a right to do so. They also have a right to peacefully protest…and they may not have a voice in public office or feel that they have any power otherwise to make a difference. Silencing them by closing comments is cowardly if they do not choose to face public opinion.”

 Inside Lake also asked who created this policy and did not receive an answer.

INSIDE LAKE EXCLUSIVE: Daughter of Local Musician Killed in Crash Last Summer and Crash Survivor Tell Their Story Only to Inside Lake

MOUNT DORA, Florida—It has been nearly six months since Emily Lowe got the call that changed her life.

In the early morning hours of July 23, 2022, Lowe’s father, beloved local musician Robert Wilson was attempting to push his minivan off a curb on Old U.S. Highway 441 across from Dairy Queen in Mount Dora when good Samaritan Michael Dickey saw him and stopped to help.

“I thought, man, somebody is going to hit him,” Dickey told Inside Lake earlier this week, “and I’ll be damned if what I thought happened.”  

Wilson’s tire was stuck on the curb and could not get any traction. After unsuccessfully trying to push the van off the curb, Dickey suggested they use his truck, a Nissan Frontier, to pull the minivan off the curb. Dickey, who was headed home after working late at his furniture refinishing shop in Tavares, had a flashlight in his hand and was starting to attach a strap to Wilson’s minivan when the white 2015 Hyundai Genesis Justin Thomas Flower was driving came speeding down Old U.S. Highway 441.

The Hyundai came straight at them, Dickey jumped out the way and the car struck Wilson first throwing him several feet, then struck the back end of Wilson’s minivan and finally Dickey’s truck, hitting it with such force, it spun around. All three vehicles were totaled.

“My truck did a 180 spin, turned the opposite way it was parked,” Dickey said. Dickey injured his finger and held the flashlight through the entire ordeal, including questioning by Mount Dora Police Department. The crash sheared the bulb and bulb cover right off the handle.

“It knocked it clean off. I came close to dying, real close to dying,” Dickey said, shaking his head, “He never hit his brakes, never hit his brakes.”

Dickey still has the flashlight and held it during his interview with Inside Lake.

Michael Dickey reenacts the morning of July 23, 2022 when he jumped out the way when Justin Flower hit Robert Wilson, killing him. Flower also hit Wilson’s minivan and Dickey’s truck. Dickey is seen here holding the same flashlight he held during the crash. PHOTO: Marilyn M. Aciego/Inside Lake

Flower kept driving and got about a half of a mile down the road, “I don’t know how he made it that far,” Dickey said.

“I started screaming at him, stop! Stop! Stop!”

An unidentified man in a Honda Civic stopped and Dickey told him to get behind Flower so he could not leave, and he did, Dickey said. A minute or so later, someone handed Dickey a phone and said, “It’s 9-1-1,” and the man in the Honda drove by and said, “We’re good” and left. “I found out later he never even called 9-1-1,” Dickey said.

Flower got out of the car and, “He was pacing around and around.” Two unidentified women stopped to help him, and he reportedly told them he was fine, and “There’s a bad accident down there you need to go the other way.” The women continued toward the crash site, Dickey said, and “suddenly he (Flower) was gone,” but he left the disabled Hyundai in the middle of the road.

The women stopped and helped Wilson and Dickey, and one woman removed her shirt, clad only in a bra, and wrapped it around Wilson’s head in attempt to help him and stop the bleeding, Dickey told Inside Lake.

Once MDPD arrived on scene Dickey said he felt like they treated him like a criminal. “I thought I was going to jail. They wouldn’t let me call my wife. I was furious.” He said he was interviewed by at least six MDPD officers. “My mouth was dry, I was exhausted. They wouldn’t even let me have a drink. “

Dickey was never interviewed again after the morning of the crash. “I called him (the crash investigator) three or four times and he never returned my call. Never would return an email.” Dickey said he called him two more times in the last few weeks and the investigator did not return those calls either.

Dickey still has a hard time understanding the crash, “How do you not react and hit the brakes?” Data from the vehicle later showed Flower was driving 42.87 miles per hour and never hit the brakes. The posted speed limit in that area is 35 miles per hour.

Wilson, 50, was airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center after the crash, where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy later determined Wilson died from a skull fracture and brain bleed caused by the crash.

Top left to right: Robert Wilson’s minivan, Michael Dickey’s truck and the car Justin Flower was driving when he crashed into Wilson and the two vehicles in July 2022. PHOTOS: Michael Dickey

According to a probable cause affidavit, MDPD contacted the registered owner of the Hyundai and she said she lent the car to Flower and Flower was at a home on Morningside Drive, less than a mile from the crash site. MDPD spoke with Flower, and he said he struck a dog that jumped into the roadway. He claimed to have no memory of the crash and woke up the following morning at the home on Morningside Drive wondering how he got there.

Dickey said he does not understand why Flower was not arrested right then, “How do you believe that lie?” he said.

During later questioning Flower admitted to drinking “a beer and a shot” prior to the crash, the affidavit states.

It took nearly three months for MDPD is issue a warrant for Flower for manslaughter and leaving the scene of a crash involving death. After the warrant was issued, he ran to Jackson County, North Carolina, Wilson’s daughter Emily Lowe told Inside Lake.

He was apprehended in North Carolina in late November extradited to Lake County Dec. 30, just one day before his 39th birthday after he spent more than a month in jail in North Carolina, according to Lake County Clerk of Court online records. He is being held in LCJ on no bond.

Justin Flower’s two mugshots. PHOTOS: Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (North Carolina) and Lake County Sheriff’s Office

Flower is scheduled to be arraigned Monday—exactly six months after the crash.

The pain is still raw for Lowe. She misses her dad tremendously and is angry he was taken from her.

“I can forgive but I can never forget,” she told Inside Lake.

Photo courtesy of Emily Lowe

Wilson was a well-known local musician, a friend, a son, Lowe said, but most importantly he was Dad to her and her three brothers and Pop Pop to his two grandsons and only granddaughter.  

“He was more than his music, more than a friend, He was a father and a grandfather. That’s who he was,” Lowe, 27, said. “My Dad was my absolute best friend, she said. “My rock, my safety net.”

Lowe rushed to ORMC when she found out what happened, and doctors told her he was brain dead and there was no chance at life. Lowe told Inside Lake she fell to the floor and begged him to wake up. But he never did. “This man (Flower) took my life from me in a way,” she said.

Photo courtesy of Emily Lowe

Lowe said her dad and Flower knew each other and she has received information they were both at Fat Cats, a nearby bar, the night of the crash. Flower was never tested for alcohol consumption by MDPD but did admit to drinking the night of the crash—doctors at ORMC told Lowe her father was not legally drunk, she said.

“He plowed my Dad,” Lowe said. “Justin Flower hit my Dad. He was brain dead on the scene.

Lowe said her dad was very musically gifted and a “great friend to all who knew him.” He was never a stranger to anyone and enjoyed a close with relationship with his granddaughter, 7. She misses him very much, Lowe said. Sometimes it is hard for Lowe to grieve her father, because she has to stay strong for her daughter and her grandmother.

“My grandma is not OK because she lost her son.”

Lowe said the whole ordeal has been terrible, but the added length of the investigation, lack of communication and Flower running has made things worse.  

“It’s been a nightmare to deal with. I just want justice for my Dad.”

Photo courtesy of Emily Lowe

Longtime Mount Dora Orthodontist Dead in Apparent Seminole County Murder-Suicide Earlier this Month

LONGWOOD, Florida—A longtime Mount Dora orthodontist apparrently killed his ex-wife and then himself in Seminole County earlier this month, according to the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO.)

Around 4 p.m. Jan. 11, SCSO responded to the 2400 block of Jennifer Hope Boulevard in Jennifer Estates in unincorporated Longwood on a report of a shooting, Public Information Officer Bob Kealing said in a press release.

When deputies arrived, they found Sandra Herman, 79, injured in the front yard; she was taken to a local hospital where she died from her injuries. Witnesses told SCSO Herman was shot by an elderly man, later identified as her ex-husband, Gilbert Principe, 81. The witnesses said Principe might still be in the home and once deputies obtained a search warrant, they entered the home and found Principe dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

According to official records maintained by the Lake County Clerk of Court, the couple divorced in October 1995. Principe had an orthodontic office in Mount Dora for many years.

Suspect in Mount Dora Double Slayings Indicted by Grand Jury

TAVARES, Florida—The woman accused of stabbing an elderly couple to death and stealing their SUV in December has been indicted by a grand jury for the crimes, State Attorney Bill Gladson announced Wednesday.

Vickie Lynn Williams, 50, of Savannah, Georgia is accused of brutally stabbing Darryl Getman, 83, and Sharon Getman, 80, to death sometime between the hours of 11 p.m. Dec. 30 and 2 a.m. Dec. 31. The Getmans’ bodies were found by Mount Dora Police Department after they received two 9-1-1 calls, with one caller stating two people had been killed, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Numerous bloody footprints and shoe prints were found inside the home on Lake Margaret Circle and in the garage where they normally kept their green Kia Soul. Police say Williams killed the elderly couple and stole the Kia, travelling first to South Carolina and then to Savannah, where she was apprehended by a Savannah Police officer at an Amtrak station on Jan. 2. She was still in possession of the Kia when she was taken into custody, the affidavit states.

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

When Williams was questioned, she told investigators she was given the Kia by a friend named “Fuller Blue.” She said was walking in Savannah Dec. 31 when “Fuller Blue” approached her. She told him she was homeless, and he offered her the Kia, she said. She drove around for “a bit” and then parked the Kia at the train station where she stayed for several days, she told investigators.

At the time of her arrest Williams had no known connection to the Getmans or Mount Dora, MDPD Interim Police Chief Michael Gibson said earlier this month, Williams was extradited back to Lake County Jan. 6 and is being held in the Lake County Jail on no bond.

Williams is represented by John Spivey of the Lake County Public Defender’s Office.

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