Sorrento

Man, Apparently Angry His Advances were Rebuffed by Group of Women, Runs Down Pair Walking Nearby

SORRENTO, Florida—A man is being held in the Lake County Jail on $115,000 bond after intentionally running two people over earlier this month, according to an arrest affidavit.

Bryan Alexis Juarez, 34, of Sorrento is accused of hitting the man and woman as they walked near State Road 46 and Church Street shortly before 3:30 a.m. Nov. 13 and sending the woman to the hospital.

In the early morning hours of Nov. 13, Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to the area of Oasis Saloon, 23800 State Road 46, Sorrento on a report of a hit-and-run crash involving a pedestrian and a white SUV. While responding to that incident, another call came in from a woman reporting her boyfriend, Juarez, had taken her white Jeep Cherokee without permission.

The male victim told a Lake County Sheriff’s Office detective, Juarez followed and approached a group of females walking down the road after leaving a party and tried to convince several of them to ride with him and have sexual relations, the affidavit states.

The females rejected Juarez and he got angry and sped off towards the male and female who were near the corner of State Road 46 and Church Street, the male victim told a detective. Juarez swerved and hit the pair, injuring the woman seriously enough she had to be transported to HCA Florida Lake Monroe Hospital, formerly known as Central Florida Regional Hospital, in Sanford. The male victim jumped on the hood of the Cherokee to avoid injury, the affidavit states. He told LCSO believed the act was intentional.

While on the scene of the crash, Juarez’ girlfriend called LCSO back and informed them her boyfriend had returned home with her Cherokee. Deputies and a Florida Highway Patrol trooper responded to the home and took Juarez into custody. He was arrested for two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, driving while license suspended and causing serious bodily injury, and failure to remain at a crash involving serious bodily injury.

Sorrento Man Killed After Being Thrown from Motorcycle Early Thursday Morning

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Florida—A Sorrento man was killed early Thursday morning after he was thrown from his motorcycle, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The 51-year-old man was riding a 2022 Honda CMX1100D northbound on Markham Woods Road, south of Lee Williamson Road when he failed to negotiate a curve and struck a raised curb around 1:40 a.m. Thursday, FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi said in a press release.

He ran off the roadway and was thrown off the motorcycle and pronounced dead on the scene. He was wearing a helmet. The crash remains under investigation.

Justice for Justis, Man Convicted of Murdering Girlfriend’s Teenaged Daughter in 2018

DeLAND, Florida—The man accused of raping and killing a Mount Dora High School student in 2018 was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life in prison Monday, according to 7th Judicial Circuit State Attorney R.J. Larizza’s office.

Justis Marie Garrett, 16, was reported missing April 13, 2018, after she failed to return home from Mount Dora High School that day, according to a charging affidavit. Her mother’s boyfriend, Robert Nixon Kern Jr. told his girlfriend and police that he took Justis from her home in Sorrento and dropped the girl off at school, but she never made it to any classes. Five days later, on April 18, Garrett’s decomposed body was found partially clothed in a wooded area off Gasline Road in DeLand. Bleach was found on her remains and her clothes.

DeLand Police Department investigated and found that Kern never dropped Justis off at school and instead cell phone records showed Kern’s phone and Justis’ phone traveled directly from Justis’ home in Sorrento to the area of Gasline Road in DeLand, where her body was found. Records also revealed Kern’s phone went to the crime scene on April 16, 2018, and stayed there for more than an hour, according to the affidavit.

Robert Nixon Kern Jr. PHOTO: Volusia County Corrections

Numerous pieces of physical evidence, including clothing and vegetation also linked Kern to the teenager’s murder.

In February 2019, Kern was arrested on fraud charges in New York and was later confronted with the evidence against him in Justis’ murder and questioned about a fake Instagram account “redneck_retarded” that he used to communicate with Justis in a sexual and romantic manner, posing as an 18-year-old, the affidavit states. Kern admitted his phone and email address were used to create the account, but said he allowed a 15-year-old boy to use the phone. Internet history on Kern’s phone also showed he searched terms such as “kidnapped” and “what are the best drugs to make someone unconscious, in addition to sexually explicit websites.

Soon after, Kern invoked his right to an attorney and stopped the interview. He was booked into the Volusia County Jail May 24, 2019, where he was held on no bond.

The jury of eight women and four men took less than 30 minutes Monday to convict Kern of first-degree murder and tampering with evidence, and he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“This was a complicated circumstantial case. The defendant raped and murdered a 16-year-old child and left her body in a remote wooded area. The prosecutors prevailed and today we got Justice for Justis,” Larizza said in a statement.

Lake County Woman Charged with Murder in 2021 Hernando County Jail Overdose Death

HERNANDO COUNTY, Florida—A 28-year-old Lake County woman is locked up in the Hernando County Detention Center on no bond facing several charges, including first degree murder, for providing the fentanyl that killed her cellmate in 2021.

According to a Hernando County Sheriff’s Office probable cause affidavit, Lauren Ann Moon, 28, concealed pills in her vagina when she was booked into the Hernando County Jail on Sept. 27, 2021, for two counts of failure to appear. Moon was not given a body cavity search because she falsely claimed to be pregnant, “This was a deliberate act to bypass the body scanner due to the defendant being in unlawful possession of an unknown amount of narcotics,” a HCSO detective noted in the affidavit. Moon was then assigned to a cell due to being held on no bond.

The following morning, Moon, who uses a Eustis address and a Sorrento address, and her cellmate talked about their charges and choice of narcotics and Moon told the victim she had what she purported to be Xanax and asked the victim if she wanted some. Moon told an HCSO detective she removed the pills from her vagina and took one and a half bars and gave a half of a bar to the victim. Less than 20 minutes later, the victim fell unconscious and she was transported to Bayfront Health Brooksville, where she later died.

Lauren Ann Moon on her Hernando County Jail booking photo on Sept. 27, 2021. PHOTO: Hernando County Detention Center

The victim’s cause of death was later determined to be a fentanyl overdose.

Moon was released on the failure to appear charges on Oct. 22, 2021, and a warrant was issued for her arrest in her cellmate’s death on April 5. She was picked up in Lake County on April 6 and transferred to Hernando County on May 11. She is facing three charges, including possession of a controlled substance, introduction of contraband into a detention facility and first degree murder. 

Sorrento Man Wanted for Setting Shed Ablaze, Beating Man with Pipe, Turns Himself in

SORRENTO, Florida—A man accused of attacking another man with a metal pipe and setting his shed ablaze, turned himself in at the Lake County Jail Monday and was released a few hours later.

Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a home on County Road 437 near State Road 46 around 11:15 p.m. April 29 in reference to an aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, according to a probable cause affidavit.

The male victim told LCSO, Shane L. Poole attacked him with a metal pipe, striking him all over his body and then set fire to a sheet that was covering the doorway to the shed where he lives with his girlfriend. The man and his girlfriend both suffered burns to their hands while attempting to put the fire out.

LCSO interviewed the female victim, who said Poole put her boyfriend in a chokehold and told her if she wanted to live, she had to have sex with him, but she refused, the affidavit states. She also said Poole lit their shed on fire and attempted to kill them.

The metal pipe the victim said he was hit with was still on scene, along with a melted blue and white sheet, an LCSO detective noted in the affidavit.

Deputies went to Poole’s home on State Road 46 after the incident but were unable to find him. Poole turned himself in at LCJ on a warrant for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and arson Monday and he was released on $20,000 bond. 

Third Annual Back the Blue Walk Scheduled for Saturday

TAVARES, Florida—Hundreds of people are expected to attend the third annual Lake County Backs the Blue Walk scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday at Tavares’ Wooton Park.

In its third year, the walk began in 2019 to show support for law enforcement during a time when the “defund the police” movement was making its way across the country, event organizer Shannon Cook told Inside Lake. Representatives from several law enforcement agencies and numerous public officials are expected to be in attendance.

“The good ones needed to know they were appreciated,” Cook said.

Cook has always had respect for law enforcement officers and the job they do, she said. She grew up and was close friends with Lake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Wayne Koester who was killed in the line of duty Feb. 9, 2005. Koester, who was 33 at the time, and two other deputies were ambushed while responding to a domestic violence call. All three deputies were shot, and Koester succumbed to his injuries; the other two deputies recovered. Jason Wheeler was shot and paralyzed during his capture and convicted in Koester’s death.

PHOTO: Bonnie Whicher/Inside Lake

Cook was also close to Chris Daniels, who was serving as Lake County Sheriff when he was tragically killed in a charity bus race in 2006.

“Almost the entire time my son played baseball; Chris Daniels was his coach.” Cook said.

Cook told Inside Lake it is important the community show its support for all of the good officers and those who were lost in the line of duty. She is hoping for a large turnout Saturday, last year’s efforts were hampered by unusually cold weather and it was held Easter weekend.

Saturday’s walk is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. at Wooton Park, 100 E. Ruby Street; donuts and coffee are being provided by Ralph Smith of Lake Tire & Auto before the event. Walkers will travel down Ruby Street to LCSO and then onto the Tavares Public Safety Complex before returning to Wooten Park for a hot dog lunch provided by Pamela O’Donnell and Vic Donahey of Vic’s Embers Catering.

Cook suggests participants use street parking in downtown Tavares, or park in the Tavares Parking Garage, 200 North Sinclair Avenue.

Sorrento Woman Killed in Eustis Motorcycle Crash

EUSTIS, Florida—A weekend that saw many motorcycles on the roads, especially in Eustis and Leesburg ended tragically Sunday afternoon with the death of a 28-year-old Sorrento woman.

Rebekah Jo Towner was the passenger on 2006 Harley Davidson being ridden by 64-year-old Edgar Wesley Tello, of Umatilla, northbound on Grove Street, when he struck a construction sign near Pendleton Avenue, a Eustis Police spokesperson told Inside Lake—the only media on the scene.

The impact threw Tello and Towner from the motorcycle and she slid with the motorcycle more than 100 feet, coming to rest at a fence in front of a home. Towner was pronounced dead on the scene, EPD said.

A witness who asked not to be named, heard and witnessed the 4:40 p.m. crash, “I heard a squeal, like it hit the curb and then there were two booms,” he said. “He was going faster than 30 (mile pers hour.”)

A Eustis Police traffic homicide investigator is seen investigating a fatal motorcycle crash near a mangled sign Sunday afternoon. A Sorrento woman was killed.
PHOTO: Inside Lake

The speed limit in that area is 30 miles per hour and there is an electronic speed monitor reminding motorists of their speed and to slow down.

Tello was airlifted to a local hospital and is in serious condition. The crash closed two blocks of North Grove Street for several hours and traffic was diverted to North Eustis Street. It is unclear if either one was wearing a helmet, police said.

The crash comes at the conclusion of two popular events that were held over the weekend, Eustis Music Fest and Leesburg Bikefest. It is unknown where the pair were coming from and the crash remains under investigation.

Free Sealing and Expungement Clinic Scheduled for Saturday

TAVARES, Florida—Lake County residents with minor criminal histories have a unique opportunity to quickly and efficiently expunge or seal their record Saturday if they qualify, at the first-ever Sealing and Expungement clinic offered here.

Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida is teaming up with the Lake County Bar Association and Lake Young Lawyers Division to offer this free 4-hour clinic scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Lake County Courthouse, 550 West Main Street, Tavares. Lawyers and representatives from numerous government agencies will be on hand to help participants navigate through the process, which often can be difficult to do on their own or expensive to hire a private attorney, said Taylor Tremel, an attorney who will be available on-site Saturday, to help. Lake County Clerk of Court Gary Cooney is waiving certain fees and providing the space for the clinic, Tremel said.

Tremel, who has served as an assistant state attorney and a public defender, is now in private practice with the firm Bowen & Schroth in Eustis and is enthusiastic about being a part of this program. “We saw that there was a need, and I thought it was a worthwhile thing to take on” he told Inside Lake.

“This brings everybody together under one roof to help and answer questions. It’s not very often all these groups get together to do something like this,” Tremel said.

Many crimes are not eligible to be sealed or expunged, including violent offenses, Tremel said. If a person was adjudicated guilty for a crime, they are not eligible either.

Participants’ criminal case must have occurred in Lake County to partake in the event and are asked to pre-register at Clinic Screening (legalserver.org) and those who do, may qualify for assistance with the $75 Florida Department of Law Enforcement application fee. Tremel said participants should not overstate their income or overrepresent how much money they have in the bank.

Tremel is hoping for a large turnout Saturday, “It’s a really awesome event,” he said. “I think it’s something that can be done annually.”

Two Leesburg Toddlers Killed, One Airlifted in Fiery Easter Eve Crash that Shut Down SR 46

SORRENTO, Florida—A 4-year-old boy and a 2-year-old boy were killed in a late afternoon crash Saturday and a 1-year-old boy was airlifted to the hospital with serious injuries—and at least two of the boys were not in car seats, it is unknown if the surviving toddler was restrained, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Witnesses told FHP a 20-year-old man of Leesburg, was driving a 2011 Kia westbound on State Road 46 near Bear Pond Access Road and passing other traffic in a no-passing zone. A 2011 Toyota Pickup truck being driven by a 44-year-old Lake Mary man was eastbound on S.R. 46 when the Kia entered his lane, FHP. Lt. Kim Montes said in a press release. The driver of the truck took evasive action, witnesses said, and traveled onto the south shoulder. The Kia traveled onto the same shoulder and struck the truck head-on, causing it to overturn and catch fire.

Two toddlers in the Kia were killed, and one was ejected, but it is unclear which one. A third toddler, also in the Kia, was airlifted to Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in serious, but stable condition. The driver and passenger of the Kia received minor injuries and were transported to Central Florida Regional Medical Center in Sanford. It is unknown if they were wearing their seatbelts. The driver of the truck and his four passengers were transported to a local hospital.

The crash remains under investigation.

*Correction: The two toddlers who were killed were not in car seats; it is unknown if the 1-year-old was restrained. The above story reflects this correction.

Double Traffic Fatality Closes S.R. 46

SORRENTO, Florida—A double fatality has closed a major roadway when many are traveling for the Easter holiday.

The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating the crash that occurred shortly before 5:45 p.m. Saturday at State Road 46 and Bearpond Access Road. Two people were pronounced dead, one person was flown to a local hospital for treatment, and there are two trauma patients, said FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi.

State Road 46 is closed, and drivers are asked to use an alternate route.

This is a breaking story.

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