Tavares

Doorbell Camera Alerts Tavares Mom to Prowler

TAVARES, Florida—A Tavares mom on her way to work was alerted by her doorbell camera to a man trying to break into her house while her daughter was inside, and he was quickly apprehended by Tavares Police officers earlier this month, according to an arrest affidavit.

Jess Hubbard, 36, who has been booked into the Lake County Jail 17 times on a variety of charges including trespassing, possession of methamphetamine and violation of probation, was captured on video ringing the doorbell at a home on Palm Way in Tavares around 4:30 a.m. Nov. 8, according to the affidavit.

When no one answered the door, Hubbard tried to get into the home by repeatedly twisting and pushing the doorknob, prompting the woman’s daughter to call 9-1-1 and then her mom. Her mom immediately turned around and went back home just in time to see a shadow moving on the eastern side of her property. The woman screamed at Hubbard to get away from her house several times and after stating law enforcement had been called, Hubbard fled westbound down Palm Way.

Hubbard attempted to hide behind a home about a block away and was located by a TPD officer, according to the affidavit. He was taken into custody and arrested for loitering and prowling and transported to the Lake County Jail, where he remains on $1,000 bond.

Fiery Crash Kills Tavares Woman in Umatilla Thursday Night

UMATILLA, Florida—A 39-year-old woman was speeding before she crashed her car into a tree and it burst into flames in unincorporated Umatilla, witnesses told the Florida Highway Patrol.

Around 9 p.m. Thursday, the Tavares woman was driving a 2009 Chevy Malibu northbound on West 4th Avenue approaching West 7th Street when she lost control, ran off the roadway and struck a tree, causing the car to become engulfed in flames, according to FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi. Witnesses told troopers the woman was speeding before the crash.

PHOTO: Sean Curry

She was transported to Central Florida Regional Medical Center in Sanford, where she later died, Crescenzi said.

This was second Lake County resident killed in traffic crash in less than 16 hours. Shortly before 6 a.m. Thursday, a crash on Florida’s Turnpike in Orange County killed a tow truck driver from Poinciana and a Groveland man as Hurricane Nicole made its way across Orange County.

Both crashes remain under investigation, Crescenzi said.

Low Bond on DUI Charge was an Error, Troopers Say. Suspect Turns Himself in on Upgraded Charge

TAVARES, Florida—The man accused of possessing cocaine and driving drunk in a crash that killed a 5-year-old boy turned himself in at the Lake County Jail Wednesday on a DUI manslaughter charge.

Daksh Wadhwa, 30, of Tavares, turned himself in just before 11 a.m. Wednesday after troopers issued a warrant for his arrest in the boy’s death Tuesday afternoon.  He is being held on $30,000 bond but sources close to the investigation told Inside Lake he is already in the process of bonding out. Turning in his passport was a condition of the bond, and it was turned in to the Lake County Clerk of Court Wednesday morning.

Wadhwa was driving a 2022 BMW 740I westbound on County Road 448 near Shirley Shores Road at 8:30 a.m. Saturday when he veered into the eastbound lane and both he, and the driver of a 2008 Honda Civic swerved to the left to avoid a collision. The right front of the BMW struck the right side of the Honda, Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Tara Crescenzi said in a press release.

The driver of the Honda, a 29-year-old Mount Dora woman, was transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center with serious injuries; her passenger, a 5-year-old boy identified as her son in social media posts, was airlifted to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children with critical injuries. He succumbed to his injuries late Sunday night, Crescenzi said.

Wadhwa, who was unsteady on his feet and had alcohol emanating from his breath, according to the arrest report, provided a breath sample and his BAC was .189, more than twice the legal limit of .08. He has extensive traffic citation history; according to Lake County Clerk of Court online records Wadhwa has had 18 tickets since 2010.

He was arrested for DUI with serious bodily injury, possession of cocaine and smuggling contraband into a correctional facility. He was released on $3,000 bond Saturday.

Our trooper completed a thorough investigation, determined impairment, obtained a breath test result of 0.189, and charged the driver appropriately for DUI and possession of cocaine. After the crash investigation, the driver was immediately booked into the Lake County Jail,” Crescenzi said.

Many of our readers questioned why the bond was so low.

“The trooper errantly entered the original bond amount on the arrest report for the initial DUI charge. It was not reported as an error until the driver had already bonded out. Training has been completed with the trooper to provide the correct bond schedule,“ Crescenzi told Inside Lake.

Drunk Driver Caused CR 448 Crash that Left 5-year-old in Critical Condition Saturday Morning, Troopers Say

TAVARES— The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating a crash they say was caused by a drunk driver Saturday morning.

Daksh Wadhwa, 30, of Tavares, was driving a 2022 BMW 740I westbound on County Road 448 near Shirley Shores Road at 8:30 a.m. Saturday. He veered into the eastbound lane, and both he and the driver of a 2008 Honda Civic both swerved to the left to avoid a collision, and the right front of the BMW struck the right side of the Honda, FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi said in a press release.

The driver of the Honda, a 29-year-old Mount Dora woman, was transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center with serious injuries; her passenger, a 5-year-old boy, also of Mount Dora, was airlifted to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children with critical injuries.

Wadhwa provided a breath sample, and his BAC was .189, above the legal limit of .08. He was arrested for DUI with serious bodily injury, possession of cocaine and smuggling contraband into a correctional facility. He is being held in the Lake County Jail on $3,000 bond.

Jeep Fire Spreads to Eustis Home Late Friday, Displaces Residents

EUSTIS, Florida—A vehicle fire that began late Friday night destroyed two vehicles and spread to a home on South Exeter Street leaving the home uninhabitable, sources told Inside Lake.

Eustis Fire Department, Mount Dora Fire Department, Tavares Fire Department and Lake County Fire Rescue battled the blaze throughout the early morning hours beginning around 11:30 p.m. Friday and continuing until 4 a.m. Saturday, a source told Inside Lake. Lake EMS also responded to the scene.

When fire crews arrived at the home at 573 South Exeter Street, near Eustis High School, a jeep was fully involved, and the fire spread to the roof of the home. No one was injured, but the home is uninhabitable. The cause of the fire was unknown at press time.

Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo

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/

2 Students Arrested for Making Threats Monday in Separate Incidents

LAKE COUNTY, Florida—A little more than a month into the new school year and two more Lake County Schools students have been arrested for threats, according to two arrest affidavits.

Christopher Joseph Wallace, 17, of East Ridge High School and Braedyn A. Auker, 16, of Tavares High School are each facing a felony charge of written threats to kill after they were arrested in separate incidents Monday.

A student came forward Monday morning at East Ridge High School in Clermont about some concerning texts Wallace had allegedly sent Friday, according to the affidavit. The student said Wallace sent texts that stated, “Because I know I can’t control myself; I’d hurt or possibly kill one of you, spread the message” in addition to, “…there isn’t a remorseful feeling in my body anymore and when I say kill, I mean beat one of you to the point of death; all of you having me feeling betrayed and just debating how I should handle it or leave it be and calm down, but I physically can’t mentally either.”

Wallace was questioned by a Lake County Sheriff’s Office school resource deputy (SRD) and members of administration, and he admitted he made “some statements” based on his “angry behavior” and does not always realize or remember what he said.

Wallace, who is already on probation, was arrested and transported to the Lake County Jail for booking.

Also on Monday, an assistant principal at Tavares High School brought some Snapchat posts to the attention of the SRD. The posts were threatening in nature and stated, “If you go to THS just know I didn’t give up. I’m coming back and when someone fuels the fire I won’t just sit there your (sic) gonna end up with Ur brains out on the school campus and ur momma pleading for doctors to keep you alive,” the affidavit states. “Yk (you know) who you are and I’m coming after u.”

The SRD investigated and identified the poster as Auker, based on another post that references dropping out of school; Auker and his mother met with school officials Thursday to discuss Auker dropping out, according to the affidavit. Auker was also identified in a photo on one of the posts, by an assistant principal. Auker was questioned and admitted making the threats; he said he was upset due to ongoing issues with friends and an ex-girlfriend. Auker arrested for written threats to kill and turned over to the Department of Juvenile Justice.

This is the second Tavares High School student arrested this school year for threats.   

Man Accused of Exposing Himself Fails to Show Up for Court

TAVARES, Florida—The man accused of exposing himself in his Eustis neighborhood last month is back in jail.

Mark Ronald Banks, 53, is in the Lake County Jail on no bond after failing to appear in court Sept. 7 on a charge of exposure of sexual organs stemming from an arrest in August.

In that case, a neighbor accused Banks of standing at his doorway naked and masturbating while facing Glover Street in Eustis on numerous occasions. The neighbor explained he has observed Banks masturbating naked two to three times a week at 7 a.m. for the past six months, according to an arrest affidavit.

A maintenance man for an apartment complex nearby Banks’ home told Eustis Police in August, he installed a fence panel to try to block Banks from view and the maintenance man said while he had never seen Banks masturbate, he had seen him stand naked in his doorway several times a week.

When officers located Banks, they explained there were some complaints about his sexual behavior, and he immediately said, “I don’t do that,” the affidavit states. He appeared nervous and again said, “I don’t do that.” He was questioned about both standing at his door naked and masturbating and repeated, “I don’t do that.”

He was arrested Aug. 12 on that charge and released the same day on $1,000 bond. He turned himself in on the warrant for failure to appear Sept. 8 and continues to be held on no bond. His next court date is scheduled for Sept. 28.

Click below to read Inside Lake’s previous story on Mark Banks.

Man Fires Shot Near SUV with Toddler In It, Police Say

TAVARES, Florida—An argument over an alleged affair led to an Apopka man firing a shot near an SUV with a toddler in it and landed the man in jail Thursday, according to an arrest affidavit.

Richard Joseph Kinchens, 39, pulled up in the front yard of a woman’s home Thursday at Palm Gardens Resort and began arguing with her because his girlfriend accused him of having a “fling” with the woman, she told Tavares Police Department.

A friend of the woman’s heard the argument and went to the home where he heard Kinchens call him a derogatory name, according to the affidavit. He confronted Kinchens as he walked to his car and Kinchens attempted to pull out. The man was blocking Kinchens in with his SUV and when he attempted to move it, Kinchens fired one shot in the direction of the SUV that had the man’s 3 -year-old son in it and another adult male. The bullet struck a trailer that was being towed by the SUV, the affidavit states.

Kinchens fled the scene in white hatchback and police received information Kinchens may be on Maplewood Street; they canvassed the area and found the car he fled in at a home and later contacted Kinchens by phone. He agreed to meet officers and denied shooting at anyone. He was taken into custody and found with a 9mm round in his pocket, he said he found. He was arrested for two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and two counts of possession of ammunition or firearm by a convicted felon. He was released on $24,000 bond.  

California Man Accused of Stabbing Tavares Woman Bonds Out of Jail

TAVARES, FLORIDA—The California convicted murderer accused of stabbing and beating a Tavares woman in late July has bonded out of jail.

Oren Derell Warren, 57, of Sacramento, Calif. was being held on just $16,500 bond after a woman showed up at Tavares Police Department, beaten and bloody, on July 30, and said Warren repeatedly choked, beat and stabbed her. The victim had to be airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center due to the extent of her injuries.

Warren was found at the woman’s home with a knife on his hip and taken into custody. He was arrested for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, battery by strangulation, possession of a concealed weapon by a convicted felon, false imprisonment and deprivation of 911.

PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

The arresting officer requested a “no-bond” status, because of Warren’s criminal history, including a conviction for murder in California in 1984 and several other violent charges that were dismissed in California and Texas, in addition to Warren not having any ties to Florida except the victim.

However, the bond was set at $16,500 by Circuit Judge Michael Takac, a deviation from the bond schedule for the 5th Judicial Circuit, which includes Lake County. According to Administrative Order A-2014-12 A, the suggested bond is $29,000.

The bond schedule is merely a suggestion, and it is not a binding order, Takac told Inside Lake last month. He said he did not remember the particulars of Warren’s case at the time but stressed that bonds are not a punishment.

“In the eyes of the legal system, he is still presumed innocent. You don’t set bond to punish people, you set the bond to make sure they show up to court,” Takac said.

Warren, who bonded out Monday, has pleaded not guilty to all the charges. His next court date is scheduled for Sept. 27, and he is represented by Mona Payne, of the Public Defender’s Office.

Click below to read Inside Lake’s previous story on Oren Warren

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