Tavares Police Searching for 2 Armed Robbers

TAVARES, Florida—Tavares Police Department is investigating an armed robbery that occurred shortly before 10 p.m. Saturday night, TPD Lt. Sarah Coursey told Inside Lake.

TPD patrol officers responded to Sun Foods, 1165 East Alfred Street after a customer reported the robbery, according to a report.

Two black males, with their faces covered, entered the store and demanded money from the clerk, the witness said. The robbers took an undisclosed amount of money from the register and one of the males fired a shot, hitting some canned sodas, and they fled the scene on foot, Coursey said.

A TPD detective responded, along with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office CSI unit and an LCSO K9. The K9 tracked north behind the store and near Caroline Court Apartments; the track was terminated at Caroline Street, the report states.  

If you have information on Saturday night’s robbery, call TPD at 352-343-2101, extension 4.

Man Arrested more than a Dozen Times since 2016 Accused of Fleeing Tavares Police

TAVARES, Florida—A man who is no stranger to the law has been arrested again—his 15th felony arrest in Lake County since 2016, according to Lake County Clerk of Court online records.

Austin Dean Chaudoin, 26, of Astatula is accused of fleeing Tavares Police officers Saturday and having drugs on him when a detective caught up with him Sunday, an arrest affidavit states.

A TPD detective was getting gas Saturday around 1 a.m. when he spotted Chaudoin pull up to a nearby gas pump. The detective recognized Chaudoin from past involvements and found the tag was expired on the white Dodge Durango Chaudoin was driving. A marked unit attempted to pull Chaudoin over on U.S. Highway 441 and Palm Gardens Street and he failed to yield and took off speeding, according to the affidavit.

Officers deactivated their emergency lights and sirens and terminated the traffic stop, driving the opposite way of Chaudoin.

The TPD detective went back to the gas station and Chaudoin was identified by the clerk and on video surveillance later that day. Around 3 a.m. Sunday, the detective was attempting to locate Chaudoin, and found him and the Durango at Rosewood Condominiums. Chaudoin was taken into custody and searched. TPD found a glass pipe, syringe and bag of white powder in his left front pocket and a small bag containing methamphetamine in his right pocket.

The detective asked Chaudoin if the white powder was “fetty,” a street term for fentanyl and he nodded his head, the affidavit states.

Chaudoin was arrested for fleeing and eluding, possession of methamphetamine, possession of fentanyl and possession of paraphernalia. He was transported to the Lake County Jail, where he was released on $17,000 bond.

Correction: Due to a typo, the original headline was incorrect and did not match information contained in the story. The current headline reflects the correction.

Man who Reportedly Jumped from Tavares Bridge Identified

TAVARES, Florida—The man who was found dead Wednesday after apparently jumping from Dead River Bridge has been identified by Tavares Police Department.

Michael Wayne Newman, 50, of the Bassville Park area of Leesburg was found after a witness reported seeing him jump from the bridge around 5 p.m. Wednesday, TPD Lt. Sarah Coursey told Inside Lake.  

First responders used sonar technology to quickly find Newman after receiving the report. There is no known cause of death at this time, “We are awaiting results from the medical examiner’s office,” Coursey said.

The case remains under investigation.

Body Located in Water During Search for Man Who Jumped from Dead River Bridge

TAVARES, Florida—A body has been found by first responders who were searching for a man who was spotted jumping off Dead River Bridge Wednesday afternoon.

The man had not been identified at press time. When he is identified, police must notify next of kin before releasing the man’s name.

A witness called Tavares Police Department shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday and reported seeing a man jump from Dead River Bridge and Tavares Police quickly responded and asked for assistance from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team, Lt. Sarah Coursey told Inside Lake.

A pair of shoes was found in the water near the scene and first responders used sonar technology to scan the water and found an anomaly. They began searching that area and found the body of a white male, Coursey said.

“At this time, there is no known cause of death or his intent when he jumped,” Coursey said Wednesday night.  

Tavares Man Reported for Reckless Driving on Golf Cart Arrested for DUI Friday

TAVARES, Florida—A call about a reckless golf cart driver landed a Tavares man in jail, for DUI Friday night after he ran from police and admitted he had been drinking wine all night and was drunk, according to an arrest affidavit.

Tavares Police responded to the downtown area around 9:15 p.m. Friday on a report of a man driving a golf cart who almost struck a pedestrian. The complainant stated the man was possibly drunk and possibly being aggressive with people. The man, later identified as Robert William Lodsin, 51, was pulling out of a parking lot as TPD arrived and an officer followed him several blocks until he pulled into a parking lot, according to the affidavit.

The officer stepped out and approached the golf cart and three passengers walked in one direction, while Lodsin jogged in another direction between two vehicles, causing the officer to lose sight of him, the affidavit states. A bystander spotted Lodsin and yelled out his location and officers found him walking very fast toward thick bushes.

PHOTO : Lake County Sheriff’s Office

They asked Lodsin to stop and he sprinted away before being caught by officers. Once he was caught, Lodsin, who has bloodshot eyes and slurred speech, began mumbling under his breath about someone telling him to run and he just wanted to go home, the officer noted in the affidavit. He then stated he did not mean to run.

Officers asked Lodsin to perform field sobriety exercises and he consented and “showed his normal faculties were impaired,” the officer stated in the affidavit. Lodsin was transported to the Lake County Jail where he refused a breath test and said his friends told him to run, so he decided to park and take off because he had been drinking wine all night and was drunk. He was released Saturday on $1,000 bond.

Young Woman Killed in State Road 44 Crash Identified

EUSTIS, Florida—The woman killed in a crash Tuesday morning in unincorporated Eustis has been identified as Rebecca Daily, by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Explorer Post 60.

In a Facebook post Wednesday, LCSO Explorer Post 60 stated, “We are heartbroken today as we let our supporters and past members and friends know of a big loss to our post family. Rebecca Daily, a post member for 5 years died tragically in a vehicle accident yesterday in Eustis. Rebecca was 21 years old. Prayers for her family, and friends as we all grieve this unbelievable loss.”

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Daily was westbound on State Road 44 near Bottany Woods Drive just after 8:30 a.m. in a 2003 Ford Ranger when she veered onto the shoulder, overcorrected and entered the eastbound path of a 2021 Ford Ranger hauling a trailer and being driven by a 45-year-old Groveland man, according to FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi.

PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office Explorer Post 60

The two Rangers collided, and the 2021 Ranger overturned and came to a final rest on its roof, the driver suffered minor injuries and was not transported to the hospital. Daily, of Leesburg, was pronounced dead on the scene. Both drivers were wearing their seatbelts.

The crash closed State 44 for several hours and remains under investigation.

Man Admits to Using Heroin Before Tavares Crash that Killed 75-year-old Woman

TAVARES, Florida—The man arrested for vehicular manslaughter in the death of a 75-year-old woman Friday told medical personnel and a Tavares Police officer he used heroin about an hour before the crash, according to an arrest affidavit.

Brenten Kyler Salerno, 26, is accused of fleeing the head-on crash that killed Melissa Ellen Kroeger, 75, shortly before 2 p.m. Friday. Kroeger was in a 2021 white Kia SUV on Dead River Road near Oak Drive when she was struck by a 2008 gray Nissan Altima being driven Salerno, of Leesburg. Salerno fled the crash scene and was located by a TPD officer a brief time later at Tavares Cemetery, less than half a mile away, and he admitted he was in the crash, according to the affidavit.

Witnesses told TPD Salerno’s Nissan was speeding on Dead River Road when he lost control in a curve; Salerno left the roadway, overcorrected and swerved into the eastbound land where he struck Kroeger’s Kia head-on. The impact was so hard, the witness said, it caused the Nissan to “spin into the air.” Salerno then exited the car and fled the scene, according to the affidavit. Two additional witnesses told TPD they saw Salerno flee the scene.

Once in custody, Salerno, who was in a “panicked state” told police he fled because he was trying to find help and said he knew his driver license was suspended. A passenger in his vehicle, who did not flee, first said he did not know Salerno, but later admitted he did know Salerno and he lied, according to the affidavit. Inside Lake is not naming the passenger because he was not charged with a crime.

Brenten Kyler Salerno PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

The passenger, Salerno and Kroeger were transported to AdventHealth Waterman, where Kroeger succumbed to her injuries about an hour after the crash. During his medical evaluation, Salerno admitted to using heroin about an hour before the crash, the affidavit states. Salerno had signed an “implied consent warning” for a blood draw, but revoked his consent after finding out Kroeger died, the affidavit states. Salerno told TPD to obtain a search warrant for his blood and he wanted to speak to his lawyer.

TPD obtained the search warrant and conducted a blood draw before placing Salerno under arrest for vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of a crash with death, driving while license suspended and failure to register a motor vehicle. He was transported to the Lake County Jail, where he is being held on no bond. The results of the blood draw—which usually takes several months—may upgrade the charge to DUI manslaughter, the arresting officer noted in the affidavit.

“A further investigation conducted by our Traffic Homicide Unit will reveal further facts and details about what occurred,” TPD Public Information Officer Courtney Sullivan told Inside Lake last week. “Upgraded charges are possible, pending blood draw results.”

Salerno is no stranger to legal trouble. He was arrested May 7 for numerous drug charges including possession of fentanyl with intent to sell following a traffic stop in Fruitland Park. According to that arrest affidavit, Salerno was driving a “silver” Nissan, likely the same car he was driving when he struck Kroeger. Salerno has been arrested 10 times in Lake County since 2018.

Fatality Closes Major Tavares Intersection Tuesday

TAVARES, Florida—Tavares Police Department in investigating a crash that resulted in the death of one person Tuesday morning, according to TPD Public Information Officer Courtney Sullivan.

The crash occurred around 10:30 a.m. at the intersection of Dora Avenue and David Walker Drive and closed the intersection and a portion of Dora Avenue. At press time, the road had been closed for more than two hours.

One person was killed and TPD is not releasing the person’s identity, pending notification of next of kin, Sullivan said.

This is a developing story.

Leesburg Man Arrested for Vehicular Manslaughter in Death of Tavares Woman Friday

TAVARES, Florida—A 75-year-old Tavares woman was killed Friday afternoon in what Tavares Police Department believes was a head-on crash, according to TPD Public Information Officer Courtney Sullivan.

Melissa Ellen Kroeger was in a 2021 white Kia SUV on Dead River Road near Oak Drive shortly before 2 p.m. Friday when she was struck, possibly head-on, by a 2008 gray Nissan Altima being driven by Brenten Kyler Salerno, 26, of Leesburg.

“The accident appears to be a head-on collision,” Sullivan said. “A further investigation conducted by our Traffic Homicide Unit will reveal further facts and details about what occurred.”

Brenten Kyler Salerno PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

Salerno fled the scene on foot and was located by TPD officers further down Dead River Road, Sullivan told Inside Lake. He admitted he was driving the Altima and TPD arrested him for vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of a crash with death, driving on a suspended license and failure to register a motor vehicle.

“Upgraded charges are possible, pending blood draw results,” Sullivan said.

Kroeger, who was responsive on the scene, was extracted from her Kia by Tavares Fire Department and transported to a local hospital, where she later died, Sullivan said. A male passenger in Salerno’s Nissan was not injured.

Salerno is being held in the Lake County Jail on no bond.

Man Dropped Off at Hospital with Multiple Gunshot Wounds, Expected to Survive

TAVARES, Florida—A man was shot multiple times early Sunday, causing AdventHealth Waterman Hospital to be placed on lockdown, according to Tavares Police Department.

Marcus McGowan, 28, was dropped off by two females at the hospital with four gunshot wounds to his arms and legs, Eustis Police Chief Craig Capri told Inside Lake.  He is expected to survive. Police have identified the females who dropped him off, an EPD detective close to the investigation told Inside Lake.

The shooting caused AdventHealth Waterman Hospital to be placed on lockdown, TPD Public Information Officer Courtney Sullivan told Inside Lake. Lockdowns are a precautionary measure, commonly used following shootings and other violent crimes.

The lockdown began shortly before 3:30 a.m. and lasted less than an hour, Sullivan said.   

EPD is investigating the shooting, and McGowan is not being very cooperative, Capri said. He told detectives he was walking down County Road 44 near Alee Academy when two cars, a Ford Taurus and a black Chevrolet Camaro stopped, an individual jumped out and shot him.

Police are asking anyone with information to call EPD detectives at 352-357-4121.

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