Friday, January 29, 2010

On run for 18 years, convicted sex offender caught

A convicted sex offender on the run for 18 years was arrested Thursday, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office.

Michael Cherry, 48, was apprehended in in Washington, D.C., due to the joint efforts of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Fugitive Apprehension Unit and the Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force.

The two agencies have been sharing leads and information and yesterday took Cherry into custody after detectives confirmed he was living in a home on Wylie Street in the nation’s capitol.

Cherry was found hiding under a bed and then tried to provide false identification before ultimately admitting to being the wanted man.

Cherry was convicted of committing a lewd, lascivious or indecent assault on a 14-year-old girl and sentenced to five years probation, but fled in 1992.

He was arrested for violation of probation and will be brought back to Sarasota County.

Sheriff: Man shoots self in hand, gets arrested

MANATEE - A 22-year-old man shot accidentally shot himself in hand this morning, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

And Shaun R. Dewitt's day got worse when sheriff's deputies called to the hospital arrested him on two charges of violating a previous probation.

Shaun R. Dewitt was unloading his gun about 7:15 a.m. when it discharged, striking him in the left hand. Dewitt was in his apartment at the Cielo Apartments, 6904 Manatee Ave. W.

He was treated at Manatee Memorial Hospital, before being taken to jail.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

3 Manatee deputies honored for saving couple and cats from fire

Three Manatee County sheriff's deputies - Bryce Meade, John Lawson and Michael Gerholdt - this morning were honored for their roles in saving an elderly couple and their cats from an East Manatee house fire on Jan. 10.

Sheriff Brad Steube describes why they are not only January's Deputies of the Month, but also the recipeints of Distinguished Service Awards:
On the night of January 10th, 2010, Deputy Bryce Meade and Deputy John Lawson responded to a residence for an abandoned 911 call. Upon their arrival, they immediately observed a structure fire with flames and heavy smoke coming from inside. They yelled for anyone inside and a faint voice responded. Both deputies entered the residence and located a paralyzed elderly woman lying in a burning hospital bed and connected to medical tubes and wires. As Deputy Lawson was carrying the woman outside, the woman indicated that her husband and cats were still inside the residence. Deputy Meade went outside for a breath of fresh air and returned inside to find the man attempting to extinguish the fire. The man did not want to leave his residence, but she was able to remove him away from danger. Deputy Michael Gerholdt entered the residence and rescued the couple’s two cats before the fire consumed the home.

Deputy Meade, Lawson and Gerholdt risked their own personal safety and demonstrated teamwork and extraordinary bravery to prevent the loss of lives, for which they are awarded Deputy of the Month for January 2010 and the Distinguished Service Award.

2 gunmen rob Peggy's Corral

Two gunmen this morning robbed Peggy's Corral north of Palmetto. (File photo)

Most people are likely to comply with a demand delivered by a man with a gun to your face, but early this morning that wasn't enough for some patrons at Peggy's Corral to change what they were doing when two men robbed the biker bar on U.S. 41 north of Palmetto.

About 1:50 a.m., two armed men entered the bar and ordered everyone inside down on the ground. Two patrons did just that, but four others remained sitting at the bar, according to a news release from the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

One of the gunmen grabbed cash from the register and a tip jar. The other went to the office area and caused a video recorder to fall to the ground.

Four minutes after the robbery started, the suspects were gone, fleeing south through the parking lot and into a white Pontiac Grand Am, with license tag possibly starting with "AS."

No one was injured.

The suspects, who were each carrying handguns, were described as being in their late teens. One was dressed in all dark clothes, including a hoodie. The other was wearing a white T-shirt, dark shorts and a dark beanie-type cap, according to the sheriff's office.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Missing woman's parents draw 2,000 to safety event

In Sunday's editions, reporter Beth Burger examined the case of Jennifer Kesse, who disappeared exactly four years ago. Jennifer, a 24-year-old financial analyst, left her Orlando home on Jan 24, 2006, to go to work and has not been seen since.

Beth wrote of how Jennifer's parents, Drew and Joyce Kesse of Bradenton, have turned their vehicles into mobile billboards with images of Jennifer and phone numbers, hit the national television circuit, and started a Web site flooded with images of her and information about her case.

Each year, the Kesses hold an event in Orlando to educate the public about safety and collect other items such as blood and supplies for emergencies. This year's was Saturday night, and Drew Kesse e-mailed Beth the results:

500 fingerprinted, 35 pints of blood, 6 DNA swabbed for missing children in Orlando, cell phones, food and clothing collection filled an SUV. approx 2,000 people attended. did 3 life searches with dogs for crowd worked every time. It was all amazing and more than we could have asked for!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Red-light running sting results

Twenty-five traffic citations were doled out by the Traffic Enforcement Unit of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office on Thursday during a "Red Light Running" detail at 53rd Avenue West and 26th Street West in Bradenton.

Citations were issued for assorted violations such as red light running, seat belt violations and loud stereos. There also were two arrests for driving with a suspended or no drivers license.

The detail was from 3 to 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cable TV imposters knocking on doors

BRADENTONBradenton Police are investigating two separate incidents involving men who identified themselves as Bright House Networks employees and announced they were conducting "quality service" or a "service call."

The first reported incident occurred at Perico Apartments, 11000 Manatee Ave. W. at 9 p.m. Jan. 13. A female resident, speaking through the door and looking through the peephole, requested to see identification. The male quickly turned and walked away. She confirmed with Bright House that it had not sent a technician to her apartment, according to Bradenton Police.

A similar incident was reported at a residence in the 6900 block of Heritage Lane at 8 p.m. Jan. 19. The impostor quickly fled when the female resident told him that she didn’t have Bright House service.

Bradenton Police urge citizens to conduct conversations with unknown visitors through a closed door or a window.

Residents should also demand to see official identification that includes a photo of the person.
Anyone having information on these incidents is asked to call Detective Nasario Camacho at (941) 932-9312 or remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers (866) 634-TIPS (8477).

Man arrested after sex act with girl

MANATEE — A 34-year-old Ellenton man remained in jail Wednesday night after he was charged with sexually battering a girl, according to a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office arrest report.

Ronald Thomas is being held on $500,000 bond after he allegedly pushed and groped a girl and performed a sex act on her in an apartment complex last month.

Thomas was arrested Monday afternoon in the 1200 block of U.S. 301 N in Palmetto, according to reports.

Man accused of stealing from 93 year old

MANATEE — An Anna Maria man is accused of taking thousands of dollars from a 93-year-old woman by taking account starter checks totaling $7,000 and charging more than $12,000 to a credit card, according to a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office arrest report.

Phi D. Tran, who met the woman when he was working as an oxygen supplier, befriended her and began visiting her on a regular basis, according to reports. The transactions took place a few years ago and Tran told investigators he planned to pay back the money.

The woman’s granddaughter notified authorities about the transactions.

On Monday, Tran posted a $5,000 bond after he was charged with elderly exploitation, forgery and grand theft.

Sheriff's office looking for 4 suspects in kidnapping try

The Manatee County Sheriff's Office was looking for four men who investigators say attacked and tried to kidnap another man. Several gunshots were fired during the incident.

About 8:20 a.m., the 21-year-old victim was standing in the 3200 block of Canal Road in Palmetto when the suspects drove up in a early 1990s dark green Honda Civic.

Two of the suspects got out and asked the victim how much a truck on the side of the road was selling for. The victim said he did not know.

At that point, one of the suspects began fighting with the victim and ordering him into the vehicle. The victim was fighting back when a second suspect hit him on the back of the head with a handgun and fired three shots into the air, according to a sheriff's office news release.

The victim was able to get away by fleeing towards his nearby residence, and suspects fled north on Canal Road.

The victim suffered minor injuries, according to the sheriff's office.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Victim's mom: His death 'is nothing new in this town'

John Carl Ruger, right, was the first homicide victim of the year in Manatee County. With him in this photo are his brother Dan Gayler and mother Sondra Ruger.

Like so many family members of victims of Manatee’s worst year ever for homicides in 2009, 68-year-old Sondra Ruger stood in front of her Bradenton home and reflected on her son John Carl Ruger’s life, and sudden violent death this morning. It was the first homicide in Manatee this year.

“He didn’t deserve to die,” Sondra Ruger said. “I have nothing to live for now. He was my baby boy.”

Palmetto police say Ruger, 44, was shot in a parking lot behind a piano store sometime between midnight and 4 a.m., but a possible motive has not been released.

Sondra Ruger said her son spent time in the Navy while in his 20s, and as a talented machinist worked several jobs in the Bradenton area over the years, including at Tropicana.

Two years ago Ruger moved to North Carolina and began working at a factory there. But that job dried up in the down economy, and Ruger returned to Bradenton to live with his mother and brother, Dan Gayler, who suffers from cancer and is confined to his bed.

“He had been unemployed for nine months. He looked for work everywhere,” Sondra Ruger said. “He had worked since he was 13 years old, so he started to get bored and got involved with some bad people.”

As police continue to investigate leads, Ruger said she has one hope.

“I have had eight heart surgeries and am up for another one, so I am dying, I know that,” she said. “I just want to see whoever did this pay before I die. I lost my baby boy, but that is nothing new in this town.”

--- Robert Napper

First homicide of '10 ends Palmetto's lucky streak (UPDATED)

A record 27 people were victims of homicide in Manatee County last year, but not one of them was killed within the city limits of Palmetto.

That streak of good luck for Palmetto police ended this morning with the discovery of a man's body in an industrial park off U.S. 301.

In a news release this morning, police said John Carl Ruger, 44, of Bradenton had been shot to death.

His slaying is the first homicide within Palmetto's city limits since the Nov. 26, 2008, when Miguel Hernandez-Gomez was found shot to death behind a gas station in 700 block of Ninth Street West. No arrests have been made in that case.

The case is the first homicide of 2010 in Manatee County. Last year, the first homicide in the county occurred Jan. 5.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Man beaten up; wallet, cell phone stolen

A man was beaten up and his wallet and cell phone stolen just before 9 p.m. Wednesday in the 100 block of 60th Avenue Drive East, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Department.

According to a news release:

The victim was approached by two men, one armed with a hand gun, demanding the victim’s property. The suspect in a gray sweatshirt was armed with the handgun; he struck the victim on the head causing him to fall to the ground. The victim was struck once more on the back of his neck. The victim gave the suspects his wallet and cell phone. They then fled east from the scene. A perimeter was set and K-9 tracked with negative results.

The victim received a cut to the top of his head and was treated at the scene by E.M.S.

Units from Street Gangs and VCTF assisted patrol in the investigation.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Buchanan: Bureau of Prisons making progress on DNA backlog

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, continues to bird-dog the federal law enforcement bureaucracy - specifically, the Bureau of Prisons - as it works to chip away at the backlog of DNA samples waiting to be entered into federal databases.

Buchanan jumped on the issue after the arrest of Delmer Smith III, who is charged with four home invasion attacks in Sarasota and suspected of several others in Manatee and Sarasota. The FBI had Smith's DNA, taken before he was released from federal prison in 2008, but it was not entered into databases until after he was arrested for the home invasions and local authorities asked the FBI to compare it against evidence they had recovered.

Here is a news release from Buchanan's office on the meeting he had today with officials with the Bureau of Prisons:
Congressman Vern Buchanan (FL-13) met today with top officials from the federal Bureau of Prisons and was assured that efforts are moving ahead to erase a backlog of DNA samples waiting to be taken from inmates.

The Congressman was told that Bureau Director Harley Lappin this month asked for a review of Buchanan’s recommendation that an inmate’s history of violence be the highest priority in clearing its backlog so that criminals who represent the greatest public threat are profiled before they are released. Currently, the Bureau uses an inmate’s release date as the primary factor in collecting the DNA sample.

Once the DNA sample is taken, the information is stored in the FBI’s criminal database and used to identify and apprehend repeat offenders.

“I want to ensure law enforcement have the most up-to-date information available to apprehend suspects as quickly as possible,” said Buchanan. “The ones who represent the greatest threat should have their DNA coding made available ahead of the others."

Buchanan said he was very pleased with the response he received today after meeting with BOP Assistant Director Thomas Kane and Chief of the Office of Legislative Affairs, Jennifer Edens.

The Bureau of Prisons has a backlog of approximately 125,000 DNA samples to be taken from convicted offenders currently in federal prisons. Samples are now taken from new offenders as they enter, which was something Buchanan discussed last year with officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

“That will give the FBI an early jump on entering the data in to their system,” said Buchanan. “It will help ensure that the DNA is in the database tracking system before convicted criminals are released from jail.”

Last year, the Congressman received assurances from the FBI that they are working to eliminate the backlog of already collected samples that have not been entered into the federal database. Increased funding and better technology will help the system get up to date.

A recent string of crimes in the Sarasota-Bradenton region and the apprehension of a suspect, Delmar Smith, who had served time in a federal prison, has underscored the need for improvements in the DNA database. Smith had provided DNA to federal authorities before his release from federal prison in September of 2008, but it was not entered into the FBI database because of a backlog created by personnel shortages.

Authorities have said that if Smith’s DNA had been in the database, they might have apprehended him much sooner and prevented several violent crimes.

Crime drops in Bradenton for 6th year in a row

Crime in the city of Bradenton

Judging by the headlines this year - teens being shot to death, home invasions, etc. - 2009 was a very dangerous year in Manatee County and the city of Bradenton.

But the numbers, at least in some instances, tell a more hopeful story.

The Bradenton Police Department is patting itself on the back today, in wake of statistics showing that crime in the down dropped for the sixth year in a row in the city.

Here is the news release from the city:
The overall crime rate has dropped for the sixth consecutive year in the City of Bradenton.

Statistics released by the Bradenton Police Department show the crime rate fell five percent from 2008 to 2009. The crimes that are included in the overall crime rate are violent, or Part One, offenses. Those are murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, vehicle thefts and arson.

(The City experienced four murders in 2009 and each case was closed with an arrest. One justifiable homicide also occurred last year.)

Police Chief Michael Radzilowski credited the entire police department for its hard work and focus on reducing violent crimes.

“The police department provided outstanding professional police service to all sections of the City and it is only through handwork and neighborhood partnerships that together we celebrate this reduction,” the Chief said. “I congratulate the citizens who partnered in their neighborhoods with the police to make the City of Bradenton a better place to live, work, visit or conduct business.”

Crime in the City has dropped 32 percent since 2004, which Mayor Wayne Poston - also the City’s Police Commissioner - attributes to the department’s community policing efforts.

“Police agencies all over Tampa Bay are embracing our strategies of building trust and partnering with citizens in every community,” Mayor Poston said. “I am very proud of the Bradenton Police Department.”

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sheriff offering 'Operation Medicine Cabinet'

The Manatee County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday will hold an Operation Medicine Cabinet event, giving residents a chance to safely disposed of unused and expired medicines.

Safe disposal reduces the risk of medicine mix-ups, tainted dosing or the drugs ending up in the wrong hands, according to the sheriff's office.

There will also be presentations on Medicare and medication management.

The event will run from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at Freedom Village, 6406 21st Ave. W., Bradenton.

The sponsor is offering educational presentations, a goody bag and refreshments for those who attend.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

What does the cold mean for law enforcement?

We wondered Saturday how the weather was playing a role at the sheriff's office. Lt. Joel Perez, shift lieutenant for the north sector Saturday evening, gave us a glimpse.

"It seems as if the cold weather has had an effect on the number of people we are seeing walking out and about or on bikes," Perez said.

Also, patrol deputies normally stop people in high crime areas or people who are in places where the normal public would not be, he said. In the cold, the potential number of stops is down with fewer people out.

Have the cold temperatures had an impact on violent crime calls? Saturday marked one week of cold temperatures.

"The time frame for the cold spell has not been long enough to make that determination," he said.

Deputies also have a tougher job in the elements.

They sometimes have to work calls outdoors for long periods of time and, with dropping temperatures, that can make the job more difficult, he said.

"The average Florida cop is not really prepared for severe cold weather. It is a challenge for patrol officers and deputies to get them through nights like this because it could be very uncomfortable," he said.

Perez, who was wearing long johns with temperatures dropping in the 30s, said most cops don’t own thermals.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Man arrested for not registering as sex offender

A 25-year-old man was arrested this afternoon on charge of failing to register as a sex offender after he moved to Manatee from Delaware, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

Marcus D. Palacios was arrested about 3:45 p.m. at his residence in the 4500 block of 19th Street Circle West.

Sheriff's detectives began investigating Palacios, after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement advised that he may have been living in the area without registering as a sexual offender for a conviction in Delaware.

Manatee detectives determined that Palacios had been in the area for three months, according to a news release.

Palacios was being held at the Manatee County jail on $50,000 bond for a charge of failure to register as a sex offender.

Sheriff's office offering seminars on youth violence

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office is hosting two seminars on youth violence featuring nationally renowned expert on juvenile homicide, Phil Chalmers.

Since 2005, Chalmers has focused on issues of teen violence and school safety.

Chalmers is the author of “Inside the Mind of a Teen Killer."

The seminar will be offered from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 13 at Bayshore High School, 5401 34th St. W., Bradenton; and the next night, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at Braden River High School, 6545 S.R. 70 E., Bradenton.

The seminar is free and open to the public.

For more information on Phil Chalmers, go to

Holmes Beach P.D. to host crime forum

The Holmes Beach Police Department will hold a community crime prevention forum 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Holmes Beach City Hall Commission Chambers.

Speakers will include Chief Jay Romine, Lt. Dale Stephenson and Detective Mike Leonard. They will provide updates on recent burglary activity within the city, the progress made with apprehensions and offer tips on how citizens can protect their property.

For more information, call 708-5804.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Davis about to go to trial

Jury selection begins next week in the trial of Clifford A. Davis, 23, who has been incarcerated since being arrested Dec. 5, 2005, after he allegedly killed his mother, 43-year-old Stephanie Ann Davis, had sex with her dead body and then killed his grandfather, 77-year-old Joel C. Hill, according to court documents.

Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty in the case. Davis faces charges of first-degree murder, sexual abuse of a dead body and robbery.

A three-hour pretrial hearing Wednesday at Manatee County Judicial Center included about 25 motions that Judge Gilbert Smith heard and reserved judgment on

The trial is expected to last about two weeks.

Read more in Thursday's Herald.

SHERIFF'S OFFICE ALERT: Suspicious Vehicle / Possibly Looking to Abduct Child


East County Alert - SPECIAL ATTENTION to areas of Myakka and Duette

Location: 44-45000 Blocks of S.R. 64 East, Myakka
Suspect: White/Male Heavy Set with Facial Hair Middle Aged

On Christmas Eve, just before 5 PM, an unknown subject described above and driving what was described as a Red 2-door Sedan approached an 8-year old boy and tried to lure the boy closer to his vehicle by asking him if he wanted some candy. The boy was at the end of his driveway checking the mail while riding on his bicycle. The boy did not respond to the man and hurried back to his house and advised his mother of what happened.

So far, we have not been able to identify this subject and are asking the public's help with any possible information that may help lead to his identity. We also wanted to inform residents in your area of this so you can safeguard your children and look out for this subject.

If you know anything about this case that could lead to the identity of this subject, DO NOT REPLY TO THIS E-MAIL! Please contact Manatee Crimestoppers by e-mail at: or by phone at 1(866)634-TIPS (8477) and refer to MSO case #: 09-65306. You may be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000, if the subject turns out to be a person looking to abduct a child, and an actual arrest is made.

If you see a Red 2-door Sedan acting suspiciously in the area of children with a heavy set middle aged white male driving, please call 911 immediately! Don’t forget to get a good description of the subject and a tag, if possible, as well as a direction of travel.

Det. Todd Sellitto
(941)747-3011 Ext.1909

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Crime Trend - Vehicle Burglaries

Recently, at least 7 vehicles in Covered Bridge Estates were either burglarized or vandalized overnight with most of them having their windows broken. Some of the vehicles had been entered and had electronic items, such as stereos and speakers, taken, while others had nothing missing.

Nothing suspicious was reported to the sheriff's office during the time frame of when the crimes occurred. Just a quick reminder to report suspicious activity, including something as minor as your dog barking at nothing in the middle of the night, so we can respond and check on your neighborhood. The patrol deputy may not find anything but a marked patrol car driving through your neighborhood may very well scare off any potential thieves.

Recently, at least 6 vehicles were burglarized in the Creekwood subdivision area overnight. Car windows were broken out and small items in plain view were taken.

Please remember to remove any valuables from your vehicles and don't hesitate to report suspicious activity, including something as minor as your dog barking at nothing in the middle of the night. A marked patrol car driving through your neighborhood is sure to help deter theives.
Recently, at least 7 vehicles were burglarized between 17th Avenue West to 22nd Avenue West and 43rd Street West to 59th Street West during the overnight hours. Car windows were broken to gain entry into most of the vehicles. Taken were car stereos, GPS systems, lap top computers, i-Pods, and camera equipment.

While most can't remove their car radios, everyone can remove other valuable items to prevent them from being taken. When thieves make a big score, they are sure to come back for more. Please remove any valuables from your vehicles and don't hesitate to report suspicious activity, including something as minor as your dog barking at nothing in the middle of the night. A marked patrol car driving through the neighborhood is sure to scare off any thieves and, who knows, we may even catch them in the act.

Recently, at least 8 vehicles were burglarized overnight with mostly electronic items taken. Entry was gained by breaking a window. Two teenage boys on bicycles were seen around 4:30 AM the morning the burglaries were discovered by the girlfriend of one of the victims. They were described as white males, 15-16 years old, wearing black hoodies. They were not reported to the sheriff's office, though. They were seen just south of SR 70 on Greenbrook Blvd.


Recently, several vehicles in Kingsfield were burglarized overnight. Entry was made through unlocked doors and small items left in plain view were taken.
Deputy Steve Ogline
(941)747-3011 Ext.2586!