Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Manatee sheriff's officials looking for two alleged scammers



The Manatee County Sheriff's Office has issued a look-out for two alleged con men who have rented heavy equipment and turned around and pawned it. One of the suspects was convicted last year of running a similar scam.

Here is the sheriff's office news release, issued this morning:
Detectives continue to investigate two subjects involved in a rental scam. Adam Arena, DOB 7-23-73, and Daniel Hensley, DOB 10-5-60, have been involved in a scam where they rent heavy equipment and then pawn the equipment.

Arena was arrested last June and charged with multiple counts of theft. He is awaiting sentencing on these charges but was out of jail in between 9-28-09 and 2-3-10 when he arrested again for violation of probation.

Detectives believe he may have committed additional scams during the time he was out of jail. Authorities are searching for Hensley as he has an active warrant for Grand Theft and is a known associate of Arena.

Detectives are trying to determine if any Tampa Bay area rental companies have been recent victims of thefts of heavy equipment. Anyone with information is asked to call the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office at 941-747-3011, ext. 2506 or Crime Stoppers at 866-634-TIPS.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sarasota sheriff takes in 100 guns during event

Sarasota residents turned in more than 100 firearms on Saturday to the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office as part of the agency's latest effort at providing a safe way to dispose of the weapons.

The gun turn-in event brought in 103 firearms in exchange for $50 gift certificates to various local businesses. It is the second such an event in Sarasota, with 250 weapons turned in during a similar operation in December. The weapons will all be destroyed, according to sheriff's spokeswoman Wendy Rose.

Last year, Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube held a gun buyback event in September in the wake of a wave of violence last year that resulted in the most homicides ever in Manatee.

In that event, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office took in 395 weapons and paid out $33,000 for them. The weapons bought during the operation were also destroyed.

--- Robert Napper

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Manatee deputies honored for fire rescues

MANATEE — Three Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies were honored this week for going into a burning residence and rescuing two elderly occupants and their pets.

An Exceptional Duty Commendation was presented to Michael Gerholdt, John Lawson and Bryce Meade by Southern Manatee Fire Rescue Fire Commissioners and Fire Chief Foster Gover in a ceremony Thursday night at the fire commissioners’ monthly meeting.

On Jan. 10, Gerholdt, Lawson and Meade pushed through heavy smoke to disconnect the woman from medical equipment, lift her off a bed and carry her to safety. Her husband and two cats were pulled to safety by the deputies shortly afterward.

Lawson and Meade required medical treatment for smoke inhalation before returning to work that night.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Citizen’s Police Academy in Palmetto

Palmetto Police Department has an upcoming Citizen’s Police Academy scheduled to start March 9.

The Academy will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. every Tuesday night from March 9 through April 27.

Academy participants will learn about the different units and operations at the police department, as well as take part in interactive demonstrations designed to get a better understanding of what it is like to be a police officer.

The Palmetto Police Department’s Citizen’s Academy is open to all City of Palmetto residents over 18 years old. Attendees must also pass a background check. The class size is limited to the first 12 applicants.

To apply or for more information, contact Lt.Scott Tyler at (941)723-4587, ext. 360.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Several women involved in Delmer Smith investigation

Accused murder suspect Delmer Smith III had a lot of women in his life during the time authorities say he attacked several women in their homes, and bludgeoned Kathleen Briles to death in her Terra Ceia home.

Investigators say the women had no knowledge of the crimes he is accused of, but they all became part of the investigation that led to Smith's arrest on murder, home invasion robbery, sexual battery and false imprisonment charges.

Smith, 38, a former federal inmate of 15 years for bank robbery, has been charged with attacking four women in their Sarasota homes, raping two, and killing Briles by hitting her in the head with a sewing machine during a home invasion robbery.

In the less than a year, four women had contact with Smith after authorities say Smith divorced a 61-year-old Bradenton woman he met as pen pal while in prison, and with whom he lived with here after his September 2008 release from prison.

But that only lasted two months as Smith began dating a woman he met who worked at a Bradenton Home Depot store, according to court records.

He quickly moved into the North Port home of the 37-year-old in November 2008 and they began a relationship.

As they lived together until August 2009, Smith began coming home with computers, iPods, a 50-inch television and other electronics, even though the girlfriend later told detectives she never saw Smith with a paycheck from jobs he claimed to have.

Meanwhile detectives began investigating a string of attacks in which as many as 11 women were severaly beaten and robbed in their homes between February and May. Then in August, Palmetto Dr. James Briles returned home to find his wife beaten to death in their living room.

Sometime during the relationship, Smith became romantically involved with another 37-year-old woman who lived on the same street as Smith's live-in girlfriend. The second relationship led to a pregnancy, and Smith's live-in girlfriend told detectives she kicked him out of her house in August.

Smith continued to date the woman pregnant with his child, and a third woman in the North Port area, but was soon arrested on Aug. 14 after a Venice bar fight.

Federal authorities arrested him for violating his probation and he began making calls to the women to empty out a storage bin filled with electronice and wepaons, court records show.

"I need you to go to storage, it's very important, there's something in there that shouldn't be," Smith told his girlfriend during a recorded phone call from jail.

The woman emptied the storage bin, but later called authorities and told them of the items, which were later found to include laptops stolen during four violent home invasion attacks, and items stolen from the Briles home. Detectives also found Smith's DNA in the homes where the four attacks took place, according to records.

Smith was found to have been living in the Capri Isles condominium of a fourth woman at the time of his arrest. All four women have been questioned and cooperated with authorities during the investigation into Smith.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Facts and figures about Florida's death penalty

If Martin Edward Grossman is put to death tonight, as scheduled, his will be the 69th execution in Florida since 1979, when the practice was resumed in the state, and the first since Feb. 11, 2009, when John R. Marek was given a lethal injection.

Here are a few more facts about the death penalty in Florida, as taken from the death row section of the Florida Department of Corrections Web site:
- Grossman would be the fourth person convicted in Pinellas County to be executed since 1979. The most recent execution of an inmate convicted in Pinellas was Amos King, on Feb. 26, 2003.

- King also spent the most time on death row before being executed -- 25.62 years.

- No one convicted in Manatee or Sarasota has been executed since 1979.

- The counties that have seen the most prisoners executed are Duval, with nine; and Miami-Dade and Orange, with eight each.

- There are currently 395 inmates on Florida's death row, including three convicted in Manatee - Melvin Trotter, Daniel Burns and Blaine Ross - and seven convicted in Sarasota - Jerry Correll, Emanuel Johnson, Ernest Whitfield, Robert Trease, John Troy, Joseph Smith and Michael King. (There currently is an active death warrant for Trease, but an execution date has not been set.)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sheriff seeking tips on Smith's whereabouts after Briles was killed

MANATEE — Delmer Smith III was in the Oneco area immediately after Kathleen Briles was killed in her Terra Ceia home last summer, and sheriff’s investigators hope someone knows what he was doing, an official said today.

Smith has been served with a warrant charging him with murder in the Aug. 3 death of Briles.
Detectives said Smith, 38, bludgeoned her to death with an iron antique sewing machine during a burglary.

“We believe he was in the area of 15th Street East and 53rd Avenue East after the homicide, in the Oneco area,” said Dave Bristow, a spokesman for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. “We believe he was there approximately two hours.”

“We want to know what he was doing, who he was with, anything informational. There’s still a reward of $50,000 on the table,” Bristow said.

Investigators think Smith was in the area from 4 to 7 p.m. Aug. 3, Bristow said.

The Briles' son, Calvin, also urged anyone to come forward during an interview with the Bradenton Herald. He also pointed to the fact that Smith is being held in the Sarasota County jail without bond.

"You can do it anonymously, or if not, people should not be scared. He is not getting out of jail anytime soon," Calvin Briles said.

Anyone with information can call the sheriff’s office at (941) 747-3011 or to remain anonymous, they can call the sheriff’s office tip line at (866) 634-8477, he said.

--- Sara Kennedy and Robert Napper

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Video of news conference on arrest of Delmer Smith III

Here's the video from Thursday's news conference on the arrest of Delmer Smith III in the Aug. 3 slaying of Kathleen Briles.

Commenting are Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube and Briles' widower, Dr. James Briles.

Dr. Briles says man charged with killing his wife is a 'coward'

MANATEE – Dr. James Briles called the man authorities say bludgeoned his wife to death with a sewing machine during a home invasion burglary a “coward,” during a press conference announcing the arrest of Delmer Smith on a murder charge .

Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube told a room full of media of Smith’s arrest, before Briles spoke on behalf of two of their three children who attended the press conference. One of the Briles sons is in the U.S. Army serving in Iraq.

“Let me say a little bit about Delmer Smith,” Briles said. “He is a coward, a sociopath and a punk. His sole purpose is to inflict suffering.”

Briles went on to say Smith deserves “no quarter,” and that he is not only in jail to protect the public from him, but to “protect him from us.” He spoke of his anger, and the horrifying discovery of his wife, beaten to death and gagged on the living room floor of their Terra Ceia home.

“Am I angry? Oh yeah,” he said. “You’d understand that if you saw what I saw when I came home.”

When a television reporter asked family members if Smith’s arrest had brought any closure, Briles’ daughter emphatically said no.

“I am sad for my mother, I am sad for my family, and I am sorry we live in a society with people this bad,” said Kristin Venema.

Reports: Intruder used sewing machine to kill Briles

An affidavit Manatee County Sheriff's Office investigators filed to obtain a warrant charging Delmer Smith III in the slaying of Kathleen Briles describes in gruesome detail what detectives found when they arrived ah her Terra Ceia home on Aug. 4.
On August 3rd, 2009, Kathleen Briles was found deceased in her home by her spouse. Her spouse Dr. James Briles attempted to reach her via cell phone at 1936 hours, but the phone went unanswered. He arrived home at 1950 hours and discovered her body bound, hands and feet, as well as her mouth gagged. It appeared she had also been struck about her head with a cast iron antique sewing machine which was subsequently found to have caused her death.

The initiation of this investigation disclosed BRILES was last seen alive at the Publix Store in Palmetto, Florida, where she checked out after a grocery purchase at 1536 hours. On test drives, investigation revealed that it should have have taken her approximately six and a half (6.5) minutes to drive home.
The affidavit also details how investigators built their case against Smith, namely by tracing items taken from the Briles home to a storage locker kept by the suspect.

Detectives also used his cell phone against him:
Delmer SMITH was developed as a person of interest and that he had a cellular phone, which the number was obtained and a search initiated to find his whereabouts during the time frame of this incident. It was discovered he used his phone at 1544 hours on August 3rd, 2009 for eight (8) seconds and his signal was recorded off of tower number 304 located at 910 77th Street East, Rubonia, Florida, which is 1.2 miles from the victim's home. Further investigation disclosed that the phone owned by Delmer Smith activated the southwest receiver on this cell phone tower in a direct line with the crime scene.

Sheriff : Delmer Smith killed Kathleen Briles

Dr. James and Kathleen Briles

Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube just told Bradenton Herald reporter Robert Napper that his investigators have charged Delmer Smith, a suspect in several home invasion attacks in Manatee and Sarasota, with killing Kathleen Briles in her Terra Ceia home last August.

Read the story here.

Here's a timeline in the case:
Feb. 22, 2009 – Officials first recover the DNA of a man who attacked a Sarasota woman in her home.

April 28 – The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office announces that that evidence matches DNA found at the scene of another home invasion attack. Investigators, however, are not able to identify who the DNA belongs to.

Aug. 3 – Palmetto Dr. James Briles finds his wife beaten to death and bound in their Terra Ceia living room. According to sheriff's reports, she was killed by a blow to the head by a sewing machine.

Oct. 5 – Sarasota sheriff’s officials announce the arrest Delmer Smith III in four invasions in which several women were beaten, and two raped. Sarasota Sheriff Tom Knight also announceds that Smith is a former convicted felon and the FBI had his DNA throughout the attacks.

Oct. 6 – A Bradenton Herald investigation reveals Smith’s DNA had not been entered into a federal database due a backlog at the FBI's laboratory.

Oct. 21 – Dr. Briles make a public plea for information on the killing of his wife.A $50,000 reward is offered for any information that leads to an arrest.

Feb. 11 - Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube announces that Smith is being charged with killing Kathleen Briles. He said items found in a storage bin used by Smith were taken from her home during the attack.

Source: Bradenton Herald archives.

Man robbed twice in less than a week by same suspects

MANATEE – A man has been robbed twice by the same four suspects in less than a week, according to a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office report.

The victim, who told deputies he resides behind El Paisano, 5803 15th St. E., in one of the warehouses, was retrieving his bicycle late Wednesday when two men and two women pulled up in an unknown vehicle and pushed him down. According to the report, they stole cash, a brown leather wallet and two bicycle lights the victim said he had just purchased.

During the investigation, the victim told deputies that the same suspects beat him with a stick and punched him late Saturday night in the 1400 block of 57th Avenue East, the report said. In that incident, the suspects stole cash and the victim sustained a cut to his mouth. He did not seek medical attention.

One of the male suspects was said to be wearing a red-and-white checkered jacket, while the other had blond, curly hair.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Anti-child abuse agency offers tips for better parenting

Leonard Payne Sr. reportedly told Manatee County Sheriff's Office investigator that he beat his 9-year-old son with a piece of a plastic toy after the child tried to rub his feces on his younger brother.

Payne, he told detectives, "wanted to teach him a lesson," according to a sheriff's office report.

If true - and Payne, like others arrested by law enforcement, is presumed innocent - perhaps it was Payne who needed to be taught a few lessons on how to be a better parent.

Manatee Children's Services
, a local non profit that aims to break the cycle of child abuse in the county, offers a Top 10 list that Payne and other parents can follow:
Be a role model.

Spend time with your children.

Praise your children.

Show affection.

Be a teacher.

Respect your children.

Listen to your children.

Discipline with love.

Realize your job is never done.

Ask for help.

--- Marc R. Masferrer

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Photos from Myakka City homicide scene

An argument over a goat may have cost a 43-year-old man his life on Tuesday, after a family squabble blew up into gun play at his home east of Myakka City, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

Here are a few photos from the crime scene, from the Bradenton Herald's Paul Videla.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Web site: 184 have died after jumping from Skyway since '57

According to an unofficial - albeit comprehensive, if somewhat uncomfortable-t0-read - Web site, Amber Rose Syme on Monday morning became the first person in 2010 confirmed to have jumped to her death off the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Here's the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office's account of what happened:
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office responded to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in reference to an individual that had jumped off the bridge. Investigation revealed that the victim, Amber Syme parked her Kia on the center span, walked over to the rail and jumped.

Her body was recovered by authorities from St. Petersburg and the body was then turned over to the Medical Examiners Office.
Additional details, as provided by passing motorists and others, are available at Skyway Jumper Pool, a self-described "irreverent" repository of information about the Skyway's appeal to too many people looking to end their lives.

According to the site, Syme was the 184th person since 1957 to commit suicide off the Skyway or its predecessor. Another 30 jumpers have been rescued after hitting the water.

Syme would have turned 29 on April 13.

--- Marc R. Masferrer

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Driver eludes Manatee deputies

MANATEE — Deputies followed a white Chevy Caprice after it came back with a stolen tag Thursday night on 24th Street West, according to authorities.

The vehicle did not crash and no one was injured after it was stopped inside Parkway Villas on Coral Way. The driver, and possibly another person, fled from the car.

Deputies searched the area and could not locate the driver at about 9 p.m. Thursday. Deputies observed the same vehicle with a different stolen tag the night before with as many as four occupants, according to authorities.

Anyone with any information can contact the sheriff’s office at 747-3011 or remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at (866) 634-TIPS (8477).

-- Beth Burger,

Some advice for Super Bowl Sunday

If you plan to drink on Super Bowl Sunday, don’t forget to designate a sober driver.

That’s the advice of Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight, who has joined forces with the National Football League, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other state and local highway safety and law enforcement agencies to remind everyone to act responsibly this weekend.

“Super Bowl Sunday is one of America’s biggest national sporting events as people gather to watch the big game,” Knight said. “Yet, it is also one of the nation’s most dangerous days on the roadways due to impaired driving.”

Hosting a Super Bowl party?

Knight offers these tips:

• Remember, hosts can be held liable and prosecuted if someone you served ends up in an impaired driving crash.

• Make sure guests designate sober drivers in advance, or help arrange ride-sharing with other sober drivers.

• Serve lots of food and offer lots of nonalcoholic beverages.

• Keep numbers for local cab companies handy, and take keys away from anyone who is thinking of driving impaired.

If you are attending a Super Bowl party:

• Avoid drinking too much alcohol too fast.

• If you drink too much, find a sober driver.

• Regardless of whether or not you drink, if you’re going to be on the road after the game, buckle up.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Police: Look out for fake Bright House employees

Bradenton Police are currently investigating two separate incidents involving men who identify themselves to resident as Bright House Network employees and tell them they have come to conduct “quality service” or a “service call," according to a news release.

The first reported incident occurred at the Perico Apartments, 11000 Manatee Ave. W., at 9 p.m. Jan. 13. During this incident a man described as being in his 20’s, standing 5 feet, 7 inches to 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighing 150 to 170 pounds with black hair (short on the sides and back, thicker on top), and wearinga dark blue zip-up jacket and blue jeans, knocked on the apartment door and stated that he was Bright House, officials said.

The female resident, speaking through the door and observing through the peephole, requested to see the man's identification. He quickly turned and walked away. She confirmed then with Bright House that they had no technician in the area and was told to call the police.

The second incident occurred at a residence in the 6900 block of Heritage Lane at 8 p.m. Jan. 19. During this incident a man knocked on the door and told the female resident that he was with Bright House and was there for a service call. The man quickly fled when the female resident told him that they did not have Bright House service at the residence, according to police. No description of the man was provided.

Bradenton Police urged resident to use simple precautions to safe guard their lives and property. Police recommend that you conduct conversations with unknown visitors throug” a closed door or window. Demand to be shown official identification which includes a photo of the person. Contact the company or business represented by the person for verification of the visit.

If you have anyone posing as a Bright House employee or any other type of service provider who flees when confronted with identifying themselves, call 911 immediately. Without opening your door, try to get the best description possible and a direction and method of travel.

Anyone having information about these incidents can call Bradenton Police Department Detective Nasario Camacho at (941) 932-9312, the Bradenton Police Department at (941) 932-9300 or to remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000, call Crime Stoppers (toll free)at 1-866-634-8477 (TIPS) or send an anonymous eTip thru the Web at

Monday, February 1, 2010

Bradenton police officer to be honored for saving motorist

Officer Danny Bench

Quick action by a Bradenton police officer last month saved the life of a motorist, and has earned him one of the department's top honors.

Here's the news release from the department:
Master Patrol Officer Danny Bench of the Bradenton Police Department will be presented with the Medal of Merit for his role in saving the life of a man who suffered a heart attack.

The Medal of Merit is the police department’s third-highest honor.

On Wednesday, Jan. 13, a 69-year-old man was driving westbound in the 2500 block of Manatee Avenue West around 9:30 p.m. when he suffered a heart attack, causing him to lose control of his vehicle, which crashed through a hedge surrounding a parking lot and into a concrete support pole.

Witnesses rushed to the scene and called 911. The Bradenton Police Department Dispatch Center immediately put the call over the police radio advising of a crash with an unresponsive driver.

Master Patrol Officer Bench had just finished an off-duty security detail and was on his way home when the call went out. He was a block away from the crash scene at the time and was the first emergency responder to arrive on scene. He approached the vehicle and observed that the driver was in fact unresponsive and confirmed that the driver had no pulse.

MPO Bench then pulled the driver from the vehicle and called for Emergency Medical Service assistance and initiated CPR. MPO Bench continued administering CPR until paramedics arrived and took over. Paramedics continued working on the driver as they transported him to Manatee Memorial Hospital. Once there, the medical staff was able to resuscitate him and stabilize his condition to the point where he was breathing on his own.

The actions of MPO Bench exemplify the highest tradition and professional standards of the Bradenton Police Department.

MPO Bench has served with the Bradenton Police Department since 1998. He is currently assigned to the School Resource Officer program.