Thursday, December 29, 2011

2012 stories from inside the courtroom

By Laura C. Morel
Crime/Immigration Reporter

With every new year comes new stories.

The year 2012 will include lots of trial stories for the Bradenton Herald. From Delmer Smith III's trials to Kieron James' arraignment, here's a look at what court dates the Bradenton Herald will be covering (and definitely live tweeting, too) this coming new year:

Jan. 6: Kieron James, the driver who allegedly fatally struck 5-year-old Kimora Samuel earlier this month, has his arraignment scheduled for this date. James turned himself in and admitted to authorities that he hit Kimora while driving his girlfriend's Kia. He pleaded not guilty, court records show.

Feb. 6: The trial for Gregory Kennon is slated to begin. Kennon, 24, is charged with first-degree murder and armed burglary. On July 12, 2009, Kennon and two others barged into an apartment in DeSoto Village Apartments and fired shots. One gunshot struck Crystal Johnson, who was six months pregnant, in the chest. She and her baby died.

Feb. 27: Delmer Smith III, who was sentenced to life in prison this week for breaking into and ransacking a Sarasota home after tying up an elderly woman, will be in court next year, too. In this case, Smith allegedly grabbed a 61-year-old woman from behind and forced her into her Bradenton home, an arrest warrant affidavit shows. Once inside, Smith placed a gun to the victim’s face and said, “Where is your purse ... I need crack,” the affidavit shows.

July 16: Smith is slated to be in court once again, this time for a murder charge. He is charged with bludgeoning Kathleen Briles to death with an antique sewing machine in her Terra Ceia home on Aug. 3, 2009. He also faces a burglary charge. If found guilty of murder, he could face the death penalty.

If you're on Twitter and want the most recent news on Smith's trials, you can look at my live tweets from inside the courtroom, ending with the hashtag #smithtrial.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Reader's tip leads to sex offender's arrest

When editor Marc Masferrer looked at this morning's arrest list, he recognized one name: Cedrick Lane.

He asked me to call the Manatee County Sheriff's Office and find out the circumstances of Lane's arrest. He was on our "Featured Fugitives" gallery, Marc pointed out, so it *might* be a tip from one of our readers.

He was right.

Detective Dan Hutto called me back and confirmed my editor's suspicions. Someone who saw Lane's mugshot on our website recognized him. Lane was arrested for failing to register as a sex offender. 

Other readers have phoned in tips to authorities after clicking through the array of mugshots posted on our "Featured Fugitives" gallery. Hutto sends the newspaper photos every week of people wanted by the sheriff's office.

Another suspect arrested last week was also recently featured on the list. SUR 13 gang member Britney Vela, 19, was arrested for racketeering charges.

Here's this week's "Featured Fugitives" gallery, updated every week.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A $1,000 misunderstanding at the Palmetto gun buyback

By Laura C. Morel
Crime/Immigration Reporter

It was a gun buyback to remember.

Not just because only one firearm was turned in during the New Life General Baptist Church's first gun buyback event on Saturday.

A second man walked into the church to turn in a Glock. But when he found out he would only get a $50 Visa gift card, he couldn't believe it.

He swore he'd read in the Bradenton Herald that residents would receive $1,000 in exchange for a gun.

"Fifty dollars?" he said. "That's not worth it."

The man walked out of the church, gun in hand.

Outside in his car, he showed me the article.

Here's the line that led to the confusion: "Palmetto police donated $1,000 to the buyback, and the church chipped in another $300 to purchase the gift cards. But Parker said the church needs more money to buy as many gift cards as possible."

I pointed to the last five words. "Ohhhh," he said, adding, "I just needed money."

He got in his car and left.

Pastor McArthur Sellars chuckled. "Just a misunderstanding," he said.

Friday, December 16, 2011

List of 48 child predators arrested in FDLE investigation

Laura C. Morel
Crime/Immigration Reporter

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced Thursday that 48 child predators were arrested after a six-month computer sex crimes investigation was conducted.

The investigation, which began in July, was dubbed Operation Amalgamate. 

And in case you were wondering, the word "amalgamate" means "to bring or combine together or with something else," according to Webster's dictionary.

FDLE's Computer Crime Center and Attorney General Pam Bondi's Child Predator Cybercrime Unit conducted the investigation.

Their findings: "child sex predators in chat rooms, utilizing instant messaging, texting, dating sites, social networks and even online classified ads," an FDLE media release said.

I called FDLE's public information office to check if any of the suspects were from Manatee County. They sent me an e-mail listing the suspects. None are from Manatee. There is one from Sarasota.

In case you're curious, here's the list:

Barnes, Christopher M., 08-31-87, Tampa – Hillsborough County

Two counts computer pornography; one count attempted sexual battery

Belledent, Karl Edwin, 03-26-96, N. Miami – Miami-Dade

One count computer pornography, four counts of sexual battery, four counts of sexual performance by a child; one count of extortion

Billings, Michael D., 06-11-69, Leesburg – Volusia

Two counts computer pornography; one count of unlawful use of a two-way communication device

Blyth, Dennis Richard, 11-25-47, Daytona Beach – Volusia

Two counts computer pornography; one count of unlawful use of a two-way communication device

Brandstedter, Cristy, 01-23-49, Land O Lakes – Pasco

10 counts of child pornography

Briggs, James Michael, 11-28-61, Fort Myers – Hardee

Two counts computer pornography; one count of unlawful use of a two-way communication device

Brown, Gene Hamilton, 02-01-61, Cantonment – Escambia

Three counts of child pornography

Brown, Kris Karl, 04-29-75 – (No residence address) – Broward

20 counts of child pornography; one count of computer pornography

Brown, Michael Robert, 08-04-80, Dade City – Volusia

Two counts computer pornography, one count of unlawful use of a two-way communication device, one count of cannabis under 20 grams; one count of possession of drug paraphernalia

Bueno, Alvin Grullon, 11-14-81, North Lauderdale – Broward

25 counts of child pornography

Calloway, Dustin S., 04-15-86 (No arrest affidavit and no residence address) – Leon

Carver, Ricky Lamar, 02-26-71, Jacksonville – Leon

Five counts of computer pornography

Chu, Anthony, 06-15-87, Orlando – Orange

10 counts of child pornography

Coons, Zachary, 06-07-93 (No residence address) – Leon

Two counts of computer pornography

Deloge, Steven Robert, 05-22-74, Jacksonville – Duval

One count of computer pornography

Echevarria, Nelson, 04, 09,80, (No residence address) – Broward

One count of cannabis under 20 grams, one count of possession of drug paraphernalia; one count of possession of a weapon or ammo by a convicted felon

El-Refai, Sherif, 10-19-87, Tampa, Florida – Hillsborough

Two counts of computer pornography; one count of attempt lewd and lascivious assault

Figueroa, Carlos Alberto, 02-26-85, Miami – Miami Dade

Three counts/violations of The Florida Sexual Predator Act

Fluery, Douglas, 08-03-53, Sunrise – Broward

Two counts of computer pornography, one count of attempted lewd and lascivious assault; one count of unlawful use of a two-way communication device

Fochs, Donald William Jr., 06-23-73, New Port Richey – Pasco

One count of solicitation of a minor for sex acts

Gutierrez, Omar, 06-02-83, (No residence address) – Orange

Two counts of computer pornography

Hudnall, Richard, 11-30-56, Jacksonville – Leon

Two counts of computer pornography

Ingersoll, Michael, 05-16-84, Arvada, Colorado – Volusia

Two counts computer pornography; one count of unlawful use of a two-way communication device

Jarrell, Jason, 05-01-80, Tallahassee – Leon

Two counts of computer pornography

Kalinowski, Edward L., 06-27-52, Daytona Beach – Volusia

Two counts computer pornography; one count of unlawful use of a two-way communication device

Kessler, Phillip Michael, 01-10-76 (no arrest affidavit) – Bay

Lentovich, Eric Joseph, 08-27-75, Ft. Myers – Hardee

Two counts computer pornography; one count of unlawful use of a two-way communication device

Leon, Hector Ramon, 12-26-65, Greenacre – Palm Beach

10 counts of child pornography

Martinet, Christian, 04-10-87, Pembroke Pines – Broward

30 counts of child pornography

Martinez, Jorge M. Jr., 09-26-89, West Park – Broward

One count of child pornography; one count of computer pornography

Masters, Rickey O., 07-17-46, Hollywood – Broward

10 counts of child pornography

Milboer, Scott Andrew, 01-113-78, Naples – Collier

Two counts of computer pornography, one count of attempt lewd and lascivious assault; one count of unlawful use of a two-way communication device

Mizner, Stephen, 03-14-70, Sarasota – Sarasota

Two counts computer pornography, one count of unlawful use of a two-way communication device; one count attempted sexual battery

Moss, Mario Dwayne, 12-08-84, Lake City – Columbia

10 counts of child pornography

Orr, Curtis, 04-09-70, (No residence address) – Broward

24 counts of child pornography

Peixoto De Almeida, Marcus F., 11-03-73, Hallandale Beach – Broward

20 counts of child pornography

Perez, Jorge Arturo, 04-14-83, Boca Raton – Palm Beach

Possession of child pornography

Rains, Paul David, 05-08-49, Orlando – Orange

10 counts of child pornography

Rees, James F., 10-28-60, Deltona – Volusia

Two counts computer pornography; one count of unlawful use of a two-way communication device

Sauleda, Donovan A., 05-13-86 (no arrest affidavit) – Wakulla

Shelley, Dean A., 12-15-59, Palm Harbor – Hillsborough

Two counts of computer pornography; one count of Attempt Capital Sexual Battery

Stowell, Kevin A., 10-26-58, Port Richey – Pasco

10 counts child pornography

Torres, Michael, 12-11-76, Oakland Park – Broward

30 counts of child pornography

Vela, Francisco Javier, 07-10-77, Greenacre – Palm Beach

One count of child pornography

Walker Rober Lee Jr., 10-09-77, Orlando – Orange

10 counts of child pornography

White, Harvey, 03-13-53 (No residence address) – Broward

10 counts child pornography

White Leon, 07-12-52, Davenport – Osceola

10 Counts of child pornography

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Readers: Keep those news tips coming!

Laura C. Morel
Crime/Immigration Reporter

Readers matter. Not just because they buy the product we create. Or because they hassle us -- and rightfully so -- if we make a mistake.

The Bradenton Herald got word of two stories this week after readers reached out with news tips.

On Wednesday afternoon, someone called my editor, Marc Masferrer, and told him a woman was killed after she was struck by a car in Bradenton Beach. I called authorities to confirm.

Sure enough, it was true. I went to the police station, picked up the report and wrote the story.

On Tuesday, another person called editor Jim Jones. The news tip: car accident on 45th Avenue East and 51st Street East in Bradenton.

That tip led to another story, this one about a garbage worker who was hit by a Jeep while he repaired his truck. 

Moral of the story: If you're a reader and you hear or see something newsworthy, give us a buzz, whether it's via phone call, tweet or e-mail.

So keep 'em coming!

And you can follow or tweet me @LauraCMorel.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Two teens charged with burglary in Palmetto copper wire theft


MANATEE — Two teens arrested Dec. 1 in connection with a copper wire theft have been charged with burglary.

Jacob Ramsey, 18, and a 16-year-old boy removed a large spool of copper from the abandoned home, a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office report states.

A sheriff’s deputy was patrolling the 700 block of 39th Street East in Palmetto at 4 p.m. on Dec. 1 when she saw a white Jeep pull out of a vacant house and leave at a high rate of speed, according to the report.

She caught up to the vehicle as it approached U.S. 41 and 39th Street East and conducted a traffic stop, the report states. As she approached the vehicle she noticed that there was wiring in the back seat and the suspects were covered in drywall dust.

The two suspects later told the deputy they entered the house without permission and ripped the wire out of the wall, the report states. The wire was seized from the vehicle along with a pair of wire cutters and a wrench that they used to break up the drywall, according to the report.

The property owner wanted to prosecute both of the suspects, the report states.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Man charged with attempted murder in Palmetto strip club shooting

A 24-year-old man has been charged with attempted murder for a shooting at a Palmetto strip club early Monday that left three people hurt.

Roshard Williams was arrested in Sarasota late Monday. A second suspect, possibly a woman, remains at large, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

The shooting of three people at Pandora’s Box, 3823 U.S. 41 N., did not surprise Nick Mitha, owner of the nearby Angler’s Discount Store.

“In this area, the young kids carry guns, and they even come into my store and ask if I want to buy one for $200,” Mitha said Monday afternoon, between waiting on a steady stream of mostly beer-purchasing customers. “It’s crazy. Most of these kids around here don’t know how to correctly handle a gun. We have to take these guns away.”

When Mitha arrived at his store just before 7 a.m. Monday from his home in Tampa, he saw many law enforcement vehicles and the manager of Pandora’s Box being interviewed by detectives.

A man was shot twice about 2:41 a.m. Monday at Pandora’s Box and was in stable condition at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, said Dave Bristow, a sheriff’s office spokesman.

Read more of reporter Richard Dymond's report at

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Manatee sheriff: Woman returns home to find $70K in jewelry, car missing

A Bradenton woman returned home Friday after being away three days to find  $70,000 in jewelry missing and her car gone, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office reports.

There were no signs of forced entry into the home in the 7700 block of Ninth Avenue Drive North, a media release stated.

Bradenton man dies after motorcycle accident

BRADENTON -- A 34-year-old Bradenton man died Friday night at Bayfront Medical Center after his 1993 Harley Davidson motorcycle was involved in a collision early Friday at U.S. 41 approaching the Bayshore Gardens Shopping Center driveway, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Donald Wemple did not have his lights on when he was struck by a Ford Explorer at 12:20 a.m. Friday, a witness told the FHP.

The driver of the Ford Explorer made a left turn and did not see the motorcycle, the FHP reported.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Manatee sheriff's office: Man chokes woman, takes her paper prescription

MANATEE -- Manatee sheriff's deputies are looking for a man after he allegedly choked a woman and made off with her paper drug prescription Wednesday, the sheriff's office reports.
The 31-year-old woman told the suspect she was going to fill her prescription and a struggle ensued at a home in the 5700 block of 11th Street East at around 1:30 p.m., a media release states.
The suspect, said to be between 25-30 years old, 6 feet tall and 170 pounds, grabbed the prescription, threw the victim on the bed, choked her and finally made off with it, the release states.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Another arrest made in Bradenton homicide

BRADENTON -- A third person has been charged in the slaying of Ervin Perez, a 27-year-old migrant worker who was shot and killed Saturday morning, according to the Bradenton Police Department.

John Tyson Jr., 25, of Bradenton, turned himself into the Bradenton Police Department at about 6 p.m. Wednesday and has been “cooperative” with law enforcement about the shooting, said Capt. Warren Merriman III.

Tyson Jr. has been charged with principle in the first degree to murder and is currently in Manatee County jail on a $1 million bond.

Also charged in this case are Travin Martin Jr., 23, of Bradenton, and Charles Brown, 25, of Palmetto, who were arrested Saturday after they ran a traffic sign in the 1300 block of 27th Street East.

Read more here.

Bradenton gang member sentenced to 60 years in prison

MANATEE -- A 25-year-old member of a Bradenton street gang has been sentenced to 60 years in prison on racketeering-related charges.

Eric Santiago, a member of the Brown Pride Locos, was found guilty Tuesday of racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering. Judge Harry Rapkin then sentenced Santiago to two consecutive 30-year sentences.

Santiago and seven other BPL members in 2007 were charged with racketeering because of their criminal activity as members of the Brown Pride Locos.

In 2008, Santiago was tried, convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison, but that conviction was overturned last year after an appeals court found that two prior drug-related convictions prosecutors had used to build the racketeering case against him, had been overturned.

Read more

Saturday, October 22, 2011

No injuries following Manatee shooting

MANATEE -- No injuries have been reported following an early morning shooting in Manatee County, the sheriff’s office reports.

The incident occurred at about 4:35 a.m. Saturday when two 25-year-old victims were sitting outside their residence in the 900 block of 35th Avenue West. Two men approached them on foot and fired shots toward them, according to a media release. The shots hit an unoccupied vehicle.

The suspects then fled on foot, the release said.

Witnesses told deputies that a car was heard leaving at a high rate of speed after the gunshots, the release said.

The investigation is ongoing as the suspects have not been located. The suspects were wearing all black.

Anyone with information on this case is asked to call the sheriff’s office (941) 747-3011.

Man killed after morning shooting in Bradenton

BRADENTON -- An unknown 27-year-old man was shot and killed Saturday morning in the 600 block of 21st Street East, the sheriff’s office reports.

At about 4:15 a.m., Bradenton Police Officers heard multiple gunshots in the area of the 2000 block of Martin Luther King Avenue East. As officers were responding to the location, according to a media release, a concerned citizen also called 911 to report the victim, whose name has not been released, had been shot by unknown person, the release said.

Upon their arrival, officers found a deceased male who had been operating a vehicle and had sustained an apparent fatal gunshot wound, the release said.

According to Capt. Warren Merriman III, the motive and circumstances behind the homicide are not known at this time and police are working on piecing the situation together.

“We don’t have any motive right now and we’re trying to follow up on a few leads,” he said.

Merriman did add there were not any indications of drug or gang violence in this case and he doesn’t believe it to be linked to a shooting that occurred around the same time in Manatee County that resulted in no injuries.

Anyone having information with regard to this case is asked to call Detective Kevin Bunch at the Bradenton Police Department, (941) 932-9300, ext. 380, or to remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000 by calling Crime Stoppers (866) 634-8477 (TIPS) or send an anonymous E-Tip thru the web at

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tired of violence, Palmetto residents call for change

PALMETTO -- It was a passionate group that met Thursday night in Palmetto.

About 70 turned up at the Palmetto Youth Center to call for change in their community, which has recently experienced a mass shooting that killed two and wounded 22 others.

It’s a community where, for years, a grocery store owner allowed a vicious criminal element on his property to degrade the neighborhood around it.

Some spoke of the sadness of losing young people to crime. Some railed at police hiring practices, saying more black officers would help them reclaim their community.

But the overall theme that grew out of the meeting, organized by county Commissioner Michael Gallen, was: We have to work together.

“It’s difficult when you see these young, intelligent black kids killing each other,” said Elston Brown, representing the Apollo Lake Park Neighborhood Association. He said many of the victims are former students from his years as a teacher.

Read more

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Manatee deputies shoot with stun gun, arrest armed robbery suspect

MANATEE -- Deputies early Thursday arrested an armed robbery suspect, but not before they had to shoot him with a stun gun, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies went to a residence in the 2800 block of 17th Street West, after learning that suspect Walter Barnes was there.
As they approached, Barnes fled by trying to jump over a fence, but he was confronted by a police dog. When he returned to the residence, Barnes was confronted by deputies, according to a news release.

When he refused to show his hands and tried to run away, he was shot with a stun gun and taken into custody, the report states.

In addition to the armed robbery charge, Barnes faces several drug-related charges after deputies found cocaine and crack cocaine while searching him, according to the sheriff's office.

Barnes was being held without bond at the Manatee County jail.

4 Manatee robbery suspects arrested in Hillsborough after Interstate 75 police chase

MANATEE -- Four suspects in a Bradenton robbery were arrested early Thursday after authorities chased them on Interstate 75 into Hillsborough County, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

About 4:07 a.m., the suspects allegedly robbed a woman of cash while she was stopped at the intersection of 51st Avenue East and 30th Street East in Bradenton. During the robbery, one of the suspects fired a gunshot into the air, according to a news release.

After getting an undisclosed amount of cash, the suspects fled. A short time later, their vehicle was spotted near Interstate 75 and State Road 70 east and deputies began pursuing north on I-75, according to the report.

The suspects refused to stop. At one point, they exited at State Road 64 East, but then got back on the interstate heading towards Hillsborough.

The suspects again exited the interstate at Big Bend Road and were able to avoid stop sticks that had been placed on the road by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, according to Manatee deputies.

Hillsborough deputies tried again with the stop sticks at U.S. 41 and Riverview Road. The suspects drove over the devices, flattening two tires. The vehicle stopped and the suspects were arrested.

The vehicle had been reported stolen out of Tampa. No weapons were recovered at the scene, but the vehicle had not been processed, according to the report.

The four suspects, who are all from Tampa, were identified as Demario Murray, 24; De’Eric Moore, 17; Antwon Moore, 22; and Timothy Jefferson, 20.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Man, 82, thwarted from trying to jump off Skyway Bridge

:MANATEE -- An 82-year-old man was taken in under the Baker Act on Wednesday morning after his ex-wife tipped off law enforcement that he was about to jump off the Skyway Bridge, the sheriff’s office reports.

After she called the Bradenton Police Department, toll booth personnel were alerted of the man’s vehicle description. They said that he had just gone through a toll booth and was headed toward the bridge, a media release said.

A Manatee deputy was able to catch up to the vehicle and initiate a traffic stop, the release said. The driver exited the vehicle and the deputy secured him before he was able to make it to the edge of the railing.

The man admitted he wanted to commit suicide and was taken to Manatee Glens.

Four unlocked vehicles, two residences burglarized in Manatee County

MANATEE   -- Four unlocked vehicles and two residences were burglarized Wednesday morning in East Manatee, the sheriff’s office reports.

All four vehicles and one residence were left unlocked, a media release said. The other residence was occupied at the time.

The burglaries occurred sometime between midnight and 5 a.m. in the 4900 and 4800 blocks of West Country Club Drive and 5000 block of Inverness Drive.

 Audio devices were taken from the unlocked residence, the release said. In the occupied residence, suspects attempted to take a TV that was in the kitchen.

A GPS, loose change, iPod, sunglasses and an $80 check were among the items taken from the vehicles, the release said.

No description for the suspects was provided.

 Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff's office at (941)745-3011.

Palmetto Police Department searches for Metro PCS robbery suspect

PALMETTO --  The Palmetto Metro PCS store was robbed Wednesday afternoon, the Palmetto Police Department reports.

The incident occurred at the store, 651 10th St. E., just after 3 p.m.

That’s when a man walked into the store, pointed an angular object concealed in a T-shirt at the clerk and demanded money, a media release said.

The clerk complied with the demands, the suspect left the store with an undisclosed amount of cash and fled westbound on foot, the release said.

The suspect is described as a man between 30 and 45 years old, thin to medium build, and between 5 feet 8 inches and 5 feet 10 inches tall.

He was wearing a green shirt with white lettering on his left chest, and white lettering and a design on the back, the release said. The suspect also had long black shorts and a camouflage ball cap with sandals.

Anyone with any information about this crime is asked to contact Detective Chris Cavazos at 723-4587, ext. 6124, or the Manatee County Crime Stoppers at (866) 634-8477. Callers may remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Crime tip: Turn on the light

Motion lights around a home or business can not only help light up a path, but they can also deter robbers, the Manatee sheriff's office says.

According to a media release, thieves are less likely to break into a car, home or office if the area has light surrounding it. One obvious reason: The light allows property owners, neighbors and law enforcement a way to see any would-be robbers.

To save on your electric bill, the sheriff's office suggests using a motion sensor.

Additional charges filed in Bradenton prostitution case

BRADENTON -- Additional charges have been filed against three of the four Bradenton adults accused in the coercion of a 15-year-old Bradenton girl into prostitution, according to Detective Kevin Bunch of the Bradenton Police Department.

Anissa Lawson, 38, and Donald James, 44, who were arrested in this case along with Quental Harris, 28, and Anthony Gentile, 41, befriended the girl by offering her rock cocaine in August, the warrant stated.

Gentile’s latest charge is one count of unlawful sexual activity with a minor, according to arrest reports. This is in addition to five charges of engaging in sexual activity with a person between 12 and 15 years of age.

He is currently being held in Manatee County jail on bonds totaling $100,000.

Lawson faces two additional charges of child abuse, one charge allowing a child to engage in a sexual performance, procuring a person under age of 16 and carnal intercourse with a minor.

Her previous charges include nine counts of child abuse, eight counts of procuring a person under the age of 16 for prostitution, nine counts of promoting sexual activity with a victim younger than 15 and, possession of a controlled substance and eight counts of lewd and lascivious battery, the court documents stated.

She is in Manatee County jail on a $207,620 bond.

James faces additional charges of two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of cannabis, possession of a controlled substance and domestic battery.

Those charges were added to his prior charges of child abuse, possession of a controlled substance, procuring a person under 16 for prostitution, engaging in sexual activity with a person 12 or older but less than 16, and intentionally touching a person under 16 in a lewd or lascivious manner, according to the release.
He is being held on a $62,360 bond.

Harris faces one charge of lewd and lascivious battery and was released Sept. 29 on a $10,000 bond.

Read more

Reputed Manatee members of SUR 13 gang charged

MANATEE -- Thirteen reputed members of the SUR 13 criminal street gang have been charged with racketeering and related charges, following an 18-month investigation by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies.

The sheriff’s gang unit executed four search warrants Monday morning and arrested two suspects, officials said.
Four other suspects were already in jail and two were in prison. Five remain at large, according to a department news release.

Two of the suspects, Daniel Robledo, 25, and Manuel Ramirez, 20, were charged with murder in the June 15, 2009, shooting death of Rolando Martinez-Rosales in Bradenton. Robledo was already in jail, charged with murder in the July 23, 2011, shooting death of Elvis Ruiz in Bradenton.

Ramirez remains at large.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act -- commonly referred to as the RICO Act or RICO -- is a federal law which allows extended criminal penalties for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. According to legal websites, it allows leaders of a gang to be tried for the crimes they ordered others to do or assisted them.

All of the defendants in the Manatee case face RICO and conspiracy to commit racketeering charges, officials said. This is the sheriff’s second RICO operation involving the gang SUR 13.

“It takes a number of these known gang members off of our streets, and the crimes they have been committing in the past now, hopefully, will stop, if we can get them convicted and sentenced to prison,” said Sheriff Brad Steube.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

No injuries following shooting in Heritage Harbour

MANATEE -- There were no injuries following a shooting into a Manatee home Saturday morning, the sheriff’s office reports.

A single gunshot was fired between 1 to 2 a.m. at the residence in the 7000 block of Chatum Light Run in Heritage Harbour, which is just north of State Road 64 and east of Interstate 75.

The bullet went through a vacant bedroom window, through a wall and into a closet, the media release said.

A female, 39, was home during the shooting, but was not hurt, the release said.

Anyone with more information about this incident is asked to call the sheriff’s office at (941) 747-3011.

$25K savings bond, $10K in jewelry taken in Manatee burglary

:MANATEE -- A $25,000 savings bond and $10,000 worth of jewelry were taken from a Manatee home during a burglary earlier this week, the sheriff’s office reports.

The items were inside a safe at a residence in the 4700 block of Pinnacle Drive, a media release said. Personal information also was taken during the burglary.

 The incident occurred sometime between Wednesday and Friday, according to the release.

There didn’t appear to be any forced entry into the home, the release stated.

Anyone with more information about this incident is asked to call the sheriff’s office at (941) 747-3011.

Bradenton police investigation continues into girl lured into prostitution

PALMETTO -- Drugs played a major factor in the coercion of a 15-year-old Bradenton girl into prostitution, according to a search warrant released this week.

Anissa Lawson, 38, and Donald James, 44, who were arrested in this case along with Quental Harris, 28, and Anthony Gentile, 41, befriended the girl by offering her rock cocaine in August, the warrant stated.

When the victim first met Lawson and James at the Sunshine Motel, 180114th St. W., she told them her age and Lawson advised that she knew how old she was and that the victim had gone to school with her daughter, the warrant said.

The girl went back to the motel and Lawson and James explained that in order to buy more rock cocaine she would have to go into prostitution, the warrant said.

Lawson then lined up men for sexual encounters and told the girl they would share the money she made from her actions, the warrant said.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Palmetto looks to nonviolence

MANATEE -- Dr. Martin Luther King’s work on nonviolence is being called upon by the city of Palmetto, which is dealing with an unsolved September shooting that claimed the lives of two and wounded 22.

Palmetto will host Kingian Non-Violence Seminars on Nov. 5 and 12, Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant announced Thursday.

The seminars are the result of a partnership between the Palmetto Police Department and the Jim Walter Partnership Center at the University of South Florida, and its executive director, Manuel Rivero, Groover-Bryant said.

“This training program will provide not only community leaders, but people from all walks of life, the opportunity to learn different steps to deal with confrontation in a nonviolent manner,” Rivero said.

The seminars consist of a six-step training curriculum, Rivero said.

The Palmetto Police Department hopes the seminars will unite community, city officials, nonprofits and faith-based organizations in a combined effort to end violence through joint participation in productive programs, said Lt. Scott Tyler of the Palmetto Police Department.

The event, which is open to the public, will be held, tentatively, at Bible Baptist Church on 17th Street in Palmetto, according to a news release.

A time is yet to be determined.

Manatee sheriff’s office gets re-accredited

MANATEE -- The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has been re-accredited by the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation, according to a media release.

This marks the fifth time the agency has been re-accredited by the commission and resulted in the agency being recognized as an excelsior agency by the commission, which is granted to those agencies that have been re-accredited at least five times without any conditions.

The sheriff’s office is audited every three years by the commission to assure continued compliance with 80 standards, the release said.

The sheriff’s office is also accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc. and the American Correctional Association.

HB police chief helping officers on home front

Chief Jay Romine.
Photo from
HOLMES BEACH -- Domestic violence can impact everyone, even law enforcement and correctional officers.

That’s why Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine has been working since 2009 on a domestic violence prevention program for the law enforcement community.

He’s been integral in the development of the Law Enforcement Families Partnership program with the Institute for Family Violence Studies at Florida State University.

The cornerstone of the project is a free, online curriculum that teaches officers how to keep their homes free of violence, and emphasizes healthy families and relationships.

“We interviewed a lot of officers and found if they even feel they are struggling, whether it be an anger issue, problems at home or anything like that, they are a little less inclined to seek out help than the average citizen would be,” Romine said.

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Police: Man charged with having sex with Bradenton girl

BRADENTON -- A 29-year-old Pinellas County man was arrested and charged Wednesday with having sexual relations with a then-14-year-old Bradenton girl he met through a dating website, the Bradenton Police Department reports.

Cory R. Hall and the minor, now 15, began to meet up in March via a dating site that utilizes a cell phone application, according to a media release.

The juvenile used her actual age on her site profile, the release said. He also used his actual age, 28 at the time, on the site.

BPD Detective Kevin Bunch said a traffic stop at a Pinellas County park tipped off authorities about the relationship.
They both told the Pinellas deputy who pulled them over that they didn’t have IDs and that they were cousins, according to Bunch.

After further investigation, they admitted to not being cousins and the deputy “found some lingerie in the car and he admitted he got it for her,” Bunch said.

That’s when the Pinellas sheriff’s office contacted the Bradenton Police Department

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Teen charged in Manatee teacher’s slaying

NORTH PORT -- It’s been a little more than six months since Manatee School For the Arts teacher Kenneth Ellis was killed at his North Port home.

For his students, all the emotion of the tragedy came rushing back Wednesday when they learned North Port police had charged Katrelle D’mario Johnson, 19, in the teacher’s shooting death.

Jamie Rolle, 16, found out as she got to school.

“All day I have been on the verge of exploding with countless emotions that were just ready to pour out,” Jamie, a sophomore and one of Ellis’ tae kwon do students. “It’s been hard going from everyday seeing him to not anymore. It’s been really, really difficult.”

Police say Johnson, a North Port High School student, confessed during a jail house interview last month to the March 29 killing.

During a press conference, North Port Police Capt. Robert Estrada gave a run down on how the events of that night unfolded.

“This was a total random act,” he said.

Johnson and the other suspect had seen Ellis’ wife, Elizabeth, sitting at her computer in the front room and thought she was alone, Estrada said.

The doorbell rang shortly after 10 p.m.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Man, 19, charged with killing popular Manatee School for the Arts teacher

NORTH PORT -- A 19-year-old man has been charged with first-degree murder in the March 29 slaying of Kenneth Ellis, a popular teacher at Manatee School for the Arts.

Katrelle D'mario Johnson admitted to shooting Ellis when he answered the door at his North Port home, North Port police said. Investigators were seeking a second suspect.

According to police, Johnson and another person may have seen Ellis' wife in a window and thought she was home alone. They rang the bell and may have been surprised when Ellis answered the door, officials said.

Police connected Johnson to the crime from a gun found in a Sarasota field.

Johnson was already in jail in connection with June 21 slaying of Robert Mann in Sarasota when investigators developed evidence that linked him with the Ellis slaying, officials said.

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, working with the U.S. Marshals Service Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force, in July arrested Johnson in Saginaw, Texas, north of Fort Worth.

A second suspect, Deifalla Malik Johnson, 19, has been charged in the Mann case.

Bay News 9 contributed to this story.

Woman escapes home invasion attempt in Bradenton

MANATEE -- A 40-year-old woman was able to flee her home after two masked gunmen early Wednesday kicked in her front door and tried to rob her, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

About 12:05 a.m., the suspects broke into a home in the 4900 block of Lake Hill Court, Bradenton, and demanded money, according to a news release.

The woman was able to get out of the house, and the suspects fled in an unknown direction by an unknown means, according to the report.

Multiple deputies, including K-9 units and the sheriff's helicopter, responded, but the suspects were not located. The suspects were described as having their faces covered and wearing all black clothing, according to the sheriff's office.

Lake Hill Court runs off 49th Avenue West, one block east of 34th Street West.

Manatee sheriff's employee suspended for hiring company

MANATEE — A sheriff’s office employee was suspended for 36 hours after she hired a company without permission to do work for the agency and the had them hire her son for employment, an internal investigation report said.

In a sworn testimony, Valerie Griest, an application server manager, admitted that she failed to inform her supervisor in the Information Technology division prior to enlisting a temporary staffing agency, Synergy One, to assist in a web development project she was managing, the report said.

She also stated she failed to inform her supervisor that her son would complete the web programming project she was supervising. She added she was not trying to be deceitful and secretive when she made her choices, the report said.

According to the investigation, Griest asked Synergy One to do the programming jobs for the sheriff’s website because she felt the department was too understaffed to do it in a timely manner. In a letter written by Greist’s director to the chief inspector in August he stated: “The problem I have with Varlie enlisting the services of a staffing agency is that I was never informed. She has been using the services of Synergy One for this program without my knowledge or approval.”

The letter went on to say he took issue with the employment of her son.

“Had Valerie followed the correct protocol to check whether her son could do work for the agency, I personally would have done all possible to see if there was an avenue. I would have taken the time to see if there was a way of using him without causing a conflict,” he wrote.

Griest testified her intentions for employing her son was soley because he was already well versed in the theory and direction of the website, the report said. However, she did answer “absolutely, yeah,” when asked if she agreed she failed to keep her chain of command informed of her actions.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

2 shot dead, 22 wounded in Palmetto

PALMETTO -- Two are dead and 22 wounded after a shooting at a Palmetto club early this morning.

The Palmetto Police Department responded to a shooting at Club Elite, 704 10th Street West, at  12:30 a.m.

At least two shooters opened fire on the crowd at the front of the club. One of the homicide victims, 25 year-old Trayon Goff of Palmetto, was found dead outside of the club’s front door. The other person killed, 38 year-old Gwenette Matthews of Bradenton, was found inside the club, according to the Palmetto Police Department.

Twenty-two other people were hit by gunfire during the attack. The six most seriously wounded were taken to Bayfront Medical Center. Another 16 persons were treated at Manatee Memorial Hospital.

Investigators are aggressively pursuing leads in this case. Persons with any information about the crime are urged to call the Palmetto Police Department at 941-723-4587 or the Manatee County Crime Stoppers at  1-866-634-8477.

Callers may remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Man charged with DWI after backing into a deputy

MANATEE -- A Manatee man was arrested Saturday morning after backing his vehicle into a deputy’s patrol car while under the influence, the sheriff’s office reports.

Deputy Fiuza arrived at El Paisano, in the 5800 block of 15th Street East, at about midnight in response to an assignment, and waited in a parking lot facing south for a vehicle to back out of a parking space, a media release said.

While Fiuza was waiting, Ronaldo Hernandez Reyes, 23, backed his 2001 Toyota Avalon into the front right quarter panel of the patrol vehicle, the release said.

Information on what Reyes was under the influence of was not available right way, but according to the report he was charged two counts of driving while under the influence and damaging property, and one count of driving without a valid license. He is currently in Manatee County jail on a $4,120 bond.

No one was injured as a result of the accident and “very minimal damage” was done to the vehicles.

Bradenton homicide victim identified

A Bradenton man found dead in his home Friday has been identified as Walton Leroy Orum, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office reported Saturday.

Orum, 65, was found at approximately 2:20 p.m., when deputies responded to an open door at Orum’s residence in the 3500 block of 20th Street West.

There was trauma to the body and detectives are treating the case as a homicide. Detectives have developed strong leads in the investigation, but have not made an arrest.
Anyone with information on this case is asked to contact the sheriff’s office at (941) 747-3011, or Crime Stoppers at (866) 634-TIPS (8477).

Man arrested after road rage incident

MANATEE A 24-year-old Manatee man was arrested Wednesday after a alleged road rage incident, the sheriff’s office reports.

The incident occurred at about 5 p.m. while the victim was driving with her 4-year-old daughter in the vehicle.

Matthew Britten began to tailgate her on 301 Boulevard East, according to an arrest report said.

 The victim threw her hands in the air and Britten responded with an obscene gesture, the report said. The victim then managed to get out of the way of Britten’s vehicle and jotted down his tag number.

The vehicles then were side-by-side at a red light when Britten pulled out a silver handgun, according to the report, pointed at the victim and cursed after she told him she had her child in the vehicle.

 Out of fear, the victim pulled into a gas station and called 911, the report said.

Britten was later located and after being read his rights stated that the female driver was the one with road rage and alleged that she followed him, the report said.

 He went on to say he pointed the gun at the woman because “she was acting crazy,” the report said, and he was in fear she was going to do something to him.

Britten was charged with aggravated assault with a firearm and was released on a $10,000 bond Friday.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Deputies investigate homicide in Bradenton

MANATEE -- Detectives are investigating the death of a man in Bradenton as a homicide, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

About 2:20 p.m. Friday, deputies responded to a report of an open door at the residence in 3512 20th St. W. When they entered, they discovered the body of a white man in his 60s.

"There was trauma to the body, and detectives are treating this case as a homicide," a news release states.

As of 4:30 p.m., the victim had not positively been identified.

Anyone with information about this case can call the sheriff's office at (941) 747-3011 or Crime Stoppers at (866) 634-TIPS.

1 arrested after shots fired at Sarasota deputy

The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office took one person in custody after shots were fired at a deputy investigating an abandoned 9-1-1 call in the 1600 block of Sweetland Street in Nokomis.

The initial call was received at 12:33 a.m. Upon arrival of a uniformed deputy in a marked patrol vehicle, shots were fired. The deputy verbally identified himself as a law enforcement officer and at least one more shot was fired, according to a news release from the sheriff's office.

Backup units arrived and the SWAT Team responded to the scene. Negotiators made contact with the residents and at 4:20 a.m. and three people left the home without incident.

No one was injured.

The investigation is ongoing to determine charges against the suspected gunman, according to the sheriff's office.

Bradenton police puts out phone scam alert

BRADENTON -- The Bradenton Police Department has recently received five complaints from citizens in regards to an individual by the name of “Bruce” telephoning them and saying they had won $500,000, Bradenton Police Department reports.

The caller then instructed the victims to purchase a $400 Walmart gift card and telephone him back with the card’s identification number for further prize details, a media release said.

Through an investigation it was discovered the calls are being generated through an untraceable international exchange telephone company.

A department detective was able to call “Bruce,” by using a number provided by a victim, according to Capt. Warren Merriman III.

During the conversation “Bruce” tried to convince the detective that this was not an illegal scam, but was not able to provide any facts that he was employed by a legitimate business, a release said.

The department warns residents not to comply with any requests if they receive such a call.

If you have further questions or concerns, contact BPD at (941) 932-9300.

Man charged with robbing Bradenton adult novelty store

MANATEE--Sheriff’s deputies have arrested a 38-year-old homeless man on charges he robbed an adult novelty store located just a block from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office headquarters.

Larry Junior Counts walked into the Naughty By Night adult novelty store around 11 p.m. Thursday night, according to a sheriff's report.

Officials say he placed two items on the counter and then displayed a “shiny metal object” that appeared to be a small pistol. Counts reportedly told the clerk, “This is a robbery and I have a gun,” the report states.

Counts, according to the report, took the money from the register and fled on foot. He was later spotted walking north on First Street.

The cashier identified Counts, who officials say admitted to the robbery.
Counts was being held without bond at the Manatee County jail.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Veteran Manatee sheriff's lieutenant suspended for three weeks

MANATEE -- A 26-year veteran sheriff’s lieutenant has been suspended for three weeks without pay for not putting in for overtime.
Lt. John Murrell, who oversees 18 school resource officers and two sergeants, was found to have “repeatedly failed to properly document his overtime hours on his time sheet,” according to an internal affairs report.
Murrell didn’t fudge his hours to get more overtime money than he was entitled. He simply didn’t submit his overtime hours for compensation.
“I do what I’m asked to do, and I probably do more, and the more got me in trouble,” he told the Bradenton Herald. “It was something I didn’t think would go to this point.”
Murrell said the discipline came about after he was the subject of an anonymous complaint, which the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office chose to investigate. The unsigned complaint even included criminal allegations.
“Everything else turned out to be unfounded,” he said. “But I still went through an eight-month investigation of the allegations.”
Murrell said he thinks the three-week suspension is a bit harsh.
“I think it’s a little too much, I really do,” he said.
Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube disagrees.
“He’s a lieutenant who is held to a higher standard than rank-and-file employees,” Steube said. “Not only should he have known what he was doing was incorrect, he admits he did know it was incorrect. I don’t think it’s a harsh punishment at all.”