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February 1, 2014
 

Retired Police Captain Faces Murder Charge for South Florida Theater Shooting

A gun was discharged in a Wesley Chapel, Florida Movie Theater shocking some patrons into the belief that the events of the mass murder that took place in Aurora Colorado in the summer of 2012 might be unfolding in their own neighborhood theater.

Kareen Lasky, who was in an adjacent theater when the gunfire rang out told the Tampa Bay Times that when the shooting occurred "The first thing I thought of was the theater out there in the West."

Although this incident was not at all similar to the events that took place in Aurora, Colorado, a man was still shot and killed.

This specific event arose when a retired Tampa police captain shot a man in the chest after arguing with him about using his cell phone to send text messages inside a movie theater. The shooting took place at the Cobb Theater's Grove 16 & Cine Bistro mid last month in Wesley Chapel, FL, a suburb about a thirty miles north of Tampa.

Chad Oulson was seated with his wife Nicole waiting for the matinee of the film "Lone Survivor" to begin when an altercation began with retired Police Captain Curtis Reeves, Jr. After words were exchanged, Reeves who also was also accompanied by his wife, got up to apparently complain to management about the texting, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office police report. The Oulsons' were sitting in front of the seemingly agitated 6-foot-1, 270-pound, seventy-one year-old former police captain.

As the argument between the two couples escalated and was seemingly reaching its peak, Mr. Oulson reportedly threw popcorn at Reeves instigating a reaction where Reeves revealed his .380-semi-auto handgun and fired at Oulson hitting him in the chest. Mrs. Oulson was shot in the hand, apparently trying to block the bullet that was directed at her husband. According to a witness, after Reeves shot Oulson, he sat back down and placed the weapon in his lap.

When police arrived, Reeves was arrested and later charged with second-degree murder. An off-duty Sumter County deputy who was inside the theater as the shooting went on detained the retired officer until other deputies arrived at the scene.

When neighbors were interviewed, each of them had only good things to say about the man that moved to the area about 10 years ago. "He must have just snapped," said Joe D'Andrea, and went on to describe him as a friendly, "stand-up" guy... I would not think he was the type of guy to do something like that. Another neighbor, Bill Costas told CNN affiliate WFLA that the man described in the report sounds like "a completely different guy" from the one he knows. He continued by saying he was a "very nice guy, always smiling... very helpful. If I needed help with something, he was there to help. I've never seen him angry."

But Pasco County Sherriff Chris Nocco was easy to find fault with the former police captain saying "To have a retired police officer... I don't know what he was thinking at the time. I can tell you, anybody, over a cellphone, to take their life, it's ridiculous."

During his career, for his leadership capabilities, Reeves frequently established exceptional assessments and repeated letters of commendation. He was praised for his role in the training he commanded for other agencies regarding gun safety as well as other matters which were noted in his personnel file. He was applauded for his oversight of the tactical response team for the 1987 visit to Tampa by "then" Vice President George H.W. Bush and was regularly given praise for his abilities of problem solving and managing stressful situations. In one job performance review a supervisor stated that "Captain Reeves not only has the ability to act decisively when necessary but has the foresight to initiate the proper course of action to avoid conflict."

Still, the Pasco County Sheriff stated clearly that: "It didn't matter what he had done previously in his life. You don't shoot someone over a texting incident."

Early in Reeves career he was reprimanded for handling a city weapon without proper care. At the time, one of his supervisors also noted in an assessment that "Reeves has a tendency to be impatient in regards to legal matters and practices now in force... and may be abrupt with complainants in some areas of the city."

However, that assessment was written over thirty-five years ago.

After appearing in Court for his primary hearing, he was ordered held without bail pending a bond hearing by Judge Lynn Tepper for the second-degree murder charge.

Continue reading "Retired Police Captain Faces Murder Charge for South Florida Theater Shooting" »

September 23, 2013
 

Surveillance Video Brings New Details to Light in Case of Facebook Murder Posting

Follow Up:
In an article posted here just under ten days ago, new evidence has been uncovered in the story of Derek Medina, the man who posted a shocking image of his murdered wife on his Facebook page.

A Surveillance video was released by the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, along with Medina's dead wife's diary. The video shows what might possibly have been the final seconds leading up to the alleged murder of Jennifer Alfonso, by the hand and the gun of her now imprisoned husband. After the shooting, Medina posted her photo on Facebook along with comments directly showing his involvement in the crime.

Although the video doesn't display an uninterrupted observation of the entire alleged skirmish, Alfonso can be clearly seen in the kitchen at the onset of the filming. It does show Medina enter the room, arguing with Alfonso and then exit only to return evidently with a gun, although it is not within the line of sight of the rolling camera. He is then seen making his way into the kitchen when his head snaps back apparently when his wife Jennifer punches him. Moments after that an eruption of gunpowder can be seen flying out of the kitchen denoting the 6 to 8 shots that Medina fired at his wife based on his own confession. Next, he returns with his jacket and cell phone as he allegedly takes the picture that he posted on Facebook before putting on the jacket and placing his cell phone in his pocket as he exits their home. The video concludes presenting heavily armed police entering the townhouse through the front door; concluding the released footage of the video before they discovered Alfonso's body which is never seen on camera but discovered slumped in the kitchen.

Medina contends that his wife grabbed a knife during the scuffle, but he was able to take it away from her and return it to a kitchen drawer. This suspected circumstance is not played out within the recording.

Since my first posting, Medina has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder although it has been reported that prosecutors will likely seek a first-degree murder indictment when the grand jury returns.

Medina and Alfonso had a shaky relationship. After getting married in 2010 and divorcing in 2012 they remarried a few months later during the scope of those couple of years.

A major irony in this case is the context that Medina was an author of numerous e-books, one of them titled "How I saved someone's life and marriage and family problems thru communication" which is a story where the main character saves his marriage after getting divorced and remarried to the same person. He also maintains a Website named EmotionalWriter.com. He marketed himself in numerous videos that he posted on YouTube and his e-books could be found and purchased on amazon.com

According to CBS Miami, Alfonso's father is quoted as saying in reference to Medina posting his dead daughter's image "It's like self-promoting what he's always done you know. To put my daughter nationwide on Facebook that's unbelievable, unbelievable,"

But Medina's father had a different story to tell saying that his son was only trying to defend himself. "They are making my son into an animal. He was scared of her all his life, all the relationship, because he always reported to me that he would get beaten by her," said Medina Sr. "She pushed him to the point of insanity".

In another bizarre twist some of the entries unveiled in Alfonso's journal/diary told of her hearing "weird noises" and macabre sounds in their house and had the feeling of "being watched" as well as writing that she "always believed in zombies" discussing her concerns over reports of cannibalism relating to designer synthetic drugs denoted as "bath salts".

In a December 27, 2012 entry she wrote: "I no [sic] he loves me and I no [sic] I love him just wished we had better ways of showing it. When we love each other its [sic] GREAT. But when we hate each other we HATE each other,"

In a May 22, 2012, entry, obviously displaying aggressive feelings toward Medina she wrote: "After little situations that me and derek [sic] have been through I find myself uncontrolably jelouse [sic], like want to murder type of deal," says the diary. "His eyes start wondering [sic], more than once, of course my blood boiled and I wanted to rip his eyes right out of the socket, disrespect."

She finished that day's notes when she penned: "I just wish everybody could be happy!!"

As more details emerge it'll be interesting to see how this case plays out. I'll keep you informed.

To read my first post on this topic, click here.

[sic]: added immediately after a quoted word or phrase (or a longer piece of text), indicates that the quotation has been transcribed exactly as found in the original source, complete with any erroneous spelling or other nonstandard presentation Source: Wikipedia.com

Continue reading "Surveillance Video Brings New Details to Light in Case of Facebook Murder Posting" »

September 14, 2013
 

South Miami Man Posts Picture of Murdered Wife on Facebook

In the twenty-first century, social media has become a large part of many people's lives. Websites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others give its subscribers the ability to follow friends and family as well as politicians and celebrities to see what they're up to and virtually become a part of their daily lives. Facebook is by far the most popular of these services with a subscribership of over half a billion users.

One of the most popular elements of Facebook is the ability for people to post images that are shared with family and friends. Pictures of new born babies, weddings and other happy occasions saturate the Facebook pages of many of its participants. But in the case of Derek Medina, it led to his arrest.

Medina, 31 allegedly posted a picture of Jennifer Alfonso, 26, his lifeless wife on his Facebook page after fatally shooting her in their South Miami townhouse. He added a caption to the photo writing "RIP Jennifer Alfonso." The graphic picture displays a woman collapsed on the kitchen floor, her legs twisted backward, lying on her back with blood on her cheek and left arm.

Following his posting of the image he wrote * "Im going to prison or death sentence for killing my wife love you guys miss you guys takecare Facebook people you will see me in the news" my wife was punching me and I am not going to stand anymore with the abuse so I did what I did I hope u understand me"

After completing the grisly Facebook session Medina changed his clothes and then informed unspecified relatives; confessing to the murder. Next, he turned himself in to the South Miami Police which handed the case over to the Miami-Dade Police Department.

Medina showed up at the police station and told police that he killed his wife that morning after they were involved in a domestic squabble. When police arrived at the scene they found Ms. Alfonso inside the home located at the 5500 block of Southwest 67th Avenue in Miami dead on the floor with multiple gunshot wounds.

The arrest report stated that Medina was in his bedroom when he took a gun from his closet, faced Alfonso and pointed the gun at her. She then left the bedroom only to come back a short time later telling Medina that she was leaving him. At this point, she left the room and went downstairs into the kitchen as Medina followed her without the gun. According to Medina, she then began to punch him so he went back to the bedroom and retrieved the firearm. When he returned to the kitchen he alleged that Alfonso wielded a knife but he was able to wrestle it away from her. After the knife was taken away from her, she began punching him again and it was then that he began firing his gun at her.


At the time of the shooting Alfonso's 10-year-old daughter was in the townhouse. Police made no comment as to whether or not she was a witness to crime but affirmed the child uninjured.

In Medina's first court appearance Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria Elena Verde denied him bail. When questioned whether he would be pursuing a private attorney, he originally said, "I am in the process of talking to someone," but a short time after his statement decided to accept representation by a public defender.

Medina is charged with first-degree murder. His next court appearance was scheduled for three weeks from this appearance.

*Grammatical and spelling errors in Medina's above quote were not corrected.

Continue reading "South Miami Man Posts Picture of Murdered Wife on Facebook" »

July 26, 2013
 

Two South Florida Doctors Decline Plea Deals in Pill Mill Connected Murders

Drs. Cynthia Cadet, 42 and Joseph Castronuovo, 72 maintain their innocence. The two doctors who are each charged with 13 offenses related to prescribing drugs while working at the pain clinics that were operated by the now infamous twin brothers, Chris and Jeff George, are willing to face trial and take their chances before a jury.

The two doctors have declined plea deals that were offered and are now looking at possible sentences of life in prison because their prescription-writing of Oxycodone led to nine deaths, federal officials assert.

Since August 2011, eleven other doctors that were indicted in the same arrests have either pleaded guilty to money laundering or mail fraud in federal court. Most of them received five-year sentences.

Cadet is accused of contributing to the deaths of seven patients that she allegedly prescribed drugs to at the George brother clinics located in three Palm Beach County cities as well as several Broward County cities. Castronuovo is linked to two deaths, according to prosecutors.

It was in August 2011 when thirty-two individuals including thirteen doctors were rounded up by the FBI and charged with the illegal distribution of various drugs through the operation of "pill mills" which operated in Broward and Palm Beach County as well as generating sales through the Internet.

At the time, the indictment alleged that Chris and Jeffrey George, operated, managed and financed the following four pain management clinics in Broward and Palm Beach Counties: Executive Pain, American Pain, Hallandale Pain and the East Coast Pain clinics. From 2008 to early 2010, the George's clinics dispersed in the area of 20 million oxycodone pills and generated more than $40 million of income from the sales of the controlled substance.

In Oct, 2011 Jeff George pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in connection with the death by overdose of one of the clients who frequented his "pill mill" pain clinics. In January 2012 he was sentenced to 15 1/2 years in prison. Three weeks later his brother Chris was given a 17 1/2-year sentence.

It was the testimony of Jeff that implicated all the other defendants associated with the case including arrests of his brother, mother, sister-in-law and a childhood friend. Cadet and Castronuovo were also named in his testimony.

Pleading leniency for his client, Jeff George's attorney David Roth said to the Court; "In my 43 years of practicing law, I can't remember any case where a defendant has cooperated knowing that as a result of his cooperation there was a high probability it would lead to the arrests of his mother and his brother. Mr. George, in street language, has come clean."

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra wasn't feeling Mr. Roth's intriguing oratory and decided that his client deserved to spend a long time behind bars.

Oxycodone is the number one form of prescription, and sometimes illegally obtained drugs that are attributed to cause death by overdose. Heroin and cocaine combined don't come close to the amount of overdose deaths caused by Oxycodone. It is categorized as a Schedule II narcotic. These categories have a high probability of initiating drug abuse and addiction. It can be ingested through the nose by sorting, or liquefied and then injected, to achieve an instantaneous high.

South Florida has been distinguished as the pill mill capital of the world according to Florida's current Attorney General Pam Bondi. Dan Gelber, a former prosecutor and now a member of the Florida Senate, representing the 35th District said that the state (Florida) is the "Sam's Club of prescription drugs." Authorities aren't surprised to find drugs put together and originating from Florida turning up in packages up and down the east coast. Florida has been acknowledged as the illicit prescription drug capital of the country by local, state and federal law enforcement officials, especially for oxycodone and oxycontin.

Continue reading "Two South Florida Doctors Decline Plea Deals in Pill Mill Connected Murders" »

July 13, 2013
 

Former West Palm Beach Doctor Faces Capital Murder Charge

In an exceptionally uncommon action, authorities arrested a West Palm Beach former doctor for first-degree murder. His medical license had been revoked two years ago.

According to the Florida's sun-sentinel.com, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said "it's rare for a doctor to face first-degree murder or manslaughter charges for overprescribing drugs, but it's becoming more common". This doctor is being charged for the overdose deaths of two of his patients.

John Christensen, 61, was originally a chiropractor when he received his medical degree in 1995 from Universidad Federico Henriquez y Carvajal School of medicine in the Dominican Republic. The school was shut down in 1998 by officials of the D.R., who established that they uncovered "grave academic deficiencies." A report filed in the U.S. connected it closely to another school that has also since been closed for being nothing more than a diploma mill.

Christensen claimed to have no knowledge and had heard nothing about the controversy that surrounded his old school; He said he passed all the requisite exams to get his license to practice medicine. "We took the same examinations that the United States medical students took," he said during a deposition in civil suit that was filed against him in 2010.

That law suit was filed by George and Jacque Lauzerique, the parents of a 21-year-old Royal Palm Beach High School baseball sensation that died while he was sleeping at their Wellington home. Their son, Anthony Lauzerique died from a drug overdose.

Through testimony of the civil suit it was alleged that Christensen blatantly over-prescribed oxycodone, roxycodon, methadone and Xanax tablets to their son which led to his death..

Dr. Christensen settled that lawsuit. State records show his insurance company paid approximately $250,000, but the total amount of the settlement has remained undisclosed.

Although losing the civil suit, Christensen's pain management clinics continued to thrive. Records show that in the first half of 2011, Medicaid in Florida paid for over 5,000 oxycodone pills per month that Christensen approved for his patients.

But in August 2011 Christensen's clinics were raided. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) along with other law enforcement agents took boxes of patient data and computer records from his clinic in West Palm Beach. A Daytona Beach chiropractic clinic of which he was a partner was also searched.

The Department of Health suspended Christensen's license after documents found in the raids showed abuse of over-prescribing certain controlled drugs. Authorities searched Christensen's home in addition to his offices. Florida's then-Surgeon General, Dr. Frank Farmer, said in a statement: "Clearly, this practitioner flagrantly disregarded his duties and responsibilities as a practicing physician in Florida, jeopardizing the health and welfare of his patients." A complaint which was filed with the health department stated that he prescribed drugs for cash without even examining his patients.

The current two first-degree murder counts against Christensen were filed because of the overdose death of two of his patients. The drugs that were prescribed were oxycodone, methadone and anti-anxiety drugs. He's additionally facing charges of conspiracy to traffic oxycodone, unlawful delivery of methadone and unlawful prescription of a controlled substance.

Although the charges against Christensen are in reference to two other patients that died, purportedly due to Christensen's actions, Jacque Lauzerique said she was relieved to hear about the former doctor's arrest even though the action was not specifically related to her son's death. She said that she felt the charges are warranted. "I've been waiting for this for a long time," said Lauzerique. She went on to comment: "It would make your heart sink to think that somebody was doing that to anyone that you loved. You know, they just didn't care. They were in it for the money. And it was sad."

Last Friday a judge denied bail but his attorney suggested that his client should be presumed innocent. He is presently being held in the Palm Beach County Jail.

Similarly charged in the case is another defendant, Dr. Stewart Fox, 62, of Boynton Beach. Authorities say that he worked at Christensen's West Palm Beach office. He faces allegations of conspiracy to traffic in oxycodone, unlawful delivery of methadone and unlawful prescription of a controlled substance. No murder charges of any variety have been associated with the second doctor.

The investigation of the two doctors has been ongoing since January 2011. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has commented that they have 35 overdose deaths under review linked to Christensen's offices located in West Palm Beach, Daytona Beach and Port St. Lucie.

Just two days before the first-degree murder counts were charged against Christensen, former Delray Beach doctor, Barry Schultz, was detained on a manslaughter charge for the death of a 50-year old patient who overdosed on methadone.

In a related case, Joseph Wagner, a chiropractor that operated the Wagner Chiropractic & Acupuncture Clinic located in Volusia County was jailed last year after his conviction of health care fraud, conspiracy to illegally distribute prescription drugs, and money laundering. He was partners in the venture with the then Dr. Christensen who was not charged in the case. Wagner was sentenced to 15 years and eight months in federal prison.

Although law enforcement has been tightening the noose on these abusers the problem needs to be further examined. Once known as the "pain clinic capital of the world", according to Aronberg, Florida is currently attacking these crimes with stricter laws, better enforcement and a new database that monitors the prescriptions of many of the suspected drugs of choice.

Continue reading "Former West Palm Beach Doctor Faces Capital Murder Charge" »

June 24, 2013
 

25 Years on Death Row the Final Chapter of William Van Poyck

As reported in our previous blog post, the 25-plus year saga of convicted murderer William Van Poyck came to an end when his life was terminated last week by lethal injection enforced by a death warrant signed by Florida Governor Rick Scott in early May.

As of the end of May Scott had signed five death warrants this current year, including three in a recent period of less than four weeks. One of the three was Van Poyck's.

When interviewed by CBS news, Scott stated that "I go through them and when people have exhausted their appeals and when they're finished with their clemency process, then I continue to move the process along." CBS also reported that this practice displays that Scott has been signing death warrants at a "stepped up pace" and mentions that he's signing death warrants at a speed that's been "rarely seen in Florida since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976." He is also considering a bill that would "speed up death penalty executions by creating tighter timeframes for appeals and post-conviction motions," according to cbslocal.com.

Van Poyck was convicted in the murder of prison guard Fred Griffis in 1987. He fervently declared that he was not the one that fired the gun that killed the prison guard until the very end. His final words before lethal injection ended his life were "Set me free".

Van Poyck's case gained notoriety outside the state of Florida mainly because he wrote books and authored several blogs by writing letters to his sister which she posted on the Internet on his behalf. Two of his books won awards, one of them "A Checkered Past" won first-place in the memoir category of the 2004 Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards. His first book, The Third Pillar of Wisdom, was an award-winning autobiography. He also published short stories that won honors, including the PEN American Center's "Fielding Dawson Special Citation for Outstanding Achievement" in 2004 for his literary achievements.

Once an execution takes place there are usually two sides that are affected by the finality of the act; the victim's friends and family and the convicted killer's connections as well.

Van Poyck's sister Lisa, 59, who lives in Richmond, Virginia, was his strongest supporter. She said her brother didn't kill the Glades Correctional Institution prison guard. She admits that her brother masterminded the plot to attack the two guards who were in the van in an effort to free his best friend, but sustains that he had no part in the actual shooting. She maintained that "Billy didn't want anyone to get hurt or anyone to get shot,"

A day after the Governor signed the death warrant for her brother's first-degree murder conviction; she initiated an appeal to spare her Brother William's life. In petitions displayed on Facebook as well as her brother's Death Row Diary Website, she pressed anyone that could get involved to assist her in staying the execution which was at the time slated for June 12. She said she became "hysterical" once she was advised that Governor Scott had signed her brother's death warrant. However she implied that she was still optimistic that lawyers that were still operating to stop his execution would be successful in winning him a new trial where different jurors would be able to be convinced that he didn't fire the shot and go along with a life sentence rather than execution.

"I've always had a vision of my brother walking out of there a free man. I believe miracles can happen." she said.

She attributed her brother's quandary on incompetent attorneys that handled her Brother's defense as well as heartless, blood-thirsty jurors as well as the Florida law that holds each person involved in the crime responsible for the murder whether they actually were the killer or not.

Recently during an interview, his sister said "He didn't kill anyone. He deserves to be released. He's served enough time in prison for trying to break someone out of a prison transport van." She went on to submit that "He is deeply remorseful for the ending of Fred Griffis' life".

Her Brother however is taking the news of his imminent death calmly, his sister said. He has been placed on death watch and now is allowed to make phone calls to family and friends. When she spoke with him last week, she said he encouraged her to be strong and not dwell on the inevitable.

"Lisa, I've been preparing for this for a long time," she said that he told her. "I'm totally at peace with God."

Among a mass of protesters', outside the building where her brother was just executed she was quoted as saying "He's finally free from those prison walls".

To view his blog posted and updated by his sister Lisa, click here

On the other side of the issue, members of Griffis' family were planning a get-together for quiet reflection about their loved one's life.

The family has said in interviews that they were exasperated that news stories fixated on Van Poyck who is the convicted killer. News stories concentrated on issues dealing with his appeals, the 25-year old crime, as well as his writings and blog posts, but not much had been reported in the news about Griffis who was a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran.

The victim's cousin, Norman Traylor said "It's been a very traumatic experience".

His brother Roland said "When he was murdered, it basically ripped a hole in the family's heart that's never really healed". He further stated that Fred was always looking out for others after he was released on a medical discharge when his first tour in Vietnam was completed, but he re-enlisted for two more tours because he thought he could help his country further.

In the final seconds of his life he was resolute not to permit a killer to escape custody.

In conclusion, Ronald said: "I knew that even at the end, he was still my brother; he was still Freddy, that's who he was. He protected others."

Steve Turner, one of the corrections officers involved in the attack on that fateful day along with Griffis, spoke of his feeling after the execution concluded.

"Justice has prevailed," he said. "They can close the book."

To read our previous blog posts detailing with Van Poyck's story, click the below links:
Jun 20th, 2013: Florida Man Executed After 25 Years on Death Row
May 8th, 2013: Judge Appoints Three Lawyers in Last Minute Death Penalty Appeal

Continue reading "25 Years on Death Row the Final Chapter of William Van Poyck" »

June 20, 2013
 

Florida Man Executed After 25 Years on Death Row

After spending more than 25 years on Florida's death row, the story of William Van Poyck who was convicted in the death of prison guard Fred Griffis has come to an end. With the exhaustion of his final appeal and consequential execution this week, Van Poyck was pronounced dead at 7:24 p.m. Wednesday June 12 by lethal injection in a Florida prison.

A portion of the story of the Van Poyck case was previously mentioned in one of our blog articles (Judge Appoints Three Lawyers in Last Minute Death Penalty Appeal) under the category of murder, posted earlier last month. At the time our article was presented, Florida Supreme Court's Judge Charles Burton appointed lawyers to the case who had any previous connections to Van Poyck's original case or any of the appeals related to his petitions over the past 26 years. One of those lawyers, Gerald Bettman was one of the three appointed lawyers to handle Van Poyck's final attempt at staying his execution. He was marginally involved in a "one of many" Van Poyck's appeals that in this 2007 case was primarily handled by out-of-state lawyers. The attorney who handled the original case was arrested for cocaine possession in 1993 and is no longer permitted to practice law in the State of Florida

Van Poyck was convicted of first-degree murder after Frank Valdes; an accomplice to the crime attacked a prison van outside a doctor's office located in West Palm Beach. Their objective was to free James O'Brien, who was an inmate that both Valdes and Van Poyck served time with previously. Van Poyck always maintained that he did not fire the lethal shot that killed the prison guard. Valdes was killed in prison in 1999. Van Poyck spent time in a Virginia prison before he was brought back to await execution on Florida's death row.

In comparable cases, a volunteer lawyer such as Bettman, were allowed to withdraw from the proceedings after a death warrant was signed by the Governor. State-financed death penalty attorneys were then appointed to take over ongoing appeals

Martin McClain, a prominent death penalty attorney stated after the ruling by the Court that "They are trying to create an obligation that should offend every defense lawyer in the state. It flies in the face of public policy to encourage pro bono work. What lawyer, would volunteer to help out the state by representing a Death Row inmate for free if they are faced with the prospect of handling the flurry of appeals after a death warrant is signed?" He went on to say that "This underscores the chaos in the governor's office. They didn't know this (the ambiguity in reference to Van Poyck's legal representation) was a problem. Nobody is keeping track."

Bettman failed to persuade Burton to relieve him of his duties at a hearing back in May. The high court's decision was in answer to Bettman's appeal of that decision.

"It all worked out," Bettman said. "If you're going to kill someone, you better be sure you're doing things right."

It all became a moot point last week when Van Poyck was executed. However, the ruling stands and its precedent can affect future cases unless reversed.

To read more about Van Poyck's years on death row awaiting execution, read our next blog posting titled: 25 Years on Death Row, the Final Chapter of William Van Poyck.

Continue reading "Florida Man Executed After 25 Years on Death Row" »

May 8, 2013
 

Judge Appoints Three Lawyers in Last Minute Death Penalty Appeal

On Monday, the dilemma of who will represent convicted killer William Van Poyck, 58 in a midnight hour appeal has been awkwardly resolved by Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Charles Burton when he appointed "all" three lawyers that had dealings in Van Poyck's case over the past 26 years. Most people involved in the 2-hour hearing considered the ruling to be bizarre to say the least.

Van Poyck was convicted of murdering Glades Correctional Institution prison guard Fred Griffis in 1987 in front of a doctor's office located in West Palm Beach.

In the trial where he was found guilty, he was originally represented by William Lasley who was later arrested for possession of cocaine after Van Poyck's guilty verdict was confirmed. He has since vanished from the case letting his membership in the Florida Bar expire. He claimed an insanity defense in his own case.

The deadline for motions to be filed that could save Van Poyck's life was set for 3 p.m. this Friday. He is scheduled to be executed on June 12.

Attorney's Jeffrey Davis & Gerald Bettman were appointed by Burton due to the fact that they both have previously represented him in his appeals that have been going on since his 1987 conviction. The Judge stated that both lawyers had the most understanding of most of the issues dealing with the case. He also appointed Tallahassee attorney Mark Olive to assist in the intricate appeals after a death warrant is signed by the Governor. Florida's Governor Rick Scott signed the death warrant on May 3.

Both Davis & Gerald Bettman explained to the Judge that they neither had the proper time, expertise or resources to represent their appointed client properly. Davis specified that the single logical maneuver would be to petition the Florida Supreme Court to permit a stay of execution in order for all of the appointed attorneys to present the dynamic type of appeal that's demanded by the state before an execution takes place.

He also suggested that if that scenario couldn't be achieved, another option would be to ask the 11th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to intercede on the matter.

"Everyone's willing to clear the decks and put in the time necessary but four days, that's just not enough time." he said.

He went on to say "Frankly, this is the kind of case that gives the death penalty a bad name." Davis practices civil appellate law in Wisconsin, a state that doesn't have the death penalty.

Mark Olive, the third attorney named in the last minute appeal is known as a premier death-penalty defense attorney, practicing in the state of Florida. He told the Judge that he has the "legal chops" but has no knowledge referring to Van Poyck's situation. "It's just a farce, frankly," he said.
Since his original lawyer's arrest Davis and Bettman had previously represented Van Poyck on particular issues but the two were never actually appointed to represent him before. Neither of them ever anticipated being recruited to handle this appeal. Davis, who was vacationing in France, last week, said he never received any notification that the death warrant was signed by the Governor. He also mentioned that he was never delivered an order laying out the stringent timetable for appeal by the Florida Supreme Court.

Bettman also argued that he shouldn't be required to handle the last-minute appeal but his name appears on two of Van Poyck's previous appeals. Davis's name appears on the other ten.

Late last Friday, the Florida Supreme Court handed down a ruling specifying that any of the fourteen lawyers who filed appeals for Van Poyck in the past were still his lawyers. This set the stage for this week's hearing by mandating Burton to choose which of the fourteen lawyers, counting Mr. Lasley, was most capable to handle the last-ditch effort appeal.

Martin McClain, an attorney and a death-penalty expert, who also could have been chosen at the Judge's discretion, said that what the three attorneys are being asked to do in four days is impossible. "Crazy," he said, outlining his view of the Judge's appointments. "Absolutely insane." In previous cases concerning volunteer lawyers, the Florida Supreme Court stays of execution have been granted in the effort for new lawyers to "get up to speed", he said.

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February 26, 2013
 

Mistrial Denied for New Trial in 25 Year Old Murder Case of Police Officer

The Prosecution began to get their case prepared against Dennis Escobar, the strength of it being his confession to Miami homicide detectives from a California jail hospital bed, where he was wounded after a clash there with California highway patrol troopers.

Escobar got an unanticipated reprieve from the death penalty for the second time in 18 years in his first-degree murder case where he killed Miami police officer Victor Estefan in 1988. His brother, Douglas Escobar, 53, who was already wanted on robbery charges at the time, was the driver of a stolen car that he was driving, who allegedly told his brother to shoot the officer and was his codefendant in the original case.

Although jurors convicted the Escolars' in 1991, the Florida Supreme Court threw out the convictions in 1997, stating that the original trial judge should have permitted the two brothers to be tried in separate court cases.

The original incident transpired when Victor Estefan, a Miami police officer was finishing a conversation in Little Havana after a traffic stop with a tow truck driver. Another vehicle without its headlights on drove past the two, catching Estefan's attention.
The officer then left the scene, jumping into his police cruiser and following what he deemed to be a suspicious vehicle. It wasn't long after those gunshots penetrated the night.

Dennis Escobar's most recent reprieve arose when an unlabeled audiotape was found on February 17 by a retired City of Miami homicide detective who was preparing to testify in the case. As reported by the Miami Herald, the now retired officer was going through an evidence box where he found the tape that apparently exhibited that Escobar had asked for a lawyer in Spanish, before allegedly confessing as he was being interrogated nearly 20 years ago.

The Herald described the tape as a bombshell since it seemingly contradicts earlier testimony that Escobar voluntarily spoke with the detective without a lawyer. The tape was recently turned over to the defense. In lieu of this new evidence, the prosecution offered both brothers plea deals in exchange for pleading guilty which would have a term of 55-years in prison but with a minimum penalty of 18 years for each of them. Both brothers were facing potential death sentences if either was convicted of the capital murder.

On Wednesday both the prosecution and defense had agreed to request a mistrial in the case against Dennis Escobar, but Judge Leon Firtel made the decision not to grant it. He was quoted as saying "I don't want to deny the defendant his rights but this judge has an obligation to the State of Florida to get this case to trial after 15 years."

It was at that time that Douglas Escobar recoiled when it came time to agree to the deal due to the judges ruling. "I didn't shoot no one," he told the Miami-Dade Circuit Judge. "I don't want to plead guilty."
After the outburst, the judge reset the continuance of the hearing for Monday, telling the defendant's lawyers to speak further with their clients about the deal over the weekend.

When the case resumed on Monday, it was a different atmosphere, as Douglas Escobar settled on the plea deal. Two court-appointed mental health experts granted that he was competent to stand trial, as written in a later Miami Herald article. Conversely, with the weekend to weigh his options, Dennis Escobar said he wishes to face a trial. He is again facing the death penalty if convicted.

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February 20, 2013
 

Robbery Perpetrator Kills Accomplice, Faces Murder Charge

As she arrived at her home, Megan McGlynn was just getting her one and five year old children, out of her van when shots rang out. Manatee County sheriff's deputy Aaron Bradley aimed and fired at a vehicle that was heading directly toward him and another deputy. McGlynn quickly protected her kids by shielding them from the gunfire while she hurried to unlock her front door. She then herded her kids into the bathroom and placed them in the bathtub, keeping them away from the windows. While they were safely inside, a bullet hit Joanna Mojica, the driver of the suspect vehicle, in the head. McGlynn said that she thought the man that was eventually arrested was the driver of the car because she noticed him running to the passenger side screaming.

As it turned out, Jesse Flores, 27 was the passenger of the vehicle who she saw running yelling, "my girl, my girl, she's dead" as she slumped over to the passenger side of the car. He was crying and cursing at the cops, as he asked why they shot her, according to McGlynn.

McGlynn was also quoted as saying "It was just like a movie, I thought it was a drive-by or a robbery. I had no idea the cops were the ones shooting.

The events unfolded around 10:20 p.m. when the deputies responded to a 911 call made by the building's landlord who was alerted by one of McGlynn's neighbors who told the landlord that he heard a crashing noise at the premises located in the 900 block of 66th Avenue West, in Manatee, as reported by Dave Bristow, a spokesman for the sheriff's office.

The bullet struck the actual driver of the car, Joanna Mojica, in the head. According to a probable cause affidavit to back Flores' arrest, he spotted the deputies heading toward them and jumped into the car yelling at Mojica to "Go, go, go!"

The officers who were on foot ordered Mojica to stop but instead she accelerated, and continued driving right at them. In what he felt was self-defense, Deputy Bradley fired his weapon at the vehicle five times, according to Dave Bristow, the sheriff's office spokesman. McGlynn, however, said she recalled hearing at least 20 shots. Bristow said that the quantity of shots fired would be determined after officials process the car. The car crashed into a mailbox and finally came to rest in front of McGlynn's house.

After the smoke cleared and the scene was secured, Mojica was taken to Blake Medical Center where she was pronounced dead upon arrival.

Flores was arrested at the scene and is now being held at the Manatee County jail without bond. There are multiple charges filed against him, including murder; since under Florida law an accomplice can be charged with murder if anyone dies during the commission of many crimes including burglary. He is also charged with two counts of attempted murder of law enforcement officers; and one count of burglary. In April he was sentenced to a term of two years' probation stemming from a drug possession conviction.

The actual victim of the crime, who has decided not to be identified, told police that the robbers broke into her home through a window around the back. She said they took two of her televisions, as well as an Xbox console and some games that are played on the console.

The victim, upon arrival said there were sheriff's vehicles all over the entire street near her house.

"I asked the newsman what was going on and he said a lady was shot in the head. A lady had no business inside my home so I knew nothing had happened to my house," she said.

But she did say that when she walked toward her home, detectives requested to speak with her.

Spokesman Bristow said that there was a television seen protruding out of the suspect vehicle's trunk. He went on to comment that when a search warrant is issued for the vehicle, it's possible that more items may be recovered.

Deputy Bradley, a seven year veteran of the sheriff's office, is now on administrative leave awaiting results of the investigation. An initial evaluation has shown that the shooting was in agreement with state law and the policies of the sheriff's office.

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January 29, 2013
 

Guilty of Accessory After the Fact in Head Found in Everglades Case

Robert Mackey, 44 was convicted of trying to cover up a crime.
The original charge against Mackey was second-degree murder. He was accused of being one of the two men who killed Lorraine Hatzakorzian, a New York woman, and then cut her into pieces; pitching her head into a canal in a section of the Everglades, almost seven years ago. Mackey still could spend up to 30 years of incarceration for being convicted of accessory after the fact when he's sentenced on Feb. 28.

Mackey was from New York and listed his occupation as a tree trimmer. Mackey's prior co-defendant, Paul Trucchio, 39 accepted a prison term of 30-years last year rather than take his chances with a jury that could have sent him to prison for the rest of his life if convicted.

On Monday, the jury deliberated for over two hours without being able to reach a verdict but Broward Circuit Judge Ilona Holmes told them to go back and continue their deliberations in the hopes of reaching an agreement.

After 2½ hours of further deliberations on Tuesday, the verdict came in acquitting Mackey of second-degree murder but finding him guilty of the lesser but still serious charge. As the jurors departed the courthouse they declined to answer any questions, in regard to whether they believed that Mackey was innocent of the grisly murder whatsoever or if they think he killed her somewhere other than within the boundaries of the state of Florida. They also didn't reveal any details of their original split-decision on the second-degree murder charge.

The charges were challenging for the prosecution to establish from the onset. There were no witnesses tied to the suspect that could directly attribute the death of Lorraine Hatzakorzian directly to the defendant. He was not seen with her, nor did anyone witness him murder her. There were no witnesses that saw him cut off her head or throw it into the canal. There was nobody called that could even verify that Mackey was in the state on April 28, 2007, which was the day that severed head was discovered.

Mackey's Defense attorney, John George argued that his client wasn't involved in the victim's death and an appeal is likely.

In spite of the aforesaid lack of physical evidence the jurors did hear evidence that swayed them to believe that the defendant was linked to the crime. Prosecutor Gregg Rossman exhibited that Mackey and Trucchio were both pulled over by a Volusia County police officer because the car being driven was missing its back window and had a large crack in the front windshield. The vehicle turned out to be the victim's blue Dodge pickup and was stopped a few days after her head was recovered from the canal. A third man, Louis Caroleo, a friend of Mackey's was also in the vehicle when it was pulled over. When called to the stand Caroleo testified that Mackey and Trucchio independently confessed to killing a woman and cutting off her head and getting rid of it. They both then prayed to a concrete alligator; that the remains of their deed would be digested before any of the proof was exposed. According to Caroleo's testimony, this took place outside of the Port Orange motel where they were staying in the late springtime months of 2007. Additionally both men were seen scrubbing the car inside and out with bleach and acid.

In rebuttal, defense lawyer John George mentioned that the missing fragments of the story were an indication that the prosecution couldn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mackey had anything at all to do with the crime. "For one thing", he said, "no one established that Hatzakorzian died in Florida. No one established that Mackey was even in Florida when she died or that he was responsible for her death".

The prosecutor then pressed the jury to depend on the legal presumption that "a murder is presumed to have been committed in the same jurisdiction where the body was found unless there is evidence to the contrary." And the sole part of Hatzakorzian that was ever found was located in Broward County.

There were also signs that the victim's head was tossed in the water not too long before it was found, Rossman also argued. "Blood at the scene was still bright red", he said, "and the head itself showed no signs of being pecked at by wildlife."

The Broward County Sheriff's deputy who recovered the head said that he had to act hurriedly to prevent alligators that were close by to the scene from getting to it first.

Apparently, the prosecution's case was enough to influence jurors that Mackey did indeed assist helping Trucchio cover up the crime.

About 10 members of Hatzakorzian's family attended every day of the trial.

Related Reading, Explanation of Accessory after the Fact:: Click Here

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January 5, 2013
 

Son Slays Father, Sets Fire on New Year's Eve

A Holiday, Florida man was arrested early Thursday morning after he allegedly stabbed his Father to death and then poured gasoline on the body setting it ablaze inside the master bedroom of their home located at 5617 Mosaic Drive, according to the Pasco Sheriff's Office. Firefighters were able to contain the fire to the bedroom where it originated, according to Fox 13 News.

Baron Von Duke Vercruysse, 23 was arrested Tuesday morning after the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, accused him of" homicidal violence" in the related death of his Father, 52-year-old Rene Dominique Vercruysse.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that Sherriff's deputies believed a dispute between the father and son led to the death.

Police discovered the elder Vercruysse's body when they responded to the fire at approximately 10:20 p.m. on Monday night. An initial autopsy revealed that the elder Vercruysse died of "homicidal violence", and not injuries consistent with the fire, according to Bay News 9.

Deputies specified that the younger Vercruysse confessed to the murder. He's been charged with first-degree murder as well as arson. The Times reports that his prior rap sheet includes larceny and more than one possession of a controlled substance.

A neighbor also told The Times that he heard a sharp scream discernible from New Year's Eve festivities Monday evening, just before authorities responded to the fire. "It was sharp," Randal Tilton said. "It scared me."

Bail was denied by Judge W. Lowell Bray Jr. on the murder count. A bond of $150,000 was fixed on the arson charge. Vercruysse was also assigned a public defender, although he told the Judge that he made, "two grand a month."

Vercruysse is now being held in Land O'Lakes jail. It is reported that he claimed self-defense citing years of abuse by his Father. He said he lived in fear of doing anything wrong. He said he suffered black eyes, bloody noses, fat lips imposed by his Father.

"I didn't mean to kill him," Vercruysse told the Times. "I just wanted him to stop beating me."

He said he fought back on New Year's Eve. His account of that night is as follows:

Vercruysse said he had been at a friend's house. When he came home to the house he shared with his father on Mosaic Drive in Holiday the arguing began over Vercruysse's monetary issues, continued unemployment and his messy room. The argument took place in the bedroom. Then he said his father took a .38-caliber pistol from the nightstand and aimed it at him.

Vercruysse then shoved his Father and turned away. Purportedly, the elder Vercruysse then brought the butt of the gun down on his son's head. Vercruysse said the blow brought him down to the ground where he noticed a knife with about a 3-inch blade under the bed. He said he grabbed it, stood up and faced his father, closed his eyes, and stabbed.

"All he could hear in the dark, his hand thrusting outward, was his father's scream." A neighbor would tell reporters later.

When questioned during the investigation his Sister, Elizabeth, described her Father as a different man from her Brother's accusatory description. She remembers her father as being a big, jovial man with a thick Cajun accent. He called her every day and his best friend was her 9-year-old daughter. "He could be tough sometimes", she said," but deep down he was a mush ball."

A date for opening arguments has not been set.

Related, (Penalties of Murder Charges):

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November 28, 2012
 

Trial to begin in "DCF Nightmare" Rilya Wilson murder case

Ten years after the Florida Department of Children and Families was rocked by scandal that resulted in the DCF secretary leaving, its top administrator in Miami resigning and numerous employees being fired, the case again will surge to the top of the headlines. At the time, the case exposed serious failings in Florida's child-welfare system.

The original cause of the furor was the reported April 2002 disappearance of Rilya Wilson, who was in state custody under the care of the child-welfare agency. Not only had the child gone missing but it took 15 months before anyone at the agency noticed that she was unaccounted for. The child was four years old when she apparently disappeared.

In April 2002, Geralyn Graham, 57, the foster mother, who lived with a roommate, Pamela Graham (no relation), alerted DCF that the girl had been removed from her home by a DCF social worker 15 months previously. The Department of Children and Families then acknowledged that their workers had missed more than a year of required monthly visits to Graham's foster home. Pamela Graham claimed to be Geralyn's sister at the time of the incident.

''Apparently the department went to do a follow-up with Graham, and she essentially told them: "Well, I don't have her. You guys took her from me a year ago,'' said Detective Lupo Jimenez of the Miami-Dade Police Department. ''That's when we were notified. They have no idea where this child is. I've never seen this before.''.

Graham told officials that Rilya was last seen in January 2001, when a woman who she assumed was a representative of the DCF appeared at her home and took the child, telling her that the child needed to undergo psychological and neurological testing. She went on to say that a few days later, a second woman arrived at her house, to retrieve some of the girl's clothes and said that Rilya would stay in the state's custody for further testing. She then said that a few weeks later, a third individual, showed up at her home and inquired about Rilya's siblings, who at that time were still in her custody. She mentioned that on that occurrence the person was a man.

Officials of DCF responded that they had no record of any of those events and that Rilya's caseworker had never approved her removal from Graham's residence.

District administrator for the Department of Children and Families in Miami, Charles Aulander, said, ''One of the requirements is that a counselor have a face-to-face visit with the child at least once per month, and I did not know that that was not going on.'' He added, ''I would have hoped that we would have discovered this much sooner, but we didn't.''

Jack Levine, president of the Center for Florida's Children, a child advocacy group in Tallahassee, said the agency's handling of the case was deplorable.

''I'm shocked by the apparent insufficiency of being able to track the whereabouts of a child who was assumed to be under the watchful eye of our child protection system,'' Mr. Levine said. ''Those eyes that should have been watching were closed.''

Soon after the DCF scandal was realized Geralyn Graham, and her roommate Pamela Graham, 37, who at the time alleged they are sisters, were charged with stealing $14,257 worth of food stamps as well as multiple counts of fraud for continuing to collect benefits for the child long after she vanished, according the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office

Geralyn Graham was charged with seven counts of obtaining welfare, food stamps and Medicaid benefits with false identification and documents. Pamela Graham was charged with 12 counts of welfare fraud, aiding and abetting public assistance fraud and related charges all of them not associated with the case. Both women served time in jail.

The latest events
Now, a decade after, prosecutors have built what they believe to be a strong first-degree murder case against Graham. Based on information provided by jailhouse informants including Pamela Graham, and statements from former friends, it is alleged that Rilya Wilson was brutally abused by her caregiver. Prosecutors introduced a cage into evidence where they believe Rilya was placed for the purpose of punishment within Graham's home. A witness for the prosecution said that she saw scars on Rilya's arms and head before her disappearance. "There were scrapes on her arms. There was a gash on her head, forehead area," family friend Laquica Tuff said speaking of Rilya's condition at that time.

Just last week, the defense motioned for a mistrial citing that prosecutor Joshua Weintraub's law license had been temporarily suspended due to a failure to meet continuing legal education requirements. He was reinstated Tuesday after showing the requirements were met and the mistrial was denied by Circuit Judge Marisa Tinkler-Mendez. Mendez said that previous court rulings have made clear that clerical mistakes such as Weintraub's were never intended to be the kind of law-license suspension that could prejudice a defendant such as Graham. The judge called it a "ministerial circumstance" and stated that Weintraub had actually earned more than the necessary thirty hours of educational credits.

The star witness for the prosecution is Robin Lunceford. Lunceford was serving a life sentence, but had it reduced by 10 years when she told authorities that Graham, who she was in jail with, had confessed to killing Wilson by smothering her with a pillow. Lunceford is now scheduled for release in March 2014.

Another unnamed inmate also reported that Graham confessed to the murder.

Prosecutors also have the cooperation of Pamela Graham, although she insists she has never had any knowledge as to what happened to Rilya.

Opening arguments are set for this Monday in what now is a first-degree murder case Graham faces a life sentence if convicted and may even face the death penalty. Other charges lodged against her are kidnapping and child abuse although a body was never found.

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September 30, 2012
 

Four suspects held in VFW shooting in Central Florida

Winter Springs, FL
A charity poker ride organized by a motorcycle club quickly turned into tragedy in the parking lot of a Veterans of Foreign Wars lodge this past Sunday morning.

Harold Liddle and Peter Schlette were finishing their breakfast at the VFW post, awaiting the start of the charity event when other bikers, armed with guns, arrived at the scene.

After a fight broke out in the parking lot, gunfire erupted. Liddle and Schlette were killed in the melee and another member of the Warlocks, Dave Jakiela was critically injured. Jakiela died as a result of his injuries two days later. Police charged four men in the case originally with two counts of homicide and one count of attempted homicide. Police now expect to elevate the attempted homicide charge to a third count of homicide.

David "Tinman" Maloney, 52, Victor "Pancho" Amaro, 41, Robert "Willy" Eckert, 38, and Paul Smith, 47 were charged with the crimes and are being held in the Seminole County Jail without bond.

The parking lot at the VFW post #5405, located in Winter Springs, Florida about 15 miles northeast of Orlando, was taped off. A nearby senior center was evacuated after the shooting.

"This is a complete and utter shock to me that this happened," said Joe Gault, a quartermaster with the local VFW.

At a news conference hosted by WFTV Monday afternoon, Winter Springs police definitively identified the two murdered men as Harold "Lil' Dave" Liddle, and Peter "Hormone" Schlette. David "Dresser" Jakiela was shot in the head and was in critical condition at the Orlando Regional Medical Center at the time of the news conference.

The Police reports disclosed that it was actually the Philadelphia Warlocks motorcycle club members that set up the charity poker run and gunfire started when the unaffiliated Orlando Warlocks showed up to attend the event at the VFW on Edgemon Avenue. A poker run is an organized event where participants, usually using motorcycles, other vehicles or horses, must stop at five to seven specified checkpoints, drawing a playing card at each one. The object is to have the best poker hand at the end of the run.

Police questioned dozens of witnesses trying to discover what happened initiating the brawl. Eyewitnesses said that at least six motorcyclists appeared out of nowhere and opened fire on the other motorcyclists as they were finishing their breakfast. Some witnesses said the shootout was sparked by a dispute over turf and influence but police would only confirm that Warlocks members from both factions of the group were at the VFW at the time of the shooting.

The original Warlocks motorcycle club was founded by Tom Grub near Orlando in the late 1960s. Since its inception, numerous chapters have been added throughout the U.S and Europe. The local Warlocks website lists members who've died, and also displays those who have been convicted of committing crimes and are serving time behind bars.

Investigators said they recovered a total of 36 weapons from the shootout, including guns, and a variety of knives.

Lt. Doug Seely, of the Winter Springs police reported "We recovered 13 firearms and 23 edged weapons,"

WFTV correspondent Daralene Jones asked Lt. Seeley if the Philadelphia Warlocks were angry that the Orlando Warlocks showed up at the event. Seely responded "We're trying to still to ascertain exactly who's affiliated with what to be able to accurately have that for our case,"

Bill Farrell, a witness to the shootings commented "As they pulled into the parking lot, a huge fire, I call it a firefight [broke out] ... don't know what else to call it. At least 30-40 rounds of ammunition expended,"

Further questioning Lt. Seely; the television commentator posed the inquiry: "How worried are you that this could lead to some sort of bike war?" Seely stated: "We feel this, that happened in Winter Springs; as far as anything major than that, we'll have to rely on larger agencies," However, WFTV learned that police were so concerned about retaliation that Orlando Regional Medical Center was put on lockdown because that's where one of the victims was admitted.

On Monday, when WFTV's reporter Jeff Deal and his cameraman were trying to shoot video of the Warlocks' Orlando headquarters, women from inside the chapter attacked the photographer and attempted to block the footage from being acquired.

The DEA and FBI are assisting Winter Springs Police with the investigation.

Continue reading "Four suspects held in VFW shooting in Central Florida" »

September 12, 2012
 

Broward County Man charged with Murder of his wife

The last thing Jorge Rodriguez expected to hear when he answered the phone at 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning was the words spoken by his close friend Alberto Ramos. Ramos repeatedly told his friend "I have killed my wife". Ramos disclosed to his friend that he killed his wife in a struggle the previous evening. After digesting the grim proclamation, Rodriguez called the police to report the possible crime. When police contacted Ramos he gave them an address that proved to be bogus. Rodriguez was then able to give police a description of the building where Ramos lived which they were later able to find. Upon arrival at the premises, located in the 600 block of Antioch Avenue in the Central Beach area of Fort Lauderdale, police witnessed a bloody Ramos leaving the building. Ramos' wife, Danitza Gomez Reyes, 36 was found dead by detectives inside the apartment in its rear bedroom. She was observed face down lying in a pool of blood surrounding her head. A number of knives were also found in the area where the victim was found.

As police approached Mr. Ramos they found him talking on his cell phone with a 911 dispatcher reporting that he did indeed kill his spouse. No motive was given by him for his action.

According to the police report, after the alleged murder, Ramos ingested 30 to 40 pills and inflicted superficial cuts to his own forearms. The report doesn't specify if he communicated to the detectives why he chose to do this.

Ramos, 49, was ordered to be held without bond in the Broward County jail. His primary court appearance will be on Wednesday, Sept. 26th. He's charged with first-degree murder.

Murder charges can be punishable by up to life in prison depending upon their degree and in cases involving premeditation and heinous atrocious and cruel acts can be punishable by death. If you've been charged with a murder of any degree, it is essential that you understand the charges brought against you. It is also vital that you are represented by an attorney that thoroughly knows and understands the laws relating to murder charges and is vastly experienced in providing aggressive representation.

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