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6/29/2006

Law Enforcement

MURDER IN THE CITY BEAUTIFUL
Halfway through 2006, there have been more murders than in all of 2005. Here are the stories behind the numbers

 

Recent statistics from the FBI show that violent crime is up nationwide, ending a five-year decrease. Murder and manslaughter rates went up nearly 5 percent nationwide, the largest percentage increase since 1991.

Orlando appears to be following, even beating, that trend. As of June 26, we’ve had 30 homicides (the definition of “homicide” is one or more persons killing another under any circumstance; “murder” is the “unlawful taking of a life”), surpassing the 2005 total of 22, and 13 more than 2004, which saw 17. On average, that means one person has been killed in Orlando every six days in 2006. At that pace, we’ll eclipse 1982 — our bloodiest year on record, with 36 killings — in early August. And those are only the numbers for Orlando. In unincorporated Orange County, there have been 23 more homicides this year (as of June 22).

Below are the details of every Orlando killing, as of June 26. Some cases have more information than others. That’s because police are reluctant to talk about ongoing investigations, or judges have the case files while the accused are on trial. Perhaps most striking is how senseless the killings are; these are lives ended as the result of jealous lovers, small-time robberies, fights that escalated, etc. In 12 cases, police have made no arrests as of June 27; two of them are pending charges, which means they may see resolution soon, while another has a known suspect, but charges have not yet been filed. Eight cases are still open.

No. 1:

Jamarcus Matthews, died Jan. 1 Eighteen-year-old Matthews was celebrating the New Year when he disappeared. Just before 5:30 a.m. Jan. 1, three men who’d been with Matthews earlier that night came to his grandmother’s house to ask her if he’d made it home. He hadn’t. Matthews’ mother called police while his grandmother searched for him. The grandmother found his body, riddled with gunshots, by the Ivey Apartment Homes on Edgemoor Street, where he lived.

Police think the shooting stemmed from an incident earlier the same night, a continuation of a feud that apparently had been building for some time. Matthews attended a New Year’s Eve party in west Orlando, wherein one group of revelers blamed another group for a nonfatal shooting on Ivey Court a few months earlier. Police said that Matthews wasn’t involved in the previous shooting, and left the scene of the New Year’s Eve fight. But gunmen, mistakenly thinking he had been involved, followed him home and shot him from their truck. By Jan. 16, police had Mario D. White, 24, and Jermaine D. Jennings, 22, in custody on first-degree murder, kidnapping with a firearm and robbery with a firearm charges related to Matthews’ death. Dexter Rentz, 20, is charged with first-degree murder, false reporting and being an accessory after the fact.

 

No. 2:

Dennis Jackson, died Jan. 1

Another New Year’s murder. Jackson, a 50-year-old transient, was stabbed in the leg and bled to death near Technology Drive and John Young Parkway, a hangout for homeless people. Police arrested another transient, 47-year-old Richard Wayne Phillips, and charged him with manslaughter. Phillips’ mental standing is questionable and he may not be competent to stand trial, according to court documents. Phillips’ competency hearing is set for July 6. Phillips told police he was “playing around” with Jackson when he accidentally stabbed him.

 

No. 3:

Allen Bookman, died Jan. 5
Fifteen minutes into 2006, a bullet slammed into the back of Bookman’s head. Paramedics rushed the 22-year-old from the West Anderson Street and Parramore Avenue location where he was shot to Orlando Regional Medical Center. Bookman survived for five days before doctors took him off life support. Bookman’s death may have been accidental, says OPD Sgt. Rich Ring. There were lots of reports of New Year’s-related gunfire in the area. This
wasn’t, however, a case of a gunshot falling back to earth. Either Bookman was shot intentionally, he says, or “it’s possible someone didn’t point [their gun] up [high enough] in the air” to fire a celebratory shot. The case has been stymied by a lack of cooperation from potential witnesses, Ring says.

 

No. 4:

Xavier Stinson, died Jan. 19 About 8:30 p.m. Jan. 19, 26-year-old Stinson was standing in the parking lot of the Citgo gas station at 4751 Raleigh St. Gunshots rang out, and Stinson fell to the ground. A bystander tried to help, but doctors at ORMC pronounced Stinson dead.

It’s unclear if this was a random drive-by or if Stinson was targeted. Stinson had a previous criminal record. Paulette Daniels, the mother of Stinson’s girlfriend and grandmother of his daughter, told the Orlando Sentinel that he wasn’t perfect, but he was beginning to straighten out his life. He had a steady construction job that paid decently and that he enjoyed. Daniels also told the Sentinel that she had been told that Stinson stopped to play pool at a game room next to the Citgo the night he was murdered and got into an argument there. No arrests have been made thus far.

 

No. 5:

Roman Peterson, died Feb. 1 Six-year-old Peterson died at Florida Hospital East two days after suffering severe head injuries at his home at 6243 Bent Pine Drive. He’d been left home alone with two older siblings, ages 10 and 12. His 10-year-old brother told police he had knocked Roman down with a basketball, causing him to hit his head on an entertainment center. The boy’s mother, Adrienne J. Wilkerson, was arrested on unrelated child abuse and child neglect charges; records say Roman also showed signs of recent abuse, including cuts around his eyes, an infected burn on his hand and marks on his body from being whipped with a belt.

Because Roman died due to apparent neglect, Orlando police classify it as a homicide and have a “known suspect,” according to records, though cops don’t specify who that is. Wilkerson, who is being held without bond in the Orange County Jail on the abuse charges, has not been charged in her son’s death.

A relative discovered the critically injured child on Jan. 30 at 10 p.m. and apparently took him to the hospital; Wilkerson got home four hours later to discover Roman and his two siblings gone, but she didn’t call the police for more than 12 hours, because, she later said, she was afraid the state would take her kids away from her.

No. 6:

Kenneth Christopher, died Feb. 14 Shortly after 12:30 p.m. on St. Valentine’s Day, police responded to a 911 call reporting shots fired at the Country Place Apartments at 2313 S. Bumby Ave. They found Christopher, 54, wounded inside the apartment of Evin H. Jones, 61. Christopher was taken to ORMC, where he was pronounced dead. Police arrested Jones on second-degree murder charges. Jones has claimed self-defense, and told police he had gotten into a fight with Christopher and shot him when he “started at me.” The trial is set for July 3.

 

No. 7:

Stephanie Roumeliotis, died Feb. 21 Roumeliotis’ boyfriend, Michael L. Cook, 33, called one of Roumeliotis’ friends Feb. 21 to confess to shooting his girlfriend, who was going to leave him, police records state. The friend then called police after finding Roumeliotis, 29, shot once in the head in a bed at the Ambassador Hotel at 929 W. Colonial Drive. Cook was arrested and held without bail in the Orange County Jail on counts of second-degree murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (Cook had previous charges of tampering with physical evidence, resisting an officer without violence and possession of a controlled substance). He is currently locked up at the Orange County Jail.

 

No. 8:

Noel
Heimburg, died Feb. 21

Heimburg, 29, was coming home to his Marina Landings apartment at 6253 Westgate Drive in MetroWest with dinner on Feb. 20. At the top of the stairs, a man with a gun tried to rob him. They fought; the thief shot Heimburg in the chest and then took off on foot. Heimburg died the next day, leaving behind a wife and son. The police have been unable to track down the shooter, who ended up getting away with nothing.

 

Nos. 9 and 10:

Henry “Steve” Betts II and Christopher Yarber, died March 5

Childhood friends Betts, 22, and Yarber, 22, were found dead March 5 inside Betts’ house at 521 Woods Ave. in Parramore. They’d been shot multiple times. Police arrested Kenneth E. Mitchell, 21, a friend of Betts’ and Yarber’s, for the slayings March 21. According to records, cops found Mitchell’s fingerprints at the Parramore home, and shell casings found at the scene matched a 9 mm handgun Mitchell was found carrying March 11 when he was arrested on charges of carrying a concealed firearm and possession of four grams of marijuana. A police affidavit in the murder case says Mitchell, currently held without bail at the Orange County Jail, was seen arguing with Yarber about Betts two days before the bodies were found, but it’s unclear why. Mitchell’s father owns Mitchell’s Funeral Home, which held Betts’ funeral service. Mitchell has denied the charges.

 

No. 11:

Quinton Lawson, died March 13

Lawson, 22, was shot March 13 at the Peppertree Apartments at 986 Mercy Drive. Leon T. Cooper, 20, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder with a firearm in relation to the crime. The public file is with a judge and couldn’t be accessed by press time, though one media report says Cooper has claimed self-defense.

 

No. 12:

Richard Crawford, died March 17

Police found Crawford, 39, shot to death on a sidewalk outside a house at 925 Indiana St. At first police thought the death was accidental, but three days later issued a warrant for the arrest of George A. Lovell, 37. They charged Lovell with first-degree murder. He eluded police for nearly three weeks, thanks in part to a haircut that rid him of shoulder-length dreadlocks. The police finally arrested him April 6 after a CrimeLine tip led them to Lovell’s trailer park on South Orange Blossom Trail. Lovell claimed self-defense, pleaded not guilty and is in Orange County Jail awaiting trial Aug. 28.

 

Nos. 13 and 14:

Kenneth Marshall and Tim Dozier, died April 3 Orlando cops responded to a shooting at North Goldwyn Avenue and West Colonial Drive shortly after 1 a.m. They found Marshall, 25, and Dozier, 15, lying on the street dead. Investigators think the shootings were drug-related. No arrests have been made.

 

No. 15:

Walter Cerpa, died April 10 Two armed gunmen broke into Cerpa’s apartment at 3700 Curry Ford Road in the early morning of April 10, shooting and killing the 44-year-old before fleeing. Cerpa’s three daughters and son were in the apartment at the time. Police think the crime was drug-related. They arrested Jose Santana, 24, a self-proclaimed member of the Latin Kings street gang, June 2 in relation to shooting. Santana told police he was out of state at the time of the shooting.

 

No. 16:

Jerry Smith, died April 16 Smith, a 72-year-old widow, was in her Delaney Park home at 426 E. Gore St. Easter Sunday when Lionel M. Miller, 58, allegedly broke in and attacked her with a knife, cops say. Smith had moved to the supposedly safe neighborhood — hers was the first killing in Delaney Park in 14 years — to be within walking distance of her son, defense lawyer Christopher Smith.

Miller was arrested April 19 on first degree felony charges of murder, armed burglary with an assault and attempted murder for the stabbing of Smith’s neighbor, Larry Haydon, who tried to help Smith. According to police records, Miller lived a transient life and had a long history of violence in Oregon, where he did stretches of time in jail from 1976 to 2004 for manslaughter, robbery and violation of probation. At the time of his murder arrest, he was wanted for violating probation in Oregon. Police told the local media that Miller was a crack addict living with friends near Delaney Park.

Stephen Prang, who lives less than a mile from Smith, told police that Miller came to his house the night of the attack with a stab wound on his arm. He was using a woman’s white jacket with embroidered flowers to cover the wound. Maureen Mackenzie, a neighbor who had talked to Smith 30 minutes before the attack, told police that it was the same jacket Smith had been wearing. Miller was indicted May 16 for the stabbings. The trial is scheduled for Aug. 7 and the State Attorney’s Office will seek the death penalty.

 

No. 17:

Estilien Filus, died April 16 Filus, 48, was killed Easter Sunday outside Peniel Baptist Church at 21 North Texas Ave. His brother was the church’s pastor, and he was a deacon.

At about 10:30 p.m., Filus was returning to the church after driving some members home from a late service when a carjacker demanded the keys to his 2005 Chevrolet Impala before shooting him in front of his wife, Marina. The Impala was later found abandoned at an apartment complex in Orange County. Police arrested 18-year-old Luckner Val, Marina’s cousin and a member of the church who had attended services that night, at his apartment April 18 on a first-degree murder charge. Val allegedly had his face covered during the attack but video from where the car was found helped identify him, records indicate. There’s a hearing scheduled Aug. 31.

 

No. 18:

August Felix, died April 27 Police were dispatched to a “man down” call at 205 America St. in the early morning hours of March 26. They found Felix, a 54-year-old transient, conscious but severely beaten.

He told police he’d been attacked by a group of black teenagers. Paramedics took him to ORMC, where he survived nearly a month before dying of his injuries on April 27 of blunt trauma to the head and neck, according to the medical examiner’s office.

On June 26, police announced the arrests of five teens on second-degree murder charges in the case. None of those accused with killing Felix are older than 16. They are: Johnnie Hastings, 15, Deangelo Stephens, 16, Devon Stephens, 15, Arsenio Dennison, 16, and Rashad Smith, 15. They were all students at either Jones or Boone high schools, except Smith, an eighth-grader at Howard Middle School, according to police records.

 

No. 19:

Dale Teague, died April 29 Teague, 32, was shot at a party attended by 300 to 400 people at 5321 Letha St. April 29. Paramedics took to him to ORMC, where he was later pronounced dead. Although police said the people at the party weren’t helpful, by May 3 they named 34-year-old Lenorris Mincey, also known as “Bubble Head,” a suspect. An Orange County sheriff’s SWAT team surrounded Mincey’s Pine Hills house for eight hours and arrested Mincey’s girlfriend, Lethena Smith, 29, on first-degree murder charges. But after firing tear gas into the home and entering, deputies were unable to find Mincey. They finally nabbed him May 16, and he’s currently in jail awaiting trial for first-degree murder. Teague, a convicted felon, had been in prison for drug dealing, assault and gun possession, among other things.

 

No. 20:

Gary Price, died May 4 Police found Price, 40, better known by his street name G-Funk, lying in a yard bleeding May 4 after he was gunned down in front of about 10 men drinking beer at 1894 Aaron Ave. The men fled the scene after the shooting, leaving a 13-year-old girl to try to help Price, who had no vital signs when police arrived. Price had previously served time for robbery, burglary and drug dealing, among other crimes, and was actually a wanted fugitive when he died.

Police haven’t made any arrests; they blame a lack of cooperation from witnesses.

No. 21:

Lavonte Whitfield, died May 6 Whitfield, 27, was shot while fighting with another man — later identified by witnesses as childhood friend Scott D. Jones, 29 — at Citrus Street and South Lee Avenue at about 6 p.m. May 6.

According to the witnesses, the two were arguing about a basketball bet that Whitfield had called off. One of the witnesses told police Jones said to Whitfield, “If I don’t get my money, you’re going to die.”

Police records say witnesses saw Jones pushing Whitfield around a small red car before reaching into it and pulling out a gun. Whitfield ran away and was shot, according to police records. He was pronounced dead after being taken to ORMC. Police arrested Jones June 8 on charges of first-degree murder.

No. 22:

Jasmine Darden, died May 10 At 11 months old, Darden is this year’s youngest victim to date.

Darden’s mother, Valerie Joseph, called 911 when she arrived home from work and found her daughter crying softly with a bruise covering the left side of her face. The child’s arms were stiff and extended forward, and she wouldn’t open her eyes, according to reports. Jasmine died May 15. The 9th District Medical Examiner’s report states that Jasmine appeared to have been beaten and shaken, and determined the death occurred as the result of a closed head injury.

Paul Darden, 22, the child’s father, was taking care of the baby on May 10. He told police Jasmine had fallen off the couch and hit her head on his, causing her to stop breathing. He said he gave her CPR and let her go back to sleep when she started breathing again. He later told police the child fell off the stove, and that he shook her while trying to wake her up before administering CPR. Darden has been charged with second-degree murder.

 

No. 23:

Deborah Culin, died May 23 Culin, 46, was the victim of what police believe was a random robbery. She’d just left work at the Florida Mall, where she worked at a jewelry store. She rode a LYNX bus home and was walking through the parking lot of her apartment complex at 1897 S. Kirkman Road at about 10:15 p.m. when she was robbed and shot. When police arrived at Copper Terrace Apartments, they found Culin with her open purse wrapped around her arm and gasping for air. She died a short time later at ORMC.

Culin’s Visa card was used at a nearby Citgo Super One Stop four times that night. Store surveillance video showed two men using the credit card to buy gas and food, and still shots were released to the media. Toris T. Oliver, 20, was arrested on charges of first-degree murder, armed robbery and fraudulent use of a credit card after his grandmother told police May 27 that she recognized her grandson in the pictures. The other man allegedly shown in the video, Kyle Keys, 20, has also been arrested on the same charges.

No. 24:

Marsha Johnson, died May 24 Lloyd Calhoun, 58, allegedly ran over Johnson, a 35-year-old mother of four, with his van as she was riding her bike near Kaley Street and Tallokas Avenue, dragging her beneath the van for about a quarter-mile before stopping. He then doused himself and a firefighter who was trying to treat Johnson at the scene with gasoline and tried to set them on fire with an acetylene torch. Firefighters hosed the van down with water, after which Calhoun rammed his van into his nearby duplex. Firefighters wrestled the torch away from him.

According to records, Calhoun says Johnson stole his identity, and the incident appears to have been premeditated. Employees of Tropical Welding, which is near the scene of the crime, said they had seen Calhoun sitting in his van for hours beforehand. Calhoun was indicted June 20 for first-degree murder, attempted arson and interference with a firefighter.

Orange County Jail psychiatrist Arturo Hernandez said Calhoun’s behavior “suggests that he is responding to internal stimuli” and that psychiatric intervention is needed.

 

No. 25:

Rawle Walker, died May 26
Police responded to a call at 48 North Tampa Ave. and found Walker, 49, suffering from gunshot wounds. He later died. No other information is available on the case.

 

No. 26:

Daniel Boles III, died May 27 Boles, 35, was shot with a handgun at 2 a.m. at 1014 Mercy Drive. Police records indicate that he argued with a man for 10 minutes before the shooting, but the man fled the area and was unavailable for questioning. There are no other suspects.

No. 27:

Ron Klaas, died May 28 Klaas, 51, a Disney cook also known as “Gumby,” was found shot to death downtown, at 344 State Lane, near the Bank of America tower.

Klaas, who was homeless by choice, had been walking to the bus stop to go to work. Police who found him were looking for a 17-year-old armed robbery suspect, who they believe is the same person who killed Klaas.

 

No. 28:

Jennifer Depeal or Dane Gscheidle, died June 12 This newlywed couple, both 28, was found dead in their south Orlando apartment June 12, hours after neighbors saw them arguing.

Police say it was a murder-suicide, but they will await the results of pending autopsy reports to announce which death was the murder and which was the suicide.

 

No. 29:

Brian Molina, died June 22 Cops found 27-year-old Molina’s body inside a duplex at 4952 Dover Circle near the Orlando Executive Airport after reports of gunfire. Police say witnesses saw suspects fleeing the scene in a vehicle, but no description has been released. Police haven’t found any suspects or a motive. Molina had been charged previously with burglary and theft.

 

No. 30: Derrick Lafure II, died June 26 Shortly before 10 a.m. on June 26, multiple suspects broke into a house at 518 Lakeland Ave. and shot two black males inside, then fled the scene in a gray vehicle. At 1:30 p.m., Lafure, 18, one of the two victims, died at ORMC. The other victim, a 17-year-old who police haven’t named, was released from the hospital into his mother’s custody later that day.

Police have arrested Travis Gale, 17, for the shooting, but say it is still an ongoing investigation, so more arrests may be forthcoming.

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