Citrus County pursuit ends in Sumter

A Bushnell man is said to have stolen a vehicle and then led deputies in a wild chase through Inverness and Floral City before eventually crashing in Sumter County.

Stock photo

No injuries were reported after a Bushnell man is said to have stolen a vehicle and then led deputies in a wild chase through Inverness and Floral City before eventually crashing in Sumter County.

The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday that the Florida Highway Patrol took 22-year-old Travis Lovett into custody following a severe vehicle crash there.

Lovett led Citrus County Sheriff’s Office deputies on an extensive chase throughout the area of Inverness and Floral City, the CCSO said.

“Incidents like this are always extremely dangerous. We try to use every precaution possible when we respond to these types of incidents,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “When we have a suspect who is hell-bent on avoiding all contact with law enforcement, their behavior becomes unpredictable and erratic. This is especially true if they are dead set on not being caught, then they will risk their life, the lives of innocent citizens, and the lives of all our law enforcement deputies.”

Earlier in the day, at 7:17 a.m., a four-door, burgundy Ford pickup truck was reported stolen from Mountain Lake Avenue in Floral City. As deputies began patrolling the area for the stolen vehicle, a tipster called in at 9:15 a.m. to inform officials of the stolen truck’s location. Deputies responded to a residence located at 5365 E Muzzle Loaders Court in Inverness, where they observed the stolen vehicle.

Upon arrival, contact was made with one occupant of the home, who granted permission to search the property, the CCSO said. As deputies made their way behind the residence, Lovett was observed inside the stolen truck. After seeing the deputies there, the CCSO said, he attempted to leave the scene.

Lovett is said to have deliberately driven the stolen vehicle toward one of the deputies, who had to jump out of the way to avoid being struck, before striking a fence and leaving. While trying to elude deputies, Lovett intentionally accelerated at another responding deputy, forcing the deputy off the roadway to avoid a collision,the Sheriff’s Office said..

The suspect then traveled recklessly throughout Inverness and Floral City, driving in the opposite lanes of traffic to lose officials. The CCSO said he desperately continued down Rails to Trails, almost striking serveral pedestrians. Lovett lead deputies into Hernando County, where FHP officers joined in the chase, and eventually performing a P.I.T maneuver on the stolen vehicle in Sumter County, where Lovett was then captured. Please refer to their release for additional details.

“At this time, we are attempting to identify any additional victims who sustained damage from this incident and are asking them to call CCSO at (352)726-1121 to make a report,” the CCSO said in a statement.

Lovett will be charged with 2 Counts of Aggravated Assault and 1 Count Aggravated Flee/Elude Law Enforcement for his actions  in Citrus County.

Former CCSO employee Pate sentenced

Ashley Pate, a former Crime Scene Specialist with the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, was sentenced today after being convicted of sharing confidential information with someone outside the agency.

She appeared this afternoon before the Hon. Richard A. Howard, Administrative Judge,

She was sentenced to one-year of community control and one-year standard probation to be served consecutively. Judge Howard reflected on Pate’s career and letters of support from various community members prior to rendering his decision.

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CCSO warns of misleading ‘Go Fund Me’ page

On April 18, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) was notified of a “Go Fund Me” page created by Keli Behnen, to solicit funds to purchase a K9 which was once assigned to her husband.

The page indicates that $8,000 would purchase CCSO’s K9 Krennic for Deputy John Behnen.

This page is not associated with the Sheriff’s Office and contains misleading information.

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State Attorney’s Office honors Citrus detective

CCSO Detective Bruce Arnold, left, is shown with State Attorney’s Office vVctim Witness Counselor Kari Thompson (CCSO photo)

Brittney Carman,
CCSO Community Relations Specialist

Every April, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office takes part in the observance of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW).

This dedicated week focuses on how the community, as a whole, can assist victims of crimes and empower those victims to move forward.

During this year’s ceremony on Arpil 11, the 5th Judicial Circuit of Florida State Attorney’s Office (SAO) presented their 2018 “Above and Beyond” certificate of appreciation to Detective Bruce Arnold of the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office. The certificate is in recognition of his exceptional work on behalf of victims.

“Detective Arnold is a compassionate advocate for victims and is valid proof that even one individual can profoundly affect others,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “We applaud the progress he has made in our community’s efforts to support and safeguard victims’ rights. Detective Arnold enabled victims to regain their sense of value and we commend him for that.”

Detective Arnold provided the victims of his cases with support and encouragement while they traversed the criminal justice system, assisting greatly in their recovery to rebuild their lives. Simultaneously, he ensured offenders were held accountable for their actions. According to the State Attorney’s Office ceremonial tribute, Det. Arnold demonstrated the message of creating hope, in line with this year’s ceremonial theme of “Honoring Our Past, Creating Hope for the Future.” He made sure that the victims in his cases were given the needed resources to help them heal and recover.

“I have had the pleasure of working with this utmost professional in cases involving crimes against children. Detective Arnold has steadfastly demonstrated a high level of devotion and dedication to the victims in his cases,” declared Citrus SAO Victim Witness Counselor, Kari Thompson. “He is compassionate to victims of crime and does his best in bringing justice to victims in the community. He has gone above and beyond with creating hope for victims of crime.”

County Commissioner Smith running for District 5

Jimmie T. Smith

Citrus County Commissioner Jimmie T. Smith, currently District 3 representative, announced today that he will be running for District 5 in the upcoming election.

Current District 5 Commissioner Brian Coleman has said he will not seek re-election.,

Below is an official announcement from his campaign headquarters.

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3 juveniles arrested in Ryder shooting case

Three youths have been charged in connection with a November 2018 case in which a woman, Sandra Ryder, 53, of Homosassa was found shot

Three youths have been charged in connection with a November 2018 case in which a woman, Sandra Ryder, 53, of Homosassa was found shot in the head at her home near Grover Cleveland Boulevard..

The Sheriff’s Office said that they were called to the woman’s home at 6143 W. Wayward Loop on Nov. 21, 2018 at about 12:43 pm.

Upon arrival, found Ryder laying on the ground with an apparent head injury. Deputies quickly started cardiopulmonary resuscitation until emergency medical services (EMS) arrived. Upon arrival of EMS, Mrs. Ryder was pronounced deceased at 12:55 pm.

During the search for possible suspects and evidence, detectives discovered that several residents in the area said they had heard what they believed to be gunfire, and pointed out a possible residence in the proximity of this incident where they believed the gunfire originated.

At that time, detectives made contact with a group of juveniles at the residence, who were then questioned. It was later determined that the juveniles had been shooting in the wooded area behind the Ryder’s residence. Firearms, as well as several spent ammunition cartridges, were collected for evidentiary processing.

After gathering and analyzing the forensic evidence for this case and communicating with the State Attorney’s Office, on April 2, 2019, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office arrested three juveniles for the manslaughter of Sandra Ryder and for possession of a firearm by a minor.

Arrested were:

  • Zoey Ellan Andersen, age 13 (DOB 05/31/2005)
  • Joseph Shane Finn, age 14 (DOB 08/18/2004)
  • Jason Byron Simms, age 14 (DOB 07/22/2004)

“The loss of Sandra Ryder the day before Thanksgiving was devastating. Now, the futures of the three juveniles responsible for her death hang in the balance as prosecutors prepare to bring the case to court,” said Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Teenagers can be impulsive and reckless. Unfortunately, for these three, their careless actions took another person’s life and will carry harsher consequences

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the family of Mrs. Ryder,” Sheriff Prendergast said.


Duke Energy ‘flips the switch’ at ceremonial grand opening of new Citrus Combined Cycle Station

Duke Energy Florida on has officially opened its much-anticipated natural gas plant. Officials officially cut the ribbon during a special ceremony marking the occasion (Phto by Duke Energy on April 4, 2019)

Duke Energy today celebrated the ceremonial grand opening of its new 1,640-megawatt Citrus Combined Cycle Station located at the 5,100-acre Crystal River Energy Complex in Citrus County, Fla., about 85 miles north of Tampa.

More than 300 community leaders, elected officials and Duke Energy employees attended.

The station started producing energy for 4.5 million Floridians in late 2018.

“Our $1.5 billion investment in the new Citrus Combined Cycle Station is another example of the cleaner, smarter energy future we’re creating for our customers,” said Lynn Good, Duke Energy chairman, president and CEO. “This highly efficient, state-of-the-art natural gas station is delivering significant economic and environmental benefits to Florida customers and communities.”

Environmental benefits

Combined-cycle natural gas units generate energy more efficiently and have significantly lower emissions than coal-fired units.

By investing in the new Citrus station, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and other emissions are expected to drop by 90 percent in comparison to the operation at the two 1960s-era Crystal River coal-fired units, which formally retired in December 2018.

The new station is also strategically built on the east side of its 400-acre property to protect an active bald eagle’s nest, which currently has two eaglets, and wetlands that are on the west side of the property.

Economic benefits

The Citrus station provided more than $600 million in economic benefits during construction and will provide about $13 million annually during the station’s 35-year operational life.

During the height of construction, the project created about 3,000 temporary construction jobs and provided work to more than 100 companies around the world and across the U.S. and Florida. In all, crews poured about 37,000 cubic yards of concrete – equal to about six football fields filled waist deep – and installed about 475 miles of wire and cable.

The new station is expected to generate approximately $4 million in new Citrus County property taxes for 2019, benefiting schools and local governments.

About 50 full-time Duke Energy employees are operating and maintaining the station.

“Economic development in every community needs a solid cornerstone,” said Jeff Kinnard, chairman, Citrus County Board of County Commissioners. “In Citrus County, that foundation is Duke Energy. We are pleased to participate in the celebration of this new state-of-the-art facility and congratulate Duke Energy on its success.”

Community commitment

Since 1966, Duke Energy employees have donated their time, talent and treasure to give back to the communities and neighborhoods where they live and work.

Since 2012, Duke Energy has contributed more than $1.75 million to Citrus County through Duke Energy Foundation grants and community sponsorships.

In 2018 alone, the company provided about $125,000 in Foundation grants and community sponsorships to Citrus County organizations and an additional $103,000 to United Way of Citrus County through employee pledges and the Foundation match.

Employees also logged 2,927 volunteer hours helping nonprofit organizations advance their mission, such as removing algae from a local spring and sponsoring underprivileged children at Christmas.

“Duke Energy continues to have a great local presence – its employees are woven into the fabric of our community,” said Joe Meek, city of Crystal River mayor. “With this investment, that presence will continue for generations to come.”

Other details

The Crystal River Energy Complex is home to the new Citrus Combined Cycle Station, two operating coal-fired units – which are among the cleanest in the country – two retired coal-fired units and a decommissioning nuclear plant.

The complex also has a mariculture center that raises and then releases fish into the Gulf of Mexico and grows freshwater eelgrass, donating more than 8 million individual plants for various springs and lake restoration projects.

The Citrus station has two power blocks, four combustion turbine generators and two steam turbine generators, providing the latest technology with a proven performance.

Megawatts from the new station combined with the two operating coal-fired units make the Crystal River Energy Complex one of Duke Energy’s largest generators in Florida, capable of producing more than 3,000 megawatts of energy. One megawatt powers about 800 average homes.

The new station receives natural gas through the new 515-mile Sabal Trail pipeline. The $3.2 billion pipeline starts in Alabama, extends through Georgia and ends in Central Florida. Duke Energy is a 7.5 percent owner of the pipeline.

Citrus County Animal Services receives 2nd nat’l Maddie’s Fund® grant

Citrus County Animal Services has just received its second grant from Maddie’s Fund®, a national family foundation established by Dave and Cheryl Duffield to revolutionize the status and well-being of companion animals.

The Maddie’s Fund® Challenge Completion Award for the Get ‘Em Home Challenge in the amount of $1,000. Maddie’s Fund® supports the lifesaving efforts made by staff and volunteers at the Animal Shelter.

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Two free Florida-friendly gardening workshops in April

Right plant, right place

Citrus County Utilities Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program is offering a free gardening workshop on April 9, 2019 from 2:00-3:30 pm.  Once established the right plant is often sustainable without additional supplemental watering.  Choosing appropriate plant materials, planting them correctly and managing them wisely, ensures a gardens success. Classes are held at the Citrus County Extension Service building located at 3650 W Sovereign Path in Lecanto.  Please contact Steven Davis at (352) 527-5708 to confirm your participation or register at

Creating a Florida-friendly Landscape

Citrus County Utilities Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program is offering a free gardening workshop on April 23, 2019 from 2:00-3:30 pm. Plan before you plant is an important concept when developing sustainable garden ideas.  Basic principles of landscape design include: site evaluation, selection and placement of the proper materials and establishment practices for newly installed sustainable gardens.  “What is and how to create a Florida-friendly Landscape” is the theme of this workshop.

Classes are held at the Citrus County Extension Service building located at 3650 W Sovereign Path in Lecanto.  Please contact Steven Davis at (352) 527-5708 to confirm your participation or register at