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.

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Deputies find meth during warrant process

The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday found methamphetamine scattered throughout a home at 10700 W Woodland Place in Homosassa.

Crystal Ann Huggins

The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday found methamphetamine scattered throughout a home at 10700 W Woodland Place in Homosassa.

Detectives with the Tactical Impact Unit (TIU) obtained the search warrant after learning that the home was used to sell significant amounts of methamphetamine, the Sheriff’s Office said.

One of the home’s occupants, 47-year-old Crystal Huggins, was subsequently arrested as a result of the investigation.

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Derelict vessel removed from Homosassa River

Removal of derelict vessel from the Shivers Bay, Homosassa River on Feb. 14, 2019)

Thanks to the efforts of Citrus County Aquatics Director Mark Edwards, and staff, an identified derelict vessel was removed on Feb. 14 from the Homosassa River.

In December 2018, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) notified Citrus County of the potential derelict vessel and later the same month, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved staff to apply for grant funding from the FWC to remove the derelict vessel.

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CCSO shutters 2 gambling dens

Citrus County deputies on Thursday shut down two gambling storefronts, one in Inverness and one in Homosassa.

Gambling equipment seized during a search warrant at businesses in Homosassa and Inverness

Citrus County deputies on Thursday shut down two gambling storefronts, one in Inverness and one in Homosassa.

The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office’s Tactical Impact Unit (TIU) and detectives took down The Time Square Internet Sweepstakes Cafe at 3814 East Gulf to Lake Highway in Inverness and at Lucky U 777 at 3538 S Suncoast Blvd. in Homosassa. The search warrant executions are the result of a several week’s investigation into illegal gambling establishments in the community.

The search warrant executions are the result of a several weeks’ investigation into illegal gambling establishments in the community, The Sheriff’s Office said.

Detectives conducted undercover operations to gather information on the illegal operations of these so-called “games of skill,” which would pay out money to winning players which, the CCSO said. constituted the game as a gamble, which is against the law. Investigations such as this take time, since it is imperative to make strong criminal cases against these establishments and gather intelligence that will lead to the actual owners. Each of these cases will be reviewed by the State Attorney’s Office before any charges or warrants are issued. 

Some of the loot taken in the search warrant executed in Homosassa and Inverness businesses

“Some of these establishments are run like a sophisticated criminal enterprise, instituting many levels of protection between the facility and the actual owner,” said CCSO Sergeant Blair. “There are the actual owners, money runners, shell corporations, managers, and gaming facility staff. The staff in most of these cases do not know who actually owns the illicit gaming facility. Once our investigation into these facilities was complete, detectives constructed a plan to shut down their operations.” 

While executing the search warrants at both businesses, detectives, deputies and forensics personnel confiscated a total of six machines, together with various hard drives, numerous documents and $32,592 in cash. Two individuals on scene were arrested for outstanding warrants not related to this investigation. 

Additional arrests were not made during this initial phase of the operation. Once all available intelligence is gathered, warrants will be issued for those responsible for these illegal gambling storefronts. Surrounding businesses were thankful for the bust, the CCSO said, and noted it would curb the drug and criminal activity that they witnessed out in the parking lot of the establishment.

“There are several of these illegal operations in our community, and we plan to eradicate each one. If you are an owner, operator, employee or even landlord of an illicit gambling operation, this is your notice – close down or be shut down,” said Sheriff Prendergast. 

“The gaming laws pertaining to legal gambling are specific, and those who rent to these illegal establishments can be arrested. Take action now before it’s too late. If you’re fishing,’ you better hope to be on a boat with a pole when we show up. If not, you may be a fish out of water in our Lecanto jail.”

“Some of these establishments are run like a sophisticated criminal enterprise, instituting many levels of protection between the facility and the actual owner,” said CCSO Sergeant Blair. “There are the actual owners, money runners, shell corporations, managers, and gaming facility staff. The staff in most of these cases do not know who actually owns the illicit gaming facility. Once our investigation into these facilities was complete, detectives constructed a plan to shut down their operations.”

While executing the search warrants at both businesses, detectives, deputies and forensics personnel confiscated a total of six machines, together with various hard drives, numerous documents and $32,592 in cash. Two individuals on scene were arrested for outstanding warrants not related to this investigation.

Additional arrests were not made during this initial phase of the operation. Once all available intelligence is gathered, warrants will be issued for those responsible for these illegal gambling storefronts. Surrounding businesses were thankful for the bust, the CCSO said, and noted it would curb the drug and criminal activity that they witnessed out in the parking lot of the establishment.

“There are several of these illegal operations in our community, and we plan to eradicate each one. If you are an owner, operator, employee or even landlord of an illicit gambling operation, this is your notice – close down or be shut down,” said Sheriff Prendergast.

“The gaming laws pertaining to legal gambling are specific, and those who rent to these illegal establishments can be arrested. Take action now before it’s too late. If you’re fishing,’ you better hope to be on a boat with a pole when we show up. If not, you may be a fish out of water in our Lecanto jail.”

Homosassa man eludes deputies by hiding under trailer

A Homosassa man eluded deputies for four hours while they looked for him to serve a drug search warrant.

George Jackson of Homosassa (June 7, 2018)

Citrus County deputies on Thursday morning arrested a suspect in Homosassa who was the object of a drug search warrant.

The man, George Jackson, 53, is said to have eluded deputies for several hours before being discovered hiding under a nearby abandoned trailer.

The sheriff’s office said that the Sheriff Office’s Tactical Impact Unit (TIU) served a drug search warrant at 6705 W. Park Drive in Homosassa at about 8:30 a.m., the Sheriff’s Office said on Thursday afternoon. As detectives approached the house with two subjects standing outside, a man who was hiding inside a nearby shed, emerged and pointed a gun at two detectives and fled on foot away from the house the.

A perimeter was set up around the immediate area looking for Jackson, who deputies knew was armed. Deputies, K9’s and the sheriff’s aviation unit were deployed and started searching nearby wooded areas, and abandoned homes in the area. An “Alert Citrus” message was sent out to residents nearby urging them to lock their doors and to stay inside.

Jackson, with several stints in prison already, also has several felony warrants out of Hernando County, the Sheriff’s Office said, including selling, manufacturing and trafficking of controlled substances including methamphetamine and cocaine.

Approximately four hours later, deputies found Jackson underneath an abandoned trailer nearby. The SWAT team deployed tear gas underneath the trailer to get Jackson to come out. Eventually, Jackson came out from underneath the trailer and surrendered to deputies without incident.

The Sheriff’s Office said Jackson is being booked into the Citrus County Detention Center charged with two counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, plus other drug charges, pending further investigation.

 

Suspect in Homosassa home invasion returned here

A man wanted in connection with a home invasion of an elderly Homosassa man on Feb. 16 has been returned to Citrus County from Pasco County.

Josh Bernard

A man wanted in connection with a home invasion of an elderly Homosassa man on Feb. 16 has been returned to Citrus County from Pasco County.

The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office said today that on Friday, Feb. 16, just before midnight, Citrus County deputies responded to a home on West Berrigan Court in Homosassa involving a home invasion involving a shooting.

When deputies arrived on scene, the homeowner, Carmelo Marchese, 71 from Homosassa, told them the suspect, whom he did not know, Josh Bernard, 36 of Homosassa, was trying to break into his home.

Marchese told deputies his dog started barking at something outside. The homeowner said at that time he grabbed his gun and went to the front door. Bernard was outside the front door and forced his way through the threshold of the home. Marchese said he warned the suspect not to come inside his home, but Bernard entered anyway. Marchese said Bernard went for the gun he was holding, and said that’s when he was forced to shoot Bernard.

Deputies found Bernard in the living room with a gunshot wound to the chest. Nature Coast EMS transported Bernard to a hospital in Pasco County, where he was medically treated, released and arrested. Bernard confessed to all charges when he was interviewed by detectives.

Bernard was extradited back to Citrus County on Thursday, and was booked in the Citrus County detention facility. He is charged for Burglary with Battery, and Battery on a person over 65 with no bond.

Bernard has a history of burglary, the Sheriff’s Office said, and was just released from jail in January for similar charges.

 

Detectives investigate apparent murder-suicide

Citrus County Sheriff’s Office detectives are investigating an apparent murder-suicide in which two people died.

Citrus County Sheriff’s Office detectives are investigating an apparent murder-suicide in which two people died.

The Sheriff’s Office said on Sunday that detectives were dispatched just before 11 a.m. on Saturday to a home in Homosassa in reference to a well-being check.

Upon arrival, deputies found two deceased people inside a bedroom with gunshot wounds.

After further investigation, Major Crimes detectives said it appears to be a murder-suicide involving a female victim, Erin Cain Prost, 42, from Homosassa and a male suspect, Bruce Leonard, 31, also from Homosassa.

The medical examiner’s office will determine the exact cause of death, the Sheriff’s Office said.