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Crime
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Three teens arrested in Florida Keys sexual assault case

Authorities arrested three Lower Keys teenagers following the discovery of a cellphone video depicting two of the boys committing sexual acts on a 12-year-old girl.

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office released the names of the suspects Tuesday in a news release.

Demetrius Jahmal Maynard, 16, of Big Pine Key, was charged with lewd and lascivious battery, according to Sheriff’s Office spokesman Adam Linhardt.

Bryson Lee Tedford, 16, also of Big Pine Key, was charged with lewd and lascivious battery, obscene communication by transmitting child pornography and cruelty toward a child by promoting a performance that included a sexual act by a child, Linhardt said.

John Manson Owens, 14, of Key West, was charged with cruelty toward a child by promoting a performance that included a sexual act by a child, Linhardt said.

Monroe County School District officials notified the Sheriff’s Office in April of an illicit cellphone video being shared by students, Linhardt said. The video was made using the SnapChat app. Detectives completed a search warrant from SnapChat to search Tedford’s phone, Linhardt said.

Detectives found the video of Maynard having sex with the girl using that SnapChat history. The sexual act occurred at a vacant home on Big Pine Key, Linhardt said.

Maynard admitted to having the sex with the girl while Tedford recorded with a cellphone. Owens admitted to receiving the video from Tedford and sharing it at school, Linhardt said.

Tedord also faces 11 other criminal charges and felony theft charges stemming from other unrelated recent crimes, including multiple counts of burglary, criminal mischief and theft.

Sheriff’s Office Detective Wendy Negron has been investigating the other incidents. A resident on the 22000 block of La Fitte Drive of Cudjoe Key reported a knife and a $200 pair of sunglasses were stolen from his vehicle and a $400 red bicycle was stolen from his property.

A second resident on the 22000 block of La Fitte Drive reported an unknown quantity of beer and vodka-based beverages were taken from a refrigerator in a downstairs enclosure.

A third resident on the 22000 block of La Fitte Drive reported two window screens were damaged and a door was pried open. A vodka-based beverage and cigarette butts were found on the property.

The owner of Murray’s Market on Summerland Key reported the power had been cut off at his business, causing thousands of dollars in lost refrigerated products. Security footage showed a white male on a red bicycle approach with beer cans in the bicycle basket. The male attempts to open locked doors, then leaves the camera frame. The power went out shortly thereafter. The owner also found beer cans in front of his business.

Shortly thereafter, the same suspect is seen in Summerland Key Shell gas station security footage. The suspect is seen taking a pump and striking a pump screen, causing approximately $5,000 in damages to the pump.

Lastly, the owner of Tonio’s Seafood Shack & Tiki Bar on Summerland Key found cooler doors open and an air conditioning unit pushed away. He found three bottles of vodka missing and several bottles of beer thrown in the canal. Security footage showed the same suspect as the other burglaries.

The red bicycle was found next to First State Bank on Summerland Key. Security footage from the bank shows the same suspect as in the other burglaries.

All the security footage helped Detective Negron identify Tedford as the suspect, Linhardt said.

A warrant was issued for Tedford’s arrest. Tedford was booked into jail.


Government
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Key West Commission approves budget increase

The Key West City Commission’s vote on Monday, Sept. 13, to pass the millage rate and city budget was not unanimous. Vice Mayor Sam Kaufman and Commissioner Billy Wardlow voted against the proposed millage rate and budget, but the mayor and four commissioners gave it a thumbs-up.

Finigan

With a 5.5% tax increase, a homesteaded homeowner would pay $5.33 a month more than this year in taxes, and a non-homesteaded resident would pay about $7 more a month, Chief Financial Officer Mark Finigan said.

The city’s final budget hearing is set for Thursday, Sept. 23, at 5:05 p.m. at City Hall, at which time the millage rate can be decreased but not increased.

The current proposed rate of 2.1360 mills raises $2.1360 per every $1,000 of assessed property value and would generate about $17.2 million for the city in its $68.4 million general fund within a total proposed budget of $207,413,652 for 2021-2022.

Still, about $60,000 in operating expenses were not yet matched with funds to cover them. Finigan said the city’s budget will be balanced by Sept. 23 but certain factors, such as the Evergreen Study on employees’ salaries, were not ready in July, necessitating more adjustments. Implementing the suggested salaries across all positions increases the budget by $1.4 million. Finigan said he’d work with the various departments to find $60,310 in reductions to balance the budget by next week’s final hearing.

“We’d already budgeted 4% [in salary increases],” said Finigan, “but the Evergreen Study required 3% on top of this.” He said he’s comfortable finding savings in expenses since he’s been doing city budgets for 20 years. “I always support rollback, when plausible, but this is the first time we make serious adjustments to wages for everything from foremen to mechanics to code [officers], and more.”

Some proposed new positions, such as an additional assistant city manager, already have been removed, he said, and he’s heard from some employees the salary increases are “life-changing.”

Commissioner Wardlow, who was born and raised in Key West, wants to stay here and is sympathetic to others who feel this way. He served in the city’s fire department for 30 years, retiring as chief, and said when he ran for office in 2009, he promised he would never raise taxes, and thus he voted no on the tax increase. He understands some local residents, like himself, inherited family homes that enable them to live in Key West, and they pay taxes.

“When I was a fire chief, I preferred a sliding scale of pay increases, such as 1% for the top [wage earners] and 4% for the lowest paid — to even it out. This Evergreen Study works for some, but not all.” He also is concerned about affordable housing and fears landlords will pass the tax increase to tenants. “I want everybody to be able to enjoy Key West.”

Vice Mayor Kaufman also voted against the increase, but acknowledged the city’s Finance Department is “top-notch.”

“It’s a policy difference,” Kaufman said. “The government shouldn’t create the need.

“I’m about to start my seventh year as a commissioner, and I’ve consistently been against a tax increase unless it’s really needed. We’re adding 13 new positions, an unprecedented number of staff. There’s $2.7 million in raises — permanent raises across the board and not based on merit or performance. Some of the pay increases are five figures. There isn’t pay equity. I think we could’ve phased in the hiring of new personnel and raises over time, not do it all in one year.”

Kaufman said he understands the challenge of keeping good employees and that some new employees are not paid through the general fund but rather by an enterprise or utility funds, for example.

In July at a two-day workshop, the city initially proposed a roughly 8% property tax increase, but city staff scaled back the increase to 5.5% above the rollback rate by 2.0246 mills, for a decrease of $408,835. The rolled-back rate, which accounts for rising property values, is the tax rate that would generate the same amount of revenue as the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

CFO Finigan said, in the July budget workshop, the city worked to overcome a proposed $836,500 deficit by generating more income through more beach weddings, such as at Smathers Beach, for which the city receives a fee; additional planning fees; a higher residential annual parking pass fee of $35, and additional parking meters from the 500 to 900 blocks of Whitehead Street and at the 200 block of Elizabeth Street, among other items.

jzimakeys@aol.com


Local
featured
WATER WORRIES
King tides expected through December throughout Keys

For the next few months, Monroe County could experience a “royal” pain as seasonal king tides are expected throughout the island chain.

King tides are unusually high tides that occur several times a year, usually in the fall, that can cause coastal tidal flooding, especially in low-lying areas.

Monroe County government is monitoring unincorporated areas experiencing these high tides, according to Kristen Livengood, the county’s public information officer. Residents and visitors should prepare for king tides, be aware of their surroundings and avoid driving on flooded streets, she said in a news release.

In coordination with the National Weather Service in Key West, the highest king tides are expected to occur Oct. 8-11, Nov. 5-9 and Dec. 4-6. However, king tide flooding can generally be anticipated anytime during the following dates: Sept. 17-20, Oct. 4-13, Oct. 21-23, Nov. 3-11, and Dec. 2-8.

The county advises checking the latest weather forecasts at http://www.weather.gov/key, and reminds residents and visitors heavy rainfall can add to king tide flooding, which can result in deeper water and additional hazards in streets and neighborhoods.

If done safely, residents can provide photos of property or neighborhoods experiencing tidal flooding to greenkeys@monroecounty-fl.gov with the address, date and time the photos were taken. Photos can assist in future planning and will become the property of Monroe County. By submitting a photo, residents agree to allow the county to use it in any manner the county desires.

To find tides in your area, visit https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/map/index.html. Put in a ZIP code, or city and state, and it will use the closest station data with the day’s tides as well as measured water levels.

Information on king tides can also be found at http://www.monroecounty-fl.gov/kingtides.


Crime
featured
Man charged in 2017 Key Largo homicide

Authorities arrested a man on Monday in connection with the 2017 murder of Key Largo resident Mary Bonneville.

Miami-Dade Police arrested Eddy Lopez-Jemot Monday on charges of murder and arson of an occupied dwelling after obtaining an arrest warrant from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, according to Sheriff’s Office spokesman Adam Linhardt.

On Oct. 21, 2017, deputies and firefighters responded to a house fire at 720 Ponce De Leon Blvd., where Bonneville was found dead on the floor in a hallway.

She had knife wounds to her throat. Autopsy reports revealed those wounds caused her death and her death was determined to be a homicide, Linhardt said.

DNA evidence was used to link Eddy Lopez-Jemot to items from Bonnevile’s home such as a beer can and a towel, Linhardt said.

Lopez-Jemot was also in the area of Bonneville’s home the night of the murder, reports state. He was arrested the same day of the murder for threatening to cut off a woman’s head at the nearby Veterans of Foreign Wars building, approximately 660 feet from Bonneville’s home, Linhardt said.

Magdalena Soutelo-Rodriguez claimed she was held at knifepoint against her will by Lopez-Jemot, who allegedly said to her, “I’m going to kill you and rip your head off” and “I’m going to burn up your house so you know what it would be like to have nothing.”

A man walking his dog called 911 to report that smoke was billowing from 720 Ponce De Leon Blvd., where 70-year-old Bonneville lived alone.

Responding deputies from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office reported seeing flames inside the home and the back sliding glass door wide open. Firefighters, while working to extinguish the flames, found Bonneville’s body inside and reported that her throat was slit.

“I observed a deep laceration on her neck, below the chin on Mary. I also observed cuts on Mary’s left arm,” a firefighter wrote in his narrative.

Bonneville had left the VFW Post 10211, which is roughly 100 yards away from her home, around 8:30 p.m. to walk home.

The Miami/Fort Lauderdale Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations responded to the scene with an accelerant-sniffing dog, “Icy” who responded immediately to two areas in the woman’s bedroom. Lab reports later confirmed that there were no ignitable liquids found in the samples tested and classified the fire as “incendiary.”

“I want to thank our Major Crimes Unit for their relentless work on this case,” said Sheriff Rick Ramsay. “It took countless hours of police work to put this case together. I hope this provides some closure to the family and friends of the victim as well as to everyone in the Upper Keys.”

The Major Crimes Unit worked closely with the State Attorney’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in this investigation.

Lopez-Jemot is being held on a $1.25 million bail, Linhardt said.

tohara@keysnews.com


News
U.S. 1 Radio listing

Lisa Niederman of the Star of The Sea Foundation talks with News Director Joe Moore and Chuck Thomas on the organization’s continuing efforts to help the people of Key West.

Also on Morning Magazine,

• Luis Gonzalez, Marathon Mayor

• Theresa Axford, Monroe County Schools Superintendent

• Rick Ramsay, Monroe County Sheriff

• Liz Young, Arts Council Director

• Roman Gastesi, Monroe County Administrator

• Patti McLauchlin, Key West City Manager

• Judd Wise, Key West High School

On Evening Edition, host Ron Saunders talks with Dr. John Norris, Chief of Staff at Lower Keys Medical Center.


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