The Bizarre World of Florida

Florida caretaker used stun gun on three children as punishment called ‘the electric chair’ February 1, 2014

stun1n-1-webA Florida caretaker has been arrested for allegedly using a stun gun on three young children as a form of punishment called “the electric chair.”

The children, ages 7, 8 and 9, reportedly told investigators that Letina Smith, 41, of Kissimmee would hold them in time out for an hour and if they moved, they’d be zapped.

The disturbing claims came out this week after one of the children, a little girl, got in trouble at school and asked her teacher not to tell Smith, who is the cousin of the children’s mother, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

That’s when the child opened up about the violent abuse at home, which involved them standing against a wall with their knees bent like they were seated in a chair.

Police said all three children gave similar stories during their investigation.

One boy told police that the device was used on him by Smith to wake him up after he fell asleep in her car.

Smith admitted to police of owning a pink stun gun, but said she never touched the children with it, only held it a few inches from their skin while it was activated.

Smith was arrested Thursday and booked into the Osceola County jail on three counts of child abuse without great bodily harm.

She’s being held on $3,000 bond.


Cops: Mom left boy in car ….. why? …. well to steal Valentine’s items from Target January 30, 2014

sfl-flduh-mom-boy-car-steal-valentines-2014012-001A Titusville woman was arrested on child neglect and retail theft charges, police say, after she left her 6-year-old in the car while she shoplifted Valentine’s items from Target.

26-year-old Patricia Waddell made her first court appearance Tuesday afternoon at the Brevard County Jail.

Target employees tell Local 6 they saw the boy in the car around 5:30 p.m. Monday with the windows rolled up and the car turned off.

At first, police said they thought Waddell was shopping inside the Target. But after officers arrested her on child neglect charges, they searched her belongings and found $15 worth of stolen Valentine’s Day merchandise.

Arrest documents show Waddell is currently on probation and was supposed to appear in court Wednesday on another retail theft allegation, but because she was arrested Monday, it was canceled.

The judge told Waddell on Tuesday she isn’t allowed to have unsupervised contact with the 6-year-old and is banned from all Targets in Brevard County.

Local 6 was told the child wasn’t hurt and is staying with his grandmother.

The Department of Children and Families is investigating.


Music teacher accused of throwing her shoe at student January 28, 2014

Students returned to class at Franklin Academy in Boynton Beach Monday without their music teacher. Accusations that the teacher threw her shoe at a third grade student stunned parents.

“It was surprising, extremely surprising,” said Kimberly Firth, who has a 12-year-old son in the band.

Parents took to social media, upset that the teacher was placed on leave, and not immediately let go.

Interim Principal Elena Diaz responded to parents with an email saying: “We are well aware of the incident that took place last week involving our music teacher… I want to inform you she is no longer a member of our faculty.”

Firth says school leaders did what they had to do.

“I trust them and that what they did was appropriate, I trust in them to do the right thing,” said Firth.

This isn’t the first time the school had sudden staffing changes. Just last month the principal abruptly left. No one in charge ever explained why.

There have been other bumps in the road for Franklin Academy. The school didn’t open on time last fall because of construction and inspection delays. In October, 35 students got sick forcing the school to temporarily close.

Still Firth says they’re working out the kinks. “Any school will have these issues and because Franklin is a new school everyone is watching a little bit closer.”

The teacher in question declined comment. School leaders wouldn’t give details about what happened in the classroom, but confirmed no students were injured.

It’s unclear what may have led to the alleged shoe-throwing incident.


Man On Meth Gets Cop Makeover After Dragging Son Into Woods For Exorcism January 25, 2014

Mugshot-Bryan-AdamsA man in Okeechobee County faces numerous charges after he took his son into the woods last week to punish him, believing the 11-year-old boy was possessed by a demon, investigators said.

According to an Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office report, Bryan Adams told the boy, “You are the demon and you know what I must do with you.”

Investigators said the boy was wearing only pajama pants and a T-shirt.

When deputies tried to arrest Adams, he resisted and fought with them, running deeper into the woods and hiding in the brush, the report stated.

During the struggle, deputies attempted to subdue Adams with a Taser gun and used a K-9 to help apprehend him, the report added.

One of the deputies stated in the report that Adams “showed violent behavior, no compliance or showing of pain and abnormal strength.”

Investigators said his estranged wife told them she had to leave him because of his serious drug abuse and addiction to crystal methamphetamine.

According to the report, Adams showed up at her workplace earlier in the day and demanded the keys to her car, saying he wanted to take possession of the children. She said he was making statements that he was seeing demons.

Adams later admitted in the hospital that he took meth just before deputies arrived, the report stated.

The boy suffered a minor injury to his heel but was otherwise OK.

Adams faces charges that include child abuse, resisting arrest and aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer.


Today’s candidate for ‘Deputy’ of the year January 18, 2014

24487980_BG1A Hernando County detention deputy is behind bars this morning, charged with child abuse and child neglect.

Detectives say a 3 year old boy was taken to a hospital in Spring Hill with severe burns on Friday.

They say Deputy Code Marrone first told them the boy burned himself with a blow dryer.

But detectives say Marrone later admitted that he burned the boy as punishment for not going to sleep.

It’s still not clear what Marrone’s relationship is to the boy.

Marrone is being held on $20,000 bond.


How a 13-year-old became a dancer at a strip club in Miami Beach

Strip clubs have been striving to clean up their image. The uproar over a 13-year-old dancer won’t help with that.

untitledIt’s early evening, and the dancers are beginning to trickle in to an Art Deco theater in the heart of South Beach, a place with a neon-lit facade that serves a mixed-gender clientele, from local businessmen and high-rollers to tourists, celebrities and swingers.

For more than two decades, Club Madonna, billed as Miami Beach’s only all-nude strip joint, at 15th and Washington, has been known not for what it has, but mostly for what it doesn’t have _ a shred of clothing on its dancers or an ounce of booze behind its bar.

A dry club on South Beach is a little like a having a Miami Beach vacation without the beach, a detail that the club’s owner and the city’s political overseers have been at war over since the turn of the century.

But now, the club _ long vilified by some as a sleazy blight on the city’s otherwise glittery, iconic image _ is getting attention for something entirely new and especially unwholesome, not to mention illegal.

On Friday, the city pulled the club’s license in the wake of allegations that it allowed a 13-year-old girl, allegedly caught up in a human sex trafficking scheme, to dance naked on stage.

The girl, a runaway, told police that she agreed to dance at the club, but was later forced to turn over her earnings to her pimps, two Miami men who on Monday were arrested, along with a female dancer at the club, on charges that they forced her strip and prostitute herself.

When she told investigators how she was allegedly able to easily slip into a South Beach strip club and dance her way onto stage naked _ without anyone seeming to take notice of her age _ it brought renewed attention to Club Madonna, as well as to an adult entertainment industry, that has spent decades trying to overcome its negative image.

The uproar over the 13-year-old dancer is not likely to boost that image makeover.

Joe Rodriguez, owner of Cheetah Gentlemen’s Clubs, who has been in the business for 45 years, said the art of concocting a phony ID has made tremendous advances in recent years.

“Some of these girls come and in and they really look older than they are,” he said. “They bring in IDs, you have to almost be in the FBI sometimes to tell if they are fake.”


LeRoy Griffith, who has owned Madonna from the time, 40 years ago, when it was a regular movie house that showed spaghetti westerns, said he still doesn’t know for sure whether the teen, who used the stage name “Peaches,” actually danced at the club. He was on a New Year’s cruise at the time of the affair, and his head manager, on the job only two months, was also on holiday.

What he does know is that all his dancers sign contracts and provide identification, showing they are at least 18 years old _ and he has neither for the 13-year-old, identified in police reports as “D.J.”

“If she danced, then the club made a mistake,” Griffith said. “And if we did, it’s the first time in 20 years. It won’t happen again, I can tell you that.”

The girl, Griffith said, told one of his dancers, Marlene San Vicente, 22, that she had her baby taken away from her and was trying to figure out a way to get her back. The Miami Herald could not confirm whether the girl in fact had had a baby.

“She was babysitting my dancer’s children and she was turning tricks,” Griffith said. “My dancer felt sorry for her and told her that she could earn some money by dancing instead, so she called one of my managers one night and told him that she was bringing in a friend.”

Griffith said the 13-year-old showed the manager a false license showing that she was 18.

According to police, however, the girl claimed the club’s managers never asked her for anything to verify her age. San Vicente bought her sexy clothes, tutored her on how to dance and paid to have her nails and hair done, according to the police reports.

The girl told police she worked the club on Dec. 27 and 28 and Jan. 2, 3 and 4. Each night she was forced to turn over her earnings, ranging from $120 to $500 a night, to her pimps, identified by police as Dwayne Ward, 18, Vilbert Jean, 37, and a third man, only identified as “AP.”

At the time she was living in Miami, in a multi-unit house near Miami’s Morningside Park, after having run away from home with two 15-year-old girls in early December, police said.

They all wound up at the White House Inn, a two-story motel on the water in North Miami. There, they met AP, who allegedly offered to take the girls to the 55th Terrace house where he said they could stay while on the run.

Jean, who also lived on the premises, “immediately noticed” that the girls seemed to be under age, and asked them to leave, according to the police report. The 15-year-olds did. But the 13-year-old told them she was 18 and stayed, police said.

D.J. agreed to have sex in exchange for money, but when the men kept the money and began demanding she pay rent, she became frustrated with the arrangement. Ward suggested she prostitute herself on a website used by escort services, but she refused. That’s when San Vicente offered to help her out by introducing her to exotic dancing.

Griffith said San Vicente, whose stage name is “Ayaya,” has danced for him off and on for years. When she bonded out of jail on Tuesday, San Vicente came into the club to work, Griffith said. She told him she was sorry for all the trouble she caused.

“She said she just was trying to help out the girl and didn’t know she was 13,” Griffith said.

She was returned to jail Thursday after authorities realized she was released in error. The offense she is charged with is not bondable.


Police executed search warrants and collected the club’s video tapes and other evidence to determine whether the girl actually did take the stage and whether she performed lap dances.

“She did not look 13,” said Mike Kalbach, the club’s manager. Kalbach said his employees told him her physical attributes made her look much older.

Kalbach worked the Las Vegas strip club circuit for 25 years before coming to South Beach. Underage dancers are very rare in Las Vegas, he said, because dancers are required to have identification provided by the county’s sheriff’s department in order to work in the clubs. The sheriff’s department conducts background checks and verifies their ages before issuing the cards, he said.

Angelina Spencer, executive director of the Florida Chapter of the Association of Club Executives (ACE) and the Florida Sunshine Entertainment Association, said the industry has recognized that fake identification and human trafficking are serious issues. To that end they have instituted training programs and guidelines to help club owners navigate the laws and new technology.

She said clubs should require two forms of identification from dancers, and proof of those IDs should be kept on file.

“They should have been checking IDs. There can’t be a ‘whoops!’ ” Spencer said.

Rodriguez said Palm Beach County has a program similar to Las Vegas, where clubs can only hire dancers who have licenses issued by the county.

“They do a background check, and if they don’t have an entertainer’s license, that means they can’t dance,” he said.


The adult entertainment business has changed a lot in the past four decades, or so the industry likes to say.

Rodriguez remembers a time when the dancers would be foulmouthed, high on drugs and alcohol, and fight and throw bottles. Today, he insists, they are college students, housewives and other professionals who work eight-hour shifts.

“They are hard-working girls,” he said. “Just people trying to make a living. I got to tell you, the business has evolved in such a good way.”

Luke Lirot, a lawyer who has represented the adult entertainment industry since the late 1980s and is counsel for the Florida chapter of Association of Club Executives, said many clubs classify exotic dancers as contractors.

Rather than being on the payroll, dancers today pay the club for the privilege of performing on stage, coughing up money _ normally called a house fee _ to the owners, ranging from $10 to $100, depending on the club.

Dancers at Club Madonna pay the club $45 to $100 depending on the shift they work, with women working the busier shifts paying the most money. For lap dances, which cost $25, the house keeps $10, and the dancer keeps $15, Griffith said.

As in most clubs, the women get to keep their tips, but have to tip the deejay and the bartender, although since Club Madonna doesn’t serve alcohol, there is no bartender in the classic sense. The booze ban is something Griffith has been agitated over for years. He has sued the city multiple times to try to overturn its prohibition on alcohol sales at fully nude clubs such as his. The latest scandal is the last thing he wanted to happen.

Miami criminal defense attorney David Weinstein, a former state and federal prosecutor, said it is a second-degree felony to allow a person under the age of 18 to engage in a sexual performance, defined by law as a performance exhibiting genitals or performing a dance, such a lap dance, where the dancer is touching someone to create sexual arousal.

Human trafficking, or commercial sexual exploitation, is a life felony, punishable by a life sentence.

“He owns and operates a nightclub. Therefore he is responsible for what happens there,” Weinstein said. “If he has an employee who hasn’t conducted proper background checks, he is as guilty as they are of what takes place.”

Griffith’s feud with the city dates back to 2004, when, after winning a preliminary vote for a liquor license, he lost a final vote after two elected officials _ including then-Commissioner Jose Smith (now the city attorney) reversed their support. Jane Gross, wife of then-Commissioner Saul Gross, then waged an opposition campaign, and students and parents at a nearby elementary school showed up at City Hall to protest Griffith’s effort to get a liquor license.

Griffith filed a slander and libel suit against Gross, saying she had wrongly called him a tax-evader _ when he had merely disputed an IRS debt _ and alleged she smeared him by comparing his website to a pornographic website that wasn’t his.

Then, he accused city officials of trying to extort him into paying $30,000 of Gross’ legal fees in order to settle and reconsider his bid to sell alcohol. City officials denied it, but the Miami-Dade ethics commission concluded that they pushed “their collegial bonds over the ethical line.”

In recent weeks, he seemed better positioned to get his liquor license, since most of his adversaries had failed to get re-elected.

One of his most ardent adversaries, however, remains well entrenched in city politics _ Jose Smith.

“This is, without a doubt, a vendetta by Jose Smith,” said Griffith’s attorney, Richard Wolfe, who added that the city overstepped its authority in pulling the club’s license without evidence.

Smith’s response? “I would say that this case is not about me. It’s about the exploitation of a 13-year old child,” he said, adding that any further comments “would be made in court.”

The decision to pull Madonna’s permit was made by City Manager Jimmy Morales, not Smith.

“It’s obvious he is not a loved person in Miami Beach,” Weinstein said of Griffith. “They would like nothing more than to close him down and send him on his way.”


Hog-hunting mama left infant, young boy in freezing car January 17, 2014

A mother was arrested on child neglect charges after deputies say she left an six-month-old baby and a nine-year-old in the car while she went hog-hunting.

140116041844_Kayla-ShaversAccording to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, it was around 7 a.m. Thursday morning when the nine-year-old called 911 for help.

He was freezing, he said, because the car he and the baby were in was off, and it was 38 degrees outside.

After 30 minutes of being in the car, he figured “a police car would be warmer”, the boy explained when the deputies arrived.

The deputies say they found the car parked on the side of a dark, isolated road. The boy was shivering when he got out- wearing only a long sleeve shirt, and no coat.

Nearly 40 minutes went by before the mother, 30-year-old Kayla Shavers, walked out of the woods.

She reportedly defended herself to the deputies, saying she was hunting the hogs because they’ve been tearing up the property, and stayed near by in case the kids needed her.

She was arrested and charged with two counts of child neglect.


Woman accused of deliberately hitting nephew with car January 16, 2014

sfl-flduh-hitting-nephew-car-20140115-001A woman is accused of deliberately hitting her nephew with a vehicle after he says he tried to stop her from driving because she’d been drinking.Jennifer Kilduff, 46, is charged with aggravated battery after the incident at home on Long Cove Road near Ormond Beach on Tuesday just after 6 p.m.

Jennifer Kilduff, 46, is charged with aggravated battery after the incident at home on Long Cove Road near Ormond Beach on Tuesday just after 6 p.m.

The 23-year-old nephew says he’d been arguing with his aunt over the vehicle and when he stood in the road to stop her from leaving, she drove toward him, hitting him and knocking him down.

He claims she then ran over his feet. The victim was not seriously injured.


Early Father of the year candidate throws 2-year-old son off a second-floor hotel balcony, then jumps himself January 15, 2014

imagesAuthorities say a father threw his 2-year-old son off a second-floor, hotel balcony in central Florida before jumping himself.

Kissimmee police responded to the Budget Inn around 2 a.m. Tuesday. A Department of Children and Families news release says Juan Pablo Maradiaga will face an attempted murder charge.

DCF says the toddler suffered multiple injuries including several fractures, but is expected to recover.

The department says the 41-year-old Maradiaga was also hospitalized, but his condition was not known.

DCF is in the early stages of its investigation and has not made any changes in the child’s custody. The agency said in a statement that the child will remain safely in the hospital while they complete their assessment.

The agency has not had any prior contact with the child.


Mother arrested after leaving child near mailbox January 13, 2014

Erin_Carnes_20140113013656_320_240Manatee County deputies say a mother left her child near a mailbox outside of a home that she believed was the current residence of the baby’s father. Erin Carnes dropped the 1-year-old at the 1600 block of 17th Street East near a mailbox.

Carnes returned to the location again, dropped two bags for the baby and left again.

The person staying at the residence says that she was never given the child, nor agreed to take the child.

Carnes was later involved in an accident on the Green Bridge and threatened to jump off the bridge.

After returning to the station officers learned of the incident involving the child and alerted the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

The child is now in the custody of the her grandmother. Carnes remains in jail.



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