The Bizarre World of Florida

Jogger wearing earbuds hit, killed by Amtrak train in Polk County March 31, 2015

amtrak-sunset-limitedA man was killed Monday after he was hit by an Amtrak train while jogging alongside train tracks in Polk County while wearing headphones.

The crash happened at noon, according to Carrie E. Horstman, a spokeswoman for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

“The conductor blew the train horn several times, to no avail. The jogger continued on as if not hearing the approaching train,” she said in an email. “The train made every effort to alert the man and stop, but struck the man, and he is deceased on-scene.”

The victim was 26-year-old Edwardo Salazar of Frostproof.

An autopsy will be conducted and an investigation is ongoing.

“The conductor and family members confirmed he was wearing earbuds while jogging, which were plugged into his iPod,” Horstman said.

He was hit by the Miami-to-New York Amtrak 98 Silver Meteor after it stopped in Sebring while enroute to Winter Haven.

It was traveling in Frostproof just under the U.S. Highway 27 overpass when the conductor saw an adult male who appeared to be jogging alongside the tracks on the outer wood cross beams, she said.


Not realizing he’s gone underground, cemetery repeatedly calls dead man March 26, 2015

Shortly before dying of lung cancer in 2010, Bruce Abare requested that he be cremated and interred at Fountainhead Memorial Park, a cemetery the 51-year-old drove past every day while working as a postal carrier.

Grave_of_Edward_Sang_(1805-1890)_in_Newington_cemetery,_Edinburgh“I like the openness back here. And the quietness back here,” said Abare’s longtime partner David Musgrove, who frequently visits the cemetery to look at Abare’s name etched on a nearby memorial wall. “It’s calm here. Sad, but calm.”

Two years ago, Musgrove was at the home the couple once shared when the phone rang. The Caller ID indicated it was someone from the cemetery.

“I answered the phone and they say, ‘Can I speak to Bruce Abare?’ And at first it was just jarring,” said Musgrove. “The very place he’s at is calling to ask for him? I thought it was some kind of joke.”

After explaining to the telemarketer that Abare was no longer alive and had been laid to rest at their cemetery, Musgrove assumed his partner’s name would be removed from the company’s sales call list. But six months later, someone else from the Fountainhead Memorial Park called and asked to speak with the deceased, he said.

“He’s there in your gardens,” Musgrove told the caller. “She said, ‘Oh my gosh!'”

About six months later, according to Musgrove, another cemetery worker called and requested to speak with Abare.

“Are you guys going to get this right?” Musgrove said he asked the telemarketer. “I told you he’s there. He’s dead!”

A sales supervisor reportedly told Musgrove that the deceased’s name was finally being removed from the call list. But on March 3, Musgrove received another phone call.

“I don’t think I’m asking too much, I really don’t,” Musgrove said.

After that fourth mistaken phone call, Musgrove said he believed the cemetery’s sales office had finally corrected the error. So when Fountainhead Memorial Park showed up on his Caller ID just six days later, he assumed someone was reaching out to apologize for the repeated mix-ups.

“I answer the phone, I say, ‘Hello?’ They say, ‘Is Bruce Abare there?'”

Although Musgrove’s home phone number is on Florida’s Do Not Call list, companies he and Abare have done prior business with, such the cemetery, are allowed to call. But that does not mean those businesses can always contact their former customers.

“According to the rules of the Do Not Call program, a business should stop calling an individual when that individual asks the business to do so,” said a spokesman for Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which oversees the Do Not Call list. Violators can face a $10,000 fine per call.

The state agency has not received any prior telemarketing complaints about Fountainhead Memorial Park.

“When we receive a request to remove a name from our call list, we make a notation in our database not to contact the individual. This removes the name from all call lists,” said Jessica McDunn, a spokeswoman for the cemetery’s parent company. “Occasionally, mistakes happen. In these circumstances we work to ensure our list is up-to-date.”

McDunn would not confirm whether Bruce Abare’s name has been removed from Fountainhead’s list, nor would she specifically comment about Musgrove’s allegations of repeat sales calls, citing privacy concerns. Fountainhead Memorial Park staff handles those sales calls in-house and does not contract the work to outside telemarketing companies, according to McDunn.

“It brought back really sad memories the first time (the cemetery called). And the second time. But it really does irritate me now,” said Musgrove, who said he believes the company was trying to sell his late partner upgraded funeral arrangements.

“The credit card company stopped calling. Everyone else did. Nobody calls for him. But the place he’s buried can’t get it,” he said.


Guns don’t shoot people, but they do sort out food fights

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco says they still don’t know what led to a fight between a group of brothers that ended with two of them dead and another one in the hospital.

helen-trevor-326At a press conference Thursday morning, Nocco released the names of the brothers; Trevor Pimentel, 16, Kevin Pimentel, 12, Brady Pimentel, 6. He said Kevin would’ve turned 13 at the end of this month.

Nocco said initially they believed the fight was over food but now say Trevor and Kevin were preparing food at the time an argument broke out.

Deputies received the call at 6:19 p.m. from a mobile home in the 16000 block of Bachmann Avenue in Hudson.

“Sixteen-year-old Trevor called 911, telling the dispatcher his brother, Kevin, 12 years old, had just shot Brady, 6, then shot himself,” Nocco said.

A deputy arriving on scene heard a boy screaming and he charged into the house, Nocco said.

Trevor was transported to a local hospital with a non-life threatening gunshot wound, according to deputies. Nocco said Trevor has been cooperative but he is emotional.

“Trevor’s heart rate would go up during interview process with detectives,” Nocco said. “He is grieving.”

The boys’ mother, Helen Campochiaro, was at work. Nocco described her as hard-working, noting she has two jobs and was recently in a car accident but chose to keep working.

An 18-year-old brother that also lives at the home also was not at the residence at the time of the shooting.

Brady attended Hudson Elementary School, Kevin went to Hudson Middle School and Trevor attended Hudson High School in the mornings through virtual education classes, according to Superintendent Kurt Browning.

Crisis teams will be at the elementary and middle schools “as long as we need to,” Browning said. “It’s very tragic but we are working to heal families and students.”

Browning said Trevor attended Marchmen Technical College’s culinary program in the afternoons.

Nocco said there are no signs child protection investigators or law enforcement has ever been to the home before.


Who wants to go on a legal bear hunt? March 25, 2015

Black-bear-blurb-jpgNew details have been released on a proposed plan for legalized bear hunting in Florida, including the price for a permit, potential hunting locations and the duration of the hunting season.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, a bear hunting permit would cost $100 for Florida residents and $300 for non-residents if the proposal is approved. That would allow one bear per person. All weapons currently approved for deer hunting would be allowed for bear hunting.

The hunting season would last between two and seven days in October.

The following wildlife management areas in Central Florida would be considered for hunting:

-Bayard WMA
-Belmore WMA
-Etoniah Creek WMA
-Hatchet Creek WMA
-Jennings Forest WMA
-Jumper Creek WMA
-Lake Monroe WMA
-Lochloosa WMA
-Marshall Swamp WMA
-Ocala WMA
-Raiford WMA
-Rock Springs Run WMA
-Seminole Forest WMA
-Tiger Bay WMA

The goal of hunting in bear “hot spots” is to control the population.

Hunters would be prohibited from wasting any part of the animal or selling its parts. They’d also be prohibited from shooting a bear weighing less than 100 pounds or a grown bear with cubs, according to the proposal.

“Bear populations have really grown in the last 15, 20 years, and we’re fortunate to have a lot of bears, but also, it comes with a responsibility to manage those populations. And hunting is an important tool in that regard,” said FWC executive director Nick Wiley.

Many are opposed to the plan.

“It seems like the first solution is to pick up a gun and go after them, when, I mean, with technology and everything, I think there’d be a better solution to handle this than just killing them,” protester Adam Sugalski said.

Bear management webinars are being held by FWC. The next webinar is on Thursday. See more information.


‘Cremated’ Florida businessman was very much alive. He’s now charged in $9 million fake death scam. March 24, 2015

Jose Salvador Lantigua was dead.

deadIn April 2013, the debt-ridden furniture store owner traveled to Venezuela — during a time his health had been deteriorating, Florida news reports said. His family claimed he passed away on the trip. The U.S. embassy in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, confirmed he died in Rio Chico, a tourist town by the Caribbean Sea. The Cuban native was reportedly cremated, his ashes scattered in South America.

It turns out, Lantigua was very much alive. Any lingering doubt about it vanished on Monday when he appeared in a federal courtroom in Asheville, N.C.

It was all a ruse — an alleged plan to escape mountains of debt and collect more than $9 million in bogus life insurance claims, according to prosecutors.

Over the weekend, Lantigua, a 62-year-old from Jacksonville, Fla., was arrested near his wife’s affluent mountain home in North Carolina. He has been charged with a one count of making a false statement on a passport application. He has also been charged in state court in Florida with seven counts of filing fraudulent insurance claims and another count of scheming to fraud, according to the Associated Press.

His wife, Daphne Simpson, was also arrested and faces the same state charges.

Indeed, the two-year mystery and its messy conclusion came as a shock to some back in Jacksonville, where Lantigua seemed to be a business success. He was a former executive for Fidelity National Information Services who bought a furniture store in 2008 and turned it into a “local favorite,” the Jacksonville Business Journal reported in 2013. A few years later, he opened another store on the other side of town. He even announced plans for a third. But during his alleged death scam, the newspaper revealed his estate was more than $8 million in the red.

His story started to fall apart amid lawsuits between life insurance companies and Lantigua’s son. The family claimed Lantigua died overseas, but insurance companies didn’t believe them and refused to pay the claims.

Hartford Life and Annuity Insurance Company, which was supposed to shell out $2.5 million on a life insurance policy to settle Lantigua’s debt at a local bank, started investigating the death, according to the Jacksonville Business Journal. It sent a letter to his family’s attorney saying it knew the truth, and it filed a lawsuit stating it shouldn’t have to make payments.

“Our investigation has revealed that Mr. Lantigua is alive and living in Venezuela,” a claim examiner wrote, according to the Florida Times‑Union. Without a death, the letter added, “there is no benefit payable on this claim.”
The family’s attorney at the time, Ray Driver, objected. “I have a certified death certificate and a certificate of the death of a U.S. citizen abroad from our U.S. State Department,” he said. “And I have not seen any evidence to refute those two pieces of paper.”

In the lawsuit, however, an investigator hired by the life insurance company claimed a Venezuelan attorney admitted he “participated in a scheme to fabricate documentation” for the death and that a funeral home director was “complicit in the scheme.” The funeral home allegedly got a doctor — who never saw the body — to sign the death certificate, the Jacksonville Business Journal reported.

Lantigua’s son fought back, accusing the insurance company of running a dirty investigation. But in the end, Lantigua seemed to seal his own fate.

In September of last year, the supposedly deceased Lantigua got a North Carolina driver’s license and birth certificate using the name of a former New York postal worker. Two months later, he used that identification to apply for a U.S. passport, according to a federal criminal complaint cited by the AP.

The passport application caught the attention of the State Department because the postal worker had applied for his own passport in 1999 and it didn’t quite match Lantigua’s passport application. They were different heights. Their eye color, hair color — and skin color — were also different. The photo from 1999 showed a black man. The one from 2014 showed a white man.

On the passport application, Lantigua also put down his wife’s real name as his emergency contact and listed his address as the one that matched her North Carolina home.

After weeks watching the house, federal investigators pulled over Lantigua in a Jeep Wrangler. He was wearing a “poorly dyed beard” and brown toupee, investigators said.

When he was arrested, he reportedly signed a document waiving his Miranda rights. “It’s been a long time since I signed my true name,” he said, according to court papers.


Izbella Bronson, 2, Killed After Being Ran Over By Her Great-Grandmother March 23, 2015

Izbella Bronson was killed after the A 2-year-old fell out of her great-grandmother’s minivan and was accidentally run over.

drivewayAccording to Hillsborough County deputies, Izbella Bronson was with 69-year-old Alice Barber in a 2008 Kia Sedona, waiting at the end of Barber’s private dirt driveway to pick up the girl’s brothers as they got off their school bus.

As Izbella’s 7-year-old brother ran ahead of the vehicle towards the house, Barber allowed Izbella and her 9-year-old brother to sit on the floor of the minivan with one of the side doors open as she proceeded back up the driveway.

“Sometimes, the kids would sit there and dangle their feet out and she would travel very slowly,” said HCSO spokesperson Larry McKinnon. “Unfortunately, this time on the way back, she obviously hit something that knocked the child out.”

Izbella ended up falling underneath the minivan and was ran over by one of the vehicle’s rear tires, which makes the entire story more horrific when combined with that “very slowly” portion of McKinnon’s statement.

Izbella would die shortly after being flown to Tampa General Hospital. No charges have been filed at this time and it isn’t likely any will be.

“It’s on private property so the car seat and all those rules don’t apply unfortunately,” said McKinnon, who added that he hopes this story serves as a cautionary tale.

“These are potential risks that you take when you put a child that is not secured in a car seat regardless of where it’s at,” said McKinnon. “So it’s a lesson learned, a tragic lesson learned, but hopefully it’s a message we can send out to everyone. That this is what happens when you practice these habits.”

Sometimes I find it hard to believe I made it out of childhood. I still remember riding in the back of my old man’s truck with a group of other teammates as we headed down the highway to our baseball games, or playing the hot lava game with my brother in the back of my mom’s station wagon.


Victor Solano Hanged His Pit Bull Because It Made A Mess In His Trailer March 9, 2015

Victor Solano has been arrested after Polk County deputies say he hanged his dog from a tree for making a mess in his trailer.

Jose-Orta-SantanaSolano had initially asked his neighbors to borrow a gun so he could shoot the 18-month-old pit-bull for making the mess. This, as we all know, being the standard method of disciplining animals when they misbehave.

When neighbors refused to let the Solano have a loaded firearm, he tied a rope around the dog’s neck and hanged it from a tree, killing it. Solano then tied the rope to an ATV and dragged the dog to a local pond where  he dumped the body.

Investigators were able to recover the dog’s body and delivered it to Polk County Animal Control. Solano was arrested and charged with felony animal cruelty and unlawful disposal of a dead domestic animal.

This isn’t Solano’s first brush with the law. He was released from prison in March 2013 and had been arrested on previous charges of burglary, larceny, carrying a concealed weapon, battery domestic violence, and violation of parole.

Hanging dogs is a pretty popular topic on DD. We have multiple stories involving people killing dogs in this fashion, for a variety of reasons, including the man who hanged TWO dogs from a tree, the woman who hanged a dog in a garage for barking, and the 12-year-old boy who hanged a dog just because he wanted to see it die.




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