MCSO: Woman stole $100K-plus from marina

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By Merab-Michal Favorite, Islander Reporter


A Myakka woman was arrested April 23 for allegedly stealing more than $100,000 from a business where she worked for more than 10 years.

Kristine Louise McWilliams, 46, faces charges of grand theft over $100,000 and scheming to defraud over $50,000.

The theft occurred over the course of a year, according to the police report.

McWilliams was employed as the bookkeeper for Cannons Marina, 6040 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key, for about 10 years, the report said.

During her tenure, she reportedly performed bookkeeping duties that included making bank deposits.

Around July 2013, David Miller, the business owner, noticed discrepancies in the cash and check deposits and found modified deposit slips.

A forensic audit of subpoenaed bank records revealed modified slips with the cash portion of the deposit greatly reduced or missing.

From June 1, 2012, to July 10, 2013, McWilliams allegedly modified more than 100 deposits, pocketing cash of as much as $109,506.16.

Lucile Capo-Miller, public relations director for Cannons Marina and wife of owner David Miller, said the incident was “unfortunate” but would not comment further.

McWilliams was being held at the Manatee County jail on a $10,000 bond. She was released April 26.

Her arraignment will be Friday, May 9, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

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Woman dives from pier, escapes police

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By Merab-Michal Favorite, Islander Reporter

A handcuffed Holmes Beach woman was arrested March 28 after she escaped from police custody by running on the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach and jumping into the water.


Rani Kristina Thurman, 33, is facing a charge of escape and three counts of contempt of court for not answering a court summons.

An officer had made contact with Thurman on Bridge Street around 1 a.m. after learning there was an outstanding warrant for her arrest.

She was placed in handcuffs but took off running before the officer could get her into the patrol car, according to a police report.

Thurman allegedly ran onto the pier and adjacent floating dinghy dock and jumped into the water to escape.

BBPD officers yelled several times for her to stop, before Officer John Tsakiri gave chase, jumping in the water after her, the report said.

However, Tsakiri was unable to locate Thurman.

BBPD called in the aid of the U.S. Coast Guard from the Cortez station and conducted a search of several boats anchored nearby.

The clothes Thurman had been wearing were found on one sailboat, while she was located on another boat, the report said.

Thurman told officers she had nothing to lose. As they took her into custody, she said, “I could’ve gotten away if I kept swimming but the water was just too damn cold.”

This isn’t the first time Thurman has evaded law enforcement. She has a history of violating probation and not answering court summons, according to court documents.

Thurman’s contempt of court charges relate to a case that has been reopened after she failed to appear for a March 19 hearing at the Manatee County Judicial Center.

She was originally charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and resisting arrest in 2012 after two Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies were injured while trying to pry a broken crack pipe from her hand.

The MCSO said Thurman was walking in the 2600 block of 13th Street West in Bradenton when MCSO deputies stopped her for not using the sidewalk.

When deputies asked if she had anything on her, she said “no,” then emptied her pockets revealing a small glass pipe, according to the report.

Thurman attempted to flee, but fell down and broke the pipe.

She was convicted March 28, 2013.

As of Islander press time, Thurman remained in custody at the Manatee County jail on a $30,000 bond. Her arraignment is scheduled for 8:20 a.m., April 29 at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave., Bradenton.

Three arrested in grow house bust

Charlotte Sun (Port Charlotte, FL) – Saturday, May 18, 2013

052013_weed_3PORT CHARLOTTE — A routine stakeout Sunday took an unexpected turn when deputies got a whiff of some potent purple haze marijuana thriving inside an elaborate grow house on the 21300 block of Hepner Avenue, according to a Charlotte County Sheriff’s report.

Three were arrested in a drug bust Thursday, which yielded 122 marijuana plants with a total weight of 178.5 pounds of pot, according to the report.

Clyde Wiley ‘Bucky’ Dennis, 43, of the 5000 block of Melbourne Street, Port Charlotte; Omar Eduardo Sanchez, 55, of the 21300 block of Hepner Avenue (where the bust occurred), Port Charlotte; and Ryan Adam Smith, 28, of Peekskill, N.Y., were charged with trafficking in more than 25 pounds of marijuana, cultivation of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

052013_weedThe CCSO deputies who originally discovered the grow house were looking for someone on an outstanding warrant when they smelled the marijuana coming from the home, according to the report. They notified the CCSO Narcotics Unit, which took over the investigation.

On Thursday, a SWAT team raided the residence. Two men, later identified as Sanchez and Smith, dressed in full-body chemical suits, ran out a side door and were attempting to dispose of their suits behind a shed in the back when they were taken into custody, the report shows.

The CCSO narcotics unit found a large-scale operation inside the home, with every room being used to grow marijuana, the report states. Each room had high-tech equipment like high-output grow lamps that were suspended from the ceiling, modified ventilation systems with additional air-conditioning units, and commercial hydroponic fertilizers. The electricity had been diverted from the meter and was running out of the ceiling, according to the report.

052013_weed_2The report details how deputies observed Dennis coming to and from the home on several occasions, including on previous dates. While the narcotics unit was searching the home Thursday, Dennis again drove up to the residence in his pickup, the report states. Based on his activity there and his alleged involvement in the operation — including statements he made to a deputy, his possession of keys to the home — he also was arrested.

All three men were taken to the Charlotte County Jail. Dennis and Smith were released Friday after posting $28,500 bond each. Sanchez still was being held at the jail, also on $28,500 bond.

Defense says: Melissa Harding-Jones to stand trial

Charlotte Sun (Port Charlotte, FL) – Wednesday, May 15, 2013


PUNTA GORDA — The woman charged in connection with the 1999 death of 4-year-old Pilar Rodriguez finally will stand trial in September, after nearly two years of failed plea deals, her defense attorney, Robert Barrar, said Tuesday.

Attorneys on both sides appeared before 20th Judicial Circuit Judge Amy Hawthorne during a pretrial conference Tuesday at the Charlotte County Justice Center. Hawthorne officially will set the trial date Aug. 28.

Assistant State Attorney Daniel Feinberg and Barrar still are trying to hammer out the details before the trial, which is expected to take place sometime in September, and to last for more than two weeks.

Melissa Harding-Jones, the only person charged in the case, faces a count of aggravated manslaughter of a child. Harding-Jones, who was not present for Tuesday’s conference, officially was charged in August 2010. She lives in Lake Stevens, Wash., and is married with two children.

Pilar, whose body never has been found, was in the care of her baby sitter, Harding-Jones, formerly Melissa Cooper — who brought the child to Punta Gorda from Hollywood, Fla. — and her then-boyfriend, Keith Wilson.

According to a motion filed in August 2012, prosecutors will try to show that Wilson beat the child to death; however Harding-Jones is the only suspect currently charged in the case.

Two plea deals have failed so far — Harding-Jones backed out of one in June 2011, and then a judge rejected a proposed agreement in September of that year.

Barrar said he is prepared to go to trial, but anticipates selecting a jury will be a challenge.

‘This is going to be a tough trial selection because it is such a high-profile case,’ Barrar said. ‘There are not too many people over the age of 20 that haven’t heard of this case.’

Barrar said he wants to interview all 50 potential jurors individually, although Hawthorne recommended giving the potential jurors a questionnaire. A panel of six jurors will decide whether Harding-Jones is guilty.

Barrar said he his bringing in witnesses from all over the U.S., as far away as Wisconsin, to testify on Harding-Jones’ behalf.

Feinberg said jurors will have to review hours of defendant testimony recorded on different occasions over the course of a decade.

Report: Woman replaces drugs with water

Charlotte Sun (Port Charlotte, FL) – Tuesday, May 14, 2013

LEE COUNTY — A 24-year-old Port Charlotte pharmacy technician was arrested Wednesday in Lee County for allegedly stealing liquid narcotics and replacing them with sterile water while working at HealthPark Medical Center in Fort Myers.

Jessica Danielle Bramble, of the 22300 block of Oceanside Ave., faces charges of adulterating a drug for distribution, possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, and grand theft of a controlled substance, after she reportedly removed narcotics from a drug -dispensing machine at the hospital.

Bramble’s current employment is listed as a pharmacy technician at Lemon Bay Drugs North in North Port, according to a Lee County Sheriff’s report.

The medication-dispensing system at HealthPark maintains an electronic database that stores the user’s identity, via fingerprint, the report states. Bramble allegedly used her finger ID in order to obtain the narcotics, then replaced them with water -filled capsules.

Bramble was accused of more than 40 instances of stealing drugs from 2011 to 2012, the report states. The majority of those transactions involved Dilaudid, a derivative of morphine, according to the report.

Three employees who were present when Bramble allegedly was caught stealing the narcotics from the dispensing machine corroborated some of the allegations against Bramble and identified her from a photo lineup, according to the report.

Bramble told investigators in a telephone interview Feb. 1 that she stole the drugs for a family member who had both a medical condition and a drug addiction, the report shows. She reportedly said she would replace the drug with sterile water from vials around the hospital. She said she used sterile syringes to remove the drug from the capsules, then placed the narcotic fluid in empty capsules she found in the pharmaceutical waste can, according to the report.

Employees at Lemon Bay Drugs North declined to comment on Bramble’s employment status Monday.

As of Monday, Bramble’s pharmacy technician license was cataloged as active on the Florida Department of Health website and she was listed as working for the North Port pharmacy.

Investigators say Bramble admitted to similar thefts at Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers.

In a statement, Lee Memorial Health System officials said Bramble’s activity was flagged immediately and they launched an investigation, but did not find any patients who were impacted by her alleged drug activity.

Following the investigation, the hospital conducted a comprehensive review of employee handling of controlled substances to make sure that procedures were followed.

Bramble was arrested Wednesday and taken to Lee County Jail. She was released Thursday after posting $4,500 bond.

Bramble could not be reached for comment.

Man’s death stuns neighbors

Charlotte Sun (Port Charlotte, FL) – Saturday, May 11, 2013

PUNTA GORDA — Carl Edward Patrick, or ‘Ed’ as his friends called him, had a tough exterior. Neighbors said the 54-year-old Punta Gorda man often rode his Harley-Davidson to his favorite local haunt and lived a ‘biker lifestyle.’

However Patrick’s hardened shell melted like butter in the presence of children, and anytime the neighborhood youths were playing outside, he would stop, set his kickstand and come over for a few minutes to chat with the kids.

‘He adored my 20-month-old daughter, Serenity,’ said Chris Boyd, who lives just down the street on Oliphant Lane. ‘Anytime we were outside he would stop and talk to us. He was a really nice guy.’

Friends and neighbors were shocked to hear of Patrick’s death Friday.

Patrick was riding his motorcycle around 10 p.m. Thursday when he was hit and killed while traveling south on U.S. 41 near Con-stitution Boulevard, south of Fort Myers, according to a Florida Highway Patrol report.

The woman who hit him dragged his body and his motorcycle for about three miles before she was stopped by a Lee County Sheriff’s deputy, the report shows.

‘I just hope that he died quickly,’ neighbor Scott Ditota said with tears in his eyes. ‘He was a good person, and I hate to think that he suffered.’


Donna Lynne Brown, 54, of Estero, reportedly was charged with DUI manslaughter, DUI with property damage, hit and run with death, DUI and careless driving, in connection with the accident that resulted in Patrick’s death. She was taken to the Lee County Jail, where she is being held on $70,000 bond.

Brown is scheduled to appear in court June 10.

According to the FHP report, Brown did not see Patrick while making a U-turn at Constitution, and struck the rear of Patrick’s Harley-Davidson. After impact, Brown reportedly failed to stop at the crash scene and continued on U.S. 41 for approximately three miles, dragging Brown and his motorcycle under her Lexus SUV.

An LCSO deputy witnessed sparks coming from the undercarriage of her vehicle and pulled Brown over just north of Corkscrew Road, according to the report.

Patrick’s friend Brandon Logsdon, 21, was shocked when he heard the news.

‘Ed wasn’t just another biker,’ Logsdon said. ‘Ed was my neighbor and Ed was my friend.’

Logsdon and his stepfather, Patrick’s neighbor Ditota, remembered Patrick with fondness. They teared up, then chuckled at the thought of Patrick’s prized goats terrorizing the neighborhood.

‘He loved those goats, but they would always jump the fence and get out,’ Ditota said. ‘Once I came home and one of them was sitting on my couch in the garage.’

Logsdon said while Patrick’s farm animals annoyed the adult neighbors by eating up their landscaping, they delighted the neighborhood children.

‘Ed loved those animals so much because they were the link to the kids,’ Logsdon said. ‘He loved when the kids would come up the street to his house to see his animals.’

Logsdon said Patrick was a great friend.

‘He was laid back and friendly,’ Logsdon said. ‘People talk about karma, but it doesn’t apply in this case. Ed was one of the good guys.’