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News Story
Updated: 05/15/2014 11:07:03PM

Rabies case in Bartow confirmed

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Austin Darrius

PHOTO PROVIDED

Scene at the crash that claimed China Harris' life in December.

PHOTO PROVIDED

Scene at the crash that claimed China Harris' life in December.

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A second confirmed case of rabies was found in Bartow on Friday, May 9, Polk County Sheriff’s Patrol Animal Control Section reported.

On May 7, a bat was found isolated inside a family residence on the 1100 block of Clinton Street. The PCSO Animal Control Officers responded, impounded the bat and sent its body to the State Laboratory for testing. The bat was confirmed positive for rabies by the State Laboratory on May 9.

Residents are reminded that bats and raccoons are among the mammals considered to be high risk species or “rabies vector species.” Do not approach any animal which is acting in an unusual or suspicious manner. If you think you or your pet has had an “exposure,” contact the PCSO Animal Control Section at 863-499-2600.

Hit and run suspect charged with December deadly crash

At approximately 9 a.m., Friday, May 9, Polk County Sheriff’s Office Traffic homicide deputies arrested 23-year-old Darrius Jadon Austin, 23, 840 Sunset Cove Road, Winter Haven and charged him with leaving the scene of a crash resulting in death, and driving without a driver’s license.

Shortly past midnight on Tuesday, Dec. 3, Austin was driving a white, 2013 Chevy Malibu and crashed into a semi-truck traveling north on Fish Hatchery Road. The semi was crossing through the intersection at Saddle Creek Road when the collision occurred. The impact caused the semi to jackknife. Austin’s passenger, 24-year-old China Harris, was critically injured and ultimately died as a result of her injuries.

At the time, the driver’s identity was unclear. Through their investigation, deputies learned the driver crawled over the injured passenger to exit the Malibu before fleeing and never summoned help for her, they reported. Evidence was taken from the scene to include what appeared to be blood samples from the driver-side airbag which had deployed during the crash.

Through their investigation, traffic homicide deputies learned Austin was possibly the driver at the time of the crash.

Austin was arrested by Winter Haven Police on Dec. 6, three days later, and charged with possession of weapon/ammo by convicted felon, robbery, failure to appear, and probation violation. During the process of Austin’s arrest, a DNA buccal swab had been taken.

When deputies learned about the Dec. 6 arrest and collection of DNA evidence, they were able to submit evidence collected from the scene along with DNA buccal swab evidence from Austin’s Winter Haven arrest and submit both to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement laboratory in Tampa.

Results from the comparison confirmed Austin was the driver in the Dec. 3 crash. Austin was taken into custody last week, as he was leaving the Polk County Courthouse after a court hearing about a pending attempted robbery charge for which he had been previously arrested.

“In less than three days he walked away from a crash that killed an innocent girl and was arrested on robbery charges,” said Sheriff Grady Judd. “Our Traffic Homicide deputies are among the best in the business. Their dedication and meticulous attention to detail in gathering evidence at traffic scenes has once again put a criminal behind bars and this one needs to stay there.”

Austin was sentenced to state prison in 2010; he has been booked into the Polk County Jail nine times since 2008. He has been arrested by Winter Haven Police, Lake Alfred Police, Auburndale Police, and the PCSO.

His arrest history includes 21 felonies, 17 misdemeanors and twice for failure to appear.

Motorcycle driver killed in crash

At 5:15 p.m., Sunday, May 11, Nathan Colon, 38, 107 Algonquin Trail, Mulberry, was traveling northbound on Old Dade City Road approaching Clayton Road, on a 2004 Honda motorcycle.

At the same time, Jaime Rivera, 42, of 5111 Clayton Road, Kathleen, operating a 2005 Ford Excursion, was attempting to make a left turn from southbound Old Dade City Road onto eastbound Clayton Road.

Rivera said that he did not see the motorcycle and turned in front of it. The front of both vehicles collided in the northbound lane of Old Dade City Road at Clayton Road, police reported.

Colon was ejected from the motorcycle and came to rest on the northeast shoulder of the intersection. The two vehicles came to rest at their point of collision. Rivera backed his vehicle a short distance to ensure no one was trapped underneath.

Polk County Fire and Medic units responded to the scene and determined that Colon was deceased.

At the time of the crash Colon was not wearing a helmet. Rivera and his passengers, Ruth N. Rivera and Jayden Rivera, were all wearing seat belts but the airbags in the Excursion did not deploy, police reported.

The crash closed the road for about four hours.

There are no indications that impairment, speed, or distracted driving were factors in the crash.

No criminal charges are anticipated, but the investigation is ongoing.

Toddlers found in pool, die

Two toddlers who were found in their grandparents’ swimming pool have died.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office says 18-month-old Silas Lugo-Walsh was pronounced dead late Saturday. His 2-year-old cousin Jayvien Watkins was pronounced dead about an hour and a half later Sunday.

Deputies say the boys were missing for about 10 to 15 minutes before family members realized they were gone Friday evening.

The relatives began searching frantically and found the children face down in the pool. The pool had a fence around it, but Sheriff Grady Judd said the gate appeared open.

Neighbors watched as deputies entered and left the two-story home. At one point a small child was carried out of the house and handed to family members Friday.

The pool is about 5-feet deep and had a fence around it, but it appears the gate was open, Judd said.

“It certainly would be no challenge at all for an 18-month-old and a 24-month-old to push the door open,” Judd said.

He called the incident a “tragic, tragic accident.”

The investigation is ongoing. Autopsies will be conducted on both boys.


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