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News Story
Updated: 08/16/2014 08:00:02AM

Running from the teens

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Travis Smith

Larry Bencar

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Melissa Elkins DeStefano, 46, of 4116 SW 20th Ave., Cape Coral, was charged Aug. 3 with aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer after blaming teenagers for making it impossible to leave town, the Bartow Police Department reported.

DeStefano told the dispatch department she was lost and said, “The teenagers have shut down the city, making it impossible to leave.”

She then said, “Literally they’re playing God. With these, you know with certain … you know … dinosaurs and dragons type deal to try to get effects that the real spirit produces.”

Officer Adam Anderson made contact with DeStefano and she said to him, “The city’s portals are shut down, you know what I’m talking about, the portals are shut down.”

She then started her vehicle and Anderson asked her to turn off the vehicle so he could ask about her well-being, police reported.

She then said, “Look, you guys are making me uncomfortable. I need to go.”

She then drove away with her 4-year-old child sitting in the front seat unbuckled but there was a child seat in the back.

Anderson put his patrol car in front of DeStefano’s with the lights on and she drove around it and fled, police reported.

Anderson followed the car as it went west on Van Fleet Drive without the headlights off. The car drove to Richland Road, made a U-turn and when backup officers arrived, Anderson turned on his emergency lights and tried to stop the vehicle, police reported.

Another officer placed his patrol car in front of the passenger side of DeStefano’s and turned on his emergency lights. DeStefano then went toward the car at a high rate of speed and went around it as it got close. DeStefano then drove through a red light and turned into the Circle K at 1020 N. Broadway.

DeStefano refused to get out the vehicle, so police forcefully took her out, according to reports.

Officer attacked with dog cage

Jose Alfredo Tiburcio, 23, of 1095 Gay St., Bartow, was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest with violence and violation of probation on Aug. 3 when he hit Detective Gregory Rhoden with a dog kennel cage and had a fight with him, the Bartow Police Department reported.

Rhoden was called via 911 to Tiburcio’s location. He was outside a house where he was upset with someone inside, according to reports. Tiburcio went onto the front porch and allegedly starting punching a window. Rhoden was then told Tiburcio is deaf and is not able to speak.

Tiburcio then tried to get in through the rear of the residence. Rhoden was trying to calm Tiburcio and was told by the family he was upset with his brother who was there.

Tiburcio then went into a bedroom and Rhoden followed, trying to calm him down, police say. Tiburcio then allegedly picked up a large metal dog kennel and swung it at Rhoden hitting him in the chest, police reported. Then with the dog cage swinging, Rhoden instinctively hit Tiburcio in the face with the flashlight he was holding, the police reported. It cut Tiburcio’s lip.

A struggle ensued and fellow Officer Toni Strickland helped. Tiburcio was pinned and handcuffed and had leg shackles put on him, police reported.

Man charged with robbery on autistic man

At about 4:15 p.m. Monday, Aug. 11, an autistic adult was walking home from the Super Discount convenience store on Dairy Road in Auburndale where he went to buy some snacks, when he was approached by an aggressive man riding a bicycle who demanded the victim’s money.

After threatening to hurt the victim by shooting him and “blowing his head off,” the suspect took the victim’s money and cell phone then demanded that the victim take him to the victim’s house so that the suspect could steal the victim’s father’s car, the police reported.

Although the suspect did not brandish a firearm, the victim was in fear for his life. He agreed to walk home while the suspect followed.

When the victim and suspect arrived at the home located on Marianna Drive in Auburndale, the victim’s father came outside. The victim quickly got behind his father and told his father to get a gun. The victim’s father ordered the suspect to leave, and took a picture of the suspect on his cell phone.

Deputies later found him.

Travis Smith, 22, and charged him with robbery and petit theft, according to reports.

17 arrested in narcotics investigation

In July 2014, detectives with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office initiated an investigation into the sale of illegal narcotics in the Haines City area and on Aug. 7, undercover detectives and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force and the Haines City Police Department executed four search warrants and made 17 arrests.

The search warrants were at 1237 Ave. I, Haines City, where Carl Scott, Charles Tavares, and Trumaine Cooper were arrested; 1220 Ave. J, Haines City, Florida, where Antwan Davis was arrested; 1118 Ave. J, Haines City, Florida, where husband and wife, Brian Foster and Lameisha Tomlin, were arrested, and deputies seized 80 grams of marijuana, a handgun, and several digital scales; 2216 13th St., Haines City, Florida, where Rennard Loper, Sterling Smith, Roy Murray, Renwick Loper, Edmond Alston, and Benjamin Alston were arrested and where also one ounce of marijuana, 10 Oxycodone pills, cocaine, and paraphernalia were seized, police reported.

Man charged with domestic battery

A 27-year-old man was charged with domestic violence on Aug. 1 when his fiancee said he poked her in the eyeball while they were arguing.

Ernesto Ugarte Jr., of Bartow, was charged as they were driving to work in the area of Main Street and U.S. 17 when during an argument he slapped her on the left side of the face and stabbed her in the left eye with his finger causing her to momentarily lose vision, police reported.

Officers notice the swelling in her eye and she declined medical attention.

Charged with biting finger, ear

Alawnso Jamel Anthony, 19, of 631 Caroloyn Drive, Lakeland, was charged July 31 with domestic violence for biting his girlfriend’s right index finger and her left ear, the Bartow Police Department reports.

Anthony and his girlfriend were having an argument over the car keys when he allegedly grabbed the girl and tossed her onto the bed. As she tried to defend herself, Anthony bit her in the finger and ear, she told police.

At the scene she declined medical attention.

While being booked into the Polk County Jail Anthony said he and his girlfriend were in an verbal argument and he said he grabbed the victim from behind and gave her a bear hug. He said he licked her neck as she was trying to get away from him.

Man charged with child pornography

Larry Bencar, 69, of 4222 Simms Road, Lakeland, was charged Aug. 13 with 60 counts possession of child pornography after a thorough forensic analysis of his computer, which was removed from his home during his original April arrest as a part of “Operation Guardian Angel.”

According to the affidavit, detectives served a search warrant at Bencar’s home on April 28. A preview of his computer on-scene revealed 11 videos containing child pornography, with at least one video depicting the sexual battery of a child younger than 5. Bencar was arrested and charged with 11 counts possession of child pornography, and his computer was seized for further analysis. He bonded out of jail on May 1.

During the analysis of Bencar’s computer, detectives located 50 video files containing the sexual performance of a child, with three of those videos depicting the sexual battery of a child younger than 5 and 10 images depicting the sexual battery of a child younger than 5. Bencar was arrested on these latest charges, and booked into the Polk County Jail without bond.

Florida mother charged with child abuse

A central Florida mother was arrested after police say she left her four children alone for several hours to go to a food bank, The Associated Press reports.

Ashley Richardson is facing four counts of negligent child abuse without bodily harm.

Police said the children, ranging from 6 to 8 years old, walked almost half a mile from their home and were playing in a park Tuesday when a Winter Haven police officer noticed they were alone.

The officer watched the children for several minutes until one waved her over in their direction. When the officer got to the children, the 8-year-old had his leg stuck in a swing designed for toddlers.

Firefighters had to take the swing off its frame to free the boy.


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