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Hernando store owner comes back from near fatal shooting

Jim Oleson watches as wife Kathy piles oranges in their Boyett’s Grove and Citrus Attraction in Spring Lake. 

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Jim Oleson watches as wife Kathy piles oranges in their Boyett’s Grove and Citrus Attraction in Spring Lake. 

SPRING LAKE — Jim Oleson admits he is not the man he once was.

He can no longer lift heavy boxes of fruit like he used to do. He doesn't have the stamina to work 14 hours, a typical day for the owner of Boyett's Grove and Citrus Attraction.

On the one-year anniversary of the armed robbery and shooting that cost him a kidney and nearly left him dead, Oleson is thankful just to be alive.

And, slowly, his life is getting back on track.

"It's been a long, long haul," Oleson said Thursday at his tourist shop at 4335 Spring Lake Highway. "I've got a long way to go still. I've just learned to take things as they come."

The 59-year-old Oleson has few recollections of what happened a year ago today inside the business that he, his wife, Kathy, and their family have operated for more than three decades.

Oleson was working at a counter deep in the store processing shipping labels on a computer when he looked up. A man dragging his wife by the hair was standing in front of him, pointing a pistol.

As Oleson started to stand up, the gunman fired two shots from a .45-caliber Ruger. One slug tore through Oleson's abdomen where it blew out a kidney. The other shot hit him in the chest.

He vaguely recalls the sound of the medical helicopter that swept him to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, nine units of blood pumped into him during the flight. "It was kind of over pretty quick," Oleson said. "I guess I can be thankful for that."

In January, authorities identified Elijah Jermaine Montgomery, 23, as the man who shot Oleson after matching a pistol found at an Orlando crime scene with the one used in the Boyett's Grove shooting.

Currently in Orange County Jail awaiting trial on unrelated charges, Montgomery is in a legal tug of war between jurisdictions, said Don Barbee, supervisor of the Hernando County State Attorney's Office.

Barbee said there is little his office can do until Montgomery is released from Orange County. He intends to vigorously pursue keeping Montgomery in jail for life. "I'm keeping (the case) myself for that reason," he said. "I very much look forward to making sure that happens."

Hernando Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Donna Black said the search continues for two masked accomplices. "We have no leads yet, but we're hopeful that someone will come forward with information," Black said.

Oleson says he feels nothing but anger for the men who terrorized his wife, an employee and a customer before robbing the store of $278. He is especially sorry for the horror his wife endured.

"I'm not a mean person," said Oleson. "But if it was up to me, I would want him to have to go through the same thing I've gone through. That would be my justice."

Oleson said if there is any bright spot from the ordeal it is the outpouring of support he and his family have received. Volunteers began showing up to help feed and care for the dozens of animals in the Boyett's Grove zoo. Places including the Weeki Wachee Springs attraction, Spring Lake United Methodist Church and the Connections Bar in Brooksville held fundraisers to help with hospital costs and other expenses. Oleson said many people still drop by to see how he's doing.

"The community has been simply wonderful to us," Oleson said. "I don't think we could have made it without them."

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com. Times Staff Writer Joel Anderson contributed to this story.

Hernando store owner comes back from near fatal shooting 04/24/08 [Last modified: Friday, April 25, 2008 12:10pm]
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