Friday, September 21, 2018
Public safety

In Hernando County, here are 13 deaths investigators have yet to solve

A standing statistic says that one third of murders in the United States each year go unsolved, racking up the list of cold cases for law enforcement agencies across the country. In Hernando County, there are 13 homicide deaths investigators have yet to solve. These are their stories:

• The death of Dominique Devon Lewis, a 19-year-old St. Petersburg medical student, was the only reported homicide in 2007. She was murdered sometime shortly after Thanksgiving that year, and her body was found by a CSX railroad worker in a wooded area off Brooksville Rock Road in Brooksville on Dec. 11. Investigators clocked more than 1,000 hours looking for her killer, naming several as people of interest in the case, including her boyfriend, Jeremy Grisby, who was booked into Pinellas County Jail three days after Lewis’ body was found on an unrelated charge of sexual battery but never charged in her death.

• Richard Leo March, a 60-year-old Vietnam War veteran from Floral City, was murdered on Dec. 23, 2001 while working as a nighttime security guard at the D.A.B. Construction plant on Spring Hill Drive, just west of U.S. 41. His body was found by a co-worker in the middle of the construction yard, where he had worked for more than two years, making for the county’s fourth and final reported homicide of 2001. Investigators followed more than 60 leads, and the owner of the company offered a $30,000 reward, but March’s killer was never found.

• Jessie Johnson died from complications from injuries he suffered in a fire someone intentionally set to his residence on Josephine Street in south Brooksville on Jan. 26, 1998. The evening of the blaze, investigators say, witnesses saw two people in front of Johnson’s home minutes before the fire began.

• Carrie Leonard’s skeletal remains were found in central Hernando on August 17, 1999. She was last seen on June 19, 1997 leaving a party in the area with a male friend named Anthony "Tony" Ford.

• Jennifer Renee Odom went missing when she was 12 years old while walking home from her bus stop on Feb. 19, 1993. It was about 3 p.m. when she stepped off the school bus to begin the 200-yard walk to her family’s home in Dade City, but she never made it there. Classmates on the bus later told investigators they saw a faded blue pickup truck following behind her as she walked. In the days that followed, law enforcement, police dogs and hundreds of volunteers searched the surrounding woods. Her body, face down and naked, was found six days later, on Feb. 25, in an abandoned orange grove in southeast Hernando. The medical examiner ruled the girl’s death resulted from "trauma to the head." Two years later, on Jan. 5, 1995, her missing backpack and clarinet case were found on the west side of the county. Her clothes — a white turtleneck, red sweater, white Hooter’s jacket, white denim pants and black lace-up boots — were never found. In 2013, just before the 20th anniversary of the girl’s death, Hernando Sheriff Al Nienhuis announced that a detective would spend the next year trying to break the case. The detective’s stint, which included sending a dive team to search Lake Jovita in San Antonio for the blue pickup truck, was extended in 2014, but never yielded any major breaks.

• The skeletal remains of James Avery were found in south central Hernando County on Aug. 6, 1990. He was last seen on Nov. 26, 1986 in his hometown of Walhalla, South Carolina before leaving to travel to Florida to meet with his ex-wife, who was believed to be in the area of Naples.

• Jill Vanwormer’s skeletal remains were found in northwestern Hernando County on May 15, 1990, nearly five years after she went missing. An auto parts delivery person for a company in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, she failed to return back to work after a delivery call in April of 1986.

• The body of Yvonne Joanne Davenport, a 23-year-old Tampa-based exotic dancer who had a criminal history for prostitution, was found badly decomposed in a wooded area off Bennett Lane in on March 22, 1987. She was found face down, wearing only underwear. Her feet were bound with rope, and a man’s necktie was knotted about her throat. Investigators determined she was strangled to death.

• Timothy Jeronimus, of Illinois, was found murdered in eastern Hernando County on May 5, 1982.

• Lucian Green was murdered on Nov. 11, 1981 while trying to record the description and tag information for a vehicle that had fled the scene of an attempted commercial burglary of a gas station at State Road 50 and Interstate-75.

• Joseph Miller was last seen on Dec. 14, 1976. Four days later, he was reported missing, and eventually his abandoned vehicle was found in central Hernando County. Less than two months later, on Feb. 6, 1977, his body was found.

• Louise Norton was found murdered in south Brooksville. Investigators were told that before her death, she was involved in an argument with someone, possibly her "common law" husband, Cassie Andrews.

• The body of an unidentified woman, referred to as Jane Doe, was found in the area of High Corner Road and State Road 50 in Brooksville on July 19, 1972. The Caucasian, brunette woman was described as being 30 to 40 years old, approximately 5 feet tall and 125-145 pounds. She was found with only six upper and six lower teeth and was wrapped in a bedspread with what investigators called a distinctive pattern, possibly a "Pineapple Demask" print.

Anyone with information about any of Hernando County’s cold case homicides should contact the Cold Case Unit of the Sheriff’s Office at 352-754-6830 or 877-282-5727. Anonymous tips can be made by calling 1-866-990-8477. For more information, visit www.hernandosheriff.org/unsolved/homicides.htm.

Information in this report was provided by the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office and Times files. Contact Megan Reeves at [email protected] Follow @mareevs.

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