2008 in review | Public safety

Hernando officials still digging in shocking double killing

Tears for a classmate: Brandi Gill, 15, facing, hugs Lacey Grieves, 12, after a September vigil memorial for Kaitlyn Harper. Kaitlyn, 13, was killed by a pickup truck as she walked to a bus stop on California Street in Brooksville. Brandi and Lacey were classmates at West Hernando Middle School.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Tears for a classmate: Brandi Gill, 15, facing, hugs Lacey Grieves, 12, after a September vigil memorial for Kaitlyn Harper. Kaitlyn, 13, was killed by a pickup truck as she walked to a bus stop on California Street in Brooksville. Brandi and Lacey were classmates at West Hernando Middle School.

A suspect is behind bars, but one of Hernando County's most notorious murder cases is still open.

Detectives are still looking for answers in the grisly October 2006 slayings of an elderly Masaryktown couple.

"Absolutely, the case is still under investigation," said Sgt. Donna Black, spokeswoman for the Hernando County Sheriff's Office. "We still have investigators assigned specifically to that case."

In 2008, few criminal cases in Hernando generated as much interest or as many headlines as the stabbing deaths of Patrick and Evelyn DePalma.

Detectives arrested two men, one in April and another in July, in the deaths.

Robert Jardin, 33, of Brooksville was indicted on two counts of first-degree murder, armed robbery, armed burglary and grand theft in the deaths.

The motive for the murders remains unclear.

Prosecutors revealed in August they were not prepared to press first-degree murder charges against David "Alex" Bostick, the first suspect arrested.

Bostick, 18, of Tampa, a distant relative of the DePalmas who sometimes referred to them as "Uncle Pat" and "Aunt Evelyn," is hoping to move on with his life. He is working to become an auto mechanic and turning his 20-day stint in jail into a distant memory.

The case has bedeviled investigators and prompted the Sheriff's Office to hand out fliers earlier in the year that read: "Please help us solve this horrible double murder in Masaryktown. Any information is needed!"

A triple hit of deadly crimes

In February, Hernando recorded its first homicide of the year after going nearly 11 months in 2007 without one.

Robert Rutherford, 68, was found beaten and choked to death in his Brooksville apartment on Feb. 14.

Rutherford, known to most of his friends as "Bunk" or "Bunky," was hit several times on the head with an unidentified weapon and strangled, police said.

Later that day, Brooksville police arrested Treva Lynn Anderson, 23, of Spring Hill.

She faces a charge of first-degree murder in Rutherford's death and was held without bail at the Hernando County Jail.

Another Brooksville man, Isiah Lee Collins, 29, was shot to death in the early morning of May 27 on Buena Vista Avenue, not far from where the residential road meets Broad Street in Brooksville.

Police later identified Franklin Jamaal Spears, 26, of Spring Hill as the lead suspect in the death. Spears is in federal custody and was expected to be extradited to Hernando County, though it is unclear when.

In Spring Hill, a 57-year-old man was accused in the gruesome Aug. 3 death of his 81-year-old mother, Dorothy Simmons.

Kevin Simmons confessed to detectives that he went into his mother's room and started hitting her in the head with a telephone — at least 10 times — and then with a remote control.

Simmons then dragged her to the pool outside and held her under the water, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Simmons was charged with first-degree murder and was being held in the county jail without bail.

Rooting out the marijuana houses

Hernando detectives spent much of the first half of 2008 cracking down on several marijuana grow house operations throughout the county. The investigations followed a bumper crop of such crimes in 2007, when the number of grow house raids more than tripled the previous year's total.

One of the largest raids of 2008 came in late February, when authorities seized about 700 high-quality plants from a Royal Highlands home in the 8200 block of Nightwalker Road. The plants filled seven rooms of the one-story house.

"We've seen a decline, and maybe that's a good thing," Black, the Sheriff's Office spokeswoman, said this month. "We have a very involved community, lots of ears and eyes out there. Lots of people have called us with tips on these operations."

Prostitution sting raises questions

A community cry for more enforcement on some of Brooksville's grittiest streets also led to one of the more controversial operations of the year: the Brooksville Police Department's much-publicized prostitution sting in September.

The five-day operation resulted in the prostitution-related arrests of 32 men and five women, along with a dozen other arrests for the sale and possession of cocaine. Some defense attorneys questioned the legality of the sting's methods and also implied there was a possible financial motive.

But Brooksville police Chief George Turner insisted the operation was executed properly.

"That operation is a total success as far as I'm concerned," Turner said. "I stand behind the whole operation. We're planning on doing more of them, and doing them exactly the same way."

Retail crimes have a strong year

As the year came to a close, law enforcement officials, retailers and security experts noted that tougher economic times may have caused an increase in holiday shoplifting. In Hernando, 33 people were booked on charges of retail theft and petty theft in the three weeks after Thanksgiving. That was an increase of nearly 74 percent from a similar time period in 2007.

Lyrics so dirty they're a crime

A Brooksville teen was arrested in February for reciting some profanity-laced rhymes, an impromptu rendition of Touch Down and Cause Hell by Louisiana rapper Lil' Boosie. A mother overheard the lyrics and complained to a deputy that her two young children did not need to hear such language.

Christopher Holder, 19, the rapper, was handcuffed and taken to jail, where he was booked on a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct and breach of peace. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six months' probation.

The hair flew at the 7-Eleven melee

In August, a 7-Eleven store in Spring Hill was the scene of a brawl that left several people with minor injuries and criminal citations, and nearly 25 braided hair extensions strewn across the parking lot.

During the altercation, one woman swung a can of boiled peanuts. Another's hair enhancements were ripped from her head.

As a final flourish, Hernando deputies noted that another woman involved in the fracas gave them a false last name and signed her misdemeanor citation with a signature of "(expletive) you."

Joel Anderson can be reached at joelanderson@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6120.

Hernando officials still digging in shocking double killing 12/25/08 [Last modified: Thursday, January 1, 2009 11:29pm]

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