Lies and crimes that dominated 2010 in Hernando

BROOKSVILLE — Shocking crimes seemed to dominate the headlines all year in Hernando County, keeping local law enforcement agencies busy as they performed the grim tasks necessary to protect the community. Here are some of the major incidents that took place in 2010.

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When Matthew Hyde and his wife, Karen, arrived in Brooksville in January, their big plans about rescuing the local landmark Rogers' Christmas House Village from financial ruin became the talk of the town. The couple spoke of adding a tea room, a deli and a fine dining restaurant. They spoke of tour bus companies once again bringing thousands of guests to the Christmas House, just like the 1980s when founder Margaret "Weenie" Ghiotto Rogers operated the iconic business.

Before long, however, the past caught up to Hyde and the dreams evaporated.

The Times revealed that Hyde's real name is Matthew Senge and that he has an extensive criminal record in Florida that includes arrests and convictions for organized fraud, battery and obstructing justice. Court records also showed that Senge has had numerous liens and judgments placed against him by people in Florida and elsewhere.

Within months, as more legal problems erupted for Senge in Florida and Alabama, the deal for the Christmas House fell apart. The end came in May when, after days of cut-rate sales on the remaining inventory, auctioneers disposed of the last pieces of the village, including the furnishings in the employee break room.

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They tried to reach the man by phone to no avail. They tried to force him out by filling his home with a dozen containers of tear gas and pepper gas. But when Hernando deputies saw no signs of movement inside the Spring Hill home about 9 p.m. Aug. 3, they wondered whether Robert Capkovic had followed through on a vow to kill himself. So they went in.

When the SWAT team members reached a bathroom, they found Capkovic, armed with a rifle. Within minutes, Deputy Lance Origon was wounded in the forearm and Capkovic, 62, was shot dead by deputies.

Neighbors on Joyner Avenue and family members described Capkovic as an unemployed, childless loner plagued with debt, but also a widower who would help injured animals on the side of the road.

"Bob was very angry at the world," said his brother-in-law Tim Maitski of Atlanta. "He always thought he got dealt a bad set of cards, that the world screwed him, that he deserved more than what he got."

Maitski said he wasn't surprised at how Capkovic died. Since Maitski had known him, his brother-in-law had an obsession with the culture of the Wild West, especially classic shoot-em-ups with Henry Fonda and Clint Eastwood.

When he heard of the shooting, Maitski said, "I thought, 'Oh my God, it reminds me of those movies.' "

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Two days after the Capkovic incident, law enforcement officers found themselves in another shootout.

Brooksville police responded to a domestic violence call involving Keith Ritchie, 39, at a home at 564 Bell Ave. As they searched for him, an officer came upon a man fitting his description and told the man to identify himself. Ritchie, police said, began shooting instead. The officer returned fire, but neither was hit.

Ritchie ran to a house at 617 Fort Dade Ave. and hid in a shed under a tarp. Deputies sent police dog Kilo in after him, and the 5-year-old German shepherd quickly latched onto Ritchie. As the two struggled, Ritchie shot Kilo four times, in the jaw, neck and leg. A fourth bullet hit Kilo's bullet resistant vest near his neck. No officers were injured.

Within seconds, deputies opened fire at Ritchie, who died at the scene.

Kilo recovered and was back on the beat within weeks.

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The hunt for Brooksville resident Guy Osman Gould Jr. began the moment he failed to show up for his Sept. 3, hearing at the Hernando County Courthouse to face charges of sexual battery on a child. Little did the authorities know that day that he was half a world away — with no intention of coming back.

State and federal officials said Gould, 66, who had been arrested in January on four charges of engaging in sexual activities with two teenage boys, planned his flight to the Pacific island of Samoa well in advance of his court date.

But his great escape didn't last.

When Samoan authorities learned of the charges, they sent him back, and he was arrested by U.S. marshals at Los Angeles International Airport.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Ron Lindbak said Gould must have known that Samoa would be a perfect place to hide.

A tropical island paradise with year-round temperatures around 80 degrees, Samoa, about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand, has no extradition treaty with the United States.

"He certainly was aware of that," Lindbak said. "That's probably what attracted him to it."

Gould's attorney, Peyton Hyslop, said he had not heard from his client since his arrest. Although he was surprised to learn that his client had fled to Samoa, he could understand why he wanted to go.

"He's 66 years old, probably facing life as a minimum sentence," Hyslop said. "I've always heard that it's a pretty place."

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When Doris Siegel told Brooksville police in 2004 about a too-good-to-be-true Internet scheme, they quickly determined that she had been the victim of one of the notorious lottery scams making the rounds online. Instead of accepting her loss as a harsh lesson in life, however, authorities said Siegel used information gleaned from the deal to con money from other people.

Inside her home, police found piles of paperwork detailing how to operate a lottery scam. According to police, Siegel, 79, approached several victims from January 2008 through April of this year and asked for money, claiming she had won a lottery in Holland. Several of the victims were Siegel's neighbors in Hometown Clover Leaf Forest RV Park in Brooksville.

Over time, police said, Siegel transferred nearly $1.1 million in small amounts to sidestep state and federal transaction reporting requirements.

Siegel was found guilty on Oct. 14 of one count of organized fraud and one count of illegal structuring of financial transactions.

As part of a plea bargain, she was sentenced to 18 months in state prison followed by five years of probation.

Siegel must try to pay back her victims, but Assistant State Attorney Don Barbee said those victims do not have much hope of getting their money back.

Officials have not been able to track down the money that Siegel took, and her only income is Social Security payments.

She remained in jail after her arrest because she could not afford $5,000 bail.

Lies and crimes that dominated 2010 in Hernando 12/25/10 [Last modified: Saturday, December 25, 2010 12:33pm]

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