HERNANDO BEACH — Two suspects wanted in connection with an Aug. 31 armed robbery at the observation tower at Linda Pedersen Park have been arrested after dodging authorities for several days.
Jerae Crussell, 24, of Spring Hill, was charged with armed robbery and grand theft auto. Investigators say Carlos Manuel Perez Jr., 21, listed as a transient, was the driver. He faces a charge of principal in the first degree.
A third suspect, Jaime Angel Marquez, 19, of Spring Hill, was arrested Sept. 1 and charged with armed robbery, grand theft auto and violation of probation.
All three men remained in custody Monday at the Hernando County Jail. Crussell and Marquez were being held in lieu of bail totaling $52,000 and Perez had bail of $50,000.
According to a Sheriff's Office report, the men approached a man and a woman on the upper level of the observation tower around 10:20 p.m. Aug. 31.
Marquez pulled out a gun, the report stated, pointed it at the man's head and ordered him to lie down. The men allegedly took the keys to the man's 1992 BMW. Also taken were the woman's cell phone, purse and sweatshirt.
After the robbers fled, the victims, who were not injured, shouted across Shoal Line Boulevard to people fishing at Jenkins Creek Park who then attempted to pursue the robbers.
The men crashed the car at Shoal Line Boulevard and Wimberly Court, and Marquez then jumped into the Weeki Wachee River, according to authorities. Marquez was arrested about 10:40 p.m. after emerging from the river and asking a resident on Waverly Road for a ride.
Authorities stopped Perez a short time after the robbery but he lied to deputies about his reasons for being in the area, according to the report. Perez also gave false information to deputies last Tuesday about details of the case, including an attempt to conceal Crussell's alleged involvement in the robbery, according to the report. He was arrested Friday and investigators say he later admitted to lying.
Meanwhile, Crussell escaped capture on the night of the robbery by swimming across a canal and hiding, investigators say. He eluded authorities until finally being arrested at his home Friday.
Crussell's only previous arrest in Hernando came on Aug. 1 on charges of domestic battery and failure to appear. Perez has no prior record in Hernando.
In other police news:
• A 13-year-old boy was arrested Monday for bringing a 13-inch metal dagger to school, according to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.
The teen, who is not being identified because he is a juvenile, was taken into custody and charged with possession of a weapon on school property. He was in custody at the Hernando County jail Monday, though a jail employee said he was waiting to be released to his parents.
According to the arrest report, an assistant principal at Parrott Middle School in Brooksville told a deputy she believed the boy had brought a dagger to school. When the deputy arrived in the gym, the assistant principal took the boy's gym bag and found the dagger inside. The dagger had a double-edged blade that was 6 inches long, according to the report.
The boy told the deputy that an older boy had returned the dagger to him at the bus stop earlier that morning. He then placed the dagger in the bag, thinking he wouldn't be caught with it on campus.
The teen told the deputy that he knew he could get in trouble if caught, having been found with a pocketknife on campus last year.
• A Spring Hill man was critically injured Sunday after his car struck another vehicle while speeding through an intersection in Citrus County, according to a report from the Florida Highway Patrol.
Joel Spooner, 22, was heading east on County Road 486 above the posted speed limit and ran a red light about 2:45 p.m., the report said. Spooner's 1998 Ford pickup truck was struck on the right side by a four-door 1997 Kia driving north on County Road 491 in Lecanto, according to the report.
Spooner's truck flipped several times, scattering debris toward another vehicle, a 2007 GMC pickup truck heading west on County Road 486. When troopers arrived at the scene, Spooner's vehicle was upright in the westbound lanes of 486, the Kia had stopped in the intersection and the GMC truck came to rest in a westbound lane of 486.
According to the FHP report, Spooner was taken to Shands at the University of Florida in Gainesville with critical injuries.
The Kia driver, Jennifer Quinlan, 25, of Beverly Hills, suffered serious injuries and was taken to Seven Rivers Community Hospital in Crystal River.
The driver of the GMC truck, Douglas Futch, 41, of Lecanto, and three teenage passengers escaped with no injuries.
The FHP had no updates on the conditions of Spooner and Quinlan as of Monday afternoon.
Joel Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 754-6120.