Citrus County was struck by a rash of burglaries this weekend and early Monday morning, several of which, authorities said, could be connected, including one that left a hole in the wall at A-Z Discount Beverages.
That burglary was discovered at midnight Friday by Citrus County sheriff's deputies and Crystal River police officers.
They were greeted by the sight of a hole in the west side wall. Authorities believe the suspects may have used a sledge hammer to break into the store.
A sheriff's K-9 unit was sent inside the store on NE Fifth Street, and the dog tracked a scent through the store, through nearby woods and across Crystal River Primary School to abandoned apartments, where the scent was lost.
When a store official arrived, he said nothing inside appeared to be missing except for a Garcia Vega cigar box where cash was sometimes kept, but it was left empty Friday night. The K-9 unit found the empty box outside the store while tracking a scent.
Officers also discovered a beeper hanging on a magazine rack that did not belong to anyone who worked at the store, according to police reports.
A caller informed officers that at about that time, an unknown man was seen jumping the fence of Crystal River Primary, and that the man dropped a box near where the cigar box was found.
Monday at 5:43 a.m., an employee at the Lil' Champ store on U.S. 19 reported the front door had been smashed in, but nothing was reported stolen. Officers noted, though, that the outside breaker box had been opened and two breakers had been shut off, one to the lights and one to the alarm. The phone lines had also been pulled.
The Sheriff's Office is also investigating three additional robberies:
About $100 in cash was taken from First United Methodist Church of Homosassa, and church property was ransacked.
A pressure washer and two outboard motors were reported stolen from Homosassa Marine.
An outboard motor, a trawling motor and a gas can were reported missing from Nature's Resort.
Gail Tierney, spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office, said detectives believe those three burglaries are connected based on proximity to one another, the time they occurred and other similarities.
Anyone with information in any of these cases is asked to call the sheriff's anonymous tips line at 1-888-269-8477.
In other news:
A 44-year-old Floral City man caught the attention of a Citrus County sheriff's deputy the hard way while driving home Sunday morning, authorities said.
Herman Walter Schevel is accused of running the deputy's cruiser off the road while heading south in the northbound lane of State Road 200.
Deputy Donald Miller had to pull off the road to avoid a head-on collision, the report said.
Miller pursued Schevel's 1979 Mercury while the suspect continued south on northbound SR 200, eventually turning south onto the northbound lane of U.S. 41., the report said.
Schevel swerved back and forth on the roadway, the report said, then locked up his brakes avoiding a rear-end collision with a vehicle ahead of him. The road was filled with traffic from a nearby church, the report said.
When the deputy pulled Schevel over, the report said, he noted there was a quarter of a bottle of brandy on the passenger seat.
The suspect appeared intoxicated, the report said. The suspect said his driver's license was in a suitcase in the trunk. After searching the trunk, Schevel found his license in his back pocket.
Schevel failed several field sobriety tests, the report said, and admitted to the deputy that he had been drinking the night before,woke up, showered and wanted a Mountain Dew.
"Go ahead and lock me up and place me in the cow pen," Schevel reportedly told the deputy.
The deputy took Schevel to the Citrus County jail. He was charged with driving under the influence and held in lieu of $500 bail.