Spring Hill — On 08-28-15, just before 10 a.m., detectives with the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office Vice and Narcotics Unit, assisted by members of the K-9 Unit and Patrol Deputies, executed a search warrant at 5203 Deltona Boulevard in Spring Hill.
The search warrant was a result of a lengthy narcotics investigation that included two undercover purchases of methamphetamine from persons at the residence. The residence is located approximately 1,005 feet from Fox Chapel Middle School (9412 Fox Chapel Lane). A concern for detectives was that students were walking to and from school, in front of this residence where persons were dealing illegal drugs.
Arrest warrants were obtained for Joao Martins for Sale and Possession of Methamphetamine, Possession of a Structure for the Sale of Controlled Substance, Possession of Paraphernalia, and Unlawful Use of Two Way Communication Device.
Upon arrival, detectives observed two dogs on the property. One of the dogs was in obvious distress, suffering from severe neglect.
The dog, a small white unknown breed, had numerous sores on its jawline, causing the dog’s lower jaw to deteriorate. The dog’s eyes appeared to be severely infected as well. Both eyes had a large amount of green discharge oozing from them. Making matters worse, the dog was unable to walk properly. All of the dog’s toe nails had grown so long they were curled completely under the dog’s feet. The dog was removed by an Animal Enforcement Officer and taken to Hernando County Animal Services for evaluation.
Drug offenses are clearly not victimless crimes. This family pet is proof of that.
The other dog appeared to be in good health and was left on scene with the owner.
A search of the residence revealed the following:
– 5.15 grams of marijuana
– 3.1 grams of methamphetamine
– 4.35 grams of unidentified white powdery substance (to be sent for testing)
– Numerous glass smoking pipes with methamphetamine residue
– Numerous small baggies with methamphetamine residue
– Six baggies containing methamphetamine packaged for distribution.
The persons at the location were charged as follows:
– Joao Martins W/M DOB/12-01-1951
o Possession of Methamphetamine w/Intent to Distribute
o Possession of Paraphernalia
o Bond – $26,000 (including arrest warrants)
– Pierre Martins W/M 05-29-1974
o Possession of Paraphernalia (2 counts)
o Bond – $2,000
– Melissa Martins W/F DOB/07-25-1979
o Obstructing Law Enforcement While Serving a Search Warrant
o Bond – $500.
Detectives are working closely with the State Attorney’s Office regarding charges on the owner of the animal that was severely neglected. Charges are forthcoming on Emily Martins W/F DOB/10-26-1945.
Detectives received a positive reaction from neighbors in the area. They were pleased that drug dealing in their neighborhood and around the school will cease.
SPRING HILL — Hernando County sheriff’s deputies said they raided a home Thursday morning after conducting an investigation and three undercover drug buys. Deputies arrested two men and a woman and said they seized guns, cocaine, marijuana and pain medication.
Both of the men arrested — Cay Rivera, 48, and James Early, 46 — have long criminal records and were charged with possession of a firearm by a felon, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.
Rivera and the woman who was arrested, Lauren Roessner, 24, were charged with armed trafficking of cocaine and pain medication. Rivera, Early and Roessner were also charged with possession of marijuana and paraphernalia.
Deputies said that weapons taken from the house at 2117 Deborah Dr. — next to Gulf Coast Middle School — included three rifles, three pistols and three short-barreled shotguns. Deputies also said they seized more than two ounces of cocaine and 300 pills.
Rivera, Early and Roessner were all being held at the Hernando County Detention Center in lieu of bail.
A Homeless woman who is living in a truck in Homosassa faces charges of obstructing traffic after she was found panhandling Sunday at an intersection in Spring Hill, deputies said.
Brenda Monaye Duff, 40, was standing on the corner of U.S. 19 and Tarpon Boulevard around noon holding a sign that read “Homeless please help,” according to a release from the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.
A deputy observed her collecting money from motorists by walking into the road and hindering the flow of traffic by obstructing vehicles, deputies said.
Duff told deputies she had been at the intersection for 15 minutes and collected $8, according to the report. She said she moved to Florida about a month ago and lives with her husband in a truck in Homosassa, the report said.
Friends told her that she could make good money panhandling in Hernando County and her husband dropped her off at the intersection, Duff told deputies.
Duff said it was her first time in the area but records showed she had been warned by a deputy about panhandling in the exact location on June 29, according to the report.
Duff was taken to the Hernando County Detention Center on a charge of obstructing a public street and was released Monday.
In 1998, Hernando enacted a ban on solicitation to keep people and property safe and to prevent delays and avoid traffic tie-ups.
Hernando’s ordinance proclaims it is unlawful for any person “to solicit for employment, business, contributions or sales of any kind or collect monies for the same, from the occupant of any vehicle traveling upon any street or highway.”
Law enforcement officers are empowered to enforce the ordinance and violators can be fined up to $500, sent to jail for up to 60 days or both.
It’s been 31 long summers since a Florida team solved Dixie Baseball’s Senior Boys (age 14) All-Stars World Series.
A team from Brent last captured a World Series crown in 1983. Before that, Myrtle Grove captured this age division in 1963-64.
Spring Hill, aka Team Florida, would like nothing better than put an end to the inglorious streak beginning Saturday during the opening round of the 52nd annual World Series in Bossier City, La.
The field includes 12 teams in a double-elimination format: Spring Hill; Dallas, N.C.; Dyersburg, Tenn.; Halifax County, Va.; Monroe, La.; Hilton Head, S.C.; Hattiesburg, Miss.; Troup County, Ga.; Spanish Fort, Ala.; Sevier, Ark.; Center, Texas.; and host Bossier City.
Since his team rallied to finish 6-1 at the City of Sebring’s Max Long Complex at states two weeks ago, Spring Hill mentor Mike Rado says he’s spent more time deflecting criticism from area parents.
“Since states, I’ve had to deal with parent’s issues and really we’ve spent most of the time fundraising to go to Louisiana,” identified Coach Rado. “In the few practices we’ve had since states they went real well.”
Looking ahead, “Our kids know what we need to do,” insists Rado. “We’ve got to tighten up, especially on defense. We’ve got to concentrate on making one play at a time. Even with all the criticism, these guys in this dugout have each other’s backs.”
The team’s No. 9 hitter, Michael Ebberup, was the team’s leading hitter in Highlands County hitting a robust .692.
Dalton Mosser (.526), J.P. Gates (.522) and John Oliveira (.435) were right behind Ebberup.
Zach Funkhouser finished with a .318 average following a clutch 4-for-4 effort in the title game against Sebring.
On the bump, southpaw Gates notched 22 strikeouts in 11 innings while clouting three homers.
Vastano earned two mound wins allowing three earned runs across five innings while Oliveira fanned 10 across eight innings of action.
Spring Hill will open play Saturday at 4 p.m. against Monroe.
With a win, Spring Hill will most likely cross paths with the defending the World Series champs from Hattiesburg.
“We don’t know anything about them except Louisiana typically fields tough teams,” noted Rado. “Honestly, we’re kind of going into this blindfolded. I think a lot of teams will be pretty equal; it’ll all come down to executing on the little things to win games.”
On Spring Hill’s title chances, “We could win it all. This group seems to focus better with the controversy from the stands,” said Rado. “I know this is the first World Series for a lot of our guys, but we’ve got a lot of travel ball kids that are used to the environment in Louisiana.
“For us to win? We need to keep the noise down from the stands. Let’s play drama-free,” stressed Rado. “And it boils down to playing the game the right way and having a little bit of luck go our way.”
At a Glance
What – 52nd Dixie Senior Boys (age 14) All-Stars World Series.
Who – Twelve teams in a double-elimination format featuring: Spring Hill; Dallas, N.C.; Dyersburg, Tenn.; Halifax County, Va.; Monroe, La.; Hilton Head, S.C.; Hattiesburg, Miss.; Troup County, Ga.; Spanish Fort, Ala.; Sevier, Ark.; Center, Texas; and host Bossier City, La. Defending champion is Hattiesburg, Miss.
Where – Tinsley Athletic Complex at Bossier City, La.
When – Saturday through Wednesday (weather permitting).
SPRING HILL — Hernando County inarguably is a hotbed of youth baseball and softball talent.
This summer an unprecedented six county teams won state championships and are headed to various locations around the South to compete in World Series tournaments.
Above left: Jason Bienstock, 12, gets a donation from a Hess patron Friday morning at Mariner Boulevard and Countyline Road. The team is collecting money to help them on their trip to Lexington, S.C., for the World Series event. Above right: Jake Rice, 12, waits for a prospective contributor. The 2014 Ozone State Tournament trophy sits on a table in the foreground where Amanda Rice sold raffle tickets for an iPad mini. Fred Bellet/Community Newsphotos
The Spring Hill Senior Boys All-Stars were the latest local team to win a state title, when they traveled to Sebring on Wednesday and beat the home team, 14-10, in the 14-year-old championship game.
Like other state champion teams from Hernando, the team’s players and parents face another hurdle before they head out-of-state for the World Series.
The 14-year-old All Stars will look to raise about $7,000 to cover travel, lodging, food, gas and other expenses ahead of their trip to Bossier City, La., Coach Mike Rado said.
“We talked about it right after (Wednesday’s) game that we need to organize and start fundraising,” Rado said. “We’ve got 13 players and four coaches, and all the parents.
“The league (pays for) five rooms, so there’s rooms for the kids with four kids to a room. Anything above and beyond that is basically what you’re raising money for.”
Other county teams going to World Series tournaments include:
♦ Spring Hill American AAA Minors All-Stars, a baseball team of 9- and 10-year-olds headed to Lexington, S.C., from Aug. 9 to 14;
♦ Spring Hill Angels, a softball team of 9- and 10-year-olds going to Atoka, Tenn., where the World Series began Saturday;
♦ Spring Hill Ponytails, a softball team of 11- and 12-year-olds traveling to Ponchatoula, La., where the World Series begins Aug. 1;
♦ Spring Hill Ozone, a baseball team of 11- and 12-year-olds going to Lexington, S.C., where the World Series starts Aug. 2
♦ Brooksville Majors, a baseball team of 17- to 19-year-olds headed to Ozark, Ala., where the World Series began Saturday.
Mike Bertantino, as assistant coach with the Spring Hill American AAA Minors All-Stars, said the team of 9- and 10-year-olds hopes to raise $9,500 before the Aug. 9 tournament begins.
The AAA Minors All Stars are the first back-to-back state champions in the same age group from Hernando since Ernie Chatman guided the Brooksville Majors to wins from 1981 to 1983.
Bertantino’s squad is selling 15-second radio advertisements at jockjive.com, which streams audio coverage of live games. The ads cost $250.
The team also is accepting donations at P.O. Box 5517, Brooksville, 34604. Checks can be made to HYL, or Hernando Youth League.
“People who donate can get a tax credit and all of the paperwork will be furnished,” Bertantino said.
For information, people can call (352) 428-0444.
Bertantino said the team also has done everything from the usual bucket-drop donation requests outside local businesses to selling advertisements in team programs to a recent pancake breakfast fundraiser sponsored by Bigun’s Bar B.Q.
“The kids flipped pancakes, bused tables and cleaned the floors — did all the work they had to do,” Bertantino said. “That helped us raise about $600.”
With rooms costing about $125 a night in Lexington, S.C., costs add up. The AAA Minors All-Stars include 12 players, including a girl.
“The money we’re trying to raise isn’t for souvenirs or extras; it’s the bare essentials,” Bertantino said. “The parents make such a commitment, and they have to take time off from work. They’re losing their income to help their kids follow their dreams and goals.
“We’re trying to reach out to every mom, dad, aunt and uncle — anyone who can help out.”
AAA Minors All-Stars supporters also have launched an account on GoFundMe.com, an online fundraising website.
Amanda Rice, mom of power-hitting, 12-year-old, Spring Hill Ozone catcher Jake “The Snake” Rice, said that team also has established a GoFundMe account.
Rice said the team anticipates having to raise close to $10,000 for the trip to South Carolina.
“It’s awesome that (six) teams from Hernando are going to the championships, but finding the time to raise all of the money we need to raise in the amount of time we need to do it is hard,” she said.
By this week, Ozone players had raised about $3,700, mostly through donation buckets at local Hess, Walgreens, Dunkin’ Donuts and Publix locations.
Amanda Rice said the fundraising efforts generally are painless, although some local shoppers seem irritated when players ask for money.
Rice said the team’s parents are in regular contact about fundraising.
“Her phone never stops going off,” son Jake said.
Todd Pons, treasurer with Spring Hill Dixie Girls Softball, said it typically costs the league $3,500 to $4,000 to send a team to the World Series, although teams like the Series-bound Spring Hill Ponytails also do fundraisers.
“Whatever they don’t (raise), the league will make up the difference,” Pons said. “Even if they got no sponsors, we’d send them, regardless, but any money helps.”
Tim Sims, head coach of the Hernando County Majors, the 17- to 19-year-old baseball team, said the league has travel money for World Series teams saved in a trust fund.
“Hernando Youth League hosted the World Series back in the 1980s, and money from that was put into a trust account for the Majors program,” Sims said.
Still, the team would like to raise about $1,500 for lodging, food and other expenses, he said.
“(Fundraising) can be tough this time of year,” Sims said. “We’ve had them go in vans and buses. It just depends on fundraising capabilities and how the economy is doing. The community supports us very well. Several businesses have supported us throughout the years.”
Tara Rizzuto, mom of Spring Hill Ponytails catcher and pitcher Hannah Rizzuto, said the team had fundraisers recently at Anderson Snow Park, where they conducted a yard sale, and a bucket drop at the Hess on County Line Road and Mariner Boulevard.
“It’s been very exciting for the group of girls going this year,” Rizzuto said. “It’s the first time making it out of the districts. It’s a huge accomplishment.”
Rizzuto said local businesses like Topline Tire & Auto in Spring Hill and C&D Pulmonary in Hudson have been particularly helpful.
Bucket drops at Publix also have been fruitful, she said, although she echoed Rice’s comments about occasionally abrupt customers.
“We just tell the girls to always smile and say thank you,” Rizzuto said. “It’s tough, but our girls have been out there working hard.”
SPRING HILL — When John Delrico and his wife moved here to retire, they planned to grow old gracefully and together. But his wife, Doris, developed breast cancer and died, leaving her husband of 50 years devastated, heartbroken and alone.
Owner Maureen Riser and Staff Coordinator Eileen Tenly discuss the checklist used to conduct a home safety inspection. Either Riser or Tenly makes the initial connection with potential clients to discuss their services. KIM DAME
Delrico, now 80 and in declining health, began having difficulty with basic tasks such as remembering to take prescribed medicines, cooking meals and getting to doctor appointments.
His family, who lived up North, considered an assisted living facility. But Delrico was adamant about remaining in the home where he had retired with his wife.
Delrico’s story is common, particularly in a community with a high percentage of retirees. And his situation is the type that might benefit from an evaluation by Home Instead Senior Care to determine if its services might provide the peace of mind his family needs while allowing Delrico to remain safely in his home.
In recognition of Safety Awareness month, Home Instead Senior Care in Spring Hill offered a free home safety inspection through June for anyone who might be worried about hazards in the home.
Owner Maureen Riser said her company will extend its free offer through July to help seniors implement safety precautions. Without such insight, situations that might seem minor or not dangerous can lead to slip-and-fall accidents or other safety hazards.
Riser spoke of a client who became trapped in her bathroom, unable to pull herself up from the toilet. She remained in the position for hours and worked herself into a weakened physical state.
Thankfully the woman had a nephew who made regular safety checks on his aunt with a routine morning phone call. When he didn’t get an answer, he notified Home Instead who found his aunt trapped and weak from trying to get up.
“She was so weak she could offer no assistance to our care team,” Riser said.
Using a detailed checklist, representatives look at everything from throw rugs, which might pose a tripping hazard, to obscured lighting and a lack of grab bars in bathrooms.
Many people don’t even realize how much safer a home can be after a simple inspection to prevent potential accidents from happening. It allows homeowners to be proactive in keeping their homes secure and less likely to become an accident zone.
❖ ❖ ❖
Home Instead Senior Care evolved from a family’s struggle to handle the caregiving needs of an elder loved one. In 1994, it launched into a senior care business that offered services to help families care for their aging relatives or others.
Home Instead Senior Care became a franchise and grew internationally, opening new entities across the globe.
Maureen Riser opened the Spring Hill location in River Country Estates in 2012. She recognized the need for an alternative to assisted living facilities for seniors and adults who need non-medical care.
“And we’ve seen a steady growth since,” she said.
“We have over 43,000 seniors in this county that are 65 and older,” Riser said. “But I believe Spring Hill has the fountain of youth because the average age of our clients is 88. And they’re spry!”
Home Instead Senior Care offers services that are customized to each client’s specific needs, ranging from companion care to 24-hour in-home services. Services include light housekeeping, meal preparation, transportation to and from doctor appointments, grocery shopping, companionship and escort to church or other functions.
Caregivers are trained and certified, Riser said, before they enter any home. They complete a multi-phased training program and receive consistent continuing education. “You can never be too critical of the people you are hiring,” Riser said.
The majority of clients are seniors either living alone or with a spouse who is aging and families living out of state.
“We can go from the spectrum of the very smallest intervention to the very detailed,” Riser said.
Before the relationship is established, either Riser or Staff Coordinator Eileen Tenly will visit a home and meet the potential client, inspect the home for safety concerns and, when convenient, meet the family members. A plan then is crafted to meet the person’s needs.
The main goal is to provide services that help clients safely maintain their independence in their own homes.
Home Instead Senior Care is at 8184 Chaucer Drive in Spring Hill. The office can be reached at (352) 340-5900. Visit their website at www.homein stead.com/774.
SPRING HILL – Deputies have arrested three men they say were involved in a recent string of Spring Hill vehicle burglaries.
On Wednesday, deputies took a vehicle burglary report from a person on Lydia Court. Among the stolen items was a bag of clothing bought at an Old Navy store and a receipt.
Later Wednesday, two of the three suspects tried to return the clothing to Old Navy for cash, Hernando County sheriff’s officials said.
Store employees contacted the sheriff’s office, and although Anthony Vanstyn and Vincent Calcavecchia had left the store, law enforcement officials later identified them from security tape and a vehicle description.
The next day, Calcavecchia said he was at Old Navy but denied taking the clothing. The clothing was found at Vanstyn’s residence after the homeowner allowed law enforcement to search it, deputies reported.
Calcavecchia, 38, was arrested on charges of possession of a controlled substance and violation of probation. He was being held with no bail.
Vanstyn, 25, was arrested on 14 counts of burglary, resisting an officer and violation of probation. Bail was not set.
Another suspect, Daniel Barry, 24, was arrested on eight counts of burglary and was being held on $16,000 bail.
SPRING HILL – A 29-year-old Spring Hill man was arrested Wednesday after being linked to six residential burglaries, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.
While reviewing pawn activities, Detective Robert Desmond noticed Robert Musselman was using an out-of-county address to pawn items.
Desmond knew Musselman had been arrested for residential burglaries in the past, according to the sheriff’s office, and that he lived in Spring Hill.
Musselman, who was primarily pawning women’s jewelry, was linked to the burglaries after a victim identified her jewelry.
After finding out Musselman was in jail on retail theft charges, detectives went to his Dunlap Avenue residence and received permission to search the home by Musselman’s girlfriend.
Detectives found a large amount of jewelry and electronics that had been reported stolen, and Musselman was charged after the victims identified the items.
Musselman was arrested on six counts of burglary of a dwelling/grand theft and two counts of dealing in stolen property.
Musselman’s girlfriend, Tamara Conner, denied being involved, but was arrested on charges of dealing in stolen property.
Both Musselman and Conner received charges of possession of a controlled substance and drug trafficking, according to the sheriff’s office.
Conner, 26, is being held on $30,000 bail. Bail was not set for Musselman.
Court records show Musselman has been convicted of burglary, possession of marijuana, dealing in stolen property, grand theft, possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of a firearm with an altered serial number in Hernando County in the past.
SPRING HILL – One of the two victims killed in the Maryland mall shooting had lived in Spring Hill, attending Nature Coast High School during her freshman year.
Brianna Benlolo, 21, transferred out of the district after a year, officials said Monday.
Benlolo, a 21-year-old single mother of a 2-year-old girl, has a grandfather and step-grandmother who have lived in Spring Hill for several years.
“She was just a young, beautiful, bright, artistic girl,” Benlolo’s step-grandmother, Rita Benlolo, said Monday at her Spring Hill home.
Her grandfather, Henri Benlolo, was already with other family in Maryland, she said.
Brianna Benlolo’s father served in the military in Tampa, which is how the family landed in Spring Hill, said neighbor Rosalie Kelly, whose husband has spent time with Henri Benlolo and his son.
They then moved to Colorado before eventually settling in Maryland.
“They are just good neighbors, and they’re there if you need them,” Kelly said. “I just feel for the young kids and families.”
Darion Marcus Aguilar, 19, shot himself to death after gunning down Brianna Benlolo and Tyler Johnson, 25 in the suburban Baltimore mall late Saturday morning, authorities said.
Aguilar also injured several others, authorities said.
The shooting baffled investigators and acquaintances of Aguilar: a quiet, skinny teenager who graduated from high school less than a year ago and had no previous run-ins with law enforcement.
Police spent Sunday trying to piece together his motive.
Police found a journal belonging to Aguilar but they would only say that it “expressed general unhappiness.” The contents, however, were enough for an officer looking into the disappearance of Aguilar on the day of the shooting to worry about the teen’s safety.
Brianna Benlolo lived half a mile away from Aguilar in the same College Park neighborhood.
Howard County Police Chief William McMahon said there has been speculation about a romantic relationship between the gunman and Benlolo, but investigators have not been able to establish that.
He said Monday that if the shooting were “domestic-related” he thought investigators would know more about that by this point. But he also did not rule that out.
Although they lived close to the University of Maryland, neither was a student there. Aguilar was accepted last February to Montgomery College, a community college in the Washington suburbs, but school spokesman Marcus Rosano said he never registered or attended.
A relative of Johnson said he did not know Aguilar and did not socialize with Benlolo outside of work.
Dave Krause, of Spring Hill, said he heard about the shooting on television.
He didn’t realize Brianna Benlolo, was the granddaughter of his neighbor of 25 years, he said.
“Our deepest condolences to the family,” he said. “We all know each other and are there for each other if anybody needs anything. You’re not supposed to lose your grandkids before you.”
“It’s senseless,” Krause added. “We all get mad, but do we go and do things like that? No.”
Neighbors also said that, after learning of the news, they will purchase a gift for the Benlolo family, to show them that they are in their thoughts and prayers.
SPRING HILL – A Spring Hill man was charged with possession of marijuana and prescription drugs after a conversation with Hernando deputies led to a search, deputies said.
Deputies started the conversation with Shane Thompson in the front yard of a home on Linden Drive. Thompson was patted down after law enforcement thought he smelled like marijuana, deputies said. They found a pill bottle and several small plastic bags with pills inside, deputies said.
Law enforcement recovered about 20 Xanax pills and 80 grams of marijuana, deputies said.
Thompson, 34, was arrested on three counts of possession of a controlled substance without a prescription and one count of possession of marijuana with intent to sell.
On the way to the jail, Thompson told a deputy the drugs were for “personal use.”
Thompson was being held on $25,000 bond.
Court records show Thompson has been convicted of driving with a suspended or revoked license (habitual offender) and misdemeanor possession of marijuana (less than 20 grams).