[IMAGE CREDIT: iStock / Bet_noire]
(Our first local breaking news article received 3,000 views within 48 hours)
PUBLISHER’S FORWARD: To coincide with this big Lake Legal News ‘relaunch’ Issue, I have promoted Marilyn M. Aciego from Associate Editor, to Editor-in-Chief. Given that Marilyn has faithfully been with me since the third Issue (in May of 2010), this is certainly a well-deserved promotion. Years ago, Marilyn had ‘shadowed’ me at my law office and then we lost track of each other. Evidently, Marilyn had stumbled upon one of the earliest copies of LLN — and I still remember the day she telephoned me to say, essentially, ‘I am passionate about journalism and I need to be part of something like this!’ That unexpected telephone call was my good fortune. Beyond that, Marilyn has great difficulty ‘bragging’ about herself in print — which this article requires, to at least some degree — and it definitely runs against her news reporter’s grain to use the pronoun “I”. But I have forced her to do it. Call it an Executive Order…
Likely you noticed that the cover of this current Issue of Lake Legal News boldly proclaims, “We’re Back: Tweaked, Revamped, Even Better!” However, this does not apply only to the print edition of our magazine. It may be a surprise to some of our longtime readers that we have decided to venture into breaking news, since obviously the 90-day cycle of a quarterly magazine does not lend itself whatsoever to fast-paced, unfolding news events. That’s where our newly improved website comes in! By the time you hold this this physical magazine in your hands you will also find that a new dynamic ‘news-style’ version of our website (www.LakeLegalNews.com) has already come online; you may even choose to “subscribe” to receive weekly (or daily) electronic updates.
Having recognized a huge need for truly local, breaking news coverage for many years now, all it took was about nine short years of my incessant efforts to convince LLN’s Publisher and Executive Editor (attorney James Hope) to unleash me on the internet. After that hurdle was climbed, it was an easily made decision that access to our breaking news would be provided to our readers for free — just as our archived magazines have always been. That’s right. You won’t ever hit a pay-wall when you click on one of our articles. We are grateful for your readership and as a small token of our appreciation, we promise you we will never charge for our articles. As a resident of Lake County and the surrounding areas, or even just someone who cares about what goes on here, you deserve to be able to read all the articles you want, anytime you want, free of charge.
Why do I think LLN can pull this off? To start, James Hope is a Florida Bar Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer who has practiced in Lake County since 1987. He has represented clients in some of Lake County’s most infamous cases. As for me, I was was born and raised here in Lake County (where my son now goes to school), and I truly care about the county. Beyond that, I have many, many friends and contacts in the community and have strengthened relationships with these potential ‘news sources’ for more than 15 years. After I graduated from Umatilla High School I started my journalism career at Lake Sumter State College in the early 2000s. Then I worked at a major local newspaper for more than five years, covering cases Lake County will never forget. These are just a few of my major journalistic assignments:
JASON WHEELER TRIAL: In 2006, Wheeler was convicted of killing Deputy Wayne Koester and convicted of two counts each of attempted murder and aggravated battery of a law enforcement officer for shooting Deputies Bill Crotty and Tom McKane. On February 9, 2005, Deputies Koester, Crotty and McKane responded to a call for help from a domestic violence victim. As McKane and Koester began to cordon off the scene, McKane testified he heard a shotgun racking behind him and suddenly they were ambushed by Wheeler, who was 30 at the time. Koester, 33, took several shots including a fatal shot to the head. Crotty and McKane were also wounded, but survived. Deputies from all over Florida converged to the scene in the Ocala National Forest searching for the cop killer. After an all-day manhunt that included helicopters and armored vehicles, Wheeler was apprehended after being shot by then Corporal Joseph Schlabach. Wheeler was confined to a wheelchair following the shooting. A jury recommended the death penalty 10-2 and in October 2006, Judge T. Michael Johnson sentenced him to death. He is currently on Death Row awaiting his execution.
MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF TRENTON DUCKETT: Leesburg, Florida, was thrust into the national spotlight when tiny Trenton Duckett was reported missing by his mother Melinda. She immediately accused the two-year-old boy’s father, Josh, of abducting him. Before Trenton went missing, Melinda was granted an injunction against Josh after she received a MySpace message threatening to kill her and Trenton. This gave her what she apparently wanted—unfettered custody. Fewer than two weeks later, the day both Melinda and Marilyn were scheduled to appear on CNN Headline News’ Nancy Grace, Melinda took her own life and all the answers with her. The show, pre-recorded the day before, still aired that evening. The FBI later proved Josh did not author the threatening message — in fact, Melinda hacked his account and sent the message to herself—and Josh was exonerated. Though he was exonerated, Josh fought an uphill battle for years trying to get the injunction lifted. It wasn’t long after our Lake Legal News cover article was published that the injunction was dissolved for good. (Trenton would be 15 years old today. He has never been found.)
[IMAGE CREDITS: iStock / drante (r) and CSA-Printstock (l)]
MURDERS OF ANTHONY BLUNT AND KISON EVANS: On September 9, 2006, four armed, masked men burst into a private party in Eustis, Florida, featuring strippers from Orlando, Florida. The men demanded money and jewelry and began shooting partygoers. Blunt and Evans were killed and Willie Shelton and Joshua Daniel were shot multiple times. Daniel was in surgery for 18 hours with medical personnel treating 20 exit and entrance wounds and Shelton spent two years in the hospital recovering. An investigation later determined the men were set up by one of the strippers, Angel Glenn, then-girlfriend of one of the killers, Donte Hall. Hall, along with his identical twin brother Dante, and two men only identified as “Shoo-Shoo” and “Pig” drove from Orlando to Eustis to rob the partygoers. Glenn turned on her boyfriend and testified against him. She received a 10-year sentence as part of her plea deal. Both twins faced the death penalty and had they both been sentenced to death, they would have been the first pair of identical twins on Death Row. Donte was sentenced to death, but his sentence is currently on appeal. Dante was sentenced to life in prison. Glenn was released in 2018, after serving nearly eight years of her 10 year sentence. (I was a featured guest on an episode of Investigation Discovery’s Evil Twins, “Donte and Dante’s Inferno.”)
DEATH OF LAKE COUNTY SHERIFF CHRIS DANIELS: Daniels was killed October 14, 2006 — on his 47th birthday. Not even two years into his first term as sheriff, Daniels was thrown from a bus in a charity race and killed when both his bus and former Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger’s bus ran over him. The entire county mourned the death of Daniels, his funeral packed LifePointe Church in Eustis, and numerous businesses across the county expressed their sorrow and condolences on their signs.
GROUNDHOG DAY TORNADOES: On February 2, 2007, a supercell formed, spawning multiple tornadoes that ripped through Lake County, Florida, killing a total of 21 people. It was second deadliest tornado outbreak in Florida history. Tornadoes tore a path of destruction through Lady Lake, killing eight people. The Lady Lake Church of God was reduced to rubble. Thirteen people lost their lives in Lake Mack, an area in the Ocala National Forest, made up mostly of older mobile homes. Resulting in more than $200 million in property damage, the deadly tornadoes struck in the middle of the night between 3 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. when most people were sleeping. People were unaware and unprepared for the storms that were coming straight for them. Then-President George W. Bush declared Lake County and the surrounding counties federal disaster areas.
PUBLISHER’S END NOTE: Our Editor-in-Chief, Marilyn M. Aciego, has made more than two dozen appearances on live national television, including Nancy Grace and the Greta Van Susteren show, along with her appearance on Evil Twins. We are looking forward to this new journey with you and welcome tips and feedback for our breaking news website (www.LakeLegalNews.com). Send an e-mail to 352Tips@gmail.com. You can also contact us on our Facebook page — and make sure you “Like” and “Follow us” there.
Our Editor-in-Chief, Marilyn M. Aciego, began writing for Lake Legal News in 2010. In addition, she has made more than two dozen appearances on live national television, including Nancy Grace and the Greta Van Susteren show, along with her appearance on Evil Twins. Contact her with breaking news, tips, and feedback by sending an e-mail to 352Tips@gmail.com. You can also contact us on our Facebook page — and make sure you “Like” and “Follow us” there. [PHOTO CREDIT: Bonnie Whicher]