[PHOTO CREDIT: Lake County Sheriff’s Office]
[Original Publish Date: 04/17/20]
TAVARES, Florida — A man already facing an attempted murder charge and out-of-county sex charges is facing additional sex charges in Lake County.
Lake Legal News reported on Paul Joel Smith, 39, earlier this month when he was accused of stabbing a man four times and puncturing his lung in Fruitland Park. The victim, who was reluctant to press charges in the beginning, went to UF Health in Leesburg where medical personnel found he required care by a trauma center, and he was transported to Ocala Regional Medical Center. While investigating the stabbing, deputies received an anonymous call that Smith’s jeep, parked at the incident location, contained two thumb drives that had relevant information as to why the victim was stabbed. It was unclear at press time how they were related.
According to an arrest affidavit, Smith contacted the Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) on April 5 — just hours before the stabbing incident occurred at around 1:15 a.m. April 6. He told them he needed to go to jail because he sexually battered a girl from the time she was 4 years old until she was 12 years old. He told MCSO deputies he exposed the young girl to pornography and filmed the abuse, and it was on a thumb drive in his jeep. That jeep was parked in front of the home where the stabbing took place and deputies later found the thumb drive. Smith said the abuse occurred in multiple locations, including Fruitland Park.
Lake County Sheriff’s detectives, in a joint investigation with MCSO, found that Smith had a total of three victims, one of them just 3 years old when the abuse began. Two of the victims disclosed years of abuse by Smith, according to the affidavit.
Smith, who has been in the Lake County Jail since April 7, was charged by LCSO with one count of sexual battery on a child under 12 and two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation on a child under 12. He is being held on no bond.
Our Editor-in-Chief, Marilyn M. Aciego, began writing for Lake Legal News in 2010. Born and raised in Lake County, she is a graduate of Umatilla High School and Lake-Sumter State College. She started her journalism career at LSSC, where she was editor of both student publications, The Angler and The Odyssey. Her professional career began at the Daily Commercial in 2004 where she covered cops and courts the majority of her time there until she left in 2009. Currently, along with being Editor-in-Chief of Lake Legal News, she is the Florida bureau chief for an international media organization. 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]