FLORIDA CRIME NEWS
by Leigh Lundin
|St. Cloud, Florida|
|Until recently, St. Cloud provided community-wide internet service. Even after town fathers dropped it, the area where I stay still provides internet– simply plug your computer or router into a wall jack and you’re connected— until late Christmas day when an outage took 2½ days to fix. Fortunately, my article was uploaded and cued to activate on time. Good tidings!|
Happy New Year!
Christmas was wonderful, aided by a stroke of good fortune: My Sunday article ran despite an internet outage. The other chunk of good news is that the town of St. Cloud– where I spent the Christmas holidays with the best of friends– solved a decades old murder of a minister’s wife, which I’ll relate momentarily.
December crime, especially Florida crime, didn’t pause during the holidays, but not all was bah humbug! Fark, the site for commenting on strange news, a couple of years ago granted Florida its own ‘tag’, the first and only given a state thus far. Eat your heart out, California.
Early in December, Florida pardoned Doors lead Jim Morrison. If you’re a non-celebrity incarcerated in Florida, you stand a fair chance of execution, but if you’re a dead rocker, you can be pardoned by the state of Florida, unlike New Mexico which decided not to pardon the original BTK killer, Billy the Kid.
Floridians have been following the saga of a Sanford police lieutenant’s son, Justin Collison, who weeks ago cold-cocked from behind a man acting as peacemaker in a fight, knocking him down and out before attacking another person. Despite videos, Sanford police said the homeless man was ‘uncooperative’ (uncooperative = unconscious), claiming ‘conflicting evidence’ stopped them from making an arrest. Until a warrant was issued, local television hesitated to publish the perpetrator’s name, although the victim’s name, Sherman Ware, was readily available. Witnesses described the sucker-punch attack as "vicious" and "brutal". According to reports, Collison has been implicated in at least three previous violent attacks.
Except for one officer, an internal affairs investigation cleared all officers including Sgt. Anthony Raimondo, who stated, "I’m not in the business of putting cops’ kids in jail unless I absolutely have to," and had ordered the release of Lt. Chris Collison’s son. The sole officer internal affairs recommended for prosecution was Capt. Coolidge "Jerry" Hargrett who’d criticized fellow officers for violating department policies by not arresting Collison.
Justin Collison has agreed to pay Sherman Ware’s medical bills.
After stealing 5 kilos (of meat!), a Riviera Beach man made his get-away on a Winn-Dixie motorized shopping stroller with a top speed of, oh, maybe 2MPH. Ride, Winn-Dixie, ride.
A Marietta man used a front loader to make an ATM withdrawal… of the entire machine. Police simply followed the trail of the debris and bulldozer tracks to, er, track him down, whereupon the
idiot suspect tried to back over the arresting officer. Maybe he should try a shopping stroller.
I like heroines and today’s kudos goes to Ginger Littleton. Mid-month, an aggrieved and mentally disturbed man armed himself and took over the Panama City School Board meeting, ordering everyone from the room except the male board members upon whom he opened fire. Although sent from the room, the lone female board member sneaked back in and whapped the gunman with her oversized purse. That didn’t prevent the troubled man from brushing her aside, shooting at other board members and killing himself, but the lady tried. Superintendent Bill Husfelt also deserves credit trying to save his fellow board members at the risk of his own life, but you’ve got to love Ginger.
After a number of inmates were pardoned following DNA testing, Florida created the Innocence Commission. It’s hard to single out one hero (or heroine), but I choose Talbot "Sandy" D’Alemberte, past president of Florida State University and the American Bar Association, who impeached three Florida Supreme Court justices, and pushed for Florida’s Innocence Project and formation of the Innocence Commission. I love to take on Florida’s peculiar criminals and justice system, but when Florida does something right, we deserve to celebrate.
In 1979, the lovely town of St. Cloud experienced its first homicide in twenty years. The naked body of Norma Page, a fundamentalist minister’s wife, was so bloodied, police initially weren’t sure if she’d been shot or battered to death… in fact she was stabbed. According to local residents, the main investigator on the small police force left for vacation hours after receiving his first homicide case. The case didn’t go uphill from there.
|‘Scathing’ doesn’t begin to summarize my opinion of psychics who’ve delayed and misled police in numerous cases including the current Casey Anthony case (‘blind driving’– 86 psychics got it wrong) and the Lillian Martin / Joshua Bryan disappearance, which (despite psychic claims) took place virtually in Cassadaga’s back yard. Which is worse, Nancy Grace claiming she can see guilt in an accused eyes or calling psychics ‘professionals’ on equal footing with police? How many failures does it take?|
For weeks, St. Cloud Police attempted to go it alone with just the ‘assistance’ of Cassadaga ‘psychics‘. A police lieutenant in neighboring Kissimmee reported St. Cloud cops were amateurs "trying to play in the Super Bowl."
Not so now and to be fair, police then did one thing right: They properly stored evidence which allowed for DNA testing more than thirty years later.
This past year, Detective Christian Anderson, working under new Police Chief Pete Gauntlett (what a terrific surname!), tore into the case, unearthing a new suspect who might prove to be a multiple killer. An earlier suspect isn’t ruled out… some residents long thought more than one perpetrator attacked the young mother.
The Bronson family is a well-known politically prominent and powerful family in Central Florida, with buildings and roadways named after them. Many affluential families produce bad apples and Steve Bronson Jr was theirs.
In 1967, a car Bronson worked on slipped off a jack stand, crushing his first wife to death. For some time, Bronson apparently suffered a kind of ambiguous sexuality. Months after his wife’s death, Bronson– dressed as a woman during a burglary– tried to kill two deputies. Still under the cachet of his family’s name, courts merely sentenced Bronson to four years probation.
A burglary spree earned him another two years. Bronson left for California where the family name didn’t mean as much after he was imprisoned having kidnapped, raped, and sodomized a male hitchhiker. California returned Bronson to Florida in 1979, where Florida again released him on probation. It was then he killed Norma Page.
We don’t know if St. Cloud Police will conclude Bronson acted alone, but it’s good news to bridge the new year with a successful investigation.