Articles Posted in Violent Crimes

gun%20handgun%20with%20two%20bullets.jpgIn Florida and other States, children are the unfortunate victims of shootings at schools, shopping malls, homes, and, most recently, while riding a school bus. CBS News and other stations and news outlets reported that Lourdes Guzman-DeJesus was shot by another student while on a school bus for the Palm Glades Preparatory Academy. It was a tragic and unexpected death for the family, school mates, and the community. See Parents Stunned by Shooting on Florida School Bus.

When a death or serious personal injury takes place during a school activity or function or during school transportation, there may be a case to pursue for the damages resulting from the incident. The key word in the last sentence is “may”. In other words, it is possible to pursue a case or claim depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident. Under Florida law, a school or day care center is not liable for every incident causing injury or death while a child is under the supervision or care of the school or day care center. However, a school or day care center is liable if the incident was caused by the negligence of school employees. If the incident was foreseeable and preventable to some extent, then a legal case or claim may be pursued. When there is a gun involved, the owner of the gun may be held criminally or civilly responsible if the gun owner failed to lock up or otherwise secure the gun from the use or access of children. When there is a a shooting at a school or day care center, the following questions may be part of an investigation regarding a potential criminal case against the shooter and / or civil case against the school or day care center.

Who was the owner of the gun involved in the shooting?

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In Orange County, Florida, a terrible crime was reported. Orange County Deputy Sheriff’s reported that a 9 year old girl was raped by a 64 year old man at his Pine Hills apartment. The girl’s family reported the rape to the sheriff’s office who then proceeded to investigate the incident. The police report stated that the man (Maurice Smith) offered fruit to the girl and then invited the girl to his apartment. According to police, Mr. Smith admitted to the incident and to knowing the girl’s age. Mr. Smith was charged with sexual battery and kidnapping charges. Mr. Smith will be entitled to be represented by a Florida criminal defense attorney or a Florida Assistant Public Defender.

The assault and attack on a little girl is certainly a heinous act that can and does result in serious criminal penalties and sentences. See Rape of 9 Year Old Girl Reported at Pine Hills Apartment Complex.

Many incidents of sexual assault and battery on a child go unreported. In the above case, the girl told her brother who then told his parents. Unfortunately, there are many people out there who prey on and victimize children.

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Following the death of drum major Robert Champion, additional reports and incidents of hazing by FAMU band members have been reported. The Florida A & M Marching 100 is well known for its performances and style. Unfortunately, the FAMU Marching Band is now getting notoriety for hazing. The Tallahassee Police Department is investigating a report of battery on Bria Shante Hunter – an 18 year old student. It was reported by Atlanta’s WXIA-TV that Bria had suffered a fractured thigh bone and an injured knee. See Tallahassee Florida Police Investigate Another Case of Hazing.

Membership on teams and organizations like bands, football teams, clubs, and fraternities have formal requirements like grades, background checks, etc. . . There are also “informal” requirements that are built on tradition. These “informal” requirements often times come in the form of ritualistic and systematic acts of hazing. Whether the acts of hazing come in the form of humiliation, binge drinking, physical abuse, isolation or anything else – hazing can be and is harmful to the victim. Just because something is a “tradition” of sorts does not make it right. With respect to the FAMU Marching 100, it will be interesting to see the reports of hazing that come to light in the wake of the death of Robert Champion. Policies against hazing are one thing; however, policies without consistent enforcement and oversight are worthless.

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In Jacksonville, Florida and other cities in Florida, teens are at risks for serious personal injuries when they go out, are at parties, and, yes when they date. The Duval County School System is following a new State of Florida mandate that requires school districts to inform and educate teens about what is safe and healthy dating habits and relationships. Some critics of this State mandate state that it takes time and money away from other more basic academic tasks of a school system. Others believe that the education and information are vital to the safety of teens. Unfortunately, many Florida teens are victims of dating violence. While it is unrealistic to believe that all violence can be eliminated, education and information hopefully will result in the prevention or reduction of dating violence. The physical and / or emotional injuries from dating violence can last a lifetime. See Duval Schools Work to Educate Teens About Safe Dating.

neary.jpgA 19-year-old Seminole County, Florida resident pled guilty to two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation of a child under the age of 12. According to reports, the 19-year-old, Matthew Neary, was sentenced six years in prison followed by two years of house-arrest and will be required to be registered as a sexual offender for the following twenty years. Neary, who has been diagnosed from Asperger’s Syndrome and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), was said to have lured two young girls into his parents’ storage shed where he began to touch them inappropriately. Neary was arrested in September 2010 after the mother of one of the girls noticed Neary sitting next to her daughter, whose panties were around her ankles. The circuit judge presiding over the case, Marlene Alva, will impose sentencing in October 2011 after Neary undergoes a psychological evaluation and a separate investigation by the Florida Department of Corrections.

Neary is currently living with his parents in Culuota after being released on $50,000 bail. As part of his release, Judge Alva has ordered Neary to stay away from the children’s school, school bus stop, and on Sunday the church that all three attended. Neary should consider himself very lucky with the sentence that he received. Along with being denied bail, he could have been sentenced to life in prison because the victims were so young – 6 to 8 years old.

People who suffer from Asperger’s Syndrome have a variety of developmental disabilities that can vary widely. They include having difficulty interacting with others, forming friendships, moving clumsily and engaging in repetitive motions, such has hand wringing.

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In July 2011, Dennis Brian Devlin was sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in Federal Prison for forcing a 13-year-old boy to participate in child pornography at the local Desert Inn Hotel in Daytona, FL. Devlin, a 57-year-old man, was working as the hotel manager of the Desert Inn in February when local authorities raided the hotel and found images of the child along with other evidence. Police report that Devlin was working with another man, 21-year-old Michael Ehmen, to lure the 13-year-old back to the hotel to perform the illicit acts. Ehmen pled guilty to the same charges as Devlin and was sentenced to 7 years in Federal Prison. U.S. District Court Judge John Antoon II also sentenced Ehmen to 15 months of house arrest, 20 years of probation and $6,000 in restitution to the victim.

The abuse, neglect, and exploitation of a child constitute reprehensible acts and should be punished to the full extent of the law. Tragically, many such acts in Florida and other States are under the radar of law enforcement and leave the victim to the whims of the sexual offender / predator. In some cases, the criminal is caught and punished so that the community is free of just one more predator/sex offender during the prison term.

To read more about this story, see Hotel Manager pleads guilty.

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43-year-old Marshall Dale Cole IV, of Jacksonville, Florida, was sentenced to 35 years in prison in the death of his infant son. Cole was convicted in February 2011 of second-degree murder for shaking his infant son to death. 3-month-old Marcus was hospitalized in March 2009 and died a few days after his hospitalization. According to an investigation by the medical examiner, the baby had been shaken. Also, the arrest report stated Cole was alone with his infant son for at least 30 minutes before the child stopped breathing. For more read Jacksonville, FL father sentenced to 35 years in prison after death of 3-month-old son.

The safety and well being of a child under the care of a parent, friend, neighbor, teacher, or day care provider should take precedence over all other matters. Keep children safe and it should be repeated – never – ever shake a child.

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In Florida, some Florida counties still permit corporal punishment in the school system as a form of discipline and punishment. It is interesting that a parent who paddles a child at home could get arrested yet a school system (the government) may be able to institute this barbaric and truly outdated form of punishment and get away with it. There was a recent story published in the Gainesville Sun newspaper and website about a 5 Year old boy who was paddled in Levy County, Florida. Unfortunately, paddling is still permitted by law in 27 Florida counties.

The reason that the 5 year old was paddled according to the story posted at the Gainesville Sun website was that the boy was rough housing or misbehaving with a friend. Florida schools are in place to teach and mentor our children. It is really disturbing that corporal punishment / paddling is still allowed in so many Florida school districts. The permissive use of corporal punishment puts Florida and its school system in a bad light and shows the need for reform. Florida schools should move away from archaic and ineffective forms of punishment and abuse of children. See Woman Protests Paddling of Her 5 Year Old Son in Levy County.

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A brutal beating took place on a school bus traveling to Twin Lakes Middle School in Duval County, Florida. While on her way to school, Lisa Wright’s 15-year-old daughter was attacked after another student on the bus took her daughter’s belongings. Wright said her daughter is now covered in bruises and described the bus ride as “a total nightmare.” Wright stated one child was holding her daughter down while others were slamming her head against the window and reaching over seats and punching her daughter in the head. The incident report cites multiple witnesses to the attack and reveals that three girls and one boy were involved in the attack. Wright is actively pressing charges with the State Attorney’s Office. In a released statement, the Duval County School Board said appropriate disciplinary action have been taken against the students involved with the bus beating. Wright is also upset with the bus driver by not intervening and stopping the attack. Durham Bus Company, owner of the school bus where the attacked occurred, has not commented on the incident. Wright stated her daughter sustained a severe concussion, whiplash, and suffered a seizure while on the bus. For more details see Brutal attack occurs on Twin Lakes Middle School school bus in Duval County, Florida.

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State and private facilities for developmentally delayed children should be safe havens for the children where they are supervised for by professionals and child care providers acting in the best interest of the children. Unfortunately, some children are abused and neglect in these facilities in Florida and other states. It was reported that employees from O’Carroll Homes in Palatka (Putnam County) Florida burned a developmentally disabled child with an iron. Various agencies including the Palatka Police Department and the Florida Department of Children and Families investigated this incident. Five people were arrested regarding this incident. It was reported that one employee burned the child while another held the child’s legs. You can read more about this story at Employees Charged with Crimes Involving a Developmentally Disabled Child Who Was Burned at the O’Carroll Homes Facility in Palatka Florida.