Category Archives: Fort Myers / Lee County / Southwest Florida #SWFL

So… This Lady Stole a House

barbara harris

Barbara Harris

Fort Myers police received a call from Barbara Harris and responded to a home, where Ms. Harris indicated the had just purchased an abandoned property. She showed the responding officer documents from the property appraiser that indicated that she was the owner, and the officer told her she could enter the house. She forced the lock and opened the door, setting off an alarm, and then asked the officer to make sure there was no one inside. The officer did, and observed that the house was fully furnished, which was odd since Ms. Harris had claimed that it was abandoned.

Not long after that, a woman showed up with her family, and said, that no, the house was hers. She explained that her family had built the house, and that they certainly had not sold it, and provided documentation that they had been living there. The officer told Ms. Harris to stay away from the house. It appears Ms. Harris did stay away, but she made repeated contacts with FMPD to try to obtain the house.

Ultimately, the homeowner did her own digging, and was able to locate a forged warranty deed that Ms. Harris had filed with the clerk, and used to get the property appraiser to incorrectly display the property owner. It was a good thing she did, because by the time a detective went looking, the false documents had already been purged. It would have been much harder to prove the case without the owners own detective work.

Barbara Harris, who also used the name Barbara Jeffers, Barbara Jeffrey, and Barbara Davis in her scheme was convicted at trial this week. She faced up to 40 years for Theft, Burglary, and some forgery related offenses. There doesn’t seem to be any media coverage of the trial testimony, or what her defense might have been. She had told the detective she’d meet with him, but blew him off. I’m not sure how this case ended up going to trial… perhaps she didn’t want to accept what was probably an offer that included prison time. Regardless, the most amazing thing about this is the audacity of someone to forge their own deed, and then call the cops to try to help them steal a house!

 

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The State might be Paying a Key Witness in the Theresa Sievers Murder Case

  • Indications are that Jimmy “The Hammer” Rodgers former girlfriend is being paid by LCSO
  • Rodgers and Mark Sievers facing possible death penalty in the murder of Mark’s wife Dr. Theresa Seivers.
Theresa Sievers

Theresa Sievers

We haven’t had much coverage in the case of Dr. Theresa Sievers, who was killed allegedly at the hands of two associates of her husband Mark, Curtis Wright and Jimmy “The Hammer” Rodgers. Curtis Wright has already pled to second-degree murder charges, and Rodgers and Mark Sievers are facing a possible death penalty. The case is extremely complex, due to the length of the investigation and the fact that it stretches all the way to Missouri, and the parties have been bogged down in discovery issues.

Now, NBC-2 has uncovered something very interesting in a discovery motion filed by Mark Sievers’ attorney. In the Motion to Compel Discovery, Sievers requests records relating to funds that are being paid to Taylor Shomaker. Shomaker was dating Jimmy Rogers at the time of the murder, and gave a statement against him, and is expected to be a key witness wen the case goes to trial. Therefore, if she has received payments for her testimony, especially if she’s receiving them on a regular basis, that’s fodder for the defense attorneys.

mark sievers jimmy rogers the hammer

Mark Sievers and Jimmy “The Hammer” Rodgers

The legal issue is whether the monetary incentive could influence a witness to testify favorably for one party. It’s not unusual for professional or expert witnesses to be paid for the time they spend working on a case: consider a doctor a or a lab expert that may be hired to give an opinion on a case. However, these types of witnesses are expected to be paid, and even then it is just for the actual time they spend. Even then, it is fodder for the other side to impeach a witness based on the money they are being paid to testify. The Defense will argue that she is being paid to get her to testify against the others, and the more money she is paid, the less reliable her testimony will be.

curtis wayne wright lee

Curtis Wayne Wright

Likewise, Curtis Wright is receiving compensation for his testimony, but not monetary. The Defense will argue that Wright is testifying so he can get a better deal. The State already let him plea to 2nd Degree Murder, effectively eliminating the risk of the death penalty for him, and potentially less prison time. In their motion, the the Defense is also trying to get documentation related to Wright’s proffer and his cooperation. Wright’s testimony will be key to tie Sievers into the plot, as it appears Wright and Rodgers committed the murder while Mark Sievers was out of town. They may have some evidence of communication between Sievers and Wright, but his testimony will be key to prove Sievers’ knowledge and complicity in the plot.

Taylor Shomaker

Taylor Shomaker from her law enforcement interview

That’s not unusual, for consideration to be given to one conspirator to go after another. However, the circumstances regarding the payments to Ms. Shomaker are extremely unusual. Perhaps it will be revealed that it was compensation for travel expenses or something innocuous, but the indications in the Defense’s Motion to Compel certainly sounds out of the ordinary.

via NBC-2

Placido Moreno-Torres Found Guilty

Placido Moreno torres

Placido Moreno-Torres

A Fort Myers jury has just found Placido Moreno-Torres guilty as charged of two counts of 2nd Degree Murder, and an additional count of attempted murder, according to NBC-2. Here’s our earlier story. NBC-2 has been in the courtroom, and will surely have details, soon.

He faces 25 to Life in Prison.

UPDATE:  Sentencing set for February.

via: https://twitter.com/jbevis10

UPDATE: More from WINK.

Two Interesting Murder Cases in Trial in SWFL Right Now

Court watchers have a couple of choices as 2018 gets underway. Two major murder trials have started in Lee and Collier Counties, and that’s after the former Naples Officer was acquitted at trial last week.

Placido Moreno torres

Placido Moreno-Torres

In Fort Myers, the trial of Placido Moreno-Torres started yesterday: he’s on trial for murder for a 2016 incident in Lehigh Acres where he shot his wife and the neighbor who tried to intervene in their domestic dispute. It will be an interesting case, as he is likely to claim self-defense, because the neighbor came onto his property trying to break up the altercation, and only then did he retrieve the firearm. He will claim self-defense (and previously filed a stand your ground motion that was denied), but he has an uphill battle if he brought a gun to a fistfight. He is also charged with attempted murder, because after he shot the neighbor and his own wife, he held the gun to his neighbor’s sister’s head and tried to shoot her, only to have the gun misfire. There’s no self-defense argument there. He faces life in prison with a 25-year minimum under 10-20-Life. NBC-2’s Jaclyn Bevis is in the courtroom with live coverage on Twitter.

lisa troemner

Lisa Troemner

In Collier County, jury selection is underway for Lisa Troemner who is charged with killing her live-in boyfriend at their Marco Island apartment in 2014. They had apparently been arguing for a while, when it became physical, and she stabbed him. She tried to resuscitate him unsuccessfully, then went to a nearby convenience store to summon help. Again, self-defense is likely to be argued here. Also, a review of the court file indicates the Defense has sought the assistance of a false-confessions expert to challenge her statement, a blood spatter expert, presumably to challenge the findings at the crime scene. The case has been going on for more than three years, including an appeal of some matter while it was pending. She has been in custody the whole time, and is facing life in prison. There are some 150 witnesses listed, and the trial will take weeks, maybe five or more. Patrick Riley from the Naples Daily News is on this one, and has been tweeting from the courtroom as well.

Fort Myers Pays Nate Allen $440,000 for Wrongful Arrest

nate allen

Nate Allen

The city council yesterday finalized a settlement of nearly a half-a-million dollars for NFL player Nate Allen for his wrongful arrest. (While he was detained, and ultimately released without a formal arrest, it was easily a ‘de facto arrest’ due to time and totality of the circumstances.) It was enough to make the news, especially since he is a professional football player. Even though he was released that day, the suit was worth a lot more because of the demonstrable negative effects it had on his NFL contract situation. Worse, the FMPD chief at the time, Doug Baker, was caught lying in the investigation into the cover-up, leading ultimately to his termination. The entire incident was a black eye on the city. To the council’s credit, they recognized the wrongdoing, and have repeatedly apologized. Neither the chief, nor the detective on the case are still with the city. Sawyer Smith handled the case for Allen, and tells me he is as nice a guy you could ever meet.

Sadly, the lessons are still being learned. Just a few months ago I encountered a case where the FMPD utilized the same faulty show-up procedure to identify someone, in spite of the pending lawsuit. The state ended up dropping the case. Meanwhile, the 2-year anniversary of Zombie-con has passed with no arrests, charges, or even named suspects. And just last week, more details have come out about the officers suspended after the Freeh Report. FMPD has a long way to go…

Murdered Children and ‘Honey Bun Hits’: A brutal look at Juvenile Corrections in Florida

This week the Miami Herald dropped a bombshell on Florida’s juvenile justice system and the Department of Juvenile Justice. They spent two years researching the last 10 years of juvenile justice history to prepare a report they call “Fight Club.” It’s a devastating read.

The Herald found multiple instances of violence against juveniles. Some from the guards, and others from inmates, sometimes at the behest of guards who would reward them with Honey Buns or other items from the commissary. The article points to low pay, inadequate personnel screening and standards, and tolerance for cover-ups. Indeed, Time and again the Herald found that guards involved in the violence, including juvenile death, were not criminally charged (much like the adult guards in the CCI homicide a couple years back.)

One of the facilities highlighted was here in SW Florida, at the Fort Myers Youth Academy. The Herald says the Youth Academy is a microcosm, “steeped in violence and a culture of coercive cover-ups.” It details guards that were hired, even though they’d been fired from previous prison guard jobs for sexual harassment and bribery to hide abuse. It sounds like the troublemakers cited in the report no longer work there, but the account is troubling.

DJJ filed a lengthy response. Unfortunately, the lives lost by years of abuse cannot be brought back, but hopefully a true culture change can prevent such abuses in the future.

FMPD Sergeant Fired for Lying: More Details Emerge

The News-Press published a thorough article detailing the latest corruption concerns at the Fort Myers Police Department. Former FMPD Sergeant Eric Gutridge was fired last week, having been suspended since February. He was fired for lying on official documents and lying under oath during court proceedings. Although lying in court proceedings is perjury, and giving false information in a police report is also a crime, there are no indications that charges are being considered. Gutridge was also accused of planting evidence, but there was not enough evidence to prove that allegation. Gutridge reported, and reiterated, that the 911 caller in a case was unknown, when in fact it was a confidential informant he had worked with before, and approached him for financial compensation for sending the tip.

The city has not released information about other officers that were suspended earlier this year in light of discoveries made by the Freeh group in their review of FMPD. The News-Press and several criminal defendants have been trying to get the City to release additional information regarding police corruption, and the city has spent thousands of dollars on outside attorneys to fight the release of the appendixes of the Freeh Report. The city also appeared in the criminal case to fight the release of the additional pages, and the court has not yet ruled on that. The city may end up being on the hook for a lot more money, as the suspect in the case that led to the Gutridge firing was held incarcerated for about a year and a half before the US attorney’s office dropped the case, and to their credit, reported his misdeeds to city authorities. This comes on the heels of another FMPD officer Detective Donald Weathers, being fired for lying and misusing informants. And there may be residual effects as attorneys review their files and look at other cases in which Weathers and Gutridge may have handled.