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

Lois Reiss Captured in Texas: Accused of Fort Myers Beach Murder

lois reiss

Lois Reiss

Lois Reiss, a possible serial killer who struck on Fort Myers Beach, has been captured. Authorities caught her in Texas on South Padre Island: a resort location about 45 minutes from the Mexican border. She faces charges for killing a tourist that resembled her on Fort Myers Beach, to assume her identity as she was hiding out for the murder of her husband in Minnesota. It remains to be seen if she will be transported to deal with her charges in Florida or Minnesota first. Her Lee County, FL case could potentially be a death penalty case, as it sounds like an intentional, pre-planned first degree murder, done with the intent to hide out from her earlier crimes. She was apparently captured when an alert restaurant employee recognized her and called authorities. She apparently missed the news that hiding out usually means laying low…

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What We Know about the Zombicon Shooting Case So Far…

news 2bonilla3Prosecutors filed a motion this week for Pretrial Detention: that’s a request to keep the man they say was the Zombicon shooter behind bars until his trial date. I spoke to NBC-2 yesterday, that motion summarizes many of the facts the State says make up their case against Jose Bonilla:

jose bonilla

Jose Bonilla

  1. 5 tips to Crimestoppers identified him
  2. He gave multiple statements to investigators denying involvement in the shooting
  3. However, one of his alleged gangster buddies intimated that he may have been responsible
  4. A jailhouse informant in Collier County wore a wire and Bonilla allegedly made admissions about his involvement

You can read the full text of the motion, here: img03022018_0001

news 2bonilla1b

Part of the Redacted Motion

The motion has been redacted for release, so we can’t see what the state says are the specific statements that he gave to investigators, or that may be on the recording with the informant. However, at the end of the motion, the prosecutors summarize their argument, and indicate that he admitted that “he is responsible for the shootings at the Zombicon event” and that he repeated some admissions afterward to investigators. I’m going to add a Stand Your Ground tag to this, as it also appears he may have claimed his actions were justified due to someone else pulling a gun, but we don’t know specifics yet.

More details will come out when the discovery becomes public record, but not for a few weeks. Monday, the court will hold a hearing on the Pretrial Detention motion, where he will likely continue to be held with no bond. You can watch the NBC-2 video here.

 

Details Emerge in Zombicon Shooting Case

jose bonilla

Jose Bonilla

Documents released today reveal why it took more than two years to bring charges against Jose Bonilla, even though he was identified as a suspect just a few weeks after the Zombicon shooting in October 2015. There were several calls to Crimestoppers, with anonymous tipsters indicating that Bonilla was the shooter and bragging about it. However, law enforcement did not want to move at that time, because they didn’t have sufficient evidence to bring the case to trial. The anonymous tips are hearsay, and they need someone to testify in order for that evidence to be admissible in court.

The stayed on the case, tracking Bonilla down, conducting several interviews, and talking to many of his friends and family. Ultimately, the break in the case came at the end of 2017, while Bonilla was in jail, Detectives indicate an informant in the jail came forward with information about Bonilla’s comments. The prosecutors took their time, and instead of rushing to make an arrest, they had the informant wear a wire to record his conversations with Bonilla. The details have been redacted from the public records, but the Detectives indicate that he admitted to involvement. More details may follow at the detention motion on Monday. Bonilla is innocent until proven guilty, but he is unlikely to get a bond at the pretrial detention hearing tomorrow.

I spoke to NBC-2 again about the case, and may be on the evening news tonight.

 

Will the Alleged Zombicon Killer get a Bond?

jose bonilla

Jose Bonilla

At first appearance yesterday, Jose Bonilla’s attorney David Brener asked the judge to continue the case to today’s first appearance so he could have an opportunity to review the 17-page Motion for Pretrial Detention that the state filed. The motion is essentially a request to hold the Defendant without a bond, and will need to be scheduled for a hearing before the soon-to-be-assigned trial judge within five days.  That motion hasn’t been released yet, so we do not yet know the facts from the investigation that makes the State believe that Mr. Bonilla was the Zombicon shooter: which Mr. Brener will likely argue either at today’s first appearance, or at the pretrial detention motion hearing in a few days.

 

news bonilla1I gave some comments to the news the other day: though at this point, we don’t know much until the underlying facts are released. FMPD has said that Bonilla was identified early in their investigation, but we don’t know what changed that caused them to move now, but they are still actively requesting any additional information.

Here’s the NBC-2 story:

UPDATE: No Bond for now, to be reconsidered at hearing next week.

Arrest Made in Zombicon Case in Fort Myers

 

Fort Myers police have arrested a man they say is the shooter in the Zombicon shooting case from downtown Fort Myers in 2015. Police have arrested Jose Bonilla from Immokalee and charged him with Second Degree Murder of  Expavious ‘Tyrell’ Taylor. He is charged with 5 additional aggravated battery counts and a count of evidence tampering for the other people injured in the shooting. FMPD has not said much beyond the arrest, but more details will be coming out in the days to follow.

You can see from the photo, multiple agencies are involved- FMPD, State Attorney, LSCO, FBI and Collier Cty SO. He was identified as a subject early, but it is unknown yet why action was taken now. FMPD is still asking more people to come forward if they have details.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to the video of the press conference (albeit very limited statements)

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!

 

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