Yesterday the State Attorney’s Office and LCSO held a major press conference to announce not one, but two, grand jury indictments for first-degree murder. The first was in the high-profile disappearance of Diana Alvarez. Jorge Guerrero-Torres has been charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping, and lewd and lascivious molestation: the first degree murder charge could be subject to the death penalty, if the State decides to seek it. Guerrero is already under a federal sentence for possession of child pornography related to the case: there was a challenge to the admission of evidence from his cell phone, but the court permitted it in the federal case, which is a good indicator in the state case. Further, NBC-2’s Jaclyn Bevis reported in December that Guerrero may have made a jailhouse confession to killing the girl and hiding her body.
The other indictment was for a much more recent case, but not the Lois Riess case… yet. The other case was in the robbery-murder of a taxi driver in Lehigh Acres just last month. Three co-defendants have been charged, and two of them are teenagers… one only 13 years old. Not many details have been released, but the State indicated today they sought the indictment due to the “horrendous nature of the crime“. 20-year-old Ricky Lagonde allegedly had a gun and threatened the victim, but the teenagers then shot him.
The other news of the day was that a press conference was held by “ARM”, the Animal Recovery Mission. ARM has been pushing for charges to be brought for some Lee County farms they allege were operating as illegal slaughterhouses and illegally selling horse meat. ARM and their investigators ran their own undercover operations, and presented videos and other evidence first to LCSO and later to the State Attorney’s office, who declined to file charges. Earlier press conferences from ARM have lead to protests against animal cruelty in Lee County. One of the concerns that the State has cited is the difficulty in introducing surreptitiously obtained videos as evidence in court, as our local State Attorney’s office learned the hard way. ARM brought their legal adviser to the session today, and he argued that since the videos were taken at a business with many people around, there was not an expectation of privacy, and that the videos would therefore be admissible. And even if the videos didn’t come in, the ARM witnesses would be available to testify. There’s a lot more to the issue, but suffice it to say, tensions are high on both sides.
Now, a cynic might point out that it was very convenient for the politicians who might be up for election this year that the big indictment announcements came on the same day as the controversial press conference. A cynic might wonder why, after almost two years, and months after the arrest and confession of Jorge Guerrero-Torres, the state obtained an indictment right before the ARMs media push: a push that has been seized on by the outsider running for State Attorney against the Chief Assistant ASA that presented the announcement today. The news of the day ended up being the new charges, and not the activists asking why the State had not moved on the ARM allegations, though it still made some news. I’m not that cynic, and I know that there are legitimate legal reasons that make it very difficult for the State to prosecute the ARM cases. That cynic might also point out that if it had been intentional timing, it was a brilliant bit of political maneuvering to control the biggest stories in the media on what was shaping up to be a bad day for people who have elections coming up.
Posted in Criminal Law, Florida, Fort Myers / Lee County / Southwest Florida #SWFL, Tampa Bay area, Uncategorized
Tagged animal cruelty, arm, diana alvarez, election, jorge guerrero-torres, murder, ricky lagonde, sexcrime
Lois Riess, who was arrested in Texas and facing murder charges in Fort Myers and her native Minnesota, had an extradition hearing today. She waived her right to fight extradition to either state: so whoever comes to get her first can bring her back. It is expected that Florida will collect her first: Lee County filed murder charges while the murder case from Minnesota was still under review, and she could potentially be facing first degree murder charges for the tourist she allegedly shot to steal hear identity on Fort Myers Beach.
Apparently, some authorities are calling her “Losing Streak Lois”, due to her gambling losses at casinos… but she might have been apprehended to quickly for that to stick. This silver fox was not sly enough to avoid capture. The Star Tribune has good details of the alert restaurant employees that spotted her and helped authorities capture her in Texas. Likely, the prosecutors in Lee County and in Minnesota will talk and decide who will prosecute her first, and it would not surprise me if she ends up headed to SW Florida.
Posted in 10-20-Life, Criminal Law, Florida, Fort Myers / Lee County / Southwest Florida #SWFL, Gray Menace, Texas
Tagged extradition, fort myers beach, lois riess, losing streak lois, minnesota, murder, swfl, texas
Lois Riess, 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…
Posted in 10-20-Life, Criminal Law, Florida, Fort Myers / Lee County / Southwest Florida #SWFL, Texas
Tagged florida, fort myers beach, fugitive, lois reiss, lois riess, minnesota, murder, serial killer, swfl, texas
Prosecutors 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:
- 5 tips to Crimestoppers identified him
- He gave multiple statements to investigators denying involvement in the shooting
- However, one of his alleged gangster buddies intimated that he may have been responsible
- 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
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.
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.
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.
I 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.
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)