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RSS Full Text Feed of Crime-public_Safety for Mobile.

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    PANAMA CITY — One of two men who plotted the robbery of a 20-year-old Panama City Beach man before it escalated into a fatal shooting has accepted a plea offer from state prosecutors.

    Joshua Heath Smith, 23, pleaded no contest Monday to being a principal to third-degree murder with a firearm after a plan to rob 20-year-old Ryan Brooks of about 2 ounces of marijuana turned deadly in July. In the agreement, Smith agreed to testify in the case against Randy Jackson, 23, who is charged with pulling the trigger several times on Brooks in Panama City Beach.

    The plea offer calls for Smith to serve 10 years in prison, but he will await sentencing in January as insurance so that he does not back out of his testimony, according to court documents. He could be sentenced to up to 30 years if the status of his cooperation changes.

    Six people were arrested in the fallout of the July 10 shooting at the Club Apartments, 325 Richard Jackson Blvd., as the three survivors allegedly tried to cover their tracks. The two other men still face murder and robbery charges.

    Joseph Cannizzo initially portrayed himself as a witness when police arrived at about 1 a.m. to find Brooks face down on the asphalt with multiple gunshot wounds. Cannizzo, 25, said he pulled into the apartments shortly after the gunfire. He saw a white Kia Forte speed away and a person running into the woods north of the lot before flagging down a taxi to call 911, he told police.

    The white Kia reappeared at the North Lagoon Mart at about 4 a.m. A female driver called authorities to meet her there. The woman, a roommate of Smith’s girlfriend Alyssa Watford, said Smith and Jackson had borrowed her car and returned it pockmarked with bullet holes, police reported. Smith had blood on him, she told police, and could overhear him telling Watford that someone had been killed.

    When police interviewed Smith at about 5:45 a.m., he said he and Jackson drove the Kia to the Waffle House near the Shoppes at Edgewater, where they planned to rob Brooks of the 2 ounces of marijuana.

    Smith said Brooks, Cannizzo and himself consolidated into Cannizzo’s green SUV to orchestrate a purchase of the marijuana. During the exchange, Cannizzo pulled a gun on Smith and ordered him to take off his pants. Brooks took his gun and walked over to the car Smith arrived in to search it.

    Neither Brooks nor Cannizzo knew Jackson was in the car until gunfire roared from inside.

    Cannizzo fired upon the car and Jackson sped off, according to investigative reports. Smith escaped through the woods without firing a shot. Brooks died a short time later from his multiple gunshot wounds.

    Both Jackson’s and Cannizzo’s cases are pending.

    Jackson has pleaded not guilty to third degree felony murder with a firearm, principal to attempted robbery and felon in possession of a firearm. Cannizzo has pleaded not guilty to principal to robbery with a firearm for allegedly attempting to stickup Smith. Watford also pleaded not guilty to principal to attempted robbery.

    A trial date has not been set for any of the defendants.


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    PANAMA CITY — A Panama City woman who allegedly fired a gun on a local school campus after school to scare off a snake appeared in court Monday to hear charges against her.

    April Dawn DeMarco, 30, was arrested in early October for discharging a .380-caliber handgun on the practice football field of Bay High School, 300 E. 15th St., during practice for the local Pop Warner football team. Demarco said she was trying to protect the children from a moccasin at the time, and the surrounding coaches were ineffective at removing the threat.

    Demarco appeared in court Monday. Her attorney and prosecutors said they have reached an agreement in her case and will file the paperwork prior to her December court date disclosing further details.


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    PANAMA CITY — A former Panama City Beach man who is accused of conspiring to murder two local judges was returned Monday to Bay County, leaving a trail of violent charges open in his wake along the South.

    Joseph Russell Schmitt, 48, was wanted in Bay County on a series of charges including allegedly attempting to arrange the murder of two circuit judges from August 2013. While being wanted in Bay County, Schmitt allegedly beat and attempted to smother his 90-year-old mother in Texas and threatened authorities with explosives after his arrest in Louisiana. He was then transferred to St. Johns County to face cyber stalking charges before circling back around to Bay County to have a combined bond of $200,000 placed on his release.

    Schmitt had been threatening to kill several people, including Bay County Judge Allen Register and Washington County Judge Chris Patterson, according to arrest records. During the course of discussions with an undercover Bay County Sheriff’s Officer, Schmitt was to provide a storage area to carry out the abduction, torture and murder of the judges, according to BCSO reports.

    A figure was not revealed, but the officer said a substantial amount of money was to change hands.

    BCSO also wanted Schmitt for allegedly making a false child abuse report to the Department of Children and Families (DCF). In his report, Schmitt claimed the father of his ex-girlfriend’s children used methamphetamine and cocaine in front of the kids, drove while intoxicated and once held a gun to their mother’s head.

    Upon investigation, authorities discovered a voice message to the mother from Schmitt bragging about the report, in which the officers could hear Schmitt calling in his report in a three-way call with DCF, officers reported.

    A warrant was issued for Schmitt in Bay County when he was arrested outside his room at the Horseshoe Casino Hotel in Louisiana by U.S. Marshals Service and FBI agents. After his arrest, Schmitt told authorities that he had explosive devices inside his hotel room and his vehicle parked outside the hotel, according to police.

    The hotel was evacuated and the Bossier City Fire Department Bomb Squad responded to the scene. No explosive devices were found. 

    Schmitt was on his way to Bay County when authorities caught him in Bossier City. He was coming from his 90-year-old mother’s home in Lewisville, Texas, and allegedly beat her and tried to smother her with a pillow before leaving, BCSO reported.

    Charges in Texas and Louisiana remain open against Schmitt for those incidents.

    Judge Register presided over an April 2013 domestic violence case involving Schmitt and his girlfriend, who lived together at Island Reserve Condominiums in Panama City Beach, according to court records. The case resulted in a domestic violence injunction, or restraining order, against Schmitt. His ex-girlfriend was relocated to a domestic violence shelter in another county, and also was an alleged target in Schmitt’s murder-for-hire plot.

    Before the relocation, the victim complained that Schmitt said he was “going to skin her” and kill everyone she worked with, according to police reports.

    Judge Patterson’s connection to Schmitt is unclear, officials said after his arrest in Louisiana. However, both judges were informed of the threats and given personal protection through the investigation.

    An arraignment date was not available after Schmitt’s first appearance on the charges Monday.


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    PARKER — Authorities have arrested a Parker man on burglary charges after a homeowner allegedly caught him on a camera and identified him through social media, according to a Bay County Sheriff’s Office report.

    BCSO responded to a home in Southport Sunday to a victim who said she saw a gray Dodge Durango driving by her home days before a burglary. She got out to see who it was and the driver raised a hand to cover his face and sped away. She felt it was suspicious since she lives at the end of a dead end road and placed a trail camera along her driveway.

    The next day items in the home were misplaced, and other family members told her that about $50 in coins, an X-Box game console and several games were missing.

    The victim examined the memory card from the trail camera and noted only two images on the camera. One was of a postal worker and the other of a white male she did not know walking toward the home. The victim posted the image on Facebook and received several comments identifying the white male as Mike Creamer.

    A Parker Police officer later spotted Creamer sitting in his Dodge Durango outside a pizza restaurant on 23rd Street where he was taken to the Bay County Jail and charged with burglary of an unoccupied dwelling. Additional charges are expected, BCSO said.


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    CHIPLEY — The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will host a public grant workshop Nov. 18 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. CST, at the Florida Department of Transportation District Three Complex, Design Conference Room, 1074 Highway 90, Chipley.

    FDOT is soliciting applications for the Federal Transit Administration’s Sections 5310 and 5311 operating and capital grant programs and Section 5339 non-urbanized grants. This workshop is being held to discuss the following topics for interested applicants:

    -Updates on new federal laws affecting surface transportation programs, application eligibility requirements, preparation of the application and tips on grant writing, review of the process once a grant is awarded, FDOT’s  vehicle procurement process and review of charter services

    Companies or groups that provide mobility transit, which includes private, for-profit, non-profit, local governments and taxi companies, are eligible to apply. Agency grant writers, presidents, administrators and transportation managers are encouraged to attend the workshop. Application manuals and handouts will be provided at the workshop.

    For more information, contact Kathy Rudd or Ian Satter, public information director at 888-638-0250 ext. 1205.


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    WEST BAY — Family members of a man who shot a domestic hog for food have put up their home as collateral to bond him out of jail after the killing of a prized pig.

    Henry L. Schoonmaker, 36, was arrested in October for allegedly killing a hog in its pen on hunting lease land off State 79. The owner said he paid $1,000 for the prized porker before Schoonmaker shot it without permission. Schoonmaker now faces several felony charges, for which his family has placed their home up as collateral to post his bond, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reports.

    Bob Callahan, owner of the land, told FWC officers his son saw Schoonmaker driving off his hunting lease after the shooting, and he wanted Schoonmaker trespassed. Callahan also said he wanted the meat from the hog returned.

    --- FILE: SCHOONMAKER ARREST AFFIDAVIT»»

    Attempts to contact Callahan were unsuccessful Tuesday.

    When FWC officers arrived to Schoonmaker’s Steel Field Road home, he was repentant. Schoonmaker apologized and told them he shot the hog because he was hungry and wanted to feed his family.

    “I was riding on St. Joe property and rode up on a hog in the woods and shot the hog in the pen,” he wrote in a statement. “I thought hogs was year round. I am sorry about this.”

    While hunting wild hogs is legal year round, it is illegal to hunt hogs on private property without the landowner’s permission, according to MyFWC.com.

    --- FILE: SCHOONMAKER ARREST AFFIDAVIT»»

    Schoonmaker already had cleaned the hog and placed it in his freezer as FWC officers spoke with its owner.

    Callahan “was very upset and wanted to file all the charges he could against Schoonmaker,” Officer Brent Patrick reported.

    FWC seized Schoonmaker’s gun and filed charges against him as he surrendered the hog meat, the officers reported. Schoonmaker was arrested for trespassing while armed, felon in possession of a firearm and grand theft. A bond of $8,500 was placed on his release. His immediate family members put up their 2000 Buccaneer mobile home as bond collateral.


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    PANAMA CITY — A Panama City man who set sail from Maryland back toward his homestead has been reported missing during the last leg of his journey.

    U.S. Coast Guard officials issued a search alert for Craig S. Neus Sr., 77, who is aboard the sailing vessel Mariah. Neus was expected to be somewhere between Boca Grande, northwest of Fort Myers, and his home of Panama City as of Wednesday, although family members believe he may have veered farther west off course into the Gulf of Mexico, according to Coast Guard reports.

    The last contact made with Neus was Nov. 4. Due to concerns of Neus’ family and information from the last contact, the Coast Guard has begun a search for Neus, employing air and sea vessels in their efforts.

    C-130 Hercules aircraft crews from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, along with HC-144 Casa aircraft crews from Air Station Miami and crews aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Alligator, an 87-foot Coastal Patrol Boat home-ported in St. Petersburg, are actively searching for Neus, Coast Guard officials announced.

    Since June, Neus had been sailing alone aboard a 32-foot, beige, two-masted Bristol from Baltimore with the intention of finishing his voyage in Panama City. However, the last reported contact with Neus was Nov. 4 when he made a purchase at South Seas Plantation in Captiva, officials reported.

    Bridge tenders north of Boca Grande do not have any reports of Neus’ sailing vessel having passed under their bridges. 

    Anyone with any information regarding the wherabouts of Neus is asked to call Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg watchstanders at 727-824-7506.


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  • 11/12/14--14:57: BCSO seeks missing teen boy
  • The Bay County Sheriff’s Office is asking for assistance from the public to find 17-year-old Ryan Zerbach.

    Zerbach’s last known location was his home in the Bayhead area of Bayou George. He left his residence before his parents arrived and sent text messages to family and friends expressing his desire to harm himself, the BCSO stated in a press release, and he is believed to be on foot.

    Anyone with information is asked to contact the BCSO at 747-4700 or Crime Stoppers at 785-TIPS.


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    PANAMA CITY — Police have arrested two men who allegedly were riding with more than 250 grams of marijuana without their vehicle’s headlights on, according to a Panama City Police Department news release.

    Bryan Anthony Jones, 26, of Panama City and 28-year-old, Patrick Terrell Edwards, of Panama City Beach, were arrested Wednesday at about 9:30 p.m. after officers saw a vehicle driving without headlights. A stop of the vehicle was conducted in the 2800 block of Tupelo Drive. The driver, Jones, and the passenger, Edwards, immediately exited the vehicle once they stopped and parked the vehicle in a driveway, police said.

    Police made contact with the two and could smell marijuana. When the officers looked into the vehicle, they observed a large bag of marijuana on the floorboard of the passenger side of the vehicle. Jones and Edwards were then arrested and searched.

    Both men were found with a large amount of cash. The total amount of marijuana weighed out to more than 250 grams, packaged in varying amounts. Subsequently, the two were charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute and possession of paraphernalia.


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    MARIANNA — Police have arrested a Marianna attorney on charges he collected at least $41,000 while transferring trust funds from multiple estates to their heirs, according to a Marianna Police Department report.

    A warrant was served on attorney Thayer Mervin Marts, 79, at his Tallahassee office Monday where he was arrested and charged with grand theft. Marts, who practiced in Marianna and Tallahassee, was arrested following a joint investigation into the misappropriation of multiple estates’ money from a trust account.

    Police charged him on the one offense from an estate where about $41,000 dollars was owed to the heirs. However, police believe there are at least 13 other estates that may have been affected by this theft, officials reported.

    Marts was transported to the Leon County Jail to await transportation to Jackson County. Police expect additional charges to be filed against Marts in another identified estate misappropriation case.

    During the course of their grand theft investigation, authorities learned Marts had been suspended from the practice of law by the Florida Supreme Court while the Florida Bar investigated Marts based on a complaint received earlier in the year. Later investigators learned that Marts will voluntarily surrender his license to practice law.

    Anyone having conducted business with Marts and still having an open estate case is urged to contact the Marianna Police Department, officials said.

    “Efforts will be made to contact heirs to these other estates, but sadly in a few of these cases there are no heirs on record,” said Police Chief Hayes Baggett.


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    TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Two Panama City natives have been arrested in Crimson Tide country for allegedly attempting to sell fake tickets to the football team’s upcoming game, according to police reports.

    Shannon Stanley Sizemore, 38, and Heather Kieatha Sizemore, 31, of Panama City, were both charged with several counts of forgery Wednesday after Tuscaloosa Police arrested the two for selling counterfeit tickets to the upcoming Alabama vs. Mississippi State game, police reported.

    A person who bought tickets from a Craigslist ad noticed the tickets did not look legit and contacted a Tuscaloosa Police investigator. A deal was made to purchase more tickets from them when officers pulled the Sizemores over and allegedly found 16 counterfeit tickets, police said.

    Both Shannon and Heather Sizemore were charged with 16 counts of possession of a forged instrument. They were placed in the Tuscaloosa County Jail pending a $240,000 bond. Additional charges could follow.


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    PORT ST. LUCIE (AP) — Police say a Florida man stole a chain saw by sticking it down his pants.

    Surveillance video from Treasure Coast Lawn Equipment in Port St. Lucie shows the man putting the tool worth more than $600 down his pants on Oct. 28.

    Police tell Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers (http://bit.ly/1oQvRTi ) that Anthony Ballard had come in asking for $1 worth of change.

    Police say employees chased Ballard, who ditched the tool in a wooded lot. The employees called 911 when they saw Ballard return to look for it.

    Ballard told police he stole the tool but had a change of heart and wanted to return it.

    He was held Thursday on grand theft and burglary charges. Bond was set at $28,750. Jail records didn't show whether he had an attorney.


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    SPRINGFIELD — A Springfield man has been placed in jail for scattering his neighbor’s cats throughout the city, although he told police he thought they were strays.

    William Gizzell, 52, was arrested on charges of theft and animal cruelty after he allegedly rounded up four neighborhood cats that had damaged his property and placed them elsewhere in the city. However, the owner of the cats, Tasha Cox, said each cat had a name and a home despite their indoor-outdoor status.

    She also believes a different fate befell her felines.

    “He said he didn’t hurt the cats or anything — that he only relocated them,” Cox said. “We think he killed our pets.”

    Cox’s home has been much more still and somber without the stirrings of Kiki and Wilson, both gray and white tabbies; Spike, a black cat with a white belly; and Ralph, a white cat with black spots. She would allow them to roam the Southern Living mobile home lot at 1305 Transmitter Road when she left for work and bring them inside when she returned.

    But one day they didn’t come back.

    Days before Gizzell’s Nov. 8 arrest, he and his fiancée, Jillian Moran, became fed up with the stray cats scratching their car, so they rounded them up, put them inside the car and spread them throughout the city, Moran said.

    The cats didn’t have collars to indicate they belonged to anyone, she said, and they were a nuisance but not enough to warrant death.

    “We put each one in a different area, but we didn’t harm those cats,” Moran said. “They’re still alive.”

    However, Moran would not detail the dropoff location.

    Though Gizzell is charged with misdemeanors, he remained in jail Thursday. Springfield police reports stated he deprived the cats of necessary sustenance and shelter. Police also stated he deprived Cox of her property.

    Gizzell is being held on a $2,500 bond, which Moran said she has not been able to raise enough money to post.

    “I’ve never heard of someone being arrested for removing stray cats,” Moran said.


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    PORT ST. JOE — Construction crews have completed work on the State 30A improvement project in Gulf County.

    Construction began in September 2013 to mill and resurface a 6.8 mile segment of State 30A between U.S. 98 and Cape San Blas Road.

    Other work on the $13.2 million project included widening the existing travel lanes to 11-feet, adding a 5-foot shoulder on each side of the roadway, improving drainage and upgrading the bridge rail and guard rail on the Simmons Bayou Bridge.


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    PANAMA CITY — A South Carolina teenager died after he was struck by a vehicle on U.S. 231 late Wednesday, according to Florida Highway Patrol officials.

    Ladders were strewn about the roadway where Michael Vincent Culletto, 19, was hit by a 2005 Kia Spectra Wednesday night. Culletto, of Inman, S.C., was in the inside lane of southbound 231 near the intersection of East Avenue attempting to remove ladders that had fallen off his work truck when the incident occurred at about 8:45 p.m., according to eye witnesses.

    The car slammed into Culletto, pushing him into the outside lane of 231, according to an FHP report. After EMS units arrived, Culletto was rushed to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

    The driver of the Kia, 46-year-old Evelyn Theresa Nobles, and passenger, 17-year-old Zakkiyah Battles, were also taken to the hospital and treated for minor injuries.

    No charges have been filed in the incident, FHP reported. The accident is currently under investigation. The report stated alcohol was not related in regards to the driver.


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    PANAMA CITY — Police are asking for public assistance in identifying two suspects after shots were fired in the 700 block of Satsuma Avenue Wednesday at about 1:30 p.m.

    No one was injured in the incident, but evidence collected at the scene suggested that there may be two subjects involved in this incident, Panama City Police Department reported.

    “Although no one was injured in this incident, it is still a serious matter and those involved need to be brought to justice,” PCPD officials wrote in the release.

    Anyone having information regarding this case is encouraged by police to call the PCPD, 850-872-3100, or they can report their tips anonymously to CrimeStoppers at 850- 785-TIPS.


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    PANAMA CITY — Police have arrested a Panama City man who allegedly stuffed several baggies of cocaine into his mouth in an attempt to conceal them from officers, according to a Panama City Police Department news release.

    David Lenard Howard Jr., 35, of Panama City, was arrested after officers attempted to stop his vehicle Wednesday at about 11:30 p.m. Howard continued traveling and finally stopped at Massalina Drive and Varsity Drive, PCPD said in the release.

    When officers approached Howard they could see that he had small plastic baggies in his mouth. Howard was ordered to spit the baggies out but did not comply. Howard climbed into the back seat of the vehicle to attempt to keep the officers from getting the baggies. Officers were able to subdue Howard and recover several small plastic baggies containing a white powder that field tested positive for cocaine, police reported.

    Subsequently, Howard was arrested and transported to the Bay County Jail, charged with possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute, tampering with evidence, resisting arrest without violence and driving while license suspended with knowledge.


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  • 11/13/14--14:54: Body of missing teen found
  • BAYOU GEORGE — A search and rescue team with the Bay County Sheriff's Office found the body of a missing teen Thursday in a swampy wooded area not far from his home.

    Ryan Zerbach, 17, was last heard from two days earlier, when he sent text messages to his family indicating he planned to hurt himself. He apparently died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

    Zerbach left his home on foot Tuesday night before his parents arrived. Deputies searched the area with K9s and a helicopter over the course of two days before finding his body.

    Zerbach was a student at Bay High School and a member of the Million Dollar Band.


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    APALACHICOLA — A Panama City sailor who had been missing for eight days was found in good health Thursday drifting in the Gulf of Mexico aboard his boat.

    Craig S. Neus Sr., 77, had set sail from Baltimore toward his home in Panama City in June aboard the sailing vessel Mariah. In the last leg of his journey, contact with Neus was lost on Nov. 4 when he made a purchase at South Seas Plantation in Captiva, off Lee County, and the U.S. Coast Guard began to mobilize a search for the missing boater, officials reported.

    However, after searching about 80,000-square-miles, Coast Guard crews found Neus more than six miles south of Apalachicola, according to Coast Guard reports.

    Neus’ sailboat battery died and he had no cellphone reception to contact commercial salvage.

    “His daughters had been trying to reach his cellphone for several days,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Ashley Johnson, Coast Guard public affairs specialist. “Finally they got a ring.”

    Neus’ daughters contacted the Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg watchstanders, but Neus was still unreachable. Watchstanders got a hold of the cellphone company and were able to determine Neus’ position.

    A C-130 Hercules aircraft  crew from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater located the Mariah from the air and dropped a radio to Neus. A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission boat crew was dispatched to the area and verified that Neus was alive and in good health. But he needed a tow.

    A commercial salvage company arrived and took the Mariah in tow. Neus and the Mariah were headed to the Moorings at Carrabelle where he can replace or repair any malfunctioning equipment. From there, he would be allowed to continue his journey.

    Coast Guard crews searched about 76,379 square nautical miles for Neus.


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    A man died following a vehicle crash in Holmes County Friday morning.

    Michael John Fithian, 67, of Bonifay, was on the north shoulder of State Route 2 near Beaver Dam Road when he was struck by the front end of a Nissan Rogue driven by Heather Renee Clark-Sellers of Bonifay, according to a Florida Highway Patrol report. The vehicle came to a stop in the eastbound lane facing east, while Fithian came to a rest in the eastbound lane east of the vehicle, the report stated.

    The crash is still under investigation.


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