News Update for 06/04/24

A search is still underway for a man accused of violently attacking a woman in Winter Haven. Police say the victim told officers that Randy Leon Gillis hit her in the face and strangled her until she lost consciousness last Friday. The woman was sent to the hospital with serious injuries. Gillis took the victim’s vehicle and drove to Highlands County where it’s reported he has family. The Highlands County Sheriff’s Office recovered the abandoned car but has been unable to locate Gillis. Gillis is considered armed, extremely dangerous and has been known to wear disguises.

A missing person’s case in Lakeland is now a homicide investigation. Ethan Fussell was reported missing on May 7th. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office says Fussell was staying with his friend Talon Page at the time of his disappearance. Investigators found blood that belonged to Ethan at Talon’s house on Driggers Road. Page and Adonai Moran-Rivera have been arrested and charged with tampering with evidence and accessory after the fact. A search is underway to found Fussell’s body.

Jury selection in the Zephen Xaver penalty phase trial continued into it’s third week on Monday. 1800 potential jurors have been summoned and 60 plus more potential jurors were sworn in Monday morning. Two potential jurors that initally passed the first qualifying round were dismissed after they were found to be lying under oath by not disclosing prior criminal backgrounds on jury information forms. Jury selection will continue today. The goal will be a selection of 12 jurors, plus two or three alternates.

And the City of Sebring has been named as the defendant in a lawsuit claiming that a missing stop sign was the cause of a collision between two vehicles. The collision occured at the intersection of Oak Avenue and South Eucalyptus Street and allegedly caused injuries to an adult and two children. The plaintiffs filed the complaint May 23rd for the September 25th, 2023 crash. The lawsuit is seeking damages exceeding $50,000.

A man is in jail after Highlands County deputies say he shot another man, then drove off and hid under a tree until K-9 units tracked him down. Investigators responded to a home off Twitty Road, just east of Sebring on Friday night and found a man shot in the back. Deputies located suspect Jose Agapioto Diaz’s vehicle, then tracked him through three miles of groves with the help of two K-9s. Diaz was found more than 2 hours later hiding near Twitty Road and Skipper Road. He has been charged with attempted murder without premeditation and resisting an officer without violence. He is being held without bond and his victim is listed in critical condition.

Multiple groups protested the arrest of 16-year-old Jahmal Hudson Jr. outside the Lakeland Police Department Saturday evening following the surfacing of an unsettling interaction between him and two Lakeland Police officers on Memorial Day. Activists from several groups called on the Department of Justice to file criminal charges against the officers in addition to the woman who called 911 on the group of boys, believing the incident was racially-charged. Group leaders say more protests are planned until charges are filed. According to Hudson Jr.’s arrest affidavit, the teen was uncooperative and punched an officer first.

And a former Army soldier is back in Florida after extradition from Ukraine to face charges for killing a Hernando County couple in 2018. Craig Lang and Alex Zwiefelhofer are accused of robbing and killing Danny and Deana Lorenzo. The couple were killed while they were meeting up with Lang and Zwiefelhofer to buy guns that were posted for sale online. Lang and Zwiefelhofer were allegedly going to use the money they stole to join resistance fighters trying to overthrow the Venezuelan government.