Levy County Announces Boat Ramp Closures

April 19, 2024

Sheriff McCallum in cooperation with the Levy County Board of County Commissioners announces boat ramp closures due to rising water along the Suwannee River. Recent heavy rains in the counties north of ours that drain into the Suwannee River has caused our waterway to flood making the boat ramps unsafe and navigation dangerous due to floating debris. Boaters navigating in or around homes on the river are asked to observe a “no wake zone” to prevent damage to homes and docks.

The Levy County Department of Parks and Recreation will monitor the ramps and alert the commission when water levels have receded to safe levels. Barricades have been placed at the ramps and department supervisors ask our public not to remove them. Our commissioners have been advised that the Dixie County Board of County Commissioners have closed ramps along the Suwannee River in their county too.

The following ramps have been closed:

  • Clay Landing
  • Camp Azalea
  • Flowlers Bluff

Notable Criminal Case Resolutions

Bruce Edwin Cannon 9/9/58 of Bronson was arrested by Levy County Detectives on 7/18/23 for sexual battery of child between the age of 12-18 by familial or custodial authority.  Cannon entered a plea adjudicating him guilty of this crime on 4/8/24. Cannon was sentenced to 18 years in the Florida Department of Corrections and upon release will serve the remainder of his lifetime on sex offender probation.

Jerett Justus 6/6/89 of Morriston was arrested on 7/5/21 by Levy County Detectives for possession of a firearm by felon and second degree murder. On 7/5/21 Justus called 911 to report the suicide of his girlfriend. The investigation determined Justus shot her and staged the scene to make it appear to be a suicide. On 4/8/24 Justus entered a plea adjudicating him guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in the Florida Department of Corrections.

Sheriff McCallum expressed his gratitude for the excellent investigations and work done by deputies and detectives in these cases. “I am thankful also for our Victim Advocates who worked compassionately with the unfortunate victim and families in these cases.”

“These horrible cases are a reminder that violent crime and their life altering consequences will not be tolerated in Levy County. We will do everything possible to identify offenders, arrest them and build prosecutable cases to give some small semblance of justice to these victims, their families and to all victims,” said Sheriff McCallum.

Chiefland Woman Murdered

March 15, 2024

At 4:21 p.m. on March 14, 2024 the Levy County Sheriff’s Office 911 Center received a call reporting a shooting. Deputies were immediately dispatched as 911 operators gathered more information related to the call.

Deputies arrived on scene at 6650 NW 100 Avenue which is southwest of Chiefland, Florida. Information supplied by a witness suggested the shooter, identified as Kimberly Dawn Barba (6/18/77) had possibly barricaded herself in a nearby barn and was still armed. The witness also said Barba made a statement that she would shoot law enforcement when they arrived. Deputies were able to see what appeared to be a victim of the shooting slumped over in a nearby truck.

Detectives and the Sheriff’s Office Tactical Response Unit (TRU) responded to the scene and removed the victim from inside the truck. She had not survived her injuries. Detectives were able to verify Barba was in-fact barricaded inside a nearby barn. TRU members located Barba inside and took her into custody at 6:40 p.m.

Detectives were able to piece together that Barba and the victim lived on the same property but are not related.  The victim arrived home after running errands shortly before the shooting began. The victim was accompanied by a family member. Barba approached the victim displaying a handgun, made several statements and opened fire. The victim sought refuge inside of her truck after being shot and the family member ran. Barba pursued the family member, firing at her several times. One projectile struck the family member in the elbow. Barba then turned her attention back to the victim inside the truck, fired at her several more times then fled to the barn where she was later located and taken into custody.

Barba has been booked into the Levy County Detention Center for a single count of premeditated murder where she will be held with No Bond. Additional charges are expected to be filed at a later date as this investigation continues.

Chiefland Man Arrested for Sexual Contact with Minor

February 27, 2024

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office discovered a 20 year old Chiefland man in the back seat of a car with a young female that was parked at the Marion County Fair on February 25th. The two were “making out.” Marion County Deputies interviewed the two and discovered the female was 14 years old. They also discovered the two have been romantically involved at a home in Chiefland and referred the investigation to Levy County Detectives.  

Levy County Detectives conducted interviews that confirmed the man, identified as Nicholas Hendricks (10/13/03) of Chiefland, has been involved in a romantic relationship with the minor for some time. Hendricks was arrested for lewd and lascivious battery on a person between 12-16 years old and booked in to jail. Hendricks is being held on a $250,000.00 bond.

Drug Traffickers Sentenced

February 23, 2024

On July 7, 2023 Alan J. Dones (6/6/76) of Davie, Florida was arrested for trafficking in Fentanyl and Methamphetamines. Dones was apprehended during a traffic stop in the Town of Bronson. Drug Task Force Detectives spotted a vehicle being driven by a female known to have a suspended license. Uniformed deputies stopped the vehicle and the resulting traffic stop investigation discovered 16.6 grams of Fentanyl and 41.1 grams of Methamphetamines in Dones possession. Dones was on felony probation at the time of his arrest.  

Dones has been held in custody at the Levy County Detention Center since his arrest. Earlier this month he was sentenced upon acceptance of a negotiated plea agreement to 12 years in the Florida Department of Corrections with the condition of a 7 year minimum mandatory.

On July 21, 2023 John H. Chastain (10/1/88) of Morriston was arrested by Levy County deputies who responded to a domestic violence 911 call. Chastain fled inside the home when deputies arrived. Chastain’s truck was parked adjacent to the home and the driver’s door was open. Deputies saw drugs, cash and handguns on the trucks seat.

Drug Task Force detectives arrived to assist. Chastain was taken into custody after a brief standoff and charged with domestic violence. A search warrant was obtained and detectives seized the items seen inside the truck. Chastain, a convicted felon, was additionally charged with multiple drug crimes including trafficking in cocaine, trafficking in methamphetamines and trafficking in fentanyl.

Chastain has been held in custody at the Levy County Detention Center since his arrest. Earlier this month he was sentenced upon acceptance of a negotiated plea agreement to 10 years in the Florida Department of Corrections with the condition of a 7 year minimum mandatory. He will also be placed on felony probation for an additional 10 years following his release from prison.   

Citizen Scammed Trying to Protect Themselves from Scams

February 22, 2024

A local Levy County citizen has been scammed out of significant amount of their life’s savings during an elaborate scam that mimic’s the plot of the new movie “The Bee Keeper.” Our citizen received an email from “NORTON Antivirus”, a program they use on their personal computer to protect their electronic data. The email notified the citizen that the software needed to be updated and the update fee was $499.99, which was already in process. The email had a phone number that our citizen called.

A Middle Eastern descent male answered the call and began assisting. Shortly thereafter the citizen’s computer was taken over by an unknown entity. Our citizen’s entire financial wealth was now visible to these unknown bad actors that conveniently made an error in the “refund” they were going to make. The “refund” error went from $499.99 to $49,999.99. These scammers ultimately stole $49,999.99 from our citizen and transferred this amount to an overseas account.

This is a scam that is not associated with the well-known company Norton Antivirus. Citizens are cautioned to verify all emails, text or phone calls by contacting all companies they conduct business with in-person or by physically finding contact information via Google searches or known phone numbers. This is a very sad situation for our local citizen and recovery of their stolen money will be extremely difficult if not impossible. This type of scam is widely published and may be located via a Google search. Please beware and be safe with your wealth.

Williston Man Arrested for Violation of Domestic Violence Orders

February 9, 2024

Daniel James Gaynor (9/16/88) of Williston was arrested by the Levy County Sheriff’s Office on January 10th for domestic violence. He posted bond on the 11th and was given an order by the Judge to have no contact with the victim until further notice.

Gaynor violated the Judge’s order and contacted the victim on the day he was released. This violation prompted a report to the court and his bond was revoked. LCSO deputies began looking for Gaynor to take him back into custody as the court order specified. Multiple attempts to locate and take him into custody were made, but he was able to elude apprehension. Meanwhile, Gaynor continued to violate the order by contacting the victim via several social media platforms.

On February 7th deputies responded to the victim’s home after receiving a 911 call at 11:00 p.m. that Gaynor was reported inside the home while the victim slept. Gaynor was found standing over the victim and was confronted by the victim’s father. Gaynor battered the father and fled the scene.

Deputies located Gaynor on the 9th in the Williston area during a traffic stop. He offered no resistance and was taken into custody. He is currently charged with multiple counts of violating the court order as well as burglary with a battery. The additional charge of possession of cocaine was added when detention officers found he had cocaine secreted on his body during booking. Gaynor will be held on a $200,000.00 bond until his next court appearance.

Deputies Arrest Felon with Illegal Firearms

January 24, 2024

The LCSO receives frequent complaints from citizens of individuals recklessly riding ATV’s and dirt bikes in the Bronson area behind the racetrack. Deputies often patrol these areas and when they do spot these riders, the riders most often flee.

On January 19, 2024 Deputy Justin Arters and Deputy Patrick Lockett were patrolling this area and spotted a subject driving a four wheeler on NE 105 Avenue that was closely following a car. Unregistered ATV’s and dirt bikes are not authorized for use on public road or right-of-ways in Levy County. Deputy Arters attempted to stop the rider who, as expected, fled from him. This did not deter Deputy Arters and a short pursuit began.

Deputy Arters was able to keep pace with the fleeing ATV operator who threw a bag he was carrying then “ditched” then ATV in the woods and fled on foot. Deputy Arters along with Deputy Lockett gave chase and was able to quickly apprehend the fleeing subject. The subject was identified as Michael G. Hernandez (2/5/81) of Bronson.  

Hernandez has amassed 8 arrests in Levy County since 2015 and is well known to Levy County law enforcement. He is a multiple time convicted felon with a history of violence and is a convicted sexual offender. The discarded bag was collected and searched. It contained three loaded guns with extra ammunition and drugs.

Hernandez was taken to the Levy County Detention Center and has been charged with multiple counts of possession of firearms by a convicted felon, resisting arrest as well as several traffic violations. He is being held on a $405,000.00 bond.

Deputies Save Couple from Drowning

 

January 22, 2024

On January 21, 2024 at 8:55 p.m. Levy County Deputies responded to the boat ramp located at the end of CR 40 East to a report of a vehicle in the water. CR 40 dead ends into the Gulf of Mexico at this boat ramp and unfortunately this is not the first time LCSO has responded to a call of this nature.

Deputy Cody Weaver arrived and his headlights illuminated a truck approximately 75 yards from the end of the ramp. He could see two people in the bed of the truck. Deputy Dakota Dowling arrived shortly after Deputy Weaver as the people in the truck entered the water in an attempt to swim to shore.

The couple, identified as 77 year old Frank Fournier and 68 year old Elena Van Kampen who both list Inglis addresses, were quickly overcome by the 54 degree water temperature and began yelling for help. Deputies Weaver and Dowling entered the water and were able to rescue the victims, aiding them to shore and into the back of a nearby waiting ambulance. Both of the victims as well as both deputies were transported to Seven Rivers Hospital and treated for exposure. The deputies were released after a complete examination and returned to duty completing the remainder of their shift.  The victims were held for further observation. The truck, a 2024 Denali, was recovered from the Gulf this morning.

Sheriff McCallum said, “The quick thinking and selfless sacrifice these deputies displayed is a testament to their dedication to the safety of our citizens. The deputies endured extremely cold water and an even colder air temperature (42 degrees) which placed their own life in jeopardy. Thankfully everyone was rescued safely and the couple is expected to make a full recovery.”   

California Man Arrested on Attempted Murder Warrant

January 12, 2024

Levy County Sheriff’s Office in cooperation with the United States Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force apprehended Aubrey Ethridge 7/5/2002 from San Bernardino, California on an outstanding warrant for his arrest on an attempted murder charge. Ethridge was located at a home in the Raleigh area of Levy County and taken into custody. Ethridge initially provided a false name to law enforcement resulting in an additional charge.

Ethridge will be extradited to California after the charges in Levy County are complete. Investigators discovered Ethridge surrendered without any resistance because he thought law enforcement was at the home seeking another individual. He was also unaware that the false name he provided actually belongs to person wanted in connection to crimes reported in Alachua County.