Genar Smith

Lakeland man sentenced for starving, neglecting dogs

 

Genar Smith

Genar Smith

A jury trial was set to begin Monday in the animal cruelty case against Genar Smith, who was accused of starving his dogs to the point of emaciation.

Lakeland police officers found the starving dogs at Smith’s home after a neighbor saw a dog in a cage being eaten by two other dogs.

When an officer arrived at the home, he found six pit bulls locked up.  The dogs were starving; with their rib cages and hip bones visible under their skin. There was no water or food in their bowls. Later, a Polk County animal control officer determined that hunger provoked the case of cannibalism. Smith was later forced to surrender his dogs to Animal Control.

The State Attorney’s Office did not make a plea offer to the defendant.  Without a plea offer, Smith decided to forgo a trial and plead guilty to Circuit Judge Keith Spoto.  Smith’s sentence was left to the sole discretion of Judge Spoto.  Smith plead guilty to two counts of felony animal cruelty and four counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty.  He was sentenced to 180 days in jail, followed by 42 months of probation.  It was also ordered that he can no longer own any animals.

 

 

 

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Ramon Valenzuela

California man convicted of smuggling 15 pounds of meth valued at $600,000

 

Ramon Valenzuela

Ramon Valenzuela

A California man was convicted Wednesday of smuggling 15 pounds of methamphetamine in a Kia Soul from the Los Angeles area to Polk County.

Ramon Valenzuela, 36, carried the drugs in spaces behind the door panels of the car. He faces up to 30 years in prison after jurors deliberated for about an hour and found him guilty of the charge of trafficking more than 200 grams of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia. Circuit Judge Neil Roddenbery is scheduled to sentence Valenzuela on Nov. 4.

Assistant State Attorney Jessica Fisher prosecuted the case. The methamphetamine was worth about $600,000.

Valenzuela, who before trial had argued that he and his wife were threatened and coerced to transport the drugs, was arrested in Davenport during an undercover drug purchase by Polk County Sheriff’s detectives on Feb. 20. At the time of the arrest, Valenzuela told detectives he was paid $9,000 to transport the drugs.

Detectives saw him remove the door panels from the interior of the car then pull out a total of five sealed bags from each of the car’s three doors.

During the trial, Valenzuela’s story changed. His lawyer argued that Valenzuela thought he was transporting money, not drugs.

State Attorney Brian Haas thanks ASA Fisher and Polk Sheriff’s detectives for their work on the case.

 

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David Whitchard

Winter Haven man sentenced to 25 years for molesting 3 girls

 

David Whitchard

David Whitchard

A Winter Haven man pleaded guilty Wednesday to sexually molesting three girls on numerous occasions in 2017.

Following the plea, David Kelly Whitchard, 32, was sentenced by Circuit Judge Neil Roddenbery to 25 years in prison followed by a lifetime of sexual predator probation.  He pleaded guilty to three counts of lewd molestation.

Assistant State Attorney Randall Daugustinis prosecuted the case.

The girls ranged in age from 8 to 11-years-old.

In December, 2017, Whitchard checked into Winter Haven Hospital to tell staff that for the last year he had been molesting three children.

Winter Haven Police were called to the hospital where Whitchard confessed. Whitchard continued telling a detective that he had a drinking problem, did not remember some things he had done, and often felt remorseful for what he had done to the children.

Whitchard was later arrested.

State Attorney Brian Haas thanks Assistant State Attorney Randall Daugustinis and Winter Haven Police for their work in the case.

 

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Joseph Mujica

Orlando man convicted of attempted lewd battery, traveling to meet minor

Joseph Mujica

Joseph Mujica

An Orlando man who had lengthy sexually explicit text exchanges with a Polk Sheriff’s detective posing as a 14-year-old girl then traveled 30 miles to meet the teen faces up to 30 years in prison after his conviction on Thursday.

Joseph Mujica, 55, was convicted of two second degree felonies, traveling to meet a minor and attempted lewd battery. A six-member jury deliberated for one hour before reaching a verdict.

Circuit Court Judge Donald Jacobsen is expected to sentence Mujica on October 3.

Assistant State Attorney Jacob Orr prosecuted the case.

During the trial, Orr described a sexually explicit correspondence in 2018 on MocoSpace, a social networking site, between Mujica and the undercover Sheriff’s detective posing as a girl named, “KT.”

After two days of texting, Mujica drove to Davenport to meet the girl. When he reached the front door of the home in Davenport, he was arrested by Sheriff’s detectives.

Mujica attempted to defend himself during the trial. He told jurors that he didn’t believe he was chatting with a teen even though the detective described himself as a teen during the text exchanges.

During closing arguments, Orr asked jurors to use common sense during deliberations.

“Why did he go?” Orr asked. “Common sense tells you he went to have sex with a person 14 years-old named K.T.”

“He didn’t drive 44 minutes at 9 on a Friday night because it might be someone else,” Orr said.

State Attorney Brian Haas thanks ASA Orr and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for their work on obtaining a conviction.

 

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