SENTENCING UPDATE: Winter Haven man sentenced to life for home-invasion murder

Joseph Gomes-Brandon was sentenced to life Thursday for the 2016 murder of Tyler Macklin.

Joseph Gomes-Brandon

Joseph Gomes-Brandon

A jury found Gomes-Brandon guilty in November of first-degree murder, robbery with a firearm, burglary, and conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

Macklin was at home on the phone with his friend when two men broke into his house, robbed him, and shot him in the head.

Gomes-Brandon’s co-defendant, Jonathan Felix, was convicted of first-degree murder in September. Felix was sentenced to life in prison.

Gomes-Brandon, Felix, and a third co-defendant named Dylan Kindred decided to rob Macklin on the night of May 11, 2016.

Kindred orchestrated the entire robbery, but because he’d grown up with Macklin, Gomes-Brandon and Felix planned to enter Macklin’s duplex to steal from him while Kindred was waiting outside in the getaway car.

Gomes-Brandon and Felix kicked in Macklin’s front door and demanded cash and drugs while holding him at gunpoint. Macklin was on the phone with his friend, who heard a scuffle and then a gunshot.

A few days after Macklin’s murder, Kindred went to his grandmother’s pastor and confessed what he and his co-defendants had done. The pastor then convinced Kindred he should tell law enforcement, so Kindred turned himself in and confessed to the crime.

Jose Baez-Ortiz,

JURY VERDICT: School janitor guilty of lewd conduct on 6-year-old student

Jose Baez-Ortiz admitted he had an urge to touch a 6-year-old girl like a woman.

Jose Baez-Ortiz,

After about an hour of deliberation, jurors convicted Baez-Ortiz Nov. 15 of lewd conduct. He is facing 15 years in prison and will be sentenced Jan. 11.

Assistant State Attorney Lauren Randall told jurors that the principal of the school had two discussions with Baez-Ortiz because he was being overly-friendly with students. Baez-Ortiz was specifically instructed not to touch the children and to stay out of the cafeteria while they ate lunch.

But on April 17, 2017, Baez-Ortiz walked into the cafeteria and sat down next to a 6-year-old girl.

Another worker in the cafeteria saw him sitting next to the girl and became suspicious. When she walked toward Baez-Ortiz, she saw him with his hand up the girl’s skirt, rubbing her thigh.

The cafeteria worker immediately reported the incident, and law enforcement was called. Security cameras in the cafeteria caught Baez-Oritz sitting down next to the girl and putting his hands under the table.

In the initial interview with detectives, Baez-Ortiz said he accidentally touched the girl’s leg while trying to stand up. He then changed his story to say that he rubbed her leg over her clothing.

Baez-Ortiz then said the girl was beautiful and that he wanted to touch her. He also admitted to putting his hand up the girl’s skirt.

“The two of us were sitting, and I put my hand on her little thigh,” Baez-Ortiz said. “I had the urge to touch her.”

Baez-Ortiz said he was having a hard time dealing with an ill family member and wanted to touch the girl to make himself feel better.

The defense claimed the only reason Baez-Ortiz said these things is because he was scared of authority figures and decided to parrot back what the detective said.

Assistant State Attorney Lauren Randall. (FILE PHOTO)

But Randall told the jury it was not reasonable for a man to admit putting his hand under the skirt of a 6-year-old just to appease an authority figure.

“If the defendant is so subservient and scared of offending an authority figure, why do we have clear evidence of him thumbing his nose at the principal, who is his authority figure at work?” Randall asked jurors.

“Under what moral code is it OK for a man to make himself feel better by touching a little girl? What he did was a crime,” Randall said in her closing arguments. “His hand was somewhere it had no business being.”

Robert Van Den Bosch, 65, of Lakeland.

JURY VERDICT: Lakeland man guilty of attempted second-degree murder, faces life

Robert Van Den Bosch had been making threats to shoot someone because residents in his neighborhood were being loud.

Robert Van Den Bosch, 65, of Lakeland.

Van Den Bosch testified that he’d reached a boiling point on the evening of Sept. 1, 2017. So when Morris Parker drug his trash can to the dumpster, Van Den Bosch followed and shot him in the chest within inches of his heart.

Jurors convicted Van Den Bosch Nov. 8 of attempted second-degree murder with discharge of a firearm and great bodily harm and resisting officers without violence. He is facing 25 years to life in prison and will be sentenced Dec. 20.

Assistant State Attorney Jaenea Gorman told jurors that Van Den Bosch began threatening to harm his neighbors the morning of Sept. 1, when he called 911 while yelling, “I should shoot you,” at a neighbor he claimed was trespassing.

Later that evening, Van Den Bosch posted to his Facebook profile, complaining that someone walked by his house “…for the hundredth time. Do I really have to shoot someone?” He also taped angry messages to the windows of his trailer.

About 10:45 p.m., Parker drug his trash can over to the dumpster, which was on the opposite side of Van Den Bosch’s trailer. While Parker was dumping out his trash, Van Den Bosch approached him.

“Can you hold that open for me?” Van Den Bosch asked, swinging a fist at Parker and missing.

He then pulled out a gun he had been concealing and shot Parker in the left side of his chest.

Van Den Bosch immediately returned to his trailer and fired another shot into the ground before going inside.

A witness, who worked at Citgo across the street, saw the incident and immediately called 911.

When officers arrived, Van Den Bosch refused to exit his trailer. After a six-hour standoff, the Lakeland Police Department’s SWAT team placed a chemical irritant into the trailer, forcing Van Den Bosch to exit.

As he was being booked in, Van Den Bosch told officers he used his second amendment right to protect his first amendment right. He said his neighbors were too loud, and he could not finish writing a book he was working on.

Van Den Bosch testified at trial, claiming he pulled out the gun during an argument with the victim, and it accidentally went off when the victim grabbed it. But testimony from the witness at Citgo refuted that, as she never heard or saw any scuffle between the two prior to the gunshot.

The defendant then admitted to jurors that “things had reached a boiling point.”

Van Den Bosch also testified that he never called 911 and that he put earplugs in when the police arrived at his trailer and told him to come out.

In closing arguments, the defense attorney claimed Van Den Bosch responded in self-defense.

But Gorman reminded the jury there was no testimony or evidence of a struggle.

“This is someone who was angry and irritated at all the residents,” she said. “When the trash can was drug across the ground, things got to be too much for him. He just snapped.”

“He was threatening to shoot someone and finally made good on that threat,” Gorman said.

Rivera-Torres

JURY VERDICT: Haines City man guilty of trafficking heroin

Steven Rivera-Torres was found guilty Nov. 8 of trafficking in heroin, four grams or more, and possession of drug paraphernalia. He is facing up to 30 years in prison and will be sentenced Jan. 4.

We are thankful for the hard work and dedication of Assistant State Attorney Eric Ebbole in securing this conviction.