Alfred Jenkins, 57, of Winter Haven.

JURY VERDICT: Winter Haven man guilty of murdering Lake Alfred softball coach

Alfred Jenkins was fired from his job and arrested for grand theft, and he held Terry Yelvington personally responsible.

Alfred Jenkins, 57, of Winter Haven.

Alfred Jenkins, 57, of Winter Haven.

In the early morning hours of Aug. 11, 2015, Jenkins drove to Yelvington’s home in Lake Alfred, shot him in the head, and stole his wallet.

After two days of deliberation, a jury convicted Jenkins on Monday of first-degree murder, robbery with a deadly weapon, and tampering with physical evidence. Immediately following his conviction, Judge Harb sentenced Jenkins to life in prison.

Yelvington was president of the employee union when Jenkins, who served as the union treasurer, was fired in April of 2009 for misconduct. The union voted not to challenge Jenkins’ termination, and because Yelvington was president, Jenkins blamed him for the loss of his job.

Jenkins held a great deal of animosity toward Yelvington “for not standing up for him,” Assistant State Attorney Paul Wallace said to jurors in opening statements.

After Jenkins was terminated, it was discovered that he stole nearly $5,000 from the union in his role as treasurer and forged checks for his own personal gain.

Yelvington pushed for a criminal investigation against Jenkins. In 2011, Jenkins was arrested for grand theft, causing him to lose a second job.

Jenkins spent over six months in jail following his arrest.

Jenkins repaid the money he stole, and the charges against him were dropped a year later, but Wallace told jurors that Jenkins still blamed Yelvington for his misfortune.

At trial, Jenkins’ ex-girlfriend testified that he’d been trying to figure out what time an unnamed man opened his garage door to leave for work in the morning because he needed to rob him and settle a debt.

A few months later, Yelvington was shot and killed in his driveway.

One of Yelvington’s neighbors was woken up by gunshots around 5:30 a.m. She looked out of her window to see a dark colored Chevrolet SUV pulling out of Yelvington’s driveway.

Although she didn’t see who the shooter was, she gave law enforcement the vehicle description.

Another resident reported that he’d seen a suspicious vehicle in the neighborhood that morning sitting at a stop sign, and surveillance footage from another resident’s home showed the vehicle near Yelvington’s home around 5:24 a.m.

Law enforcement located the suspicious vehicle at Jenkins’ residence.

Jenkins’ cell records were pulled, and they showed his phone pinging less than a mile away from Yelvington’s home at 5:26 a.m., which is in the same time frame that witnesses saw the suspicious SUV.

Cell records also showed that when Jenkin’s cell phone pinged in Lake Alfred on the morning of the murder, it had utilized this cell tower on only three other dates from April 21, 2015, until the day of the murder.

Shell casings from the crime scene were tested, and FDLE determined they were a match for ammunition found to have been in Jenkins’ possession. The firearm was never recovered, as it is still missing.

Jenkin’s ex-girlfriend testified that she became aware that Jenkins disposed of the firearm he kept in his residence within several days after the murder.

At trial, the defense agreed that Yelvington’s death was tragic but that Jenkins was not the one responsible.

But Wallace reminded jurors that all the evidence only pointed to Jenkins.

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Joshua Miller

JURY VERDICT: Winter Haven man convicted of rape, faces 15 years

Joshua Miller’s victim woke up to him pulling her clothes off.

Joshua Miller

Joshua Miller

The victim tried to push Miller off of her and told him to stop, but he refused. Miller then climbed on top of her and forced her to have sex with him.

After about 45 minutes of deliberation, a jury convicted Miller on March 13 of sexual battery, possession of cannabis, and possession of drug paraphernalia. He is facing up to 15 years in prison and will be sentenced on April 12.

Assistant State Attorney Jessica Embree walked jurors through the events that led up to the rape.

On Dec. 6, 2014, some of the victim’s friends came over to her house to smoke and drink. She fell asleep on her couch while a few of her friends were still present.

The victim then woke up to Miller pulling her pants off and performing a sex act on her. She pushed him away and told him to stop, but he ignored her and forced himself on her instead.

After the assault, the victim went to the Emergency Room, where a rape kit was used to collect possible DNA.

When Miller was first questioned by law enforcement, he claimed he didn’t know the victim at all.

He eventually changed his story and admitted he knew her and that he performed a sex act on her while she was not fully conscious. Miller then told law enforcement he planned to have vaginal sex with the victim but changed his mind and performed a different sex act as she was still attempting to push him away.

DNA results from the rape kit showed that Miller was a match and that he lied about not having vaginal sex with the victim.

During closing arguments, the defense attempted to blame the victim for drinking alcohol at home and passing out on the couch. He claimed she could not know what happened that night because she was “blacked out.”

But Embree reminded the jury that the victim was conscious when she attempted to stop the assault.

Embree told jurors that being vulnerable did not give Miller the right to turn a sleeping woman into a victim.

“She (the victim) got drunk and passed out in her own home. That’s the one place you should be able to do that and be safe,” Embree said.

“Miller took advantage of the victim by waiting until she was unconscious,” Embree said. “Being vulnerable doesn’t make her any less of a victim or make this any less of a crime.”

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Jonathan Diaz Fundora

SENTENCING UPDATE: Man given two life sentences for sexually abusing 10-year-old

Jonathan Diaz Fundora groomed a 10-year-old Lakeland girl he met online and drove over four hours to sexually batter her.

Jonathan Diaz Fundora

Jonathan Diaz Fundora

Days before Diaz Fundora was supposed to go to trial, he pled no contest to 13 charges, including sexual battery on a victim less than 12, kidnapping, traveling to meet a minor, and use of a computer to seduce a child, among other charges.

Judge Durden sentenced him to mandatory life in prison on Jan. 30.

Diaz Fundora met the victim online and communicated with her for about a month, sending sexually explicit content to the girl. He then made a plan to drive from his home of Miami to Lakeland, where he told the child they would spend a few days at a motel.

He told the victim to write a letter to her grandmother, telling her she would be at a motel with a friend, and pack a bag. Diaz Fundora arranged to pick her up down the road from her house.

On March 27, 2018, Diaz Fundora drove 4 ½ hours to pick the girl up and take her to a Motel 6, where he sexually battered her.

The victim was reported missing by her grandmother, and Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputies traced the girl’s cellphone to the motel. When deputies arrived, Diaz Fundora answered the door in his underwear and said he had a young girl with him.

Deputies found the child hiding in the bathroom with the lights off.

Nearly four months after Diaz Fundora kidnapped the girl and molested  her, she took her own life.

At Diaz Fundora’s sentencing hearing, a letter from the girl’s grandmother was read aloud in court during the hearing.

She told the judge that the girl was bullied in school and on the internet and often questioned if anyone loved her.

“He preyed on the innocence and immaturity of a child,” the letter said. “(Diaz Fundora) violated our precious baby and changed her short life forever.”

She said the damage Diaz Fundora did ran deeper than anyone could have imagined, causing the girl to take her life in July of 2018.

“Her small, young heart could not handle this world anymore,” the grandmother wrote.

At the hearing, Assistant State Attorney Randi Daugustinis reminded Judge Durden that Diaz Fundora admitted to every detail of the incident.

“The defendant had a calculated plan that he executed,” she said, adding that Diaz Fundora said he knew the girl was young but ignored it and drove to Lakeland anyway. “He knew she had a rough childhood and was in a very vulnerable state.”

She asked the judge to sentence Diaz Fundora to the max on count two, which was also punishable by life. Durden agreed and imposed a second life sentence to run concurrently.

At the end of the grandmother’s letter, she wrote that the victim’s family has found some solace in knowing the girl is in a better place.

“I know she is with God now,” the letter said, “and that eases my pain.”

Johnathan Alcegaire, 30, of Miami.

SENTENCING UPDATE: Alcegaire sentenced to death for 2016 triple homicides

Johnathan Alcegaire stood still as Judge Jalal Harb handed down three death sentences for each of the lives he claimed.

Johnathan Alcegaire, 30, of Miami.

Alcegaire was convicted on Sept. 27, 2018, of three counts of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, burglary of a dwelling with an assault or battery while armed with a firearm, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, tampering with physical evidence, and armed robbery.

He was one of three men who traveled to Lakeland for a drug-related home-invasion robbery and murdered 24-year-old David Washington, 31-year-old Stacy Branch, and 23-year-old Angelica Castro.

The same jurors who convicted Alcegaire in September then recommended that he should be sentenced to death. Judge Harb imposed those three death sentences Friday morning, along with the maximum amount for Alcegaire’s additional convictions.

Alcegaire is the second defendant in the Tenth Circuit to be sentenced to death under the new death penalty law, which requires jurors to have a unanimous vote instead of majority.

Former Assistant State Attorney Hope Pattey and ASA Mark Levine prosecuted both the trial phase and penalty phase of this case. State Attorney Brian Haas said Friday that he is pleased with the outcome and that he is thankful for the hard work put in to the Alcegaire case by both Pattey and Levine.