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Cops find murder suspect in jail

Choute If things went down the way investigators say they did, Waltaire Choute killed a man on a Sunday, then raped a woman two days later.

Police today charged Choute, 23, with first-degree murder in connection with the April 22 shooting death of a Burger King manager. Detectives say Choute and a friend, James LaPointe, stormed into the North Miami fast-food spot and killed Jose Luis Leon Olivera before fleeing the restaurant.

Cops have been hunting for the men since the shooting. They found out Monday that Choute had been picked up in connection with a North Miami Beach burglary and sexual battery on April 24. Now, he faces charges in the fatal shooting and the rape.

Investigators are still searching for LaPointe.

Fellow crime reporter Erika Beras has been following the Burger King shooting story. Here is her breaking-news story about Choute's arrest.

Posted by Evan Benn at 07:38 PM on April 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Scorned boyfriend turns in woman to police


Lorena Ubaqui scammed a man she had been dating, Broward Sheriff's Office officials
say, but after realizing he was duped, he extracted his revenge.

BSO says Ubaqui went on a couple dates with Jose Molina, 51, and fed him some lines
about being an undercover detective … it had worked on three other men … to rob him.

   Instead of getting a visit from his new love interest, Molina got a visit from BSO
detectives who broke the news that he had been scammed.

   And he learned, he wasn't the first.

   Ubaqui is also accused of impersonating a police officer to rob three other men,
stealing about $5,400 in cash and property, BSO said.

   The other victims were identified as Mario Ramirez-Franco, 19, and Armando Munos, 21,
both of Pompano Beach; and Demetrio Marin, 20, of Oakland Park.
   BSO officials say Ubaqui duped and robbed the three men between March 17 and April 20.

   While the men walked in their neighborhood streets, Ubaqui approached them saying she
was an undercover detective investigating a murder or rape. She flashed a silver badge,
patted the men down and took their jewelry and wallets. She told them she needed
additional documents to prove their identities and drove them home to do so.

   Once they went into their homes, Ubaqui drove off with some of their belongings.

   After the media began reporting on the crimes and showing a composite sketch of Ubaqui,
someone called BSO to tell them about Molina. After learning he had been duped, he gave
her up.

   On Friday, BSO detectives arrested Ubaque, 31, and charged her with four counts of
robbery, four counts of impersonating a law enforcement officer, three counts of false
imprisonment and violation of probation for a previous battery on a law enforcement
officer. She is being held in the Broward County Jail. Her bond is $41,500.

Posted by wanda J. DeMarzo at 06:23 PM on April 27, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Hold-up in Hollywood

It seemed like any other night for a Hollywood Dunkin' Donuts manager.

At the end of his shift, Nidal Jaber left the doughnut shop and was headed to the bank to drop off the day's earnings.

But he never made it there.

As Jaber pulled his Ford Expedition towards a stop sign, not far from the eatery, a well-dressed man, carrying a briefcase, approached his car.

The stranger asked the Jaber if he knew where the closest H&R Block was located. Jaber said no.

Just then, the man pulled out a gun and pointed it at Jaber, whose drivers side window was open. The man opened the car door and entered the vehicle.

At the same time, another man, wearing a white shirt, jeans and a baseball cap, opened the passenger side door and got in the SUV. He pointed another gun at Jaber.

The two gunmen demanded Jaber hand over a bag containing $7,000 from Dunkin' Donuts. They also took Jaber's money, his cell phone and the keys to his SUV.

The men then drove off in a red Ford car.

Jaber wasn't injured.

Posted by Jennifer Mooney Piedra at 11:58 AM on April 26, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

BSO busts Everglades pot farmers

PlantWhen Broward Sheriff's deputies spotted Adam Beltrone and Justin Shepard earlier this month, the two friends were walking out of a wooded area near the Everglades, fishing poles in hand.

But something was clearly awry, BSO said. The deputies knew there were no fishing holes in the area. Plus, the poles held no line.

Turns out, Beltrone, 22, and Shepard, 20, never intended to catch fish. After some questioning, they led deputies into the brush, where they had planted five pot plants, authorities said.

Deputies later searched Beltrone's car and found a small amount of marijuana and some rolling paper. Beltrone and Shepard were charged with possession of marijuana, possession of paraphernalia and loitering and prowling.

Beltrone faces additional charges. The Home Depot employee later told deputies he was hoping to sell the pot to finance his college education. Not a smart move. The deputies added a count of manufacturing marijuana with intent to sell, according to the police report.

Posted by Kathleen McGrory at 10:52 AM on April 26, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Prom dress bandits

It's prom season and you know what that means.

Teenage girls all over South Florida are searching for the perfect dress for their big night.

And it seems like a thief in Broward is hoping to bank off of that.

Last week, someone broke into A Bride's Choice, a full-service bridal salon at 4066 W. Broward Blvd. in Plantation. But it wasn't fancy white gowns, veils or garters that were stolen.

Dresses It was bridesmaid-type dresses - lots of them.

Someone got away with 110 dresses, valued at $19,800. The dresses were all different colors and styles - perfect for prom night.

Owner William South discovered the store had been broken into at 9 a.m. April 16 when he found a glass door smashed with a piece of concrete.

The business is equipped with surveillance video cameras, but they were not operating at the time of the burglary.

Crime scene technicians combed the store for clues, but the prom dress burglar is still on the loose.

Posted by Jennifer Mooney Piedra at 10:30 AM on April 26, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

When dogs attack

My scariest moment as a reporter was knocking on doors at night in a poorly lit neighborhood with two dogs roaming around, obviously not on leashes, and looking angry. Lucky for me, their owner came home and corralled them.

A 13-year-old girl was far less lucky in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday night. No, it wasn't a shooting, stabbing or other gruesome death. But everyone in the neighborhood was just as scared.

The girl was riding her bicycle with a group of friends when a dog that looked like a pit bull attacked them along Northwest Ninth Court, said Dorothy Madison, 56, who lives nearby. The dog knocked down her bike and started attacking her.

"It was gnawing at her, dragging her by the pant leg," Madison said.

The girl got up, turned a corner and started running north on Northwest 24th Avenue. She jumped into the street, trying to avoid the dog, when a northbound car slammed into her.

Colette Black heard the girl screaming, rushed outside her home at the corner of Ninth Court and 24th Avenue and saw the girl get hit. Black, 51, called 911, running over to the girl as her friends surrounded her. She seemed alert but had closed eyes.

"I told her 'Don't go to sleep. Open your eyes'," " Black said.

Thankfully, this ended well. The girl was OK, her biggest injury a broken leg from the car, according to Fort Lauderdale police. The dog was turned over to county animal care. (And a big thanks to Black, who gave me her age with some reluctance, saying "How am I supposed to get a husband if I put that out there?")

Posted by Diana Moskovitz at 08:20 PM on April 25, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Crime Scene Recommends: The Corpse Had a Familiar Face

Book Here's a favorite of mine: The Corpse Had a Familiar Face, a memoir by the queen of police reporting herself, Edna Buchanan.

Not familiar with the author? Buchanan covered cops for The Herald when Miami's murder rate was the highest in the country. During her time on the beat, she chased more than 3,000 homicides, according to her website. She won a Pulitzer Prize in 1986.

The Corpse Had a Familiar Face is a must-read for anyone with an interest in Miami's one-of-a-kind crime scene. Buchanan writes about killers and their victims, the cops and her colleagues at the paper. She details Miami's gritty streets and sleepless summer nights. And she does it with her inimitable style.

Here's a taste:

"The crime that inevitably intrigues me most is murder. It's so final. At a fresh murder scene, you can smell the blood and hear the screams; years later, they still echo in my mind. Unsolved murders are unfinished stories. The scene of crime may change over the years; highways are built over them, buildings are torn down, houses are sold. I drive by and wonder if the new occupants, as they go about their daily lives, ever sense what happened there. Do they know, or am I the only one who still remembers?"

Posted by Kathleen McGrory at 04:10 PM on April 20, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Pot boom, and a case of broken art (UPDATED)

Another day, another spurt of weird South Florida crime news.

First in Westchester, where an explosion inside a home led to some heroic good Samaritan efforts Tuesday morning. A man with a prosthetic leg jumped a fence to help another man burned in the explosion. Meanwhile, someone else had been dumping pool water on the injured man.

What caused the explosion? Unclear, but cops think the house was a hydroponics grow lab (they found charred pot plants inside). Herald writers Erika Beras and David Smiley have the full story.

Tuesday evening, police found the high-end glass artwork that had been stolen last week from Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. Except, the sculptures valued at $75,000 won't be going back on display -- they were broken into pieces and dumped in a vacant lot in Coral Gables.

The late-breaking story should be posted online any minute. If you don't see it on the homepage, type "Chihuly" into the search engine.

**Update, 2:58 p.m. Wednesday: The story is posted here, and we just got a response from Chihuly, via an e-mail from his spokeswoman, Janet Makela:

"We have been informed that the Chihuly artwork has been found and unfortunately vandalized. But the malicious acts of some should not detract from the enjoyment of many. Fairchild continues to do an extraordinary and professional job in support of the Chihuly exhibition which Dale was happy to bring back to the garden for the second consecutive year."

Posted by Evan Benn at 10:40 PM on April 17, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thieves target Davie gym

Workout buffs, beware of the Bally's Gym in Davie.

Three cars were broken into, while parked in the gym parking lot at 2701 S. University Dr., in the span of one week.

First incident happened on March 22, between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m.

Someone smashed the driver side window of a 1999 Toyota Corolla, while the owner of the car took part in a yoga class. Nothing was stolen, except for a notebook binder containing neuro muscular information worth $40.

Two days later, a thief smashed the side window of a man's Town and Country Van and got away with a $150 pair of designer sunglasses, an LED flashlight valued at $30 and a $25 Samsung cell phone charger. This time the break-in happened at night - between 7:30 and 8:45 p.m.

Another smash-and-grab happened on March 26 between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. After a workout, a woman returned to her BMW and discovered the front passenger window broken. Her purse had been taken. Inside of the bag was $300, several credit cards, an ATM card, a driver's license and a cell phone.

Posted by Jennifer Mooney Piedra at 04:32 PM on April 14, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A medical mystery

As if people aren't nervous enough when they're about to go under the knife for surgery, here's yet another reason to worry.

A Sunrise woman was put under anesthesia last month as she underwent a procedure at her gynecologist's office.

When the woman awoke, she made a shocking discovery.

Someone had stolen $750 from her wallet, which was inside of her purse in the corner of the exam room during the procedure.

Now, that's painful.

When the patient informed the doctor of the missing moolah, he told her his staff at All Women's OB/GYN Group in Plantation "would not do anything like this."

Who knows what really happened.

The moral of the story: Don't bring any valuables with you when undergoing a medical procedure because they may not be there when you're done.

Posted by Jennifer Mooney Piedra at 12:30 PM on April 13, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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