Monthly Archives: December 2016

Lomita chef David Viens convicted of second-degree murder for killing wife, cooking her remains

A Lomita chef who said he loved his missing wife and hoped she returned home safely was found guilty Thursday of murdering her and cooking her body in boiling water to destroy any trace of the crime.

The panel in Superior Court in downtown Los Angeles took about five hours over three days to convict David Viens of second-degree murder, a crime that carries a sentence of 15 years to life in prison.

“My opinion is if he was innocent he wouldn’t have jumped off a cliff,” said juror Tal Erickson, 46, of West Los Angeles.

The 49-year-old owner of the defunct Thyme Contemporary Cafe stared straight ahead and appeared to look toward the ceiling as the court clerk read the verdict. As a bailiff wheeled him from the courtroom, Viens gestured to his mother, Sandra Viens, that he would call her.

His mother, contacted later by the Daily Breeze, refused to comment and hung up the phone.

The verdict brought an end to a three-year mystery that began when 39-year-old Dawn Viens disappeared. She was last seen on Oct. 18, 2009.

“It’s very, very difficult trying to find the words to express what this ordeal has been like,” said Dawn Viens’ sister, Dayna Papin, who sat through the two-week trial, listening as prosecutors played a recording of Viens’ confession, describing how he bound and gagged her sister with duct tape, and later boiled her body for four days.

Detectives had told Papin and her family about her sister’s horrifying fate more than 15 months ago. She was unable to tell anyone until it was revealed during Viens’ trial.

“My family, it’s very difficult for them to understand this situation,” Papin said after the verdict, drinking water to calm nausea. “It’s so surreal. This experience has been so surreal.”

The mystery of “Where is Dawn?” began in October 2009, when Dawn Viens suddenly vanished, failing to accompany her friend, Karen Patterson, to a doctor’s appointment. Patterson had just learned she had cancer, and her friend vowed to see her through the treatment.

Patterson went looking for her friend at the restaurant, where Dawn Viens worked as a hostess in the family business. She found David Viens agitated, sweaty, with a bandage covering a burn on his arm.

Three weeks later, Patterson, her husband, Mike Wade, and Papin filed a missing person report with the Sheriff’s Department.

Nobody at the time knew that Dawn Viens was already dead, her body liquefied in boiling water and poured into the restaurant’s grease trap, her skull and jawbone hidden in David Viens’ mother’s attic.

From the start, David Viens refused to help, telling Patterson and Wade his wife had packed her Louis Vuitton bag and walked away from their Oak Street apartment when she refused his demand that she go to drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

In the days that followed, friends received text messages from Dawn Viens’ cellphone, telling them she was fine and would contact them soon. But Patterson knew something was wrong: Dawn Viens rarely texted and had misspelled her own nickname “Pixie” with a “y” in one of them.

Days passed. Months passed. Viens took on a new girlfriend, Kathy Galvan, a Thyme waitress who stepped into Dawn Viens’ job at the restaurant. Viens refused to do interviews. An attorney told the Daily Breeze he would not talk because “the husband is always considered a suspect.”

In April 2010, a Daily Breeze reporter confronted Viens outside his kitchen. He spoke of his wife in the past tense.

“I loved my wife. I miss her,” he said. “I want to put up a cash reward, but I’m broke.”

Viens said he expected his wife to come home one day, probably when ski season was over. Asked if he wanted his wife of more than 15 years to return, he said, “I want her to be safe.”

In August 2010, a Sheriff’s Department missing person detective – unable to find any bank transaction, any traffic ticket or anything else to prove Dawn Viens was alive – handed the case to homicide detectives to investigate. Viens and Galvan moved to Torrance, allowing detectives access to the Lomita house Viens once shared with his wife. They found blood spatter in a bedroom and a blood stain in the bathroom.

Suspecting Viens had killed his wife, investigators put Viens under surveillance, placing a camera on a pole outside his restaurant and wiretapping his cellphone.

Trying to see what Viens would do, the detectives supplied information about the blood and their suspicions about Viens to a Daily Breeze reporter, figuring a news story might “stimulate” their suspect into making a phone call or doing something incriminating while they were listening and watching. The reporter informed Viens that an article would appear the next morning.

At the same time, a homicide detective was in South Carolina, talking with Viens’ daughter, Jacqueline Viens. Jacqueline Viens knew the truth, just not everything.

She told detectives that while drinking with her father one night in Los Angeles, he admitted to accidentally killing his wife. He said he covered her mouth with duct tape because she was “raising hell” when he wanted to sleep. He took an Ambien and went to sleep. When he awakened four hours later, she was dead.

He told her he put her stepmother’s body in a trash bag and tossed it into a garbage bin behind his restaurant.

And, she told detectives, her father had once joked that if he had to ever get rid of a body, he would cook it.

“I’m a chef,” he told her.

The next morning, Feb. 23, 2011, Viens awakened early and went out to pick up the newspaper. The headline declared him a “person of interest” in what detectives believed was a homicide. Viens returned home upset, crying and apologizing to his girlfriend, admitting he had killed her.

“No one will believe me,” he told her.

A despondent Viens drove his girlfriend toward Rancho Palos Verdes, receiving a call from his daughter telling him she had talked. Deputies, who had been watching Viens and listening to his phone calls, pulled in behind him. Galvan grabbed the steering wheel as Viens drove up to 80 mph toward the cliff, fearing he was about to drive over the edge.

Viens stopped next to the cliff, got out and climbed a fence. Galvan and a deputy tried to stop him from jumping, but he leaped feet-first, his arms outstretched, screaming as he fell.

Rescued quickly, and without any head injuries, Viens survived the 80-foot drop that shattered a leg, his pelvis and other bones, and put him in a wheelchair. In the hospital six days after the plunge, as deputies and coroner’s officials dug up his restaurant in search of his wife’s remains, Viens confessed to detectives.

“Duct tape,” he said, explaining he threw her body in the garbage.

Two weeks later, Viens asked the detectives to return. He wanted to talk again. He had something to get off his chest. He explained how he disposed of his wife’s body, boiling her at night for four days in his restaurant kitchen. During the day, while the restaurant was open for customers, he wheeled the huge pot with her body inside to a storage shed at the restaurant’s rear, detectives said.

When he was done serving customers during the day, he spent the nights cooking his wife’s remains.

Viens told detectives he hid his wife’s head and jawbone, the only thing that could identify her, in his mother’s attic. They have never been found.

In court this week, Viens’ attorney, Fred McCurry, told jurors that Dawn Viens’ death was an accident, not a murder. Viens had gagged his wife before and did not intend to kill her.

But homicide Sgt. Richard Garcia and Deputy District Attorney Deborah Brazil did not believe the death was an accident. The night Dawn Viens died, Viens told a friend he suspected his wife of stealing a few hundred dollars from the restaurant. “I’ll kill the bitch,” he threatened.

And, Patterson testified, Viens had choked his wife previously, causing marks to her neck.

For two weeks, jurors listened, faced with the decision of premeditated first-degree murder, a lesser second-degree charge, or manslaughter. An acquittal was unlikely, although Viens’ attorney told jurors they should disregard the confession Viens made describing his gruesome body disposal.

Erickson, the juror, said the panel considered first- and second-degree murder, and settled on second “based on the evidence.” The threat Viens made to kill his wife was not enough for first-degree, he said, adding plenty of people have made similar threats.

Jurors used Viens own words from his confessions to convict him, Erickson said.

“His testimony basically said what he did,” the juror said. “He was read his Miranda rights. Everything you say can be used against you in a court of law.”

Some jurors, he said, had trouble sleeping after listening to the disturbing confessions.

“I think he has anger management problems,” Erickson said. “He’s shown no remorse, no apology, nothing.”

Papin said she started crying the minute the jury buzzed the courtroom three times at 10:30 a.m. Thursday to indicate they had reached a verdict.

She bowed her head and wept as the verdict was read.

Papin later thanked the detectives, prosecutors, jurors, Patterson and Wade, and others for their work in pursuing Viens and bringing justice.

“It means he has to pay for what he did,” Papin said. “He tried to get away with it.”

Patterson, who often socialized with the Vienses with her husband, and helped design his restaurant kitchen, said she “loved Dawn like a sister.”

“My good friend murdered, my good friend,” she said.

Patterson said she remains upset that she chose not to call the police when Dawn Viens told her about the domestic violence incidents, including one where she had locked herself in the bathroom. Dawn Viens had told her not to.

“We all need to listen to friends who reach out to us,” she said.

Patterson said she might visit Viens in prison to tell him how much his wife loved him.

“Through all of this he is still my friend,” Patterson said. “I hope he knows that the week before he killed her, Dawn loved him so much.”

Judge Rand Rubin scheduled sentencing for Viens on Nov. 27. Viens, who has been behind bars since his suicide attempt from the cliff, previously served a short prison term in Florida for drug dealing.

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION:

larry.altman@dailybreeze.com

Anna Maria passes tax hike, $2.3 million budget

Thanks to rising home values that increased property taxes collected in Anna Maria this fiscal year, city commissioners were able to unanimously approve a $2.3 million budget at their Sept. 19 budget hearing for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

The commission retained the ad valorem millage rate of 2.05 mills, the same rate as the 2011-12 budget, but the rate represents a tax increase.

The $2.3 million operating budget is a 4.5 percent increase from this year’s $2.2 million spending plan.

The increase in ad valorem revenue to the city as a result of the 2.05 millage rate exceeds the rollback rate by 1.41 percent, said city treasurer Diane Percycoe.

A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of property value.

An Anna Maria homeowner with a house at an appraised value of $400,000 by the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s Office, and with all possible exemptions taken, would pay $820 in city property taxes at the 2.05 millage rate.

A suggestion by Commission Chair Chuck Webb that salary increases for staff be reduced from 3 percent to 2 percent was rejected 4-0. Webb was unable to attend the meeting, but sent his suggestion in a memo.

Commissioner SueLynn said Anna Maria’s staff is smaller than that of Bradenton Beach, but does just as much work, if not more. And Anna Maria has about 300 more residents than Bradenton Beach, she said.

Other commissioners agreed with the 3 percent pay raise for staff.

Commissioners also approved purchase of a new laser speed gun for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office-Anna Maria substation.

The laser gun costs $1,600, and it will be usable while a deputy is driving his vehicle, according to information from Sgt. Dave Turner, head of the substation.

Deputies can be on patrol and check the speed of an approaching vehicle or vehicle on a side street, Turner said.

The device is portable and can be used with any MCSO vehicle, Turner said.

Commissioners held off on approving the purchase of a 2007 electric truck from public works superintendent George McKay for $4,610.

McKay said he found the truck for sale by an Anna Maria resident. It has 7,000 miles, he said, and the book value is in the $7,500-$8,000 range.

Commissioners favored purchasing the vehicle when McKay presented the idea at a prior budget workshop, but the purchase must be approved at a commission meeting.

McKay said he decided to buy the truck because he knew someone would grab the bargain before the wheels of city government could get turning.

Percycoe said there is $3,000 in this year’s budget to purchase a vehicle, and it would only take $1,610 from the new budget to complete the purchase.

City attorney Jim Dye said he didn’t see any conflict of interest or financial issue, since the city would be paying McKay exactly what it cost him, but he said he would research the matter to be sure.

Commissioners agreed to wait for Dye’s report, expected at the Sept. 27 meeting.

McKay said that based upon the electric vehicle given the city in 1999 — and still in use — it would take about two years for the truck to pay for itself in gasoline savings.

Percycoe also announced that the reserve fund is at 34 percent in the 2012-13 budget. The 2011-12 budget had a reserve fund below 30 percent, but city auditors have recommended maintaining a 35 percent reserve fund, Percycoe said.

She was given a standing ovation by commissioners and the people in the gallery at the hearing.

In what acting Chair Dale Woodland said was somewhat of a surprise at a budget hearing, a citizen spoke during public comment. Only two members of the public attended the meeting.

Larry Kerr said he owns a vacation rental in the city, and is a practicing attorney in South Carolina.

“I’m glad to see taxes aren’t rising. It seems to me you all have done a very good job with the money,” Kerr said.

“Someday, I hope to retire here,” he said.

Woodland said that’s good news. The city can always use another retired attorney to sit on a board or committee.

Bradenton Beach raises taxes in $2.2M budget

What took 15 minutes two weeks ago, took about eight minutes Sept. 19, when Bradenton Beach commissioners passed resolutions and an ordinance adopting a 2012-13 budget that includes the first tax hike in years.

Two segments of public comment were scheduled before passage of two resolutions to adopt the final millage rate and budget, as well as a final reading for an ordinance establishing the budget.

The public comment segments were quickly opened and closed with no one in attendance.

Commissioners worked through their budget issues at several July meetings focusing on various aspects of the budget, including raising the millage to 2.3329.

A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. The increase in property taxes for Bradenton Beach residents will be about $85 a year for a home valued at $450,000.

According to city clerk Nora Idso, city property owners will see the increase on their 212-13 property taxes, and the Manatee County Property Appraiser office will send out notices in November.

Commissioners, through the summer, battled through a budget that included employee raises, rising operating costs and emphasized infrastructure improvements. The budget process began with a $145,000 shortfall.

Commissioners ultimately agreed to split the shortfall between taxpayers and the city’s reserve fund. The final millage rate will increase revenue by about $75,000 and commissioners earlier passed a resolution to release $75,000 from the city’s $2 million reserve fund to cover the shortfall and balance the budget.

Bradenton Beach property owners contributed more than $853,000 toward this year’s $2.2 million city budget. The estimated property tax revenue to be generated in the coming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, is $923,000 to help balance the $2.4 million spending plan.

Vice Mayor Ed Straight made the motions to pass the two resolutions and ordinance. Commissioner Gay Breuler seconded all three motions, which all passed 4-0. Commissioner Ric Gatehouse was absent with excuse.

Bradenton Beach eyes new direction for pier project

The last thing Bradenton Beach city commissioners wanted to hear was there could be another delay that would push the Historic Bridge Street Pier reconstruction project closer to tourist season.

But that was the message received Sept. 20 during the city commission meeting at Bradenton Beach City Hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

Based on recommendations from the city pier team, commissioners previously approved a plan to hire Charles Sego of Sego & Sego to be the project engineer. The thinking behind the pier team’s recommendation was the hire would save time because he was the engineer of record for a previous pier project.

But that has not been the case. The city and Sego hit a stalemate having to do with the city’s ability to file an insurance claim against Sego’s insurer in the event a design flaw would lead to problems.

City attorney Ricinda Perry and Sego have been trying to work through the stalemate for more than a month but, according to Perry, Sego has gone quiet on further negotiations.

“The commission met and authorized a contract that would allow the city to file any damages to Sego & Sego’s insurance company, as well as liability,” said Perry. “I forwarded what I thought was the finalized contract, and he said he would not accept it.”

Perry said it appears Sego is trying to contract on behalf of his insurance company.

“So, I explained this to Mr. Sego and asked him to confirm if this is his intent, and if there were other issues, to please let me speak to his attorney,” she said. “That was on Aug. 15, and I have not received anything from Mr. Sego or his attorney explaining the sticking point.”

Perry told commissioners she wanted to be sure the city’s position to protect itself was a standard contract concern, so she sought two separate legal opinions and was told that, yes, the city needed that protection in its engineering contract.

Perry said she shared that information with Sego and informed him that the city would be discussing the contract Sept. 20.

“And I have received no response from Mr. Sego,” she said. “It is my legal opinion that it is not in the best interest of the city to strike that provision from the contract.”

Perry said she understood the city’s urgency to complete the pier project before tourist season and would strike the provision if commissioners agreed. She also provided the alternative solution of drafting a request for proposal and bid the project in an attempt to retain a new engineer.

“If the commission wants to expedite an RFP for someone else, I believe that can be handled,” she said.

Commissioner Jan Vosburgh asked Perry if she had spoken with Sego’s insurance company.

“I don’t know who the insurance company is,” said Perry. “Mr. Sego has not provided me with the name of the insurance company.”

Vosburgh said it sounds like Sego is no longer interested in the project.

“That’s just weird,” she said. “I don’t know what his problem is. He’s obviously not interested.”

Commissioner Gay Breuler agreed.

“Part of me says if the guy doesn’t want to give us the information and he’s not showing up to the meeting, then maybe he’s pulling away, scared or doesn’t want to do it,” she said.

Mayor John Shaughnessy said the city is caught in a Catch-22.

“This is something we have to do, and it’s time sensitive,” he said. “I don’t want that pier closed during season. If that pier is closed for any length of time, the restaurant will suffer, too. But I don’t want to put the city in jeopardy. If he won’t respond, then maybe he doesn’t want to do it.”

Building official Steve Gilbert said the city should not have any issues getting quick responses from an RFP.

“An RFP would get more than two responses,” he said. “People are still looking for work out there and this is not a complicated project.”

Breuler also asked the opinion of public works director Tom Woodard, whose department maintains the pier.

“When I deal with things like this, and you have Mr. Sego not responding when he is aware of our timeframe and importance of this project, I would personally move on,” Woodard said.

“If we have that kind of problem with him now, we could have a lot more problems with him down the road,” said Vosburgh.

Shaughnessy asked and received a consensus from the commissioners to authorize Perry to draft an RFP. Perry said she would have the RFP ready to present to the commission at its Oct. 4 meeting.

Holmes Beach fires building inspector

Holmes Beach building inspector Bob Shaffer, under fire from commissioners and citizens looking closely at the city’s past building department practices, was terminated last week while on vacation.

        During a Sept. 18 interview with The Islander, public works superintendent Joe Duennes said Shaffer went on a planned vacation until Sept. 30, and that before Shaffer left, he told Duennes he was considering resigning.

        A letter Sept. 19, however, indicated Shaffer’s employment had been terminated Sept. 18.

        On Sept. 21, Duennes said, “Something happened between when I talked to you last.” However, Duennes said he could not discuss it further because lawyers may become involved in the matter.

        The termination letter to Shaffer is signed by Duennes. It states, “Pursuant to Section XIV of the City of Holmes Beach Employee Handbook adopted by Ordinance 07-20, please be advised that your employment with the city of Holmes Beach is terminated as of Sept. 18, 2012.

        “I previously advised you of this decision by telephone the afternoon of Sept. 18, 2012. In accordance with Section XIV, the mayor has concurred with this decision.”

        The section referenced by the letter is from the handbook’s discipline policy, which states discipline is to correct improper behavior to improve services and maximize productivity, and lists one of the types of discipline as termination. It also states a department head, with the mayor’s concurrence, has the authority to terminate an employee.

        During the Sept. 18 talk with The Islander, Duennes emphasized Shaffer had not offered his resignation and expected he’d make his decision upon his return, or call during his vacation. Shaffer scheduled the time off about a month ago, Duennes said.

        “Without him around here, I’m pretty much overloaded,” Duennes added. “If Bob leaves I’ll be disappointed. He’s a great guy. It’s really a shame. He’d give the shirt off his back.”

        Shaffer’s departure comes at a time when the building department has been deluged with public records requests and questioned about its practices by Commissioner Jean Peelen, as well as commission candidate Judy Holmes Titsworth and others.

        Resident Mary Buonaugura criticized Shaffer for a failure to note any information beyond “acceptable” on inspections, but provided no reasons for her criticism or documentation of any problems.

        After looking at nine properties under construction, Titsworth criticized the mayor and building department for failing to enforce the building code and suggested the city consider an outside consultant such as the one employed by Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach to be contracted for plan reviews, applications and inspections.

        Peelen released a report Aug. 14 claiming a “lax land development code” — not staff — had led to construction of large out-of-scale homes and illegal use of ground-level enclosures. In the same report she called for the demotion of the building inspector.

        Shaffer and Duennes have defended the accusations, saying the new construction has been in accordance with state and city codes. Duennes blamed the city’s problems on the burgeoning vacation rental market.

        Mayor Rich Bohnenberger defended the department in a Sept. 14 fiscal year-end report, saying the building department underwent two audits with positive results, one increasing the flood-insurance discount and a second rating the department above most in the state on staffing, plans review and inspections.

        Former Holmes Beach public works superintendent John Fernandez, recently retired from his Longboat Key job as a building official, is assiting the department as a consultant, and now is filling in for Shaffer, helping Duennes with inspections and plan reviews.

        Fernandez said he has worked about 37 hours per month for the city. He retired recently from his position with Longboat Key, and told the Islander he would decline a fulltime job if it’s offered by Holmes Beach.

        Neither Bohnenberger nor Shaffer returned calls for comment.

High-speed transit needed for SRQ, but not likely soon

Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization director Mike Howe presented few short-term MPO plans for Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key officials to consider at the Island Transportation and Planning Organization Sept. 17 meeting.

He added that one idea that’s been kicked around by the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority for a number of years is a high-speed or premium transit system to and from the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, particularly going north and south.

The system is not part of the Tampa-Orlando high-speed rail system that was rejected by Gov. Rick Scott in 2011.

This system, Howe said, is well needed but has never gained momentum because of a lack of funding.

Howe said any such system would also be needed to run east and west to ease congestion to barrier islands in Sarasota and Manatee counties, as well as improve travel in the Lakewood Ranch area.

It’s an idea, however, that’s well into the future, Howe observed.

A current traffic problem, however, is what to do with the U.S. Highway 41/U.S. Highway 301 spine that merges near the Red Barn Flea Market, then travels past Manatee Memorial Hospital, across the Manatee River and into Palmetto before branching again into two separate highways past the convention center.

“This is a major choke point in downtown Bradenton,” Howe said.

About 100 people attended a recent charette on a proposal for a new bridge across the Manatee River.

The Florida Department of Transportation will prepare a report on options for the choke point, make a recommendation and the MPO will decide “where we go in the future,” said Howe.

In other business, Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger, the ITPO chairperson, thanked Anna Maria public works superintendent George McKay for his dedication to for the Florida Department of Transportation and other transportation committees.

Outgoing Manatee County Area Transit director Carl Hunsinger, who will be replaced Oct. 1 by William Steele, praised McKay and the island cities for working with MCAT and DOT. He noted how quickly McKay figured out how to give the island trolley more room to park at the Anna Maria City Pier while also allowing more room for vehicles to maneuver in the parking lot.

Hunsinger said Sarasota County Area Transit also is getting a new director and MCAT and SCAT heads will meet monthly.

FDLE concludes Morris-BBPD death review

A 15-member panel of Florida Department of Law Enforcement members and medical examiners met in Avon Park Sept. 19 to review the 2009 death investigation of Sheena Morris.

Morris, 25, was found dead New Year’s Day at the BridgeWalk Resort in Bradenton Beach. The case was initially ruled a suicide by District 12 medical examiner Dr. Russell Vega, but was changed in 2011.

Morris’ mother, Kelly Osborn, hired Dr. Michael Berkland, who convinced Vega to change the cause of death from suicide to undetermined based on his review of crime scene photos. It was Berkland’s opinion that the crime scene could have been staged.

Berkland has since fallen under scrutiny after a Pensacola storage unit he was renting was found to contain a number of human organs being preserved in household containers. Berkland’s reputation was further tarnished when it was revealed he had been twice fired from medical examiner duties.

The FDLE team, as well as medical examiners from the 5th and 10th districts found no fault with Bradenton Beach Police Detective Leonard Diaz’s investigation.

Vega also was at the Sept. 9 review, but attended as an observer and to answer questions from the FDLE SMART Panel, as to why he felt the cause of death needed to be changed. His responses were confidential, although the information may become public at a later date.

Morris was found hanging by a dog leash in the shower stall of her motel room. BBPD and Manatee County Sheriff’s Office investigators determined there was no evidence of foul play.

Diaz, accompanied to the review by Lt. John Cosby, presented the facts of his investigation to the review board. The presentation began at 9:30 a.m. and did not end until about 3:30 p.m.

Diaz said he could not discuss the details of the review, but said it was professional and intense.

BBPD issued a press release Sept. 20 as to the review process.

“The SMART Panel did not reinvestigate the case, rather, this independent panel objectively reviewed the investigation relying on the specialized expertise of the members to provide suggestions or recommendations regarding the case,” the release stated.

On Sept. 21, Cosby said the panel’s recommendations would be submitted to the BBPD within the next two weeks.

“The review consisted of the panel knowing the basics of the case, with one member being kept completely out of the loop until the review,” said Cosby. “As Diaz presented his case, they asked questions and he answered them.”

Cosby said Police Chief Sam Speciale requested the review following Osborn’s public campaign for justice in her daughter’s case.

Osborn has maintained her daughter was murdered and has been critical of the BBPD and its investigation.

Once the FDLE recommendations are received, Speciale is expected to announce an “administrative reopening” of the case, Cosby said.

“What we expect the recommendations will ask is for us to close out any possible loopholes just to strengthen our own findings,” said Cosby. “Anytime you do work on an old case, it technically has to be considered reopened.”

Cosby has been acting chief for two weeks while Speciale was hospitalized due to illness. Speciale is expected to miss another week of work, but should return around the time the FDLE recommendations are finalized.

“Our goal once we receive those recommendations is to ask FDLE for their assistance in our investigation,” said Cosby. “There has a been an appearance that BBPD has stood alone in this case, and we want to make sure that we don’t have anyone saying this was a one-sided deal when we close this case again.”

Cosby said the review process also consisted of SMART members using Osborn’s website, “Justice for Sheena,” where the family lists its primary concerns with the investigation, as well as their own theories.

“They had that site pulled up through the entire review process and asked questions relating to the family’s concerns,” he said. “So the family’s concerns were addressed in the process and one of our goals is to address the family’s concerns to the best of our ability.”

Osborn expressed frustration that she continues to be updated by the media, rather than law enforcement, but said she is confident the SMART Panel will determine the case was poorly investigated in its recommendation.

“I would find it hard to believe that this panel could not see the mishandling of the domestic violence call, not questioning our family, Sheena’s friends and most importantly the boyfriend, who was involved in the dispute,” said Osborn.

Osborn has consistently criticized the way the initial call to police was handled, and has called it a domestic violence case.

BBPD maintains the call was not a domestic violence-related call, rather another resort guest making a call to complain of loud voices.

Police responded to the BridgeWalk Resort and reported observing the boyfriend calmly leaving the scene.

The officers then made contact with Morris, who told them no physical violence had occurred, according to the police report, which was filed as a disturbance call.

The responding officers were the last to report seeing Morris alive.

Osborn said she has made contact with another witness, and said that witness has tried to talk to the BBPD, but has not been allowed.

Speciale previously said no such witness has come forward and he welcomed Osborn to present new evidence, but she has not done so.

Osborn said she welcomed the news that the case may be looked at further, but continues to resist the idea of BBPD remains involvement.

“My concern still remains the same and that is BBPD should not be the agency to handle any follow up,” she said.    Osborn has maintained her daughter was murdered and has been critical of the BBPD and its investigation.

Once the FDLE recommendations are received, Speciale is expected to announce an “administrative reopening” of the case, Cosby said.

“What we expect the recommendations will ask is for us to close out any possible loopholes just to strengthen our own findings,” said Cosby. “Anytime you do work on an old case, it technically has to be considered reopened.”

Cosby has been acting chief for two weeks while Speciale was hospitalized due to illness. Speciale is expected to miss another week of work, but should return around the time the FDLE recommendations are finalized.

“Our goal once we receive those recommendations is to ask FDLE for their assistance in our investigation,” said Cosby. “There has a been an appearance that BBPD has stood alone in this case, and we want to make sure that we don’t have anyone saying this was a one-sided deal when we close this case again.”

Cosby said the review process also consisted of SMART members using Osborn’s website, “Justice for Sheena,” where the family lists its primary concerns with the investigation, as well as their own theories.

“They had that site pulled up through the entire review process and asked questions relating to the family’s concerns,” he said. “So the family’s concerns were addressed in the process and one of our goals is to address the family’s concerns to the best of our ability.”

Osborn expressed frustration that she continues to be updated by the media, rather than law enforcement, but said she is confident the SMART Panel will determine the case was poorly investigated in its recommendation.

“I would find it hard to believe that this panel could not see the mishandling of the domestic violence call, not questioning our family, Sheena’s friends and most importantly the boyfriend, who was involved in the dispute,” said Osborn.

Osborn has consistently criticized the way the initial call to police was handled, and has called it a domestic violence case.

BBPD maintains the call was not a domestic violence-related call, rather another resort guest making a call to complain of loud voices.

Police responded to the BridgeWalk Resort and reported observing the boyfriend calmly leaving the scene.

The officers then made contact with Morris, who told them no physical violence had occurred, according to the police report, which was filed as a disturbance call.

The responding officers were the last to report seeing Morris alive.

Osborn said she has made contact with another witness, and said that witness has tried to talk to the BBPD, but has not been allowed.

Speciale previously said no such witness has come forward and he welcomed Osborn to present new evidence, but she has not done so.

Osborn said she welcomed the news that the case may be looked at further, but continues to resist the idea of BBPD involvement.

“My concern still remains the same and that is BBPD should not be the agency to handle any follow up,” she said.

Bradenton Beach man netted in child predator sting

Dozens of men ranging in ages 18-68 stand accused in Manatee County of seeking to have sex with a 14-year-old girl over the weekend of Sept. 16-17.

Among those arrested was Brandt Clark, 18, 104 11th St. S., Bradenton Beach.

Police say, in reality, Clark and the others were unknowingly caught up in an Internet Crimes Against Children investigation.

ICAC is a national network of 61 coordinated task forces, which was created to help federal, state and local law enforcement agencies enhance their investigative responses to those who use online technologies to sexually exploit children.

Clark was arrested Sept. 16, the second day of the investigation. According to the probable cause affidavit, Clark responded to an online ad that was headlined with “Saturday blues, Grandma’s house.”

The text in the ad stated, “Hey, I’m stuck house sitting, looking for a cutie to enjoy the day with. Hit me up with a pic and we can see where this goes.”

Police say Clark and the other men responded to the ad. Once the conversation turned sexual, the suspects were informed they were speaking with a 14-year-old girl, according to the report, and they soon arrived to the unlisted address provided for the fictional girl.

Some suspects drove from as far as Orlando, Naples, Arcadia, Mulberry and Port Charlotte. Others drove from Sarasota, Brandon and from within Manatee County.

Clark is charged with felony use of a computer to seduce a child. He was booked into the Manatee County jail and, as of press time, remained in custody on $50,000 bond.

He is scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. Friday, Oct. 12, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Police allege hate crime against BB man

A Bradenton Police Department officer allegedly became the victim Sept. 18 of a 19-year-old Bradenton Beach man.

According to the probable cause affidavit, police responded to a fight in the 400 block of 12th Street West in Bradenton. Upon arrival, the officer was confronted by Zachary Gennell, 2112 Ave. A, Bradenton Beach.

Police said Gennell was intoxicated and became combative toward the officer in the patrol car. The officer said Gennell used “vulgar language.”

Gennell is then alleged to have put his face in the open window of the vehicle and “intentionally” spit on the officer’s right arm, according to the report.

Police said Gennell shouted racial slurs toward the Hispanic officer and claimed he was a member of the Arian Brotherhood, a white supremacy group.

Gennell was arrested for felony battery on a law enforcement officer, misdemeanor disorderly intoxication and felony evidencing prejudice.

He was booked into the Manatee County jail and, as of press time, remained in custody on $9,120 bond. Gennell is scheduled for arraignment at 9 a.m. Friday, Oct. 19, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

HB construction worker nabbed for alleged fraud

A Holmes Beach construction worker was arrested Sept. 19 on felony worker compensation fraud.

Detectives from the Florida departments of financial services and insurance fraud booked Bradenton resident Miguel Damian-Jimenez, 31, into the Manatee County jail on $1,500 bond. Damian-Jimenez posted bond the following day.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Damian-Jimenez filed a worker compensation claim Jan. 10 using a Social Security card that did not belong to him.

When the number came up as belonging to someone else, the case was forwarded to the two investigating agencies.

Detectives investigated his employment paperwork Sept. 18, at Beach to Bay Construction, 5702 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach. According to the report, Damian-Jimenez used someone else’s Social Security card and a fake Alien Registration Card to gain employment as a laborer at the construction company.

According to the report, Damian-Jimenez is a Mexican national and, when shown the documents he used to gain employment by the detectives, he allegedly admitted that he purchased the two cards for $80 each.

He is scheduled for arraignment at 9 a.m. Friday, Oct. 19, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.