Ring of Criminals Connected To 50 Burglaries Arrested
Published April 18th, 2014
MELROSE - A crime wave in the Melrose area may have come to an end.
A ring of criminals is under arrest. They are being charged in connection with more than 50 burglaries in 4 different counties. Three adults and three juveniles have been arrested; however officials say more arrests are anticipated.
Residents of Melrose say unusual things have been happening in their community lately. "Our gas can was taken from our car port," said neighbor Lavonne Mackey.
While details are still being released on an ongoing investigation, the Putnam County Sheriff's deputies have arrested three juveniles along with three adults-- Frederick Martin and a couple by the name of Casey Gaffney and Michael Lavane for burglary, grand theft, and criminal mischief.
"I mean anyone could have walked by and taken it,” she added.
The juveniles are all 14 years old and face felony charges. Gaffney and Lavane are parents of one of the juveniles. They are also being charged with child neglect.
"I wouldn't necessarily think that they had to be the people that did it," said Mackey.
Mackey, who has been living in this community for five years, says she knew the family from a distance. "I speak to the children; they've helped me do yard work. We've talked about my puppy dog and so on."
The couple was released on a bond of $3,500 dollars each. I spoke to Lavane off camera and he says that he and his wife had nothing to do with the burglaries and instead blamed it on their kid’s friends.
In the home, detectives discovered hundreds of stolen items associated with more than 50 burglaries spanning in four different counties: Alachua, Putnam, Bradford, and Clay.
"Those neighbors have lost something... Buildings have been broken into, like the church. Somebody broke windows in the church. The dry cleaner was broken into. Yeah, the word is out that something was going on," said Mackey.
Many neighbors who wouldn't go on camera for safety reasons tell me there's been a lot of questionable activity in Melrose lately. They tell me that three weeks ago a house burned down, killing an elderly lady. And that Monday morning, a gas station also caught fire leaving only debris and rubble behind.
A statement released by the Putnam County Sheriff says, "I am very proud of everyone involved in solving these cases. However, this investigation is not over. Additional arrests are definitely anticipated."
"I think it's really sad and I am sorry for the children," said Mackey.
Neighbors say dive teams were searching the Santa Fe Lake and Melrose Bay earlier this week. And that this makes them believe that some of the stolen items may have been disposed of in the water.
We unable to reach the Putnam County Sheriff's Office for comment on that.
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