Affidavit: Walmart video helped crack vandalism case

HIGHLANDS COUNTY - Two adults and a juvenile reportedly admitted to authorities they shot out business windows throughout the U.S. 27 corridor in Highlands County and the downtown areas, but gave no reason for the vandalism spree late last month, arrest affidavits state. But the arrest affidavits provide insight into how law enforcement identified and located the suspects. Steve Houchin, assistant state attorney, who is in charge of the state attorney’s office in Highlands County, said there’s no doubt he will seek restitution for more than 75 businesses that suffered thousands of dollars of damages. “This was a senseless crime,” Houchin said.
Michael W. Brown, 46, 3216 Baxter Ave., and Anthony Keen, 13, 5415 DeSoto Road, both of Sebring, and Cody S. Dayfort, 18, 135 Melear Dairy Road, Zolfo Springs, were arrested last week in connection with the vandalism. Brown and Dayfort were each charged with 54 counts of throwing a missile into a dwelling, vehicle, building or aircraft; 42 counts of misdemeanor criminal mischief; 13 counts of felony criminal mischief; eight counts of grand theft of a fire extinguisher and one count of contributing to a delinquency of a minor. An arrest report for Keen was not released since he is a minor. Arrest reports indicate that a review of a Walmart surveillance video in Sebring was a key to cracking the case. Michael Hirsch, a detective with the Sebring Police Department, said he examined the video and saw a silver van with three men at Walmart and that the van was similar to a vehicle suspected of being used for transportation in vandalism incidents in Lake Placid. The arrest report for Brown states that two men and a juvenile were seen on the Walmart video March 24 at 4 a.m., and that the juvenile was “observed stealing certain items.” Information and video was then given to the Highland County Sheriff’s Office’s Safe Neighborhoods Unit, which searched the DeSoto City area for the van, because it was believed the first incident occurred in the area at Jim’s Salvage Yard, Hirsch said. That search led to the unit’s discovery of the van, he added. Sebring Police Cmdr. Steve Carr said that “good old fashioned police work” with law officers “beating the streets” led to the arrests.