LAKE PLACID - Efforts by an association to improve the Highway Park community, which has had crime problems, have been beginning to take hold, Tiffany Green, president of the Highway Park Neighborhood Council, said.
Now she's afraid that actions by a few will overshadow the improvement efforts.
Green talked about Highway Park hours after Lee Andrew Thomas Jr., 34, of Moore Haven, was shot about 2 a.m. near Highway Park Liquors on Vision Street. As of Monday afternoon, no one had been arrested.
A news release from Nell Hays, Highlands County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman, said the homicide occurred at the community's Easter gathering, but Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton said the sheriff's office was not notified they were holding one.
She said in years past organizers of the Easter event called Hushmouth Flawda advertised it extensively on social media, but none of that was apparent this year.
Still, she said, it does appear that some people showed up for an event that has been held for years in the community.
The sheriff's office had two more deputies on duty last night, in sharp contrast to when 41 deputies were assigned in 2011 to the Easter celebration, which drew more than 3,000 participants.
Green, whose organization has had no connection to Hushmouth Flawda, said she doesn't recall any deaths being associated with it. She said it was her understanding that people would gather during the day, but would go to different events or family gatherings afterward.
She speculated that people showed up for Hushmouth Flawda as they have done every year. When they found it wasn't being held, they spent the day and the evening at Highway Park Liquors. There's the potential for a problem at any bar, in Highway Park or elsewhere, she said.
On a positive note, she said, her organization held a Gospel concert over the weekend. More people have become involved in the organization, which has sought more street lighting on U.S. 27, has worked to maintain the local cemetery and has worked on other projects, she said.
Anyone with information about the homicide is requested to contact the Highlands County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigations Unit and Detective Roger St. Laurent at (863) 402-7447 or (863) 402-7250. Anyone with information who wants to remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward is asked to call Heartland Crime Stoppers at (800) 226-TIPS(8477), go to www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com.