On Tuesday, November 12, 2002, a woman, while dropping off one of her grandchildren at Wahneta Elementary School, observed a suspicious-looking man in the vicinity of the school who appeared to have a gun. The grandmother reported this to School Crossing Guards Linda Rippy and Lorelei Stoddard, who immediately gave the information to Sheriff's deputies assigned to that area. Deputy Michael Haygood found the man in question standing near Ave A and 3rd Street East in Wahneta. The man, identified as Richard Gene Roberts, DOB 8/14/66, of 100 Evergreen Place SE Apt. 506 in Winter Haven, was not armed at that time, so Deputy Haygood filled out a Field Interview Report with his information. No children were threatened or harmed, although Roberts was seen within a half a block of the school. Deputies patrolling the area kept an eye out for Roberts' presence in the area throughout the rest of the week.
Meanwhile, Detective Matthew Newbold, assigned to Central District, was investigating an armed burglary that occurred between November 9-10 at 243 East Eagle Lake Loop Road, where 4 firearms were taken. His investigation revealed Roberts was the suspect in this case. Det. Newbold recovered one weapon, a 22-caliber rifle, at a residence in Eagle Lake, where he learned Roberts had actually sold the stolen weapon. On November 14, Det. Newbold visited a friend of Roberts' residence in Wahneta to interview Roberts, but Roberts fled the scene upon his arrival.
Det. Newbold developed enough probable cause
to obtain a warrant for Roberts' arrest on November 14, 2002. Ridge
District deputies located Roberts on November 15, 2002, at 4090 Pinto Way
in Lake Wales and placed him under arrest without incident. Roberts
was booked into the Polk County Jail, where he is being held on no bond.
Roberts faces the following charges, which fall under the state's
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