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What Would Have Happened?

By:  Sheriff Mike Prendergast

On the night of Sunday, April 2, deputies were called to a home on E. Benjamin St. in our very own small town of Hernando because a frantic witness there reported a woman was being stabbed.  When they responded, what they encountered was gruesome and horrifying.  Brandi Blevins, 42, had been stabbed multiple times with a sword and then run over with a truck by Eric Huffman, 41.  According to one of our forensics technicians, the scene “looked like something out of a horror movie.”

After committing the crime, Huffman fled the area on foot and we were able to apprehend him in the neighborhood shortly thereafter.  That’s the short version of the story… it’s the backstory that makes this important for you.  When the cavalry arrived at the home on E. Benjamin St. to assist the victim, quick-thinking deputies used a tool we have in our crime-fighting arsenal called Alert Citrus to notify residents within a one-mile radius of the crime to be on the lookout for the suspect.

Enter recent Citizens’ Academy graduate, Susan Bell, who lives in that area and was home alone at the time of the incident.  Susan and her husband began attending the agency’s Citizens’ Academy in January and just graduated from the 12-week program this past Thursday, April 6.  

“As a result of attending the classes, our household signed up for the Alert Citrus System,” Susan said in a letter to Heather Yates, Director of Community Relations at the agency.  “In addition, we were instructed by Crime Prevention Dep. Nancy Suto to keep our houses well lit and our doors locked.”

Susan followed those instructions to a tee.  Because of that, she received the emergency notification call because she lived in the area.  This is what the alert said: “The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office is actively looking for an armed and dangerous suspect in your area. Please stay inside your residence and lock all doors and windows and report any suspicious activity to 911. The suspect is described as a white male approximately 6 foot 3 inches wearing a white t-shirt and has multiple tattoos. If you see anyone matching this description, avoid the person and call 911 immediately.”  Because of this call, Susan took action.  Here is how she described the incident. 

“I received the call after 11 pm and my husband was out of town.  I was in bed watching the late night news on TV.  I had locked all my doors and windows and had the front lights on the house.  I got up out of bed and turned on the back lights.  Then, I went into the kitchen and turned on the back porch lights.”
Here is where it gets interesting.  “I saw a man sitting up against my door with a rug over his head,” she continued.  “I backed away and started to think about what to do.  As I walked to the front of my house, I saw red and blue flashing lights.  Without stopping, I went right out the front door and flagged the officer down, stating that there was a man on my lanai.”  Deputies immediately responded in full force to Susan’s backyard, where they found a scantily clad Huffman and took him into custody without incident.  He confessed to the horrific murder and is now sitting in our county jail.

There is clearly a moral to this story.  Alert Citrus can save lives.  All it takes is a few minutes of your time.  Simply visit our website at sheriffcitrus.org and click on the red box that says “Sign Up for Alert Citrus.”  In just a few moments, you’ll be ready to receive potentially life-saving information.  Take it from Susan.
“I would like to thank the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office for the valuable services they provide the community with the Citizens’ Academy,” she said in her letter.  “This 12-week class has provided me with information that protected me from what could have been unthinkable harm.”  “After this incident,” Susan explained to her Citizens’ Academy classmates before their graduation ceremony, “I wondered what would have happened if we had not signed up for Alert Citrus.  This is only one personal example of how this public service helps the community.”

Even though the chances are very slim there will be a homicide in your neck of the woods, Alert Citrus provides updates on a slew of safety issues.  It is utilized for sexual predator notifications, severe weather alerts, potentially hazardous situation notifications, boil water notices, crime trends in your area, major traffic events, like the Sabal Pipeline incident, and much more. 

With the upcoming hurricane season quickly approaching, now is the perfect time for you to do your part to ensure your family’s safety.  Remember what could have happened if you don’t.

 

 

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