CCSO: HISTORY THAT MATTERS
The Citrus County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) is the primary law enforcement agency (with two incorporated municipalities, the City of Inverness and the City of Crystal River) servicing a population of over 158,000 residents in 773.15 square miles of Citrus County, Florida.
Some historians date the Office of the Sheriff, or rather its prototype, to the ancient Roman proconsul. Others date it to pre-Anglo-Saxon times and indicate that it may have been derived from Saxon Germany before the ninth century. (Morris, 1916)
The office of the Sheriff is one of antiquity. It is the oldest law enforcement office known within the common-law system and it has always been accorded great dignity and high trust. Evidence is available to prove that this office existed as early as the ninth century, but the exact genesis is not clearly known. (Morris, 1916)
The Office of Sheriff in the State of Florida was authorized and established by the Constitution of 1885. The Constitution of 1968 (effective January 7, 1969), now the state document, provides that a Sheriff shall be elected in each county (except those with home rule providing otherwise) for a term of four years and that his powers, duties, and compensation shall be prescribed by law. (Fla. Const., amend. MCMLXVIII) The first election to fill the office of Sheriff was held in 1888, and regular elections have taken place every four years since that time. In Florida, the Sheriff holds the traditional role of conservator of the peace and executive officer of the courts.
*Map Credit: Courtesy of the private collection of Roy Winkelma, Atlas of the World (Chicago, IL: Rand McNally & Co., 1888)
The Citrus County Sheriff's Office began operations on June 2, 1887, when Citrus County was created with the signature of Governor Edward A. Perry. The area of Citrus County was formerly part of Hernando County and was named for the county's citrus groves. The original county seat was located at Mannfield and later moved to Inverness, which was named after its sister city in Scotland by a settler of Scottish descent.
Citrus County has appropriately dubbed itself the "Nature Coast." Much of its territory is preserved in state forests and parks, including "Nature’s Fish Bowl” Homosassa Springs, Lake Tsala Apopka, the manatee sanctuaries at Crystal River, and the site of Seminole War-era Ft. Cooper. (Bridger, Dodson, & Maddox, 2014)
Bridger, K., Dodson, J., & Maddox, G. (2014, September). Final TMDL Report Nutrient TMDLs for Homosassa–Trotter–Pumphouse Springs Group, Bluebird Springs, and Hidden River Springs (WBIDs 1345G, 1348A, and 1348E). Retrieved June 2, 2020, from https://floridadep.gov/sites/default/files/Homosassa-nutr-TMDL.pdf
Fla. Const., amend. MCMLXVIII.
Morris, W. A. (1916). The Office of Sheriff in the Anglo-Saxon Period. The English Historical Review, XXXI(CXXI), 20-40. doi:10.1093/ehr/xxxi.cxxi.20
Since its creation, 12 Sheriffs have had a hand in molding our great office-
Sheriff James Craig “J.C.” Priest (1887-1896)
Sheriff Priest was the first sheriff of Citrus County in 1887. He was one of many leaders in the community of the Inverness faction that voted in favor of moving the county seat permanently to Inverness from its temporary location in Mannfield.
Sheriff Augustus Theodore “A. T.” Priest (1896-1904)
A.T. Priest is the brother of J.C. Priest, Citrus County’s first sheriff. Sheriff Priest served the citizens of Citrus County for two terms before his departure.
Sheriff George R. Carter (1904-1906) (1907-1917)
George Carter was Citrus County’s third sheriff. The Carter house was the first house in Inverness to have a bathroom and was one of the first 13 buildings in Inverness to be “wired up” when electricity came to Citrus County in 1913. Sheriff Carter was briefly suspended by the Governor in 1906 for failure to “properly protect a prisoner but was reinstated later by the Legislature.
Sheriff E. Port Graham (1906-1907)
Sheriff Graham was commissioned to replace suspended Sheriff Carter from August 8, 1906, until the end of Senate, 1907. Sheriff Graham was formally reinstated on May 10, 1907.
Sheriff Basil Orvillie “B.O.” Bowden (1917-1928)
Sheriff Bowden was three months old when his father was accidentally killed during a hunting trip. He was six years old when his mother passed away. Bowden attended school and lived a limited life working at a young age as a farmer in Brooksville. In 1904, Sheriff Bowden established the Dade City Star, a popular weekly publication that he would later sell out in 1915. He later purchased and became editor and owner of the Citrus County Chronicle, a paper that has been published since 1892. During his tenure as sheriff, Bowden diminished debts (where the sheriff’s office had been running a deficit for several years), reclaiming honor and proper order in Citrus County.
Sheriff Charles S. Dean (1928-1946)
Sheriff Dean is the father to future Citrus County Sheriff Charles S. Dean Sr. Sheriff Dean was a big man with a John Wayne style of enforcement.
Sheriff Frank Morris (1946-1952)
Sheriff Morris was a resident of Floral City with his wife, Cora. Sheriff Morris was a crane operator at a local phosphate mine until it went out of business. He then became sheriff of Citrus County, serving for six years. Sheriff Frank Morris received a letter recently from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover expressing appreciation for Morris’ assistance during the investigation, which led to the arrest of Wilmer Lee Stebens and Roy Antholz, two escaped criminals.
Sheriff Burton R. Quinn (1953-1980)
Elected into office in 1953, Sheriff Quinn had previously served in the U.S. Army during World War II. During his tenure as Sheriff, he was actually shot in the stomach in 1956 while trying to personally mitigate a domestic dispute. Sheriff Quinn served on the Florida Sheriff's Association's Board of Directors for the Third District.
Sheriff Charles S. Dean Sr. (1980-1996)
Sheriff Dean, Sr is the son of Charles S. Dean, the Citrus County Sheriff from 1928-1946. In 1980, Dean ran for sheriff against opponents Burton Quinn and Edwin Graham in the Democratic primary, whom he defeated by a wide margin, winning 50% of the vote to Quinn’s 40% and Graham’s 10%. Dean was sheriff until 1996, when he ran for State Senator and was defeated by Anna Cowin, a Lake County School Board Member.
Sheriff Terry C. LaCasse (1996-1997)
Sheriff LaCasse graduated from the FBI Academy in 1983. He obtained an Associate’s Degree and a Bacherlor’s Degree from St Leo College. In 1993 he graduated from UCF with a Master’s Degree. LaCasse served in the US Air Force as a sergeant from 1996-1970. He was a detective in Pompano Beach from 1970-1981. In 1981 he came to work for the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, eventually obtaining the rank of captain before being appointed sheriff in 1996 by Gov. Lawton Chiles after Sheriff Charles Dean Sr. resigned to run for State Senate.
Sheriff Jeffrey J. Dawsy (1997-2017)
After earning an honorable discharge from the Air Force, he went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Nova University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice from St. Leo College. He is a graduate of the Chief Executive Seminar and National Sheriff’s Institute. Sheriff Dawsy worked in the criminal justice profession for over 25 years. During that time, he achieved the ranks of Deputy Sheriff, Patrol Sergeant, Patrol Lieutenant, Assistant Patrol Commander, and Captain of the Emergency Operations/911 Center. In 1996, he was elected sheriff of the county. In 2000, he was unopposed in the race for sheriff. In 2004, 2008, and 2012 he was successful in his run for re-election.
Sheriff Michael Prendergast (2017-Present)
Elected to office in November 2016, Sheriff Mike Prendergast became Citrus County’s 12th Sheriff. Before his swearing-in, Sheriff Prendergast served as the Executive Director of the Florida Department of Veteran’s Affairs under former Governor Rick Scott. He also served his country for 31 years on active duty as a Military Police Officer and retired from his dedicated military career on October 1, 2009. Sheriff Prendergast earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with Special Honors and a dual major in Political Science and Sociology from Jacksonville State University. He achieved a Master of Arts degree with a major in International Relations and a Certificate in African Studies from the University of Florida, a Master of Public Administration degree with a concentration in Public Management from Troy University, and a Master of Strategic Studies degree from the United States Army War College. Sheriff Prendergast believes in the importance of education amongst his leadership and pushes his executive staff to achieve higher education while he serves as a mentor to many law enforcement officers.
Under the current administration, the CCSO is divided into two bureaus:
The Bureau of Law Enforcement Operations is responsible for providing primary law enforcement services to the approximately 150,000 residents of Citrus County, including the incorporated areas of Inverness and Crystal River. Services provided by this bureau include sheriff patrols, detective investigations, court security, civil processes, and law enforcement training, as well as accreditation functions. The operations of the divisions under this bureau collaterally augment the agency by assisting with the mission of delivering excellence in public safety.
The Bureau of Support Operations is comprised of highly trained specialized units that provide the vital resources necessary for the daily operations of the Sheriff’s Office to fulfill its vision to make Citrus County the safest community in Florida. Operations here encompass the areas of emergency dispatch, search and rescue, training, and the specialized units of Aviation, Mounted Posse Unit, Hazardous Devices Team, and many more. The men and women under this bureau strive to develop positive working relationships with the community members it serves.
On September 1, 2009, Animal Control Officers (ACO’s) joined the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office’s Special Operations Unit. ACO’s respond to complaints involving domestic animals and livestock, including calls involving animals that are abused, dangerous, or a nuisance to the citizens of Citrus County. They have the authority to remove these animals and issue citations for violations of the county’s Animal Control ordinance.
By working together with our community partners, we will continue to build upon our rich legacy of professionalism.
In 2000, the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation (CFA) awarded the Sheriff’s Office state accreditation after the agency demonstrated proficiency in more than 230 policies and procedures. These standards cover everything, specifically training of sworn personnel, hiring and promotional guidelines, and strict financial accountability. Our agency passed with a 100% rating, only one in a few in CFA history.
In 2005, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Deputy Unit received national recognition as being a model SRD program. A School Resource Deputy (SRD) is a law enforcement officer who is assigned to either an elementary, middle, or high school. The main goal of the SRD is to prevent juvenile delinquency by promoting positive relations between youth and law enforcement. This program encompasses three major components that allow the SRD to achieve this goal: law enforcement, education, and counseling.
Nearly two decades after the agency’s first accreditation, the Florida Corrections Accreditation Commission, Inc. (FCAC) and The Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation, Inc. (CFA) reaccredited the CCSO in October of 2019. Eleven agencies reaccredited by the Commissions earned their Excelsior status, including the CCSO. Excelsior status is awarded after five successful reaccreditations without conditions.
Fallen Deputy Sheriffs
On May 11th of, 2021, CCSO unveiled a memorial to honor the fallen deputies of the Citrus County Sheriff's Office. The memorial is located at the Sheriff’s Office Headquarters in Inverness and will serve as an everlasting reminder of the brave deputies who made the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of our community. With this monument, we remember those who have served our community with dignity, honor, and courage. May they never be forgotten.
The names of those who gave their lives while serving Citrus County will be forever memorialized in this monument. To date, the following fallen officers’ names are inscribed on this monument:
Name: J.W Newsome
Title: City Marshal (Floral City Marshal’s Office)
Born: April 28th, 1875
End of Watch: Tuesday, March 3, 1908
Floral City Marshal J.W Newsome died on Tuesday, March 3, 1908, at the age of 32. Newsome received a tip, which is now perceived to be a false one, on a man that was wanted for an earlier shooting. The goal of the person who sent the tip in was to “lure” the Marshal to the saloon. When arriving at the local saloon, an illegal liquor establishment, Marshal Newsome was shot and killed. Newsome advised the suspect he was under arrest, and when the suspect began to raise his gun Newsome grabbed his as well. They shot simultaneously but Marshal Newsome was hit and died instantly.
The Line of Duty death was apparently and unfortunately “forgotten” by local officials and later rediscovered by Dr. Wilbanks in 1996. His death was then brought to the attention of Sheriff Charles Dean of Citrus County and Sheriff Dean then certified Newsome’s death. Newsome is remembered today for his dedication and bravery. The names and whereabouts of his descendants are unknown because after the death of J.W Newsome, they left town for “parts unknown” and they’re not listed in the 1900 FL census. It is known that he was survived by his wife, three children, and two brothers. J.W Newsome’s grave can be found in the Hills of Rest Cemetery in Floral City, FL.
Name: James McIntosh McMullen
Title: Deputy Sheriff
Born: November 6th, 1852
End of Watch: Tuesday, December 26th, 1899
Deputy James McIntosh McMullen, was assassinated at his home on December 26, 1899, at the age of 47 years old. McMullen is a decedent of the most prominent pioneer family of Pinellas County. Deputy James McIntosh McMullen served in the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office in the late 1800s as a sheriff’s deputy. He was the first law enforcement officer of Citrus County to be killed in the line of duty. The assassin of McMullen was a fugitive from justice, and after the assassination, the killer fled the scene. It is still unknown if he ever was apprehended.
McMullen was born on November 6th, 1852, in Thomas County, GA, and he is one of seven children. Deputy McMullen’s grave can be found at the McMullen cemetery next to their log cabin in Pinellas County. In 1997, Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy certified the name of James McIntosh McMullen to the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C. James McMullen’s death was brought to CCSO’s attention by Dr. Wilbanks. Deputy McMullen was survived by his wife and two children. McMullen is a hero that is remembered today, and the sacrifices he made will never be forgotten.
Name: Aubrey Fred Johnson
Title: Master Detective
End of Watch: Tuesday, February 11th, 1997
Cause: Automobile crash
While on duty, Master Detective Aubrey Fred Johnson sadly died from an automobile crash. At the time of the accident, Detective Fred Johnson was 61 years old. The accident happened on Tuesday, February 11th, 1997. While driving on duty, Master Detective Johnson’s car collided with another car and then continued to hit a utility pole. Johnson was dedicated to the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office with a total service of 16 years. We continue to honor and mourn Detective Fred Johnson and those whose watch have ended much too soon.
America’s Most Famous Female Serial Killer
On June 1, 1990, the body of David Spears was located in Citrus County. Investigators with the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office were able to work with other Florida law enforcement officers and link this case to one of America’s most famous female serial killer, Aileen Wuornos.
Aileen “Lee” Carol Wuornos was born February 29, 1956, in Rochester, Michigan. Her father was convicted of child molestation and killed himself in prison. Wuornos’ mother abandoned her and her brother when they were young, leaving them with her parents. Childhood friends said that Wuornos’ grandfather beat her and her grandmother was an alcoholic. (The Facts, n.d.)
By the early 1980s, after her brother’s death from cancer, Wuornos moved to Florida to work as a prostitute. She frequently was in trouble with the law, for being a prostitute and for other crimes.
From late 1989 through late 1990, the bodies of 6 middle-aged white men were discovered in central Florida. The assailant had robbed all of the victims before shooting them to death and stealing their cars. During the murder investigations, Volusia County police discovered items belonging to Richard Mallory (Wuornos’ first victim) at a local pawn shop, with a receipt showing Wuornos’ thumbprint. (The Facts, n.d.)
Police were able to trace other stolen items from Mallory to Wuornos. A camera from Mallory’s automobile was found inside a rented warehouse unit, which was opened with a key taken from Wuornos. Wuornos had rented the unit under an alias.
Wuornos was charged with the first-degree murder of Richard Mallory, armed robbery with a firearm or deadly weapon, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Prosecutors argued Wuornos qualified for the death penalty based on the charge of murder committed in the course of a robbery.
Wuornos’s capital trial for the murder of Richard Mallory began on January 13, 1992. The jury recommended the death sentence by a vote of 12-0. The judge followed the jury’s recommendation of death and sentenced Wuornos to the electric chair on January 31, 1992. (Aileen c. Wuornos vs. the State of Florida, 1992) Later that year, Wuornos would also be found guilty of the murders of her other victims (Humphreys, Carskaddon, Spears, Burress, and Antonio). No charges were brought against her for the murder of Peter Siems, as his body was never found. In all, she received six death sentences.
On October 9, 2002, Aileen Wuornos was executed by lethal injection at Florida State Prison. In her last statement, Wuornos said, “I'd just like to say I'm sailing with the rock, and I'll be back like Independence Day, with Jesus June 6. Like the movie, big mother ship and all, I'll be back." She was pronounced dead at 9:47 a.m. Aileen Wuornos was the tenth woman to be executed in the United States since 1976 and the second woman ever executed in Florida. (The Facts, n.d.)
Aileen c. Wuornos vs. the State of Florida (The Circuit Court of the Seventh Judicial Circuit in and for Volusia County), SC00- 1199 (Fla. 1992)
The Case of Aileen Wuornos - The Facts: Capital Punishment in Context. (n.d.). Retrieved on June 3, 2020, from https://capitalpunishmentincontext.org/cases/wuornos
A Case to Remember
The Citrus County Sheriff's Office made national headlines with its investigation of the gruesome rape and murder of Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old Homosassa girl.
Jessica was an innocent nine-year-old girl who lived in Homosassa at the time she was kidnapped and buried alive by John Couey. Couey was a 46-year-old convicted sex offender who lived nearby and abducted Jessica from her bedroom in the early morning on February 24, 2005.
At 5:30 a.m. that morning, when Jessica’s father was getting ready for work, he noticed his daughter was gone. The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, along with hundreds of volunteers pour into the area searching for Jessica. John Evander Couey was named a person of interest due to his criminal background of sexual offenses and for failing to reside at his registered address.
On March 12, Couey was arrested in Augusta, Georgia, for questioning about Jessica Lunsford's disappearance. Couey stated he did not have anything to do with the nine-year-old disappearance and had moved to Georgia to find a job, only knowing about it from the television news. (John Couey vs. the State of Florida, 2007) He was released from police custody after being interviewed.
Days later, investigators finally received a crack in the case at the home of Couey’s sister, Dorothy Dixon. Dixon’s home was located on West Snowbird Court, just yards away from the Lunsford home. Dixon allowed CCSO officials into the home, where they located bloodstained evidence in Couey’s bedroom.
On March 17, 2005, twenty-one days after Jessica Lunsford’s disappearance, Couey was arrested and charged with her murder and transported to the Citrus County jail. The next day, Couey made an audio-recorded and videotaped confession to CCSO officials of the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Jessica.
In his graphic confession, Couey said that he had intended to just burglarize the Lunsford's home but saw Jessica and "acted on impulse, and he took her." He entered Lunsford's house at about three o'clock in the morning through an unlocked door, awakened Lunsford, told her, "Don't yell or nothing", and told her to follow him out of the house. Couey admitted to raping Jessica in his bedroom, keeping her in his bed that evening, where he raped her again in the morning. Couey put her in his closet and ordered her to remain there, which she did as he went to work. Three days after he abducted her, Couey tricked Jessica into getting into two garbage bags by saying he was going to "take her home.” Instead, he cruelly buried her alive.
In the early morning hours of March 19, despite efforts made by detectives and personnel from our office, as well as numerous community organizations, Jessica’s lifeless body was uncovered at Couey’s residence, buried in a plastic bag in a hole of approximately 2½' deep and 2' circular. We will NEVER forget the pain the Lunsford family felt to learn that their precious Jessica would not be returning home.
Unable to seat an impartial jury in Citrus County, the trial for Jessica’s murder was moved to Miami. On March 7, 2007, Couey was found guilty of all charges in relation to Lunsford's death, including first-degree murder, kidnapping, burglary with assault or battery upon any person, and capital sexual battery. (John Couey vs. the State of Florida, 2007)
The jury deliberated for four hours, tasked with recommending either life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty, the only two possible sentences available under Florida law. A week later, after about one hour and 15 minutes of deliberation, a jury recommended Couey be sentenced to death.
On August 24, 2007, a judge convicted Couey for the kidnapping, sexual battery, and first-degree murder of Lunsford, and sentenced him to death. However, Couey died of natural causes in 2009, before his sentence could be carried out. (Blanco, n.d.)
Detectives and the entire CCSO worked tirelessly to bring justice for this young girl, including passing the Jessica Lunsford Act. This act significantly altered Florida’s Sexual Offender and Predator Registration Laws, resulting in tougher registration requirements and increased penalties for violations.
Today, we proudly support and utilize Jessie’s Place - a Children’s Advocacy Center located right here in Citrus County. The center was designed to be a warm and welcoming place, so child victims of abuse and neglect have a safe haven to tell their story and begin the road to recovery.
Blanco, J. I. (n.d.). John Couey: Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers. Retrieved on June 3, 2020, from https://murderpedia.org/male.C/c/couey-john-evander.htm
John Couey vs. the State of Florida (The Circuit Court of the Fifth Judicial Circuit in and for Citrus County), SC07-1636 (Fla. 2007)
Largest Drug Bust in CCSO History
On June 14, 2019 our Tactical Impact Unit, in partnership with the Florida Department of Corrections Probation Office, completed the largest drug seizure in the history of the Citrus County Sheriff's Office.
We seized 167 grams of methamphetamine, 100.2 grams of cocaine, 691 tablets of prescription drug cyclobenzaprine, 89 tablets of prescription drug tizanidine, 60 pills of MDMA/Molly, 1,960 grams of leaf cannabis and 30.1 pounds of processed cannabis wax, totaling 34.3 pounds of cannabis.
Collectively, the street value of these illegal substances was estimated to be $970,000.
Want to help us write history? Join our Team! Work with the best of the best in law enforcement. We have a variety of positions available that include full employer-paid benefits. Visit our “Join CCSO” quick link on the homepage to view our current opportunities or call our office at (352)726-4488 for more information.