Triple homicide, Tiger Woods arrest: Jupiter’s top 5 stories in 2017

Updated Dec 19, 2017
Kelli Doherty (left), Sean Henry and Brandy El-Salhy were shot to death on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, in the backyard of a Jupiter home. (Photos provided to The Palm Beach Post)

The case was closed when a second man was arrested Nov. 29.

Marcus Steward, 25, was arrested on three first-degree murder charges in Riviera Beach by the United States Marshals Service. The West Palm Beach-area man also faces one count of attempted murder and one car-theft charge in the Feb. 5 Mohawk Street shootings that killed Kelli J. Doherty, Sean P. Henry and Brandi El-Salhy.

Christopher Vasata was arrested in March on three counts of first-degree murder in the shooting. Vasata faces the death penalty.

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Drugs were at the core of the triple homicide, according to police and court documents.

“Due to the collaborative efforts of all agencies, a dangerous individual will no longer threaten our community,” Jupiter Police Chief Frank Kitzerow said in an emailed statement about the arrest. “At this time, there is no further evidence to indicate any other suspects were involved in this incident; and therefore, the case is now closed.”

The family of Perry Cohen, one of the two Tequesta teenagers lost at sea in 2015, in July filed a wrongful death lawsuit in state court against the family of Austin Stephanos, the other teen lost at sea.

The announcement came just days before the two-year anniversary of the boys’ disappearance from the Jupiter Inlet.

Cohen and Stephanos left the Jupiter Inlet on July 24, 2015 on a 19-foot boat about 11 a.m. One of the boys sent a Snapchat photo of an approaching storm. Witnesses said as boats were making their way back into the inlet, the boys continued out into the darkening seas. Their story made national headlines as their parents sought their safe return home.

The boat was found two days later more than 60 miles off the coast of Daytona Beach. The vessel was not recovered until April 2016 because the Coast Guard did not secure the boat at the time.

The boys, both 14, never returned.

Two paramedics were killed in a fatal accident shortly before 3 a.m. on June 1 on West Indiantown Road near Philadelphia Drive.

Hundreds of friends, relatives and business associates turned out for a Celebration of Life at Christ Fellowship Church for the paramedics.

An emergency services lounge at the Jupiter Medical Center was dedicated to Paul Besaw, 36, and Lahiri Garcia, 51. The two first responders had just dropped off a patient at JMC just before the collision.

Authorities say Genero De La Cruz was driving under the influence of alcohol when he crashed his 2000 Chrysler convertible into the ambulance.

Jupiter police arrested De La Cruz on multiple charges, including DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide and driving without a license on June 15. De La Cruz was taken into custody when he was released from St. Mary’s Medical Center. De La Cruz is awaiting trial in the Palm Beach County Jail.

Jupiter police arrested Tiger Woods, the golf legend and Jupiter Island resident, around 3 a.m. on May 29 for driving under the influence as he drove southbound on Military Trail near Indian Creek Parkway.

Woods, 41, pleaded guilty five months later to a charge of reckless driving at a brief hearing. Prosecutors and Woods’ attorney announced that Woods would enter the program so prosecutors would drop the more serious DUI charge against him.

Palm Beach County Judge Sandra Bosso-Pardo withheld a finding of guilt on the reckless driving charge, which means the golf great could later have the charge expunged from his record. She also agreed to dismiss a charge of improper parking, a traffic infraction, filed against him.

As part of the DUI diversion requirements, Woods agreed to participate in various programs and abstain from illicit drugs and alcohol during a 12-month probationary period.

The Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and other icons buckled up, Independence Middle School’s shelter filled, the emergency room at Jupiter Medical Center was busy and beach erosion was heavy at Carlin Park when Hurricane Irma sent winds up to 85 mph through north Palm Beach County.

Irma tore off the aluminum walls in the three-level boat storage building at the Jupiter Pointe Club & Marina, exposing the boats stored inside the building. Sea turtle eggs were scattered along north county beaches. The Juno Beach Pier closed. So did DuBois Park, Jupiter Beach Park and other town parks. Schools shut down for a week.

Bears, bobcats, foxes, birds and other animals weathered the storm at Busch Wildlife Sanctuary. When the call went out for supplies, locals responded with fuel, towels, pet food and Dawn detergent after Irma dumped about seven inches of rain and caused about $300 million in countywide damage.

People around the world watched Hurricane Irma’s approach. A web camera perched atop the Ocean Trail Condominium at the end of Beach Road south of the Jupiter Inlet operated until the night of the storm. Irma knocked it out. It’s working now.

1. Michael Jordan restaurant opening:    A winter opening is planned for 1000 NORTH, the waterfront restaurant partly owned by NBA star Michael Jordan.

Jordan, who has a home in the Bear’s Club off Donald Ross Road, is one of the founding partners of the restaurant on the Loxahatchee River, just north of Burt Reynolds Park on U.S. 1.

Others include local businessman Bjarne Borg, who owns the property; former New York Giants running back Tucker Frederickson; California winery owner Bill Terlato; Bears Club resident Raj Mantena; Jupiter resident Richard Rifkin; Palm Beach philanthropist Patrick Park; professional golfer Ernie Els; and Ira Fenton, a co-developer the Bears Club.

A 326-foot-long public dock, which is eight feet wide, will be open for docking up to three hours. No overnight docking is allowed, according to town records.

The dock was paid for by the developers of the restaurant.

2. New Jupiter town manager:Matt Benoit, city manager of Huntsville, Texas, is expected to become the new town manager.

Benoit, a 43-year-old Denver native, was selected from about 60 candidates. Benoit’s base pay in Huntsville is about $164,000.

“The neighborhoods, the schools — everything we saw exceeded our expectations,” Benoit told The Palm Beach Post.

Benoit and his wife Micki, a speech therapist, have a son, Garrett, 14, and a daughter Madie, 17. His hobbies are watching his kids play sports, fishing and exercise.

“I’m a big Denver Broncos fan,” he said.

3. New dog park: A spring opening is planned for the $2.5 million park at Cinquez Park on Indiantown Road and Center Street.

The park will include fenced-off areas for big and little dogs, a dog-drink station, landscaping, 2-acre wetlands area, a gazebo with picnic tables, bicycle racks, a restroom and lighted walkways for pedestrians. About 80 parking spaces are planned.

Future plans call for a tree house in a 50-foot tall banyan with ramps for the disabled and a playground. A community garden, similar to those in Abacoa and at the El Sol Neighborhood Resource Center, are planned.

Those new features will cost an additional $550,000.