Suspected bank robber caught within minutes

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By The Staff

On July 17,  at approximately 2:15 p.m., an armed man entered the S.R. 200 Florida Credit Union and demanded money, according to a sheriff’s press release.

After robbing the bank, he fled the scene in a black and silver Grand Marquis. A few minutes later, he was spotted driving south on Interstate 75. He was stopped and taken to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office for questioning and was later arrested.

Lawrence Parke McCleery, 48, of New Jersey, was charged with armed bank robbery and fleeing and attempting to elude law enforcement. He remains in the Marion County Jail and has a bond of $55,000.

At the time of his arrest, McCleery had a warrant out of Colombia County for embezzlement. Further investigation revealed he was arrested in 2007 in Colombia County and fled to Mexico while awaiting trial, according to a sheriff’s press release.

He recently returned to the United States to visit his son in Gainesville, who he asked for a ride to South Florida. McCleery stated that he planned the bank robbery to get money for gas and other expenses, according to a sheriff’s press release.

Man snatches

cash from register

A man dressed in all black went into the Dollar General store on Southwest 62nd Court on July 12 and got immediately in the checkout line. While waiting for the customers in front of him to be checked out, he grabbed a Kit Kat candy bar off the shelf.

When his turn came, he put the candy on the counter and handed the employee a $1 bill. As the clerk opened the drawer to make change, the suspect leaned over, took seven $20 bills that were in the register and ran out the door, according to a sheriff’s report.

The suspect is described as a black man, age 20 to 25.

Fine wine snagged

in restaurant burglary

On July 15, an employee of a Friendship Center business noticed that the front door of Lorenzo Kucina restaurant was shattered, according to a sheriff’ s report.

After the sheriff’s deputy and owner arrived, it was discovered that $60 in rolled coins and five bottles of imported Italian wine were missing from the business. The wine was valued at $65 per bottle.

Grill stolen

from bank parking lot

A $1,500 charcoal grill, which was welded to a trailer, was reported stolen from the parking lot of Park Avenue Bank on July 15, according to a sheriff’s report.

The Friendship Center business had the grill chained and padlocked to a tree. The lock had been cut.

Resident returns

to find home burglarized

When she returned to her Southwest 83rd Place home on July 13, she discovered her Vizio flat screen television was missing, according to a sheriff’s report. As she looked around the home more, she realized two satellite receivers valued at $200 and two DVD/VCR combination units, which were valued at $120, were also missing.

The woman had been gone from the home three to four hours on the day of the burglary and was not sure if the door was locked.

Driver stops

in stranger’s driveway

On July 13, a Southwest 64th Street Road resident called the sheriff’s office after a “suspicious van” was parked in his driveway with the lights on and the engine running, according to a sheriff’s report.

When the deputy approached the van, the man appeared to be sleeping and his head was laid back against the seat. The driver did not move until the deputy opened the passenger side door. The man attempted to put the vehicle in gear, but was instructed to shut the van off.

After turning it off, he had trouble getting the keys out of the ignition. He gave the keys to the deputy, but tried to start the van back up by using a pair of spare set.

The man was asked to perform several field sobriety tests and was later arrested.

Thomas Eugene Stepp, 26, of Ocala, was charged with driving under the influence. He was taken to the Marion County Jail. Stepp submitted a breath test at the jail, which had readings of .218 and .209.