Home burglarized after being damaged by fire

OKEECHOBEE — After her home was nearly destroyed by a house fire, what remained of the woman’s belongings were stolen from the porch where she had been storing them, but a neighbor managed to capture the theft on film and called her to let her know what was happening. Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Deputy Shane Bogner responded to her call at approximately 9:30 a.m. on Wed. Aug. 14. She explained she had recently had a house fire which destroyed almost her entire residence, and she had stored the few surviving belongings on the back porch of the property. She said her neighbor called her at 8:44 a.m. to tell her people were taking things from her property. She immediately drove to the property, and the neighbor gave her photographs of two individuals leaving the property with her belongings.

Justin Cole Simmons

The photographs showed a white male, wearing black shorts, with short light colored hair, wearing no shirt but carrying two shirts on his left shoulder. He was pushing a red bicycle with large chrome front brakes and carrying a large wooden crate on the handle bars which the complainant identified as belonging to her. The second photograph showed a white female wearing dark leggings with a black stripe and a sleeveless black shirt. She was also wearing a blue headband and had dark hair. The female was riding a red bicycle with black handlebars.

On Thursday, Deputy Bogner was able to identify the male as Justin Simmons through several other deputies who had dealt with him in the past. He found Simmons had been arrested the night before on an out of county warrant and was being held in the Okeechobee County Jail. He contacted Simmons, and Simmons agreed to speak to him about the incident.

Justin Cole Simmons, 37, Southeast 34th Avenue was arrested Aug. 15 by Deputy Bogner and charged with unarmed burglary of an unoccupied structure and petit theft. His bond was set at $10,500.

The identity of the female is unknown at this time.

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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