67ºF

Arrest made in case of missing Leesburg woman

84-year-old woman's vehicle found abandoned

LEESBURG, Fla. – A man was arrested Thursday on allegations of stealing a missing 84-year-old Leesburg woman's car.

Lake County authorities said Jeremy David Gentry, 41, was arrested on charges of grand theft of a motor vehicle.

Authorities continue to search for Bernadine Montgomery, who was last seen June 15 in the 100 block of Palmora Boulevard.

According to an arrest affidavit, when officials asked Gentry about Montgomery's whereabouts, he said he didn't remember, citing his use of drugs.

"It is suspected that (Gentry) may have had direct or indirect involvement in the disappearance of (Montgomery)," the affidavit said.

Leesburg police say Montgomery's 2005 blue Chevrolet four-door was also missing, but officers found it at a nearby park.

"There's evidence that was found in the house as well as in the vehicle that we're not releasing at this time," Leesburg police Lt. Joe Lozzi said on Thursday. "However, what we will say is that evidence suggests the possibility of foul play does exist."

Investigators have searched along the shoreline of Lake Harris, about a quarter-mile from Montgomery's home.

"I came back from working out this morning, and across my backyard there's all this police line," said neighbor Bob Frazer. "I went around because the first thing I thought about was her."

Montgomery was reported missing Wednesday night by a neighbor who told police they hadn't seen her in weeks.

Frazer said he's been living behind her for four years and in the last couple of months saw some young people regularly at her home.

"There was a young lady and a couple of men that were doing that, driving her car. They rented right here on 9th Street and I was a little concerned about that," Frazer said.

Neighbors said Montgomery has been living in the home since the 1970s and had been on her own since her husband passed away 15 years ago.

"I was always worried she lived here by herself. She was very independent," Frazer said. "She didn't get around real easy. She did have a walker, but she never asked for help and didn't seem to care. She just enjoyed talking."

Police said it's uncommon for Montgomery to be away from her home this long.

"She is 84 years old. She did live alone and she did befriend these people that were coming and going from the house," Lozzi said.

Police said the investigation is ongoing and that there are signs of foul play.

Contact Leesburg police at 352-728-9862 if you have any information about Montgomery's whereabouts.