DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood didn't hide his disgust Friday after the arrest of eight men caught performing sex acts at two public parts in the county, including a local pastor and a former Catholic priest.
"It's out of control," he said of the repeated acts happening in Doris Leeper Spruce Creek Preserve and Sleepy Hollow Park.
After receiving complaints in May about men having sex in the two parks, Chitwood said his deputies set up cameras around the park, which captured more than 75 sex acts happening in the parks between May and August.
Deputies then conducted a two-day undercover operation this week during which Chitwood said some of the undercover deputies were propositioned walking on the trials at the parks and witnesses the sexual acts for themselves.
Eight men were arrested by Thursday, some with criminal records and ties to local churches, according to the Sheriff's Office. They are charged with lewd and lascivious behavior or indecent exposure.
Chitwood said more charges are pending as the Sheriff's Office works to identify other people caught on camera.
"When you watch the video it's just disgusting that this is occurring in a public place where any child could walk in and see this," Chitwood said.
Among the men arrested was John Clarke, 80, of South Daytona, who told deputies he is a retired New York police officer. Chitwood said Clarke is a pastor at Holy Cross Lutheran Church on Big Tree Road in South Daytona. Clarke is listed on the church's website as a deacon.
Also arrested was Paige Blakely, 68, a Catholic retired priest. Chitwood said he served at St. Ann's Catholic Church in Debary on Dogwood Trial. Blakely was arrested in 2011 during a bathroom sex string in Holly Hill.
"Paige Blakely’s faculties to serve as a priest were removed by Bishop John Noonan in Nov. 2011 and he has not been allowed to serve in ministry," said Jennifer Drow, senior director of communications for the Diocese of Orlando. "Blakely’s faculties were never reinstated."
Chitwood said one of the suspects, Darrin Brady, 55, of Deland, was previously arrested in 1982 for sexual battery and kidnapping in Orange County.
The other five suspects arrested on Wednesday and Thursday are: Michael Frizzell, 40, of Edgewater; Randy Howell, 56, of New Smyrna Beach; Jonathan Buchanan, 52, of New Smyrna Beach; George Stoeckle, 47, of Port Orange and Jon Robertson, 75, of Pineville, North Carolina.
"They're not your average John Q citizen who says 'Eh I'm just going to pull over and have sex in the park today, some of them have a history of being arrested multiple times," Chitwood said.
Unfortunately, the sheriff said, there is no deterrent for the suspects to go out and do the same thing again. Most of the suspects had posted bail by Friday.
"They're right back out there again," Chitwood said.
The sheriff stressed that if the alleged crimes were committed by males and females, not men on men, he would have still gone after them.
"This is has nothing to do with what your sexual preference is," the sheriff said. "If you want to engage in this activity, my suggestion, is get a hotel room."