Sumter deputies don’t suspect murder of engineer was random act

Neighbors, family members baffled at 61-year-old mechanical engineer’s death

Authorities are investigating after a Winter Garden man was found dead in Sumter County.

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – Michael Kotait was a hard-working 61-year-old mechanical engineer who traveled the state, his family said. His family says he was a loving father and husband.

Kotait's body was found Saturday near Wildwood about 40 miles from his Winter Garden home. Sumter County Sheriff's Office officials said his death is being investigated as a homicide.

Just last weekend his only daughter was married. He was there.

Randa Torres said her father was "absolutely wonderful."

Kotait lived in Suburban Shores, a peaceful unincorporated Winter Garden community in Lake County at the edge of John's Lake.

Neighbor Dave Henclewski said Kotait proudly served on the homeowners board with him.

"Just taking care of everything around the neighborhood, he was very involved in that, he was our treasurer," Henclewski said. "Very surprised at the fact that something so terrible would have happened to him."

Torres said her father left his Winter Garden home Friday night to visit family in Gainesville.

He never made it.

Sumter County Sheriff's Deputies said Kotait's body was found early Saturday morning in a yard in the Royal area of rural Wildwood along I-75.

The Sheriff's Office received a call reporting the body in the yard of a house on County Road 231 around 7 a.m. Saturday.

Right before that, Wildwood Police were notified of a vehicle submerged in the water at the Lake Deaton Boat Ramp.

Deputies said it was Kotait's white Honda SUV.

On Monday, Sumter County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Michelle Keszey said the investigation is active and ongoing. Investigators do not suspect this was a random act.

“At this time, Kotait 's cause of death has not been confirmed by the medical examiner; however, he is the apparent victim of homicidal violence,” Keszey said on Saturday. “Detectives are working to identify anyone that the victim associated with in the area so that they can establish a motive for his murder. It is unclear at this time exactly why the victim was in the area.”

About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.