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NAPLES — That nine people were killed at the hands of others in Collier County in 2011 isn't record-setting.
But the stories behind many of the homicides elevated them to startling, even gruesome. In some cases, the deaths remain unsolved.
The year started with the January killing of a teenage student at the hands of another at a bus stop, an event that rocked a high school community and raised questions about self-defense, bullying and weapons in schools.
There wasn't another homicide until summer. Then, six more deaths came in rapid succession.
"We had a couple of unusual cases this year, without a doubt," said Capt. Chris Roberts, head of the Collier County Sheriff's Office Special Investigations Division, which handles major crimes, including homicides.
For the second year in a row, the homicide rate declined in Collier County.
From 2008 to 2009, it surged from six to 14 deaths, due in large part to the slayings of the Damas family. That figured dropped to 10 in 2010, one more than this year.
Roberts, however, said "the numbers for homicides in Collier County don't mean a lot," noting a variation of one more or less than the previous year isn't enough to infer anything substantial statistically.
"We have so few murders in Collier County,'' he said.
Until recently, no new information was available on the year's three unsolved homicides — the shooting deaths of a Golden Gate couple in their home and a Golden Gate man found dead in an East Naples shed.
Roberts recently confirmed that the Sheriff's Office has "persons of interest" in both cases, but no official suspects.
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The year began grimly.
On Jan. 24, a call came into Collier sheriff's dispatchers. Dylan Nuno, days shy of his 17th birthday, was stabbed at a Golden Gate Estates bus stop as friends and other high school students watched.
Jorge Saavedra, then 14, a fellow Palmetto Ridge High School student, is charged in his death. His defense attorney, Donald Day, maintains Saavedra was a bullying victim, both by Nuno and other students, and acted in self-defense when Nuno punched him that afternoon. Nuno's family disputes the teen was a bully and argues that Saavedra had no right to use deadly force in retribution for the punches to his head.
Collier Circuit Judge Lauren Brodie plans to rule by Jan. 17 whether Saavedra, now 15, is exonerated based on Florida's "stand your ground" law. A ruling against Saavedra would likely mean a trial on a manslaughter charge in juvenile court before the judge.
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Nearly six months later, two women were victims of unrelated slayings within weeks of each other. Their lives, however, turned out to be connected.
On July 5, Christine Ann Moretz, 53, visited a co-worker at Physicians Regional – Pine Ridge. Her estranged husband entered the patient's room and shot her in the head before turning the gun on himself, according to the Collier County Sheriff's Office.
Jeffery Moretz shot himself in the chin in a failed suicide attempt, but has since recovered and made court appearances. During a November hearing, defense attorney Jerry Berry argued the man's competency should be under review.
"There's psychiatric issues that need to be explored," Berry said.
Jeffery Moretz is charged with second-degree murder. His next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 3. No trial date is set.
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Three weeks to the day of Christine Moretz's death, the body of Suzanne Marie Bishop, 45, was found in a North Naples apartment.
Bishop, a mother of three adult children, had been decapitated and mutilated.
In the months before her death, Christine Moretz was romantically linked to another co-worker, Christopher Serna, 34, of North Naples, according to court documents.
Bishop and Serna also had a relationship, though Serna downplayed it in interviews with investigators.
The scene in Serna's apartment set Bishop's murder apart from others in 2011.
Part of her breasts had been removed and her head was impaled on a piece of drum equipment and placed in another room from her body, according to court documents.Serna, arrested July 26, is charged with second-degree murder. His next court date is scheduled for March 2. No trial date is set.
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Three killings during the summer and early fall remain unsolved:
Carmen Perez-Stolts, 81, and her boyfriend, Ludwig Volksheimer, 71, were found shot to death in her home in the 5700 block of Sea Grass Lane in the Golden Gate area on Sept. 13. According to family members, they were stabbed multiple times and tied together on a bed, but law enforcement hasn't confirmed those details.
Little is known about a possible motive —nothing appeared missing from the home.
Jacquelin Francois, 44, was found dead June 9 in East Naples, shot in a shed on a Polly Avenue lot used for storage. There's been no arrest; the investigation continues.
"We just don't have any new information." said Karie Partington, the sheriff's spokeswoman. "We are waiting on test results on evidence that's been sent away to be processed."
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Elmer Serrano had a few run-ins with law enforcement. At 20, though, his family said he was trying to get his life together.
The week of June 19, he and a buddy committed a few robberies in Golden Gate Estates, his associate said. They needed the money. Around 2 a.m. on June 23, the pair was selling some of the wares in Naples Manor, where Serrano, his parents and siblings lived. The items included a gun.
Jean Rony Bienaime, 28, of East Naples, was looking at the gun and showed interest in purchasing it when he shot at three men, according to Collier sheriff's reports.
Serrano died. Bienaime is charged with one count of second-degree murder and two counts of attempted second-degree murder. His next court appearance is March 2.
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On Oct. 2, a 63-year-old Lake Park man was found on the ground, stabbed to death in the city of Naples.
Jon Wayne Joseph's death was called a "senseless act of violence" by neighbors. But to the man accused, John Orr, 37, it was an act of self-defense.
Orr awaits a hearing date to move forward with his bid for acquittal based on Florida's "stand your ground" law. He remains in the Collier jail on a second-degree murder charge.
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The final homicide of 2011 was Dec. 18 in Immokalee.
Alfonso Perez-Lopez, 28, is accused of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of Jose Arraguin, 47. A Sheriff's Office spokeswoman called the attack "random" but released few details about what caused the bloody fight.