A 17-year-old Upper Keys resident accused of fatally stabbing his 14-year-old brother and critically stabbing his father early Thursday morning in Islamorada remains on the run.
Helicopters, tactical teams and K-9 units from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and neighboring law enforcement agencies aggressively searched for the suspect, Daniel Weisberger, throughout Thursday morning and afternoon. The manhunt spanned a 7-mile radius from Islamorada to Tavernier with no sightings of Weisberger.
A motive for the attack still isn’t clear, Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said during a press conference held Thursday afternoon at Founders Park.
Ramsay said a neighbor first heard a disturbance inside the family’s apartment at Executive Bay Townhomes in Islamorada around 4 a.m. Roughly two hours later, around 6 a.m., the father, 43-year-old Ariel Poholek, came running out of the apartment and told a neighbor what had happened while asking for help.
Ramsay said when the attack took place, the father said he tried to come in to the bedroom to see what was going on when he, too, was attacked.
The father was able to escape from the apartment, where he sought assistance from the neighbor. Sheriff’s deputies arrived within two minutes, but Daniel Weisberger had fled by then.
“The father relays he was held hostage in that room for approximately two hours while he had multiple injuries to his neck — the (older) son, still holding a butcher knife, would not let him leave,” Ramsay said.
Islamorada Fire Rescue subsequently arrived at the scene to provide medical assistance to Poholek, who was airlifted via Trauma Star Air Medical helicopter to Ryder Trauma Center in Miami. Ramsay said he was told that Poholek was in surgery as of this afternoon.
“I’ve been told it’s basically a 50/50,” Ramsay said.
The younger brother was pronounced dead at the scene.
Upon arrival at the scene, Ramsay said, the sheriff’s office set up a perimeter with assistance from the Miami-Dade Sheriff’s Office, Homestead Police, Florida Highway Patrol and Fish & Wildlife.
“We’ve extensively searched throughout the morning up to this point,” he said. “We have been searching and looking for tips from neighbors and citizens. The suspect is known to have prior violent history and has been in and out of the court and juvenile systems.”
Authorities in the Florida Keys are asking for the public’s help locating Daniel Weisberger, but are urging people not to approach the suspect, who is considered armed and dangerous. Anyone with information about this suspect’s location should call 911 immediately.
Ramsay said the concern right now is the likelihood of Weisberger attempting to flee Monroe County. At this point, Ramsay said, there’s no indication he fled by boat. He doesn’t own a car and didn’t take his father’s car from the apartment. Ramsay said Weisberger’s mother, who lives in Port St. Lucie, was notified and has been cooperating with police.
“He’s on the run. He knows he’s being looked for,” Ramsay said. “He knows the situation, if caught, could mean the rest of (his) life in prison. Here’s a person who has nothing to lose, which makes him more dangerous and vulnerable to everybody, whether it be the general public or law enforcement.”
No other people were in the residence at the time of the incident other than Poholek and his two sons, the sheriff’s office said.
Poholek and his younger son are well known in the Upper Keys for their service to the community and environment, and for their involvement with the local Boy Scouts troops.
Friends flooded Poholek’s Facebook, offering condolences and sharing their sorrow: “The world lost a shining star today. We are sorry for your loss and pray for your swift recovery,” read one post.
Kathleen Pegues, who knows both victims well through scouting, said, “It’s a terrible day in the Keys. It’s just … the children are shattered by the news. The children are struggling with the sound of the helicopters and the police sirens, knowing what happened to their dear friend.”
“Everyone is standing by and praying. Shattered,” she added.
Ramsay says it’s a “sad case.”
“This is so unusual for Monroe. We just don’t have much violent crime,” he said.
The Weekly will update this story as further developments become available.
— Tiffany Duong and Mandy Miles contributed to this report.