Renowned composer's suspected killers in custody

PHOTO CAPTION: 
Darren Decker, 41, and Jessica Baker, 44, both of Ocala

Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy announced today that two suspects are in custody in connection with the burglary trend which recently swept through several central Florida counties.

These two suspects, who are being held on burglary charges in Sumter County, are also the suspects in the murder of Don "Terry" Plumeri which occurred on March 31.

Currently, the suspects Darren Decker, 41, of Ocala and Jessica Baker, 44, of Ocala, are in custody in Sumter County on a no-bond charge.

In January, Citrus and surrounding counties began experiencing a string of burglaries that appeared to be related. The burglaries occurred during the day, primarily in rural areas, when it was believed the victims were not home. In most cases, doors were pried open. Cash, guns, jewelry and sometimes drugs, were taken. Almost all of the victims reported that a pillowcase was missing from the residence after the burglary occurred.

In Citrus County, 13 burglaries have been reported since the beginning of the year, the CCSO said. The last burglary in Citrus that showed similarities occurred at Plumeri's residence off West Candier Court in Dunnellon. Deputies were called there on April 1 to do a well-being check and found Plumeri deceased, bound, with blunt-force trauma injuries and multiple stab wounds to his upper body. His exact cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner's office.

"Plumeri suffered at the hands of Darren Decker," CCSO Capt. Brad Smith said. "We know that Plumeri was inside his home when the suspect(s) broke in. We believe that Decker brutally murdered a very talented man who certainly didn't deserve to die this way. Our continued prayers are with his family and friends."

As a result of these cases, Sheriff Dawsy deployed special teams in targeted neighborhoods to deter these types of burglaries from occurring in Citrus County; special patrols, undercover personnel and forensics teams were utilized.

At the same time, all of the involved agencies worked together to gather intelligence and identity the suspects, the CCSO said.

Although many persons of interest were identified, a major break in the case came as a result of a suspect selling stolen property from a prior burglary. This information helped lead detectives to Decker and Baker, who were arrested in Marion County on Monday, April 18, for a burglary that had occurred that day in Sumter County.

Right now, the Sheriff's Office said, investigators are combing through tons of evidence to match up stolen items to specific burglaries in Citrus and surrounding counties and to bring homicide charges against the couple.

"We have a long way to go with processing the enormous amount of evidence we have in this case and all of the other burglaries," Sheriff Dawsy said today. "As a result of these two arrests, our residents can feel safer in their homes and breathe a sigh of relief. This was a real "who-done-it" with very few leads, and I can tell you that everyone who worked on this case worked non-stop to catch these people.

"All of the men and woman involved in this investigation went above and beyond to bring closure to this case. They committed a heinous crime ... We got them and they are no longer a threat to our community. It's also important to remind our citizens that this couple was not responsible for every burglary in our area since January -- but I am confident we have two individuals in custody who killed an innocent man."

Recent examples of other daytime burglaries in Citrus County include James Jones, 47 of Crystal River who was arrested for breaking into multiple homes/mobile homes in Citrus and Levy counties since February of 2016 to feed a meth addiction. Decker/Baker and Jones were not working together.

  • Update on Dec. 27, 2016: A grand jury has indicted Darren Decker, 42, and Jessica Lynn Baker, 45, both from Ocala, of first-degree premeditated murder for the death of Don "Terry" Plumeri which occurred on March 31, 2016. They were also indicted on charges of burglary of a dwelling while armed.
  • Update on Jan. 24, 2017: Baker is set to be back in court in Citrus County on Feb. 7; Decker will return to court there April 4. In June 2016, Decker was indicted by a grand jury in Marion County for the murder of Ocala woman Tamara Bedenbaugh, 57, and for armed burglary and grand theft. Baker was not indicted in the woman's death.
  • Updlate on Dec. 15, 2017: Jessica Lynn Baker, the second and remaining “Pillowcase Bandit,” pleaded guilty Friday to helping orchestrate the burglary of a Dunnellon home and the slaying of its homeowner. Baker, 46, of Ocala, pleaded guilty to charges second-degree murder and principal to burglary.
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