Collier man freed after 4 years in jail when evidence shows he didn’t commit vehicular homicide

Kevin Shinsky

Kevin Shinsky

Michelle Lynn Sommers

Photo by CCSO

Michelle Lynn Sommers

Kevin Shinsky sat in the Collier County jail for nearly four years, proclaiming his innocence from the day he was arrested on charges of leaving the scene of a crash with death.

Soon after the fatal crash on Nov. 4, 2006, the 39-year-old East Naples father of two faced a new charge, vehicular homicide in the death of Michelle Sommers, 38, of Full Moon Court in East Naples.

All along, Shinsky, who had a suspended license due to child support debts and didn’t drive, had maintained Sommers gave him a ride to a Publix to cash his paycheck, then drove off in his friend’s car. Minutes later, he saw Sommers again, but a Hispanic man was driving the car and Shinsky tried to pull the keys out of the ignition.

“I’m hanging onto the car on the driver’s door to try to stop them and I fell off,” Shinsky said, adding that he saw the two again several minutes later, but the man was no longer at the wheel: Sommers was driving just before she crashed the car.

Since his arrest that day, Shinsky waited years for a trial while going through three attorneys. As he waited, he wrote to the State Attorney’s Office to demand a speedy trial, the Supreme Court, judges, his lawyers — anyone who would listen to his pleas for help.

It wasn’t until his fourth attorney, David Agoston of Naples, and his colleague, attorney Jamie Chandler, and paralegal Lissette Perez began working with John Hisler and Associates investigations that the evidence came together to show Shinsky was telling the truth: He was innocent.

Jim Schott, a private investigator, went through all the depositions and reports and found many inconsistencies that suggested Shinsky's innocence. The legal team, which got the case in December, worked quickly to free Shinsky and on Friday, the State Attorney’s Office dropped the charges and he was released from jail.

“There’s no way he could have been in two places at once,” said Hisler. “He cashed his Peluso Movers paycheck about that time.”

The bank failed, but Hisler tracked down the original paycheck three years later, locked in a safe at Peluso Movers, which hired someone to open it to help a valued former employee.

The check, time stamped 1:46 p.m. with Shinsky’s fingerprint, was cashed at the Publix at U.S. 41 and Thomasson Drive just minutes before the 1:50 p.m. crash.

Shinsky’s minor injuries matched his account, that he’d fallen off a fleeing car, not that he’d been in a car that hit two cars, went airborne, clipped a tree, flipped several times, hit three cars and burst into flames in the Embarq parking lot.

“There’s no way anyone could come through that wreck with that amount of injuries,” Hisler said of Shinsky’s scratches, adding that the driver's seat was pushed into position for a short woman like Sommers and hadn't been moved forward due to the crash.

Sommers was ejected, hit a building and landed on concrete, dying instantly. An autopsy showed she suffered severe injuries all over her body, including a skull fracture. Her blood-alcohol content measured 0.33 percent and 0.37 percent, and there was cocaine in her system. She was a friend of Shinsky's roommate and had offered to drive him in his friend, Barbara Parrack's, car that day.

“His cell phone records show voicemail retrievals before, during and after this accident,” Agoston said.

Those records show Shinsky called Parrack, 40, to say her car had been stolen and checked voicemails, with calls beginning at 1:39 p.m, two when the crash occurred at 1:50 and 1:52 p.m., then 1:56 p.m., 1:57 p.m., and 2 p.m.

An eyewitness came forward later to say he saw Shinsky hanging onto the car and falling off as it fled and rushed over to ask if he needed help. Two eyewitnesses who saw the crash didn’t identify Shinsky as the bleeding man who crawled out of the burning car: That man was Hispanic, had a forehead injury, clutched his side and limped away.

“(Shinsky) didn’t have a forehead injury,” Chandler said, adding that that's clear from looking at the mugshot from his arrest.

At 3:30 p.m. Friday, as Tropical Storm Bonnie headed toward Naples, Shinsky walked out of the jail, unable to wear the clothing he’d come in with because he’s lost weight. He wore another man’s shorts, jail sneakers and a T-shirt.

Hisler got a bed for him at St. Matthews House, took him to St. Vincent DePaul to purchase clothing with St. Matthews vouchers, and then to McDonald’s before heading to Agoston’s office. Hisler also gave him money for a cell phone.

State Attorney’s Office Spokeswoman Samantha Syoen cited the new eyewitness, phone records and other evidence as reasons why they dismissed charges.

“New evidence came to light from the defendant, evidence that we were not privy to until very recently,” Syoen said. “... It was apparent that we should drop the charges.”

She said they’d never received a letter from Shinsky.

Shinsky is relieved he’s free, but has no job, no permanent place to live, and $50,000 in child support to pay.

“I couldn’t ask for a better legal team,” Shinsky said Monday as he sat in Agoston’s office with Chandler and Hisler, still in his thrift shop clothing.

Agoston commended prosecutors for listening.

“They were moving forward with information given to them,” he said. “Our investigation showed a lot of that was misinformation and that information came from one source, Deputy Johnny Cisnero.

“That led to the groundwork for the arrest of Kevin and was responsible for nearly four years of truly wrongful incarceration.”

An internal affairs case filed against Cisnero after Shinsky complained was closed after Cisnero denied being untruthful. But he's now being investigated in another case involving untruthfulness.

Hisler said he’ll turn over their file in the hopes the sheriff’s office will reopen the internal affairs investigation into Cisnero, whose report says Shinsky refused to speak without an attorney. But he also wrote that Shinsky then asked about Sommers, saying, “When I climbed out of the vehicle, she wasn’t in there. What happened?”

Hebebrand's deposition says she heard Shinsky asking about the woman in the car and telling Cisnero the woman had stolen his car.

Shinsky says he told Cisnero only that Sommers had driven off in Parrack’s car and he’d tried to stop her. Cisnero had arrested him several times before, he said, but charges always were dropped, and because he didn’t drive, Cisnero often stopped drivers giving him a ride and harassed or threatened them — once even throwing a driver in jail for not wearing glasses and then having her car towed.

Sheriff’s Spokeswoman Karie Partington said Shinsky was not polygraphed, as some suspects are.

She added: “If Mr. Hisler has additional information we would encourage him to bring it forward to CCSO’s Professional Responsibility Bureau.”

Shinsky, who had a felony record from a 2002 arrest that included battery and resisting arrest, faced up to 15 years in state prison for both vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of a fatal crash, and five years for driving while license was suspended in a crash causing death.

He began by paying a private attorney, Landon Miller, who withdrew in August 2008. Then he was assigned a public defender, the tops in the office then, Deputy Public Defender Mike Orlando, who got depositions of several witnesses to build a case for his innocence, but had to withdraw due to a conflict. Then Shinsky was appointed a regional counsel, Nico Vitale, who also withdrew due to a conflict. Agoston was his fourth, a private attorney who was court-appointed by a judge.

"Mike Orlando did a wonderful job and I was very happy with his work, until 10 days before trial and he said there was a conflict," Shinsky said of someone else in the public defender's office once representing one of his witnesses, which barred Orlando from continuing.

Now Shinsky, who has a high school diploma and a year of college behind him, is looking for a job as a mover — or any work. While jailed, he took classes on planning for families, Bible study — anything that took his mind off his situation.

“I read a lot of books,” Shinsky said, thanking St. Matthew’s House, and Harry and Jan Thomas of Restoration Church who provide jail Bible study classes. “They really got me through it and took me away from that place.”

© 2010 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 93

pookey writes:

Sorry, but this story confuses me! He saw her car with a man driving, he saw the car with her driving, then a man.....?
Glad though that he's out!

waterboy writes:

One would think that the states attorney owes this man fours year plus of his life back. Starting with backpay that he lost, the child support that he owes, and some decent housing. I would assume that his attornies will be trying to file some sort of lawsuit on his behalf even though the court system is protected.

Iggy writes:

Waterboy I would assume that he will be awarded damages.

Nice job there Hisler! Not to take anything away from a job very well done but how in the world did the powers that be not do those basic fit the puzzle together tactics and keep this man out of jail?

Wow.. anyway good job to the team and best of luck to this fella.

savethewhalz writes:

$50,000 in child support owed? Best walk back to the jail and demand your cell back . Otherwise you will have to get a job and start making payments.

its_a_wonderful_day writes:

That's what we get from CCSO... guilty until proven innocent.

Obewan writes:

Pay UP CCSO....You done it again.

flahill writes:

Patriot Act fanatics equals heavy handed police and prosecutors : Guilty until proven innocent.

sailnjed writes:

Who was the defense attorney to start with?

suzy7 writes:

What a great story, good job lawyers and best of luck Kevin sb

chap914 writes:

And where were our supposed able. competent investigators years ago to check out this fellows story. Out to lunch most probably, while this fellow rotted in the County jail.

I wonder how much this poor police work is going to cost the taxpayers?

swamp4ever writes:

CCSO deputy gets drunk and wipes a car out on Livingston.....can't prosecute because there was no "wheel witness"

Average Joe with a checkered past spends 4 years in jail......no "wheel witness"

In this country, your either part of the regime, or your on the outside looking in. The elite and govt employees will continue to make sure that doesn't change.

WangoTango writes:

What about the real guy that did this.

bpope49pope writes:

this story should scare the gagbeezz out of ya we gave them unlimited power which is ok unless they come after you

baldygrandpa writes:

CCSO. Make this guy whole. NOW, not in years. You know you will be forced to eventually so do it NOW.

Chester writes:

Hmmm! Why are you puzzlewits blaming CCSO? Didn't a jury made up of curmudgeon's like you find him guilty? CCSO does not determine guilt, they just present the evicence to the SAO and they determine whether it goes to trial. A jury decides guilt or innocence! What a bunch of jobbernowls!

Situation writes:

in response to Chester:

Hmmm! Why are you puzzlewits blaming CCSO? Didn't a jury made up of curmudgeon's like you find him guilty? CCSO does not determine guilt, they just present the evicence to the SAO and they determine whether it goes to trial. A jury decides guilt or innocence! What a bunch of jobbernowls!

I some what agree...Obviously some one gave bad evidence...:-(

Shaawe writes:

in response to Situation:

I some what agree...Obviously some one gave bad evidence...:-(

I would say some of the blame rests with the investigating officers who obviously did not do their job very good and/or wanted to rack up a quick conviction at any cost. Just who investigated this case anyway???

elnuestros writes:

"“Our investigation showed a lot of that was misinformation and that information came from one source, Deputy Johnny Cisnero. “That led to the groundwork for the arrest of Kevin and was responsible for nearly four years of truly wrongful incarceration.”

Would it inconvenience you all to find out what Deputy Cisnero is up to these days?

staghorn writes:

in response to pookey:

Sorry, but this story confuses me! He saw her car with a man driving, he saw the car with her driving, then a man.....?
Glad though that he's out!

It is very confusing story to read. Then I looked at who wrote it:

By AISLING SWIFT

Percy writes:

Was this a plea (in which case he acknowledged responsibility), or was he in jail for four years awaiting trial??

Wacka_Flaka_Flame writes:

Finally someone who can see that there are two sides to every story. I completely agree with Chester.

Obvioulsy this deputy was acting on information he had or was given in order to have probable cause to make the arrest.

I think it is weird how someone who is facing charges of this magnitude wouldnt have the information that he has now back then. Information that could have kept him out of jail all along. I also find it funny how this guy goes through 3 attorneys and not one of them until now could arrange a meeting with the STATE ATTORNEY OFFICE, I think its kind of ironic that the only person that could get there feet back in the door is a former Assistant State Attorney, Jamie Chandler HMMMMMMM!!!

The same people that presented the evidence they were given are now dropping charges, 4 years later. Come on.....Evidence is just that evidence. CCSO got the evidence from somewhere and it was obviously strong enough for a conviction.

CCSO does great work in our community and works very hard to protect our streets. The State Attorneys Office drops charges or Nolle Process Cases every day. Cases that in some cases these deputies risk their lives for and without a doubt can be proven, cases that can bring on a conviction with no problem, cases that ultimately set guilty career criminals free everyday. They obviously werent afraid to go forward on this case, they had strong evidence that lead to this mans conviction.

brighteyes writes:

in response to Chester:

Hmmm! Why are you puzzlewits blaming CCSO? Didn't a jury made up of curmudgeon's like you find him guilty? CCSO does not determine guilt, they just present the evicence to the SAO and they determine whether it goes to trial. A jury decides guilt or innocence! What a bunch of jobbernowls!

Take a look at the court records. Perhaps I am not reading it correctly, but it appears this guy never made it to trial. He sat in jail on a $100,000 bond for 4 years as they went back and forth on legal proceedings. Maybe you have the bail money to get yourself out of jail, but some poor people don't and they sit there as this young man did. The legal system at its best. Very scary. My son would be where this man is today if we did not have the money to first of all bail him out of jail and then begin the process of getting the charges dropped. My son was also actually innocent and we produced documentation of such but it was totally ignored as the sheriff election was coming to a close. In this case, this young man looks like he has had other trouble with the law and part of this story leads me to believe he may be culpable in some way, but he did not commit this crime. I also ask as a prior commenter did, is the CCSO going to go after the actual perpetrator of the crime? In my son's case, they never followed up on this horrendous random crime (which they prosecutor labeled as such during the bail hearing). Wonder if they will in this case.

By the way, John Hisler was my only face of sanity after my son was arrested. He is a true hero.

Wacka_Flaka_Flame writes:

In response to Elnuestros, I would venture to guess that CPL.Cisnero is protecting YOUR street and keeping YOUR family safe. No need to Thank him, he will continue to do it. Thats his job. Thats what the people that are employed by CCSO do. Protect and keep OUR streets safe! I would also bet you will need him one day or one of his fellow colleagues.

beetlejuice writes:

Whatta joke. Goes to show whatta good attorney can do.
He'll be back drunk behind wheel in no time flat.

prelude9925 writes:

Why wasn't he polygraphed? The prosecution kept him in jail four years based only on the deputy's report - knowing he had arrested and stopped this man routinely. No one places him in the car, and you can't determine his injuries SCREAM that he wasn't in that car?

That is robbing this man of his life and freedom, the deputy should be fully investigated, and the SA is either in on trying to pin it on him or extremely, dumbfoundingly s-----. Either way they should not have those positions. I just don't see how you miss this one, it was personal. I suspect there's more the story with his past and Cisnero or CCSO.

prelude9925 writes:

How much did the State (us who fund it) spend over four years persuing this case that had little evidence?

jbm9 writes:

Bright eyes,i know about your case as we have communicated before. absolutely correct! cisnero is as crooked as the rest as the investigation will show. he is use to harassing people in east naples. love to see ms. swift get together with ryan mills and find all these clowns who have been under nvestigation and put out a list. boy the public would see a real eye opener.

goingup (Inactive) writes:

Why did it take four years? This man did not get a fair anything.
Glad justice did right by you this time.

HIGHWATER writes:

Hopefully he'll be well compensated for the four years of his life he'll never recover.
Nothing short of a massive lawsuit against the county will suffice.

CTinFL writes:

I don't know what's worse, the situation, or the article. It's horribly written. I understand the facts are fairly complex, but a good journalist can take a complicated story and turn it into a clear and concise article. This article is a mess. Reading it almost gave me a headache.

NoBS writes:

in response to Chester:

Hmmm! Why are you puzzlewits blaming CCSO? Didn't a jury made up of curmudgeon's like you find him guilty? CCSO does not determine guilt, they just present the evicence to the SAO and they determine whether it goes to trial. A jury decides guilt or innocence! What a bunch of jobbernowls!

Did you not read the article, he got no trial, no one ever fund him guilty. It was guilty until proven innocent, the exact opposite of what our justice system is designed to be.

NoBS writes:

in response to beetlejuice:

Whatta joke. Goes to show whatta good attorney can do.
He'll be back drunk behind wheel in no time flat.

Who said anything about being drunk?

Patton writes:

Gives a whole new meaning to "Justice is blind", doesn't it?

Patton writes:

in response to beetlejuice:

Whatta joke. Goes to show whatta good attorney can do.
He'll be back drunk behind wheel in no time flat.

I didn't read any mention of alcohol.

Patton writes:

in response to Chester:

Hmmm! Why are you puzzlewits blaming CCSO? Didn't a jury made up of curmudgeon's like you find him guilty? CCSO does not determine guilt, they just present the evicence to the SAO and they determine whether it goes to trial. A jury decides guilt or innocence! What a bunch of jobbernowls!

Pot meet kettle.

tried_n_true writes:

HB, no mention of how much you like Cisnero???
There's an awful lot of bad cop stories where this guy plays the lead. He needs to be sh__canned....

jbm9 writes:

tried n true- apparently he was out in immokalee from what my cop friends are telling me and known to be not well liked.

angrytxpyr writes:

I am ammazed at the complete incompotence and possible illegal conduct by Deputy Cisneros. The SAO is not without blame, apparently they ignored the lack of evidence, refused to verify the mans aliby and were ready to go to trial. This guy probably spent more time behind bars than if he had admitted guilt (wrongly or been covicted of the lesser ofense of leaving the scene). Was it all on the Deputy? Come on the guy told them his story, all they had to do is go to Publix and verify (cashed check and security video) that his aliby was good. Why is it that the SAO sends Samantha Seon out to make the statement and not Steve Russell. Its not just the four years this guy lost, unpaid child support, job opportunities, time with his kid and a laundry list of stuff. Yes this guy deserves to be made whole, unfortunately it that will fall on the backs of TAXPAYERS but thats what needs to be done and done right away. Shame on you Kevin Rambosk if you even give a second thought to refusing to make this guy whole and firing that IDIOT Cisneros. This guy was denied some of the most basic rights given to people even in third world countries, innocent until proven guilty, fair and level representation and a speedy trial. The Sheriffs office, The States Attorneys office and the public deffenders office all sat around playing dumb while this guy sat in jail for four years !!! I think its high time that we as the TAXPAYERS demand accountability, MAKE THIS MAN, HIS CHILD and THE CHILDS MOTHER WHOLE immediatly and without one peep of "we did nothing wrong". These agencies OBVIOUSLY did something wrong and any failure on their part to correct this matter is compounding that wrong. How many more dishonest Deputies will be exposed before the Sheriffs office starts demanding proffesionalism from its own. I guess kicking Jim Williams out of the PRB didn't do much good after all.

my2sense writes:

What is about the CCSOS? For the most part, they think they are the Cat's bottom!!!!!!!!!!!

STONECRAB writes:

THE NAPLES DAILY NEWS TRIES AND CONVICTS PEOPLE EVERYDAY ! YOUR GUILTY , PUT YOUR MUGSHOT ON THE WORLDWIDE WEB , LOSE YOUR JOB, THEN YOUR HOUSE, THEN YOUR FAMILY .

Commonsenseisdead writes:

in response to Chester:

Hmmm! Why are you puzzlewits blaming CCSO? Didn't a jury made up of curmudgeon's like you find him guilty? CCSO does not determine guilt, they just present the evicence to the SAO and they determine whether it goes to trial. A jury decides guilt or innocence! What a bunch of jobbernowls!

Come on Chester, think about what you just read.

Yes, a jury found him guilty based on "evidence made up" by a Collier County Deputy who also failed to do Investigation 101 on this case. CCSO seems to have some pretty low standards for hiring.

tried_n_true writes:

NDN- how about an investigation into the record of J. Cisnero?? How many citizen complaints against this officer?

RONNIEHUCKABEE#238452 writes:

TYPICAL OF COLLIER COUNTY IT IS OUR JAIL IS ONE BIG BABY SETTING SERVICE,DONT HAVE A JOB DUE TO THE ECONOMY JUST GO TO COLLIER COUNTY DAY CARE
CATCH UP ON YOUR READING

billnaples writes:

SA office says they never got a letter? Amazing. Four years this guy sat, not convicted of anything, waiting for a trial. Amazing. One lawyer perhaps making progress for him leaves because of a potetial conflict but the new attorney does not get a head start from what was done? Was there a request for a speedy trial and who dragged their feet on that. The CCSO deputy certainly has some questions that Rambosk should be asking unless he wants the smell to extend to the entire department. TO CHESTER and a couple of others....he never got to trial, no jury, no conviction. Hence jail not prison. Hardly makes a difference to this guy, he has been gone for four years. TO THE comment about 'Drunk", this guy was not behind the wheel and even the charges that were made never included DUI. Read.

tried_n_true writes:

HB, tell us how you really feel, lol......

swamp4ever writes:

This is another example of why deputies promotions and raises should be based on conviction percentage, not the volume of people they throw in jail without evidence.

tried_n_true writes:

BTW, where is 'factteller' on this story? Oh, ya, he got picked up for molesting teenage boys at the mall..... that's one fine group of cops you've got there, Rambosk... or should I call you 'the wizard behind the curtain'?

nplzcitizens writes:

What a bunch of .....x idiots. From the CCSO's handling of the case, to the way this article is written. CCSO: write the check TODAY---you're a bunch of idiots anyway, the sooner you make this guy whole the less you will have ruined his life.

rags123 writes:

Again, this case shows that there is justice for the rich, but problematic justice for the poor.
The public defender's office is a mess, and the $250 to $450 p/hr charged by attys are not for the middle class.
That lady with the blind fold and the scale of justice has a credit card in her pocket.
So much for equal justice and dedicated lawyers chasing the almighty buck.
It seems that justice is still rather blind.

methadont writes:

in response to crazybutterfly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Still in E Naples. Still overzealous. Still a liar. Still uses his position as an officer to settle what seems to be personal grudges and vendettas.

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