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West Palm Beach's Most Wanted Criminals

Our justice system is the string that holds the fabric of civilized society together. There would be no repercussions for murder, rape, and all sorts of horrible things humans are capable of doing without it. And without punishment and discipline against those who commit these crimes, people would be forced to seek justice on their own in twisted and bloody ways.

The West Palm Beach Police Department lists three people in its most wanted section. These three people are accused of attempting murder and then fleeing the area before they could go through the process to either clear their name or serve for the crimes a jury found them guilty of committing, leaving the families of their victims with little sense of closure. Anyone with any information is urged to call 561-822-1900.

3. Arnulfo Merino Charged with: one count of attempted first-degree murder, one count aggravated assault, three counts of attempted felony murder.

On May 11, 2006, there was a misunderstanding about a stolen van. Then 20-year-old Arnulfo Merino believed Jose Almanza had taken it earlier in the day, the West Palm Beach Police report states. But the report states that Almanza couldn't have taken Merino's van: He didn't match the description and was driving his company van that day.

Merino then showed up with a getaway driver and two other males at Almanza's house. One of Merino's accomplices pointed a semiautomatic at Almanza's head as he was working in the yard. Almanza struck the man with a shovel and PVC pipe before Merino was able to shoot him. A second accomplice then tried to electrocute Almanza with a stun gun. As the accomplices ran away with Merino toward their getaway vehicle, they began firing at Almanza's family, who were also in the yard. One bullet struck Almanza's wife; others struck two of his four children. "Jose and his wife positively identified Arnulfo as the same person who was at their home in the afternoon and as the same person who returned with two additional males and tried to murder them," the report states.

2. Svetlana Vitman Charged with: murder in the first degree.

Sometime before sunrise on Tuesday June 7, 1994, someone murdered 41-year-old Preston Brooks of Carthage, Texas, in room 143 of the Knights Inn Hotel in West Palm Beach. A maid at the hotel found Brooks' body when she was changing the sheets. Blood was found on Brooks' head, the bed, the wall behind the bed, and the wall to the side of the victim. The second bed in the room appeared to have been slept in.

A warrant for Brooks' then-31-year-old girlfriend, Svetlana Vitman, was issued in August 1994. According to the report, Vitman denied ever being in the hotel room, yet her fingerprints were found at the scene. Vitman and Brooks met in Russia in August 1993, and Brooks brought her to this country illegally. According to a sworn statement by her alleged lesbian lover Lisa Cathey (who the report states has factual evidence of being physically abused by Vitman), Vitman shot Brooks with Cathey's .22 caliber handgun and then threw it out in "an unknown body of water." Sometime around 5 a.m., Brooks awoke and Vitman told him to go back to sleep. "As she watched him return to his bed and lay on his stomach Vitman then with no provocation, ruthlessly and maliciously pointed and fired two rounds in the back of Brooks' head," the report states.

It is believed that Vitman fled to New York City, but before she left, she consented to submitting to hair and DNA samples. "Vitman told Cathey that the reason why she killed Preston Brooks was that she hated him, and she had talked about causing bodily harm to him on previous occasions. Vitman had previously told Cathey that she wanted to kill someone and has also killed before," the report states.

1. Kayashawnde Charlton Charged with: one count of attempted murder in the first degree, one count of armed robbery with a firearm.

Around noon August 2, 1994, Jack Schram was manning the West Palm Beach shop Diamond Financial Corp. alone. After letting one man in and talking to him in the middle of the store, the police report states that the surveillance video shows this then-unknown man reaching into his waistband and Schram, after noticing that the man is grabbing for a gun, pulls .380 pistol out from the back of his pants. The intruder then shot Schram four times: three times in the chest and once in the hand. He then left Schram bleeding on the floor of the shop as he casually walked out the front door, but not before swiping Schram's gold Rolex off his wrist and his pistol.

Fortunately Schram underwent emergency surgery and survived. But the case went cold for seven years until an FBI agent in Miami called the West Palm Beach Police Department. There was a source in a Bahamian prison who claims a man, named Kayashwande Charlton, that told the source "he had shot the jeweler six times and he had taken the jeweler's .380 pistol from him," the report states. Then a West Palm Beach Police officer and the FBI agent flew to the Bahamian prison to interview Charlton, who was serving a 15-year sentence for an unrelated robbery conviction. Charlton at first denied being involved, but after being confronted with the surveillance video and learning that Schram had not died, he admitted to being at the jewelry store then. "Charlton told me the only reason he shot the man was to save his own life," the report states. "Charlton insisted he was acting in self defense when he shot Schram." In a sworn statement, Charlton then revealed he was recruited for the robbery, that someone drove him to the location, what he did inside the jewelry store, what he did with the gun and watch he took, and how much he was paid for his involvement. According to the Palm Beach Clerk's Office, he arrived in West Palm Beach in March of 2013 for trial. However, the West Palm Beach Police Department still list Charlton as its most wanted criminal.

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