Valusia, FL– A man from New Smyrna Beach tried to sell his boat last week on Craigslist and was nearly killed for his trouble. According to the immediate memory of the News Burner’s research team, there has to date been only one “Craigslist Killer,” and that is Philip Markoff, who killed Julissa Brisman last year, and later committed suicide in jail. And yet this attempted murder last week in Florida will be referred to as a Craigslist Killer-type of deal. That is how it’s done in the media. Even though the history of homicide is probably filled with cases of people gaining access to their homicide victims through want-ads and shady assignations.
In this recent incident, Ronald Kroll got on the deadly website and tried to sell his 2005 Savage Creek Classic boat. Authorities have been able to identify the man who responded to his ad as “Merritt Island resident Darin Leutbecker.” Leutbecker, who allegedly tried some “Dead Calm” sort of low seas bloody heist, is being charged with robbery with a firearm, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, use of a firearm during the commission of a felony, grand theft and battery, and being a very poor sport in the free market and savaging the already beaten reputation of the perilous website, Craigslist.
Kroll met Leutbecker and they took the appropriately named boat for a test voyage. Kroll figured everything was on the up and up, despite having hooked up with his prospective buyer on the dangerous website. That is, until Leutbecker had steered them into shallow water, away from the sight of other boaters. From the Carlsbad Current-Argus, (another appropriate name, for fans of Greek nautical lore)
“I knew something wasn’t right,” he said.
Kroll said the suspect told him to stand facing away at the front of the boat to see if it would rock. But Kroll knew better and tried taking the boat back to shore.
That’s when Kroll said he saw the suspect pull a handgun from his backpack. A struggle ensued and the two fell overboard.
There in the chest-high waters the struggle of the Argonauts continued. At one point as they battered one another for dear life, Kroll had his hand directly over the barrel of the gun. In this moment he probably had the strength of twenty boat-owners. He was as fearless as any Craigslist seller and he had a pocket knife. He managed to disarm the lunatic suspect now in custody, this Leutbecker, but the assailant recovered the weapon and shot at Kroll as he dove away and kept swimming. Leutbecker made off with the boat, and with what Kroll believed to be a gash on his neck from his pocket knife. Later, authorities tracked the suspect to the Canaveral hospital.
For a more detailed account of this epic fight for life in the shoals of the crazed land of Florida, see the Current-Argus article, which opens with a lead that mentions the TV movie “The Craigslist Killer,” because that’s how it’s done in the media, where tropes are highly valued and pop cultural references considered necessary to get the mind greased and the reader’s attention.
Kroll, who has sold several items on Craigslist in the past, said he will be more careful next time. By Thursday, he had taken his phone number off the online listing.
“It’s left me scratching my head,” he said. “You only hear about these things happening to other people. You never think it’s going to be happening to you.”