The long-disused and neglected Country Hearth Inn on Old Dixie Highway has been a trouble spot for Flagler County and sheriff’s officials for years–its former owners leaving it to decay, its debris flying in the wind, its rooms open to plunder, its swimming pool a murky and gaping risk. In 2020 it was the site of a suicide attempt.
All that was to come to an end as a company bought the property in late May, promising to put it in order and presumably reopen it as a motel on a prime location, just off the interchange between Old Dixie Highway and I-95. But the county’s troubles aren’t over.
On Friday, Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies arrested two Palm Coast men and a 17-year-old girl on charges of burglary at the old motel. Dylan Alvarez, 25, a resident of Larkspur Way in Palm Coast, and Christopher Ohrlich, 19, of Wellingron Drive in Palm Coast, were booked at the Flagler County jail. Both were charged with burglary and criminal mischief, and were also charged with causing a child to commit an act5 of delinquency, since they were responsible for the 17 year old.
Along with the girl, they had allegedly scaled a chain link fence to get onto the motel grounds. “The structure was currently under renovation, and the rooms were stripped of all furniture,” a deputy reported in an arrest report. “The windows were to be left intact. [Deputy Bryan] Denker and I conducted a walk-through of the structure and located multiple window panes that had been recently destroyed.”
Glass littered the floor at the foot of several room windows. The suspects were found in possession of a sledge hammer and work gloves. The girl among them was still wearing them at the time of her arrest. She told the deputies that she’d found the gloves at the hotel and that she’d put them on to handle broken glass. “Upon questioning, it was determined that all three subjects were inside the structure and admitted to using the sledge hammers to break multiple windows inside of the structure,” according to a sheriff’s release. “The three suspects told the deputies their friends told them to come here and that it was a good place to come and smash things. The suspects told deputies they first went to another location in St. John’s County but got too “spooked” out before coming to the former Country Hearth Inn in Flagler County.”
They’d traveled to the motel in Alvarez’s Jeep, which was towed from the scene by Saxon’s, the Bunnell tower.
“It has been a long time getting this eyesore for the community under construction and being repaired,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “I hope these knuckleheads learn from their poor decisions, turn their lives around and will be held responsible and financially for their actions by the courts.”