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Man Is Killed at 26 Ryken Lane in Palm Coast, Suspect Charged With 2nd Degree Murder

| June 2, 2013

The house at 26 Ryken Lane this morning. (c FlaglerLive)

The house at 26 Ryken Lane this morning. (c FlaglerLive)

Last Updated: 11:30 a.m.

Leonard Lynn, 76, was found dead Saturday evening at 26 Ryken Lane in Palm Coast in what the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office ruled a homicide later that night.

Eric Niemi had twice been jailed in Flagler County before today.

Erick Niemi had twice been jailed in Flagler County before today.

A suspect was arrested overnight: Erick Elom Niemi, 42, of 26 Ryken Lane–the same address. “We developed a suspect almost immediately based on some information we had, and that the victim’s van was missing,” Flagler County Undersheriff Rick Staly said.

Niemi was a boarder at Lynn’s house, and an argument between the two men led to Lynn’s killing, according to the sheriff’s office. Lynn’s body was discovered in his bedroom.

“They found him and the investigative services division interviewed him,” Staly said this morning, referring to Niemi, “and I got an update this morning at 5:30 that they were charging him. The individual we were looking for last night was a former roommate, or a renter, or something like that.”

Niemi was found in the van that belonged to Lynn, and that had been allegedly stolen. Niemi was found “frankly not too far away, and our suspect was in the van,” Staly said.

“After questioning by detectives, Niemi confessed,” a sheriff’s office release stated later this morning.

Niemi has twice been jailed in the last five years in Flagler County. (In those two arrests, his name was spelled “Eric.”) Last November he was charged with grand theft. In 2008, when he was living at 24 Webwood Place in Palm Coast, he was charged with driving on a suspended or revoked license.

Lynn’s daughter in law, Lisa Lynn, along with her husband Steven Lynn, went to the house in early evening Saturday to check on him. “Upon entering, Lisa Lynn observed what appeared to be blood on the floor of a common area,” Niemi’s arrest report states, then found two interior doors locked and called police. “Responding deputies subsequently forced entry into the master bedroom,” the report continues, “and found Leonard Lynn lying in blood on the floor with a pillow covering his face. Further investigation revealed a front bedroom window was now ajar at the house and a neighbor reported seeing the roommate ‘Erick’ returning to 26 Ryken Lane on his bicycle” at about 6 p.m.

Flagler County Fire Rescue had been called in, along with the sheriff’s office. Staly said authorities made a quick walk-through, then backed out, secured a search warrant, and returned.

“It’s going to come down to the medical examiner’s final determination, but it looks like blunt force trauma,” Bob Weber, a sheriff’s spokesman, said.

There were initial reports of a stolen van. A be-on-the-lookout for the van, a 2006 Dodge Caravan, was issued just after 9 p.m. The van was located across the street from 31 Ryapple Lane, less than half a mile from Lynn’s house–essentially, three turns away. Niemi was in the van. The property owners at Ryapple Lane were in no way involved in the incident. Niemi had merely parked in the area, by an empty lot.

This morning, a brown Ford van was on Lynn’s property, wrapped in police tape. The property itself was also taped, front to back. That is not necessarily a van that belonged to Lynn, however.

The property belongs to Lynn, an elderly man who had been facing foreclosure, and may have been renting out rooms in his 1,400-square-foot house to make ends meet. A neighbor spoke of frequent goings and comings by people not seen at the property before in the last several months.

Neighbors were not aware of the crime as they looked on, knowing only that something had gone wrong.

“I know police were here just asking when I’d seen him last,” next-door neighbor Betty Guy said of Lynn. “I didn’t know he was there. I’d been told he’d left, his house was foreclosed on. I don’t know if I’d last seen him on Thursday or Friday.” That day Guy saw Lynn try to move a mattress into his van. A mattress sat on the side of the garage wall today–a garage where, more recently, Lynn had taken to writing out verses from Psalms on the walls.

Lynn's yard-sale sign from the previous weekend. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Lynn’s yard-sale sign from the previous weekend. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Over the weekend Lynn had held a garage sale at the house. Signs for the sale were nailed to trees at the intersection of Ryken Lane and Ryberry Drive, and on Ryberry and Ryan Drive.

Guy and Lynn didn’t interact much. “I worried about him a lot. I’ve been here three years. He’s had a couple of incidents,” Guy recalled. Once, Lynn fell and injured his head. Lynn’s daughter took care of him. He refused to call paramedics. Another time, Lynn’s keys had fallen into the garbage disposal. He put his hand down to retrieve them, and was bloodied as a result. Guy’s daughter took care of him that time.

“The last six to nine months he had different people staying there,” Guy said. “I think there was a money issue, and he tried to have people move in there.”

Another couple a few doors down had stood on a driveway, looking on, unaware of the morning’s developments. When informed, they immediately recalled Niemi as “a weird guy” who was often walking up and down the street, talking on the phone. They’d known Lynn for years, going back to his days when he worked for U.S. Blinds, the company, and he went to their house to try to sell them on some blinds. They remember him renting out his house a year or so ago or more, but he returned after the renters had destroyed the place. Lynn had kept an impeccable yard, which looked very good even today, with well-tended plants, trees, a big bird feeder in the back yard. Niemi moved in a few months ago. The neighbors recalled him being involved in a car-washing or pressure-washing business.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s crime-lab unit was at the scene most of the night, and requested the medical examiner after 7 a.m. this morning. The medical examiner van bearing Lynn’s body, and FDLE’s crime lab, left the scene at 9:25 a.m.

The Ryken Lane homicide is the fourth to be recorded in Palm Coast or Flagler County since January, when Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre took over, though two of the four homicides may have been only circumstantially related to the calendar or to Flagler’s geography.

A man was found dead behind the property at 16 Covington Lane in Palm Coast on Jan. 16. Zuheili Roman Rosado was murdered on Feb. 21 as she worked an evening shift at the Mobil station convenience store on State Road 100 in Palm Coast, near I-95. And the remains of Barbara Parchem, a resident of Vermont Heights in St. Johns County, were found on the Flagler side of Flagler Estates in the remote, empty subdivision in the northwest part of the county, on May 1, in a death ruled a homicide.

“One homicide actually occurred in 2012 but was not discovered until 2013, early in January, and that’s still under invesrtigation obviously,” Staly said of the Covington lane killing. “One other homicide we believe occurred in another county and the body was dumped almost on the county line but technically in Flagler County. It’s very unusual for all this to happen in Flagler County. We have a lot of resources working to resolve all these cases, some are easier to solve as you see from the case last night, others are more difficult.” The Sheriff’s Office, Staly said, is using resources from FDLE and other resources to resolve the cases. “I have confidence that with our investigative services division that eventually they’ll all be cleared,” Staly said, noting that “The most important part is to arrest the right person and to make sure they have an air tight case to make sure they’ll go to prison.”

Niemi is being charged with one count of grand theft auto, one count of second degree murder. “He’s on his way to the jail,” Weber said. He was booked in at 10:14 a.m. Bond was set at $5,000 on the grand theft charge. He’s being held without bond on the murder charge.

An FDLE crime lab leaving Leonard Lynn's home this morning. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

An FDLE crime lab leaving Leonard Lynn’s home this morning. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)


The Medical Examiner's van as it was receiving Lynn's body. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The Medical Examiner’s van as it was receiving Lynn’s body. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)


Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)


The van at the scene. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The van at the scene. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)


Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)


Niemi's June 2 mugshots.

Niemi’s June 2 mugshots.

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14 Responses for “Man Is Killed at 26 Ryken Lane in Palm Coast, Suspect Charged With 2nd Degree Murder”

  1. ANONYMOUSAY says:

    This is getting ridiculous 4 homicides since January. Look at the DOC website and clue yourself in on all the offenders being released from prison into Flagler County when they in fact committed serious crimes elsewhere.

    • Nancy N. says:

      Just because the person is in prison for a crime committed somewhere else in the state doesn’t mean that they aren’t from here. It just might mean that they got arrested elsewhere somehow. Drug traffickers often get arrested far from home, for instance.

  2. Confused says:

    And we are told crime is down?

  3. Girl says:

    This is getting ridiculous and way out of hand… what is happening to our community – new people in office, and whole lot of crime -something needs to be done or what have we done???

    • Mr.mondex says:

      Wow!,and they say the MONDEX festers bad crimes !!,the MONDEX is a walk in the park compared to PALM -JERSEY!! I mean PALM -COAST. Excuse me!!! Murder no matter where it takes place is not good but take a look at these mug shots????wow look at this guy ill take the MONDEX any day

  4. briggid says:

    “Apparently there were money issues”. Think about this now–imagine that Mr. Lynn was taking in boarders so he didn’t lose his home to foreclosure. Maybe he has a limited (or no) pension and largely depended on Social Security.

    That’s bad enough, if you consider that Washington, in its infinite wisdom, is trying to figure out right now how to “save” Social Security–and then add to the allegation that prison dumping is going on in this county. What you would have then, in theory, is a recipe wherein this kind of thing starts happening more and more to our older friends and neighbors who might be on a fixed income.

    What’s the answer? I don’t know–but it seems like something some serious thought should be given to. Sad. RIP, Mr. Lynn….

  5. IMO says:

    I/M/O one thing you do not do is cave into political pressure to give up your legally owned firearms because others very mistakenly advise that will make us all safer.

  6. Ayn Rand's Spleen says:

    To think this happened because he didn’t see eye to eye with this roommate. Sad.

  7. What did you think says:

    Who in this community thought one could hire an attorney to act as a sheriff and he would bring down crime? Next lets elect the produce manager from Publix as sheriff. At least he is used to throwing out bad fruit.

  8. Will says:

    I’d met Erick Neimi 5 or 6 years ago. He used to attend various community activities to promote his car detailing business. I had suggested a few people use his services. Over time, now and then, we would have short, pleasant conversations.

    I even saw him two days ago, in a local Publix, two aisles away but we traded friendly waves, although looking back, something in his smile seemed a bit different.

    Nothing I knew about him, which isn’t much, would have eld me to think he could commit the crime for which he has reportedly confessed. I’m left wondering what changed in his life – what went wrong – for him to end up this way. It’s dreadfully sad for the victim’s family. Nothing, to me, can justify what happened. Maybe over time we’ll learn “why”…

  9. Blueboy says:

    As Palm Coast loses families, (see school enrollment stats), because of weak employment opportunities we also become less attractive to retirees. And the more drifters and people with records who, given the legal restrictions can not even attempt to turn their lives around, will move here because it’s cheap. Flagler County is closing schools while and at the same time it’s building a bigger jail that will hold more prisoners by a factor of FOUR!

    What does that tell you?

  10. fla native says:

    Palm Coast is a cancer to Flagler County. I can’t wait to get out of this place.

  11. A.S.F. says:

    Desperation can lead people to do unspeakable things–add other issues on top of it (addiction, mental health issues,etc.) and you have the tragic inevitable waiting to happen. My sympathy and thoughts go out to the victim’s family. We need to understand, politics aside, that any of us can have our lives changed forever in an instant, especially when conditions like this exist. We need to think about what we can do to make things better for all of us.

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