Dylan Ceglarek is an anomaly among the three boys accused of involvement in the death by strangulation of 46-year-old DeBary resident Gail Cleavenger in November 2018.
Unlike his co-defendant who faces the same charges, Ceglarek has remained in jail. At a Sept. 20 hearing, Circuit Judge Sandra C. Upchurch, with some reservations, set bond at $200,000, but so far, it hasn’t been posted.
Gregory Ramos was 15 when his mother was killed. He is accused of strangling her and remains in jail without bond. Ceglarek and a third boy, Brian Porras, are charged with helping Ramos cover up a first-degree murder.
The homicide was stunning. Police said after killing his mother in a brutal fashion the night of Nov. 1 after an argument over his grades, Ramos concocted an elaborate lie to cover it up. Officers said Ramos left school early the next day with Celgarek and Porras, who were both almost 18 years old at the time, and the trio staged a robbery scene at Ramos’ home.
Less than 12 hours later, their story began to unravel in the face of a Volusia County Sheriff’s Office investigation. Deputies said they almost immediately detected inconsistencies.
Ceglarek, then 17, ultimately confessed that night after questioning, the Sheriff’s Office said. According to the charging affidavit, Ceglarek led officers to property hidden as part of the fake robbery, and to the fire pit behind a DeBary church where Cleavenger’s body was buried.
His confession was used to confront Ramos, who told detectives that he had killed his mother, the affidavit reads.
The boys were initially charged as juveniles, and they were briefly released into the custody of their families.
But a grand jury was convened, and the three were charged as adults. Ramos was charged with first-degree murder, and Ceglarek and Porras were charged as accessories after the fact.
At the trio’s first appearance as adults Nov. 16, Judge Dawn Nichols set a $100,000 bond for Porras, and he went home that day after spending one night as an adult in jail. But Celgarek was deemed to be at too high a risk for bond because of a history of mental-health problems.
According to the State Attorney’s Office in that hearing, Ceglarek had expressed suicidal ideation to officers on the evening the crime was discovered. The state attorney also referred to Ceglarek’s mental-health history.
Nichols insisted that Ceglarek have a mental-health plan before she would set bond.
“I’ll be real honest — I’m worried about you,” she told Ceglarek. “I don’t want to lose you.”
Ten months later, public defender Michael Nappi argued at the Sept. 20 hearing that Ceglarek should be granted bond.
Nappi noted Ceglarek has been transferred four times from correctional facility to correctional facility.
Like the others, he was originally in a juvenile facility, but Ceglarek was transferred to Gainesville to prevent contact with the other co-defendants, Nappi said. Since then, he was transferred from the Volusia Branch Jail to a smaller 20-bed facility due to threats from other inmates, before being transferred back to the Branch Jail.
The transfers have impeded Ceglarek’s ability to pursue a high-school diploma, Nappi said, as books and other materials were lost during the moves.
As the case winds its way through the system, Ceglarek’s family has been less involved than the families of Porras and Ramos.
Ramos’ grandmother posts on social media about visiting Gregory weekly in jail. Ramos is estranged from his father, but his aunt, Gail Cleavenger’s sister, has petitioned for custody.
Porras’ family support system was one of the arguments that won him bond, and, since his release, the conditions of his bond have been modified to allow travel to Seminole County for work. His family was able to immediately muster $10,000, the 10th of the total amount required to secure a bond in Florida. His family was also able to hire a private attorney.
Ceglarek, on the other hand, was staying with his grandparents at the time of his arrest, but they have since moved to a 55-and-up community where he would not be allowed to live. His father and brother both have criminal records and, if out on bond, Ceglarek would be prohibited from having contact with either of them.
Although his mother attended the Sept. 20 hearing, after the grand jury announced in 2018 that Ceglarek would be tried as an adult, no member of his family was present at the bond hearing that followed. His defense attorney, a public defender, was unaware of that hearing and telephoned in only after being summoned by Judge Nichols.
Unlike the others, Ceglarek had been failing every subject in school except for an A in math, according to the State Attorney’s Office.
Months before Cleavenger’s death, Ceglarek had checked himself into Halifax Health Medical Center, an event the State Attorney’s Office cited at both bond hearings in arguing that Ceglarek shouldn’t get bond. According to Nappi, however, Ceglarek was released without counseling or treatment.
According to the State Attorney’s Office, Ceglarek had not received any mental-health treatment until he was in the prison system.
After 309 days in jail, Ceglarek was up for bond again. Judge Upchurch addressed the teen directly.
“I think things are going to be very rough for you, sir. I hope you have that strength,” she said.
Upchurch, who hears drug-court cases as well as criminal cases, spoke briefly about mental health.
“Every single person … has a psychological problem,” she said. “None of which anyone should be ashamed of. There’s no shame in that. The shame is not accepting it; the shame is not addressing it.”
The lack of mental-health services outside of jail was a concern for the court and the attorneys.
“There are no mental-health services for adults in Volusia County,” Nappi said.
“I am well aware of the lack of services,” Upchurch responded.
As part of the special conditions of Ceglarek’s bond, if he is able to muster the $20,000 required to get out of jail, he will be required to see a psychiatrist and complete any recommended treatment.