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Knife-wielding man arrested after Leesburg hotel clerk reports death threat

Joseph Mitchell Preston

A Leesburg man caught sleeping in a hotel room he didn’t pay for was arrested early Thursday morning after a desk clerk reported being threatened with a knife.

Leesburg Police were called to the Sleep Inn at 2476 Citrus Blvd. shortly before 6 a.m. The clerk told them he had received a noise complaint from a guest and when he checked it out, he found 32-year-old Joseph Mitchell Preston sleeping in a room for which he didn’t pay. The clerk said Preston had stayed at the hotel before and he knew him as “Joe.”

The clerk said he made several attempts to wake up Preston before finally deciding to splash a cup of water on him. He said Preston then woke up and he apologized as he stood up from the bed.

The clerk said Preston then pushed him up against a sink and pulled out a large knife with a tan handle and a curved end. He added that Preston threatened to kill him while he was being pressed against the sink, a Leesburg police report states, adding that Preston eventually backed away from him and he ran from the room to call for help.

Officers quickly located Preston at the top of an inside stairwell, as well as a knife with a tan handle and a curved blade, a black bandana, a black hat and a camo Bluetooth speaker. Officers also found two small clear plastic bags in Preston’s front pants pocket – one containing a green leafy substance that field tested positive for marijuana and another containing a white powdery substance that tested positive for cocaine, the report says.

The clerk positively identified Preston from the earlier incident and confirmed the knife officers recovered was the one used against him during the assault. The clerk was visibly shaken and crying after the incident and was unable to complete a sworn written statement, though he did sign an intent to prosecute, the report says.

Preston, who lives at 929 Alibrandi Road, was transported to the Lake County Jail and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, possession of marijuana less 20 grams and possession of cocaine. He was being held on $8,000 bond.

Preston, who is a landscaper, is scheduled to appear in Lake County Court Sept. 11 at 8:30 a.m. He has spent time in the Lake County Jail 13 times since August 2008.

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