Ronald Kroll watched “The Craigslist Killer” movie but never thought something like that could happen to him. Last week it almost did.
Ronald Kroll, 37, from New Smyrna Beach said he found himself fighting for survival moments after he met a man who claimed interest in buying a boat Ronald had advertised on Craigslist, the popular classifieds website.
Ronald Kroll thinks the man had other intentions in mind.
“I think he would have killed me if he had the chance,” he said.
Ronald Kroll met the man, who was later identified by authorities as Darin Leutbecker, a Merritt Island resident, about noon Wednesday near the Intracoastal Waterway in New Smyrna Beach to test out a 2005 Savage Creek Classic boat.
The two men ventured south into the channel with Ronald Kroll at the controls.
Minutes later, Ronald Kroll said he offered the wheel to Darin Leutbecker, who took the boat into shallow water. However, when they were out of sight from other boaters, Ronald Kroll said that’s when he got suspicious.
“I knew something wasn’t right,” he said.
Ronald Kroll said the suspect told him to stand facing away at the front of the boat to see if it would rock. But he knew better and tried taking the boat back to shore.
That’s when Ronald Kroll said he saw the suspect pull a handgun from his backpack. A struggle ensued and the two fell overboard.
“The biggest thing was to get myself as far away from the gun as possible,” he said.
The two fought in chest-deep water and at one point Ronald Kroll said his hand was directly over the barrel of the gun.
“That was one of the scariest things I’ve experienced,” Ronald Kroll said.
Seconds later, he said he thought he saw the suspect had dropped the gun and Ronald Kroll pulled out a pocketknife to defend himself. But the suspect drew the gun out of the water and shot at Ronald as he dove for cover.
Ronald Kroll swam to land while the suspect drove away with the boat, which was later found abandoned, Volusia County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Brandon Haught said.
He told deputies that during the struggle he believed he had cut the suspect across the neck with the pocketknife.
Volusia sheriff’s investigators then notified the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office to be on the lookout for anyone showing up at a hospital there with the suspect’s description and injury. About 7:30 p.m. Wednesday a Brevard sergeant notified Volusia investigators that a man matching the description, including a neck injury, was at Canaveral Hospital.
Darin Leutbecker was 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. He was taken to the Volusia County Branch Jail and was being held Thursday on $10,000 bail.
Ronald Kroll, who has sold several items on Craigslist in the past, said he will be more careful next time. By Thursday, Ronald Kroll had taken his phone number off the online listing.