Couple Arrested For Attacking Tourists on Wisteria Island

Apparently Roger Bernstein and the United States of America are not the only ones claiming to own Wisteria Island.

SEE RELATED: Federal Government Sues Roger Bernstein Over Ownership of Wisteria Island

A 43-year-old man and a 35-year-old woman were arrested Saturday for attacking two men on the island.

Lower Keys Deputy Anthony Lopez was called to Coast Guard Station Key West at 6 p.m. regarding an assault on Wisteria Island.

Upon arrival, he met both victims — a man and his male partner, both from West Hollywood, California — who had rented a large boat from a local charter business. The large boat came with a dinghy.

One of the men told Deputy Lopez that he and his partner anchored the rental boat near Wisteria Island. They said it was about noon when they took the dinghy over to Wisteria Island. Once there, the men say they spent the day snorkeling and walking along the beach.

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They prepared to leave the island about 4:30 p.m. when they noticed a small skiff approaching. One victim told Deputy Lopez that as the approaching skiff got near, it’s two occupants — identified as Christopher Thomas John Yarema and Stephanie Lynn Burnham — were yelling at them. The suspects reportedly yelled anti-gay slurs at the men as well as expletives. The victim told Deputy Lopez that one of the suspects yelled, “Hey Mr. Speedo faggot get the (F#$k) off our island!”

The tourists say as they were attempting to pack their things the skiff got nearer and the couple kept yelling, “Get the F#$k off our island or we will kill you!” The victim told Deputy Lopez that when the dinghy landed on the beach Burnham yelled, “You have five seconds to get off, or I will kill you.”

One victim told Deputy Lopez that as he was untying the dinghy to leave, Burnham struck him in the face with a closed fist, damaging his $800 sunglasses. He said Burnham then struck him on the head with a boat oar.

The victim told Deputy Lopez he pushed her away in an attempt to create distance between them when Yarema said, “You knocked down my wife, I’m going to kill you.” Yarema reportedly came at the victim with a four-inch blade, swung, but missed. The victim said he was able to put the dinghy between himself and Yarema. He said Yarema came at him again with the knife, missing again, but punctured the dinghy. Yarema reportedly then swung and stabbed the dinghy a second time.

The victim told Deputy Lopez that he and his partner were able to get on the dinghy and make it back to the bigger rental boat where they radioed for help. The Coast Guard arrived and found the dinghy “flattened”.

The second victim gave Deputy Lopez the same version of events. There were no serious injuries.

The charter boat company stated they wished to press charges for the damage to the dinghy, which is estimated to be between $2,000 and $5,000.

Yarema told Deputy Lopez that when he and Burnham were returning to the island, where they live, they found the men in area close to their campsite. He said Burnham had gotten into an argument with the men but he didn’t remember anything else about the incident. He said he carried a knife for work.

Deputy Lopez arrested Yarema and Burnham. Yarema was charged with aggravated assault and causing property damage. Burnham was charged with battery and causing property damage.

View the full incident report here.


Note: Information in this crime report was provided by area law enforcement. Please remember all suspects are innocent until proven guilty.


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