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  • 04/16/15--15:40: 2 plead guilty to tax scam
  • PANAMA CITY — Two people involved in a tax fraud scheme using identities stolen from patients in a Bonifay assisted living home have admitted to 31 federal charges of wire fraud and identity theft.

    Jermaine Winters, 39 of Coleman, and Rosetta Presley, 22, of Chipley, pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida to using stolen identities between July 2011 and July 2012 to file fraudulent tax returns in an attempt to steal more than $118,000 from the U.S. Treasury. Their sentencings take place July 1 when they could each receive up to 20 years for wire fraud and at least two years for aggravated identity theft.

    Two other individuals, Senora Cotton, 24, and Fontella Keith, 47, both of Chipley, still face charges in connection with the case.

    The federal investigation began with a traffic stop made by the Chipley Police Department more than three years ago.

    The group’s indictment alleges that between July 2011 and July 2012, the defendants used the stolen identities of assisted-living facility residents, clinical laboratory patients, and others, in an attempt to steal more than $118,000 through electronically filing fraudulent tax returns.

    Keith is alleged to have stolen the personal identifying information of patients at the Dogwood Inn, an assisted-living facility in Bonifay, where he worked. Keith is accused of then relaying the information to Winters, Cotton, and Presley, who then filed the fraudulent tax returns.

    The defendants also are alleged to have used the personal identifying information of patients from Sun Laboratory Services, a clinical laboratory in the Tampa area, to file additional fraudulent tax returns. The defendants allegedly caused the United States Treasury to pay fraudulent income tax refunds by loading refunds onto prepaid debit cards mailed by various financial institutions to addresses in the Northern District of Florida.

    The Chipley Police Department alerted the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to the case in 2011 after recovering IRS documents during a traffic stop. The suspect in that stop fled the scene, but investigators believe he had burglarized the home of one of the suspects. The recovered items launched the tax fraud investigation, which soon expanded to include several other agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Leon County Sheriff’s Office.


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    PANAMA CITY — Three of five former Washington County prison guards now have pleaded guilty in federal court to brutally beating an inmate in an orchestrated attack.

    Former Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) officers William Francis Finch and Dalton Edward Riley pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida to charges of violating an inmate’s human right to not endure cruel and unusual punishment. Robert Lewis Miller pleaded guilty earlier in April, and the three men each face as much as 10 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

    The cases against James Fletcher Perkins and Christopher Blake Christmas are pending.

    All five men were indicted on charges of violating 31-year-old Jeremiah Tatum’s civil rights at the Northwest Florida Reception Center (NWFRC) in Washington County during an act of jailhouse retaliation.

    Each of the former officers pleaded not guilty Feb. 26 before the three reversed their stance.

    According to the indictment filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the attack allegedly was orchestrated by former Capt. James Kirkland as retaliation on Tatum. Kirkland and the other officers initially had been charged with malicious felony battery on an inmate. However, Kirkland was excluded from the federal indictment for human rights violations after he was found dead in December from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

    The arrests of the officers stemmed from an Aug. 5 incident, during which Tatum was left severely injured.

    Unruly inmates at the NWFRC are usually subdued in their cells with intermittent treatments of pepper spray, according to court documents. Days before the beating, Tatum had been deemed unruly and Kirkland attempted to employ pepper spray treatments. Tatum blocked those efforts and the pepper spray in turn got onto Kirkland, investigators reported.

    The incident would not bode well for Tatum.

    Kirkland was the officer in charge a few nights later. Finch was listed as the assistant officer in charge. Moments before the incident, Kirkland taunted Tatum in his cell to elicit “disruptive behaviors” from Tatum, which worked, according to court documents.

    Finch and Kirkland applied two rounds of pepper spray treatment on Tatum within his cell, and Kirkland called in the five-man extradition team to escort Tatum to a decontamination shower, prosecutors allege. As the men equipped themselves for the extradition, Kirkland allegedly told the officers he would state Tatum spit on him leading up to the beating “to teach him a lesson,” according to court records.

    Video from the prison showed Tatum being slammed face first to the concrete floor by Finch and Riley while Tatum’s hands were restrained behind his back and his ankles restrained. The three other officers then jumped on Tatum and pinned him to the ground, according to arrest records.

    Following that, Finch and Kirkland allegedly falsified reports from themselves and Riley that the incident was caused by Tatum spitting on Kirkland, though each of the subordinate officers would later tell investigators the attack was designed by their supervisor.

    Two of those officers’ cases, Christmas and Perkins, are pending in federal court. Miller is scheduled to be sentenced June 17. Finch’s and Riley’s sentencings had been set for July 1.


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    MARIANNA — Authorities have arrested  a man for allegedly breaking into a woman’s home before strangling her and threatening her with a knife, according to a Jackson County Sheriff’s Office press release.

    Joseph Cas Cogburn, 34, was arrested Friday on charges of burglary with battery, obstruction of justice, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and domestic battery by strangulation, officers reported in the news release.

    JCSO deputies responded to a residence on Corbin Road at about 7:40 a.m. in reference to a report of a physical disturbance. The resident had fled the residence and gone to another location. Upon contact with the female victim, officers learned that a male had gained entry to the residence through a window, allegedly choked her, threatened her with a knife and took her phone from her before breaking it, officers reported.

    Cogburn had fled the scene prior to the arrival of law enforcement. A canine tracking unit was summoned from Jackson Correctional Institution to assist with locating the suspect, JCSO reported.

    Cogburn was located a short time later in Alford and was taken into custody without further incident. A hold also was placed on Cogburn for an active warrant from Franklin County.


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    PANAMA CITY — A 15-year-old Bay High School student has been arrested for allegedly making a threat on social media against a fellow student and the school, according to officials at the Bay County Sheriff’s Office.

    BCSO reported that Thursday school authorities received information that a threat against Bay High was posted on Snapchat, a social media site. The video was made by William Alexander Hennage, 15, a student at BHS. In the video, Hennage states he is going to “shoot up Bay High School,” according to BCSO.

    Hennage then racks a rifle he is holding, and smiles into the camera. Hennage then posted a still photo on Snapchat of a bullet with the name of another student on the bullet, officers said.

    School administration also reported finding a flyer Thursday in the school cafeteria with the message “4-16-07 Do you remember Virginia Tech.” Also on the flyer was a sticker with the twitter hashtag “#AttackonBHS4-16-15,” BCSO reported.

    Officers contacted Hennage and his family. Hennage was arrested Friday and charged with writing threats to kill or do bodily injury, a second degree felony. He was taken to DJJ.


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    MARIANNA — Whether a Jackson County man convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend and her three children will receive a new trial has not yet been determined, but a circuit judge took the matter under advisement this week during a hearing, according to court records.

    Wesley Jonathan Williams, 31, was convicted of four counts of murder in 2009 for the 2005 deaths of ex-girlfriend Danielle Baker and her three young sons and sentenced to four consecutive life terms. Williams now claims his defense attorney in the case, Walter Smith, advised him not to testify in the trial, a decision that cost him his freedom, he said.

    Both Williams and Smith took the stand Tuesday to disclose their versions of the private, attorney-client conversations from the 2009 trial.

    Williams claimed Smith told him testifying would open him up to cross-examination, which could disclose potentially damaging information to the jury from a previous felony conviction. Under the advisement, Williams did not testify, he said.

    However, Smith testified he actually told Williams that he would be convicted whether he testified or not. He said he left the decision to Williams and that it would not make a difference either way, since DNA evidence connected him to the crime scene.

    Baker, 19, was found shot to death in her Cottonwood Village apartment in Marianna on March 17, 2005. The children — Amad, 3, Amarion, 1, and Aarron, 3 weeks — were bound with duct tape and suffocated. Prosecutors sought to prove Williams, father to two of the children, killed Baker to avoid paying child support, but Smith argued Williams had nothing to do with the murder and could easily not pay child support.

    Smith presented jurors with multiple alternate scenarios that led to Baker’s death, including a theory that drug dealers from Miami came across Baker’s home while searching for another man.

    One woman testified Williams was at her home that night.

    In addition, a man named Skylar Keys, who was videotaped buying duct tape that night and seen at the apartment just before the crimes, testified during the trial that he’d been there, but, after it became apparent the sexual encounter he expected was not going to happen, he left.

    While the duct tape Keys purchased did not match the duct tape from the crime scene, Williams was linked to the crimes by a single hair found on the tape used to bind the children. Williams faced the death penalty but received four consecutive life terms in prison.

    If Circuit Court Judge Shona Young Gay does not grant a new trial, a second ground upon which the appeal is based will be heard later. It involves an alleged jailhouse confession by an inmate claiming responsibility.


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    PANAMA CITY BEACH — Undercover officers have arrested and charged 11 dancers in a local club for allegedly exposing their breasts to patrons, according to the Bay County Sheriff’s Office.

    The manager of the club, 30-year-old Shawn Alan Carnahan, also was arrested for allegedly violating Bay County “morality” laws, BCSO reported in a news release.

    The 11 women are employed at the Show N Tail at 8776 Thomas Drive. During an undercover investigation Thursday night at the club, officers reported they observed the women dancing with their breasts exposed in front of patrons.

    Nudity and indecent conduct are illegal in Bay County establishments that serve food, drink or alcoholic beverages, according to the county’s “morality ordinance.” The law prohibits the exposure of “any portion of the female breast below the top of the areola where the areola and nipple are not covered by a fully opaque covering.”

    The ordinance also prohibits owners or managers from directing or allowing nudity within their businesses.

    Carnahan, of Panama City Beach, admitted to investigators that he was aware the employees were dancing with breasts exposed. He was also charged with violating the morality ordinance and turned himself in Friday.

    Representatives of Show N Tail declined to comment.

    The women arrested were Itecka Woullard, 19, of Panama City; Amber Cepeda, 22, of Panama City; Chelsea Bradshaw, 20, of Panama City Beach; Destiny Leeds, 18, of Panama City; Heather Sturdevant, 21, of Panama City Beach; Amber Schnackenberg, 26, of Panama City; Amanda Simmons, 24, of Panama City; Cosme Ramos, 32, of Panama City; Brianna Bell, 18, of Panama City; Jakala Johnson, 21, of Panama City; and Sierra Brasier, 19, of Panama City.

    The penalty for violation of the “morality ordinance” can be up to $500 fine or as much as 60 days in jail, unless otherwise determined by officials. The law has been on Bay County books since 1982.


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    PANAMA CITY — Sheriff Frank McKeithen is asking the Bay County Commission to pay for up to $40,000 in overtime costs to patrol what law enforcement is dubbing a “Freaknik” event next weekend at the Palms Conference Center.

    In a letter to the commission dated Tuesday, McKeithen wrote the event initially was promoted on YouTube as “The Freaknik,” the sheriff’s letter states, but that video is no longer available. McKeithen wrote that to ensure his office has adequate resources in place, he plans to activate an additional 50 deputies on April 24 and April 25 to include possibly requesting mutual aid from surrounding counties.

    He outlined up to $40,000 in overtime costs and also asked for an extension of ordinances that banned drinking on sandy beaches and in parking lots, cut off alcohol sales at 2 a.m. and prohibited entry to people under 21 years of age from entering clubs that serve alcohol. Those ordinances were scheduled to expire Friday at midnight.

    --- DOCUMENT: MCKEITHEN'S LETTER TO THE COMMISSION»»

    The commission will vote on the requests at Tuesday’s meeting.

    “I am concerned with this event due to the issues we have experienced during Spring Break, and past issues in other communities related to Freaknik,” McKeithen stated in his letter to commission chairman Guy Tunnell.

    McKeithen stated in his letter that a YouTube video promotes the Beach event as “the biggest party of the year,” and states that “Southeast Georgia will be taking over Panama City.”

    “We had significant issues with similar events at the Palms Conference Center during Spring Break, and worked with Bay County fire and Code Enforcement to maintain order at this event,” McKeithen wrote in his letter.

    But Michael Sinsheimer, the manager of The Palms Conference Center, said their conference center has been rented out by groups during Spring Break and deputies were there without problems.

    “We’ve had several events there with no arrests, no one getting hurt in the last six weeks,” he said.

    But Bay County Sheriff’s Maj. Tommy Ford said the Sheriff’s Office has had problems at the conference center over Spring Break. He said in events from March 13-15, numerous deputies went to the center as it became overcrowded with patrons who were parking everywhere around the center, many illegally — in business parking lots and along Joan Avenue.

    “It went from a large number of people there to exceeding the capacity of the building,” Ford said. “There was a very pervasive smell of marijuana. The sheriff called for all available units to come there. We shut down the location.”

    He said on the night of March 15 sheriff’s deputies found Sinsheimer in the back of the center putting up a piece of plywood over a plate glass window that was broken with blood all over it.

    Events were not allowed to be held on March 20 and March 21 due to the fire code violations, Ford said, but were allowed to reopen March 27.

    He said the sheriff is requesting up to $40,000 in overtime but may not use it all. He said the sheriff felt this was needed as a safety precaution based on the way the promoters touted the event on YouTube as “The Freaknik” event.

    “My question is if everything is cool, why did they take the video down?” Ford said. “I’ve seen it. It calls for Southwest Georgia to take over Panama City. It lists quite a few communities in Southeast Georgia coming down there.”

    Sinsheimer said they are not organizing the April 25 event, just renting out space.

    He said the Palm Conference Center cares about the community and participates in community causes.

    “The center put on our pancake breakfast at Christmas time for the children’s groups in Panama City and for the foster kids,” he said. “We also are hosting the meetings for the Cancer Society for their walks, so we want to do everything we can to participate” in community causes.

    He said the business has shut down its Facebook page because of “threats” from people who don’t want the hall to be rented out for April 25 event.

    Previous events: Jaquay Wimbo Wimberly, an organizer of the event, said there is a misunderstanding about the event, which he said has been held at Shuckums for the past three years without incident. He said Shuckums’ owner informed them they didn’t want the event there this year due to the Spring Break controversy.

    Mack Carter, the owner of Shuckums, said the group has leased out space at that restaurant for three years with no crime problems.

    “I’ve never experienced any problems at Shuckums with any party we’ve had,” he said.

    But, he said, he wasn’t allowing Wimberly to hold his event this year because of “pressure” from law enforcement and other officials.

    “We just decided it was not in our best interest to have the parties anymore,” he said.

    Wimberly said about 300 to 400 people will be attending the party at the center at The Palms next Saturday, and the following day there will be a block party in Georgia.

    “It’s like a reunion every year,” he said. “People from this little community in Georgia go to Panama City Beach.”

    He said he understands where people are coming from in “trying to protect their community and families,” but his event does not pose a risk to them. “I don’t blame them,” he said.

    Wimberly said the “Freaknik” word is used by many event promoters and doesn’t mean they are associated with the groups in Atlanta that committed all the violence.

    “I think the Freaknik thing has been blown out of proportion,” he said.

    McKeithen pointed out in his letter that “Freaknik” began with an event in Atlanta that started in the mid-1980s and ended in 1996 due to many of “the same issues that we are currently experiencing” with Spring Break crime.

    McKeithen quoted a March article in “Atlanta Magazine” that describes the rise and fall of Freaknik: “Freaknik 1995 wrapped up with grim reports. The rape unit at Grady Memorial Hospital treated 10 victims — far more than in a typical weekend. Police made at least 93 arrests and revelers looted stores in Underground Atlanta and Greenbriar Mall. Three people were shot.”

    Wimberly and his proposed event have come under fire in numerous comments by members of the PCB Owners Alliance Facebook site, a group pushing for more Spring Break regulations.

    Darrell Sellers, the founder of the organization, said the national publicity over the promotion of the event is sullying Panama City Beach’s reputation.

    “It’s about what they are marketing — ‘What happens in Panama City Beach stays in Panama City Beach.’ What they are promoting is taking over the city,” Sellers said. “This isn’t about race.”

    Many people have posted comments on the alliance Facebook page encouraging Wimberly to not hold the event.

    “I’m from Atlanta. I don’t scare easy — not leaving because of a bunch of punk, gangsta thugs. We’re ready for them over here,” Kimberly Luna posted on the Facebook page.

    Wimberly replies on the page that most of the people commenting have wrong information about the event.

    --- DOCUMENT: MCKEITHEN'S LETTER TO THE COMMISSION»»

    “This is two different events in two different states,” he wrote on the alliance Facebook page. “The LBlockPCB4 is a party held in Panama City Beach, which has on an average of 300-400 in attendance. The first three years it was held at Shuckums Oyster Pub. In those three years there has not been one incident nor fight. There (is) always a security team on hand that has years of experience.”

    He adds that the Goodson Road block party in Georgia on April 26 will attract 3,000 to 4,000 people. He said some Beach residents were wrong in thinking the block party was going to be held on the Beach.

    “We understand everyone’s concerns about safety, so that’s why we have taken steps to make sure everyone has a nice time in a safe manner,” Wimberly wrote on the Facebook page. “The fire marshal themselves in Panama City Beach have been in attendance at one of our events from the time it started till the time it closed and seen how well of a tight ship we run!!!” 


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    BLOUNTSTOWN — A Fountain man has been convicted of a violent rape, according to a State Attorney’s Office press release.

    Chief Assistant State Attorney Greg Wilson and Assistant State Attorney Ana Garcia showed jurors during the two day trial that Michael Clark, 47, attacked a woman in the early morning hours of May 18 in a residence on Northwest County Line Road.

    The victim described Clark as a “family friend” and told deputies he had allowed her to stay at his sister’s residence for a few days. The morning of May 18, Clark came to the home after a night of drinking and tried to have sex with the woman. She told him she wasn’t interested and Clark grabbed her by the throat, threw her to the ground, dragged her to the bed and forcibly raped her. When he passed out, the victim ran from the residence and called authorities.

    Clark was found guilty as charged of false imprisonment and sexual battery with threat of force. The state will ask Circuit Judge Allen Register to find Clark to be a habitual felony offender based on his criminal past. If the judge finds that Clark meets the requirements he could be sentenced up to life in prison during the sentencing on May 27.


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  • 04/18/15--09:17: BCSO arrest log (April 8-15)
  • Information is provided by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office on people arrested on charges April 8-15. Those arrested can contact The News Herald if charges are dropped or if they are acquitted. Addresses are those given by the defendant during arrest.

    --- MUGSHOTS»»

    Kelsey Ray Kight, 21, 167 Whitecap Way, Panama City Beach, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession of synthetic narcotics with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, burglary, possession of controlled substance without prescription,

    Norman Lee Wiggins, 33, 5522 Beach Drive, Panama City Beach, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession of controlled substance without prescription

    Michael Justin Mcneil, 28, 5529 Hathaway Road, Panama City, sexual assault

    Traci Lynn Reed, 34, 2424 Pelican Bay Court, Panama City Beach, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver

    Benjamin Collins Rivers, 19, Gwinette, Ga., possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession of controlled substance without prescription

    Romero Malik Randall, 18, Marietta, Ga., selling marijuana

    Antrown L. Bryant, 41, 752 Sanders Lane, Springfield, felony or domestic battery by strangulation

    Martika Yevette Yasaitis, 21, 140 Central Ave., Panama City, possession of controlled substance without prescription

    Rodregus Lanoit Davenport, 23, 1343 Lincoln Drive, Panama City, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver

    --- MUGSHOTS»»

    Steven Martinez-Avila, 26, 9310 Clarence St., Panama City Beach, burglary, aggravated battery causing bodily harm or disability

    April Danielle Kimmel, 28, 113 North Vestavia St., Panama City Beach, possession of cocaine

    Linda Jean Hasty, 59, 1408 Arthur Ave., Panama City, aggravated battery

    Jann Raphael Cichon, 37, 216 Maine Ave., Panama City, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver

    Amanda Katherine Herring, 33, 502 Albatross St., Panama City Beach, possession of controlled substance without prescription

    April Dawn Carlee, 30, 150 Sherritt Branch Road, Southport, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver

    Willie Frank Lewis, 21, Albany, Ga., trafficking amphetamines

    David Bryan Spikes, 27, 2912 Syracuse Ave., Panama City, burglary

    Delonte Cardigues Martistee, 22, Bainbridge, Ga., sexual assault

    Gabriel Efrain Karell, 22, North West Palm Beach, possession of cocaine

    --- MUGSHOTS»»

    Mark Newey Jackson Jr., 19, 6603 Enzor St., Panama City, sexual assault

    Emilio Perez, 20, Hialeah, possession of cocaine

    Dominic Anthony Capizzi, 21, Fort Myers, possession of cocaine

    Anna Maria Cardell, 21, Miami, possession of controlled substance without prescription

    Donovan Blair Thornton, 18, Jonesboro, Ga., possession of controlled substance without prescription

    Brian Garcia, 24, Atlanta, Ga., possession of hallucinogen with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession of synthetic narcotics with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession of controlled substance without prescription

    Dewayne Lee Ash, 46, Amy Lane, Panama City Beach, felony or domestic battery by strangulation

    James Walter Smith, 21, Potomac, Md., possession of cocaine

    Evan Richard Grossman, 23, Melbourne Beach, possession of cocaine

    Maxwell Anthony Dedominick, 22, Port Charlotte, possession of controlled substance without prescription

    Kristin Nicole Jackson, 20, North Miami, possession of controlled substance without prescription

    --- MUGSHOTS»»

    Xavier Jovan Henry, 22, Clermont, possession of controlled substance without prescription

    David Gene Fiedler, 29, 1504 Springgate Drive, Panama City, burglary

    Mark Phillip Eglinton, 40, 9708 Camp Flowers Road, Youngstown, possession of controlled substance without prescription

    Edward Heath Sawyer, 37, 211 San Souci Blvd, Panama City Beach, felony or domestic battery by strangulation

    Bryan Scott Millwood, 38, 3600 Thomas Drive, Panama City Beach, abuse child without great bodily harm

    Scott Michael Maniscalco, 46, Cedartown, Ga., aggravated assault with adeadly weapon without the intent to kill

    Sherry Jane Krause, 34, 1308 Frankford Ave., Panama City, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver

    Jesika Lyn Batson, 30, 3337 Bradenton Ave., Panama City Beach, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver

    David Austin Hadaway, 26, 7041 Keiber Circle, Youngstown, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver

    Jason Carl Phipps, 33, 210 S. Arnold Road, Panama City, burglary

    --- MUGSHOTS»»

    Joe C. Bryan, 22, 2435 E. 34th Place, Panama City, aggravated battery with use of a deadly weapon

    Keith Evans, 39, 11921 Caruso Drive, Panama City, sexual assault

    Andrew Martin Werner, 56, possession of controlled substance without prescription

    Kati Ann Blackburn, 30, 3541 Fox Fun Blvd, Panama City Beach, possession of controlled substance without prescription

    Kody Shala White, 25, 2366 Hickory Road, Carryville, sexual assault

    Lesiah T. Lewis, 25, 17015 Guava Ave., Panama City Beach, sexual assault

    Shamiko Sharod Thomas, 22, 301 Lullwater Drive, Panama City Beach, sexual assault

    Fred Lee Caldwell Jr., 38, 132000 White Westren Springs Road, Panama City, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession of controlled substance without prescription

    Thomas Wayne Martin, 40, Fairhope, Ala., burglary


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    PONCE DE LEON - The Holmes County Sheriff's Office is responding to a report of a murder in Ponce de Leon.

    A female victim has been reported as deceased and a male victim is in unknown condition. Holmes County Times-Advertiser reporter Jennifer Rich is en route to the scene. Look for more details as they become available.


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    PANAMA CITY — A shotgun-wielding man was shot and killed by police on Beck Avenue early Saturday morning after refusing commands to drop the weapon and instead “engaging” officers, according to Panama City police.

    The identify of the man was not released Saturday, nor was the name of the officer or officers involved in the shooting. There were no reports of officer injuries.

    In a news release, the Panama City Police Department said officers responded to a report of a white male carrying a “long gun” in the 1200 block of Beck Avenue at around 5:30 a.m. Police encountered the suspect and after numerous commands to put down the gun the suspect “engaged” officers and they returned fire, according to the PCPD.

    --- PHOTOS: MORE FROM THE SCENE»»

    The suspect was shot and transported to a local hospital, where he was later pronounced dead, police said.

    Late Saturday morning, a swath of Beck Avenue from 11th Street north to near 13th Street and the St. Andrews Farmer’s Market remained blocked by crime scene tape. Details were scarce as business owners blocked from their businesses and others gathered to watch officers work inside the crime scene.

    A Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime scene van was stationed at midway through the crime scene. The FDLE is routinely asked to come in when there are officer-involved shootings.

    A few buildings up from the south crime scene tape barrier on Beck Avenue, locals wondered exactly what had happened and took in what details they could find. A few storefronts up on the west side of Beck Avenue sat a white pickup truck with a yellow evidence marker sitting on the top. To its right and just in front of it, the entire glass storefront of Clara Jean’s Antiques, 1107 Beck Ave., was blown out, shattered glass littering the sidewalk and a stuffed rabbit leaning forward out of the storefront through the opening.

    Not too far away there appeared to be a shotgun laying on the ground.

    --- PHOTOS: MORE FROM THE SCENE»»

    People headed to the Saturday Farmer’s Market were detoured, but given an alternate route in so that the market could open. An employee at the St. Andrews Waterfront Farmers Market who did not want to be identified said he did not see the shooting occur but heard gunfire. The employee said the shooting occurred around 5:30 a.m. and that he heard an officer saying for the shooter to “put the gun down.”

    An employee at Captain’s Table who also did not want to be identified said the shooting happened at 5 a.m. and the suspect’s body was on the ground after being shot.

    Police were expected to release more information as it became available, and it was unknown Saturday afternoon how long the area would remain shut down for the affected businesses.


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    PANAMA CITY BEACH — The Florida Department of Transportation will host a public hearing concerning proposed improvements to the intersection of Back Beach Road and State 79 in Panama City Beach.

    The hearing is Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the George C. Cowgill City Hall Annex Building, 104 South Arnold Road. There will be an open house beginning at 6 p.m. followed by a formal presentation at 6:30 p.m.

    FDOT said the hearing is being conducted to give interested persons an opportunity to express their views concerning the proposed widening and extension of the eastbound left-turn lane on U.S 98 (Back Beach Road) to better accommodate left-turning vehicles.

    This improvement will require a modification to the median access from U.S. 98 at Armstrong Circle and also proposes converting the existing eastbound right-turn lane into an additional through-lane. A new eastbound right-turn lane adjacent to the existing turn lane will also be constructed.

    The proposed improvements to State 79 include shifting the southbound through-lane to the west and striping the pavement to add a left-turn lane to alleviate congestion during peak seasons.

    Other improvements include milling and resurfacing the existing lanes, minor drainage improvements, sidewalk construction, signage and traffic signal upgrades.

    The project will be constructed within the FDOT right-of-way. Bids for construction are anticipated to be received summer 2016.


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    The second of two intended victims remained in unknown condition at a Bay County Hospital Sunday evening, following a slaying that took place at a Grant Road home in Ponce de Leon Saturday.

    The Holmes County Sheriff's Office responded to a report of a possible homicide at the residence shortly before 6 p.m. Upon arrival, investigators discovered two victims, a female who was deceased, and a male with life-threatening injuries.

    Two suspects were identified within less than five hours of the crime and are currently in custody in Escambia County on unrelated charges stemming from existing felony warrants, officials said.

    Holmes County Sheriff Tim Brown said that due to this investigation's ongoing status, no further details will be released Sunday night. However, the HCSO is expected to release more information, including the victims' identities, Monday morning.

    "This investigation is a top priority for us," Brown said. "We are following leads and will release more information as soon as possible."


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    PANAMA CITY – At the Panama City Mall this week, a table is set for eight while a placard at its head declares it to be “in loving memory of all victims of the 14th Judicial Circuit whose lives were stolen in crime.”

    This is the 10th year Charlotte Greathouse has organized Missing Place at the Table, an annual memorial she started in 2006 after attending a similar event in Tallahassee.

    “We came back with the hope to share the event with other families that had lost loved ones due to violence,” Greathouse said.

    Greathouse and other volunteers will present a program today at 11 a.m. in the center court at the mall, near the old World Market entrance. The table and memory boards commemorating the more than 108 people who have been featured at the table will remain on display through noon Sunday, April 26.

    Greathouse’s daughter, Kelli Bailey, was killed in 2001. She sets a place at the table for Bailey every year, along with a place for all victims of violence, a place for all children victims and places for new additions to the memorial. This year, six new victims joined. Relatives sent Greathouse information, pictures and place settings for the table. Next year, their pictures and stories will be added to the memory boards.

    This year’s new additions are Leroy Minnich, Mary Ann (Castleman) Minnich, Terry Brazil, Justin Collins and David Walker.

    The focus of Missing Place at the Table is the joy of lost loved ones’ lives and remembering how they lived, not how they died. Many of the memory boards barely mention their subjects’ deaths, sharing instead happy memories from family and friends. Greathouse said she and most families who participate have found the memorial helpful.

    “That grief – it’s not that you ever get over it, you just find a place where you can find a little joy and that’s how you survive it,” Greathouse said.

    This is the first year that the Commpassionate Friends of Bay County, a support group for families who have lost children, will be at the memorial to offer their services. Advocates at the State Attorney’s office, Tyndall Air Force Base, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center and the Salvation Army domestic violence program also provided support for the memorial.


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    PANAMA CITY BEACH — A local fisherman has been charged with harpooning a 505-pound Mako shark off the coast of Panama City Beach, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports.

    Russell Robert Stewart III, 39, was charged with harvesting a 505-pound Mako shark after he allegedly harpooned it while on his commercial boat, the “Gag Reflex,” FWC reported.

    FWC officers received an anonymous tip April 1 at about 3 p.m. that a video had just been posted to Facebook of someone harpooning a shark off of Panama City Beach. Officers waited at the Panama City pass until the “Gag Reflex” entered the pass with a large shark tail hanging over the port side of the vessel, officers said.

    Officers stopped the boat to conduct a fishery inspection. Stewart told the officers he’d caught a Mako shark and that he’d “harpooned it,” FWC reported.

    However, the harvest or attempted harvest of any shark in state waters is prohibited except by use of hook and line gear, according to state law.

    FWC officers followed the vessel to Tarpon Docks Seafood where officers learned the shark was going to be commercially harvested, FWC said. Stewart also allegedly did not have a Federal Commercial Shark Harvest Permit on the vessel at the time.

    Officers cited Stewart for attempting to harvest the shark by use of a harpoon and commercially harvesting a shark without a federal permit. The shark and harpoon were seized from the boat, officers reported.

    Tarpon Dock said they would buy the Mako shark for $1.50 per pound, coming out to about $757. The funds were placed in an FWC escrow account, officers reported.

    Stewart could not be reached for comment.

    FWC declined to release the video, since the case remains under investigation.


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    PANAMA CITY — Police have arrested six men in connection with a “drug house” bust, according to a Panama City Police Department news release.

    PCPD reported officers served a search warrant at 1302 Palo Alto Ave. Sunday in response to a report of drug use and sales taking place on the property, police reported.

    Six individuals were arrested after police allegedly found marijuana and cocaine in the home.

    Ucla Barker, 52, was charged with keeping a nuisance drug house and possession of drug paraphernalia.

    Bruce Barker, 61, and Pernell Barker, 70, were charged with keeping a nuisance drug house.

    Laken McKinney, 28, was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of drug paraphernalia and violation of probation. He was wanted for aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer and aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer.

    Marcus Lowder, 36, was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of cocaine and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

    James Basil, 29, was charged for possession of synthetic marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.


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    PONCE DE LEON — A 28-year-old Pensacola man is being charged with an open count of murder in connection with a fatal shooting in Ponce de Leon on Saturday, according to a news release from the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office.

    Joshua Brandyn Gaskey was located and taken into custody in Escambia County on Saturday on other felony charges, according to the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.

    No arrest report or additional information was available Monday on the murder charge. 

    The Holmes County Sheriff’s Office named Gaskey as a suspect in the shooting at a residence on Grant Road that was reported shortly before 6 p.m. Saturday.

    When deputies and Holmes County EMS crews arrived at the house, they found a man and a woman with gunshot wounds to the head.

    The woman, who was dead, was identified as Jacqulyn Brooks.

    Her husband, Sheley Glenn Brooks, was taken to a hospital in Bay County with life-threatening injuries.

    On Monday, he was reported to have been discharged from Bay Medical Sacred Heart, according to a representative for the hospital.

    The Holmes County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Monday afternoon Sheley Glenn Brooks was alive, but could not release information about his condition or whereabouts.  

    The investigation into the shooting is ongoing.

    Gaskey initially was arrested on charges of fraud and grand theft in connection with the disappearance of 11 checks from a Pensacola church earlier this year.

    He was seen on surveillance video cashing some of the checks, which were all made out to him, according to his arrest report. 


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    PANAMA CITY — A man who admitted the shooting deaths of a local nightclub owner and a Santa Rosa County couple came at the hands of his pill addiction appeared in court Monday.

    Derrick Ray Thompson, 42, was arrested in July at a hunting lodge in Troy, Ala., where law enforcement tracked him after discovering three murder scenes across two Panhandle counties. SWAT teams stunned him with flash-bang grenades and captured him.

    Thompson was in court Monday for a routine pre-trial hearing to update the status of the case. He was wanted in the slaying of former Bay County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) investigator and controversial nightclub owner Allen Johnson, 67, after an early morning robbery and shooting at Johnson’s home near Lynn Haven. In official transcripts recently released following Thompson’s capture July 22, he admits the shooting was motivated by a prescription pill addiction.

    --- DOCUMENT: THOMPSON'S CONFESSION»»

    “He (had) just woke up. I shot him twice in the head, stole his money and bought some pills,” Thompson told investigators during a taped confession. “I didn’t say nothing. He had his back to me at the sink and I just shot him.”

    Thompson said he and Johnson were friends, hunted together, and Johnson had loaned him $200 days before the shooting in Santa Rosa County that left a couple dead. Johnson said he wouldn’t loan him any more money but invited Thompson to come by and discuss it anyway, Thompson said.

    “I was hurting bad, and I killed my friend,” he said during the taped confession.

    In total, Thompson ended up taking several guns and about $600 in cash from the home, he said. Investigators would later find a check for $500 at the scene, written to Thompson.

    Thompson also was a person of interest in the Santa Rosa County deaths of 60-year-old Steven Zackowski and 59-year-old Debra Zackowski, both of Milton. Thompson had done electrical work for the couple in exchange for oxycodone, he said, but they had not been paying him.

    “We got into an argument and he went to reach under the recliner,” Thompson said. “… Next thing I know, we ended up in a pushing match, and I ended up shooting him and ended up shooting her and stealing his pills.”

    Thompson said he shot Steven Zackowski once in the back of the head and then forced his wife to lead him to a safe where the pills were kept. Authorities found Debra Zackowski in a closet shot to death.

    --- DOCUMENT: THOMPSON'S CONFESSION»»

    Thompson told investigators he’d rarely taken Ibuprofen until he suffered a back injury that led to an addiction to oxycodone. During the interview, he told investigators that people who illegally sell the medication “prey on people like me,” he said.

    “This oxycodone thing is a bad problem, and I have seen and experienced it firsthand,” Thompson said. “I hate to see other people go through what I have been through.”

    Thompson is scheduled to return to court July 20 for another pre-trial hearing.


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    PANAMA CITY — The man police shot and killed Saturday in St. Andrews after allegedly threatening them with a shotgun had been sentenced one day before his death for improperly displaying a firearm, according to court records.

    Grover Zeno Sapp, 45, also known as “Buddy,” was rushed to the hospital after an armed confrontation Saturday at about 5:30 a.m. on Beck Avenue between himself and officers with the Panama City Police Department. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) is investigating the case since it is an officer-involved shooting, PCPD reported.

    No officers were injured in the incident, but Sapp died early Saturday from his injuries.

    --- PHOTOS: MORE FROM THE SCENE»»

    Family members of Sapp, of Youngstown, could not be reached Monday for comment. However, some relatives posted messages to social media, indicating the incident came as a surprise.

    “I myself am trying to understand what led to this happening and am very sorry for it and glad no innocent people were injured,” father Grover Sapp Sr. wrote on social media. “This could be your child if you’re not careful with all the things on the streets for them to get into.”

    PCPD initially responded to Beck Avenue to a call of a suspicious person. Eyewitnesses also said the man was armed with a shotgun, according to police reports.

    Officers encountered Sapp near the intersection of 12th Street, and he then allegedly fired the weapon and police established a boundary. After several loud, verbal commands for Sapp to lower his weapon, he pointed the shotgun in the direction of a group of officers, police said.

    “The suspect pointed the weapon at officers, at which time they used necessary force to protect themselves and take the suspect into custody,” police reported.

    Four officers are identified as victims on PCPD reports: Donald Thomason, Paul Atwell, Tyler Hill and Raymond Perkins. The case was turned over to FDLE for investigation.

    Following the shooting, PCPD issued an officer safety alert on two of Sapp’s relatives for allegedly threatening to “kill officers for revenge,” according to the officer bulletin. However, police later reported “the statements made by the brother do not rise to a criminal level and absent any action, are not yet a credible threat.”

    Sapp also had pleaded no contest Friday to improper exhibition of a firearm, according to court records. He was sentenced to a total of $450 in fines and six months of probation in connection with a February incident.

    According to the Bay County Sheriff’s Office arrest affidavit, Sapp pulled off the road while driving near County 388 and Lucas Road. Eyewitnesses saw him get out of his vehicle, pull a .45-caliber Ruger and walk around the vehicle before pointing the gun at the vehicle in a “careless manner,” BCSO reported.

    --- PHOTOS: MORE FROM THE SCENE»»

    No one else was in or around the vehicle, deputies said.

    A summons was issued for Sapp to appear at an arraignment, but after he did not respond officers issued a warrant for his arrest with a bond of $5,000. He was arrested the Wednesday before the deadly shooting on Beck Avenue.

    Before his arrest for improper exhibition of a firearm, Sapp had several arrests on traffic violations and one assault that followed a traffic accident where he’d kicked the driver-side door of the other car in the crash, according to Bay County court records.


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  • 04/21/15--08:35: Man shot over radio argument
  • MARIANNA — One Jackson County man has been hospitalized with a gunshot wound to the chest after an argument over a C.B. radio, according to a Jackson County Sheriff’s Office news release.

    Alex Oliver was taken to an area hospital Friday at about 11:45 p.m. from a residence on Willis Road after an argument with John McNeill over a C.B. radio for his 18-wheeler, JCSO reported. Oliver suffered a gunshot wound to the right side of his chest.

    Several witnesses told officers that Oliver became aggressive toward McNeill because he would not sell him the radio. As the dispute escalated, Oliver reportedly attempted to strike the 68-year-old McNeill as he was seated in a chair outside. Oliver then went to his vehicle and retrieved a beer bottle and threw it at McNeill, nearly striking him in the head, officers reported.

    At some point during the altercation, Oliver made reference to “getting his 9,” which led McNeill to believe that he was referring to a 9mm pistol.

    McNeill stated that he had been assaulted by Oliver previously at his own home, on the job where they worked together, and at the location where this incident occurred.

    According to McNeill, as Oliver started toward him for the third time, based on the previous incidents, threats made, the reference to the pistol, his inability to see Oliver’s hands in the dark, and their age disparity, he fired once, striking Oliver. The witness statements were consistent with McNeill’s as well as the evidence.

    McNeill then went home and contacted law enforcement to meet with them about what had occurred and to turn over the firearm. He was questioned and released pending the outcome of the investigation. Oliver was treated and released from the hospital. The investigation is continuing.


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