Articles on this Page
- 01/28/14--14:01: _Man gets 25 years f...
- 01/30/14--18:14: _Prisoners, staff tr...
- 01/31/14--14:41: _Hit-and-run driver ...
- 01/31/14--17:12: _Chipley man to be s...
- 02/01/14--09:16: _FDLE believes agenc...
- 02/01/14--19:11: _Taking a new approa...
- 02/02/14--15:56: _Woman’s death belie...
- 02/03/14--06:51: _Niceville woman kil...
- 02/03/14--16:02: _Accused 23rd Street...
- 02/04/14--07:26: _Southern Command in...
- 02/04/14--11:42: _Blotter: Homeless e...
- 02/04/14--16:03: _Crime lab analyst a...
- 02/04/14--17:20: _Lawyer claims Timel...
- 02/05/14--06:10: _Blotter: Stop steal...
- 02/05/14--06:20: _BCSO: Husband kills...
- 02/05/14--12:04: _Motorcyclist critic...
- 02/05/14--18:30: _Former marina direc...
- 02/06/14--07:45: _Blotter: It's never...
- 02/06/14--08:46: _Woman gets 7 years ...
- 02/06/14--16:44: _Police seek felony ...
- 01/28/14--14:01: Man gets 25 years for possession of child pornography
- 01/30/14--18:14: Prisoners, staff treated after fire
- 01/31/14--14:41: Hit-and-run driver pleads no contest
- 01/31/14--17:12: Chipley man to be sentenced to life after child rape conviction
- 02/01/14--09:16: FDLE believes agency chemist stole drug evidence
- 02/01/14--19:11: Taking a new approach to sex crimes against kids // VIDEO
- 02/02/14--15:56: Woman’s death believed suicide
- 02/03/14--06:51: Niceville woman killed in wreck
- 02/03/14--16:02: Accused 23rd Street shopping center killer cleared for trial
- 02/04/14--07:26: Southern Command intel official faces bribery
- 02/04/14--11:42: Blotter: Homeless ex-con to buy laundromat
- 02/04/14--16:03: Crime lab analyst arrested on drug charges
- 02/04/14--17:20: Lawyer claims Timely Justice Act is unfair
- 02/05/14--06:10: Blotter: Stop stealing your sister's money and stop smoking pot
- 02/05/14--06:20: BCSO: Husband kills wife's boyfriend and 'accidentally' shoots wife
- 02/05/14--12:04: Motorcyclist critically injured
- 02/05/14--18:30: Former marina director charged with thefts
- 02/06/14--07:45: Blotter: It's never too late to learn
- 02/06/14--08:46: Woman gets 7 years in fatal hit and run
- 02/06/14--16:44: Police seek felony suspect
L’Heureux pleaded guilty to 78 counts of possessing images of child pornography, but he pleaded no contest to five counts Jan. 15. Circuit Judge Allen Register then sentenced the 66-year-old L’Heureux to five years in prison on each count to run consecutively to each other.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement initiated an investigation of L’Heureux after receiving information from the
MARIANNA -- A small fire at the Federal Prison Camp in Marianna prompted an evacuation of all personnel and inmates in the affected areas shortly after 11 a.m. Thursday.
According to a statement from the prison, the fire was discovered in a storage area in the UNICOR factory building.
The Jackson County Fire Department was notified and responded to access the incident and extinguished the fire. Several employees and inmates were treated for minor smoke related injuries as a result of the incident, the statement said, and there was no threat to the local community.
An investigation will be conducted to determine the cause of the fire.
Ida Renee Cardwell, 35, pleaded to leaving the scene of an accident involving death and tampering with evidence. The plea was made without an agreement with prosecutors on a sentence. Judge Brantley Clark can sentence her to up to 30 years for the crash and up to five years for the evidence tampering.
On May 24, 2013, 21-year-old Ethan Casey pulled out of
After the crash, Cardwell removed parts of the Camaro she was driving and threw them in separate trash cans near and at her home on
She was arrested three days after the crash when police found her in a recreational vehicle at her boyfriend’s home in
CHIPLEY -- A 54-year-old Chipley man faces a mandatory life sentence after he was convicted Thursday of raping a child, according to the State Attorney’s Office.
Robert Eugene Rafuse was convicted of sexual battery on a person younger than 12 and lewd and lascivious molestation after a three-day trial. Prosecutor Shalla Jefcoat told jurors he raped and molested a young boy between September 2010 and March 2012.
Judge Christopher Patterson will sentence Rafuse Feb. 19.
FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey said the chemist handled cases involving 80 law enforcement agencies from 35 counties since he was hired in 2006. Most, but not all, of the cases involved testing drug evidence, though it was not immediately clear how many cases might be compromised.
The situation was discovered after
It potentially means drug charges will have to be dropped and prisoners released if it’s determined the chemist tampered with evidence, Bailey said.
“This has the potential of impacting hundreds of drug cases across our state,” Bailey told reporters. “This is a total shock and a disappointment.”
The department is using agents from each of its offices to review all the cases handled by the chemist, who is on paid leave while a criminal investigation. He is not being identified while under investigation, but Bailey said he hopes charges are brought quickly, at which point the chemist will be fired.
The department is contacting state attorneys and law enforcement agencies across the state that have pending cases that could be compromised.
“We are going back and looking at each case that was worked and we are going to the evidence rooms of sheriff’s departments and police departments around the state and actually physically looking — especially at the prescription meds — to see if what is in that particular package is in fact a prescription medication and not in fact an over-the-counter calcium tablet,” Bailey said.
Bailey said the agency doesn’t yet know the motive. The chemist isn’t cooperating with the investigation.
“The quantities are large,” Bailey said. “It’s early in the investigation. We don’t know if the individual is a user or a trafficker.”
The department is reviewing its drug testing program to try to prevent similar incidents. One idea may be to increase employee drug testing, Bailey said. Right now, employees are drug tested when they are hired, but not again unless they have reason to suspect they are abusing drugs.
An earlier version of this story is posted below:
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating 2,600 cases handled by an agency chemist after learning prescription pain pills in a drug case were swapped out with over-the-counter pills.
The department announced the investigation Saturday. Commissioner Gerald Bailey said the Pensacola-based chemist handled cases involving 80 law enforcement agencies from 35 counties since he was hired in 2006.
It's not immediately clear how many cases have been compromised, but Bailey said it potentially means drug charges will have to be dropped and prisoners released if determined the chemist tampered with evidence.
The chemist is on paid leave while a criminal investigation continues. Bailey he said he hopes charges are brought quickly, at which point the chemist will be fired.
PANAMA CITY — The arrest of Larry Stanfill on suspicion of committing a sex crime against a child last month came as no surprise to Lori Allen.
Allen, the director of the Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center (GCCAC), remembered her frustration when, in 2012, a similar case against Stanfill fell apart and he pleaded no contest to a battery charge and was sentenced to probation.
She met with prosecutors and police, and she warned them: It was only a matter of time before Stanfill victimized another child.
“This definitely is kind of the impetus for what we’re doing now,” Chief Assistant State Attorney Greg Wilson said of the case.
Since then, prosecutors, police, child protection investigators and advocates have taken a new approach to building cases against people accused of hurting children like Paige Ovington.
Paige was the victim of a sex crime when she was 8. The only connection between her case and Stanfill’s is her’s came to an end as child protection workers were beginning a collaborative effort in response to the collapse of Stanfill’s previous case.
With the help of a team of people including Liz Berry, the program coordinator for KidsCourt, Paige and her family were able to overcome the hurdles that often trip up prosecutions and see the man who hurt her sentenced to five years in prison.
But their two-year ordeal was never easy.
“It was the worst experience of our life, but there was people there to help us,” said Kim Ovington, Paige’s mother. “They helped us every step of the way. They let us know that it was going to be OK.”
It started with an action that might seem simple: Paige told.
But so few children actually take that first step, said Tasha Jackson, a GCCAC therapist who worked with Paige and her family. Only one in 10 children who have been sexually victimized will ever tell anyone, Jackson tells her clients.
“That’s one of the hardest things sometimes — is getting kids to want to tell you,”said Alissa Cross, who supervises a team of child protective investigators for the Department of Children and Families.
In Florida, not even 2 percent of sex crimes against children result in successful prosecution, Allen said, even though, according to Jackson, 93 percent of children who report a sex crime are telling the truth.
Crimes against children are among the most difficult cases prosecutors are faced with, and with one the highest reporting rates in the state, the 14th Judicial Circuit has way too many of them, Allen said.
To see her abuser punished, Paige had to tell and retell. She had to tell her brother, then her father, then the investigators, then, in what was perhaps the most difficult telling, she had to tell her abuser’s attorney in a very difficult deposition.
“They badgered this baby so bad they made a law that you can’t do that anymore,” said Pat Crider, Paige’s grandmother. “They brutalized that baby sitting right there.”
After the attorney requested a second deposition, prosecutors asked for an administrative order restricting defense attorneys from subjecting victims in child sex crime cases to repeated and prolonged questioning.
Finally, with her abuser in the courtroom, Paige told the jurors, but not all of them were convinced. When the jury deadlocked, the case ended in a mistrial, and prosecutors and the Ovingtons decided a plea deal that resulted in a prison sentence would be better than risking an acquittal.
Defendant Troung Nguyentook the deal and is serving a five-year prison term.At the sentencing hearing last fall, the prosecutor gave Paige a copy of an administrative order outlining how child victims in the 14th circuit are to be treated and limiting the questioning to which they can be subject.
Paige is thriving now, Allen said. She and her family attend events for child victims of sex abuse, and she meets other children in similar situations. They share their stories, and Paige said she gets strength from the encouragement of the older children.
Paige, now 10, has grown comfortable enough telling her story to tell it publicly, which she and her family decided to do for several reasons.
She’s grateful to the people like Jackson and Berry who helped her in difficult time in her life.
She also wants other children in her situation to know there are people who will help them, so those kids become comfortable talking, too.
“I want other kids to know that even if you’re afraid you should tell,” Paige said.
People tell Paige often how brave she is. Paige feels brave, but she doesn’t feel extraordinary. Any child in her situation could do what she did, if they have help, she said.
“As long as they try,” she said. “If they go to the (GCCAC) they would help them every step of the way.”
Difficult to prove
Prosecuting cases with child victims is hard enough in cases like Paige’s, where the victims have great support from their families. Often, that’s not the case, and instead there’s a family dynamic at play that works against prosecutors, Child Protective Investigator Anjanetta Bryant said.
Part of the problem that lead cases like the one against Larry Stanfill to collapse, as Allen and other officials saw it, was the compartmentalization of the various agencies working to protect children and punish people who hurt them.
Everyone was working toward the same goal, but they weren’t always on the same page about what they would need from each other to reach it. Communication gaps became the cracks for cases to slip through.
It took some time and planning, but Wilson and Allen came up with a plan.
“We recognized a need to have somebody dedicated full time to those cases,” Wilson said.
Wilson shifted relatively simple cases away from Assistant State Attorney Christa Diviney’s caseload and assigned her to work directly on crimes against children. That meant other prosecutors would shoulder comparatively simple drug cases, but it turned Diviney into the go-to person for police and Department of Children and Families (DCF) investigators.
Allen found a work space for Diviney at the GCCAC’s offices on 11th Street. Police, prosecutors, DCF investigators and victims’ advocates began to get together for monthly “lunch and learn” events to review cases and discuss ways to improve them.
The result has been “a huge increase in communications,” Wilson said.
Better communication leads to better questions in victim interviews, which leads to better information for law enforcement and better witnesses for prosecutors, Berry said.
“We want the attorneys to have as much information as we can provide for them,” Berry said.
The collaborative approach began in September, so evidence of its success is only anecdotal at this time, Allen said. She collects data that will help them determine how well it’s working, but not for another year or so, she said.
But Bryant and Cross said they’re already seeing positive results from working as a team.
The improved communication is leading to tighter cases, they said. They’re getting information from more sources. If a defendant is trying to tamper with the case from the jail over the phone, they’re learning about it, and they’re taking the child out of that home.
Seeing children in trouble every day can take an intense physical and emotional toll on people in this field, Cross said. Having a prosecutor who understands that is important, Cross said.
“It takes a very special person to be able work in this field every day, because it’s not easy. … Hard isn’t even a big enough word for this job,” Cross said. “It is so important when you have that person, in this case Christa, that is equally as dedicated as you are to helping these families and these children.”
BCSO officials believe the woman jumped from the 11th floor of the Summerwinds condominium at
The body has been turned over to the medical examiner and an autopsy is expected to be performed Monday.
A 24-year-old Niceville woman was killed in a wreck Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Ashley M. Curristan was driving a 2003 Toyota west on the inside lane on Interstate 10 at about 9 p.m. Sunday when her vehicle struck the front of 2005 Nissan Altima headed the opposite direction on I-10, troopers wrote in a news release. Curristan's vehicle was then hit by a 2011 commercial motor vehicle being driven by 51-year-old Willie J. Haynie of Palmetto, Ga.
Curristan was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the Altima, Breanna N. Harrison, 22, of Dothan, was taken to a local hospital in serious condition. Haynie was not injured in the wreck.
The incident is under investigation, the news release states.
PANAMA CITY — After spending about six months in a state hospital for mental health treatment, the man accused of shooting up a busy shopping center parking lot in an attempt to kill his former girlfriend is headed to trial.
Joseph Moody, 43, is accused of lying in wait for his ex, 24-year-old Megan Pettis, in the parking lot of a busy 23rd Street shopping center March 19 around midday. Pettis tried to flee in her car from Moody, who police said fired at least nine shots from a .45-caliber pistol until he ran out of ammunition and was beaten and detained by witnesses. Pettis was killed.
In August, Judge Michael Overstreet called it a close call when he determined Moody was incompetent for trial and ordered him to the hospital for treatment.
Moody waived a competency hearing Monday because two separate doctors who evaluated him found him competent, said Moody’s attorney, Rusty Shepard. Overstreet also scheduled Moody’s trial for first-degree murder with a firearm for April 21.
Moody was a Panama City firefighter who recently had returned to work after taking leave to seek treatment because of suicidal thoughts he was having after his relationship with Pettis ended. He had recurring major depression and also had been diagnosed with delusional disorder in the past, according to testimony from the hearing in August, and police who searched his home after Pettis was shot found a suicide note.
In the days and weeks before she was killed, Pettis told friends and family that Moody had threatened her and she was scared of what he might do.
Moody could face the death penalty if he’s convicted as charged. Prosecutors have not announced whether they would seek capital punishment.
FORT LAUDERDALE — An intelligence specialist for the Miami-based Southern Command is facing federal bribery, extortion and other charges involving alleged drug money.
Federal prosecutors said Monday that 37-year-old Jose Emmanuel Torres was arrested after accepting a duffel bag from a confidential informant he was told contained $250,000 in drug-related money. Torres has been assigned to a Marine Corps intelligence unit that collects information on drug traffickers and alleged terrorists.
Authorities say Torres threatened to have the informant arrested for immigration violations if he did not pay Torres thousands of dollars. The informant contacted the FBI, which recorded conversations and intercepted electronic messages and later set up the purported money exchange.
Torres faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted. Court records did not list an attorney for him Monday.
The Blotter is a look at some of the unusual things that happen on the crime beat in Bay County.
A Panama City police officer recently responded to a local store because a man was causing a disturbance and scaring other customers.
In his report the officer described the man as mentally disturbed and single-minded. Every time the officer asked the man a question he responded that he planned to buy the laundry mat across the street from the store. Finally, when he was asked if he had a place to stay that night the future entrepreneur said. "No."
The officer discovered the man had recently been released from prison but failed to find out more about his business and marketing plan for the laundromat. The officer took the man to the Rescue Mission.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A former Florida crime lab analyst was arrested Tuesday and charged with stealing and selling painkillers and other drugs that he was supposed to be testing as evidence in criminal cases, the state law enforcement agency said.
Joseph Graves was arrested a day after he resigned from his position at a Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab in
The department began an investigation after the Escambia County Sheriff’s discovered drug evidence was missing. A further look found other cases
Law enforcement department Commissioner Gerald Bailey has said hundreds of drug cases may be compromised.
“The actions of Joseph Graves are disgraceful. FDLE is working with State Attorneys’ Offices statewide to ensure he is held accountable for his actions,” Bailey said in a news release.
The department is using agents from each of its offices to review all the cases handled by the chemist and has contacted state attorneys and law enforcement agencies across the state that have pending cases that could be compromised.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys reached Monday agreed that the thefts could create massive problems for courts and law enforcement agencies throughout
The department is reviewing its drug-testing program to try to prevent something similar from happening. One idea may be to increase employee drug testing, Bailey said Saturday when announcing details of the investigation. Right now, employees are drug tested when they are hired, but not again unless they have reason to suspect they are abusing drugs.
The state says the act only mandates that the process is carried out in a reasonable amount of time.
“There’s many individuals who aren’t on death row who have been sentenced to life that DNA results have exonerated 35 years afterward,” attorney Martin McClain told the Associated Press afterward. “I certainly understand the notion that we want to be moving these cases along, but we still need to make sure that the convictions are reliable and the sentences of death are reliable.”
The Timely Justice Act of 2013 created stricter timeframes for appeals and post-conviction motions. It also enacts reporting requirements on case progress. The high court spent nearly an hour Tuesday hearing arguments about the contentious law passed by the Florida Legislature.
“The argument is about whether or not the Timely Justice Act interferes with the judicial process that ensures reliability,” McClain said.
The Supreme Court did not indicate when it would issue a ruling in the case.
“Historically with the death penalty in
Twenty-four men have been exonerated from
Gov. Rick Scott has previously disputed the idea that the new law would increase the risk of the execution of those who were innocent. He has also contended that the changes called for in the law would increase some of the legal protections for inmates.
One area of contention has been a requirement for the Supreme Court to provide the governor a list of inmates that are ready for warrants.
“I don’t know that it really has affected when warrants are signed, and that’s key,” assistant attorney general Carol Dittmar argued. “You talk about it in petition ... that there’s going to be 100 petitions signed and there’s going to be a complete end to successive litigation and it’s going to be completely prohibited and we’re going to have botched executions because there’s not going to be any way to litigate procedurally the method of execution after a warrant’s been signed. . . .This petition was filed seven months ago and we haven’t seen any of those things come to pass.”
McCoy called 911 after he shot and killed 46-year-old David Walker and injured his wife, 37-year-old Susan McCoy, early Wednesday morning and waited for deputies to arrive at his home. He told the deputy who responded that he hadn’t meant to shoot his wife, who was in critical but stable condition Wednesday evening, Ford said.
Whether McCoy will face criminal charges, and which charges he might face, depends on several things, including what
“At this point, due to her condition, we have not been able to talk to the wife,” Ford said. “We don’t have any other witnesses to go by.”
The Medical Examiner’s Officer will conduct an autopsy today, Ford said. Evidence of the wounds that would
Amy Walker asked for privacy Wednesday, but she said her brother didn’t deserve to die.
“It’s a terrible thing that happened to him,” she said. “He didn’t deserve it.”
But that’s not what
“When we found out we were in shock,” Barker said.
The McCoys had a daughter, and the family mostly kept to themselves, she said Wednesday.
“It would’ve probably killed him if he would’ve fought,” she said.
“That certainly could be a factor in whether it was reasonable for him to fear for his life,” Ford said.
The BCSO is continuing to investigate the shooting, and investigators will make a determination on whether or not to charge Michael McCoy “once we have all of the facts,” Ford said.
An earlier version of this story is posted below:
YOUNGSTOWN — Bay County investigators say a local man shot and killed his wife's boyfriend and shot his wife leaving her in critical, but stable condition in a local hospital.
The incident happened at about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday morning at 8505 Rhonda Road.
According to a news release Michael McCoy, 43, shot his wife, Susan McCoy, 37, and David Walker, 46, after discovering the two were romantically involved.
"Susan McCoy had invited
He was arrested on February 1, 2014 on a domestic violence charge, the news release states. On Monday night, "Michael McCoy discovered the affair and confronted his wife who admitted to the involvement with
Michael McCoy, who suffers from physical disabilities and has difficulty walking, took out a handgun to commit suicide but his wife was able to calm him down. Michael McCoy demanded
During the argument Michael McCoy shot
The investigation is ongoing.
MARIANNA - A 29-year-old Marianna man was injured Tuesday when the motorcycle he was driving overturned on Blue Springs Road, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Keith Dale Sutton was driving a 2004 Suzuki west on Blue Springs Road, just west of Chase Way at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday when for an unknown reason he lost control and overturned, FHP reported.
He was taken to a Tallahassee hospital in critical condition. He was not wearing a helmet, FHP said.
The accident remains under investigation.
Payne was fired from her job as dock master at the marina in September after officials determined she had used city resources for personal gain, created a hostile work environment, lied to her supervisors or the public, falsified or omitted information on work documents and other deficiencies. One employee complained after Payne allegedly grabbed her
It is not clear why Payne went to
The police investigation found 11 separate occasions that Payne stole from the store at the marina, according to police. Those 11 thefts totaled $3,948.74. Police allege she also stole a commercial freezer worth about $3,500 from another business at the marina and had it
It’s not clear when Payne will be extradited.
The Blotter is a look at some of the unusual things that happen on the crime beat in Bay County.
An officer spotted a man drinking Cobra beer in a local park. The officer told the man it was illegal to drink in the park. The man replied that he did not know it was illegal.
The officer, perhaps growing frustrated, replied that it would have been impossible to miss all the signs around the park that state it is illegal to drink in the park.
The man replied that he could not read.
Game, set and match mister police officer.
Actually, no. The man had pills in his pocket and was arrested for possession and for drinking in the park.
Ida Renee Cardwell was sentenced to seven years in prison Thursday for leaving the scene of a fatal crash.
Cardwell, 35, of the 2600 block of Anne Ave., pleaded no contest Jan. 31 to leaving the scene of a crash involving death and tampering with physical evidence. If the case had gone to trial, prosecutors were prepared to prove that Cardwell was traveling west on East 15th Street the night of May 24 when she crashed into the rear of a motorcycle and killed 31-year-old Ethan Casey. Cardwell drove away
from the crash instead of stopping, rendering aid and cooperating with law enforcement.
The next morning she removed items from her car to conceal the fact that it had been involved in a hit-and-run.
Cardwell pleaded “straight up” to Circuit Judge Brantley Clark Jr., meaning there was no agreed to penalty for her plea.
Clark sentenced her Thursday to 7 years in prison, followed by three years probation, for leaving the scene.
The Bonifay Police Department has felony warrants for the arrest of 23-year-old Jacob Levi Andrews, whose last known address is
Anyone with information is asked to call the Bonifay Police Department at 850-547-3661 or CrimeStoppers of Holmes County at 1-866-689-8477.