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    ALTHA -- Douglas Bruce L‘Heureux of Altha was sentenced to 25 years in prison for possessing child pornography, officials with the State Attorney’s Office wrote in a news release.

    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 National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in July, including emails from L’Heureux containing child pornography, officials wrote in a news release.

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    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. 

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    PANAMA CITY — A Panama City Beach woman pleaded no contest Friday to charges stemming from a hit-and-run crash that killed a Panama City motorcyclist.

    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 Bingo Paradise in front of westbound traffic on U.S. 98 near the intersection with

    Harrison Ave
    nue. Cardwell struck Casey’s motorcycle from behind and kept driving, according to records.

    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 Anne Avenue in Panama City Beach to conceal evidence of the crash from investigators.

    She was arrested three days after the crash when police found her in a recreational vehicle at her boyfriend’s home in Panama City. Her boyfriend also was arrested after police said he gave them false information during the investigation.

    Clark scheduled a sentencing hearing for Feb. 6. 

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    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.

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    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced Saturday it is investigating 2,600 cases handled by a Pensacola-based agency chemist after discovering dozens of drug cases where prescription pain pills were swapped out with over-the-counter pills.

    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 Escambia County investigators realized evidence was missing and later found other evidence packages where prescription pills had been substituted with non-prescription pills.

    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.

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    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.


    2 percent

    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.


    Positive results

    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.”

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    PANAMA CITY BEACH -- A woman fell from a condominium balcony at about 11:30 a.m. Sunday in what officials believe to be suicide, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office said.

    BCSO officials believe the woman jumped from the 11th floor of the Summerwinds condominium at

    6323 Thomas Dr
    ive in Panama City Beach.

    The body has been turned over to the medical examiner and an autopsy is expected to be performed Monday. 

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    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. 

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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 Pensacola. He was charged with grand theft of a controlled substance, 12 counts of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence and nine counts of trafficking in illegal drugs and was being held on $290,000 bond.

    The department began an investigation after the Escambia County Sheriff’s discovered drug evidence was missing. A further look found other cases Graves handled where painkillers were swapped out with non-prescription drugs.

    Graves is accused of selling oxycodone, morphine and hydromorphone. More charges could be added as the investigation continues.

    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.

    Graves’ attorney didn’t immediately return a message for comment.

    Graves began working for the department in December 2005 and was promoted to supervisor in 2009. He has handled about 2,600 cases, most of which are drug related. The compromised cases could possibly affect 80 law enforcement agencies in 35 counties that had cases worked on by Graves.

    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 Florida and could result in some convictions being thrown out and sentences reduced.

    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. 

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    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A lawyer for death row inmates told Florida Supreme Court justices a law meant to quicken the process of carrying out death sentences unfairly limits the opportunity for condemned prisoners to introduce new evidence.

    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 Florida there’s been many individuals who have been exonerated, like Juan Melendez 18 years after he was convicted and sentenced to death and it took three rounds of post-conviction litigation for that to happen,” McClain said. “The Timely Justice Act tries to cut off the ability to file successive motions and really compact them. That just sort of creates this problem.”

    Twenty-four men have been exonerated from Florida’s death row since 1973, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

    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.” 

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    The Blotter is a look at some of the unusual things that happen on the crime beat in Bay County.
    PANAMA CITY - A woman called police and told them that her brother stole $50 from her purse and used it to put $10 worth of gas in his vehicle and to buy marijuana. 
    However, the woman refused to give the officer more details on the seller of the marijuana and the brother claimed he was innocent and that the woman's boyfriend, a member of the Air Force, could exonerate him. When the officer wanted to contact the boyfriend the woman said he was at work and she did not want to bother him. 
    With no leads on who was selling the marijuana and no way to tell which of the siblings was telling the truth the officer closed the case.
    "All parties involved were advised on how to handle their family situation," the officer wrote. "Fountain was advised to stop smoking and purchasing marijuana, because there could be future ramifications."

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    YOUNGSTOWN — A disabled man who shot his wife and killed her boyfriend after learning of their affair told investigators he shot the man in self-defense and he unintentionally shot his wife when she got between the two men, law enforcement officials said.

    Michael McCoy, 43, has not been arrested, but he has been committed for mental health treatment under the Baker Act, which allows law enforcement to hold someone for up to 72 hours if they are a danger to themselves or others, said Maj. Tommy Ford with the Bay County Sheriff’s Office.

    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 Susan McCoy tells investigators when she recovers enough to speak with them, Ford said.

    “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 indicate bullet trajectory will be critical, Ford said, because it could support or conflict with Michael McCoy’s explanation of the shooting. 

    Susan McCoy had invited Walker to live in the couple’s home on Rhonda Road on Feb. 2 after he was released from the Bay County Jail a day after he was arrested on a domestic battery charge. A criminal complaint filed against Walker indicates he lived on

    Cherry St
    reet with his sister, Amy Walker, who is listed as the victim in the domestic battery.

    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 Michael McCoy is telling investigators. He told deputies he was going to kill himself with the pistol after he learned of the affair, but his wife was able to calm him down. He demanded Walker leave the home and the two men began to argue. Walker was approaching him, and McCoy, who suffers from a physical disability, shot him in self-defense.

    Neighbor Kathy Barker described the couple as quiet and sweet, and she could have never imagined Michael McCoy as a killer, so the news of the shooting was a surprise.

    “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. Michael McCoy was badly injured at work several years ago and was unable to move his neck or back, so Barker didn’t believe he would’ve started a fight.

    “It would’ve probably killed him if he would’ve fought,” she said.

    Florida’s broad self-defense laws that allow someone to defend themselves if they have a reasonable fear for their safety, and that’s where Michael McCoy’s disability could be important, Ford 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 Walker to stay with her and her husband at their home on Rhonda Road after Walker was released from the Bay County Jail," the news release states.

    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 Walker."

    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 Walker leave and all three were in the front yard outside the home when Walker and Michael McCoy began a verbal disagreement.

    During the argument Michael McCoy shot Walker multiple times, killing him. Michael McCoy, was waiting at the scene when investigators arrived and told them that his wife was accidentally shot trying to prevent the killing. She is in a local hospital.

    The investigation is ongoing.

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    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.

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    PANAMA CITY — The former director of the St. Andrews Marina was arrested and jailed in Kentucky on a fugitive warrant to await extradition back to Bay County to answer to charges that she stole money from the city of Panama City and a freezer from a local business, police said Wednesday.

    The U.S. Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force for the Western District of Kentucky arrested 49-year-old Susan Payne in Bowling Green Tuesday evening, according to a staff member at the Warren County Jail, where she is being held. A judge signed arrest warrants for Payne on Jan. 14, and the Panama City Police Department said she is charged with 11 counts of grand theft for stealing from the city and an additional count for stealing from the business, which a police news release did not identify.

    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 breasts and said: “My breasticles are bigger than your testicles….”

    It is not clear why Payne went to Kentucky or how long she had been there. Officials at the time made no secret of the fact the investigation could lead to criminal charges against her.

    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 delivered to her Panama City home.

    Police said Payne tried to influence another marina employee to find and take unspecified documents from the store during the investigation.

    It’s not clear when Payne will be extradited. Police asked anyone with information about the case to contact Lt. Robert Luther at 850-872-3100 or report it anonymously to CrimeStoppers at 850-785-TIPS (8477). 

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    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. 


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    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. 

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  • 02/06/14--16:44: Police seek felony suspect
  • BONIFAY -- Police in Bonifay are looking for a man suspected of several felonies, including battery on a law enforcement officer, and CrimeStoppers is offering a reward for information that leads to his arrest.

    The Bonifay Police Department has felony warrants for the arrest of 23-year-old Jacob Levi Andrews, whose last known address is 211 Hatcher Drive in Bonifay. He is wanted on charges of probation violation, fleeing and attempting to elude police, resisting arrest with violence, reckless driving and driving on a suspended or revoked license.

    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.

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