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    STARKE, Fla. (AP) — A man convicted of raping and strangling a young girl 22 years ago near Orlando is scheduled to die by lethal injection at the Florida State Prison in Starke on Wednesday evening.

    Department of Corrections officials have set the execution time for 56-year-old Elmer Carroll at 6 p.m. During his two decades on death row, Carroll's lawyers have argued that he's too mentally ill to stand trial or be subjected to the death penalty.

    In November 1990, Carroll was indicted on a count of first-degree murder and sexual battery for the rape and murder of 10-year-old Christine McGowan.

    The girl lived with her family next door to a halfway house for homeless men where Carroll was staying in Apopka.

    Carroll, who had been imprisoned twice for indecent assault on a child, had told one of his housemates that the girl was "cute, sweet and liked to watch him make boats," according to witness testimony at his trial.

    Christine's stepfather found the girl dead in her bedroom and his truck was missing. The truck was found a short time later and an officer came upon Carroll — who had blood on his sweatshirt and genitals, while traces of his semen, saliva and pubic hair were found on Christine, according to court records.

    Carroll's lawyers employed the insanity defense at his trial, during which they and prosecutors presented conflicting testimony from psychiatrists about Carroll's mental competency.

    A final petition to stop the execution is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

    The petition says that Carroll should have been considered mentally ill at the time of the murder.

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    PANAMA CITY BEACH — A second-story balcony collapse at a Panama City Beach Condominium sent two people to the hospital Tuesday night.

    Bay County Sheriffs Deputies responded to Largo Mar Condominiums on Thomas Drive around 9:30 p.m. and found two injured adults, a man and a woman, lying amongst the wreckage on the back patio of the unit below.

    According to BCSO, deputies were able to free the pair from the broken balcony with the assistance of several firefighters and EMS personnel.

    Both victims were alert and conscious and were transported to the hospital with non life-threatening injuries. 

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    STARKE, Fla. (AP) — A convicted child molester condemned for the 1990 rape and murder of a 10-year-old Florida girl was executed Wednesday at the Florida State Prison.

    Elmer Carroll, 56, was pronounced dead at 6:12 p.m. Wednesday after an injection at the prison in Starke, Florida Gov. Rick Scott's office said.

    Carroll was sentenced to die for first-degree murder and sexual battery in the rape and strangling death of Christine McGowan. The girl lived with her family next door to a halfway house for homeless men where Carroll was staying in Apopka.

    Five of Christine's family members were among those witnessing the execution. Two of them hugged before walking out, and the family issued a statement read to the media by Corrections Department spokeswoman Ann Howard.

    "Thank you to all that have worked so hard, and justice for all, namely, Christine McGowan. Rest in peace," said the statement from family member Julie McGowan.

    Carroll said "no sir" when prison officials asked if he wished to make a final statement. A few minutes after the injection procedure began at 6:01 p.m., witnesses could see Carroll's chest rising and falling, and at one point he puffed his cheeks out. He was pronounced dead after a prison physician checked him with a stethoscope.

    During Carroll's two decades on death row, his lawyers argued he was too mentally ill to stand trial or be subjected to the death penalty. The U.S. Supreme Court denied that petition.

    Carroll, who had been imprisoned twice for indecent assault on a child, had told one of his housemates that the Christine was "cute, sweet and liked to watch him make boats," according to witness testimony at his trial.

    Christine's stepfather found the girl dead in her bedroom and noticed that his truck was missing. The truck was found a short time later and an officer came upon Carroll — who had blood on his sweatshirt and genitals, while traces of his semen, saliva and pubic hair were found on Christine, according to court records.

    Carroll's lawyers employed the insanity defense at his trial, during which they and prosecutors presented conflicting testimony from psychiatrists about Carroll's mental competency.

    Carroll had two visitors Wednesday morning, a mitigation specialist and a Catholic priest. No family visited. He also ate a last meal that included eggs, bacon, biscuits, fruit salad and a whole sliced tomato

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    Motorists may encounter smoke throughout the night in the areas of State 77, Grassy Point Road and surrounding county roadways due to a brush fire burning in the area, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

    Motorists are urged to use caution when traveling in the area. Visibility may deteriorate quickly if fog and
    smoke combine, especially at night and in the early morning hours.

    Motorists in the area should drive with care, by reducing their speed, watching for advisory signs and using headlights on low beam in situations of reduced visibility. They also may want to consider an alternate route if necessary.

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    The Panama City Beach Police department has arrested one suspect and is searching for another in a home invasion that took place about 3 a.m. Thursday.

    According to a news release two armed men entered an unlocked room at the Summit condominiums and held several people hostage while they ransacked the room for valuables.

    The suspects put the victims in a closet, told them not to leave and after searching another room in the condo left the area. After a 911 call police were given descriptions of the suspects and they quickly located Jarline Deandre Lee, according to the news release.

    Lee, 18, of Anniston, Ala., matched the description and had some of the stolen items and the weapons used in the robbery in his possession, police wrote. A second suspect, a white male in his mid to late 20s with shoulder length brown hair pulled back into a ponytail has not been located, police wrote.

    This suspect is believed to be armed with a silver revolver and was traveling in an unknown direction, police wrote. 

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    A 37-acre area of Bayou George is consumed by wildfire but contained, according to the Florida Forest Service, and two smaller wildfires burning in Bay County are contained as well.
    It’s not clear how the 37-acre Bayou George wildfire, which officials are calling the “Miller Road Wildfire,” started. Forest service firefighters were working to combat the blaze Thursday morning.
    The cause of a 6-acre fire on Panama City Beach known as the “Kilgore Road Wildfire” is also undetermined but fully contained, and the “Grassy Point Wildfire” in Southport is also contained at less than 3 acres. The cause of that fire has also not been determined.
    The Florida Forest Service is also assisting a contractor with a controlled burn in the Bear Creek area. The fire is not considered a wildfire, but the forest service there to monitor the fire due to drier-than-expected conditions in the area.

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    A fire has shut down a portion of Front Beach Road from Park Hill Circle to Churchwell Drive.

    Police officials said the fire is in the Beach Club, an abandoned condominuim, and is sending smoke across the street. Motorists should avoid the area if possible. A photographer is on scene and we will have more information as it becomes available. 

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    PANAMA CITY — Local law enforcement officials and educators celebrated Thursday what they believe is a first of its kind partnership to create a marine criminal investigation team.

    U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Panama City, joined officials from Florida State University Panama City, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, the Panama City Fire Department and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for the signing of a mutual aid agreement that officially created the Joint Agency in-Water Strike (JAWS) team.

    “You’re proving today to be good stewards of the resources you have,” Southerland said. “And part of those resources is knowledge.”

    Creators said the needs and abilities of the various partners were perfectly complimentary. The school has the equipment but not the staff for a team like JAWS, which specializes in water-based criminal investigations. Law enforcement agencies, on the other hand, have the staff but not the equipment. Voila.

    “What we primarily get out of it is access to some advanced technology that we couldn’t afford … that’s a great value to us,” Panama City Fire Chief Wayne Watts said. “What we bring to it is we have a very highly skilled and trained dive team.”

    Maj. Bruce Cooper, the FWC’s regional commander for Northwest Florida, said programs like dive teams are the first things on the block when it’s time to cut budgets, and estimated it would cost $50,000 at a minimum for FWC to start its own dive team. He called the savings “phenomenal,” and he said other FWC regions are paying close attention to the partnership here with an eye toward creating similar partnerships in other areas.

    “Fish and Wildlife — if it happens on the water we own it. …If it happens on the water, we’re there,” Cooper said. “Over the years we’ve tried to maintain dive teams, but the costs have been so astronomical.”

    The JAWS team could be called in to do anything from find a discarded weapon, investigating an explosion at an offshore oil rig, a plane crash or diving accidents, said FSUPC Dean Ken Shaw.

    “Part of what we do is not just educate students in underwater crime scene protocols … we actually assist with law enforcement in different scenarios or different incidents,” Shaw said.

    Maj. Tommy Ford, who represented the BCSO at the ceremony Thursday, said the JAWS team is “probably one of the most elite dive units in the state.” Ford said he was partial to the program because he’s received training through it.

    “I think this is going to be an awesome thing that we put together,” Ford said. “It’s going to increase our capabilities.”

    The JAWS team is a “no cost initiative,” that has been operating in an unofficial capacity for a couple of months now, and it’s been in the planning stages much longer than that, said Mike Zinszer, FSUPC’s director of Advanced Science Dive Program. There were liability issues for each agency.

    “This is way outside any university’s comfort zone to be this involved with first responders … every agency here had this initiative reviewed by lawyers,” Zinszer said. “This wasn’t taken very lightly.”

    It also allows students an opportunity to apply the theories they learn in the classroom to real world situations, Zinszer said.

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    PANAMA CITY -- A 28-year-old Sneads man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court Wednesday to having sex with a 4-year-old child and making videos and photos of the act, according to the United States Attorney’s Offices for the Northern District of Florida.

    Donyel James Fitts faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years in jail followed by five years to life on supervised release when he is sentenced on Aug. 21. He could also be fined up to $250,000.

    During his plea hearing, Fitts admitted to coercing the child to perform sexually so he take pictures and, on two occasions in October 2012, making video recordings of a child engaged in explicit conduct.

    The investigation and arrest were the result of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide Department of Justice effort to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse.

    “Protecting children from these horrific crimes is a top priority of the Department of Justice and this U.S. Attorney’s Office,” U.S. Attorney Pamela Marsh said in a release. “Our prosecutors will continue to actively investigation and charge those persons who victimize our children in this manner.”

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  • 05/30/13--17:50: Swimmer pronounced dead
  • PANAMA CITY BEACH -- A distressed swimmer that was pulled from the Gulf Thursday afternoon was prounounced dead at Gulf Coast Medical Center last night. 

    Ahmed Ishmir Lewis, 25, of Mobile, Ala. was transported to the hospital in critical condition after emergency personnel applied resuscitation procedures, according to a Panama City Beach Police news release. 

    Lewis was pulled from the water behind the Legacy by the Sea Resort, located near the 15000 block of Front Beach Road. He had been swimming in rough conditions, despite a single red flag warning, officials said. Single red flags indicate high hazard surf and strong currents. 

    Below is an earlier version of this story: 

    PANAMA CITY BEACH -- One swimmer is in critical condition after nearly drowning while in beach waters Thursday afternoon, according to a Panama City Beach Police news release.

    Ahmed Ishmir Lewis, 25, of Mobile, Ala., was transported to Gulf Coast Medical Center in critical condition after police officials and emergency personnel had applied resuscitation procedures, officials wrote.

    According to the release, officials responded to a call of a swimmer in distress. Lewis was located near the 15000 block of Front Beach Road. Police officials applied resuscitation procedures until emergency personnel arrived, the release states.

    Lewis had been swimming in rough surf conditions, despite a single red flag that had been flying, officials wrote. Single red flags indicate high hazard surf and strong currents.

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  • 05/31/13--12:05: Marianna woman dies in crash
  • MARIANNA — A Marianna woman involved in a car accident in Marianna Thursday died Friday morning, the Marianna Police Department said in a news release.

    Lori Berry’s 1990 Toyota crossed over into oncoming traffic on U.S. 90 and was struck by Amos Eli Burke’s 1994 Chevy Blazer. Burke, also of Marianna, and Amy Myrick, passenger in Burke’s car, were transported to Jackson Hospital. Berry was taken to a Panama City hospital.

    Berry was declared dead at 6:16 a.m. Friday, police said.

    Burke was arrested and charged with DUI. The accident remains under investigation pending an autopsy/toxicology report from the medical examiner, police said.

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    PANAMA CITY — A Panama City Beach man has been sentenced to 20 years and nine months in prison after being found guilty of DUI manslaughter and four other felonies resulting from a fatal hit-and-run wreck last year.

    Judge Brantley Clark announced Joseph Acoff’s sentence in court Friday, which was the minimum penalty he could receive. The convictions’ maximum penalty was 30 years in prison.

     The defendant used his allowed time prior to sentencing to express remorse for the July 22 crash, which killed 23-year-old Phillip Drozd from the Czech Republic.

    “I wanted to say I apologize to the family members,” Acoff said before a hushed courtroom.

    Acoff also repeatedly stressed he had no criminal record and this was his first brush with the law, and he mentioned the years he served in the military. Acoff became a military contractor after he was discharged.

    “I never got into any trouble or anything in my entire life,” he said.

    No one from Drozd’s family spoke, but his father, Pavel Drozd Sr., and several others attended the hearing. The father approached the bench prior to sentencing while letters from the victim’s mother and brother were read.

    “I am not able to describe my feelings as a mother. Maybe I can say that my heart is broken and I feel emptiness. I have a feeling that I do not live anymore,” Drozd’s mother, Vera Janeckova, also from the Czech Republic, wrote. She did not attend the sentencing hearing.

    Janeckova said her son was a “good boy” and “brought joy and vitality to our lives.” She said her life is empty without him, but she believes justice prevailed.

    The brother, Pavel Drozd Jr., said the incident was like a dream and described how much he missed Phillip. He also said he appreciated the court’s efforts to give the family justice.

    “I can live with a clear conscience (knowing) that his murderer is not free,” he wrote.

    Phillip Drozd’s father lives in Panama City Beach and his son had come from Europe to visit him.

    The hit-and-run crash happened when Acoff rear-ended Phillip Drozd, who was driving an Isuzu Rodeo. Phillip Drozd was thrown from his SUV and later taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. In an interview, Assistant State Attorney Bob Sombathy said the Rodeo flipped after it was rear-ended. He said the other two people in the car suffered serious injuries, including a broken neck, collapsed lung and broken ribs. 

    Acoff “was too drunk to know what he was doing and just rear-ended a car and caused it to lose control and then he left,” Sombathy said.

    Sombathy said Acoff drove away from the scene on the wrong side of the road and parked at a Beef  ’O’ Brady’s. From there, he called a taxi, which took him to his apartment complex. Authorities found him sleeping in a stairwell at the complex four hours after the crash. They took a blood sample, which showed 0.17 blood-alcohol content.

    Sombathy was satisfied with the conviction and sentencing and said he was pleased the family got justice. And he sympathized with their loss.

    “Obviously nothing’s going to take away the nightmare of losing their son, especially with these facts, with the father basically looking around for his son after the accident, not being able to find him. He was ejected 50 feet from the wreck,” he said.

    Acoff must serve a mandatory minimum of four years in prison. After that he must serve 85 percent of the remainder of his sentence (16 years and nine months). That means he will serve more than 18 years in prison. He also was given nine years on probation.

    Acoff’s license will be suspended for the rest of his life and he must pay fines and costs totaling $1,250.

    The judge chose not to rule on restitution, resulting from Phillip Drozd’smedical expenses, allowing the defendant and the family to work that out.

    Earlier this month, Acoff was found guilty of DUI manslaughter, leaving the scene of a crash involving death, vehicular homicide and two counts of DUI causing serious bodily injury because Phillip Drozd’s father and another passenger also were hurt.

    Acoff’s private lawyer, Devin Collier, said he will file an appeal, but that’s standard for all criminal convictions in jury trials.

    “There’s not a specific ruling that we’re challenging, but we will file a notice of appeal just to protect his rights,” he said.

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    PANAMA CITY BEACH — High surf conditions in Bay County are expected to weaken today, but officials with the National Weather Service in Tallahassee say the area is not out of the water yet.

    “It’s still going to be a couple days, at least, until it’s OK to be in the water,” NWS meteorologist Ron Block said Friday. “If it doesn’t look calm, (swimmers) should be very careful about going into the water.”

    Single red flags continued to fly over Bay County beaches Friday, indicating high hazard surf and strong currents in the Gulf.

    Carol Wagner, supervisor of the Panama City Beach Police Department’s Beach and Surf Information Unit, said high surf conditions were likely a factor in the drowning of an Alabama man Thursday.

    Ahmed Ishmir Lewis, 25, of Mobile was transported to Gulf Coast Medical Center in critical condition after being pulled from the water behind Legacy by the Sea Resort near the 15000 block of Front Beach Road. He was pronounced dead late Thursday night.

     “It’s a good chance the water conditions had something to do with it,” Wagner said. “That’s why it’s so important for people to follow this flag system. They don’t realize how dangerous it is.”

    A surf advisory flag is posted about every mile on Bay County beaches and warns beachgoers of the risk involved in entering the water.

    “The single red is a very high hazard,” Wagner said. “Whenever you have a high hazard, you probably shouldn’t go in.”

    The National Weather Service uses computer models and real-time information to forecast surf conditions.

    “We have a number of people along the Panhandle beaches that we contact, and we have beach (cameras),” Block said. “We’re constantly monitoring the rip currents at all times and updating as necessary.”

    Block said the agency put out a rip current advisory early in the week that continued along the Gulf Coast through Friday.

    He said although he expects NWS to drop its rip current advisory from high to moderate this weekend, he said it still can be dangerous, especially for inexperienced swimmers.

     “It doesn’t take a lot of rip current to cause a danger,” Block said. “I think the first thing is to pay close attention to the flag that’s flying. … It’s there for a reason.”

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    PANAMA CITY — Watches and warnings, tropical storms and hurricanes — the terminology is enough to make a Florida transplant’s head spin, but it’s important to know as the violent weather season kicks off this weekend.

    With the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season beginning today and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration prediction of 13 to 20 named storms, natives and transplants alike should develop their preparedness plans and strap in for what could be a windy ride.

    Getting familiar with hurricane season terms is one way to prepare — and it could prove vital if a storm approaches. For instance, coastal residents need to know the difference between a watch, which means “weather conditions are favorable for a hazard to occur,” and a warning, which “requires immediate action.”

    Watches are announced 48 hours before tropical storm or hurricane-force winds are anticipated for a specified area, and warning are announced 36 hours before the winds are anticipated.

    Click for more information

    The advanced time gives Bay County residents a chance to clear out, if necessary, when a major storm approaches.

    “On a typical — let’s just say September day — worst-case scenario, we’re looking at about a 20-hour [evacuation] time,” said Mark Bowen, director of Bay County Emergency Services.

    But evacuation decisions must be made in a timely fashion and the county must catch the news cycle to ensure residents are aware of the approaching storm, Bowen said.

    “(That) can add another layer of time to it that has nothing to do with the storm; it has to do with making sure that we’re not putting this information out at a time that nobody’s going to hear it,” he said.

    Tropical storms have sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph. If a tropical storm watch is issued for an area, those wind speeds are “possible” in the next 48 hours. If a tropical storm warning is issued for an area, those wind speeds are “expected” in the next 36 hours.

    Bowen said tropical storms are not a time for evacuations and usually the county will open only “special needs” and  “general population” shelters. But, he said, such a storm can dump tons of rain on the county, even more than a hurricane.

    Hurricanes have wind speeds of more than 74 mph. If a hurricane watch is issued for an area, those wind speeds are “possible” in the next 48 hours. If a hurricane warning is issued, those wind speeds are “expected” in the next 36 hours.

    Bowen said though the county must act with some alacrity, it tries to wait as long as possible to make a decision because often the “cone of uncertainty” — the potential path of a storm — can be 200 to 300 miles wide, which could mean the area won’t be impacted at all.

    “Unfortunately all those areas have to prepare for the worst and sometime that means evacuations,” he said, adding, “The beauty of Bay County and most of these coastal counties is everybody pretty much knows the drill unless they only recently moved here.”

    Hurricanes are ranked from 1 to 5 on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale; the strongest storms, Category 5 storms, have wind speeds exceeding 155 mph. A Category 4 hurricane has wind speeds between 131 and 155 mph, and Category 3  storms pack winds of 111 to 129 mph. Storms are considered “major” hurricanes if they’re at least a Category 3, according to the National Hurricane Center.

    The county generally imposes a mandatory evacuation for category 4 and 5 storms for coastal areas that will be affected by storm surge.

    “If we’re going to be inundated in certain areas with water, we got to get people moved out of those areas,” Bowen said.

    Residents aren’t forcibly removed, however, even if it’s a mandatory evacuation, Bowen said. Law enforcement does, however, go house to house and let residents know about the evacuation order. 

    Bowen said residents could be forcibly removed after a storm because of the dangers posed from the destructive weather event.

    “Law enforcement has to be concerned with looting, and we’re worried about people being electrocuted and things like that, he said.

    Coming Sunday: The danger from storm surge

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  • 06/01/13--10:06: Motorcyclist dies in crash
  • PANAMA CITY BEACH — A Panama City Beach man died early Saturday morning after driving his motorcycle into the path of an oncoming vehicle on Thomas Drive and Summer Oak Court, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

    Duane S. Burkett, 31, was turning left from a business parking lot on the southwest corner of Thomas Drive and Summer Oak Court when he collided with the right front corner of Marvin B. Foran’s Ford F-250 at 4:25 a.m. Panama City resident Foran reported no injuries.

    Burkett, who wasn’t wearing a helmet, was transported to Bay Medical Center Sacred Heart Health System, where later he was pronounced dead.

    The crash is still under investigation.

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    DeFUNIAK SPRINGS -- A DeFuniak Springs man was arrested Friday after investigating allegations that a man molested a minor.

    Investigators with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office arrested Brian Keith Weeks, 48, after gathering information that led to a search warrant being served at a residence on Petty Lane. The search warrant allowed investigators to locate and collect numerous items of evidence related to the charges. In addition, several firearms were found in the home. Weeks is a convicted felon and is prohibited from possessing firearms, WCSO said.

    Weeks was charged with lewd and lascivious battery, lewd and lascivious molestation and possession of firearms by a convicted felon. All are second degree felonies.

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    MEXICO BEACH — A man suspected of committing three slayings in South Carolinawas arrested by local law enforcement Saturday evening.

    Jeffery Eady, 31, of the Oakdale community in Clarendon County, S.C., had attempted to evade local officers several times, but surrendered in Mexico Beach after two officers saw him attempting to hide behind a building in a vehicle he was driving.

    “About 5:30 p.m., the Sheriff’s Office patrol unit observed the vehicle at the Tyndall area, coming toward the Mexico Beach area,” said Maj. Tommy Ford of Bay County Sheriff’s Office. “And that deputy along with a Mexico Beach officer attempted to stop the vehicle. The suspect tried to evade the area and fled. They were able to capture him a short time later.”

    The suspect was seen earlier Saturday at U.S. 98 and 23rd Street.

    The local multi-agency manhunt began around 9:30 a.m. Saturday, after law enforcement agencies were notified by a federal agency the fugitive possibly was in the area.

    “We were able to locate evidence, then develop information that indicated that he was possibly on Panama City Beach” Ford said.

    It was suspected Eady had stayed at a beach location the night before, where, Ford said, officers recovered evidence that may be linked to the South Carolina homicides.

    “The vehicle we recovered, I believe belonged, possibly, to one of the victims and we’re securing that vehicle and awaiting evidence processing,” Ford said. The recovered vehicle is a 2008 Ford Focus.

    Ford declined to comment on whether weapons were recovered.

    And though it is believed he travelled alone and it is not known whether he had any connections with any particular people in the area, Eady “was able to meet some people when he got here,” Ford said, noting there is no indication those individuals were aware of Eady’s fugitive status.

    The Associated Press reported it was suspected Eady had fatally shot a 37-year-old mother of three on Thursday, preceded by fatally shooting a 65-year-old woman earlier the same day. Around the same time, Claredon County deputies were searching for a 77-year-old woman who had been reported missing also on Thursday.

    The Clarendon County Sheriff's Office announced Saturday night they expect to charge Eady with the slaying of the missing 77-year-old woman.

    “(The Bay County Sheriff’s Office) will be cooperating with South Carolina authorities with their investigation,” Ford added. He said investigators from South Carolina were en route to the area Saturday night.

    “It was kind of a joint effort between the (U.S.) marshals, Bay County Sheriff’s Office, Panama City Police, Mexico Beach Police and … the (Florida) Department of Law Enforcement,” Ford said. “It was a very good cooperative effort and had it not been for that, I don’t think we would have got this guy.”

    Eady had served over a decade in prison after being convicted of armed robbery. He was released from prison in June 2012, but went back until October after cutting off an electronic monitoring device, the AP story states.

    “He was pretty elusive,” Ford added. It was good to “have him off the streets of Bay County.”

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    LYNN HAVEN — Police are currently looking two people and a 17-month-old child following reports of interference with child custody and battery on a pregnant woman.

    Lynn Haven Police say Jay Cale Weeks and Lafarrah Michelle Strahler used force to take the child from the custody of Judith France at 924 Bradley Circle Saturday morning.

    “The father who has a new girlfriend went over to the old girlfriend’s house, who is also pregnant with the father’s next baby, and they had an altercation,” said Chief David Messer. “The father snatched up the 17-month-old and has gone and we can’t find him.”

    Messer said LHPD does not suspect the father will harm the child. LHPD currently does not have warrants out for Weeks or Strahler. Weeks has a signed complaint against him for battery on a pregnant person.

    “It is a felony, so we are going to arrest him as soon as we find him,” Messer said.

    LHPD urges anyone having information of the location of Weeks, Strahler or the 17-month-old boy to contact police at 265-4111.

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    NEW ZION, S.C. — Authorities say a 31-year-old man charged with killing three women during a crime spree last week has tried to kill himself in jail.

    A bond hearing Monday for Jeffrey Eady was postponed after he was rushed to the hospital after harming himself. Eady’s condition was not immediately known Monday evening.

    Eady’s suicide attempt came one day after authorities discovered the body of 77-year-old Sadie Brown in the Alcolu community, about 40 miles southwest of Florence. Officers had searched for Brown’s body for several days, but finally found her remains after investigators were able to talk to Eady.

    Brown’s body was sent to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston for an autopsy Monday.

    Eady was arrested in Mexico Beach on Saturday after officers saw him trying to hide behind a building in a vehicle he was driving.

    He is charged with murder in the death of Brown and two other women whose bodies were found last week. The body of Maybell White, 65, was found in Clarendon County. The body of Crystal Johnson, 37, was found in the convenience store where she worked in Adams Run in Charleston County.

    The State Law Enforcement Division was able to link White’s death with Johnson’s death early Friday.

    Eady also is charged with grand larceny, possession of a weapon during a violent crime and credit card fraud in the deaths of White and Brown.

    SLED and the U.S. Marshal’s Office tracked Eady from Charleston to Macon, Ga., Bay County, and into Marion County, Ala. Bay County Sheriff’s Office deputies recognized the car and Eady was arrested after a brief chase by car and on foot.

    Eady waived extradition Sunday and was returned to Clarendon County.

    “This is one example of agencies working together,” Garrett said Sunday night. “It was more than one person or agency.

    It was not clear if Eady has an attorney. 

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    PANAMA CITY — A man convicted of caving in his infant son’s skull will not serve additional time for several unrelated felonies after he entered a plea Monday morning and received a 21-month sentence he can serve at the same time as the four years he already is serving for child abuse.

    Timothy Foxworth, 25, was convicted of child abuse for causing injuries that nearly killed his son. Foxworth argued the injuries were sustained by a fall of 2 to 3 feet from a bathtub. There were no witnesses, but Foxworth and his son were alone when the boy was injured.

    The state charged him with aggravated child abuse, a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison, but the jury convicted him of child abuse, a lesser offense that does not require a finding that the victim suffered great bodily harm. Judge Elijah Smiley sentenced Foxworth to four years in prison.

    Foxworth’s ex-wife, Shelby Foxworth, called the verdict a joke at the time and said her son will suffer as a result of his injuries for the rest of his life. She said Monday she found out last week that her son, who is now 19 months old, will need another surgery to repair his skull next month.

    Shelby Foxworth said she had not been notified of the plea until she was contacted by a reporter, and she was “extremely upset” with Smiley for a sentence that requires her ex-husband to serve “not even an extra day.”

    “A murderer should be so lucky to come up and get Judge Smiley, because he’ll only get two years,” she said.

    Investigators with the Bay County Sheriff’s Office also charged Foxworth with grand theft, burglary of a dwelling while armed and burglary of a conveyance at the time of his arrest on the aggravated child abuse charge. In that incident he broke into a house and stole a handgun and some electronics.

    Shelby Foxworth caught him leaving the home he burglarized on several occasions, according to court records, but she said her cooperation in that case was not a result of vindictiveness after her son was injured. She said it took some time before she came to believe Foxworth hurt her son.

    “What wife, what mother, could come to terms with the fact that her husband almost murdered her 2-week-old son?” she said.

    Timothy Foxworth pleaded no contest to burglary of a dwelling Monday morning, and Smiley sentenced him to serve 21 months concurrent to the child abuse sentence.


    Scrutiny for expert

    On Monday afternoon, the state turned up the heat on an expert witness who testified for Timothy Foxworth in his trial.

    John Lloyd testified as an expert in biometrics, and he told the jury he believed Timothy Foxworth’s explanation for his son’s injuries — the short fall — to be the cause of the injuries. Prosecutor Bob Sombathy attacked Lloyd’s representation of his credentials during the trial, forcing him to admit he’s not a physician.

    A website advertising his services lists Lloyd as a professor of medicine, which Lloyd also testified he is not.  Lloyd was paid $300 an hour for his work on the Timothy Foxworth case.

    State Attorney Glenn Hess reacted to the verdict, in part, by saying Lloyd had been “discredited across the country.” In a letter to The News Herald, Lloyd said the jury reached a just verdict and that Hess reacted to a less than “fully victorious outcome” by resorting to insulting him.

    The Bay County Sheriff’s Office arrested Lloyd on perjury charges less than a week after his letter appeared. The State Attorney’s Office charged him with two counts of perjury and a count of misrepresenting his academic credentials, but in court Monday, Assistant State Attorney Megan Teeple said she had filed an amended charging document.

    “There are now 15 total counts,” Teeple told Judge Michael Overstreet, who has been presiding over the case since Smiley has been recused. Smiley has been listed as a material witness in the state’s case against Lloyd.

    The amended information was not available Monday, but the Clerk of Courts website indicates there are now 14 counts of perjury in addition to the count of misrepresentation of credentials.

    Teeple has asked Overstreet to allow the state to present evidence from other cases in which Lloyd has testified as an expert in order to refute a defense that Lloyd was simply mistaken in some of his claims, according to court records.

    Lloyd is scheduled for trial in August. 

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