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    PANAMA CITY — A large majority of Bay County law enforcement agencies do not use body cams, and several local leaders express a skeptical outlook on using the technology.

    Of the local police agencies contacted, only in the Mexico Beach Police Department have authorities taken steps to implement police body cameras, but a bill introduced into the Florida House of Representatives would require body cameras for all Florida police officers who primarily are assigned to patrol duties. While some Bay County law enforcement leaders reacted more positively toward using technology to enhance public service, most preferred to await more definitive research.

    Panama City Police Chief Scott Ervin also expressed a concern for costs, beyond the common cost of about $450 per camera.

    “We are always looking at technology that will enhance our operations,” he said. “Equipping officers would entail working the researching, ‘trial and error’ testing and funding of a system into the budget, as there will be infrastructure, storage and maintenance costs associated with the units as well.”

    Panama City Beach Police Chief Drew Whitman said they also are looking into the cost of the cameras.

    “Although the use of body cams is authorized, currently each officer that wishes to utilize them must do so at his or her expense,” he said. “Protecting the rights of our citizens and officers has always been among our highest priorities. Because this technology is such a useful tool in protecting those rights, and in law enforcement in general, we are currently in the process of evaluating the cost of purchasing and maintaining such equipment.”

    However, in reaction to the national debate that has been fueled by fatal incidents in New York and Missouri, President Barack Obama proposed spending $263 million to increase the use of the cameras and to take other steps, such as expanding law-enforcement training. The money is supposed to mitigate the cost for departments with funding concerns.

    While 76 percent of News Herald readers who participated in an online poll have said they preferred the use of the body cams, local leaders cautioned against a “knee-jerk” reaction to the current national debate of police force and the public.

    “At this point, I do not believe this is a critical issue for the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, and I will not force changes based on issues and events in other cities and involving other law enforcement agencies,” said Sheriff Frank McKeithen. “Hopefully our recent participation in the LEAD Coalition will help address any issues we encounter between our law enforcement and our citizens.”

    Concerns of rights violations also are an issue of local law enforcement.

    “There are concerns related to privacy — both citizen and officer,” said Springfield Police Chief Philip Thorne. “… I am not necessarily opposed to the use of cameras, but I also do not believe it prudent to emotionally jump on a bandwagon. I want to ensure that nothing my agency does violates any citizen rights; puts the officer, agency or city at liability risk, or administratively begin operating in a way that is burdensome.”

    McKeithen urged being skeptical of the motives of some who support body cameras.

    “Let’s not also overlook the sudden urgency, which not only comes from some concerned citizens with good intentions, but also certain businesses and vendors who stand to profit from exploiting such an emotional event,” he said.

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    PENNSBURG, Pa. (AP) — A man suspected of going to three houses in the Philadelphia suburbs and fatally shooting six people, including his ex-wife and her 14-year-old niece, was at large Monday night, and a prosecutor said investigators didn't know where he was or how he was getting around.

    Police recovered the cellphone and car of Bradley William Stone, who had recently been in court fighting with his ex-wife over custody of their two children. SWAT teams surrounded his Pennsburg home and pleaded through a bullhorn for him to surrender, but Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said it was unclear if he was there.

    “As I stand here right now, we do not know where he is,” Ferman told reporters at an evening news briefing.

    The shooting rampage started before dawn at the home of Stone's former sister-in-law in Souderton and ended about 90 minutes later at ex-wife Nicole Stone's apartment in nearby Harleysville, Ferman said, correcting a timeline that had been based on when the crime scenes were discovered.

    Nicole Stone's sister, Patricia Flick, her sister's husband, Aaron Flick, and the couple's 14-year-old daughter, Nina Flick, were killed in the first wave of violence, which wasn't discovered until just before 8 a.m., Ferman said.

    Their 17-year-old son, Anthony Flick, was pulled from the home with a head wound around 12:30 p.m. and was taken in an armored vehicle and then by helicopter to a Philadelphia hospital for treatment.

    Nicole Stone's mother, Joanne Hill, and grandmother Patricia Hill were killed next at their home in nearby Lansdale. Investigators were alerted by a hang-up call to emergency dispatchers, Ferman said.

    Nicole Stone's neighbors at the Pheasant Run Apartments in Harleysville said they were awoken around 5 a.m. by the sounds of breaking glass and gunshots coming from her apartment. They said they saw Stone fleeing with their two children and alerted authorities.

    “She would tell anybody who would listen that he was going to kill her and that she was really afraid for her life,” neighbor Evan Weron said.

    The two children Stone took from his ex-wife's house were safe, Ferman said. She did not say anything about what weapon or weapons were used.

    Stone, who's white, about 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds, was likely wearing military fatigues and was known to use a cane or walker, but it's possible he did not need them, Ferman said.

    Harleysville, Lansdale and Souderton are within a few miles of each other. Police with armored vehicles and rifles moved to Pennsburg after spending several hours outside the home in Souderton where several victims were found.

    Several school districts ordered students and teachers to shelter in place.

    “Everything started being blocked off, the SWAT was then later called in, then we had the tanks pull up,” said Don Smith, describing the scene near his Souderton home.

    Brad and Nicole Stone married in 2004 and filed for divorce in March 2009, according to court records.

    Brad Stone, 35, remarried last year, according to records. Nicole Stone, 33, became engaged over the summer, neighbors said.

    The former had couple sparred over custody of their two children, with Brad Stone filing an emergency petition Dec. 5 and Nicole Stone responding with a counterclaim Dec. 9. The outcome of their dispute was unclear.

    Weron, the neighbor, said Bradley Stone is a military veteran. Court records show he recently faced several driving under the influence charges, one of which was handled a year ago in veterans’ court.

    Weron said Nicole Stone would talk frequently about the custody dispute.

    “(Nicole) came into the house a few times, a few separate occasions, crying about how it was very upsetting to her,” Weron said.

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    MARIANNA — The Marianna Police Department is seeking information on two suspects in a weekend stabbing.

    Officers responded to Jackson Hospital at approximately 9:17 p.m. on Saturday in reference to a man who entered the emergency room with multiple stab wounds, a press release stated. Officers discovered the victim had life-threatening injuries. Further investigation discovered the incident occurred at the Chipola Mart at 4195 Lafayette Street, according to the release.

    Marianna PD reviewed security video and found the stabbing occurred in the parking lot in front of the business. Officers are working on identifying the two suspects.

    Anyone with information is asked to call Marianna PD at (850)-526-3125 or Chipola CrimeStoppers at (850)-526-5000 to give anonymous tips.

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    SYDNEY (AP) — The deadly siege began in the most incongruous of ways, on a sunny Monday morning inside a cheerful cafe in the heart of Australia's largest city. An Iranian-born gunman burst in, took 17 people hostage, and forced some to hold a flag with an Islamic declaration of faith above the shop window's festive inscription of “Merry Christmas.”

    It ended after midnight with a barrage of gunfire that left two hostages and the gunman dead, four others wounded, and a nation that has long prided itself on its peace rocked to its core.

    After waiting 16 hours, police stormed the Lindt Chocolat Cafe early Tuesday when they heard gunfire inside, said New South Wales state police Commissioner Andrew Scipione.

    A loud bang rang out, several hostages ran from the building and police swooped in amid heavy gunfire, shouts and flashes. A police bomb disposal robot also was sent into the building, but no explosives were found.

    “They made the call because they believed that at that time, if they didn't enter, there would have been many more lives lost,” Scipione said.

    The gunman was identified as 50-year-old Man Haron Monis, who once was prosecuted for sending offensive letters to families of Australian troops killed in Afghanistan.

    Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Monis had “a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability.”

    Scipione wouldn't say whether the two hostages who were killed — a 34-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman — were caught in crossfire, or shot by their captor. Among the four wounded was a police officer shot in the face.

    One of the victims was Sydney lawyer and mother-of-three Katrina Dawson.

    “Katrina was one of our best and brightest barristers who will be greatly missed by her colleagues and friends” Jane Needham, president of the New South Wales Bar Association, said in a statement.

    Officials rolled one gurney out of the cafe carrying what appeared to be a man draped in a blood-soaked sheet with a bloody handprint in the center. Paramedics also carried away a woman with blood-covered feet.

    “I can only imagine the terror that they've been through,” Scipione said. “They are very brave people who in many cases were just buying a cup of coffee and they got caught up in this dreadful affair. We should reflect on their courage.”

    The prime minister also reflected on how an ordinary day turned terrifying.

    “There is nothing more Australian than dropping in at the local cafe for a morning coffee, and it's tragic beyond words that people going about their everyday business should have been caught up in such a horrific incident,” Abbott said.

    While Monis’ motivation for the attack was still unclear, Abbott confirmed he was “well-known” to state and federal authorities.

    Last year, he was convicted and sentenced to 300 hours of community service for using the postal service to send what a judge called “grossly offensive” letters to families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2009.

    At the time, Monis said his letters were “flowers of advice,” adding: “Always, I stand behind my beliefs.”

    Monis later was charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife. Earlier this year, he was charged with the sexual assault of a woman in 2002. He has been out on bail on the charges.

    “He had a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability,” Abbott said. “As the siege unfolded yesterday, he sought to cloak his actions with the symbolism of the ISIL death cult. Tragically, there are people in our community ready to engage in politically motivated violence.”

    “This is a one-off random individual. It's not a concerted terrorism event or act. It's a damaged-goods individual who's done something outrageous,” his former lawyer, Manny Conditsis, told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

    “His ideology is just so strong and so powerful that it clouds his vision for common sense and objectiveness,” Conditsis said.

    Flags were lowered to half-staff on the landmark Harbour Bridge as Australians awakened to the surreal conclusion of the crisis. The state's premier expressed disbelief that the attack could happen in Australia — a place he dubbed “a peaceful, harmonious society which is the envy of the world.”

    “In the past 24 hours, this city has been shaken by a tragedy that none of us could have ever imagined,” Premier Mike Baird said. “The values we held dear yesterday we hold dear today. They are the values of freedom, democracy, and harmony. These defined us yesterday, they will define us today, they will define us tomorrow.”

    The siege began about 9:45 a.m. in Martin Place, a plaza in Sydney's financial and shopping district that was packed with holiday shoppers. Many of those inside the cafe would have been taken captive as they stopped in for their morning coffees.

    Hundreds of police flooded the city. Streets were closed and offices evacuated. The public was told to stay away from Martin Place, site of the state premier's office, the Reserve Bank of Australia, and the headquarters of two of the nation's largest banks. The state parliament house is a few blocks away, and the famous Sydney Opera House also is nearby.

    Throughout the day, several hostages were seen with their arms in the air and hands pressed against the window of the cafe, with two people holding up a black flag with the Shahada, or Islamic declaration of faith, written on it.

    The Shahada, which translates as, “There is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger,” is considered the first of Islam's five pillars of faith. It is pervasive throughout Islamic culture, including the green flag of Saudi Arabia. Jihadis have used the Shahada in their own black flag.

    Channel 10 news said it received a video in which a hostage in the cafe had relayed the gunman's demands. The station said police requested they not broadcast it, and Scipione separately asked media that might be contacted by the gunman to urge him instead to talk to police.

    Australian Muslim groups condemned the hostage-taking in a joint statement and said the flag's inscription was a “testimony of faith that has been misappropriated by misguided individuals.”

    In a show of solidarity, many Australians offered on Twitter to accompany people dressed in Muslim clothes who were afraid of a backlash against the country's tiny Muslim minority of some 500,000 people in a nation of 24 million. The hashtag #IllRideWithYou was used more than 90,000 times by late Monday evening.

    Seven Network television news staff watched the gunman and hostages for hours from a fourth floor window of their Sydney offices, opposite the cafe.

    The gunman could be seen pacing back and forth past the cafe's windows. Reporter Chris Reason said the man carried what appeared to be a pump-action shotgun, was unshaven and wore a white shirt and a black cap.

    Some of the hostages were forced up against the windows.

    “The gunman seems to be sort of rotating these people through these positions on the windows with their hands and faces up against the glass,” Reason said in a report. “One woman we've counted was there for at least two hours — an extraordinary, agonizing time for her, surely, having to stand on her feet for that long.”

    “When we saw that rush of escapees, we could see from up here in this vantage point the gunman got extremely agitated as he realized those five had got out. He started screaming orders at the people, the hostages who remain behind,” he added.

    Reason later reported that staff brought food from a kitchen at the rear of the cafe and the hostages were fed.

    As night set in, the lights inside the cafe were switched off. Armed police guarding the area outside fitted their helmets with green-glowing night goggles.

    “This is a very disturbing incident,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said. “It is profoundly shocking that innocent people should be held hostage by an armed person claiming political motivation.”

    Lindt issued a statement saying it was “profoundly saddened and deeply affected about the death of innocent people.”

    “We are devastated by the loss of their lives and that several others were wounded and had to experience such trauma,” said the statement from the Swiss company Lindt & Sprugli. “Our thoughts and feelings are with the victims and their families who have been through an incredible ordeal, and we want to pay tribute to their courage and bravery.”

    Australia's government raised the country's terror warning level in September in response to the domestic threat posed by supporters of the Islamic State group, also known as ISIL. Counterterror law enforcement teams later conducted dozens of raids and made several arrests in Australia's three largest cities — Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. One man arrested during a series of raids in Sydney was charged with conspiring with an Islamic State leader in Syria to behead a random person in Sydney.

    The Islamic State group, which holds a third of Syria and Iraq, has threatened Australia in the past. In September, its spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani issued a message urging attacks abroad, specifically mentioning Australia.

    One terrorism expert said the situation appeared to be that of a “lone wolf” making his own demands, rather than an attack orchestrated by a foreign jihadist group.

    “There haven't been statements from overseas linking this to extremist groups outside the country — that is quite positive,” said Charles Knight, lecturer in the Department of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism at Australia's Macquarie University. “The individual or individuals involved didn't kill early, which is part of the pattern of some recent international attacks. ... It seems to be shifting more into the model of a traditional hostage situation, rather than the sort of brutal attacks we've seen overseas.”

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    The Bay County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the fraudulent use of credit card information belonging to a local resident.

    Multiple transactions using this credit card information were made in Bay County at different businesses on Tuesday, according to a BCSO press release. The victim still had his original credit card and it is believed the information was stolen and encoded on another card and used to make purchases, the BCSO reported.


    The suspect, caught on security cameras, is a tall, black male in his 30’s. He was wearing a black track suit, black t-shirt, and a black baseball hat. He was accompanied by a thin, black female with long dark hair who appears to be in her late 20’s. She wore a black, long sleeved t-shirt, black pants, a black hat and carried a black purse.

    Anyone with information is asked to contact the BCSO at (850) 747-4700 or Crime Stoppers at (850) 785-TIPS.

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    VALPARAISO — A Panama City man has died from injuries sustained in a head-on crash in Okaloosa County, according to a Florida Highway Patrol news release.

    He is the second driver killed in the wreck.

    Christopher M. Schoeller, 35, was pronounced dead Saturday, days after the wreck that also killed 75-year-old Robert Carlisle and one dog.

    Schoeller was driving a 2011 Isuzu box truck Thursday that struck a 2010 Ford F-150 pickup shortly before 4:30 p.m. near the south end of State 123 near Valparaiso, according to the FHP. He was critically injured and flown by helicopter to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, where he was pronounced dead Saturday.

    Brian Taylor, 35, of Panama City, was a passenger in the box truck. He suffered minor injuries, the FHP reported.

    Carlisle, of Brundidge, Ala., was driving the pickup truck.

    Carol Harris, 69, of Shalimar, was a passenger in the pickup. She was taken to Fort Walton Beach Medical Center in serious condition. Her condition had been upgraded to stable Friday.

    According to the FHP, Schoeller was driving south on State 123 when he “crossed the yellow line into the path” of the pickup. State 123 was closed for more than three hours after the crash.

    Two dogs were in one of the vehicles. One was killed in the crash and the other, described as a small white Maltese, died later from its injuries at Emergency Veterinary Clinic in Niceville, according to an employee.

    The accident remains under investigation, according to the FHP.

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    PANAMA CITY — Following federal search warrants executed Friday at Gulf Coast Dermatology’s main office, officials of the medical complex were still unsure Monday as to the nature of the search, according to company representatives.

    Workers arrived Friday morning at Gulf Coast Dermatology, 2505 Harrison Ave., only to be interrupted by federal agents in search of documents. The business remained closed the rest of the day as FBI investigators served a federal warrant, evacuated the building and demanded to look through documents.

    The business was open Monday.

    However, authorities and representatives of the company are not disclosing the cause for the surprise visit.

    Company spokeswoman Beth Courtney said the FBI has not made clear what the agents sought, and no federal charges had been filed against Gulf Coast Dermatology as of Monday.

    “We’ve cooperated, but there isn’t a lot that can be said at this point,” Courtney said. “This could be a lengthy process.”

    The U.S. Attorney’s Office of Northwest Florida said the federal search warrants at Gulf Coast Dermatology have been sealed from public viewing. FBI officials declined to comment on the nature of the search, but they did reveal that agents executed two search warrants on the business.

    Federal court documents also reflect that no charges have been filed against Gulf Coast Dermatology, Dr. Jon Ward, company president, or Dr. Michael A. Stickler, vice president.

    Ward did not return a request for comment Monday.

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    PANAMA CITY — Police are on the hunt for a man who kidnapped a woman at gunpoint Monday and forced an ATM withdrawal before releasing her at a local hospital, according to a Panama City Police Department news release.

    PCPD responded to the 3200 block of West 13th Street at about 12:30 p.m. Monday to a witness who stated he saw a black male get into a woman’s car while holding a firearm. The witness stated the victim then drove away with the male still in the vehicle with her. A short time later the victim called the police from Bay Medical Center.

    Detectives arrived and made contact with the victim. Detectives were told the victim was in her car at the dead end of West 13th Street having lunch when a light skinned black male got into her back seat holding a gun. The victim described the male as being in his late 20s or early 30s, approximately 6 feet tall and weighing about 185 pounds.

    The victim was made to drive to an ATM and withdraw an undisclosed amount of cash. The victim was then told where to drive and eventually the male had her stop where he fled the area on foot. The victim was not injured.

    Anyone having information in this case is urged to call Detective Phinney at the Panama City Police Department, 850-872-3100, or they can report their tips anonymously to CrimeStoppers at 850-785-TIPS.

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    PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Taliban gunmen stormed a military-run school in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Tuesday, killing at least 126 people before Pakistani officials declared a military operation to clear the school over.

    The overwhelming majority of the victims were students at the school, which has children and teenagers in grades 1-10. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the assault and rushed to Peshawar to show his support for the victims.

    As darkness fell on the area, officials said they had cleared the school of militants.

    “The operation is completed,” said Bilal Ahmad Faizi, the head of the state-run rescue organization, speaking to reporters after leaving the school area.

    An intelligence official said nine militants had been killed. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Earlier reports from the chaotic situation said that an estimated six to eight attackers had carried out the violence. It was not immediately clear if the militants were all killed by the soldiers or whether they blew themselves up.

    The horrific attack, carried out by a relatively small number of militants from the Tehreek-e-Taliban, a Pakistani militant group trying to overthrow the government, also sent dozens of wounded flooding into local hospitals as terrified parents searched for their children.

    The attack began in the morning hours, with about half a dozen gunmen entering the school — and shooting at random, said police officer Javed Khan. Army commandos quickly arrived at the scene and started exchanging fire with the gunmen, he said. Students wearing green school uniforms could be seen fleeing the area on Pakistani television.

    Outside the school, two loud booms of unknown origin were heard coming from the scene in the early afternoon, as Pakistani troops battled with the attackers. Armored personnel carriers were deployed around the school grounds, and a Pakistani military helicopter circled overhead.

    Details were sketchy in the face of the overwhelming tragedy. Pakistani television showed soldiers surrounding the area and pushing people back. Ambulances streamed from the area to local hospitals.

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  • 12/16/14--09:04: Man arrested on drug charges
  • MARIANNA — The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office arrested a man who eluded capture on a previous warrant on several occasions.

    Robert Lee Grant, 29, was arrested Monday on three drug charges, violation of probation and resisting arrest. a JCSO press release stated. JCSO officers received a tip of Grant’s whereabouts and he was apprehended near Old US Road in Marianna after fleeing on foot from a vehicle, the release said.

    A search of the vehicle found a small amount of marijuana, digital scales and several pieces of crack cocaine, which were broken up to be sold, the release said. Grant was charged with possession of cocaine with intent to sell, possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia along with violation of probation and resisting an officer without violence.

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    PENNSBURG, Pa. (AP) — An Iraq War veteran suspected of killing his ex-wife and five of her relatives was found dead of self-inflicted knife wounds Tuesday in the woods, ending a day-and-a-half manhunt that closed suburban Philadelphia schools and left people on edge.

    Bradley William Stone's body was discovered a half-mile from his Pennsburg home, about 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia. He had cuts in the center of his body, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said.

    Stone, a 35-year-old former Marine sergeant locked in a custody dispute so bitter that his ex-wife feared for her life, went on a 90-minute shooting rampage before daybreak Monday at three homes a few miles apart, authorities said.

    The killings set off the second major manhunt to transfix Pennsylvania in the past few months. Eric Frein spent 48 days at large in the Poconos after the September ambush slaying of a state trooper.

    As the manhunt dragged on — with SWAT teams swarmed through neighborhoods and the Philadelphia police sending in a heat-sensing helicopter — at least five schools within a few miles of Stone's Pennsburg home closed, and others were locked down. Veterans’ hospitals and other places tightened security.

    Ashley Tessier, of Pennsburg, took her sick 7-month-old son to the pediatrician in a stroller Tuesday as SWAT teams knocked on doors along her route. She said she felt she had no choice, since she postponed Monday's doctor visit because residents were told to take cover.

    “Seeing all this is really terrifying — the dogs, the guns, the SWAT team,” she said.

    The rampage unfolded in the towns of Harleysville, Lansdale and Souderton.

    Stone's former wife, 33-year-old Nicole Stone, was found dead in her apartment after a neighbor saw Stone fleeing around 5 a.m. with their two young daughters, authorities said. The girls were later found safe with Stone's neighbors.

    Police went to two other homes and discovered five more people dead: Nicole Stone's mother, grandmother, sister, brother-in-law and 14-year-old niece. A 17-year-old nephew suffered wounds to the head and hands, and Ferman said he was in “very serious” condition.

    Stone and his ex-wife had fighting over their children's custody since she filed for divorce in 2009. He filed an emergency request for custody this month and was denied on Dec. 9, Ferman said.

    Neighbors said Nicole Stone lived in such fear of her ex-husband that she would sometimes ask her apartment complex's maintenance staff to go in and check her place first because she was afraid he might be lying in wait.

    “He would call and just harass her and threaten her,” said neighbor Michele Brewster. “She shouldn't have had to live in terror.”

    “She would tell anybody who would listen that he was going to kill her and that she was really afraid for her life,” said Evan Weron, another neighbor in Harleysville.

    Stone was probably wearing military fatigues and may have shaved off his facial hair, the district attorney said. She added that he sometimes used a cane or walker.

    Stone was in the Marines from 2002 to 2008. His specialty was listed as “artillery meteorological man.” Stone told a 2011 child support hearing that Veterans Affairs deemed him permanently disabled and that he was collecting benefits from the agency, according to court documents.

    The VA had no comment Tuesday. A longtime friend, Matthew Schafte, said he was not aware of any injuries Stone may have suffered as a Marine.

    Stone had faced several driving-under-the-influence charges, one of which was handled in veterans’ court and led to a three- to 23-month sentence.

    He remarried last year, according to his Facebook page and court records, and has an infant son. Neither his wife nor the son was injured. Nicole Stone became engaged over the summer, neighbors said.

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  • 12/16/14--15:03: Pizza delivery man robbed
  • PANAMA CITY — Police are searching for a man who held a delivery driver at gunpoint for cash and a pizza, according to a news release from Panama City Police Department.

    The victim was attempting to deliver a pizza Monday at 10:15 p.m. to the 13th Street apartments, 715 W. 13th St., when he was met at the door by a skinny black male wearing all black clothing. The male brandished a firearm and then instructed the victim to get on the ground, the victim told police.

    He was then made to go into a bathroom. The suspect closed the victim in the bathroom and left the apartment. A short time later the victim left the bathroom and returned to his vehicle, only to discover that money and a pizza was taken from his vehicle, police reported.

    The victim returned to his place of employment, where he called police, but was unable to give any further description of the suspect.

    Investigators processed the victim’s vehicle and the apartment where the robbery occurred, during which police determined the apartment was vacant.

    Anyone having information in this case is urged to call Detective Rogers at the Panama City Police Department, 850-872-3100, or they can report their tips anonymously to CrimeStoppers at 850-785-TIPS (8477).

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    MARIANNA — Authorities have arrested one man they suspect was part of a convenience store stabbing while another man is still wanted in connection with the incident, according to a news release.

    Emerson Young, of Greenwood, was arrested Tuesday in connection with the stabbing at the Chipola Mart, 4195 Lafayette St. Police still are searching for another man they believe to have wielded the blade in the stabbing, and have issued a arrest warrant for Kirk Lamar Oliver, of Malone, Marianna Police Department officials reported.

    The victim remains in serious condition, officials said.

    After the victim entered the ER of Jackson Hospital on Saturday at about 9:15 p.m. with life threatening injuries, police reviewed the store’s security video. It showed the victim had been stabbed multiple times in the parking lot in front of the business.

    On Monday both suspects were identified and arrest warrants were obtained.

    Young was arrested and charged with principal to attempted second-degree murder. Oliver is still at large and is being sought for the charge of attempted second-degree murder.

    Anyone who may have information regarding this case, especially the whereabouts of Oliver, is asked to contact the Marianna Police Department at 850-526-3125 or call Chipola Crimestoppers at (850)-526-5000 to remain anonymous.

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    SOUTHPORT — Investigators were searching for a burglary suspect suffering from a knife-wound after an incident on Highpoint Road, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday.

    At about 11 p.m. Monday, a man and a woman sitting in the front room of a home on Highpoint Road heard a noise coming from the back of the house. The man went to investigate. He took a knife out of a drawer in the kitchen and confronted a man entering the home through a back door. The suspect also carried a knife.

    The two men struggled and the man was cut on the hand and the suspect was cut as well. It is believed the suspect was cut on the torso, near his ribs. The suspect fled on foot.

    The suspect is described as a black male, in his late 20s to early 30s, wearing gray sweatpants, a black long sleeved shirt with a red Rhino brand logo on the front and white tennis shoes. The suspect has short hair and has a diamond stud in his right ear.

    The man pursued the suspect and stated he heard splashing in Deer Point Lake and then spotted the suspect jump a backyard fence several houses away, heading north.

    Anyone with information on this suspect is asked to contact the Bay County Sheriff’s Office at 747-4700 or Crime Stoppers at 785-TIPS.

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    PANAMA CITY — The hub operator for an illegal export scheme that ran through Panama City Beach was sentenced Wednesday to four months house arrest for violating international trade laws.

    John C. Wall, 57, was one of three men facing federal conspiracy charges for various roles in a Panama City Beach-based company called Freedom Marketing Inc. Wall was president of the business when it bought auto parts from a Chinese manufacturer, relabeled them as “Made in the USA” and then sold them to unwitting buyers in Central and South America.

    During his sentence hearing Wednesday, Wall professed his regret and U.S. attorneys agreed his sentence, as a local businessman, should be less than his Latin counterpart in the scheme.

    “In my 57 years, I’d never been involved in anything like this,” Wall told Judge Richard Smoak before sentencing. “I’ll never do anything like this again. I apologize to my wife, my children, my grandchildren and God for what I’ve done.”

    Wall’s attorney argued that since he cooperated with authorities he should receive a sentence of probation. But prosecutors did not want that to overshadow his culpability.

    “Wall, as his attorney indicated, has wanted to cooperate from the beginning,” said U.S. attorney Ryan Love. “He also supplied us with multiple documents we didn’t have, but that doesn’t take away he was running this business.”

    Before those arguments, Smoak seemed prepared to give Wall a similar sentence to Gilberto Lopez, 49, of New York. Lopez, who identified himself as a consultant to Freedom from 2005 to 2009, was sentenced to four months in prison in November.

    “I’m mindful consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, but I think consistency is best in this case,” Smoak said.

    However, Wall received a lighter sentence. Casey Patrick Lee, manager, also has been indicted on a charge of conspiracy to defraud the federal government but has yet to be sentenced.

    Specific dates identified by investigators over three months indicated more than 114 unmarked or incorrectly marked crates, claiming the contents were “Processed in the USA,” left Freedom Marketing for Mexico and Venezuela in early-2007. On April 25, 2007, Lopez received an email photo from a sales representative in Mexico of boxes with “Korean Air” stickers on the outside.

    False and misleading shipping labels are a violation of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), intended to promote commerce among Canada, Mexico and the USA. The treaty allows anyone who signs a NAFTA agreement tariff-free commerce among the participating nations.

    Lopez and Wall had signed NAFTA certificates.

    Wall and a manager made multiple trips to China to arrange purchases and shipments from a company named Qingdao Haizhiguan to Panama City Beach, instructing their employees to package the parts in different boxes and label the boxes as “Made in the USA,” according to court documents.

    Wall and Lopez contacted brokers in Mexico to arrange the sell side of the business and both knew the origin of the auto parts, Lopez testified.

    Wall was sentenced to four months home confinement, a fine of $10,000 and three years probation to follow. Smoak also agreed to allow him to leave his home for business purposes.

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    PANAMA CITY — A federal grand jury has indicted a Panama City man on child pornography charges, the U.S. Attorney’s office announced Wednesday.

    Timothy K. Smith Jr., 37, was indicted Tuesday on charges of distribution, receipt and possession of child pornography. Count one of the indictment alleges that on or about June 28, Smith knowingly and intentionally distributed images and videos of child pornography. Counts two and three allege that between Aug. 21, 2012, and Aug. 21, 2014, Smith knowingly received and possessed child pornography that involved a prepubescent minor and a minor younger than 12.

    The indictment results from an investigation by agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kathryn Risinger.

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    PANAMA CITY — For Norm Gulkis, his enduring image of Frank McKeithen is that of the Bay County sheriff crawling alongside a wrecked Toyota pickup to engage a suspect with a handgun pressed against his chin, threatening to commit suicide.

    McKeithen remembers that event about three years ago, although it is blurred with similar situations. Sheriff’s officers were in pursuit of the man when he lost control and his truck ended up in a ditch. Assessing the situation, he was convinced the man was committed to shooting himself and even thought about trying to reach for the gun but worried he would not be fast enough. McKeithen does not remember what he told the young man — he said those situations are fluid in their chaos, that improvisation is necessary — but he somehow convinced the subject not to kill himself.

    “That’s the definition of serving above yourself,” Gulkis said, a phrase repeated often in his introductory remarks before he presented the sheriff with a Paul Harris Fellowship award, which is named for the Rotary Club’s founder.

    Humbled by the award, McKeithen responded he felt his actions to stop that person from committing suicide were both to protect his fellow officers and part of his job duties to protect people from themselves and others.

    “That’s what I signed on for,” McKeithen said.

    McKeithen and Debra Peel both received Paul Harris Fellowships, including plaques and medallions, awarded by the Northside Rotary International members, who contributed $1,000 to the Rotary foundation and then nominated McKeithen and Peel. Usually, Paul Harris Fellowship recipients are Rotary members who submit  $1,000 contributions to the Rotary foundation. Gulkis said itis rare for non-Rotary members to receive a fellowship. Gulkis nominated McKeithen and John Newman nominated Peel.

    Although Gulkis also mentioned McKeithen’s work trying to clean up Panama City Beach from bath salts and South Florida pill mills, McKeithen’s and Peel’s work with CrimeStoppers was a significant consideration for  community service with Gulkis as CrimeStoppers president. Both McKeithen and Peel appear together on billboards around Bay County. While McKeithen is an active participant with CrimeStoppers with both funding and support, Peel works as the organization’s media liaison, one of three jobs that includes private investigator and staff investigator for the Florida Bar. Back in 2004, Peel was profiled in “O Magazine,” owned by Oprah Winfrey, as one of the busiest women in the country who finds time to serve her community.

    CrimeStoppers is an anonymous call center for crime tips. Gulkis said CrimeStoppers gets about 100 calls a month locally.

    “We have solved numerous murder cases, cases all over the state,” Peel said. “I hope something I’ve done has touched someone, has kept a family or grandchildren safe.”

    Peel was especially honored to receive the fellowship alongside McKeithen.

    “He’s my hero. I’ve been in law enforcement since 1984, and I’ve worked with many sheriffs,” Peel said. “I’ve never met a man of more integrity than Sheriff McKeithen. He is truly a man of stature and honor.”

    McKeithen said he was impressed with Peel.

    “She has so many jobs and she gets all of them done,” McKeithen said. “I don’t know how she does it. I don’t know when she rests.”

    Adding to the good vibes were that McKeithen and Peel were both completely surprised.

    “There are very few times in my life when I am surprised,” McKeithen said. “This was a good surprise.”

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  • 12/17/14--15:05: Man charged in kidnapping
  • PANAMA CITY — Authorities have apprehended a Panama City man in connection with a broad daylight abduction of a woman at gunpoint, Panama City Police Department announced Wednesday.

    Freddy Lee Thomas, 37, was arrested after incidentally being caught on security camera footage from outside a bail bond business. Law enforcement sought Thomas for a kidnapping incident where a woman was held at gunpoint and made to drive to an ATM and withdraw money, according to arrest reports.

    The victim told police she was in her car at the dead end of West 13th Street having lunch when a man got into her car, sat in the back seat and nudged a gun in her side.


    During the kidnapping, the victim was forced to drive to a Tyndall Federal Credit Union ATM to withdraw $400. She then was instructed to drive to a specified location, where her assailant took personal items and exited the vehicle, fleeing the area, police reported.

    The security footage detectives got from Steele Boys’ Bail Bonds, 1003 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., clearly shows Thomas exiting the victim’s vehicle and running away, police said.

    The next day U.S. Marshals, police and deputies arrested Thomas in the 500 block of North Everitt Avenue. Authorities found several items relating to the case in Thomas’ home afterward, police reported.

    Thomas was transported to the Bay County Jail and charged with kidnapping, armed robbery and felon in possession of a firearm. He previously has been convicted for possession of crack cocaine, robbery and aggravated fleeing and eluding police.

    Thomas is being held on a $515,000 bond.


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    APALACHICOLA — The secretary of Apalachicola’s Dixie Youth Baseball League has been arrested in connection with several thousands of dollars being taken from the league’s banking account, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday.

    Chala Parish, league secretary, turned herself in on charges of grand theft after a warrant was issued for her arrest Tuesday.

    According to a FCSO news release, Parish allegedly used the league’s Centennial Bank debit card and spent more than $3,000 on payments to the city of Apalachicola for water and sewer, Duke Energy and the Franklin County Health Department. Money also was spent at stores, including Ross, Dillard’s, and Office Max, officers said.

    The baseball league was tipped off by the purchases showing up during the months of July through December, a time when the account should have be dormant due to baseball season ending.

    The login and passwords to access the online banking account also had been changed in August to prevent other board members from viewing the monthly bank statements, according to the news release.

    Parish allegedly began making deposits back into the account beginning in October from the Kelley Funeral Home account writing the word “sponsor” on the checking slip. At one point in November when the Centennial bank account was overdrawn, Parish allegedly took $600 from another Dixie Youth League account at Cadence Bank and deposited it into the league checking account at Centennial Bank, officers said.

    FCSO issued a warrant Tuesday for Parish before she turned herself in to the Liberty County Jail. Parish was charged with grand theft third degree. She was released on her own recognizance.  

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  • 12/18/14--16:17: Killer sentenced to 45 years
  • PANAMA CITY — A disabled man who shot his wife and killed her lover was sentenced Thursday to 45 years in prison — a term that would amount to a life sentence, according to his defense attorney.

    Michael Joe McCoy, 44, had been convicted in November of manslaughter and aggravated battery for a fatal shooting, which he claimed was in self-defense due to his deteriorating physical health. David Walker suffered four gunshot wounds in a confrontation — the kill shot piercing his heart — while Susan McCoy nearly perished from being shot twice in the gut outside the couple’s home.

    Circuit Judge James Fensom sentenced Michael McCoy to 45 years in prison Thursday after the killer declined to speak on his behalf during the sentencing.

    Walker’s immediate family encouraged Fensom to exercise a just sentence for their loss.

    “We will never recover from this gratuitous violence, and I will never forget what this killer said when he called 911 that evening,” said Sandy Walker, mother. “He said he didn’t give a [expletive] if my son was dead.”

    Sandy Walker endured most of the trial, sitting through graphic pictures from the crime scene. During the five-day trial, she saw some of the last pictures to be taken of 46-year-old David Walker.

    “My son was still beautiful in his autopsy photos,” she said.

    Michael McCoy called deputies early Feb. 5 to his home on Rhonda Road to report he had shot his 37-year-old wife and David Walker after he learned the two had been having an affair.

    He told investigators after the incident that he initially armed himself with the intention of taking his own life, but his wife talked him out of it. He said he had just learned she and Walker were having an affair and demanded that Walker — who had been staying with the couple for a few days after his release from the Bay County Jail following a domestic battery arrest — leave their home.

    The two men began to argue outside the house before gunfire echoed through the sparsely populated Fountain neighborhood.

    Four shots later, Walker lay face down in a ditch with two bullet holes in his chest, one in his calf and one in his back ribs. The final shot entered his back, perforated his heart and exited his chest. Susan McCoy collapsed from two gunshots through the stomach and drifted out of consciousness.

    None of the rounds fired were recovered by investigators.

    Michael McCoy was charged with second-degree murder and attempted murder because the story Susan McCoy told investigators did not corroborate his account. During the trial, appearing in a wheelchair, McCoy argued the shooting occurred out of self-defense. He said because of a debilitating injury he feared for his life and his wife was caught in the crossfire. But Susan McCoy said he lured David Walker back onto their property and then attempted to seize the opportunity to kill both of the lovers.

    Jurors convicted him of lesser charges of manslaughter and aggravated battery.

    Michael McCoy was sentenced Thursday to remain in prison until he is 99 years old, a sentence that would consume the remainder of his days, said public defender Kim Jewell.

    “In light of his physical condition, any way we look at it, it is still a life sentence for him,” Jewell said.

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