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    CHIPLEY — The Washington County Sheriff’s Office is asking for information that will lead to the identification and arrest of those responsible for the burglaries of homes in the Bahama Road area of Northeast Washington County and in the Douglas Ferry Road Popular Springs area.

    Several adjacent counties are reporting similar burglaries, WCSO said. Suspects are hitting homes during the day, often entering through the back door.  Several thousands of dollars of property have been taken during these burglaries, including electronics and jewelry.

    Sheriff Bobby Haddock is asking residents who see anything out of the ordinary to call law enforcement immediately. WCSO encourages anyone with information regarding illegal activity to contact the Washington County Sheriff’s Office at (850) 638-6111. If you wish to remain anonymous, you may call the Crime Stoppers of Washington County at (850) 638-TIPS.

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    PANAMA CITY — Authorities have abandoned their case against a driver accused of fleeing the scene of a nightclub shootout in which a 19-year-old was killed, according to court documents.

    State prosecutors dropped the charge Monday against Marcus Justin Mathis, 26, of accessory after the fact to aggravated battery with a firearm. The charge had been downgraded from accessory to murder after Mathis was arrested along with Khiry Ross, 25, in June when a nightclub argument led to the shooting death of 19-year-old Jshun Smith.

    However, prosecutors determined Mathis could not have known Smith lay dead in the roadway near KJ’s Nightclub, 908 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., when he and Ross sped off, according to the state’s motion to abandon the charges.

    “The State cannot show beyond a reasonable doubt that (Mathis) knew that Khiry Ross committed a homicide at the time he drove Mr. Ross from the general area,” prosecutors wrote. Mathis “did not see the actual shooting, and after picking up Mr. Ross in (his) vehicle, Mr. Ross claimed he shot in some type of defensive manner.”

    The prosecution included that Mathis’ cooperation during the investigation assisted in the case.

    Smith was shot in the head at about 3:20 a.m. on June 9 outside of KJ’s while hanging out in the passenger side of an SUV. Officers reportedly learned Ross and Smith had been in a confrontation inside the club over a mutual female acquaintance, and the argument spilled outside in the parking lot where several shots rang out, according to Panama City Police reports.

    “I was like, ‘Baby, just go,’ ” Smith’s girlfriend told police. “He was like trying to get mad and stuff … and the next thing I know they start shooting.”

    Ross has told investigators he fired shots in the air before the gunfire broke out from both sides. Smith, a passenger in the SUV, was struck in the head and fell out onto the roadway as the vehicle tried to speed away, police reported.

    Mathis said he was separating another fight when the shots rang out from behind him, he told investigators. He and Ross separated after the gunfire, but Mathis later picked up Ross to drive him to a relative’s house, he said.

    “Once he got in the car, he started crying and he was like ‘man, I think I hit him,’ ” Mathis said. “He just said, ‘man, I think I hit him, man.’ ”

    At the relative’s house, Ross allegedly discarded the gun into a body of water, Mathis said.

    Although prosecutors abandoned charges against Mathis, Ross is still in custody and charged with second-degree murder with a firearm, felon in possession of a firearm and discharging a firearm in public. A trial date has not been set in the case.

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    PORT ST. JOE — Police led the funeral procession Monday of a man who died in what state investigators have called an “officer-involved shooting.”

    Jonathan Paul Pierce, 37, died Wednesday night in police custody, according to reports from the Port St. Joe Police Department. While officers confirmed Monday that Pierce, a Port St. Joe resident, was the victim of an officer-related incident, several details have yet to be released in connection with his death.

    Most, if not all, of Port St. Joe’s police force — including Chief Matt Herring — was on hand for Pierce’s funeral at the First Baptist Church of Port St. Joe on Monday. Patrol cars from the Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office also were parked among the large congregation, gathered to commemorate Pierce’s life.

    However, most of the details surrounding his unexpected death have been left to speculation. So far Port St. Joe Police have released a statement that they arrested a local man Wednesday and transported him to the station. At 7:39 p.m. EST, the man died while in police custody, according to officials, but they did not release the man’s identity.

    The Port St. Joe Police Department requested the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to investigate the death. FDLE has said the case is being investigated as an “officer involved in a shooting,” but further details had not been released as the agency’s investigation continues.

    FDLE officials said Monday details of their investigation — including where, when or which officers were present at the time of Pierce’s death — were still unavailable.

    Pierce and his family had longstanding ties in the Port St. Joe community. He was a member of the marching band, football team and on the first Port St. Joe High School state championship track team before graduating in 1995.

    Pierce attended Gulf Coast Community College, where he studied electronics and was employed at FairPoint Communications, a local telephone company. He was a member of First Baptist Church. His mother, Charlotte Maddox Pierce, is Port St. Joe’s auditor/clerk, according to the city’s website.

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    SOUTHPORT — A driver who crashed into the rear of a school bus Tuesday morning was seriously injured, the Florida Highway Patrol reported.

    Jamie J. Schulte, 39, Lynn Haven, was driving a pickup on State 77 and Lynda Gale Lane when the truck hit the bus, which had no children on it at the time. Bus driver Deborah B. Scott, 62, Southport, was not injured, FHP reported.

    Schulte was charged with careless driving.

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    A woman was fortunate to have her purse returned after it was stolen. It was missing two rather personal items, however.

    An officer responded to a call regarding burglary of a vehicle. He made contact with the complainant, as officers do, and learned someone broke into a white Honda. The victim said she was at a weeding of a family friend and left her door unlocked only to find her roughly $200 Coach purse missing when she returned.

    She said there were “miscellaneous” items in the purse. Minutes later, Panama City Police dispatch received a call saying someone found several items, including the victim’s social security card. The Coach purse also was retrieved.

    The victim came to PCPD to pick up her purse. She did a quick inventory and noticed two things were missing.

    One was a 12-pack of Magnum condoms. And the other was a bottle of Astro Glide lubricant.

    Everything else was accounted for and she said she could replace the items without needing to fill out additional paperwork, which means the condoms (or what's left of them) and the slippery thief are still at-large.

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    ALFORD — A Jackson County woman was arrested after allegedly assaulting someone she lived with as well as an officer.

    Helen Faye Hart, 58, of Alford was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and battery of a law enforcement officer following an incident on Tuesday, according to a Jackson County Sheriff’s Office press release. Hart became increasingly combative after being confronted by officers and had to be restrained, the release said.

    Officers responded to a call of a physical altercation at a residence on Mill Road and witness statements confirmed Hart had threatened the man she lived with, Robert Skipper, with a cane, the release stated. Hart was given an opportunity to make a statement, but refused and was placed under arrest. She began yelling at Skipper and became abusive towards officers, the release said.

    Hart started kicking the protective divider and the side windows before officers stopped the vehicle and placed her in leg shackles. In the process, she threatened to kick one of the deputies and subsequently did so, striking the officer in the hand and leg with no visible injuries, the release said.

    Once at the jail, Hart was verbally abusive to staff, police said, and she attempted to kick a male officer in the groin. She was restrained further and left in custody to await her first appearance.

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    LANTANA (AP) — Vanilla Ice has been charged with breaking into and stealing from an abandoned home that is in foreclosure in Florida.

    Police in the Palm Beach County town of Lantana say the recording artist and home-improvement-show host had been renovating a home next to the victim's house. They said in a news release that some of the items were found at his property.

    Vanilla Ice, whose real name is Robert Van Winkle, rose to fame following the 1990 release of the hit song “Ice Ice Baby.” In recent years, he has hosted “The Vanilla Ice Project” on DIY Network.

    The 47-year-old Van Winkle was charged Wednesday with burglary of residence and grand theft and taken into custody.

    Authorities say furniture, a pool heater, bicycles and other items were removed from the home sometime during December and February.

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    PANAMA CITY — A Callaway man arrested in connection with a string of masked robberies that took place in his juvenile years could face a life sentence in adult prison, according to court documents.

    Devonteal Bernard McFann, 21, appeared in court Wednesday on charges of robbery with a firearm punishable by life, aggravated assault and possession of firearm while committing a felony.

    McFann was arrested in November in connection with a string of masked robberies dating back to 2010, according to Parker Police Department reports. Police specifically highlighted a 2011 armed robbery of the Smile Line Store, 5633 E. Hwy 98.

    --- VIDEO: THE 2011 ROBBERY»»

    Police released video from the store at the time McFann was initially arrested. One of the store’s videos from June 2011 shows two masked men — one wearing a werewolf mask and another with a shirt wrapped around his head — robbing the store at gunpoint. Parker police reported the duo took $741 from the store clerk.

    Although both of the men’s faces were concealed from the store’s camera, police said “several witnesses” came forward naming McFann as the man brandishing a .357 magnum revolver and aiming it at the clerk, according to police reports.

    Investigators also said the firearm allegedly used in the robberies was recovered.

    Although McFann is no longer a juvenile, like he was at the time of the alleged robbery, authorities filed documents last week moving the charges up to adult court. McFann now faces charges of robbery with a firearm punishable by life, aggravated assault and possession of firearm while committing a felony.

    According to court documents, McFann decided to represent himself and requested to be released on the pretrial release program. A ruling on his motion has not been made.

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    PANAMA CITY — Five correctional officers who were fired and arrested in connection with a prison beating at the Northwest Florida Reception Center (NWFRC) in Washington County are now facing federal charges for the incident, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday.

    A federal grand jury returned an indictment Wednesday alleging the five Department of Corrections (DOC) officers conspired in August to violate the civil rights of an inmate at the NWFRC. Named in the indictment are William F. Finch, 35, of Wausau; Dalton E. Riley, 24, of Bethlehem; James F. Perkins, 39, of Graceville; Robert L. Miller, 48, of Lynn Haven; and Christopher B. Christmas, 32, of Chipley.

    They already are facing state charges of malicious felony battery on an inmate.

    Excluded from the indictment was former Capt. James Kirkland, who was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after state charges of malicious felony battery on an inmate were brought against the officers.

    The arrests stemmed from an Aug. 5 incident involving 31-year-old inmate Jeremiah L. Tatum. A superior officer, Kirkland, had been arrested earlier on additional charges of official misconduct after he allegedly orchestrated the incident and then pressured subordinate officers to sign fictitious reports.

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

    Each of the subordinate officers told investigators the attack was designed by their supervisor. Kirkland told them he wanted Tatum taken to the ground during an escort, and that he would prompt the attack by yelling that Tatum spit on him, according to investigation reports.

    But the five subordinate officers told investigators none of Tatum’s actions justified the use of force.

    In the federal indictment, prosecutors charged the officers with physically assaulting Tatum without justification and causing him bodily injury. To cover up the officers’ actions, the indictment further alleges, Finch was the sole officer to falsify reports of the incident by stating the assault was in response to the inmate spitting on Kirkland.

    The case is being investigated by the FBI and the Florida Department of Corrections – Office of the Inspector General. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Gayle E. Littleton. United States Attorney Marsh expressed appreciation for the work by the investigative team.

    The arraignment of the officers is scheduled for Feb. 26 at 1:30 p.m. before Magistrate Judge Larry A. Bodiford at the U.S. District of Northern Florida courthouse in Panama City.

    Each of the officers still face charges of malicious battery on an inmate causing great bodily harm, according to Washington County court records.

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    TALLAHASSEE — In what judges described as a first-of-its-kind case, an appeals court Wednesday upheld a Florida law that prevents people from openly carrying firearms, finding the restriction does not violate constitutional rights to bear arms.

    The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal stemmed from the 2012 arrest in Fort Pierce of Dale Norman, who was openly carrying a gun in a holster. A jury found Norman guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor charge, leading to the appeal on constitutional grounds.

    The appeals court said the state law does not “destroy the core right of self-defense enshrined in the Second Amendment” and in part of the Florida Constitution that guarantees the right to keep and bear arms. Also it pointed to the ability of people to get concealed-weapons permits.

    “Florida’s requirements to obtain a permit for concealed carry are not so burdensome, or so onerous, as to make the ability to obtain a permit illusory,” said the 27-page ruling, written by Judge Mark Klingensmith and joined by judges Melanie May and Cory Ciklin. “Nor can it be said that these requirements, unlike those found in other (state) jurisdictions, make the right to carry a weapon in public a virtual nullity.”

    The ruling described the case as presenting a question of “first impression” about whether the Second Amendment forbids the state from banning the open carrying of firearms while allowing people to carry concealed weapons under a permitting system. In legal terms, a question of “first impression” indicates a first-of-its-kind decision.

    Norman’s attorneys last year filed a lengthy brief arguing the ban on openly carrying weapons violated the federal and state constitutions and was overly broad.

    “The state cannot ban open carry,” said the brief, which also traced the history of gun laws in Florida. “It is the core of the right to bear arms. When every court to consider the issue has ruled that concealed carry is a privilege, and if you accept that there is a right to bear arms as the plain language states, there is only one manner in which firearms can be borne in the exercise of the right — openly.”

    The brief said Norman, then 24, was arrested Feb. 19, 2012, after a concerned citizen spotted him with a gun on his hip and called police. Norman had been issued a concealed-weapons permit days before.

    In its ruling, the appeals court emphasized the role of the Florida Constitution, which it said, “unlike the U.S. Constitution, explicitly states that the manner in which guns are borne can be regulated.”

    “In fact, no controlling authority has been presented to this court for the proposition that the Legislature may not impose some restrictions and conditions on either the method or manner that lawful arms may be carried outside the home,” the ruling said. “In fact, the plain wording of the Florida Constitution provides explicit support for the state’s position that it may regulate the open carry of firearms.”

    The court also noted Norman could legally carry the gun in a concealed fashion.

    The “defendant was not prohibited from obtaining a concealed weapons permit — indeed, he possessed one at the time of his arrest,” the ruling said. “Likewise, [the] defendant did not argue that he was somehow precluded from the ability to lawfully carry his weapon in a concealed fashion. He was able to lawfully possess his firearm, albeit while concealed, for self-defense purposes as recognized by the Second Amendment, the Florida Constitution, and Florida statutes. The course of conduct he chose, that of openly carrying his firearm for protection, was not the only option available to him to exercise his rights.”

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  • 02/19/15--09:38: Man sought in robbery
  • PANAMA CITY — The Panama City Police Department is seeking a man wanted in an early-morning Thursday robbery at the American Quality Lodge.

    An unknown black male entered the hotel located at 4810 W. Highway 98 and demanded money from the clerk, a PCPD press release stated. Fearing for her safety, she complied with the man’s demands and he left soon after retrieving an undisclosed amount of money, police said.

    Anyone with information is asked to call the PCPD at (850) 872-3100 or report anonymously to CrimeStoppers at (850) 785-TIPS.

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    PANAMA CITY — A Callaway man who killed a 20-year-old during a botched robbery for 2 ounces of cannabis has been sentenced to 45 years in prison.

    Randy Jackson, 24, was sentenced Thursday for plotting a robbery scheme for about 2 ounces of marijuana that turned into a deadly shooting in July. Ryan Brooks, 20, was shot multiple times in a Panama City Beach apartment complex parking lot before police arrived to find him face down on the asphalt.

    Judge James Fensom sentenced Jackson to a minimum of 30 years in prison for an attempted robbery with a firearm to be followed by a 15 year stint for manslaughter.

    During the sentencing, Brooks’ family members asked Fensom to pass down a life sentence on Jackson. They said that since Jackson showed no remorse in the wake of Brooks’ death, they had no remorse for Jackson.

    “I wish I was one of those parents who could say I was able to find forgiveness,” said Amy McDonald, Brooks’ mother. “But I am not one of those parents.”

    Jurors found Jackson guilty in January of manslaughter and attempted robbery with a firearm.

    Six people were arrested in the fallout of the July 10 shooting at the Club Apartments, 325 Richard Jackson Blvd., as the three survivors allegedly tried to cover their tracks.

    Jackson and 23-year-old Joshua Heath Smith had armed themselves with designs on robbing Brooks of the marijuana. However, they didn’t anticipate that Brooks and 26-year-old Joseph Cannizzo also would allegedly be aiming to rob them of their cash at gunpoint.

    The meeting convened at the Club Apartments where Brooks, Cannizzo and Smith consolidated into Cannizzo’s green SUV to orchestrate a purchase of the marijuana. During the exchange, Cannizzo pulled a gun on Smith and ordered him to take off his pants. Brooks took his gun and walked over to the car Smith arrived in to search it.

    Neither Brooks nor Cannizzo knew Jackson was in the car until gunfire roared from inside.

    Cannizzo fired upon the car and Jackson sped off, according to investigative reports. Smith escaped through the woods without firing a shot. Brooks died a short time later from his multiple gunshot wounds.

    Cannizzo’s role in the incident is still pending in court. He is accused of attempting to rob Smith at gunpoint before the shooting.

    Smith is required to testify in the matter and could face 10 years in prison during his sentencing. However a court date remains open-ended as Cannizzo is undergoing medical treatment from an out-of-state car wreck in December in which he suffered brain and spine injuries, according to his attorney.

    Jackson also faces trial in March for a charge of felon in possession of a firearm in connection with the shooting. He faces an additional 15 years in prison if convicted of that charge.

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    PANAMA CITY — Family members of a man left dead for days in the trunk of a car wished death upon the Panama City man who shot him several times and placed him there.

    Darryl Mack, 22, was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in prison for his role in the robbery plot that led to the shooting death of 24-year-old Tavish Greene. Mack accepted the plea offer instead of facing a trial — during which his initial attorney in the case had been ordered to testify against him — where he would have faced life in prison.

    Mack accepted a reduced charge from second-degree murder to manslaughter with a firearm in the agreement. He also was found guilty of robbery and three counts of felon in possession of a firearm.

    During his sentencing, Mack heard comments from several of Greene’s immediate family members expressing disappointment with the sentence.

    “I wish death on you every day I wake up,” said Tanisha Greene, sister of Tavish Green. “I wish somehow ya’ll would croak over and die. … If you die today, I’ll come to your funeral laughing.”

    Tangela Peterson, mother of Tavish Greene, brought his infant daughter to meet the man convicted of killing her father face to face.

    “This girl here will never ever get to know her dad — who he was,” Peterson said. “You get to see her in the flesh. He will never see her.”

    At one point bailiffs had to calm outbursts from the audience after Mack began to answer their requests for a reason he shot Greene and hid his body in the trunk of a car.

    “The story they seen is not how it went down,” Mack said. “He did have a hit on his head, but he robbed me. It didn’t go down like that. There was a shootout.”

    Mack was arrested with Tyricka Woullard, 20, in June. The two fled the state to Covington, Ga., as police discovered Greene’s body in the trunk of a 2004 Chevy Malibu behind an abandoned East Eighth Court home on July 24.

    “My son was so decomposed I couldn’t show his face,” Peterson said during the sentencing. “You put him in the trunk of car behind an abandoned house in 100-degree weather. Why?”

    Police said Greene’s death came at the end of a botched robbery, involving three conspiring parties.

    One of the three accused, 22-year-old Dontavis Thomas, pleaded no contest to being an accessory to Greene’s murder. Police reports said the three suspects lured Greene to Woullard’s residence at 3710 W. 21st St., where they planned to rob him the morning of July 19. Thomas and Mack allegedly used phone calls and text messages to draw Greene into a trap through Woullard, his ex-girlfriend. The three hid inside, waiting to ambush Greene for money and illegal narcotics.

    Woullard and Mack then fled to Georgia the day after, police reported. Thomas remained in Bay County and was arrested shortly after.

    Thomas agreed to five years of probation, punishable by as much as 20 years in prison if he didn’t testify against the co-defendants, according to court documents.

    In the months that followed Thomas’ plea deal, Mack’s attorney Timothy Hilley at the time reported that Mack made a veiled threat on Thomas’ life during a confidential conversation. Prosecutors demanded Hilley testify in trial against his own client, and Hilley was removed from the case.

    The day Mack accepted the 20-year sentence, Bay County Judge James Fensom ruled Hilley’s testimony would be admissible in court and jurors would potentially hear a defendants’ own attorney speak against him.

    Mack would have faced a life sentence at trial. According to the terms of his plea deal, he could be released in about 16 years.

    Woullard still faces charges of principal to second-degree murder and principal to robbery. She was ordered Thursday to undergo competency evaluations before a trial date can be set, according to court records.

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    PANAMA CITY — Police have arrested three teenagers in connection with multiple vehicle burglaries, the Panama City Police Department announced Thursday.

    Christopher Martez Gordan, 18; Datrion T. Hand, 14; and Isiah C. Grady, 16, all of Panama City, were arrested for various roles in the vehicle burglaries.

    Officers located the suspects after a victim of one burglary reported he had tracked his electronic device to the Royal Arms Public Housing Complex at 1420 Balboa Ave. using a tracking app. On the same night when several west side burglaries were committed, a convenience store on the west side of town captured the males attempting to enter the unattended vehicles of store patrons, police reported.

    Officers patrolling the Royal Arms complex in search of the suspects observed them acting suspicious. When approached, Grady and Gordan fled, abandoning a backpack. They were apprehended and the recovered backpack contained several electronic devices stolen during the recent burglaries with batteries removed by the suspects to avoid being tracked.

    Police said they believe the three young men and others associated with them are responsible for multiple unsolved burglaries within Panama City. Additional criminal charges are pending as the active investigation continues.

    Gordan was charged with three counts of burglary and three counts of grand theft; Hand was charged with four counts of burglary and four counts of grand theft; and Grady was charged with accessory to burglary and violation of probation. Grady was on probation for his alleged role in the 2014 shooting death of 17-year-old Curtis Hunt in the 200 block of Kraft Avenue.

    Anyone having information in this case or others is urged to call 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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    PANAMA CITY BEACH — The Bay County Sheriff’s office has re-released a surveillance video of a man breaking into and entering a home in Panama City Beach after additional homes were broken into by the same man.

    Homes at the 1900 and 2200 blocks of Front Beach Road also were recently burglarized and victims identified the man on the video as the suspect, BCSO reported. The man also has been seen peeping into windows at night at one of the victimized homes. He has been confronted twice by victims and managed to elude capture and escape on foot.


    The suspect appears to be a heavy-set, white male. He is wearing a long sleeve plaid shirt and jeans in the video of the initial burglary on Feb. 4.

    Anyone with information on this suspect is asked to call the Bay County Sheriff’s Office at (850) 747-4700 or Crime Stoppers at (850) 785-TIPS.

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    PANAMA CITY — A Gainesville man convicted of killing another man over a stolen bicycle has been sentenced to spend more than 50 years of his life in prison, according to court documents.

    Stephen Trusty, 33, was sentenced to serve 25 years in prison for the murder of 34-year-old Leonard Price, which will be followed by 26 years in prison for threatening witnesses of the brutal slaying.

    Trusty was charged with murder after police found Price shot to death on a grass lawn the early morning of May 28 between Roosevelt and Carver drives of Panama City. He was later found guilty of second-degree murder and tampering with witnesses.

    Prosecutors presented video of Price leaving the area of Trusty’s room 118 at the USA Inn, 710 East 15th St., with the bicycle at about midnight. Only about 40 minutes later, police were alerted to the scene of a shooting where they would find Price dead from five gunshot wounds — two in the back.

    Trusty left his clothes and medication in the room at the USA Inn and headed toward Tampa as he became the main suspect in the murder investigation. But, at trial, he denied confronting Price over a “neighborhood bike” and killing him.

    “I have no reason to kill nobody,” Trusty told jurors at the time.

    However, two eyewitnesses also testified to seeing Trusty fire the fatal shots after a brief skirmish over the bicycle. Both Tanya Baker and Sawson Owens said they saw Trusty and Price engaged in a brief confrontation before Trusty began pistol-whipping Price, causing the firearm to accidentally discharge.

    Trusty then stood over Price and emptied a .38-caliber revolver into him. They both said after the shooting, Trusty simply sat on the bicycle and rode off. Each of the men had a different vantage point and corroborated the others’ account.

    The bike was later found at the mother of Trusty’s home as he fled the county. Once he was apprehended, Trusty threatened Owens and his family members if he testified in the case.

    Trusty still faces charges of felon in possession of a firearm from the incident. State records show Trusty has a criminal record dating back to his sentence in January 1997 for battery on a detention facility staff member. Trusty also did time for robbery and cocaine-related crimes. He was released from prison in August 2010. He could face more prison time if convicted of the firearm possession charge.

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    PANAMA CITY — One 9-month-old dog has gone from being a rescued pup to saving lives in an unusually short amount of time.

    Scout was certified as a “scent-specific search dog” Wednesday during Bay County Sheriff’s Office K-9 search and rescue seminar week. The seminar takes place at BCSO’s Wilderness Camp once a year with about 25 dogs this year attempting to gain the designation. Now, one of Bay County’s nine certified search and rescue dogs, Scout and her handler can be called on to lend a snout whenever someone is reported as a missing person in the county.

    The designation for such a young pup and handler is unique because most dogs take between eight months and two years to complete the training certification, according to BCSO’s senior K-9 handler Melissa Frye.

    “That’s why with a 9-month-old puppy it is such an odd achievement,” Frye said. “Most dogs train for as long as Scout has been alive.”

    The training began about five months ago, said Scout’s handler 18-year-old Andrew Agosto. He was away on duty as a member of a National Guard when he arrived home on weekend leave to find the mixed-breed Scout waiting on him. His mom saw an ad for puppies in a local publication.

    “They say you don’t choose puppies, they choose you,” he said.

    Agosto had been interested in being a K-9 handler in the military for some time, and Scout turned out to be a natural scent tracker.

    “It’s all a game to them,” Agosto said. “She had the tracking instincts and really wanted to play.”

    During the seminar, the K-9s vying for certification encountered three different scenarios. The one in which Scout excelled was “scent-specific” tracking. Since each person has their own distinct scent, the dogs are presented with an article of clothing or even a foot print on the ground. The dog is then tasked with tracking that scent to the person’s location.

    The second is a general “area search” where the dogs are trained to find a general scent of humans on the wind and set out to make a more direct find. And the third is where dogs are trained to specifically detect the scent of human remains.

    All of the handlers and trainers volunteer their time, and, for a chance to become certified, they also pay between $300 and $350. Frye said some of the handlers are compelled by experiencing the loss of a loved one themselves, and others have a natural desire to bring answers to those with a missing loved one.

    “We do it because it needs to be done,” Frye said. “We can’t stand the thought of someone remaining missing.”

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    HILAND PARK — Residents of a home that was completely engulfed in flames Friday afternoon narrowly escaped with the life of their blind dog.

    No injuries were reported from the scene of the house fire at 2139 E. Baldwin Road, officials said.

    Mark Robertson, a resident of the home, cradled a whimpering, shaggy dog with burns on its feet at about 1 p.m. Friday across the street as the fire raged. Moments earlier, he’d frantically rushed to get all four dogs, two parakeets and two cats out of the house before the flames grew to the towering inferno the home would eventually become.

    Robertson said he noticed something smoking within the home only about half an hour earlier, but he couldn’t find a fire extinguisher. Suddenly the entire house was filled with blinding smoke.

    “I went to get the animals out, and the smoke was too thick to see,” he said. “By the time I got them all out, our oldest dog, who can’t see, had wandered back into the house.”

    Robertson said he ran back in, and the flames had already began to spread throughout the home. As the blaze intensified, he was able to find the dog and carry him to safety.

    “I just can’t believe how fast it went,” he said.

    Fire crews from Lynn Haven, Springfield and Bay County worked in tandem with ladder hoses and ground attacks to control the fire shortly after 2 p.m. However, the house was a complete loss by that point, officials said.

    Neighbors called the almost 50-year-old home at the corner of Bookins and Baldwin roads “the Bookins’ home.” Robertson said the home, constructed solely out of pine wood, was owned by his wife. He also said he had previously tinkered with the wiring of the home and believed the fire was caused by an electrical issue.

    The fire closed a large stretch of Baldwin Road from about 12:30 p.m. through the afternoon. Fire marshals were still investigating the cause of the blaze as of Friday evening.

    Bay County fire crews also worked three other residential structure fires earlier in the week that damaged homes.

    Friday at 1 a.m., firefighters were called to 6201 W. Hwy 388. Thursday at noon, trucks responded to 9602 Indian Bluff Resort Lane. Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., crews fought a house fire at 8711 Laird St.

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    MARIANNA — Construction is slated to begin the week of Feb. 26 on U.S. 90 from west of the CSX Railroad to the Chipola River Bridge in Marianna.

    The project includes 2.8 miles of resurfacing, minor sidewalk construction, restriping for a left-turn lane at Green Street, drainage ditch work at Jackson Street, utility work and minor signal improvements. Construction activities requiring lane closures will take place at night from 8:30 p.m. until 6:30 a.m. Work is anticipated to be completed summer 2015.

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  • 02/21/15--09:09: BCSO arrest log (Feb. 11-17)
  • Information is provided by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office on people arrested on charges Feb 11-17. Those arrested can contact The News Herald if charges are dropped or if they are acquitted. Addresses are those given by the defendant during arrest.

    --- MUGSHOTS»»

    Erick Deshaun Jones, 21, 903 Greentree Road, Panama City, possession or use of narcotic equipment

    Johnny Reginald Jr Johnson, 18, 1132 N. East Ave., Panama City, burglary

    Joshua Raymond Black, 38, 5632 Thomas Drive, Panama City Beach, child neglect

    Michael Kenneth Davis, 30, S. State 79, Panama City Beach, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession of opium with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver

    Paula Suzanne Aull, 44, 101 Rhodes Ave., Wewahitchka, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession or use of narcotic equipment

    VernonRichard Goodwin, 42, 519 W. Madison St., Starke, possession of heroin with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession or use of narcotic equipment

    James Waylon Porter, 34, 9044 Daniels Road, Wewahitchka, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession or use of narcotic equipment

    --- MUGSHOTS»»

    Justin Frank White, 32, 7315 Melissa Elaine Drive, Panama City Beach, possession or use of narcotic equipment, trafficking heroin

    Robert Ellison Williamson, 40, 3601 Tiri Drive, Panama City Beach, possession or use of narcotic equipment

    Jaime Leigh Fiquett, 37, 2820 E. 12th St., Panama City, felony or domestic battery by strangulation

    Michelle Nichole Hinson, 27, 1940 Sherman Ave., Panama City, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession or use of narcotic equipment

    Dartagnan Nostridamus Spires, 24, 2175 Frankford Ave., Panama City, possession of controlled substance without prescription, possession or use of narcotic equipment

    Luis Benito III Vazquez, 20, 1038 S. Berthe Ave., Panama City, possession or use of narcotic equipment

    John Franklin Kreutzer, 31, 1412 New York Ave., Lynn Haven, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession of controlled substance without prescription, possession or use of narcotic equipment

    --- MUGSHOTS»»

    Heather Leigh Zequeira, 29, 5409 Hilltop Ave., Panama City, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession or use of narcotic equipment

    Ronnie Chris Tyndal, 28, 111 Kimbrel Ave., Panama City, possession of use of narcotic equipment

    Daniel Lee Hadders, 26, 240 Beulah Ave., Callaway, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver

    Steven Ray Davis, 26, 3646 Lane Drive, Panama City, possession or use of narcotic equipment, possession of controlled substance without prescription

    Christopher Slade Ward, 22, 134 Manistee Drive, Panama City Beach, possession or use of narcotic equipment

    Thomas Jennings Mayer, 21, 1423 W. 30th St., Panama City, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession of use of narcotic equipment

    --- MUGSHOTS»»

    Erika Rose Weed, 24, 4810 W. US 98, Panama City, possession of controlled substance without prescription, possession or use of marijuana

    Jeffrey Morgan Cook, 30, 4810 W. US 98 Panama City, possession of controlled substance without prescription, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession or use of narcotic equipment

    Charles Laney Lowe, 47, 1720 Danford Ave., Panama City, aggravated battery causing bodily harm or disability

    Brian Matthew Coffey, 51, 120 N. James Ave., Panama City, possession of controlled substance without prescription, possession or use of controlled substance

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