Articles on this Page
- 02/25/15--16:34: _Woman convicted aft...
- 02/25/15--16:37: _Man arrested who in...
- 02/26/15--08:07: _Police fundraiser p...
- 02/26/15--10:42: _BCSO seeks missing man
- 02/26/15--10:52: _Lawyer’s testimony ...
- 02/26/15--13:46: _DOC: Jackson County...
- 02/26/15--18:25: _Former guards plead...
- 02/26/15--19:05: _Wood guilty of murder
- 02/27/15--11:11: _Officers prepare fo...
- 02/27/15--14:10: _UPDATE: Jury recomm...
- 02/27/15--15:05: _LEAD Coalition want...
- 02/27/15--15:09: _Man gets 5 years fo...
- 02/27/15--16:25: _Woman pleads no con...
- 02/28/15--08:56: _Public meeting set ...
- 02/28/15--09:00: _BCSO arrest log (Fe...
- 02/28/15--11:43: _Early morning shoot...
- 03/01/15--15:29: _Shots fired during ...
- 03/02/15--10:01: _Man sentenced to 20...
- 03/02/15--15:01: _Mom convicted of ki...
- 03/02/15--15:09: _Jury acquits Florid...
- 02/25/15--16:34: Woman convicted after smuggling pills into jail in her genitalia
- 02/25/15--16:37: Man arrested who investigators say was hitman in Springfield murder
- 02/26/15--08:07: Police fundraiser planned
- 02/26/15--10:42: BCSO seeks missing man
- 02/26/15--10:52: Lawyer’s testimony disclosed after killer’s sentencing
- 02/26/15--13:46: DOC: Jackson County inmate dies after assault
- 02/26/15--18:25: Former guards plead not guilty to beating
- 02/26/15--19:05: Wood guilty of murder
- 02/27/15--11:11: Officers prepare for onslaught of spring breakers
- 02/27/15--14:10: UPDATE: Jury recommends death for Wood
- 02/27/15--15:05: LEAD Coalition wants to engage youth during the summer
- 02/27/15--15:09: Man gets 5 years for confronting officer
- 02/27/15--16:25: Woman pleads no contest to impersonating officer
- 02/28/15--08:56: Public meeting set about State 77 plan
- 02/28/15--09:00: BCSO arrest log (Feb. 17-24)
- 02/28/15--11:43: Early morning shooting suspect detained
- 03/01/15--15:29: Shots fired during chase, crash on Harrison Avenue
- 03/02/15--10:01: Man sentenced to 20 years for burglary, grand theft
- 03/02/15--15:01: Mom convicted of killing 5-year-old son by poisoning him with salt
- 03/02/15--15:09: Jury acquits Florida man who claimed pot was medicinal
A Jackson County jury convicted Tonya Diane Anderson on Tuesday of possessing Xanax and bringing it into the Jackson County Jail by hiding it in her genitalia.
Assistant State Attorney Laura Wahlquist showed jurors during trial that Anderson, 36, of Caryville, was arrested March 27 for shoplifting. She was searched during booking and a green bottle containing 36 Xanax pills was discovered inside her vagina.
Anderson was found guilty of introducing contraband into a county detention facility and possessing a controlled substance. Circuit Judge William Wright ordered a presentence investigation to be completed before he set a sentencing date.
Anderson faces up to 5 years in prison.
PANAMA CITY — Authorities have arrested a man who investigators said was hired as a hitman and charged him with not registering as a career criminal, according to court records.
Omar Fidel Redmon, 34, was arrested Tuesday on the felony charge. Bay County Sheriff’s Office investigators had sought Redmon since Feb. 6 for allegedly failing to register as a felon before he was apprehended and charged him with not registering to be a career criminal, according to court records.
Since 1994, Redmon has been convicted of manslaughter, cocaine possession and selling a substance in lieu of a controlled substance. He already has entered a plea of not guilty to the current charges and demanded a jury trial, court records indicated.
BCSO previously released information Redmon played a role in the death of 29-year-old Cagney Aaron Benson. Fredricus Vondell White, 27, was arrested Feb. 11 and charged with principal to commit murder after investigators claimed he hired Redmon, his uncle, to perform a hit for nearly $6,000.
Murder charges have not been filed, but the investigation is continuing.
White allegedly was motivated to kill Benson because Benson recently had robbed him, BCSO reported.
Benson was found in a parked 2009 Chevy Cobalt on Dec. 18 at about 7:30 a.m. at an intersection in the Maharaj Mobile Home Park, located at 518 Everett Ave. Police found Benson shot once in the face and once behind the ear, BCSO reported.
Investigators said the night before Benson was found dead, Benson and two other men robbed White. One witness told investigators that Benson put a gun to White’s head and threatened to kill him, but one of the two other assailants stopped him. Benson then allegedly robbed White of his jewelry, cellphone, money and drugs, investigators reported.
Benson showed up later at Bambi’s Dollhouse, 2915 U.S. Business 98, at about 2:30 a.m. and attempted to sell some marijuana one witness said belonged to White. The witness attempted to call White several times to alert him and eventually received a text message from White stating, “Watch Benson and see what kind of car he gets in,” according to BCSO reports.
Investigators said White then called his uncle with the details. Redmon allegedly drove that night from his home in Luverne, Alabama, to Panama City. According to cellphone records, Redmon was near the mobile home park on Everett Avenue. The phone then was turned off for 19 minutes, the period in which investigators believe Benson was killed, BCSO said.
Redmon then drove briefly to Callaway before returning to Alabama.
Investigators issued a warrant for Redmon’s arrest on Feb. 9 for allegedly filing false information about his Bay County residence before leaving the state. He is being held on a $7,500 bond.
PANAMA CITY — Beef O’Brady’s in Lynn Haven will host a fundraiser for the Police Unity Tour from 4 p.m. to close on Monday.
The restaurant will donate 10 percent of proceeds for patrons who mention the tour, which supports the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and Museum.
For more information, contact Sally Sparks at (850) 248-2084 or (850) 814-2488.
PANAMA CITY — Authorities are seeking information on a man who went missing after losing his job, home and pets according to a Bay County Sheriff’s Office news release.
BCSO is conducting a search for missing person Calvin Sowell. Sowell, 54, is believed to be endangered due to suicidal statements and messages he sent to family members. According to Sowell’s family, he was depressed after losing his job, being evicted from his home, and having to turn his family pets over to animal control because he could no longer care for them, BCSO reported.
BCSO was contacted at about 2 p.m. Wednesday by Sowell’s family. The search continues with the assistance of the BCSO Air Unit in the area of Highway 22 at the Bay County line.
Sowell is believed to be driving a gold 1997 Chevrolet truck, Florida tag ARDS38. Anyone with information about Calvin Sowell is asked to contact the Bay County Sheriff’s Office at (850) 747-4700.
PANAMA CITY — Authorities have released the testimony of an attorney ordered to testify against his own client during a murder trial, according to court records.
Darryl Mack, 22, pleaded no contest in exchange for 20 years of prison last week after learning his initial attorney in the case would testify against him. Before then, at a December hearing closed to the public, Mack objected to the disclosure of his attorney-client privileged conversations. However, Circuit Court Judge James Fensom ruled those statements could be used against Mack at trial.
Prosecutor Bob Sombathy said the situation in which an attorney would be ordered to testify against a client is extremely rare, but only as rare as a client telling his lawyer about plans to commit a homicide in the future.
“The last thing a lawyer wants to do is testify against his client,” Sombathy said. “But it is not reasonable to ask your lawyer to be your conspirator.”
Timothy Hilley, Mack’s initial legal counsel, testified in a closed courtroom that Mack had threatened the life of a witness to the July shooting death of 24-year-old Tavish Greene, who had been a murder witness himself. Hilley said at the end of a jailhouse interview regarding the knowledge of the witness, Mack allegedly asked what would happen if the witness was unavailable for the trial.
“Mack was on his way to leave, and he walked over to door and he said, ‘Could those statements be used if he was murdered,’ ” Hilley testified.
“I said, ‘No, it would be hearsay,’ ” he said of Mack’s right to face his accuser at trial.
Mack then responded, “How much time do I have?” Hilley said. “And I didn’t catch it at first, but then he asked again, ‘How long before trial?’ ”
Mack left the room after Hilley told him the trial could begin as soon as June, Hilley said, and Hilley then reported the incident to the State Attorney’s Office since the man Mack was accused of killing had been a witness to a murder himself.
Mack was arrested with Tyricka Woullard, 20, in June of last year. The two fled the state to Covington, Georgia, as police discovered Greene’s body in the trunk of a 2004 Chevy Malibu behind an abandoned East Eighth Court home on July 24.
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 and agreed to five years of probation for his testimony.
Thomas had particularly damaging testimony against Mack, and — although not named by Mack — Sombathy said the threat was directed at Thomas.
“This isn’t a random theoretical discussion; this was specifically following up the statements of Thomas,” Sombathy said. “We’re talking about a specific person who provides damaging testimony against Mack; he mentions murder and asks how much time he has.”
Hilley was removed from the case and defense attorney Albert Sauline III replaced him as Mack’s counsel. Sauline argued that it was too generalized of a statement and that Mack never mentioned Thomas by name.
“There was never any plot discussed to have any witness in this case murdered,” Sauline said. “It was simply a question of ‘what if.’ No name was ever said.”
However, Fensom sided with the prosecution in the case and ordered Hilley to testify against Mack at trial. The decision was revealed moments before Mack accepted a plea deal last week of 20 years in prison.
Woullard’s case is pending. She recently has been ordered to undergo competency evaluations before the case can proceed in the courts.
SNEADS — An inmate at a state prison in Sneads died Thursday after an assault by another inmate, the Florida Department of Corrections Office (DOC) announced in a news release.
DOC officials said the death of inmate Jeremy Smith is being investigated by the Florida Department of Corrections Office of Inspector General and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Several details of the incident have been withheld as the investigation moves forward, according to DOC officials.
“In the morning hours of February 26 at Apalachee Correctional Institution, inmate Jeremy Smith died after being involved in an apparent assault by another inmate,” officials reported in the news release. “Following this incident, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was notified and has become the lead investigatory authority in this case.”
DOC said the office of Inspector General is proactively working with FDLE to provide investigatory assistance, and the DOC will employ all available resources to ensure that a thorough investigation is completed, officials said.
“As this is an open and active criminal investigation, this is all of the information available at this time,” the released stated.
PANAMA CITY — The five correctional officers who were fired and arrested in connection with an orchestrated prison beating have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them in federal court.
However, prosecutors have said the attack on Jeremiah L. Tatum, 31, was planned as an act of jailhouse retaliation.
Former Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) officers William Finch, James Perkins, Robert Miller, Christopher Christmas and Dalton Riley appeared Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida to hear the charges against them. The five men have been indicted on charges of violating Tatum’s civil rights at the Northwest Florida Reception Center (NWFRC) in Washington County during an Aug. 5 prison beating.
All five officers pleaded not guilty to charges of violating Tatum’s civil rights, including the right to not endure cruel and unusual punishment. Each of the two counts carry a 10-year prison sentence. A trial date in April has been set for the case.
According to the indictment filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the attack allegedly was orchestrated by former Capt. James Kirkland as retaliation on Tatum. Kirkland and the other officers had been charged with malicious felony battery on an inmate. However, he was excluded from the indictment after he was found dead in December from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The arrests of the officers stemmed from an Aug. 5 incident, after which Tatum was left severely injured.
Unruly inmates at the NWFRC are usually subdued in their cells with intermittent treatments of pepper spray, according to court documents. Days before the beating, Tatum had been deemed unruly and Kirkland attempted to employ pepper spray treatments. Tatum blocked those efforts and the pepper spray in turn got onto Kirkland, investigators reported.
Kirkland was the officer in charge on the night of the beating. Finch was listed as the assistant officer in charge. Moments before the incident, Kirkland taunted Tatum in his cell to elicit “disruptive behaviors” from Tatum, which worked, according to court documents.
Finch and Kirkland applied two rounds of pepper spray treatment on Tatum within his cell, and Kirkland called in the five-man extradition team to escort Tatum to a decontamination shower, prosecutors allege. As the men equipped themselves for the extradition, Kirkland allegedly told the officers he would state that Tatum spit on him leading up to the beating “to teach him a lesson,” according to court records.
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.
Following that, Finch and Kirkland allegedly falsified reports from Riley that the incident was caused by Tatum spitting on Kirkland, though each of the subordinate officers would later tell investigators the attack was designed by their supervisor.
BONIFAY — It took less than an hour for a jury to reach a verdict in the case of Zachary Taylor Wood, the first of two defendants charged in the 2014 slaying of James William Shores.
Wood and his co-defendant, Dillon Scott Rafsky, were indicted by a Washington County Grand Jury in June on counts of first-degree murder, burglary while armed, and robbery while armed.
The six man, six woman jury found Wood guilty as charged on all three counts after just 56 minutes of deliberation Thursday.
Shores, 66, was found at his family's old homestead at 2842 Johnson Rd., located near his Dauphin Rd. residence last April.
The Washington County Sheriff's Office discovered Shore's body while performing a welfare check at his property in the early morning hours of Sunday, April 20. Deputies had received information from the Alabama Bureau of Investigation that a vehicle connected to the April 19 shooting of an Alabama State Trooper was registered to Shores. The trooper in that case, Marcel Phillips, was treated and released from a Dothan hospital for injuries obtained during a gunfight that took place when he stopped the suspects for speeding.
Investigators testified that Shores was found face down, deceased from an apparent gunshot wound to the head, with his hands bound behind his back by a chain, and his feet tied together with a shirt.
The court also heard testimony that in addition to the beating and gunshot wound, the suspects poured a gasoline additive on Shores' back and attempted to light him on fire.
The defendant told the court he was afraid to not do as he was told by Rafsky, whom he claimed had beaten him a month earlier, shot him in the thigh the day before Shores' murder, and later attempted to shoot him after exchanging gunfire with Trooper Phillips.
Woods testified the pair had been "riding dirt roads" in a Jeep stolen from Rafsky's then-girlfriend in Enterprise, Alabama when they became stuck on Shores' property early Friday afternoon, the day of the murder.
"(We were) riding down the dirt road and passed a house," Woods told the court. "(Rafsky) put the Jeep in reverse and backed it up to an abandoned house, saying it was ok, that we were supposed to be there." Woods admitted he and Rafsky entered the home and plundered, stating Shores showed up after they were back outside, attempting to free the Jeep.
"(Shores) told us we needed to get off the property and that he would call the sheriff to pull us out. I said that would be wonderful ... I was happy when Mr. Shores showed up." he told the court.
Woods went on to say Shores drove behind the house and Rafsky followed him, where he began striking Shores in the head with a garden ho. Woods testified he then helped tie Shores' feet with a shirt, but that was his only role in the crime. He also claimed he purposely left his wallet at the scene, as well as swiped Shore's debit card multiple times after the murder in hopes law enforcement would track them down.
Defense Attorney Walter Smith argued that his client was afraid of the co-defendant, with whom Woods had previously had a romantic relationship, stating Rafsky had "nothing to lose."
"(Woods) certainly felt like (Rafsky) was capable of killing him," Smith told the jury. "Sometimes you can be made to do things you usually wouldn't do because you're afraid..."
Smith went on to point out that Rafsky's - not Woods' - DNA was found on the murder weapon.
Assistant State Attorney Larry Basford remained unconvinced, pointing to surveillance footage from a Walmart store showing Woods using Shores' debit card shortly after the murder.
"When (Woods) was in Walmart, he was happy-go-lucky, having no reservations about spending a dead man's money," Basford told the jury in closing arguments. " ... Actions speak louder than words ... he wouldn't hesitate to do anything to help his best friend. He chose to help Dillon Rafsky."
Basford also pointed out inconsistencies between Wood's court testimony and his recorded interview with investigators, which was played for the court.
In that interview, Wood stated he "may have" hit Shores to "show (Rafsky) he wouldn't snitch," but in open court, Wood testified he never struck the victim.
"This man was not truthful with officers, and he was not truthful with us when he was testifying," said Basford.
After the verdict, Shores' family stated they were satisfied with the result.
"I feel like justice was served," said the victim's son, Josiah Shores. "He got what he deserved, and we are happy with the verdict."
A penalty phase hearing begins Friday to determine if Woods will face the death penalty for his role in Shores' death.
At that time, the state will attempt to prove that the murder met four aggravating factors, including that it was done to avoid arrest; it was committed during a burglary or robbery; it was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel; and was cold, calculated and premeditated. Jurors are expected to make a sentencing recommendation of either life in prison or death to Circuit Judge Christopher Patterson at the end of the penalty phase today or Saturday.
Court proceedings are taking place in Holmes County due to Washington County's courthouse being condemned.
PANAMA CITY BEACH — Law enforcement is gearing up as the calm nears the storm of Spring Break.
Each year when socially motivated college students from all over the U.S. migrate to the shores along the Gulf of Mexico, local law enforcement is challenged with a variety of obstacles. Not only does the influx of mostly-well-intentioned visitors present problems, opportunists tag along to prey on the naïve or vulnerable.
In the past few years, record numbers of visitors have contributed to those challenges. But this year, with new laws and an additional $150,000 each, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office and Panama City Beach Police Department is prepared for another full-throttled Spring Break of long hours and extended workweeks, officials said.
In a normal workweek, the BCSO usually expends about 7,600 man-hours to the same area of the beach. During Spring Break, those numbers triple to about 23,400.
“Bottom line, it is extremely resource intensive,” said Major Tommy Ford, of the BCSO. “We stretch our resources every year nearly to the breaking point.”
BCSO will be increasing patrol officers on the streets to respond to more violent crimes. Since 2011, BCSO has seen an increase by about 39 percent in burglaries, batteries and sex offenses during Spring Break.
“Spring Break always concerns us,” Ford said. “We have seen steady increases in reported crimes, and we expect that to continue this year.”
BCSO has introduced a “sand patrol” this year to work the beaches, enforcing new laws on the beach and guarding against underage drinking. One of those laws requires that people drinking on the beach have identification. If they are caught without an ID, they could be arrested.
PCBPD also is expecting another year of increased visitors. PCBPD has spent their $150,000 to pursue a law enforcement strategy that is more “locally focused,” said Chief Drew Whitman.
PCBPD acquired the assistance of 10 BCSO deputies, 10 Panama City Police officers and five Washington County deputies to more intensively cover the zones within Panama City Beach proper. Each of those and the regular beach police officers are scheduled to work 12-hour shifts during March for six days a week.
“Officers expect this during Spring Break,” Whitman said. “We all have to put in the extra hours to make sure these kids make it home safe.”
With the beach police and BCSO working in tandem, one crucial piece of Spring Break law enforcement keeps their resources from being stretched even further. The Mobile Booking Facility on the beach cuts what would be a two-hour drive to the Bay County Jail down to about a 20-minute process. Jail vans make the trip while the officers can return to their respective zones.
“Our resources get stretched during Spring Break, but we have a great partnership with the PCBPD,” Ford said. “That makes the difference.”
BONIFAY — Jurors unanimously recommended Friday that 24-year-old Zachary Taylor Wood be put to death for the murder of James “Coon” Shores.
If Circuit Judge Christopher Patterson goes along with the jury’s recommendation, Wood will be the first person to be sentenced to death in Washington County’s modern judicial history.
The same jury of six men and six women had found Wood guilty Thursday of first-degree murder, burglary of a structure while armed with a firearm and robbery with a firearm.
During Friday’s sentencing hearing, six people testified on Wood’s behalf.
Heather Griffin, his older sister, pleaded with jurors to recommend a life sentence without parole. She read a typed letter that described Wood’s tumultuous childhood.
Griffin, who is 15 years older than her brother, recounted how she helped raise Wood from the day he was born until that job became full time after their mother died from colon cancer when Wood was 8 years old.
“Zach has had a very difficult life. None of this is an excuse, but I did my best to raise him,” Griffin said. “I feel in my heart that this is my responsibility.”
Griffin then looked to Shores’ family and apologized.
“I would do anything to take away their suffering,” she said. “My family has suffered, too. This tragedy not only destroyed Mr. Shores’ family, but also mine.”
Griffin described Wood as a helpful younger sibling who had been exposed to factors of abuse and “destructive drug use.” She said Wood had hoped to get clean and away from the influence of his co-defendant in the killing, 21-year-old Dillon Scott Rafsky.
It came to light during the trial that Wood and Rafsky had been in a romantic relationship. Walter Smith, Wood’s attorney, told jurors that his client was coerced into participating in Shores’ killing because he was afraid for his own safety if he didn’t go along with Rafsky.
Washington County sheriff’s deputies found the 66-year-old Shores shot to death on his property April 20. Deputies arrived after they received information from Alabama lawmen that a vehicle connected to the shooting of a state trooper was registered to Shores.
Testimony during the trial indicated that Shores returned to his home to find Rafsky and Wood there. They had been riding in a stolen Jeep on the property when it got stuck. They then burglarized Shores’ home, according testimony presented at Wood’s trial
After Shores told the men to get off his land, prosecutors said Wood and Rafsky allegedly beat, bound and shot him execution-style. They also allegedly dowsed him with him with solvent and tried to set him on fire.
Smith maintained Friday that that his client did not pull the trigger that day.
“It (the death penalty) should be reserved for persons we know beyond a reasonable doubt are capable of taking a human life and have taken a human life,” he said.
“He’s guilty because he helped another individual, but he did not do it,” Smith added.
Assistant State Attorney Larry Basford told the jury the murder met three aggravating factors worthy of the death penalty: It was committed to avoid arrest, during a burglary or a robbery, and was cold, calculated and premeditated.
After the jury returned with its recommendation, Josiah Shores, James Shores’ son, thanked investigators and the prosecutors of the case.
“They all did a good job,” Shores said.
Patterson will consider more mitigating and aggravating factors during a hearing April 17 before he hands down Wood’s sentence. He is not required to follow the jury’s recommendation but must give it great weight.
PANAMA CITY — Summer programs will be part of a solution the LEAD Coalition offers in an attempt to discourage crime in Panama City.
The LEAD Coalition conducted a crime perception survey during the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. While there was generally disagreement between the 30 people ages 18 to 35 and the other 162 people surveyed, one area where there was a consensus was that juveniles were committing more crimes.
“Kids will be our biggest allies in the neighborhood,” Boys & Girls Club CEO Paul Mosca said. “Just like the drug culture uses these kids as runners, we can use them for good.”
The coalition will further develop a plan for summer programs at the March 9 strategic planning meeting and then discuss implementation at a March 16 follow up meeting.
However, there are some programs already in existence. The Boys & Girls Club in St. Andrews and Millville has programs from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. from June 11 through Aug. 13. Mosca also promoted extending funding to a baseball program in that area. Mosca said violence has affected the club in the Millville area, causing the club to lock it’s doors on multiple occasions.
The Bay County Sheriff’s Office has a Wilderness Camp with tentative dates of June 15 - 19 and July 22 through 26. The camp will include activities like bow shooting and other life skills but it is only available for 40 children. Lt. Myron Guilford said BCSO has staffing limitations.
“It would have a big effect,” Guilford said of expanding summer programs. “It would give them something to do and give them a mentor.”
Panama City Police Lt. Mark Laramore said it is crucial for law enforcement to establish a relationship with children.
“We have way more good kids than bad kids,” he said. “They will readily tell us stuff.”
PCPD is at a disadvantage because they do not have resource officers in the schools. More than three years ago, the school district decided to have only Bay County officers. While both sides characterized communication between the two departments as strong, Chief Scott Ervin said the department would be receiving better information on potential crimes if it had a presence in schools.
The coalition also discussed work training to address teenagers. AMI-Kids has gotten eight students hired in the hospitality industry and has a construction program to get students certified.
PANAMA CITY — A man accused of impersonating a bail bondsman and using his self-imposed authority to blackmail nefarious characters has been sentenced to five years in prison for harassing an undercover narcotics investigator, according to court records.
However, 31-year-old Christopher Robert Smith still faces charges of acting as a bail bondsman without a license, burglary of an occupied dwelling and false imprisonment.
Smith, of Panama City, was convicted Feb. 10 of yelling obscenities at a Bay County deputy, who had arrested him previously, in a local convenience store. The officer was there with his 4-year-old daughter. As they were trying to drive away, Smith boxed in their car with his own and took a picture of the officer and his daughter. Smith then posted the picture on Facebook and identified him as an undercover officer.
Smith was convicted of tampering with a witness, and Circuit Judge Brantley Clark handed down a five-year sentence for that charge. Clark also assigned a March trial date to resolve his other pending cases.
Smith knew the BCSO deputy from a 2012 narcotics investigation. During that investigation, BCSO was called in to assist the Florida Department of Financial Services Division of Insurance Fraud in a search of Smith’s home. Smith was arrested for allegedly impersonating a bail bondsman, which entailed apprehending two individuals and transporting them to jail, and a variety of drug-related charges, according to court documents.
BCSO said Smith obtained some narcotics by posing as the bail bond agent and shaking down strippers and others who he knew to have active warrants.
However, possession of controlled substances and firearms charges were dropped after Smith’s attorney demonstrated BCSO gathered the evidence during what Clark ruled an “illegal search.” Smith’s attorney, Lisa Ann Anderson, argued BCSO requested information on firearms after the search of Smith’s home and vehicle began, indicating they had been seized before the time they received a search warrant.
Clark ruled the officers “conducted an illegal search of (Smith’s) home and vehicle prior to obtaining a consent to search.”
BCSO has since said Smith gave verbal and written consent to the search prior to requesting the search warrant.
Smith also claimed BCSO obtained statements from himself and his father, a Panama City police officer, by allegedly implying that criminal consequences would not follow those statements. Clark has allowed those statements to be admitted as evidence during Smith’s trial for allegedly acting as an unlicensed bail bondsman.
Because Smith is related to a local law enforcement officer, his case is being prosecuted by the 1st Circuit State Attorney’s Office. Though Smith has been sentenced to five years in prison, he could face additional time for the charges of acting as an unlicensed bail bond agent, burglary of an occupied dwelling and false imprisonment.
A trial date of March 9 has been set, when Smith faces up to an additional 45 years in prison.
PANAMA CITY — An Alabama woman has pleaded no contest to impersonating a federal officer, according to court records.
Morcia Dawn Lowery, 40, had walked the grounds of Smuggler’s Cove RV Park in Parker wearing a shirt with police insignia since August. She allegedly told neighbors she was a U.S. marshal and threatened to lock up unruly juveniles and place witnesses in “protective custody” until her arrest in October, according to Parker Police arrest reports.
Lowery pleaded no contest to charges Feb. 18 in the U.S. District Court of Northern Florida for impersonating a federal officer. She was detained as she awaits her sentencing date in May.
Lowery had portrayed herself as a “take no guff” law officer during her days at Smuggler’s Cove, according to authorities.
According to management of Smuggler’s Cove, Lowery told residents she ended up in Bay County after a drug bust gone horribly wrong. Her 9-year-old son had been shot in the head during a shootout, she had said.
In turn, Lowery got revenge on his killer, also shooting him in the head. However, she requested to be reassigned following the traumatic experience, she told residents. She had been working the child protection beat since, and she told residents she had closed about 80 cases of child exploitation.
Once residing in the RV park, Lowery began to grow bolder, telling one man she would place him in “protective custody” for an outstanding warrant in Tennessee, police reported. On other occasions, she threatened unruly juveniles in the neighborhood with juvenile detention if they didn’t walk the straight and narrow, according to police reports.
After several months of Lowery blaming her late rent on delinquent paychecks from the U.S. Marshals Service and increasingly suspicious tales, management of Smuggler’s Cove called authorities.
Lowery owed about $1,500 in back rent at the time of her arrest.
WAUSAU — The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will hold a State 77 public information meeting Thursday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Wausau Town Hall, 1607 Second Ave.
The meeting is being held to allow participants an opportunity to review proposed improvements to State 77 from the Washington County Line to north of County Road 279 (Moss Hill Road), in Washington County.
The intent of the project is to widen six miles of State 77 from two to four lanes with two 12-foot travel lanes in each direction, 10-foot outside shoulders (five-foot paved), eight-foot inside shoulders (two-foot paved) and a 40-foot grassed median. The project is currently scheduled for construction in 2020.
There will not be a formal presentation, however, FDOT representatives will be available to discuss proposed improvements, answer questions, and receive comments. Maps, drawings, and other project information will be on display.
Information is provided by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office on people arrested on charges Feb. 17-24. 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.
Erika Rose Weed, 24, 4810 W. US 98, Panama City, possession of a controlled substance without prescription, possession or use of narcotic equipment
Jeffrey Morgan Cook, 30, 4810 W. US 98, Panama City, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession of controlled substance without prescription, 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 narcotic equipment
William Larkin Harsey, 42, 412 Indiana Ave., Lynn Haven, grand theft
Julian Patterson III Hardy, 37, 15414 Front Beach Road, Panama City Beach, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without the intent to kill
Derrick Dewann Eady, 54, 125 Sudduth Drive, Panama City, possession of weapon or ammunition by felon
James Eric Lenain, 30, 112 N. James Ave., Panama City, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession or use of narcotic equipment
Roosevelt Washington, 27, possession of cocaine
Christopher Michael (Elliot) Elliott, 27, 5415 Wymore Road, Panama City, aggravated stalking
Roger Neil Bailey II, 30, 1808 E. 11th St., Panama City, possession or use of narcotic equipment
Zachary James Dixon, 19, 2777 River Road, Vernon, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver
Rebecca Renee Smith, 38, 2437 S. 11th St., Panama City, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession or use of narcotic equipment
Lawrence Tyrone (Devon) Brown, 34, Chicago, kidnapping/false imprisonment
Willie Kacheno Cleveland, 34, 2012 E. Eighth St., Panama City, burglary
Peter Eugene Mcmillan, 33, 6147 E. Hwy 98, Panama City, aggravated abuse
Brandy Michelle Debter, 32, 2422 Greenhead Road, Chipley, possession of controlled substance without prescription, possession or use of narcotic equipment
Patrick Wade Milledge, 29, 1407 Arkansas Ave., Panama City, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession or use of narcotic equipment
Jacqueline Lea Slusser, 22, 7929 Heron Lane, Youngstown, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession or ues of narcotic equipment
Matthew Travis Grimes, 39, 121 Venado Place, Panama City, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession of controlled substance without prescription, possession or use of narcotic equipment
Jay Lynn Amman, 39, 222 Azalea Drive, Panama City Beach, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession or use of narcotic equipment
Justin Lavon Mckinney, 29, 101 Casey Lane, Callaway, possession of cocaine
Ryan Scott Holeyfield, 36, 255 Orinda St., Panama City, possession or use of narcotic equipment
James Matthew Waites, 31, 7575 Yellowbluff Road, Callaway, possession of controlled substance without prescription
Virginia Rebecca Miller, 36, 2206 Westover Drive, Panama City, possession or use of narcotic equipment
Robert L. Lavender, 51, 104 S. Jan Drive, Panama City, possession or use of narcotic equipment
April Lynn Gochenour, 38, 1905 Moates Ave., Panama City, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession or use of narcotic equipment
Donnis Jc Barnes, 32, 17623 Norma Lane, Fountain, possession of controlled substance without prescription
Tina Marie Barefield, 37, 1707 Isabella Ave., Panama City, aggravated battery causing bodily harm or disability
Thomas Jeffery Bodiford, 38, 1320 Indiana Ave., Lynn Haven, possession of weapon or ammunition by felon, possession or use of narcotic equipment
Justin Lee Givens, 33, Coldwater, Mich., felony or domestic battery by strangulation
Amanda Ann Atkinson, 24, 232 North James St., Panama City, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession or use of narcotic equipment
Marcus Walter Harper, 23, 709 Kraft Ave.,Panama City, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession or use of narcotic equipment, possession of weapon or ammunition by felon
Waldemar Casado-Rivera, 31, 1722 W 17th St., Panama City, aggravated battery causing bodily harm or disability
Stephanie Yvonne Lyng, 32, 3404 Hiucrest Drive, Panama City, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, manufacture, sell or deliver, possession or use of narcotic equipment
BONIFAY — A Chipley man is behind bars after he broke into a home on Neal Lane in Bonifay and shot one of the home’s occupants during an altercation.
A witness in the home identified Taj-Addaryll “Taj” Quentez Wright, 29, as the assailant who woke several of the home’s occupants as he forced his way into the residence at 6 a.m. Saturday morning.
A press release from Bonifay Police Department said Wright had a firearm that one of the occupants was able to wrestle away from the suspect during a struggle that caused several bullets to be fired at the victim.
Bonifay officers seized the gun as evidence and obtained arrest warrants for Wright, who was later taken into custody by Chipley Police Department without incident.
The victim, whose identity is not released at this time, was transported to Doctors Memorial Hospital by Holmes County EMS and later to Bay Medical Center by helicopter. The victim remains in serious condition.
Wright is being held on $70,000 bond in Washington County Jail as he awaits extradition back to Holmes County. Wright is charged with armed burglary of an occupied dwelling and attempted felony murder.
Authorities are asking anyone with information that may assist with the investigation of this case to call the Bonifay Police Department at 547-3661 or Crimestoppers of Holmes County at 1-866-689-8477.
Chief Chris Wells would like to thank the Chipley Police Department and Washington County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance in apprehending the suspect in this case.
PANAMA CITY — A man was arrested after leading Panama City police on a chase that ended when the suspect crashed early Sunday.
The incident happened at about 2:40 a.m. and no one was seriously injured, police said.
During the pursuit, the driver of the fleeing vehicle attempted to strike police officers with a vehicle. At that point, officers fired upon the driver, police said. A statement released by the Police Department did not clarify whether the suspect was hit.
The driver crashed in the 1900 block of Harrison Avenue and the driver fled on foot but was captured a short time later. A passenger in the vehicle was treated and released for an injury to his arm. The release did not say whether the injury was a result of the gunfire or the crash.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the officer-involved shooting. The driver of the vehicle has been charged with aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, fleeing and attempting to elude, leaving the scene of an accident, resisting an officer without violence as well as several traffic offenses.
The name of the driver has not been released by police, as Sunday afternoon.
PANAMA CITY — Circuit Judge Michael Overstreet sentenced Darrin Lee Carmichael on Monday to 20 years in prison for burglary and grand theft.
Assistant State Attorney Barbara Beasley took Carmichael, 28, of Panama City Beach, to trial Jan. 21 to show that he entered the residence of Robert Crutchfield the morning of Aug. 10. Carmichael took the keys to Crutchfield’s Ford F-150 and left after being confronted by the homeowners.
Later that day, Crutchfield saw Carmichael drive past his house in the truck. Crutchfield and a friend were able to follow the truck and call deputies to make the arrest. Carmichael was found guilty as charged of burglary of an occupied dwelling and grand theft auto.
Overstreet sentenced Carmichael to the maximum of 15 years in prison for the burglary, in which he will have to serve every day without the possibility of early release for good behavior, followed by five years in prison for stealing the truck.
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — A woman who blogged for years about her son's constant health woes was convicted Monday of poisoning him to death by force-feeding heavy concentrations of sodium through his stomach tube.
A jury in the New York suburbs found Lacey Spears, of Scottsville, Kentucky, guilty of second-degree murder in the death last year of 5-year-old Garnett-Paul Spears.
The defense portrayed Spears as a caring mother and her son as sickly, but the prosecution argued that Spears reveled in the attention Garnett's illness brought her. Video showed Spears twice taking the boy into a hospital bathroom with a connector tube and the boy suffering afterward.
“The motive is bizarre, the motive is scary, but it exists,” Assistant District Attorney Patricia Murphy said in closing arguments Thursday. “She apparently craved the attention of her family, her friends, her co-workers and most particularly the medical profession.”
She suggested that Spears, 27, eventually killed the boy because she feared he would start telling people she was making him ill. Her actions were “nothing short of torture,” she said.
Several doctors testified that there was no medical explanation for the spike in Garnett's sodium levels that led to his death.
But defense lawyer Stephen Riebling said there was no “direct evidence” of a crime and drew out from witnesses that Spears seemed devastated by her son's death. He said the hospital video was edited to eliminate tender scenes between mother and son, including one where Spears puts two pairs of socks on Garnett.
“If she's planning on killing him, why does she care whether his feet are cold?” he asked the jury.
He also said the hospital was negligent and dehydrated the boy — an assertion Murphy called “just ridiculous.”
The evidence included two feeding bags found in Spears’ apartment that were heavily tainted with salt, including one that Spears asked a friend to hide. One bag had the equivalent of 69 McDonald's salt packets in it, a forensic toxicologist testified.
Also in evidence were many of Spears’ postings on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and a blog and her online research into the dangers of sodium in children.
Spears, an Alabama native, was living with her son in Chestnut Ridge, New York, when he died. She moved to Kentucky afterward and was living there when she was arrested.
There was no mention at the trial of a disorder known as Munchausen by proxy in which caretakers secretly harm children to win sympathy. Some experts believe that disorder fits Spears’ actions.
FORT LAUDERDALE (AP) — A South Florida man has been acquitted by a jury after contending that dozens of marijuana plants he was growing were used for his own medicinal purposes.
The Broward County jury on Monday found 50-year-old Jesse Teplicki of Hollywood not guilty of criminal charges. Teplicki testified that the 46 plants seized by authorities two years ago were not for distribution but for his own use, to fight chronic symptoms related to the eating disorder anorexia.
Teplicki's attorney Michael Minardi says the case was the first of its kind in Florida decided by a jury rather than a judge. Minardi also said the Legislature's plan to debate medical marijuana this year is an indication that more people see medical value in the substance.
Teplicki faced a five-year prison sentence if convicted.