ASA Alexis Sykes appointed to Florida Bar’s Mental Health and Wellness Committee

Press Release

The Office of State Attorney Glenn Hess announces that Assistant State Attorney Alexis Sykes has been appointed to serve on the Florida Bar’s Mental Health and Wellness of Florida Lawyers committee.  Ms. Sykes, a well-seasoned prosecutor, hopes that her perspective can help bring more assistance to lawyers struggling with mental health issues, addiction, work/life balance, and other personal traumas; particularly lawyers serving the public.  We appreciate Ms. Sykes’s dedication to her fellow lawyers, and her willingness to volunteer her time to help others.

For additional information, contact Chief Assistant State Attorney Larry Basford.

Correctional Officer Sean Dowis Sentenced to 45 Years for the Murder of Deena Zimmerman

Press Release

The Office of State Attorney Glenn Hess announces that on May 17, 2019, Sean Dowis, a former correctional officer, pled as charged to the crime of Second Degree Murder and was sentenced by Circuit Judge Timothy Register to 45 years in prison.

An investigation conducted by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office revealed that Deena Zimmerman was employed as a nurse at GEO, a privately operated prison in Graceville. When she failed to show for work on Memorial Day in 2018, Deena’s supervisor called her mother to inquire about Deena’s absence. This led to a missing person investigation that quickly turned into a murder investigation. Two days later, Deena’s body was recovered from a gravesite in a remote area of Sunny Hills. Dowis was Deena’s boyfriend and originally denied any knowledge of Deena’s whereabouts, but during a recorded interview with Sheriff Kevin Crews, Dowis made several incriminating statements that led to his arrest. The case was prosecuted by Chief Assistant State Attorney Larry Basford.

For additional information, contact Chief Assistant State Attorney Larry Basford.

Thompson Convicted of First Degree Murder and Robbery with a Firearm

Press Release

The Office of State Attorney Glenn Hess announces that on May 3, 2019, a Bay County jury found Derrick Ray Thompson guilty of First Degree Murder in the death of Allen Johnson, and guilty of Robbery with a Firearm.  On May 7, 2019, the twelve-member jury recommended a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Evidence presented at the trial demonstrated that Thompson murdered his friend, Allen Johnson, on July 21, 2014, by shooting him twice.  During the trial, the jury heard testimony that Thompson killed his friend for money to buy pills.

Evidence presented during the penalty phase of the trial demonstrated that Thompson was at the Blackwater River Correctional Facility serving a life sentence for the 2014 murders of Steven Zackowski and Debra Zackowski.  Thompson had been working for Steven Zackowski, and shot him and his wife in Santa Rosa County two days before he murdered Allen Johnson.

The case was investigated by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office.  The case was prosecuted by Chief Assistant State Attorney Larry Basford and Assistant State Attorney Mark E. Graham.  Circuit Judge Brantley S. Clark, Jr., sentenced Thompson to two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.

For additional information, contact Chief Assistant State Attorney Larry Basford.

Ames Convicted in Tuition Fraud Scheme

Press Release

The Office of State Attorney Glenn Hess announces that on May 2, 2019, Circuit Judge Christopher Patterson found Forrest Ames guilty as charged of engaging in an Organized Scheme to Defraud.

Evidence presented at the bench trial proved that the Defendant engaged in a scheme to defraud Gulf Coast State College of out fees and tuition through a Florida Homeless Exemption.  Under Florida Statute, a student who qualifies as “homeless,” is exempt from the payment of tuition and fees.  The State was able to show that Ames fraudulently claimed the Homeless Exemption for the 2018 Spring and Summer academic semesters by engaging a course of conduct that included falsifying documents, withdrawing from courses, and paying rent under a lease at Bay Front Apartments.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant State Attorney Lawrence Gill, and was investigated by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office.

Ames was sentenced to twenty-four (24) months in the Florida Department of Corrections, which is suspended on the successful competition of thirty-six (36) months of felony probation.  Ames was ordered not to have any contact with the victims.

For additional information, contact Chief Assistant State Attorney Larry Basford.

Watson Convicted of DUI Manslaughter

Press Release

The Office of the State Attorney Glenn Hess announces that on April 17, 2019, a Bay County jury deliberated for approximately 35 minutes before finding James David Watson guilty as charged of DUI Manslaughter.

The State presented 11 witnesses during the trial to establish that the Defendant was under the influence of alcoholic beverages and controlled substances, had a blood alcohol level greater than .08, and caused a traffic crash which resulted in the death of Candi Baily.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant State Attorney Mark E. Graham and investigated by the Panama City Beach Police Department. Sentencing is scheduled for June 3, 2019 at 1:00 p.m. before Senior Judge Dedee Costello.

For additional information, contact Chief Assistant State Attorney Larry Basford.

Celebrating the Retirements of Clara White, Laurie Cannon, and Barbara Chase

Today, we celebrated the retirements of Clara White and Laurie Cannon.  Clara has been with the office for nearly 22 years, working as a legal assistant for a number of our attorneys over the years.  Laurie has been with us for 16 years, working most recently as a misdemeanor intake clerk.  We also paid tribute to Barbara Chase, who has retired after 31 years with the office.  We thank you ladies for your many years of service and loyalty to the office.  We wish you all the best in your retirements.

Rogers Sentenced to Life; Designated Sexual Predator

Press Release

The Office of State Attorney Glenn Hess announces that on April 4, 2019, Circuit Judge Ana Garcia Sentenced John Rogers to life in prison, with a total of 45 years in prison to run concurrent with the life sentence. He was designated as a Sexual Predator and sentenced under the Jimmy Ryce Act.

On March 22, 2019, a Bay County jury found John Rogers guilty as charged of Sexual Battery Under Specified Circumstances, three counts of Lewd and Lascivious Battery, Lewd and Lascivious Conduct, and guilty of the lesser included offense of Lewd and Lascivious Battery.
Evidence presented at trial by the State established that the Defendant had a sexual relationship with the 14-year-old victim for over a year. The evidence showed that after a year, the victim no longer wanted to have contact with the defendant, at which time the defendant became angry and forcefully raped her and threatened to harm her family.

This case was investigated by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office and prosecuted by Assistant State Attorneys Nichole Pieper and Barbara Beasley.

For additional information, contact Chief Assistant State Attorney Larry Basford.

Allen Sentenced to Life; Designated Sexual Predator

Press Release

The Office of State Attorney Glenn Hess announces that on April 4, 2019, Circuit Judge Christopher N. Patterson sentenced Reggie Eugene Allen to life in prison. The Defendant was designated as a Sexual Predator.

On March 21, 2019, a Bay County jury convicted the Defendant of 2 counts of Sexual Battery on a Person Less Than 12 Years of Age, Lewd or Lascivious Exhibition Presence of Child, and Sexual Battery. The State established that the Defendant performed oral sex on the victim when she was 9, 11, and 13 and that he masturbated in her presence.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant State Attorneys Barbara Beasley and Nichole Pieper, and was investigated by the Panama City Police Department.

For additional information, contact Chief Assistant State Attorney Larry Basford.

Brewer Sentenced to 11 years; Designated Sexual Offender

Press Release

The Office of State Attorney Glenn Hess announces that on April 4, 2019, Circuit Judge Christopher N. Patterson sentenced Damien Woodards Brewer to 11 years in prison, followed by 4 years of Sex Offender Probation.  The Defendant was designated as a Sexual Offender.

On February 21, 2019, a Bay County jury convicted the Defendant of Lewd or Lascivious Molestation on a 12-year-old child.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant State Attorneys Barbara Beasley and Nichole Pieper and investigated by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office.

For additional information, contact Chief Assistant State Attorney Larry Basford.

Pierce Sentenced to 24.25 Years

Press Release

The Office of State Attorney Glenn Hess announces that on March 29, 2019, Circuit Judge Brantley Clark, Jr., sentenced Sonny Eric Pierce to a total of 24.25 years in the Department of Corrections, the first 20 of which is a minimum mandatory sentence. Pierce was convicted by a jury of Aggravated Battery with a Firearm and Shooting into an Occupied Vehicle on March 6, 2019.

Evidence presented at trial proved that the incident occurred on June 12, 2013, in the Panama City Home Depot parking lot. The Defendant discharged a firearm, striking Jeramy Ducharme in his chest. The victim testified that when he got back into his vehicle and looked up, he was facing the barrel of the .357 firearm that the Defendant was pointing at him. The jury deliberated for 30 minutes before returning a guilty verdict.

The case was investigated by the Panama City Police Department and prosecuted by Assistant State Attorneys Cord Grimes and Jennifer Hawkins.

For additional information, contact Chief Assistant State Attorney Larry Basford.