Jury takes 13 minutes to return guilty verdict in murder trial

A Bay County jury took less than 15 minutes Thursday to find Asher Martin guilty as charged in the 2020 murder of Christopher Whaley after three days of testimony, according to 14th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Larry Basford.

Martin, 22, was found guilty of second-degree murder and principal to arson for nearly severing the victim’s head and placing the body in a van which was then set on fire in the woods about 4 miles from co-defendant Raven Gladin’s Ivydell Road home in Fountain, based on evidence presented by prosecutors Devin Collier and Frank Sullivan.

“The evidence of guilty in this case was overwhelming, as indicated by the jury’s speedy verdict,” Basford said.

Basford said the jury’s verdict was a “direct result” of the strong case put together by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation’s Division and presented by Collier and Sullivan.

Martin and Raven were arrested on April 27, 2020, after smoke from the burning van brought in firefighters, who discovered a body, later identified as Mr. Whaley, in the van. An autopsy by the Medical Examiner’s Office indicated the victim’s throat had been cut and he had multiple stab wounds in the upper torso and back area that penetrated his heart and lungs.

Testimony revealed that in addition to using methamphetamine with the victim that day, Martin had smoked synthetic marijuana. Martin and Gladin were passengers in a van driven by the victim in search of more drugs when, according to the prosecution, they pulled over in a wooded area. While still in the van, Martin struck a blow to Whaley from behind with a machete-like weapon and continued the attack outside of the van.

The co-defendants returned in the van, with the victim’s body in the back, to Gladin’s home for a short period before Martin left for about an hour and came back without the vehicle.

Gladin, 26, faces a 10-year-prison sentence after pleading No Contest to Accessory After the Fact to Second Degree Murder and Second Degree Arson in exchange for her truthful testimony at Martin’s trial. Her sentencing is set for Oct. 29.

Circuit Court Judge Dustin Stephenson set Martin’s sentencing for Nov. 19. Martin faces up to life in prison.

State Attorney Larry Basford thanked the Bay County Sheriff’s Office and its Criminal Investigations Division, the Bureau of Fire, Arson and Explosives, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for their efforts.

For additional information contact Mike Cazalas at mike.cazalas@sa14.fl.gov.