JURY: Drinkard guilty of murder

Prosecutor Peter Overstreet, left, questions Bay County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Jason Daffin.

A four-day trial ended Friday evening with a guilty verdict for a Southport man charged with Second-Degree Murder, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

The jury deliberated for 2 ½ hours before finding Justin Isaac Drinkard, 38, guilty on the murder charge, and trespassing in an occupied building while armed. Circuit Court Judge Shonna Young Gay set sentencing for May 6. The defendant faces up to Life in prison.

Prosecutor Peter Overstreet during closing arguments.
Defendant Justin Drinkard

Drinkard was arrested for the Nov. 25, 2018 beating death of Jerry Dee Benefied, Jr., 20, in the victim’s Lynn Haven home.

Prosecutor Peter Overstreet said he hopes the verdict will help the victim’s family find closure.



“I’m happy for the family of the victim.  This was a brutal beating death,” Overstreet said. “We had a defendant who repeatedly struck someone in the head with a baseball bat even after they were unconscious, then hours later tells investigators he would do the same thing again.”


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Overstreet presented evidence and witnesses, including victim’s then 16-year-old girlfriend who witnessed the beating and tried to save him, that proved the defendant showed up unannounced at the victim’s home trying to buy methamphetamine. Drinkard admitted he had already consumed over 12 large beers and smoked crack cocaine. After using meth with the victim, Drinkard began to make inappropriate sexual comments to the young girl. The victim attempted to get Drinkard to leave peacefully. Testimony showed he refused to leave and instead followed the girl into a bathroom and shut the door.

The defendant watches as a video of his statement is played for jurors.
A BCSO bailiff keeps an eye on the defendant as the attorneys speak with the judge.

The girl began screaming for help. The victim got the door open and became engaged in a struggle with Drinkard who ultimately grabbed a baseball bat and began beating the victim in the head, even after he lay unconscious.



The girlfriend testified she did everything she could to stop the attack – hitting the defendant in the head with two different frying pans, the ceramic top from the toilet, whatever she could find – but that it did not seem to faze the defendant.

She was able to get away and run to a neighbor’s house who called 911. The defendant was still in the house when Bay County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived.

In ensuing interviews with detectives, the defendant at times said he did not remember what happened and then admitted to hitting the victim with the bat – “I smashed him in the face a couple of times” – including after he was unconscious.

Basford thanked the Bay County Sheriff’s Office for its work on the case, which occurred just a month after Hurricane Michael hit and while the county was in a state of emergency.

For more information, contact Mike Cazalas at mike.cazalas@sa14.fl.gov, or call 850-381-7454.