Fentanyl trafficker who had more than 20,000 fatal doses sentenced to 25 years

A Panama City man found guilty at trial of Trafficking in Fentanyl (28 grams or more) was sentenced to 25 years in prison and fined $500,000 Monday, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

Walter Jim Roberson, 32, was found guilty Jan. 20 by a jury that deliberated for less than an hour.

Prosecutor Jacob Cook’s presentation of evidence to the jury helped secure a guilty verdict in less than an hour.

 

 

 

 

“Fentanyl is deadly in such small amounts that it has created an epidemic in terms of overdoses and deaths both locally, statewide and across our country,” said Jacob Cook, who prosecuted the case. “This is another step toward getting it off our streets, and those who make the choice to traffic this poison in our community will continue to face the maximum penalty under law. We want drug traffickers to know that if you bring fentanyl to Bay County that our office will do our very best to make sure they go to prison for a long, long time.”

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Because of the amount of Fentanyl the defendant possessed – 47 grams in total, or enough to cause about 23,000 overdoses – Florida’s drug statutes called for a minimum-mandatory 25-year sentence once he was found guilty.

Fentanyl has become the leading cause of narcotics overdose deaths in the country, in part because it is much stronger than other opioids, not as expensive, and varies in strength. Illegally produced Fentanyl available on the streets can vary wildly in potency, which leads to overdoses. Two milligrams of Fentanyl is considered a lethal dose.

The defendant represented himself at trial.

In this case, Panama City Police served a search warrant on a home June 23, 2022, and found approximately 47 grams of Fentanyl in the defendant’s room.

Officers from the City’s Street Crimes Unit testified they had the defendant under surveillance as part of an ongoing investigation and observed him selling Fentanyl on several occasions. They obtained a search warrant and served it the following day.

Basford thanked Panama City Police for the strong case it helped put together and for its proactive approach that stopped tens of thousands of doses of fentanyl from reaching the streets of Bay County.

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

Strickland guilty of murder, sentenced to Life in prison

Prosecutor Mark Graham, (standing, center), makes his opening statement to jurors with Circuit Court Judge Brantley Clark presiding. The defendant is seated far left.

Charles Wesley Strickland was sentenced to Life in prison Thursday for the brutal 2020 beating death of Clifford Matthew Lowrey at a homeless camp near the beach, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

A jury took about 90 minutes to return verdicts of guilty as charged against Strickland, 58, for Second-Degree Murder and Tampering with Physical Evidence. Evidence and testimony presented at the two-day trial showed Lowrey died from multiple blows to the head, face, and body with a steel rebar.

Above: Prosecutor Mark Graham shows jurors how the defendant struck the victim with a piece of metal rebar. Top Right: Graham during his opening statement. Bottom Right: Graham shows jurors the victim’s shirt.

Bay County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Mark Graham asked Circuit Court Judge Brantley Clark to impose the maximum sentence, citing the defendant’s lengthy criminal history and the violent nature of the murder.

“He has been violent for a while,” Graham said at sentencing, noting 9 convictions of battery among his past charges. “This was, in my career, probably one of the most vicious beatings I’ve seen.”

Judge Clark agreed, sentencing the defendant to life.

The defendant and his attorney observe as jurors watch a videotaped re-enactment (TV screen above) of the co-defendant walking police through the crime scene the day she was picked up for questioning.

During the trial, Graham noted for jurors the number of officers involved from the Panama City Beach Police Department and the hundreds of hours of video they reviewed, the three days they spent at the crime scene in the woods near a retention pond, and the mountains of evidence they gathered.

The evidence included a videotaped “walk-through” of the crime scene with Panama City Beach Police Chief J.R. Talamantez and the co-defendant who admitted to helping move the body. It was filmed the day she was picked up for questioning.

“It was all hands on deck, they took this seriously,” Graham said. “This case shows that the laws apply as equally to our homeless citizens as they do to our most affluent.”

Testimony and evidence at trial proved the defendant, the victim and co-defendant Samantha Booth were at a spot in the woods near a retention pond where several homeless people had set up tents and makeshift living quarters on Nov. 5, 2020.

Booth has already pled to Accessory After the Fact to Second-Degree Murder and Tampering with Physical Evidence. Her sentence will be determined by the judge and could range from 39 months to 20 years.

Booth testified there had been some arguing amongst the group and that was not unusual. She said when things had calmed, the defendant left his chair, went to an area set up to play horseshoes, and returned with a rebar that was used as a post in the game.

She testified the victim was sitting in a chair looking at his phone and “never saw it coming” when the defendant came up behind him and swung the metal rebar like a baseball bat, hitting him in the head.

Her testimony and the findings of Dr. Jay Radtke, Chief Medical Examiner for the 14th Judicial Circuit, showed the beating continued with at least 10 blows to the head and more to the body.

Co-defendant Samantha Booth is sworn in before her testimony.

Radtke testified the victim likely would have been dead or unconscious after the first blow.

Booth testified that afterward, the defendant threatened her and made her help him move the body, where he partially buried it.

The defendant took the stand and claimed it was Booth and another woman who beat the victim to death while he watched and he was helpless to stop them, but that was not supported by the evidence and discounted by jurors.

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

Sexual Battery, Kidnapping plea brings 30-year prison sentence

CHIPLEY – A man facing trial Monday for charges related to a 2019 kidnapping and sexual battery was sentenced to 30 years in prison after entering a plea as jury selection was set to begin, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

Travis Dickson Wilson, 39, of Cottondale, was adjudicated guilty of Sexual Battery with a Deadly Weapon, Carjacking, Kidnapping, Robbery, Burglary of an Occupied Conveyance While Armed, and Aggravated Battery. Circuit Court Judge Dedee Costello sentenced the defendant to 30 years in prison to be followed by 10 years’ probation. He will not be eligible for gain time in prison.

Five of the crimes were committed in Washington County, while the Sexual Battery was committed in Jackson County.

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Prosecutor Shalla Jefcoat said the arrest of the defendant and the strong case against him were the result of “good old fashioned police work” by the Chipley Police Department and the strong working relationships between Chipley police, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and the Houston County, Ala., Sheriff’s Office where the defendant was a suspect in a different case.

“They identified the defendant by three means: good old fashioned police work, social media and forensics,” Jefcoat said, noting Chipley police conducted a door-to-door search for video along the defendant’s route following the kidnapping while Jackson County deputies found the crime scene where important evidence was recovered.

Jefcoat was prepared to call witnesses and produce evidence proving the defendant approached the victim in a parking lot April 3, 2019, pressed a gun into her side and forced her into her vehicle. Evidence would have shown the victim was forced to drive to a location in Jackson County where the sexual battery took place, then driven back close to the spot from where she was abducted. She immediately sought help and reported the attack.

Chipley police talked to the victim and witnesses and identified that a red SUV was involved. They then went to multiple businesses along the route the victim described, recovering surveillance video from several that confirmed the victim’s story and better identified the vehicle.

A local car dealer helped identify the make and model of the vehicle in the videos, and police used a state database to determine there were nearly 30 such vehicles in that area. But one of those belonged to a man who lived at an address central to the crimes, and that man was picked out of a lineup by the victim as well as being identified by others who saw the video.

Chipley police, knowing Dothan, Ala., deputies were working on a similar case, sent DNA samples from the attack and they matched the DNA samples in the Alabama crime. Those DNA samples both matched the defendant’s DNA, which was in a nationwide database for previous felony offenders.

Basford said the footwork put in by Chipley police and Jackson County deputies, along with the cooperative nature of the investigation between agencies across state lines and forensics by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, are strong examples of quality of law enforcement across the 14th Judicial Circuit.

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

Traffic stop yields 114 months in prison for Trafficking

What started as a traffic stop in 2021 has ended with a 9.5-year prison sentence for a man who pled guilty as charged to Trafficking in Methamphetamine (28 grams or more), State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

Christopher Thomas Greenlee, 39, of Panama City, was set for trial Dec. 12 but pled guilty the morning of jury selection. Wednesday, Circuit Court Judge Dustin Stephenson sentenced him to 9.5 years in prison.

Under Florida’s enhanced drug trafficking laws, the defendant was facing a minimum-mandatory 7 years in prison. He also was fined $100,000.

Prosecutor Nicole Reed was prepared to present testimony and evidence gathered by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office and Florida Department of Law Enforcement proving that the defendant was in possession of about 46 grams of Methamphetamine on Nov. 5, 2021.

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Sheriff’s deputies stopped the defendant’s vehicle on U.S. 231 on that date for speeding and having an obscured tag. Evidence and testimony would have shown there was the smell of marijuana coming from the vehicle. The defendant also showed deputies marijuana in the ashtray.

A search of the defendant revealed a plastic baggie in his pants pocket that held two baggies with a combined 46 grams of Methamphetamine.

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

30-year prison sentence follows plea on child sex crimes

Prosecutor Jennifer Lieb, right, in court with the defendant (yellow shirt) for sentencing before Circuit Judge Brantley Clark.

A Panama City man pled no contest to sexually battering and molesting a young girl Thursday and was sentenced to 30 years in prison, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

Heriberto Nunez, 45, will have to serve at least 25 years minimum-mandatory after his plea to Sexual Battery of a Child between the ages of 12 and 18, Lewd or Lascivious Molestation of a Child under the age of 12, and Fleeing or Attempt to Elude (High Speed/Reckless). The minimum-mandatory means the defendant will serve the first 25 years day-for-day.

Circuit Judge Brantley Clark displays the plea to the defendant.
Heriberto Nunez
The defendant wipes hands after fingerprinting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Circuit Court Judge Brantley Clark also designated the defendant a Sexual Predator and ordered that when he has served his term, he will be on Sexual Offender probation for the rest of his life with an electronic monitor. He will not be allowed contact with minors or the victim, and must register four times a year as a Sexual Predator.

Prosecutor Jennifer Lieb was prepared to produce witnesses and evidence, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office and Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center, proving the defendant sexually attacked the victim over a number of years.

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The victim disclosed to a family member 2021 and the following day, Aug. 26, 2021, was interviewed by law enforcement and GCCAC. A warrant was obtained for the defendant’s arrest. When deputies spotted him late that afternoon and attempted to conduct a traffic stop, the defendant led them on a high-speed chase that ended after deputies performed a PIT maneuver on the fleeing vehicle.

The defendant had cut himself intentionally during the pursuit. Afterward he admitted committing the offenses and said the victim was telling the truth.

Basford thanked the Sheriff’s Office and GCCAC for their work on the case.

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

JACKSON COUNTY JURY: Man guilty of selling Meth

MARIANNA – A Jackson County jury took about 30 minutes to find a Sneads man guilty of Sale of a Controlled Substance late Monday, according to State Attorney Larry Basford.

Sanchez Mario Davis, 42, is scheduled for sentencing Monday, Jan. 30, before Circuit Court Judge Ana Maria Garcia. The defendant faces up to 15 years in prison on the 2nd Degree Felony.

Prosecutor Lawrence Gill presented three witnesses and evidence proving that the defendant sold Methamphetamine on Oct. 23, 2020.

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Testimony, including that from Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Dylan Jackson, the case agent, showed investigators used a confidential informant to make a controlled buy from the defendant Oct. 23, 2020. The defendant initially was known only as “Stay High,” and was identified in part by his “Stay High” tattoo, according to testimony.

The evidence included audio and video of the transaction, which was conducted under surveillance from the JCSO.

Investigators obtained a warrant for the defendant and he was arrested about two weeks later at the same location where the controlled buy took place.

Basford thanked the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office for its work on the case.

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

Fentanyl trafficker found guilty, facing up to 30 years, $500k fine

A man found guilty on Friday of Trafficking in Fentanyl (28 grams or more) is set for sentencing Feb. 6, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

Walter Jim Roberson, 32, of Panama City, faces a minimum-mandatory 25-year sentence under Florida’s enhanced drug trafficking statutes, Prosecutor Jacob Cook said, and could get up to 30 years. He also faces a $500,000 fine. Jurors deliberated for less than an hour.

Prosecutor Jacob Cook addresses jurors during his opening statement.

“Hopefully this guilty verdict gets us one step closer to ending the Fentanyl epidemic that has cost so many lives in Bay County and across the country,” said prosecutor Jacob Cook.

Fentanyl has become the leading cause of narcotics overdose deaths in the country, in part because it is much stronger than other opioids, not as expensive, and varies in potency. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency reports the drug is manufactured cheaply in Mexico and China, then smuggled into the U.S.

Because of its potency, illegally produced Fentanyl available on the streets can vary wildly in potency, which leads to overdoses. Two milligrams of Fentanyl is considered a lethal dose.

Prosecutor Jacob Cook presents evidence to jurors.
About 31 grams of seized Fentanyl
Defendant Walter Roberson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this case, Panama City Police served a search warrant on a home June 23, 2022, and found approximately 47 grams of Fentanyl in the defendant’s room. Each gram contained enough Fentanyl to cause approximately 500 overdose deaths.

RELATED NEWS: 25-year sentence for Meth trafficker

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Officers from the City’s Street Crimes Unit testified they had the defendant under surveillance as part of an ongoing investigation and observed him selling  Fentanyl on several occasions. They obtained a search warrant and served it the following day.

Basford thanked Panama City Police for the strong case it helped put together and for its proactive approach that stopped tens of thousands of doses of fentanyl from reaching the streets of Bay County.

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

Sex offenses against 2 children brings 25-year prison sentence

A man who committed sex offenses against two young girls while armed was sentenced to 25 years in prison Wednesday, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

Christopher Michael Way, 30, of Panama City, pled no contest to Lewd or Lascivious Molestation, Lewd or Lascivious Battery, Lewd or Lascivious Exhibition, Felon in Possession of a Firearm, and Aggravated Assault (Deadly Weapon).

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The defendant is fingerprinted following sentencing as Prosecutor Jennifer Lieb, right, waits.

Circuit Court Judge Brantley Clark also ordered that the defendant, upon his release, serve 10 years Sex Offender Probation. That means he will be required to wear an electronic monitor, will be designated a sexual offender, must register as a sexual offender for the remainder of his life, and must complete sex offender counseling. He also will not be allowed any contact with the victim, nor any contact with a minor.

Prosecutor Jennifer Lieb was prepared to call witnesses and present evidence that would have proven the defendant committed sexual offenses against two young girls in a Panama City home on June 12, 2021. He was armed with a gun at the time, which he used to threaten the victims if they told anyone what he had done.

Basford thanked the Panama City Police Department and Inv. Matthew Kelly for their work on the case, as well as the Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center, which interviewed both victims and elicited key evidence.

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

Guilty verdict, 25-year sentence in Meth trafficking case

Prosecutor Jacob Cook shows a bag of Methamphetamine to a witness appearing by Zoom., as the judge, left, watches. The defendant and his attorney are to the right

A Bay County jury of six took less than 20 minutes Wednesday to find a Panama City man guilty of trafficking in Methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a school, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

Steven Wayne Stottlemyer, 60, was found guilty of Possession of Methamphetamine with intent to sell within 1,000 feet of a college and Trafficking in Methamphetamine.

Prosecutor Jacob Cook shows jurors some of the seized Methamphetamine.

The trafficking charge carried a minimum-mandatory 7-year prison term, and a maximum of 30. Prosecutor Jacob Cook, citing the defendant’s past convictions and the amount of methamphetamine involved, asked for a sentence on the upper end of the range.

Circuit Court Judge Shonna Shonna Young Gay sentenced the defendant to 25 years in prison on each charge, with the sentences to run concurrently, or at the same time.

“This again shows that if you traffic Methamphetamine, or any other drug, in Bay County, we are going to prosecute you to the fullest and you likely will be going to prison for a long time,” Prosecutor Jacob Cook said after the sentencing. “We appreciate the hard work put in by the jurors. The swift verdict shows the strength of the case and the evidence put together by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office and its Special Investigations Division.”

Cook presented witnesses from the Bay County Sheriff’s Office and evidence that proved the defendant was arrested on March 29 following hours of surveillance by members of the BCSO SID.

Investigators set up an undercover operation, during which the defendant retrieved a baggie with about 2 ounces of methamphetamine from a shed on his property.  Other officers then moved in and assisted with the arrest. They also obtained a search warrant and found more methamphetamine and paraphernalia inside.

Testimony showed a total of about 234 grams of methamphetamine was recovered.

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

Drug trafficker who pled on eve of trial sentenced to 10 years

Circuit Judge Dustin Stephenson sentenced the defendant to 10 years Friday.

A man who pled guilty to Trafficking in Methamphetamine (more than 28 grams) the morning of his trial was sentenced to 10 years in prison Friday, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

Under Florida’s Minimum-Mandatory Drug Sentencing laws, Marlon Ray Cloud, 61, of Callaway, was facing at least a 7-year prison sentence. He was arrested by Bay County Sheriff’s Office investigators Nov. 5, 2021.

Prosecutors Dustin Miller and Nicole Reed picked a jury Dec. 12 to hear the case Dec. 16 before Circuit Court Judge Dustin Stephenson. But the morning of the trial, the defendant entered an “open plea” of guilty to the charges. An “open plea” means the judge will decide the sentence with no agreement in place.

At sentencing, Miller said Cloud was arrested after Sheriff’s Office investigators conducting an investigation knocked on the door of a hotel room he was in. When an occupant opened the door, a meth pipe was in plain sight.

One occupant had about 21 grams of methamphetamine in his pocket, which Miller explained came from the defendant. BCSO case agent Erin Williams asked the defendant if there was more methamphetamine in the room, and he pointed to a nightstand next to the bed where he was laying. Investigators found 34.3 grams of methamphetamine there.

Miller argued that the defendant’s actions and record showed that his criminal behavior had escalated. He asked for a 10-year sentence.

The defendant told Judge Stephenson, “I’m sorry it took me so long to realize that drugs destroy lives,” and that he was sorry he had “wasted” the court and SAO’s time by waiting to the last minute to enter a plea.

“I’m pretty glad you came to that realization,” Judge Stephenson told the defendant, “although it was after a jury was already selected.”

Stephenson, citing both the need for the defendant to be punished and his cooperative behavior and remorse, then gave him a 10-year sentence.

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