“Road rage” shooting nets Chipley man 40-year prison sentence

CHIPLEY – A man found guilty of shooting another man in the head following a “road rage” incident here was sentenced to 40 years in prison Wednesday, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

Shawn Thomas Gainey, 50, was found guilty of Attempted Second-Degree Murder by a Washington County jury last month. Wednesday, Chief Circuit Court Judge Christopher Patterson sentenced him to 40 years in prison under Florida’s 10-20-Life law, meaning the first 25 years must be served day-for-day.

Prosecutor Megan Ford, right, after addressing the court during sentencing.

During sentencing, both Prosecutor Megan Ford and Judge Patterson noted the victim, Dan Riedel, now 34, was not killed in the shooting but will never lead a normal life.

“Dan Riedel has not and will not be able to recover from the defendant’s decision,” Ford said. “This is not a case where someone was shot in the arm, had surgery, and was able to move on and have a normal life.

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“Dan Riedel will spend the rest of his life in a nursing home,” she continued. “He uses few words. He has the abilities of a toddler. For all practical purposes, Dan Riedel lost his life that day.”

The defendant flanked by a Washington County sheriff’s deputy and his attorney during sentencing Wednesday.

Ford proved at trial that on Jan. 28, 2019, the defendant and Riedel were both driving north on State 77 when they became involved in a traffic dispute.

The dashcam video from a Chipley police officer who happened upon the dispute seconds before the shooting showed the victim’s truck pulled off the road to the right and the defendant’s truck stopped at an angle partially blocking the northbound lane.

The defendant was pointing a pistol at Riedel, who was standing by his driver’s door. Riedel is seen moving to the back of his truck and opening that door so that it was between him and the defendant, and turning to stand behind it with his hands resting on the open window when a shot was fired.

Riedel, struck in the head, immediately collapsed. The defendant claimed the victim had armed himself. No gun was found at the scene or in the victim’s vehicle, nor was one seen in the video.

The jury took less than 15 minutes to find the defendant guilty.

“Life is all about decisions and consequences,” Ford told Judge Patterson during sentencing. “While the defendant didn’t per se take his life, we are asking the court to recognize Dan Riedel’s current state.”

Judge Patterson, in delivering the sentence, said he was bound by law on a portion of the sentence. But he also said he had to recognize the jury’s decision.

“Mr. Gainey, I heard the testimony,” Judge Patterson said. “The jury rejected your version of events.”

Basford thanked the Chipley Police Department for its thorough investigation of the shooting. For additional information, contact Mike Cazalas at mike.cazalas@sa14.fl.gov, or call 850-381-7454.

Habitual offender who pulled gun on officer sentenced to 90 years

Three prison sentences totaling 90 years were given Tuesday to a man found guilty last month of pulling a gun on a Panama City police officer, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

Circuit Court Judge Dustin Stephenson sentenced Theodore Joseph Storey, 41, to 35 years in prison on a Violation of Probation charge, to be followed by 30 years for Aggravated Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer, and then a 25-year sentence for being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm.

Prosecutors Nicole Reed, standing, and Dustin Miller successfully argued the defendant should be sentenced as a Habitual Felony Offender and Prison Release Reoffender Tuesday.

A Bay County jury found the defendant guilty May 11 of the charges involving his assault on a Panama City police officer after a one-day trial. Judge Stephenson then found him guilty of the Violation of Probation charge.

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The judge agreed with Prosecutors Nicole Reed and Dustin Miller that the defendant’s criminal history qualified him for enhanced sentences as an Habitual Felony Offender and a Prison Release Reoffender. He was released from prison in August, 2019, after serving a 20-year sentence for Robbery with a Deadly Weapon.

Reed and Miller proved at trial the defendant was one of four men sitting in a car in a high-crime area July 30, 2020, when former Panama City Police Officer Jordan Hoffman encountered them.

Testimony and evidence showed that Hoffman smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle and when backup arrived he asked the defendant to step out. Instead, the defendant pulled a pistol from his waistband as the officer was assisting him out, leading to a struggle over the gun.

The defendant speaks with his attorney prior to his sentencing Tuesday.

Hoffman wrestled the defendant to the ground and held him until more backup arrived. The loaded pistol was found only feet away.

“The defendant made a choice that night to pull a weapon on a law enforcement officer,” Prosecutor Reed told jurors during closing arguments. “Instead of complying (like the other occupants of the vehicle), what did he do? He pulled a gun.”

“And that choice has consequences,” Reed continued. “He needs to be held accountable for what he did.”

Basford thanked the Panama City Police Department for its handling of the case and former officer Hoffman for his actions that night.

For more information, contact Mike Cazalas at mike.cazalas@14sa.fl.gov, or call 850-381-7454.

Guilty verdict, life sentence for man who stabbed disabled woman to death

A man who had been out of prison less than 6 months before stabbing a disabled woman in the neck was found guilty as charged of Second-Degree Murder Wednesday, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

A Bay County jury took about 20 minutes to reach its verdict on William Jacob Burks, 37, in the Feb. 13, 2021, stabbing death of Cynthia A. Black, 64, in her Southport home.

Prosecutor Peter Overstreet successfully argued that defense attempts to mitigate the homicide by saying the defendant was delusional and on a methamphetamine binge were not based on the law. He said Burks knew what he was doing before, during and after the stabbing, and voluntary intoxication is not a defense in Florida.

“Life is about choices, the choices we make every day,” Overstreet told jurors. “We get out of bed, we choose to brush our teeth or not brush our teeth. Maybe we get a cavity, maybe we don’t. We suffer the consequences of the actions and choices we make every, single, day.

“When William Burks decided he was going to do methamphetamine for 5 or 7 days and go on a bender, there were consequences to that action,” Overstreet continued. “And now he’s asking you to find him guilty of a (lesser charge), because he knew he couldn’t come in here and say, ‘I didn’t do it.’ Hold Mr. Burks responsible, find him guilty of Second-Degree Murder.”

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Circuit Court Judge Dustin Stephenson agreed with Overstreet that the defendant qualified for an enhanced sentenced under Florida’s Prison Release Reoffender statute, which meant a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.

“The words we’ve heard today were powerful,” Judge Stephenson said of victim impact statements from Black’s family. “The words we heard in testimony during the trial were powerful. This appears to be an absolutely senseless killing. Absolutely senseless. I don’t know what other words to use.”

Prosecutor Peter Overstreet addresses jurors while second chair Ali Elsagga takes notes in Circuit Judge Dustin Stephenson’s courtroom.

Overstreet, with Prosecutor Ali Elsagga assisting, presented witnesses and evidence that proved the defendant’s girlfriend was the victim’s caretaker and all lived at the victim’s residence.

According to testimony, the defendant had been using methamphetamine for days and was making bacon the morning of Feb. 13, 2021, when a spot of hot grease landed on him. His girlfriend said he walked into the bathroom where the victim was in a handicapped-accessible seat and stabbed her in the throat.

Medical Examiner Dr. Jay Radtke, one of 11 witnesses called by the State, testified that the resulting large wound struck both the jugular and carotid arteries, and was fatal.

The defendant fled the house, stole a truck, abandoned it, and ultimately was found hiding in the woods a few miles up the road. He admitted stabbing the victim both to the deputies who captured him and Sheriff’s Office investigator Jake Roberts, who interviewed him.

The defendant claimed the victim and others had abused his son; the evidence showed there had been no abuse.

After the verdict, the victim’s sister addressed the court to ask for the maximum sentence. Carla Madinger said she suffers from anxiety, nightmares, and depression since the murder.

She said her sister, disabled by a stroke, was unable to defend herself when attacked.

The defendant, left, watches as the jury is shown video of the defendant being placed in an ambulance after his capture.

“Since she could not do these things, an able-bodied man took her life, a person who she had to trust, someone she had to depend on, and someone that she could not get away from,” she said. “I cannot imagine what Cindy felt, the fear she must have experienced … nor the horror she must have known knowing she was about to die and there was nothing she could do.”

Basford thanked the Bay County Sheriff’s Office both for its handling of the investigation and crime scene, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement DNA and biology experts who testified, and witnesses from both the neighborhood and the hospital who testified.

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

 

 

 

Former Mosley grad Ali Elsagga joins SAO as Prosecutor

A former Mosley High School graduate has returned to his roots to join the 14th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office as its newest prosecutor, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

Ali Elsagga, who most recently worked for the 6th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office, began his new job prosecuting cases here Monday.

Ali Elsagga, left, is welcomed as the 14th Judicial Circuit’s newest prosecutor by State Attorney Larry Basford.

“It is always good when we can add a local attorney to our office,” Basford said. “We’re glad to welcome someone who grew up in and knows the Bay County community.”

Elsagga attended the University of Florida after high school and went on to get his law degree at Stetson University College of Law. He spent about 2 ½ years in the 6th Judicial Circuit before deciding to return to Bay County with his family to continue his career.

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“One of the things I am most excited about is that I’m now part of the team that’s responsible for the safety of my home county, where I have family, and am part of the community,” Elsagga said. “I know this community, I know the people here, and I want to help keep it safe.”

Elsagga has experience prosecuting both felony and misdemeanor cases, including jury trials and bench trials, where the case is heard and decided by the judge. He is currently handling Bay County misdemeanor cases.

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

Man guilty of pulling gun on officer

Prosecutor Nicole Reed discussing Habitual Felony Offender and Prison Release Reoffender status with the defendant and his attorney.

A Panama City man who had been out of prison for less than a year has been found guilty of Aggravated Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer and is set for sentencing June7, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

Theodore Storey was found guilty of that charge and being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm after about 90 minutes of deliberation by a Bay County jury Wednesday. Circuit Court Judge Dustin Stephenson also found that Storey violated his probation when he pulled a gun on a police officer July 30, 2020.

Prosecutor Dustin Miller makes a point during closing arguments.

“The defendant made a choice that night to pull a weapon on a law enforcement officer,” Prosecutor Nicole Reed told jurors during closing arguments. “Instead of complying (like the other occupants of the vehicle), what did he do? He pulled a gun.”

“And that choice has consequences,” Reed continued. “He needs to be held accountable for what he did.”

RELATED NEWS: 90-year sentence for man who pulled gun on officer

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Reed and Co-Prosecutor Dustin Miller presented witnesses and evidence showing that the defendant was one of four men sitting in a car in a high-crime area that night when former Panama City Police Officer Jordan Hoffman encountered them.

Hoffman, who later left law enforcement to become a full-time pastor, testified he was on “proactive” community patrol that night when he spotted the men. He said he was walking to the car to see what was going on, and the closer he got the stronger the smell of marijuana coming from the vehicle.

Prosecutor Nicole Reed shows jurors the gun recovered at the scene.

He engaged the men, still in the car, in conversation about the marijuana smell. Testimony showed the defendant handed Hoffman a small baggie of marijuana.

Knowing that he needed to search the car but also concerned about officer safety, Hoffman testified he called for backup while the four men remained in the car and continued talking to them until officer Steven Clayton arrived.

When he attempted to help the defendant out of the car, Hoffman testified, the defendant kept reaching for his back pocket, telling the officer to “chill out.”

“He said, ‘I put my cellphone in my pocket, don’t worry about it’,” Hoffman testified. “At that point I see a gun and he’s bringing it up and around.”

Hoffman testified he was in immediate fear for his life and took the defendant down, while at the same time hearing a “thud” that he believed to be the gun hitting the ground. Another backup officer arrived and found and secured the pistol, which was within reach of where Hoffman was holding the defendant to the ground.

The gun found at the scene is shown on an overhead projector during testimony.

The defendant had been released from prison in August, 2019, after serving a 20-year sentence for armed robbery in Jackson County.  The State is seeking to have the defendant sentenced as a Habitual Felony Offender and Prison Rerelease Offender, both of which call for enhanced penalties.

Basford thanked the Panama City Police Department for its handling of the case and former officer Hoffman for his actions that night.

For more information, contact Mike Cazalas at mike.cazalas@14sa.fl.gov, or call 850-381-7454.

 

Convicted murderer sentenced to Life

Granting the requests of both the victim’s family and the prosecutor, a judge sentenced David Donaldson to Life in prison Tuesday for the 2020 murder of Gordon McKinney during a dispute, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

Prosecutors Peter Overstreet and Jacob Cook proved at trial in April that the defendant provoked a confrontation with Mr. McKinney and then shot him twice – once in the back – at a construction site on 23rd Street. A jury took just over 2 hours to find him guilty as charged of Second Degree Murder and Aggravated Assault.

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Prosecutor Peter Overstreet, right, looks on as the victim’s widow (center, light-colored top), speaks to Circuit Judge Timothy Register at sentencing. The defendant is to the left with his attorney.

At Tuesday’s sentencing before Circuit Court Judge Timothy Register, Overstreet said the only just sentence would be for the defendant to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Gordon McKinney’s family put together a montage of family pictures for the judge to consider during sentencing.

“Mr. Donaldson armed himself with a gun and summoned the courage to call out a man older than him … he called the man out knowing he had a gun, and he ended a life over nothing,” Overstreet said to Register, asking for a Life sentence. “His family will be able to visit him wherever he’s incarcerated, they will be able to hear his voice, talk to him about what’s going on in their lives.

“That can never happen again with Mr. McKinney’s family.”

Judge Register handed down the Life sentence for Second Degree Murder and a 5-year consecutive sentence for Aggravated Assault after family members of both the victim and the defendant spoke.

“My dad and mom gave us a magical childhood,” said Cortney McKinney, Gordon McKinney’s daughter, as a power point presentation showed family pictures of Mr. McKinney on courtroom monitors. “It was magical because my dad and mom gave us constant love, praise, affection, support, guidance, and education, everything children need to flourish.”

Cortney McKinney said her father was a loving and humorous man. She said he sacrificed himself over the years to provide for the family.

 

One picture of her with her father, she noted, was taken Feb. 29, 2020, “the day I got married and the last time I ever saw my dad alive.”

She said being walked down the aisle by her dad is a memory she is grateful to have, “but for the rest of my life and my husband’s, our wedding anniversary will also always be the last day I saw my dad alive because he was taken from us by the murderer. The murderer who has demonstrated a complete absence of respect for the value of human life.”

Gordon McKinney’s daughter is comforted by Victim Advocate Lisa Lea Humpich as she tells Circuit Judge Register how the loss of her father has affected her family’s life.

Sherri McKinney, Gordon McKinney’s widow, said her world shattered when her husband was killed. “Before his murder, I felt safe knowing he would be there to help me with anything I needed, to help raise and guide our kids, to grow old with and now that is all gone.”

She too asked for the maximum sentence of Life in prison.

“His murderer has not shown one iota of remorse and does not deserve leniency,” she told Judge Register. “He shot an unarmed man in the back, a gray-haired – 15 years his senior – unarmed man. I hope his fellow prisoners hear those details so they know what kind of coward will be living among them.

“He will not have his gun to pull out in prison.”

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

Man who fought, attacked deputy sentenced to 25 years

A man who attacked a deputy and later said he “wanted to beat him to death,” was deemed a Habitual Felony Offender Friday and sentenced to 25 years in prison, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

Circuit Court Judge Devin Collier sentenced Jourdan Daniel Parks, 36, of Panama City, for Fleeing to Elude a Law Enforcement Officer, Resisting an Officer with Violence, and two counts of Battery on a Law Enforcement officer.

Assistant State Attorney Jacob Cook had already picked a jury to hear the charges against the defendant on March 21, but on the eve of trial the Defendant changed his mind and entered an “open plea,” meaning the Defendant admitted guilt and the judge would determine the sentence, and the jury was dismissed.

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At the defendant’s Habitual Felony Offender (HFO) and sentencing hearing Friday, Prosecutor Cook proved that the defendant qualified as an HFO through expert fingerprint testimony, with previous convictions of Aggravated Battery, Resisting Arrest with Violence, and Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (Habitual Offender). The defendant has a lengthy criminal history dating back to 2005. Designation as an HFO doubled the maximum penalty the defendant faced on the most serious charge from 15 years to a maximum of 30 years.

Cook presented testimony at sentencing regarding the severity of the crime against Bay County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Thomas Evans, as well as a phone call the defendant made from jail where he was recorded saying, “You should of seen the fear in his eyes when I picked him up and slammed him on that table.” Cook also presented video of the attack, shot by a witness.

The evidence showed that Deputy Evans responded to a complaint June 25, 2020. The defendant was spotted in a vehicle but fled from the deputy at a high rate of speed before exiting his vehicle and running into a residence, the evidence showed.

The pursuing deputy found the defendant trying to hide in a pantry. The defendant exited the pantry and attacked the deputy. During the attack, evidence showed, the deputy was slammed onto a table and choked before he and Deputy Kip McKenzie were able to subdue the defendant.

Basford thanked the Sheriff’s Office for its work on the case, and Deputy Evans for his efforts.

For more information, contact Mike Cazalas at mike.cazalas@fl14.gov, or call 850-381-7454.

Guilty verdict, life sentence for convicted child molester

A Panama City man was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison Thursday after a jury convicted him of Lewd & Lascivious Molestation on a child, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

A jury found Darrel Fred Swearingen, 48, guilty after 17 minutes of deliberation. Circuit Court Judge Tim Register then imposed the life sentence.

Prosecutors Frank Sullivan and Jae Hee Kim proved that Swearingen committed the offense against the victim in 2010 when he was left alone with her. Testimony showed that the victim reported the molestation to an adult family member, who did not report it to authorities.

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The Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center was made aware of the allegations in 2020 and began an investigation. Bay County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Christian Williams, the case agent, took statements from both the victim and the defendant. He arrested the defendant in January, 2021.

During the trial, testimony from the victim was consistent with what she had previously disclosed to family and law enforcement. Her sister also testified for the State.

The defendant took the stand and Sullivan noted inconsistencies in his initial statement to law enforcement and his trial testimony. It was also disclosed that the defendant was a 6-time convicted felon and was previously convicted of giving false information to law enforcement.

Basford thanked both the Bay County Sheriff’s Office and GCCAC for their work on the case, and Sullivan for his strong presentation of it to jurors.

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

 

Man who provoked confrontation found guilty of murder

A Bay County jury took about two hours Wednesday to find a man guilty of Second-Degree Murder for provoking a fight at a worksite and then shooting the man he challenged, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

David Allan Donaldson, 42, was found guilty as charged of Second-Degree Murder and Aggravated Assault with a Firearm in the Oct. 27, 2020, death of Gordon McKinney at a 23rd Street construction site. Circuit Court Judge Timothy Register set sentencing for May 10.

Prosecutor Peter Overstreet, right, asked the defendant to re-enact the shooting during his cross examination.
Prosecutors Peter Overstreet and Jacob Cook wait while the defendant, with his attorney, reviews his statement to police.

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Prosecutors Peter Overstreet and Jacob Cook proved to jurors that the defendant was culpable for the death, with evidence showing he challenged the victim to a fight and then shot him as they tussled. They told jurors that the defendant’s claims of self-defense were baseless and that he knew he had the upper hand from the beginning – with his pistol tucked into his pants.

“He shot an unarmed man after provoking a fight,” Overstreet told jurors. “Ladies and Gentlemen, the simple truth is that you can’t invite someone to fight you, and then use that as a justifiable excuse to pull out a gun and kill them.”

Witnesses testified that both men were on a 23rd construction site for a business set to open the next day, and the victim was not happy with the work the defendant had performed. McKinney notified his supervisor of the issues, and the defendant engaged in “trash talking” with the victim.

The defendant was asked to leave but continued the argument, telling the victim they could take the dispute across the street to settle it. Instead, there was a confrontation by the defendant’s truck and he  pulled a pistol from his waistband and shot McKinney twice, including once in the back.

“I submit the defendant is a man who bit off more than he could chew,” Overstreet told jurors. “And when he bit off more than he could chew, he had that gun and he knew who was going to win that fight.

“He shot an unarmed man after provoking a fight.”

During closing arguments, Overstreet pointed out to jurors the inconsistencies in the defendant’s claim of self-defense. He noted that despite the defendant’s claim that he was taking a beating and had to shoot to protect himself, he did not have a single scratch, scrape, bruise or red mark on his body.

As far as the defendant’s testimony, he told jurors, “You may discard it in the trash where it belongs.”

“Mr. McKinney is dead. Your verdict will not change that,” Overstreet told jurors. “But your verdict will define forever what happened that day.”

State Attorney Larry Basford took note of the Panama City Police Department’s response to the scene and the evidence that was quickly gathered, including the statement from the defendant.

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

Ortiz guilty of first-degree murder

The first defendant to go to trial in the 2019 Shooting death of Edward Ross has been found guilty of first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

A 12-person jury returned the verdict against Abel Ortiz, 19, Wednesday evening after about four and a half hours of deliberation. Circuit Court Judge Shonna Young Gay set sentencing for Aug. 15.

Five people are charged in the case. Two defendants have entered pleas and both testified against Ortiz. Two others are awaiting trial.

Prosecutor Marg Graham addresses jurors during closing arguments.
Prosecutor Frank Sullivan shows jurors a package containing a bullet fired into the victim’s back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I’ve been doing this for a long time,” Prosecutor Mark Graham told jurors in in his closing argument. “And I’ve never had a case where I had not one, not two, but three confessions from the defendant. If you look at the admissions, this defendant admitted to intimate details of this crime. How would he know, it wasn’t out to the public? Because he was there.”

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Graham and Prosecutor Frank Sullivan presented evidence and testimony showing that Ortiz agreed to participate in a plan to rob Ross, 30, in his home on Dec. 29, 2019. What started as a planned robbery “went south,” according to testimony, and the victim was shot multiple times.

The victim’s father testified he was at his Sunset Drive home when three armed men burst through the door looking for his son. When the victim, unarmed, walked down the hall toward them to see who was there, the gunmen opened fire.

Witnesses said Ortiz fired a number of those shots. Medical Examiner Jay Radtke said a bullet recovered from the victim’s back was the same caliber as the gun the defendant used in the attempted robbery.

The defendant, center, reacts as the guilty verdict is read.

Bay County Sheriff’s Office investigators began a complicated investigation, with hundreds of hours spent tracking down leads and travel across Northwest Florida before making the arrests two months later.

One of the big breaks came when a teacher at Ortiz’ school reported that Ortiz told her he had killed a man on the beach. When she didn’t believe him, he told her she could look it up and at the same time gave her details about the crime that were not public knowledge. The teacher testified that she was a mentor to the defendant and told him, “I just pray you’re not telling the truth,” but Ortiz insisted it was true.

Sheriff’s Office investigators put together evidence ranging from the types of vehicles used and video of them meeting at a nearby store moments before the shooting, to a taped confession from the defendant.

Prosecutor Sullivan told jurors that while the initial plan only involved a robbery, under Florida’s Felony Murder law all those involved were accountable for what happened, even if they didn’t fire the fatal shot.

“He wasn’t just going along for the ride,” Sullivan said of the defendant. “He was a willing participant in this armed robbery plan. He was excited about it.”

Basford thanked the Bay County Sheriff’s Office for the lengths it went to in putting together the evidence needed to arrest the defendant and the quality of the evidence provided to prosecutors.

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