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CHIPLEY – A man snared by the Washington County Drug Task Force in 2021 was found guilty Tuesday of possessing and trafficking in methamphetamine, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.
A Washington County jury needed only 17 minutes to find William Lowell Rogers, 50, of Chipley, guilty as charged of Trafficking in Methamphetamine (more than 28 grams) and Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Sell.
Chief Circuit Court Judge Christopher Patterson set sentencing for March 27.
Under Florida’s drug sentencing laws, the defendant faces a minimum-mandatory 7-year sentence – and up to 30 years – in addition to a $100,000 find on the Trafficking conviction.
Washington County Chief Prosecutor Megan Ford called four witnesses and presented evidence proving that the Washington County Drug Task Force and Washington County Sheriff’s Office served a search warrant on the defendant’s home Sept. 12, 2021. The search warrant came after a series of controlled buys at the home by law enforcement.
Testimony and evidence showed that the defendant – the only person in the home – denied there were any drugs there. But the search turned up 37 grams of methamphetamine.
Basford thanked Washington County authorities for the task force’s work and the strong case put together for prosecution.
The State put on 2 witnesses and entered 18 pieces of evidence, but it was a few minutes of video and the defendant’s own statements that helped a jury reach a guilty verdict in only 7 minutes Thursday, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.
Charles Kevin Dawson, Jr., was found guilty of Trafficking in Fentanyl (4 grams or more but less than 14 grams), Possession of Oxycodone, Possession of Amphetamines/Methamphetamine, Possession of a Controlled Substance, and Possession of Paraphernalia.
Sentencing followed the verdict, and Prosecutor Frank Sullivan noted the defendant’s criminal record, which includes a Sexual Battery in 2008 and Failure to Register as a Sexual Predator.
“I would point out obviously that the defendant has a criminal history that includes a previous capital offense,” Sullivan said to Circuit Court Judge Brantley Clark. “The State is asking for the maximum on the Trafficking in Fentanyl.”
Judge Clark agreed, sentencing the defendant to 30 years on the Trafficking charge and 5 years each on the other drug charges, to be served concurrently with the Trafficking sentence. The defendant was given time served on the paraphernalia charge.
Sullivan presented witnesses and evidence that proved the defendant was in possession of a variety of drugs when Bay County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Jeremy Head led a team serving a search warrant on his room at a Youngstown hotel Feb. 18, 2021.
Video from a GoPro camera showed the entry into the room, where deputies could see 2 Crown Royal bags in plain sight on the bed. The defendant and a woman were in the room, and the defendant quickly told deputies the woman “doesn’t know anything about this.”
The two were taken out of the room and during a search deputies found drugs in the Crown Royal bags and other places, including a plate underneath the bed. They also found mail addressed to the defendant at that address.
“What this case is going to come down to is did the defendant possess the drugs? It’s as simple as that,” Sullivan told jurors in his closing argument. “Ladies and gentlemen, this isn’t a complex case. There isn’t a lot of different pieces of evidence. But what there is proves the defendant is guilty.”
A Bay County jury took 19 minutes Friday to find a woman guilty as charged of trafficking in fentanyl and heroin, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.
Stephanie Anne Hoskins, 55, of Panama City Beach, was found guilty of Trafficking in Fentanyl (4 grams or more), Trafficking in Illegal Drugs (4 grams or more), and Possession of Paraphernalia. Circuit Court Judge Brantley Clark sentenced the defendant to 10 years in prison, with a minimum-mandatory 3 years under Florida’s drug sentencing statutes. She was also fined $100,000.
Prosecutor Josh James called three witnesses and put on evidence proving the defendant and her roommate were under investigation for selling drugs by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Division in June, 2021. A Department of Corrections probation officer conducted a walk-through of the home June 28, 2021, and found a methamphetamine pipe.
The defendant and co-defendant both consented to a search, and Deputy Gage Cowart testified they recovered 6.02 grams of a heroin/fentanyl mixture. The defendant admitted to deputies that they were “cutting” the heroin with fentanyl – which is cheaper and stronger – and dividing it into 20 packages of 1/3 gram each to increase their profit.
“This is one of those cases where people think they are buying heroin but without their knowledge it’s laced with fentanyl,” James said. “And that’s extremely dangerous because fentanyl is a lot more potent and deadly than heroin and that is where the overdoses are happening.”
The Centers for Disease Control lists fentanyl overdoses as the leading cause of death for Americans between 18-45 years of age.
“A lot of those overdose deaths are a result of people thinking they’re buying heroin or meth when it’s secretly laced with fentanyl,” James said. “Dealers do it for a larger profit margin while putting people at risk.”
Basford credited the Sheriff’s Office for its work seeking out fentanyl dealers and helping to get them off the streets.
For the second time in 13 years, Matthew Lee Caylor was sentenced to death Thursday for the 2008 murder and sexual battery of a 13-year-old girl in a Panama City motel, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.
Chief Circuit Judge Christopher Patterson issued the sentence with a 13-page Sentencing Order that concluded, “The Court finds that the aggravating factors in this case far outweigh the mitigating circumstances.”
The defendant was convicted of First-Degree Murder, Sexual Battery Involving Great Physical Force, and Aggravated Child Abuse in Oct., 2009, and sentenced to death by an 8-4 jury vote. The case was one of dozens across the state where new sentencing hearings were ordered after a 2016 Florida Supreme Court ruling that death sentences required unanimous votes.
“I originally prosecuted and convicted the defendant 13 and a half years ago and I remember well the agony caused by his horrific actions,” Basford said. “I also remember the tireless efforts of the Panama City Police Department and others to investigate and solve this case. In 2009 a Bay County jury and Judge Dedee Costello decided that death was the appropriate sentence for sexually battering and killing this child.
“Judge Patterson, after reviewing the records and hearing all the other relevant evidence has also found that the death sentence was and is proper in this case,” Basford continued. “I agree.”
The victim, 13, and her family were living in a westside hotel where the defendant also was staying. Evidence and witnesses at the 2009 trial proved Caylor sexually battered the victim in his room and then strangled her to death. He hid her body under the bed, where it was found 2 days later.
The defendant was already in custody on an unrelated charge and admitted to the crimes.
The defendant was granted a new sentencing hearing in 2017. Prior to the second penalty phase, the defendant waived his right to a jury for the sentencing hearing, meaning the judge would determine the sentence based on the evidence.
A man found guilty Tuesday of sexual battery upon a child multiple times and impregnating her was sentenced to Life in prison Wednesday, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.
Nadir Al Bashir, 49, of Panama City, was found guilty of 3 counts of Sexual Battery Upon a child 12 years of age or older. A jury took 11 minutes to find him guilty of sexually battering the 12-year-old victim both before and after he impregnated her. Circuit Judge Brantley Clark sentenced him to three consecutive life sentences.
Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Lieb presented witnesses and evidence from the victim’s family, the Panama City Police Department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. FDLE analyst Jennifer Wilkerson testified that DNA samples from the defendant, the victim, and the baby showed a 99.99% likelihood that the was the father.
During the cross-examination of the defendant, Lieb asked him if he had had sex with the victim when she was 12 years old. The defendant admitted he had but said he believed it was legal after he researched the law. “So, you decided to have sex with a 12-year-old child. Based on your research you decided to have sex with a 12-year-old child multiple times?” Lieb asked the defendant. The defendant replied that “Y’all don’t get it.”
“The State has called witnesses, including the victim, who have testified about what this defendant did to this child,” Lieb told jurors in her closing argument. “But there’s no doubting that it happened thanks to the DNA because the FDLE was able to show that half the child’s DNA profile comes from the defendant. This man forced her into a situation that no 12- or 13-year-old is prepared for, becoming pregnant and having a child to care for.”
“We believe life is the appropriate sentence in this case based on the nature of these crimes and the defendant’s own testimony.” Lieb stated at sentencing. “This defendant will always be a danger to the children in our community. He doesn’t believe the law applies to him and he doesn’t think he has done anything wrong, he has shown no remorse.”
The defendant told the judge, when speaking about the crime, that he “didn’t force nobody to do that” and that it was just something that happened and that he is not a danger to children.
The victim also spoke to Judge Clark at sentencing.
“It has affected me every day of my life since I was a child,” the victim said in a soft voice, adding it has negatively affected her relationships with others, caused pain in her family, and led her to being homeless and without her child for a period of time.
After sentencing the victim said it felt like a weight had been lifted off of her and that she could finally breathe.
Basford thanked the Panama City Police Department and assisting agencies for their work on the case.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.