20-year-sentence in stabbing of correctional officer during riot

An inmate found guilty last week of attacking a Gulf Correctional Institution officer during a 2017 riot was deemed a habitual felony offender Tuesday and sentenced to 20 years in prison,
State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

Jose Moreira, 30, was found guilty by a jury of aggravated battery and battery on a law enforcement officer Oct. 28. He was one of several prisoners charged in the attack that resulted
in a corrections officer suffering several stab wounds with a shank-type weapon. One co-defendant entered a plea and a third is awaiting trial.

Jose Moreira
This “shank,” witnesses testified, was dropped by the defendant after he was seen making stabbing motions at the victim during the attack.

Basford said the defendant faced the stiffer sentence after Circuit Court Judge Shonna Young Gay agreed with Gulf County Chief Prosecutor Tracy Smith’s argument that Moreira qualified as
a habitual felony offender. Aggravated Battery carries a 15-year sentence, but as a habitual felony offender the defendant was facing up to 30 years.

Smith successfully argued that the defendant’s prior felony convictions – 2 for dealing in stolen property, 3 burglaries, 2 grand thefts, 1 possession of a controlled substance, and 1 felon in
possession of a firearm – qualified him as a habitual offender.

The defendant was in Gulf Correctional Institution in 2017 serving time for some of those charges when the attack on the correctional officer occurred.

Statements from the victim given during the investigation conducted by the Office of Inspector General, Department of Corrections, stated the victim became involved in the disturbance at the
facility and tried to create distance between himself and a group of inmates chasing him with weapons. Moreira was part of that group.

The victim was knocked to the ground and another correctional officer testified that he saw the defendant making a stabbing like motion at the victim with a weapon. Other officers came to the victim’s aid and deployed chemical agents on the inmates and the weapon used by the defendant was recovered and shown at trial.

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

Man guilty of trafficking in more than 200 grams of Meth

A traffic stop three years ago turned into a 5-minute guilty verdict Thursday for a man charged with Trafficking in more than 200 grams of Methamphetamine, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

A jury deliberated for only 5 minutes before returning the guilty verdict against Reggie Gathers, 40, who now faces a minimum-mandatory 15 years in prison but could receive up to 30 years, prosecutors said. Circuit Court Judge Dedee Costello set sentencing for Nov. 9.

Reggie Gathers

Prosecutor Peter Overstreet presented evidence that Gathers was a passenger in a vehicle pulled over for a traffic violation on Oct. 5, 2018, by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office. The driver had a revoked driver’s license and BCSO Sgt. Raymond Scott said there was the odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle.  Sgt Scott also introduced a video from a convenience store that captured the driver and Gathers attempting to conceal the methamphetamine.

OTHER NEWS: Jury says guilty on inmate charged with attacking Correctional Officer during prison disturbance

OTHER NEWS: Attorney General Ashley Moody visits SAO, touts retirement, battle against opioid abuse

Deputies searched the vehicle and found Gathers in possession of more than 200 grams of methamphetamine.

Prosecutor Overstreet called Scott from the Special Investigative Division of the BCSO  and a chemist from the Florida Department to testify.

In addition to the prison sentence, Overstreet said the defendant faces a mandatory $250,000 fine due the large amount of methamphetamine involved.

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

Jury says guilty on inmate charged with attacking CO during jail disturbance

A former Gulf Correctional Institute Annex inmate charged with stabbing a correctional officer during a riot in 2017 was found guilty of aggravated battery and battery on a law enforcement Wednesday, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

Basford said Jose Moreira, 30, was one of several prisoners charged in the attack that resulted in a corrections officer suffering several stab wounds with a shank-type weapon. One co-defendant entered a plea and a third is awaiting trial.

Jose Moreira

Circuit Court Judge Shonna Young Gay set sentencing for Nov. 2. Gulf County Chief Prosecutor Tracy Smith, who presented the case, has filed a motion seeking to have Moreira sentenced as a habitual offender, which could mean 30 years in prison if the motion is granted.

OTHER NEWS: After 15-minute verdict, man given 4 life sentences for multiple sexual battery on a child crimes

Statements from the victim given during the investigation conducted by the Office of Inspector General, Department of Corrections, stated the victim became involved in the disturbance at the facility and tried to create distance between himself and a group of inmates chasing him with weapons. Moreira was part of that group.

The victim was knocked to the ground and another correctional officer testified that he saw Moreira making a stabbing like motion at the victim with a weapon.

Other officers came to the victim’s aid and deployed chemical agents on the inmates and the weapon used by Moreira was recovered and shown at trial.

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

Life sentence for man found guilty of sexually battering 6-year-old

For the fourth time in two weeks, a jury returned a guilty verdict against a man charged with sexually battering a child, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

And for the third time in those two weeks, the defendant was sentenced to life in prison.

Prosecutor Peter Overstreet during his closing statement to jurors Wednesday.

Nickolas Davison, 24, who has been in custody since his 2017 arrest, was found guilty of Sexual Battery on a Child under the Age of 12 and Lewd and Lascivious Molestation after less than an hour of deliberation on the case presented by prosecutors Peter Overstreet and Josh James.

Circuit Judge Dedee Costello gave Davison two life sentences and designated him as a sexual predator.

The defendant stands with his attorneys, bailiffs watching, as the guilty as charged verdicts are read.

Testimony from the state’s three witnesses showed the victim, who was 6 at the time, reported the abuse to her mother, who then contacted Lynn Haven police. The victim, now 10, was interviewed by investigators at the Gulf Coast Child Advocacy Center and testified Wednesday, saying the defendant had used his fingers and his mouth on her vagina.

“She was just going on about her life like any child,” Overstreet told jurors, explaining the defendant often started the abuse with tickling. “But Mr. Davison, the defendant, did more than just tickle the victim.”

Retired Lynn Haven Police Department Lt. Tom Willoughby, who now lives in another state, interviewed the defendant before arresting him. He testified live via Zoom and his interview with the defendant was played for jurors.

Retired Lynn Haven Lt. Tom Willoughby, shown on TV monitor, testified via zoom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In it, while initially denying wrongdoing, Davison ultimately admitted to committing the acts over a period of 5-6 months.

“No child should have to endure that,” Overstreet told jurors in his closing statement. “The defendant needs to be held accountable; he is guilty as charged.”

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

After 15-minute verdict, man given 4 life sentences for multiple child sex crimes

A Bay County jury needed less than 15 minutes to return guilty verdicts Tuesday against a man the prosecutor described as a “monster” for repeatedly sexually battering a child over a 5-year-period, and he was then sentenced to life in prison.

Terry Lee Jacks, 53, was found guilty of three counts of Sexual Battery on a Person Under the Age of 12 and one count of Lewd or Lascivious Molestation on a Person less than 12 years of age. The jury reached its verdict in 14 minutes and 40 seconds after hearing the case presented by Prosecutor Peter Overstreet.

Circuit Court Judge Dedee Costello sentenced Jacks to four life sentences without the possibility of parole and designated him a sexual predator.

Overstreet told jurors in his opening statement that between the ages of 8 and 13 years of age, the victim was raped vaginally, anally, and orally, and “had to endure the abuse over and over again, it was repetitive, it was ongoing.”

RELATED: Life sentence for man convicted of sexually battering a child under the age of 12

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In 2018 the then-13-year-old victim was living in another county and reported the Bay County abuse. Authorities there contacted the Bay County Sheriff’s Office and Sgt. Christian Williams handled the case and attempted to interview Jacks.

In addition to Sgt. Williams, Overstreet called three other witnesses, including a neighbor who witnessed the abuse on one occasion and a member of the Department of Children and Families involved in interviewing the victim.

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

 

Attorney General Ashley Moody visits SAO, touts recruitment, battle against opioid abuse

Recruiting, training, and retaining skilled prosecutors and law enforcement officers, and focusing resources on the opioid epidemic topped the discussion Monday as Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody met with State Attorney Larry Basford and staff.

Moody, who earlier this month launched a nationwide law enforcement recruitment initiative, “Be A Florida Hero,” said her time with the state’s lead prosecutors is crucial.

“It’s important the Attorney General and State Attorneys of every individual circuit have a strong working relationship to best serve the needs of each individual area,” Moody said Monday in Panama City. “It helps us identify parallel issues between circuits.

“I think our state attorneys work as a team and they all work well together.”

Basford said the commitment of support and resources from the state is invaluable as the system continues to catch up from a court docket ravaged by Hurricane Michael and COVID while taking new cases as well.

“She’s going to be a very valuable partner in trying to keep our communities safe, especially in crimes against the elderly which I know she has a particular interest in,” Basford said. “Getting and retaining talented prosecutors and law enforcement officers is a key element of that.”

Moody and Basford both believe her efforts through, “Be A Florida Hero” will attract talented attorneys and law enforcement officers from across the country. It is a one-stop shopping recruitment website that includes a list of Florida’s law enforcement agencies with information on career opportunities and a pitch on why Florida is the place to be a hero. It includes information on cost of living, recreation opportunities and more.

Attorney General Ashley Moody recently oversaw the launch of a recruitment website for state law enforcement agencies, www.beafloridahero.com

“I think as to law enforcement and prosecutors we’re seeing a need to step up and recruit and refer and make potential job seekers aware of our areas,” Moody said. “We have some talented people who are career prosecutors but there are a lot of talented attorneys out there. I started out as a private attorney before making the switch.”

Laying the groundwork for a growing and improving workforce will pay dividends as the state, circuits, counties, and municipalities continue work toward making communities safer.

“We think these are very noble and important positions that allow someone to be a part of their community and in making them safer and better places to live,” Moody said.

On Monday Moody said the focus right now is on the types of crimes occurring here that share commonalities with other areas of the state so resources can be pooled, like the opioid epidemic and the growing number of overdose deaths from fentanyl.

“As we see the gross amount of illegal fentanyl flooding our country and state, it’s important that our law enforcement and prosecutors focus on those drugs,” Moody said, noting that the Bay County Sheriff’s Office has made arrests for people who supplied the drugs that led to overdose deaths and that the State Attorney’s Office is prosecuting them.

Basford agreed and noted a case Sheriff Tommy Ford’s office investigated that resulted with the successful prosecution of a drug dealer earlier this year.

Moody is no stranger to Bay County or area prosecutors, saying she has a fondness for the area.

“My mom grew up here, I’ve been coming here since I was an infant,” she said. “Bay County holds a very special place in my heart.”

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

Jury convicts 70-year-old of sexual battery on a child, other charges

Assistant State Attorney Barbara Beasley, standing, ASA Jae Hee Kim, seated, and Bay County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Christian Williams, in the witness stand, listen as Judge Ana Maria Garcia instructs jurors on a taped interview.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A 70-year-old man was found guilty of Sexual Battery on a Child Under the Age of 12 and two other charges by a Bay County jury Friday and faces life in prison at his Dec. 7 sentencing, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

A jury found Kenneth Ray Hunley guilty as charged on the sexual battery, a capital offense, and two counts of Lewd and Lascivious Molestation after the case was presented by prosecutors Barbara Beasley and Jae Hee Kim. Circuit Judge Ana Maria Garcia set sentencing for Dec. 7.

Judge Ana Maria Garcia, left, holds a sidebar conference with the defense and prosecutors Barbara Beasley, black jacket, right, and Jae Hee Kim, while a bailiff observes.

It is the second time this week Beasley has handled a capital sexual battery offense that resulted in a guilty verdict. Tuesday, Ashden Pippins, 25, was found guilty of sexual battery on a child under the age of 12 and sentenced to life in prison by Judge Garcia.

Beasley and Kim presented evidence to jurors that the victim was between 6 and 8 years old at the time of the abuse.

Beasley and the victim, who was the state’s first witness, told jurors the offenses began with molestation and escalated to intercourse. The victim testified she was too frightened to say anything because the defendant warned her not to, saying no one would believe her.

When contact between the defendant and the victim ended, Beasley said, the girl was still too frightened to say anything and in a 2017 interview at the Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center she said nothing had happened.

“She doesn’t tell, and she tells you she doesn’t tell because the defendant told her, ‘Nobody is going to believe you,’ ” Beasley said. “She keeps that secret buried deep down inside.”

Defendant Kenneth Hunley, right, was found guilty on all charges Friday.

“But in 2018 it becomes too much for her,” Beasley added. “This time she’s ready to tell. It’s not an easy thing to talk about.”

On that day she finally told what had happened, Beasley said. That led to a forensics interview at GCCAC in which she disclosed the abuse.

Bay County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Christian Williams then interviewed the defendant, who told a story that did not hold up under questioning and made incriminating and contradictory statements.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beasley told jurors that as the defendant realized Williams was not believing his version of events, he reversed direction and denied ever touching the victim. Hunley did not testify.

To end her closing arguments, Beasley replayed the audio of that interview for jurors and then rested her case.

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

Man found guilty of sexual battery of a child, sentenced to life in prison

A Bay County man accused of sexually battering a child was found guilty at trial Tuesday and sentenced to life in prison, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

Ashden Pippins, 25, was found guilty as charged of the capital offense of sexual battery on a child under the age of 12. The 6-person jury took less than 30 minutes of deliberation on the case presented by prosecutor Barbara Beasley, joined in court by prosecutor Jacob Cook.

Prosecutors Jacob Cook, seated, and Barbara Beasley, right, prepare in Circuit Judge Ana Maria Garcia’s courtroom.

Circuit Judge Ana Maria Garcia sentenced Pippins to life in prison without the possibility of parole and designated him as a sexual predator.

Beasley presented evidence that the defendant not only sexually battered the child but admitted it to the victim’s mother and Bay County Sheriff’s Office investigator Christian Williams, who both testified at the trial.

The mother testified that the victim had missed her menstrual cycle for two months in July 2020 and she felt something was wrong, so she administered a home pregnancy test on the girl. It returned “invalid” results, according to testimony, and the mother was going to get another one. But when the defendant found out he made a statement about his contact with the child that caused the mother to seek help from law enforcement.

Defendant Ashden Pippins, right, was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday.

“I submit to you that’s when the defendant got scared,” Beasley told jurors in her closing argument. “He was going to be found out.”

The Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center conducted a “forensic” interview with the child and Pippins was then questioned by Investigator Williams. Beasley played an audio of that interview for jurors in which the defendant told Investigator Williams he and the victim “fornicated,” and gave details of the sexual battery.

Other testimony showed the defendant later contacted the child’s mother asking if the victim was pregnant because he wanted to know “if he had ruined her life.”

“I said, ‘You ruined her life the last time you ever touched her,’ “the mother testified. “And that’s the last time I ever spoke to him.”

Pippins, represented by public defenders Seth Killion and Ashlin Morgan, took the stand and said he never had sex with the victim. He said he was either confused from being tired or from snorting pain killers when he gave his taped statement admitting to the crime. The defense waived its right to a closing argument, sending it to the jury.

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

Second defendant in murder case sentenced to prison

The second of three defendants in the July 4, 2020 shooting death of a Holmes County man has been sentenced to prison while the third awaits trial, according to State Attorney Larry Basford.

Lauren Wambles, 24, pled No Contest to one count of Accessory After the Fact to Second Degree Murder with a Firearm in connection with the killing of Raul Ambriz Guillen and was sentenced to 10 years in prison by Circuit Judge Timothy Register. Upon her release she will begin serving a 5-year felony probation sentence.

On July 4, 2020, Guillen was shot and killed in Holmes County, Florida. Mr. Guillen’s body was taken to a remote location in Holmes County and buried.

After a long investigation and important tips from the public, Mr. Guillen’s body was discovered on Aug. 25, 2020, by the Holmes County Sheriff’s Department with the assistance of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The 14th Circuit Medical Examiner’s office determined that Mr. Guillen died from a single gunshot wound to the back of his head.

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On June 24, after a 4-day trial, a Holmes County jury agreed with prosecutor Brandon Young and found co-defendant Jeremie Odell Peters guilty of Accessory after the Fact to Second Degree Murder with a Firearm and Conspiracy to Commit First Degree Tampering with a Witness. Judge Register sentenced him to 20 years in the Florida Department of Corrections.

Awaiting trial is William Shane Parker, who is charged with Second Degree Murder with a Firearm.

Wambles testified on behalf of the State against Peters at his trial and has agreed to testify at Parker’s trial.

The 14th Circuit State Attorney’s Office and State Attorney Larry Basford would like to thank the Holmes County Sheriff’s Department, Houston County,  Alabama Sheriff’s Department, Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, Bay County Sheriff’s Department, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Medical Examiner’s Office for their invaluable assistance in the successful prosecution of the individuals involved.

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

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.