Our mission is to uphold the public’s trust in the pursuit of justice and the enforcement of the law. The Office of the State Attorney works to protect the public from those who endanger, threaten, and degrade the security of the community and to protect the personal rights of those we serve...more
MARIANNA – A Jackson County jury Thursday found a man guilty of shooting his nephew in the leg outside a family member’s home in 2021, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.
Anthony Tyrone Simmons, 52, of Marianna, was found guilty of Aggravated Battery with a Firearm (Great Bodily Harm) after the jury deliberated for about 1 hour and 45 minutes following the two-day trial prosecuted by Lawrence Gill. Circuit Court Judge Ana Maria Garcia sentenced the defendant to 30 years in prison under Florida’s 10-20-Life law.
Gill called about a dozen witnesses and put on evidence that proved on Oct. 5, 2021, the victim was visiting his grandmother. The defendant, his uncle, lived next door and there had been family issues between the two.
The victim testified he was sitting in his car outside his grandmother’s house checking social media on his phone with the door cracked open when he heard the defendant’s voice. That got his attention.
“That’s when he sees Anthony Simmons coming from his residence walking towards him with a long gun,” Gill said. “He gets all the way up to the victim’s vehicle, opens the cracked door, takes a step back, and in that blink of an eye fires a round striking the victim in his left leg right above his ankle.”
The shot caused major damage to the victim’s leg. The defendant then threw a beer can at the victim in his car before the victim managed to drive away and get help.
The can was from a special edition beer and another one like it was found during a search of the defendant’s home. Jackson County Sheriff’s Office investigators also recovered the spent shotgun shell at the scene and found another just like it inside the defendant’s home.
Deputies also seized about 8 Blink cameras from the defendant’s home. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and sheriff’s investigators were able to determine that footage/video was deleted from the cameras the same night as the shooting. But they also seized the defendant’s wife’s phone. On there they found a video showing the defendant wielding a shotgun outside near the side of his residence in that same timeframe.
Basford thanked the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and FDLE for their work on the case and retrieving key evidence like the video.
Defendant was in jail for trafficking when deputies tracked down large amount of Fentanyl, Methamphetamine hidden at other residences
A Panama City man found guilty of trafficking in large amounts of Fentanyl and Methamphetamine last month was sentenced to 30 years in prison Tuesday, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.
Graylin Joseph Patterson, 31, was found guilty Sept. 8 of Trafficking in Fentanyl (more than 14 grams but less than 28 grams), Trafficking in Methamphetamine (more than 28 grams but less than 200 grams), and Unlawful Use of a Communications Device.
Prosecutor Frank Sullivan presented the case Sept. 8 and it took jurors less than an hour to find the defendant guilty as charged.
Circuit Court Judge Brantley Clark Tuesday sentenced the defendant to 30 years in prison – 15 years of which is minimum-mandatory based on Florida’s enhanced drug trafficking penalties. Clark also fined the defendant a combined $200,000.
Sullivan called three witnesses at trial and presented evidence proving the defendant was in the Bay County Jail June 13, 2022, after Bay County Sheriff’s Office Inv. Phillip Hill charged him with trafficking in Fentanyl.
The evidence showed that Hill, continuing his investigation, learned that the defendant was making contact with others as he continued to attempt to coordinate collection and distribution of the drugs from two separate residences.
Search warrants served at the two residences turned up a total of 248 grams of Methamphetamine and about 53 grams of Fentanyl. Fentanyl is a potent opiate responsible for overdoses across the country because 2 milligrams can be fatal. Because it is made in clandestine labs, the strength often varies and is unpredictable. The 53 grams belonging to the defendant could cause more than 26,000 overdoses.
Basford thanked the Bay County Sheriff’s Office and investigators Phillip Hill and Doug Cummings for their thorough work and follow up on the case.
Nadia DeAbreu has known since she was 9 years old she wanted to be an attorney, and she’s now the newest prosecutor for the 14th Judicial Circuit, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.
Real-life experiences cut the path that led her to join the State Attorney’s Office, with perspectives from different angles.
“I knew, really, around 9 years old that I wanted to be an attorney because of everything I’d seen on TV,” DeAbreu said. “As a victim of a violent crime, I can sympathize with victims and their families. I remember feeling as though my case was mishandled, it is this experience that has made me passionate about serving my community by seeking resolutions that are equitable and fair.”
DeAbreu graduated from the University of South Florida before heading to law school. She interned with criminal defense attorneys performing work for the indigent. She learned things there that she said will make her a better prosecutor.
“It really gave me some insight on the system and what can go wrong on the prosecutorial side, and what to look out for, what works best,” she said.
DeAbreu, who has family ties in the area, said seeking a job here was not a difficult choice. Attending Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law in Orlando and having family in this circuit gave her a taste of the different paces of life in Florida.
“I knew this was a better fit for what I wanted,” she said. “I like the people of Bay County, my husband is from neighboring Calhoun County, this is where I want to be.”
Three Bay County residents convicted of trafficking in large amounts of drugs in unrelated cases were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 15-25 years under Florida’s enhanced drug laws, State Attorney Larry Basford announced. Two were on the verge of trial before entering pleas today, while the third was found guilty by a jury.
Friday, as her trial was set to begin, Jessica Ann Heath, 37, of Panama City Beach, entered an open plea of guilty to Trafficking in Amphetamine (200 grams or more), Transporting a Controlled Substance into the State, and two misdemeanors. An open plea means the sentence was left to Circuit Court Judge Dustin Stephenson. Judge Stephenson sentenced her to 17.5 years in prison with a 15-year minimum/mandatory.
Also Friday, Todd Ware, 49, of Panama City, pled no contest to Trafficking in Fentanyl, Possession of Amphetamine, Resisting Arrest with Violence, and Possession of Paraphernalia. His trial was scheduled to begin Monday. He was adjudicated guilty by Circuit Court Judge Shonna Gay, designated a Habitual Felony Offender, and sentenced to a minimum/mandatory 15 years in prison under Florida’s enhanced drug trafficking laws.
On Wednesday, a jury took only 30 minutes to find Loviko Howard Jr., 30, of Panama City, guilty as charged of Trafficking in Fentany (14 grams or more but less than 28 grams). Judge Stephenson sentenced the defendant to 25 years in prison with a 7-year minimum/mandatory.
Prosecutor Dustin Miller presented the case against Howard and was set for Heath’s trial Friday before her last-minute plea.
“Our office has stated that we are committed to keeping Bay County citizens safe from these drugs and drug traffickers, and we mean it,” Miller said of the two cases. “We will continue to vigorously prosecute these crimes.”
All three cases involved arrests by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office.
In Heath’s case, Miller was prepared to call witnesses and present evidence that Sheriff’s Office investigators battling drug importation developed information that the defendant would be traveling out of state and returning with a large amount of methamphetamine on Feb. 4, 2023. The defendant did not have a valid driver’s license and her vehicle was stopped as it returned to Bay County.
Sheriff’s Office K-9 Fila alerted to the presence of narcotics in the vehicle and the defendant admitted deputies would find some marijuana.
But a thorough search also turned up a large package that was hidden in the rim of the spare tire, which was attached to the bottom of the defendant’s van. It contained about 224 grams of methamphetamine.
In Ware’s case, set for trial Monday, Prosecutor Zach VanDyke was prepared to prove that Sheriff’s Office Inv. Phillip Hill knew the defendant had a warrant out for his arrest and spotted him walking toward his residence Jan. 21, 2021.
The defendant ignored commands to stop and during the struggle that ensued with Hill, four baggies containing a powder substance flew out of the defendant’s jacket. Four other investigators joined the struggle and were able to handcuff the defendant. The four baggies were found to contain about 24 grams of Fentanyl. A baggie found during a search of the defendant held 7 grams of methamphetamine.
In Howard’s case, Prosecutor Miller presented evidence that Sheriff’s Office deputy Thomas Young was responding to a call when he found Howard and a co-defendant passed out in a vehicle in the parking lot of a local business.
Young was able to awaken the defendant after knocking on the window. A probable cause search of the vehicle turned up a number of illicit items, including an open safe in the back seat that held multiple packages of fentanyl and ID cards in the defendant’s name.
The defendant was placed in a patrol vehicle, where in-car cameras captured him trying to hide baggies with blue, brown and black substances in them. The substances tested positive for fentanyl.
Basford thanked the Sheriff’s Office for its work in intercepting the drugs before they were available on the streets. Miller said their work helped lead to pleas.
“They put together (Heath and Howard) those cases in a manner that made our work easy,” Miller said. “They are consummate professionals.”
A Bay County jury took less than 30 minutes this week to find Sean Michael O’Connor guilty of Trafficking in Hydrocodone, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.
After Prosecutor Josh James presented the state’s case, the jury deliberated about 25 minutes before finding O’Connor, 45, guilty as charged on the trafficking charge, Unlawful Use of a Communication Device, and Driving While License Suspended/Revoked.
Circuit Court Judge Brantley Clark set sentencing for Nov. 20.
James called three witnesses, including case agent Inv. Philip Hill of the Bay County Sheriff’s Office.
A Springfield man set for trial this week on a drug trafficking charge instead entered a plea and was sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined $100,000, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.
Marcus Walter Harper, 37, pled no contest to Trafficking in Amphetamine (14 grams or more), Resisting an Officer Without Violence, and Possession of Paraphernalia the morning a jury was set to be selected for his case. Circuit Court Judge Timothy Register sentenced the defendant to 15 years in prison, with a 3-year minimum-mandatory under Florida’s drug trafficking laws, and fined him $100,000.
Prosecutor Jeff Moore was prepared to present evidence and witnesses that the defendant was in possession of about 24 grams of methamphetamine Dec. 28 when he fled from police.
The evidence would have shown that Panama City police attempted a traffic stop on a vehicle in which the defendant was a passenger. The vehicle fled and the defendant, a passenger, jumped out and fled on foot carrying a black bag.
Investigators Austin Brock and Raymond McNeil pursued the defendant on foot. Brock saw the defendant, who was captured trying to hide in a wooded area, throw the black bag as he ran. Investigators recovered the bag and found about 24 grams of methamphetamine inside.
Basford thanked Panama City police for their work on the case and the evidence they gathered that helped lead to a plea.
State Attorney Larry Basford announced Morgan Morrell and Jackson White have been sworn in both as members of the Florida Bar and as prosecutors for the 14th Judicial Circuit.
Both said they were drawn to the area by its geography and legal history and are ready to make an impact.
Jackson White obtained his law degree from Florida State University College of Law after graduating from FSU. During his college career he received a Certificate of Distinguished Pro Bono Service and worked for Legal Services of North Florida in numerous capacities.
Morgan Morrell attended Texas Tech University and received her law degree from the Charleston School of Law in South Carolina. While working as an Executive Legal Assistant Intern during that time she uncovered a $170,000 embezzlement by an employee and assisted in the criminal investigation that ultimately resulted in most of the funds being recovered.
White said he grew up in a rural small town in west Georgia, “and was looking for an area that had a southern culture and that wasn’t a big city.” He had lived in Daytona Beach and liked the mixture of southern culture and beaches he saw here.
“I think in our current climate the most important thing an assistant state attorney can do is ensure people are held accountable for their actions,” White said. “It protects the people of our community and keeps them safe. You deter criminals by ensuring people know they’re not going to get away with it.”
Morrell said she enjoyed living by the beach in Charleston, and in studying areas for potential jobs she was drawn by what she described as this circuit’s “pristine” reputation. Initially in college she studied finance and was interested in business law, but when she uncovered a $170,000 embezzlement while working as a legal assistant intern her career plans took a turn.
“Discovering and investigating the embezzlement sparked my passion for wanting to pursue white collar crimes,” Morrell said. “Although those aren’t typically crimes that put others in danger physically, they do great harm financially and emotionally and those criminals deserve to be punished accordingly.”
The same jury that took less than an hour to find Michael Harrison Hunt guilty as charged of First-Degree Murder and other charges Wednesday, voted 10-2 to recommend the death penalty Friday, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.
“When someone attempts to eliminate a victim or a witness, it is an attack on our entire Criminal Justice System,” Basford said Friday after the penalty phase. “We appreciate the jury’s service and attention to detail during this 9-day trial. And we are thankful to Lexi Peck’s family for their patience and faith in our Judicial System during the investigation, preparation, and prosecution of this case.”
Alexandra “Lexie” Elise Peck, 19, was one of four people shot in an Allen Avenue home April 4, 2019, in what evidence and testimony proved was a targeted attack on a fifth person who was accusing the defendant of sexual battery. That person escaped injury and prosecutors Mark Graham and Peter Overstreet showed Peck’s death was a result of mistaken identity.
Hunt was charged with First-Degree Murder in her death, and three additional counts of Attempted First-Degree Murder in the shootings of Danny Scoggins (Peck’s stepdad), and two friends of Scoggins’ stepson. Hunt also was charged with Armed Burglary.
Scoggins, who speaks through his trachea and was the first witness, has endured about 60 surgeries since the 2019 shootings and has ongoing medical and health issues. He told jurors his family had taken in a teenager who was a victim of rape by Hunt and on April 4, 2019, there was a knock at the door. The person there claimed to be delivering a pizza and then forced his way in.
Scoggins said he recognized Hunt, who he had met and who had been in the home before, after his hoodie slid up when he pulled out a pistol and told him to shut up. Within seconds, Scoggins said, Hunt shot him at point-blank range in the throat and he fell to the floor, choking on his own blood. He also heard the voice of a man he did not recognize but who headed for the back of the house where his daughter and the other victims were.
And he heard his daughter crying for help.
“She said, ‘Dad, help me’ and she said. ‘Please don’t kill me.’” Scoggins testified. “Then I heard shots. I knew at that point I had to get out of the house because I knew if I didn’t die there, he was going to shoot me again on the way out.”
Scoggins managed to crawl and stagger next door, where a neighbor called 911.
Testimony showed that after Scoggins was shot, a gunman headed to a back bedroom where he found Peck, who had red hair like the intended target. Two teenagers in the room testified Peck ran in, and was followed by a man who put a gun to her temple and pulled the trigger without speaking. The gunman shot Peck again, then shot both of the other teens in the room twice each before leaving.
“He went in that house that night with one thing on his mind,” Overstreet told jurors. “To get rid of the witness against him in the other case and kill anyone who got in the way or who could be a witness. Unfortunately for him, Danny Scoggins did not die.”
Hunt had been in court three days earlier for a hearing on an unrelated charge when it was announced there was a new warrant against him for Sexual Battery of a person under the age of 18. Hunt was asked to take a seat as other court proceedings continued and the warrant could be found, confirmed and entered into the system.
Instead, Hunt fled the courthouse and was a fugitive. Three days later he committed the murder and other crimes attempting to kill the victim in the new sexual battery who was staying at the Allen Avenue home. He was detained the following day, April 5, as he drove southbound on U.S. 231.
“I will submit to you that the evidence is crystal clear, James Scoggins is crystal clear (Hunt) did this, and the only person who had a motive was the defendant,” Graham told jurors during closing arguments. “Use your common sense and I submit that each and ever one of you, when you consider the evidence, will come back with the only true and just verdict in this case: That this defendant is guilty as charged.”
The jury deliberated for less than an hour Wednesday before agreeing and reaching guilty verdicts on all counts. The penalty phase began at 9 a.m. Friday and ended around 3 p.m. Jurors needed only about 40 minutes to recommend death.
“The success of this prosecution is the result of the tireless efforts and thorough investigation by the detectives and officers of the Panama City Police Department, the assistance of the Bay County Sheriff’s Office investigators and criminal analysts, the entire Major Crimes Division of the State Attorney’s Office, and the skill and professionalism of Assistant State Attorneys Mark Graham and Peter Overstreet,” Basford said of the verdicts.
“This was truly a team effort,” he continued. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to keep our community safe. This type of violence cannot and will not be tolerated in our community.”
Circuit Court Judge Shonna Young Gay set sentencing for Nov. 7.
A Panama City man avoided a trial with a last-minute plea to multiple drug trafficking charges this week and was sentenced to 25 years in prison, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.
Joseph Duane Rogers Jr., 32, was set for trial on multiple drug-related charges but pled no contest to Trafficking in Fentanyl (more than 28 grams), Trafficking in Heroin (more than 28 grams), Trafficking in Methamphetamine (more than 200 grams), Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communications Device, and Tampering with Evidence. Circuit Court Judge Brantley Clark accepted the plea and sentenced the defendant to a minimum-mandatory 25 years in prison per Florida’s enhanced drug trafficking penalties.
Prosecutor Frank Sullivan was prepared to present evidence and witnesses proving that a Bay County Sheriff’s Office investigation resulted in the seizure of a total of about 6.7 pounds of methamphetamine and 1.5 pounds of a heroin/fentanyl mixture belonging to the defendant.
“This is a major seizure of fentanyl, heroin and methamphetamine for our area, drugs that never made it out of the dealer’s hands and into a place where they posed a danger to our community,” Sullivan said. “Fentanyl is extremely dangerous and the largest contributor to overdoses in our country, state and the 14th Judicial Circuit, and this defendant is where he needs to be.”
The 6.7 pounds of methamphetamine equals 107 ounces, or 3,033 grams. That is about 15,000 doses, or hits, of the drug. The 1.5 pound mixture of heroin and fentanyl is equal to about 24 ounces, or 680 grams.
The heroin/fentanyl mix exposes the danger of fentanyl, Sullivan said, because fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and the potency of the mix is different every time. Even seasoned addicts overdose because the potency is so inconsistent. The Drug Enforcement Administration has noted that fentanyl is so strong in such small doses that even one batch mixed with another drug can produce “hits” of varying potency depending on how thoroughly it was blended.
“All of the drugs seized by the Sheriff’s Office in this case are deadly, but people using fentanyl and these fentanyl mixes are playing a deadly guessing game,” Sullivan said. “We appreciate the Sheriff’s Office’s hard work in making sure people didn’t have that choice this time.”
Sullivan was prepared to show that Sheriff’s Office Inv. Phillip Hill headed an investigation that led to a search warrant being served on the defendant’s residence May 7, 2021. It turned up more than 14 grams of methamphetamine and other drugs.
While the defendant was in jail, he made contact with someone about more drugs hidden in the air vents of his home that needed to be moved. Hill and investigators were able to discover that location and seized the large amount of methamphetamine and heroin/fentanyl mixture.
Basford thanked the Sheriff’s Office for their work on the case and the follow-up investigation that led to the larger seizure, as well as Florida Department of Law Enforcement analysts who detected the fentanyl.
A Bay County jury of 12 took less than 2 hours to find Angela Riggins Dantzler guilty of First-Degree Murder for the 2021 shooting death of her husband in their home, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.
Friday evening, Circuit Court Judge Shonna Young Gay sentenced the defendant, now 58, to Life in prison for the July, 2021, shooting death of her husband, Lorenzo Dantzler, then 61, inside their Kings Harbour Road home.
“Angela Dantzler murdered Lorenzo Dantzler in premeditated, cold blood,” Prosecutor Peter Overstreet told jurors, noting the final shot to the victim was a contact wound to the head while he was sprawled on the floor. “When all the evidence, the photographs, the testimony, the videos are examined, the cloak of presumed innocence is removed and she is exposed for all time and for all to see who and what she is: a murderer, in cold blood, of her husband.”
Overstreet called numerous witnesses during the weeklong trial, including family members who were concerned about the victim, friends who tried to help him, Panama City police who responded to the home and investigated the scene, and state crime lab and crime scene analysts.
The testimony and evidence proved to jurors that the victim’s wife of more than 35 years had passed away in April, 2019. He met the defendant online not long after that and the two were married in August, 2019.
“Her jealous, controlling nature was a shock for a man married for 38 years to a woman he loved, and when she passed away and he needed companionship he made that fatal decision,” Overstreet said. “People deal with grief in many different ways and Lorenzo was no different. After losing his wife, he didn’t know what to do with himself.”
The evidence showed tension in the marriage as the defendant began to believe people were out to get her and that she was being watched. She also became jealous. About a month before the murder during a trip to Tennessee she was accused of assaulting her husband and admitted taking his ID and credit cards and leaving him stranded there.
The day of the murder, Overstreet said the evidence showed that the defendant had disabled, unplugged and/or damaged the Ring cameras in the home. She approached her husband, who was unarmed and sitting in a chair, from a hallway and fired multiple shots from a 9mm pistol. The victim was struck.
“Imagine the horror Lonnie must have been going through at that time, with his wife shooting at him four times in his own home,” Overstreet said.
After the gun misfired, left the room. When she returned with a .38-caliber revolver, the victim had crawled a short distance away in a laundry room. “He was trying to get away, but his legs were not working, he was helpless,” Overstreet said.
It was then that the defendant again fired shots, including the contact wound to the victim’s head as she stood over him.
The defendant covered the body with towels and other clothing and linens and left it there. She also spread scented dryer sheets over the body and bloody areas where the shooting started. Evidence showed she sent a text message from the victim’s phone to his office saying he would not be in to work because the defendant’s father had a heart attack – which was not true. Additionally, she sent a text from her phone cancelling a cleaning service, saying she was out of town, which also was not true.
The defendant was still in the house with the body July 14 when concerned family members who could not reach the victim and could not get into the house called Panama City police for a welfare check. Police made entry, found the body, and finally found the defendant laying in the bed with a sheet over here.
She ignored officers’ commands and when they pulled the bedding off her, she reached for two guns she had on the bed. An officer tazed her and she was taken into custody. Officers also found her phone and the victim’s phone on the bed. She was treated at the hospital because of the numerous Tylenol she took in an overdose attempt before officers entered her room.
Basford thanked the Panama City Police Department not just for their work in processing the scene, but for the professionalism they showed in first entering the house and in taking the defendant into custody without harm when she reached for a gun. He also thanked the family for their assistance and patience during the prosecution of this case.