WWII Veteran hopes prison teaches attacker a lesson

A 95-year-old World War II veteran who was the victim of a home invasion took the news of his attacker’s prison sentence with the same calm reaction as his 911 call when he reported the original crime.

“Maybe he’ll learn a lesson in those 17 years,” the victim said of Michael E. Smith, 47, who was sentenced to 17 years in prison for the Dec. 5 attack and two subsequent offenses. “It takes all kinds of people to make up this world, but there are some of them I believe we can do without.”

Michael Smith

The defendant pled no contest to Home Invasion Robbery, Grand Theft-Auto, and two counts of Introduction of Contraband into a Correctional Facility.

RELATED NEWS: 25-year prison term for woman who shot, wounded, 2 people

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The victim said he was happy with both the sentence and the speed of the case through the courts.

“To be honest, I figured he’d drag it out for a year longer, so I was glad of it when (the State Attorney’s Office) told me he’d taken the plea and was going to prison,” he said. “He won’t be fooling with nobody else for a while.”

The victim was in his Hiland Park area home Dec. 5 when he reported being grabbed from behind and choked by a man later identified as the defendant. It happened so fast, he told Bay County Sheriff’s Office deputies and investigators, that he didn’t see the attacker at first.

The victim called 911 as soon as his attacker fled with his money and truck, sounding calm and collected as he gave them his name, address, and said, “my truck has been stolen and all my money.”

State Attorney Larry Basford commended the Sheriff’s Office for solving the case quickly and Assistant State Attorney Barbara Beasley for bringing the case to a speedy conclusion for the elderly victim.

Sheriff’s Office investigators and deputies canvassed the neighborhood and found the stolen truck abandoned about a mile away, no suspect in sight, according to Inv. Christopher Coram. However, after speaking with neighbors and reviewing surveillance videos from the neighborhood, investigators were able to determine that the defendant was staying at a nearby hotel. The defendant was arrested on the home invasion charge Dec. 5. The following day, Bay County Jail staff developed information that the defendant was in possession of contraband, which led to the final two charges.

 

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

 

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ASA Nicole Reed honored for work with child abuse victims

Assistant State Attorney Nicole Reed has been recognized by the Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center as one of this year’s dedicated professionals in child protection work.
Reed and Bay County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jeremy Mathis were surprised with the honor at the GCCAC’s law enforcement and child protection staff appreciation luncheon.
The State Attorney’s Office works closely with  both law enforcement like the Bay County Sheriff’s Office and GCCAC, which provides key services not just for the prosecution of child abuse cases, but also for the victims themselves.
April is #ChildAbusePreventionMonth and although many are involved in preventing abuse when possible and stopping it when it is discovered, State Attorney Larry Basford appreciates the work done by the GCCAC and its recognition of Reed.

U.S. Attorney: Combine resources with SAO to fight crime

U.S. Attorney Jason Coody makes a point as Assistant State Attorneys (left to right) Kara Bremer, Josh James, Jae Hee Kim, Peter Overstreet and Calie Overstreet listen in.
State Attorney Larry Basford, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District Jason Coody (hands folded in lap) and prosecutors from the SAO listen to a presentation Friday.

State Attorney Larry Basford and his staff met with U.S. Attorney Jason Coody Friday to discuss ways they can continue working together to make the most effective use of their resources to prosecute crimes involving firearms, drugs, violence, and human trafficking.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James A. McCain discussed with State prosecutors the strengths of both federal and state laws, and what kinds of cases best fit in each category.

Coody fielded questions from prosecutors and investigators while saying that above all else, communication is the key.

“We all want to compare, see which is the best way to go,” Coody said of federal versus state prosecution in any particular case. “If there are things we could be doing better, tell us, that’s why we’re here.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney James A. McCain reviews criminal penalties under federal law compared to state law with staff from the SAO.

25-year prison sentence for woman who shot two “guests”

A woman convicted of shooting and injuring two people will spend the next 25 years in prison, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

Alana Annette Savell, 37, who lived in the Hiland Park area where the shooting took place in 2016, was found guilty of two counts of Aggravated Battery Feb. 23 following a two-day trial.

The defendant was sentenced to 25 years in prison this week under Florida’s 10-20-Life Statute.

Tuesday, Circuit Court Judge Shonna Young Gay sentenced the defendant to 25 years in prison on both charges, to be served concurrently, under Florida’s 10-20-Life statute. Under that law, the defendant will not receive any gain time and must serve the full sentence.

RELATED NEWS: 15-year sentence in stolen property case

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Prosecutors Barbara Beasley and Jacob Cook presented witnesses and evidence at the trial showing that both victims were invited guests at the home the night of the shooting and were either in or near the doorway, or attempting to leave, at the time they were shot from behind by the defendant.

 

The male victim testified a group got up as if to go outside to smoke, but instead he was told they wanted him and his girlfriend to leave. He testified he was in or near the doorway trying to let his girlfriend know it was time to go when he was shot from behind in the calf by the defendant, who was inside the home. His injuries required three surgeries and two weeks in the hospital.

 

The female victim testified she was still inside the home when she heard shots, and her then-boyfriend yelling to her that he had been shot and they needed to leave. She said she was shot from behind in the left leg and right hell as she tried to leave.

“I didn’t hear any arguing before the first gunshot,” she testified. “I don’t know what went wrong, why it went wrong. Everything was going fine and then, ‘Pop, pop, pop, pop,’ and (the male victim) yelling, ‘Let’s go, I’ve been shot.’”

Prosecutor Jacob Cook questions a witness during the February trial.

Basford thanked the Bay County Sheriff’s Office and Florida Department of Law Enforcement for their work in investigating the case and gathering key evidence, as well as prosecutors Beasley and Cook for their presentation of it to jurors.

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

15-year prison sentence in stolen property case

A man charged with pawning a piece of equipment stolen from a boat at a family member’s business where he worked is serving a 15-year sentence after he was found guilty as charged.

David Wesley Underwood, 44, was charged with Dealing in Stolen Property, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Circuit Court Judge Timothy Register imposed the maximum sentence following the jury’s verdict, which took less than 15 minutes.

RELATED NEWS: Man who sprayed crowd with bullets, killing 1, sentenced to Life plus 80 years

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David Underwood

At the March 29 trial,  Prosecutors Jae Hee Kim and Josh James proved that Underwood had possession of a Garmin GPSmap,valued at about $2,300, and went with a co-defendant to sell it at a local pawn shop.

The prosecution showed that Bay County Sheriff’s Office investigators located the invoice for the item at the pawn shop. Information on the invoice matched the device to the one missing from the business where Underwood had worked.

Also, a co-defendant testified that the defendant called her and asked for a ride to the pawn shop. She testified he lied to her about the item and asked to use her identification to pawn it.

Basford thanked the Bay County Sheriff’s Office for its handling of the case and the evidence they gathered, as well as Kim and James for their presentation of the case that resulted in a quick verdict.

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

Convicted murderer gets Life, plus 80 years in prison

MARIANNA – On Tuesday, the man convicted of killing Blake Allen Cain and shooting at a dozen others in a hail of gunfire two years ago was sentenced to life in prison, plus 80 years, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

Circuit Court Judge Ana Maria Garcia granted prosecutor Shalla Jefcoat’s request to sentence Steven Mantecon, 23, to Life in prison with a minimum-mandatory 25 years under Florida’s 10-20-Life law. Garcia then sentenced the defendant to 15 years each on two counts of Shooting into an Occupied Vehicle, and ordered both of those to be served consecutive to each other and the first sentence.

RELATED NEWS:    Man guilty in Holmes shooting, beating death, sentenced to life in prison

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The victim’s grandfather, right, standing beside Prosecutor Shalla Jefcoat, addresses the judge during sentencing.Garcia followed by adding 5 years in prison for each of the 10 Aggravated Assault with a Firearm charges, and ordered that each one of them be served consecutive to the others. That means each sentence will be served individually, one after the other.

At a three-day trial in February, Jefcoat and co-prosecutor Lawrence Gill proved that the defendant and Cain had agreed to a fight the night of the shooting to settle a dispute over a ring Cain had given his former girlfriend – the defendant’s sister.

Evidence showed the defendant drove to a park where Cain and others were gathered, argued with the victim, and without getting out of his truck opened fire from about 10 yards away with a semi-automatic AK47-style rifle.

Three shots hit the victim, killing him almost instantly. Other bullets hit vehicles driven by Cain’s friends. Every bullet fired hit either the victim or a vehicle.

Cain’s grandfather spoke at Tuesday’s sentencing, telling Judge Garcia that the family’s loss is unimaginable.

“He took a lot away from me, but he took a lot away from  a lot of  other people too,” he said. “It was a $40 ring I gave to him … this was all over a stupid ring. But you have no regard for life if you do what (the defendant) did.

“I just thank god Blake was the only one killed,” he added, “even though I lost my grandson. And you don’t have any idea how bad that feels. They say it gets easier over time, but that’s a lie. It doesn’t get easier, it gets worse.”

In asking for the maximum sentence, Jefcoat told Judge Garcia that many lives were changed forever that day and that was evident in the surviving victims’ testimony during trial.

“Mistakes were made that day,” Jefcoat said. “But Mr. Mantecon made choices that ended in his taking a life.”

Basford again thanked the Jackson County Sheriff’s office and its deputies and investigators for the tremendous amount of work both the night of the shooting and in the following weeks, as well as the Florida Highway Patrol, which helped serve a search warrant on the home where the murder weapon was recovered.

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

 

Man guilty in Holmes shooting, beating death, sentenced to life in prison

BONIFAY – The third defendant in the 2020 shooting death of Raul Ambriz Guillen has been found guilty as charged Tuesday and sentenced to life in prison.

William Shane Parker, 36, was found guilty of Second Degree Murder, and Destruction of, Tampering with, or Fabricating Physical Evidence. The jury took less than hour to reach its verdict after two days of testimony.

 

RELATED NEWS: Armed robbery, attempted manslaughter defendant sentenced

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Chief Circuit Court Judge Chris Patterson ordered Parker to serve life in prison on the first charge, and 5 years in prison on the second.

Parker was the final of three defendants in the case, and the one accused of pointing a gun at the back of Guillen’s head and pulling the trigger as they watched fireworks July 4, 2020.

Prosecutor Peter Overstreet addresses jurors.
Murder defendant glances at family during a break.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeremie Odell Peters is serving a 20-year sentence after he was found guilty of Accessory after the Fact to Second Degree Murder with a Firearm, and Conspiracy to Commit First Degree Tampering with a Witness. Lauren Wambles pled no contest to Accessory After the Fact to Second Degree murder with a Firearm and is serving a 10-year sentence, to be followed by 5 years felony probation. As part of her plea, she agreed to testify truthfully against Parker and Peters.

Prosecutors Peter Overstreet and Ben Keown presented evidence and witness testimony Monday and Tuesday proving that Parker intended to kill Guillen that day at co-defendant Peters’ residence.

“For 50 long days and nights Raul Guillen’s body lay in the ground,” Overstreet told jurors. “Raul Guillen’s body, wrapped in black tarp and blankets, covered in barrels, and put in the ground. In a grave dug by two men – William Shane Parker and Jeremie Peters.”

Co-defendant Lauren Wambles testifies against her former boyfriend under questioning from Prosecutor Peter Overstreet, left, and Ben Keown, right.

Evidence showed that while fireworks were set off to cover the noise, the defendant shot Guillen in the back of the head and he fell to the ground but was not dead. Wambles testified the victim was making a “snoring” noise and that the defendant first shoved dirt into the victim’s mouth and nose, then beat him with a shovel as he was dragged to the woods.

His body, wrapped in a black plastic tarp, was relocated and buried the next morning by Parker and Peters.

“The defendant hoped that no one would come looking for Raul Guillen, that he would never be found, that he would never be held accountable for what he had done,” Overstreet said. “They were never going to find him where he was buried.”

However, Guillen’s daughter testified she communicated with her dad almost daily. When she couldn’t get in touch with him following July 4, 2020, she soon reported him missing to several agencies.

On Aug. 24, a man contacted authorities saying Peters told him that Parker had killed Guillen after Wambles “lured” him out of the house. He said Peters admitted to helping Parker bury the victim.

Within a day authorities found the body and began questioning suspects, with all three implicating themselves.

 

Wambles testified she was Parker’s girlfriend at the time and pregnant with his child. She said after he shot Guillen, she did what he told her to do because she was afraid he would kill her, too.

State Attorney Larry Basford thanked the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office, Houston County, Ala., Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the other agencies involved for their collaboration and work on the lengthy investigation.

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

Armed robbery, Attempted Manslaughter net man 20 years under 10-20-Life

A judge sentenced one of three men arrested in the 2020 robbery and shooting of a Springfield man to 20 years in prison Thursday, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

On Jan. 27, a jury found Mark Salmon, 22, guilty of Robbery with a Firearm and Attempted Manslaughter.

Prosecutor Frank Sullivan, left, with co-counsel Jae Hee Kim (seated), addresses the court during sentencing. The defendant and his attorney are center photo, facing the judge.

Thursday, Prosecutor Frank Sullivan noted Salmon faced at least 10 years in prison for one of the crimes under Florida’s 10-20-Life law. He asked for a total sentence of 20 years. Circuit Court Judge Timothy Register ordered a 20-year sentence, with the first 10 years being served day-for-day with no gain time.

The case

At trial, Sullivan and co-prosecutor Jae Hee Kim proved that while Salmon did not pull the trigger or commit the robbery, he was armed and drove two co-defendants to the victim’s home knowing a robbery was planned. Anyone who participates in a crime is culpable for what happens under Florida law.

RELATED NEWS: 25-year sentence for Attempted Murder

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The defendant is one of three men charged in the case, and the first to go to trial. One co-defendant is accused of shooting Sessions during the Feb. 22, 2020, incident. The other is accused of physically taking about $2,000 from him. Salmon was also there, armed with a pistol, according to testimony.

The defendant, center, testified at his trial.

“If you find Mark Salmon participated in any way, he is just as guilty,” Sullivan said to jurors during his closing statements. “He is a principal to it and he’s just as guilty as the person who took the money.”

 

The victim, who Sullivan said was lucky to survive, testified at trial and said there were three men involved – the one who shot him, the one who robbed him, and Salmon.

 

“They started asking, ‘Where the money at, where the money at? We know you got money,’” the victim testified.

Sessions said he was trying to get it out of his pocket when the man with the rifle shot him, the bullet passing through his chin/lower lip and he was forced to the ground.

“That’s when I spit the teeth out and spit the bullet out,” he told jurors. Police recovered the bullet.

Basford thanked Springfield police, who investigated the shooting, interviewed the suspect, and testified at trial, for their work.

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

25-year sentence for Attempted Murder

A Bay County man was given two 25-year prison sentences Tuesday for forcing his way into a home, shooting at one of the residents, then firing multiple shots at the house as he fled, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

A jury found Adriane Joseph Melanson, 22, guilty March 1 of Attempted Felony Murder, Burglary with Discharge of a Firearm, and Shooting into a Building after a one-day trial.

Prosecutor Frank Sullivan, right, shows a court document to the defendant, left, and his attorney during sentencing Tuesday. Right photo, the defendant reacts to the jury’s verdict in court March 1.

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, Circuit Court Judge Timothy Register sentenced the defendant to 25 years each on the first two charges – both first-degree felonies. Under Florida’s “10-20-Life” law, the defendant will serve the first 20 years “day-for-day” with no gain time. Register added 5 years for the third charge, with all three sentences running concurrently (at the same time).

Prosecutors Frank Sullivan and Jae Hee Kim proved that the defendant secured a firearm and drove to the victim’s residence on April 18, 2020, because he believed the victim had “ripped him off.”

However, Sullivan told jurors during his closing statements that even if they believed the defendant’s story, it had nothing to do with the subsequent shooting.

“That does not give the defendant the right to administer street justice and go over there and take matters into his own hands,” Sullivan told jurors. “Our society can’t allow it, our justice system doesn’t allow it, and I ask you to find the defendant guilty.”

RELATED NEWS: Double-homicide defendant receives 4 life sentences

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The jury took less than an hour to reach its verdict.

The shooting was investigated by the Panama City Police Department.

The state’s evidence established that after knocking on the victim’s door and being greeted by a child, the defendant forced his way into the home and fired a shot that missed the victim.

Video from a home security camera showed the defendant firing multiple shots toward the home while fleeing the scene. Some of the shots hit near or on the door, which had been thrown shut by those inside.

In an interview with Panama City Police Detectives Kristian Shaw and Cameron Quinn, the defendant initially denied much of what happened, but ultimately admitted he was the only person with a gun that day.

Basford thanked the Panama City Police Department for its efforts, and Prosecutors Sullivan and Kim for their presentation of the case.

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

 

 

Double Murder: 4 life sentences for defendant

A man convicted of a double homicide for killing two men during a burglary in 2021 received four life sentences Tuesday.

Circuit Court Judge Shonna Young Gay agreed with State Attorney Larry Basford’s request not only for a life sentence on each charge, but that they be served consecutively, not concurrently.

State Attorney Larry Basford, far right, looks on as Ruez Hicks, center in BCSO Inmate shirt, is sentenced by Circuit Court Judge Shonna Young Gay.

Ruez Hicks was found guilty as charged by a jury Jan. 20 of two counts of Second Degree Murder, and one count each of Robbery with a Firearm and Burglary with a Firearm. The jury took less than an hour to find the defendant guilty.

“I believe the jury’s verdict and Judge Gay’s sentence in this case sends a strong message that this type of violence cannot and will not be tolerated in this community,” Basford said.

 

Basford and Assistant State Attorney Jacob Cook presented evidence and witnesses during the two-day trial that one victim, Robert Fowler, owned the Delmar Drive home and the other, Robert Gilmore, was assisting him in restoring it on Jan. 26, 2021.

RELATED NEWS: Man guilty as charged in double homicide

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The evidence showed the defendant, armed with a pistol, went in the home while the victims were not there to burglarize it, and was surprised when they returned and confronted him. In the following minutes, the defendant shot and killed both men, and robbed one of his wallet.

Bay County Sheriff’s Office investigators spent the night and following days gathering evidence trying to develop a suspect, while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement took evidence collected at the scene – like spent bullets – for laboratory analysis.

State Attorney Larry Basford, center, leaning in, along with Jacob Cook, left, talks to members of one of the victim’s families prior to sentencing Tuesday.

The break in the case was the discovery by Sheriff’s Office investigators that someone had used a Cash App card belonging to one of the victims after his death. With that information, Hicks was developed as a suspect, spent shell casings were found near where he was staying, and the murder weapon was recovered. The FDLE analysis tied the gun to the murders, and DNA testing showed the victim’s blood on clothing recovered from the defendant.

Also key to the case were statements the defendant made while being questioned by Sheriff’s Office Capt. Jason Daffin, who along with Inv. Patrick Crawford drove him to the Sheriff’s Office for a formal interview after he was identified as a suspect.

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