A Lake Alfred man was convicted by a Polk County Jury of three counts of trafficking in heroin, conspiracy to traffic heroin and several other drug-related charges. The street value of the heroin involved in this case exceeded tens of thousands of dollars. The defendant, Beverly Souels, worked with another man to traffic heroin throughout Polk County. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office investigated this case and worked with Assistant State Attorney Katherine Artman in prosecuting the defendant. Souels faces a mandatory prison sentence of 25 years and will be sentenced on April 8. State Attorney Brian Haas is thankful for the work of the Polk County Sheriff’s Department and ASA Artman in securing this conviction and making our community a safer place to live, work and visit.
Polk County jury trials resumed this week after being paused for several weeks due to COVID. In a trial on Wednesday, jurors convicted Russell Lewis Botts of Attempted Armed Robbery with a Deadly Weapon.
In November of 2019, Botts and an accomplice tried to rob a man who was walking home from work near Griffin Road in Lakeland. Botts armed himself with a knife. Jurors deliberated for 8 minutes before finding Botts guilty as charged. State Attorney Brian Haas stated on Wednesday that criminals like Russell Botts are a danger to our community and due to his actions in this case, Botts has earned himself a Florida State Prison sentence. Botts will be sentenced at an upcoming hearing. ASA Michael Nutter and the Lakeland Police Department worked together to secure the conviction.
In the first COVID-19-Era First Degree Murder Trial, jurors convicted James “Jimbo” Pennington for the murder of Devyn Martin in Indian Lake Estates in 2017.
During the 6 day trial, jurors heard testimony from Polk County Sheriff’s Deputies and other witnesses to the crime. Assistant State Attorney Jaenea Gorman presented evidence to the jurors that the victim went to Pennington’s house to talk to his friend, Christopher Walters, but while he was there, Pennington became angry and ordered Martin off his property.
Pennington went inside his home and returned with a compound bow. He shot an arrow at the victim, narrowly missing the man. The victim reached into his golf cart he was driving and pulled out a rifle, not pointing the weapon at Pennington. Pennington then returned inside his home and came back with a sawed-off shotgun.
The victim never followed Pennington and never threatened him. He attempted to duck when Pennington fired the shot that killed him. Pennington then concealed the victim’s body in a wooded area next to his house. Later, Pennington told deputies that the victim needed to be “exterminated.” Jurors deliberated for 4 ½ hours before finding Pennington guilty as charged. He was sentenced to life in prison. State Attorney Brian Haas thanks Assistant State Attorney Gorman and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for their work in this case.
State Attorney Brian Haas’ Office prosecuted Edward Stevenson for sexually abusing a young girl. Stevenson was convicted at a jury trial of four counts of sexual battery on a child.
He was arrested in 2017 after Winter Haven Police investigated the abuse allegations. They also conducted a controlled phone call with the defendant and the victim. During the phone call, Stevenson apologized to the victim, said he was likely going to jail, and acknowledged he was “sick” for having sex with her.
At the jury trial, jurors heard from the child victim, who testified regarding the sexual abuse she suffered over a period of nearly three years. Stevenson was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday. He will not be eligible for parole. State Attorney Brian Haas thanks Assistant State Attorney Monica Smith and Winter Haven Police detectives for their hard work and dedication on the case.