Bartow Christmas Parade 2022

SAO10 Participates in Local Christmas Parades

The State Attorney’s Office was excited to participate in the Lakeland, Havendale and Bartow Christmas Parades for the first time this year. Everyone had a merry good time!

Havendale Christmas Parade 2022 Lakeland Christmas Parade 2022

Ivan Sanders

Highlands County Man Convicted of First-Degree Murder of Four-Year-Old Girl

Ivan Sanders was found guilty and sentenced to Life in prison for First Degree Murder and Aggravated Child Abuse. Sanders was watching the victim while her mother was at work. Sanders threw the child across the room; hitting her head on the floor, causing her skull to fracture and brain to swell. Sanders delayed taking the victim to the hospital, after trying to revive her in a bath. In addition to the skull fracture, the victim had severe bruising on her entire body and a burn on her hand. State Attorney Brian Haas thanks Assistant State Attorney John Kromholz and the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office for their persistence in pursuing justice in this case. Sanders will never be released from prison.


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Gabriel Torres-Martinez

Man Convicted and Sentenced to 30 Years Prison for Attempted Second Degree Murder

Gabriel Torres-Martinez, 34, was sentenced to 30 Years Florida State Prison. A Polk County Jury found Torres-Martinez guilty of Attempted Murder in the Second Degree, and Tampering with a Witness. On February 13th, 2020, the victim was sitting in his girlfriend’s front yard when the defendant drove up and started a verbal altercation that soon became physical. Torres-Martinez struck the victim on the head with a firearm and shot him twice striking him in both legs.  After the incident, the defendant made threats to the victim. Thankfully the victim recovered. State Attorney Brian Haas thanks Assistant State Attorney Courtney Durden and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for their work on this case.


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Tabitha Palmer

State Attorney Brian Haas Warns Parents of Children who play Fortnite

A Polk County, Florida 11 year-old child was victimized by a 35 year-old women from Indiana after they met playing the game Fortnite.  In late 2020, Tabitha Palmer began chatting with the child through the online game.  Palmer knew that the child was 11 years-old.  The initial conversations were fairly basic, but over time, Palmer groomed the victim into feeling very comfortable talking to her.  Palmer informed the victim that she was married and had a child of her own.  She convinced the child to begin communicating with her through Discord, an online messaging app.  The defendant instructed the victim to delete their conversations.  Palmer sent numerous lewd photos of herself and convinced the child to do the same.  She also instructed him to engage in lewd acts while on video chats with her.  More than 14,300 Discord messages were exchanged between the woman and the child.  These activities continued for many months.  The defendant even discussed moving to Florida and getting a job close to the victim. Thankfully, the child’s parent eventually discovered some of the conversations.

The Lakeland Police Department conducted an investigation and arrested the woman.  Earlier this year, the woman pled guilty to multiple charges and was sentenced to 13 years in Florida State Prison.  She was designated as a Sexual Offender.  She will serve an additional 15 years of Sexual Offender Probation following her release from prison.  The sentence was approved by the parent of the child in an effort to avoid the child having to testify in court during a trial.

This case is an important reminder to parents of children who play any type of online game.  The threat is real and can come from anywhere.   State Attorney Brian Haas is grateful to the Lakeland Police Department and Assistant State Attorney Tim Coleman for their hard work and dedication in this case.


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