Man guilty of robbing, beating elderly woman

JURY VERDICT: Man guilty of robbing, beating elderly woman

When Perry Lee Chance walked into the Winter Haven clothing store where 82-year-old Carol Sleeth was working, Sleeth had no way of knowing the same man would return four days later, rob her and beat her.

Assistant State Attorney Steven Alamia points to evidence during closing statements Thursday. The jury deliberated for an hour and a half before coming back with a guilty verdict.

Chance, 55, faces life in prison after a jury found him guilty Thursday of burglary with an assault, robbery, kidnapping to facilitate a felony, aggravated battery and burglary.

Assistant State Attorney Steven Alamia showed the jury surveillance video of Chance walking into the store Sept. 16, 2014, where he took money out of the register and beat the victim with his fists. Chance tied her up, gagged her and left her in the store while he stole her keys out of her purse and drove off in her car.

In addition to the video, the 911 call was played.

Sleeth called police after she broke free from her bonds and removed the gag from her mouth. She told law enforcement how Chance kept “beating and beating” her and how she was “bleeding all over.”

“There’s really no dispute about what happened – that she was robbed, that she was beat, that she bled a horrific amount,” Alamia told jurors during his closing statement on Thursday. “You could hear on the 911 call how distraught she was.”

Perry Lee Chance

The victim identified Chance as her attacker shortly after the incident. She had a stroke about a year later, which led to her death.

Law enforcement began tracking Chance’s cell phone and located him driving up Interstate-75 in the victim’s vehicle. When officers stopped the car, they found the phone they’d been tracking, the backpack Chance wore in the surveillance video and – laid out on the seat – the shirt and shorts that he was wearing.

“It ties it all together,” Alamia said. “He’s found in her car … what’s found in the car puts him in that video.”

But Alamia said one of the most significant facts of the case was that Chance’s cell phone pings within a mile of the store at the time of the crime.

“All the evidence points to the defendant,” Alamia said. “Not only is it undisputed that all of these crimes happened: this defendant beat her, he robbed her, he tied her up and stuffed something in her mouth.”

“He’s the one who did all that, and the state has proven it beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said.

It only took the jury an hour and a half to come back with a guilty verdict. Chance will be sentenced on Sept. 14.

Gary Carroll, 48, of Lakeland was found guilty of all charges by a jury on Friday. He will be sentenced by Judge Sharon Franklin on Sept. 30.

JURY VERDICT: Lakeland man struck bicyclist, left crash scene

Gary Carroll said there were a number of reasons he didn’t stop after striking and killing someone with his vehicle on the way home from a party.

Gary Carroll, 48, of Lakeland was found guilty of all charges by a jury on Friday. He will be sentenced by Judge Sharon Franklin on Sept. 30.

In addition to claiming he hit an animal, to which there was no physical evidence, Carroll left the scene and removed the evidence of the crash from his vehicle.

After three hours of deliberation, the jury found Carroll guilty of leaving the scene of a crash involving death and destroying, tampering with physical evidence.

The 32-year-old victim was riding his bicycle on Reynolds Road about 1:20 a.m. on Feb. 22, 2014, when he was struck by Carroll’s vehicle and was thrown from his bicycle. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Carroll testified Friday, claiming he was blinded by a light and swerved as a deer jumped into his path, causing him to hit it. As a result, he said, the hood of his truck was damaged, and the headlights were busted.

Carroll, 48, whose testimony changed based on what questions were asked, said he hit the deer on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, but he didn’t replace his hood and headlights for three days.

“If those headlights were knocked out by a deer on Thursday, wouldn’t he have fixed them right away?” Assistant State Attorney J.C. Hill asked the jury in closing statements on Friday.

“The deer didn’t happen. That’s why,” she said. “There was no damage. There was no deer.”

A Polk County Sheriff’s Office detective testified that law enforcement never found a deer and that the damage on Carroll’s truck was not consistent with hitting a deer.

Carroll eventually placed himself at the scene of the accident but defended himself saying he didn’t realize what he hit because the tint on his truck windows and the height of his vehicle skewed his perception.

Hill refuted Carroll’s claims by reminding the jury that the only tint on Carroll’s windshield was at the very top. She also showed them photos of the truck that indicated the victim’s head and shoulders would have been above the level of the hood.

As she picked up a paper bag containing evidence, Hill told the jury the victim would’ve been highly visible because he was wearing a reflective safety vest.

But the main reason Carroll said he didn’t stop was because he “didn’t think it was that significant.”

“He should have known, based on the fact that it was a big truck versus a bicycle, that there would be a significant injury or a death,” Hill said.

“There are innocent accidents that happen all the time, but you have to stop,” she said.

Carroll will be sentenced by Judge Sharon Franklin on Sept. 30.

Daugustinis was recognized for her work with DUI cases at MADD's Statewide Law Enforcement Recognition dinner Friday.

Polk prosecutor recognized by MADD

FORT LAUDERDALE – Assistant State Attorney Randi Daugustinis was recognized at the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) 2016 Statewide Law Enforcement Recognition Friday in Fort Lauderdale. Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputies nominated her for the “Outstanding Prosecutor Recognition” award for her work prosecuting DUI cases.

Daugustinis was recognized for her work with DUI cases at MADD’s Statewide Law Enforcement Recognition dinner Friday.

She was one of 13 prosecutors recognized from across the state of Florida.

PCSO Sgt. Scott Maginn’s MADD nomination letter said that in 2015 Daugustinis was a lead prosecutor in Polk County, prosecuting and convicting DUI offenders. Of the five cases Daugustinis took to trial, all received guilty verdicts. “This was due to her extensive preparation and knowledge of DUI procedures,” Maginn wrote.

He praised her for having a “positive, infectious demeanor” and for always working to perfect her craft through continued learning and communication with DUI experts at the Sheriff’s Office. Maginn wrote that Daugustinis “is an invaluable part of the fight to reduce impaired driving, traffic crashes and fatalities in Polk County.”

Assistant State Attorney Randi Daugustinis, left, and Deputy Ronald Brackley pose for a photo with their awards at the MADD Statewide Law Enforcement Recognition dinner in Fort Lauderdale Friday evening. Brackley was one of the deputies who nominated Daugustinis for her award.

PCSO Deputy Ronald Brackley, who was nominated for MADD’s Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, was one of the officers who nominated Daugustinis for her award. She said Brackley taught her everything there is to know about drug DUIs and is responsible for a lot of her training.

In Brackley’s nomination letter, he told MADD Daugustinis sets the bar for prosecuting DUI cases, and attorneys should attempt to match her dedication to investigations and courtroom preparation. He said deputies know that when Daugustinis is the attorney handling their cases, they have nothing to be worried about in the courtroom.

Randi Daugustinis poses with her award after the 2016 Statewide Law Encorcement Recognition. She was one of 13 prosecutors from across the state of Florida.

Daugustinis said it was an honor for her to be recognized Friday alongside so many officers and attorneys she looks up to. Attending the MADD recognition dinner and listening to victims’ families tell stories about their lost loved ones brought her to tears multiple times, but she said, it only confirmed why she’s so passionate about prosecuting DUIs.

“The prosecutors help these families get some closure,” Daugustinis said. “We’re getting some of these people off the street and preventing innocent people from getting killed or injured.”

Auburndale woman guilty of meth trafficking

JURY VERDICT: Auburndale woman guilty of meth trafficking

Five kilograms of methamphetamine were entered as evidence in a two-day trial where jurors found Crystal Caldwell guilty of trafficking.

Assistant State Attorney Jacob Orr delivers his closing statement to the jury Thursday morning. After deliberating, jurors decided the defendant was guilty as charged.

Caldwell, 34, of Auburndale, faces a minimum of 15 years in prison after the jury convicted her Thursday of trafficking 200 or more grams of amphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a structure used for trafficking, sale or manufacture of controlled substances and resisting officers without violence.

Assistant State Attorney Jacob Orr told the jury Wednesday that undercover Polk County Sheriff’s Office detectives went to Caldwell’s house to buy two kilos of meth for $20,000. After the transaction, the property was searched, and three more kilos of meth were recovered from a wheel inside a truck in Caldwell’s yard.

Law enforcement conducted a search, and in addition to the five kilos of meth, a small plastic bag of meth was found in Caldwell’s pocket.

While two other men were the ones who handed the drugs to undercover deputies, Orr pointed out to the jury that the drugs were at Caldwell’s house and that she was their link.

Seven witnesses testified, including one of the men who helped Caldwell sell the drugs, and the jury was presented with audio and video evidence Wednesday that she was a key player in the drug transaction.

Caldwell’s attorney argued that Orr hadn’t proved anything through the testimony and evidence, but Orr responded in closing statements saying that without Caldwell the drug deal “simply would not have happened.”

He told the jurors he was confident they would determine he’d proven the case beyond a reasonable doubt because the evidence proved Caldwell was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

“This was all happening at Crystal Caldwell’s house. The drugs were at her house,” Orr said. “You could debate what role she played, but you cannot deny she played a role.”

After reviewing the audio and video evidence again, the jury deliberated for about an hour and a half. They determined Caldwell was guilty as charged, and she will be sentenced in September.