State Attorney Jerry Hill honored by FPAA

State Attorney Jerry Hill honored by FPAA

PANAMA CITY – State Attorney Jerry Hill was honored alongside State Attorney Willie Meggs, Second Judicial Circuit, for 32 years of public service as State Attorney.

State Attorney Jerry Hill, right, stands next to State Attorney Willie Meggs, Second Judicial Circuit, after receiving the Eugene Whitworth Memorial Award Tuesday in Panama City Beach.

Both Hill and Meggs were elected in 1984 and are retiring at the end of this year. They were presented with the Eugene Whitworth Memorial Award for outstanding leadership by the Florida Prosecuting Attorney’s Association at their annual conference in Panama City Beach on Tuesday.

“I will tell you that being a Florida prosecutor has been the career of a lifetime,” Hill said upon accepting the award, “and I simply want to say thank you for allowing me to be part of it.”

The inscription on the Eugene Whitworth Memorial Award says: In recognition of outstanding leadership, achievements and contributions to the criminal justice system. For faithful service to your circuit, community and citizens of the state of Florida. Your leadership will serve as an example for those who follow.

Hill, left, thanked FPAA for recognizing him at the Awards Luncheon on Tuesday.

Joshua Davis, 37, of Winter Haven was found guilty of shooting and killing two Polk State College students and injuring a third. He will be sentenced Dec. 9 by Judge Harb.

JURY VERDICT: Man guilty of killing two students, shooting another

Joshua Davis stood in front of his third victim, the gun facing his forehead at point-blank range.

Joshua Davis, 37, of Winter Haven was found guilty of shooting and killing two Polk State College students and injuring a third. He will be sentenced Dec. 9 by Judge Harb.

Davis had just shot and killed Polk State College students Joe Palacios and Christian Rodriguez, both 19, before turning the gun on Esteban Zavala, who feared he would be shot next.

“I didn’t see any hesitation, any doubt,” 23-year-old Zavala said from the witness stand Oct. 20, recalling how Davis murdered his friends. “At that point, I’d just accepted that’s how I was going to die.”

“I just accepted that it was going to happen and that’s it,” he said. “The next thing I knew, I heard a bang, and I just passed out.”

A jury deliberated for three hours Friday and found 37-year-old Davis guilty of murdering two students and attempting to kill a third, bringing a three-week trial to an end. Davis was found guilty of two counts of second degree murder, one count of attempted first degree murder and child abuse.

Assistant State Attorney John Waters questioned the surviving victim, Esteban Zavala, taking jurors back to the evening of April 24, 2012.

Assistant State Attorney John Waters addresses the jury during opening statements of Joshua Davis’ trial Monday, Oct. 17.

The four men met when they worked at McDonald’s in Winter Haven and decided to smoke marijuana together with Davis at his Lake Howard apartment. Rodriguez and Zavala stepped outside to smoke with Davis while Palacios stayed inside with Davis’ 7-year-old daughter.

Upon returning to the apartment, Zavala said, they didn’t talk much, but he watched as Davis “darted down the hallway” to his bedroom.

“Everything seemed weird,” Davis said in a sworn statement to law enforcement that was played during trial.
Davis claimed he felt the three students were sending signals to each other, so he felt like he needed to protect his home.

“I could see them shake their heads ever so slightly. I just knew they were about to do something,” Davis told law enforcement. “Something inside me told me it wasn’t OK.”

Davis said he saw “darkness in their faces” and had a “dark feeling” come over him.

Zavala said he heard bangs and saw flashes of light come from the hallway. Both Rodriguez and Palacios were shot in the head at point-blank range.

As Zavala tried to hide behind a couch, he felt his leg give out but didn’t realize he’d just been shot. Davis walked around the couch to where Zavala was laying and pointed the gun at his forehead.

“What are you doing? Why are you doing this?” Zavala asked Davis.

Davis didn’t hesitate. He shot Zavala in the left temple, but the bullet passed through his face and stopped in his right cheek.

Assistant State Attorney John Waters points to a hand-drawn picture of the inside of Joshua Davis’ house. Waters used the map to show jurors where each of the students were when Davis shot them.

Zavala regained consciousness and pulled himself up to see Davis talking to his daughter while holding the gun in his hand. Zavala’s vision had a purple hue, he could only open his right eye and his ears were ringing, but he realized he only had one chance to get the gun away from Davis.

“I either try and get that gun off of him … or I’m dying and die trying,” Zavala said from the stand.

He lunged at Davis and fought him for the gun. He placed his hands over the trigger, making sure the gun wasn’t pointed at Davis’ daughter, and squeezed until three more bullets fired.

But Zavala wasn’t sure he’d emptied the gun of its bullets.

He fell backward and watched as Davis pointed the gun at him again, inches away from his face.

“All I heard was just the click noise of the gun,” Zavala said. “When I heard the click, it was a frozen moment.

Zavala was able to make it out of the apartment and down the stairs where he was able to get medical help.

“There are two guys inside, and I’m pretty sure I killed both of them,” Davis told a medic at the crime scene. “I just got so scared … It’s almost like could read their minds by looking at their faces and feeling the vibes.”

Assistant State Attorney John Waters speaks to the jury during closing statements Thursday, Oct. 27. The jury deliberated for three hours on Oct. 29 before finding Davis guilty of second-degree murder and attempted first degree murder.

The defense claimed Davis was simply protecting his daughter and his home. They also claimed Davis was legally insane.

Waters argued that Davis’ paranoia after smoking marijuana was not a valid defense for murdering two people and attempting to murder a third. He also said it’s clear Davis wasn’t insane because he questioned his own actions during his statement to police.

“I just remember almost blind firing … I was very angry,” Davis said. “All I remember is thinking to myself, ‘What am I doing?’”

Davis will be sentenced by Judge Harb Dec. 9.

Shawn Marlow, 46, of Lakeland, was arrested Oct. 14 and given a $15,000 bond. He bonded out of jail the following day.

SAO INVESTIGATION: Golf cart shop used as front for fraud

LAKE ALFRED – Shawn Marlow was arrested Friday, Oct. 14, by investigators with the State Attorney’s Office for stealing $44,175 from his customers and failing to provide them with the goods and services they paid for.

Shawn Marlow, center, was arrested Oct. 14 in Lake Alfred and charged with scheme to defraud over $20,000, eight counts of grand theft of a person over the age of 65, obtaining property with intent to defraud and grand theft over $300.

An SAO investigation revealed complaints on Marlow had been filed with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office , Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Lakeland Police Department (LakelandPD) and Lake Alfred Police Department. LAPD alerted the SAO to Marlow’s activity in September, and a total of 13 victims have been identified so far.

Marlow, 46, of Lakeland, was served with a search warrant Friday. SAO investigators – joined by PCSO, LPD, LAPD and the Florida Department of Revenue – obtained evidence from his business, Ron’s Golf Carts, 1870 U.S. Highway 17-92 in Lake Alfred, in order to secure evidence on existing victims and identify new ones.

An investigator with the Department of Revenue, center, speaks with Marlow as SAO Investigator Steve Menge interviews him Oct. 17 at Ron’s Golf Carts in Lake Alfred.

The Department of Revenue has been looking into Marlow because his company has failed to remit sales taxes since 2014.

Over the past two years, Marlow has taken money and property from customers at his business, promising that he would either repair their broken golf carts or deliver a new one. As months passed and customers began calling Marlow to check on the status of their cart, they received a myriad of excuses as to why their order had not been completed.

In some cases, Marlow deposited checks the same day they were received. One case shows he deposited a check 15 minutes after he received it.

Shawn Marlow, 46, of Lakeland, was arrested Oct. 14 and given a $15,000 bond. He bonded out of jail the following day.

Victims referred to Marlow as a “crook” and the “biggest con artist.” The majority of Marlow’s victims were elderly and were not repaid.

Some of the victims grew tired of waiting and listening to Marlow’s excuses, so they contacted law enforcement. PCSO and LAPD were able to get $25,350 of the stolen funds returned to victims.

If you believe you are one of Marlow’s victims, please contact SAO Investigator Steve Menge at 863-534-4920 or smenge@sao10.com. The investigation is ongoing.

Reginald Streeter, 21, was given two consecutive life sentences Monday. He had been convicted twice of robbery with a firearm prior to this incident.

SENTENCING UPDATE: Habitual offender sentenced

Reginald Leon Streeter was sentenced to life in prison Monday.

Reginald Streeter, 21, was given two consecutive life sentences Monday. He had been convicted twice of robbery with a firearm prior to this incident.

Streeter, 21, of Lake Wales, was convicted by a jury in August of burglary of a dwelling with an assault while armed, attempted robbery with a firearm, resisting officers without violence while wearing a mask, giving false info to law enforcement and possession of cannabis and drug paraphernalia.

He kicked down the front door to a Winter Haven home and attempted to enter the victims’ bedroom, threatening to shoot through the door if they didn’t open it. While the victims kept the door barricaded, Streeter’s accomplice broke through their bedroom window with the butt of a shotgun.

The victims were held at gunpoint, and Streeter said he would kill them unless they gave him money. The male victim was taken into the living room at gunpoint by Streeter, and when the female victim was escorted into the living room by the accomplice, she saw Streeter run out of the back door.

Law enforcement was in the area working a burglary when they heard the window break. They arrived at the Winter Haven home in time to see Streeter run out of the residence with a silver firearm in his hand.

Streeter swam across a retention pond and was found hiding underneath a car.

He had been convicted twice of robbery with a firearm and was out of prison less than 60 days when the incident occurred. Because Streeter is a habitual violent offender, Assistant State Attorney Michael Nutter asked Judge Kelly Butz for the maximum sentence, and she granted his request.

Streeter was given two consecutive life sentences for count one and two: burglary of a dwelling with an assault while armed and attempted robbery with a firearm.