Victoria Collins, 59, of Lakeland.

JURY VERDICT: Lakeland woman found guilty of killing her lover, sentenced to life

It only took jurors an hour and a half to convict Victoria Collins for the murder of her tenant and longtime lover, Gary Greenfield.

Victoria Collins, 59, of Lakeland.

Greenfield’s body was found July 29, 2015, behind a shed on the property he rented from Collins. His body was in a state of advanced decomposition and had been wrapped in a tarp and placed under a section of privacy fencing.

A knife was found near his leg, and a belt and plastic bag were located underneath his body. Medical examiners were able to identify high levels of zolpidem – a sleeping pill – in his system, but they were unable to determine exactly how he died because of how long he’d been left in the elements.

Greenfield did not have a prescription for zolpidem, but Collins did.

Hours after being convicted by the jury, Collins was sentenced to life in prison by Judge Harb.

Assistant State Attorneys Hope Pattey and Kristie Ducharme, along with the assistance of Polk County Sheriff’s Office detective Ernest Fulcher – who was the lead detective on the case, tried the two-week case, laying out the facts for the jurors.

Collins and Greenfield had been lovers – on and off – for 41 years, and he’d just moved from New York to Florida and rented a mobile home from her. They started spending a lot of time together, and Pattey said she believed Collins was ready to leave her husband of 23 years and live out the rest of her years with Greenfield.

But Collins then found out that Greenfield had been meeting up with other women.

Collins called Greenfield on June 15, 2015, to find out he was with another woman in the trailer she was renting him, and Pattey said, that’s what sent her over the edge.

Assistant State Attorney Hope Pattey addresses jurors in closing arguments June 16. The jury deliberated for an hour and a half before finding Collins guilty of first-degree murder.

“She’d given Gary Greenfield a place to live, given him her heart,” Pattey said. “It was too much.”

Pattey told jurors she believes Collins went to his home the next day, drugged him, wrapped the plastic bag around his neck and rolled him up in a tarp.

“He may have been alive and, frankly, he probably was,” Pattey told jurors. “He died alone under a bush.”

Greenfield’s cell phone records and financial statements were used to support that Collins killed him on June 16, 2015.

From April 1, 2015, to June 15, 2015, Greenfield’s cell phone records show that there were 4,778 communications – the majority being voice calls with a couple hundred texts. After the 15th of the month, there were only 549 communications, most of which were text messages, with the only voice calls being between Collins and Greenfield.

Nobody heard Gary Greenfield’s voice after June 16.

Not only did the number of communications decrease dramatically, the location they were sent from also changed.

From April 1, 2015, to June 15, 2015, his cell phone utilized the tower by his house 358 times. After June 15th, his cell used the tower by Collins’ house 80 times and the tower by his house only 41 times.

There were a series of communications where Collins called Greenfield’s phone while both were in the same location, using the same tower. In one instance, surveillance video shows Collins making the call with Greenfield’s cell on her, but he isn’t there.

Pattey said the cell phone evidence made it clear Collins was also using his phone to contact his family members, pretending to be him. When family members and friends would receive a text, some would try to call, but they never got an answer.

“That’s because Victoria Collins couldn’t answer the phone,” Pattey said.

Greenfield’s cell phone was never found.

Prosecutors also examined Greenfield’s financial statements and found that Collins made a series of withdrawals and transactions with his debit cards, starting with a cash withdrawal of $1,012 on June 16, 2015.

ASA Pattey shows the jury the difference between Greenfield’s actual signature and the way it looked when Collins attempted to sign his name.

Surveillance video and witness testimony confirmed Collins made multiple transactions with his cards, including the purchase of a meal at Manny’s Chophouse in July where she attempted to mimic his signature.

Later that month, she used his card at an Applebees and signed her own name: V. Collins.

When Greenfield’s body was found on her property July 29 by the home owners association, Pattey pointed out that Collins’ behavior was odd.

“This is the man that she loved for 41 years, who she has not spoken to by at her own admission since the end of June, has been found in a tarp and is a virtual bag of bones, having been eaten by maggots and every other small animal,” Pattey said. “Instead of having been grateful his body had been found and his family could give him a proper burial, she was angry. … She was so mad they went on this property and discovered her secret.”

Pattey reminded the jurors that law enforcement didn’t know if the body found was Greenfield’s or if Greenfield had harmed someone else. Yet Collins was inconsolable when she arrived at the scene.

“She is not crying because she thinks it is Gary Greenfield. She’s crying because she knows it is Gary Greenfield, and he’s been found,” Pattey said. “Her secret has been found out.”

Law enforcement continued to work the case but did not have a suspect. It wasn’t until Aug. 13, 2015 – Gary Greenfield’s birthday – that they started to suspect Collins.

Former Ledger reporter Clifford Parody wrote the initial newspaper story about Greenfield’s body being found. He attempted to interview Collins but could not get in touch with her, so he left his business card at her house in hopes that she’d reach out to him.

Parody did receive a call from Collins on August 13, but she pretended to be someone else, frantically telling him that “He wasn’t supposed to die.”

The caller then began an elaborate story about how she thought her boyfriend killed Gary Greenfield.

She said she was a prostitute and would drug her clients with sleeping pills to rob them after they fell asleep.

“That was supposed to happen to Gary,” the caller said. “He was supposed to fall asleep. He wouldn’t fall asleep.”

She made reference to a belt that Greenfield had taken off and then said her boyfriend returned from robbing Greenfield with bloody hands, his cell phone and two wallets. It wasn’t until weeks later that the caller claimed she learned that the man had died and that his name was Gary Greenfield.

The Ledger reporter said that the caller’s story seemed off, so he took the information to the Sheriff’s Office.

Not only did detectives trace the phone to Parody back to a cell phone Collins bought at Target, the caller knew information about how Greenfield was killed that no one other than law enforcement and the suspect were privy to.

“Nobody knew about the belt except for the person who killed Gary Greenfield,” Pattey said. “Nobody.”

Collins was arrested on December 15, 2015.

In trial, the defense claimed all of the facts presented by the state were purely circumstantial. Collins’ attorney told the jury that they could only speculate about all of the evidence and that none of it proved she was guilty.

But Pattey reminded jurors of the events that took place after Greenfield’s death point only to Victoria Collins. She even showed the jury 137 circumstances that prove she was his murderer.

“She is heartless, cold and manipulative. … No, we don’t have DNA or fingerprints. We don’t have a formal confession by this woman – we have something better. We have her own actions over and over and over again to show that she is the one responsible for what happened to Gary Greenfield,” Pattey said in her closing argument.

“This woman is a master manipulator,” she said. “She (Collins) did all of this. She did every bit of it, and she is guilty – guilty as charged. Walk back into this courtroom and tell her she didn’t get away with this one.”

John Goepferich, left, talks to his attorney after being sentenced Friday to life in prison. Goepferich lured officers to his Lake Wales home and fired rounds at them, striking two.

SENTENCING UPDATE: Man sentenced to life for attempting to murder Lake Wales police officers

John Goepferich claimed the reason he lured officers to his home and fired over 24 rounds at them was to commit suicide.

John Goepferich, left, talks to his attorney after being sentenced Friday to life in prison. Goepferich lured officers to his Lake Wales home and fired rounds at them, striking two.

But – in Goepferich’s sentencing hearing on Friday – Judge Roddenbery said his actions clearly showed otherwise. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Goepferich, 61, was convicted February 10 of six counts of attempted first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer, two counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, attempted manslaughter with a firearm, attempted death of a police dog and misuse of 911.

On March 5, 2015, Goepferich called 911 and asked dispatch to “send the police.” He then fired multiple rounds at nine officers, striking two, before retreating into his home and continuing to shoot at them.

One of the officers was struck in the waist, but his duty belt kept the bullet from piercing his skin. Another officer was shot in the neck.

The defense said Goepferich’s actions were a result of severe depression and chronic physical pain from injuries he received in the Air Force. A neuropsychologist echoed the defense’s statements and added that Goepferich had not gone to therapy or taken his medication four weeks prior to the incident.

Roddenbery said the problem with Goepferich’s claims that he wanted to commit suicide by cop is that he stepped outside to fire rounds before immediately retreating back into his home, where he reloaded numerous times and fired at officers from multiple windows.

“He spent a significant amount of time in his house intentionally shooting at officers,” Roddenbery said. “He may have initially intended for suicide by cop, but his actions after he retreated into the house show a man trying to shoot police officers, and he managed to shoot two of them.”

Assistant State Attorney Amy Smith said the most significant thing to come across her desk during the trial was a photo of the officer who was shot through the neck. The picture shows him sitting in a hospital bed with the bullet wound while his elementary school children were huddled up next to him.

“These families had to worry through the course of events whether their loved ones would live or die,” Smith said. “His actions were unjustifiable. He should be sentenced to life.”

“I don’t do this lightly, “Roddenbery said before imposing the sentence. “But I believe Mr. Goepferich needs to be in prison for the rest of his days because of the number of officers he endangered that day.”

“As tragic as it is that he will never see outside of prison, and as tragic as it is that he did it,” Roddenbery said, “it’s also tragic for the officers who were involved, those who may still be dealing with it.”

James Carter, 26, testifies in court March 29. He was convicted of first-degree arson, among other charges, and faces life in prison.

SENTENCING UPDATE: Carter sentenced to 20 years for first-degree arson

Three days before he set Kiera Williams’ house on fire, James Carter called and threatened her: “If I can’t have you, nobody will.”

Carter, 26, was found guilty March 30 of first-degree arson, burglary of a dwelling with $1,000 in damages or more and aggravated stalking. Judge Kevin Abdoney sentenced him Thursday to 20 years in prison, followed by 10 years of probation.

During the sentencing hearing, the defense admitted Carter has anger issues but asked for leniency from Abdoney for the sake of Carter’s son.

But Assistant State Attorney Kristopher Heaton reminded Abdoney that Kiera Williams had an injunction for protection against Carter, yet he still threatened her and chose to set her home on fire while she and her parents were sleeping.

“Three people could have died,” Heaton said. “He is a significant danger to the community.”

Carter apologized to the judge and asked him for a second chance.

Before imposing Carter’s sentence, Abdoney reminded him the jury found him guilty for a reason.

Lakeland Police Department Detective Paula Parker was honored for her work on the William McGee case. McGee attacked a runner on Lake Hollingsworth and attempted to rape her. He then fled the scene. McGee was found guilty of kidnapping and attempted sexual battery. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Haas honors LPD Detective Paula Parker

State Attorney Brian Haas started a new tradition at the State Attorney’s Office yesterday. At our annual awards ceremony, some special law enforcement officers were recognized who – in the past year – have gone above and beyond the call of duty to serve our community.

“We are blessed in the tenth circuit to have many wonderful officers and deputies. Each day and night they put on their uniforms to protect us, not knowing if they’ll ever return home,” State Attorney Haas said. “They investigate cases and do not give up until every lead is pursued and every angle is worked.”

Lakeland Police Department Detective Paula Parker was honored for her work on the William McGee case.

Lakeland Police Department Detective Paula Parker was honored for her work on the William McGee case. McGee attacked a runner on Lake Hollingsworth and attempted to rape her. He then fled the scene. McGee was found guilty of kidnapping and attempted sexual battery. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

William McGee admitted he could have raped his victim if she hadn’t talked him out of it.

The 22-year-old woman was running around Lake Hollingsworth about 11 p.m. May 18, 2015, when she saw the shadow of a man begin to approach her from behind.

The victim felt his arm slip around her neck and his hand cover her mouth, and that’s when she realized he wasn’t there to run the lake. He was there to hurt her.

McGee confined the victim for 49 minutes after pulling her off the running path.

“Why are you out here this late? You deserve this,” McGee yelled at her while forcing her into a wooded area and then to the ground, where he attempted to remove her shorts.

The victim fought to keep him off of her, pleading with him to not hurt her. When she realized she wasn’t strong enough to overpower him, she changed tactics and began to reason with him.

Once McGee realized she stopped fighting him, he stopped pulling at her shorts. He noticed her earbuds and yanked them from her to listen to her running music, which the victim used as another way to engage him and attempt to change his mind. The victim freed herself and McGee fled the scene.

The case was assigned to Lakeland Police Department Detective Paula Parker. Detective Parker immediately began pouring her efforts into solving the case and building sufficient evidence to support a conviction.

The DNA found on the victim’s earbuds would later match DNA taken from underneath her fingernails from fighting McGee. Both samples were a match for him.

Assistant State Attorney Jaenea Gorman, who tried the McGee case, said Detective Parker’s attitude, whole approach and persistence in pursuing who did this was what made the difference.

“It could have been months before a suspect was found,” “but Parker pursued it all with a sense of urgency that sets her apart and shows she goes above and beyond.”

Gorman said Parker had the right demeanor and approach to get him to voluntarily give the buccal swabs.

“She even drove some of the DNA to FDLE herself,” Gorman said. “It saved precious time. You don’t get that with everyone.”
Not only did Parker get a great statement from him, she got McGee to walk her down to the lake where the incident happened.

It was videoed, and Gorman said it was powerful evidence for the jury.

Parker built a rapport with McGee even though he knew she was investigating him.

“She continued to be passionate about the case and do what was needed all the way through to the end,” Gorman said.

McGee was found guilty of kidnapping and attempted sexual battery. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Detective Paula Parker never stopped working on the case, her tenacity and dedication led to McGee’s conviction and took a dangerous rapist out of our community.

Haas said he knows from personal experiences he had prosecuting cases worked by Detective Parker, the McGee case is not the exception for Paula; instead, it’s what we’ve come to expect from her.