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.

Winter Haven Police Department Detectives Garrett Boyd and Nicholas Gregory were honored for their work on the Perry Lee Chance case. Chance robbed and beat an elderly woman and fled the scene in her vehicle. The victim later died. He was found guilty of burglary with assault, robbery and kidnapping and was sentenced to life.

Haas honors WHPD Detectives Garrett Boyd, Nicholas Gregory

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.”

Winter Haven Police Department Detectives Garrett Boyd and Nicholas Gregory were honored for their work on the Perry Lee Chance case.

Winter Haven Police Department Detectives Garrett Boyd and Nicholas Gregory were honored for their work on the Perry Lee Chance case. Chance robbed and beat an elderly woman and fled the scene in her vehicle. The victim later died. He was found guilty of burglary with assault, robbery and kidnapping and was sentenced to life.

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.

Surveillance video shows 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.

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

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

Winter Haven Police Detectives Garrett Boyd and Nicholas Gregory were assigned the case.

Assistant State Attorney Steve Alamia said that a lot of investigative work went into this case.

Boyd and Gregory tracked Chance’s cell phone and located him driving up Interstate-75 in the victim’s vehicle. They plotted it the entire way and found that Chance was up in St. Johns County.

Alamia said Boyd and Gregory went to arrest Chance themselves. When they stopped the car Chance was driving, 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.

But one of the most significant pieces of evidence was that Chance’s cell phone pinged within a mile of the store at the time of the crime. In addition to the phone evidence, Boyd and Gregory compiled surveillance footage of Chance from surrounding areas, leaving no doubt Chance was the one who committed the crime.

Boyd and Gregory were actively involved with the investigation from start to finish, including helping rebuild the case when the victim died.

Chance was found guilty of burglary with an assault, robbery, kidnapping to facilitate a felony, aggravated battery and burglary. He was sentenced to life.

In addition to the time spent working with Alamia, he said, Boyd had a lot of interaction with the victim’s son.

“The victim’s son spoke very highly of Boyd. After we got the conviction, he went to talk to Boyd and thank him. They had a personal connection beyond the fact that he investigated the case,” Alamia said, adding that it was another way Boyd showed his dedication to the case.

“The two detectives went above and beyond the call of duty in assembling the evidence in this case and ensuring the conviction in trial,” Haas said. “They even drove up to St. Johns County, where they arrested the defendant and recovered key evidence in the case.”

Polk County Sheriff's Office Detective Matthew Newbold was honored for his work on the Carl McCauley case. McCauley sexually assaulted and brutally murdered a 41-year-old woman. It was a 30-year-old cold case Newbold solved. He was found guilty of first-degree murder and sexual battery and was immediately sentenced to life in prison.

Haas honors PCSO Detective Matthew Newbold

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.”

Polk County Sheriff’s Office Detective Matthew Newbold was honored for his work on the Carl McCauley case.

Polk County Sheriff’s Office Detective Matthew Newbold was honored for his work on the Carl McCauley case. McCauley sexually assaulted and brutally murdered a 41-year-old woman. It was a 30-year-old cold case Newbold solved. He was found guilty of first-degree murder and sexual battery and was immediately sentenced to life in prison.

When Charles Watson Sr. got home from work on Mar. 24, 1987, he found his wife stabbed to death on their couch.

Karen Ann Watson, 41, of Lake Wales, was sexually battered and brutally murdered the day before her twin sons’ 16th birthday. Nearly 30 years passed before her family saw the case come to a close.

Karen Watson was getting ready to leave her home off Old Polk City Road and head to work. Watson and her eldest son, Charles Watson Jr., worked at Disney, and she was known to leave her house at exactly 1 p.m. to make it on time.

Watson called her son about 12:30 p.m. She was at home alone getting ready for work.

It wasn’t until just past 1 p.m. until a neighbor started to suspect something was wrong.

The neighbor drove past Watson’s home, she noticed a few things that didn’t sit right with her: Watson’s car was still in the driveway, and a vehicle she’d never seen before was parked on the road in front of the house.

The neighbor looked up in the rear view mirror and saw a man run from one side of the road, past the car, and make a beeline for the front of that trailer. That man was not the victim’s husband.

The victim’s husband got home about 1:30 p.m. to find his wife slumped over on their couch with blood spatter on the wall behind her and on the carpet in front of her. She’d been stabbed 11 times in her torso, neck, throat and face and had pierced internal organs.

When law enforcement arrived – in addition to the blood found on and around the couch – they found specks of blood and other bodily fluids on Watson’s bed. But because DNA science was still new in the late 1980s, they were unable to identify whose fluids were found.

The case went cold.

The Watson case was a 27-year-old cold case when Detective Matt Newbold opened the file.

Newbold met with Assistant State Attorney John Waters to discuss the case. At the first meeting, Newbold told John that he’d solved the case.

In 1998, a DNA profile was obtained from the victim’s husband., and he was ruled out as a suspect. It wasn’t until 2014 that Newbold found McCauley in Ohio and sat him down for an interview.

Newbold solved the case, with good, old-fashioned detective work.

He flew to Ohio a few times, and I’m told He has a horrible fear of flying, but he was willing to risk life and limb and sanity.

When Newbold interviewed Carl McCauley, he denied knowing Watson, being intimate with her or ever being in her house, yet his DNA was a complete match.

Newbold got denial after denial from McCauley and crazy explanations out of him – so much so that the evidence in trial was used to prove he was lying.

According to John Waters, “That was what put the nails in the coffin,” “It wasn’t a “confession” but was as good or better because we could prove he was lying.”

Newbold was fully involved with the case. He had an amazing ability to relate to the victim’s family and helped them get through it.”

When solving a case from 1987, modern detective skills and forensic science is helpful, but this one was solved by getting out there and beating the bushes.

John Waters said, “it is without a doubt the best detective work I’ve ever seen.”

Newbold sat with our prosecutors through the two-week trial, his involvement during the trial phase was invaluable.

After only four hours of deliberation following a two-week trial, Carl McCauley, 67, was found guilty of first-degree murder and sexual battery. He was immediately sentenced to life for both counts by Judge Harb.

Detective Newbold’s tenacity and passion was unbelievable. Because of his work and those who worked with him at the sheriff’s office and our homicide prosecutors, John Waters, Kristie Ducharme and Hope Pattey, Carl McCauley will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Without Matt Newbold, a killer would still be living in freedom and Watson’s family wouldn’t have the closure they now have.