Tallahassee, FL—For over a year now it’s been reported that Tallahassee Police hindered the female Florida State University student who accused Jamies Winston of sexually assaulting her. According to reports, University Administrators, and Winston’s attorney received the police report days before State Attorney Willie Meggs. In which, State Attorney Willie Meggs, whose main office is located in the Leon County Courthouse (just three blocks away from both the Tallahassee Police Department and Florida State University), has the responsibilities for following up and possibly prosecuting serious crimes committed in six counties, with Tallahassee being the most populated. The Tallahassee Police Department, the Leon County Sheriff’s Office and State Attorney Willie Meggs’ Office seem to have a pattern of hindering cases from being investigated thoroughly and moving through the judicial system properly.
On Thursday, January 27, 2011, during the mid-morning hours, the Leon County Sheriff’s Office responded to a residence located within a mile of both Tallahassee Community College and the Leon County Sheriff’s Office. The residence was the crime scene of a double murder—the victims had been shot in the head two times each. The victims were twenty-year-old, Laqecia Herring and her 17-year-old brother, Sterling Conner Jr. Upon learning that Ms. Herring was five months pregnant and the father of Ms. Herring unborn baby was 17-year-old, DeShon Thomas, Leon County Sheriff’s Detectives began wickedly investigating him. Immediately, the Leon County Sheriff’s Office was aware that DeShon was a full-time freshman at Tallahassee Community College and an employee at a local fast-food restaurant. DeShon’s older brother was a senior at Florida State University.
According to the discovery report created by the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, within hours of Leon County Sheriff’s detectives having begun investigating the double murder, Leon County Sheriff’s detectives obtained a court order to have AT&T (DeShon’s cell phone provider) track DeShon’s cell phone via the GPS in his cell phone. Also, Leon County Sheriff’s detectives received DeShon’s cell phone records. After reviewing DeShon’s cell phone records, Leon County Sheriff’s detectives obtained a court order to have DeShon’s cell phone records Sealed. As for the GPS tracking, the Leon County Sheriff’s Office requested for AT&T to inform a Leon County Sheriff’s criminal analyst and a City of Tallahassee police officer of DeShon’s movements in fifteen minute intervals. Neither Tallahassee Community College Police Department nor Florida State University Police Department was informed in regards to DeShon.
The next day, on January 28, 2011, DeShon informed his mother about an incident that occurred off of campus with Leon County Sheriff detectives (he believed that he was being followed by the police–Leon County Sheriff’s detectives). Immediately, DeShon’s mother chose to take him to the Leon County Sheriff’s Office to find out why they were following him and to provide a statement. According to the discovery report created by the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, within an hour of DeShon and his mother arriving at the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, a Leon County criminal analyst contacted AT&T to request that they (AT&T) Discontinue GPS tracking DeShon’s cell phone. At the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, DeShon and his mother were met with racist vulgar and soon found themselves locked in an interview room—being held against their will. DeShon was not charged with the murders or anything in relation to the murders during that encounter with Leon County Sheriff’s detectives.
It’s a possibility that over the years, with the absence of a steady Chief of Police at the Tallahassee Police Department, individual police officers may have taken it upon themselves as to how to handle criminal investigations. It is obvious that the longevity of years that Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell has spent in local law enforcement (50+), in addition to his son, Jack Campbell, being an Assistant State Attorney—that their father/son relationship have allowed them to be comfortable with picking and choosing what other police agencies get informed about what student and what criminal investigation—which has proven to be hazardous for both the defendant and the victim—and the community.
Four days into the double murder investigation, DeShon was charged as an adult with Cultivation of Marijuana and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia (not double murder). And then four days later, while DeShon was in the Leon County Jail awaiting compliance with GPS home monitoring, DeShon was charged with Two Counts of 1st Degree Murder.
State Attorney Willie Meggs assigned Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell’s son as prosecutor. DeShon’s case process was plagued with corruption. Favorable evidence such as DeShon’s AT&T cell phone records and both victims’ autopsy reports were withheld from DeShon and public records. Nearly three years later—after having two Circuit Judges, four unethical attorneys (at different times including 1 private attorney), in addition to a slew of perjured testimonies—DeShon was convicted of Two Counts of 1st Degree Murder, Possession of a Firearm by a Juvenile Delinquent, and Solicitation to Commit 1st Degree Murder. None of the detectives or the key witness on the case was ever deposed.
The failure of the Leon County Sheriff’s Office to inform Tallahassee Community College and Florida State University about DeShon being a suspect in a double murder says one of two things. One, the Leon County Sheriff’s Office knew that DeShon wasn’t the murderer. Two, the longevity of Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell’s law enforcement roots in the community has given him and his detectives a sense that they can pick and choose what law enforcement agencies they want to wheel and deal with—regardless of their responsibility to work with all law enforcement agencies in order to protect the community—to “Protect College Kids”.
Sheriff Larry Campbell allowed his friend, Don Odham, to assume the position of a Leon County Sheriff’s detective, despite not being on the payroll or having the credentials to be a detective. This type of absurdity is a prime example of the ignorance and egos that hinders criminal cases from being processed through the judicial system properly. How many college kids are going to fall victim to law enforcement officials and State Attorney Willie Meggs—chuckling to the media about being clueless about crimes having been committed while kids are hurting?