Central Florida
Victims of the State

24 Cases

County:    Brevard   Charlotte   DeSoto
Highlands   Hillsborough   Pinellas   Polk

 Brevard County, FL

William Dillon

Aug 17, 1981

William Dillon was convicted of the murder of James Dvorak. Dvorak was found murdered at Canova Beach. He had been beaten to death and left in a wooded area, an apparent homosexual meeting place near the beach. A motorist, John Parker, had picked up a hitchhiker near the scene of the crime and drove him to a tavern three miles away. Along the way, Parker stopped his truck and performed oral sex on the hitchhiker. After dropping off the hitchhiker, Parker found that his passenger had left behind a bloody yellow T-shirt which he disposed of in a trash can near a grocery store. After he saw a news story about the murder, he called police, and police recovered the T-shirt.
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 Brevard County, FL

Wilton Dedge

Dec 8, 1981 (Sharpes)

Wilton Dedge was convicted of raping a 17-year-old girl and sentenced to life plus 30 years. The victim identified Dedge in court, but she originally told police that her assailant was 6 feet tall, weighed 200 lbs. and had a receding hairline. Dedge is 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighed 125 lbs., and still has a full head of hair. In addition, a prison informant testified that Dedge had confessed to the crime. In exchange for his testimony, the informant got a 120-year reduction in his sentence and his wife got a truck that was confiscated by the state. The conviction was also based on microscopic hair analysis, and scent identification by a dog that performed a scent lineup. Six defense witnesses testified that Dedge, an auto mechanic, was working at a garage nearly 45 minutes away at the time of the crime. DNA tests exonerated Dedge in 2004. In Dec. 2005, the Florida legislature awarded Dedge $2 million for 22 years of wrongful imprisonment.  (IP) (JD)  [10/05]

Brevard County, FL 

Juan Ramos

Apr 23, 1982 (Cocoa)

Juan Florencio Ramos was convicted and sentenced to death for the rape and murder of 27-year-old Mary Sue Cobb. A bloodhound, which had been given the opportunity to smell Ramos's scent, was put into a room with five knives and five blouses. The dog stopped at the knife and blouse that had been involved in the crime. Later it was learned that only the knife and blouse involved in the crime had blood on them, proving only that the bloodhound was drawn to blood. In addition, five days after the initial identification, the dog failed to replicate the identification. The prosecution also presented a jailhouse informant who for his testimony was allowed to serve two years on a conviction for which he faced up to 70 years. The Florida Supreme Court overturned Ramos's conviction after ruling that the bloodhound evidence was thoroughly unreliable. On retrial, Ramos was acquitted of all charges.  (PC) (FLCC)  [7/05]

 Brevard County, FL

Crosley Green

Apr 3, 1989

Crosley Green was sentenced to death for the murder of Chip Flynn that occurred in an orange grove. Five private detectives who believe in his innocence have banded together and gotten four witnesses to recant. They also uncovered new physical evidence.  (CBS) (JD) (07) (08)  [3/05]

Charlotte County, FL 

Bradley Scott

Oct 12, 1978

Ten years after the crime, Bradley P. Scott was convicted of the murder of Linda Pikuritz, 12, and sentenced to death. In the immediate aftermath of the murder, the police ruled out Scott as a suspect because he had a sound alibi. He was with his girlfriend shopping at the Sarasota Mall some 50 miles away at the time. Seven years later, a new sheriff reopened the investigation and found some witnesses to testify that they saw Scott in the area of the convenience store from which the victim had been abducted. Some of these witnesses knew Scott but had never before claimed to have seen him there that day.

Scott's girlfriend at the time of the murder was now his ex-wife and she testified that she had no memory of whether Scott was with her that day. Evidence police developed to confirm Scott's alibi was now mysteriously missing from their files. The prosecution argued that a dove shell found in Scott's car was similar to a shell on the victim's necklace and that a hair found in his car was compatible to the victim's hair. Because of such evidence, Scott was convicted in 1988.

On appeal, the Florida Supreme Court overturned his conviction for insufficient evidence and ordered his acquittal. It ruled, “Suspicions cannot be the basis for a criminal conviction.” Scott was released in 1991.  (PC) (CWC) (FLCC)  [7/05]

 Charlotte County, FL

Daniel Conahan, Jr.


Daniel Owen Conahan, Jr. was accused of killing six people and convicted of killing one. He maintains his innocence.  (Info)  [5/05]

DeSoto County, FL 

James Richardson

Oct 25, 1967 (Arcadia)

James Joseph Richardson, a farm worker, was convicted of murdering his oldest child after all seven of his children were poisoned with the pesticide parathion. The children, six daughters and a son, ranged in age from 2 to 8. Richardson was believed to have murdered all seven, but for strategic reasons was only tried for the murder of one. If he had been acquitted, he could have been tried successively for murders of each of the others, giving the prosecution seven chances of a conviction. Richardson was sentenced to death.
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 Highlands County, FL

Billy Kelley

Oct 3, 1966 (Sebring)

Billy Kelley was convicted of the murder of Charles Von Maxcy and is awaiting execution. In 1967, a jury convicted Boston mobster John Sweet, the secret lover of Maxcy's wife, Irene, for the murder after Irene testified against him. However, Sweet was released from prison a year later after Irene admitted having an affair with the lead detective in the case.

By 1981, Sweet was facing a hefty prison time for running theft and fraud rings in Massachusetts. To save himself, he offered to name the hit men in the Von Maxcy murder in exchange for immunity. One was dead; the other, he said, was Kelley. At Kelley's second trial – the first ended in mistrial – the prosecutor falsely informed the jury that Sweet had nothing to gain by his testimony. In 2002, a U.S. district court overturned Kelley's conviction. Kelley could not be retried because Sweet had died in 1989. However, a U.S. circuit court reinstated the conviction. A petition to overturn the circuit court's ruling was sent to the U.S. Supreme Court in March 2005.  (Miami Herald) (Boston Globe) (Oranous) (90) (92) (9/02) (12/02) (04) (07) (09)  [7/05]

 Hillsborough County, FL

Joseph Green Brown

July 7, 1973

Joseph Green Brown, also known as Shabaka Waglimi, was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder, rape, and robbery of Earlene Barksdale. Barksdale was the owner of a Tampa clothing store and the wife of a prominent lawyer. The prosecution told the jury that a handgun Brown had turned over to police at the time of his arrest had been used in the crime, but FBI ballistics tests had eliminated that possibility. Ronald Floyd, a man who held a grudge against Brown, testified against him. Brown had previously turned Floyd in to the police on an unrelated crime. At trial, Floyd emphatically denied that there was any deal for his testimony and the prosecution repeatedly emphasized to the jury that Floyd had no deal. Several months after trial, Floyd admitted that he had lied at trial, and that he had testified in return for not being prosecuted himself for the murder, and for a light sentence on another crime. State courts granted no relief to Brown, but the federal Eleventh Circuit Court ultimately vacated his conviction. Brown was released in 1987.  (CWC) (PC) (FLCC) (ISI)  [7/05]

 Hillsborough County, FL

Alan Crotzer

July 8, 1981 (Tampa)

Alan Crotzer and his alleged accomplices were convicted of robbing a Tampa family at gunpoint and of kidnapping and raping a 38-year-old woman and her 12-year-old daughter. A victim picked Crotzer out of a photo lineup. An alleged accomplice said Crotzer was innocent. In 2006, after 24 years of imprisonment, Crotzer was freed. DNA tests showed he was innocent.  (AP News) (IP) (JD)  [9/06]

 Hillsborough County, FL

John Jackson

Dec 19, 1983 (Plant City)

John William Jackson was convicted of the murder of Marie Porter. At about 4:30 a.m. an assailant raped and stabbed Porter in her house trailer on Drawdy Road in Plant City, FL. The victim went to a neighbor for help and told him that “an orange picker, Michigan tag” had done it. She died shortly thereafter. An autopsy revealed a bruise on her right wrist which was determined to be a bite mark.
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 Hillsborough County, FL

Rudolph Holton

June 23, 1986

Rudolph Holton was convicted of murdering Katrina Graddy and sentenced to death. The prosecution withheld evidence that (1) the victim had identified another man as having raped her 10 days before the murder, (2) hair belonging to the victim was incorrectly identified by an FBI crime lab technician as possibly belonging to Holton, and (3) a jailhouse snitch had lied about a statement Holton allegedly made to him. In upholding the reversal of Holton's conviction, Florida Supreme Court Justice Pariente said Holton's case was one of the strongest she had ever seen for a convicted person's innocence. Holton was cleared in 2003.  (FLCDP) (Oranous) (FLCC)  [7/05]

 Hillsborough County, FL

Michael Mordenti

June 7, 1989 (Odessa)

Michael Mordenti was convicted of murdering 54-year-old, Thelma Royston, because of the word of one witness – his ex-wife. Mordenti was sentenced to death.  (SP Times)  [12/05]

 Hillsborough County, FL

Joaquin Jose Martinez

Oct 30, 1995

Joaquin Jose Martinez was convicted of the shooting death of Douglas Lawson and the stabbing death of Sherrie McCoy-Ward. The pair were found in their home on Oct. 31, 1995 and it was determined that they died sometime between Oct. 27 and Oct. 30. Martinez was sentenced to death. In 2000, his conviction was overturned because during Martinez's trial Detective Conigliaro improperly gave his opinion about the guilt of Martinez, saying, “There was no doubt that he did it.” The prosecution did not seek the death penalty at retrial because key prosecution witnesses had changed their stories and recanted their testimony. An audiotape of alleged incriminating statements by Martinez, which was used at the first trial, was ruled inadmissible at the retrial because it was inaudible. The new jury, however, heard evidence that the transcript of the inaudible tape had been prepared by the victim's father, who was the manager of the sheriff's office evidence room at the time of the murder. Both the Pope and the King of Spain had tried to intervene on behalf of Martinez, who is a Spanish national. Martinez was acquitted in 2001.  (FLCC)  [12/06]

 Hillsborough County, FL

Mitchell James

Nov 29, 1999

Mitchell Houston James was sentenced to life imprisonment for three counts of DUI manslaughter. At 1:15 a.m. on Nov 29, 1999, James was driving westbound on Fletcher Ave. in Tampa, FL. As he approaching the intersection of Bruce B. Downs Blvd, he noticed a single signal fly towards him and he slammed on his brakes. A car, with headlights off, ran a red light, at least 20 to 30 seconds after it changed red, and James collided with it in the intersection. The car was occupied by four college students, high under the influence of narcotics. The driver, Leanna D.,19 , had only been licensed for two months and was speeding without wearing her prescribed lenses. The driver and another student, Majid T., died instantly while a third, Jaclyn A., died in a hospital. Majid's aunt, Tami Sbar, was a Florida State Attorney. The fourth student, David S., 20, survived and, according to the Tampa Tribune, had told his mother, he was the only one wearing a seat belt. However, a sheriff's report stated that all four occupants were wearing seat belts.

At the scene, James was questioned about the accident on videotape and it was evident that he was sober, communicating and responding to all questions while suffering from a crushed pelvis. At trial it was claimed that tests revealed he had a .234 to .237 alcohol level in his blood, which is nearly three times the legal limit under a .08 standard. James' alleged blood sample had been improperly stored and was destroyed by the state 5 days after the accident, preventing it from being tested for his DNA. Deputy Candace Fishel, the lead investigator, did a faulty accident reconstruction. She held no degree in physics, and was not an expert in the field of accident reconstruction. Fishel allowed both vehicles to be destroyed long before James' trial. James says, “I am not guilty of DUI manslaughter, because I was not drunk or impaired at the time of the accident, nor was I at fault.”  (IIPPI)

Pinellas County, FL 

Milo Rose

Oct 16, 1982

Milo Rose was sentenced to death for the murder of 28-year-old Robert “Butch” Richardson. The crime occurred in a vacant lot in downtown Clearwater. The prosecution withheld evidence that its key witness against Rose was the actual murderer.  (Info) (85) (93) (00)

 Pinellas County, FL

George Lewis

May 23, 1984 (Gulfport)

George Allen Lewis was convicted of the rape and murder of a 36-year-old neighbor, Karen Gregory. Gregory lived at the corner of 27 Ave. and Upton St. in Gulfport, FL. Around 1 a.m. on May 23, 1984, more than a dozen of Gregory's neighbors heard a loud piercing scream. Most paid little attention, but on the morning of the 24th, Gregory was found raped and brutally murdered. When interviewed later, Lewis said that upon hearing the scream he walked towards Gregory's house to investigate, but turned around after he failed to see anything suspicious. Lewis was a firefighter and a neighborhood crime watch volunteer. He had a crime watch sign in his yard. Lewis had a sterling reputation and was friends with the case investigator, Detective Larry Tosi.
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Pinellas County, FL 

Tom Sawyer

Nov 3, 1986 (Clearwater)

Tom Franklin Sawyer, 33, confessed to the rape and murder of his 25-year-old neighbor, Janet L. Staschak, after 16 hours of interrogation by Clearwater police. The interrogation included numerous threats. No evidence linked Sawyer to the crime, and his confession did not match known crime facts. For example, presuming that Staschak had been sexually assaulted, the interrogators led Sawyer to admit to both vaginal and anal rape during the creation of his confession but the medical examiner reported no evidence of sexual assault. After the trial judge suppressed Sawyer's confession, the state dismissed the charges, since no other evidence of his guilt existed.  (3/89) (1/90) (11/90)  [9/05]

 Pinellas County, FL

Raymond Baugh

Jan 13, 2002

Raymond Andrew Baugh was convicted in 2002 of the capital sexual battery of a 7-year-old girl, identified as C. P.  Baugh lived with Rachel, the girl's mother.  C. P. said he molested her behind a locked bedroom door. She subsequently told investigators that Baugh had molested her 12 previous times. There was no physical evidence supporting the molestation. A month later, C. P. told her mother that she had lied. She said she was mad at Baugh and wanted to get him in trouble, but not too much trouble. She claimed she initially maintained her story about Baugh because she was afraid of what her mother might do if she found out that she, C. P., had lied. At trial, C. P. testified there was never any molestation. However, the prosecution presented the girl's previous statements that she had given. Baugh was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. The 2nd District Court of Appeal subsequently upheld Baugh's conviction, based on prosecution claims that the girl's original accusation was more believable than her recantation. However, in 2007 the Florida Supreme Court quashed Baugh's conviction on the grounds that such claims were simply inadequate to support a conviction.  (SP Times) (03) (07)  [10/08]

 Polk County, FL

Anthony Ray Peek

May 22, 1977

Anthony Ray Peek was convicted of raping and murdering Erna Carlson, a 65-year-old nurse, in her Winter Haven home. He was sentenced to death. The prosecution presented evidence that Peek's fingerprints were on the victim's car, and his hair, semen, and blood were generally consistent with the evidence found at the crime scene. Peek admitted ransacking the glove compartment of the victim's car after it was abandoned, but denied any knowledge of, or involvement in, the crimes committed upon the victim. It was later shown that the prosecution's expert witness had lied about test results and that the hair found at the scene did not match Peek's hair. Upon a second retrial, Peek was acquitted of all charges and released in 1987.  (FLCC)  [7/05]

Polk County, FL 

Jeffrey Streeter

Apr 1980

Jeffrey Streeter was convicted of a crime for which he was never arrested. Streeter went to the local courthouse in Bartow, FL on July 15, 1980 to pick up his brother who was due to be sentenced to probation on a robbery charge. Also at the courthouse was an attorney named Warren Dawson. Dawson represented defendant Lee Marvin Anderson who was being tried that day on misdemeanor charges of assault, battery, and resisting arrest without violence. Dawson did not believe that witnesses against Anderson had any independent recollection of who Anderson was. To prove his point, Dawson asked Streeter to do him a favor and to sit at the defendant's table during the trial where the defendant usually sits. Streeter agreed and sat in the defendant's chair. Anderson, the defendant, meanwhile sat in the spectator's section of the courtroom.

After the non-jury bench trial began, three prosecution witnesses identified 19-year-old Streeter as the person who committed Anderson's alleged offenses. According to the testimony, the assailant was angry that Francis Garell's car was parked too close to his and knocked Garrell down. Streeter subsequently testified he was not Lee Marvin Anderson. He even showed the judge his driver's license. Dawson told the judge that Streeter was not the defendant, and called the real defendant, Anderson, to the front of the courtroom and Anderson identified himself. According to Dawson, the judge would not even listen, he would not even hear from Anderson.

The judge, Edward Threadgill, Jr., dismissed the assault and resisting arrest charges against Streeter because the presented testimony did not support them. However, he convicted Streeter of battery and sent him to jail. Streeter was subsequently released from custody after spending 18 hours in jail. His conviction was dismissed two weeks later.

Streeter and Anderson were both black. In regard to his incorrect identification, Garrell, 67, said that there were few blacks in Johnstown, PA where he worked before retiring to Florida. “Since he was sitting at the defense table, I just assumed that was the man. So did everyone else. If they had the real man up there I couldn't be certain I could identify him. It happened three months ago and it was getting dusk.”  (Newspaper Accounts)  [12/08]

 Polk County, FL

Juan Roberto Melendez

Sept 13, 1983 (Auburndale)

Juan Roberto Melendez was convicted of the robbery and murder of Delbert Baker, the owner of a beauty salon. He was sentenced to death. The jury foreman lied during voir dire, hiding the fact that both he and his wife knew the victim. In an interview, the foreman said he convinced the last holdout juror to convict by using a picture of Melendez and saying that “someone with that haircut had to have committed the crime.” Melendez's conviction was overturned in 2001 because the state failed to disclose that another man, Vernon James, confessed to the crime. Melendez was released in 2002 after the state decided to drop charges.  (www.oranous.com) (FLCC)  [12/06]

 Polk County, FL

Rodney Horstman

May 19, 1985 (Lakeland)

“Rodney Horstman was wrongly convicted of second-degree murder in [a] May 1985 rape and murder in Florida based on an FBI crime lab technician's testimony that there was [an] ‘almost non-existent’ probability that a pubic hair found on the victim did not originate from Horstman. He was sentenced to 17 years in prison. In 1988 the Florida Court of Appeal overturned his conviction based on insufficiency of the evidence, because a conviction cannot be based on expert hair analysis testimony, since ‘it is not 100% reliable.’” – FJDB  (Horstman v. State)

 Polk County, FL

Andrew Golden

Sept 13, 1989

Andrew Golden was convicted and sentenced to death for the drowning murder of his wife, Ardelle. Golden's rented car was found submerged in Lake Hartridge at the end of a boat ramp. The body of his wife was found floating in the lake. Although the medical examiner had concluded that there was no evidence of foul play, the prosecution argued that Golden was in debt and stood to collect on a life insurance policy if his wife were to die. There was no eyewitness testimony, no confession, and no other evidence tending to show that Golden's wife had been murdered by anyone. Golden's lawyer did little to prepare for trial, having assumed that the case would be thrown out before trial. He did not argue that Ardelle may have committed suicide, having been depressed over the recent death of her father. He did not tell the jury about the four death notices of her father that Ardelle had with her in the car. On appeal, the Florida Supreme Court reversed the conviction, holding that there was simply no evidence on which to base the conviction. Golden was exonerated of all charges and released in 1994.  (FLCC) (DPIC) (Golden v. State)  [12/06]