UNDERCOVER STING LEADS TO ARREST OF POLK COUNTY MAN FOR SOLICITING A CHILD FOR SEX

downloadFor Immediate Release

December 1, 2017

WALTON COUNTY, Fla— A Polk County man is behind bars after soliciting sex with a minor following an undercover sting by the Walton County Sheriff’s Office Special Victims Unit.

The investigation began in October of 2017 when an investigator using a persona of a juvenile girl was contacted by Donald Grantland Morrow III of Lakeland, Florida. These chats consisted of Morrow saying he wanted to have sex with what he believed to be a 13-year-old girl.

During the course of these conversations Morrow described several sexual acts he wanted to perform and at one point said, “Its ok, I like how young you are.” Morrow also sent pictures of him naked and requested naked pictures of the girl. During the chats, he said also said he would be willing to drive to Walton County and rent a hotel room for them.

The Walton County Sheriff’s Office partnered with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office to locate and arrest Morrow. He is charged with using a computer to solicit a child, two counts of transmitting harmful material to a minor and using a two-way communication device to facilitate a felony.

The Walton County Sheriff’s Office is a member of the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and investigators coordinated with members of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, also an active member of the task force to put Morrow behind bars. Walton County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the Computer Crimes Unit at PCSO for their help in this case.

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ONE FOUND DEAD AFTER DAYS OLD FIRE DISCOVERED IN RURAL DEFUNIAK SPRINGS

DP5rj-eU8AA4MWyFor Immediate Release

November 30, 2017

DEFUNIAK SPRINGS, Fla— A house fire in rural DeFuniak Springs is discovered days after it claims the life of one victim.

Walton County Sheriff’s Deputies and Argyle Volunteer Fire Department responded to the call just after 10am at 3299 County Highway 183 S from a family friend who discovered the trailer had burned down. One was found deceased.

It was apparent from the lack of heat emitting from the structure the fire occurred days before. The location of the incident is down a long driveway isolated from the main road making it difficult to see, which may be why the fire was not initially reported.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office was notified and arrived on scene shortly after. At this time positive identification of the victim cannot be made until an autopsy by the Medical Examiner’s Office. More information will be released when it is available.

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JACOB LYON’S FAMILY MAKES TEARFUL PLEA FOR INFORMATION LEADING TO HIS WHEREABOUTS

close shot.jpgFor Immediate Release

November 29, 2017

DEFUNIAK SPRINGS, Fla— Every minute that passes is more painful for the family of Jacob Lyon.

Wednesday, his loved ones made a tearful plea for information leading to his whereabouts.

K9 teams from KlaasKids and investigators with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office and Niceville Police Department searched an area off U.S. 331 just south of County Highway 192 following a tip regarding the case.

“Jacob is just like anyone else’s son, brother, or cousin –we love him and want him home,” said Chemeo Thompson, a cousin of Lyon. “No one should be judged by the mistakes they’ve made in their life.”

Lyon, 19, was last seen in October of 2015. Niceville Police Department has been working the case for more than two years.

“I told him I loved him three times,” said James Lyon of the last time he saw his son.

In early November 2017, Walton County Sheriff’s Office received a tip regarding the possible whereabouts of a body in the search area and contacted Niceville Police Department. After further follow-up, Walton County Sheriff’s Office contacted KlaasKids for their assistance in a search of the area.

“Although nothing was found today of evidentiary value we are not giving up,” said Sheriff Michael Adkinson. “We will continue to offer our help and resources to the family and to Niceville PD investigators.”

Jacob is 5’8″ tall, weighing approximately 135 pounds and has a scar on his chin. He was last seen wearing a white t-shirt and shorts.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Walton County Sheriff’s Office at (850)-892-8111, Niceville Police Department at (850)-279-6436, or you can remain anonymous by calling Emerald Coast Crime Stoppers at (850) 863-TIPS submit a web tip at http://www.emeraldcoastcrimestoppers.com/ OR send a mobile tip using the P3 Tips Mobile Application.

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WHILE YOU’RE AWAY FOR THE HOLIDAY…

When you're away...Did you know that you can request home security checks while you’re away for the holidays? Walton County Sheriff’s Office highly encourages those who have plans to travel to call our non-emergency line and request a deputy check your property while you’re gone.

You will need to provide the following information:
If lights will be left on during your absence.
Any vehicles that will be left at the residence.
Authorized visitors for animal care, etc.
An emergency contact name and number.

This service is provided up to a two-week period. Residents can contact our amazing dispatchers at (850)-892-8111 to sign up!

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ONE ARRESTED FOLLOWING SHOOTING ON WINDFLOWER DRIVE

1CY0B27NFor Immediate Release

November 27, 2017

DeFuniak Springs, Fla— A suspect has been arrested following a suspicious shooting on Windflower Drive.

On November 22nd around 9pm Walton County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call from a victim who said he had been shot multiple times. The victim, later identified as Bryant Pitts, 47, was shot once through the back of the shoulder and once in the back of the thigh.

Upon further investigation it was discovered he had been shot by 22-year-old Assan Rogers. Rogers told investigators he was sitting in a vehicle in his front yard when he saw a white sedan drive past the house and turn around, parking on the right of way west of his property.  He said a black male positively identified as Pitts got out and walked onto Rogers’ property.  Rogers said he recognized Pitts from around town, but did not personally know him and did not invite him to his residence.

Rogers’ got out of his vehicle closing the door, when Pitts heard the car door he stopped.  Rogers walked onto his front porch and Pitts followed. Rogers reached inside the door of the home and retrieved a .22 rifle and a loaded magazine.  Rogers loaded the magazine while on the porch and asked Pitts what he was doing on his property.

As Pitts turned around and began to walk away Rogers began firing the rifle towards Pitts, but said he believed he was hitting the ground around him.  Rogers followed and moved to the middle of his yard and stated that he again fired the rifle towards the ground.  Approximately 21 rounds were fired in all and three bullet holes were located in items around the property. Pitts left the area in his vehicle and called 911 from Highway 90.

Rogers was arrested on November 23rd for aggravated battery and has since made bond. Additional charges are pending. This incident is still under investigation.

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SECOND SUSPECT ARRESTED IN CONNECTION WITH OCTOBER AMBER ALERT

HardingFor Immediate Release

November 21, 2017

DEFUNIAK SPRINGS, Fla—A second suspect has been arrested in connection with the October Amber Alert out of Walton County.

On October 28th  Joseph Harding, 35, and Paul Lewis Vaughan, 39, entered a home on Otter Pond Road taking Rebecca Harding, 33, and Gracie Harding, 2, by force using brass knuckles, a pool stick, and other weapons. The two men then fled the scene with the victims in a red Ford mustang.

Multiple agencies responded to help aid in the search including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Holmes, Geneva, Jackson, and Bay County Sheriff’s Offices.

Rebecca and Gracie were located a several hours later in Samson, Alabama unharmed.

Vaughan was booked into the Walton County Jail on November 15th where he is being held on a $50,000 bond. Harding was arrested in Holmes County Monday evening and is currently being held on aggravated assault charges out of Walton County. He is awaiting extradition. More charges are forthcoming.

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FIFTEEN CAR BURGLARIES OVER THE WEEKEND; ONE WEAPON STOLEN

HIDE LOCK TAKE UPDATED.pngFor Immediate Release

November 20, 2017

SANTA ROSA BEACH, Fla— Fifteen car burglaries were reported over the weekend in the south end of Walton County— all vehicles were left unlocked and one firearm was stolen.

The car burglaries occurred between Saturday night to early Monday morning. Eight of the 15 burglaries happened on Red Fish Circle in Blue Mountain Beach, three occurred on Hackberry Way.

Walton County Sheriff’s Office is asking for the public’s help in remembering to lock their doors and be diligent in reporting suspicious activity in your neighborhoods.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Walton County Sheriff’s Office at (850)-892-8111 or you can remain anonymous by calling Emerald Coast Crime Stoppers at (850) 863-TIPS submit a web tip at http://www.emeraldcoastcrimestoppers.com/ OR send a mobile tip using the P3 Tips Mobile Application.

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ONE SUSPECT ARRESTED; ONE STILL WANTED IN CONNECTION WITH OCTOBER AMBER ALERT

SUSPECT

Paul Lewis Vaughan

For Immediate Release

November 17, 2017

WALTON COUNTY, Fla— An arrest has been made in connection with an Amber Alert issued out of Walton County in October.

Paul Lewis Vaughan, 39, is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon following an investigation into the incident on October 28th where he and Joseph Harding, 35, entered a home on Otter Pond Road taking Rebecca Harding, 33, and Gracie Harding, 2, by force using brass knuckles, a pool stick, and other weapons. The two men then fled the scene with the victims in a red ford mustang.

SUSPECT 2

Joseph Harding

Multiple agencies responded to help aid in the search including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Holmes, Geneva, Jackson, and Bay County Sheriff’s Offices.

Rebecca and Gracie were located a several hours later in Samson, Alabama unharmed.

Vaughan was booked into the Walton County Jail on November 15th where he is being held on a $50,000 bond. Harding currently has active warrants and remains at large.

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WALTON COUNTY DUMP TRUCK DRIVER ARRESTED FOR OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT

Brian Walters Mug ShotFor Immediate Release

November 17, 2017

WALTON COUNTY, Fla— A Walton County Public Works employee is arrested after stealing asphalt and falsifying activity logs while working as a dump truck driver.

In early November, a report was filed with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office by a county employee regarding the misconduct of Brian James Walters, 37. The report claimed Walters was telling co-workers he had stolen asphalt to use on his personal driveway.

An investigation was launched into the complaint. Documents obtained showed that on two separate occasions Walters submitted an official Activity Log for a FEMA Rain Event in which he stated that three loads of milled asphalt had been picked up from Anderson Columbia and delivered to the Walton County Yard on McKinnon Bridge Road. These loads are acquired by the county through a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and according to the Public Works Department of Walton County; the price the county pays for each load of milled asphalt is $150.00.

It was later discovered, once Walters realized he was being investigated he asked an Anderson Columbia employee over text message to create a receipt for two loads of asphalt to provide to investigators to show he had purchased the asphalt.

“Walters used his position as a government employee with Walton County Public Works to steal materials meant for county use, and instead used them for his own gain,” said Sheriff Michael Adkinson.

Walters was arrested and charged with Official Misconduct and Petit Theft for knowingly falsifying an official record in which he turned in an activity log that was incorrect and stole two loads of asphalt.

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WALTON COUNTY HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR ARRESTED FOR INSURANCE FRAUD

Walton County, Fla—The Human Resources Director for Walton County is arrested for insurance fraud following an investigation by Walton County Sheriff’s Office and Florida Department of Financial Services Bureau of Insurance Fraud.

On October 17th WCSO was notified of potential insurance fraud involving an employee within the Walton County Human Resources department. An investigation was launched and discrepancies were found in the insurance file of Human Resources Director, Ella Mae Walters, 48.

Documents collected during the investigation indicated Walters’ insurance coverage for United Concordia Dental listed a dependent, Christopher C. Byrd. Based on the date of birth of Byrd and additional documents provided, Byrd did not qualify as a dependent for Walters.

With the assistance of the Florida Department of Financial Services Bureau of Insurance Fraud a review of Walters’ United Concordia policy, and claims filed under that policy, was completed. A total of three claims were filed pertaining to treatment for Byrd .

During the investigation, it was learned Byrd was employed by Walton County Board of County Commissioners as a courier from December 2014 to October 2015. However, during his tenure with Walton County he never elected, added, or chose to enroll in dental insurance of any kind.

“As the Human Resources Director for our county Ella Mae Walters has extensive knowledge of employment benefits and has direct ability to approve and oversee all changes to insurance,” said Sheriff Michael Adkinson. “In saying that, Mrs. Walters knowingly and intentionally obtained a benefit for Christopher Byrd by falsifying an official record or official document. In discussions with County Administration, it was clear that they shared our concerns and cooperated fully with the investigation.”

According to the Walton County Administrator Larry Jones, Walters will be placed on administrative leave until an internal review can be completed. “Once we became aware of these allegations, it was imperative that the Sheriff’s office be allowed to conduct their investigation with no influence or interference from County staff. Now that the charges have been filed, we will place Walters on administrative leave and perform an internal review to determine the most appropriate course of action,” Jones said.

Ella Mae Walters turned herself in in Okaloosa County this morning and is charged with official misconduct, false and fraudulent insurance claims, and falsifying records. This investigation is ongoing and additional charges may be forthcoming.

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