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Walton County , Fla— More than 500 children in our community are in need this holiday season. With Christmas right around the corner the Walton County Sheriff’s Office and the DeFuniak Springs Fire Department are proud to partner with Matrix Community Outreach Center for “Community Christmas” Santa Patrol.

WCSO is asking anyone who is willing to participate to purchase random gifts at your leisure and simply drop them off. We are in need of gifts from ages 0 – 15 in their original packages. Montary donations can also be made.  Our community volunteers will help to make sure that your gift is given to an appropriate aged child.

Drop-off locations include:

Aaron’s Hardware, DeFuniak Springs

Army Aviation Center Federal Credit Union, Santa Rosa Beach 

DeFuniak Springs Fire Department

Matrix Community Outreach Center

Trustmark Bank, DeFuniak Springs

Triangle Chevrolet, DeFuniak Springs

Walton County Sheriff’s Office        


            DeFuniak Springs, Santa Rosa Beach, Freeport Substations 

A DeFuniak Springs man is lured to a home and then held at gunpoint while he’s robbed of his motorcycle. Now, the man behind the robbery is behind bars.

The incident occurred on November 17th on Martin Road just before midnight when Travis Kyle Hoose, 29, used a woman’s cell phone to send Facebook messages to the victim and made plans for him to come over and take her on a motorcycle ride. But, when the victim arrived Hoose confronted him by pointing a handgun at the victim, holding it to the back of his head, and told him to get on his knees.

A struggle ensued between the two men and the victim was able to slip away after Hoose hit him with the weapon in the back of the head. The victim was able to escape and call Walton County Sheriff’s Deputies who arrested Hoose after finding him hiding inside a closet in the home.

“Hoose is no stranger to the judicial system,” said Sheriff Michael Adkinson. “I’m glad – in this case— no one was badly hurt or worse.”

Travis Hoose was charged with robbery with a firearm, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, and grand theft auto. He was transported and booked into the Walton County Jail.

Santa Rosa Beach, Fla — A car driving without a tag light at 2 o’clock in the morning leads to an arrest for drugs and an illegally concealed firearm.

On November 15th at approximately 1:57 a.m. a Walton County Sheriff’s Deputy observed a vehicle traveling west on County Highway 30A without a tag light. A traffic stop was initiated near County Highway 30A and Cassine Way, but the vehicle turned into Cassine Gardens.

The driver of the vehicle, Blake Niesielowski, 25, became very nervous as he began fumbling for words and breathing very heavily when talking to the deputy. He was shaking and his legs were also quivering. According to the deputy a strong smell of marijuana was coming from inside the vehicle. When asked if there were any weapons or illegal narcotics in the vehicle Niesielowski initially denied, but eventually admitted to having marijuana in the vehicle.

Additional deputies arrived and a while searching the vehicle discovered a cellophane package containing methamphetamine and seven grams of marijuana in the center console. A handgun was also located under the driver’s seat of the vehicle. When asked by deputies about the gun Niesielowski answered, “I don’t know how the gun got there.”

Deputies seized the illegal substances, a pack of rolling papers, and the 9mm Smith and Wesson handgun. All were logged into evidence.

“This is what makes our jobs dangerous,” said Sheriff Michael Adkinson. “Drug users – meth addicts – with guns. They are a huge threat to our deputies and the public.”

Niesielowski was arrested and charged for possession of controlled substance, possession of a concealed firearm without a permit, and possession of marijuana under 20 grams. He was transported and booked into the Walton County Jail.

Santa Rosa Beach, Fla— A Walton County teenager is arrested for threatening to bomb his own place of residence after WCSO Deputies uncover the plot happening inside the home on Loblolly Bay Drive in Santa Rosa.

Landon Lawrence, 18, was arrested this week following an investigation into a bomb threat the morning of October 13th on Loblolly Bay Drive. The home’s owner stated her son was receiving threatening text messages while at school; one of which stated there was a bomb inside the house. She told WCSO she believed someone had been in the home, because her son received a text saying the person had taken an item from inside and that item was missing.

Deputies evacuated all other houses on Loblolly Bay from Red Bay court to Harbor Mist drive and the Bay County Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad was notified and responded to the scene as well as South Walton Fire Rescue.

Since that day multiple text messages were sent from an unknown phone number to the home’s residents. In these text messages was specific information unique to the residence as well as unique to all the parties receiving the messages. At times “play by play” information was provided and certain details about sleeping arrangements and other activities that, according to both adults in the home, no one outside of the residence would know or be able to have knowledge about. That led investigators to Landon Lawrence, a nephew of the home’s owner.

Lawrence admitted to WCSO Investigators, post Miranda, to sending the text message to one of the resident’s phones stating his house would go “boom” as well as creating multiple “Pinger” accounts with no legitimate purpose other than to send all the messages from unknown numbers.

“A lot of resources were used during this incident,” said Sheriff Michael Adkinson. “We treat every threat as legitimate. This man wasted the time of multiple agencies while causing unneeded panic to the neighborhood.”

He was subsequently arrested and charged with Cyberstalking and Making a False Report of a Bomb Threat (Violation of Florida Statute 790.163).



For Immediate Release

November 5, 2015

DeFuniak Springs, Fla— The results of a long, tireless investigation into illegal drug activity in Walton County are coming to fruition. State Attorney Bill Eddins announced Thursday the cases involving the subjects arrested in Operation Avalanche are substantially completed thanks to the hard work of the Walton County Sheriff’s Office and 1st Judicial Circuit.

In July of 2014 both agencies uncovered a drug operation, which included the manufacturing and sale of methamphetamine and pharmaceutical medications. Operation Avalanche resulted in the arrest of several dozen persons associated with the criminal enterprise, searches of several houses, and seizure of drugs, paraphernalia and other contraband. Walton County Sheriff’s Office put in hours upon hours of manpower to help ensure the investigation would carry out the means necessary for the 1st Judicial Circuit to put those arrested behind bars.

The principal of the multi-tier organization, Charles Alford, plead guilty to racketeering and continuing criminal enterprise charges and was sentenced to 10 years in a state prison, followed by 10 years of probation.  Alford’s prior attorney, former assistant public defender, Leonard Platteborze plead no contest to a racketeering charge and will be sentenced to 7 years in a state prison, followed by a period of probation.  Another participant, Erica Nowling plead no contest to racketeering charges and will be sentenced to no less than three years and not more than seven years in a state prison, followed by a period of probation. 

“Two years after the start of this investigation we are seeing the reward of some very hard work,” said Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson. “The citizens of our county should be proud of our law enforcement and our judicial system.”


The sentencing hearings for Mr. Platteborze, Ms. Nowling, and the remaining defendants are scheduled in the next several weeks.



“The illicit manufacture and sale of methamphetamine poses serious risks to public safety, health, and welfare and is a serious problem for law enforcement,” said State Attorney Bill Eddins. “But thanks to the efforts of Sheriff Adkinson and his deputies, this illicit enterprise has been eliminated.” 

Santa Rosa Beach, Fla— An elderly United States Marine Corps veteran, George Bartlett Ruden Jr. , went on an “unexpected adventure” Wednesday morning and now two Walton County residents are to thank for his rescue.  

The 87-year-old man got turned around while driving in the rain in the area of Bay Circle Drive in Santa Rosa Beach and found himself driving off the end of a boat ramp and into the channel leading out to the Choctawhatchee Bay.

Frank Davis and one of his neighbors, Jason Timberlake, who live on West Hewett Drive noticed the car quickly submerging into the water.

“I looked over at Jason and said ‘Come look at this,’” said Davis. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Both men quickly jumped in the water and waded over to the vehicle.

“He was calm for the most part,” said Davis of Ruden during the incident. “Until the water started coming up to his chest, then you could see he started to get nervous.”

The two men were able to get the door to the car open once the engine turned off and brought the man to Davis’s home. The men quickly covered Ruden with towels and called WCSO.

“It was just one of those things that was meant to be,” said Davis. “We normally would never be home at that time.”

Ruden’s family members were notified and his son came to the home on West Hewett and thanks, handshakes, and smiles were exchanged. South Walton Fire District EMT’s went to the man’s home and brought him a dry change of clothes.

“We have some of the best citizens around,” said Sheriff Michael Adkinson. “Thank God for happy endings and their quick thinking.”

Florida Highway Patrol worked the crash and a towing service was brought in to remove the vehicle from the water.



The Walton County Sheriff’s Office Vice/Narcotics Unit, with the assistance from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), and the State Attorney’s Office, conducted a sting operation targeting active prostitution rings in South Walton, resulting in seven arrests. Those arrests include two sisters who were unaware of each other’s activities.

The Operation began after receiving multiple complaints from citizen’s stating they believed prostitutes had moved into their neighborhoods and were actively using various websites to advertise their business. Based on these complaints, the Vice/Narcotics Unit began an operation aimed at women posting solicitation advertisements on various websites. On Thursday, October 22nd the operation was put into action and began at an undisclosed location in South Walton.

The operation revolved around the use of an undercover officer contacting females through Internet advertisements. During this contact, the women agreed to meet at a hotel room on Scenic Gulf Drive. Once the women arrived they offered sex or sex acts for money. All parties charged during this operation were found with illegal narcotics on their persons including needles used for methamphetamine. All were charged additionally with those violations. One male subject who provided transportation for a female was also arrested on drug related charges.

Arrests from Operation South Beach include:


·         Molly McCarty, 39, Prostitution, Cocaine possession, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

·         Sara Scruggs, 27, Prostitution, Cocaine possession, possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, marijuana possession, possession of drug paraphernalia.

·         Shoshannah Diaz, 30, Prostitution, Possession of a Controlled Substance without a prescription, two counts of selling methamphetamine, two out-of-county warrants.

·         Yohannah Dwyer, (Sister of Shoshannah) 31, Prostitution, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of marijuana.

·         Tara Buntyn, 45, Prostitution, possession of drug paraphernalia, out-of-county warrant.

·         Joshua Johnson, 27, Possession of a Controlled Substance without a prescription, possession paraphernalia.

·         Jennifer Pope, 40, possession of drug paraphernalia. 


Additional arrests are expected from this operation

“All prostitution activity we encountered over the weekend stems from drug addiction,” said Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson. “It has devastating affects not just to a person’s health, but their ability to make the decisions that will keep them out of trouble. It’s tragic.” 

A special thanks to the Walton County Jail and the WCSO Uniform Patrol Division for their assistance during this operation.     



DeFuniak Springs, Fla— The fulfillment of an idea born at the Sheriff’s Office is brought to fruition with the help of the hard working employees at Walton County Parks and Recreation. The first of five wheelchair swings is in the process of being installed at Wee Care Park in DeFuniak Springs this week. The foundation is being put in place this morning and concrete will be poured Wednesday.

The birth of the idea came from Sheriff Michael Adkinson himself at an executive staff meeting at his office in DeFuniak Springs and has been carried out by Major Brian Schultz, Tammy Godwin, Captain Michael Gainey, Lieutenant Oscar Jiggetts, and all the staff at the Walton County Jail including inmates.

“This was something I had to do,” said Sheriff Adkinson. “Kids with handicaps should not be kept from participating at play grounds just like other children. This now levels the playing field for them.”

Money raised for the swings totals $12,000 and has come from anonymous donors, fundraising, and with the help of County Commissioners Bill Chapman and Sara Comander. Commissioner’s Chapman and Comander both dedicated $5,000 each from their district’s recreational plat fees for the project, which are used to improve parks and recreation throughout the County.

 “We are glad to see the first one going up,” said Major Schultz. “We are really excited for the remaining four. This has been a project that is the result of great teamwork and dedication.”

These wheelchair accessible swings are specially designed to accommodate both adult and juvenile wheelchairs, even motorized wheel chairs.

"No longer do children confined to a wheelchair have to sit on the sidelines,” said Sheriff Adkinson.


Wheelchair swings will be located at Wee Care Park, Hammock Bay, Gene Hurley, Paxton, and Helen McCall parks. 

Choctaw Beach, Fla— Neighbors of Jimmy Ray Thomas stood outside their homes and clapped as Sheriff’s Deputies walked Thomas,46, and Kayla M. Ailey, 24, out of their home on Juniper Drive in handcuffs.

Based on the results of a narcotics investigation the Walton County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Division obtained a search warrant for the home. Upon searching the residence, two containers of methamphetamine weighing less than 10 grams total, two containers of marijuana weighing less than 20 grams total, multiple pieces of paraphernalia, and a bag containing approximately 50 grams of pseudoephedrine were found inside the residence.

Residue found in a Pyrex dish inside the home was consistent with the drying process in the manufacturing of methamphetamine.

“No one is untouchable,” said Sheriff Michael Adkinson. “The entire neighborhood knew what this man was doing and they wanted him behind bars. Our Narcotics Investigators put together an air tight case and he’s now where he belongs.” 


Thomas was charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, possession of a controlled substance (meth), possession of marijuana, trafficking in methamphetamine, and drug paraphernalia. Ailey was charged on all of the above and two counts of felony violation of probation. They were both transported and booked into the Walton County Jail. 

Weston, Fla— Walton County Sheriff’s Office is proud to announce Lt. James Fannin has received the Certified AccreditationProfessional Award given at the Florida Commission for Law Enforcement Accreditation Conference.

Accreditation, as it applies to law enforcement, is a process in which a law enforcement agency is given approval by an official review board.  After the agency has met specific standards deemed appropriate for the mission of all law enforcement agencies they become an accredited agency. Walton County Sheriff’s Office has been an accredited agency for five years.

The CAP award has a number of requirements, which Lt. Fannin fulfills including; being a part of an accredited agency, leadership and service activities, and being a facility administrator in the accreditation process for his agency. 


“I could not think of anyone more deserving of such an award,” said Sheriff Michael Adkinson. “Lt. Fannin and his staff make sure this agency is held in the highest regard and that we are recognized for that achievement.”