Category Archives: North Fort Myers / Southwest Florida

Time and Again, the Cover Up Ends up Worse than the Underlying Offense

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office recently released aerial footage from this weekend, when a man fled from deputies, wrecked his stolen vehicle, and jumped off the Edison Bridge into the Caloosahatchee River. He survived the fall, and was fished out by deputies. The footage is dramatic.

LCSO says Bryan Gray was driving a van that had been stolen. Now, Grand Theft Auto is a third degree felony. In Florida, that has a maximum penalty of five years. However, unless someone’s record is really bad, it does not generally score out to mandatory prison time. Since Gray fled, he’s also facing charges of fleeing, with a high speed and property damage enhancement, adding on a second degree felony. That takes his maximum penalty up to 15 years, and greatly increases his scoresheet that could lead to a minimum permissible sentence that is more likely to require prison. Plus, his stunt landed him in a hospital and it could have been much worse.

Another case is exemplar of the coverup far exceeding the underlying offense. This week, Courtney Gainey was sentenced in the death of 14-year-old Allana Staiano. She pled out a few weeks ago to charges of Leaving the Scene of an Accident involving death- literally her crime was fleeing the scene. Had she stayed, it may have merely been an accident and a civil traffic ticket. As it is, she was charged with a first degree felony, exposing her to up to 30 years in prison. The charge carries a four-year mandatory minimum prison sentence, but the minimum was thrown out the window as the judge maxed her out at 30 years. It was suggested that she had been drinking that night, but even if she had been drinking to the point of impairment, a DUI Manslaughter is a less serious offense than leaving the scene. Dui causing death is a second degree felony, again with a maximum 15-year sentence. Her flight from the scene directly exposed her to twice as much time, and the notoriety of the case likely contributed to such a harsh sentence for a first time offense.

Once more the flight, or the cover-up, ends up being more serious than whatever offense one is trying to avoid.

Man Jumps in Canal to Flee, Gets Arrested on the Other Side

Shawn Gilligan

A local man tried running from the cops, only to end up getting arrested in addition to being wet. According to NBC-2, Shawn Gilligan was allegedly driving a car when a deputy attempted to stop him for running a stop sign. He fled, ended up on a dead-end drive, where he got out and ran. He came across a canal and jumped in, trying to escape. It didn’t work, and he was arrested by deputies on the other side. He ended up having to be taken to a hospital.

It’s worth noting, the deputy initially was stopping him for a mere infraction- for which he would have gotten a ticket. Now he’s facing multiple criminal charges, including felony charges. Any jumping into a canal in Florida is dangerous… he’s lucky it didn’t turn out much worse.

Florida Man Bites Dog?

Robert Lawrence

A North Fort Myers man was arrested and charged with attacking a police dog, according to NBC-2. I have to say the NBC headline (and mine) are a little misleading… the allegation isn’t that he attacked the police dog per se, but that he forcefully grabbed it. This was after the police had let the dog loose on him, and the dog had bitten his shoulder: sounds like he was trying to stop the dog from attacking him. He had to be taken to the hospital to be treated for his injuries, including the hole in his shoulder and the deputy punching him to let get him to let go of the dog.

NBC-2 Headline

It is a felony to injure a police animal, but a misdemeanor to strike one. This guy, Robert Dean Lawrence, was only charged with the misdemeanor for his actions toward the K-9, “Koa”. However, he’s got bigger problems, as the deputies were after him in the first place for a felony battery charge. He faces charges for felony domestic battery by strangulation, striking a police dog and resisting arrest.

At least he didn’t punch a horse.

More Friday Fun – Cape Coral Man Punches Walmart Customer in line

Henry Harvey

Holiday shopping brings out the worst in people. And it wasn’t even Black Friday!

Henry Harvey, a 69-year-old from Cape Coral, Florida, is accused of striking a fellow Walmart customer. They apparently got in an argument in line, and Harvey was frustrated the other customer was taking too long. The argument escalated and Harvey ended up punching the other customer in the head.

It’s crazy for sure. I know that particular Walmart, I was there within a day of the incident, and there are multiple self-checkout lines with quite a few terminals. There certainly would have been options that didn’t require attacking another customer.

#weirdbattery #graymenace

Video of High Speed Motorcycle Crash after Flight


Joey Pinheiro

A 21-year-old man tried to take off from an attempted traffic stop on Easter morning, only to collide with a turning vehicle as he sped away: and surveillance cameras caught the dramatic collision on video. It’s a stark and scary reminder of the violence when one more more vehicles is travelling at a high rate of speed. Miraculously, the motorcycle driver, Joey Pinheiro of North Fort Myers, survived, and will likely be facing criminal charges.

WATCH: Motorcycle smashes into car after Easter morning chase

robert hayden

Robert Hayden Jr., via LCSO

There was another high-profile fleeing case on Easter, as a man riding an ATV in traffic on Palm Beach also fled from an attempted traffic stop. That man also ended up crashing his vehicle, though he ended up stuck in a ditch, and with less serious injuries. Robert Hayden Jr.  was charged with fleeing, as well as possession of marijuana and for gun charges. Failing to stop for law enforcement officers is a felony in Florida: so many times the fleeing charge ends up being more serious than whatever infraction for which the cops initially tried to stop somebody.

Shillelagh Fight in North Fort Myers!

  • Weird Battery out of Suncoast Estates in North Fort Myers
  • Shillelagh, Caulking Gun, and Knife all alleged weapons

daniel ehrhardt

Daniel Ehrhardt

A pair of brothers from North Fort Myers were arrested this week for a fight that got out of hand… way out of hand. When deputies responded, they found Daniel Ehrhardt had fresh cuts and bruises, and he reported that his brother had beaten him with a Shillelagh (a Irish stick, sometimes used for walking or fighting). The brother, Karl Ehrhardt, has been arrested for Aggravated Battery.

celtics logo

Man with Shillelagh

When deputies spoke to Karl, he said that his brother attacked him first: starting with fists and then coming at him with knife. Karl says he threw a caulking gun at Daniel, but that didn’t stop him, so he grabbed a shillelagh and struck him. He sustained several cuts from the knife. Daniel claims that after he was beaten, Karl cut himself with the knife to claim self-defense. Witnesses indicated that they did see Daniel with a knife.


karl ehrhardt

Karl Ehrhardt

Ultimately, Detectives were unable to determine exactly what happened, or who the primary aggressor was, and arrested both brothers. This is probably illegal too, as the Stand Your Ground law states that law enforcement “may not arrest the person for using or threatening to use force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used or threatened was unlawful.” Fla. Stat. Sec. 776.032(2). How can they say the force was unlawful if they cannot determine who the primary aggressor was? Ultimately, the State is unlikely to determine who was justified, and will be hard pressed to proceed against either brother unless the eyewitnesses prove reliable. #weirdbattery


Worst Convenience Store to Work for Hit by Robber Again

The convenience store on Beau Dr. in North Fort Myers got hit twice in less than a week last spring. This week it got hit again. It was a 7-11, but changed recently to a Mobil on the Run.. but the change apparently didn’t ward off the bad juju of the location.

Surveillance of Beau Robberies

Surveillance of Beau Robberies

It appears they’ve changed camera locations, and for some reason, the image is reversed in media reports… so I flipped it for comparison. I would not want to work in this shop. The clerk’s records indicate that one robber, Kyle Orr pled guilty to two robberies and was sentenced to 60 months in prison.

The Real Billy Retherford and Dustin Jaye

Deadly Sins dealt with 2 Fort Myers stories tonight. I’m always curious about whether the actors in the reenactment look anything like the real people. In this case, not too much. I will say, the real Billy Ray Retherford and Dustin Jaye are/were a lot scarier looking than their TV counterparts:

Billy Ray Rertherford's last booking photo

Billy Ray Rertherford’s last booking photo

Dustin Jaye booking photo

Dustin Jaye booking photo

  • And some of the other players in the story:

Allison Jaye booking photo

Allison Jaye booking photo

Allison Jaye had to be brought back from prison to testify in the trial.

  • She actually did go through a blond phase when younger:

Allison Jaye earlier booking

Allison Jaye earlier booking

  • And Allison’s friend, Sarah Grenier has also been in trouble with the law:

Sarah Grenier booking photo

Sarah Grenier booking photo

  • And the innocent victim of the crime, from a photo Naples News found on Facebook:

Debra Striano (Facebook)

Debra Striano (Facebook)

Russell Myers, speaking after the incident

Russell Myers, speaking after the incident

Greg Imhoff, killed by Billy Retherford

Greg Imhoff, killed by Billy Retherford

Also, here’s Billy Ray Retherford’s last prison release photo. Both he and Jaye had gotten out of prison not long before. As such, they would have been classified as Prison Releasee Reoffenders, meaning that they were facing mandatory sentences of life in prison. Life is also mandatory in Florida for a First Degree Murder such as this. Jaye was sentenced to life after trial, in spite of being defended by experienced attorney Ed Kelly. His appeal is still pending.

Billy Retherford (prison photo)

Billy Retherford (prison photo)

The other story on Deadly Sins tonight was the Fred Cooper murder, known locally as the Gateway case. Here is Fred Dewitt Cooper’s Booking Photo on that case:

Fred Cooper Booking Photo

Fred Cooper Booking Photo

Fred Cooper was convicted at trial for killing Steven and Michelle Andrews. He was tried twice, the first trial in 2008 ended in a mistrial due to a hung jury. The trial was then moved to a different venue, because it came out that the jury as been influenced by the extensive local media coverage. The second trial was conducted in 2009 in the Tampa area. Cooper was convicted of First Degree Murder, and the State sought the death penalty. The jury only recommended life in prison, and he was given three life sentences. Cooper had been to prison before, but not for violence, and had stayed out of trouble for 10 years before these brutal killings. Cooper’s conviction was upheld on appeal. His motion for post-conviction relief was denied, and that decision is currently on appeal. Here’s a more recent photo:

Fred Cooper in 2014

Fred Cooper in 2014

The Fort Myers Episode of Deadly Sins Airs at 9:00 pm on Investigation Discovery

The Delirium in Paradise episode of Deadly Sins is about to air, featuring 2 Fort Myers area cases, and several Southwest Floridians talking about the story, including yours truly. Tune in to hear about the Gateway Murder by Fred Cooper, and the murders of Dustin Jaye and Billy Ray Retherford in San Carlos Park. I’m a commentator on the latter story.

UPDATE: Here’s the follow-up post on the cases:

Locally, channels 387 and 111 (on Xfinity). Here’s the preview teaser:

Fort Myers Featured on “Deadly Sins” Episode this Saturday

deadly sinsDeadly Sins came to Fort Myers to do stories on a couple of our more dramatic murder cases from the last few years. Deadly Sins investigates, and re-enacts, parts of the gruesome murder cases of Fred Cooper and Dustin Jaye/Billy Retherford. (Cooper and Jaye were convicted, Retherford was killed trying to get away from cops.)

Dustin Jaye

Dustin Jaye

Deadly Sins will be broadcast on the Investigation Discovery network Saturday night, 4/25, at 9:00 p.m., and features comments from many local individuals, including yours truly. Well, I was interviewed, based on our Crimcourts coverage of the Dustin Jaye trial, and hope that something I said will end up making it onto the show. Set your DVR now, local Xfinity has it on channel 111. The episode is titled, “Sunshine State of Delirium – – Fred DeWitt Cooper and Dustin Jaye//Billy Ray Retherford” Be sure to check it out.

UPDATE: Here’s the follow-up post on the cases: