SAO Tosses Murder Case; Criticizes HCSO In Court Filing
The Hardee County Sheriff’s Office is facing criticism this week after the Office of the State Attorney for the 10th Judicial District declined to file charges against a Wauchula man who was arrested late last month in connection to a 2007 cold case murder.
Second degree murder charges against Christopher Mark Tindell, 40, of Wauchula, were “terminated and dismissed” after assistant state attorney Steve Houchin filed a “Notice of No Bill” at the Hardee County Courthouse. I emailed the State Attorney’s office and asked a few questions. They didn’t answer my questions but did provide a copy of the “Notice of No Bill”. Which basically answered all my questions.
Tindell, who was detained by law enforcement late last month while registering as a convicted felon following his release from prison on an unrelated charge, has since been released from the Hardee County Jail.
Court filings are critical of the work of investigators in pursuing the case and go so far as to accuse deputies of taking statement’s by Tindell “out of context to support a warrantless arrest.”
“Recently additional interviews have been conducted with the defendant and others. No new evidence was discovered,” Houchin noted. “However, certain statements made by the defendant were taken out of context to support a warrantless arrest of the defendant by law enforcement for second degree murder. These statements in no way constitute sufficient evidence for a good faith prosecution.”
Tindell was arrested by Det. Sgt. Andrew McGuckin, who headed the investigation into the death of Holly Lynne LaFlower, 26, of Ponta Gorda, whose body was discovered on a remote sandy road in Fort Green after dying on or about Jan. 20, 2007.
The Hardee County Sheriff’s Office championed the “diligent work” of lawmen in solving the 12-year-old murder case in a press release announcing Tindell’s arrest.
However, the recent court filings casts a shadow over HCSO’s official narrative. The sheriff’s office alleged that LaFlower had been beaten to death, allegedly by Tindell.
Houchin challenged that assertion. “Due to the type of injuries to the victim, the medical examiner determined that the victim had most likely been struck with the exterior mirror of a vehicle in a hit and run,” Houchin noted in the court filing.
Houchin further asserted that the vehicle registered to Tindell at the time of LaFlower’s death could not have caused the injuries. “The defendant’s vehicle was inconsistent with the characteristics of the injuries suffered by the victim,” Houchin noted. The sheriff’s office allegations hinged largely on statements by Tindell, who admitted to giving the victim a ride and meeting her for a sexual encounter. Houchin, however, criticized the use of those statements.
“The defendant, who has admitted mental health issues, did make many inconsistent and contradictory statements. Among these was a statement that a few days prior to the body being found he had dropped the victim and a friend off in the general area to conduct certain illegal activities and had not seen her since,” Houchin noted.
Those statements, Houghin continued, “in no way constitute sufficient evidence for a good faith prosecution.” The court filing characterizes the decision by the sheriff’s office to charge Tindell without a warrant as unfortunate.
“Unfortunately, by law enforcement making a warrantless arrest double jeopardy has attached and speedy trial is running,” Houchin noted. The clock is now running for lawmen to make a case against Tindell. Under Florida’s speedy trial rule, a defendant must be brought to trial “within 175 days of arrest if the crime charged is a felony.” Houchin said he would reconsider the case “if additional evidence is developed” before the 175-day window closes
And that folks is NOT how Police work is suppose to me done, js.
Have a Great Night & Sail Safe
~WauAnyone can help keep Hardee County officials accountable by submitting anonymous information to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by donating below.