State Seeks To Reimpose Patrick Gonzalez Death For Deaths Of Byrd And Melanie Billings

January 31, 2020

Friday, the State Attorney’s Office filed a motion to reinstate the death penalty for Leonard Patrick Gonzalez, Jr. for the 2009 deaths of Byrd and Melanie Billings.

Gonzalez was sentenced to death back in 2011, but the Supreme Court later struck down Florida’s death penalty process in 2016. That ruling found that a jury must be unanimous in finding that aggravated factors existed and be unanimous in their decision for impose the death penalty.

The Gonzalez jury was unanimous in finding that there were aggravating factors in the Beulah couple’s death,  but they split 10-2 on the vote for the death penalty. He petitioned the court and was granted a resentencing hearing late this year where jurors will revote on the death penalty.

But with a new Supreme Court ruling that allows the judge reinstate the death penalty, Eddins believes a judge could sentence Gonzalez to death without a jury.

“The new decision…makes it clear that the constitutional requirements were fulfilled in the Gonzalez case,” the motion filed Friday states. “A jury made the instant, unanimous findings of the existence of aggravated circumstances.” The court, “carefully considering the evidence, made a constitutionally proper section decision in imposing a death sentence.”

Gonzalez and four other men entered the home to steal a safe that they thought contained $13 million, according to court records. Byrd and Melanie Billings died after each being shot multiple times. The couple was known for adopting special needs children.

Cantonment Man Sentenced To Prison For Two Cottage Hill Shots Fired Incidents

January 31, 2020

Thursday, a Cantonment man was sentenced to state prison for two shots fired incidents in Cantonment last year.

James Peter Tipton, 39, was found guilty of discharging a firearm from a vehicle, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and criminal mischief. He was sentenced to four years in state prison with credit for 34 days served. He must pay $1,000 in restitution to the victim along with court costs and fines. Once released, he will be on probation for three years.

On July 13, 2019, the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office responded to the 1800 block of Williams Ditch Road about 4 a.m. The victim reported that as he exited his vehicle someone driving a dark colored SUV fired two shots at him. About 7 a.m. deputies responded to another shots fired disturbance a short distance away in the 1400 block of Highway 95A. Tipton’s uncle reported that Tipton drove into his yard and entered his garage. The uncle observed Tipton removing guns from his SUV and placing them into the bed of the uncle’s truck. The victim also stated that Tipton fired two shots from a rifle into the woods.

A photo obtained shows a bullet hole in the driver’s door of the reported victim’s pickup.

Tipton was taken into custody without incident. There were no injuries reported.

Photos for, click to enlarge.

New $1.9 Million Highway 168 Bridge In Bratt Set To Open Saturday

January 31, 2020

Work on a new bridge on Highway 168 just east of North Highway 99 in Bratt is complete, and the bridge over an unnamed branch is set to open to traffic sometime on Saturday, weather permitting.

The $1.9 million Florida Department of Transportation  project includes two, 12-foot travel lanes with 6-foot shoulders and a concrete barrier wall. The project also included resurfacing the bridge approaches, new guardrail, drainage improvements, new pavement markings, and enhanced signage.

Work on the project began in mid-April 2019 to replace a structural deficient bridge with wooden supports that was constructed in 1967.

Once the new bridge is open, crews will begin removing a temporary bridge that was in place during construction. During that process, drivers are reminded to use caution and watch for workers and heavy trucks entering and exiting the roadway.

Editor’s note: The opening date has been updated to Saturday, February 1. It was originally set for Friday.

Pictured above and below: Work to complete a new bridge on Highway 168 in Bratt was coming to a close late Thursday afternoon. Pictured second below: A temporary bridge in place during construct will be removed. Pictured bottom: The new bridge replaces a structurally deficient bridge that was constructed in 1967. photos, click to enlarge.

Escambia Woman Gets 24 Years For Double Fatal Easter Sunday Wreck

January 31, 2020

An Escambia County woman was sentenced to 24 years in prison for a double fatal Easter Sunday wreck that claimed the life of a father and son.

State Attorney Bill Eddins said Marie Ann Simpkins previously pleaded no contest and accepted responsibility for two counts of DUI manslaughter, DUI causing property damage, DUI With a minor in the vehicle, and possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana.

Simpkins caused a  traffic crash April 21, 2019, in the intersection of Fairfield Drive and W Street in Pensacola which claimed the lives of 49-year old Randy Riley and his son, 22-year old Nelson Riley. Simpkins’ vehicle also hit a Nissan Murano drive by Gladys Taylor, who suffered minor injuries. Two passengers in Simpkins’ car, 19-year old Jobe Simpkins and a 4-year old, were also transported to the hospital with minor injuries.

Prior to the crash, concerned motorists observed Simpkins driving in an unpredictable and reckless manner on Fairfield Drive The motorists had called 911 to report their concerns when the defendant ran the red light at the intersection at W Street causing the collision.

Simpkins’ son and 2-year-old grandson were occupants of her vehicle at the time of the crash. A small amount of cannabis was found in her belongings. A legal blood draw revealed Simpkins was under the influence of hydrocodone, citalopram, trazodone and tramadol at the time of the crash.

Tate High School Names Students Of The Month

January 31, 2020

Tate High School recently named students of the month for December They are Anna Moulds and David Wells, pictured with Principal Rick Shackle. Photo for, click to enlarge.

Rain Likely For Friday, Not A Bad Weekend

January 31, 2020

Here is your official North Escambia area forecast:

oday: Showers, mainly before 3pm. High near 57. East wind around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation near 100%. New precipitation amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.

Tonight: A 20 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 45. North wind around 5 mph.

Saturday: A 20 percent chance of showers before 3pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 60. Northwest wind 5 to 10 mph.

Saturday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 37. Northwest wind 5 to 10 mph.

Sunday: Sunny, with a high near 65. West wind around 5 mph.

Sunday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 42. Southwest wind around 5 mph becoming calm after midnight.

Monday: Partly sunny, with a high near 69. Light southwest wind becoming south 5 to 10 mph in the morning.

Monday Night: A 30 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 56. South wind around 5 mph.

Tuesday: A 50 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 72. South wind 5 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph.

Tuesday Night: A chance of showers, with thunderstorms also possible after midnight. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 62. Chance of precipitation is 40%.

Wednesday: Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Cloudy, with a high near 72. Chance of precipitation is 60%.

Wednesday Night: Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Cloudy, with a low around 55. Chance of precipitation is 60%.

Thursday: A 40 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 62.

Jewel Bondurant Dean

January 31, 2020

Mrs. Jewel Bondurant Dean, age 88 of Flomaton, AL passed away on Tuesday, January 28, 2020 at a Mobile,  AL health care facility.

Mrs. Dean was a native of Repton, AL, and a life long member of the Flomaton community where she was a homemaker and a member of First Baptist Church of Flomaton.  She enjoyed working in her yard, baking cakes and her family.  Mrs. Dean was preceded in death by her parents, John Dewey and Alta Shipp Bondurant; husband of 28 years, Werth Kemble Dean;  four brothers, Frank Bondurant, Calvin Bondurant, Dewey Bondurant, H.P. Bondurant; sisters, Mary Ella White and Grace Chastain Butler.

She is survived by her son, Werth Kemble (Donnie) Dean, Jr. of Ashaway, RI; daughter, Beverely (Gary) Howell of Mobile, AL; brother, Alfred (Ruth) Bondurant of Republic of Panama, Panama; sisters, Juanita (Gordan) Howell of Pensacola, FL,  Willean Sales of Monroeville , AL, Dawn (Dennis) Printy of Pensacola, FL; grandchildren, Stephanie (Alex) Pate, Stephen (Julia) Howell, Amy (Stephen) Elms; great-grandchildren, Jacob, Lauren, Rudy, Conner, Haley, Katie, Harper, Harrison, Hayden.

Visitation will be held on Saturday, February 1, 2020 at Flomaton Funeral Home Chapel beginning at 1 P.M. until a service time at 2 P.M. with Dr. Tim Tew officiating.

Interment will follow in Flomaton Cemetery, Flomaton, AL.

Pallbearers will be Stephen Howell, Stephen Elms, Alex Pate, Jacob Pate, Rudy Howell, Conner Howell.

In lieu of flowers please make contributions or donations to Pilots for Christ.

Cybercrime Costs Nearly Double In Florida. Here’s Help To Stay Safe.

January 31, 2020

Cybercrime costs in Florida nearly doubled between 2015 and 2018, according to a new Florida Atlantic University analysis of FBI data.

With international criminals taking advantage of the global nature of the Internet, researchers report that cyberscams cost Florida victims more than $7400 on average in 2018, with total losses exceeding $178 million.

The best defense against these borderless criminals is getting educated on their methods and how to avoid falling victim to their scams, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. For more on online risks, email scams, cybersecurity, and ways to help keep you and your family safe from digital delinquents, visit

January 31, 2020

Ralph “Chuck” L. Godwin, Jr., age 62, was born in Pensacola, Florida on August 16, 1957. He resided in Cantonment, Florida and passed away on Monday, January 27, 2020.

Chuck attended Tate High School and graduated from Troy University. He had his own business as an accountant. Chuck loved fishing, but loved his family more than anything. He was an amazing father and husband, who will be greatly missed.

Chuck is preceded in death by his parents, Ralph L. Godwin, Sr. and Barbara Godwin.
He is survived by his wife of 27 years, Marie Godwin; daughter, Beth Godwin; sister, Donna Castles; brother, John Godwin; sister, Ann Farrow; and many other relatives and dear friends.

Visitation will take place at Faith Chapel Funeral Home North on Friday, January 31, 2020, from 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. with a memorial service to follow immediately at 11:00 a.m. Ronnie Outlaw, a cousin and close friend, will serve as officiate.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Billfish Foundation, of which Chuck was a member for 20 years.

Overturned Log Truck Trailer Downs Power Lines On Muscogee Road

January 30, 2020

An single vehicle crash involving a log truck brought down power lines and shut down Muscogee Road Thursday night.

The truck traveled off Muscogee Road near Madrid Road about 6:15 p.m. and struck a power pole. The power pole was snapped and power lines came down in the area.  The truck driver was not injured.

Muscogee Road was closed while Gulf Power worked to make repairs. Gulf Power reported 15 customers on Rittenberry Road lost power.

The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating. The Cantonment and Beulah stations of Escambia Fire Rescue responded. photos by Kristi Barbour, click to enlarge.

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