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Bunnell Police Miscues Helping To Lessen Case Against Ex-Cops John and Lisa Murray

| April 20, 2011

The case pits ex-cops Lisa and John Murrays against Bunnell Police Chief Arthur Jones, center.

Shoddy and inexplicable police work, a running theme through a recent investigation of the Bunnell Police Department and its aftershocks, is catching up to the department–to the benefit of two of its former police officers facing felony charges.

Last June, John and Lisa Murray, a married couple and former cops at the Bunnell Police Department, were arrested and charged with official misconduct, tampering or fabricating evidence, and cocaine possession (for John) and two counts of official misconduct (for Lisa). They’d both been suspended in April. Subsequently, John Murray also faced a grand theft charge when money was found to be missing from the evidence room. Murray was the evidence room’s custodian.

On Tuesday, the Murrays appeared before Circuit Judge Raul Zambrano, with their attorney–Michael Lambert, who is being paid through the Police Benevolent Association–to fight off a few charges. They had limited success. One charge of official misconduct against Lisa Murray was dropped. So was the grand theft charge against her husband. But John Murray is facing a new official misconduct charge tied to marijuana plans.

Both Murrays, according to an interview they gave the News-Journal, blamed other cops at the police department for their troubles, and claimed innocence. “We were set up by other officers,” Lisa Murray said. “That’s why we are here today.”

The charge against Lisa Murray was dropped when a piece of evidence it was tied to–a marijuana pipe allegedly seized from a suspect and lost–mysteriously and reappeared last October, even though, according to a follow-up State Attorney’s investigative report, there was no documentation of “how the evidence was submitted or placed in evidence.” Such documentation is necessary to prevent tampering, or made-up evidence.

A similar series of inexplicable events helped to lead to the dismissal of the grand theft charge against John Murray. The charge was tied to missing money from an evidence envelope, which was found to have counterfeit money instead. The missing money was discovered by then-Sgt. Frank Gamarra. In August, after Gamarra himself was fired, a counterfeit $20 was found in a jacket he’d worn, in a department vehicle he’d driven, and an investigation was launched against Gamarra.

Gamarra had been one of the principal individuals in the Bunnell Police Department to cooperate with the State Attorney in the investigation that uncovered irregularities at the department, and favoritism by cops, including the Murrays, and city officials, toward then-city commissioner Jimmy Flynt, who owns a wrecker service and was getting extra wrecker calls. Gamarra’s firing followed on the heels of the publication of the investigative report, as did the allegation against him stemming from that $20 counterfeit bill. But Gamarra was cleared of that allegation when, as in previous instances, it was found that the discovery of the counterfeit bill was not properly documented on Bunnell Police Department evidence sheets, the bill was never photographed or processed, and the vehicle Gamarrra had used was also used by other cops.

Still, the connection between Gamarra and John Murray proved substantial enough to lead prosecutors to drop the grand theft charge against Murray.

Murray wanted the cocaine possession charge against him dropped as well, since it was based on an illogical timeline. But the State Attorney’s office subsequently changed the timeline, and the judge on Tuesday refused to drop that charge.

In December, the Murrays successfully argued that should their case go to trial, they should be tried for each count they face separately.

In a videotaped interview by the State Attorney, Bunnell Police Chief Arthur Jones stressed that Murray would have been fully–and alone–responsible for evidence tampering: “You know,” Jones told the investigator in repeated statements that deflected responsibility from himself and onto Murray, “there’s no way he could not have known, that amount of evidence, and the condition of the evidence in that office, and nobody else could have been in that office with that type of evidence being already tampered with in some instances, or just laying around in his office in other instances, that he could not have known about, so yes, and if he knew about it, and he know as an administrator [sic.] what his next step should have been, but I can’t see nobody else going in his office doing that so he had to be the one.”

The Murrays’ case is further tainted by the Bunnell city government’s own shady role in what amounted to eight years of officially sanctioned extortion on Bunnell’s streets: the city had passed an ordinance allowing the police to charge a $350 “administrative fee” every time a vehicle was seized, whether legitimately or not. That fee was in addition to fees charged by wreckers. The State Attorney investigation forced the city to drop the fee and set up a reimbursement procedure for anyone who’d paid it, though the burden was on claimants to get their money back.

Flynt is no longer a commissioner. He was defeated in last month’s election. But after being removed from the sheriff’s office’s rotation of three wrecker services, subsequent to the State Attorney’s investigation, Flynt was reinstated, since no charges have been filed against him.

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10 Responses for “Bunnell Police Miscues Helping To Lessen Case Against Ex-Cops John and Lisa Murray”

  1. Anonymous says:

    It is hard to say what the truth is… Could these two be innocent? It is possible. The City has very little credibility.

  2. New to PC says:

    I seem to remember reading an article about Lisa Murray going to car dealership and basically strong arming a business man in order to get Flynt his money. So my question is how is this anyone’s fault but her own? Don’t you have to be an adult to be a cop? Don’t adults make their own decisions? She’s obviously not intelligent enough to be a police officer. It seems like criminals always put the blame on someone else. However this case plays out in the end I hope the state takes both of their Law Enforcement certificates away. We dont need cops like this on the street.

    On a side note, it’s wonderful that the Bunnell Chief is so aware of what’s going on in his police department. I wonder what other incidents the murray’s have caused that he and Martinez have covered up? His officers obviously can’t trust him. Why else would they have to reach out for help from outside agencies like the States attorney’s office and the FDLE. The citizens of Bunnell need to stand up and demand that He and Martinez be removed from their positions

  3. just a citizen says:

    I agree with anonymous….makes one think. The quote by Jones is one of the mos incohernt statements I ever heard, that is if it is acuurate from the transcripts…I had to read it twice and still sounds like he’s all over the place..

  4. Kurt says:

    those two are not innocent trust me. there are good people working at the department but the murrys and the top dogs ther are not among the good ones

  5. IN BUNNELL says:

    looks to me like the state is grasping at straws!! by traversing the dates on the original charge, that prevented the judge from dismissing them. sounds like they are making up things to cover their own butts. and to add another charge of misconduct after dropping the grand theft charge? things that REALLY make you wonder! I believe these officers are innocent! the State Attorneys office practices really need to be looked at! FDLE pay attention and fix this department!

  6. What if says:

    The S.A. Office and FDLE are the one’s that should be looked into. Some one needs to fix FDLE. Who looks into their practices?

  7. Just the Facts says:

    Fact: John Murray gave tows to Jimmy Flynt, a city commish, illegally for personal gain.
    Fact: Lisa Murray pretty much extorted money from an individual on behalf of Flynt.
    Fact: Jones and Martinez covered up for the Murrays for as long as possible.
    If you ask me, all government in Florida, starting with the above mentioned need to be looked at. Funny thing, an officer tried to make a complaint about some of these practices to FDLE. FDLE never returned a phone call or even looked into it. Still haven’t. Could it be that Martinez and Chief Look from FCSO are best buddies and Chief Look used to head up the Jax FDLE office that covers Bunnell? Just coincidence I know. Again for all those who support the axis of evil comprised of Martinez, Jones, Murrays, Robinsions ect- Read the SA report, read the testimony- the proof as they say is in the pudding. You can show a fool the truth yet he will still not receive it.

  8. Honest Abe says:

    Grasping for straws Bunny? I think not… why try someone for charges you believe they can’t be convicted of? I hope this case goes to trial and more truths about the leadership and former leadership of the Bunell Police Department are exposed. Perhaps then, the Commissioner’s of Bunnell (excluding Tucker) whose heads were in the sand last go round will have no choice but to ask Sheriff Fleming for his services. Why wouldn’t the citizen’s of Bunnell want a police department that is recognized and accredited by the State, better equipped, better staffed, better trained, has detectives that investigate crimes and all at a SAVINGS of about $270,000 just to mention a few. That is unless there is something else hidden in their closet we all don’t know about.

  9. Enough is enough says:

    Make no mistake about it The State will win this battle In Bunnell, they are as guilty as sin. Right on the money Just the facts, let them go to trial, they will be convicted, and Zambrano will put the hammer down! look for a last minnute plea deal, then watch out Jimmy they might come see you, until then they will all be sweating around lake Lucille till this is over. Honest Abe it’s ashame the mayor put her head in the sand, we will vote her out next election. No more trips to DC with Martinez on our hard earned tax payer $$$$. Martinez buy your own car and gas please, stop running back and forth to south Florida on us.Your gonna need a you car when you get fired!

  10. Jojo says:

    As always, good reporting but, this is small town politics in small town Bunnell, Florida. You can almost feel it like a hot muggy night near the swamp lands of Georgia. Small time police department made to feel like big time fish to fry. A big caper in Bunnell that’s going to shake politics to the core that is almost like following the blood of a bleeding elephant in the snow. The fact is that the Bunnell Police Department has suffered from an intelligence gap for many, many years now. What this story needs is professionalization and for the Town fathers to take away the lucrative authorized towing of vehicles from the jurisdiction of the Bunnell Police Department. The 1970’s Knapp Commission of the NYC Police Department found systemic corruption within the department because of these types of shady associations. It needs to be given to an independent State agency that will monitor cars towed and by who. Develop paper work that must be adhered to by each tow truck company and followed with periodic inspection. Finally, a Phone Number should be properly displayed for reporting irregularities and suspected corruption to the State Attorney Office. Otherwise, it’s just plain fuzzy wuzzy dealings in a small southern town.

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