How 3-Month Investigation Led to Arrest of Palm Coast Man in Flagler Beach Publix Robbery
FlaglerLive | February 3, 2016
Daniel J. Fountain, a 48-year-old Palm Coast resident on drug-offender probation, was charged last week with the armed robbery at the Flagler Beach Publix in October following a three-month investigation—and a lucky break that landed Fountain in jail on an unrelated charge.
The armed robbery took place last Oct. 5 at the Flagler Beach Publix on State Road 100 when a middle-aged man, after methodically staking out the grounds, approached a cashier in the thick of the lunch-hour, lifted his t-shirt to display a firearm, and demanded money. A rattled cashier complied, as Publix employees are trained to do in such situations. He got away with $2,667 (and, somehow, 92 cents).
The suspect didn’t take pains to hide himself. He was caught on surveillance cameras from various angles, and soon the Flagler Beach Police Department, which investigated the case, disseminated his picture. Within minutes, a Flagler Beach investigator was contacted by an officer in the Flagler probation office and told that the robbery suspect was, allegedly, Fountain himself. The officer had seen Fountain in the probation office several times in the recent past.
The Flagler Beach investigator on the case was familiar with Fountain’s mother, Betty Connolly, a resident of Flagler Beach. Through a simple Google Maps search of Fountain’s Palm Coast residence, the investigator was able to match an older model Jeep Laredo in the Google image to the surveillance camera footage of the robbery, where Fountain had apparently driven his Laredo. A police database search then confirmed Fountain’s ownership of a 2001 Laredo.
When an officer visited Connolly, Connolly told her that she’d been in contact with Fountain’s wife, who was distraught and wondering where she was going to live, but would not disclose where Fountain was. Connolly herself had spoken with her son, who’d allegedly told her he didn’t know why he would do such a thing as the robbery, and that he doesn’t even own a gun: he told his mother the weapon displayed was “a piece of plastic,” according to the incident report.
Two days after the robbery, Flagler Beach Police Captain Matthew Doughney (the department chief) was able to speak with Fountain and attempted to coax him to turn himself in. Fountain did not directly admit to the robbery, but during the conversation, he told Doughney, according to the incident report, that “Of the little over two thousand I took, I only have about thirty bucks left.” Fountain was also worried about his Jeep. “Are you going to take my Jeep, since I used it?” he asked, clearly aware that accessories to robberies may be seized. Doughney noted in the investigative report that he’d never mentioned the amount stolen in his conversation with Fountain, noir has the sum been disclosed to media. (Such revelations explain why police are reluctant to disclose such things as actual amounts stolen, as they can become useful clues and evidence in securing suspects.)
The next day, Connolly brought Fountain to the Flagler Beach Department, where Doughney read him his Miranda rights and told him he was a suspect in the Publix robbery. But Fountain denied having been anywhere near the place. He was taken to the probation office in Bunnell, having not checked in with his probation officer for a while. That amounted to a probation violation. His urinalysis at the probation office showed him to be positive for pot—another violation, as he is on drug-offender probation. So his next stop was the Flagler County jail.
Meanwhile, Connolly told police that she believed her son, who’d been the sole breadwinner in his family, had committed the robbery because of crushing debt: his house was in foreclosures, bills were going unpaid. (A check of Fountain’s bill payments showed that the day after the robbery, he paid Palm Coast’s utility department $191, and two days later paid another $500, ostensibly to keep his service from being cut. Two days after the robbery, he also paid Brighthouse $318. Fountain’s cell activity showed other contacts with credit card companies and the like.) Last February, Fountain also faced a paternity suit.
She said he’d hidden his Jeep in the parking lot at Florida Hospital Flagler to keep it from getting seized. The vehicle was located (and a search warrant signed by a circuit judge “read” to the empty vehicle, searched (nothing of evidentiary value was found) and towed by Saxon’s Towing.
On Oct. 9, Sgt. David Acieri—who led the investigation at the Flagler Beach Police Department—was able to locate a witness who’d seen Fountain “loiter” and oddly pace back and forth outside Publix the day of the robbery. The witness also picked out Fountain from a line-up.
On Jan. 12, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office arrested Fountain of 30 Westford Lane in Palm Coast on a probation violation from an unrelated case: he was sentenced to four years’ probation in 2013 on charges, in both Flagler and St. Johns, of grand theft.
Last week, on Jan. 28, Flagler County Circuit Judge J. David Walsh signed a warrant for Fountain’s arrest on two felony counts—robbery and grand theft. The warrant was served at the St. Johns County jail, where he’s being held on $300,000 bond.
“The Publix robbery from October 2015 is now solved and the suspect has been charged accordingly” said Flagler Beach Police Captain Matt Doughney. “The efforts by all involved in this case is greatly appreciated and the clearance of this case with an arrest is outstanding Police work.” He added, in a release issued Monday, “Cases like this one can take a lot of time and effort to solve and we worked diligently and patiently, resulting in the arrest of the suspect.”