George Hristakopoulos has been a detective in the major cases unit at the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office for just over a year. Whether by coincidence or an unusual increase in certain crimes–Flagler County has seen a spike in homicides in the past year, and sex crimes have a tendency never to let up–several high-profile cases have landed on Hristakopoulos’s desk, including two recent homicides.
On Monday, he was honored for closing one of the more lurid of those cases as his investigation led to charges against Jerald Medders, a 51-year-old resident of Palm Coast’s Z-Section accused of raping a 16-year-old girl he’d allegedly been courting since she was 13 (and allegedly blaming her for seducing him). Hristakopoulos was awarded the the 2017 Greatest Save Law Enforcement Award from KinderVision, a national nonprofit program associated with Major League Baseball that focuses on the prevention of child exploitation.
Hristakopoulos, 36, accepted the award from Rollie Fingers, the Hall of Fame relief pitcher reputed to have been among the great closers in baseball. He tallied 341 saves in his career between 1968 and 1985 and is 13th on the list of career leaders for saves. Hristakopoulos was in kindergarten when Fingers played his last Major League game in the mid-1980s. “I don’t watch baseball, I watch basketball, so I was completely unfamiliar with him,” he said of Fingers.
Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly had nominated the detective for the award. “Through investigative techniques and determination to seek justice for the juvenile victim, Detective Hristakopoulos was able to arrest the suspect, who is currently awaiting trial,” Staly was quoted as saying in a release. “If not for the efforts of Detective Hristakopoulos, this suspect would have had additional opportunities to inflict harm or prey on other potential juvenile victims within our community.”
Gathering the sort of evidence that will withstand reasonable doubt in court is difficult in sex crimes, when much of the perpetrator’s acts are predicated on elaborate subterfuge, dissimulation, deception and threats against the victim. In the Medders case, a controlled phone call had been arranged, but it hadn’t gone very well, so Hristakopoulos decided to wire the alleged victim after running the idea up the chain of command at the department, speaking with the victim’s parents and, of course with the girl herself.
“The juvenile’s opinion is more important than anybody else’s and she was OK doing it,” Hristakopoulos said, “but her safety was the most important thing, her safety and her mental state and how she’s going to accept everything. So we made sure we had a plan in a worst-case scenario. The worst-case scenario would be maybe the suspect pulling her into the house or something like that.” The girl had been told to make sure that after knocking on Medders’s door, the conversation that would follow would take place outside no matter what. It did.
A large contingent of sheriff’s personnel from several divisions assisted, including members of the SWAT team, surrounding the location where the encounter took place and standing at the ready to intervene if it did not go as planned. “We were close enough to where if something would have happened we would have been able to intercept her,” Hristakopoulos said. (See the details of the arrest here.) Medders’s bond was originally $300,000. It was lowered to $40,000 last month and Medders was allowed to leave jail with a GPS device as long as he doesn’t go into the Z Section and limits his movements to his brother’s house and his place of work, according to a judge’s order. But he remains at the Flagler County jail. His next pre-trial is on Oct. 10. (Update: Medders bonded out shortly after this story posted on Sept. 29, at 10 p.m.)
Hristakopoulos is also the lead investigator in the recent case of Nathan Shimmel, the 22-year-old W-Section resident accused of stabbing his mother to death last month, and in the case of Clarence Murphy, the 41-year-old man who has allegedly admitted to killing his cousin in a drug deal gone bad in front of a Parkview Drive house less than two weeks ago.
“There’s some cases where I deal with somebody and I think it’s an evil person, it shows me that there’s truly some evil out there,” Hristakopoulos said. “More often than not though, it’s a person just like anybody else and they’re put in a situation and they react maybe differently than somebody else would. In those cases I can tell the person feels genuinely bad for what they did, they want to go on the record and sort it out.” (Murphy, authorities said, wrote a letter of apology to the family of his victim, Ahmad Rashad Laster.)
“The work itself is some of the most rewarding work that I’ve had in over a decade of law enforcement in this county,” Hristakopoulos continued. “It can be stressful, and you have to know how to manage it, but it’s definitely very rewarding, and I’ve had a lot of good results, and the families of the victims and the victims themselves are just in my specific case just fantastic with me. They just feel like I really care and I do, and I think that that shows to them.”
Hristakopoulos, who is married, has a young daughter and stepson of his own. He was a police officer with the Bunnell Police Department starting in 2006 before making the move to the Sheriff’s Office in 2013.
He was asked how he copes with a job that routinely places him face to face with depraved acts. “I think that it takes a very specific type of person to be a police officer, and I think that when you’re that type of person, which I believe myself to be, you know what you’re signing up for and you realize that these people exist out there, that’s a fact,” he said. “Either you’re going to deal with them, or nobody is gonna deal with them, or somebody that shouldn’t be dealing with them will deal with them. So I feel like I would rather be dealing with that element than anybody else. I know I work with others who feel the same way.”
George Hristakopoulos says
I’m extremely humbled and honored to have been nominated by Sheriff Staly for this award, and I am extremely humbled that Flagler Live chose to write this article. I was shocked, I expected just a blurb. Yes, I take a lot of pride in my work, but no major case results happen because of just ONE detective…it’s a team effort. I’ll leave their names out because most of them don’t like the spotlight, but from my Corporal, Sergeant, EVERYONE in the Major Case Unit, my old partner who got promoted, the rest of ISD, the SAO, HIU…I learn so much from those guys and girls every day, I wish people could see how hard everyone works during a major incident for days on end.
Great job. Congrats
Thanks for your service detective!
Susan Reich says
Kudos to you and your entire team! Thank you for your service!
Well done and we’ll said detective. Far too often the public takes for granted the dedication, commitment and sacrifice of people like you to bring justice to our communities. Thank you and your family since they also sacrifice, for a job well done. A well earned honor!!
Congrats. Detective on your greatest save award! This is a well deserved honor. It takes a very special human being to deal with the most deplorable acts committed by human kind, especially against children, which are innocent victims. It was an honor to have met you, although through unfortunate circumstances. You work tirelessly on every case to seek justice for the victims and for that on behalf of our family and the community we would like to thank you publicly. A job well done by you and your team! Thank you for your service and dedication.
Just so that everyone knows, Jerald Medders (defendant) in this case was released from custody from the Flagler County Jail the same night this article was published. PARENTS BEWARE AND PLEASE KEEP YOUR CHILDREN SAFE.