Last Updated: 6:46 p.m.
The man murdered this morning in front of 156 Parkview Drive was identified as Ahmad Rashad Laster, 36. His alleged assailant, Clarence Murphy Jr., 41, was arrested this afternoon and charged with first-degree murder. He has reportedly written an apology letter to the family of the victim.
It was a drug deal gone bad, and not over much: Murphy was upset that the food-stamps card Laster had given him didn’t contain the $100 Laster said it did.
Sheriff Rick Staly announced the arrest at a 5 p.m. news conference. Murphy, of 52 Prattwood Lane, was on probation until 2029 from a 2010 sentence on charges of trafficking cocaine and methamphetamines. He had served four and a half years in prison on those charges and had previously served a two-year prison sentence for cocaine possession and sale, as well as for selling marijuana, and was arrested last July in Flagler on a DUI charge and probation violation.
In all, Staly said he’s been arrested 19 times on felony charges, convicted five times, and was arrested 12 times on misdemeanors.
Murphy’s arrest ends a remarkable day that started with the report of a man bleeding from the head on Parkview to Murphy being located at the Prattwood address then followed, once he got into a car with his girlfriend, and pulled over in the heart of Palm Coast at noon. He then went from being a person of interest into the one suspect in this morning’s shooting. He is the only suspect. “In less than eight hours we had a suspect in custody without anyone else getting hurt,” Staly said.
A tip-off was the distinctive car Murphy drives, which he took to Parkview this morning. “He’s known to us in law enforcement because of his criminal history,” Staly said. “He drove a unique car that I think I’ve seen around town, so our detectives recognized the vehicle”–there was some surveillance video captured–“so just putting the pieces together we were able to locate an address for him.”
Murphy has been cooperative, also pointing out where the gun allegedly used in the shooting was dropped–in a body of water. Whether the gun will be recovered is another story. “Actually we believe we know where the weapon is and we have our dive team out searching for it,” Staly said, cautioning that finding the weapon could prove difficult. A casing for a .40 caliber bullet was found at the scene.
Watch the News Conference
“During the interview process Murphy admitted to this crime and he actually as I understand it wrote an apology letter to the family,” Staly said during this afternoon’s news conference, which he conducted flanked by four members of the victim’s family. “I have not seen that yet. The detectives are still investigating this case. There’s still a lot of investigative work to be done on this case to make it airtight, but we have a little more time now, the suspect is in custody.”
“It’s my cousin, I truly do love him still,” Jermodris Dunlap said of Murphy. Then, referring to his brother, he said: “But it wasn’t right, he didn’t deserve that, nobody deserves that.” Dunlap is the youngest of six. “I really appreciate Flagler County Sheriff’s Office for helping us out.”
Laster and Murphy are cousins.
The two had begun arguing over the phpone early this morning, either in actual phone calls or through texts. Then Laster told Murphy where he was. “They agreed to meet,” Staly said. “We know the end result.” Murphy, Staly said, “became enraged when the balance on the EBT card was not at the drug-trade amount.”
“This was a cold and calculated murder,” Staly said. “The suspect punched the victim in the face and then pulled a gun from his waistband and assassinated him” by shooting him in the head.
“I didn’t believe it. I didn’t ant to believe it when they said it,” Erica Laster, his wife of 12 years, said. “It’s still unbelievable.”
Other charges are pending.
Murphy has eight children. “This is a tragedy all the way around,” Staly said. Two families are related, are victims here, and obviously the children are going to grow up now without a father, but we are very thankful that we could bring quick closure in apprehending the person that did that, and we appreciate your help, because we can;t do it alone. We have to have information and so forth.”
Today’s earlier reporting is below.
Man Gunned Down on Parkview Dr. in Palm Coast Before Dawn, 4th Murder This Year; Person of Interest In Custody
A 36-year-old man was gunned down just before 4 a.m. today in the driveway at 156 Parkview Drive in Palm Coast.
The assailant has not been apprehended, nor has the murder weapon been found, though the casing of the shell used has been recovered. The killing is not believed to be a random act, the Sheriff’s Office said. But there was a brea in the case at midday.
At noon, the Sheriff’s Office’s deputies, including the Sheriff, secured a “person of interest” in the case after following and stopping a white Cadillac at Cypress Point and Belle Terre Parkway, near Mother Seton Catholic Church. Initial reports of a chase were unfounded, though the car had been followed for a distance, and Flagler County Fire Flight, the emergency helicopter, was activated, for fear that the individuals in the car would flee. That proved unnecessary.
“It was not really a chase, we were following a car, there was not a vehicle pursuit,” Sheriff Rick Staly said very soon after the felony traffic stop. “Our detectives did a great job, we spotted our person of interest we wanted to talk to, we got enough units there, including myself, and we did a felony stop on the vehicle. We are talking to the occupant of the car, we were very fortunate that no one was hurt. Our person of interest complied with our commands. There’s still a lot of work to be done in this case but it’s going in the right direction.” Staly added that the individual had a half dozen guns, including long guns, pointed at him, “so that’s kind of an encouragement to comply with us.”
Staly was in the area in his car, heard the call on the radio, and was at the scene at the time of the traffic stop. “Our guys did an outstanding job in protecting the citizens and the two individuals in the car,” he said. There was a woman in the car as well. She is not considered a person of interest, but Staly said she should prove helpful in aiding the investigation.
The victim, who is black, was shot in the temple, and was transported to Halifax hospital in Daytona Beach by a Flagler County Fire Rescue unit. The man, a local resident who was known to a woman who lives at the Parkview house, later died at the hospital.
Previously this morning, before the noontime stop of the person of interest, the following was reported:
“We got one 911 call from the person who lived in the house, she did not witness it but she heard a loud bang is how she described it, just before 4 a.m.,” a Flagler County Sheriff’s spokesperson said. “She identifies him as her friend, so the person who lived in the house did know him, but it happened outside in the driveway.”
In the 911 call, released this afternoon, the man is heard moaning as the woman pleads with the 911 dispatcher to send help. She described hearing “just a loud pop” as she was in the house. “Please hurry, he’s bleeding.”
Asked if she’d seen anything, the woman replies: “I was sitting in my room and all of a sudden I heard a loud bang. I ran to my front door and I saw a car drive off.” Then she is heard anxiously comforting the victim: “Baby, come on.”
The shooting and the subsequent investigation diverted school bus routes this morning, but not the regular opening of school at nearby Wadsworth Elementary and Buddy Taylor Middle School. The crime scene was broken down as of 10:30 this morning.
“It happened so early in the morning that it was before school hours, so there was nothing that affected the school hours, just the bus routes,” the spokesperson said.
The man’s identity has not yet been released. The medical examiner was examining the body at Halifax hospital at mid-morning to officially determine the cause of death, though the sheriff was treating it as a homicide.
The 156 Parkview Drive address has received minor attention from the Sheriff’s Office in the past few years, but nothing alarming. “We have been there, this will be our third cal this year,” the spokesperson said, “but the other ones were just illegal parking and a traffic stop. Prior to that we had not been there since 2015. It looks like domestic disturbance.”
“We are working every lead and attempting to locate the suspect or suspects,” Sheriff Staly said in a press release this morning. “We do not believe there is a threat to anyone else at this time but this is an active investigation. We will update when we have more information.”
In an interview in late morning, before the chase on Belle Terre, the Sheriff elaborated: “Obviously until we apprehend the person and they’re in custody, we have a murderer on the loose, so the community should use precaution. If they see a person that looks suspicious they should call us and let us check it out. With that said we don’t believe there’s a person going around randomly killing people, so that’s my point there: this appears to be a very specific incident. Obviously I’ll feel a lot better for the community when we have a person or persons in custody.”
Staly stressed that his detectives have “very good leads,” and that he is “very confident” that there will be an arrest. “What I don’t know is the timeframe.”
He added: “Depending on dynamics as it unfolds we could make an arrest soon but then these cases, to put all the pieces together and locate witnesses, suspect or suspects, just takes time. But I don’t see this becoming a cold case that goes unsolved.”
He said the identity of the victim will likely be released Wednesday, once the medical examiner has certified that identity. Detectives do have a very god idea who the victim is. Beyond that, however, the sheriff is not releasing information so as not to jeopardize the investigation.
The house in front of which the murder took place has belonged to Earlwyn and Althea Vespry since 1991.
It is the fourth murder in Flagler County this year, the second in Palm Coast. All three previous homicides are believed to be the result of domestic situations, as all involve a family member allegedly murdering another.
If you have information on this case, please call the Sheriff’s Office at 386-313-4911 or call CrimeStoppers at 1-877-277-TIPS. You will remain anonymous and could be eligible for a reward up to $1,000.