9/20/2010 update: This case involves Michelle O'Connell and St. Johns Sheriff's Deputy Jeremy Banks. Though their names were never mentioned in any media piece, I heard a whisper. "Seek and you shall find."
SEE 2012 UPDATES BELOW.
The only news article names no one:
Homicide Investigating Apparent Suicide of Deputy's Girlfriend in St. AugustineI've been back from my vacation for almost a week but haven't posted here because of this. This blog is loaded with girlfriends and wives of law enforcement officers that were said to have killed themselves. Some of those officers are eventually charged. Some of those are cleared - some prosecuted. Most of them though - that's just the way the story ends. Sometimes her family will protest, fight back, push for investigations. Sometimes they defend the officer, believing him too. Sometimes there is just silence.
ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -- The girlfriend of a St. Johns County sheriff's deputy died overnight in an apparent suicide, officials said. St. Johns County Sgt. Chuck Mulligan said a woman was found dead in a home on Watson Road south of Wildwood Drive in the southern part of the county. The sheriff's office has confirmed it was the deputy's service weapon that was involved. The gun was kept in a closet the two shared. All indications point to a suicide, Mulligan said. No names or ages of those involved were released. No foul play is expected. Investigators believe the deputy was in another part of the house at the time. The woman was obviously despondent about something, Mulligan said. It was not clear how long they had lived there.
Making this worse - I went back through the news source's articles and see that they HAVE named the victims of suicide in the past. Why not this one?
I get stuck and stunned because not enough is changing. No matter what is posted here on the blog things don't seem to be getting any better.
I am pretty sure that I know who the woman is in this case because I scoured obituaries. I've gathered every possible picture of her, every guestbook entry, any obituaries, etc. Even as sure as I am though, I can't know for sure unless someone who knows her says her name.
Say her name.
Explain why no investigation is necessary.
Why was she allegedly so sad?
And if she is who I think she is, why would she leave that beautiful child?
People, male and female, DO commit suicide. This is not an accusation of murder but why can an officer (savvy in matters of evidence, connected by a bond of brotherhood) just tell investigators and have the case be ended? If it's so innocent - where are their
I know the answer, I just don't like it and will continue to ask.
As I posted above, I did in time come upon the names that I sought: Michelle O'Connell and St. Johns Sheriff's Deputy Jeremy Banks. I look at the anonymous stock photo of the unknown silhouette woman above and know that I could have replaced it some time ago with one of the beautiful pictures I have of Michelle. But the POINT of this blog post is that the media and police did NOT want anyone to know who Michelle was and didn't want anyone to know who the deputy was that was in the house with her when the bullet fatally entered her body.
I will leave that photo above as a symbol of how LITTLE Michelle's life appears to have meant to the media reporters and to St. Johns Sheriff's Office.
People are disheartened but still waiting to see process, trying to trust the profession.
I can't say what did or did not happen, but I can say that nobody can see anything that gives any indication of Michelle having lethal depression, the capability to leave her daughter without a mother, or any condition medical or otherwise to explain her taking her own life. She told someone that she was going to break off her relationship and instead is dead.
Nobody who knows Michelle believes there is even the smallest chance that she would leave her daughter here without a mother.
"I've learned what life can be like when one door closes and another one opens. I believe everything happens for a reason good or bad. I am a mother to a beautiful little girl Alexis who is my world. She has shown me what love really is and what really matters in life. Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away!"...
"Those are the sweet words of our beautiful angel herself. Now tell me does this sound like a depressed woman that would take her own life? Absolutely NOT!..."
"To one of the best friends I have ever had I will cherish the memories we have together! My prayers are with Alexis, your family, and with you always. I love you and wish you peaceful travels."
"My love for you is everlasting. I will always remember playing after school with you and how you would always climb trees, going to the beach with you and Lexi, and the last moment I saw you. You grabbed me so tight, said I love you Ace, and kissed my cheek. You are my angel, my love, my life. Til I see you again in Heaven, Keep smiling and watchin over us down here."
"Michelle has been a wonderful co-worker, and friend over these past twelve years of knowing her. Michelle was on of the most compassionate, loving, and caring people I have ever met. May God bless you and your family through this most difficult time. Thank you for sharing your daugther, sister, and friend. She was truly a great person and will live in my heart forever."
I could do a new post with the new info and a summary of what the comments all add up to, but I am thinking now that unless there is an indictment that it will be better to keep all Michelle thoughts and love in one place. All her people. All the sorrow. All the anger. All the broken-heartedness. All the rebuttals and proofs.
APRIL 2012 UPDATE:
The blog comments below finally got so numerous that there is a link that has appeared BELOW THE COMMENT BOX that says "Load more" - in order to see them all.
MAY 2012 UPDATE:
When this post was first published there was much less information available than there is now. There is some info that appears to have been leaked, as well as a soft, loose investigation by St. Johns County Sheriff's Office and a more serious one performed by The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). The prosecutor has flipped a coin and made the decision to not pursue, based on foreseeing a war of experts. But the death of Michelle O'Connell appears to be a death that won't die. Now the small army of people who never believed Michelle killed herself are armed with the conflicting investigation results and some additional information as well.
I find it amazing that so much has been done and said, and still - Michelle's name has never been mentioned in the news. Over 200 comments on this post, conflicting investigation reports, a deputy that I hear was fired for trying to tell what they knew - and still no media mention of Michelle's name. It gives the impression of a frightening relationship between the county powers and media back-scratching.
Here is a sample of what has been posted in comments and emailed since the release of the investigation to interested parties:
"Evidence was ordered to be discarded and the pills found in Michelle's pocket were not there when the first deputes arrived on the scene. I hope someone will do something to stop how the SJSO is covering up on this case."
"The first bullet shot was shot into the ground, there is no way possible that Michelle fired it, it was coming at her."
"It appears to investigators that Michelle was on her knees screaming, while murdered. Her tounge was hit by the bullet from the top. In suicide it's almost 99.9 % down - indicating she was most likely screaming. TWO WITNESSES PASSED FBI level lie detectors, that they heard screams, two shots, and twenty minutes later heard police."
"The SJSO never sent Jeremy's GSR (Gunshot Residue) kit or any evidence to state lab."
"I beg someone to please take a long look at this case. I am at a loss to hear about the results of the second investigation."
"The first medical examiner, ruled it a suicide, never filed it, then changed it to homicide. Then his new boss comes in, the lead medical examiner was leaving, so the new boss made him change it. The medical examiner that first ruled Michelle's gun death a suicide never saw the type of gun that was used, so always felt uneasy he stated to FDLE investigators."
"The pattern of the blood showed her left hand behind her back and her right hand out in a defensive manner - like someone trying to hold someone back from them. Sorry to be so graphic but its the only way to describe the evidence."
"Michelle supposedly shot herself with her left hand - apparently with the gun upsidedown. She is right-handed."
"The nationally recognized crime scene reconstruction specialist ruled it homicide citing multiple factors."
"First off no evidence was originally sent in for review, SJSO did not send anything to labs FDLE had to do that... In addition to this there were bullets left at the crime scene that were never even taken as evidence and they were given to JB's supervisor 1 month later and he never turned them in as evidence. FDLE had to go and request them from the supervisor... Forensics also shows that the shot fired into the ground was shot at her not away from her... Jeremy also had blood splatter on the inside of his shirt and one officer stated that Jeremy smelled of soft soap as though he had showered or washed his hands. His cop car appeared to be washed, photos of the scene depicted his cop car with water all over the top of it but no other car had water on it..."
"A sheriffs office deputy was terminated for trying to contact the news media via their work email. They were trying to tell the media that evidence was planted (pills were planted in Michelle's pocket...) The deputy did an interview with the news media (channel 47 I believe) and then received a phone call stating that it would not be aired, the news interviewer was told by their boss that they would not air that about St. Johns county..."
"Michelle's tongue was up when she was shot as though she was screaming for help, 97% of suicides the tongue is down."
"The death certificate was changed from suicide to homicide and then the Medical examiners boss ordered it changed back to suicide... We deserve a chance for a jury to decide... All of the prosecuting expert opinions make sense but the defense experts don't match the blood splatter at all..."
"The FDLE report is extensive. The two interviews with JB will give you chills."
"It's so political. The printed out investigation reeks of cover ups and corruption. It's the worst thing to read."
AUGUST 2012 UPDATE:
New website: Justice for Michelle O'Connell
New Facebook page: Michelle O'Connell
New bombshell article, from First Coast News:
QUESTIONS LINGER OVER WHETHER ST. JOHNS SHERIFFS DEPUTY'S GIRLFRIEND'S DEATH WAS A SUICIDE OR HOMICIDE
First Coast News
Written by Anne Schindler
10:58 AM, Aug 7, 2012
SEE VIDEO HERE
[Excerpts] Before Michelle O'Connell went on a trip to Hawaii in 2009, she wrote a letter to her daughter. Michelle planned on skydiving while she was on vacation, and she wanted to document how much she loved 4-year-old Alex - just in case. "She was the best mom. She was the best aunt," says sister Jennifer Crites. "She just loved life she loved her daughter. She lived for Alexis." 24-year-old Michelle's devotion to her daughter is just one reason her family and friends insist she never would have killed herself... She'd just gotten a promotion and was supposed to start her new job the next day. She told her family she was going to leave her boyfriend and was in fact packing to leave. And - just minutes before a bullet ended her life, she texted her sister that she was coming to pick up Alex... The St. Johns County medical examiner [Dr. Frederick Hobin] initially ruled her death a suicide, but later changed his mind. "I became convinced it was probably a homicide" ... Dr. Jerry Findley, a crime scene analyst hired by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to review the case, concluded that many elements of Michelle's death were "suspicious." He also determined it was extremely unlikely that right-handed Michelle would use her weaker, left hand to hold the gun... Findley wouldn't talk on camera, saying the case had become too political. But in his report, he questioned why the weapon had no trace of blood on it, even though blood was spattered on Michelle's hands, arms and legs. Findley also found it suspicious that the gun -- which was Deputy Banks duty weapon - didn't have any of Deputy Banks' DNA or fingerprints on it, even though he'd worn it to work that day. Findley concluded the evidence in the case, though not consistent with a suicide, was consistent with a homicide. The State Attorney's Office believes Michelle killed herself, and two other Medical Examiners who reviewed the case agree. But the Florida Department of Law Enforcement believes the case was a homicide. And in March, after Special Prosecutor Brad King announced he would not pursue the case, the agency sent a letter asking him to reconsider, saying "this case clearly warrants an inquest into the death of Michelle O'Connell"... Jeremy's attorney observes that two other medical examiners determined Michelle's death was a suicide. He points to several desperate sounding texts Michelle sent that night. He also notes that paramedics found her jean pockets stuffed with painkillers belonging to Deputy Banks, though no drugs were found in her system. But what may be the most unsettling piece of evidence didn't emerge until months after Michelle's death. Two female witnesses, who lived a few hundred years from the house where Michelle died, maintain they hear a woman screaming for help. The women declined First Coast News' interview requests, but both signed sworn statements and passed polygraph tests... But despite the family's pleas and the lingering questions, after almost two years on administrative leave, Deputy Jeremy Banks returned to work six weeks ago. Whether he'll be able to do his job effectively remains to be seen. Says his attorney, "The biggest problem Jeremy has is this. It's this." [Read the FULL ARTICLE here]
[police officer involved domestic violence oidv intimate partner law enforcement public safety state lethal fatality fatalities murder suicide suicidal unsolved unresolved florida state michelle o'connell]