The Suspicious Death Of Michelle O'Connell

Did A Florida Deputy Get Away With Murder, Or Was Justice Served?

November 27, 2013
"Men stumble over the truth from time to time,
but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened."

Winston Churchill

Was It Murder Or Suicide ?
The Death Of Michelle O'Connell

On September 2, 2010 - a 911 call came into the St. John's County sheriff department.

The caller was off duty sheriff deputy Jeremy Banks, he was at home, when as he reports, his girlfriend, Michelle O'Connell committed suicide with his duty hand gun.

Martina McBride - Independence Day
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Deputy Jeremy Banks quickly convinced his boss, St. John's County Sheriff, David B. Shoar - that Ms. O'Connell's death was a suicide.
Click On Image To Watch
The PBS Video Article

Although, according to the attached PBS - FrontLine video documentary - some responding deputies expressed concerns that Michelle's death was not a suicide, but rather a homicide.

Deputy Banks powers of persuasion were also not enough to satisfy the concerns of two veteran homicide investigators from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. They suspected that Ms. O'Connell was a possible murder victim, and with little doubt, Deputy Banks was a person of interest in her death.

Apparently, the FDLE agents were having a hard time reconciling how Michelle was able to remove Deputy Banks' service weapon from his secured retention holster, turn on the tactical light, and fire off two rounds using her weak hand.

Eventually, Deputy Banks came to the belief that the FDLE investigation had violated his rights. Deputy Banks responded by filing suit against the FDLE, and Agent Rusty Rodgers. This suit is still on going.

Three separate medical examiners were asked to chime in with their professional opinions regarding the manner of Ms. O'Connell's death. The initial medical examiner vacillated in his professional opinion, with the consistency of the tidal flow of the local Mantazas River. Initially he ruled it a suicide, then a murder, then back to suicide. The other two medical examiners ruled it a suicide.

VolusiaExposed had particular interest in the opinion of Dr. P. Bulic - his theory that Ms. O'Connell shot herself while holding the gun upside down was intriguing - but then again, in all honesty, Dr. Bulic has been of interest to us, since his involvement in the suspicious 2009 in-custody death of Volusia County Jail Inmate Tracy Veira.

Given all the recent controversies attached to Central Florida medical examiners' offices (Casey Anthony, George Zimmerman, Marlon Brown, Christopher Dwight Allen,..etc.), their (MEs) respectability, within at least the local community, has taken a bit of a shellacking.

The Recusal Of State Attorney R.J. Larizza
A Big Red Flag

The Florida Seventh Judicial Circuit is comprised of the following four counties - St. John's, Putnam, Flagler and Volusia.

R.J. Larizza is the twice elected State Attorney of the Seventh Judicial Circuit.

As discuss in both the attached PBS and New York Times articles, State Attorney R.J. Larizza eventually requested that the Florida governor recuse his office from the investigation into Michelle O'Connell's death.

Florida Governor, Rick Scott granted Larizza's recusal request, and assigned the possible prosecution of Deputy Jeremy Banks to a State Attorney within another judicial circuit.

We (VolusiaExposed) agree with Larizza's decision to recuse his office from the Deputy Jeremy Banks investigation. However, we do question Larizza's timing and motivations.

Apparently, per Larizza's letter to the governor - that because he enjoys "a close professional working relationship" with the St. John's County Sheriff Department, that "a perception of a conflict of interest or appearance of impropriety may arise".

We (VolusiaExposed) would hope that Larizza's office has "a close professional working relationship" with its other three county sheriffs (Flagler, Putnam and Volusia).

Larizza's "working relationship" with Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson has not precluded Larizza's office from prosecuting one of Johnson's recent former deputies for driving a patrol car while under the influence, and alleged felony child abuse (according to media accounts).

Ironically, Deputy Stephanie LeClerc was arrested by her very own department. Sheriff Johnson recently terminated Deputy LeClerc by using her pending criminal prosecution as a justification for the personnel action. Court records indicate that former Deputy LeClerc is currently (November 25, 2013) being prosecuted by Larizza's office.

Further, Volusia court records indicate that Larizza's office is currently prosecuting Volusia County 911 Supervisor, Shauna Justice for her aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge. Many of our readers might remember Ms. Justice's incident of pointing a hand gun at the head of WESH-TV reporter, Claire Metz.

Ms. Justice was also arrested by her own department, the Volusia County Sheriff Department. So now we ask you - given Mr. Larizza's rationale to Governor Scott requesting to be recused from the O'Connell-Banks investigation - should Larizza's office be handling the prosecutions of LeClerc or Justice ?

Maybe, Larizza hasn't been totally honest in his rationale for wishing to be recused from the O'Connell-Banks investigation - because had he been honest - logic would dictate that his office would not be handling the prosecutions of LeClerc and Justice. Further, Larizza's office has handled other investigations attached to SJCSO personnel. In fact, initially Larizza's office was handling the O'Connell-Banks investigation - the investigation was on-going for several months prior to Larizza's declaration of a possible conflict of interest.

In truth, we suspect, that it was a political, and not an ethical "conflict of interest" that concerned Mr. Larizza. The O'Connell-Banks investigation was having a very negative effect on the St. John's community. Many in the community, like Sheriff Shoar, insisted on Deputy Banks' innocence, while many others thought he needed to be prosecuted. If Larizza was forced to make a prosecutorial decision - he would politically alienate at least one side of that legal / political quagmire.

St. John's county voters were very instrumental in twice electing Larizza to office - we suspect that Larizza chose to play the politician, rather than practice the law, in order to insure a political position within the community. We suspect that Larizza tossed that political hot potato over to another state prosecutor that was not dependant on the voters of St. John's county.

Then again maybe we are wrong - if so, then Larizza's office should be generating quite a few letters to the governor requesting recusal statuses for several other cases involving employees and law enforcement officers within the Seventh Judicial Circuit.

The City of St. Augustine is rather famous for it's long haunted history - and in the fall of 2010, it was quickly becoming apparent that the spector of Ms. O'Connell's death would most certainly push the oldest city in the nation into the national headlines.

VolusiaExposed invites our readers to review two excellent articles prepared by the New York Times and PBS regarding the death and investigation of Michelle O'Connell.

VolusiaExposed has incorporated within our article, many of the supportive documents mentioned, but not provided, in both the PBS and New York Times articles.

Decide for yourselves and let your voice be heard. Let us know what you think !

Click On Image To Review Full
New York Times Article

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If you found this article to be thought provoking, we (VolusiaExposed.Com) invite you to review, the below linked, Special Investigative Report, exposing law enforcement corruption with the State of Florida.


by Matthew Doig and Anthony Cormier
Tarnished badge, flawed system
Police unions / political clout
Predator in uniform?
What the personnel files reveal
Problems and solutions
Flagrant abuses invite little scrutiny
Problem officers still find work
How serious offenses go unreported
Sworn to protect....their pensions
Governor investigates CJSTC
Additional concerns surrounding the
Volusia County Sheriff's Department

VCSO deputy supplies underage females with alcohol.

VCSO deputy sexually approaches female prisoner?

Sex and the Badge
Extra-martial affairs within the VCSO?

VCSO deputy engaging in sexual relationship, while on duty?

VCSO deputy attempts romantic relationship with felony suspect?

VCSO deputy sexually assaults handcuffed woman.

VCSO deputy reprimanded for domestic violence arrest

VCSO Frangiamore-Carper murder-suicide incident

We look forward to your comments on this situation.
Drop us a line to let us know what you think.