As of November 16, 2017, Joel Teraill Cooper, Donald James Cotterman, and Casey Brandon Martina were inmates in the Wakulla County Jail under the care and control of the Corrections Division. Shortly after midnight, during the early morning hours of November 17, 2017, those three inmates escaped from the Wakulla County Jail. In the immediate aftermath of the escape, the Patrol Division led the efforts to search for the escapees in the local area. Since that time, the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office has been as proactive as possible in sharing information with the public in an effort to ensure public safety.
At this point, the search for the escapees has transitioned from an “initial search” phase to an “investigative” phase and the matter has been formally turned over from the Patrol Division to the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division (CID). At this juncture CID Detectives are conducting one investigation with two parts, both of which are being conducted simultaneously. Part I is to prove the crime of escape against the escapees and any of their identified accomplices or co-conspirators. Part II is the search for the escapees conducted through investigative means, rather than the previous search which was conducted in fresh pursuit via bloodhounds, helicopters, ground search personnel, etc. The public needs to know that all CID investigations are conducted according to a practice termed “Investigative Integrity.” That is, no details of this active investigation will be provided to law enforcement officers outside of CID, to the general public, nor the media. Exceptions to this will apply when information needs to be released to ensure the safety of the public or law enforcement officers; or if a portion of the information needs to be shared with other officers, individuals or agencies assisting with a particular aspect of the investigation. “Investigative Integrity” is exercised by CID in all investigations, but in this case it is being exercised to prevent the escapees and any of their co-conspirators from having advanced notice of law enforcement plans or actions. The goal is to deny the escapees any tactical advantage over the CID Detectives seeking to capture them. Wakulla County citizens have been very helpful to CID in other investigations. It is requested that if a citizen is questioned by CID Detectives, that you keep that information confidential until this matter is resolved.
At this juncture, CID Detectives cannot predict how long it will take to capture these escapees, but know that the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division will be diligent in its efforts to locate, capture, arrest and prosecute each and every person who was involved in the actual escape or to conceal any of the escapee’s whereabouts following the escape. Once any escapees and/or accomplices are arrested, that information will be provided to the public, but understand limited details will be provided until all of them have been captured. Once the case is fully solved and closed, the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office will transparently make all of the information available to the public.
While CID conducts a criminal investigation into the escape, the Professional Standards Division will conduct an after-action review, in the form of an internal affairs investigation, to determine what practices, policies and/or deficiencies by Corrections Division staff may have led to the creation of an environment where an escape was possible. This will be done in an effort to prevent future escapes and to promulgate the professionalism of personnel. Sheriff Jared F. Miller will take prompt personnel actions, if necessary, based on the findings of this internal affairs investigation. Information pertaining to the internal affairs investigation will be promptly and transparently reported to the citizens of Wakulla County.
Joel Cooper Donald Cotterman Casey Martina