2018 murder case possibly being dismissed

Local News

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — A 2018 murder suspect may not be heading to trial soon, as his attorneys are hoping to get the charges dismissed.

On December 30, Jeffery Bleakley reportedly shot and killed his brother in law Everett “Tony” Tate at a home on West 22nd Plaza in Panama City.

Bleakley was charged with second-degree murder but on Wednesday, he appeared before a judge for a hearing. His attorney, Waylon Graham, motioned to get the case dismissed based on stand your ground immunity.

Along with Assistant State Attorney Bob Sombathy, the two counsels met in front of Chief Judge Christopher Patterson.

Sombathy says the victim was unarmed when the shooting happened but he did have something in his hands, a large pillow.

The state called multiple witnesses from the Panama City Police Department who worked the case as well as Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Jay Radtke.

During those testimonies, the officers talked through the crime scene and also evidence.

First on the scene was officer Tabitha Lafoon who says she noticed Tate laying face down in the yard and not moving.

Another officer who responded was Corporal Tyler Hill who says he worked the crime scene.

“Once we started to move the body to document the injuries, we immediately noticed that several of the gunshot wounds, there was a pillow fluffing or a fluffing fibers material that was sticking out of the gunshot wounds,” Hill said.

Hill says there wasn’t anything around the deceased body that matched the fibers but a large pillow on the porch matched.

Detective Christian Shaw says the pillow was initially by the victim after he was shot but Tate’s sister moved it to the porch before police arrived.

Perhaps the most important testimony of the day though was from Bleakley himself.

He took the stand last and shared what he says happened that day.

Bleakley says he and his wife were at her parent’s home when Tate showed up. He says Tate was extremely angry after being told he had to move out.

The defendant says he decided to leave the house after things started to get heated.

“If I’m there, I’m the one he hates the most. I figured if I remove myself from it that it would help deescalate it,” Bleakley said.

He says, though, he did not go far.

“I went back to the window to look inside to see what was going on and I wanted to make sure my family was going to be safe,” Bleakley said.

Bleakley says this is when he decided to get his .22 caliber pistol out of his vehicle.

“I got up there and saw him for a second with his fist up then he turned and start to bolt out of the house so I just wanted to step out of his line of sight and hopefully he’d just leave,” Bleakley said.

On the stand, Bleakley said Tate didn’t leave but instead confronted him.

“He started cursing and swearing at me. I did pull the weapon up and I cocked it so that it would be loaded. He heard it and that’s when he said to me, ‘oh you’ve got a gun. Well, you’re going to have to use it cause I’m going to kill you,” Bleakley said.

Bleakley said Tate raised his right fist, dropping some items, before coming at him. This is when Bleakley says he decided to shoot.

Tate was shot nine times and died at the scene.

Bleakley says he knows Tate to carry different weapons at times and was unsure of what the victim may have had in his hands when the trigger was pulled.

However, he says that even if he realized Tate only had the pillow, the fear level was the same.

“He’s (Tate) made it very clear that he would attack me and kill me on several different occasions and I felt that he’s just crazy and capable of anything,” Bleakley said.

The counsels will meet again in January to hear the judge’s decision.

See more from the State’s witnesses in the video above.

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