John Willoughby: Greene Publishing, Inc.
After almost 28 months of sitting in the Madison County Jail, a former Madison Winn-Dixie manager was sentenced to the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) after pleading guilty to three charges associated with the armed robbery of the Madison Winn-Dixie that took place more than two years ago.
According to a report by the Madison Police Department, on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, Beth Curtin and Nancy Jenkins, employees of Winn-Dixie of Madison were by themselves, getting ready to close the store, when a black male approached them, brandishing a pistol. The male suspect commanded the two women into an office where a safe was located. The male suspect then had Jenkins open the safe before handing her a black mesh laundry bag to hold while he and Curtin placed the money from inside the safe into the bag.
When they were done filling the bag with money, the male suspect ordered the two women to leave the office and walk to the back of the store, towards the restrooms. As they began walking, the male suspect exited the store, at which time, Curtin locked the front entrance and called 911.
Simultaneously, Madison County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) Deputy Edwin McMullen observed a male crossing the Winn-Dixie parking lot, walking toward Courtyard Apartments. The male suspect, who was later found to be Randal Durrah, 46, of Valdosta, was carrying a large bag and presenting himself suspiciously. Dep. McMullen attempted to make contact with Durrah and noticed a firearm in the suspect's hand. The suspect responded by entering a vehicle driven by another male and from there, began to flee from Dep. McMullen.
Dep. McMullen requested back-up and began pursuing the fleeing suspects as they headed east on US Hwy. 90. Cpl. Chris O'Brian responded immediately and assisted Dep. McMullen in the pursuit. During the pursuit, 911 communications informed the deputies that an armed robbery had recently taken place at Winn-Dixie. The caller gave a description that matched the individual that Dep. McMullen had seen crossing the parking lot and was now chasing.
As the vehicle neared the intersection of US Hwy. 90 and Marion St., the fleeing suspects fired gunshots at the pursuing officers. Both Dep. McMullen and Cpl. O’Brian returned fire while remaining in pursuit. The chase continued as the suspects turned onto State Road 53 North and began reaching speeds in the excess of 90 miles per hour while gunfire was still being exchanged between the fleeing suspects and pursuing officers.
The car was brought to an abrupt stop when Cpl. O’Brian put his own life on the line by using his patrol car for a tactical maneuver; forcing the assailants off the roadway and causing them to lose control, striking a power pole. Durrah attempted to flee on foot, but after Cpl. O'Brian deployed K9 Onyx, Durrah was apprehended and taken into custody.
The driver of the vehicle was Deanthony Roundtree, 43, of Valdosta, who was a manager at Winn-Dixie at the time of the robbery. Both Roundtree and Durrah were transported to the Madison County Jail without further incident. As evidence, investigators collected a large amount of US currency that was stolen during the robbery at Winn-Dixie, as well as two firearms and multiple rounds of ammunition.
On Thursday, April 19, Roundtree pled guilty as charged to three charges related to the armed robbery: aiding and abetting attempted offense felony murder in the first degree, aiding and abetting armed robbery, and fleeing or attempting to elude police officers: high speed pursuit.
On Friday, May 4, Judge Andrew Decker handed down the sentence to Roundtree for his part in the incident. Multiple witnesses: a pastor and Roundtree's relatives testified to Judge Decker and the court, asking them to show mercy and consider giving Roundtree a second chance at life.
“This was just an isolated incident,” said Sabrina Roundtree, wife of the defendant.
“He's always been a good child,” said Barbara Roundtree, the defendant's mother.
Most comments from those who testified were positive, highlighting Roundtree's recordless past.
To the two employees who were immediately affected by the robbery, Curtin and Jenkins, Roundtree said, “I respect both of y'all. It wasn't my intention. To both of y'all; the sorrow and pain y'all felt, I'm sorry.” Roundtree also stated to Judge Decker, “If you judge me, judge me on the facts of what I did.”
Assistant State Attorney Dean Morphonias recommended a two-year reduction in the sentencing “because [Roundtree] was willing to cooperate.” Morphonias stated that he looks at 'what is the right thing to do,' and “That's the right thing,” said Morphonias.
Judge Decker sentenced Roundtree to 28 years in a FDC penitentiary for aiding and abetting attempted offense felony murder in the first degree and aiding and abetting armed robbery; and 10 years probation for fleeing or attempting to elude police officers: high speed pursuit; all with 838 days credit for time served.
As for Durrah, he pled guilty to all counts: counts one and two of attempt to commit offense felony murder in the first degree 10/20/life discharge; counts three and four of armed robbery.
On Thursday, Feb. 1, Durrah was sentenced to 25 years in a FDC penitentiary for count one; 20 years mandatory minimum as pursuant to 10/20/life provision, concurrent with count one; and 10 years probation for counts three and four, concurrent with each other and consecutive to the sentencing for counts one and two.