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E-mail elevates Gulfport stalking case to felony status

GULFPORT — The State Attorney's Office has added a felony charge to Gulfport's most notorious stalking suspect.

Jovan Anton Collier, 41, has been charged with aggravated stalking, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

That charge has been added to two first-degree misdemeanors — stalking and violating a protection order — that have been issued since May when Collier's girlfriend broke up with him and kicked him out of the house.

Police have been unable to find Collier, who has a past that sets him apart from other stalking suspects.

During their investigation into his whereabouts, police found out that in 1983, when Collier was 14, he served time in the slayings of his adoptive parents and brother in Wisconsin.

Collier was named Peter Zimmer in 1983 when he pleaded no contest to killing Hans Zimmer, 48, his wife, Sally, 44, and son, Perry, 10, in the family's rural Mineral Point home, about 50 miles southwest of Madison. He subsequently changed his name.

Hans Zimmer was shot to death, and his wife and son were stabbed as many as 20 times.

After learning of those killings, police ramped up their search for Collier, fearing he could return to that earlier level of violence. They haven't found him despite continued harassment of the victim.

On Sept. 14, the victim received this e-mail: "I am here in St. Pete and hope to hell I run in to you. You messed me over and I will pay you back."

She was scared and she was angry, and she wanted her stalker caught. She knew there would be a much better chance of that — a wider net would be cast — if the charges were elevated.

Bruce Bartlett, chief assistant state attorney, explained that previous correspondences had only satisfied the criteria for a misdemeanor charge. Felony stalking includes a credible threat to harm a victim or her family.

"The new correspondence sounds like he's crossing the threshold," Bartlett said.

Assistant State Attorney Dora Komninos filed the felony charge last week after meeting with the victim and her attorney.

The victim is relieved.

"I feel like someone is finally listening to me," she said.

"It's not the end, but it's the beginning of the end."

Whether the suspect's past crimes — for which he served time in a juvenile detention facility — can be brought up if and when this case goes to court remains to be seen.

"It depends," Komninos said. "We would want to have it out there to explain why she's feeling the way she's feeling.

"It's something that would definitely come out in sentencing," she said.

FAST FACTS

Stalking

Any person who willfully, maliciously and repeatedly follows, harasses or cyberstalks another person commits the offense of stalking, a first-degree misdemeanor.

Aggravated stalking

Any person who willfully, maliciously and repeatedly follows, harasses or cyberstalks another person, and makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear of death or bodily injury of the person, or the person's child, sibling, spouse, parent, or dependent, commits the offense of aggravated stalking, a third-degree felony.

Source: The Florida Legislature

E-mail elevates Gulfport stalking case to felony status 10/13/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 13, 2009 2:57pm]
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