ST. PETERSBURG — Homicide Detective Kenny Miller and CASE Detective Paul "Jacques" LaMonde are this year's winners of the Police Department's top honor, the Ned March/Bud Purdy Award.
Miller, 36, is a 13-year agency veteran who worked in patrol, community, street crimes and burglary units before moving to homicide. Originally from Orlando, he said he has always wanted to be a homicide detective and began building community contacts long before he took his current post.
"You don't want to always have to rely on DNA and prints to solve a case," Miller said.
Miller's supervisor says his "unrelenting investigative techniques rank him among the greatest homicide investigators" in department history, according to a department statement.
Miller's skill in making contacts was credited with solving an October murder inside a convenience store where witnesses were reluctant to speak. Miller used informers and DNA to solve the case.
"You have to rely on the community, too, and they usually will help you solve the homicide," Miller said.
Another case that stands out for Miller is the 2012 Easter morning murder of 24-year-old mother Tamika Mack.
Mack was shot in the head after three men robbed a home where she was staying and found her hiding in a closet. Again using informers and forensic evidence, Miller identified a suspect. "It really felt good to be able to make an arrest in that case," Miller said.
In November, John Curry IV, 24, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for his involvement in Mack's murder.
Miller said he'll continue his work as a homicide detective as long as his wife, Angela, will let him.
LaMonde's work with the department began nearly 24 years ago. Now 46, he said he was inspired to pursue his career by his older brother, who was once a deputy with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.
LaMonde said he misses the nearly 15 years he spent as a member of the SWAT team, often as the first one into a tough situation.
"It was very exciting," LaMonde said. "Lots of adrenaline."
At the same time, he said, the years he spent in community policing were rewarding as well.
"You got to work with all facets of the community," LaMonde said, "from the dirt bag criminals to the great people who pay our salaries."
He now focuses on covert surveillances, undercover operations and arresting wanted felons.
Supervisors say LaMonde is an expert in split-second decisionmaking and surveillance techniques, many of which he teaches to officers in other area agencies.
He was working an investigation in 2009 when he was shot four times by a group of young men who had just robbed a convenience store. He was awarded the department's Purple Heart and Medal of Valor for his actions. Despite the danger, he returned to the job after nine months of rehabilitation. During that time, he said he imagined how many war veterans go back to war with worse injuries.
"I certainly couldn't go out with just a few bullet holes in me," LaMonde said.
LaMonde and his wife, Laurie, have five sons.
The Ned March/Bud Purdy Award was established by March, who joined the Rotary Club of St. Petersburg in 1941 and personally funded the awards for 10 years. The award was later renamed to also honor former St. Petersburg police Chief E. Wilson "Bud" Purdy, who died this month at the age of 94.
Miller and LaMonde were honored at a luncheon Friday sponsored by the Rotary Club of St. Petersburg.
Claire Wiseman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8804. Follow @clairelwiseman on Twitter.