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Clearwater man faces murder charge in death of teen found on Duke Energy Trail

Robert Gullo, 25, was indicted in the death of a 16-year-old girl whose body was found near the Countryside Recreation Center on Nov. 19, 2021.
A grand jury has indicted Robert Gullo, 25, on a first-degree murder charge in the death of 16-year-old Meaghan Cooper, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced Monday.
A grand jury has indicted Robert Gullo, 25, on a first-degree murder charge in the death of 16-year-old Meaghan Cooper, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced Monday. [ Courtesy of Florida Department of Corrections ]
Published Dec. 5, 2022|Updated Dec. 6, 2022

A Clearwater man has been indicted on a first-degree murder charge in the death of a 16-year-old girl whose body was found on the Duke Energy Trail last year, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.

He said Robert Gullo, 25, gave a lethal amount of fentanyl to a teen girl he met online named Meaghan Cooper. Construction workers found the teen girl’s body at the Duke Energy easement while working at the Countryside Recreation Center, 2640 Sabal Springs Drive in Clearwater, on Nov. 19, 2021.

Gullo was known to sexually prey on minors, Gualtieri said, and at the time of Cooper’s death, Gullo was out on bail in Hernando County after he had sex with a 14-year-old girl he met on Tinder.

Gullo pleaded no contest to a lewd and/or lascivious battery charge in that case and was adjudicated guilty, court records show. He currently is serving a 40-month prison sentence for that charge. He will be taken to the Pinellas County Jail, where he will remain while being prosecuted on the murder charge, Gualtieri said.

Gullo also faces a charge of unlawful sexual activity with certain minors for having sex with Cooper, the sheriff said.

“Gullo is a predator who was preying on as many young teenage girls as he could,” Gualtieri said.

The day before Cooper’s body was found, Gullo texted her and asked her if she wanted to hang out that night and do cocaine, Gualtieri said. Both Gullo and Cooper were living in Clearwater at the time. They texted about the cocaine and having sex, Gualtieri said.

Gullo also had texted a 15-year-old girl that day, asking if she would like to do cocaine with him, but she rejected his proposal, deputies said.

Gullo picked up Cooper around 9:20 p.m. that night and they arrived at his house, located at 2629 Brewton Court, about 10 minutes later, Gualtieri said.

Gullo told Cooper he was giving her cocaine, but toxicology reports did not find any cocaine in her system, Gualtieri said. Instead, the report found that she had four times the lethal amount of fentanyl in her body when she died. The sheriff said he does not know whether Gullo intended to give her cocaine instead of fentanyl.

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At 11:32 p.m. that night, Cooper sent a text to a friend, saying, “I just did so much coke and it feels so good,” according to Gualtieri.

Five minutes later, according to the sheriff, Gullo texted the 15-year-old from earlier that day.

“I need you, it’s an emergency,” he messaged her.

At the time, Gullo was wearing an ankle monitor while he was out on bail. Data from the monitor shows he stayed at his house until about 6 a.m., Gualtieri said.

The GPS monitor shows Gullo traveling to the power lines where Cooper’s body was found and returning home immediately after, Gualtieri said.

Just hours after that, the sheriff said, Gullo again texted the 15-year-old girl, trying to convince her to come over for sex and the same drugs that had killed Cooper.

Detectives interviewed Gullo early on in the investigation but said he told them he hadn’t talked to Cooper in more than a week and denied communicating with her on Nov. 18, 2021, or Nov. 19, 2021.

Gualtieri said he encourages people struggling with addiction to seek help, and he warned young people in particular about the dangers of taking drugs from people like Gullo.

“Don’t take drugs from someone like this,” Gualtieri said. “You have no idea what’s in it. And in the case of Meaghan Cooper — at this guy’s hands — it will literally kill you.”