PUNTA GORDA, Fla. -- A man released from prison in June was ordered held without bond Saturday for murder and attempted murder in the death of a prosecutor who attempted to protect a colleague during a kidnap, robbery and shooting.
Charlotte County Circuit Judge John P. Shannon refused bond for Samuel Pettit, 26, of Punta Gorda, during a brief first appearance at the county courthouse. After the hearing he was taken to a solitary confinement lockdown.
'It looks like they're going to wait on a grand jury to indict him before he is tried,' said Charlotte County Sheriff's spokeswoman Tracey Melneciuc.
Pettit was arrested before dawn Friday and charged with two counts of attempted murder. One of those charges was upgraded after Charlotte County assistant state attorney Norman Langston, 27, died after being removed from life support systems shortly after noon Friday.
Pettit was found sleeping in the bushes near a Naples beach about 60 miles from Punta Gorda, where the attack occurred. He was arrested for sleeping on the beach and police discovered he was carrying a .22-caliber handgun.
When police discovered he had a criminal record, he also was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
His name was entered in a crime computer system in Naples and an investigator in Charlotte County recognized Pettit as the prime suspect in the abduction of the prosecutors. Charlotte County detectives were sent to the Collier County Jail to pick him up, Melneciuc said.
The attack occured at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday as Langston and assistant state attorney Kathleen Finnegan, 28, were in the Howard Johnson's Restaurant parking lot about to get in Langston's car.
The assailant ordered them to drive to a remote part of the resort and retirement community about 100 miles south of Tampa. He robbed and shot them, and left both for dead. Police say Finnegan's life was saved by Langston, who was shot in the head when he attempted to shield her from the attacker.
'Norm is a hero in the eyes of his friends,' said Melneciuc, who said there was no evidence of a motive other than robbery.
Finnegan was in good condition at Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Port Charlotte. Langston was pronounced dead at 12:40 p.m. Friday at Punta Gorda Medical Center and his organs were donated for transplant.
Records show Pettit was released Oct. 11, 1984, from Union Correctional Institution where he served three years for battery of a police officer. He was was sent back to Union April 4, 1986, to serve 3 -year sentence for obstructing a police officer with violence.
At that time Pettit was labeled an habitual offender, but the ruling was overturned in November by an appellate court, and he was released June 13 on 10 years probation.
In 1982, Charlotte County Assistant State Attorney Eugene Berry, 46, was shot and killed by a woman whose husband he had sent to jail. The woman, Bonnie Kelly, of Lexington, Ky., is serving a life sentence for the murder.
A federal jury in Ashland, Ky., convicted former Kentucky legislative aide Henry Vance, 44, of supplying the weapon used to kill Berry and he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Vance has appealed.