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Woman plans to sue for false arrest after Florida Panhandle investigation

Deputy accused of planting evidence in traffic stops fired in September

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MARIANNA, Fla. – A woman whose arrest sparked an investigation that led to charges being dropped in 119 cases in the Florida Panhandle has put Jackson County on notice that she plans to sue for false arrest.

Former Jackson County Sheriff's Office Deputy Zachary Wester, who was fired in early September for violating agency policy, remains under investigation for allegedly planting drugs on people during traffic stops.

Theresa Odom was stopped by Wester on Feb. 15, and body camera video of the stop showed a white packet in Wester's left hand. How the packet got from his hand to the seat of Odom's car is unclear in the video. 

In the video, Wester first tells Odom there was a problem with her brake lights. Then he said a drug sniffing dog was on the way.

“Instead of doing that, would you consent to a search of your vehicle?” Wester asked Odom in the video.

About 5 minuets into the stop, Wester is already searching Odom's car, holding what appears to be a baggie with a white substance in his left hand.

Wester covers the baggie up with a cloth, then moves it. His hand leaves the frame and Odom’s purse isn’t visible in the video either.

As he searches her purse, he chuckles as he finds the packet. 

Presented with the find, Odom proclaims her innocence on the video.

State Attorney Glen Hess said in September that what he saw in the video was clear.

“In those cases in which he was an essential witness, we have taken steps to dismiss those cases,” Hess said.

Now, on Facebook, Odom posted a letter from her attorney to the county, notifying them of her intent to sue for false arrest.

Jackson County Sheriff Lou Roberts said he is waiting for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to finish its investigation.

“I’d like to get it on and get it resolved because it certainly puts a black eye for all of us,” Roberts said.

Prosecutors are still looking at cases handled by Wester in Liberty County, where he worked before going to Jackson.

The FDLE confirmed the investigation is ongoing. 

The state attorney looking at cases in Liberty County did not respond to a request for information.