Death of deputy's girlfriend still raises questions

Deputy's letter to FDLE says investigator gave no 'regard of any evidence'

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Jeremy Banks and Michelle O'Connell

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - The death of Michelle O'Connell in September 2010 is still raising questions, even though three medical examiners and a special prosecutor says it was suicide.

Her family believes she was killed by her boyfriend, St. Johns County Deputy Jeremy Banks.

Sheriff David Shoar says that's not so and stands behind a 160-page report his detectives released Thursday. The report slams the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and its investigator, Rusty Rodgers, who pointed the finger at Banks.

Family members of Banks have also become involved. Banks' father, Lawrence Dixon, is an officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. He and his wife have been questioned by FDLE about the case, and Banks fired off a letter to FDLE.

It says: "FDLE Agent Rusty Rodgers' focus was to turn the investigation into a homicide without regard of any evidence." He went on to say: "I have never witnessed this kind of heavy-handed Cowboy-like or even rouge mentality in law enforcement."

FDLE did respond and in a letter says there was no violation of law, policy or rule by special agent Rodgers.

Channel 4 crime analyst Ken Jefferson spoke about how two different agencies can come to two different conclusions.

"Who is right? So now you need to bring in another party to investigate the investigators to see exactly what happened, how they proceeded with their investigation and how they came up with their findings," Jefferson said. "I am certain the sheriff is not going to let it go because he has strong convictions about what happened based on information he received from three medical examiners."

Thats what Shoar says he hopes to find out from FDLE. Shoar said Thursday it's not a case where he is trying to protect his own.

"I have a long, rich history of holding people that work for me accountable," he said. "I have put them in prison, I have fired them, I have demoted them, and I have suspended them. I also have a long, rich history of defending my people against bullies or defending my people against false accusations."

Channel 4 has requested the internal investigation report from FDLE. The Sheriff's Office says it has not seen it either and would be surprised because it doesn't recall being interviewed for the investigation.

FDLE says it can't comment. Other documents show FDLE has conducted an investigation into its investigators before.

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