This week Historic City News received a number of documents supporting the allegation that Deputy Sheriff Jeremy Banks murdered Michelle O’Connell at the home they shared in 2010.
One of those documents, posted below, was the “Revised Case Summary” of Dr. Frederick Hobin, who was the Associate Medical Examiner at the time and performed the initial autopsy on Michelle O’Connell (Case ME 10-23-430).
The O’Connell shooting was presumed a suicide from the first call. Banks was never considered or questioned as a suspect. Evidence collection was spotty, incomplete, and left great room for doubt — yet Banks has never submitted to a polygraph examination on the facts of the death.
Based on information given him from local law enforcement officers who he knew and trusted, Dr. Hobin’s initial findings went along with the pre-drawn conclusion of “suicide”. However, Dr. Hobin would come to realize that there was little substantiation for such a conclusion. Upon further consideration of other compelling physical evidence and witness interviews, some of which not mentioned in the initial Case Summary, Dr. Hobin wrote a revised case report and changed the death certificate from “suicide” to “homicide”.
Dr. Hobin wrote the following updated report:
The decedent has been identified as Michelle O’Connell, a 24-year-old white female resident of St. Johns County. The following information is reported. Michelle was a single mother of a 4-year-old daughter. They lived with DS Jeremy Banks.
On Sept. 2, 2010 Jeremy and Michelle attended a concert with friends at the St. Augustine Amphitheater. Both were drinking. They were arguing. They had agreed to end their relationship.
Later that same evening, Jeremy called 911 to report that Michelle had shot herself with his duty handgun, a .45 caliber autoloading pistol with a flash light attachment. Jeremy told the police that he was leaving the home and had gone out the front door and was walking toward his vehicle when he heard a gunshot. He was rushing back into the home when he heard a second gunshot.
He reentered the front door, picked up the telephone, and found that the bedroom door was locked. He kicked the door open. When he entered the bedroom, he found Michelle on her back on the floor, unresponsive and bleeding.
At 23:21 hours Jeremy called 911. EMS responded. EMS arrived at the scene at 23:30 hours and were tending to Michelle at 23:31 hours. Efforts at resuscitation were initiated but were not successful. Michelle was pronounced dead at the scene at 23:47 hours.
The death is under investigation by Det Eugene Tolbert of the SJCSO. ME Investigator Kent Holloway responded to the death scene investigation. The body of the decedent was transported to the Office of the Medical Examiner in St. Augustine.
An autopsy is performed by myself at about 09:00 hours on Sept. 4, 2010 with the assistance of Forensic Technician Michael Britt, with SJCSO Det. Jessica Hines, and CST Jennifer Ferraro present at the autopsy.
It is reported that Michelle shot herself. There was no report of a suicide note, threat of suicide, drug use, or other risk factor for suicide. The investigators suggested a theory that the first gunshot was discharged unintentionally when she withdrew the service weapon from Its holster.
At autopsy, it appeared that the muzzle of the firearm was definitely posterior to the lips, inside the oral cavity. Through and through penetration of the tongue was evident. The anatomic pathway of injury carried the bullet backward through the cervical spine at the level of C3 and disrupted the spinal cord. A deformed bullet was recovered from the soft tissue of the posterior neck.
Toxicology studies resulted in a BAC of 0.08% indicating that Michelle had been drinking. Otherwise, no therapeutic drugs or drugs of abuse were found in the post-mortem samples.
On June 1, 2011, I met with SA Investigator Rob Hardwick whom I know well and FDLE Special Agent Rusty Rogers. It was explained that Sheriff Shoar had requested and authorized further investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Michelle O’Connell.
It was explained that the extended investigation resulted in the discovery of information that supported the conclusion that Michelle’s injuries were homicide rather than suicide.
Information which was persuasive for me came from two neutral witnesses who lived near to the death scene. These persons both reported hearing a woman’s voice cry for “help”. Then a gunshot was heard followed by another cry for ‘”help.”‘ And then finally a second gunshot was heard. These events were reported to have occurred on Sept. 2, 2010 at about 23:00 hours.
On June 6, 2011, I amended Michelle’s death certificate by indicating that she was shot by another person and that the MOD was homicide.
This week Historic City News also received a document from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that we had been seeking since Monday, February 27th. The document confirmed the outcome of an official investigation into the handling of the Michelle O’Connell death investigation.
A three-member panel compiled its findings in a February 16, 2017 memorandum to Florida Medical Examiners Commission Chairman, Stephen J. Nelson, M.A., M.D., F.C.A.P.
The memorandum was presented during the Medical Examiners Commission Meeting at the Buena Vista Suites on February 24, 2017, and identified violations of Florida law, Administrative Code and several violations of Practice Guidelines committed by both Dr. Frederick Hobin and current District 23 Medical Examiner, Dr. Predrag Bulic. Suspension and probation were recommended for the violations.