Santa Rosa Sheriff’s Office Hosts Statewide Cold Case Advisory Commission

Posted on February 16, 2022 by Romi White

Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast, left, serves as Chairman of the Florida Sheriff’s Association Cold Case Advisory Commission. He’s pictured with Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson, who serves as a Vice Chairman of the group. Photos by Romi White.

Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office this week is hosting the Florida Sheriff’s Association Cold Case Advisory Commission at Springhill Suites on Navarre Beach. 

It’s the first time since the commission was formed in 2015 that the commission has met in Santa Rosa County. The purpose of the 25-member interdisciplinary team of professionals is to bring statewide subject matter experts together to help solve cold cases or active crimes against person cases.

The commission’s expert panel gathered yesterday and today in the conference room at Springhill Suites in Navarre.

Training took place on Tuesday, and on Wednesday five cold cases were presented, including the October 2018 unsolved drug-related murder of 21-year-old Tyler Howell of Milton, who was shot multiple times and left on the side of John Hamm Road in East Milton.

Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson serves as a Vice Chairman of the Commission and described Howell’s murder as “pretty heinous.” He vowed that his agency will continue working the case, aiming to bring the murderer to justice and provide the family with closure.  

Okaloosa County also presented a cold case to the panel of experts, which includes forensic specialists, an anthropologist from the University of South Florida, detectives and others who specialize in areas such as digital forensics and genetic genealogy.

Commission Chairman and Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast said Florida and Texas are the only two states which have Cold Case Advisory Commissions and that Florida is set apart because assets from other counties are deployed to assist.

Prendergast said the commission provides a new perspective to the cases and sometimes helps solve decades old cases, including that of a child who was murdered in 1983. “We know exactly who did it and how it was done,” he said, pointing out the commission will host a press conference this week in South Florida to announce that breakthrough. 

New technology which allows investigators to trace the location of victims prior to their deaths is just one tool that the commission uses to help resolve old cases.

“Some (cases) would have never been looked at again if those for this (commission),” Prendergast said.