Three mask-wearing robbers burst into a Homestead credit union, terrorizing customers before one gunman fatally shot security guard Raymond Stanisky, a popular retired Miami-Dade police officer.
The case remained unsolved for an agonizing 13 years until last year, when investigators locked down the key interview with a prison informant that helped them indict the suspected gunmen.
But now, Miami-Dade prosecutors have dropped the case against two of three men after the informant, Jerval Fluellen, claimed he lied and the facts of the murder “were fed” to him.
“When we indicted the three persons, the detectives and the state believed we had indicted the correct people,” said prosecutor Michael Von Zamft. “We still feel that way, but unfortunately, based upon what has occurred, now we cannot prove it.”
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office late last month charged Fluellen, who is already serving 15 years in federal prison for an unrelated crime, with two counts of perjury. He is now awaiting trial.
“It illustrates a real danger in the reliability of our justice system when the government relies on nothing but snitch testimony without significant corroboration,” said Terry Lenamon, the lawyer for Shannon Dawson, one of the men who had been indicted for Stanisky’s murder.
It was Dawson himself who started the strange legal episode after coming forward to claim he was one of the men involved in the murder. It was an ill-advised scheme to try to shave time off a 35-year federal prison sentence he’s serving, his lawyers insist.
The man accused of pulling the trigger, Stephon Hart, won’t be getting out of prison despite prosecutors dropping the murder charge: He’s doing a life sentence for a home-invasion robbery in Sarasota.
At the time, the Stanisky murder was big news.
Stanisky, a powerfully built native of Pennsylvania, joined Dade police in 1960, and spent much of his career hunting criminals as part of the warrants division. He retired in 1985, working various jobs in the years up until his death.
On Oct. 8, 1999, he was working security at a branch of the Dade County School Employees Federal Credit Union, 16460 SW 304th St. Around 10 a.m. three armed men dressed in black and wearing masks burst in
Customers began screaming when Stanisky, who was in another part of the office, rushed in and scared off the trio. The gang had no time to get money and they ran out, hopping into a stolen green 1993 Honda Accord in the parking lot.
Stanisky went after them. In the gunfight that followed, he was killed by one bullet to the head just outside the credit union door.
The murder prompted a massive police response. The stolen car was later found abandoned, but despite a furious investigation, no one was charged.
“The detectives put maximum effort into that case and continued to do so over the years,” said retired Miami-Dade Police Director Jim Loftus, then a captain in the homicide bureau. “Even though he was retired from the department, he was still considered to be one of us.”
The break in the case came in 2011 when Dawson, serving a 35-year federal prison term for cocaine trafficking, claimed he was one of the men involved in the heist.
Inmates in federal custody can get sentence reductions in exchange for cooperating with law enforcement. Critics say the system spurs federal inmates to spin lies and even sell information to other inmates, who in turn peddle it to authorities.