How ‘wrong decision’ had deadly ripple in Brevard Deputy Pill shooting

Published February 15, 2013 by Florida Today

The gun was small, but powerful — a subcompact .40 Glock, advertised as a police backup pistol. After a desperate man stole it and traded it for cash and drugs, the petite polymer weapon ended the life of Brevard County Sheriff’s Deputy Barbara Pill.

It was just one of dozens of firearms police say are reported stolen each month, circulating throughout the county.

Robert William Marks pleaded guilty to three charges and was sentenced to eight years in prison. He has not been charged in connection with Pill’s death, although the judge cited his actions as having played a role in the tragedy.

The deputy investigating Marks’ case, Agent Craig Carson, estimated that the Sheriff’s Office gets about 10 reports of stolen guns per month, but only about two per month are recovered. Other large agencies in Brevard quoted similar figures — about seven guns reported stolen each month in Melbourne, and about eight per month in Titusville. Cocoa police said 11 were reported stolen in the past six months.

Stolen guns represent a part of the firearms “trade” that skips any of the background checks and other measures meant to keep such weapons out of the hands of criminals and potential criminals.

In his sentencing hearing last week, Marks told Judge David Dugan he “made the wrong decision” the day he stole the gun.

Marks, now 40, went out drinking on Nov. 25, 2011, with Ginger Seaton, a woman he would later marry, and her brother, Jason Seaton. Marks said his father had died a week prior, his cousin died not long before that. Jason Seaton came from Orlando to comfort him.

After leaving the bar, the trio stopped at a Walgreens to get more beer — Marks stayed in Jason Seaton’s car. Admittedly inebriated, he reached into the glove compartment, took Seaton’s Glock and put it down his pants.

The group went back to a house Ginger Seaton and Marks shared in Melbourne, where after the others went to sleep, Marks said he took Jason’s gun into the garage, intending to shoot himself. But he couldn’t do it.

“I wanted to put it back, but (the) car was locked,” Marks told the judge. “I couldn’t get in so I decided I wanted to get rid of it somewhere.”

Marks said he went to “the bad part of town” to find people that could help him “offload” the gun. He found a group of people he didn’t know, who pointed him toward a person at the end of the road. When Marks got there, he recognized the man as “Boogie,” someone who had sold him drugs in the past. Marks gave him the gun, which was reported by Seaton in the police report as valued at about $550.

“He gave me $80 and a handful of crack,” Marks said. In court, he said he recalled consuming the cocaine, but couldn’t remember what he did with the cash.

“I wasn’t in the right frame of mind,” he said. Jason Seaton, 35, told FLORIDA TODAY he bought the gun at Shoot Straight in Casselberry, where he paid $5 to go through a background check beforehand. He said he’s owned guns for almost 20 years and has a concealed weapon or firearm license.

He doesn’t believe Marks was going to kill himself.

“I think that was a way for him to try to get people to feel sorry for him,” Seaton said. “I think if he was going to kill himself, he would have done it… It was just a matter of somebody wanting to go out and do drugs.”

Marks declined to be interviewed.

Shortly after noon the day Marks took the gun, Seaton realized it was missing and called police. He told the responding deputy that he believed Marks might have stolen it. The deputy reported that he met with Marks, who appeared “nervous and very remorseful.”

Marks told the deputy he didn’t know who had taken the gun, but would keep an eye out.

On March 7, 2012 — the day after Deputy Pill was shot — Agent Carson contacted Seaton. The gun found at the scene of Pill’s death matched Seaton’s missing pistol, and again, Seaton said he believed Marks took it.

The next day, Carson and another agent went to Marks’ home.

“I explained to him how the firearm was recovered, and there’s a chance that Mr. (Brandon) Bradley would eventually identify the person that he got the firearm from,” Carson said in court.

As they talked, Marks stood in his driveway and smoked cigarettes. He initially denied the theft, but when agents told him the gun had been used to kill a deputy and they thought he was lying, he became emotional, took a deep breath and confessed.

Marks told Carson that a friend came to his house to say “Boogie killed a cop,” and he couldn’t watch the news. Carson showed him a photograph of Bradley and told Marks this was the person accused of killing Pill. Marks confirmed Bradley was “Boogie.”

Once he confessed, Marks breathed a sigh of relief, leaned up against a car in the driveway, and smoked another cigarette, Carson said.

Carson prepared a warrant, submitting it to a judge on March 22. Deputies arrested Marks the next day, charging him with burglary of a car, grand theft of a firearm, trafficking in stolen property and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon — he had been convicted of grand theft of a motor vehicle in 1989. He pleaded guilty to three of the charges in December, the state dropped the grand theft of a firearm charge.

At the sentencing, Marks said he was sorry, but Carson is doubtful.

“I don’t think Marks or his wife is remorseful,” Carson said. “From my experience, I truly don’t think they were 100 percent remorseful. I don’t think they realize how affected people in the community were by a stupid decision.”

Criminal attorney Jon Gutmacher of Orlando said there already are laws that cover incidents like these, and it would be impossible to prevent such thefts.

“Unfortunately, people steal things. Unfortunately, people rob people. Unfortunately, people kill people,” Gutmacher said. “That’s not going to stop. (Legislators) can change all the laws they want, they can make it Draconian if they want, it’s not going to change it.”

Carson said Bradley might not have had a gun if it weren’t for Marks.

“It’s not like (Bradley) had two or three on him, he had one,” Carson said. “It was the one (Marks) gave him.”

In court, Judge Dugan shared that sentiment. “Certainly Mr. Marks is responsible for what happened with the weapon that he put into the hands of an individual that he knew to be a drug dealer at that point.”