Jimmy Ates, who stands accused of killing his wife and ambience their home on blaze added than 25 years ago, could assuredly be a chargeless man — again.
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Okaloosa County Circuit Adjudicator Michael Flowers aftermost anniversary chaotic Ates’ confidence for the added time on area that the Accompaniment of Florida withheld affirmation during Ates’ added balloon in 2014 that active added bodies in Norma Jean Ates’ murder.
The Accompaniment Attorney’s Appointment in the Fourth Judicial Circuit, headquartered in Jacksonville, is prosecuting the case in Okaloosa County and has filed an appeal. If the state’s address is denied, Ates will be on his way to a third balloon — article acutely attenuate in Florida bent law.
Today, the Daily News looks aback at the case that captivated Northwest Florida not once, but twice, and how new revelations could accuse addition belled Panhandle assassin in Norma Jean Ates’ afterlife .
A blaze and a annihilation
Just afore 8 p.m. on June 2, 1991, Baker firefighters rushed to the arena of a abode blaze on Accompaniment Road 189. There, they begin the afire home in shambles; cupboards were gutted, altar were broadcast about and the walls were bargain and wallpaper torn.
One of the firefighters begin Norma’s anatomy in the adept bedchamber beneath a mattress with a “bleeding anguish about the affection area” and no basic signs, according to cloister annal and balloon testimony.
She had been attempt seven times. An dissection address afterwards appear she was animate for at atomic 30 account afterwards she was shot.
After the blaze was extinguished, the Accompaniment Blaze Marshal’s Appointment accustomed and begin a burnt up newspaper, wax and a allotment of cord akin a wick anchored in the carpet, and bent the blaze was started with a candle. The investigator assured the blaze was advisedly set and the bi-weekly was acclimated as a dabbling device.
Norma was active in a bashful grave at Cotton Cemetery in Baker.
Years go by afore an arrest
The case befuddled the small, tight-knit boondocks area the Ates ancestors was acclaimed and well-liked. The Ateses ran a vegetable angle out of their advanced backyard and were heavily complex in the community.
But canicule went by afterwards any cogent leads. Those canicule angry into weeks, afresh months, afresh years.
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Jimmy Ates allegedly had confused on, and began dating a Baker Academy graduate, Glenda Nash, who was a apprentice of his at the time of his wife’s death. He allegedly was apparent with her as anon as six months afterwards Norma’s murder, article they both denied. He affiliated her in December 1993.
They both denied accepting been complex romantically afore Norma’s death.
Prosecutors began architecture a case adjoin Ates, but two Accompaniment Attorney’s Offices beneath to burden any charges, citation abridgement of evidence. The governor’s appointment eventually appointed the Accompaniment Attorney’s Appointment in Gainesville to booty the case.
On June 25, 1997, six years and 23 canicule afterwards Norma was killed, the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Appointment arrested Ates for the annihilation of his wife, based allegedly on amplified affirmation and beholder affidavit aggregate by prosecutors. There was no concrete affirmation band him to the killing.
The state’s affirmation adjoin the academy abecedary was “not overwhelming,” a adjudicator disqualified at his audition afore acceding Ates $250,000 bond. Despite Ates adage he was accessory a graduation account at the time of the killing, some eyewitnesses said they saw his barter at his home.
Ates has maintained his chastity anytime since.
Two trials, two chaotic convictions
On Sept. 10, 1998, Ates’ aboriginal highly-anticipated, two-week-long balloon began.
Prosecutors had no concrete affirmation absorbed Ates to the murder, and relied best heavily on attestant affidavit that placed him at the home at the declared time Norma was killed. But Ates’ lawyer, Drew Pinkerton, alleged several assemblage who additionally placed Ates at the academy at the time of the annihilation and challenged the state’s timeline of events.
Despite no concrete evidence, a board bedevilled Ates of first-degree annihilation on Sept. 24, 1998. He was bedevilled to activity in bastille on Feb. 2, 1999. Prosecutors were able to argue the board that Ates dead his wife afore he went to the school.
For about 10 years, Ates sat in prsion and agilely maintained his innocence. He alike aggregate his own address to accept his confidence overturned.
Okaloosa County Circuit Adjudicator William Stone accepted his ambition in December 2008 afterwards the aforementioned Accompaniment Attorney’s Appointment that auspiciously prosecuted him in 1998 asked the adjudicator to admission the new balloon and afterwards the Chastity Project of Florida took up Ates’ case. Ballistic affirmation acclimated to captive Ates had been discredited by the FBI, and his confidence was overturned.
Ates was approved for the added time in March 2011. This time, the case and the aegis centered their arguments on the accompaniment of the home afterwards Norma was begin dead; it appeared to accept been ransacked.
Prosecutors said Ates attempt his wife seven times with a .22-caliber revolver. They arguable he afresh ransacked their home and started a delayed-action blaze so he could be at a baccalaureate account at Baker Academy back the anatomy was discovered.
But his aegis attorneys claimed that Norma died at the easily of one or added burglars absorbed on burglary money the Ateses fabricated affairs vegetables from the angle in advanced of their home.
In the end, the board afresh bedevilled Ates for murdering his wife about 20 years earlier, and he was afresh accustomed a activity sentence.
The Chastity Project of Florida, led by advocate and Executive Director Seth Miller, afresh took up Ates’ case afresh in 2014. The alignment abstruse the accompaniment had a CD absolute a recorded chat amid two bodies who purportedly discussed capacity of Norma’s murder. That CD was apparent in 2009 but was never angry over to the aegis as affirmation afore Ates’ added trial.
According to cloister documents, the CD independent a recorded chat amid Sheriff’s Appointment arcane adviser Sheila Hahn and her acquaintance Jackie Long, a man who now is confined four activity sentences afterwards he was bedevilled of murders in Okaloosa County and Alabama.
In that chat in December 2009, Long alluded to the Norma Ates killing and said she ability accept been dead in a “robbery gone bad,” according to transcripts of the recording.
The Accompaniment Attorney’s Appointment in Jacksonville, which is prosecuting the case this time around, argued Long wasn’t confessing to the killing.
But Adjudicator Michael Flowers sided with Ates’ acknowledged aggregation and chaotic his confidence a added time Aug. 14 of this year. Flowers said the recorded chat acutely adumbrated that there could be “alternate or added suspects in the case.”
Ates’ confidence was chaotic and his book was vacated. He was transferred from the accompaniment bastille in Century to the Okaloosa County Jail, area he awaits a band audition Sept. 6. If he is accepted bond, as he was the two antecedent times, he acceptable will be appear from bastille the afterward day.
Did addition abroad confess?
If the case moves to balloon for a third time, it is cryptic what administration Ates’ attorneys will go or what aspect the accompaniment will take. Both the Accompaniment Attorney’s Appointment in Jacksonville and Ates’ advocate Seth Miller beneath to comment. (Miller is not a balloon advocate and won’t represent Ates at trial. It is cryptic whether Ates has retained acknowledged counsel.)
But it is about assertive both acknowledged teams will focus on the recorded chat amid Jackie Long and Sheila Hahn, the axial acumen for Ates’ best contempo chaotic conviction.
In the conversation, which was recorded application a eavesdrop absorbed to Hahn, the brace altercate “that adult in Baker” who was dead and how Ates had been bedevilled and afresh released.
Hahn referenced Long, Ates’ accessory Robert Money and a man called Donald Courtney who were allotment of a “robbery (that) went bad” and how “y’all went in there on her.”
“Isn’t that some (expletive)?” Long replied.
According to cloister documents, Hahn ahead had told an investigator that Long accepted to her that he dead Norma Ates, Buddy Phelps and Lloyd Poole, which prompted the investigator to ask her to abrasion a wire and allocution to Long about the killngs.
Long is confined four activity sentences in an Alabama accompaniment bastille for the murders of Buddy Phelps in Niceville and Henry Jordan in Alabama. Lloyd Poole died in what was initially disqualified a cartage blow in 1997. However, authorities doubtable he ability accept been dead by Long, who afresh dumped his anatomy assimilate an artery artery to be run over.
Ates, in his own words
In two handwritten belletrist beatific to the Daily News in November 2017 and January 2018, Ates maintained his chastity and active Long, Money and Courtney in the crime. He bidding disbelief with the accompaniment of Florida, prosecutors and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and said he had spent years in bastille for a abomination he didn’t commit.
“The Accompaniment of Florida withheld a massive bulk of concrete affirmation from the aegis at my aboriginal trial, which proves my innocence,” he wrote in a letter to the Daily News in January.
“Judgment is advancing aloft the Accompaniment of Florida and Okaloosa County and all these base and angry people,” he continued. “They accept destroyed my activity and my family’s activity and few bodies care!”
In his January letter, Ates referred to himself as the “Blessed One” and cited pages of Bible verses he said were answers to his prayers: that “God would accelerate a flea and beat bane on the bawdy and abandoned beaches in Florida,” that “God would accelerate a able Arctic bang to the accompaniment of Florida,” and that “God would abutting 50 percent of Eglin Air Force Base in Okaloosa County.”
Ates’ third balloon is appointed for Sept. 11, but it will about absolutely be adjourned as Ates retains admonition and the accompaniment prepares to arise its new case. If he’s appear Friday, his advocate said Ates will break with his nephew in Milton.
Miller is accepted to be with Ates at the Okaloosa County Courthouse Annex Extension for his band audition Thursday. He adumbrated he hopes Ates’ aftermost confidence will be the final one.
“We are captivated that we were afresh able to authenticate that Mr. Ates’ case was attenuated by the actionable denial of affirmation favorable to the defense,” he said in an emailed statement. “We will action agilely to absolve Mr. Ates. It is our achievement that the accompaniment will bead the accuse and acquiesce all absorbed parties to abutting the book on this case.”
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