• Orange County judges ordering GPS monitors despite past problems

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    ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - 9 Investigates has learned four Orange County judges have recently begun ordering released jail inmates on GPS monitors.

    The county stopped using the monitors two years ago after Channel 9 exposed major shortfalls in the program.

    Records show five inmates in three months were put on the monitors. One of them is now dead and one, a convicted sex offender, is now in prison.

    Channel 9's Kathi Belich dug into their court records and found that in one case, prosecutors didn’t even want the suspect out of jail.

    The judges are ordering the GPS monitors, not the jail system, Belich said.

    On Easter 2013, Wilfred Gregory opened fire at an Apopka block party and critically wounded a man.  He was out of jail on bond and on a GPS monitor for a domestic violence charge at the time.

    Authorities said Gregory cut off the monitor after the shooting and ran. The GPS company waited hours before telling police when and where they found the monitor.

    Former Chief Judge Belvin Perry halted the GPS program, but three months ago, Orange County Judge Renee Roche granted bond and ordered GPS monitoring for Debrand Blair, who is accused of a drive-by shooting that critically wounded 11-year-old Jasada Barrette.

    Records show a week later, the judge lifted the GPS requirement.

    Last month, Blair was shot and killed.

    Roche also put a battery and burglary suspect on GPS in March, Belich said.

    Orange County Judge Mike Murphy ordered Nichol Phelps, accused of molesting her young dance student, on a GPS monitor while Phelps was out on bond.

    The prosecutor requested on record that it be a company approved by the Ninth Judicial Circuit, knowing no such company existed, but Murphy did it anyway and also allowed Phelps out and on GPS after she was convicted and facing prison, Belich said.

    Phelps, whom the victim's mother called a "monster," has been sentenced to eight years in prison.

    Judges run their courtrooms and have discretion, but the county's stand right now is that the GPS program can give a false sense of security.

    It's often more helpful after something goes wrong, but that wasn't the case with that Apopka Easter shooting in 2013.

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