WINTER PARK, Fla. - According to prosecutors, a Winter Park police sergeant, being investigated on suspicion of stealing from a dead man, is connected with 14 active cases, including the fatal beating of a Winter Park high school student.
Sgt. Frank Cowart is facing a charge of grand theft after he allegedly stole $101 from a dead man at a crime scene several years ago, officials said.
Cowart is listed in court documents as one of the witnesses to be called during the trial for the fatal beating of high school student Roger Trindade.
Public defender Robert Wesley said he isn’t sure how the criminal investigation will affect the open cases to which Cowart is connected.
“We still don't know the degree of it and the circumstances of it. It sort of punts the issue to us to investigate," he said.
The theft incident allegedly occurred in 2011 when Cowart responded to a crime scene.
The theft accusation first came out in 2015 when Cowart’s wife mentioned it during divorce proceedings, investigators said.
The department conducted an internal investigation but no charges were ever filed against the 14-year veteran of the force.
In March 2017, though, Cowart’s now ex-wife found evidence boxes and turned them over to the Winter Park Police Department.
The case was given to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, which conducted a seven-month investigation that resulted in the grand theft charge.
Wesley said charges against a police witness brings doubt into their testimony—but only to a point.
“I think everything depends on degree,” he said.
While the amount of money may seem inconsequential, WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said the implications for the Police Department are very serious.
“It’s a big deal,” Sheaffer said. “In all probability, the state will ask for some prison time. They want to set an example, they want to deter (others).”
Sheaffer was sure some sort of review would take place.
“You can bet they will look into any cases they have with him, or had with him,” Sheaffer said, adding that he didn’t expect any major changes to past cases. “I don’t think we’re going to see a ripple effect from this case.”
© 2019 Cox Media Group.