Press "Enter" to skip to content

Questions raised over handling of McLemore death investigation

With questions still looming in the community over the recent death of Blountstown Middle School coach, Tranum McLemore, The County Record is taking an investigative journalism approach to finding answers. When issues are raised, particularly when it comes to government operations, it is the media’s responsibility to hold those in authority accountable. This is not finger pointing, it is not an effort to accuse; it is the role of the media to inform the public when concerns arise. As previously reported, McLemore was found dead in his Bristol home on the night of April 4 following an alleged domestic dispute with his wife, Winter. He died from gunshot wounds from a Ruger 9MM semi-automatic pistol. Winter McLemore told authorities she fled the scene and drove to the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO), hearing two gunshots as she left. Her three daughters, ages 2, 5, and 10, were said to be asleep in their bedroom. They were unharmed. In an interview with The County Record April 9, Liberty County Sheriff Donnie Conyers described the shooting. “He was hit three times – in the shoulder area first, in the head second, and, as he was collapsing, a third shot went off in his leg.” Conyers further stated, “I’m convinced it was self-inflicted and there was nobody else involved.” In order to see the evidence and read all the reports surrounding this case, The County Record made a public records request to the LCSO April 19. If anything, the information we received created only more concerns about the handling of this case by the LCSO. The following is a list of all issues: - Evidence testing. A list was requested of all evidence released to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) crime lab. A property receipt filled out by Inv. Todd Wheetley indicates the clothing worn by Winter McLemore was collected at 10:35 p.m. the night of April 4. According to the form, the clothing was stored in an evidence locker. No description of the clothing is provided. It is listed on the form as “Paper bag containing clothes worn by Winter McLemore.” There is no record under chain of custody at the bottom of the form that the clothing evidence had ever left that locker as of April 24 when a copy of this form was released to The County Record. However, Sheriff Conyers stated in an interview Apr. 9 that the clothing had already been tested for gun shot residue. The only other evidence information provided was the 9 mm Ruger, one magazine and one round found in the chamber. The evidence form shows these items were collected by Sgt. Jamie Shiver at 9:32 p.m., just six minutes after the deputies arrived on the scene. The property receipt indicates this evidence was turned over to Shawn Yao of FDLE at 1:13 a.m. on Apr. 5. - Preservation of the crime scene. According to the U.S. Department of Justice guide for law enforcement crime scene investigation, “One of the most important aspects of securing the crime scene is to preserve the scene with minimal contamination and disturbance of physical evidence.” In order to protect the integrity of the scene, law enforcement officers are taught to limit activity and safeguard any evidence. This means keeping the number of people tracking in and around the scene – including law enforcement officers – to a minimum with only those absolutely necessary to the investigation allowed around the body and any potential evidence. This allows experts who are trained in collecting forensic evidence – such as agents with the FDLE crime lab – to do their job. However, nine deputies, plus Sheriff Conyers, entered the crime scene at the McLemore home prior to the arrival of FDLE Crime Lab Agent Shawn Yao. Among those nine deputies were Winter McLemore’s two uncles, Maj. Dussia Shuler and Lt. Brigham Shuler. FDLE Agent Lao did not enter the home until 12:13 a.m. - Handling of the evidence. Reports indicate Sgt. Jamie Shiver, who was an initial responding deputy at the scene, immediately removed the gun that was reportedly between Tranum McLemore’s legs. In photos that appear to have been taken from a cell phone, the gun and trigger are visible. There is no part of McLemore’s body touching the trigger, leading to the question of why the gun had to be removed. Sgt. Shiver noted the hammer was cocked and a round was in the chamber. However, research indicates a Ruger will not go off unless the trigger is pulled, meaning the removal of the gun appears unnecessary. Dep. Fletcher indicates in his handwritten statement that once Tranum McLemore was pronounced dead, “Sgt. Shiver took the weapon and placed it in a evidence bag and scene was secured.” He does not mention any photos being taken. However, Inv. Brian Bateman reported Sgt. Shiver told him he photographed the scene, then cleared and removed the gun “because the hammer was cocked.” Not only was the gun removed, but McLemore’s left foot was clearly moved, indicating the body was disturbed at some point. Crime scene photos taken by the LCSO do not provide accurate time or date. Some are of lesser quality, appearing as though they may have been taken from a cell phone. On the other hand, photos taken by FDLE have an accurate date. A small chocolate lab puppy reportedly ran up to Tranum McLemore and “got into his blood,” according to Dep. Walker’s report. He stated he grabbed the puppy and placed the dog in the children’s bathtub. A good bit of blood, as well as a pile of excrement, are photographed in the tub, but no photo of the dog. There are three drops of blood visible in photos of the tile in the kitchen. The drops are spread beyond the width of a tile onto three separate tiles. The tiles appear between 12” and 18” square. There is nothing in the crime reports indicating the size of the puppy. Another drop of something in the similar shape and color of the blood drop can be seen on the tile beneath a barstool. The question of whether this is blood or food is never addressed, nor is a similar stain on a nearby counter. Inv. Brian Bateman noted in his report that Sgt. Shiver told him the “spots of blood were not on the floor when he entered.” Sgt. Shiver was making a tactical approach into the home, suspected an armed gunman was inside, likely had his head up and eyes wide open for someone to exit a bedroom with a weapon. This begs the question, how did he notice the kitchen floor? - Questioning of neighbors. Sheriff Donnie Conyers told The County Record Winter fled the scene to save her life, noting a neighbor confirmed hearing the shots and seeing Winter running from the home. However, that neighbor gave a written statement that conflicts with that accounting of events. He says he heard some taps, looked out and saw a vehicle pulling out of the driveway, assumed it was Winter going somewhere and nothing appeared unusual or out of the ordinary. He did not indicate she was running, driving fast, spinning tires, or anything to suggest she was in a hurry or running for her life. He stated he was watching American Idol with his wife when he heard the taps, but was never asked what was happening on the show at the time so investigators could better determine the time the shots were fired. He also indicated hearing another tap moments later – yet again was not asked about what was happening on the show to determine the time. The neighbor further stated he heard a loud vehicle shortly after the second tap. He assumed it was another neighbor’s vehicle and provided that neighbor’s name. However, there was no report provided indicating that other neighbor was questioned to determine if the vehicle was his or someone else’s in the area immediately after those shots were fired. - Interview of Winter McLemore. It was noted by a dispatcher that Winter left the dispatch area around 10 p.m. There is no report indicating she was questioned before leaving. A report indicates Inv. Todd Wheetley made contact with Winter at 10:35 p.m. at her sister’s home where her clothing was collected. She then met him at the LCSO to be interviewed. Present in the interview were Inv. Wheetley, along with Maj. Dussia Shuler, Winter’s uncle. The entire interview lasted 8 minutes, 26 seconds. She explained how she suspected Tranum had put a GPS on her van and she had confronted him that morning. She said she saw a divorce attorney at 4 p.m. that day. She said Tranum left work early, was crying and texting throughout the day, asking for just 10 minutes to talk. Winter said they put the girls to bed early, went to bed to talk and the conversation was civil until she says he “flippin’ snapped.” She described him hitting and choking her, dragging her to the bathroom, telling her she was going to die, then loosening the chokehold enough that she was able to get to her feet. She said he apologized, pulled the door to their bathroom so she couldn’t get out, then released it, stating, “You better go, you don’t want to see what’s fixing to happen.” Winter told investigators, “From the minute he opened that door, all I did was run like the wind…I knew my girls were there asleep, but I had to get away because I thought I was going to die and I just had to get help. Before I made it out of the house there were two shots fired and I just got in the van and drove as fast as I could to the jail.” Winter was then asked only two questions. Inv. Wheetley asked if she felt this was something Tranum had thought about to which she replied she did not. Maj. Shuler then asked if she knew where Tranum kept the guns in their home. “There were guns everywhere,” Winter responded. “There were guns on both sides of the bed, on the dresser, in the closet.” He elaborated, asking about pistols and handguns and she replied, “There were some in the room, I really don’t know where.” With her husband’s dead body found inside their home, it would seem more than two questions would be posed of Winter McLemore, not to accuse, but to thoroughly investigate. Questions that were NOT asked: Why no call to 911? Two cordless phones and two cell phones are visible in crime scene photos in a clear path from the McLemore master bedroom to the front door. Where were her car keys when she retrieved them? Winter indicates she ran for her life to get help as fast as she could, but where did she stop to get her keys? Where specifically was she when shots were fired? She says she was leaving the house – where was she? Why did she not opt to go to a neighbor’s house to call for help? There are five homes within a few yards of the McLemore house. If the goal was to get help as fast as possible, why not run to a neighbor as opposed to driving five minutes to the LCSO? Did she shower or change clothes? Reports indicate Winter McLemore left the dispatch at 10 p.m. and was found at her sister’s home at 10:35 p.m. What transpired during that 35 minute window? Would access to her vehicle be allowed? Was Winter’s vehicle searched or inspected? Did she find the GPS she alleged Tranum tried to place in her van? Where is it? These questions are not to imply any wrong doing on the part of Winter McLemore, but seem appropriate for a thorough investigation. However, there is no indication any of the questions were asked of her. - Public records still remaining to be inspected. The County Record requested a report of all calls in and out of the LCSO and all radio traffic between the hours of 8 p.m. ET on April 4 and 10 a.m. ET on April 5. All that was provided were calls in a 22 minute window from 11:26 p.m. to 11:48 p.m. April 4, as well as three and a half hours of dispatch traffic with deputies. Video footage outside the dispatch was provided, but could not be viewed on either a Windows or Mac computer. We will continue to pursue these items until all evidence has been reviewed to our satisfaction.

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.