By Ed Pruneau
Missourian Managing Editor
Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Bob Parks said he was “disappointed” in a judge’s decision to grant probation in the case of a man who pleaded guilty to robbing a pharmacy in 2012.
Parks said he recommended a sentence of 10 years “to serve” for Matthew J. Florence, 25, of Washington, who was charged with felony pharmacy robbery and theft of a controlled substance in the Aug. 28, 2012, afternoon robbery at Hall’s Pharmacy on Highway A. The robber claimed to have a gun but no weapon was displayed. A large number of Percocet tablets were stolen in the holdup.
At a sentencing hearing last month, Circuit Judge Gael Wood gave Florence a suspended imposition sentence (s.i.s.) and placed him on five years’ supervised probation on the pharmacy robbery charge.
The judge sentenced him to seven years in prison on the charge of stealing a controlled substance and ordered Florence to undergo a 120-day institutional treatment program in the Missouri Department of Corrections. If he successfully completes the treatment program he likely will be released on probation.
Florence is scheduled to begin the treatment program May 12, according to court documents.
“I’m not criticizing the judge’s decision,” Parks said. “But it’s disappointing to me to have a person who committed a violent crime only do 120 days.”
Parks said authorities had a very strong case against Florence. During questioning after his arrest, the man confessed to staging the robbery. He said he did not have a gun and that he acted alone. They also had physical evidence linking him to the robbery.
“We had this guy cold,” Parks remarked. “When we make a plea bargain recommendation for 10 years to serve and end up with an s.i.s., it’s demoralizing.
“He’s the judge. He has the final say,” Parks said. “All I can do is recommend. If he chooses to ignore my recommendation, that’s his right.”
A man entered the pharmacy at Krakow and demanded the prescription medicine. He claimed to have a gun but no weapon was displayed.
Immediately after the robbery, deputies in the area began chasing a car on Country Club Road but lost sight of it. They later learned that the suspect parked the car at a house off of Country Club Lane which runs from Country Club Road to Highway 47.
Detectives then began developing a list of people who were getting that prescription drug and cross referenced those pharmacy records with arrest records.
Then, an anonymous tip led investigators to an apartment in the 1000 block of East Fifth Street in Washington where they questioned and received consent to search the residence.
Inside, they found a tablet on which the note presented at the pharmacy had been written. When that was written it left an impression on the sheet below it which could be detected, investigators said.