Drug deal leads to murder

After a vehicle was pulled from a canal last week, the deceased driver was found to have multiple gunshot wounds to the neck and head. Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jonathon Gove responded to a call early Friday morning, May 17. The caller said there was a vehicle in the canal at the 1000 block of Cemetery Road. After the black Infinity was pulled from the water, the driver was identified as 43-year-old Paul Murphy of Jupiter.

James Wade Hodges

Cherish Murphy, the victim’s wife was in Okeechobee at that time looking for her husband and was asked to go to the Sheriff’s office to file a report. Mrs. Murphy reportedly said her husband was in Okeechobee to see Jimbo Hodges because Jimbo owed him $5,000. She said Mr. Murphy was supposed to meet Hodges at 9p.m. and then go visit another friend named Alfredo in Central Florida. She became concerned, she said when she received a call from Alfredo saying her husband never arrived. She said she began calling her husband and texting Hodges but got no reply until about 4a.m. when Hodges allegedly called her and told her he had seen her husband earlier in the night. She said he called again at 6a.m. with a different story, this time saying he did not see her husband but that her husband dropped something off. She said she became so worried she came to town to look for him and found his tools in Hodge’s garbage can at the end of his road.

Det. Ted Van Deman asked Mrs. Murphy why her husband loaned Hodges $5,000 if they were financially strained, but she would not explain. After he told her her husband was found dead in a canal, she told him that her husband paints houses for a living but to make ends meet, he sometimes sells marijuana. She said recently he supplied Hodges with $5,000 worth of marijuana to sell and that a couple days earlier, her husband went to his home to collect the money but Hodges tried to give him a tractor instead. She said her husband declined and said he would be back for the money. She said Hodges was the only person her husband would be stopping to do business with in Okeechobee.

Two of Hodges’ neighbors reportedly said they heard gunshots during the night. On the driveway of Hodges’ home, they found two red colored stains, and they found an unspent .45 cartridge in the backyard. Based on these findings and additional evidence, Hodges was arrested and charged with murder in the second degree.

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