Murder suspect indicted

OKEECHOBEE — A 77-year-old Okeechobee man who was found dead in his yard by neighbors in January was apparently killed to fuel his alleged murderer’s cravings for drugs.

“It’s my belief the reason for Earlon Eugley’s murder was because John Russell Harlow wanted money to support his drug habit,” said Detective Marty D. Faulkner, of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO). “My belief is that he took an undisclosed amount of money from Mr. Eugley.

“I also believe the firearm used to kill Mr. Eugley belonged to him,” added the senior detective.

John Russell Harlow

John Russell Harlow

Thursday morning, April 14, the detective officially arrested Harlow, 23, on a charge of first degree premeditated murder. Harlow, N.W. 36th St., was also charged with the additional felonies of grand theft – motor vehicle (two counts), grand theft, dealing in stolen property, possession of personal identification of a deceased person and tampering with evidence.

Because he’s charged with first-degree murder, Harlow will be held without bond.

Mr. Eugley was found dead Jan. 30 in the back part of his property on N.E. 26th Avenue.

“A neighbor thought one of the man’s horses had died so they went to investigate and found the man,” explained the detective. “He had a single gunshot to the head.”

Mr. Eugley, continued Detective Faulkner, was killed several days before he was found.

Although Harlow was just charged Thursday, he’s been in the Okeechobee County Jail since Jan. 31 on unrelated charges that included possession of a controlled substance (amphetamine), possession of drug paraphernalia, resisting a law enforcement officer with violence and escape.

Harlow was being held on $65,000 bond.

Because the man was safely behind bars Detective Faulkner and fellow OCSO investigator Detective Corporal Ted Van Deman had time to put their murder case together and tie it up into a neat package.

Assistant state attorney Ashley Albright then presented the case to a grand jury earlier this week, and they came back with a true bill to indict Harlow.

Under state statutes only a grand jury can officially charge someone with first-degree murder.

The prosecutor also praised the work of the investigators.

“The sheriff’s office did an excellent job putting this case together,” Mr. Albright said.

According to Detective Faulkner his investigation began with interviewing the neighbors. In those conversations he learned the victim had been dating a local woman. When he spoke with the former girlfriend, Detective Faulkner learned she had seen Mr. Eugley with a man named John.

“At this time, all I had was a first name,” he said.

He then spoke with OCSO road patrol deputies assigned to the north end of the county and learned from Deputy Max Waldron that he had some prior ‘issues’ with a man named Harlow.

Detective Faulkner then learned the victim’s 2007 GMC pickup truck was missing, and that Harlow had been seen driving it. The detective next found out Harlow had apparently sold the pickup to a business on U.S. 98 North for $1,500.

Then enters Deputy Waldron again, who located the pickup at the unnamed business. Detective Faulkner then seized the vehicle and had it impounded at the sheriff’s office.

One lead led to another and Harlow was found Jan. 31 and taken to the sheriff’s office for questioning by the two OCSO investigators.

Harlow, recalled the detective, said the victim had sold him the truck in exchange for work he had done on Mr. Eugley’s property. Harlow, added Detective Faulkner, had been living with the victim for a few days.

But Harlow’s account of what transpired between him and the victim failed to convince the detectives.

“There were holes in his story, and he changed his story numerous times,” said Detective Faulkner.

Finally, the detectives arrested Harlow on the felony drug charge.

Handcuffed, they walked him out of the detective bureau to the county jail.

But, once outside the main building Harlow tried to make a break for freedom. Cpl. Van Deman grabbed him with his arms around Harlow’s head, neck and shoulders. Harlow then kicked upward and both men fell to the concrete, with Cpl. Van Deman landing on the back of his head.

Cpl. Van Deman was later found to have sustained a mild concussion from the fall.

Detective Faulkner then jumped on Harlow, who was soon subdued and safely tucked away behind bars.

“Now that I’ve got him in jail I continued my investigation,” Detective Faulkner noted.

The detective said he learned Harlow not only took Mr. Eugley’s truck, but also traded away a horse trailer that wasn’t his.

According to the detective he also found out the victim’s bank account had been used several times. He viewed video footage of those transactions and determined it was Harlow conducting those transactions. Most of the transactions were small and were done at local convenience stores, Detective Faulkner added.

He also ran into a clever scheme allegedly being perpetrated by Harlow.

“He used the victim’s account to wire money to himself via Western Union and for real time pickup,” said the detective, adding that real time means the money was ready for him immediately. “The money in those transactions was used by Harlow to buy drugs. Each transaction was for about $250.”

In his almost 15 years as a detective, Detective Faulkner said this was a very difficult case to solve and couldn’t have been done without the help of his fellow detectives.

“It couldn’t have been solved without the help of other seasoned detectives,” he said. “I’ve been blessed. Every murder case I’ve had, I’ve solved. I’ve always had good people around to help me.

“I also feel blessed to have solved these cases for the families of the victims,” he added.

Detective Faulkner also said a rumor that Harlow killed one of Mr. Eugley’s horses was not true. He also believes Harlow was apparently the only person involved in the killing of Mr. Eugley, who had served in the U.S. Coast Guard and retired out of that branch of the military.

Detective Faulkner said there are some facets of this case that remain under investigation.

Mr. Albright and Rob Moeller have been assigned to prosecute this case.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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