Two Charged with Crooked Creek Murder as Investigation Continues

By: Vanessa Nguyen Email
By: Vanessa Nguyen Email

Bay County Sheriff's investigators say they've been working around the clock since finding 32-year-old Chad Earl Mercer's half clothed body in Crooked Creek Friday morning.

They say 34-year-old Jake Wesley Presley and 30-year-old Jeremy Fuentes killed Mercer sometime during the previous 2-days.

Sheriff Frank McKeithen says, "it appears they were both together when this individual was killed, it appears he was hit in the head with an object that burst his skull."

They say the pair dumped Mercer's body into Crooked Creek early Thursday morning where Presley washed off some of the victim's blood.

McKeithen says all 3-men knew each other through the Panama City Work Release Program.

"They each had been in different prisons and when they're released, sometimes they're sent here to our work release center, where they're allowed to go out and work in businesses in Bay County while they're still in prison."

One possible motive?

A pill-mill distribution scheme out of Jacksonville.

"It's incredible that this is an entire other group of people that we knew absolutely nothing about."

Sheriff's officials believe Presley and Fuentes burglarized Mercer's home after killing him, looking for the drugs.

"We know they went in the home and removed some items from the home, we had information that Mercer had possibly some money and pills, when he left that night and was actually going to sell them."
McKeithen says investigators also found evidence of blood inside of Presley's home.

They're still searching for other key pieces of evidence.

"We believe we know what the murder weapon is and we're actually going back to start looking for the murder weapon in other areas."
They're also working with Alabama authorities to find a vehicle which may have been crushed.

"We have witnesses that saw large amounts of blood in the car, it's just a never-ending process. Each time we work one of these cases, we develop so much information that it's just unbelievable."

Presley and Fuentes are charged with an open count of murder, burglary of an occupied dwelling and tampering with evidence.

Presley is also charged with failing to register as a convicted felon.

Two weeks ago, a Southport homeowner shot and killed 2-young men who were part of a group that was allegedly trying to pull-off a home invasion robbery.

Sheriff's officials found evidence of a large-scale pill-mill operation inside the home, that they were previously unaware of.


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