WWII Veteran hopes prison teaches attacker a lesson

PANAMA CITY – A 95-year-old World War II veteran who was the victim of a home invasion took the news of his attacker’s prison sentence with the same calm reaction as his 911 call when he reported the original crime.

“Maybe he’ll learn a lesson in those 17 years,” the victim said of Michael E. Smith, 47, who was sentenced to 17 years in prison for the Dec. 5 attack and two subsequent offenses. “It takes all kinds of people to make up this world, but there are some of them I believe we can do without.”

The defendant pled no contest to Home Invasion Robbery, Grand Theft-Auto, and two counts of Introduction of Contraband into a Correctional Facility.

The victim said he was happy with both the sentence and the speed of the case through the courts.

“To be honest, I figured he’d drag it out for a year longer, so I was glad of it when (the State Attorney’s Office) told me he’d taken the plea and was going to prison,” he said. “He won’t be fooling with nobody else for a while.”

The victim was in his Hiland Park area home Dec. 5 when he reported being grabbed from behind and choked by a man later identified as the defendant. It happened so fast, he told Bay County Sheriff’s Office deputies and investigators, that he didn’t see the attacker at first.

The victim called 911 as soon as his attacker fled with his money and truck, sounding calm and collected as he gave them his name, address, and said, “my truck has been stolen and all my money.”

State Attorney Larry Basford commended the Sheriff’s Office for solving the case quickly and Assistant State Attorney Barbara Beasley for bringing the case to a speedy conclusion for the elderly victim.

Sheriff’s Office investigators and deputies canvassed the neighborhood and found the stolen truck abandoned about a mile away, no suspect in sight, according to Inv. Christopher Coram. However, after speaking with neighbors and reviewing surveillance videos from the neighborhood, investigators were able to determine that the defendant was staying at a nearby hotel. The defendant was arrested on the home invasion charge Dec. 5. The following day, Bay County Jail staff developed information that the defendant was in possession of contraband, which led to the final two charges.