Ramswell case continues without Crime Stoppers

Annie Blanks | 315-4450 | @DestinLogAnnie | ablanks@thedestinlog.com

News of a $5,000 Emerald Coast Crime Stoppers reward being offered for information leading to a beach umbrella thief prompted a Destin official to wonder why her case wasn’t getting more attention.

In July, City Councilwoman Prebble Ramswell received a letter in the mail urging her to resign her post on the city council or her “daughter will be gone.”

She contacted the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the case.

However, Emerald Coast Crime Stoppers has not advertised the $25,000 reward private citizens offered to Ramswell.

“The people that collected money for a personal reward here tried to reach out to (Crime Stoppers) right after this happened, and I’m not really quite sure what transpired, but long story short they weren’t willing to work with us,” Ramswell said. “I don’t know what’s going on but it’s very upsetting.”

Nicole Wagner with the Emerald Coast Crime Stoppers, said her organization couldn’t open themselves up to liabilities associated with stipulations the private donors wanted to make.

“We’ll be happy to advertise the case, I have no problem with it. I just have to abide by what our board of directors say,” Wagner said.  

The issue is whether a reward is paid out for just an arrest or an arrest coupled with a conviction. Crime Stoppers would pay out the reward for just an arrest, but the donors want to restrict the payout to an arrest and a conviction.

“Crime Stoppers sent me the contract, and one of the things that I did not like in the contract is that it calls for simply an arrest not a conviction,” said Darryl Shelton, a friend of Ramswell’s who is currently managing the $25,000. “There are people that will throw their hands up and say that they did it just to get the money.”

Wagner said that in her 16 years with Crime Stoppers, she has only had external rewards raised a handful of times, and she has never seen somebody falsely claim guilt or falsely implicate someone to cash in on reward money.

“The reason we don’t change (the stipulations to include) conviction is because it could open up our board to excessive liability,” Wagner said. “We consulted with a legal counsel for the Crime Stoppers USA program and he advised us to conform with best practices and to not open up our board to litigation.”

The Sheriff's Office declined to discuss the actual investigation other than to say it was still ongoing.

The envelope the death threat arrived in has been sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement laboratory for testing. Ramswell said last week that FDLE had found a fingerprint on the envelope and that they brought her in for testing to determine if it was her fingerprint from opening the letter. Those results have not been released yet.