Serial Robber Caught in Panama City Beach

By: Jeremy Pate
By: Jeremy Pate

A man suspected in at least half a dozen robberies in the last month is behind bars.

Police wish Gary Williams wouldn't have been out on the streets to begin with.

Gary Ted Williams, known as the "Gentleman Robber" was caught by Bay County sheriff's deputies on North Lagoon Drive in Panama City Beach a little after 9 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Among the six businesses Williams has confessed to robbing:

Sally's Beauty Shop in Callaway, the Payless Shoe store in Panama City, an ice cream shop in Panama City Beach, and a Lynn Haven Subway.

"We would consider him a threat to society. We're all appalled, all the agencies here, at the fact this man is out walking the streets still robbing people," said Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen.

Williams reportedly robbed the stores in order to have money to by methamphetamine. His past includes 32 convictions for armed robbery, two convictions for robbery with a weapon, and a conviction for kidnapping.

All the crimes happened in central and southern Florida in 1990. So with all these convictions, why was Williams out of prison?

For the answer, you have take a look back at state history. Before 1995, if you convicted and sentenced for a crime, you could get what was known as "gain time,” the gain time concept was a way to alleviate overcrowding at state prisons.

Due to gain time, prisoners typically served only half of their sentence before being released.

Such is the story with Gary Ted Williams. The 30+ robberies on his record all happened in 1990.

So, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison under the old guidelines in 1990. He was released on Dec. 26, 2002, after serving a little more than 12 years of his 20-year sentence. The first robbery he’s confessed to happened Dec. 10, 2003, less than a year later.

"It's just ridiculous that a person commit this many robberies and it out today committing those robberies. This person should be in prison for the rest of his life," said McKeithen.

The gain time concept was done away with in 1995. Now everyone convicted must serve at least 85-percent of a sentence before getting out.

Police agencies Bay and Jackson County teamed up to catch Williams. McKeithen says the Bay County sheriff's office couldn't have caught Williams without the help of Panama City police, Lynn Haven police, Panama City Beach police and Jackson County Sheriff's office.


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