Suspect In Lowell Chief’s Death Pleads Guilty, Gets 12 Years

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A 53-year-old Florida man charged in the death last year of Lowell Police Chief Joe Landers pleaded guilty today in a Bay County, Fla., Circuit Court, receiving a 12-year prison sentence, according to the state attorney's office.

Jimmy John Christo pleaded guilty Thursday to leaving the scene of a crash with death and driving under the influence manslaughter.

Christo entered a straight-up plea, meaning there was no negotiated sentence, according to the Florida State Attorney's Office. Circuit Judge Brantley Clark sentenced Christo to 12 years in prison and five years on probation.

Landers, 51, who was in Florida attending the Thunder Beach Motorcycle Rally in Panama City Beach as a spectator, was injured when a Toyota Camry driven by Christo pulled out in front of his motorcycle without signaling April 27.

Landers was thrown from the motorcycle, over the hood of the car and suffered a fractured skull, broken pelvis and broken arm among other injuries.
He had been on life support for about two week at Bay Medical Center in the Florida panhandle before his death May 4.

The car left the scene after the accident, but authorities later arrested Christo, police said. Christo admitted to drinking an hour before the accident, according to investigators. He is charged with DUI manslaughter, leaving the scene of a crash, leaving a scene with property damage, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Authorities said Christo was driving with a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit of .08 percent.

Capt. Randy Harvey was named Lowell police chief in the spring, replacing Landers.

Mayor Eldon Long said Harvey is an accomplished leader.

“He has proven his leadership ability and has excellent training and is very loyal to the department,” the mayor said.

Harvey has been with the Lowell Police Department since 1998. He also has been a deputy with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office and a patrol officer with the Rogers Police Department.

Jimmy Christo

The announcement of Landers’ death was made May 4 in a news conference with Long at the Lowell City Council chambers.

City officials and residents lowered the U.S. flag outside the Lowell City Hall to half-staff following the news conference. Then, Long led the crowd in prayer.

“There will never be another individual like him,”Long said. “We need to go through this grieving process together.”