Sometime before the 7:00 p.m. closing time on Sunday evening, February 16, 1975, a man entered
the Pantry Pride store on Gandy Blvd. in Tampa, Florida and hid inside. Several hours later, masked and armed with a
handgun, the man approached Albert McKinley, the janitor, who was alone and cleaning the store. The masked gunman
ordered Albert McKinley to assist him in breaking into the locked pharmacy inside the store, and to fill a plastic garbage can
with prescription drugs.
Shortly before 12:50 a.m. Monday, February 17, 1975, a twenty-year old security guard named Steve Bluffstone was guarding a
bank construction site adjacent to the Pantry Pride store and heard the sound of breaking glass coming from the direction of
the store. Steve Bluffstone drew his gun, ran to the store and intercepted the masked gunman and Albert McKinley as they
came out through the broken glass of the front door.
The security guard ordered the masked gunman to raise his hands and at that time the gunman and Bluffstone both
simultaneously fired several rounds at each other at close range. Bluffstone was shot twice, and fell to the ground. The gunman
then took the janitor, Albert McKinley’s car keys, picked up Bluffstone’s pistol and fled the scene in McKinley’s station wagon,
which had been parked in front of the store. Bluffstone died at Tampa General Hospital the next morning.
On April 5th, 1978 Charles Norman was falsely arrested for the murder of Steven Bluffstone. In February of 1980, Charles
Norman came to trial in Tampa Florida. The murder weapon was never produced. Albert McKinley, the victim of the
robbery, did not identify Charles Norman despite spending nearly an hour with the perpetrator, but gave a physical
description of the perpetrator as close to 5’8”, 150 lbs. compared to Norman’s 5’11”+, 200lbs. There was NO physical evidence
of any kind produced linking Charles Norman to the murder.
Four witnesses (FOR THE PROSECUTOR) testified that Charles Norman confided to them at various times after the murder, that
he had shot Steven Bluffstone during the robbery at the Pantry Pride store. All four witnesses RECEIVED IMMUNITY from
prosecution! TWO for FIRST DEGREE MURDER, two were released from prison in return for TESTIMONY, and one of the four
witnesses had pending drug charges DISMISSED after he testified at trial against Charlie.
Only the guilty are given immunity -- the innocent don't need it.
CHARLES NORMAN HAS MAINTAINED HIS INNOCENCE TO THIS DAY. A
REQUIREMENT FOR PAROLE IS TO SHOW REMORSE TO THE PAROLE BOARD
FOR THE CRIME YOU COMMITTED. CAN YOU IMAGINE HOW HOPELESS CHARLIE
MUST FEEL TO KNOW THAT, EVEN AFTER ALMOST 40 YEARS, THE ONLY WAY
OUT IS TO ADMIT SOMETHING YOU DID NOT DO? MOST GUILTY PEOPLE WOULD
HAVE ADMITTED THE CRIME LONG AGO JUST TO GET OUT...
Excerpted from "The Innocence Project" the following facts represent just one method
regularly used by unscrupulous prosecutors:
In more than 15% of cases of wrongful conviction overturned by DNA testing, an informant or jail house snitch
testified against the defendant. Often, statements from people with incentives to testify – particularly incentives that are not
disclosed to the jury – are the central evidence in convicting an innocent person.
People have been wrongfully convicted in cases in which snitches:
•Have been paid to testify (truthful OR NOT)...
•Have testified in exchange for their release from prison...
•Have testified in multiple distinct cases that they have evidence of guilt, through overhearing a confession or
witnessing the crime.
DNA exonerations have shown that snitches lie on the stand. To many, this news isn’t a surprise. Testifying falsely
in exchange for an incentive – either money or a sentence reduction – is often the last resort for a desperate inmate. For someone
who is not in prison already, but who wants to avoid being charged with a crime, providing snitch testimony may be the only option.
In some cases, snitches or informants come forward voluntarily, often seeking deals or special treatment. But in MANY cases
law enforcement officials seek out snitches and give them extensive background on cases needing
'HELP' - essentially feeding them the information they need to provide appropriate false testimony.
Snitches continue to testify in courtrooms around the country today. In some cases without biological
evidence, the snitch testimony is the only evidence of guilt.
Vital reforms are needed to ensure that these unreliable/questionable witnesses are not given undue
weight by juries.
In 2005, the Center on Wrongful Convictions in Chicago issued a report, "The Snitch System: How Incentivized (incentive-based)
Witnesses Put 38 Innocent Americans on Death Row." The study provides a comprehensive look at the problem of snitch testimony,
and describes in detail how the use of snitch testimony contributed to the conviction of specific innocent defendants.
Two Canadian cases led officials to conduct studies of the use of in-custody informants:
- The Kaufman Commission (Guy Paul Morin case) – Ontario
- The Inquiry Regarding Thomas Sophonow – Manitoba"
The use of informants was the primary method utilized by police and prosecutors to
wrongfully convict Charles Norman.
HOW FOUR DANGEROUS CRIMINALS BECAME INFORMANTS
AND GOT AWAY WITH MURDER (Abridged):
Larry Rae Wingate and Keith Michael Chee-A-Tow were two violent drug dealers well-known to police, convicted felons, partners,
who admitted their knowledge and involvement in the drug store robbery and shooting of security guard Steve Bluffstone in the
early morning hours of February 17, 1975.
Wingate and Chee-A-Tow were given "immunity from prosecution for first degree murder" in exchange
for their false testimony that Charlie Norman told them he had shot someone.
Larry Wingate closely matched the eyewitness description of a white male, 5 feet, 8 inches tall, 150 pounds,
blond hair and mustache, wearing a white meat-cutter's coat, with a white apron wrapped around the lower part of his face. Less
than 30 minutes after fleeing the scene in a stolen car, a panicked Wingate tried to give a pistol wrapped in a white apron to
Debbie Wadsworth in front of a north Tampa bar. She refused to take it. Later on, Wingate bragged that his wealthy father had paid
off officials to keep him from being charged with the crime. Wingate's testimony changed several times in the five years between
1975 and 1980, when he testified at Charlie Norman's trial, contradicting several previous sworn statements. He never spent a day
in jail for causing the death of Steve Bluffstone.
Keith Chee-A-Tow planned the drugstore robbery that resulted in the death of Steve Bluffstone. A Guyana
native of Chinese extraction, holding a British passport, he used his student visa as a cover for selling drugs at the University of
South Florida. His girlfriend, Carol Soriano, worked as a cocktail waitress at "The Pad Lounge," owned by infamous Tampa gangster,
Pat Matassini. The Pad Lounge is situated not fifty yards from the front door of the Pantry Pride drugstore/grocery where Steve
Bluffstone was shot, and shares a parking lot. Carol Soriano told investigators that she had seen Larry Wingate in the bar sometime
around 5:30 or 6:00 PM, Sunday, February 16, 1975, shortly before the Pantry Pride closing time. Wingate left The Pad Lounge,
walked over to the drug store/grocery, concealed himself somewhere in the rear meat department, and waited until the store
closed. Hours later he accosted the store janitor, Albert McKinley.
Keith Chee-A-Tow waited for Wingate at The Pad Lounge. He tried to use Carol Soriano as an alibi, saying she had
the night off, and they went to the movies, going so far as convincing detectives, after viewing movie listings in the Tampa Tribune's
newspaper archives, that they'd seen "Pardon My Blooper." Soriano contradicted his alibi, admitting she'd worked until midnight.
Testifying under oath at Charlie's trial, Chee-A-Tow finally admitted that entire story was fabricated, and he had perjured himself. He
was never charged with perjury. Prosecutors did not call Soriano to testify, protecting Chee-A-Tow.
Chee-A-Tow used Carol Soriano and several other young women to obtain fraudulent prescriptions for powerful drugs which he sold.
Soriano had become addicted to painkillers after an accident, and Chee-A-Tow was her drug supplier.
Chee-A-Tow was arrested by Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies not long after the Bluffstone murder,
and pleaded guilty to a drug-related burglary of a pimp's apartment, during which he fired shots at several pimps who were pursuing
him and an unidentified white male accomplice. He was later deported to the Bahamas as an undesirable alien. Over the objections
of the U.S. State Department, the the Hillsborough state attorney's office made a deal with Chee-A-Tow in which he was given legal U.
S. residency and immunity for all crimes he'd committed in exchange for his admittedly false, contradictory court testimony.
Rudolph Harris, Jr, son of a respected black Tampa civil rights activist, drug dealer, pimp, thief and notorious convicted rapist,
along with his partner, career criminal and professional informant/perjurer James Grayes, were two more convicted felons groomed
to testify against Charlie Norman by corrupt police and prosecutors. SEE LINKS BELOW:
LINK TO: Current Florida DOC record for RUDOLPH HARRIS, JR.
Police and prosecutors struck deals with Harris and Grayes in 1977, while they were in prison for other crimes,
to obtain their releases from prison in exchange for their perjured testimony against Charlie Norman. Officials from Tampa
convinced the Florida Parole Commission to release both Harris and Grayes because their testimony was needed in a homicide case.
After his trial testimony, Rudolph Harris, Jr. embarked on a new career as a serial rapist. He was
convicted in 1981 of eight brutal sexual assaults in Tampa, and remains in prison to this day.
Hillsborough County State Attorney MARK OBER refuses to accept any responsibility for the eight
innocent women traumatized by his pet witness' crimes. Had Mark Ober NOT obtained Harris' early parole from prison, putting
him back into an unsuspecting society, those eight victims would never had suffered horrendous rapes at the hands of Rudolph
Harris. At the time of Harris' trial, Mark Ober's role in releasing him from prison was kept secret. He quickly disavowed his
previous promise to help Harris later on if he ever got in trouble, telling him, "I can't touch this with a ten-foot pole."
After returning to prison, Harris made sworn depositions recanting his testimony against Charlie
Norman, admitting he and James Grayes had fabricated their entire testimonies, that Mark Ober had coerced him to lie,
threatening to send him back to prison, telling him, "You're on parole. You're on parole." Harris admitted that
Grayes told him that Wingate and Chee-A-Tow had committed the crime, that Charlie
had nothing to do with it...
There is MUCH more information about this unique case that will be added soon.
Please check this site frequently for updates...