Convicted murderer given life sentence

Asher Martin was sentenced to life in prison Friday for second-degree murder and principal to arson in the 2020 stabbing death of Christopher Whaley, whose body was left in a burning van after he was killed, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

Circuit Court Judge Dustin Stephenson agreed with Prosecutor Devin Collier’s assessment that while the 22-year-old defendant may have been a good kid at one time, what he did as an adult April 27, 2020, when he killed Whaley with a sword demanded a harsh sentence.

Although family members and friends testified at Martin’s sentencing Friday that he was a kind person growing up, and Martin himself read a letter to the court and family of the victim apologizing for taking a life, Collier said it amounted to an attempt by the defendant to “hoodwink†the court into a lighter sentence.

“He may have been a nice kid, but that’s not who’s sitting in the courtroom before the court,†Collier told Stephenson. “Sitting at the defense table is an admitted murderer. What we heard today was not the defendant on that day, because immediately after he committed this murder in cold blood, he was smiling from ear to ear.â€

Collier detailed the severity of Whaley’s injuries and asked for a life sentence.

“He is dangerous, and he is the very definition of a menace to society, and there is a place for someone like that, and it’s in the Florida Department of Corrections,†Collier told Stephenson.

Stephenson, in handing down his sentence, agreed that whatever Martin might have been before, the evidence presented by prosecutors Collier and Frank Sullivan showed the need for a severe punishment.

“At the end of the day, the Legislature has given us a directive, and that is to punish, it is called the Criminal Punishment Code for a reason,†Stephenson said. “And the crime and the circumstances of the crime here call out for a significant punishment.â€

Stephenson then sentenced Martin to serve a life sentence for the murder and 15 years for the arson.

A jury deliberated only 13 minutes last month before finding Martin, 22, guilty. Co-defendant Raven Gladin was sentenced to 10 years in prison for her part in the crime.

Basford attributed the fast verdict to the strong case put together by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office’s Criminal Investigation’s Division and presented by prosecutors. Sheriff’s Office Capt. Jason Daffin attended Friday’s sentencing.

Basford thanked the Sheriff’s Office, the Bureau of Fire, Arson and Explosives, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for their efforts.

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