GULF COUNTY, Fla. (FOX 5 Atlanta) - An escaped Georgia inmate who was wanted in connection with a Florida homicide is dead.
Deputies with the Gulf County, Fl. Sheriff's Office said they pulled over Stephen Michael Smith, 34, late Tuesday night and he immediately placed a pistol to his head and committed suicide.
Smith's death marked the end of a multi-state manhunt. Law enforcement all over the southeast had been on the lookout for Smith after Gulf County deputies said Smith shot and killed Daniel Lee Upton, 30, in a subdivision on St. Joe Beach Monday morning. Investigators said the murder was the result of a drug buy gone bad.
"He killed a man," said Gulf County Sheriff Mike Harrison said Tuesday afternoon. "I would definitely say that he is dangerous and he could potentially still be armed."
Late Tuesday, the sheriff's office announced the arrest of Destiny Jene Terry, 44. She was charged with principal to second degree murder. Investigators believe she may have introduced Smith and Upton to one another and was there at the time of the shooting.
Even before the shooting, Smith was on the run from law enforcement. According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, Smith did not return from his work detail at the Clayton Transitional Center on Falcon Drive on August 15. He had been serving a 10-year sentence for robbing a convenience store in Troup County in May 2016.
Sheriff Harrison said one of his deputies interacted with Smith just days before the murder.
"What has kept us from detecting him in our area--he's kind of a master at using some fake IDs. He had an ID and was stopped the other night. The officer was able to engage with him and another subject that was with him, actually him and the victim were together as recent as a week ago on a traffic stop. He produced false identification and there was no way for the officer to determine it was, in fact, Stephen Michael Smith that is wanted out of there," explained Sheriff Harrison.
Upton's twin brother, Eric, reached out to FOX 5 and wanted to personally thank the Gulf County Sheriff's Office and specifically Capt. Buchanan for their hard work on the case.
"[I want to thank them for] their countless hours of work on the case and for their due diligence in capturing this guy, for the respect that they've had for our family and for making us aware of everything step by step," said Eric Upton.
Upton said his brother is from Lakeland, Fl. but had recently been working on the Panhandle as the area recovers from the devastation of Hurricane Michael.
Upton's murder has come at a particularly difficult time for his family, who just laid their mother to rest last week. His brother has set up an online fundraiser to help pay for his funeral expenses.
Click here to donate.