The Lee County Sheriff's Office has released the cause of death of a North Fort Myers man whose homicide, officials say, is linked to a man shot by deputies serving a warrant in an unrelated slaying.
Gregory Imhoff, 61, of 17801 Pineapple Palm, was shot to death, officials with the Lee County Sheriff's Office said Thursday. His body was found by a deputy responding to a report of an injured person at 3562 Sable Springs Blvd. late Tuesday.
Officials say evidence found at the crime scene links the shooting to Billy Ray Retherford, 42. Retherford died on scene at a residence in the 1200 block of Laurel Drive after he confronted Lee County Sheriff's deputies assigned to the U.S. Marshal's Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force shortly after midnight Wednesday.
Officials say Retherford, who was wanted in the death of a Fort Myers woman, was armed. He previously had served prison time for violent felony crimes and was considered dangerous.
"It was just a few minutes after midnight when we caught up with one of the most dangerous criminals in Lee County," said Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott. "We brought his life of crime to an end."
Retherford was sought in the "very violent death" of Debra Rose Striano, 55, who was found dead in her home at 17691 Oakmont Ridge Circle on July 24.
Her dog, a border collie, was also found with serious injuries requiring veterinary care, officials have stated, adding it is believed the dog sustained wounds when trying to protect Striano.
Retherford's nephew, Dustin Dean Jaye, 23, of 7621 Morgan Jones Drive, was arrested July 31 in connection with Striano's death. He is charged with felony murder, home invasion robbery and destruction of evidence and remains in the Lee County Jail.
Police continued to search for Retherford, who shared a home with Jaye and was also wanted for felony violation of probation. Investigators say the pair targeted Striano's home because they knew of valuables inside.
It was a tip from Crime Stoppers that led to the task force to Retherford.
"It came in right around midnight," said Crime Stoppers Coordinator Trish Routte. "It was an anonymous tip and the tipster knew very well that Billy Ray was a very violent man with violent tendencies, and made the good choice to pick up the phone and call Crime Stoppers. Our call center immediately contacted the Sheriff's Office."
Within minutes of that call, the U.S. Marshal's Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force was on the scene, she said, adding the multi-agency unit works for the Sheriff's Office.
"I work very closely with these guys. They have been working tirelessly night and day to find Retherford since he was named as a suspect, to apprehend him. We received probably close to 20 tips regarding him, they followed up very closely on every one."
What happened in this case is a testament that Crime Stoppers works, she added.
"These anonymous tips truly do make our community a safer place," Routte said.