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Suspect missing in empty-casket fraud case


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 8, 2000

The mystery started with an absentee husband and an empty casket. Now there's a missing suspect.

A Pinellas County sheriff's investigator has said since January that Sherrie Lee Cannon, 46, was his only suspect in the scheme to defraud a north Pinellas County woman out of more than $100,000.

The victim thought she was married to a law enforcement agent who apparently did not exist, investigator Rick Narum has said.

Narum has said Debra Sharon Dawson was duped into marrying the man over the phone and was later told her new husband had been killed in the line of duty.

After spending several weeks gathering evidence, he was ready this week to charge Cannon with a scheme to defraud and uttering worthless checks. He arranged with Cannon's attorney for her to surrender Thursday at 4 p.m.

Cannon didn't show up.

Then, at 8:30 a.m. Friday, she skipped a court hearing on a violation of community control (house arrest) charge from a previous conviction. Circuit Judge Nancy Moate Ley issued a warrant for her arrest.

John Trevena of Largo resigned Friday as Cannon's attorney because of "the defendant's failure to appear and otherwise cooperate with her counsel," according to court documents.

It is still not clear exactly how Dawson was defrauded. The 40-year-old East Lake woman and investigators have so far been unwilling to explain.

Hillsborough County sheriff's investigators also are seeking Cannon on three charges of grand theft auto and one count of second-degree grand theft, Trevena said Thursday.

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