Allegations about the theft against Sgt. Franklin Warren Cowart, 44, surfaced after his wife emailed the department about the theft in 2015–four years later– as they were divorcing, stating her husband admitted to stealing the money.
But investigators for Winter Park police said they couldn’t prove her claim.
After the couple officially parted ways in February this year, Sgt. Cowart’s former wife reported he left behind boxes, which contained evidence tying him to the theft from Luis Zaragoza, a reporter who lived in Winter Park at the time his death was investigated by police.
Sgt. Cowart’s ex-wife told police that some of the property she possessed included law enforcement equipment and evidence relating to investigations, according to an arrest report.
Although Winter Park police did not file charges against one of their own at that time.
A month later, in February this year, Cowart’s ex-wife sent the department photos of a wallet with a debit card as well as a State of Florida driver’s license with an address that matched the home where Zaragoza’s 2011 death was investigated, along with other items that belonged to Zaragoza, according to ClickOlrando.
It wasn’t until after WPPD learned of the evidence possessed by Cowart’s former wife that Winter Park Police Chief Michael Deal handed the investigation over to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, asking for a separate investigation on March 15 when Cowart was placed on paid leave pending the results of an internal affairs investigation.
That investigation resulted in Cowart’s arrest on November 3.
Someone operating their Facebook page stated they would work on obtaining a photo of Cowart, but didn’t state a time frame.
PINAC was unable to obtain a photo of Sgt. Cowart.
We did, however, manage to find a photo of Winter Park police spokeswoman Captain Pam Marcum, who has since deleted her Facebook account after we pointed out her only friend on Facebook was Sgt. Cowart.
Luiz Zaragoza formerly wrote for the Orange County Register, Orlando Sentinel, the Fresno Bee, the Los Angeles Times and the Pasadena Star-News, according to the OrlandoSentinel.
Sergeant Cowart has worked at the Winter Park Police Department since 2002 and remains on paid leave.