A prominent ally of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who had unprecedented access to local government and was reportedly under investigation for sexual assault, has died in what is being investigated as a suicide.
Kent Stermon, 50, of Jacksonville, was found dead in a truck parked outside the Atlantic Beach post office on Thursday around 8 p.m. This was reported by the Florida Times-Union.
First Coast News reported that Stermone was reported missing by his wife, Christy, later that day after the heart monitor stopped working. reported.
Shortly after her body was found, police announced they were investigating her death as a suicide.
Law enforcement sources told the Times-Union that Stermon was under investigation for sexual assault at the time of his death.
Speaking to the publication last week, Sheriff TC Waters of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office confirmed that Stermon was the subject of an “active investigation” at the time of his death, but did not elaborate on the nature of the investigation.
Stermon’s attorney, David Barksdale, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Stermon played a major role in local Jacksonville politics as a generous supporter of Mayor Lenny Curry and former Sheriff Mike Williams.
He had an access card for the sheriff’s office and other places that he had used hundreds of times over the past five years. WJXT reported.
A spokeswoman for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office told First Coast News that when Waters took office in late November, Stermon’s card was canceled and the mega-donor was “made aware” of the decision.
The Sheriff’s Office and City Hall did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Stermon, a defense contractor for Total Military Management, also sat on the state university system’s Board of Trustees. Records show he and his wife have made frequent contributions to Florida GOP candidates, including a $50,000 gift to a political action committee linked to DeSantis.
DeSantis’ office said Friday that the governor and his wife were “shocked and saddened to hear of Kent’s death.” Also a press secretary said Politico the couple was unaware of the investigation into Stermon’s conduct.
Stermon’s ties to the state’s top lawmaker go back several years. in 2018, This was reported by Politico The then-congressman stayed in an apartment owned by Stermon after he was ousted from his district in 2016.
“Without Kent Stermon, Ron DeSantis wouldn’t be governor,” Florida politics reporter AG Gancarski told First Coast News. “He was big on everything in the state party.”
In the wake of Stermon’s death, some law enforcement veterans have questioned his seemingly out-of-control ethics at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
“Mr. Stermon was aware, not only by myself, but by many employees, that Mr. Stermon had high security privileges to JSO facilities for years,” said former sheriff’s candidate Lakesha Burton. This was reported by First Coast News.
“He made his serious involvement in the agency’s internal affairs and politics well known at all levels.”
“You give that badge to the wrong person, and they’re connected to someone there doing the wrong thing, and then you can walk inside the building and do whatever you want to do, go back and give them information,” he said. pensioner Sheriff’s Office Detective Kim Varner agreed.
“John Q. Citizen can’t walk in there and get badges to come in and out whenever he wants, so I think that’s going to be a problem.”
Another retired sheriff, James Brown, told WJTX that Stermon’s level of penetration exceeded even that of former officers.
“Access is controlled and restricted to Sheriff’s Office personnel only. Pensioners are given such an opportunity, but even the opportunity to use it is limited,” he explained. “This is suspicious, why is this person allowed to do this?”