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Dowagiac man found guilty of armed robbery

Published 10:42pm Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Dowagiac man who claimed to be the “King Kong” of an apartment complex was found guilty of armed robbery by a jury in Cass County Circuit Court Friday.

Corey Florian faces life in prison. His sentencing is Nov. 8.

The guilty verdict was delivered shortly before 5 p.m. Friday following a four-day trial. The jury deliberated for 45 minutes.

Florian was convicted for planning and orchesting of an armed robbery at the Vineyard Apartments in Dowagiac, as well as his efforts to cover up the crime.

Trial evidence revealed that prior to the Dec. 23, 2011, heist, Florian was frequenting the Vineyard apartment of Heather Staggs, along with Brittny Staggs, Jasper Carter, Veronica Belfino and others.  At the time, Florian was dating Brittny Staggs.

When Florian learned Christopher Peterson, of Decatur, had stopped at a nearby apartment with approximately $400 en route to an area casino, testimony indicated he quickly hatched a plan to pilfer Peterson’s cash.

Florian instructed Carter to arm himself with a bb gun, which appeared to be an actual firearm. Heather Staggs and others, using text messages and in-person communications, lured Peterson into an apartment commons area, where he was confronted by Carter and Florian.

Carter threatened Peterson with the weapon as he and Florian tried to get Peterson to relinquish his wallet, credit cards and cash.

The would-be victim responded to the threats by discretely dialing 911 on his cell phone and dropping the communications device to the ground. Upon repeated demands to give up his wallet, Peterson tossed it to the ground, but only after slipping the cash out and casually placing it in his pocket. Shortly thereafter, Peterson fled for safely on foot.

Dowagiac officers responded within minutes to the 911 call and determined that Heather Staggs, Florian and Carter were involved in the robbery. At the Staggs apartment, Florian told police he was “King Kong” of the apartment and he called the shots.

During questioning, Florian warned others in the apartment they had better keep their mouths shut.

Peterson’s 911 call was recorded by Cass County Central Dispatch and played for the jury at Florian’s trial. The call supported the testimony of the victim regarding the crime, including the demands of the two on-scene suspects.

Testimony indicated Florian and others were using crack cocaine throughout the day and wanted the money for their next high.

Multiple witnesses testified Florian offered bribes not to testify at his trial, as well as threatened to kill them if they took the stand.

Heather Staggs was sentenced on Friday to a year in the county jail for her involvement. Fitz advised that her cooperation and testimony were helpful in securing the conviction of Florian, who was convicted of all charges crimes including conspiracy to commit armed robbery, armed robbery, carrying a weapon with unlawful intent, conspiracy to deliver cocaine, delivery of cocaine, witness bribing/intimidating, conspiracy to bribe/intimidate witnesses, conspiracy to obstruct justice and delivery of marijuana.

The defendant was previously convicted in 2008 of delivery of marijuana.

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