DeSantis donor Kent Stermon dies in apparent suicide amid probe: report

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DeSantis donor Kent Stermon dies in apparent suicide amid probe: report

A prominent ally of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis with unprecedented access to local authorities and reportedly under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct 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 around 8 p.m. Thursday, the Florida Times-Union reported.

Stermon had been reported missing by his wife, Christie, after his heart monitor stopped earlier that day, The First Coast News reported.

Shortly after the discovery of his body, police announced they were investigating his death as a suicide.

Stermon was under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct at the time of his death, law enforcement sources told the Times-Union.

Kent Stermon, of Jacksonville, was found dead in a truck last Thursday.
Kent Stermon, of Jacksonville, was found dead in a truck last Thursday.
State University System of Flori

Speaking to the outlet last week, Sheriff T.K. Waters of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) confirmed that Stermon was the subject of an “active investigation” at the time of his death, but did not provide further details on the nature of the probe.

Stermon’s attorney, David Barksdale, did not immediately reply to request for comment.

Stermon loomed large in local Jacksonville politics, as a generous support of Mayor Lenny Curry and former Sheriff Mike Williams.

He had a swipe access card to the sheriff’s office headquarters and other locations, which he used hundreds of times over the last five years, news station WJXT reported.

A spokesperson from the JSO told First Coast News that Stermon’s card was rescinded when Waters took office in late November, and the mega-donor “had been informed” of the decision.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the office of Mayor Lenny Curry did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The defense contractor behind Total Military Management (TMM), Stermon also sat on the state university system’s Board of Governors. Records show that he and his wife made frequent contributions to Florida GOP candidates, including a $50,000 gift to a political action committee tied to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

On Friday, Gov. DeSantis’ office said the governor and his wife were “shocked and saddened to hear of Kent’s passing.” A spokesperson also told POLITICO that the couple were unaware of the investigation into Stermon’s behavior.

Stermon with Gov. Ron DeSantis in an undated photo.
Stermon with Gov. Ron DeSantis in an undated photo.

Stermon’s ties to the state’s top lawmaker go back several years. In 2018, POLITICO reported that the then-congressman stayed in a condo co-owned by Stermon after being exiled from his district in 2016.

“You wouldn’t have Ron DeSantis as governor without Kent Stermon,” Florida politics reporter A.G. Gancarski told First Coast News. “He was big with everything…in the state party.”

Kent Stermon is pictured with former Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams after he was named 'Citizen of the Year' in 2016.
Kent Stermon is pictured with former Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams after he was named “Citizen of the Year” in 2016.
Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office
"You wouldn't have Ron DeSantis as governor without Kent Stermon,” Florida politics reporter A.G. Gancarski told First Coast News.
“You wouldn’t have Ron DeSantis as governor without Kent Stermon,” Florida politics reporter A.G. Gancarski told First Coast News.
ZUMAPRESS.com

In the wake of Stermon’s death, some law enforcement veterans questioned the ethics of his seemingly unchecked access to the JSO.

“It was common knowledge to not only myself but to many employees that Mr. Stermon had high level security access privileges to JSO facilities for years,” former JSO candidate Lakesha Burton told First Coast News

“He made his heavy involvement in the inner workings and politics of the agency well known to all ranks.”

“You give that badge to the wrong person, and they’re connected to somebody out there who is doing the wrong thing, then you can walk in the building, do what you want to do and go back and give them information,” retired JSO detective Kim Varner concurred.

Gov. DeSantis and wife Casey DeSantis look on during an event at Pelican Golf Club on Dec. 10.
Gov. DeSantis and wife Casey DeSantis look on during an event at Pelican Golf Club on Dec. 10.
Getty Images for the Match

“John Q citizen can’t walk in there and get a badge to come in and leave when he pleases, so I do think that creates an issue.” 

Another JSO retiree, James Brown, told WJTX that Stermon’s reported level of access surpassed even that of former officers.

“Access is controlled and limited sheriff’s office staff. Retirees are given that access, but even that access is limited,” he explained. “It would raise a suspicion of, why would that person be given that type of access?” 

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