Office of the State Attorney

Twentieth Judicial Circuit of Florida

 
 
 

 

In Memory of:


The State Attorney’s Office wants to recognize two of our dedicated prosecutors who were murdered.

 

Assistant State Attorney Eugene Berry was shot and killed at his home on January 16, 1982 by the wife of a man Berry prosecuted. Following his murder, Berry received the State Attorney’s Office Medal of Honor and another award was created in his honor as explained below. 

History of Eugene Berry Award

Since 1983, the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association has recognized an Assistant State Attorney who has rendered outstanding prosecutorial service by encouraging respect for the law and the courts, contributing to the effective functioning of our government institutions, promoting a better understanding of our form of government and rights, and promoting a better understanding and appreciation of the prosecutorial function. This award is presented in honor of Assistant State Attorney Eugene Berry who was such a prosecutor, and who gave his life in service to his profession and community.

Gene Berry came to Pine Island, Florida, from California with his three children and few other possessions in the late 1960’s. He met Trudi Jo Keene, a young woman with two children, and they married in March of 1969. While working as a used car salesman, supporting his wife and their five children, he told Trudi of his dream of going to college. With his family’s support and many sacrifices, he went back to college in Sioux City, Iowa, at the age of 36 and obtained his Bachelor of Science degree. His degree was conferred in 1974, as he finished up some final credits during his first year of studies at Vanderbilt Law School. Working full time as an Assistant District Attorney in his last year at Vanderbilt, he graduated in May of 1976, when he was 41.

Returning with his wife and family to Florida, Gene obtained a position as an Assistant State Attorney in June of 1976 with the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit. Wanting very much to return to the Fort Myers area, Gene applied to the State Attorney’s Office of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit, and was given the position of Assistant State Attorney to head up the Punta Gorda Office in June of 1977.

For the next four and a half years, Gene Berry handled a heavy felony caseload, and was involved in the prosecution of many drug cases in Charlotte County. In 1981, the year prior to his death, he was the prosecutor in 30 major felony trials, and won 27 convictions.

While relaxing with his wife Trudi at their home by the Peace River on Saturday, January 16, 1982, Gene answered the doorbell and was mortally shot by Bonnie Kelly, the wife of a man Gene sent to prison on drug charges. At the time of his death, Gene was not yet 47 years old, and his dream of practicing law lasted only five and a half years.

As a result of special legislation enacted July 1, 1982, which provided for her education, Gene’s widow Trudi completed her undergraduate degree, then obtained her law degree from the University of Florida. Trudi fulfilled one of her goals by working as a prosecutor in the Twentieth Judicial Circuit, as had Gene. She has since retired from the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.

A second prosecutor was murdered on August 19, 1988 in Charlotte County. Assistant State Attorney Norman Langston was with the office for just 3 months before he was gunned down. He tried to protect another Assistant State Attorney who also had a gun pointed at her.. Langston used his body to shield the bullets. The gunman had previously been prosecuted by our office. Langston was memorialized with the State Attorney’s Office Medal of Honor. His award reads:

In dedication and memory of a young man who was taken from us in the bloom of his life. But who nevertheless left a legacy of dedication and self-sacrifice that is an inspiration to all.” 

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