Rachel Morningstar Hoffman (December 17, 1984 – May 7, 2008) was a 23-year-old Florida State University graduate. She was murdered while acting as a police informant during a botched drug sting that started on May 7, 2008. Her body was recovered two days later near Perry, Florida.
She was under drug court supervision for possession of 25 grams (0.9 oz.) of marijuana during a traffic stop on February 22, 2007. On April 17, 2008, a search of her apartment by Tallahassee, Florida police uncovered 151.7 grams (or 5.328 ounces) of cannabis, and 4 ecstasy pills. Faced with a possible prison sentence if charged and convicted, police attempted to get her to identify other marijuana dealers to avoid the charges. She refused. The police then pressured her to act as a confidential informant in a drug sting operation instead, in exchange for not being charged with additional drug charges. The intended goal of the operation was to buy 1,500 ecstasy pills, 2 ounces of cocaine, and a handgun (which was contrary to department policy as it opened the opportunity for the suspected criminals to explain the presence of the gun), using $13,000 cash in a buy-bust operation and all three buys were very out of character for Rachel, her family stated. She did not know the two men she was to meet, but was eager to cooperate with the police operation and made suggestions of her own on how the operation should be conducted. Two narcotics officers arranged for the drug buy at a specific location and were providing security for the buy. This was later deemed to be insufficient manpower to protect the informant and still apprehend the suspects.
While she was at the drug buy, with the policemen monitoring, the two suspects changed the location of the buy. Her handlers lost track of her when she agreed with the change in plans and left the buy spot with the two suspects in their car, a stolen silver BMW. While in transit, the two suspects allegedly executed her with the same gun she was supposed to buy.
According to police documents, a witness described seeing the BMW stuck in a ditch, with a 2005 Volvo belonging to Hoffman idling nearby, between 7 pm and 7:30 pm, about 30 minutes after the police lost track of Hoffman. The witness claimed that the Volvo drove off when he stopped to help the BMW driver try to get the car out of the ditch, but the Volvo later returned as the witness was leaving. The witness claimed he became suspicious and decided to leave when the driver of the BMW opened the trunk and revealed a camouflage blanket and neat stacks of female clothing.
Deneilo R. Bradshaw, 23, and Andrea Jabbar Green, 25, who were fired from their jobs at a window tint and car detailing shop just days before the incident, were charged with armed robbery in connection with the events leading up to Hoffman’s death. Additional charges are pending.
The Tallahassee Police Department admitted that Hoffman had no training to work undercover, she did not know the two men targeted in the sting, and she had no experience with cocaine or firearms and very little with MDMA. The officers involved in the operation were suspended with pay, and the family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city.
The two buyers have been charged by a grand jury with first degree murder. Details of the murder itself have not been released, but are expected to be revealed under testimony during the court proceedings.
Rachel Hoffman’s story has garnered many news headlines including a page on the Tallahassee Democrat website dedicated to information surrounding her death. “20/20” covered this story on July 25, 2008. Dateline NBC covered this story on Friday, 16 January 2009, at 10:00 PM, 9 Central time, and is expected to re-play the piece on its sister networks.
On December 17, 2009 which would have been Rachel Hoffman’s 25th birthday, Deneilo Bradshaw, one of the murder suspects, was found guilty of first degree murder with robbery and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole plus 30 years (concurrent). Andrea Greene, was also convicted of Rachel’s murder and sentenced to life in prison.
On May 7, 2009, a law (dubbed “Rachel’s Law”) was passed by the Florida State Senate which brought into effect on July 1, 2009 a number of requirements for law enforcement agencies in Florida regarding the use of police informants. While Rachel’s Law became state-wide policy for all police departments, at least one major city department began taking steps towards training on the new policies at least three months sooner than required.
“Rachel’s Law” requires law enforcement agencies to (a) provide special training for officers who recruit confidential informants, (b) instruct informants that reduced sentences may not be provided in exchange for their work, and (c) permit informants to request a lawyer if they want one.
- ^ “Rachel M. Hoffman”. ancestry.com (subscription only). The Generations Network, Inc.. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- ^ a b “Updated: Friends, family remember Hoffman during funeral in Palm Harbor”. tallahassee.com (Tallahassee Democrat). 2008-05-13. Retrieved 2008-07-26.
- ^ Ross, Brian (2008-07-26). “The Life and Death of Rachel Hoffman”. 20/20 (ABCNews Internet Ventures). Retrieved 2008-07-26.
- ^ Schoetz, David (2008-05-13). “Fla. Cops Under Fire After Informant’s Murder”. ABCNews (ABCNews Internet Ventures). Retrieved 2008-07-26.
- ^ a b Ross, Brian; Vic Walter (2008-07-25). “Botched Sting: Killed With Gun She Was Supposed to Buy”. 20/20 (ABCNews Internet Ventures). Retrieved 2008-07-26.
- ^ Corbett, Nic (2008-07-26). “Hoffman’s parents want clarity on judge’s order”. tallahassee.com (Tallahassee Democrat). Retrieved 2008-07-26.
- ^ Corbett, Nic (2008-08-01). “Updated: Police chief responds to grand jury findings in Rachel Hoffman case”. tallahassee.com (Tallahassee Democrat). Retrieved 2008-08-29.