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Charges dropped in 2019 murder case

Posted at 1:47 PM, Jul 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-25 13:47:47-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The charges against Preston Hart for the 2019 murder of Jason Joseph according to a press release from State Attorney Jack Campbell.

Hart was originally placed under arrest after a witness at the scene of the shooting, which happened at Springfield Arms Apartments on January 13, 2019, stated she'd seen Hart shoot the victim.

This witness was driving the car Hart was in and said at that time that she was threatened by Hart to not discuss what she'd just seen.

Another witness on the scene also claimed to have seen Hart commit the murder and, based on these two statements, Hart was arrested for second degree murder.

His case went to trial in April 2022 and, based on the attorney's release, it was during the trial that the driver of the car recanted her original statement, saying she was on the phone during the shooting and never saw Hart shoot him. She added that she also was not threatened.

The second eyewitness, identified as Deontae Cromartie, avoided being subpoenaed and the jury was unable to come to a unanimous decision, resulting in a mistrial.

Hart's retrial began in June 2022 and it was during this trial that the prosecutor discovered a Facebook message in Cromartie's messages where he took credit for the murder of Jason Joseph.

According to documents, the trial was continued to July 25, 2022 to allow the state additional time to investigate.

"All viable leads having been exhausted and law enforcement is unable to locate Deontae Cromartie. It is possible that Preston Hart committed the murder. However, it is also possible that Deontae Cromartie committed it and has helped frame Preston Hart," states the release from Campbell's Office. "After consultation with the Tallahassee Police Department and the victim’s family, the State cannot proceed in good faith based on this level of uncertainty, and today dropped the pending murder charges against Preston Hart."