Florida man accused of murder, claims he was just trying to get target practice in

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A 43-year-old St. Augustine man is behind bars Wednesday after authorities arrested him Tuesday and charged him in a man’s death and possession of rifles reported stolen in Jacksonville, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office said.

Deputies were called to 51-year-old Chester Whitmor Ratliff Jr.’s travel trailer July 29 on State Road 16 after one of his family members found him dead while checking on the property. Authorities later ruled Ratliff’s death a homicide, resulting from a long-distance gunshot wound.

Detectives were able to determine where the gunshot originated and contacted the property’s residents. Officials said one of the residents, Albert Hamilton Dean III, of St. Augustine, became a person of interest.

According to detectives, Dean was on his property when he fired shooting a rifle in Ratliff’s general direction, but told police he was not aware Ratliff was living in the trailer. Dean insisted he was aiming near the trailer for target practice, and had no  intention of hurting anyone.

The rifle Dean was shooting and an attached silencer was found to have been stolen out of Jacksonville. A second stolen gun was also discovered but was not connected to Ratliff’s death, police said.

Dean was arrested without incident and charged with negligent manslaughter and dealing in stolen property. He is being held at the St. Johns County Jail on a $110,000 bail.