Seminole County deputy posed as dead man to catch suspected murderer

A Seminole County sheriff’s deputy investigating a fatal drug overdose posed as the dead man while placing phone calls and sending text messages to the victim’s suspected drug dealer, court records show.

To make it appear as if the overdose victim was still alive and at work, the deputy played YouTube videos of diesel truck engine sounds through his vehicle’s speakers while talking on the phone to the accused drug dealer, an arrest affidavit states.

Corie Phillips, 52, was arrested Friday on a charge of first-degree murder by unlawful distribution of a controlled substance.  He has not yet entered a plea, court records indicate.

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Deputies found Tony Blake lying dead on the floor of his home near Casselberry on July 28, 2023.

A white substance that authorities identified as methamphetamine and fentanyl was found on a dining room table near Blake’s body, records show.

While deputies were inside Blake’s home, a cellphone on the dining room table displaying the contact name “Cory G” began to ring. The incoming phone number belonged to Phillips, investigators said.

Agent Zachary Cannaday, who is assigned to the sheriff’s Collaborative Opioid Response Effort, later used Blake’s phone to call Phillips back but immediately hung up, records show.

Cannaday, posing as Blake, then sent a text message to Phillips stating that the phone had been damaged while Blake was working at his job at a moving company.

When Phillips called Blake’s cellphone later that evening, the deputy answered the call while pretending to be Blake, according to court records.

“Corie Phillips stated that he was relieved to hear my voice and he was worried that Tony Blake had died,” Cannaday wrote in an affidavit.  “Due to not knowing how Tony Blake sounded, [I] kept the conversations short.”

Philips allegedly told the deputy he was worried about Blake because he was in “bad shape” when Phillips left Blake the previous night, records show.

“Phillips stated that he figured that Tony Blake was likely sleeping the majority of the day after the night that they had,” the deputy wrote.

The next day Cannaday called Phillips back using Blake’s cellphone and again pretended to be the dead man.

The deputy played the sounds of a “large diesel truck engine” from YouTube in the speakers of his vehicle while telling Phillips he was on a job site, records show.

According to an affidavit, Cannaday told Phillips he needed an “eight ball” of “ice”, which is slang for an eighth of an ounce of methamphetamine.

Phillips agreed to pick up the drugs after the deputy offered to pay $150, court records allege.

Later that evening, Phillips called Blake’s cellphone and asked the deputy to come to his house to complete the transaction there because Phillips needed to mow his lawn, according to court documents.

“Knowing that Tony Blake had recent foot surgery and an upcoming appointment for a metal rod causing him discomfort, [I] told Corie Phillips that my foot was in too much pain to even walk, let alone drive to him, and asked if he could bring it to me,” Cannaday wrote in an affidavit.

Undercover deputies arrested Phillips when he arrived at Blake’s house, records show.

A baggie containing methamphetamine and fentanyl was found in Phillips’s pocket, investigators said.

“[I] explained to Coire Phillips that Tony Blake passed away the day prior from a fatal overdose and that [I] was the one speaking to him on the phone,” Cannaday wrote.

Phillips later admitted to bringing drugs to the house for Blake, records indicate.

Phillips was booked into the Seminole County jail on July 29 on drug charges. He was released from custody on bond the following day.

Last month Phillips pleaded no contest to possession of fentanyl and methamphetamine with intent to sell.  A judge sentenced him to 30 months of supervised probation.

Nearly six weeks later, deputies arrested Phillips for Blake’s murder.

According to an autopsy, Blake’s death was ruled “accidental” and “attributed to combined drug toxicity with methamphetamine, fentanyl, and alcohol.”

Under Florida law a person can be charged with first-degree murder if a death resulted from the unlawful distribution of certain drugs including fentanyl and methamphetamine.

Besides Phillips’s reported confession that he brought drugs to Blake the night of his death, investigators said they’ve obtained records showing Phillips’s phone had connected to a cell tower less than a mile from Blake’s home that evening.

“(I) reasonably believe that Corie Phillips was the last person with Tony Blake before he died of a fatal overdose,” Cannady wrote.

Phillips is being held in the Seminole County jail without bond.

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