Hartford Man Accused of Stabbing, Killing Relative in Florida

  • Dakota Mitchell Lavanway (Calhoun County Sheriff's Office photograph)

  • Gerald Becker Sr. in a Nov. 2017 photograph. (New Hampshire Public Radio - Britta Greene)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/30/2019 4:35:47 PM
Modified: 1/30/2019 11:08:22 PM

A 22-year-old Hartford man allegedly stabbed and killed his great-uncle earlier this month at a campsite in Calhoun County, Fla., during a family fight that started over personal items, according to court documents.

Dakota Lavanway has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of 61-year-old Gerald Becker Sr., a former Claremont resident who late last summer moved to Florida with family members after Hurricane Michael, according to an affidavit filed in Lavanway’s case in Blountstown, Fla., near the Florida Panhandle.

Lavanway is accused of stabbing Becker on Jan. 17 in the back of his right thigh, an act that likely hit an artery and led to massive blood loss that cost Becker his life, the affidavit written by Calhoun County sheriff’s investigator John Scheetz says.

Lavanway’s father, Shawn Hoisington, who is Becker’s nephew, said he felt Lavanway acted in self-defense that night at the campsite, which is near a boat landing in a town outside Blountstown, Fla. Hoisington and Lavanway in separate interviews told police that Becker hit them with a metal pipe, prompting Lavanway to defend himself and “beat” Becker, the affidavit says.

Lavanway also told police he assaulted Becker because he made him mad earlier in the day. Becker allegedly pointed a knife at Lavanway’s parents and threatened to burn down a home where some family members had been residing, Lavanway told police, according to the affidavit.

Records show police in that county responded to an incident involving the family around 10:30 a.m. on the day of the stabbing, which occurred around 9:15 p.m.

Hoisington, who still has a Royalton address, called police to report that Becker had threatened him and his family after accusing them of stealing some of his tools. In interviews with police at that time, all of the parties gave conflicting statements about what occurred. No one was injured in the morning incident, and police told the family members to “stay away from each other,” the affidavit says.

The situation escalated when Hoisington, Lavanway and other family members returned that night to the campsite near Mossy Pond Landing in Altha, Fla., where Becker was living, to get some of their personal belongings.

When they approached the boat landing, Hoisington told police Becker came at them while swinging a metal pipe and struck them with it.

Hoisington said he didn’t see Lavanway stab him; other witnesses interviewed also said they did not see a stabbing. One of them, Robert Tibbetts, told police Lavanway had a knife in his hand around the time of the incident.

Although Lavanway told police he punched Becker, he denied stabbing him, according to the affidavit.

Becker died at a Florida hospital two days after the incident.

Hoisington told police that he had moved to Florida from New Hampshire after Hurricane Michael swept through that part of the state in October and caused massive damage and that Becker also traveled there with him and other family members. Scheetz told the Calhoun Liberty Journal that they went to Florida in hopes of finding clean-up work after the hurricane.

Off and on, Hoisington; Hoisington’s wife, Pam Lavanway; and Dakota Lavanway had been sleeping in their car near the campsite, according to the affidavit. Becker was homeless and living there in a tent, his son Gerald Becker Jr. told the Valley News previously.

Police arrested Lavanway and cited him into court. He is being held on $150,000 bail in a county jail in Blountstown, a town of around 2,500 about an hour east of Tallahassee.

Lavanway has a court hearing scheduled for March 6 in Calhoun County. Last week, Lavanway applied for a public defender. It was unclear if one has been appointed to represent him.

Lavanway has one prior conviction on his record in Windsor County from 2015, at which time he was living in Wilder. A Facebook account associated with his name said he attended Hartford Memorial Middle School and Hartford High School.

Becker has an extensive criminal record.

A message left for the Calhoun County prosecutor who is handling the matter wasn’t returned.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.

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