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R.I.P. Rachel Hoffman, Victim of the Drug War

Rachel Hoffman, 23, had been in a pretrial diversion program after a minor marijuana arrest. Police in Tallahassee searched her home and allegedly found marijuana and ecstasy. Under threat of going to prison, she agreed to become a police informant. Police sent her to buy a gun from crack dealers. Her dead body was found two days later.

The St. Petersburg Times reported on May 14, 2008 ("Police informer buried, but questions linger," that "Rachel Morningstar Hoffman was laid to rest Tuesday amid grief and questions about how and why she died. Hoffman, 23, was killed last week while serving as a informer for the Tallahassee Police Department. Police say she didn't follow proper protocol on a drug sting, agreeing to meet two suspects away from the spot where police told her to stay, and that led to her death. But friends and relatives contend authorities put Hoffman at risk in the first place. 'The Tallahassee police are trying to slander her,' said lifelong friend Cole Altner, 22, who spoke at the service. 'They have a responsibility for her life and death.' More than 800 people attended the 23-year-old's "celebration of life" service at Temple Ahavat Shalom in Palm Harbor. In the synagogue's foyer, scores of pictures showed Hoffman's beaming smile as she hugged friends, posed as a child with Pippi Longstocking ponytails or snuggled with her cat Bentley."

The Times explained that "A graduate of Countryside High School and Florida State University, Hoffman was in a pretrial drug diversion program for a February 2007 charge of marijuana possession and resisting arrest. On April 17, Tallahassee police served a search warrant and found marijuana and ecstasy at her apartment. In an effort to avoid more serious charges, Hoffman agreed to become an informer. So the young woman who aspired to be a chef met Andrea J. Green, 25, and Deneilo R. Bradshaw, 23, on May 7 to buy 1,500 ecstasy pills, 2 ounces of cocaine or crack, and a gun. She had $12,000 to $15,000 in cash when she met the men, said her boyfriend, Ben Reeves. Her body was found two days later in rural Taylor County."

The Times noted that "Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum said he has asked his inspector general to review the matter and stressed that his agency would review the 'process' Tallahassee police use in working with informers, not the "case" involving Hoffman."

The Tampa Tribune on May 13, 2008 ("Police Defend Informant's Use") reported that "Before the drug deal that led to her death went down, confidential informant Rachel Hoffman called investigators to tell them the location of the meeting had changed. Investigators explicitly told her to stay at the park location set up by narcotics officers, Tallahassee police spokesman David McCranie said Monday, Instead, he said, Hoffman hung up. Police never saw her alive after Wednesday. The body of the 23-year-old, a graduate of Countryside High School in Clearwater, was found early Friday in rural Taylor County, southeast of Tallahassee. Her funeral is today."

According to the Tribune, "Johnny Devine, Hoffman's attorney, said police should have spoken with him. Legal counsel and the State Attorney's Office weren't consulted when Hoffman became a confidential informant. Police don't routinely speak with the state attorney's office about such things unless the arrest violates a person's probation, McCranie said."

The Tribune noted that "Mike Weiss, Hoffman's stepfather, said he wants police to stop saying Hoffman broke protocol He asked how Hoffman could understand how important protocol is and how an untrained civilian could understand how to protect herself in such a situation. 'The reality is, untrained civilians of any age should not be put in that position by a police force,' he said. 'They took a 23-year-old relatively naive person and put her in a life-threatening situation.' Hoffman's mother, Margie Weiss, said she is forming a foundation to push for a requirement for confidential informants to seek legal advice before consenting to undercover work. It also would work to get marijuana convictions decriminalized. 'Her death will make history,' she said. 'It's a great loss. The only way I can make sense of it is by now having her memory live on.' So far, few details have been , released on what happened after Hoffman-hung up the phone. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will serve as the lead agency in the homicide portion of the investigation because the case crosses several jurisdictional lines."

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