Sheriff: ‘Predator’ killed teenager with drugs for sex, dumped body

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — One year after a 16-year-old high school student was found dead beneath power lines, a grand jury has indicted a Florida man for her murder.

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Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said in a news conference Monday that Robert Gullo, 25, was charged with first-degree murder for the death of Meaghan Cooper.

Construction workers found Cooper’s body on Nov. 19, 2021, in a grassy area behind a recreation center in Clearwater. Gualtieri said the medical examiner determined Cooper died from a lethal dose of fentanyl. In the news conference, Gualtieri said that while Cooper was a known cocaine user, she was not known to use heroin or fentanyl, a deadlier derivative of the drug.

Gualtieri said that 7 Ng/ml is considered a deadly dose of fentanyl, from which no person can recover. The medical examiner determined Cooper had an “astonishing” 26 ng/ml of fentanyl in her body, Gualtieri said.

Cooper was a freshman at Countryside High School before her death, WFLA reported.

Gullo lived near Cooper at the time of her death, Gualtieri said. Gullo, who is currently serving a 40-month sentence for lewd and lascivious behavior on a child under 14 in Hernando County, was out of jail on bond for the Hernando County charges on Nov. 19, 2021.

“Gullo sexually preyed on young teenage girls who he met online, and befriended them by furnishing them drugs for sex,” Gualtieri said at the news conference.

Gualtieri said that under the conditions of Gullo’s bond, he was wearing a GPS monitor, which proved he had gone to the location where Cooper’s body was found.

Text messages recovered from Gullo’s phone show that he had texted Cooper the day before her body was found, saying, “We should hang out tonight … let do coke and get (expletive) up,” according to investigators. Gualtieri said that Gullo sent the same message to a 15-year-old at the same time he was talking to Cooper on Nov. 18.

That 15-year-old rejected Gullo’s request, but Gualtieri said that did not deter him.

“Now the fact that a guy like this, a predator, who’s preying on these young girls, is a liar, that’s not surprising. But the next thing I’m going to tell ya isn’t only surprising, it’s appalling,” Gualtieri said at the news conference. “And if nothing, hands down shows what a predator and a sick guy this person is. … on the 18th, Meaghan dies at Gullo’s house. He keeps her body there all night. Takes her to the power lines the next day. … He dumped the 16-year-old in the field, and Gullo, within hours of dumping her body in the field, was back on his phone, texting that same 15-year-old who he had texted the day before who rebuffed his requests to meet? … He’s texting her within hours the next morning asking her to meet with him for sex and drugs. … He just killed one teenage girl with the fentanyl, and hours later trying to give another the same drugs.”

Gullo admitted knowing Cooper but denied talking with her or seeing her when questioned by deputies, Gualtieri said.