OCALA, Fla. — Brad King, a veteran, pro-death penalty Florida prosecutor who is handling high-profile murder cases in metro Orlando, announced his retirement Friday, endorsing his former executive director as his replacement.

  • Brad King cites desire for family time
  • Prosecutor backs replacement-elect
  • William Gladson takes office in January

William McDonald Gladson was the only candidate to qualify for state attorney for the Fifth Judicial Circuit by Friday’s deadline, meaning he was automatically elected and will take office in January.

King said he would work with Gladson to ensure a smooth leadership transition beginning in December.

Gladson wasn’t immediately available for comment Friday. Both are Republicans.

Another Republican prosecutor, incumbment Phil Archer, was re-elected without opposition Friday for the district spanning Brevard and Seminole counties. 

R.J. Larizza, a Republican incumbment prosecutor for Volusia, Flagler, Putnam, and St. Johns counties, drew a no-party challenger, criminal defense attorney Don Dempsey, Jr. of DeLand. He is married to Volusia County Judge Angela A. Dempsey.

King’s district spans Lake, Marion, Sumter, Citrus, and Hernando counties. But his influence extended into metro Orlando after then-Gov. Rick Scott in April 2017 tapped King to prosecute 21 death-penalty cases in Orange and Osceola counties. Scott removed State Attorney Aramis Ayala from the first-degree murder cases after she voiced opposition to the death penalty.

As a result, King is prosecuting Markeith Loyd, among others, in the Ninth Judicial Circuit (Orange and Osceola counties). Loyd was sentenced in October to life in prison for killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon in December 2016.

King is also prosecuting Loyd for first-degree murder in the slaying of Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton in January 2017.

How King’s political retirement may impact prosecutions in Orange and Osceola counties remains unclear.

Ayala is not running for re-election.

Four Democrats qualified Friday to run for her seat.

  • Deborah Lynne Barra, chief assistant state attorney for Ninth Circuit
  • Belvin Perry Jr., former chief judge for Ninth Circuit
  • Ryan Williams, assistant state attorney for Fifth Circuit
  • Monique Worrell, former director of Ninth Circuit's conviction integrity unit

Orlando attorney Jose Torroella, who is running as a no-party candidate, also qualified Friday.

The Democrats will face off August 18. The top vote-getter will face Torroella on November 3.

In a statement Friday, King said he decided against seeking re-election last week after talking with his wife, Tammy. He first ran for state attorney in 1988 and goes through a “process of self-evaluation” every four years before seeking re-election.

“After prefiling to run this year, I went through that process again; after serious reflection and discussion, I felt like my time as state attorney was drawing to a close, and that another door was opening for me, one that I had honestly not expected,” King wrote.

He cited family responsibilities.

“In August of 2017, after raising four children and nearing retirement age, my wife and I decided to become foster parents to a six-month-old little boy,” King said. “Tammy and I have had Oliver since then. We adopted him in June of 2019.”

King said he’s felt as if he’s been pulled in two directions since then.

“I have always been fully engaged in the work of the office, and as I have weighed that commitment to the office and my commitment to Tammy and Oliver, it became clear to me that I could not keep my commitment to both,” King said. “So, I have chosen to spend more time with them.”

He supports Gladson, he said, because of his “broad experience across the five counties of the circuit,” including managing four of the five offices and law enforcement background. He recently named Gladson to the position of executive director. Gladson, however, had to resign in order to run for the position.