LARGO, Fla. (WFLA) — A man has been charged in the murder of a 16-year-old Clearwater girl who was found dead on the Duke Energy Trail over a year ago, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.
On Nov. 19, 2021, construction workers found the body of a teenage girl north of the Clearwater Countryside Rec Center.
Gualtieri said the girl was Meaghan Cooper of Clearwater, who attended Countryside High School as a freshman before her death.
An autopsy found that Meaghan had died of a fentanyl overdose and recently had sex before she died.
Gualtieri said this was contrary to Meaghan’s previous history with drugs.
“Meaghan used cocaine, but there was no indication that she used fentanyl,” he said.
A toxicology report found no trace of cocaine in the 16-year-old’s body, but it did find that there were 26 nanograms of fentanyl per milliliter in her body, well above the fatal dose of seven nanograms per milliliter.
Further investigation found that Robert Gullo, 25, was the one who gave Megan fentanyl but passed it off as cocaine.
Gualtieri said Gullo had a history of giving underage girls drugs for sex. In fact, before he was indicted in Meaghan’s death, he was convicted on lewd and lascivious battery out of Hernando County for having sex with a 14-year-old girl he met on Tinder.
“This guy’s a predator,” the sheriff’s said.
At the time of Meaghan’s death, Gullo was out on bond for the Hernando County charge and had to wear an ankle monitor.
“That ankle monitor that he was wearing because he was out of jail on bail for the Hernando County case helped us prove that Gullo is the one that furnished the fentanyl to Meaghan Cooper that killed her and that he dumped her body by the power lines,” Gualtieri said.
Text messages obtained by investigators showed that on Nov. 18, 2021, Gullo texted Meaghan saying “we should hang out.”
“Let’s do coke and get f— up,” Gullo wrote.
All the while, the 25-year-old was also texting another 15-year-old girl to join him. However, the 15-year-old rejected his advances.
Gualtieri said Meaghan told a friend over the phone that she was going to do cocaine with Gullo.
The sheriff said later that night, Gullo picked up Megan from her house after her mother went to bed and went back to his father’s house at 9:30 p.m.
At 11:32 p.m. that night, Meaghan sent a text to a friend saying “I just did so much coke, and it feels so good.”
Five minutes after Meaghan’s text, Gullo sent a text to the other 15-year-old girl saying “I need you, it’s an emergency.”
Gualtieri said Gullo’s ankle monitor showed that the murder suspect stayed at his home all night until about 6 a.m. on Nov. 19. He then went to the power lines where Meaghan’s body was found and went back home.
“What it appears is that Gullo kept Cooper’s deceased body in his home all night before taking her to the field at six o’clock in the morning,” the sheriff said. “As I said earlier, DNA evidence from the autopsy also establishes that Gullo had sexual intercourse with Megan.”
Hours after dumping Meaghan’s body, Gullo once again texted the 15-year-old girl to come over to do drugs and have sex, Gualtieri said.
Deputies interviewed Gullo early in the investigation, and while he admitted to knowing Meaghan, he denied seeing or speaking to her on Nov. 19 or 20.
Last Friday, a grand jury indicted the 25-year-old for first-degree murder and unlawful sex with a minor.
“I hope and expect that he’ll never see the light of day again,” Gualtieri said.
Gullo is currently in the Florida Department of Corrections serving 40 months for having sex with a 14-year-old girl in Hernando County. He was out on bond last year waiting for his trial at the time of the murder.
Cooper’s family did not answer the door at their home Monday night.