Office of The State Attorney, Fifth Judicial Circuit, Florida
Serving the Citizens of Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion, and Sumter Counties
Office of The State Attorney, Fifth Judicial Circuit, Florida
Serving the Citizens of Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion, and Sumter Counties


Meet Our Team

Walter Forgie

Chief Assistant State Attorney

Walter Forgie currently serves as the Chief Assistant State Attorney.  In that position, Walter oversees the operations of the Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office.  Walter was born and raised in Florida and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Vanderbilt University in 1996 and a Juris Doctor from the University of Florida College of Law in 1999.

Walter began his career with the Lake County State Attorney’s office in 2002 and has prosecuted all types of criminal cases, including misdemeanors, sex crimes, violent felonies and homicides.  Walter was promoted to Division Supervisor of the Lake County Office in 2006, where he served until moving into the Chief Assistant State Attorney position in 2020.

Walter has been active with a variety of community organizations and is a graduate of the Florida Criminal Justice Executive Institute, Chair of the Lake County Public Safety Coordinating Council, past Chairman of the Florida Bar Grievance Committee, former President of the Lake County Bar Association, and a member of the West Central Florida Police Chief’s Association.

He and his wife, Julie, who is a teacher, live in Clermont and they have one daughter who is their pride and joy.

Rich Buxman

Chief of Homicide Prosecution

Rich Buxman is the Chief of Homicide Prosecution, assigned to oversee the prosecution of all homicide cases in the Fifth Judicial Circuit.

Born and raised in Florida, Rich graduated from Stetson University with a Bachelor of Arts degree and then attended the University of Florida law school, where he received his Juris Doctor in 1998.  He became a prosecutor for the Fifth Judicial Circuit in 1998 and, during his career, has prosecuted most types of misdemeanors, felonies, sexually violent predators, and homicides. A career prosecutor, he began his career assigned to Citrus County and became the supervisor of that office from 2003-2013.  He was then assigned to prosecute almost exclusively homicide cases, including death penalty cases, first in Lake County, then in Marion County, and now across the circuit.  Rich is also a graduate of the National District Attorney’s Association Career Prosecutor School in Charleston, South Carolina, and was the Chair of the Florida Bar’s Fifth Circuit Grievance Committee.

Bridget Kiefer

Executive Director

As Executive Director, Bridget Kiefer supervises the administrative staff, and is responsible for the budget, facilities, and human resources areas of the office.

Bridget began her career at the Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s office in February of 1988.  She obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from the University of Florida and interned at the office during her final semester, prior to joining the office as a Victim/Witness Counselor.  Through the years, she has attended numerous seminars and done work in the fields of victimology and trauma. She has participated in training new prosecutors as they have taken on the role of advocating for victims in our courtrooms.  In the 10 years prior to becoming Executive Director, Bridget served the office as Victim Services Director, supervising the Victim/Witness staff and directing Victim/Witness policy in the five-county jurisdiction.

Bridget has been active with a variety of community organizations, including having served on the board of the Friends of the Ocala Library for six years.  She and her husband, Scott, who owns an insurance agency, live in Ocala.  They are proud of their two Gator children who have likewise attended and graduated from the University of Florida.

Cindy Harper

Community Development Director

In her role as Community Development Director, Cindy Harper works with agencies, community partners, and citizens across the Fifth Judicial Circuit to ensure that the people we serve know who we are, and what we do. She disseminates information to the media and general public to ensure transparency and accountability for the office. She also represents the State Attorney at various community events to provide community groups relevant and accurate information concerning the work of the office.

Cindy began her legal career in 2012 as an Assistant State Attorney in the Fifth Judicial Circuit. As a prosecutor, Cindy has prosecuted everything from misdemeanors to murders. Prior to attending law school, Cindy had a career in public relations and community affairs, working for both non-profit and for-profit organizations.

Born and raised in Florida, Cindy graduated from the University of Florida where she earned bachelor’s degrees in Public Relations and Political Science. She earned a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Central Florida. She then earned a law degree from University of Florida’s Levin College of Law.  Cindy lives in Ocala with her husband and two daughters.

Racheal Franklin

Victim Services Director

As Victim Services Director, Racheal Franklin is responsible for making sure victims across the Fifth Judicial Circuit are afforded the rights provided to them by law through the Statutes and the Constitution, and that they are treated with dignity and respect throughout the process.

Racheal was born in Hernando County Florida, where she grew up and went to school, ultimately graduating cum laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Florida Metropolitan University in 1998. Upon joining the Office of the State Attorney, she served as the paralegal for the Sex Crimes Unit. She was later promoted to the position of victim/witness counselor. She has been assisting victims and witnesses in Marion County since 2000.

Over the years she has had extensive training in victim services, including the Attorney General’s Office Victim Services Practitioner Designation training.  In July of 2020 she became the Victim Services Director and oversees all Victim/Witness staff and the services offered to victims by the office.

Russell Suess

Chief Investigator

Russell Suess is the Chief Investigator, overseeing investigative efforts across the Fifth Judicial Circuit.  He is a certified Firearms Instructor and administers the State Attorney’s Office Firearms training and Law Enforcement training for all Fifth Circuit Investigators.

Russell holds a bachelor’s degree in Business and Professional Management from Nova Southeastern University. In 1980 he began his career in law enforcement in Fort Lauderdale where he spent 17 years as an Investigator specializing in complex International Auto Theft investigations. He was assigned to a Multi-Agency Task Force under the direction of the FBI.  Russell traveled throughout the world as an expert in Harley Davidson Identification.  In 2002 he was promoted to Sargent and served the remainder of his time in the patrol division until retirement in 2009. He then moved to Hernando County and was hired by the State Attorney’s Office the same year.

Russ is married with 2 children and 2 stepchildren.  He is an avid Bass Fisherman and partakes in monthly fishing tournaments throughout the state.  He also enjoys the outdoors and spending quality time with his family traveling in their RV.