Arrest made in deadly crash that killed elderly couple


CLAY COUNTY, Fla. — A local man was arrested Thursday in connection to a traffic crash that left an elderly couple dead in May of this year.

The Florida Highway Patrol reported that Sherman Calvin Braswell, 26, of Middleburg, is charged with running a red light, driving while his license was suspended/revoked, and driving a motor vehicle without insurance.

On May 19, a pickup truck driven by Braswell ran a red light going southbound on US-17 in Fleming Island and collided with a Toyota Camry trying to cross the street, according to Sgt. Bryan with FHP.

Both victims who died were in the car that was hit by the truck, according to FHP.

The victims in the Camry were identified as Louise Lyford Nee, 73, and Martin G. Nee, 74, of Orange Park.

Braswell has been booked into Clay County jail.

He is being held on $5,002 bond.


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St. Augustine double murder suspect in custody

St. Augustine double murder suspect in custody

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Hours before his wife and a family friend were shot to death inside a South Bellagio Drive home Thursday, a St. Augustine man suspected in their killing had been in court pleading no contest to violating an injunction for protection against domestic violence ordered by a judge last month, court records show.

Suspect in double murder of wife and friend in court hours before shooting

Suspect in double murder of wife and friend in court hours before shooting

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Hours before his wife and a family friend were shot to death inside a South Bellagio Drive home Thursday, a St. Augustine man suspected in their killing had been in court pleading no contest to violating an injunction for protection against domestic violence ordered by a judge last month, court records show.

Ebron charged in plot to escape from jail

Ebron charged in plot to escape from jail

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The chief suspect in the disappearance of 21-month-old Lonzie Barton faces new charges following his arrest for an alleged plot to escape from the Duval County Pretrial Detention Facility.

William “Ruben” Ebron, 32, is accused of concocting a plot to stash keys in his sock and mouth and then use them to slip out of his handcuffs, jump out of a jail van and escape in a getaway car, according to a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office arrest report.

Investigators found out about the plan Monday when another inmate came forward with multiple recorded conversations detailing how Ebron allegedly planned to escape from custody. “Ebron directed the inmate to have the getaway car placed east of the jail,” the report said.

Ebron was arrested Thursday on charges of attempted escape from a jail, criminal conspiracy, unlawful possession of a concealed handcuff key, and smuggling contraband into a detention facility, all felonies, jail records show.

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FWC: Boater missing in Black Creek found, identified


ID=30657929MIDDLEBURG, Fla. — The body of a missing boater that was originally called in as a drowning in Black Creek was found Friday afternoon, according to Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesperson Karen Parker.

The missing boater was identified Friday as Vincent Testa, 27, of Jacksonville, Parker told First Coast News.

Testa and friends had gone out boating when at some point, Testa, who was hanging onto the side of the boat, fell into the water, witnesses said. He was not wearing a life jacket and never surfaced, FWC reports.

Multiple victims flown to UF Health after Middleburg crash


Update, 2:43 p.m.: County Road 218 is now open to traffic in both directions.

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- A two-vehicle crash in the Lake Asbury area Friday morning sent at least four people to the hospital and halted traffic on County Road 218, authorities said.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the crash was reported about 11:15 a.m. on CR 218 near Henley Road between Middleburg and Green Cove Springs.

FHP says there are injuries. Scanner traffic suggests multiple victims were flown via Life Flight to UF Health Jacksonville.

Initial reports suggest one of the victims had to be cut out of a pickup truck after striking another vehicle head-on.

We'll update this developing story as we learn more.

91-year-old woman, three pets dead after Middleburg fire


MIDDLEBURG, Fla -- A fire that broke out at a Middleburg mobile home Wednesday has claimed the lives of a 91-year-old woman and three pets, and put another person in the hospital.

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Clay County Sheriff's spokesperson Mary Justino toldFirst Coast News the fire started on Nighthawk Lane in a rural part of Middleburg.

On Thursday morning, Catherine Johnson succumbed to her injuries in the hospital, Justino said. Johnson had initially escaped the fire but went back inside to retrieve her belongings and was injured in the process, according to CCSO.

Pair arrested in Middleburg auto burglary spree


MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Deputies in Clay County put an end to an auto burglary spree, clearing 26 cases from last fall, with the arrest of two suspects Friday, authorities said.

According to the Clay County Sheriff's Office, Aaron Jason Driver, 18, and Chase Daniel Bennett, 19, both of Middleburg, each face a list of charges stemming from dozens of break-ins over a one-month stretch last fall.

Jail records show Bennett faces 14 counts of auto burglary along with four counts of grand theft. Driver, meanwhile, faces 10 counts of auto burglary along with two grand theft counts and a misdemeanor count of petty theft.

Power restored to thousands of Middleburg residents


MIDDLEBURG- Thousands of customers of Clay Electric woke up in the dark Tuesday morning.

About 4,000 customers were without power following a power surge, overloading their circuits Monday night, according to Clay Electric's Communications Manager Wayne Mattox.

The company took a substation offline for maintenance on Monday, Mattox said. Colder than expected temperatures, along with reduced capacity, caused the overload and outage.

The power was restored around 10 a.m. Tuesday morning.


Deputies: Man killed by lawnmower


MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Deputies are investigating how a large lawnmower fell on top of a man Thursday afternoon in the Fox Meadow subdivision of Middleburg in what appears to be a tragic accident.

The man's wife returned from running errands to the couple's home, located in the 1200 block of Foxmeadow Trail, about 2:30 p.m., according to Clay County Sheriff's Office. When she stopped in the garage to say hello to her husband, there was no response, deputies said.

That's when she called 911. After deputies hoisted the 750-pound lawnmower off of him, the victim -- identified as 68-year-old Benjamin Connor Roberts, III -- was pronounced dead.

Family members told investigators Roberts had recently started working on the mower in an effort to get it running again.


Middleburg helps family after horrific murder, kidnapping


MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- A community is coming together to help the family reeling from a horrific tragedy in Middleburg.

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Adam Bell owns Cedar River Seafood in Middleburg on Blanding Boulevard.

When he heard about the crimes that happened at the family's home on Mayflower Street earlier this month, he knew he wanted to help.

"I know anything will help right now, this time of year and so close to the holidays," he said.

Clay deputies arrest car burglary suspect


CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- Deputies investigating a reported car burglary in Middleburg arrested one suspect following a brief search early Tuesday, according to the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

Chase Daniel Bennett, 18, of Orange Park, is charged with burglary to an unoccupied conveyance, a felony, and petit theft, a misdemeanor, according to an arrest report.

That's after a man returning to his home in the 2100 block of Pine Tree Lane about 2:30 a.m. spotted a suspect exit his vehicle, the report said. When the suspect noticed the man returning, he ran away west on Pine Tree Lane.

Deputies set up a perimeter around the neighborhood. With the help of a K9, investigators found the suspect, identified as Bennett, hiding in the front yard of a neighboring home, according to the report. When the victim spotted him, he immediately confirmed Bennett was the suspect seen exiting his vehicle.

Dozens of auto burglaries reported in Middleburg area


MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- The Clay County Sheriff's Office says investigators are looking for whomever broke into about 50 vehicles in the Middleburg community over the past several weeks.

The common theme in all of the reported burglaries, deputies say? Every one of the vehicles targeted had been left unlocked.

Money and personal items were taken out the vehicles, the CCSO reports.

Detectives are working on leads to identify those responsible.

Residents with information on the string of burglaries are encouraged to call investigators at 904-264-6512.


Lightning sparks Clay County fire


CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- Firefighters had to put out a small forest fire sparked by lightning in Clay County Monday evening, authorities said.

It started about 5 p.m. at a hunting camp near Bobby Padgett Road, neighbors told First Coast News. Capt. Bernita Bush with the Clay County Fire Department said firefighters had to cut the lock to the camp to reach the slow-moving fire.

At its peak, the fire measured about 100 square feet, but crews quickly put it out, Capt. Bush said. There was no property damage to the camp or any of the surrounding structures.

Brandi Shaffer, who lives on Bobby Padgett Road, said she was the one who called 911.

"The fire spread some and some ash was falling from the sky," Shaffer said in an e-mail. "It looked like it was snowing on our property."

Update: Post office finds woman's sister's remains


Update: Dionne Montague, spokesperson for the USPS, contacted On Your Side on Thursday night and said the package has been found and is being delivered to the customer. Debi Peirson said by email they delivered my sister to me tonight (thursday. Thank you for all your help. They said she was in a bag with the paperwork by a locker. I would still like some answers how this happened. Jacksonville postmaster Debra Gronik who hand delivered the package herself said,"We are pleased we were able to locate the and deliver the package safely to our customer." September 2013 the USPS instituted guidelines for handling cremated remains, the investigation revealed the new guidelines were not followed.

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Debi Peirson has a problem with the United States Postal Service; she can't believe what happened.

"The post office lost the package with my sister's ashes," said Peirson.

Scam leaves 'K9 Pets 4 Deserving Vets' in limbo


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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jack Jennings, 68, served during the Vietnam War and has a heart for veterans returning from the front lines overseas.

He's the founder of the non-profit K9 Pets 4 Deserving Vets.

"That's what I'm doing here, helping vets for free, that's what this organization is set up to do," said Jennings.

He said he found the ideal property in Middleburg and paid $60,000 at a public auction at the Clay County Courthouse.

"They had 300 homes that day," he said. "I had been watching this home because I wanted to turn it into a dog retreat."

Family remembers son who died from rare brain disease


ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- A young man from Middleburg who received his high school diploma during a special ceremony in the hospital earlier this month died on Tuesday from a rare brain disease.

Daniel Hopkins, 21, was diagnosed nearly ten years ago with neuro-degeneration brain iron accumulation. He attended high school in MIddleburg until last December and this year was homebound with a teacher helping him meet the exceptional education requirements for a certificate of completion.

Shelly Brannen says she was at her son's side when he died early Tuesday morning at her sister's home in Orange Park.

"I think that is what gives me more peace of mind, I was here. Like my mom said you brought him in and you were here when he went out. So that gives me peace," said Brannen who was busy on Wednesday making funeral arrangements.

Father charged in death of 11-week-old son


MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- A 19-year-old is facing felony charges related to the death of his 11-week-old son.

According to a police report form the Clay County Sheriff's Office, 11-week-old Jacoby Logan Helms suffered multiple subdural hematomas to his brain, blunt force trauma to his abdomen and severe retinal hemorrhaging in his right eye June 11 that led to his death.

Clay County Fire and Rescue responded to the 1900 block of Bridlewood Place and transported the infant to St. Vincent's Hospital. The infant was subsequently transported to Wolfson Children's Hospital where medical staff found the victim did not have any brain activity. He was pronounced deceased.

Seriously ill high student to graduate from hospital bed


ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- Daniel Hopkins won't be able to go on stage for graduation later this month due to a rare brain disease, but Middleburg High School will come to him at Orange Park Medical Center for graduation.

His teacher, principal, and friends from Middleburg High School will gather with his family for a graduation ceremony hosted by the hospital Monday afternoon at 3pm.

"He is a trooper, everything he goes through is awesome," said his mother by his hospital bed on Friday afternoon.

Shelly Brannen's 21 year old son Daniel Hopkins is seriously ill with a disease called neuro-degeneration brain iron accumulation, N-B-I-A for short. Iron accumulation in the brain ganglia restricts nerve signals to the rest of his body. He was diagnosed with NBIA in 2001 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

" And we were told that he would die by the time he was 13." said Brannen.

Winner, winner chicken dinner


MIDDLEBURG, Fla. – One hundred Chick-Fil-A customers now have something extra to be happy about. They were picked out of 175 customers to be the first at the new Middleburg store. They will get 52 free meals from the popular fast food restaurant. A drawing was held Wednesday for the people waiting in the parking lot to see who would be in the group of 100.

One group of people called themselves the "Gator-eight". They are eight University of Florida students. All eight of them were picked. They started lining up before 5:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, and slept in dozens of tents, braving the cold and wind.

Another couple has been to 105 grand openings. Libby and Jake Knupp traveled from Gulf Port, Florida.

Clay commissioners keep Big League Dreams alive


CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- A multi-million dollar sports park is one step closer to heading to Clay County.

On Tuesday, the Board of County Commissioners voted in favor of moving forward with exploring the possibility of constructing the sports park. It would be located near Branan Field Road and Old Jennings Road. But it comes with a hefty price tag for Clay County tax payers.

The mega sports complex would include three replica baseball fields, two full size fields, a covered sports pavilion and eight batting cages all situated right outside of Middleburg, a couple of miles away from Bill Chandler's home.

"It wouldn't bother me at all," said Chandler.

He's lived in Clay County since 1970 and has seen many changes. Chandler said he's all right with having a nice sports park nearby, but he's not sold on its price tag.

Teacher of the Week: Michele Hanson


MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- It is Wednesday so that means it is time for our Teacher of the Week! This week we are recognizing Michele Hanson at Wilkinson Junior High School in Clay County. She has been teaching for 12 years.

Hanson teaches agricultural science and has done amazing things with the program at the school. The kids are growing crops like potatoes and corn and raising a cow, pig and even chickens. Mrs. Hanson said she loves teaching kids and empowering them to be all that they can be. She said she doesn't mind putting in the extra hours and even coning in on the weekends because it is all for the kids.

"The most important thing that I think I teach them is work ethic. Work ethic transcends anything we do in life and if kids develop a good work ethic and communication skills and the ability to work in a team, then they will be more successful when they are older," said Mrs. Hanson.

Woman accused of embezzling $57K from elementary school


MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- An elementary school employee is facing charges of schemes to defraud, grand theft and uttering forged instrument following an investigation by the Clay County School Board.

Julie Herringdine, 37, is accused of reimbursing herself for items paid for using a Clay County School Board Credit Card, according to a police report from the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

School Board officials were notified the J.L. Wilkinson Elementary School account was in overdraft in September 2013 and launched an investigation into the school's financial records.

Caught on camera: Auto burglar takes $18 from unlocked SUV

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Deputies are seeking an auto burglar who took $18 out of an unlocked GMC SUV on November 27 of last year.

The subject, described as 5'10" to 6' tall and wearing white sneakers, dark pants, dark baseball cap and a camouflage jacket, was seen on the homeowner's surveillance video between 3 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. Nov. 27.

According to a release from CCSO spokesperson Mary Justino, the subject took $18 out of the unlocked SUV and left the door open.

Anyone who has any information about the identity of the subject is asked to call CCSO Det. Mark Maertz at (904) 264-6512.

Clay County Fire Rescue gets FEMA grant

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- The Clay County Fire Rescue Department is one of five Florida departments seeing part of a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant. 

The grant is designed to make sure communities have enough protection from fire. Clay will get about $2 million.

The money will be used to hire 21 firefighters. They'll be spread through seven departments across the county.

However, it will be several months before they start work. The extra staff means, according to fire chief Lorin Mack, a quicker response time and less of a need to shuffle staff and equipment when there's an emergency.

Get a free, sober ride home tonight

JACKSONVILLE, FLA-- We want you to get the new year started off safely so put this number in your phone, 885-286-9246.

855-286-9246 is the phone number to AAA's Tow-To-Go program.  You don't have to be a AAA member to use the service, it just gets you a safe, free ride home and saves you from driving intoxicated.

"New Year's Eve is the busiest night of the year for the Tow to Go program because so many motorists seem to be more inclined to use a designated driver but don't always have someone willing to be one in their own party during the biggest celebration of the year," said Gerry Gutowski, Sr. Vice President, Automotive Services, AAA–The Auto Club Group. "We prepare our call center teams and tow truck service providers for weeks in advance, so we can manage the increased call volume that's typical of this time of year."

Local high schools receive their new grades

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Nearly half of Florida's high schools are getting an A grade for the 2012-13 school year.

The grades released Wednesday by the Florida Department of Education show a slight increase in the number of A graded schools.

But the number of D and F rated schools also went up. There were eight high schools that received F grades as opposed to just three in 2012.

Water mold killing off popular Christmas trees

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- It might soon cost you more to deck the halls.
This year, a water mold is attacking and in some cases killing off a popular Christmas tree.

The Fraser Fir is native to mountainous regions like North Carolina and Oregon.

But at some tree farms, it is not exactly the most wonderful time of year.

The firs are turning from green to brown because of a water mold called phytophtora.

Heavy rains during the growing season have caused the mold to flourish and spread quickly.

It's a threat because it kills the tree's root system, which keeps water from being absorbed.

Jeff Pollard is a North Carolina-based Christmas tree farmer, who told NBC News he might lose a quarter of his crop.

"Didn't expect it to be quite this severe this fast," he said.
The Christmas tree industry stands to lose several million dollars because of the loss in crop.

Middleburg man sentenced for receiving child porn

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- A Middleburg man was sentenced Monday to five years in federal prison on child pornography charges, authorities said.

Robert Hohman, 65, was indicted Oct. 18 on a felony charge of receipt of child pornography after pleading guilty to the offense Aug. 6, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Prosecutors said an investigation launched in December 2010 found that Hohman was using an internet message board to distribute large volumes of child pornography.

During an interview with FBI agents, Hohman confessed to using the forum, prosecutors said. He also allegedly admitted to downloading child pornography for many years.

Prosecutors said during a search of Hohman's home computer, FBI agents found dozens of videos and hundreds of images of children as young as toddlers being sexually abused by adults.

Police: Convicted felon arrested in Dunkin' Donuts robbery

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- A convicted felon was arrested Sunday afternoon for allegedly robbing a Dunkin' Donuts at gunpoint.

Eric Bryan Correia, 33, is charged with Robbery-Armed Firearm/Other Deadly Weapon, Aggravated Assault with Intent to Commit a Felony and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon, according to a Clay County Sheriff's Office arrest report.

Correia allegedly backed a 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser up to Dunkin' Donuts/Subway at 1543 Blanding Boulevard around 7:15 a.m. Sunday. According to the arrest report, he was wearing clear gloves, black exercise-type pants, a black hoodie and a black ski mask.

He then pointed a silver handgun at employees behind the counter, most of whom fled. One employee took money out of the cash register, put it on the counter and backed away.

Funeral set for Superhero Logan

ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- Everyone on the First Coast is invited to show their support for the family of a young super hero who captured our hearts.
    
Five-year-old Logan Channel lost his battle with cancer this week.
    
His funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon at Hibernia Baptist Church.
    

Police: Burglar targets movie kiosk renters

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- The Clay County Sheriff's Office is investigating a vehicle burglary in which a woman's phone and wallet were taken out of her car while she using a Redbox movie kiosk.

According to a release from CCSO, the woman and her fiance went to the Redbox outside of the Walmart located at 2570 County Road 220 on October 13. The car, which was pulled up next to the curb, was turned off and the keys were taken out and the vehicle was unlocked.

The male suspect allegedly entered the unlocked car and took the woman's cell phone and wallet, which contained credit cards. He was wearing a beige shirt, black cap and blue jeans.

The man then walked past the couple to enter the store, according to the release. He was likely driving a gold-colored sedan and was seen with a woman with her hair pulled back in a bun.

FCN Investigates: What exactly are you paying for at the pump?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- We are just weeks from the busy Thanksgiving travel season.

But, before you fill up for your trip the On Your Side team has three things you'll want to know before you hit the road. It's part of a First Coast News investigation.

At the gas station, every cent counts.

"I get pretty much what my car gives me," said Michael Bryce, as he filled up the car. "I get around $20 half a tank, $40 for a full tank, $5 for an eighth of a tank."

If you feel like something just isn't right, you might be on to something.

It is Anthony Davis' job to find out

He's one of the petroleum inspectors with the Florida Department of Agriculture.

"We want to make sure that consumers are getting what they're paying for," Davis said.

FCN's David Williams joined him at the Chevron station on New Kings Road for an inspection. Inspections are done at least every 12-14 months, says Davis.

Superintendent defends 'Dare to Think'

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- Superintendent Charlie Van Zant is speaking out in defense of the Dare to Think Conference that kicked off yesterday.

It's a program that focuses on history and civics in the classroom.

Last week -- the Clay County school board voted to file an ethics complaint regarding Van Zant's co-sponsorship of the conference -- calling it a private, partisan, and political event.

Van Zant sent a statement today saying;

"Encouraging our students and our children to love, respect, cherish and value America isn't a partisan issue.

"It is informed patriotism. I want everyone to know I will always stand up and be willing to advocate for that in our community!"

Click here to read the entire statement.

Lewd battery suspect turns himself in to police

UPDATE 11/5/13: The suspect, Stephen Dyne, turned himself into the Green Cove Springs headquarters Tuesday, according to a Clay County Sheriff's Office press release. Dyne is held at the Clay County Jail on charges of Lewd Battery and pending charges of eluding arrest. 

Thousands of dollars missing from Clay school

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- It is being called a case of grand theft after several thousand dollars was reported missing from accounts at Wilkinson Elementary.

The school district discovered a problem when bank accounts were found overdrawn in late September. District accountants, according to the Clay County Sheriff's Office, then started to find more errors in the school's financial books.

The bookkeeper, Julie Herringdine, resigned in mid-September.  School district spokesman Gavin Rollins said Herringdine "resigned pending termination."

CCSO has not named a suspect in the case. Investigators say $2,294 is the preliminary amount believed to have been stolen, but that number is expected to climb higher.

Herringdine could not be reached for comment either at her home or by phone.

Clay schools said it has strong internal controls and has training programs for employees.

Arrest announced in white supremacist graffiti case

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. - The home where a Clay County detective was killed was vandalized five days ago, today an arrest was announced.

Just a few days after the home where Clay County Detective David White was killed in 2012 the arrest of suspect Anthonio Joseph Casanova, 44, was announced.

Casanova was taken into custody by the Clay County Sheriff's Office Friday and charged with the vandalism that occurred at a home at 4874 Alligator Boulevard.

The arrest came a day before volunteers from the Clay County fire department stepped forward to donate their time to paint over the white supremacist graffiti with paint donated by the Clay County Fie Union.

Casanova is being held on a $25,000 bond in the Clay County Jail.

Pop Warner team sidelined for season

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Wesconnett Park is now silent; the Wildcats football season is over, abruptly.

"It was very heartbreaking," said Teresea Downceroux.

Teresea Downceroux's son is on the team and they're angry.

"My son has been crying since that meeting because he has been devastated," she said.

The team, after a 7-2 season, was poised for the Championship game, but they're sideline. The parents were called into a meeting and told that the season has been forfeited. 

"We're out and another team will take our spot," said Chahid Clark.

Assistant Coach Clark said the Pop Warner Football conference received a complaint that one of his players is ineligible, he lived outside the district.

"When he signed up, proof of residency was not required," he said.

White supremacist graffiti covers home where deputy died

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- The boarded up home where a Clay County detective was killed and another was injured sits covered in white supremacist graffiti.

Clay County Sheriff's Office detective David White was shot and killed while approaching the home at 4874 Alligator Boulevard in Middleburg February 2012. A second deputy, Detective Matt Hanlin, was shot in the upper left arm.

The one story house now sits boarded up and covered in red paint in the shape of swastikas, German SS symbols and the words R.I.P Tedd Tilley, according to a police report from the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

The 'Aryan Nation' graffiti was still sticky to the touch when investigators arrived on scene early Monday morning, according to the report, and appears to be a memorial to Tilley who was the alleged gunman who killed White and wounded his partner. Tilley was shot and killed in the house during the meth bust.

Additional arrest announced in Operation Wrong Destination

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. -- A man in his thirties was arrested overnight in Middleburg for allegedly traveling to meet a minor for sex.

Danny Bongao Pasicolan, Jr., 31, was arrested as part of Operation Wrong Destination, a five day undercover investigation that resulted in a total of now seventeen arrests of men who are accused of attempting to exploit children using the Internet.

Pasicolan is facing charges of traveling to meet a minor, unlawful use of a two-way communications device and transmission of material harmful to minor, according to a police report form the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

Pasicolan is currently being held on $100,009 bond in the Clay County Jail.

Jaguars' Abry Jones pays a visit to a local military family

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Petty Officer First Class Yolanda Coakley is almost at a loss for words because it's a big day for her military family.

A Hope to Dream program is teaming up with Ashley Furniture Home Store to provide beds for her six children.

Coakley was nominated by coworkers she volunteers with at the USO.

As the beds were unloaded and assembled they also brought along a big helping hand: Jags defensive end Abry Jones.

Giving a good night's rest to a woman and her family who have given so much to their community and country.

Local truckers unaware of rolling protest in D.C.

JACKSONVILLE,Fla. -- At the truck stops near Baldwin and U.S. 301 it was exceptionally busy. Truckers leaving Interstate 10 to buy much needed fuel or to take a break from the road.

Trey Hervey, a six year veteran, was on the way to North Carolina and needed a break.

"I'm not an Independent," said Hervey. "But I want to be."

Hervey loves to talk about the industry and its challenges, but when it came to the rolling protest in the nation's capital he had no knowledge.

"I don't know anything about it," he said.

And at this truck stop, a microcosm of a tight knit community, few trucks knew what was taking place near Washington D.C.

The rolling protest was to challenge the Obama administration and Congressional leaders over the government shutdown. It was to be a strong statement about America's frustration with its government.

On Your Side: Shutdown worries and mystery green water

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Thursday, the On Your Side team answered an array of questions you sent in and found the solutions.

Ray Green, 59, of Middleburg, said he has served 20 years in the United States Air Force, all over the world. He depends on Veterans benefits and Social Security payments. But, with the government shutdown, he says he is worried.

"If I don't get paid, I can lose my house, car, truck, boat. Everything," Green said frankly.

Local federal workers feeling effects of shutdown

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- On Monday, when many of the federal employees left their Jacksonville offices, many walked out without a relatively important document: a GSA form SF50, a notification of personnel action.

"It is very essential," said Marie, which is not her real name. "It allows us to apply for unemployment and other benefits indicating that we are not currently employed."

We spoke with several federal employees who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.

"We received furlough letters about midnight September 30. That was electronically sent to us," said one worker.

The problem is it happened after they had left for the day, the close of business. The notice is still on their computer, but during a work  furlough there is no access to the building, much less the computer.

Fresh start for Middleburg family battling health problems

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Tired of seeing their children constantly sick, one Middleburg family turned to the public for help.

Misty and Josh O'Connor's home tested positive for mold. They believe the place was making the entire family sick but they didn't have the means to move out. Thanks to donations from friends, church members and complete strangers, today they have a new start.

Misty O'Connor gave First Coast News a tour of her new mobile home from the outside. Still being set up, the trailer was donated to the family along with about $9,000.

"I can't begin to express my gratitude to everybody that has helped us," said Josh O'Connor.

St. Vincent's medical center opens in Clay County

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- A St. Vincent's Medical Center opened its doors to patients in Clay County Tuesday morning.

The center opened at about 7 a.m. and included 64 private inpatient rooms. The rooms are said to expand to 250 beds, enabling the hospital to accommodate the area's growing population. A neighboring 50,000 sq. ft. medical office building that is scheduled to open by the end of the year will have different physician groups.

"St. Vincent's Clay County has been a dream for many years. Today that dream officially became a reality," said St. Vincent's Clay County President Blain Claypool. "We are honored to bring high-quality care closer to home for the families who live in Clay County."

The opening of the medical center and office building will bring an economic impact on the county that is expected to be more than $50 million a year, making it Clay County's largest one-time investment.

CCSO urges awareness of counterfeit bills

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- The Clay County Sheriff's Office is trying to increase the public's awareness about counterfeit money being circulated in the community.

On Saturday, the Kangaroo Express at 4486 County Road 218W reported that it had in its possession a counterfeit $100 bill. The bill was ripped, did not have a ribbon or a hologram and did not change color when marked by a counterfeit detection pen, according to a CCSO incident report.

CCSO Detective Bill Roberts shows in a public service announcement tips that citizens and businesspeople should be aware of when handling money.

For example, on a $20 bill, Roberts says a hologram of President Andrew Jackson's face would be visible on the right lower portion of the bill. Also, on the left side of the bill, a strip that says "USA 20" would be visible.

Mortgage reduction for underwater homeowners

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Life is good for John and Sharon Fisher, but they would be first to tell you that it would be better if they had a break on their mortgage.

"We have a very high interest rate," said Fisher, "but we've never missed a payment, we've never been late."

The Fishers are retired, on a fixed income, and they say sometimes the $1,200 a month payment becomes a struggle.

"We love our home," said Fisher, "We can't sell it and we don't want to sell it."   

They can't sell because when the economy tanked, foreclosures went up and home values went down.

"We've lost almost $100,000 in the place," he said. 

The Fishers are hoping the state's newest program will help; they've  applied to the Florida's Principal Reduction Program.

Clay detective receives Medal of Heroism

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Clay County Sheriff's Office Det. Gary Lavaron was given the Medal of Heroism by Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday for his efforts to save fellow officers during a February 2012 meth lab investigation in which Det. David White was killed.

Lavaron shot the suspect who fatally shot White in the head and also shot Det. Matt Hanlin, according to a release from the Scott's office. He also gave medical assistance to Hanlin.

Tree service owner charged in teen's fatal fall

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- The owner of a tree service has been charged in the August death of a teenage boy who was working for him.

Jonathan Harves Wilkes, 37, has been charged with Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child, according to an arrest report from the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

Blake Bryant, 14, of Palatka fell from a 71-foot tree after he accidentally cut through his
safety harness while working for John Wilkes Tree Service in Middleburg.

Wilkes turned himself into CCSO on Monday at 1:40 p.m. He had an active warrant out for his arrest, which was issued on Sept. 19.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Bryant's normal duties included moving limbs and branches and his family had no idea that he was climbing trees.

Real ways to help you find a job and other resources

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Shawntray from the Westside asked the On Your Side team a question.

He said he recently lost his job as a security guard because he was sick and can't find work. Shawntray said he lost his home and he's afraid he'll lose his car. He wants help.

Shawntray, here is what you do:

1) Get your hands on a phone in the area of Northeast Florida and dial the United Way's 211. It is a referral source that will refer you to places for emergency financial assistance, food, shelter and clothing and a lot of other service.

2) Call the company that you make car payments and explain your situation. Ask if some payments can be deferred.

3) Go to a place like WorkSource Florida. They have offices across the region They will help you or anyone looking for work Find a job. Call 904-356-JOBS for more information.

Clarification on Clay Electric Energy rate hikes

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- First Coast News wants to further clarify our story on Clay Electric's rates going up.

They are going up 3.5% percent for customers who use on average 1,171 kilowat hours of power per month. The 3.5% increase includes the slightly higher energy rates and a $3 customer charge.

Clay Electric's spokesperson tells FCN they are not the only power companies having to raise rates because of the economy.

 

 

 

 

Man wanted for lewd molestation

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- The Clay County Sheriff's Office needs the public's help locating a man wanted on lewd molestation charges.

Officers say Nicholas Von Williams, 33, is accused of lewd molestation of a disabled adult.

Williams is described as being 6-feet-2-inches tall and weighs about 200 pounds, according to the the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

Williams last known address is on 2nd Avenue in Thomasville, Ga.

Anyone who has any information about the whereabouts of this suspect is asked to contact the Clay County Sheriff's Office at 904-264-6512.

Clay Electric customers' rates are going to rise

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS, Fla. -- We are hearing from upset Clay Electric customers who's rates are set to rise.

Clay Electric's website says starting October 4 bills will go up 3.5 percent. This is in addition to an extra $3 in their 'customer charge.'

According to company spokesperson, Wayne Mattox, if customers use 850 kilowat hours a month they currently pay $94.75.

On October 4 the same amount of usage will be $99.03 a month.

Why the rate hike? 

Mattox points to the economy with declining sales and money in the last few years. Mattox said the rates are rising because more people are not moving to the area or starting businesses there.

Ribbon cutting ceremony to honor four fallen heroes

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- Clay County is honoring four fallen heroes that were killed in action while fighting in the War on Terrorism.

They are being honored during a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Hilltop Restaurant in Orange Park, Florida. The event will last from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The heroes graduated from Orange Park High, Middleburg High and Keystone Heights High Schools.

It is Clay Counties goal to raise awareness and enlist sponsors to help put a Florida Fallen Monument at each school honoring those that have died in combat in this and other conflicts throughout the school's history.

On Your Side: Checking an Officer's identification

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- First Coast News got an email from Joyce who said someone disguised as a police officer came to her door, demanding $6,000. She was afraid and eventually gave it to the man.

Captain Joe Bucci, with the Clay County Sheriff's Office, gave tangible information on how you can confirm whether or not someone that comes to your door is an Official Law Enforcement Officer.

According to Bucci:

1) Ask to see a badge and department identification. It'll have a photo with it.

2) Call the dispatch center when the person gives you a badge number to confirm who they are.

3) Ask for a supervisor with dispatch to triple check.

4) When in doubt, if you're not sure, take their information and confirm it inside your home while they wait outside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sideline 2013 Game of the Week: Orange Park at Oakleaf

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- It was a Friday morning to remember on FCN. We were live at Oakleaf High School on GMJ firing up the band and leading the cheers for our Sideline 2013 Game of the Week. 

Oakleaf is hosting Orange Park. This is known as the Battle for the Block because these two Clay County schools know each other a little too well being only a couple miles apart. This rivalry is heating up like our weather as the Knights are looking to avenge last year's 35-0 upset loss to the Raiders.

We had special coverage on First Coast News at 5, 5:30, 6, 7, and 11 and do not forget to check out Our First From You Game Box set up at the game. You can take video booth photos and tape your favorite cheers and chants for all to see online and on our newscasts.

One in four Floridians without health insurance

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In Duval County 145,000 people have no health insurance, Karen Hanna is one of them.

"I tried to blame my situation on the government or the place I retired from," said Hanna.

Hanna, a retired teacher, said even with a part time job, the cost of insurance is too much.

"When you're only getting one thousand dollars and 800 goes to insurance," she said. "I'm just living for Medicare."

Hanna, 63, is among the working and uninsured and turned to Volunteer in Medicine, a non profit, for her health care needs.

"If they weren't here I would be devastated," she said.

As long as you are working and meet VIM's income guidelines, the service is free. Mike Weinstein is CEO of Volunteer in Medicine.

"We see about 500 patients a month, 6000 a year," said Weinstein. "It has been like that for ten years." 

Man wanted in Clay County

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. - The Clay County Sheriff's Office is seeking a man on their most wanted list.

John Luther Bennett Jr., 24, is wanted on charges of fleeing and eluding law enforcement, reckless driving and driving while license suspended or revoked.

Bennett's last known address was on Hebron Avenue in Keystone Heights.

Bennett is described as a white male, 6-foot-2-inches tall and weighing 185 pounds.

Anyone who has any information about the whereabouts of this suspect is asked to contact the Clay County Sheriff's Office at 904-264-6512.

Family hopes to get healthy home

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- A family in need of a healthy home is one step closer to a better life thanks to an anonymous Good Samaritan.

The home was a work in progress when the O'Connors first moved in 12 years ago. The family planned to make the necessary repairs and renovations, but the family said its health issues kept getting in the way.

"It's falling apart because we haven't been able to keep it up because when he's [Misty's husband, Joshua] not working, he's dealing with our health problems," said Misty O'Connor.

Misty and Joshua O'Connor have three girls -- nine, eight, and two. 

In 2008 their middle daughter Kiara ended up in the hospital after one of her lungs collapsed from pneumonia. Since then she has been sick often, a year ago was diagnosed with asthma, and now her older sister also has asthma.

"We're tired of seeing our kids sick all of the time. They missed a lot of school the last few years," said O'Connor.

Residents will have to bear the heat a little longer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The dog days of summer have turned Mount Carmel Gardens into a hotbed of complaints.

"It is getting bad," said Paul Makowski.

The tenants of the high rise are mostly seniors and the disabled. John Duggan said he finds it much cooler outside in the shade than inside his apartment.

"They say they're working on it," said Duggan, "But a lot of people have doubts."

The complex is privately owned but receives HUD rental subsidy.

"You call and yeah its going to get fixed, when is anybody doing anything?" asked Donna Clabough.

It is a question everyone is asking. Kenny Dockswell uses a fan in his apartment but said he's paying for air conditioning service, not a fan.

Woman found dead in pond ID'd

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- A woman's body was found in Clay County a pond early Wednesday morning.

The Clay County Sheriff's Office responded to a home on the 1500 block of Backwater Drive in the Brannan Mill Plantation subdivision around 6:30 a.m., after a man called and reported his wife missing, according to a release from the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

When deputies responded to the home they found the man's wife, 77-year-old Mitsuko Haddix, deceased in the pond.

According to the CCSO, Haddix was suffering from insomnia and was taking medication for the issue. She went to bed last night and this morning her husband woke up to find her not in bed. He went looking for his wife and saw her in the drainage pond behind their residence.

An investigation is underway and the Medical Examiner's office is on scene to assist with determining cause of death. At this point in the investigation there is no indication of foul play.

Baker's Sports High School Football Media Day: Middleburg Preview

It's been 10 years since the football program at Middleburg High School had a winning season, but the Broncos hope that streak ends this year.

Karl Smeltzer is the Broncos new head coach.  He takes over a team that finished with a (1-9) record last season.

The video clip above includes interviews with DE Sammie Thomas and RB/LB Hunter Toomey.

Former Dozier student speaks out on decision

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Arthur G. Dozier School for boys officially closed June, 2011, but still open are the many chapters to its dark history.

"Finally the truth is going to come out," said Roger Kiser. 

Kiser, founder of the organization White House Boys, is a former student at the Arthur G. Dozier school for boys. He remembers what he said the day after his first beating.

"I was beaten bloody and I said one day I'm gonna come back and report what you people are doing,' said Kiser.

It is a promise he has kept. For the past two decades Kiser has spent his time and his money exposing the horror of the reform school. 

"I put everything I had into this," said Kiser. "I don't regret for one minute that I did it, I'd do it again."

Clay looks into building baseball complex

Robbery suspect sought in Clay County

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- The Clay County Sheriff's Office is seeking the public's help locating a robbery suspect.

Paul David Stone, 34, is wanted for an unarmed robbery, according to a Facebook post by the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

Stone is described as a white male, 5-feet-10-inches tall and weighs about 185 pounds.

His last known address is on Main Street in Middleburg.

Anyone who has any information about this suspect is asked to contact the Clay County Sheriff's Office at 904-264-6512.

When caught, Stone will be held on a $75,003 bond.

Update: Suspects identified in theft and crash incident

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Arrest warrants have been issued to two men and two women who were allegedly involved in the hit-and-run crash that occurred on Wednesday, according to the Clay County Sheriff's Office. 

Traffic Alert: CR 220 and Sleepy Hollow Road is clear

UPDATE 7/9/13, 8:30 p.m.: The railroad crossing was cleared and repaired as of 4:30 p.m., according to the CCSO Facebook page.

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Railroad crossing arms that are stuck in the down position are causing delays at the intersection of County Road 220 and Sleepy Hollow Road.

Motorists are encouraged to avoid the area, as the time frame for the repairs to be complete is unknown, according to Clay County Sheriff's Office Public Information Coordinator Mary Justino.

Trains are still passing through on the tracks slowly, which is adding to the delays in the area.

The crossing arms appear to be malfunctioning due to a mechanical problem, not an accident, Justino said.

Credit repair: A broken promise for some customers

UPDATE, July 9, 2013: David Sonnier,owner of Florida School of Credit, said the Collins are his clients. Sonnier said they agreed to use his company to find a mortgage and changed their mind. He said he has a contract with them.

"The reason they did not get a refund is there were rude to me," said Sonnier, "They still owe me $500 and we are going to civil court."

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- We've all seen the commercials for the companies that promise to remove bankruptcies, judgments, and liens from your credit files. The Federal Trade Commission position on these companies is simple: "Do yourself a favor and save your money."

Baker County resident Katrina Collins now regrets her recent decision. Collins was shopping for a used car and found a credit repair deal that has left her upset.

Your guide to First Coast 4th of July celebrations

Firework displays and events scheduled to celebrate the 4th of July holiday across the First Coast. Here's a list of the festivities:

Columbia County celebrates 4th of July

Clay County celebrates the 4th of July

Fernandina Beach celebrates 4th of July

Flagler County celebrates 4th of July

Five injured in Black Creek boating accident

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- Five people were injured after trying to get their boat out of bad weather on Black Creek on Tuesday afternoon.

Three adults and two children were among the injured, according to Karen Parker of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The injured individuals were taken UF Health at Jacksonville with non-life-threatening injuries. Three other children were on board the boat but were not injured.

The 21-foot open deck boat was headed to the Knights Boat Ramp when it veered to the right and hit trees along the creek's shoreline, coming to rest 25-30 feet in the woods.

The investigation into the crash is continuing, Parker said.

Country singer Slim Whitman dies at age 90

ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- Florida native and famed country singer Slim Whitman has died at the age of 90.

A family member confirmed Whitman passed away peacefully surrounded by family overnight Wednesday at Orange Park Medical Center. He had heart and kidney failure.

Witman sold more than 120 million records and he's known around the world for songs like Rose Marie, I Remember You, and Indian Love Call. People in Middleburg say he was just a humble, down to earth guy.

Guilty plea in gun case in detective's death

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- A Middleburg man pleaded guilty Tuesday in a gun case relating to the death of a Clay County detective.

Baker, Clay to host National Night Out events

Northeast Florida -- Baker and Clay counties have announced that they have begun planning for "America's Night out Against Crime."

The events are part of the National Association of Town Watch (NATW), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the development and promotion of various crime prevention programs, which culminates annually on the first Tuesday of August.  

National Night Out was first introduced in 1984 and began as an effort to promote involvement in crime prevention activities, police-community partnerships, neighborhood camaraderie and send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.

Residents still dealing with Debby damage

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Almost a year after Tropical Storm Debby made landfall in North Florida, about 75 families are still seeking help to fix their homes.

"[Water] is coming through the wall, down underneath the floor, some day my refrigerator will probably end up on the ground," said Middleburg resident Nikki Celso.

The Celso family in Middleburg continues to deal with leftover damage from the storm.

"It worries me that my beams are going to come through the roof and they're going to end up on my floor," said Celso.

Tropical Storm Debby flooded hundreds of homes near Black Creek in Clay County, but even those living in non-flood zones had water enter their homes.

The storm dumped so much rain, Nikki Celso said her ceiling cracked in several rooms. The roof is caving in her son's room and mold is spreading throughout the home.

Clay County Emergency Management updates on Andrea

CLAY COUNTY, Fla.-Emergency Management Officials are watching progress of Tropical Storm Andrea as it crosses Florida today and will closely monitor conditions throughout the evening.

Emergency Operations Center is currently at Level 3 activation and will continue communication with state and local agencies.

Clay County is currently under the following cautions:
• Tropical Storm Warning
• Tornado Watch
• Flood Watch

Isolated flooding in low-lying areas may occur from the anticipated rainfall, and residents are urged to remain aware of conditions and take protective actions as needed.

All residents are advised to take this opportunity to prepare for what might become an active storm season. Preparations include:
• 3 days' supply of water, food, personal needs items and medications
• Collection of important documents if evacuations become necessary
• Family emergency plan

Consumer Alert: Be sure your trailer has a legal VIN

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Every trailer on the road, and there are many, must have a vehicle identification number, like your car would have. Otherwise, under Florida, law it's considered contraband and it will be confiscated.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is reporting a rash of trailer thefts like what happened to Willis Sly. His utility trailer was stolen on Memorial Day.

"They cut all the locks on the trailer and away it went," said Sly.

He purchased a new trailer, costing him about $2,000.

"The police say they recover some. I'm buying another one so I don't know," said Sly.

The police effort to cut down on trailer thefts and recover the stolen ones has been an eye-opening experience for Dan Mechelke

"I had no idea, I had no idea in regards to that trailer, none at all, none at all," said Mechelke.

Clay County boy killed in tragic accident

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- A 4-year-old in Clay County died Thursday in a tragic accident.
    
According to a report from the Clay County Sheriff's Office, Lucas Colley was sitting on an electric reclining chair and using a control system to raise and lower it.
    
Then his mother and a family friend heard him scream. They ran into the room and found the chair closing on the boy's head.

"Yes they did try to stop it. They tried to use the functions on the remote. According to the mother, she said the buttons didn't respond then physically they tried to pull the chair apart which they were unable to do," said CCSO Detective Jermaine Boone.

We spoke with Clay County detectives, and they told us the boy's mother needs help paying for his funeral services.    

If you would like to help, you can contact the Aaron and Burnet Bivens Funeral Home at 264-1233 to donate.

Sudden death cancels cruise and possible refund

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS, Fla. -- Carnival Cruise Lines has seen its share of problems this year, but that did not stop Frances Prince and Mollie McCall from booking a seven day cruise.

"She wouldn't go without me and I wouldn't go without her," said Prince. 

But on May 9 Herb Green, McCall's fiance', was killed in an accident on State Road 16 near Starke. Prince is still trying to cope with the loss. 

Prince, McCall and Herb Green were good friends. 

"Tragedies happen," she said. "You can't schedule them."

On May 10, the day before they were to set sail, they contacted their travel agent with the bad news.

"Their big suggestion was see if you can find somebody else to take your place," Prince said.

Prince said she also called Carnival Cruise to try and reschedule the cruise.

Marching to find a cure for Cystic Fibrosis

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Friends and family of Melissa Boyett marched in her honor to find a cure for Cystic Fibrosis.

Melissa passed away on April 23, but lived a life full of joy and experienced more than most people ever will in her short 23 years.

Team "Marching for Melissa" met Saturday at the Orange Park Kennel Club.  They walked to raise funds for Cystic Fibrosis research.

You can donate to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in Melissa's name here.

Board Chairman: Superintendent told us not to talk to staff

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- The combative relationship between the Superintendent of Clay County School and the School Board has reached a new level.

A new directive laid out by Superintendent Charlie Van Zant has many upset.

Clay County school superintendent Charlie Van Zant and the school board have been at odds over several issues since Van Zant's election in the fall. So much so the Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter to both parties asking them to cool it because it was hurting the reputation of the county.

The latest salvo fired by the Superintendent this week: If you are a member of the Clay County School Board and want to ask a question of the school system staff, don't.

That is what school board Chairman Carol Studdard said she was told this week by a staff member. She said she was told if she or any school board member had a question, take it to Van Zant.

Studdard doesn't like it one bit.

Clay County floods recede, clean up begins

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- The waters have receded in Clay County, but now, the clean up begins.

Clay County remains under state of emergency

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- Clay County is still under a declared Local State of Emergency. 

Clay County Emergency Management (CCEM) extended the declaration as a result of continued flooding of homes and roadways in the county.

Damage assessment teams will conduct check homes in affected areas beginning Monday morning. 

Residents are encouraged to contact the Emergency Management Office at (904) 284-7703, to ensure their damage is included in the complete assessment report after the storm.

The CCEM says the Black Creek readings at 7:45 p.m. were reported at the north prong at 15.49', and the south prong was at 15.04'. 

The creek levels are predicted to be below action stage by Monday evening according to the CCEM.

The shelter at the Middleburg First Baptist Church was closed at 8 p.m. on Sunday.

No residents checked into the shelter during the time it was opened.

Clay County EMA says Black Creek flood waters receding

MIDDLEBURG, Fla -- Clay County remains in a local state of emergency as a result of continued flooding of homes and roadways, but emergency personnel say the flood waters are receding. 

"You're just in awe. You've seen it once, you've seen it 100 times, but even 100 times you're like wow," says Middleburg resident Rhiannon Harloff. 

Over 24 homes have been affected, over half a dozen roads have been declared completely flooded, and the rain continues.

"I just wish it would stop but it doesn't look like its ever going to," said Afton Knagge, a Middleburg resident.

As of 9:30 p.m. log readings show the North prong is down to 18.45 feet compared to 19.08 from this morning. 

The south prong is down to 17 feet from 19.71. 

The flood stage is 16 feet, but Clay County Emergency management personnel say the water is receding.

Residents were warned early Saturday morning and were asked to take precautions. 

Black Creek floods yet again, homeowners concerned

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- The recent storms and rains have caused Black Creek to overflow and reach flood stage.

The creek continued to rise on Saturday.

In some cases the water has reached inside several homes and threatened others.

Flood stage along Black Creek is 16-feet, and Saturday morning it was over 18-feet. 

Some of the docks are completely underwater, but unfortunately for some homeowners, water was already in their homes.

Colin Barton's house, which sits between Black Creek and John Boy Creek, had several inches of water inside one of the bedrooms. 

Barton's friend, Steven Wilson, was there to help his friend salvage what they could.

Black Creek rising waters

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Residents living on Black Creek in Clay County are getting more concerned each hour the rain continues. 

 

Black Creek resident to ride out flooding

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Colin Barton's creekside property has turned into lakefront property.

His stepping stones are now three feet under water and his patio set
is floating in water after two days worth of rain.

"I thought about putting sandbags and things like that but as fast as the water moves, I didn't see the point."

RELATED: Friday road closures, conditions and incidents

Instead, Barton and two of his friends spent Friday afternoon moving his jet skis to the front of the house in hopes they wouldn't float away.

The 23-year-old has only lived along Black Creek for four months
and while this is his first time experiencing a flood, he said he's not leaving until there's water in his house.

Soil test reveals toxic substance near Clay County school

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Dayna Yamin, a Middleburg mom, said she's concerned about the findings of the environmental group Earth Justice.

"It is just concerning that people don't know and their kids are playing in this stuff," said Yamin.

Her son is too young for elementary school, but Yamin said her concern is for every child in her Clay County community.

"Since children are walking on those paths, parents need to be notified," she said.

Yamin is reacting to a report from Earth Justice and Clean Water Action Florida, two environmental groups.

In March, the groups tested the soil near the paths around J.L. Wilkinson Elementary. Lisa Evans, attorney and former EPA employee, is with Earth Justice.

"We know that EZbase is sometimes not covered and it can contain toxic metals," said Evans, "We wanted to make sure that was not the situation around this school."

Clay County officials monitoring weather conditions

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. - Officials in Clay County monitored weather conditions Friday, as rain falls across the county.

Officials in Clay County released a statement Friday detailing plans to continue monitoring rainfall and changing weather conditions throughout the weekend.

According to Clay County Fire Rescue roadways might be blocked, ground saturation levels could cause trees to fall, debris could be on roadways and power lines could be down. Additionally low-lying areas may experience additional flooding tonight and over the next 48-hours.

Roadways which may be closed or impassable:

Penney Farms area:
• Morton St.
• Caroline St.
• Clark St.
• Wilbanks St.
• Hoffman St.

Green Cove Springs:
• 209N/739B

Fleming Island:
• Floyd St.

Keystone/McRae area:
• Sharron Road
• Blanding Blvd. near Dade Road

Woman wanted for battery, burglary charges

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. - The Clay County Sheriff's Office hopes to locate a suspect on their most wanted list.

Jessica Morissa Morre-Wells, 21, is wanted for battery charges that allegedly occurred during a robbery, according to a Facebook post by the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

Moore-Wells is described as 5-feet-4-inches tall and weighs 124 pounds, according to the CCSO.

Moore-Wells last known address is on the 2200 block of County Road 220 in Middleburg.

Anyone who has any information in regards to the location of Moore-Wells is asked to contact the Clay County Sheriff's Office at 904-264-6512.

Middleburg Police Blotter - May 2013

No police reports at this time.

 

Jogger reported attempted kidnapping

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, Cadezsha Campbell, 19, escaped from an attempted kidnapping that occurred on Tuesday afternoon. 

JSO reported that Campbell went for an afternoon run down Old Middleburg Road on Tuesday around 4 p.m. Campbell told police that a man pulled up next to her in a dark blue Chevrolet Suburban and yelled "get in the car". 

Campbell ignored the suspect's request and continued running. The suspect allegedly stopped, exited from the vehicle and approached Campbell. According to the victim, the suspect grabbed her by the arms and attempted to force her in the Surburban. 

At one point during the alleged kidnapping, Campbell was able to free herself from the suspect and attempt to run away but then the suspect punched her in the right eye and get away.

Company sells man an electric bike with dead battery

LAKE CITY, Fla. -- Richard Cox, 71, wanted a vehicle to get around. He has a disability and can't drive.

"I have eye problems and can't get a driver's license, so I have to have something to get around," said Cox. 

Cox found the cozy bike electric bicycle sold by Omegastores, a Connecticut company and purchased it.

"February 16 is when I put my order in," said Cox, "It got here on March 3rd."

Since March, the $1,200 electric bike has been in Cox's garage because of a dead battery. Pedaling the bike to charge the battery is no help. 

"I have not been able to use it, not once," said Cox. 

Cox has made several attempts to reach the Wallingford Connecticut company, but has had little response.

"They don't answer the phone," he said, "they don't have no service department."

Cox said he has lost his spark of excitement over his electric bicycle

Man wanted for lewd and lascivious molestation charges

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- The Clay County Sheriff's Office is seeking a man on their most wanted list.

Joe Delgado III is wanted for lewd and lascivious molestation charges, according to a Facebook post by the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

The 23-year-old's last known address is on Timberwood Trail in Middleburg, according to the CCSO.

Delgado is described as a white male, 6-feet-2-inches tall and weighs about 160 pounds.

Anyone who has any information in regards to the location of Delgado asked to contact the Clay County Sheriff's Office at 904-264-6512. To remain anonymous and receive a possible reward, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.

Car vs. garbage truck leaves one person dead

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- One person was killed in a car crash Tuesday afternoon.

Florida Highway Patrol reports that 40-year-old Janell Ann Hutchinson was traveling southbound on Blanding Blvd. in the left lane when her vehicle came in contact with a garbage truck owned by Advanced Disposal. 

Deputies seek Middleburg man

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- Deputies are asking for assistance in finding a Middleburg man who violated his parole, according to the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

In a media release, the Sheriff's Office described Levi Zachery Parrish, 24, as being 6-foot, 205 pounds. His last known address was Half Moon Circle in Middleburg.

Parrish's warrant is for Violation of Parole- Aggravated Battery/ Tampering with Evidence.

Anyone with information about Parrish is asked to call First Coast Crime Stoppers at 1-886-845-TIPS (8477).

Former cop says he is psychic

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Middleburg, Florida is a pretty calm town. Aside from the humming of a power boat in the distance, this town has a certain restful peace to it.

"It's just quiet here, it's dead quiet."

A fitting choice of words for Chuck Bergman, since he says he spends his days talking to the dead.  Bergman is a professional psychic.

"I make a good living doing this," he said. "It can take a toll because everyday you're dealing with death."

He gives readings by phone for $200 an hour, or in person for $300 an hour.

Bergman has been on national documentaries, and was featured on A&E.

He is also a regular guest on a Jacksonville based radio show called "Earth" that airs Saturday nights.

He will do on-air readings for free on the show.

"You don't want to mess up doing that in front of all those people," he said. "So you get nervous."

Domestic driveway death details released

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Details have been released in the death of a woman who died Saturday after her husband hit her while backing out of their driveway.

Brooks Collier, 52, has been charged with failure to stop at a crash involving the death of his wife Nola Collier, 58.

According to a Clay County Sheriff's Office arrest report, Brooks Collier was attempting to leave his home in a pick up truck in the 3400 block of Alec Drive on Saturday night during a domestic disturbance with Nola Collier.

He initially drove forward toward a person who was in his open garage. Nola Collier then tried to keep Brooks Collier from leaving and was standing between the open driver door and the body of the truck.

Brooks Collier then continued backing out of the driveway before Nola Collier could move, knocking her to the ground and then striking her with his front left tire, according to the report.

Caregivers of wounded warriors carry the burden

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Caregivers say it is hard to explain what they experience from day to day.

"You don't really know what everyday is gonna be like," said Kristle Helmuth.

Helmuth fits the profile of a 'Hidden Hero.' She is a caregiver.

"It is not a husband/wife relationship anymore," she said, "We're almost like a mother and child, making sure he is eating because he will forget to do that."

For the past few years, Helmuth has been caring for her wounded husband.

"We have to make sure that he is getting the medications," she said, "but there also has to be a husband/wife relationship there."

She said when her husband Nate returned from Iraq, he was not the same person she married, the father of her children.

"We want to have a normal life. I don't want my kids to say we can't do this because my dad is injured," said Helmuth.

Living on rocky ground

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A Middleberg woman has a sinking feeling the groove in her backyard is a sinkhole.

Pam Coates noticed the dip that she says extends about 20-feet long back in January, but didn't think anything of it until a few days ago when she noticed another hole.

"I don't want to sink in the hole I don't want to be in the house as it sinks because the whole main water line is exposed," said Coates.

She's referring to the water line of the pump house which she said is now damaged after more than a month of continued growth.

So, we looked into it and had Rob Martin, a geology professor at Florida State College take a look at the video, which in his opinion doesn't have all the circular hallmarks of a sinkhole but something is changing the landscape.

Gov. Scott, Cabinet to discuss land purchase near Camp Blanding

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Gov. Rick Scott and members of the Florida Cabinet will meet Thursday in Tallahassee.

They are expected to discuss and approve a number of land purchases. They include nearly 2,000 acres near Camp Blanding in Clay County and hundreds of acres around Wakulla Springs in Wakulla County.

The Cabinet includes Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

Family wants USDA to repair damaged roof

BALDWIN, Fla. -- Two days of rain and the Swenson family's Baldwin home is not the same.

"Back in December, this tree fell on the house," said Virginia Sapp.

Sapp lives with her aging parents and said for months, they've been trying to get resolution to a roof problem.

"My mom and dad still have a mortgage on the house," said Sapp.

Sapp said when a tree limb crashed into the roof, it left two gaping holes and the recent rains are making it worse.

"My mom started crying," said Sapp, "when the roof caved in yesterday."

The family has several tarps covering the damaged area but it is not enough. Now, the ceilings in both of their bedrooms have caved in.

"It is starting to leak in the windows," she said.

They're now using pots, pans, a toy chest, whatever is available to avoid water damage from the leaking roof to their carpet-covered floors.

Civil Rights activist remembers meeting with King in St. Augustine

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Maude Burroughs Jackson holds community meetings her in Middleburg home and she keeps Christmas decorations up all year long.

"If people were so good at Christmas time, why don't we keep that spirit all year," she said.

In 1960, she started college at Florida Memorial College in St. Augustine, just as the Civil Rights Movement was heating up.

"If it had been a violent movement I would not have been a part of it," she recalled.

But Jackson remembers the night marches she walked in were dangerous.

"It was so violent there. The atmosphere was so evil," she shook her head. "There were people on top of the buildings throwing bricks and bottles and anything they could find at you."

"That was the clans and the people who were fighting against what we were fighting for."

Jackson recalls meeting in homes and offices with Dr. Martin Luther King and other marchers.

Cyber security expert says JEA not alone for 'Denial of Service' attack

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- At the JEA downtown payment center, customers were surprised to learn the utility's website was the target of a cyber attack.

"I wasn't aware of that," said Lacrecia Anderson. "It is scary."

The JEA computer network was hit with a "denial of service" attack; the FBI has been notified.

"We are making sure that none of our customers' information is jeopardized or compromised," said JEA spokeswoman Gerri Boyce.

Dr. Walter Eaton of Florida State College at Jacksonville is a cyber security expert.

"A denial of service on JEA could be nothing more than a test," said Eaton, "a test to see if we could have a 'denial of service' to all utilities in the United States."

Arrests announced in the killing of Det. David White

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. - The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced four arrests in the shooting death of Clay County Detective David White.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced in a release to the media that 22-year-old Robert Apple II, 21-year-old Christopher Henderson, 19-year-old Curtis "Ping" Dingler and 36-year-old Jack Lemond have been arrested Thursday in connection with the theft and transfer of the gun allegedly used to kill Det. David White in February 2012.

Middleburg man wanted on burglary charges

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. - Detectives with the Clay County Sheriff's Office are seeking the public's help locating a man on their "most wanted" list.

Samual David Chapman, 33, is wanted for violation of probation, burglary of a dwelling or structure and resisting officers, according to a Facebook post by the CCSO.

Chapman is described by the CCSO as 5-feet-8 inches tall, weighing about 190 pounds. Chapman's last known address was on Knightboxx Road in Middleburg.

Anyone with any information about Chapman is asked to please call the Sheriff's Office at 904-264-6512 or email them at rpunsky@claysheriff.com.

Resident worries about 'dangerous' Mallard Road

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- James Gill, 70, a retired railroad worker and longtime resident of Clay County, is concerned about the condition of Mallard Road.

"You can see where the erosion is washing the bank on the side of the road," said Gill.

It is a two-lane road used by all types of vehicles, including school buses and the road shoulders, in some areas, are extremely narrow.

"There's no side rails there, no banks, no shoulders," said Gill.

Gill said his concern are the buses and their precious cargo.

"I don't want to see a bus load of kids dead in that creek. It is just waiting to happen," said Gill. "It is just an accident waiting to happen."

Gill has lived in the community 35 years. He said he's not trying to be an alarmist. He said he's looking out for the other guy.

"I just don't want to see something happen," he said.

Don't get burned buying a used car

ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- Buying a used car can save you money, but it can also cost you money. Last October, Stoonie Powell bought a used car. He paid $4,000.

"It was a very good car," said Powell. "That's basically what I was told, it was a good car."

It is a 2004 Chevrolet Impala. It looked like a cream puff on the outside, but under the hood it was a lemon.

"Everything started happening," said Powell. "Quite a few things started happening."

Powell, 91, said this is not his first time buying a vehicle, but this time it cost him.

"I did not go and have it examined. That's where I made my mistake," said Powell.

Less than 30 days after owning the vehicle, Powell's employer paid to replace all four tires.

Then they took it to Dennis Cascante for an inspection and he told him to take it back to the used car dealer.

VA wants veteran to pay back his benefits

ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- Heather Levesque has been Jamie Levesque's wife, friend and companion for years and now she is fighting for his military benefits.

"We got a letter on January 22 that said in a month we are going to lose our benefits," she said.

Jamie Levesque receives $1,000 a month in disability income. 

Veterans Affairs is threatening to withhold it for a year to reimburse Uncle Sam for what was given to Levesque in 2008.

"We will lose our home because this is the only income that Jamie has," said Heather. "He has been unemployed for approximately two years."

In 2008, Levesque was given an honorable discharge and was paid $19,000, before taxes, as a separation benefit.

"Now the military says you owe us the money," said his wife.

The VA said the separation benefit was an over payment and Levesque's mental disorder is not service connected.

Florida has money for first-time home buyers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced that money is available to first-time home buyers for help with down payments.

Another $25 million will go toward housing counseling, legal aid programs and the state court system to help with a backlog of foreclosure cases.

On top of that $60 million, Florida has another $200 million from the settlement that state lawmakers will decide how to spend.

House Speaker Will Weatherford promises the cash will be set aside for housing-related needs and not for special member projects.

Florida has already received $3.6 billion in mortgage relief, mainly for principal reductions.

Duval teacher among 3 arrested on Clay drug charges

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- A search warrant served on a home in the 1900 block of Calusa Trail on Wednesday resulted in three people being arrested on drug charges, including a Duval County Public Schools teacher.

The resident of the home, Robert Alan Davis, 25, was arrested after the Clay County Sheriff's Office Strategic Response Division served the warrant. Davis was charged with possession of a controlled substance without a valid prescription, possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis and possession/use of drug paraphernalia.

Church and A/C company disagree over repair bill

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.-- Larry Varnom owns a small heating and air company, a company he said he started in 1966.

"I've been fortunate over the years," said Varnom," I have lost very little money since I have been in business."

Varnom said last May he serviced the air conditioning system at Greater Israel United church and has yet to be paid for his service.

"One time they told me the check was in the mail," said Varnom,"  from the Northside to the Westside doesn't take three or four months."

Varnom, frustrated, filed a claim of lien against the church for $1,018.

"I can't go around passing out thousand dollar bills, I'd like to have my money," he said.

Dr. Eugene White is the pastor of the church.

"The church said that they would pay him, but they would pay him payments on it," said White.

Dr. White said the lien comes as surprise.

Three Middleburg baseball players sign with colleges

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Three baseball players from Middleburg High School were recognized on Tuesday afternoon as they signed letters of intent to accept college scholarships.

Broncos third baseman Bobby Bassler will be playing baseball at Cowley College in Kansas.  This school produced current Cleveland Indians star Travis Hafner.

Center fielder Dylan Stokes and pitcher Chuck Vander Venter both signed with Daytona State College.

Last season Middleburg's baseball team won a district championship despite having a losing record during the regular season.  Bassler, Stokes, and Vander Venter will play key roles for the Broncos this season as they look to repeat as district champs.

Foreclosure relief possible with new bank settlement

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Susann Kiefer is hoping this year her family gets a loan modification on their three bedroom home that has been in foreclosure limbo for nearly four years.

On Monday, ten major banks and mortgage companies agreed to an $8.5 billion dollar settlement with federal regulators on the way they handled foreclosures on countless families.

Some homeowners who should have been allowed to stay in their homes could receive a few hundred dollars with $125,000 being the high end depending on the mortgage error.

Kiefer says her battle to get a loan modification with Bank of America is going nowhere.

"We are raising two boys in this home. I would just like to know an answer one way or another. Help us or do something," said Keifer, who documents every conversation and piece of paperwork dealing with her ordeal.

Police: Woman facing theft charges after stealing jewelry from Target

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- A Middleburg woman whom police say is responsible for stealing silver jewelry from several Target stores in Clay Duval Counties, was arrested Thursday.

Duzti Davis, 24, is facing four felony charges of retail theft over $300 and is being held on a total of $40,000 bond, according to a release from Clay County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Mary Justino.

Davis is said to be behind three cases of theft that occurred between Oct. and Dec. 2012 at stores in Clay County and others in Duval County, according to Justino.

In one of the instances of theft, Davis is said to have stashed dozens of silver necklaces in her bag and left in a silver vehicle.

A New Year means new laws for Florida drivers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.- It is a new year in the Sunshine State and on Florida's roadways there are some new laws in effect.

To start, say you want to flash your headlights to warn other drivers about nearby police.

"Just to alert," said Kim Rolfe, of Jacksonville. "It's just a courtesy to let other driver's know 'Hey, you're about to pass a cop.'"

Before the new year, that was illegal in Florida.

"I did not know that that was illegal!" Rolfe shouted with a laugh. "I thought I was just doing something nice for my fellow drivers!"

As of January 1, 2013, it's now legal, after the state legislature cleared up the law.

"So, it could be a good law to aide in safety," William Lee, of St. Augustine, said Tuesday morning. "So, I think it's good."

If you're ever in an accident, there's another law you should know about. It's about the personal injury protection (PIP) portion of your Florida policy.

New Year's celebrations and guns don't mix

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- A post on the Clay County Sheriff's Facebook page sums it up best, "what goes up, must come down."

The Clay County Sheriff's Office is encouraging people not to fire guns in celebration of the New Year.

According to the CCSO post, "a bullet fired into the air falls at a rate of 300 to 700 mph. That's enough velocity for a bullet to pierce a person's skull."

The CCSO asks that people find a different way to ring in the New Year, citing, "every year there are calls from residents in various neighborhood throughout the county on random gunfire."

Sheriff's seek man accused of child sexual battery

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. - The Clay County Sheriff's Office is spotlighting a Middleburg man as one of their 10 most wanted in an appeal for the public to help find him, according to a post on their Facebook page.

Larry Wayne Clark is accused of lewd or lascivious battery on a minor victim age 12 to 16, according to CCSO.

Clark is 6-feet-3 inches tall and weighs around 175 pounds. The 39-year-old's last known address is in Middleburg.

Anyone with any information about Larry Wayne Clark is encouraged to call the Clay County Sheriff's Office at 904-264-6512.

Father finds porn on tablet bought as Christmas gift

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- A Middleburg father got more than he bargained for when buying a tablet for his daughter for Christmas. After opening the gift, George Sanchez found pornographic material already on the tablet. He said it was supposed to be a Christmas gift for his teenage daughter.

"I was like 'Oh my gosh!'" Sanchez said.

Sanchez said he and his wife bought the tablet from a Jacksonville pawn shop on Oct. 25. The family put it away, then gave it as a Christmas gift. But their grandson noticed something.

"When he was going through it, he found some dirty pictures on there," said Sanchez.

Pornographic pictures and videos apparently downloaded by a previous user.

"I was not very happy when I saw that," Sanchez explained. "I was really frustrated when I saw that."

He tried several tech avenues to erase it, but to no avail.

Suspected Clay Co. Walmart TV thief behind bars

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- A suspected TV thief is behind bars this evening.
    
William "Billy" Mixon, 34, is being held in the Duval County Jail on Duval County charges such as violation of probation and will now be held on on a Clay County warrant for Grand Theft, according to the Clay County Sheriff's Office Facebook.

Mixon is suspected of stealing two televisions from a Walmart on Brannan Field Road on Oct. 21. In addition to sharing suspect information with the media, the CCSO also posted the information on its Facebook.

"I received several calls from citizens with information advising they saw the post on Facebook. When someone shares the post, it spreads like wildfire," said CCSO Det. Maertz.

Suspects sought in Middleburg Walmart video game theft

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- The Clay County Sheriff's Office is seeking three suspects who allegedly took $360 worth of video games from Walmart on Brannan Field Road on Tuesday.

Around 3:20 p.m., two individuals entered the store, a male wearing a red T-shirt and black basketball shorts and a female wearing a red Raines High School basketball sweatshirt and black pants.

According to a CCSO incident report, they went to the electronics section and put six video games into a gym bag, which they then put into a cart.

They then pushed the cart to the produce section and walked out of the store.

The third suspect then entered the store, a male wearing a white T-shirt and black shorts. He pushed the cart from the produce section to the deli section, took the bag out of the cart and left the store around 3:52 p.m.

Surveillance footage showed the suspects were driving a newer model four-door sedan, according to the incident report.

Police searching for female car burglar

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- Detectives with the Clay County Sheriff's Office are searching for a woman suspected of stealing items from multiple vehicles.

Detectives believe the woman may be traveling back and forth between Clay County and the Florida panhandle, according to a news release from Mary Justino, Public Information Officer for the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

Justino said in November the suspected thief stole a purse containing credit cards and a phone from a car in Keystone Heights.  The stolen credit cards were used in Middleburg, Justin said, and then in Destin, Florida.

Police are hoping a surveillance video taken at a Regions Bank drive-through ATM in Destin will lead to her arrest.

Justino said the woman is also seen in surveillance video using one of the stolen credit cards at a GameStop in Middleburg.

Clay County homeowner wants out of foreclosure nightmare

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. --  Four years ago, Casi Bronson bought her home in Middleburg, then she lost her job during the economic downturn and she eventually lost her home.

"I have a small child. This is the only home he's known it was a very emotional day for us," she said.

Bronson said for 18 months, she tried to get a loan modification and finally the bank denied her, forcing her into foreclosure. It turned her dream of home ownership into a nightmare.

"I usually come by once a week just to check up to make sure everything is okay," she said. 

In November, she moved out before the property was scheduled for sale, and then the sale was canceled without notice.

"I was not notified of that until a week and a half after the fact," said Bronson.

Tow truck driver pinned under truck dies

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- A tow truck driver has died after being pinned under the front tire of a vehicle.

Napoleon Ballard III of Keystone Heights was killed just after 7pm Monday night after he became trapped under the tire of a pick-up truck he towed to a Middleburg home. 

A Clay County Sheriff's Office spokesperson said Ballard was unloading a 1997 Chevrolet Silverado from the flatbed tow truck when he tried to stop the pick-up truck from  rolling down and into a shed. Authorities said Ballard tried to stop the truck by opening the driver's  side door and reaching for the break. As Ballard did that, he was knocked to the ground and trapped under the driver's side front tire.

Enter to Win: Discover New Fantasyland and make Disney memories all year long!

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Enter for a chance to discover new Fantasyland and make Disney memories all year long!

SLIDESHOW: Clay detectives arrest 39 in drug sweep

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- The Clay County Sheriff's Office located and took into custody on Tuesday 30 in a drug sweep, seven more on Wednesday and two on Thursday.

A total of 35 suspects out of 48 that were being sought have been apprehended. Four additional suspects that were not on the original list were arrested on probable cause on Tuesday afternoon. Seven more that remained of the original 48 were arrested Wednesday, and two on Thursday making for a total of 39 arrested so far, according to CCSO spokesperson Mary Justino.

Undercover detectives were investigating at a home in the 3200 block of County Road 215 in Middleburg, according to Justino.

While there to arrest a wanted suspect, they found meth lab components and five other adults in the home. The Clay County Fire Rescue responded to the area as well to help secure the meth lab materials.

Clay hit-and-run suspect arrested

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- The Clay County Sheriff's Office arrested a man suspected of causing two hit-and-run crashes on Monday.

Dudley Webb, 75, has been charged with two felonies: aggravated assault and fleeing a police officer. Each charge carries a bond of $50,000, according to CCSO spokesperson Mary Justino.
    
According to a police report, he was speeding and refused to pull over. They say at one point, Webb was traveling 90 mph in a 35 mph zone on County Road 209.

He then slowed down to 25 mph in a school zone, according to the report, and tried to hit an officer with his car. Webb was eventually stopped by flattening his tires with stop sticks.

Clay deputies pursue, identify hit-and-run suspect

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- The Clay County Sheriff's Office has identified a suspect that investigators believe is responsible for two hit-and-run crashes Monday in Clay County.

The suspect is a 75-year-old male who has serious medical issues,
according to CCSO spokesperson Mary Justino. Deputies were initially
going to arrest him, but decided it would be better for him to be hospitalized at Orange Park Medical Center even though he was not injured.

Around 2 p.m. CCSO responded to reports of a driver in a four-door vehicle driving erratically, Justino said.

The deputies pursued the driver after a hit-and-run crash on County Road 220 on Fleming Island, and another at Blanding Boulevard and Bear Run in Middleburg, Justino said.

Deputies were able to stop the car by flattening the tires using stop sticks at College Avenue and Peoria Avenue in Orange Park.

Doctors Inlet Elementary School taken off lockdown

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Doctors Inlet Elementary School is no longer on lockdown this morning following a home invasion robbery attempt near the school.

Mary Justino, Public Information Officer for the Clay County Sheriff's Office, said deputies are currently searching the area near County Road 220 and College Drive for two suspects.

The school is located west of the intersection of College and CR 220.

Justino said deputies are out searching the area with K-9's.

The two men police are looking for are described as being black males, dressed in all black clothing and camouflage, Justino said.

The two armed men allegedly kicked in the door of a home in the 2900 block of College Park Drive.  When they did a woman inside the home screamed, Justino said.  The two then ran off.

Justino said no one was injured in the robbery attempt and police do not know why the home was targeted.

Clay Co. woman dies in Thanksgiving Eve crash

CLAY CO., Fla. - Clay County Fire and Rescue responded to a single vehicle crash late Wednesday night on Russel Road near Mariners Road.

Nicole Michelle Rawson, 40, apparently lost control of her vehicle causing her to drive into a grass shoulder, before crossing oncoming lanes of traffic and over turning. That's according to a report from Florida Highway Patrol.

Rawson was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash and was ejected from the vehicle. Clay County Fire and Rescue pronounced Rawson dead at the scene of the crash.

Black (Thursday) Friday: Shopping hours

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- As you plot your shopping for Thanksgiving night and Black Friday, here's a list of shopping hours at major retailers across the First Coast News.

EXPLORE ALL THE BLACK FRIDAY CIRCULARS AND COUPONS

Avenues Mall:
Closed Thanksgiving
Black Friday 12am - 9pm

Best Buy:
Closed Thanksgiving
Black Friday Open 12AM to 10PM

Khols:
Closed Thanksgiving
Black Friday 12AM to 1PM

Orange Park Mall:
Closed Thanksgiving
Black Friday 12AM to 10PM

Heart Hero Happy Hour helps children fighting heart disease

 

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Local children fighting heart disease will enjoy the Christmas spirit thanks to Cantina Laredo and the American Heart Association (AHA) Young Professional Board’s Heart Hero Happy Hour held on November 20 from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m.

Guests will enjoy music by Stephen Carey on Cantina Laredo’s patio while supporting the children and families living with the devastating effects of congenital heart disease. Guests are asked to bring a child’s toy and will be given on complementary Casa Rita in return.

Statewide, the American Heart Heroes is a free program for children and their families who live with the devastating effects of congenital heart defects. This program provides a place where families come together, with resources provided by the American Heart Association to navigate the challenges and celebrate the successes of living with congenital heart defects.

Tips for an Allergy-Free Thanksgiving

Tips for an Allergy-Free Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is right around the corner once again. For people with allergies and asthma, the holidays can be a time of inadvertent allergy exposure and loss of asthma control. Here are some tips, thanks to Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology to keep your family healthy while enjoying the holiday season. 

How did the Obama campaign pull out the win?

JACKSONVILLE,Fla. -- Karen Akers is a small business owner and part of President Barack Obama's grassroots campaign.

"I was surprise that it was decided so quickly," said Akers.

How did President Obama close the gap in Florida, when it looked like Governor Romney would win the state? Akers said they never gave up.

"We never felt like we were losing," said Akers, "If anyone did, they never said it."

Clay Sheriff warning of supermarket wallet thief

ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- The Clay County Sheriff's Office is warning elderly shoppers after a woman allegedly stole a 71-year-old woman's wallet out of her purse.

Mary Justino, Public Information Officer for the Clay County Sheriff's Office, said the theft happened September 25 around 1 p.m.

Justino said a woman was seen walking the aisles without purchasing anything. The woman stops next to an elderly shopper's cart while her back is turned.

Surveillance video then shows her take the 71-year-old's wallet out of her purse. The victim found out her wallet was missing when she went to buy her groceries and couldn't.

Justino said the elderly woman's credit card was used twice at gas stations in Jacksonville.

Anyone who may recognize the woman in the surveillance video is asked to call the Clay County Sheriff's Office 904-264-6512.

Clay County voting on Sunday alcohol sales

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- A law prohibiting the sale of alcohol until 2 p.m. on Sundays in Clay County could soon change.

The referendum is on the November 6 ballot in Clay County. Some business owners are pushing to move it to 7 a.m., which would make it consistent with the rest of the days of the week.

"It's been a big burden on all the businesses here in Clay County," said Elaine Cassala, who owns Whitey's Fish Camp in Clay County. "We wanted to be able to serve alcohol at 7 a.m. in the morning just like the other counties. We wanted to be on a level playing field as those other counties."

Some just don't feel it is appropriate to be selling alcohol on a Sunday or extending the hours.

Karen Brewer said on First Coast News' Facebook page, "It needs to stay at 2pm or even later at 3pm NEVER BEFORE 2PM ... (sic)."

Dax D. Bonnétt said, "How can u have an NFL team that plays at 1300 and restrict the sale of spirits to 1400 (sic)?"

Ridgeview 42, Middleburg 3

ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- Ridgeview defeated Middleburg 42-3 on Friday night.

Lightning zone: UF scientists are controlling bolts

CAMP BLANDING, Fla. -- Lightning is perhaps the most unpredictable of all weather phenomena.

Where it will strike during a thunderstorm is a mystery and impossible to guess.

But at a testing facility in a remote part of North Florida, within range to hear machine gun fire on Camp Blanding, is where Dr. Martin Uman and Dr. Douglas Jordan are making some pretty impressive fire of their own.

"We are acknowledged as the number one lightning research and testing facility in the world," Uman said.

During the severe weather season, the two men are hard at work full time at the International Center for Lightning Research and Testing.

Uman and Jordan are University of Florida faculty who run the facility. 

They say they are only 3 others like this on the planet. 

"There's one in New Mexico, we know that," Uman said.

The other two he believes are in China, but research doesn't really show any others.

Oakleaf 39, Middleburg 13

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Oakleaf defeated Middleburg 39-13 on Friday night.

Sunday alcohol sales hot topic in Clay County election


CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- If you want an alcoholic drink in Clay County on Sunday, you have to wait until 2 p.m., but that law could soon change.

There is a referendum on the ballot in Clay County about when alcohol can be sold on Sundays.  Some business owners are pushing to move it to 7 a.m., which would make it consistent with the rest of the days of the week.

Elaine Cassala with Whitey's Fish Camp in Orange Park says the fact that they and other businesses can't sell alcohol until 2 p.m. puts them at a disadvantage and their customers are going to the surrounding counties.  She says not only are customers that want to have a drink going to other counties, but also fisherman who would stop by to buy bait and a case of beer early in the morning are not coming to Clay County to do that on Sundays.

Early voting begins next week in Clay County

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- Clay County voters can head to the polls to cast their ballot for the November General Election beginning October 27.

With a lengthy ballot that includes a presidential election and a number of amendments, voters can avoid long lines on election day by voting at one of five early voting locations throughout Clay County.

Early voting for the General Election will run from Saturday, October 27 through Saturday, November 3 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Clay County Supervisor of Elections Chris H. Chambliss said, "Many Clay County voters have come to embrace the convenience and ease of Early Voting."

Early voting will be held at the following locations:

Middleburg couple weds on 10-11-12

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Blossom Bittinger said when she started planning her wedding a year ago, the date October 11, 2012 stood out.

"We thought it would be an easy anniversary to remember," Bittinger said.

Bittinger and her fiancé Marty Phillips will not be only ones making it a day to remember.

According to a survey by David's Bridal, 10-11-12 is the date of choice for more than 4,000 couples across the country. The survey found 43 percent of brides considered having their wedding on a numerically significant date.

"I kind of figured maybe somebody else got the idea," Bittinger laughed. "I just love the date, you know. It's right in order. It just seems to go along with us."

The bride and groom said most of their family and friends have been accommodating about the mid-week ceremony.

5 arrested in alcohol-related house party fatality

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. (AP) - Five people have been charged in the death of a 19-year-old woman who was struck by a vehicle after leaving a beer pong party in north Florida.

Hollee Marie Krueger died June 3 while walking on a road in Middleburg. Officials say she'd just left a party hosted by two 20-year-olds, Amber Campbell and Jacob Hicks. They've recently been charged under a 2011 state law prohibits holding an open house party where alcohol was served to people under 21.


The Florida Times-Union reports
two 21-year-old James Rosier and Austin Pettit and 22-year-old Eric Gibson also were charged.

Krueger's blood alcohol level was .16, twice the state's legal limit to drive.

Investigators, the party had been advertised on Facebook and through text messages.

Tuesday is final chance to register for November election

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Tuesday is the final day to register to vote ahead of the November election.  Many Supervisor of Elections offices will have extended hours to help accommodate the last minute rush.

"We see this always in a Presidential cycle," explained Jerry Holland, Supervisor of Elections for Duval County.    "We'll probably have between 30 and 40,000 people that will have registered in the last 30 or 40 days and so, it's exciting to see this many people get involved in it."

Extended Hours:

Duval County-open until 7:30 p.m.

St. Johns County-open until 7:00 p.m.

Clay County-open until 5:00 p.m.

According to Holland, voters do not need to bring identification to register, but they will need a photo I.D. on Election Day.  As of Monday, the number of voters registered reflected a more conservative population than in the 2008 election cycle.

T-U: Clay GOP volunteer tells caller Obama is 'a Muslim'

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A phone bank volunteer for the Republican Party of Clay County can be heard telling a caller that President Barack Obama is "a Muslim" who will "get rid of your Medicare" in an answering machine message obtained by our news partner The Florida Times-Union.

The phone call from a statewide phone bank was caught on a Polk County resident's answering machine and that person passed the message along to Tampa radio station WMNF, the T-U reports.

The person who passed the call along to WMNF told them that his caller ID showed that the call came from the Clay County GOP's number.

Clay GOP head Leslie Dougher told the T-U the volunteer had been counseled and was uncertain if that volunteer was still making calls.

Lake Asbury association and residents in fight over $50 fee

LAKE ASBURY, Fla. -- A Homeowner's Association (HOA) serves a purpose, but when it clashes with property owners, the only resolution appears to be in court.

Such is the case with some owners in Clay County's Lake Asbury and the association responsible for the lakes.

"They have threatened us," said Wendy Hendricks, "and they have said 'if you don't pay us, we are going to take your home from you.'"

Hendricks is a Realtor and resident of Lake Asbury. She said she has paid her $50 fee, but she has decided to support a lawsuit to stop the association from imposing the fee.

"There is no authority; they have just made this decision they're going to do this," she said.

Hendricks said the fee gives property owners the key to access the lakes, boat ramps and pays for upkeep.

Keystone Heights road reopens after police investigation

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS, Fla. -- State Road 21 from 315 C south to Gold Head State Park was closed earlier Friday afternoon as the Clay County Sheriff's Office investigated something resembling an explosive device.

Mary Justino, Public Information Officer for the Clay County Sheriff's Office, said a work crew called the Clay County Sheriff's Office around 2 p.m. Friday afternoon after finding something resembling an explosive device.

The device was found about four feet from the side of the road, Justino said. The device was determined by Camp Blanding personnel to be a training device only.

Deputies met the crew near SR 21 and Golden Oak Lane. Justino said police agreed the item appeared suspicious.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Bomb Squad was headed to the location to analyze the object, but they were called off when it was discovered it was a training device.

Clay School Board to keep its attorney

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- The Clay County School Board is keeping its attorney after a very heated Thursday night meeting.
    
Janice Kerekes, vice chair of the school board, said in a release that Superintendent-elect Charlie Van Zant's attempt to terminate the contract of the board's attorney was ruled out.
    
The decision was made after residents blasted the board.

The public comment portion of the meeting lasted for more than an hour.
    
Van Zant won the recent school Superintendent election. The school board wants to appoint a superintendent instead and that issue will be addressed at a future meeting, Kerekes said.

Clay Supervisor of Elections asking for Supervised Voting volunteers

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- The Clay County Supervisor of Elections office is looking for volunteers to assist with supervised voting.

The Supervised Voting program involves going to Clay County's assisted living facilities and helping the residents vote via mail ballot in the Primary Election, according to an alert from the Supervisor of Elections office.

Since the ballot is a two-page ballot, the Supervisor's office said they will need a lot of help at each facility.

Tebow the dog is home, safe and sound

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Tebow has been found, safe and sound.

The dog who went missing when he was let out of a car in a Walmart parking lot on Sept. 7 was returned to his owner Susan Wargo Tuesday afternoon.

The man who had the dog found him the night he was let loose in the parking lot, according to a release from Clay County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Mary Justino.

The man, identified as Doug Frampton by our The Florida Times-Union news partner, saw a story about the dog's disappearance on the T-U's website and was put in touch with Wargo by T-U reporter Dan Scanlan, Justino said.

Blaze engulfs Middleburg home

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Clay County Fire Rescue responded Sunday to a house fire at 6:29 a.m. in the 4000 block of Pinto Road in Middleburg.

When fire fighters arrived on the scene they found a detached garage and a home attached outbuilding engulfed in flames according to a release from Deputy Chief of Operations David E. Motes.

No one was injured by the blaze, but the home sustained $200,000 in damage, said Motes.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation by the State Fire Marshal's office.

 

Bishop Kenny 27, Middleburg 0

Bishop Kenny defeated Middleburg 27-0 on Friday, August 31st.

To see some highlights from this game, watch the video clip above.

Clay residents fear bad flooding if Isaac dumps heavy rain

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Homeowners along Black Creek are still picking up from historic flooding from Tropical Storm Debby in June, with attention now focused on what Tropical Storm Isaac could deliver.

More than 600 homes were damaged in the county, with 100 mostly along Black Creek taking the brunt of Tropical Storm Debby.

This weekend, emergency planners are set to have volunteers work the flood prone areas in the county, giving reminders on preparations people should take if Isaac dumps heavy rain.

"We are fully saturated," said Clay County Fire Chief Lorin Mock, who also handles emergency planning.

Body of man found in vehicle in Black Creek

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- A vehicle found in Black Creek near the Middleburg Boat Ramp on Main Street contains the body of a man who went missing August 16, according to Clay County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Mary Justino.

Christopher Timmers, 23, was last seen just before midnight August 16 at Senor Wings, 700 Blanding Boulevard. He was last seen driving a beige/gold 2008 Honda Odyssey minivan.

After the CCSO dive team found the vehicle, a tow truck was called in to take the vehicle out of the water. Once the vehicle was taken out of the water, it was identified as Timmers' vehicle and his body was found inside.

Timmers cause of death is unknown at this time and his body has been taken to the Jacksonville Medical Examiner's Office for an autopsy, Justino said.

 

 

Clay school board special meeting canceled

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- Carol Studdard, chairman of the Clay County School
Board, has canceled a special board meeting that
was to be held on Friday at 7 p.m. regarding the county's school superintendent position.

The meeting was originally set during Tuesday night's School Board meeting after
Board Member Janice Kerekes called for an emergency item, according to
Darlene Mahla, public relations officer with Clay County Public Schools.

Studdard canceled the meeting on advice from the school board's attorney.

Kerekes wants the superintendent position to be an appointed position instead of an elected position.

Mahla said Kerekes wants this because very few counties in Florida still have the superintendent as an elected position.

Kerekes wants the position on the November ballot because the district is growing, Mahla said.

Police: House fire may be linked to meth production

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- An explosion and fire at a home in Middleburg may be linked to production of methamphetamine, according to a release from Clay County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Mary Justino.

A 911 call came around 9:45 a.m. Thursday morning from a person who lives one street over from where the fire is in the Clay Hill area. They said they saw flames and smoke and reported an explosion.

When rescue personnel arrived at the home in the 1900 block of Openwoods Road, they found the home to be on fire and the windows blown out. The fire was active until just after 11 a.m.

One-fourth of Clay voters cast primary ballots

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- More than 32,000 people voted during the primary election in Clay County.

The 25 percent voter turnout includes absentee ballots and early voting, according to a news release from the Clay County Supervisor of Elections Office.

Thirty-nine percent of the 32,000 votes were cast prior to primary day though early voting or absentee ballot.

Chris Chambless, Clay County Supervisor of Elections said, "Congratulations to Precinct 710 at Penney Farms Town Hall for posting the highest precinct turnout at 46 percent. Precinct 700 at Kingsley Lake Civic Center posted a 44 percent turnout and Precinct 504 at Lake Asbury Community Center posted a 42 percent turnout."

By 9 p.m. Tuesday night, all 48 of the county's precincts had reported their results.

The supervisor's office said there were 129,943 registered voters eligible to vote in the primary election.

School prayer, experience at issue in race for Clay superintendent

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- The race for Superintendent in Clay County is getting heated.

"I am doing the job. I have done the job. I think my experience speaks to that," said Clay County Superintendent Ben Wortham.

Wortham thinks his work at the School District speaks for itself.

"So I have the experience, the qualifications and the performance, all rolled in to one package, ready to continue as your Superintendent of schools," he said.

He's held the position for the past four years and was deputy superintendent for 12 years before that.

But primary challenger Charlie Van Zant says it's not just a resume that counts.

"I don't think this race is about qualifications and paper tigers," said Van Zant.  

Middleburg neighbors feud over flooding

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Some people in a Middleburg neighborhood are worried about rising water.

The neighbors say one neighbor came up with a fix for his flooding but made conditions worse for everyone else.

"I didn't realize when I bought this property I got lakefront property," said Jimmie Bunn.

"If we get a few more nights of this rain, my house is going to flood for something someone else did," Bunn said.

Water is inching toward Bunn's home on Florence Drive in Middleburg. He said the water is drainage blocked by a berm built by his next door neighbor.

"They've stopped the natural flow of water, it's caused backup all the way down the street," Bunn said.

"It usually comes across my yard and their yard and skeets across there and goes out through the woods," said Butch Hall, who has lived across the street for eight years. "It's because of the berm over there, it's got everybody backed up."

Nearly 50 arrested in Clay County drug bust

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- Forty-seven individuals were arrested Monday on drug charges in a warrant sweep by members of the Clay County Drug Task Force members, according to a release from the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

SLIDESHOW: See 42 of the 47 who were arrested

Responding to reports from residents concerned about illegal drug trade and activity involving cocaine and pills, the task force conducted a yearlong investigation that included undercover work, the release stated.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE FULL LIST OF EVERYONE ARRESTED IN THE BUST

Clay County Health Department receives national recognition

 

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. -- The National Association of Counties (NACo) selected the Clay County First-in-Florida Text for Health Notification Program as the recipient of their 2012 Best in Category Achievement for Health. The award was formally presented at the NACo’s annual conference July 15th. The Association presents awards across 21 categories to innovative programs that modernize county government and increase services to residents.

Wanted: Olympic portraits by kids

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- We're counting down to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

As we get closer to the games, we want your kids to get involved. Have your child draw and color his or her favorite Olympic Portrait. Portraits can include the rings, the torch, a favorite athlete or even the new Olympic Stadium in London.

Beginning July 23, 102, we will feature a different portrait each day on Good Morning Jacksonville though the closing ceremony on August 12th.

Simply email your child's photo to olympicportraits@firstcoastnews.com and be sure to watch Good Morning Jacksonville at 5:20 a.m. and 6:20 a.m.

Last day to register to vote for primary election

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Today is the last day to register vote if you want to participate in Florida's August 14 primary election.

Monday is also the last day you can change your party affiliation.  Since Florida is a closed primary state, voters may only vote for candidates from the political party in which they are registered.

All registered voters are eligible to vote in nonpartisan and primary offices.

Although today is the final day to register and be able to participate in the primary election, registered voters can update his or her signature, change the address of his or her legal residence or submit a name change up until and including primary election day on August 14.

To check your voter status, view a sample ballot, check early voting locations or request an absentee ballot click on your supervisor of elections office.

Clay County school grades for 2012 released

CLICK HERE FOR SEARCHABLE DATABASE OF SCHOOL GRADES  

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- When the Florida Department of Education released their school grades for 2012 today, 97% Clay County elementary and middle schools received either an "A" or "B."

Four schools in the district improved their letter grades. There were also ten schools that saw a decrease in their letter grades.

Clay County Schools Superintendent Ben Wortham said, "Even though students experienced increased standards and rigor, 97% of our schools remain either an 'A' or 'B.'  I am very pleased that our teachers and students met the challenge of these higher requirements."

Close to 6,000 voters vote by mail in Clay County

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- Nearly 6,000 absentee ballots have been sent out to voters by the Clay County Supervisor of Elections Office.

MORE: Deadline approaches to register to vote for August primary

The elections office has mailed 5,900 mail, or absentee, ballots to domestic civilian voters. In addition to the domestic ballots, more than 800 mail ballots were sent to overseas and military voters last week, the supervisor's office said in a release.

Mail ballots are required to be sent out 35 to 28 days prior to an election.

The Clay County Supervisor of Elections office must receive absentee ballots by 7 p.m. on election day.

If you are voting by absentee ballot, you must be sure to sign the voter certificate on the outer envelope of the mail ballot. In order for your ballot to count, you must sign the voter certificate.

FEMA disaster recovery centers open in Clay, Bradford and Columbia counties

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has opened disaster recovery centers to assist businesses and homes in Clay, Bradford and Columbia counties.

These centers will be staffed with representatives from FEMA, the Florida Division of Emergency Management, the U.S. Small Business Administration and other agencies to assist residents and business owners.

Centers are open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the following locations:

Clay County
Clay County Fairgrounds Exhibition Hall No. 1
2497 State Road 16W
Green Cove Springs, FL 32043

Bradford County
Bradford County Senior Center
1805 N. Temple Ave.
Starke, FL 32091

Columbia County
Westfield Shopping Center
484 S.W. Commerce Drive
Lake City, FL 32055

Black mold a growing problem in wake of flooding

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- As the Black Creek's flood waters have now receded, residents are returning to find damaging black mold creeping into their homes.

"It's all in our air conditioning system and in our vents now," says Middleburg resident Michael Monsour.

Monsour and his wife Deborah watched as flood waters moved up into their backyard and nearly to the top of their ten foot tall deck.

"Our cars were totaled, but our insurance company came out and towed them, they've already cut us a check for them too," he said.

But his main concern has now become the mold. 

The Red Cross is going door-to-door in the flood zones of Clay County, looking to assist folks as much as possible with those types of issues. 

A representative from FEMA told First Coast News they'd be setting up a relief center in the next two weeks to help with the mold and structural problems as well.

County Road 218 bridge reopens to vehicle traffic

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- The County Road 218 Bridge that collapsed during Tropical Storm Debby reopened to vehicle traffic on Friday afternoon.

Additional construction will continue in the area of Country Estates Road and motorists are asked to exercise caution while driving through the area, according to a release from Captain Bernita Bush with Clay County Emergency Management.

Earlier today, a Duval Asphalt employee working on the bridge said that all that was left to do to was to put in guardrails and paint the road lines.

The bridge washed out during Tropical Storm Debby. It had been closed to road traffic since June 27.

Clay looking for volunteers to help with Supervised Voting

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- The Clay County Supervisor of Elections office is looking for volunteers to assist with supervised voting.

The Supervised Voting program involves going to Clay County's assisted living facilities and helping the residents vote via mail ballot in the Primary Election, according to an alert from the Supervisor of Elections office.

The voting will take place during the weeks of July 15-21 and July 22-26. Here is the complete schedule of where and when volunteers are needed:

Clay County seeking volunteers for Supervised Voting

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- The Clay County Supervisor of Elections office is seeking volunteers to help residents in assisted living facilities cast their ballots.

The elections office is looking for volunteers who are willing to spend a few hours helping with their Supervised Voting program, according to a release from the Clay County Supervisor of Elections.

Every assisted living facility in Clay County will be visited by the volunteers.  The goal of the program is to help residents vote by mail ballot in the Primary Election during the weeks of July 15-21 and July 22-26.

The Supervisor of Elections released the following schedule:

Disaster Recovery Center coming to Middleburg

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- A Disaster Recovery Center will be be set up early next week to assist hundreds of homeowners along Black Creek access assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

FEMA does have teams on the ground surveying the damage from Tropical Storm Debby and making house calls to answer questions from homeowners.

Clay County emergency planners say nearly 600 homes were hit by high water, with 100 being seriously damaged.

Homeowners seeking assistance can call FEMA directly to start the process. The phone number is 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).

Kermit Sowers says his main concern is demolishing the interior of his rental home on Lazy Acres Road before mold sets in.

Nearly 600 Clay County residences damaged by Debby

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- After completing initial damage estimates, Clay County Emergency Management has reported 579 residences were damaged by Debby.

MORE: FEMA & Clay County revising flood plain maps

Clay County Emergency Management officials said of those 579 residences, 100 sustained major damage or have been destroyed by flood waters.

The American Red Cross and Clay County Emergency Management are working together to find temporary housing for any families who have not already found a temporary place to leave.

During the assessment, county officials also determined it will cost over $4 million in infrastructure repairs and debris removal from Debby. Emergency management officials said they expect that number to rise as damage estimates continue and flood waters recede.

FEMA & Clay County revising flood plain maps

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- Now that the waters of the Black Creek have receeded people are beginning the clean up.

Before Tropical Storm Debby even formed in the Gulf, FEMA and local officials were working on revising the flood plain maps.

MORE: Flood waters close Highway 40 in Camden County

Mary Olsen with FEMA says the maps are still in a preliminary phase, but the idea is to give property owners a more up-to-date look at their flood risk since the flood plains can change.

"Environmental changes occur overtime, the flood plains widen and shift. You have developments, you have better technology available, so all of these things play into why you should update these maps and keep them current," said Olsen.

Middleburg football camp will go on as scheduled

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- The 6th Annual Faith Football Camp at Middleburg High School will go on as scheduled despite Debby bringing heavy rains to the area.

Camp organizers said they were prepared from the beginning to hold the camp come rain or shine.

Now that there is more shine than rain the camp will definitely go on as planned.

The fields are drying and a Red Cross shelter set up in the school's cafeteria has been closed, which means campers can eat dinner as in years past.

Between 100 -150 young football players will take part in two days of skills and drills.  The football players range from grades two through seven.  The camp is put on annually as a fundraiser for the Middleburg High School football team.

The camp will also have NFL players to meet and coach the camp participants.

FWC approves black bear plan

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved a plan Wednesday to manage long-term conservation for the more than 3,000 black bears living in the state.

The state's bear management plan is credited with a resurgence in the black bear population.  In the 1970's there were as few as 300 black bears in Florida.

"The Florida bear population is thriving.  That is the success story, but we still have a lot of education to do," FWC Commission Chairman Kathy Barco said.  "Everyone loves bears, but not everyone wants them in their backyard.  When people call to say, 'Relocate this bear,' we need to help that neighborhood learn the ways to coexist with the bear - take care of your garbage, dog food and bird feeders."

Clay County families trapped by washed out road

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- In the middle of the Clay County woods, a peaceful, babbling brook stands where the sides of a road once were.

"We haven't been able to get out since Sunday night," said Pamela Smith.

Pamela, her husband Bob Smith, and dozens of other families on Longbranch Road are stuck.

"We've been here home-bound since Monday and can't go to work, can't go to the store, can't do anything," Pamela said.

The only way they're getting around is in their 4-wheel drive golf cart.

They've seen flooding before, but "nothing like this. I hadn't seen anything like this," Bob said.

A few hundred yards down the road from the Smith's house, the road crumbles away.

There, they can avoid the crumbling sides.

But they can't get past what was once a road over a creek, now reduced to a pile of concrete blocks.

Safe Animal Shelter in Middleburg flooded, in need of certain items

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Safe Animal Shelter on County Road 220 in Middleburg experienced flooding and is in need of certain items:

-Towels
-Wet/dry vac
-Purina dog
-Puppy, cat & kitten food
-A working dryer

Donations can be dropped off until 8 p.m. Wednesday at The Dog Day Inn, 3450 CR 220 in Middleburg. They are helping with donations til the shelter is cleaned up. Also, if you can help in any other way, please call the Shelter at 276-7233.

500 buildings in Clay have experienced water damage

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Early estimates show at least 500 buildings, most of them homes, sustained water damage from Tropical Storm Debby.

Clay County Fire Chief Lorin Mock says only one person was injured when a ceiling gave way in an Orange Park home. Mock noted the injuries were minor.

One visible sign of damage is on County Road 218, where a bridge collapsed Tuesday night.

Pubilc Works Director Jeff Beck says the goal is to have the bridge repaired in two weeks. People who live in Clay Hill will find their commute to be a little longer until the work is done.

Clay County Sheriff Rick Bessler says 90 people were rescued from record flooding on Black Creek. Most of the rescues involved Girl Scouts attending a summer camp.

Breaker reminded Black Creek homeowners who want to leave their homes should do so before dark. At night, Bessler says, deputies face bigger challenges as rescues are riskier.

Debby makes road impassable, trapping Clay County residents

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- When it is the only road to and from your home, a complete washout becomes a major cause of concern for everyone.

"We've had puddles in the road and we filled them in. Everyone has a small tractor, but this is the worst," said Terry Berge.

Berge lives on Range Line Road, and so does Jean Terry.

"I parked my pick up because I couldn't get through," said Terry. 

The torrential downpour from Tropical Storm Debby washed out the road where there's a culvert and a crossing. The residents moved quickly to add a concrete culvert and more dirt but they're afraid it won't last.

"We worked through the night so people can get out and go to the doctor," said Berge. 

The road is in Clay County off Carter Spencer Road. The problem is it a private road and the county is not responsible for maintenance or repairs.

Black Creek homeowners forced to evacuate

MIDDLEBURG, Fla.  -- Some homeowners along Black Creek had no choice but to evacuate their homes Tuesday as flood waters poured over the bank following heavy rain from Tropical Storm Debby.

RELATED: Shelters open on the First Coast due to Tropical Storm Debby

Emilio Uyann pushed away from his home on Lazy Acres Road in a canoe early Tuesday afternoon; expecting the main floor of his home that sits 12 feet off the ground to flood by nightfall.

EARLIER TODAY: Evacuations underway for homeowners near Black Creek

Voluntary evacuations underway for homeowners near Black Creek

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- A voluntary evacuation notice is in effect for people in Clay County living near the Black Creek.  The creek is more than five feet above flood stage and is continuing to rise.

There is currently a shelter open at Middleburgh High School on County Road 220.

 Homeowners along Black Creek know a lot about flooding, and Tropical Storm Debby has their attention.

RELATED: Florida Gov. Rick Scott declares statewide emergency

Flooding woes hit several counties on the First Coast

In Bradford County, teams of prison inmates and civilians worked quickly to fill sandbags for residents. Brad Green was in line, trying to get as many sandbags as the county would allow.

"We'll get twenty and if we need more, we'll come back," said Green.

RELATED: Debby affecting local roadways

The water was at his front door. He hopes the sandbags will be enough to fight back the water.

Debby shuts down roadways, causes sinkholes

First Coast News is compiling a list of all the streets and roadways underwater, closed or otherwise affected by what is now Tropical Depression Debby.

Officials are still assessing the situation from overnight, and drivers are encouraged to use extra caution and not drive through flooded areas.

Here is a list of roadways affected at this time:

FHP traffic information page

Florida Department of Transportation traffic information

Per JSO (For more information about Jacksonville area road closings, check JSO's Twitter account):

Duval County :

Imeson Road and Pritchard Road.

Condo renter surprised by demand for rent from association

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Jean McVicker rents a condominium and was pleased with her community -- until now.

"I feel like I'm being harassed, I really do and I want it resolved," she said.

McVicker has lived in the quiet Clay County condominium community for the past six years, but now finds herself in the middle of an issue between her landlord and the condo association.

"If I don't pay my rent money to the property management company," said McVicker,"we will get evicted."

The condo association sent McVicker a demand letter telling her the property owner is behind on the assessment fees and she must pay the rent directly to the association.

"I'm frustrated by it," she said. "I am paying my rent to the landlord why should I be evicted?"

"We have filed a few evictions and have notified a few tenants" said Attorney Fred Elefant.

4th of July Fireworks By Water

4th of July Fireworks By Water

 

Just in time for the summer's biggest holiday, Florida By Water released their 2012 list of places to view fireworks from your boat. So far, they’re featuring more than 50 locations submitted by local Chambers of Commerce and Tourism & Visitors bureaus from across the Sunshine State.

Fence contractor shakes homeower's trust in Angie's List

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Earlier this year, Ernesto Gonzalez hired a contractor to install a vinyl fence and gates at his Middleburg home. To find the right company for his needs Gonzalez says he went to Angie's List.

"I specifically wanted a gate, a gate specialist and sure enough, they came up with five different locations. I chose this one because they were at home," he said.

Angie's List is a national clearinghouse that helps consumers find service companies without a hassle. The list is made up based on reviews from consumers, not Angie.

Gonzalez elected to use Heritage Fencing and was satisfied he said until the company was required to replace his gates several times.

"The folks who installed the third set of gates, as you heard from the voice mail, they damaged the gates," he said.

Florida's unemployment drops; Gov. Scott responds

Florida's unemployment drops; Gov. Scott responds

 

Governor Rick Scott responded to Florida's unemployment rate dropping to 8.6 percent in May 2012, down 2.3 percent since Governor Scott came into office and to its lowest point since December 2008:

"It is clear that the work we have done to lower the cost of doing business in our state by cutting taxes and reducing regulation is giving the private sector the confidence it needs to expand, grow and add jobs.  Florida's continued steady decline in unemployment shows that Florida is on the right track. I remain committed to growing private-sector jobs in our state by making Florida the No. 1 place for business so that every Floridian can have the opportunity for a job." 

 

Pop Warner changes rules in effort to prevent concussions

ATLANTA -- Pop Warner football, the most widely known youth football program across the nation, announced late Tuesday a set of rule changes in light of new research data regarding concussions among football players.

The changes will eliminate head-on blocking and tackling drills when players are lined up more than three yards apart. The move emphasizes no head-to-head contact between players.

The new rules, as posted on the Pop Warner website include:   

Are You Ready for Hurricane Season?

The beginning of hurricane season is a good time for homeowners to review their insurance needs.  Homeowners should meet with their insurance agent to review and adjust their polices as appropriate for adequate coverage. Families should keep in mind the 3 Ps during hurricane season:  plan, prepare and protect. 

Big picture:   

June 12, 2012 – The beginning of hurricane season is a good time for homeowners to review their insurance policies for adequate coverage for their home and property.  Homeowners are encouraged to consult with their agent and develop a complete understanding of the insurance coverage they have purchased.  In addition to reviewing insurance policies, there are three things families should keep in mind during hurricane season - plan, prepare and protect:

PLAN

Take steps to reduce mosquitoes

 

The Clay County Health Department and Clay County Mosquito Control remind residents of steps to take to reduce the areas where mosquitoes breed. “While there have been no cases of West Nile reported to our health department, we are advising residents and visitors to Clay County to take action to protect themselves from mosquito bites and help remove places where mosquitoes breed by following the drain and cover recommendations,” stated Nancy Mills, Health Department Administrator.

Man in serious condition after being stabbed with pocket knife

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- The Clay County Sheriff's Office arrested a 36-year-old man Saturday after they say he stabbed another man with a pocket knife.

Shortly after 11:30 p.m. Saturday, police were called to the 4300 block of Peppergrass Street in Middleburg after they were notified of a stabbing.

Mark Davis was riding his bicycle on Peppergrass Street when he saw his wife on the front porch of a home on the street, according to an arrest report from the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

Davis stopped his bicycle and called his wife over to him. When she and and a man who lives at the home walked over to Davis, an argument occurred.

Davis asked his wife to bring him his wallet out of their vehicle, which was parked in front of the home on Peppergrass Street according to the report.

2 hospitalized after Clay County crash overnight

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating a serious crash that has two people in the hospital. It happened overnight on Brannan Field Road.

Witnesses say a car driven by a Middleburg man was swerving before hitting an oncoming vehicle. That driver was a 22-year-old Orange Park woman.

According to FHP, it took Fire and Rescue nearly an hour to remove her from her vehicle. Both drivers sustained serious injuries.

Charges are pending.

44 percent of workers have gained weight on the job

44 percent of workers have gained weight on the job

 

It’s happened to most of us, especially desk-bound workers. We’re at work and feeling as if we’ve been snacking all day. A handful of candy here and a bag of chips there doesn’t seem like a lot, but it adds up, especially when it comes to the numbers on the scale.

No excuses; Get Outdoors Florida!

 

School is out! All across Florida, students looking for summer activities. No wonder so many national programs highlight the fun of getting outdoors. June has the most daylight hours and the longest day of the year, providing plenty of opportunity for families and friends to enjoy nature and each other.

Clay County property owner wants JEA to remove EZ Base

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. --  Steve Johnson owns 30 acres of property in Middleburg. He said the property has lost half of its value because of the stuff that is on his road. It is called EZ Base. 

"They told me it is safe as sand; it is approved by the DEP," he said. 

EZ Base is a byproduct from the JEA coal fired plants and is used as road-building material.

In 2009, tons of the product were delivered to Steve Johnson; but  he installed it. It became a concern when Florida's Department of Environmental Protection discovered the product was in the wetlands and around the ponds. The DEP then cited Johnson.

"If they would show you a document and explain to you 'Mr. Johnson, its got these contaminants in it,' you are not going to take it," said Johnson.

Three charged with cruelty in gopher tortoise deaths

 

Orange County, Fla. -- Two adults and a juvenile from Jacksonville and Middleburg are facing prison time and fines after Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) law enforcement officers arrested them in Orange County for killing a state-designated threatened species and for felony cruelty to animals. 

Clay County holds graduations outdoors, hoping it doesn't rain

ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- It's a big event to remember for a lifetime.
High school graduation for 2,500 seniors in Clay County will occur tonight.

But there's also some tension - an eye to the sky - hoping rain stays away. In Clay County, six high schools have graduation ceremonies outdoors at the football stadium.

MORE:Baker County High class of '87 finally holds graduation

Explosive noise to increase at Camp Blanding

CAMP BLANDING, Fla. -- An infantry regiment training at Camp Blanding may cause some residents to hear explosions.

The Camp Blanding Joint Training Center will play host to the Florida Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment.  The soldiers will be firing 60mm, 81mm and 120mm mortars during their annual training at the base.

The training is scheduled to take place June 6th through 10th.  It is scheduled to last from 7:30 a.m. to midnight each day.

If anyone would like to discuss noise concerns with Camp Blanding's Range Control Office at (904) 682-3121 or the Florida National Guard Public Affairs Office at (904) 823-0166.

 

What to do in Jacksonville this weekend

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Events on the First Coast were washed out last weekend because of Tropical Storm Beryl, so this weekend it's time to get out and enjoy the sunshine!

First Coast News' Amanda Zitzman takes you on the town in the video above. A complete list of events is below.

SATURDAY June 2, 2012

HALE & HEARTY 7K: Saturday, June 2 8:00 a.m. at Riverside Arts Market, the Health Planning Council of Northeast Florida presents the Hale & Hearty 7K run through the Riverside and Avondale areas, celebrating healthy communities and happy and healthy places. Race begins and ends at the Riverside Arts Market.

Monster Jam tickets go on sale on Friday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Big trucks are coming back to town once again. Tickets for the Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam, which will be at EverBank Field on Saturday, February 23, 2013, will go on sale Friday.

Mayor: About 20,000 residents without power

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - In an 8:30 a.m. Monday update Mayor Alvin Brown said more than 50 JEA crews are out working to restore power around Jacksonville.

Residents can dial 665-6000 to report outages, and Mayor Brown urged residents to call 911 if they see downed power lines.

The mayor said about 20,000 residents were without power in Jacksonville Monday morning.

He also said the Wonderwood and Mathews Bridges remained closed. Garbage pick-up for today has been rescheduled for Saturday.

The mayor stated that he's been in contact with Gov. Rick Scott. The city website reports the following road closures at 8:50 a.m.:

- Riverside Avenue from Copeland to Barrs due to flooding.

- 5744 Salerno Road West due to downed power lines.

- Wilson Blvd. by Firestone Rd. due to a large pole in the middle of the roadway.

Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau, Putnam, St. Johns schools scheduled to be open today

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Students throughout the First Coast will return to school today.

Baker, Duval, Clay, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns County schools will be in session, unless conditions worsen throughout the day. 

Calls to Bradford, Columbia, and Union County school districts have not been returned. 

Spring Football: Ridgeview 45, Middleburg 14

ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- The Ridgeview High School football team appears ready to pick up where it left off last season.  In 2011, the Panthers won a district championship, and a lot of key players from that team are returning.

On Friday night, Ridgeview defeated Middleburg 45-14 in a spring football contest that was voted as the HighSchoolSports.net Game of the Week.  The Panthers led the Broncos 38-7 at halftime.

Ridgeview quarterback Josh Moore had more than 100 rushing yards in the first half.  The Panthers also scored touchdowns off of turnovers on consecutive plays in the 2nd quarter.

Storm system brings potential for dangerous weather to Florida over the Holiday weekend

 

FLORIDA -- The Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) reminds Florida’s residents and visitors to remain aware of current weather situations this holiday weekend, as a storm system may bring heavy rainfall across much of the Sunshine State. Potential flooding conditions will affect Southeast Florida through this evening. This threat could shift northward to portions of the Northern Peninsula later this weekend as the system nears this area of the state. This same system could bring strong onshore winds, which may lead to rough surf, large breaking waves and a high risk of rip currents along the Atlantic Coast through next week.

Tasers may cause cardiac arrest -- users not deterred

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In 2005, when JSO started using tasers, Sheriff John Rutherford endured the blast of a stun gun. The sheriff was trying to show two things: a Taser will immobilize you and it is a non-lethal weapon.

"We are very cautious in everything we do when it comes to response to resistance and our use of force with anything," said Michele Remolde.

Remolde is JSO's Director of Professional Standards. She says her department follows a strict policy for the use of a Taser.

"In looking at this study as well as other studies ... and in looking at our policy it appears we are in good shape," she said.

Remolde says the article by Dr. Douglas Zipe is insufficient.

"If you look at the end of the study, it actually stipulates that they not against Taser use," she said, "they just prefer there are certain rules in using the ECD (Taser)."  

Owner: Rescued horses shot with BB gun

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A Clay County woman believes someone is using her horses for target practice.

"I've taken this animal out of a difficult situation only now for him to be tortured again," Debbie McDonald said of her rescue horse, Mariachi.

McDonald's brood of animals includes dogs, cats, and horses; most of which were rescues.

But after months of rehab, she believes her horses are victims once again.

"It's gotta be a fairly sick individual that takes pleasure in shooting these animals," McDonald said.

McDonald and her husband began noticing the marks, she believes are from bb gun pellets, on the horses in December.

Since then, she said there have been five or six attacks and said they're taking their toll.

DCF tests tech at "Food for Florida" mock disaster

DCF tests tech at "Food for Florida" mock disaster

 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Department of Children and Families employees from all over the state came together in Tallahassee today to test the agency’s “Food for Florida” disaster preparation operations. The program allows DCF to provide emergency food assistance to families in need after a hurricane or another disaster.

Vote for our Game of the Week

Which of the following spring football games should be featured as the HighSchoolSports.net Game of the Week?  The choices for you to vote on are listed below. 

The voting for this contest will end at 11:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 22nd.  The winner will be announced later that night during the sportscast on First Coast News at 11.

The game that receives the most votes will receive lots of TV coverage before, during, and after the game.

Be sure to like our page on Facebook.  Here's the link:  http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/First-Coast-News-HighSchoolSportsnet/327589030599645.

You can also follow us on Twitter by searching for @FCN_BigYellowH.

Angela Corey wants to close the door on public records before trial

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The newly released evidence in the murder case against George Zimmermann sheds new light on what happened the night he shot and killed Trayvon Martin.

It also raises questions about Special Prosecutor Angela Corey's decision to charge Zimmermann with second degree murder.

"I have an ethical obligation to file charges we reasonably believe we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt," said Corey.

SLIDESHOW: Zimmerman Discovery Photos

Corey reminds her critics that the partial evidence does not reveal her entire case against Zimmermann.

Report finds that public entities are a significant employer in most Florida counties

 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Government entities are some of the largest employers in nearly every county in Florida, according to a new analysis released today by Florida TaxWatch, the nonpartisan, nonprofit research institution headquartered in Tallahassee.

Clay County Fire Rescue hires new firefighters, communications specialist

Clay County Fire Rescue hires new firefighters, communications specialist

 

Clay County Fire Rescue welcomed 11 new firefighters on April 11, 2012, conducting several weeks of training before the trainees were given station assignments to begin their probationary period.

FWC reminds boaters to boat smart, safely

 

Because Memorial Day weekend, which kicks off summer activities, is right around the corner, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reminds all boaters in Florida to rededicate themselves to boating safely.

$2 million in grants to benefit Florida homeless shelters

 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins announced more than $2 million in grants that will benefit community homeless shelters throughout the state.

Efforts To Rehab Northwest Jacksonville Cemetery Stalled

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Fred Douglas, James Caldwell and Rev. Raymond King are a few of the dead buried and abandoned in Sunset Memorial Cemetery.

Amy Blount lives next door to the Northwest Jacksonville graveyard. 

"I saw them cleaning two of them last week," said Blount.

Database: Registry of Historic Cemeteries in Florida

She said nobody seemed to care. From the front of the cemetery, facing Moncrief Road, it looks like there's an effort to maintain the property, but there are hundreds of graves that are covered with debris and thick brush.

Clean Out Those Cabinets: Stamp Out Hunger is Saturday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Check your mailbox!  The Stamp Out Hunger food drive is Saturday and letter carriers have been dropping off donation bags at homes all over the First Coast this week.  

This is the 20th year of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Food Drive.  

The donation drive is designed to make giving easy.  All people have to do is put some non-perishable food in a bag and leave it by their mailboxes Saturday.  Postal workers will take the donations and transport them to Second Harvest of North Florida.  

Shrimp Festival Vendors Shut Out By Code Compliance

FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. -- The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival brings a large audience, and for small business owners, it is a great opportunity to sell their stuff. But 11 small business owners say their boom turned out to be a bust.

"I cried, I lost a lot," said Carol Zimmer.

Zimmer is one the eleven vendors who were hoping to cash in at the shrimp festival and leased space from Fernan-Deli, a small restaurant.

"It sounded solid to all of us vendors, it sounded solid to us. We were totally shocked," she said.

Zimmer said the vendors, including her, paid Craig Scott, owner of Fernan-Deli, $125 each to lease space in his parking lot for the two-day festival.

"I've done it on regular weekends before, but never had a problem with it," said Scott.

Goat at Junior High Killed by Wild Animal

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- A First Coast school is dealing with the death of a goat used for education.

Teachers at Wilkinson Junior High in Middleburg discovered one of the goats dead Monday morning.

Two other goats survived the weekend attack, but had severe cuts and bite wounds.

Dr. Craig Price of Black Creek Veterinary Hospital thinks a wild animal attacked the goats. They were part of agriculture education at the school.

"We found out they are still healthy. They had multiple puncture wounds. We took X-rays to make sure there weren't any vital organs involved," Dr. Price said.

Deputies in Clay County initially thought the goat was shot to death. But the vet didn't find any bullet or bullet fragments.

Detective Con Kelley says it was most likely a wild animal, although they don't know how it got inside the fence.

Goats Shot At Wilkerson Junior High School

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Members of Wilkerson Junior High School's animal kingdom were harmed over the weekend, with one being fatally shot.

Goats that stay on the campus of the school were shot sometime between Saturday night and this morning, said Dr. David McDonald, the school's principal.

1 goat was fatally shot and 2 goats have non-life threatening injuries and are being cared for by a local veterinarian, McDonald said.

The investigation has been turned over to the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

"I can confirm we are investigating the death of at least one goat on the school’s property," said Mary Justino, spokeswoman for the CCSO. "Our General Investigations Unit has assigned a detective and I hope to hear back from him soon with some details."

An autopsy is being done on the deceased goat to verify how it was killed, Justino said.

 

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Honors Fallen Officers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office honored fallen officers Wednesday.

The annual Police Memorial Day Observance took place outside the Police Memorial Building on Bay Street in downtown Jacksonville.

According to the Sheriff's Office, Christopher Kane was the last JSO officer to die in the line of duty.  Kane died in September 2008 after accidentally driving his police cruiser into the back of a parked construction truck.  The Florida Highway Patrol reported Kane was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash. 

Wednesday's memorial recognized Kane and other officers lost throughout the years. 

Clay County

New Information on Body Found in Burning Car

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- The Clay County Sheriff's Office has released new information regarding a body found in a burning car Friday. 

Police are now asking to speak with anyone who may have had any local contact with Maria Reznick.  Reznick's drivers license photo was sent out Wednesday morning by Clay County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Mary Justino.

Justino said the sheriff's office has not positively identified the body found in the burning car as that of Reznick but it is a possibility based on the information detectives have gathered so far.  A final identification by the Medical Examiner's Office is still pending.

Middleburg Baseball Team is a Cinderella Story

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Heading into last week's district tournament, the Middleburg High School baseball team had a (5-14) record.  The Broncos put their disappointing regular season behind them and rallied to win a district championship.

The high school baseball playoffs begin later this week.  Middleburg will host Columbia on Thursday night.

The video clip at the top of this story features interview clips with juniors Charles Vanderventer and Jacob Bolena.

Be sure to watch Dan Hicken's report on the Broncos on TV during the 11:00 news on Monday night.

New Information Released in Case of Body Found in Burned Car

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- The Clay County Sheriff's Office has released new information in their investigation into the discovery of a body found inside a burned car Friday.

Investigators with the Clay County Sheriff's Office have been able to determine the body is that of a female, according to a news release from Clay County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Mary Justino.  The identity of the female is still being determined.

Detectives were also able to determine the car is a 1995 Mercury Sable registered in Pennsylvania.

Justino said detectives are still working to determine the car's actual owner and why it would be in the area.

Florida Division of Forestry personnel discovered the burning Friday afternoon while responding to a small woods fire in the 2400 block of Blanding Boulevard.

May is American Stroke Month- Let’s Get Back to the Basics

May is American Stroke Month- Let’s Get Back to the Basics

 

About 795,000 Americans will have a new or recurrent stroke this year, and more than 137,000 of them will die. Stroke is the No. 4 cause of death among Americans. Stroke is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability. But, do you really know what a stroke is?

Clay County Brush Fire Nearly Extinguished

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- The Clay County Fire Rescue Department is close to having a brush fire extinguished that had originally posed a potential threat to homes.

The fire started on Candlewood Court, off of County Road 218 West, according to information from Clay County Fire Rescue Captain Bernita Bush.

It broke out around 1:30 Monday afternoon and its origin is still unknown, Bush said.

When rescue crews got to the brush fire they found it was fast moving and posed a potential threat to homes.

The Florida Forest Service used four tractors to plow lines around the fire, said Annaleasa Winter with FFS.

Bush said a CodeRED emergency notification was sent to residents in the immediate vicinity of the fire and to homes on surrounding streets which may be affected by either smoke or flames.  That notification was later cancelled.

Students And Parents React To Interest Rate Debate

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It is graduation day at UNF. While students are glad the classroom is now behind them, the reality of paying off their student loans is in front of them.

Allison Smith just earned a bachelor's degree in marketing. She said it took a student loan to get her started.

"I had one the first year of college, it was just about $2,000," said Smith. 

Her mother, Jody, insisted on Allison getting the student loan.

"I wanted them to feel responsible for their college education, so I made them get a loan for $2,500 and regret it," said Jody Smith.

But now their perspective on student loans have completely changed since Allison first enrolled in college.

"I don't know how kids do it," said Jody Smith, "how they graduate from college with this debt and live." 

Clay Sheriff's Office Investigating Body in Burned Car

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- The Clay County Sheriff's Office is investigating a body that has been found inside a burned car.

The car was found still on fire at 11:30 Friday morning by the Florida Division of Forestry and Clay County Fire Rescue personnel, according to a news release from Clay County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Mary Justino.

They had been alerted to a small woods fire in the 3400 block of State Road 21 south of Middleburg.

When rescue workers entered the wooded area, they found the car burning.

Once the fire was out, they discovered a body was inside the car, Justino said. Detectives with the Clay County Sheriff's Office are now handling the death investigation.

Justino said