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.

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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.


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.

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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."