News

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.