News

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.