News

Middleburg Gas Station Employee Sings Away The Blues

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- You've heard of whistling while you work, how about belting out beats while emptying trash?

Laura Strickland, 27, has worked at Flash Foods off Blanding Boulevard for several years, and she's been singing the whole time while emptying trash bins, mopping the floor and organizing gas station inventory.

"Anytime I come in here, she's always singing something," said long-time customer Chris Miller.

Customers getting gas here know when she is on the clock. "The first time I thought she was nuts, but then I realized she really could sing!," said customer Linda Worthington.

Singing helps her come out of her shell, and she even sings at local bars, she said.

She tried out for "American Idol." "They had me sing three times, then told me 'No,'" Strickland said with a smile.

She adds, the rejection did not stop her. But that hasn't stopped her ... "I have an MP3 player in my mind," said Strickland.

Autopsy Reports in Middleburg Boat Crash List Cause of Death

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The medical examiner has officially called the death of two teens killed in a boat crash an accident, reporting they died of severe injuries to the head and neck.

First Coast News obtained the medical examiner's report, which was dated Tuesday. Halee Mickey and Travis Hanner died when a boat driven by Hanner's dad crashed into a tree.

Hanner's dad, Ted Hanner, survived the crash that happened February 22.

Associate Medical Examiner Aurelian Nicolaescu performed the autopsies a day later. He listed Mickey's cause of death as head injuries, listing brain contusions and brainstem cuts.

For Travis Hanner, the medical examiner cited "multiple injuries" for the cause of death. Nicolaescu listed spinal cord contusion and other injuries to the head and upper body.

For both victims, the listed "manner of death" is accidental.

The toxicology examination reported no blood alcohol levels were found in either victim.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Cracks Down on Telemarketing Scams

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam continued his crackdown against unlicensed telemarketers last week, shutting down firms in several southwest Florida counties.

Investigators from the Department’s Division of Consumer Services, in partnership with the Department’s Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement, conducted inspections in Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties.

FHP: Spring Break Drunk Drivers Will End up Spring Broke

FHP: Spring Break Drunk Drivers Will End up Spring Broke

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- As spring  - and spring break -  approaches, the Florida Highway Patrol urges revelers to party smart to avoid becoming "spring broke."

The FHP said March 2009 had the most crashes of any month of the last five years, with 224 fatal crashes reported, and to prevent a recurrence they will be out in force throughout the state this month.

"The Florida Highway Patrol isn't against having a good time," said Chief of Public Affairs Capt. Mark Welch. "We just want spring breakers to celebrate safely so nobody has to go home in a body bag."

The legal alcohol limit for drivers in Florida is .08, and for those under 21, anyone with a blood alcohol content of .02 or higher will receive an automatic six-month license suspension.

Refusal to submit to testing carries a 12-month suspension for the first offense, and 18 months for the second offense.

State Attorney: Judge in McBride Case Kept State from Due Process

State Attorney: Judge in McBride Case Kept State from Due Process

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. -- State Attorney Angela Corey has attacked a judge's decision to spare the life of a Middleburg man who killed his ex-girlfriend and buried her in the backyard.

The State Attorney's office filed a notice of objection in the case against Kenneth McBride. He strangled Roberta Laws in 2009.

Jurors voted 8 to 4 to recommend the death penalty for McBride but Judge John Skinner went against the jury's recommendation and instead sentenced McBride to life in prison.

Corey argued that McBride was previously convicted of custodial sexual battery, a capital felony, and had been designated a sexual predator. 

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE OBJECTION COREY'S OFFICE FILED

Laws' murder was "heinous atrocious and cruel," Corey furthered, and the crime was committed in a "cold, calculated, and premeditated manner."

GMJ Exclusive: Gag Order Issued in Somer Thompson Murder Case

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. -- A judge has issued a gag order on Jarred Harrell's case. He's the man accused of killing Somer Thompson in Clay County in 2009.

After a couple denials, the protective order was granted on Dec. 14 and applies to just about everyone involved in the case, including prosecutors, defense lawyers, investigators and other people who may testify at trial.

In the order, Judge William Wilkes wrote, "Pretrial comments ... have been substantially adverse or hostile to the defendant."

The judge cited intense local, national and international media coverage of the case as one reason for the order.

"To protect ... the defendant's right to a fair and impartial trial in the county where the crimes were committed ... a protective order is necessary," the judge wrote.

Normally, evidence in a criminal trial becomes public record once it's turned over to defense lawyers. But in this case, that won't happen.

Two Teens Mourned after Fatal Boating Wreck in Clay County

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- The families and friends of two teenagers who died in a boating wreck Monday afternoon on Black Creek are mourning their losses tonight.

"It's hard. We hang on by faith and try to be strong for Halee because she was strong," said Heather Mickey, Halee's sister.

Middleburg High School junior Travis Hanner, 17, and freshman Halee Mickey, 15, were killed in the crash, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigator Jeff Summers.

Summers said the boat operator, Ted Hanner, was Travis' father.Ted Hanner, 48, was at Shands Jacksonville with non-life-threatening injuries.

Mckey planned to be a neonatal nurse, said her sister. Both families plan to hold a candlelight vigil Thursday at sunset to remember Mickey and Hanner.

"Hard to know she was perfectly healthy five minutes before it happened and then all of a sudden she's gone," said Heather Mickey.