The Voice of the Gem City

January 15, 2020

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

An anonymous tip led a Putnam County school resource office to confiscate a loaded gun on the campus of C.H. Price Middle School in Interlachen Tuesday afternoon. Putnam County Sheriff’s Office continues the investigation that saw the arrest of 12-year-old Jaden Maurice Smith, a seventh grader at the school. He faces two felony charges and has been sent to a juvenile detention center in Volusia County. Resource Officer Colby Eads responded quickly to the gun tip, going to the youth’s classroom at 3 p.m. just before school let out. He took the gun from the youth’s waistband. Officials say the gun was stolen and apparently the youth had it several days before bringing it to school. Sheriff Gator DeLoach noted one of his son’s attends the school. ““It’s time for parents to step up and take some responsibility for their children and ensure that they are not bringing things to school that they shouldn’t,” DeLoach said.

A 65-year-old pilot escaped serious injury Tuesday when his plane crashed into the St. Johns River in East Palatka. Allen Sasser was attempting to land on the St. Johns River but did not realize the wheels of his 2005 Aventura amphibious biplane hadn’t retracted. The plane hit the water, flipped and sank. Sasser got out safely and was rescued by a resident who saw the crash and took his boat to the site. The accident happened Tuesday afternoon near Riverview Drive in East Palatka. Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Coast Guard were contacted, according to Florida Highway Patrol.

A Second Amendment Sanctuary proposal was pulled from the Putnam County Commission agenda Tuesday. Commissioner Bill Pickens was concerned about proper notice and discussion of the proposal which allows a jurisdiction not to extend certain gun control measures seen as being in violation of the Second Amendment, which includes the right to bear arms by citizens. One resident speaking in favor of the sanctuary noted the proposal had been advertised and actually discussed at a recent town hall meeting. Pickens’ sister, Suzanne Pickens, was one of two residents speaking against the measure, which will now come up at the Jan. 28 meeting as an agenda item.

City of Palatka is looking at proposals for revamping of St. Johns Avenue from Fourth Street to the railroad tracks. A meeting Tuesday allowed residents to see early plans and comment on what they’d like in the plan that will include work above and below ground. A proposal is expected to be completed by summer and at least one other visioning meeting is planned. City officials have said the work would take place at night and minimize disruption of the downtown area.

In St. Augustine a group was at the City Commission meeting Monday once again protesting the Confederate Memorial in the Plaza de la Constitucion. Commissioners last year agreed to leave the memorial which is the only memorial for about 40 Confederate soldiers who died during the Civil War but whose bodies could not be brought home. Signs putting the memorial in context were to be put up by the monument and a committee worked on the wording. Now at least one commissioner is wavering on that decision. Mayor Tracy Upchurch proposed workshops to talk about issues such as the memorial and suggested that might be a way to cut down on lengthy city meetings possibly going to only one a month.

A jury Tuesday recommended life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for a man who 20 years ago was convicted of the murder of two elderly neighbors in Palm Coast. David Snelgrove twice has been sentenced to death for the murder of Glyn and Vivian Fowler but the jury votes were never unanimous. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled lack of unanimity for death row cases is unconstitutional.

A Georgia man is in St. Johns County jail charged with DUI and child neglect after he was found passed out in a parked car engine running. Two children were in the car with him. Joseph Vallotton, 45, reportedly was slurring his words and confused when St. Johns County deputies found him in a parking space along A1A in St. Augustine Beach. His blood alcohol concentration levels were more than four times higher than the legal limit of .08. The boy and girl in the car were reported scared because he would not wake up and they wanted out of the car.

In Flagler County a North Carolina man faces numerous felony charges after he allegedly stole a car, led deputies on a car chase and then took off on foot before being arrested. Eliot Watkins, 27, was spotted driving a Ford pickup truck Tuesday morning that was reported stolen from North Carolina. Deputies attempted to stop him on Old Kings Road but Watkins sped off. At times he was driving more than 70 mph and driving recklessly into oncoming traffic, going up on sidewalks and crossing all lanes of traffic, Flagler County Sheriff’s Office reports. On a utility access road he lost control of the vehicle and spun out, then fled on foot. He finally surrendered at gunpoint on Elder Drive. He first gave a false name and turned out not to have a valid driver’s license. Watkins told officers he received the truck from a “friend” in exchange for “dope.” He’s in jail on a $27,000 bond.

 

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