The Voice of the Gem City

News 11/5/2020

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Putnam County School District has chosen the principal and assistant principal of the year. James (JT) Stout, principal at Palatka High School since 2016, was selected for top principal honors. He began his career in education in Putnam in 2001. Yolanda Brady at Middleton-Burney Middle School has won honors as assistant principal of the year. A graduate of Crescent City High School, she returned to south Putnam to teach and raise her family. District officials noted under her leadership “the achievement of all subgroups in South Putnam has increased.”  The two will now go on to compete against other principals and assistant principals in the Northeast Florida District. Last year Sarajean Branam McDaniel at Moseley Elementary School in Palatka was named 2020 Florida Principal of the Year.

Flagler County Sheriff’s Office closed out a stolen car case on Wednesday, nearly three years after the theft. They arrested 28-year-old Bunnell resident Shawn Barnes, the alleged victim. Barnes reported his 2015 Fiat 500 stolen from his driveway on Dec. 30 2017, telling officers he had left the keys in the car and the doors unlocked. Barnes said at the time he was not current with vehicle payments but the car had not been repossessed. A BOLO went out but the car was never found. However, in August of this year a witness told deputies he and Barnes were together when Barnes drove the vehicle to a Putnam County boat ramp, put a rock on the accelerator and sent the vehicle into a canal where it sank. Barnes allegedly said he was purposely sinking the vehicle so he could file an insurance claim, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Divers with the Flagler and Putnam sheriff’s offices recovered the vehicle in October. According to the Flagler Sheriff’s Office, deputies were told narcotics had a major part in the decision to dump the vehicle in order to avoid making car payments. Barnes was arrested Tuesday for filing a false and fraudulent insurance claim. He was released after posting a $3,000 bond.

Alonzo Middleton, 86, who served without pay for 46 years either as mayor or a commissioner in Pomona Park, has died after an extended illness. Part of a prominent Putnam County family, Middleton was a proud supporter of the South Putnam town and Putnam County also serving on the Putnam County Fair Board and Putnam County Cattleman’s Association as well as being past president of Loyal Order of the Moose 1641. A U.S. Army veteran, he began at then-Hudson Pulp and Paper (now Georgia-Pacific) sweeping the floors and worked his way up. Funeral services are Friday at Pilgrim Congregation Church in Pomona Park. 

Florida Department of Health in Putnam County Wednesday reported two coronavirus-related deaths – an 85-year-old woman and a 77-year-old man. Death total is now 52. Also reported in Putnam 14 new resident cases and one new non-resident case, bringing the total number of cases reported to 2,441.  Flagler County reported 21 new coronavirus cases, bringing their total to 2,225. St. Johns County reported 49 new cases, bringing their total to 6,831.

Four men were arrested Tuesday at the Graham Swamp Preserve on Old Kings Road following a Flagler County Sheriff’s Office undercover operation set up after reports of inappropriate exposure. Sheriff Rick Staly said this is an ongoing problem in the area. Arrested and charged with exposure of sexual organs were: Harold White, 61; Thomas Ambrose Deakins, 74; Jon Gauci Jr., 56; and John Wesley Troxler, 72.

A traffic stop in St. Johns County Wednesday morning led to the arrest of a man sought for questioning about an international theft operation based out of Africa, according to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies stopped Olusegun Odunwole, 33, on Interstate 95 in response to 9-1-1 complaints about a freight truck with an apparent loose roof. A check showed Odunwole was one of four people wanted for extradition back to Texas on charges of engaging in organized criminal activity, a first-degree felony in Texas. The group targets senior citizens, stealing retirement money through convincing phone calls. Also targeted are widows and widowers on dating websites. Victims have been reported from California to Georgia and millions of dollars taken from retirement funds. The stolen money is laundered out of the U.S. to operation ring leaders in Nigeria and Ghana, according to authorities.

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