The Voice of the Gem City

January 22, 2021

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Florida Department of Health in St. Johns County reported two new coronavirus-related deaths Thursday, bringing their death total since counting began in March to 145. St. Johns reported 157 new coronavirus cases Thursday, bringing their count to 17,044. Putnam County reported 92 new cases, for a total of 5,179. Flagler County reported 41 new coronavirus cases, putting their total at 4,847. St. Johns County is giving vaccinations to those with appointments today, Monday and Wednesday. Putnam County’s testing site at 1101 Husson Avenue is open today and will be open next week on Monday, Thursday and Friday, according to officials.

In Flagler County a grand jury has returned four first-degree murder indictments in three deaths. Derrius Braxton Bauer and Marcus Avery Chamblin were indicted for the murder of Deon O’Neal Jenkins, who was shot and killed outside a Circle K gas station on Oct. 2, 2019. Chamblin initially was charged with principal to first degree murder. Two other murder indictments were handed out in deaths tied to Fentanyl. Allyson Dawn Bennett, 39, was arrested in the 2018 death of Michael Joseph Burnell Jr. and the grand jury found sufficient probable cause that Bennett supplied a mixture of heroin and Fentanyl which ultimately led to Burnett’s death. Javian Neesmith, 20, was indicted in the death of Dimitry Popkov in 2020 after supplying the victim with Fentanyl that ultimately caused his death, according to authorities. Bennett and Neesmith were indicted for first degree murder by unlawful distribution of a controlled substance. Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said “every overdose death in Flagler County is now investigated and prosecuted as a homicide.”

The Putnam County Business Park off St. Johns Avenue is getting a new tenant – a call center that specializes in helping people find a Medicare plan. Seek Medicare will be going into a vacant building that’s housed two call centers in the past and was where Palatka Mayor Terrill Hill tried to move Palatka’s City Hall and municipal services including garbage. Company officials hope to move in their licensed Medicare agents by the first of March. To begin with, about 30 people will be employed.

Ray Rood III, a longtime Palatka pharmacist and former Putnam County School Board member, died Thursday. Rood, 71, has been fighting coronavirus and died at UF Health in Gainesville. Johnson-Overturf Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

As water issues continue as a major concern in St. Augustine, Jessica Beach, the city’s stormwater engineer, has been named the next Chief Resilience Officer for the city. She’s the city’s expert on flood mitigation, storm resiliency, and intervention methods to combat the increasing recurrences of sunny day flooding and extra-ordinary storm events, Now she’ll take the lead on resiliency strategy implementation and long-term planning.

A Flagler County man was killed Wednesday afternoon in Ormond Beach when his motorcycle crashed into a car, according to Ormond Beach police. Timothy Daniel Hardie, 56, of Bunnell, was turning onto Hull Road off North U.S. 1 near Tomoka Estates at 5:12 p.m. His motorcycle crashed into a passenger vehicle and he was pronounced dead at the scene. The crash is under investigation.

Three area youths probably would have been better off staying at home and studying Wednesday night. Instead they crashed a stolen Ford Explorer into the Interlachen Fast Track store at 4:24 a.m. and stole vape pens, cigarettes and Lottery tickets, according to the Putnam County Sheriff Office. After that they headed to a Circle K in Palatka and about 6:18 a.m. entered with guns and stole money from the clerk as well as taking his vehicle. They then headed to Jacksonville, abandoning the Explorer because of damage and concerns about it being easily spotted.  They should have worried about the GPS on the stolen Gladiator they were in. That’s how sheriff’s deputies were able to trace them to an isolated area in Hawthorne where they were found fast asleep. Jamil Soltero, 17, of Interlachen, Andrew Arce, 16, of Neptune Beach and Evin Nunez, 18, of Orange Park, now face a variety of charges. Four firearms were found in the car, two of which were stolen, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Nunez, who had a hidden firearm on him when arrested, was booked into the Putnam jail without bond. The other two were released to a juvenile detention center.

Civic clubs are doing their part to help communities. Crescent City Woman’s Club is celebrating Arbor Day with a tree giveaway Saturday and a two-day rummage sale beginning today and continuing through Saturday. The event is at the Woman’s Club, 604 Summit St. The rummage sales are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and benefit the club. Trees are available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday on a first come, first served. To get a tree you need to donate nonperishable food items. Those will go to the Putnam Christian Service Center in Crescent City. In Welaka the Helping Hands food program holds a yard sale today and Saturday on County Road 308B in Welaka.

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