The Voice of the Gem City

Local News February 15, 2021

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

It’s Presidents’ Day, originally a celebration of the birthday of the first president of the United States, George Washington’s birthday. As such it’s a federal holiday, which means don’t expect to see mail today. You probably will see students out and about as schools in St. Johns, Flagler and Putnam are closed for the holiday.

Rain, fog and a tornado warning couldn’t stop the 2021 AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at the St. Johns River nor could it stop Bryan New of Belmont, N.C. The rookie brought in a four-day total of 79 pounds, 7 ounces of bass to win. He got most of his fish out of lily pads but also found others along shellbars halfway between Palatka and Dunn’s Creek and won the $101,000 top prize. Second place went to Elite veteran Greg Hackney of Gonzales La., and third place went to Seth Feider of New Market, Minn. Palatka’s Cliff Prince ended up at seventh place with 66 pounds, 2 ounces. The tournament was hosted by the Putnam County Tourist Development Council and Putnam County Chamber of Commerce.

On Saturday Elite series anglers Dale Hightower and Greg Hackney added rescue duties to their fishing day after rescuing a Palatka resident from the water following a boating accident. Blake Wallace was on the river in his 2015 Gheenoe Super 16, a canoe-shaped boat outfitted with an outboard motor. His steering cable snapped, causing his 40-horsepower Mercury engine to turn and his boat flipped. He was in four to five feet of water but was able to get on top of the boat. Hightower spotted him as did Hackney who arrived at the same time and got him out. Hightower said Wallace’s life jacket saved him, adding Wallace apparently hit his head and cut his ankle. Hightower told the man to get in his boat and he took him back but then went out again to fish.

A Palatka woman is in jail without bond on a second-degree murder charge after a weekend shooting left a man dead. Draneisha Bellamy, 33, was booked in the Putnam County jail around 1:43 a.m. Sunday after an investigation spurred by the shooting Saturday of Samuel Mayes, a black male in his 40s who has found at a residence in the 300 block of North 11th Street. Palatka Police officers were called about a disturbance and shooting Saturday around 3:15 p.m. Mayes was taken to Putnam Community Medical Center where he was pronounced dead. Police were able to take Bellamy into custody without incident.

A former Palm Coast resident was sentenced to life without parole Friday by Circuit Judge Terence Perkins after pleading guilty to molesting, raping and sexually abusing his three children. Brian Scott Wirth, 40, pled guilty in November and faced a potential sentence of 35 to life. His daughter, 7 at the time, turned him in.

St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office reported a 56-year-old woman last seen Saturday was found safe Sunday. The woman was reportedly despondent when her family last talked with her.

The body of a right whale calf washed up on the northern part of Anastasia State Park Saturday after reportedly being hit by a sport fisherman boat Friday evening. Five people were rescued from the boat Friday and told St. Augustine Fire Rescue they had struck a whale and began taking on water. A necropsy showed the calf had broken ribs and a broken skull. Cuts on the body indicated a boat strike, according to scientists. This is the second calf to die this year from a species that has less than 400 left.

Florida Department of Health in Putnam, Flagler and St. Johns counties all reported coronavirus related deaths over the weekend. Flagler’s death count went up to 83. Between Friday and Sunday 62 new coronavirus were reported in Flagler for a total of 5,637. Putnam County reported four new deaths including an 80-year-old man, a 100-year-old woman, a 90-year-old woman and an 89-year-old woman bringing the total to 113. Fifty new coronavirus cases were reported for a total of 5,714 since counting began in March. St. Johns County reported two coronavirus related deaths bringing their total to 182. In addition, 187 cases were reported for a total of 19,532.

Re-enactors from Historic Florida Militia were part of the wreath-laying birthday  ceremony Friday at the statue of Pedro Menendez de Aviles in front of St. Augustine City Hall. It would have been the founder of St. Augustine’s 502nd birthday. The statute itself is a replica of one in Avilés, given by “the People of Avilés, Spain to the People of St. Augustine, Fla. on Sept. 8, 1972.

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