The Voice of the Gem City

local news

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Easter celebrations over the weekend in the tri-county area had some churches reopening for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began a year ago. Masks were in place at most churches and some were being worn at Easter Egg hunts around the area. Most of the hunts weren’t advertised as churches and individuals worked to find ways to keep numbers down and children safe. A sunrise service was held at Crescent Beach Easter Sunday and was well attended. In Palatka people individually gathered along the riverfront, where an Easter service traditionally is held. No service this year, but people watched the sunrise and prayed, taking one more step to a return to normal.

Today vaccinations open up to more people in the state with all Floridians age 16 and up eligible to get coronavirus shots. Gov. Ron DeSantis and state officials have given the approval to drop Florida’s age requirement still further. Those under 18 must go to a site offering the Pfizer vaccine since Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines currently are only authorized for people 18 and up. The state is also requiring 16-and 17-year-olds be accompanied by a parent or guardian to sign a consent form.

Florida Department of Health in St. Johns County reported one new coronavirus-related death over the weekend, bringing the death total to 203 since counting began last March. In addition 122 new cases were reported between April first and third, bringing the total to 21,337 in St. Johns. Flagler County reported 65 new cases in the three-day period for a total of 6,763 cases. Putnam County reported 22 new cases for a total of 6,070. In addition, 13 cases were transferred out of Putnam.

Flagler County Sheriff’s Office had a busy week including one arrest for murder through their new Cold Case Department. Kim Zaheer, 63, is in Flagler jail on a half-million dollar bond for murder of an elderly disabled adult, her mother. Deputies and paramedics were called to a residence on Dec. 5, 2018, after Zaheer reported her mother not breathing. Frances King, 85, was dead when authorities arrived. They found her extremely malnourished and she appeared not to have eaten in a long time. Living conditions in her bedroom were described as “extremely bad” and the odor of feces and urine was described as unbearable. An autopsy determined cause of death linked to conditions due to “elder abuse, neglect and starvation,” and ruled a homicide. Obtaining medical and legal records establishing the victim had a diminished mental capacity and Zaheer was the legally responsible party for her care delayed any progress. Det. Andrew Cangialosi, the newly-appointed Cold Case detective, was assigned the case in March 2020 and eventually located the needed documentation. It was determined the last time King visited her primary care doctor was in November 2017. Zaheer was arrested March 31.

Flagler County Sheriff’s Office deputies Saturday arrested a Flagler County man who had been working in Connecticut for allegedly attempting to murder his estranged longtime girlfriend. The victim called Flagler’s 9-1-1 line about multiple threatening text messages she was getting from Aaron Thayer, 39, and said he had installed security cameras on the property to keep tabs on her. Deputies responded and while there the woman continued getting threatening messages. When she answered a call from Thayer at the deputies’ request he told her he was headed to the house to kill her and asked who was there. Detectives were able to get a warrant for Thayer’s arrest for sending written threats to kill and began working to locate him. Just after 3 p.m. the woman, who had refused to leave her home, again called 9-1-1, this time to tell them Thayer was trying to break in using a tire iron. He got in before deputies arrived, took a gun found in the house and began chasing the victim threatening to kill her. When deputies arrived the victim fled the house with Thayer chasing her. Deputies attempted to arrest him and eventually used a taser to control Thayer. Another loaded gun and folding knife were found in the waistband of his jeans. He faces a variety of charges and is in the Flagler County jail without bond.

Wildlife officials are reporting a bumper crop of North Atlantic right whales born this season off the coast between Florida and North Carolina. Seventeen newborns have been spotted by survey teams although one calf was killed after being struck by a pleasure boat off St. Johns County. The endangered species has dwindled to about 360 total. This year’s overall calf count equals the total for the past three years. Right whales live in waters off the northern coast of the United States and Canada but each winter come south, using the warmer waters as a birthing area and nursery. The calving season usually concludes at the end of March but spotters in planes will continue to check through April 15.

Want to help get litter under control? Keep Putnam Beautiful is holding a clean-up of St. Joseph Cemetery off Crill Avenue in Palatka Tuesday beginning at 9 a.m. The cemetery is basically abandoned and volunteers have maintained it for a number of years.

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