The Voice of the Gem City

LOCAL NEWS 8/11/2021

A St. Johns County grand jury has returned murder indictments in two cases. 
In one a mother is charged with first-degree murder and first-degree felony arson in the death of her 11-year-old son Michelle Taylor, 38, is accused of burning down her Lee Street house in 2018 in order to get insurance. Taylor and her two children, an 18-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son, were at home when the fire began and got out. However, David Taylor went back in the house reportedly to save the family dog. He died from smoke inhalation and severe burns. Michelle Taylor collected more than $90,000 from her insurance company. According to the Fire Marshal’s report several areas in the house tested positive for gasoline. In 2013 Michelle Taylor’s 10-year-old daughter died in an accidental drowning, according to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office. Natalie Taylor had cerebral palsy and drowned after being left unattended in a bathtub. Her 12-year-old sister was babysitting her and the mother was at work.
In the other case, a 20-year-old St. Augustine man is charged with first-degree murder with a firearm in the death of a 30-year-old pregnant St. Augustine woman. Evins Harris allegedly shot Shaina Armstrong, a mother of two, on June 16 as she and her fiancé drove off from a convenience store near the intersection of Christopher and Herbert streets after buying lottery tickets. Armstrong later died at Flagler Hospital. Harris also faces a charge of attempted first-degree murder in the same shooting. Some family members have said the fiancé was the intended target. According to the Sheriff’s Office, Harris claimed to be at home during the shooting but the GPS on his cellphone showed he was in the area of the shooting.
After more than 130 years the Town of Interlachen in West Putnam County has a new town seal. Ted Burke won the design contest that drew 11 entries. Initially he and area artist Esme Coward drew an equal number of votes from the council for their designs and a second vote was required. Council members had said a new design was needed from the town’s original which was adopted in 1887, just before the town was incorporated a month later in January 1888. Both the old seal and the new seal included salutes to the town’s agricultural beginnings. The new one also includes the name of Interlachen Medal of Honor recipient Robert H. Jenkins Jr. Not appearing in the new seal is the alligator on the original seal. 
Flagler County schools opened Tuesday with just under 13,000 students expected. That’s the first district in the three-county area to open with Putnam and St. Johns County schools opening next week. Masks remain a major issue. Gov. Ron DeSantis isn’t allowing school districts to mandate wearing masks but is saying parents can and should make the decision. District superintendents now are generally suggesting voluntary masking. St. Johns County School Board waded through a seven-hour session Tuesday with individuals on both sides stating their opinions. Few people social distanced at the board meeting where no action was taken.
In Florida with nearly 22 million people, 15,000 people with coronavirus are reported in hospitals statewide. On Tuesday 36 people died statewide from coronavirus, according to health officials. Vaccination efforts are increasing. hospitalized and 36 died on Tuesday, according to officials. St. Augustine has announced they’ll hold a soft opening Friday for a coronavirus testing location at the Visitor Information Center on South Castillo Drive. St. Johns County is moving forward with their plan to provide a free COVID-19 testing site at the St. Johns County Agricultural Center, located off Interstate 95 near the outlet malls. That will be open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. in cooperation with Nomi Health. Flagler County is reporting an increase in vaccination rates with nearly 1,400 shots given last week. That’s compared to about 400 a month ago. In Putnam County testing is available at the Teacher Center on Husson Avenue and vaccination is at the Department of Health on Kennedy Street. In Welaka today until 6 p.m. free vaccinations are available at the Welaka Community Center.
If you want the facts on the Delta variant of Covid-19, tune into WPLK or WIYD on Thursday and the Express Medical Matters program. Experts will be talking about the Delta variant on the program airing at 12:30 p.m. Thursday and on Sunday at 7 a.m. 
A nationwide emergency alert system test is set for today beginning at 2:20 a.m. by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Communications Commission. Not only will the test be on radio and television but a Wireless Emergency Alert will appear on cellphones.

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