The Voice of the Gem City

News February 2, 2022

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputies today are escorting home a colleague shot and killed in an apparent murder-suicide Saturday night in St. Johns County. Hillsborough Deputy Abigail Bieber is being escorted to her Clearwater home by the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Motor Unit as a way of honoring her life and service. Bieber was killed Saturday apparently by Det. Daniel Leyden who then killed himself. The two were heard arguing in a bedroom by fellow deputies on vacation with them at a Butler Beach vacation rental house. Bieber was described by Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister as “an outstanding law enforcement officer and by all accounts, an even better person who left a positive impact on every member of her squad and the countless members of our community who she encountered while on patrol.” 

A high-speed chase from Gainesville to Melrose late Monday led to the arrest of a Titusville man wanted for murder. Alachua County Sheriff’s deputies pursued Shikeem Jammall Mallett, 30, from Gainesville along State Road 26 into Melrose where Putnam County Sheriff’s deputies joined the pursuit. The vehicle turned onto Shiloh Road where Mallett and the car’s driver, Qiana Taylor, 35, reportedly smashed into a building while trying to make a turn. The two fled into the woods and deputies including SWAT teams from Putnam and Alachua County and Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officers followed. Mallett was found on the ground in a yard and Taylor was later found in the woods. The car was registered in her name and she said two men were in the car with her. She gave their names as Edward and Tony and said she fled Gainesville because she was scared and that she was told to keep driving during the chase. Mallett is being held without bail on charges of second degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a deadly weapon by a felon. Taylor was charged with fleeing and eluding and bail set at $2,500. No word on the third person supposedly in the vehicle.

Welaka holds a political forum tonight at 6 p.m. featuring the four candidates running for two seats on the Welaka Town Council. Incumbents Jessica Finch and Kathy Washington, former councilman Edward Johns and Alexa Peronard will speak at the outdoor pavilion of Shrimps ‘R Us. Retired Major Gen. John Maluda will serve as moderator for the public forum hosted by the Friends of Welaka group. The election is March 8.

Florida Highway Patrol has identified the driver killed early Tuesday morning in South Putnam County as a 36-year-old Pomona Park woman. Her pickup truck ran into a utility pole on County Road 309 north of Fort Gates Ferry Road around 12:30 a.m. She apparently lost control of her vehicle while negotiating a turn and went into a ditch. FHP says she was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the truck. 

Flagler County School District will seek a phased-in impact fee proposal that’s nearly half the original proposed increase for single-family homes. The decision ends a stalemate with the Flagler County Commission. Originally the Flagler School Board voted to up impact fees for school expansion from $3,600 on single family homes to $7,175. That brought push back including from the Flagler Home Builders Association. Now proposed an initial impact fee of $5,450. It’s the first time in 17 years the impact fee has increased and comes as Flagler is seeing a building increase including more school-aged children.

River City Players opens their latest production — the comedy Skin Deep — tonight at the Scarlett-Hill Theatre at the Larimer Arts Center in Palatka. This is the Champagne Opening Night reception with curtain going up at 7 p.m. The play also runs Thursday-Sunday this week and Thursday through Sunday of next. Tickets are available online  at or 386-337-8852. 

Florahome Park & Heritage Association is in the final phase of their Historic Club House Restoration Project. They have a push on to raise the $20,000 needed to compete the interior of the building on State Road 100 in the small Putnam County community. For two years the group has been working on the project, seeking to have the building ready for its 100th anniversary. You can make a donation to Florahome Park and Heritage Association, P.O. Box 114, Florahome 32140 or make a PayPal donation at the email address

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