The Voice of the Gem City

News May 24, 2022

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

A new Bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine has been appointed by Pope Francis today. Arkansas priest Father Erik Pohlmeier, 50, will be the 11th bishop of the diocese, replacing Bishop Felipe Estevez, who has served as bishop since 2011.  The announcement was made this morning at the Catholic Center on Old St. Augustine Road in Jacksonville. Pohlmeier’s consecration and installation as bishop will take place on July 22. “I am grateful for every way I have been called to serve the Church and am humbled by this opportunity to serve in the place where Mass was first celebrated in the United States. May God be praised for any good work I am able to do,” Pohlmeier said in a statement released today. Estevez, who has been a popular choice in the diocese, was born in Cuba and came to Florida as a teenager on an Operation Pedro Pan flight. He submitted his letter of resignation on his 75th birthday in February. Mandatory retirement age for Catholic bishops is 75.

Joe Pickens, president of St. Johns River State College, had an unexpected visitor on his front door stoop Monday — an 8-foot plus alligator. A nuisance gator trapper was sent to pick up the reptile after Pickens reported his discovery to Sheriff Gator DeLoach. The Pickens live on the St. Johns River in the Satsuma area and say this is the first gator they’ve had come calling although they often see them in the water.

Budget workshops are underway in St. Johns County. County government officials began meeting Monday in a workshop session that continues today and Wednesday. The workshops are open to the public and being held at the St. Johns County Agricultural Center at 3125 Agricultural Center Drive off Interstate 95.

Putnam County K-9 Deputy Halo was guest of honor Monday at a retirement ceremony including cake and Halo’s favorite — German Shepherd shaped cookies. Halo who has been with the department five years, has worked with a variety of deputies but he ended up going home with Lt. Jared Guy. Guy has worked on shift with Halo for years. Halo’s latest partner Kagen Butts has been promoted to a sergeant and with new responsibilities would have to leave the K-9 along for long periods. Halo has worked on arrests and as a tracker.

A procession including law enforcement and military and led by the Freedom Riders brought the body of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Seth Plant to St. Augustine Monday. The 30-year-old paratrooper who served in Afghanistan died two weeks ago in an Alaskan training area when he was attacked by a brown bear apparently protecting her cubs. His parents and two sisters flew in on the plane with his body that landed at Jacksonville International Airport and then began the journey through Starke, where he lived until he was 10 to St. Augustine where he grew up. His body was taken to St. Johns Family Funeral Home. Services will be Saturday at Anastasia Baptist Church.

Graduations are getting underway for the Class of 2022. First ceremony in the tri-county area is in St. Johns County tonight at St. Augustine Amphitheatre as Pedro Menendez High School hands out diplomas. The ceremony is at 7 p.m. On Wednesday St. Johns Virtual School holds ceremony at St. Augustine High School auditorium at 5 p.m. St. Augustine High School graduates Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Amphitheatre.

Words to live by — If you’re thinking of stealing, don’t try to get a refund.  Flagler County Sheriff’s Office Real Time Crime Center helped catch two men who allegedly stole four Apple watches from a Palm Coast T-Mobile store. The two — John Harkless, 33, and Tavaris Kelly, 37, —  then tried to return them presumably for a refund to a Daytona Beach Walmart. A clerk at T-Mobile notified deputies the two men, wearing construction uniforms, stole the watches, driving off in a U-Haul van. As Flagler deputies investigated Friday, word came in another T-Mobile store in Jacksonville had a similar incident Thursday. Using RTCC technology, deputies tracked the van south on I-95 but an attempt to stop the vehicle was unsuccessful. Daytona Beach Police later found the van abandoned at an apartment complex. Later that night the two suspects were arrested by Daytona Beach Police after they attempted to return the watches. The two, both from Jacksonville and both with arrest records, face a variety of charges in the latest incident. Harmless was wanted on two active warrants, one for armed robbery with a firearm or deadly weapon and the other for robbery. Bond is at $1 million. 

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