Around the region

Published: Tuesday, January 8, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 8, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.

Officials believe two robberies connected

Clay County detectives are investigating two armed robberies that occurred in Keystone Heights on Friday that they believe are connected.

The first occurred about 7:30 p.m. at the Capital City Bank, 500 Green Way, according to the Clay County Sheriff's Office. A man told police he was trying to deposit his paycheck into the ATM when a man holding a red scarf across his face approached him, pointed a gun at him and stole his paycheck, wallet and car keys.

In the second robbery, a clerk at Alfies Liquor, 153 E. Walker Drive, told police a man entered the store about 9:15 p.m., pointed a handgun at her and stole $160 from the register.

In both cases, the victims described the robber as being a white male standing around 5 feet 8 inches tall, and both victims said the robber's voice sounded young, perhaps age 20 to 30. However, the clothing descriptions in each case are different, the Sheriff's Office reported.

- Alice Wallace

Names, conditions of 2 in crash released

Two people were hospitalized after a car struck the motorcycle they were riding Sunday night, Gainesville Police reported.

Kevin Creegan, 55, and Heidi Schultz, 33, both of Gainesville, were taken to Shands at the University of Florida following the crash on Waldo Road, just past the E. University Avenue intersection at about 7:40 p.m., according to police.

Creegan was in critical condition and Schultz was stable, the hospital reported early Monday.

The motorcycle was headed north on Waldo Road when a southbound Toyota Corolla veered into the northbound lane, hitting the motorcycle, officers reported.

The motorcycle and both of its riders then struck a sport utility vehicle, which was traveling north.

Neither rider was wearing a helmet, police reported.

The Corolla's driver was listed as Kristen Brooks, 23, of Gainesville, police reported. Brooks was not injured and the SUV driver was not injured, according to initial police reports.

The crash remained under investigation Monday, said Lt. David Rowe.

- Sun staff report

Controlled burns, fog could be dangerous

Residual smoke from controlled burns, coupled with a forecast for fog, could make driving conditions hazardous this morning, according to Ludie Ehlers with the Florida Division of Forestry.

Ehlers said several controlled burns in and around Alachua County on Monday could make for smoky conditions this morning, especially in the High Springs area where a 16-acre burn near County Road 340 and NW 282nd Drive was still smoldering late Monday.

Megan Crandall with Alachua County Fire Rescue said a 17-acre burn near the intersection of County Roads 236 and 241 in Alachua also could make driving conditions dangerous.

Dense fog is also forecast this morning by the National Weather Service.

"People just need to pay attention and use caution," Ehlers said.

- Alice Wallace

Area in Marion County under rabies alert

A dog's encounter with a rabid raccoon has resulted in a rabies alert in the Citra area of Marion County.

A spokesman for the Marion County Health Department said a dog got into a fight with a raccoon and killed it. The raccoon was found to have rabies. The dog, which was up to date on all its shots, has been quarantined for 45 days.

Pet owners are advised to be sure their dogs, cats or ferrets have a current rabies vaccination. Any dogs or cats found roaming at large will be picked up and taken to the animal shelter.

The rabies alert area is a circle about five miles across, with North Marion High School at its center. It includes parts of U.S. 441, U.S. 301, County Road 329 and N. Magnolia Avenue.

- Diane Chun

Fire chief asked to resign for e-mails

UMATILLA - The chief of a small Central Florida volunteer fire department was asked to resign after he e-mailed pictures that showed the exposed breast of a 26-year-old car crash victim, officials said Monday.

Umatilla Fire Chief Richard Shirk told city officials he e-mailed images of the crash and the woman, who later died, for training purposes. Shirk told officials he did not notice the woman was partially nude in at least one of the photos.

City Manager Glenn Irby said Shirk initially sent the e-mail to representatives of three nearby fire departments and it was forwarded to other people.

Irby said Monday that Shirk was being offered three-months' pay in exchange for his resignation. He said he expected Shirk to accept the terms.

He was suspended in late November after a paramedic who responded to the crash received the e-mail from an auaintance and complained.

Umatilla is located about 40 miles northwest of Orlando and has about 2,600 residents.

- The Associated Press

Two die after crashing car into school bus

BARTOW - Authorities say two people died in a school bus accident in Polk County, but no students were injured.

A sheriff's office report says a car with five people inside veered into the path of a school bus Monday morning. There were eleven students on the bus at the time. None of the students, nor the bus driver, was injured.

Authorities say 49-year-old Maria Ramos-Lopez and 22-year-old Marcos Adrian-Diaz died at the scene. They were inside the car at the time of the accident. Three others in the car were taken to the hospital. One remains in critical condition.

The students were taken to Roosevelt High School in Lake Wales on another bus.

Charges have not been filed.

- The Associated Press

Officials report 317 manatee deaths for '07

TALLAHASSEE - State wildlife officials say 317 manatees died in Florida last year, a drop from the year before.

In 2006, there were 417 deaths. The five-year average is 355. The new numbers were in a preliminary report released Monday by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Watercraft strikes account for 73 deaths and red tide accounts for 52. The concentration of those deaths was particularly high in southwest Florida.

A recent report from the state and the United States Geological Survey identifies watercraft-related injuries as the most significant long-term threat to manatees.

- The Associated Press

Doctors deliver baby from woman in coma

BELLE GLADE - A 19-year-old woman in a coma because she was shot in the head has given birth in Palm Beach County.

Ronkeysha Thomas was eight months pregnant when she was shot Saturday night. Family members say doctors performed an emergency Caesarean section Sunday to deliver the baby boy.

Authorities say Thomas was out with friends in Belle Glade when the group heard popping noises.

Investigators are still seeking suspects.

- The Associated Press

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