Around the region


Published: Friday, February 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 1, 2008 at 6:34 a.m.

Old Town woman dies from crash injuries

An Old Town woman died Wednesday after she was injured in a fiery, two-vehicle crash in Gilchrist County last month, the Florida Highway Patrol reported.

Lynn Gaskins, 53, was pronounced dead at Haven Hospice in Lake City, according to troopers.

Six people, including Gaskins and her 1-year-old grandson, were initially taken to Shands at the University of Florida in serious condition after the wreck at County Road 232 and County Road 341. The crash occurred about four miles south of Bell on Dec. 29, shortly before 7 p.m.

Troopers reported Gaskins had been heading west on CR 232 and was approaching a stop sign at the intersection but didn't stop. A pickup traveling north on CR 341 hit the side of Gaskins' SUV, which went off the road and hit several trees.

The SUV burst into flames while rescuers were trying to remove Gaskins from the vehicle, according to troopers.

Initially, reports had described the injuries as not life-threatening, but it was later learned Gaskins had suffered severe head trauma in the crash, FHP reported.

Troopers will be conducting interviews with others involved in the wreck.

- Lise Fisher

Columbia teens accused of robbing 93-year-old

Two Columbia County teenagers are accused of robbing a 93-year-old man inside his home over the weekend, deputies reported.

The two 15-year-olds were taken to Alachua County, where they were being held at the juvenile detention center, the Columbia County Sheriff's Office reported Thursday.

The victim told officers he had been watching television Sunday night when two teenagers entered his Columbia County home, according to officers.

One of the suspects held a gun to the man's head and demanded cash while the other served as a lookout. The two took the man's wallet and a small amount of money.

The resident said the two teenagers had stopped at his house earlier that day and asked about a dog, according to the Sheriff's Office.

One suspect was arrested soon after the holdup. Another was located Tuesday.

- Lise Fisher

Intersection shut down for construction

Construction work shut down an intersection in northwest Alachua County indefinitely, the county reported this week.

The intersection at NW 156th Avenue and NW 102nd Terrace, northeast of the city of Alachua, will be closed for an undetermined length of time. Crews from the CSX Railroad Corporation will be working at the site to replace a railroad crossing.

Motorists should follow the posted detour routes.

- Sun staff report

Prescribed burning responsible for smoke

Motorists and residents in Columbia County may see more smoke over the Osceola National Forest as prescribed burning in the area continues.

About 2,000 acres were burned Tuesday, said Peter Myers, the forest's fire management officer. If rain stops this week and the land has a chance to dry out, workers expect to burn another 1,200 acres today and continue burning into the weekend.

Officials plan to burn about 17,000 acres in the forest between now and March, Myers said. But weather conditions will determine when the burns take place.

"We only burn with certain winds in certain places," he said, because of efforts to keep smoke away from Interstate 10 and Lake City.

- Lise Fisher

Free car show planned at Buchholz today

Future entrepreneurs are putting on a free car show at Buchholz High School this afternoon that is open to the public.

The show is a way for students in the Academy of Entrepreneurship to prepare for an upcoming marketing competition and put into practice what they have learned in the classroom. Students on the academy's Creative Marketing team have arranged for the show to begin at 3 p.m. on the Buchholz track. They convinced several local businesses - for example Interstate Batteries, Sound Depot and Performance, Town Tire and Gatorland Toyota, to set up booths on the field. The students also arranged for live entertainment to encourage their classmates to attend the event.

At the end of the car show, students who are members of DECA - an international association of marketing students - will prepare a 30-page report and 15-minute oral presentation on the project. Judges will evaluate the students' work in several areas, including their skills in communication, critical thinking, problem-solving and production.

- Karen Voyles

Science fair in need of volunteer judges

Alachua County schools are asking people to volunteer to serve as judges for next month's regional science fair.

More than 100 judges are needed for the Alachua Region Science Fair, which will be held Feb. 28. Officials are seeking individuals who have at least a bachelor's degree, the University of Florida reported. Graduate students and faculty are invited to judge.

Categories at the fair include behavioral and social science, biochemistry, botany, chemistry, computers, earth and space science, engineering, environmental science, mathematics, medicine and health, microbiology, physics, and zoology.

For more information, go to http://tlc.sbac.edu/scifair/.

- Sun staff report

Lender investigated over loan practices

TALLAHASSEE - Florida's attorney general is investigating Countrywide Financial Corp., a beleaguered California-based mortgage lender, for possible unfair and deceptive business practices related to its home loans.

The subpoena, dated Jan. 17, directs Countrywide to provide documents and other information describing procedures used to determine whether borrowers qualify for subprime loans, those for people with shaky credit.

The state also wants information on how Countrywide credited borrowers' payments any time after January 2005. It also asks for documents that track applications of borrowers' payments to bankruptcy debt and a description of fees charged to mortgage holders during the same period.

"We've had a number of complaints about Countrywide, as well as other mortgage companies in the subprime arena,'' Attorney General Bill McCollum told reporters Thursday. "(The complaints involve) how some of their business was conducted in terms of marketing and in terms of advertising.''

- The Associated Press

Man who killed officer won't be put to death

TALLAHASSEE - A young man who says he fatally shot a retired police officer because he thought the "A'' on the victim's cap meant he was the "Antichrist'' had his death sentence reduced Thursday by the Florida Supreme Court.

The justices unanimously ordered that Ryan Green, instead, be sentenced to life in prison without parole based on evidence he has suffered for years from schizophrenic disorders. A Pensacola jury had rejected his insanity plea in convicting Green of first-degree murder, but he appealed only his sentence.

- The Associated Press

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