Around the Region - Jan. 2


Published: Friday, January 2, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 1, 2009 at 11:54 p.m.

POLICE BEAT

Man being held in kidnapping case

A Gainesville man turned himself into authorities early Thursday in connection with an armed kidnapping at Kiwanis Park.

Robert Lee Stephens, 19, is accused of carjacking and two counts of kidnapping. He was being held Thursday at the Alachua County jail on a $300,000 bond.

He's accused of a Dec. 17 incident at the park. Police allege he helped kidnap two people, who were driven around Gainesville and told they would be killed.

The victims allegedly pointed out the home of an acquaintance, who was then robbed.

Earlier this week, police arrested Edward Carmel Wilson, 27, in the case.

He allegedly set up the robbery by telling Stephens that the victims bragged about having pounds of marijuana. A juvenile suspect was also arrested.

Nathan Crabbe

FIRE RESCUE

Fire destroys mobile home

A mobile home near Hawthorne was destroyed early Wednesday in a fire being blamed on an electrical malfunction.

Firefighters responded around 2:45 a.m. to the property at 9310 SE Holden Park Road. Resident William Wentzell had been awoken by a smoke detector to find his homes in flames, said Alachua County Fire Rescue spokeswoman Carol Davis.

Wentzell was unhurt and went to stay with friends, she said. The home was destroyed. The fire is believed to be connected to an electrical malfunction in the kitchen.

Hawthorne firefighters returned to the scene Thursday afternoon to put out parts of the fire that were still smoldering.

Nathan Crabbe

Wreath campaign ends with 4 fires

Gainesville Fire Rescue ended its "Keep the Wreath Green" campaign with four house fires that added red bulbs to the wreath.

The annual campaign was started Dec. 1 to promote fire safety during the holiday season, when there are typically more residential fires. Wreaths illuminated with green bulbs were placed at four fire stations. For every residential fire, a green bulb was replaced with a red bulb.

Four "red bulb" fires happened during the season: Dec. 13 at 500 SE 13th Terrace, Dec. 16 at 2520 NE 13th Ave., Dec. 28 in an alleyway behind 1000 SW 6th Ave. and Dec. 28 at 1512 NE 3rd Ave Apartment C.

The number increased from last year, when there was one red bulb. There were eight red bulbs in 2004, 10 red bulbs in 2005 and 11 red bulbs in 2006.

Nathan Crabbe

STATE

Blaze damages landmark hotel

ISLAMORADA A New Year's Eve fire has heavily damaged part of a landmark Florida Keys hotel but there were no reports of injuries.

The fire happened at the Cheeca Lodge & Spa in Islamorada. The hotel was popular with President George H.W. Bush, who visited on bonefishing trips.

Monroe County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Becky Herrin says a caller reported seeing flames burning through the roof of the main lodge building just before 10 p.m. Wednesday and that the fire was under control before midnight.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, but it apparently started in palm thatching that was attached to the main building.

The resort has nearly 200 guestrooms and was fully occupied. Some rooms during the winter start at around $269 a night. Damage to the hotel is still being assessed. Guests in the main building were relocated to other nearby hotels.

The Associated Press

Man dies after fireworks mishap

COOPER CITY Officials say a man has died after injuring himself with New Year's fireworks.

Officials say the accident happened just after midnight.

William Turner, 41, of Cooper City was setting off professional grade fireworks in his backyard when he was somehow injured in the thigh by one of the explosives. He was transported to a hospital but died of his injuries.

The Broward County Sheriff's Office says it is legal to purchase the fireworks, but they are meant to be operated only by professionals and that Turner did not appear to have training in their use.

Officials say no foul play is suspected, but an autopsy will be performed to determine Turner's cause of death.

The Associated Press

Man arrested in paper box incident

MELBOURNE Authorities have arrested a man who they say was trying to break open a metal newspaper dispenser to get the coins.

The Brevard County Sheriff's Office arrested Carlile Howard, 45, after a deputy observed him trying to break open a metal Florida Today newspaper dispenser.

Major Alan Moros of the Brevard County Sheriff's Office said Howard was trying to get the coins out of the box when he was confronted by a deputy. Howard then fled and jumped into a nearby river but later surrendered.

He faces charges of loitering and prowling and resisting an officer without violence. Moros said additional charges might be pending.

The Associated Press

Officials: Two die after car chase

MELBOURNE Authorities say two people died after their car crashed into a tree following a police pursuit along Florida's Atlantic coast.

Melbourne Police have not released the names of the vehicle's two occupants.

Police say that officers attempted to stop the vehicle late Tuesday night because it was not staying in one lane.

The officer started a pursuit when the driver didn't stop.

The driver was pronounced dead on the scene and the passenger was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead.

The Associated Press

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