Around the Region


Published: Saturday, January 10, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 9, 2009 at 11:51 p.m.

POLICE BEAT

Crash on U.S. 19 kills Dixie man

A Dixie County man died Friday at the scene of an early-morning crash on U.S. 19 in which his pickup slammed into the back of a semi.

Thomas C. Valentine, 24, of Cross City was driving a 2001 Chevrolet pickup when the fatal crash happened at 5:39 a.m. at the intersection of NE 238th Street and U.S. 19, the Florida Highway Patrol reported.

The driver of a 1992 semi tractor-trailer involved in the wreck, Napoleon Walker, 62, of Palatka, was not injured. FHP reported that neither driver was wearing a seat belt.

According to FHP Trooper G.D. Potter, Valentine was headed south on U.S. 19 in the left lane and apparently failed to notice the semi was ahead of him and that it was in the process of turning left.

Potter said the left front and left side of Valentine's pickup hit the right rear of the semi-trailer. Valentine's truck went into a spin before overturning several times, ejecting Valentine.

Valentine's truck came to a stop on the east shoulder of the highway and his body was found on the right side of the northbound lanes.

Valentine was pronounced dead at the scene by a Dixie County Emergency Medical Services employee. No charges were filed.

Karen Voyles

Report: Two men attacked woman

A woman smoking a cigarette in a park early Friday morning was reportedly attacked by two males who may have been drunk.

Alachua County sheriff's deputies said the incident happened at 3:10 a.m. in a park adjacent to the woman's home at Harbor Cove Apartments off Tower Road, at 6815 W. University Ave.

The woman told deputies that she was seated on a bench when two males who appeared to be juveniles came up from behind her and grabbed her. The woman said she struggled to break free, but was punched in the face and knocked to the ground. One suspect reportedly took her pack of cigarettes while another searched the pockets of her sweatpants, which were cut or torn in the attack, deputies said.

According to the woman, both smelled strongly of alcohol. She said the pair ran off after she scratched one on the face. An ambulance crew was called to the scene, but the woman refused treatment for her scratches and other injuries.

Karen Voyles

Shooting near day care probed

A warrant was issued Friday for a suspect in a shooting outside a Holly Heights day care center.

Alachua County sheriff's deputies were searching for a 17-year-old male known on the street as Pooh. Lt. Steve Maynard said the teen is wanted on charges of attempted murder, child endangerment and possession of a firearm by a juvenile for an incident at 11:40 a.m. Thursday.

"The juvenile was trying to buy cigarettes from a bootleg location," Maynard said. When the man running the operation refused to sell to the teen, he allegedly grabbed some from the seller, Maynard said.

Maynard said the seller asked for the cigarettes back, the teen returned one and then the seller slapped the remaining cigarettes out of the teen's hand and stomped on them so that they were unusable.

"That's when the juvenile became enraged," Maynard said "He pulled out a semi-automatic pistol and shot one time toward the victim and this all happened across the street from a day care center that was open with children inside."

The neighborhood is located just west of I-75 and east of Tower Road.

The teen missed the seller and reportedly picked up the shell casing before running off.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact the Sheriff's Office at 955-1818.

Karen Voyles

Worker falls down shaft at Shands

A construction worker fell at least 40 feet down a shaft and severely injured his leg at Shands at the University of Florida on Friday morning.

By Friday afternoon, investigators were trying to determine how and why the accident happened.

The man, whose name was not immediately available, had a severe compound open fracture to his leg, according to Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Carol Davis.

The incident happened at 11:15 a.m. north of the Shands emergency room, where the man was working in a fresh-air return system shaft for the new trauma center.

"This man was already working down about 15 feet into the shaft when he fell another 40 feet," Davis said. "The technical rescue team from Gainesville Fire Rescue had to bring him up in two stages because he had fallen down so far, and then the (Shands) trauma team was alerted, so once they got him out, they walked him over to the emergency room entrance, because it was right there."

Karen Voyles

COMMUNITY

License plate sales aid students

Elementary school students in Micanopy and Archer are among the thousands who will benefit from sales of the state license plates known as Ag Tags.

About $29,000 from sales of the specialty license plates has been designated for use as teacher grants to promote lessons in agriculture. The Gainesville-based Florida Agriculture in the Classroom Inc. has selected 36 teachers to receive the grants for the current school year.

Organization officials said the money will help 7,200 students around the state "learn about using sugarcane by-products as an alternative fuel, agriculture water use and growing Florida vegetables."

Cara Martin, chair of Florida Agriculture in the Classroom and assistant director of government and community affairs for Florida Farm Bureau, said, "These teacher grant projects will reach a broad range of grade levels from prekindergarten to 12th grade and disciplines with agriculture-related lessons in language arts, math, science and social studies."

The teacher grant projects being funded this year include:

Croppin' Kindergartners: Kindergartners at Micanopy Area Cooperative School in Alachua County will learn about vegetable farming in Florida by planting raised bed and Earth Box gardens.

Discovering Florida: Our Land, Our Food, Our People 2008-09: First- through fifth-grade students at Archer Community School will learn about turn-of-the-century farming in Florida and man's dependence on natural resources to grow crops.

A complete list of the grants can be found at www.gainesville.com

Karen Voyles

STATE

Two women assaulted at FAU

BOCA RATON Authorities are searching for a man who assaulted two women on Florida Atlantic University's campus in Boca Raton.

FAU Police Chief Charles Lowe said the two women told police Thursday that the man grabbed them inappropriately.

Lowe also said that when authorities reviewed surveillance footage, they saw the man harass other women.

The Associated Press

Teen runaway found dead in lot

ST. PETERSBURG Authorities say a 15-year-old girl who ran away from home has been found dead.

Malayshia Kierra Gamble was discovered Friday morning in a vacant lot in St. Petersburg.

Police say she was fully clothed and had a gunshot wound to her upper body. No arrests have been made.

St. Petersburg police say Gamble's mother called them last month to report that her daughter had run away from home.

A spokesman for the department said no foul play was suspected in her disappearance.

The Associated Press

Ex-boyfriend charged in slaying

TAMPA Authorities say the ex-boyfriend of a Tampa mother who called 911 from a car trunk before she was found dead has been charged with her murder and abduction.

Tampa police say Vincent George Brown faces first-degree murder and kidnapping charges in the death of Jennifer Johnson.

The two were seen arguing outside a club shortly before she went missing.

Johnson's family reported her missing in November.

The 31-year-old mother had planned to throw her 2-year-old daughter a birthday party but never showed up.

Her body was found three days later in a vacant home.

Police quickly named Brown as a person of interest.

The 39-year-old turned himself in to police and was charged with violating his probation. Authorities said he had been uncooperative with their investigation.

The Associated Press

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