Around the Region

Published: Friday, January 16, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 11:10 p.m.


Palatka man dies in fiery crash

A Palatka man died early Thursday in a fiery wreck after his pickup struck a tree and burst into flames, the Florida Highway Patrol reported.

John A. Durham, 25, was killed in the single-vehicle crash at 137 Buffalo Bluff Road, southwest of Palatka, according to troopers. The crash occurred at about 2:40 a.m.

Durham had been driving south on the road when he drove off the road’s right shoulder, troopers reported. The driver attempted to get back onto the road but overcorrected and lost control of the pickup, FHP said. The vehicle headed into a ditch before flying through the air and striking a tree, troopers said.

The pickup caught fire with Durham trapped inside, according to FHP.

— Lise Fisher

Live Oak woman’s car hits pole

A Live Oak woman was in serious condition Thursday morning after her car hit a power pole and then overturned, the Florida Highway Patrol reported.

Troopers said Donna Marie Cannington, 31, was headed east on U.S. 90 shortly before 6 a.m. when she realized her vehicle had crossed the road’s center line. Cannington overcorrected, according to officers, and the 2001 Saturn she was driving traveled onto the road’s westbound shoulder. The front of the car hit a power pole, overturned and landed on its left side.

Cannington, who had been wearing a seat belt, was taken to the Lake City Medical Center, FHP reported. She was cited for careless driving, according to officers.

Two other minor crashes occurred when vehicles hit debris from the wreck involving Cannington, troopers reported.

— Lise Fisher

Man recovering after stabbing

A man who sheriff’s deputies say was stabbed by his girlfriend this week was recovering but not cooperating with officers’ efforts to investigate the woman’s claims that she acted in self-defense, officers reported Thursday.

Officers arrested Sherry Shirue Curtis, 22, of Gainesville, on a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon after she turned herself in for the stabbing of her boyfriend, Travis Denard Grigger, 27, of Alachua.

Grigger was found in the parking lot of Majestic Oaks Apartments, 5800 SW 20th Ave., with multiple stab wounds Tuesday evening.

Curtis, who was released on a bond from the Alachua County jail Wednesday, told officers the stabbing was an act of self-defense, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Officers are investigating Curtis’ claims as well as a report of a domestic violence incident between the couple in Putnam County, said Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Steve Maynard.

Grigger was not cooperating with officers, Maynard said. Deputies at first couldn’t speak with Grigger because of his injuries. But Maynard said the man was conscious, alert and expected to survive his injuries.

— Lise Fisher

Teens arrested in bomb hoax

The Alachua Police Department arrested three teens on Wednesday and charged them with planting a hoax bomb, which is a felony.

The three 15-year-old Alachua boys are accused of putting a device resembling a bomb into a mailbox in their neighborhood on Dec. 27.

Police said the residential mailbox was likely a random selection and not targeted by the boys. A family member who had gone to the mailbox to check for mail spotted the device and called police.

Other agencies were called to assist in the investigation, including the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office bomb squad, which determined the device was a hoax.

Police said the three teens were turned over to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice following their arrests.

— Karen Voyles

Jury-duty scam aims to steal ID

Floridians are being warned about a jury-duty scam playing out over telephones in several states. Those who get caught up in the scam could have their identities stolen.

Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson’s office described the scam this way: “The scam typically involves a call from a person claiming to be a jury coordinator who informs the person being called that a warrant has been issued for his or her arrest as a result of the person’s failure to appear for jury duty. When the intended victim protests and reports that he or she never received a summons to report for jury duty, they are asked for a Social Security number, a date of birth and sometimes even a bank account number.”

“If you get such a call, hang up and avoid providing any personal or financial information over the phone,” Bronson said in a news release issued Thursday. “Court workers don’t call on the phone to inform you that you’ve missed a jury duty summons.”

Once the scammers have someone’s information, they can drain bank accounts and open up credit accounts.

Although there had not been any reports of the scam in Florida yet, state officials said it appears to be spreading from states including New York, Minnesota, Illinois, Colorado and Oklahoma.

— Karen Voyles


Driver damages I-75 overpass

A truck driver failed to lower a dump bed on his vehicle, damaging an Interstate 75 overpass in Columbia County when the truck drove under it Wednesday afternoon, the Florida Highway Patrol reported.

There were no reports of a road closure on southbound I-75 at the 439 mile marker at the Springville overpass. But a Florida Department of Transportation crew was notified that the overpass needed to be inspected and repaired, according to FHP.

A load of asphalt had been dumped at a construction area but the truck’s driver, Rufus Jefferson, 58, failed to lower the dump bed afterward, troopers said. The bed hit the overpass as Jefferson drove south on the interstate at about 3:40 p.m.

The truck’s driver was cited for careless driving, according to troopers.

— Lise Fisher

Checkpoints set in four counties

The Florida Highway Patrol will be holding driver’s license and vehicle inspection checkpoints next month in four North Florida counties.

Troopers will be holding checkpoints in Dixie, Gilchrist, Lafayette and Levy counties throughout the month of February, according to FHP.

Officers will focus on looking for vehicles operating with defects such as worn or unsafe tires, improper window tinting, cracked windshields, unsecured loads and defective lighting.

Troopers also will be checking for violations of driver’s license laws, motor vehicle registration laws, failure to use seat belts and improper motor vehicle insurance requirements.

Roads where the checkpoints will be held include:

Dixie: Chavous Road, County Road 55-A, State Road 349, CR 349, CR 351, CR 358, Willow Hole Road.

Gilchrist: SR 26, SR 49, SR 47, CR 138, SE 70th Avenue, CR 232, CR 340, CR 341.

Lafayette: SR 20, SR 51, SR 53, SR 349.

Levy: SR 24, SR 45, SR 49, SR 121, SR 500, CR 320, CR 339, CR 341, CR 345, CR 337, CR 335, CR 316, CR 464, CR 323, CR 326.

— Staff report


Family donates land for college

A well-known North Florida dairyman and his wife have donated land for a permanent Central Florida Community College Campus in Levy County.

Ron and Marcia St. John of Trenton donated 121 acres just north of Chiefland on U.S. 19 for the future campus.

In announcing the donation on Thursday, college officials said construction on the campus is expected to begin in 2011. Efforts are under way to raise $1.5 million in local contributions.

In statements released by the college, the St. Johns, who own Alliance Dairies north of Chiefland, explained why they chose to donate to Central Florida.

“We have a strong belief in the ability of education to broaden horizons,” said Ron St. John. “We are truly committed to education.”

Marcia St. John said, “The Levy and Gilchrist communities have been great to us and we hope to make a meaningful impact in the communities by supporting education in this way.”

— Karen Voyles


Fisherman: I did bomb dolphins

PANAMA CITY — A Florida Panhandle fishing boat captain has admitted to making pipe bombs and throwing them at dolphins to scare them away from his lines.

Fifty-year-old Garry Alvin Key of Panama City pleaded guilty to two federal changes Thursday in U.S. District Court. He could face up to 10 years in prison for possession of an explosive device by a convicted felon and one year for attempting to take a marine mammal.

Sentencing is set for March 25 in Panama City.

— The Associated Press

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