Around the Region - Jan. 6

Published: Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 11:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 11:23 p.m.


Alleged thief: I was testing security

A man told Gainesville police he had been stealing DVDs from the downtown public library recently to show library staff flaws in their security system.

Richard Earl Wilson, 34, of 714 SW 69th St., was charged with grand theft when he was arrested around 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Patrons in the DVD section of the library at 401 E. University Ave. said they notified police that Wilson had been acting suspiciously.

When officers arrived and tried to talk to Wilson, they said he handed off a bag to an unwilling accomplice.

Inside the bag, police found 35 DVDs with the security devices removed.

Library officials said the devices are designed to sound an alarm when someone walks out of the library without checking out an item.

Officials also said more than $1,000 worth of DVDs have disappeared from the library's collection over the past few weeks.

Police spokeswoman Cpl. Tscharna Senn said that while Wilson was being questioned about the bagged DVDs he claimed he was not taking the items, only demonstrating weaknesses in the library's security.

— Karen Voyles

Man pistol-whipped over his comments

A session of trash talking between two small groups of young men ended with one being pistol-whipped and another arrested, Gainesville police said.

Police said the incident happened in the 300 block of Northwest 18th Street around 2:30 a.m. Thursday.

One group of three or four men in their late teens or early 20s was apparently making derogatory statements about the girlfriend of one of the men in the other group of three or four, police said.

Officials said one of the men pulled out a firearm and then hit a member of the other group on the head with it, leaving a large knot on the man's head.

Investigators questioned some of those involved and came up with the name of the man believed to have hit the man over the head with his gun.

Evan Ferderber, 21, was arrested on charges of aggravated battery and aggravated assault, according to the Alachua County jail.

— Karen Voyles

Man convicted of raping drunk woman

A Gainesville man was convicted Wednesday of sexual battery on a physically helpless person.

An Alachua County jury spent two hours deliberating before finding Christopher Sean Burkhart, 26, of 2800 SW 35th Place, guilty of sexually battering a woman who said he forced himself on her after she had too much to drink.

The victim was a 21-year-old woman.

She told Alachua County deputies that she was incapacitated because of the amount of alcohol she had consumed.

She said that she and Burkhart had attended the same party.

He is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 14.

Burkhart was taken to the Alachua County jail following the trial.

— Karen Voyles

Abandoned home destroyed by fire

An apparently abandoned home in southwest Gainesville was destroyed by a fire early Thursday morning.

Fire officials credited the rain overnight and late yesterday for keeping the blaze from spreading to other homes in the area.

Gainesville Fire Rescue District Chief Pat Lewis said the fire was reported around 5:45 a.m. in a wood-frame home near the intersection of Southwest 24th Avenue and 38th Terrace.

Eleven firefighters from Gainesville and Alachua County were dispatched to the scene.

Pre-dawn traffic was routed around the area.

"It was fully involved when we got there," Lewis said.

"There was lots of vegetation and trees around this house but fortunately it had rained and that kept it from moving onto other, nearby property," he said.

Officials said the house appeared abandoned but was searched by firefighters to make certain no homeless individuals were inside.

No one was found inside, Lewis said.

He also said the house was a total loss, with only a few floor joists remaining of the approximately 1,250-square-foot home.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known.

— Karen Voyles

2 women charged in theft from JCPenney

A woman from Dixie County and another from Gilchrist County were arrested Wednesday evening on suspicion of working together to steal more than $1,000 worth of merchandise from an Oaks Mall store.

Jessica Kathleen Bellot, 24, of 39 NE 243rd Ave. in Cross City, and Sherry Lynn Hayes-Luzader, of 9059 Florida St. in Fanning Springs, were each charged with one count of grand theft when they were arrested by Alachua County deputies.

Loss prevention employees at the JCPenney store in the mall, located at 6481 W. Newberry Road, told deputies the two women entered the store without shopping bags.

They later walked out with bags filled with items including silverware, drapes and cookware.

Store officials said the retail value of the items found in the bags being carried by Bellot totalled $630.

The items found in Hayes-Luzader's bags totaled $655, according to store officials.

Deputy Kelly Gaudet said both women admitted to the thefts following their arrests.

Bellot and Hayes-Luzader were both booked into the Alachua County jail.

— Karen Voyles


Winning Fantasy 5 ticket bought in town

Four winners of the "Fantasy 5" game will collect $61,299.24 each — and one of the winners bought the ticket in Gainesville, the Florida Lottery said Thursday.

One of the winning tickets was bought at the Sunrise Food Mart at 6550 SW Archer Road in Gainesville.

The others were purchased in Pensacola, West Palm Beach and Lehigh Acres, lottery officials reported.

The 483 tickets matching four numbers won $81.50 each.

Another 13,548 tickets matching three numbers won $8 each, and 114,730 tickets won a Quick Pick ticket for picking two numbers.

The numbers drawn Wednesday night were 1-2-5-17-20.

— The Associated Press

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