This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.
Two traffic deaths in Putnam County were reported over the weekend.
In Putnam law enforcement is looking for the driver of a vehicle that struck and killed a 24-year-old man early Sunday morning. Florida Highway Patrol reports the accident happened around 3 a.m. on Paradise Lakes Avenue near Palm Way in south Putnam. According to troopers a vehicle headed south on Paradise Lakes Avenue fatally struck the pedestrian, who was in the southbound travel lane. The vehicle left after the crash, troopers reported.
Florida Highway Patrol is investigating a Sunday evening crash that killed a 19-year-old man near the intersection of Hunter Road and Radcliff Road west of Palatka. Early crash report indicated the 19-year-old was driving east on Hunter Road with a male passenger, 22, when for some reason the vehicle left the roadway and overturned shortly after 6 p.m. The 19-year-old died at the scene, the passenger only had minor injuries, said FHP.
Good week not to be a teacher in St. Johns and Putnam counties – it’s the last week of school. St. Johns County finished with graduations over the weekend with TIAA Bank stadium the site of three graduations. Putnam County begins a week of graduations Tuesday with E.H. Miller School holding ceremonies at 10 a.m. in their courtyard. This is typically one of the happiest graduations as students who have been at the special needs school and their families celebrate. It will be the last ceremony at the Horseman’s Club Road location. E.H. Miller is set to move to the site of Mellon Elementary School off St. Johns Avenue as part of a massive reorganization. The property is expected to be sold for housing development. The county’s four high schools have graduation exercises throughout the rest of the week.
The mother of a 14-year-old St. Johns County youth facing first-degree murder charges was arrested over the weekend for tampering with evidence. Crystal Lane Smith, 45, was booked into county jail shortly before noon Saturday on the tampering charge, which is a third-degree felony in Florida. She was out on $25,000 bond by 1:40. Smith is the mother of Aiden Fucci, charged in the stabbing death of Tristyn Bailey, 13, in May. Fucci pled not guilty. Home surveillance video showed Smith washing Fucci’s blue jeans on May 9, after Fucci was picked up by investigators. The jeans later tested positive for blood. A press release from State Attorney R.J. Larizza stated: “Tampering with evidence is tampering with justice and cannot be excused or tolerated.”
A corrections officer in Flagler County is recovering after being attacked and beaten Friday by two inmates after he attempted to search the Koran one was taking to a meeting. Alleged assailants are Marion Gavins, 20, who is facing a first-degree murder charge in the shooting death of Curtis Gray in April 2019 in Palm Coast, and Carlos Dupree, 34, arrested last December while on federal probation for a number of charges including home invasion robbery. The corrections officer, who was not identified, was taken to the hospital and then released home. The two accused men had religious items with them and when the officer sought to check the Koran, Dupree pushed him away and then the two men allegedly beat the corrections deputy striking him at least 25 times. The attack was caught on video. The deputy lost consciousness and then recovering attempted unsuccessfully to use his radio. Another corrections officer heard noise and came to his rescue. Sheriff Rick Staly said books are often hollowed out and used to carry contraband. Searches are common, he said, and the fact that the Koran is considered a religious item does not change procedure.
Putnam County Commission meets Tuesday at 9 a.m. at county offices on Crill Avenue. Several public hearings regarding property are scheduled including a hearing on a zoning map amendment on SAFE Pet Rescue Inc. property from commercial retail to commercial general.
Palatka Coffee Co. is doing their part to help the Ten-24 Foundation in Putnam County selling Thin Blue Line coffee tees and donating profits to Ten-24, a foundation set up to support local law enforcement. In the past year the foundation has provided support to agency members who experienced a house fire, for a child needing surgery and for two deputies seriously injured in a car crash. Owner Aashton Hodges and his servers donated almost $1,000 last week. Sheriff Gator DeLoach, who is Ten-24 board president, stopped by to say thanks and get a look at the company’s new Espresso shot. It’s called the Gator Bite.