News

GMJ Exclusive: Gag Order Issued in Somer Thompson Murder Case

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. -- A judge has issued a gag order on Jarred Harrell's case. He's the man accused of killing Somer Thompson in Clay County in 2009.

After a couple denials, the protective order was granted on Dec. 14 and applies to just about everyone involved in the case, including prosecutors, defense lawyers, investigators and other people who may testify at trial.

In the order, Judge William Wilkes wrote, "Pretrial comments ... have been substantially adverse or hostile to the defendant."

The judge cited intense local, national and international media coverage of the case as one reason for the order.

"To protect ... the defendant's right to a fair and impartial trial in the county where the crimes were committed ... a protective order is necessary," the judge wrote.

Normally, evidence in a criminal trial becomes public record once it's turned over to defense lawyers. But in this case, that won't happen.

3-Year Road Project for Westside Underway

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Department of Transportation said a road project that is set to start Monday on the Westside will help alleviate heavy traffic jams in Orange Park.

A new interchange will be built at I-295 and Collins Road, and new frontage roads are also planned for that area.

The DOT released a statement saying the road work will start Monday.

An interchange will be built on a new four-lane overpass at I-295 and Collins Road.

The DOT believes changing traffic patterns will eventually stop massive traffic jams about a mile away at I-295 and Blanding Boulevard.

"Traffic is really bad during the afternoons," said Driver Chris Fraes. 

High-Speed Police Chase Ends With Car Wreck

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A high-speed police chase that stretched across all of the major Jacksonville interstates has now ended.

Police started chasing a black mustang in Baker County. Baker County Sheriff Joey Dobson said the driver is the suspect in a carjacking.

A woman was pumping gas at a service station in Baker County when a man pulled a weapon on her and took off with her car, Dobson said.

Florida Highway Partol Lt. Leeper said a trooper spotted the car around Normandy Boulevard on the Westside and tried to stop him. The driver took off and police became aware that the driver was armed. He eventually threw a weapon out the window, police said.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and Florida Highway Patrol quickly responded and chased the suspect on interstates 10, 295 and 95. The suspect got off at Philips Highway, where police said he wrecked.

Friday Apartment Fire Destroys Several Units in Orange Park

An early Friday morning apartment fire caused major damage to an Orange Park apartment complex. The fire displaced several families and damaged multiple units.

Fire Destroys Four Apartments in Orange Park

Fire Destroys Four Apartments in Orange Park

ORANGE PARK, Fla -- A fire at the St. Johns Pointe Apartment complex on Old Orange Park Road heavily damaged four apartments and left three families displaced.

Firefighters arrived at the scene and found the complex building in flames. The Orange Park Fire Department also called in extra help from nearby fire personnel from Jacksonville Fire and Rescue and additional units from  Clay County Fire Rescue.

Approximately 20 units and 50 firefighters responded. No one was injured in the incident.

The fire began around 9:30 a.m. and it took firefighters a little more than an hour to put out the blaze.

The cause of the fire is believed to be a grease fire on a stove unattended, said Lt. Kyle Williamson of OPFD. Two residents of the complex told First Coast News that a couple who lived in the apartment had gone to visit neighbors when the fire started.

Anonymous Tip Leads to Armed Robbery Arrest

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Police have made an arrest in connection with last week's armed robbery of a Westside convenience store.

Just before midnight Tuesday, Jan. 25, someone came out of the bathroom at the Kangaroo Express on McDuff Avenue near Roosevelt.

The man got money from the clerk and fled; police released the man's description and surveillance pictures as the search for him began.

Today, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office announced the arrest of 46-year-old Randall Dean Brownett.

Police said the arrest came from an anonymous tip.

Bath Salts Containing MDPV

Bath Salts Containing MDPV

Attorney General Pam Bondi passed an emergency measure on January 25, 2011, banning the sale or use of “bath salts” in the State of Florida. The new ruling labels MDPV a Schedule I controlled substance. This allows law enforcement to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate individuals who manufacture, distribute, sell or possess this dangerous drug. The emergency ruling is set to last for 90 days, during which Florida legislators will be working to pass a bill making the ban permanent.