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Latest from Stephanie Brown

    A Jacksonville man has been arrested for armed robbery in connection to a hold up at a Mandarin bank Monday. Police responded to the Suntrust Bank on San Jose Blvd. Monday after a suspect walked in, slipped the teller a note demanding money, and fled with cash. JSO says the suspect went to a 'blue crossover style” vehicle parked nearby and then drove off.  This incident has been classified as an armed bank robbery, although JSO says a weapon wasn’t shown and nobody was hurt.  The arrest report for 28-year-old Scott Cone shows a torn up note was found in a McDonalds cup filled with liquid, inside the vehicle that was apparently used during the robbery. The note appeared to be the one used in the bank robbery, including statements like “stay calm”. JSO says a SunTrust envelope with a $50 bill was also in the car and the shirt Cone appeared to be wearing during the robbery was found in his apartment. Cone’s girlfriend spoke with JSO, and the arrest report says Cone had given her cash, saying it was money from a paycheck. She confronted him after seeing his photo on the news later in the day. The arrest report says Cone then confessed to her, saying they needed the money. The arrest report further says Cone then took some pills and was taken to the hospital. He’s now  been committed under the Baker Act. This robbery is not believed to be related to any other recent bank robberies which have occurred in the area, including one just to the north of this bank ten days ago. 
  • Years in the making, JAXPORT’s Board of Directors has unanimously approved the start of the harbor deepening project. The scope of the overall project has been scaled back from what was once envisioned, from dredging 13 miles to 11 miles. The change was a response to continued study of the project, environmental factors, and cost. The 13 mile project was expected to cost some $700 million, while this pared down version is $484 million.  “The Jacksonville Harbor Deepening project is the single biggest opportunity to grow our port and reach our potential as a major gateway for international trade,” said JAXPORT Chairman Jim Citrano through a statement provided by JAXPORT.  While the funding for the overall project is still being lined up, this initial phase that now has the green light is fully funded. JAXPORT says this phase involves deepening three miles in from the mouth of the St. Johns River. The harbor will be deepened to 47 feet in order to accommodate the larger vessels that are now in the shipping trade.  Just this past weekend, the largest container ship to ever visit a Florida port stop through Jacksonville at the TraPac Container Terminal at Dames Point. The MOL Bravo moved a “significant” amount of cargo, but couldn’t operate at full capacity because the harbor isn’t deep enough, according to JAXPORT.  With the Board’s approval, construction is now slated to start early next year. This first phase is estimated to take 18 months.
  • JEA’s Downtown campus needs an estimated $37 million in work to overhaul several major systems- from plumbing to fire protection and more. After lengthy study of the options available, building a new campus has emerged as the leading recommendation for the most cost effective option for JEA’s future. The JEA Board will vote on the first major step in that process Tuesday- a land swap agreement with the City of Jacksonville. The vote would specifically give JEA’s CEO authority to execute the land swap, under the terms and conditions that have been set forward.  Renovating the current building and rebuilding in the current location were also considered, in addition to various sites on which to construct a new campus. Building a new campus on an Adams Street parcel currently owned by the City was deemed the best option when considering the disruption of daily operations, facility needs of JEA, location, and cost.  The City Council and Downtown Investment Authority still need to approve the agreement as well.  JEA’s Downtown campus  The Tower and Customer Center were constructed in 1962 and purchased by JEA in 1989 for $8 million, according to information filed with the JEA Board. Since then, JEA says there has been minimal capital investment.  JEA says their plumbing, electrical, fire protection, security, and structural systems are all due for replacement. The space is also larger than their current needs, according to the JEA documentation.   Maintaining current operations without substantial systems replacement was ruled out as an option through the study, and renovations would require multiple employee relocations. JEA further says the current floor plan is inefficient, and the existing parking beneath the building is a security risk. Further, the costs of moving and maintaining operations through the renovation is estimated at more than $23 million, according to the study prepared for presentation put forward in September 2016.  The land swap  JEA, the City of Jacksonville, and the Downtown Investment Authority have executed a term sheet for a land swap. JEA would vacate its current Downtown campus on Church Street- which includes the Tower and Customer Service Center- and the property would be transferred to the City. In exchange, JEA would receive a parcel east of the Duval County Courthouse, on Adams Street. JEA would build its new campus on that site.   The Adams Street parcel currently owned by the City is 1.52 acres with a land value of $1,655,275. The parcel is currently used for parking and construction trailer storage. JEA’s current Church Street parcel is 1.84 acres with a land value of $1,632,760. The land value for the JEA site does not include the buildings on the property.  If there is environmental remediation needed on the new parcel, the City and JEA will split the cost. If this cost is excessive, JEA can choose to terminate the deal.  While this is a land swap, JEA is committing to marketing to try to sell the existing Downtown campus parcel starting 180 days after they get the parcel for the new site and continuing through 180 days after JEA vacates their current site. At the time of the sale of the JEA parcel, City compensation will be based off the value of the City parcel, which will be valued either at the current assessment in the terms sheet or the 2019 market value- whichever is greater at the time.  If the Church Street campus is sold at a value higher than what the City parcel on Adams Street is worth, JEA and the City will split the net profit. If the sale is below the assessed value of the City parcel, JEA will be responsible for paying the difference.  If JEA is unable to sell its existing Church St. site, the term sheet says JEA will pay to demolish the buildings and return the parcel to street level grade. The City would take ownership of the parcel within 30 days of the completion of that work.  The new campus building or buildings- which don’t have a price tag in the land swap term sheet- will include a customer care facility, office space for roughly 750 employees, sufficient parking, and an emergency operations center. The City also agrees, under the terms sheet, to look at potentially expanding the parking garage that will be built on the new campus to also use for City employee parking.  Construction would be completed around the end of 2020, according to documentation going before the JEA Board.
  • A motorcyclist is dead after a crash in Ponte Vedra Beach.  The Florida Highway Patrol says a 44-year-old motorcyclist was traveling north on SR-A1A/South Ponte Vedra Blvd, when an SUV that was traveling southbound made a left turn in to his path.  St. Johns County Fire Rescue says the motorcyclist was flown to UF Health, but the crash report from FHP confirms he has died of his injuries.  The crash report shows there was a 5-year-old and one-year-old in the vehicle that made the left turn. The crash report does not list any charges at this time.
  • An inmate originally from St. Johns County escaped the Florida State Prison Friday, but was caught hours later by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.  The Bradford County Sheriff’s Office says 33-year-old Thor Bahrman stole a Florida Department of Corrections work van around 3PM Friday and escaped.  Around 9PM, JSO says their investigation brought them to I-295 and 103rd St. Shortly after 10PM, SWAT found Bahrman at a nearby gas station and took him in to custody. The stolen van was also found.  The Department of Corrections is on scene investigating with JSO. No Corrections staff were hurt in the escape, which the Bradford County Sheriff characterized as “undetected”. Bahrman is originally from St. Johns County, but BCSO wasn’t sure where he would be traveling.  Bahrman is described as a white male, 5’8”, 150 lbs, brown hair, brown eyes. He was considered a minimum custody inmate. The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office says Bahrman was serving time on meth charges.
  • The Florida Highway Patrol now confirms one person is dead and another is critically hurt following a single-vehicle crash on I-95 on Jacksonville’s Southside. GALLERY: Truck hits overpass pillar on I-95 WOKV’s Traffic Team followed the crash for hours- soon after it occurred around 3 PM, all lanes of the highway were shut in both directions.  The crash report from FHP says the truck initially drove off the right of I-95 while traveling northbound. THe truck then started rotating before crossing all travel lanes and driving off the left of the highway, hitting guardrails and then the Southside flyover pillar. It’s unclear at this point what caused the driver to leave the road. As a result of the impact, the portion of the truck where the driver and passenger were sitting caught fire.  The passenger died, and the driver was flown to the hospital in critical condition, according to the crash report from FHP. Their identities are pending family notification. The Florida Department of Transportation says there was no structural damage to the Southside Blvd flyover. There was damage to the guardrails, but crews will make repairs at a later time. FHP is asking anyone who witnessed the crash to come forward, as they work to determine what exactly happened.
  • He was given two death sentences for killing his roommate and that man’s 13-year-old son in their Jacksonville home- now, Thomas Bevel is getting a new penalty phase.  The Florida Supreme Court has vacated the sentences on two different grounds- one because of recent changes to Florida’s death penalty sentencing scheme and one because of ineffective counsel.  Case history  Bevel was charged in early 2004 with the first degree murder of 30-year-old Garrick Stringfield, first degree murder of Stringfield’s 13-year-old son Phillip Sims, and attempted first degree murder of Feletta Smith. Bevel and Stringfield lived together and were close friends, and while they were at a parade they ran in to Smith, whom they both knew from their childhood.  Bevel and Stringfield started drinking, and Stringfield’s son was dropped off at the home. At some point that night, Bevel left to pick up his girlfriend, and brought her back to the home as well. Court records say Bevel and his girlfriend were in his room and Stringfield and Smith were in Stringfield’s room, when Bevel left his room and knocked on Stringfield’s door. As soon as Stringfield opened the door, court records say Bevel immediately shot Stringfield in the head and then shot Smith several times while she lay in bed. Bevel then went to the living room and shot Sims while he was sitting on the couch.  Testimony showed Bevel said he shot the boy because he was going to be a witness.  Smith underwent multiple surgeries while she was hospitalized for a month. Stringfield and Sims both died of gunshots to the head.  About a month after the shooting, Bevel was found by police. Investigators say he confessed, but gave different accounts of what happened. Bevel ultimately claimed he and Stringfield had been fighting about money, and he believed Stringfield was going to kill him.  Ultimately, Bevel was convicted on all three counts in connection to the shootings. He was sentenced to death by a unanimous jury for the murder of Sims, and sentenced to death by an 8-4 vote for the murder of Stringfield.  Florida’s death penalty changes  The Florida Supreme Court has recently ruled that death sentences must be given by a unanimous jury.  Subsequent rulings have shown this threshold to be retroactive in some cases, specifically death sentences that became final after the US Supreme Court decided Ring v. Arizona in 2002.  Because Bevel’s case was settled after that time, the Florida Supreme Court says the non-unanimous death sentence given for Stringfield’s murder was vacated.  Florida lawmakers have since passed a new law that requires a unanimous jury to impose a death sentence.  Ineffective counsel  The death sentence for the murder of Sims was unanimous, so the changes in Florida’s death penalty sentencing law did not have an impact. During appeals, however, Bevel raised the question of ineffective counsel during the penalty phase, and the Florida Supreme Court has sided with his arguments.  Bevel says his penalty phase counsel did not conduct a “constitutionally adequate” mitigation investigation, meaning he didn’t spend enough time looking for records and evidence that could be presented to the jury to show other factors- like that he suffers brain damage- that the jury could weigh against the facts of the case in determining whether to sentence Bevel to death. Other mitigating factors include evidence of childhood sexual abuse, a poor living environment while growing up, unresolved grief from his mother’s death, physical and emotional abuse suffered by Bevel at the hands of Strickland, and other factors.  Court records show the penalty phase counsel admitted to only starting his mitigation investigation about 12 days before the trial. In all, billed fewer than 17 hours on mitigation investigation.  “From a review of the evidentiary hearing transcript and the record, it is clear that counsel failed to obtain, or was unaware of, significant records and mitigation evidence that could have assisted in the defense’s penalty phase presentation. Indeed, penalty phase counsel conceded, based on the records postconviction counsel established to have been in existence, that he could have done more to investigate mitigation,” the Florida Supreme Court ruling says.  The Court found postconviction evidence showed a more complete picture of Bevel’s background than what the jury saw during the proceedings. As such, they have vacated the death sentence imposed for Sims as well.  This ruling orders a new penalty phase to take place in Bevel’s case. He also received a life sentence for the attempted murder charge.
  • A traffic stop in St. Augustine Beach leads to the arrest of three people on drug and drug trafficking charges. SAPD says an officer found several traffic infractions on a vehicle, and the officer learned during the stop that the driver- 30-year-old Rebecca Medick, of Hastings- had a suspended license. Medick’s vehicle was then searched, and 27 grams of methamphetamine and two grams of crack cocaine were collected.  37-year-old Donald Gillespie, of Jacksonville, and 61-year-old Debora Tompkins, of St. Augustine, were also in the vehicle. All three have been arrested and transported to the St. Johns County Jail.  Medick has been arrested for trafficking in methamphetamine, possession of cocaine with intent to sell, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, and driving with a suspended or revoked license. Gillespie has been charged with trafficking in methamphetamine, possession of cocaine with intent to sell, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, and violation of probation. Tompkins has been arrested for possession of a controlled substance without a prescription.
  • A 56-year-old pedestrian has died after a crash on Kinlock Drive in Northwest Jacksonville.  JSO says an 82-year-old woman was driving around Kinlock and Richardson when the driver hit a woman who was standing in the street. The pedestrian was right outside of her home, and the driver also lives in the area.  Police say speed and impairment are not factors in the crash. The driver stayed on scene and contacted 911. She is not expected to face charges at this point. JSO says there was no witness to the crash itself, so it’s unclear why the pedestrian was in the road.
  • An animal in the road appears to have been the cause of a single-vehicle crash which resulted in a sinkhole in St. Johns County. We first told you Monday night that a car had crashed in to a fire hydrant at Islesbrook Parkway and South Durbin Parkway. A sinkhole opened at the site of the crash, leading a portion of the road to shut down. The car itself was almost entirely submerged in the hole.  The incident report we’ve now obtained shows the driver told investigators a dark shadow ran across the vehicle’s path. He swerved to avoid hitting it, leading him to his the fire hydrant. The crash report further says the car got stuck in the hydrant, and the vehicle sank as water poured out.  The driver was not injured. Investigators don’t believe he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and the report says he was driving under the speed limit.  The road was open to vehicle traffic today, although further repairs will need to take place in the future.
  • Stephanie Brown

    Assistant News Director

    Stephanie Brown is the WOKV Assistant Director of News and Afternoon Reporter. She guides the direction of WOKV’s news content, frequently contributes to social and digital platforms, and is a leading voice on-air. Stephanie has been with the team full-time since May 2012, which is when she graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in telecommunication and political science. When she’s not enterprising story ideas or digging in to an investigation, she’s likely cooking or enjoying downtime with her dog.

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The Latest News Headlines

  • A 2-year-old Idaho boy died after he was left over the weekend for more than six hours in a hot car near St. George, Utah, according to multiple reports. >> Read more trending news Authorities found the boy after they were called around 6:40 p.m. Saturday to a report of an unresponsive child at a home in Winchester Hills, St. George News reported. The child was pronounced dead at the scene, the news site reported. The Washington County Attorney’s Office is reviewing the case to determine whether any charges will be filed, although sheriff’s office spokesman David Crouse told The Salt Lake Tribune that it appeared the child’s death was “a tragic accident.” >> Related: 4-day-old baby left in hot car in Massachusetts In a statement released to St. George News, deputies said the 2-year-old boy was one of as many as 35 children brought to St. George for a family reunion. The group traveled to St. George for an activity. Deputies believe that the 2-year-old fell asleep on the trip back to Winchester Hills, but no one noticed that he didn’t get out of the van. Meanwhile, a majority of the adults got ready for a religious meeting in St. George. >> Related: 10 ways to prevent a hot car death Crouse said at a news conference Monday that teenage family members were watching the children as the adults went to the meeting, KSTU reported. When they returned to Winchester Hills, the boy’s absence was noticed. His father found him in the van, according to deputies. >> Related: Waze traffic app includes feature to remind parents kids are in car It was not clear how long he had been left in the vehicle, although Crouse told the Tribune that the boy appeared to have been in the car for at least six hours. St. George saw a high of 109 degrees on Saturday, according to the Tribune.
  • She heard the front door open and then found a shirtless man standing in her house.   A St. Augustine woman is shaken-up, but otherwise OK, after pushing an intruder out of her home.   The offense report from the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office says they found a man matching the description of the intruder a short time later, during a patrol of the woman's neighborhood.   Deputies say he appeared to be swaying from side to side and that his speech was slurred. The man, identified as Devin Howell, 20, initially admitted to drinking a couple of beers, but later said he drank an entire case of beer.   Deputies searched his backpack and found him to be in possession of marijuana as well.   Howell is now charged with trespassing, disorderly intoxication, and possession of marijuana.
  • Police say the body of a woman was found Monday inside a family bathroom at an Oklahoma Walmart. At this time, police are not sure how long the woman was in the bathroom at the Sand Springs store. >> Read more trending news According to police, employees assumed that the family bathroom was out of order because it was locked. Employees placed an out-of-order sign on the door that remained there through the weekend. On Monday, employees unlocked the bathroom door and found the woman.  Sand Springs Police say their preliminary investigation shows nothing suspicious about the woman's death.
  • On Aug. 27 of last year, Breyana Davis dialed 911 to report a stabbing. Davis had just plunged a knife into the heart of her roommate, a 21-year-old Georgia State University student, and doused him with boiling water at their DeKalb County apartment. >> Read more trending news On Monday, Davis, 22, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the killing of Charles Rudison, a business major who also worked at a Publix distribution center. Judge Gregory A. Adams sentenced her to 20 years in prison. Davis was initially charged with murder, but the district attorney’s office allowed her to plead to the lesser offense after “extensive discussions with the victim’s family,” DA spokeswoman Yvette Jones said. Rudison’s sister, Karla Jones, had mixed feelings. “I wish the years were longer,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “but (at) least she's getting punishment for this.” Jones and the rest of the family were devastated and confounded by the crime. >> Related: Woman killed, five others hurt in valet parking accident Rudison, who had met Davis on an online student housing board, died after a night out in downtown Atlanta. Davis, whose attorney could not immediately be reached for comment, left him and another friend at one point and went back to their shared apartment. Rudison and the other friend were angry with Davis because they had to catch a ride home with a ride-sharing service. Once they arrived at the apartment, it took only moments for Davis to douse Rudison with boiling water and stab him, a detective testified in a previous hearing. Even now, the motive for the crime is still mysterious. Read more here.
  • Unable to muster enough votes, Republican leaders in the Senate said on Tuesday that they would not force a final vote on a GOP health care bill this week, trying to get extra time to negotiate a plan which could win the backing of 50 Republican Senators, as a vote seemed like to slip into the month of July. “It’s a big complicated subject,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who downplayed GOP troubles, vowing not to give up on changes to the Obama health law. “Legislation of this complexity almost always takes longer than anybody would hope,” McConnell added, as GOP Senators were to meet later in the day with President Donald Trump at the White House. .@SenateMajLdr on health care vote delay: 'We're going to continue discussions' within conference, White House 'very anxious to help.' pic.twitter.com/MYkLRc8nQH — ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) June 27, 2017

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