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DEEP DIVE: Three plans for a new Convention Center in Downtown Jacksonville

DEEP DIVE: Three plans for a new Convention Center in Downtown Jacksonville

DEEP DIVE: Three plans for a new Convention Center in Downtown Jacksonville
Photo Credit: Stephanie Brown

DEEP DIVE: Three plans for a new Convention Center in Downtown Jacksonville

A new Convention Center and Hotel is being considered for Downtown Jacksonville, and we’re now getting a better idea what that could look like. 

WOKV previously told you Jacksonville’s Downtown Investment Authority had solicited plans for the project at the site of the old County Courthouse and City Hall Annex site on the Northbank of Downtown. Three proposals were received, and we have now obtained copies of the bids. 

These proposals are being ranked by a DIA Evaluation Committee, and those rankings will go in front of the DIA Board later this month. Along with those rankings, two completing plans that were not solicited will be presented as well. 

Jacobs Project Management Company 

Jacobs says they’ve already supported many projects in Jacksonville, and they believe their understanding of the City, its infrastructure, and its landscape can help in this process. They’re teaming up with Conventional Wisdom, KBJ Architects, Fentress Architects, Construction and Engineering Services, McDonald Financial Corporation, The Weitz Company, Signature Land, and Westmont. 

Their vision honors Jacksonville as the City of bridges, and they want this project to serve as a different type of bridge- one that moves the City in to the future. 

“Our project will connect the history of the City to the needs of the future with a thriving, revenue generating venture: an iconic riverfront masterpiece to set the cornerstone for the revitalization of the City center and captivate the city population with a renewed civic energy,” the proposal says. 

The design of the hotel tower is supposed to emulate a tall ship and would include covered valet and VIP parking, river views, an amenities deck, and “crows nest” on the upper level which could be used for a signature dining venue. 

The Convention Center is reminiscent of the water, according to the proposal. The Exhibit Hall would be elevated, to maximize the views. There would be a separate site entrance for vehicle loading access, apart from visitor traffic. 

There would be 1,530 parking spaces in a garage, and 181 spaces within the Convention Center footprint. 

GALLERY: Jacobs Project Management Company’s proposal

Market Street would be upgraded and designated for pedestrians, as the western edge of a public plaza. That plaza would include a water feature, seating, and a standalone restaurant. It would be “framed” by the hotel, shops, and other structures to create a more intimate feel. Additionally, low-scale LED site lighting would be used, to allow themes for special events through colored accent lighting. 

This proposal aims to engage both Bay Street and the riverfront. Bay Street would feature ground-level retail. Along the Riverwalk and Riverfront, there would be programming and activation, through festivals and other events. There is also a space for a destination waterside dining experience, along the southwest corner of the site. Connecting with the St. Johns River, the proposal aims to activate the water to the west of the Main Street Bridge with both amenities and activities. They want to have access points for various water sports and a marina, to overall expand the public use of the River. To do this, the proposal says some of the bulkhead would need to be replaced, although they would maintain at least some of the inlet the City is building, following the collapse at Liberty Street and Coastline Drive.

via Jacobs Project Management Company Convention Center bid

Jacobs Project Management Company Convention Center proposal

Photo Credit: via Jacobs Project Management Company Convention Center bid

To connect with the Sports Complex and other surrounding areas, the proposal highlights future plans for a transportation corridor to move through the area, as well as the water taxi. 

This proposal further mentions the proximity the new hotel would have to the Hyatt and Omni, but it sees that as creating a “centered mass” of hotel space that would then support expanded retail, employment, and related areas. In fact, the proposal says the owners of the Hyatt would look to build a connection between that hotel and the Convention Center, and would market segments of their own hotel for Convention Center attendees. 

The project would be substantially complete by mid-2023. The bid talks about the need to move quickly, saying the construction industry is busy, so labor and material costs are rising, with material costs also being affected by new tariffs on steel, aluminum, and other materials. 

It’s estimated this project would cost around $705 million. Jacobs says they have already been working to line up funding, and don’t expect any problems. 

The developers propose working with the City to develop the optimum approach financially, considering factors like cashflow, tax treatment, market positioning, and more. There would also be a point in the project where all of the design and planning is done, and the City would have to agree to move forward to actual construction. At that point, if the City moves forward, the proposal says Jacobs would return any compensation they received in that first phase. The concession service payments in the second phase would be deferred until the facility is ready to use, up to three years. Those payments are currently estimated at $4 million to $4.5 million monthly. Beyond that, there is now a specific dollar figure attached to the expected City contribution.

Operating profits would be shared with the City, per the proposal. 

This bid would have Conventional Wisdom oversee the facility as an “Asset Manager”, with a professional manager- potentially SMG, which the City already uses- managing day-to-day operations. Operation and maintenance costs would be covered in the contract with Jacobs, and the City would be responsible for the costs relating to convention, meeting, and trade show business, including marketing and capital repairs. The City would also be responsible for operating profit and loss. 

The end goal is for the City to take over ownership, but Jacobs is proposing a long-term lease that covers the time needed for the full project cost to be either amortized or conveyed. This allows the City to maintain control of the land, while getting on the financial footing needed for ownership, according to the proposal. The lease would be at low- or no-cost to Jacobs. 

Looking ahead, this proposal also highlights future development potential, saying it is “quite feasible” to consider a multi-family residential tower above the parking garage. It also says the Convention Center rooftop would be “solar-ready” and could also serve for rainwater harvesting. 

Preston Hallow Capital, LLC 

This proposal is from the “Jacksonville Convention Center Partners”, consisting of Preston Hallow Capital, Matthews Southwest Hospitality, Interstate Hotel and Resorts, Nunzio Marc DeSantis Architects, and Provident Resources Group. 

“Our entire team has all the relevant hospitality experience, a proven track record both nationally and locally, and a deep commitment to Jacksonville to deliver a project that we can all be very proud of for many years to come,” says the JCCP proposal. 

Their proposal is a 400-key hotel, a convention center with around 200,000 square feet of exhibit hall, and approximately 1,800 parking spaces combined. 

GALLERY: Preston Hallow Capital’s proposal

The hotel tower’s design is inspired by boating, according to JCCP. It would rise nine levels, and include three restaurants and two rooftop experiences, a fitness center, a full-service spa, a business and shipping center, and meeting places supported by state-of-the-art technology, according to the proposal. There would be a rooftop pool, which would be programmed year-round as well. There would also be a 200,000 square foot exhibit hall with ten loading docks, with the space able to be sectioned in to smaller rooms. The next floor up would feature smaller meeting and conference areas, as well as a 40,000 square foot Grand Ballroom and 22,000 square foot Junior Ballroom. 

One of the food concepts is the “Yacht Club”, offering seafood and similar options along a boardwalk. There would also be retail shops, coffee houses, and more. The parking garage would be six stories, across the street from the exhibit hall on South Market Street and Bay Street. 

“The Jacksonville Convention Center and Headquarters Hotel will be a beacon of hope and beauty that will help establish Jacksonville as a relevant and powerful city of today and a city with a vision to become a competitor with all the other great cities across the southeast and USA in the future,” the proposal says. 

The opening is envisioned for February 2022. 

via Preston Hallow Capital Convention Center bid

Preston Hallow Capital Convention Center proposal

Photo Credit: via Preston Hallow Capital Convention Center bid

To fit in to the overall goals of Downtown development, JCCP says their proposal aims to attract people to the core, while allowing easy access to other areas of entertainment, like the Sports Complex and proposed development of the Jacksonville Shipyards. This would be achieved in part by expanding the pedestrian trail with lots of trees for shading, from the Landing through the Convention Center and to the Shipyards and Sports Complex. 

The side of the development facing the St. Johns River would include dining options and landscaping. There would also be public river access, connectivity through future transportation development plans underway, and access to the water taxi. 

JCCP believes this venture will cost about $445 million, and they have 100% of financing in place internally. They are requesting $229 million in public incentives, either through cash or tax breaks. They would require the site be delivered development-ready, meaning any environmental issues have been addressed. 

They say title of the project and all of the accumulated cash surplus reserves can revert to the Downtown Investment Authority’s ownership after outstanding bonds are fully repaid, which is expected to be about 40 years from the project opening. While the eventual goal is the City re-establishing ownership, the proposal would have the City lease the land to the group in the interim, for between 60 and 90 years, with no rent for the ground. 

Rimrock Devlin-DeBartolo Jacksonville, LLC 

RDD was formed specifically to act as master developer in this project, consisting of Rimrock Devlin and DeBartolo Development. They are joined by Helman Hurley Charvat Peacock/Architects, Inc., HKS, England-Thims & Miller, Inc., and GAI Consultants. Their proposal makes it clear they believe the Prime Osborn Convention Center is not going to help the City reach the next level. 

“Our proposal for a new convention center and hotel will allow Jacksonville to remedy the lack of a relevant convention center. A new convention center and hotel that is more centrally located, state of the art, and aesthetically designed is key to continuing Jacksonville’s growth as ‘The Bold New City of the South’,” the proposal says. 

The Convention Center would be 500,000 square feet, including a 200,000 square foot multi-purpose exhibit hall with views and access to the River, a 40,000 square foot ballroom with a view of the River, dozens of meeting rooms, more indoor and outdoor programmable space, a kitchen, and more. It will also have direct connections to Bay Street, the Riverwalk, and the marina, as well as both the existing and proposed hotel. 

The proposed hotel would be “world-class”, according to the proposal, with 350 guest rooms, a 17,500 square foot grand ballroom, a 6,500 square foot junior ballroom, additional meeting rooms, and a rooftop pool. The parking garage would have 1,300 spaces for the Convention Center and 400 for the hotel. 

GALLERY: Rimrock Devlin-DeBartolo’s proposal

They are proposing new streetscaping and pedestrian improvements along Bay Street, to define the area as a gateway to the Sports and Entertainment Complex and increase connectivity to that area. Bay Street would also have ground floor retail.

A public Riverwalk would provide pedestrian access to the River. That Riverwalk would have what the proposal calls several “experiential nodes” highlighting pubic art, recreation, and education. 

“The convention center business is highly competitive, and attracting conventions, trade shows and other gatherings will require Jacksonville provide something new and fresh to the convention market. Using the St. Johns River as a backdrop, this project will create an experience few convention cities can provide,” the proposal says. 

via Rimrock Devlin DeBartolo Convention Center bid

Rimrock Devlin DeBartolo Convention Center proposal

Photo Credit: via Rimrock Devlin DeBartolo Convention Center bid

Connectivity will also come through transportation, as this bid also mentions a planned transportation corridor, as well as bike sharing and a likely water taxi stop. They also envision this as an asset that can help support many of the other attractions around the area, including dining and the Florida Theatre. There would also be a new extension of Independent Drive to provide access to the site and service areas from the Main Street Bridge. 

The project timeline estimates completion in late 2021. 

The overall cost for this project is expected to exceed $430 million. RDD says the project is “financially challenging”, because of construction over water, stormwater management, minimal construction staging area, and more. As such, a public subsidy would be expected, as tax rebates and credits, mitigated land costs, or other options. The exact public funding request is not clear, but the proposal says they are targeting public assistance for the hotel, Riverwalk, Bay Street improvements, public infrastructure, environmental cleanup, basin filling, and construction staging land. 

There would also be “public/private ownership” for the Convention Center and Parking Structure. The proposal says the City would enter a lease to occupy and maintain the Convention Center. It does not specifically plan for the City taking over full ownership of the Convention Center, as the other proposals do. 

Overall, they believe this is an opportunity to create an “iconic landmark” for Downtown and the River- and one that is active 24/7. 

“Based on our experience with similar projects, we are confident that working together in partnership with the City, this development will not only be financially feasible for both the public and private sector but will also create value for Jacksonville both financially and emotionally,” the proposal says. 

RDD says they would work with the City to develop a plan to manage the facility and choose a firm to carry out that plan. The City would have complete operational and management control of the Convention Center, with concessions and advertising providing possible additional revenue lines. 

Other proposals 

RDD is actually behind two other unsolicited plans that have been put forward, which are intended to be in cooperation with each other- one for an alternate use for the old Courthouse/Annex site, and one for building the Convention Center and hotel at the Jacksonville Shipyards. 

The plan to put up the Convention Center at the Shipyards was presented with Iguana Investments Florida, LLC- which is backed by Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who is the master developer of the Shipyards site. 

GALLERY: Shad Khan’s plan for the Jacksonville Shipyards

The plan is being pitched as the first phase of that redevelopment effort, although the negotiations on the site overall have been ongoing for years, and have been allotted close to two more years to get the deal done

GALLERY:Shipyards Convention Center proposal

At the old Courthouse/Annex site, RDD has proposed “Riverwalk Place”, which would be a mixed-use lifestyle community, featuring a multi-restaurant venue, hotel rooms, apartments, parking, and more. 

GALLERY: Renderings of “Riverwalk Place”

According to a joint statement from RDD and Iguana, RDD believes these proposals are better options than the Convention Center at the Old Courthouse/Annex site. 

The DIA CEO Aundra Wallace tells WOKV he will present the rankings on the three solicited bids to the Board. At that time, they can determine if and how they will asses the unsolicited bids. 

What has still not been specifically addressed is the future of Jacksonville’s existing convention Center, the Prime Osborn. While that remains unclear, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is proposing to spend millions of dollars in capital improvements needed at the facility, saying that as long as it is the City’s convention center, they will ensure it is in good working order. That proposal is pending approval by the Jacksonville City Council as part of their overall vote on the City’s proposed $1.2 billion budget and Capital Improvement Program, later this month.

An in depth look at the three proposals for a Convention Center and Hotel at the old Courthouse/City Hall Annex site in Downtown Jacksonville, as well as the competing plans and what comes next:

Posted by Stephanie Brown, News 104.5 WOKV on Thursday, September 6, 2018

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The Latest News Headlines

  • A woman who shot and killed a popular street performer outside the H.E. Holmes MARTA station three years ago is headed to prison.  >> Read more trending news  Lucianna Fox, 44, fatally shot 54-year-old Leroy Midyette in Nov. 5, 2016, after running over the homeless man’s shopping cart twice. Midyette, who performed outside the train station, was affectionately known as “Tin Man” because of the silver paint he wore when he danced, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office said Friday in a news release. The night of the shooting, Fox got mad at Midyette as he pushed his belongings across an access road that led into the parking lot of the Holmes station, authorities said. Fox told him to move his cart out of the road and Midyette motioned for the woman to drive around.Instead, Fox slammed into Midyette’s cart, threw her car in reverse and rammed it again before driving off. Upset, Midyette ran toward Fox’s car as she waited at a nearby stop sign and confronted her. Fox then got out of her car, drew a silver handgun and shot the homeless man in the chest from about 2 feet away, prosecutors said. She then set her weapon on the hood of her car and waited for police to arrive as Midyette died in the street. The entire incident was captured on MARTA’s surveillance cameras, and Fox was arrested at the scene, authorities said. She was convicted of murder and possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony and sentenced to life in prison plus five years. 
  • Court documents filed against an Indianapolis man accused of violently assaulting his mother with a cast iron frying pan last month give gruesome details of how badly the woman was beaten. Bobby Wayne Gibson Jr., 44, is charged with attempted murder, aggravated battery, battery resulting in serious bodily injury, strangulation and auto theft, according to Marion County court records. A judge last week ordered him held in lieu of a $90,000 surety bond. Gibson was also ordered to stay away from his mother, for whom an order of protection was granted, court records show. >> Read more trending news  Gibson was arrested Sept. 25 after an anonymous tip led police to a vacant home, where he told officers his mother had given him her car, a silver Chevy Malibu, to sell for drugs, WRTV in Indianapolis reported. Fox 59 reported that a SWAT standoff earlier in the day, which included tear gas and flash grenades, had failed to turn up the fugitive. Gibson had been on the run since the day before, when police officers went to his mother’s home and found her unresponsive and covered in blood, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by WRTV. The woman was taken to the hospital in critical condition. According to the affidavit, her injuries included “multiple skull and facial fractures, three lacerations in the head that penetrated to the skull, exposed brain matter due to a hole in the skull, four deep lacerations to the chest and a collapsed lung.” Her condition was not immediately available Friday afternoon. Detectives who went to her home found blood spattered throughout the kitchen and living room, along with “broken glass, broken kitchen utensils and a bloody cast-iron frying pan with a broken handle,” the document said. Blood was on the carpet, the telephone and the walls in both rooms. Gibson’s mother, who was able to speak to detectives at the hospital, told them an argument began when she spotted a bottle of vodka in her son’s pocket and told him he was not allowed to drink in her home, WRTV reported. She told police she poured the vodka out and told her son, who has a criminal record, “The court needs to do something with you.” “You wanna lock me up? I’m gonna give you something to lock me up,” she said Gibson responded, according to the affidavit. The victim told detectives Gibson attacked her, choking her until she lost consciousness. When she came to, he was beating and kicking her and hitting her with pots and pans from the kitchen, the news station reported. Gibson demanded her purse, so she told him where it was, and he left in her car, WRTV reported. A silver car could be seen in photos taken by a Fox 59 reporter during the Sept. 25 SWAT situation on the city’s south side. Authorities at the scene told the news station Gibson had forced his way into the home, where his wife was staying. She fled the house and called 911, Fox 59 reported. When the tear gas and flash grenades failed to get anyone to come outside, officers went in and found the house empty, the news station said. Gibson was taken into custody a few hours later.
  • A California man has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for the hammer killing of his former roommate, whose body was found stuffed into a wall in their former apartment six years after she was reported missing. Randolph Eric Garbutt, 47, of Los Angeles, pleaded no contest last month to voluntary manslaughter in the 2009 slaying of Raven Joy Campbell, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. He was sentenced to prison on Tuesday. Garbutt’s ex-girlfriend, Myesha Smith, testified at a December 2016 preliminary hearing in the case that Garbutt told her he’d hit Campbell, who family members said was developmentally disabled, in the head with a hammer. “He hit her one time and she kind of fought for her life, and he hit her again,” Smith testified, according to The Daily Breeze in Torrance. “He said, ‘God wanted her.’” >> Read more trending news  Garbutt has been in custody since his Feb. 4, 2016, murder arrest, so he will get credit for time already served, the Breeze reported. Campbell’s family on Tuesday pointed out the irony that Garbutt’s post-conviction prison time could end up being about the same amount of time her body remained hidden. “To place her in a wall, the irony is this man will probably only do about as much time as she was while she was in the wall,” Raven Campbell’s sister, Cynthia Campbell Kemp, said in court, according to the Breeze. “That’s the crime. The punishment is not just, but we’re just going to have to accept it.” Campbell, 31, was reported missing by her family in June 2009. According to authorities, she had last been seen leaving her apartment, Apartment 507 at Harbor Hills, a public housing complex in an unincorporated area of Lomita. She is survived by a son, Nicholas, who family members told the Breeze will turn 18 later this month. He was 7 when his mother vanished. “He’s just devastated by this,” Kemp told the newspaper. “I wish you could have let us know where she was so we didn’t have to keep searching,” another sister, Linda Campbell told Garbutt during his sentencing hearing. “Her son had to think his mom was alive for years.” Another of Campbell’s sisters, Malaikah Manasseh, told the Los Angeles Times in 2015 that Campbell lived in a group home before she moved into the housing project with a high school friend. The friend’s boyfriend also was a resident of record at the apartment in late 2008, when Campbell moved in, authorities said. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide Lt. Steve Jauch said during a news conference the day after Garbutt’s 2016 arrest that Campbell’s friend, identified during later court proceedings as Nicole Nelson, and her boyfriend invited Campbell to stay with them. “They brought her in to live at the residence so she could save some money,” Jauch said. Garbutt, a friend of the couple, was also staying at the apartment during the six months Campbell lived there, Jauch said. The lieutenant told reporters the roommates, including Garbutt, all became friends. Nathan and her boyfriend were interviewed at length and were not suspected in Campbell’s killing, the lieutenant said. Campbell’s family immediately suspected foul play when Campbell vanished because her purse was left behind, Manasseh told the Times. She said her sister always wore her purse strapped against her chest and would not have left home without it. A tip and a gruesome discovery  The case remained cold until late June 2015, when homicide investigators, acting on a tip, went to the unit but found no one home, Jauch said. They returned the next day with cadaver dogs and got the new tenants’ permission to search the apartment. The dogs alerted their handlers to the possible presence of human remains inside a closet under the two-story unit’s stairs. Investigators got permission from the Los Angeles County Housing Authority to knock down a portion of the wall, which had a visible patched-up hole, Jauch said. “Detectives removed the actual piece of paneling that was used to patch it up and there appeared to be something suspicious behind this wall, on the floor a good distance down in this closet area of the residence,” the lieutenant said. The following week, on July 2, 2015, homicide detectives and staff from the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office exhumed Campbell’s remains. The medical examiner identified the body and determined Campbell had died of blunt force trauma to the head. The residents living in the apartment at the time were stunned, Jauch said. They were temporarily relocated when their home became a crime scene. “I think the natural reaction from anyone hearing information that there may be human remains where you’re living, I don’t know anybody who wouldn’t be taken aback by that information,” Jauch said, according to the Times. Campbell’s body was found in an empty space behind the closet. “It’s hollow and connects to the closet,” Candace Diggs, a resident in the housing complex told the newspaper. “These units are all built the same. They’re all concrete except for the wall behind the stairs.” Jauch explained that empty space under the stairs appeared to be an unusual design. “Typically, when you picture a hole in the wall, what most of us picture would be a hole in a wall with a floor directly at the base of the wall,” Jauch said, using the wall behind him to demonstrate. “That wasn’t the case here. “It was a configuration where the hole in the wall inside of the closet area … actually dropped down several feet to a dirt floor.” Watch Lt. Steve Jauch discuss the killing of Raven Campbell below. When detectives and crime scene technicians removed the patch job from the wall and looked down, they could see the bundle containing Campbell’s remains. According to KTLA, Campbell’s family members were certain the remains were hers as soon as they were found. At the time of the discovery, they blamed investigators for not doing a more thorough search of her home when she went missing. “We said bring the dogs, bring … everything we saw on ‘CSI.’ We wanted them to do that. They said, ‘No, we don’t find any reason,’” Campbell’s cousin, Linda Campbellhumphrey told the news station in 2015. “We, in our heart of hearts, know it’s her.” Jauch said during the 2016 news conference that homicide and missing persons detectives conducted significant legwork after Campbell disappeared. “Interviews were conducted, bank records were checked, phone records were checked,” Jauch said. “Ultimately, the case went cold.” Campbell’s family described her as a sweet, trusting woman. “She was such a wonderful spirit,” a third sister, Renee Campbell, told KTLA in 2015. The siblings’ mother, Joreena Johnson, pleaded for information about her daughter’s death at a vigil following the gruesome discovery. “Who did this to her? She didn’t deserve this,” a tearful Johnson said, according to the news station. “Y’all help me find out what happened to my baby, please.” Garbutt was arrested on a murder charge seven months after Campbell’s body was found. Jauch said the arrest was the result of tireless efforts by homicide detectives, who looked at anyone who had a connection to the apartment in the time frame Campbell lived there. “Over the last several months, really, the credo from our detectives was, ‘Let’s don’t do this in a hurry, let’s do it right,’” Jauch said. Garbutt was initially arrested on a traffic warrant, the lieutenant said in 2016. “After being released on the warrant, he was immediately booked for the murder of Raven Campbell,” Jauch said. He was rebooked into the Los Angeles County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail. On Friday, Garbutt remained at the Los Angeles County jail system’s Pitchless Detention Center in Castaic, awaiting his transfer to state prison, jail records showed. A mistrial and a plea  Garbutt initially went on trial for Campbell’s slaying in 2018, but a mistrial was declared after information came to light about two witnesses neither prosecutors nor the defense team was aware of, the Breeze said. Two weeks of testimony prior to the mistrial revealed that Garbutt beat Campbell to death and enlisted Smith, the mother of his child, to help him push her body into the space behind the closet wall. Prosecutors said Smith began receiving Campbell’s mail, including her government checks, at her Inglewood home after Campbell vanished. The Breeze reported that police found Campbell’s identification in Smith’s possession a month after she went missing. It was unclear why Smith was not linked to Campbell’s disappearance at that time. The newspaper reported that Garbutt’s public defender, Rhonda Haymon, argued during last year’s trial that Smith, who was granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for testimony against her ex-boyfriend, was the true killer and Garbutt took the blame so their child would not grow up without a mother. Garbutt told investigators Campbell, who had been drinking, fell and hit her head after returning from bingo with another roommate, the Breeze reported. He said he panicked, afraid he’d be blamed for her head injury, and suffocated her with a plastic grocery bag. No other motive besides the story Garbutt told authorities has ever been uncovered. Smith testified that it was she and Nathan who went to play bingo the night Campbell was killed. When they returned, she found Garbutt “sweeping and mopping” the floor, using bleach to clean it, the Breeze reported. Smith said she thought nothing of it because Nathan liked to keep the apartment clean. According to the Breeze, Smith said she fell asleep on the couch but awoke to the sound of drilling. Smith said she found Garbutt inside the closet under the stairs, cutting a hole in the wall. A body was lying on the closet floor, wrapped in plastic and a floral print blanket, Smith testified. Garbutt told her it was Campbell. Smith testified that Garbutt climbed into the hole and started dragging Campbell’s body into it before asking her for help. She said she pushed the lifeless form about 2 inches. “He just pushed the body in the wall,” Smith said. The Breeze reported that Garbutt told Smith to keep a lookout to ensure no one was coming near the closet. “I was pacing back and forth,” Smith said, according to the newspaper. “I was at the window, and I was looking at the closet and my nerves was all ragged.” Investigators testified at the preliminary hearing that Garbutt said he used a bowl to dig up some dirt to throw over Campbell. After climbing out of the hole, he tossed several bathroom air fresheners into the makeshift grave to help cover the smell. Smith testified she was scared Garbutt would harm her if she told anyone what he had done, because he “always threatened and always told her he could kill her and no one would care,” the Breeze reported. Campbell’s family members, seven of whom spoke at Garbutt’s sentencing hearing, told the newspaper they believe if Garbutt had again gone to trial, he would have been convicted of murder and faced life in prison. They expressed heartbreak over the plea deal and subsequent, much lighter sentence. “I would have rather had a jury tell me ‘not guilty’ than to hear he’s only going to be in there for another five years,” Renee Campbell told the Breeze after the hearing. “It’s not ideal, but at least we get some closure.” The Campbell family described Raven as kind, loving, good-natured and innocent. She loved talking to loved ones on the phone and it was the sudden halt in her phone calls in the summer of 2009 that told them something had happened to her. They viewed her developmental issues as a gift, the Breeze reported. “The way she viewed the world was a lot healthier than most of us,” her niece, Princess Manessah, said.
  • Protests are underway after a City of Jacksonville spokesperson confirms that Mayor Lenny Curry has signed a bill that would effectively shut down Internet cafes in the area.  WOKV told you earlier this week, when the Jacksonville City Council voted in favor of a bill that would shut the businesses down immediately. The council had previously voted back in May to close the businesses, but decided at that time to give the operators until February 2020 to close their doors.  The city has said internet cafes are a nuisance and draw crime into the city. Data collected in September 2018 showed that the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office received more than 28,000 calls to addresses tied to nearly 100 Internet cafes during a 5-year period.
  • A federal appellate court ruled Friday that President Donald Trump's accounting firm must turn over his financial records to Congress as lawmakers continue to probe his possible conflicts of interest. >> Read more trending news  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said in a 2-1 ruling that lawmakers should get the documents they have subpoenaed from Mazars USA. Trump and his attorneys have argued against releasing the records, claiming that lawmakers lack a 'legitimate legislative purpose' for seeking the documents. >> Read the full ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit 'The fact that the subpoena in this case seeks information that concerns the President of the United States adds a twist, but not a surprising one,' Judge David Tatel wrote in an opinion joined by Judge Patricia Millett. 'Disputes between Congress and the President are a recurring plot in our national story.' Tatel was put on the appellate court by President Bill Clinton and Millett was put on the court by President Barack Obama, according to Cox Media Group's Jamie Dupree. 'Having considered the weighty interests at stake in this case, we conclude that the subpoena issued by the Committee to Mazars is valid and enforceable,' Tatel wrote. Trump could appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a statement released Friday, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Elijah Cummings heralded the ruling and called for Mazars to quickly release Trump's financial records to Congress. 'Today's ruling is a fundamental and resounding victory for Congressional oversight, our Constitutional system of checks and balances and the rule of law,' Cummings said. 'After months of delay, it is time for the President to stop blocking Mazars from complying with the Committee's lawful subpoena. We must fulfill our stated legislative and oversight objectives and permit the American people to obtain answers about some of the deeply troubling questions regarding the President's adherence to Constitutional and statutory requirements to avoid conflicts of interest.' The ruling upheld a ruling issued by a lower court in support of lawmakers' right to subpoena Trump's financial records. Trump has been fighting off efforts by Congress to obtain his financial records since at least April, when the House Oversight and Reform Committee subpoenaed the documents from Mazars. Among other records, lawmakers sought documents from 2011 to 2018 for investigation into the president's reporting of his finances and potential conflicts of interest. The list of subpoenaed documents did not include Trump's tax returns, which are being sought by the House Ways and Means Committee. The group sued the Trump administration earlier this year for access to the president's tax returns in a case that continues to wind its way through the courts. In a separate case in New York, Trump sued to prevent Deutsche Bank and Capital One from complying with House subpoenas for banking and financial records. A judge ruled against him, and Trump appealed. The president is also trying in court to stop the Manhattan district attorney from obtaining his tax returns. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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