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Latest from Sarah Thompson

    The next time you check your mail, you'll want to watch out for this. The Duval County Property Appraiser, Jerry Holland, is warning of solicitations in the mail that could charge you up to almost $100 for a service that's completely free.  'It looks like an offer to buy a document that you think would be valuable. For example, a copy of your deed. Basically, the documents are already free. They're public documents and these people are, in a sense, acting like they have the ability to sell them to you,' explains Holland.  Holland tells WOKV he believes hundreds of people have received these types of solicitations in all parts of Jacksonville.  'I would say quite a few people actually fall for this scam, because we've seen this repeated over several years,' says Holland.  If you receive one of these solicitations and are actually in need of your deed or other legal document, he recommends reaching out to whatever government office typically provides it. He says most of these types of documents come from the Clerk of Courts, which will provide them free of charge.
  • A former Clay County high school teacher has been arrested and charged by criminal complaint with distributing child pornography.  According to the State Attorney's Office of the Middle District of Florida, Christopher Potter, 49, is accused of responding to a notice posted online by an undercover Orange Park Police Department officer posing as a 14-year-old child, with that conversation allegedly taking a sexually explicit turn.  The complaint says during their conversations, which apparently began in February 2018, Potter requested photos of the 'child' and wanted to meet the 'child' for sex. Potter is further accused in the complaint of sending the 'child' a video clip depicting the sexual abuse of a child and also a video of Potter performing a sexual act.  Potter's home was the subject of a search warrant on September 20th, during which we're told several computer devices and phones were seized.  The State Attorney's Office says Potter told investigators he had worked as a teacher at Clay High School from 2016-2017 and at Orange Park High School from 1997-2004. Potter is also said to be a member of the Individual Ready Reserves with the Navy.  He's being held pending a hearing on September 26th. Potter faces a minimum mandatory penalty of 5 years in prison, if convicted.
  • If you're looking for a seasonal job this year, you may want to consider UPS. A UPS spokesperson tells us they'll be hiring more than 1,400 seasonal employees in the Jacksonville-area this year, as they're preparing for an anticipated increase in packages that'll begin in November and continue through early January 2019.  Those more than 1,400 jobs break down into the following categories:  - 1,035 package handlers (Starting pay listed at $10.35 per hour)  - 50 delivery and tractor-trailer drivers (Starting pay of $18.75 per hour)  - 349 driver-helpers (Starting pay listed at $10.35 per hour)  Anyone interested is told to apply online. Do that by clicking HERE.  We're told UPS will also be holding open interviews for the positions every Friday through October 19th, from 11 AM to 1 PM, at the Jacksonville Hub, located at 4499 James E. Casey Drive.  A UPS spokesperson says while these positions are seasonal, these types of positions can serve as an entry point to a new career. UPS says up to 35% of those hired for a seasonal role in the past three years now have permanent jobs with the company. Nationwide, UPS is looking to hire about 100,000 seasonal employees.
  • A report of a possible firearm on campus led to a large law enforcement presence at Ed White High School on Thursday, though, we've confirmed with the Duval County Public School district, no gun was actually ever found. A DCPS spokesperson tells us law enforcement received a student tip about a possible firearm on campus, just prior to dismissal Thursday afternoon. That tip led to an immediate Code Red lockdown, so police could thoroughly investigate.  DCPS says no firearm was ever found and that students and staff were safe throughout the entire incident.  FULL STATEMENT FROM ED WHITE HIGH SCHOOL'S PRINCIPAL:  'Good Afternoon parents and guardians of Ed White High School. This is Principal Battest. I want to assure you that all students and staff are safe, but we did have an incident today that prompted a lockdown and delayed dismissal. Just before students were to be dismissed for the day, we received a student tip about a possible firearm on campus. The school was immediately placed on a Code Red lockdown and police began investigating the tip.  A thorough search of the school was conducted by law enforcement. No firearm nor an individual with a firearm was located. We were on a Code Red for approximately 30 minutes before we were advised the lockdown could be lifted and dismissal procedures could begin. Thankfully, students and staff remained safe throughout the incident.  We are grateful for the cooperation and responsiveness of students, staff, and law enforcement. We also appreciate the patience shown by parents during this time. The safety and well-being of our students and staff are important to us. If you have any concerns or questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at (904) 693-7620. Thank you and have a good day.
  • The Clay County Sheriff's Office is asking for the community's help identifying two suspects suspected of vehicle burglary and credit card fraud. According to deputies, the two are accused of entering a vehicle that was parked at the YMCA at 2075 Town Center Boulevard and then heading to the Target at 1490 County Road 220.  Deputies say the two made a fraudulent purchase of over $1,500 on the victim's credit card.  If you know who these individuals are, you're urged to contact the communications section of the sheriff's office at (904) 264-6512.
  • UPDATE 9/20: The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office says after an active search for a vehicle they believe could help solve a recent murder, police say it’s now been located in Arlington. ORIGINAL STORY 9/19: The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is asking for the public's help finding a vehicle, as investigators believe it could help solve a recent murder. JSO says the driver and/or passengers of the vehicle, pictured below, may have key information about that recent murder. Police didn't release any details on what murder or where it occurred.  The vehicle is described as possibly being a newer model White Mazda 3 with front end or left front damage.  If you have any information, you're urged to call the sheriff's office at (904) 630-0500. To remain anonymous contact Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.
  • With a number of proposals on the table that could change the look of downtown Jacksonville, the City’s Downtown Investment Authority met Wednesday to weigh options on how to move forward. During Wednesday's meeting, the DIA board voted to move ahead with a re-development plan for the Berkman II site on the Northbank.  That $122 million effort would include bringing a 340-room hotel, a Family Entertainment Center, a water park, and a parking garage for the site. It would also potentially include space for the U.S.S. Adams.  RENDERINGS: PROPOSAL TO BRING AMUSEMENT RIDES, HOTEL TO BERKMAN II DOWNTOWN During Wednesday's meeting, the DIA board also ranked the three bids that were solicited to bring a new convention center, hotel, and parking garage, to replace the old Courthouse and City Hall Annex.  The Jacobs Engineering Group’s proposal was ranked the highest of the three proposals.  One of the DIA's board members, Oliver Barakat, says the plan showed proficiency in convention center and hotel development, but admitted it had the downside of being expensive. It’s estimated by the developers that this project would cost around $705 million. But the DIA's CEO says while it won't be cheap, he calls it a “generational decision.”  GALLERY: JACOBS PROJECT MANAGEMENT COMPANY'S PROPOSAL  The Jacobs Engineering Group said their proposal was about honoring Jacksonville as the City of bridges. That vision includes having the design of the hotel tower to emulate a tall ship, 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. Read full details, by clicking HERE. What remains unclear at this time, however, is what this all means for the proposal put forward by Jags owner Shad Khan and his idea of having a convention center included as part of his long-running shipyards development plan.  The DIA did not address Khan’s proposal during Wednesday’s meeting.
  • After first alerting the public about two sexual battery suspects back on July 1st, the Jacksonville Beach Police Department now confirms both suspects are in police custody. WOKV told you about the arrest of Shawn Cobb back in August, after police say DNA from the victim matched to Cobb. Jail records at that time showed he's facing multiple counts of sexual battery, and one charge of kidnapping with a firearm.  Now, police say the second suspect has been identified as Corinthia Ruth Morris. We're told she's now awaiting extradition back to Florida, after being taken into custody in Atlanta, Georgia on September 11th, 2018.  Police say the two are accused of abducting a woman from near the boardwalk and then transporting her to another location, where she was sexually assaulted.
  • The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is releasing brand new details, following the arrest of a Duval County Public School teacher.  According to JSO, Kristopher Beckstrom, 42, who works as a music teacher at Landon Middle School in San Marco, has been arrested for sending and soliciting sexually explicit photos to and from minors. Police say he exchanged messages with these minors on Instagram, where he posed as a 15-year-old, as well as on Snapchat. Investigators believe he was targeting past students, but also random people. According to his arrest report, one of the victims told police that a man, with the username ‘erikb20172018’, added her on both Instagram and Snapchat and that throughout the course of years would send her messages asking for nude photos of her and saying things like he ‘wished he was there with her.’  She says on September 10th, 2018, she then received a message on Instagram from another girl, who told her that this man was ‘not who you think he is.’ The two then continued to exchange messages, according to the report, with the other girl saying she eventually sent  ‘erikb20172018’ an inappropriate photo of herself, prompting him to share a photo and video.  She messaged that the man in the photo and video did not match the person in the Snapchat profile photo. She claims when she confronted ‘erikb20172018’ about it, he admitted he wasn’t really a teenage boy. The arrest report goes on to say, the girl messaged that ‘erikb20172018’ admitted he was really a music teacher at Landon Middle School and asked her not to tell anyone. She says she agreed, which led to him sharing an incident from school. The report says she claims that  ‘erikb20172018’ told her, a female student left her bag in his classroom and that he went through it, coming across a pair of underwear. She writes that he told her he took the underwear out and decided to keep it. The report states that one of the girls-- it’s unclear which due to heavy redactions-- immediately remembered ‘erikb20172018’ as being her music teacher. JSO says when they arrested Beckstrom he did speak with officers, but that part of the report was redacted. Beckstrom’s arrest report lists his charges as producing/promoting performance, which includes sexual performance by a child under 18-year-old, and transmission of material harmful to minors. DUVAL COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS STATEMENT: “As you know we care greatly for the well-being of our students and we work diligently to provide your students with teachers and staff of the highest character and capability.  It is for that reason I am so disappointed to inform you that one of our teachers, Mr. Kristopher Beckstrom, was taken into custody by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. Information about the charges he is facing was announced by JSO and appear to be related to sending and soliciting explicit photos to and from minors across the country. He remains in custody. Should he be released from custody, he will be immediately removed from the classroom and not have further contact with students pending the outcome of an internal investigation.  In the meantime, we are grateful to law enforcement for their partnership, and we will continue to cooperate fully. We encourage anyone with information or questions regarding the investigation to contact the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.”
  • A 48-year-old Jacksonville man is being charged with unlawful sexual activity with a teen victim, after an officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office found the two at a park. According to the arrest report for Jeffrey Fountain, he and the teen victim were found by an officer in the backseat of a parked car, in the early morning hours of September 14th, at Scott Park in Northwest Jacksonville.  The report says it became clear to the officer that the two had been engaging in sexual activity leading to Fountain's arrest.  When police interviewed the victim, the report says he told investigators the two had met on a dating app earlier that evening. He told police that Fountain then came to pick him up and took him to the park, with the sole purpose of engaging in sexual activity. The charge against Fountain is a second-degree felony.
  • Sarah Thompson

    Sarah Thompson is the Afternoon Producer and Evening Anchor for WOKV and has been with the team since October 2013. She's a University of Florida graduate and a Jacksonville-native.

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  • As the Senate Judiciary Committee set a showdown hearing for Thursday with U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh and a woman who alleges that the judge sexually assaulted her in high school, the White House on Sunday again defended the President’s pick after new allegations surfaced, as Republicans said this was nothing but a coordinated political effort by Democrats to sink the Kavanaugh nomination. “This 35-year-old, uncorroborated claim is the latest in a coordinated smear campaign by the Democrats designed to tear down a good man,” said White House spokesperson Kerri Kupec. The White House also released a statement from Kavanaugh, who said a New Yorker article about him was nothing but ‘a smear, plain and simple.’ “I look forward to testifying on Thursday about the truth, and defending my good name – and the reputation for character and integrity I have spent a lifetime building – against these last-minute allegations,” Kavanaugh said. A few hours earlier, Senate Republicans had announced a hearing for Thursday, at which Dr. Christine Blasey Ford will get the chance to detail her allegations of sexual assault from 1982 – and then, Kavanaugh will have the chance to answer the charges. Republicans on Sunday night also released the original letter by Ford to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) from back in July; Democrats did nothing with the allegations until they were leaked to the press in the days before a scheduled committee vote on the Kavanaugh nomination. “It is upsetting to discuss sexual assault and its repercussions, yet I felt guilty and compelled as a citizen about the idea of not saying anything,” Ford wrote in her letter. Meanwhile, Republicans were still angry with Feinstein for sitting on the letter for two months, as they joined the White House in making the argument that Democrats were simply trying to come up with anything to stop Kavanaugh from joining the U.S. Supreme Court. “Disgraceful hypocrisy,” said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR). As for Democrats, the rush of new information led them to demand ‘an immediate postponement of any further proceedings’ on the Kavanaugh nomination. “It is time to set politics aside,” Sen. Feinstein wrote in a letter to Judiciary Chairman Grassley. “We must ensure that a thorough and fair investigation is conducted before moving forward.” Also getting involved in the Kavanaugh fray was the attorney for porn star Stormy Daniels, as Michael Avenatti on Sunday night was already in contact with Judiciary Committee investigators. My e-mail of moments ago with Mike Davis, Chief Counsel for Nominations for U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary. We demand that this process be thorough, open and fair, which is what the American public deserves. It must not be rushed and evidence/witnesses must not be hidden. pic.twitter.com/11XLZJBTtY — Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) September 24, 2018 The rapid developments left lawmakers in Congress waiting – along with everyone else – to see what more might happen before Thursday’s hearing. “I call upon Brett Kavanaugh for the good of the country and the integrity of the court to step aside immediately,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), one of the few Senators making public comments on Sunday night. But there were no indications that the President was going to abandon Kavanaugh, whose nomination may be at its most embattled point yet.  
  • Tiger Woods clawed his way to the Tour Championship, clinging to the lead all day and surviving a couple of rattling back-nine bogies. >> Read more trending news  Woods led by as many as five strokes on the final round but saw his lead cut to two strokes. He ended the day two shots over Billy Horschel. The throng cheered him up the fairway and chanted 'Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!' as he knocked in the final putt. He got support on social media from President Donald Trump and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. Woods’ last win was in 2013 at the Bridgestone Invitational. He was ranked No.1,199 in December when he returned to golf and could soon be listed as high as No. 13. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • An Uber driver is accused of stabbing two of her customers last Sunday in east Georgia, the Augusta Chronicle reported. Shaunisha Danielle Brown, 29, of Augusta, faces two counts of aggravated assault, the newspaper reported. She’s accused of stabbing two people in the 5000 block of Reynolds Way, according to a Grovetown police incident report obtained by the Chronicle. >> On MyAJC.com: Who’s driving? Uber, Lyft drivers accused of violent crimes Grovetown is in Columbia County, about 140 miles east of downtown Atlanta and about 12 miles west of Augusta.  >> Read more trending news  The victims were taken to an area hospital, and police searched for a 2012 silver Hyundai Sonata, the report said. The vehicle was later found, and Brown was arrested at an AM/PM gas station, the report said. No bond has been set. Police did not release a motive for the alleged attack. >> On AJC.com: Uber app now includes 911 button, emergency features Uber sent the newspaper a statement on the incident that said: “What the police reported is appalling and not tolerated on the Uber app. This driver no longer has access to the app and we will work with law enforcement to assist with their investigation.”
  • Update 2:02 p.m. EST Sept. 23: Emergency responders are continuing the massive search at a Gastonia park Sunday for a 6-year-old boy with special needs. Original report: Emergency responders began a massive search at a North Carolina park Saturday afternoon for a 6-year-old boy with special needs. The search continued Sunday morning. >> Watch the news report here Maddox Ritch was last seen at Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Search and rescue boats were sent to the lake at the park. >> On WSOCTV.com: PHOTOS: Search for boy with special needs at Gastonia park Authorities said he was wearing an orange shirt with “I’m the man” on the front. Maddox is 4 feet tall and weighs 45 pounds. He has blond hair and blue eyes. Maddox was seen with his father and another adult, authorities said. 'They were walking around the lake,” Gastonia spokeswoman Rachel Bagley said. “They got around to the backside of the lake. He started running, according to the parents, and when they started running after him, they lost sight of him, and no one has seen him ever since.' The Charlotte Fire Department is assisting with the search. CMPD's helicopter suspended its search after sunset.  >> Read more trending news  The city confirmed crews are reviewing surveillance video at the park, and Gastonia police will be working overnight following leads. The ground search will continue at first daylight Sunday.  All activities at Rankin Lake Park have been canceled for Sunday. The park will be closed until further notice. Please call police at 704-866-3300 if you have any information on Maddox’s whereabouts.
  • After days of behind the scenes wrangling, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced on Sunday afternoon that the panel will hold a hearing on Thursday to take public testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct at a high school party in the early 1980’s. The panel had originally set a Monday morning vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination, but after a weekend of talks – which still hasn’t resolved all the details for the hearing – committee Republicans agreed to allow Ford to present her case in a public hearing, posting a new hearing notice on the committee’s website. “Dr. Ford believes it is important for Senators hear directly from her about the sexual assault committed against her,” Ford’s legal team told reporters in a statement, adding that a ‘number of important procedural and logistical issues remain unresolved.’ Ford’s lawyers said the committee had rejected a request to invite other witnesses, specifically naming Mark Judge, a high school classmate of Kavanaugh; Ford says Judge was a direct witness to her assault. The current committee plan is for only two witnesses – one would be Ford, to be followed then by Judge Kavanaugh, who has sternly denied any wrongdoing involving Ford. GOP Senators and the White House said Ford has offered no corroborating evidence to back up her allegations. “Dr. Christine Ford claimed she was assaulted at a house party attended by four others,” said White House spokesperson Kerri Kupec. “Since then, all four of these individuals have provided statements to the Senate Judiciary Committee denying any knowledge of the incident or even having attended such a party.” “These official letters from the 4 named by Dr Ford — denying any knowledge of what Dr Ford has alleged — serve the same purpose as sworn testimony,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). NEWS: Attorney for Leland Keyser, who Dr Ford says was at the party where the alleged incident with Kavanaugh occurred says “Ms. Keyser does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr. Ford.” pic.twitter.com/l2F0s396IK — Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) September 23, 2018 The Thursday hearing would be a high stakes political event, drawing immediate comparisons to the extra hearings held for the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas, when he defended himself against public accusations of sexual harassment by law professor Anita Hill. Unlike that hearing in October of 1991, neither Kavanaugh nor Ford is currently expected to have testimony from additional witnesses.

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