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Latest from Stephanie Brown

    Millions of dollars could soon be invested in to improvements at Jacksonville parks. As part of the City of Jacksonville’s annual budget process, Mayor Lenny Curry has put forward his proposed Capital Improvement Program, which lists the infrastructure investments he wants the City to make. WOKV has found nearly a dozen projects across Jacksonville which focus on the infrastructure at local parks, with a proposed investment of close to $13 million, mostly in borrowed funds. This is above and beyond standard park maintenance that’s budgeted for every year. FULL COVERAGE: Jacksonville Mayor’s nearly $1.4 billion budget proposal On the Southside, a $2.225 million expansion is planned for the Fort Family Regional Park off Baymeadows, near I-295. This project would add four baseball fields, a parking lot, and a concession stand to the site, with construction starting this fall and continuing through next fall. The City says the park would be able to remain open during this work, which is aimed at creating a more substantial sports complex for the densely populated area. The park currently has a tennis complex, soccer fields, a playground, pavilions, and restrooms. The majority of this project would be funded through borrowing. $600,000 in available funding is earmarked for lighting upgrades for the baseball complex at Baker Skinner Park, off Powers Avenue in the San Jose area of the Southside. The City of Jacksonville says lighting at four of the six fields will be addressed, with the two smaller t-ball fields excluded since they are not as affected because of earlier games. Replacing the lighting means demolishing the old system and installing new LED sports field lighting, poles, and controllers, but the City says the park will remain open during the work. Construction will begin this fall and wrap by Spring 2020, if the proposal is approved.  One of the biggest investments is near the Main Street Bridge on the Southbank of Downtown, in the St. Johns River Park and Friendship Fountain, which is on the park site. For the park itself, $950,000 was previously committed, and an additional $1.6 million is proposed for the upcoming fiscal year, with most of the funding coming through borrowing. This would fund improvements to walkways, picnic areas, landscaping, adaptive signage, a concession area, and restroom facilities. There is also a concept for a Ribault Landing-themed playground and a splashpark.  The City says this park will have to be closed during the construction, which is slated to start late this year or early 2020, and wrap in the end of 2020. The City says they’re working to identify any events and activities that would be affected by this closure, to provide alternate locations. In the park, Friendship Fountain itself is poised for a huge overhaul. The City has previously invested $1.3 million, and is proposing another $4.2 million now- mostly through borrowing- for some significant repairs. The project includes repairs to the concrete structure, speakers, lighting, pumps, wiring, and electronic and software equipment. Renderings from the City show two different perspectives, but the same concept, of what that work could look like. For William F. Sheffield Regional Park, off New Berlin Road on the Northside, this is poised to be the first year of a multi-year investment. The CIP proposes $1 million for the upcoming fiscal year and $3 million the following year, largely funded through borrowing. The money this year is for new multi-use fields, which would be able to accommodate soccer, football, and other sports, according to the City. This project would also involve an increase in the parking capacity, and while the exact number of spots is not clear, the City says capacity should double around the football fields. Construction here would begin this fall and conclude next fall, with no need to close the park. Another multi-year investment is proposed for a Winton Drive Recreation Facility, across from Ribault High School in Northwest Jacksonville. $500,000 was previously committed to this project, and now the CIP proposes $2.05 million in borrowing each of the next two years to round out the investment. A Boys & Girls Club facility is being built adjacent to this property, so this rec facility would be aimed at supporting that. The facility would consist of a range of fields and parking, as conceptualized in this rendering. The 103rd Street Sports Complex on the Westside could see $707,000 in renovations, funded through available cash. The proposal is to renovate the grandstand building where scoring is done and restrooms are housed, as well as the bleachers, lighting, and sidewalks. This project is expected to span from this fall through next summer, with the park staying open through that time. This park centers on a half-mile lighted Go-Kart track. Hanna Park in the Mayport area stands to see $14,093 in proposed improvements including fencing replacement, playground repairs, safety lighting, trail repairs, drainage improvements, and minor renovations to amenities. In addition to that, $240,000 is proposed to repair one of the beach access boardwalks, which the City says has deteriorated because of the harsh environment. The CIP notes Hanna Park has not seen any major capital improvements in recent years, so work like this will help it continue to generate revenue and stay competitive. All of this funding would come from available cash on hand. Another relatively small investment is for Carvill Park in the Norwood area of Northwest Jacksonville. Most of the proposed $150,000, which comes from available funding, would be used for the pool and pump house, although some of the money is also earmarked for security lighting around the park. These proposals are all included in the CIP, which is still pending vetting and approval by the Jacksonville City Council, as part of the annual budget process. A final vote will take place ahead of the start of the next fiscal year October 1st.
  • With the imminent demolition of the Jacksonville Landing and ongoing negotiations for a new contract to keep the Florida/Georgia game in Jacksonville, City leaders are looking to up the stakes for the fan experience around the annual event. The Jacksonville Landing has historically brought in thousands of fans through the weekend for daytime events, like school pep rallies, as well as the nightlife experience. By the time we reach this year’s game on November 2nd, that building will be completely vacant, with demolition in progress. While the City was not involved in programming the Landing in prior years since it was privately owned and operated, they’re now looking to address the entertainment hole that’s created by the demolition, to ensure fans still have a place to go to celebrate through the extended weekend. So they’re proposing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars more than prior years, to create a destination in the heart of the Sports Complex. “All the way from RV City, through the [Daily’s Place] Flex Field, in to the parking lots next to the stadium, out to APR [A. Philip Randolph Blvd.], and incorporating the Baseball Grounds and some of the different things on APR, including private businesses that are in the food and entertainment business, to try to connect them all together in a way that offers that whole area of the Sports and Entertainment District as a location for multiple events,” says Jacksonville’s Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes. Hughes says the intention is to activate this area for several days leading up to the game for both family-friendly activities and nightlife, with everything from live music to street vendors. “We want to turn that area down there in to a place that has some of the same offerings that the Landing did, except we’re trying to do it in a way with sponsorship that we don’t have to block it off and charge people admission to get in to the space. That if they’re here for the weekend, that’s where they go and that’s where they entertain,” Hughes says. WOKV started asking about this enhanced fan experience, after seeing a boost in a special events subfund in Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s proposed $1.4 billion budget. While the City plans to do the same annual events it hosts every year, like the Hall of Fame luncheon, they’re proposing budgeting several hundred thousand dollars more than last year in order to execute this vision. The budget proposal includes an addition over last year of more than $440,000 for miscellaneous Florida/Georgia expenses relating to event services and $75,000 in equipment rentals corresponding with the increase in services, among other areas. The exact price tag for this is not yet available, as negotiations and planning on the details of this fan experience continue. Hughes would not provide many more specifics about what they’re planning, except to say it will use facilities like Daily’s Place and the Baseball Grounds in creative ways. They’re also planning for some transportation options between the Complex and some hotels. More details on these plans will be released in the coming months, he says. “We really want the whole area down there to be activated for the entire visit that these folks have,” Hughes says. There is also $121,000 in additional funding requested for advertising and promotions for this event. Hughes says it’s important to ensure that University of Florida and University of Georgia fans who do not follow Jacksonville news know about the changes with the Landing and this new experience they will make available, so the funding will be to both work with the schools and have information available once fans arrive. While the fan experience is the purpose of these plans, Hughes acknowledges it comes while the City is in a window to negotiate a new contract to keep the annual game in Jacksonville. “These types of extra events are also a demonstration to the schools that the City is committed to the tradition,” Hughes says. Per the game contract, all parties are currently in the first negotiation window, which goes up until a few days prior to this year’s game. The final game under this current contract is in 2021, but Hughes says all parties are having productive talks, and he hopes to be able to work out a deal that extends the game in Jacksonville for many years to come. “We anticipate getting to the finish line,” he says. The last contract extension was for five years and gave the teams a combined $2.75 million in payments and incentives over the course of the contract, including annual guaranteed payments, travel expenses, and more. There are limited direct revenue opportunities for the City, like through the operation of concessions and Daily’s Place. The direct costs to the City, meanwhile, have continued to climb over the years, with this new enhanced fan experience being the latest element- since Hughes says it is intended that this be an annual event. In addition to the price of running the stadium operations, the cost of tickets for the game has increased, and the City is obligated under the contract to buy 1,000 each year. The City is reimbursing the Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair $80,000 this year relating to costs they will incur because they agreed to delay the opening of the Fair by a week to avoid a conflict with the game. Additionally, the City is paying the Jags nearly $380,000 to acknowledge revenue the team is losing because of the impact of the temporary seating construction on their available tickets to sell for their game the weekend prior to FL/GA. The cost of constructing temporary bleachers at TIAA Bank Field to meet the contractual seating obligation for the game is a little more than $2.4 million this year, with the Jaguars reimbursing about $310,000 relating to the construction in the Club Levels. That number varies some year to year, and could see an increase soon, as the contract with the current vendor expires and negotiations are ongoing in relation to an extension. Hughes says the cost of the event is well worth it, considering the impact on the city. “Jacksonville gets a lot of benefit from it. The economic impacts are real, we fill hotel rooms, we have people going to dinner for multiple nights while they’re here, we have people going out to the beach, we have people enjoying our public spaces around Jacksonville, in addition to having game day,” he says. And it’s also about the tradition. “Both UGA and the University of Florida have deep alumni networks here. It’s become a great tradition for a neutral site game, it’s one of the most famous neutral site games and rivalries in college football, and has been for decades,” he says. Now is the time the City wants to build on that tradition, not only through the enhanced fan experience, but the possible permanent changes for the Sports Complex. The Administration is in the process of putting the finishing touches on an economic development agreement that will reflect around $233.3 million in City incentives for the $450 million development of Lot J at the stadium in to a mixed-use site with entertainment, office, hotel, and residential space. While that deal is still pending approval by the Downtown Investment Authority and the City Council, another project that is moving forward is the removal of the Hart Bridge ramps by the stadium. All of this will mean construction likely affecting the next couple of games after the 2019 one, but Hughes says it will be worth the hassle. “Ultimately, a couple of years on the other side of it, I think people will be amazed at how well both Jaguars games and other events in that area and the Florida/Georgia tradition will kind of fit together down there very well,” he says. The Mayor’s budget proposal- and the included funding for this enhanced fan experience complex- is still pending the vetting and approval of the Jacksonville City Council. A final vote will take place ahead of the start of the Fiscal Year October 1st.
  • As a phased demolition of the Jacksonville Landing gets underway, the Mayor’s Administration is looking at what the next steps for the site will be. WOKV has confirmed they’re proposing a “starter fund” to get moving on a market study and early design and engineering, for what happens once the building is down. In March, the Jacksonville City Council approved an $18 million package to settle long-running disputes dealing with the Riverfront property. $15 million was used to bring an end to a lease dispute between the City, which owns the land, and Jacksonville Landing Investments on behalf of Sleiman Enterprises, which owned and operated the building itself- with the City buying out JLI and taking over ownership of the building. $1.5 million was for dealing with settling the leases and potentially aiding the relocation of the remaining tenants, and the remaining $1.5 million was set toward demolishing the building. The Capital Improvement Program put forward by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, as part of his annual budget proposal, earmarks $2.25 million for a “Riverfront Plaza”, which has the address of the Jacksonville Landing property. Seeing this, WOKV went to the Mayor’s Office to get more information on what this funding is for. GALLERY: Jacksonville Landing awaits demolition Curry’s Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes confirms the money deals with the Landing site. The CIP shows $250,000 in proposed borrowing in the upcoming fiscal year for “design and engineering”. Hughes says this is for a market study for the property, which will involve receiving public feedback as well. While he says they still intend to have two land pads for private development along with public green space, the market study is intended to show the best use within those parameters, including the best balance of residential, office, entertainment, and retail space in the private developments. “How much green, how much hardscape? Is it nodal, in that we have little areas that are grassy for dogs and little areas that are splash pads for kids, or do we have a more integrated, flowing piece that rolls next to the Performing Arts Center and really connects one way versus the other to the Riverwalk,” Hughes says. The CIP shows an additional $2 million split between Fiscal Year 20-21 and 21-22, to use for land acquisition and site prep. The City already owns the land, and part of the contract for the demolition of the building involves sodding the property. The $2 million, according to Hughes, is for the City to design and engineer those public, green spaces, as the developers are also putting their plans together for the private pads. “We expect a process that has development experts, our Parks and Rec folks, and Council members, and community stakeholders all to be weighing in together, so that the development feels like a single space, even though components of it will be privately owned and other components public,” Hughes says. He says the City will look at the possibility of food trucks, kiosks, splash pads, and other features in the public access space. The developers will also be expected to include ground-level dining and entertainment options to complement the St. Johns River and green space activation, although the market study will influence what exactly that ratio looks like. Hughes says setting aside the $2 million now will allow for a collaborative design and engineering process, and if there is any additional funding, they can use that to actually start some of the work relating to what the City’s obligation with the green space will be.  FULL COVERAGE: Inside the Mayor’s nearly $1.4 billion budget proposal We asked Hughes why this market study and engineering funding wasn’t included in the initial $18 million deal put in front of the City Council, which did include some non-settlement elements, like the demolition funding. He says the timeline was built to start rolling this out now, since they have now settled everything with tenants and are getting underway with that demolition. The final tenant is set to move out in October, and Hughes says they should have the market study going out at that point. If all goes according to plan, he hopes to see movement in terms of the development bids and design early next year. This proposed $2.25 million over three years is still subject to approval as part of the annual budget review process. The City Council will vet the proposal and vote ahead of the start of the next fiscal year, October 1st.
  • While three Clay County detention deputies were fired as a result of an internal investigation of alleged sexual misconduct at the jail, no criminal charges are being pursued at this time. Now, WOKV is learning more about that decision. For a year, we’ve been following this investigation, which first started with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office confirming some personnel had been reassigned pending an investigation of alleged sexual misconduct between inmates and detention deputies. Almost two weeks ago, CCSO announced three deputies had been terminated as a result of that investigation, and on Monday, WOKV brought you an in depth look at the allegations that were sustained by Internal Affairs, which included that three deputies would instruct female inmates to expose themselves, would have sexually explicit conversations with them, and more. With CCSO noting that no criminal charges are being pursued, WOKV asked the State Attorney’s Office why. An email we obtained from Assistant State Attorney Joseph Licandro to investigators earlier this year shows that he regarded the allegations as “very serious” and detailing “myriad administrative violations”, but he questioned if criminal charges could be supported. “Proving criminal charges stemming from these administrative violations- beyond and to the exclusion of a reasonable doubt- will be problematic due to witness concerns, insufficient proof that a crime occurred, and a lack of corroborating evidence,” the email says. Licandro says the decision not to pursue criminal charges could be reconsidered in the future, if new evidence is brought forward. In the meantime, he made it clear that action is expected of CCSO. “The State Attorney’s Office anticipates that any definitive conclusions reached from the internal investigation will result in appropriate administrative action against any potential offending parties and that critical corrective measures will be taken at the Clay County Detention Center to reduce the possibility of administrative misconduct from occurring again,” he said in the email. Three deputies were terminated as a result of this investigation- Marcus Beard, Kory Clarida, and Austin Hatcher- with all three found to have instructed or encouraged female inmates to display their breasts and genitalia, engaged in sexually explicit conversations with female inmates, brought personal cell phones in to the detention facility, used a personal cell phone to play music and games while on duty, and failed to log and/or report adverse inmate behavior. In addition to those five common charges, each had at least one additional allegation sustained against them. Ten of the 13 allegations against Clarida were sustained, which also included that he displayed genitalia to a female inmate, instructed or encouraged female inmates to masturbate, instructed or encouraged female inmates to write sexually explicit notes, provided miscellaneous items to a female inmate assigned to confinement and suicide watch, and slept while on duty. Six of ten allegations against Beard were sustained, which also included that he observed female inmates in the shower. Six of eight complaints against Hatcher were sustained, including that he instructed or encouraged female inmates to masturbate. In addition to the three terminations, we’ve now confirmed there were two other detention deputies that were disciplined. One deputy was found to have brought a personal cell phone in to the detention facility, used a personal cell phone to play music for inmates while on duty, and failed to log and/or report adverse inmate behavior. CCSO says that deputy was suspended for three days. The other deputy got a level one written reprimand for bringing a personal cell phone in to the detention facility. In regard to the jail itself, a CCSO spokesperson says they made immediate changes with male deputy operations in female housing areas. WOKV has asked for more information on those specific changes. CCSO also says male deputies are no longer allowed to escort female inmates. The Internal Affairs report on this matter says there have been two policy changes, although we are waiting for CCSO to confirm if those changes were in direct response to this investigation. Previously, two male detention deputies were allowed to escort a female inmate to the shower if no female deputy was available, but that is no longer the case, according to the report. Additionally, the report says it is now prohibited for male, female, and juvenile inmates to be housed in the same area, like in confinement. WOKV has again asked the Clay County Sheriff’s Office for an interview to discuss their response to this investigation and what specific changes have taken place to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again. CCSO has not indicated if they will make anyone available.
  • 28 years after an elderly man was killed while apparently interrupting a burglary at his home in Jacksonville, a suspect has been arrested. JSO says 84-year-old Joseph Back was found dead, after a welfare check on his home. Police believe he was killed the evening of July 12th, 1991, and while police are not confirming the manner of death, they say it was a violent attack. Investigators believe Back’s home was randomly targeted in the burglary, and Back did not know the suspect. Occasionally, JSO says they re-run latent prints from cold cases. That was done in Back’s case late last year, and the results led them to 69-year-old Eddie Rhiles. JSO says technology advancements led to results in this case that they hadn’t been able to get before. “Computer is a little faster, little smarter. So, those images, you can get more of the detail as we progress. And with the technology, it’s only going to get better. And there are more and more people who’s prints and whose DNA are in the system, so it’s only positive from here on out,” says JSO Assistant Chief Brian Kee. Rhiles’ listed address was a homeless shelter in Tallahassee. JSO partnered with Tallahassee Police to apprehend him there on August 2nd. Police say he was interviewed and arrested for the murder. He is still in Tallahassee, pending extradition to Jacksonville. Rhiles has served time in state prison and has an extensive criminal history that includes kidnapping, robbery, and battery on an elderly person, according to JSO. His prints did not immediately connect to any other cases, but JSO says they continue to investigate if he may have been involved in any other crimes over the years. “He’s obviously a very violent individual, I mean he’s got a history of incidents,” says Kee. JSO says Back’s family is pleased that an arrest has been made. Kee is vowing to continue working cold cases like this, in an effort to get results. “There’s always hope. We have dedicated detectives in Cold Case who do nothing but those kind of investigations,” he says. Kee says they even added a Detective to the unit about a month ago, and they consider these cases a high priority.
  • A company with around 1,200 existing jobs in Jacksonville is looking at adding 500 more and building a new headquarters and parking garage. A $29.9 million incentives package is now being considered by the City, in order to seal the deal. The package will go in front of the Downtown Investment Authority on Wednesday, and if it’s approved, it then needs final approval by the Jacksonville City Council before taking effect. The terms filed with the DIA show “Project Sharp” is proposing to add 500 new jobs and retain the existing 1,216 jobs in the City. It is also looking at building a new 300,000 square foot office building- which would serve as its corporate headquarters- and a parking garage, with that capital investment expected to be around $145 million. The building would go up in Downtown Jacksonville. To achieve this plan, the term sheet outlines $29.9 million in City and State incentives, with the majority of that carried by the City. The State’s portion would be through the Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund Program, which would pay $1,200 per job created for this project, for a total of $3 million. The City’s total share of that would be $600,000 and the State has the $2.4 million balance.  The City is also offering a City Closing Fund Grant of $3.5 million, which would be paid upon substantial completion of the construction portion of the project. The brunt of the funding is through Recapture Enhanced Value Grant funding, which is essentially a property tax break based on the growth generated by the project. This project would be eligible for a 75% grant over 20 years, totaling up to $23.4 million. The company behind “Project Sharp” is not named in the project documents filed with the DIA. Florida law allows confidentiality in these types of economic development agreements.
  • We’re gathering more information about a crash that caused big problems for your Tuesday morning commute. All lanes of Airport Road at Duval Road were closed for several hours, as the Florida Highway Patrol investigated a fatal crash. FHP now confirms the crash involved a pedestrian. Investigators say a 60-year-old man was crossing Airport Road outside of the designated crosswalk. A vehicle traveling east on that road was not able to avoid the pedestrian, according to FHP. The car hit the man while he was in a travel lane, and that pedestrian died. The crash report says alcohol is not believed to be a factor on the part of either the driver or pedestrian. FHP says their investigation of this crash continues.
  • A man has been arrested for allegedly shooting a man he knew in the back in a park in the Lincolnville area of St. Augustine. St. Augustine Police say the victim identified 64-year-old Derick Eubanks as the suspect in this shooting, which happened at Vickers Park on Riberia Street. What led up to the shooting is still unclear, but police say the two men know each other. The victim in this case was taken to the hospital and is in stable condition. Eubanks has been detained, with charges pending, according to police. 
  • Instructing and encouraging female inmates to expose themselves, engaging in sexually explicit conversations with female inmates, and failing to write up poor inmate behavior- they’re just some of the allegations which have led to the firing of three Clay County detention deputies. WOKV reported a year ago about allegations of sexual misconduct between inmates and deputies, which sparked an investigation. A little over a week ago, we confirmed three deputies had been fired as a result of the administrative investigation that took place, although no criminal charges are being filed. Now, we’ve obtained that full Internal Affairs report which, for the first time, details the nature of the allegations involved. The three deputies who were fired as as result of this investigation are Marcus Beard, Kory Clarida, and Austin Hatcher. The report sustained five allegations for all of them: instructing or encouraging female inmates to display their breasts and genitalia, engaging in sexually explicit conversation with female inmates, bringing a personal cellphone in to the detention facility, using a personal cellphone to play music and games while on duty, and failing to log and/or report adverse inmate behavior. Each deputy faced additional sustained complaints as well. The report sustained ten of the 13 allegations against Clarida. Beyond the five charges shared with the other deputies, he was also found to have displayed genitalia to a female inmate, instructed or encouraged female inmates to masturbate, instructing or encouraging female inmates to write sexually explicit notes, provide miscellaneous items to a female inmate assigned to confinement and suicide watch, and sleeping while on duty. Against Beard, six of ten complaints were sustained, which included observing female inmates while they showered, in addition to the above listed charges. Hatcher had six of eight complaints sustained, including the five shared allegations, as well as instructing or encouraging female inmates to masturbate. According to the Internal Affairs report, all three deny any wrongdoing on the charges that relate to sexual conduct. They admit to bringing their phones in, playing music and games, and not properly writing up some inmate conduct, although the report notes that many deputies described similar conduct across other personnel. In fact, multiple interviews with deputies showed that they described it as common for inmates to be partially clothed or nude, or to masturbate in their cells. The report says the deputies would correct the inmates in the moment and the inmates would comply, so there was generally no further action taken, including logging that behavior. The report shows several inmates gave investigators similar stories in regard to the more serious alleged misconduct, which happened between January and August 2018. One example is the use of a “pipe alley”, or maintenance corridor, for deputies to speak to inmates through the air vents and grates. Several inmates also said that if they engaged in the sexual behavior that the deputies instructed, they would be rewarded by extra food, coffee, or similar things. That allegedly came both at the direct request of the deputies, as well as if they danced and exposed themselves when the deputies played music over the intercom. Several inmates said the deputies would also use a flashlight or laser pointer to highlight parts of their body while they undressed, or indicate where the inmate should strip. At least one inmate told the investigator that she initially declined the advances of the deputies, but ultimately “felt forced” to comply because they wouldn’t leave her alone, according to the report. Some of the witness statements came from other detention deputies and Clay County Jail employees as well, including one deputy who told the IA investigator that she saw Clarida, Hatcher, and Beard playing games on their phones while on duty, but when she confronted them, an unnamed supervisor allegedly told her it wasn’t her place to tell them what to do. Another deputy witness statement claims the overall way rules are enforced with bad behavior by inmates has become “lackadaisical”. Another deputy testified admitting that she questioned a couple of inmates about the ongoing investigation and told them something to the effect of they shouldn’t involve “her boys” in this. Multiple points in this report reference apparent policy changes that have taken place at the Clay County Jail, and WOKV has asked the Clay County Sheriff’s Office if those changes are at all a result of the investigation. At the time of these alleged incidents, two male deputies were allowed to escort a female inmate to the shower, if a female deputy was not available. The report says current policy prohibits that. It is also currently prohibited to have male, female, and juvenile inmates housed in the same area- like in confinement- although that was not the case at the time of these allegations, according to the report. In all, seven detention deputies, one detention sergeant, and one then-maintenance technician were investigated as part of this probe. CCSO terminated Beard, Clarida, and Hatcher as a result of the administrative investigation. Two other deputies has sustained complaints dealing with their personal cell phones, with one of them also found to have failed to report or log adverse inmate behavior. WOKV is working to confirm what disciplinary action CCSO took in regard to these findings. The other people involved in the investigation had the allegations conclude as unfounded or not sustained. We have also asked the Sheriff’s Office what other changes have been made at the Jail to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again. We are waiting for a response.
  • The former owner of Riverside Chevrolet will not be able to sell cars again, under an agreement reached with the State to bring a close to a fraud investigation. “This was an example of motor fraud at its worst, where a car dealership was selling cars that still had liens and were not paying off the liens on those cars. And so, unwittingly, buyers were purchasing or trading in vehicles, getting new ones, and then were on the hook for two cars,” says Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody. Moody says they were able to recover more than $1.2 million in restitution in this case, to resolve the liens. Court filings claim there were more than 71 vehicles involved in this fraud. “Often times this happened to our seniors, and in instances of military personnel, where it affected their security clearance,” Moody says. The dealership is now under new ownership, Beaver Chevrolet, and Moody says they have cooperated through the investigation and worked to make the affected customers whole. Between August 2017 and April 2018, Riverside Chevrolet allegedly took trade-in vehicles that had outstanding liens, but didn’t resolve them. That would mean the person who traded in the vehicle was still on the hook for the debt and could have their credit negatively affected if they didn’t pay those bills. Court records show there were also some cases where the lien-holder tried to repossess the vehicle, without knowing it had been traded in, because Riverside Chevrolet hadn’t settled everything. The State also alleged that Riverside Chevrolet failed to pay more than $400,000 in sales taxes, failed to pay employee salaries and withholding taxes, and failed to transfer vehicle titles on trade-ins in a proper and timely manner. Not transferring a title in the required 30-day period could make it difficult for the prior owner of the vehicle to get financing and insurance on their vehicles. Under the settlement, Riverside Chevrolet- as the entity that ran the dealership under Andrew Ferguson- and Ferguson himself cannot own, operate, or manage an auto or truck dealership in Florida again. The agreement also includes various fines and attorney fees.
  • 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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  • In a move to make the job safer for bus operators, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority plans to install a protective shield in the last of its buses tomorrow. The JTA Board of Directors approved allocating about $600,000 to purchase the protective shields back in March, says JTA spokesman David Cawton. He says they’ve been working since summer to retrofit older buses so they could install the added protection on every bus in the fleet. “These shields protect about 75 percent of the bus operator while they are sitting in their chair, driving the bus,” says Cawton. He says there have been a few instances where bus operators in Jacksonville were attacked and it’s starting to be a national trend, so the Board decided to be proactive with the safety of the employees. The clear shields are retractable, which means the operators can choose to move them out of the way if they want interact with customers. But Cawton says they can quickly move them back in place if they have to.
  • Jimmy Carter’s pastor said the former president is “in good spirits” just one day after undergoing brain surgery. >> Read more trending news The Rev. Tony Lowden, pastor of Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia, was in Atlanta on Wednesday visiting Carter at Emory University Hospital. “His spirits are good, and he is up and walking,” Lowden said. Carter was admitted to the hospital on Monday to deal with bleeding near his brain, caused by a series of falls over the past few weeks. Carter was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma and was operated on early Tuesday morning to relieve pressure on his brain. A spokeswoman for Carter said there were no complications from the procedure, but wouldn’t give a timetable on his release. He “will remain in the hospital as long as advisable for observation,” said Deanna Congileo on Tuesday. Lowden drove to Atlanta on Wednesday with dozens of well wishes from the president’s boyhood home of Plains and his home church, Maranatha. “Everyone is praying and concerned about him and making sure that he is OK,” Lowden said. Young visited their church on Sunday to teach Sunday School with Carter. Lowden said he expects to field at least one question from Carter: When can he return to teaching Sunday School? Carter has been teaching Sunday School regularly at Maranatha for 40 years. After he broke his hip in May and fractured his pelvis in October, Carter missed both of his immediately scheduled classes, but quickly made them up the following Sundays. “I am going to tell him that we have everything in order at the church, and he doesn’t have to worry about anything,” Lowden said. “There is no need to rush.”
  • Some Capital One customers might see a delay in their paychecks Friday as the bank investigates a technical issue impacting direct deposits, company officials said. >> Read more trending news  Capital One representatives said in a tweet Friday morning that the bank was 'experiencing a technical issue impacting customer money movement, including direct deposits, and the ability for some customers to access accounts.' 'We are actively working to resolve the issue and restore all services,' company officials said. 'We greatly apologize for the inconvenience.' The issue was resolved around 3:10 p.m. EDT Friday. The technical issue is at least the second this week to affect Capital One customers. On Monday, bank customers reported issues with the Capital One mobile app and the bank's website. It was not immediately clear how long it would take to resolve the technical issue discovered Friday.
  • Sara Krauseneck was 3 years old the day her mother was found dead with an ax blade embedded in her skull. Now 41, Sara Krauseneck stood by her father’s side Friday as he walked into an upstate New York courtroom to face charges that he killed Cathleen Schlosser Krauseneck and left their then-toddler daughter to spend the day alone with her mother’s dead body. James Krauseneck Jr., 67, of Peoria, Arizona, is charged with second-degree murder in Cathleen Krauseneck’s Feb. 19, 1982, slaying. The 29-year-old wife and mother was found slain in the bedroom of the couple’s Brighton, New York, home. Cathleen Krauseneck’s sister, Annet Schlosser, told MSN via phone on Friday that the charges against her former brother-in-law were long-awaited by her family. “My family will see justice for Cathy, we hope,” Schlosser said. “We still have a way to go yet with the trial, but this is a huge step forward.” James Krauseneck pleaded not guilty during his arraignment Friday. He was released on $100,000 bail and was ordered to surrender his passport. “This is one of the worst outcomes of domestic violence that this agency has investigated,” Brighton Police Chief David Catholdi said at a news conference Tuesday morning. “And this was domestic violence.” >> Read more trending news Catholdi was surrounded by local, state and federal law enforcement officers, both active and retired, who worked on the 37-year-old homicide case. “Hundreds, if not thousands, of investigative hours went into this case over the last few decades,” Catholdi said. Ultimately, it was the assistance of renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden that led to the murder charge against James Krauseneck, who claimed he was at work when his wife was killed. Baden conducted a thorough review of the timeline of Cathleen Krauseneck’s death, the police chief said. “We believe in examining the timeline of events, speaking with witnesses and James’ timeline -- that he provided -- along with all other evidence, we will establish that James Krauseneck Jr. was home at the time of the murder,” Catholdi said. Baden, who briefly served as chief medical examiner for the City of New York in the late 1970s, chaired the forensic pathology panel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which probed both the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the 1968 assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In the decades since then, he has testified in numerous high-profile cases -- often for the defense -- including the murder trials of former football great O.J. Simpson and record producer Phil Spector. Now a private forensic pathologist, Baden most recently spurred controversy for disputing the official claim that disgraced financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein hanged himself in his jail cell Aug. 10. Baden said multiple broken bones in Epstein’s neck pointed instead to manual strangulation. Jeremy Bell, a special agent with the FBI, said he hopes Friday’s charge against James Krauseneck brings some closure to the victim’s family, but also that it puts other suspected criminals on edge. “I hope it puts criminals everywhere on notice: Just because the years go by doesn’t mean you can stop looking over your shoulder,” Bell said. “We’re coming.” Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley thanked the Brighton officers in a Facebook statement for never giving up on solving the Krauseneck case.  “I want to thank the Brighton Police Department, who has worked with the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office since 1982, for never giving up on finding justice for Cathleen Krauseneck,” Doorley wrote. “We look forward to bringing this case through the criminal justice system and finally bringing justice to Cathleen, her friends and family.” A shocking crime  Catholdi said police officers responded to the Krauseneck home at 33 Del Rio Drive in Brighton around 5 p.m. Feb. 19, 1982, after a neighbor called 911. The officers were ultimately led into the master bedroom of the family’s home, where they found a grisly scene. Cathleen Krauseneck was dead, the victim of a single blow to the head with an ax. The blade of the wood-cutting tool, which was taken from the couple’s unlocked garage, was still embedded in her forehead. The handle of the ax had been wiped clean, testing would later show. “What followed was an extensive investigation that led Brighton police officers, Brighton investigators and Brighton chiefs of police across the United States to Mount Clemens, Michigan; Fort Collins, Colorado; Lynchburg, Virginia; Gig Harbor, Washington; and Houston, Texas,” Catholdi said. The Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester reported that James Krauseneck told police he found his wife dead when he came home from his job as an economist at Eastman Kodak Co. At the time, Cathleen Krauseneck’s estimated time of death could not be pinpointed to before or after 6:30 a.m., when James Krauseneck said he left for work. Krauseneck said his wife was asleep, but alive, when he left their home that morning, the Democrat & Chronicle reported. Investigators, who found a window broken from the outside, initially theorized that Cathleen Krauseneck was killed during a botched burglary, but nothing was reported stolen from the home. Along with the ax, a maul used for splitting wood was taken from the garage and, investigators theorized, was used to smash the window. Their investigation shifted, however, to the possibility of a domestic situation that turned deadly. The couple had been married since 1974, Catholdi said Tuesday. The News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington, reported that the couple attended high school together but began dating as students at Western Michigan University. According to Cathleen Krauseneck’s family, the couple lived in Colorado and Virginia before settling in their home in Brighton, the News Tribune reported. The victim’s family told the newspaper the couple began having problems in Brighton after James Krauseneck, then 30 years old, was accused at work of lying about having earned a doctorate. He also reportedly told administrators at Lynchburg College, where he was an assistant professor of economics, that he had a doctorate, the Democrat & Chronicle reported in 2016. Cathleen Krauseneck had confronted her husband about the alleged lies, her family told authorities. Neighbors and friends also indicated there may have been domestic abuse in the couple’s relationship, according to police officials. The Democrat & Chronicle reported in 2017, when the former Krauseneck home went on the market, that Cathleen Krauseneck was not the first resident of the house to die there. In 1977, five years before the killing, homeowners Dr. Anthony Schifino and his wife, Estelle, died of carbon monoxide poisoning. The newspaper reported that the couple accidentally left their car running in the garage.  Authorities said James Krauseneck participated in a police interview the night his wife was found dead but failed to show up for a follow-up interview the next day. Investigators learned he had taken his daughter and moved to his Michigan hometown of Mount Clemens. Investigators went to Michigan to speak to James Krauseneck. The News Tribune reported that, although he agreed to have a child psychologist talk to his young daughter about what she may have witnessed, that appointment never took place. According to the Press & Sun-Bulletin in Binghamton, New York, Sara Krauseneck initially told police she saw a “bad man” in the room with her mother and said the man had a hammer. She was not allowed to speak to authorities again, however.  James Krauseneck also stopped cooperating with police, as did his family, authorities said. “They’re all reluctant to offer information,” a Brighton detective told The Macomb Daily in a 1985 article, according to the News Tribune. “It’s like Cathleen was murdered, taken off the face of the Earth, and no one wants to help.” James Krauseneck later moved to Gig Harbor, just outside of Tacoma. Investigators from Brighton spoke to him there in April 2016, the News Tribune reported. He retained attorneys in both Washington and New York at that time. Two days after detectives left Washington, James Krauseneck and his wife -- his fourth at that point -- put their home up for sale, the newspaper reported. The couple moved to Arizona after he retired as vice-president from what his attorneys described in a statement as a Fortune 500 company. James Krauseneck’s wife, Sharon Krauseneck, was also in court with him Friday. Watch the entire Brighton Police Department news conference below.  ‘Not a proverbial smoking gun’  Retired Brighton Police Chief Mark Henderson began taking a fresh look at the Krauseneck homicide case in 2015, Catholdi said Tuesday. Agents with the FBI’s Cold Case Working Group digitized the boxes of handwritten case notes and other evidence. “In 1982, there were not computers,” Henderson said Tuesday. “Our files, our paperwork was not digitized. One of the first things that the FBI did was to convert everything from handwritten paper to digital, searchable files.” Investigators had a theory, an “idea which way to go,” Henderson said. They met with Doorley, the district attorney, whose own investigators began looking into the case. “This path was over a number of years,” Henderson said. “When I heard that there was an arrest made, an indictment that was going to be unsealed on Friday, I knew that it would lead to the husband of the individual.” No one piece of evidence has led investigators to charge James Krauseneck, Catholdi said. “I understand people want a singular piece of evidence that can directly point to James Krauseneck Jr.,” Catholdi said. “This is not one of those cases.” The chief said the “totality of the circumstances,” along with the evidence and the timeline of events led to James Krauseneck’s arrest. FBI testing showed no DNA from anyone but James Krauseneck on any of the evidence gathered 37 years ago. “DNA, fingerprints, or the lack thereof, can speak volumes,” Catholdi said. “James lived at 33 Del Rio Drive, and one would suspect his DNA would be in his house. “It is telling no other physical evidence at the scene, to include DNA, points to anyone other than James Krauseneck Jr.” Catholdi said Baden’s timeline will be crucial to the case when it comes up for trial. “There’s not a proverbial smoking gun,” he said. “What really cinched the case was the fresh look at it.” James Krauseneck’s attorneys, Michael Wolford and William Easton, dispute there is any evidence linking their client to Cathleen Krauseneck’s murder. “Jim’s innocence was clear 37 years ago. It’s clear today,” the attorneys said in a written statement. “At the end of the case, I have no doubt Jim will be vindicated.” Wolford and Easton said James Krauseneck was cooperative with the investigation, “repeatedly giving statements to the police, consenting to the search of his home and his car.” Wolford, who represented Krauseneck at the time of the killing, said he placed “reasonable conditions” on further questioning once he realized his client was the target of the investigation. William Gargan, who heads the domestic violence unit for the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, countered the attorneys’ claims that their client cooperated with police. “I think the word ‘cooperation’ may have a different meaning for Mr. Wolford than it does for me and the Brighton Police Department,” Gargan said Tuesday. Gargan also disputed Wolford and Easton’s description of the prosecution, which they called “misguided” in their written statement. “I can tell you that there has been only one thing that DA Doorley, the Brighton Police Department and the town of Brighton have sought to do. And that is to seek the truth, wherever the facts, wherever the evidence may lead them,” Gargan said. ‘To have her die like that is so unfair’  Catholdi said Tuesday that following James Krauseneck’s arraignment, he, Henderson and other members of the investigative team called the victim’s family to tell them of the arrest. “They were grateful for our efforts and plan to attend the upcoming trial next year,” Catholdi said. Catholdi closed his comments with a statement that now-deceased Brighton Police Chief Eugene Shaw made to a newspaper in February 1983, days before the first anniversary of Cathleen Krauseneck’s death. “I’m not known to be a pessimist, so I’d say optimistically, hopefully, yes,” Shaw said when asked if the case would end in a successful prosecution. Catholdi expressed his own optimism about the outcome of a trial, which is tentatively slated for next summer. “Please know that the police across this region will never forget our victims,” Catholdi said. “These cases stay with us forever. “We know we are the only ones able to speak for victims. We will investigate cases like this as long as it takes, and we will use all of our investigative abilities to bring justice for victims and their families.” Henderson said Tuesday that the crime had a significant impact on the community, the Police Department and Shaw, who was never able to forget the unsolved case. “I know that the inability to bring this case forward really weighed heavily on Chief Shaw,” Henderson said. Henderson said he did not “reopen” the case in 2015 because it was never closed. Tips and prospective leads came in through the years and each was investigated, he said. In 2015, an FBI agent approached investigators about the FBI’s Cold Case Working Group, offering its services on any unsolved cases the department might have, Henderson said. Henderson said the department decided to start from “ground zero” on the case, working in conjunction with the FBI group. The retired chief said he met with the Schlosser family in 2015 at their home in Michigan. “I talked about the commitment that the town of Brighton was going to make to a fresh look at this case,” Henderson said. He and Brighton police Detective Mark Liberatore, the lead investigator on the case, sat across the dining room table from Cathleen Krauseneck’s parents, Robert and Theresa Schlosser. Theresa Schlosser has since died but Robert Schlosser, now 92, has lived to see an arrest made in his daughter’s killing.  “I assured them that we would be looking at this case, that we would commit every resource that we had in 2015 and 2016 … and that justice would be served for their daughter Cathleen,” Henderson said. Annet Schlosser watched the news conference Tuesday from her home in Warren, Michigan. She told the Press & Sun-Bulletin that her family initially thought James Krauseneck incapable of killing her older sister. His lack of cooperation with investigators made them think twice. “Why would a man ... not try to seek justice for his wife?” Schlosser said. “That never made sense to us. “It’s been 37 years. I would say that it was at least 20 years ago that we started to think he did it.” Schlosser told the newspaper James Krauseneck turned her niece against the Schlosser family, whose members have gone years without seeing Sara Krauseneck -- or her two children.  “They’re no longer part of our life, and that’s devastating to us,” she said. In 2016, Schlosser described her sister for the Democrat & Chronicle as her best friend, despite a 10-year age difference. “She was the most genuine, intelligent, loving person,” Schlosser said. “There isn’t a bad word that you can think about when describing my sister, and to have her die like that is so unfair.”
  • A 6-year-old suffered serious injuries Tuesday afternoon after being struck by a car shortly after getting off a school bus in Montana, according to multiple reports. >> Read more trending news  Montana Highway Patrol Capt. Chad Dever told MTN New the child was struck after a driver failed to stop for a school bus. The bus had its lights flashing and a stop sign up when the collision happened around 4:45 p.m. on U.S. Highway 93, MTN News reported. Trooper John Raymond told KECI-TV the car was traveling around 25 mph when it struck the child. The driver stayed on the scene after the collision, though Raymond told KECI-TV he or she was not arrested. Dever told MTN News charges against the driver were pending Wednesday. The child was taken to a hospital 'suffering from a traumatic brain injury,' Raymond told KECI-TV. 'Drivers need to be cautious of school buses,' he added. Authorities continue to investigate.

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