Hourly News Update
By Amanda Wood on December 2nd, 2014 | Last updated: December 2, 2014 at 2:56 pm
Paws on Parole is a prison-based training program that allows for women inmates to live and train with dogs for eight weeks. The dogs, taken from shelters, enter into this program to learn basic training, and to eventually, be adopted.
By Leah Harding on December 2nd, 2014 | Last updated: December 8, 2014 at 3:34 pm
Grace Marketplace is waiting on funds from the city for the month of October but is keeping the pavilion open despite having not received confirmation that its staffing will be paid for.
By Danielle Prinz on December 1st, 2014 | Last updated: December 2, 2014 at 12:31 pm
Taylor Trache produced this update.
Update, Dec. 1: Fifteen-year-old Tyree Harris has been charged with two counts of “False Report About Planting Bomb,” a 2nd Degree Felony, for the bomb threats made to Gainesville High School on Nov. 19 and 20.
According to a release from Gainseville Police Department spokesperson Ben Tobias, phone records for GHS verified the threats were made from the same number. Records obtained by the number’s carrier led GPD to Simon Peter Harris Jr., whose juvenile son attends the high school. GPS coordinates at the time of the calls revealed they were made from the high school’s grounds.
On Nov. 25, Tobias and GPD Detective Martin Honeycutt interviewed Tyree Harris at his residence with his father present. Harris admitted the number on the records was his cell phone; he also admitted he was at school at the time the calls were made but denied making the threats.
A search warrant served to the carrier also revealed text messages from Harris’ phone to another student, who later confirmed the conversation, about making the bomb threats.
Tobias said Harris will be tried as an adolescent.
Update, Nov. 20: Gainesville High School received two phone calls Thursday morning almost identical to Wednesday’s threat, according to a release from Alachua County Public Schools spokeswoman Jackie Johnson.
“We have been in consultation with GPD,” Johnson wrote, “and this is not considered an active threat.”
Nothing was found during a visual search of the campus. GHS is operating normally, and the campus has not been evacuated.
Parents have been contacted via email and text messaging. Anyone with more information is asked to report it immediately.
Original Post: Gainesville High School evacuated Wednesday after a bomb threat was called into the school’s main line.
At 12:09 p.m., a secretary answered a call that appeared to be from a juvenile. The caller said “bomb threat” and hung up before any questions could be asked.
As a precaution, Gainesville Police Department and Alachua County School Board personnel safely evacuated the 1,900 students and staff to the nearby Planet Fitness parking lot until a complete sweep of the school could be done.
Gainesville Police borrowed three certified bomb-sniffing canines from University of Florida Police Department and one from the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office to help clear the campus room-by-room.
Parents were notified by the school board via an automated phone call and given the option to pick their students up from the Planet Fitness parking lot.
Beatrice Flagg, a grandmother of an 11th grade GHS student, said her grandson called her to say he could be picked up.
“With all the things that are happening at the schools nowadays, I was very concerned,” Flagg said. “My grandkids are my heart.”
As of school dismissal time at 2 p.m., no students were allowed in the buildings and no cars were allowed to enter campus. Students who drove to campus were allowed to pick up their cars from the parking lot and bus riders were picked up from the bus loop.
Kelly Serrano, a 10th grade student, was in class when an announcement was made that they had to evacuate the school. She said she was scared and did not know what would happen.
GPD spokesman, Officer Ben Tobias, said that after the department searches every room and confirms there is nothing in the school, they will work backwards to identify who called the threat in.
“We’ve been pretty lucking with not having too many (bomb threats this past year),” Tobias said.
An “all clear” was announced via email at 3:32 p.m. Information on the suspect is still unknown.
GPD’s investigators are working to identify the caller, Tobias said.
“We have to work very closely with the telephone company,” Tobias said. “[We’ll] try to backtrack where the call came from and if we’re able to identify that person then they will definitely be charged.”
Going forward, the high school will be monitored more closely.
“We have school resource officers assigned at the high school anyway,” Tobias said. “They will just make sure they’re keeping an extra watch on the school.”
Morgan Frazier and Kyle Follansbee contributed to this report.
By Eric Bandin on December 1st, 2014 | Last updated: December 1, 2014 at 11:53 am
For weeks now, a 60-year-old woman has felt the pressure of an increasingly aggressive “IRS officer” calling to demand owed money.
These supposed back taxes are not the first time Valerie Sicher has been targeted by con artists looking for her financial information.
“I’ve never been scammed because I’ve been aware of it,” said Sicher, a retired member of a Miami credit union board of directors.
The calls have been reported to the IRS, but representatives told Sicher that the calls are untraceable from her work phone.
On Oct. 1, Florida house bill 409 passed, which allowed prosecutors more leeway in convicting criminals who exploit the elderly, but only one in seven exploitation cases are making it to prosecution, said Shannon Miller, ESQ., of the Miller Elder Law Firm.
Out of 45 thousand cases, exploitation victims make up for 15.86 percent of the total investigations, according to the 2013-2014 data collected by the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.
“These are often deep family matters; they can involve all kinds of risks and liabilities,” said Nancy Salisbury, a retired public health official and minister. “Victims fear embarrassment and emotional distress along with the risks of personal safety.”
An extra $5 million to add to a retirement plan may have sounded irresistible to some, but “risk-free” money never seems to work out that way.
Stan and Nancy Salisbury, elderly retirees of Gainesville, received a first-class letter last August that offered the split of a hefty inheritance of their unknown relative James Salisbury.
“All the numbers, companies and addresses check out,” Stan said. “But there’s definitely no Jameses on my side of the family.”
Miller has worked on a case where gifts preceded extortion. The client accepted a valid lotto prize in Haiti for $1,300; however, that was just the bait. Part two of the payment, a $16,000 sum that never came, was meant to arrive two months later.
In the meantime, the con artists acquired his payment information and were able to siphon off $22,500 from the client’s account through micro-transactions and a gift tax.
“If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is,” she said.
House bill 409 specifically refers to those over 65 who are considered vulnerable adults. A jury may presume exploitation if a joint account is being used to deprive an elder, or if there is negligence or resistance to spend money that would benefit the elder. Another red flag is if a non-relative who has known the victim for less than two years is receiving transfers.
“There’s some cases that are clear cut; if someone comes and says they want to leave everything to their pool boy, then we got a problem,” said Ronald A. Jones, P.A., civil attorney at law.
Events such as Law at the Library: Elder Law seminar, held on Nov. 10 at the Headquarters Library of the Alachua County Library District, are helping to spread awareness of the changing interpretation of elder exploitation as summarized by american actor Mickey Rooney before his death in April 2014.
“People you know, just because someone goes to your church, your golfing circle or are in the same organization, doesn’t necessarily make them trustworthy,” Jones said. “That’s why they’re called con artists.”
By Ryan Jones on December 1st, 2014 | Last updated: December 1, 2014 at 10:21 am
The Florida State Seminoles defeated the University of Florida Gators 24-19 at Doak Campbell Stadium Saturday, November 29, 2014 in Tallahassee, Florida.
Ryan Jones / WUFT News permalink
Florida quarterback Treon Harris (3) runs the ball during the second half of the Florida vs. Florida State game in Tallahassee, Florida, Saturday, November 29, 2014.
Ryan Jones / WUFT News permalink
Florida defensive lineman Alex McCalister (14) stops Florida State running back Karlos Williams (9) during the first half of the Florida vs. Florida State game in Tallahassee, Florida, Saturday, November 29, 2014.
Ryan Jones / WUFT News permalink
Florida defenders unsuccesfully attempt to stop a Florida State field goal during the first half of the Florida vs. Florida State game in Tallahassee, Florida, Saturday, November 29, 2014.