Alexa Herrera

Alexa is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

Hawthorne Middle/High School has a new principal

When Ginger Stanford threw her graduation cap in the air and earned her high school diploma from Hawthorne High School in 1991, she knew she would come back to her high school after college. But, she didn’t envision herself being the principal. Stanford became the new principal at Hawthorne Middle/High School in September after being a teacher and assistant principal for more than 25 years.

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Marion County deputies are searching for two missing children

Two children were reported missing by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. Twelve-year-old Arissa Johnson and 11-year-old Nariah Johnson were last seen Monday at 18722 Southeast 93rd Place, according to the media release. The Department of Children and Families said it believes the children were picked up by their biological mother, Amanda Via. The 38-year-old is court-ordered to have no unsupervised contact with the children, according to police. She has a criminal record and spent time in jail for multiple theft convictions. She was most recently arrested on a battery charge in 2020, which violated her probation, but the charge was later dropped. Arissa is 5 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs 130 pounds, and Nariah is 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighs 150 pounds. Anyone with information regarding their location should call 911.

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Man accused of vandalizing UF Institute of Black Culture sign

A 27-year old man is facing charges after police say he vandalized the sign outside the UF Institute of Black Culture. UFPD was notified of the damage to the sign at 1510 West University Avenue. When they checked video surveillance, they saw Marvelle Blair uprooting the sign, according to police. He was arrested Thursday night on charges of criminal mischief, trespass after warning and assault on a law enforcement officer. Blair is not affiliated with the university but was issued two trespass warnings in 2021 and was banned for campus for three years. He also previously damaged the same sign in May and November of 2021 and was found guilty of criminal mischief both times. This is the second incident recently regarding vandalism of signs or monuments related to UF’s Black community. Someone vandalized plaques in the National Pan-Hellenic Council Garden but police do not believe the incidents are related.

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Inmates face off in state culinary arts competition

The smell of various foods filled the air, pans of grilled chicken sizzled on the stove and inmates wearing aprons, hats and chef’s coats rushed around the industrial kitchen at Lowell Correctional Institution as they worked with their team to win the gold trophy. Wendasia Gipson, an inmate, kept her cool as she moved through the kitchen calling out “behind” to her teammates warning them not to bump into her as she helped prepare a dish called “Not the Taco." Four teams of male and female inmates from across the state competed in the first Culinary Arts Training Competition hosted by Lowell Correctional Institution Wednesday.

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Deputies: Elementary teacher left gun in car that was found by students

A teacher is facing felony criminal charges after deputies say she had a loaded handgun in her car at Chiefland Elementary School. Paige Ehlers, a first-year teacher, sent two fourth-grade students to her car to get her medication Monday. The Levy County Sheriff’s Office said when the students went into the car they saw a gun and told school staff who contacted the school’s resource deputy. The school board said Ehlers was placed on administrative leave because having the loaded handgun is a violation of school policy. While it is legal for a person to carry a concealed firearm in a vehicle, school districts can have policies negating the law. Ehlers is facing charges of child endangerment. She was released from jail Tuesday and was not required to pay bond.

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Driver accused of crashing into patrol cars during fast chase, punching police dog

A 23-year-old man is facing charges after deputies say he fled and eluded police after speeding on Archer Road, resisted arrest and punched a K-9. Matthew Cornish was driving 90 mph in a 45 mph zone on Sunday morning when he led police on a high-speed chase. He crashed into two police cars trying to get away and drove through a front yard causing $2,000 in damages. After eluding police multiple times, he crashed into a tree, and his truck rolled over. Deputies caught up to him at the 5300 block of Southwest 70th Terrace. When deputies searched his car, they found a bag of marijunana and two bags containing almost 7 grams of cocaine. He is being charged with eight offenses, including aggravated assault on law enforcement, marijuana and cocaine possession, leaving the scene of a crash with property damage and hitting a police dog.

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