Police Briefs 6/28/18

Clay County Sheriff's Office
Posted 6/27/18

Turner indicted for murder, moreKEYSTONE HEIGHTS – A Clay County Grand Jury handed down an indictment against a Keystone Heights man for first-degree murder and other charges.The grand jury …

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Police Briefs 6/28/18


Turner indicted for murder, more

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – A Clay County Grand Jury handed down an indictment against a Keystone Heights man for first-degree murder and other charges.

The grand jury indicted Joe Arthur Turner, 28, on the additional charges of sexual battery and burglary with assault or battery in the death of Jordan Cooper, a woman with intellectual disabilities.

Police found Cooper’s body in the attic of her parents’ home on December 11, 2017 after she had been missing since around Thanksgiving. Her body had been concealed under insulation.

Turner was questioned about Cooper while he was held in the Clay County Jail on a separate, unrelated burglary charge when he became linked to Cooper’s murder.

A Jan. 19 press release from CCSO said, “Evidence obtained during that investigation subsequently linked Joe Arthur Turner to Jordan Cooper’s murder, sexual assault and the burglary of her residence.”

The evidence in question included women’s clothing in Turner’s possession that matched the description of items taken from Cooper’s home. DNA testing conducted on the clothing matched DNA from Cooper’s home and the sexual assault kit.

At press time, Turner remained in the Clay County Jail without bond while awaiting trial for both the previous burglary and the Cooper case.

Sexual battery arrest made

ORANGE PARK – An Orange Park man was arrested at his home on June 26, at 12:58 p.m, for allegedly committing custodial sexual battery.

On June 26, the victim and her mother arrived at the Clay County Sheriff’s Office Orange Park Substation where they explained to police what had happened. According to the police report, Eugene Vargas, 54, forced the victim, of whom he had custody, twice to engage in sexual intercourse.

After further questioning and investigation, police arrived to Vargas’ residence in the 3700 block of Silver Bluff Boulevard near Orange Park and arrested him. Vargas, once in police custody, was transported to the Clay County Jail and charged with custodial sexual battery of a victim under the age of 18. He is currently in the Clay County Jail with bond amount set at $250,003.

Man exposes himself, gets arrested

ORANGE PARK- A Clay County Sheriff’s Officer arrested an Orange Park man for indecent exposure the afternoon of June 24.

According to the police report, Stephen James Newman was arrested at a Walgreens in the 2600 block of Blanding Boulevard after an officer responded to a call about a suspicious person. According to the police report, the officer arrived on the scene to find Newman lying under a tree in the corner of the parking lot.

The report states that Newman appeared to be sleeping and there was a strong odor of alcohol and urine around him at 1:45 p.m. Also, nearby was an 18-pack of beer, three unopened beer cans, one open beer can and several empty beer cans.

The officer woke up Newman after several attempts, however, Newman was too intoxicated to sit up or keep his eyes open. Newman reportedly pulled out his male genitalia and began urinating while still laying on his back causing the urine to land on himself and the ground around him. The officer noted in his report that multiple people were walking in and out of the store and through the parking lot as this occurred.

The officer handcuffed Newman and sat him on the curb, however, due to being intoxicated, Newman fell to his side and struck his face on the curb twice. The officer called Clay County Fire Rescue to assess Newman’s injuries and transported him to Orange Park Medical Center for medical clearance due to the level of intoxication. After being medically cleared, Newman was transported to the Clay County Jail where he is being held with a bond amount of $2,502.

Man turns himself in child porn charges

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – A Middleburg man faces charges of 10 counts of child pornography possession after an investigation by authorities.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office reports that Donald Wayne Avitt, 61, was booked at the Clay County CCSO headquarter on June 21 at 2 p.m. after turning himself in after learning there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest.

The heavily-redacted report offered virtually no details of the case or of how law enforcement became aware that Avitt allegedly owned child pornography. However, the report does state that Avitt is an employee of the Fleet Readiness Center at Naval Air Station Jacksonville.

At press time, Avitt remained in the county jail where his bond is set at $250,030.

Missing soldier case results in death investigation

CAMP BLANDING – What began as the search for a missing soldier at Camp Blanding has now turned into a death investigation, according to the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.

On June 20, officials reported that Alabama Army Reservist Calyn McLemore went missing after being with about 70 other soldiers on a course designed to test their navigation skills through heavy vegetation.

Two days later, a report by Clay County Emergency Management Director John Ward reported that the exercise was cancelled, a search for McLemore began. The search included air units that used heat signature programs in an effort to pick up on the signature of McLemore. No such signature was found, but a missing soldier’s map and score card was found in the wooded area near the exercise area. As a result, an additional 500 responders were requested to help with the search. Two days later, on June 22, some 200 people responded to the search area in Camp Blanding.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office reported that evening that McLemore’s body was found in a wooded area but a cause of death had not yet been determined.

The Florida Highway Patrol, Baker County Sheriff’s Office, Clay County Fire Rescue, Marion County Sheriff’s Office and Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and their accompanying air units, as well as the Civil Air Patrol assisted in the search for McLemore.

Child sexual battery charges filed

ORANGE PARK – A man Orange Park man faces charges of having sex with a minor after an investigation by authorities.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office arrested Frederick Paul Wilbanks, 43, on June 20, after he was found to have abused a victim between the ages of 12 and 18 years of age.

According to the report, Wilbanks was the victim’s legal guardian at the time of the incidents and the sexual battery had started in January of this year and last occurred on June 10. No other details were made available on the heavily-redacted report.

Wilbanks was transported to the Clay County Jail after his arrest where he remains on a $250,000 bond. He faces a felony for sexual battery on a child. He is set to appear in court on July 18.

Elder abuse charged lodged against son

MIDDLEBURG – A Middleburg man faces allegations he struck his elderly mother with a broom handle.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office arrested Richard Glen Ellis II, 43, on June 25 after it was reported to police he had struck his 70-year-old mother with a broom handle on her leg.

According to the report, Ellis came into the home he shares with his mother yelling and eventually went over to where she was sitting and struck her on the left leg with a broom handle. Police did not report any visible injuries on the man’s mother.

The incident was called in to police by a third party who had received a call from the mother after the incident. Neither Ellis or his mother would provide written statements, but based on interviews with the two and an interview with the person who called in the assault, Ellis was arrested and transported to the Clay County Jail and has since been released on bond.

Ellis faces a felony for aggravated battery on a person 65 years or older.

Woman walks in front of train

ORANGE PARK – The Florida Highway Patrol reported that an Orange Park woman was killed June 22 when she walked in front of a CSX Corp. train near Greenridge Road and Doctors Lake Drive.

According to FHP, Lucinda Eucker, 56, was walking on the tracks when she was struck by the northbound train.

Bicyclist in critical condition

ORANGE PARK – The Florida Highway Patrol reports that a Middleburg man was critically-injured June 23 at 4:45 p.m. at the intersection of Kingswood and Taylor avenues.

FHP said Quinton Arnold Hewiett, 46, was traveling southbound on Kingswood Avenue and failed to yield to a 2006 Hummer H2 driven by Edward Ralph Pitts, 56, of Orange Park.

Hewiett was transported to Orange Park Medical Center where he was treated for life-threatening injuries.


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