Police Briefs 6/4/20

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CCSO: Man remains in jail after fondling girl, beating her mother

MIDDLEBURG – A woman woke up to find her boyfriend lying next to and inappropriately touching her daughter, which triggered a violent response from the man, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office said.

Carmelo Santiago III, 27, of Middleburg, was being held without bond after being charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, adult false imprisonment, domestic battery by strangulation, sexual battery on a child 12 years or younger and violation of probation.

The couple’s problems started on May 23 when Santiago punched her three times and tried to strangle her during an argument.

According to the arrest report, the mother ordered Santiago to leave her house when she caught him on May 26. During the argument, Santiago picked up a knife a threatened to cut the woman “like a pig” if she called the police. Santiago threatened to kill her and all the children because he “didn’t have anything to lose,” CCSO said.

Santiago put down the knife when he stepped on broken glass, which allowed the woman’s son to send a text message to his father, who quickly called the sheriff’s office.

Man arrested following home invasion robbery in Keystone

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – A local man was arrested on a litany of charges following a home invasion robbery and assault, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office reported.

John Luther Bennett Jr., 31, of Keystone Heights, was charged with armed burglary, aggravated battery and assault with a deadly weapon, grand theft of a firearm, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon

According to CCSO, the victim was in his living room when Bennett and another person stood outside the house with a rifle and demanded the front door to be unlocked. The victim retreated to his bedroom as Bennett smashed a window on the door and unlocked it.

The victim said Bennett threated to kill him, and hit him in the head with the gun stock of an AK 47. The victim then ran to a neighbor’s home to call police. When they arrived, a gun and cellphone belonging to the victim was gone.

Bennett is being held in the Clay County Jail without bond.

Orange Park man jailed for sexually assaulting girl

ORANGE PARK – A 45-year-old man faces capital sexual battery charges after the Clay County Sheriff’s Office determined by inappropriately touched a girl who was younger than 12.

Charles Robert Kelley of Orange Park was charged June 2 with custodial sexual battery of a victim younger than 12. He was being held at the Clay County Jail without bond.

Kelley also was arrested on Jan. 20 and charged with sexual batter of a child, who claimed she and Kelley had been having sex for five years since she was 9.

Mobile veterinary unit stolen from Clay Humane

ORANGE PARK – Clay Humane, a nonprofit veterinary clinic based in Orange Park, is looking for help from the public to find a mobile veterinary unit stolen May 31.

The unit, which was purchased last year, largely, with contributions from the community, was redesigned as a full-function mobile triage and treatment center. It was intended to fulfill Clay Humane's long time goal of having an additional resource to face the growing need for affordable veterinary care and to serve as an emergency response unit in times of disaster or emergency.

“We have been working hard during the COVID-19 pandemic to respond to an increase in veterinary issues,” said Linda Welzant, executive director of Clay Humane. “As we prepared to return to somewhat normal scheduling, we planned to use the mobile center to care for the backlog of patient needs that, unfortunately, had to be put on hold during the crisis. Now, we must rethink our plan.”

Clay Humane’s cameras picked up photos of the theft. It happened at approximately 3:30 a.m. at the nonprofit’s clinic at 2230 Filmore Street in Orange Park.

“All the doors and windows of our mobile unit were locked, and no drugs were inside,” said Welzant. “We hope the public will help us find our mobile unit so we can continue to assist animals on a daily basis and in emergencies.”

Clay Humane’s disaster team has responded to many disaster events throughout the South, including the Florida Firestorm of 1998 and Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Clay Humane will close its urgent clinic Sunday evening as the police investigate the stolen van. The clinic reopened last Monday.

If you have any information about Clay Humane’s stolen mobile unit, call the Clay County Sheriff’s office at (904) 264-6512.

Man caught selling items while squatting in home while owner away

MIDDLEBURG – A 24-year-old man was arrested after the Clay County Sheriff’s Office said he broke into a home several times and sold the stolen goods at a pawn shop.

Aaron Bradley Best, of Middleburg, was charged on May 28 with three counts each of dealing in stolen property and providing false information to a pawn broker, as well as burglary.

The homeowner was out of state to care for a family member when the break-ins occurred last October, CCSO said. Best also lived in the home while the victim was away, and he invited others to live there, too. The estimated value of items taken from the home was listed at $12,550.

When he was arrested, deputies also charged him with possession of methamphetamine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

His bond was set at $101,528.

Thunderstorm sparks fire, sends 3 to hospital following lightning strike

MIDDLEBURG – Three men were struck by lightning while working on a roof and a home in Green Cove Springs sustained heavy damage when a severe thunderstorm rolled through Clay County on May 28.

One of the workers reportedly went into cardiac arrest, according to Clay County Fire and Rescue, but was resuscitated. The men were working on a roof at the Middleburg Bluff Apartments when they were struck at 2:40 p.m. All three were taken to Orange Park Medical Center, where two were treated and released.

The same storm sparked a fire on Varney Road in Virginia Village when lightning struck the roof. The county dispatched five engines, two rescue vehicles and water tanker to battle the blaze.

No injuries were reported at the Green Cove Springs fire.

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