Middleburg trucker involved in double fatality crashNASSAU COUNTY – Two people were killed in an early morning crash on Ford Road at Buckhead Trail in Nassau County involving a logging truck …
Middleburg trucker involved in double fatality crash
NASSAU COUNTY – Two people were killed in an early morning crash on Ford Road at Buckhead Trail in Nassau County involving a logging truck driven by a Middleburg man.
The Florida Highway Patrol said Holly Marie Ulsch, 39, of Keystone Heights, was driving a 2005 Toyota Tacoma heading northbound on Buckhead Trail on Sept. 18 at 4:09 a.m. when the crash occurred.
Both she and passenger Phillip J. Ulsch, 38, of Bryceville, were killed in the accident. FHP said Holly Ulsch was trying to make a left turn to go westbound on Ford Road when a Freightliner Tractor-Trailer pulled into the Tacoma’s path.
The Tacoma struck the semi’s left side of the logging truck, which was driven by Alfred D. Pope, 57, of Middleburg. FHP said charges against are pending Pope, who was not injured.
Clay felon arrested for Putnam murder
JACKSONVILLE – A felon with an extensive criminal record in Clay County now faces a charge of first-degree murder in Putnam County.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office arrested Joseph Williamwash McKee, 38, around 6 a.m. on Monday at a bus stop in Jacksonville where he was attempting to hitch a ride from a truck driver. Police said he could not run from police because he had broken one of his legs in a prior scuffle.
McKee is charged with stabbing 37-year-old Alicia Marie Kerce whose body was found early Sunday morning in front of her Sand Lake Road home in Interlachen. Police said McKee fled the scene in Kerce’s truck, which was later found burned near a flea market in Waldo.
Police said McKee then stole a different truck from a truck stop and drove to Jacksonville.
In early March 2016, McKee was arrested for making methamphetamine inside Room 182 of the old Rodeway Inn at 300 Park Ave. in Orange Park. He was arrested with John Eugene Hurst, his roommate.
Orange Park Police Chief Gary Goble said the investigation uncovered an active meth lab inside the room. In February 2016, McKee and Hurst were arrested for making meth at a rental house in the 2000 block of Tanger Drive in Orange Park. During his interview with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, McKee told investigators he learned how to make methamphetamine from a woman in Putnam County and that he normally wore gloves and a respirator while cooking.
McKee was given a 12-month sentence for the OPPD charges.
Unattended infant leads to mother’s arrest
ORANGE PARK – A 28-year-old homeless woman faces child neglect and other charges after police found she had left her child alone to go out and search for drugs.
The Clay County Sheriff’s Office arrested Allesa Ryan Vonderhoe on Sept. 15 at 12:29 a.m. in the 400 block of Bentwood Lane in Orange Park.
According to the police report, Vonderhoe was intoxicated and was “trying to find someone with drugs” when officers arrived at the home in which she left a newborn child unattended during the night.
One of the victim’s, a 26-year-old man, told police he tried to prevent Vonderhoe from taking the baby with her while she drove around to look for drugs. When the man removed the child from the vehicle, he said, Vonderhoe ran towards him and struck him several times in his arms and head. Police also saw bite marks on the man’s back and left bicep.
When police tried to restrain Vonderhoe, according to the report, she began resisting and had to “be physically picked up and placed inside the patrol vehicle.” Inside the patrol car, police said, Vonderhoe kicked the right passenger door and window.
At Orange Park Medical Center, where she was taken for a medical clearance, hospital officials recommended she be placed on a suicide watch when she was booked into the Clay County Jail where she later posted bond and was released.
Wilkes officially charged by prosecutors
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Prosecutors from the Eighth Judicial Circuit filed papers Sept. 5 with the Clay County Clerk of Court to officially charge a Keystone Heights woman with organized fraud and schemes to defraud.
According to the information filed by Assistant State Attorney Luis Bustamante, Melinda Dawn Wilkes, 45, stole almost $251,000 from her employer from about April 9, 2009 until around February 16, 2016. Wilkes turned herself in to the Clay County Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 3 at 9:20 a.m. in Green Cove Springs.
Gov. Rick Scott ordered the State Attorney’s Office in the Eighth Circuit to prosecute the case “to avoid a conflict of interest or any appearance of impropriety” after Fourth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Melissa Nelson recused herself and her assistant prosecutors from handling the case. The governor’s May 15 executive order states that Nelson recused herself because Wilkes “is the daughter-in-law of a retired senior judge in the Fourth Judicial Circuit.” Wilkes is married to Joey Wilkes, the son of retired Senior Judge William A. Wilkes, also of Keystone Heights. The late judge died July 20.
According to the arrest warrant, Melinda Wilkes stole the funds from Keystone Chiropractic and Alliance Rehabilitation & Chiropractic between April 3, 2009 and April 20, 2016. However, it was not until July 31, 2018 that law enforcement obtained warrants for Melinda Wilkes’ arrest.
“Jinnifer Stephan advised Melinda Dawn Wilkes has been stealing money from the business by conducting fraudulent transactions via checks, money transfers, and debit card based transactions,” states the warrant.
Police found seven checks that were made payable to Melinda Wilkes for a total of $5,200 and another 9 bank withdrawals performed at Compass Bank in Keystone Heights for a total of $24,054. From the bank withdrawals, investigators found that Melinda Wilkes used $10,865 to make a down payment to purchase the Keystone Chiropractic building at 330 South Lawrence Blvd.
CCSO Financial Crimes Unit detectives also found Melinda Wilkes wrote 31 checks for $3,403 to pay for her “children’s extracurricular activities,” states the warrant.
Wilkes also wrote checks from Stephan’s businesses to two companies owned by Melinda Wilkes – Trinity Consulting and Wilkes Building LLC.
“There were 26 checks written to Trinity Consulting which is a company owned by Melinda Dawn Wilkes. Jinnifer Stephan advised the company never performed any work for her business. The total of those checks was $46,520,” states the warrant.
Investigators also found Melinda Wilkes had written 14 checks totaling $22,300 to Wilkes Building LLC, which became the owner of the building that housed Stephan’s chiropractic office. At that point, she allegedly raised the monthly rent from $659 to a varying rate of $1,000 or $2,000 a month despite Stephan never agreeing to change the rental agreement.
Felony wildlife killing suspect held without bond
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Court officials have set aside Oct. 3 as the next day in court for a Green Cove Springs man charged with intentionally killing or wounding various species of animals, including one that is threatened.
Christopher Andrew Pippin, 31, remains in the Clay County Jail without bond following his Sept. 6 arrest at his current home in the 4100 block of Ranch Land Trail in Green Cove Springs. He is also being held for drug and drug paraphernalia possession, as well as violating probation related to a prior felony charge.
According to the warrant obtained by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigator Troy Starling, the investigation began when his estranged wife called FWC and alleged that Pippin had illegally killed a number of animals.
A July 7 search of their home in the 1200 block of Lion’s Den Drive in Green Cove Springs uncovered a pair of Sherman Fox Squirrels, which are protected as a “State Species of Special Concern” by Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule. Starling also found “five bags of bear meat, four sets of short or unlawful deer antlers and one full bodied Bobcat,” states the warrant.
Pippin’s wife told FWC that her husband had bragged about killing the rare squirrels in 2017 and saw him place them in a freezer to save for taxidermy.
“She also stated that he had killed multiple deer during the closed season as he admitted such, along with close encounters with Law Enforcement during times that he would have to leave a dead animal for fear of being caught,” the warrant states.
She also told police that he would stay out all night hunting and using methamphetamine and was never home.
On July 18, Pippin’s wife called FWC and reported that Pippin had returned to the home to “steal things” and was arrested by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office for violating an injunction for protection she had against him.
When FWC interviewed Pippin in the county jail, he admitted to killing the squirrels and said he shot them with a .17-caliber rifle off of Springbank Road in early 2017 in Clay County. Under Florida law, killing an imperiled species is a third-degree felony.
“Christopher Pippin did also say that he was older and wiser now, and he would like to possess better views so that he may instill them in his children. Pippin said that he would no longer be a poacher, and shoot bears, Florida Fox squirrels and unlawful deer off the side of the road,” states the warrant.
Appeal process starts in DUI manslaughter conviction
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – A 53-year-old Green Cove Springs man sentenced in July to 10 years in prison for the death of his son is appealing his case to the 1st District Court of Appeal.
Thomas Frank Clark, convicted of DUI manslaughter in the December 2015 ATV accident that claimed his special needs son’s life, asked the high court on Aug. 6 to begin a review of the lower court’s verdict.
Clark turned himself in at the Clay County Sheriff’s Office in Green Cove Springs on June 2, 2016 at 10:30 a.m. after learning that an arrest warrant had been issued. Clark was officially charged by the Florida Highway Patrol, which investigated the case.
FHP originally charged him with aggravated manslaughter of a child, DUI manslaughter, driving under the influence and DUI with property damage for a December 29, 2015 crash on Russell Road that claimed his 18-year-old son, Kameron Clark, who was pronounced dead two days after the accident. The teen was ejected from a 2007 Honda Foreman all-terrain vehicle that was stopped in the road facing south on Russell Road south of Watkins Road due to an earlier crash in which it was involved.
While stopped, police said, the ATV was struck from behind by a 2000 Chevrolet Silverado driven by Jeremy Truesdell, also of Green Cove Springs.
The ATV overturned into the dirt shoulder where it came to final rest. Truesdell’s vehicle came to a final rest facing southeast halfway on the road and the dirt shoulder.
Thomas Clark is serving 10 years at South Bay Correctional Facility in Palm Beach County while his case is appealed.