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Jacksonville man arrested for armed robbery at Clay County auto parts store

A man law enforcement considers dangerous is off the streets after a search that spanned three counties.

Ricky Barker was arrested in Duval County Wednesday afternoon.

He is being held at the Clay County jail on no bond for an armed robbery at an auto parts store.

Officers believe he is responsible for armed robberies at Advance Discount Auto Parts in Clay County Sunday and Advance Auto Parts in St. Johns County Tuesday.

And this isn’t Barker’s first time in trouble with the law.

Action News Jax did some digging and found out he was arrested by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at least 18 times on various crimes dating back to 2003.

His charges range from possession of marijuana to domestic battery.

Taso Alimonos was in Clay County at the auto parts store on Sunday and he said he went to pick up some oil but walked right into an armed robbery.

"The guy in front of me just fell on the ground, I said 'what's wrong with this guy.' Then I heard 'get down it’s a robbery,'" Alimonos said.

He was then forced to go to the back of the store and into the bathroom.

"Oh man, this guy got a gun he's going to start shooting or something, so I didn't do anything, but go in the back," Alimonos said.

The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office is now considering Barker a person of interest because of the similarities in both robberies.

Alimonos said he is thankful for a quick arrest.

"He don't need to be doing stuff like that. Like I said, he could have started shooting over here," Alimonos said. 

Wigged robber who held 4 people at gunpoint at Clay County auto parts store arrested in Jax— Brittney Donovan (@brittneydonovan) August 10, 2016

Proposal could give less taxpayer money to divorced spouses of troops

A new proposal in Congress could send less taxpayer money to divorced spouses of U.S. military personnel.

It’s part of a bill amendment that would change the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act.

Right now, retirement pay is awarded to ex-spouses based on the rank and years of service at the time of retirement, but the proposal changes it to the rank and years served at the time of the divorce.

“Twenty years in the Navy, I’ve seen a lot of relationships come and go,” retired Navy veteran Barend Watkins said.

Watkins said he knew fellow sailors who have been required to give large portions of their retirement pay to ex-spouses even if those service members divorced the spouses years before achieving their highest rank.

Watkins said the amendment can put a stop to that.

“It’s definitely a good step in the right direction,” Watkins said. “It’s fair to everybody.”

Retired Petty Officer Chris Taylor, who served as a hospital corpsman in the Navy, said he has known a number of people who are now remarried with families after going through a divorce early in their military career.

“I remember my first deployment when we came from Fallujah, there were probably four Marines whose wives at the time were sitting there with divorce papers on the flight line as we flew back,” Taylor said. “A lot of those guys have gone on to be staff sergeants, gunners, master sergeants, and when they retire for their wife at the time to get full benefits, I mean that’s crazy.”

Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla., introduced the legislation in the House.

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1 year later: Suspected child rapist still on the loose in Jacksonville

Wednesday marked one year since an 8-year-old girl was raped and beaten in a wooded area near University Boulevard North. She has since moved to North Carolina with her sister and mother but the memory of the attack is still vivid in the minds of neighbors.

Her attacker remains on the run. All leads have run dry.

Community leaders including the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, the Justice Coalition, and CrimeStoppers gathered steps away from the area where the attack happened to hold a news conference.

The goal of the news conference was to put the story back in the forefront and help jog someone’s memory who could help police.

“Why hasn't this guy been caught?” said Denneth, the victim’s father.

Action News Jax is only using his first name to protect the victim’s identity.

“I talked with my daughter around the 17th, she really didn't seem like herself, she seemed distant," he said.

JSO Director of Investigations and Homeland Security Tom Hackney said 25 pieces of evidence were processed, interviews completed, but they still have not been able to crack the case.

“Perhaps this person who did this has talked to somebody, has made a comment, has made a statement over a beer said something,” said Hackney.

Hackney said he has a piece of evidence that could be useful but what he’s lacking is a name.

“This wasn't a crime that occurred from 20 to 30 yards away, he had to look this little girl in the eyes and do what he did to her. There's a special place for this guy,” said Hackney.

Neighbors are concerned the suspect will attack again if someone doesn’t step up and give police the tip their need to make an arrest.

“You got more kids still in danger. This person is free to do this to another child,” said Tameika Walton.

Action News Jax learned about the attack around 7:20 the night of Aug. 10, 2015 thanks to a viewer who called our newsroom.

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But it wasn’t until nearly four hours later that Hackney, who was at the scene that night, confirmed an 8-year-old girl was sexually battered and her attacker was still on the loose. Action News Jax reporter Lorena Inclan questioned Hackney about that delay. “We look at everything we can do at the Sheriff's Office to see if there's a better way we can do it and that burden of responsibility falls on me as the director of investigations and sometimes I get out as quick as I can,” said Hackney. “I don't like to get out and I don't like to have my staff get out with false information or not enough information.” The hope now is that the renewed attention on the case will generate more leads. CrimeStoppers Executive Director Wyllie Hodges said it’s been nearly a year since they received a tip on the case. “This is not the first or the last victim of this individual. We need people to step up, we need this guy put in jail,” said Hodges. Thanks to a $6,000 donation from Impact Church, the reward stands at $9,000 for information that leads to an arrest. According to Hackney, they don’t have reason to suspect anyone in the child’s immediate circle of friends and family.

Fifteen people arrested in undercover child sex sting in Jacksonville

Fifteen people were arrested in an undercover child sex sting in Jacksonville, including a man who left a 6-year-old child unsupervised to meet up with who he thought was a minor for sex.

Officers said 11 people were arrested after phase one of Operation Blue Hawk.

Mugshots: 15 people arrested in Jacksonville child sex sting

The suspects solicited sex from officers who were posing as children, ages 12-14, online.

The suspects came to a location in Jacksonville and were arrested by officers.

One man traveled from Ocala to meet with who he thought was a child.

In the second phase of the operation, five suspects from outside Jacksonville were identified. Four have been arrested, including one person from Nassau County and another suspect from St. Augustine.

All of the suspects were between 25 and 45 years old.

Charges include use of computer to solicit sex acts from child, traveling to meet a child after solicitation and unlawful use of two-way communication device.

One person is also charged with child pornography after he showed up to the meeting place with child porn on a device.

Several agencies assisted in the investigation into child sex crimes.

It was initiated by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

JSO said more arrests are expected as a result of the investigation.

#JSO News conference scheduled for 2:00 p.m. to announce the details of undercover operation "Blue Hawk". #JAX— Jax Sheriff's Office (@JSOPIO) August 10, 2016

St. Johns County investigators recreate crime scenes with specialized scanner

A cutting-edge tool is helping the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office solve crimes.

It's a story you will only see on Action News Jax. Investigators are now able to create a digital replica of crime scenes using a Leica scanner.

A laser takes millions of measurements at the crime scene. That information can then be used to check witness or suspect testimony and later on during court cases.

When major crimes happen in St. Johns County, capturing every detail is key. That's where the high-precision scanner comes in.

“It’s putting out that laser, it’s getting a 360 degree view of the entire area,” said crime scene technician Stefanie Elliott.

Laser measurements combined with a camera allow investigators to document every inch of the scene.

“This way, we have absolutely everything we could possibly to be able to reconstruct the scene,” Elliott said.

Once every part of the scene is covered, the information is turned into a 3D model that allows investigators to actually walk through the scene long after the crime.

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“We’ll insert a camera with a height and let’s say they were 5’5,” Elliott said.

The tool provides the ability to verify what officers, suspects and even witnesses saw.

“That can kind of show whether or not that person could have seen what they’re saying they saw,” Elliott said.

A useful tool for solving crimes and later if the case goes to court.

“What this enables us to do is to take to those jurors the scene without having to recreate it in the real world. We can actually fly through if you will and show them what that scene looked like to the investigators and what was found that night,” Mulligan said.

The Sheriff's Office got its Leica Scanner in 2013. It was paid for by using forfeiture funds.

The scanner is most often used on homicide, traffic homicide, and officer involved shooting cases.

Wife of man arrested in connection to cockfighting: ‘We were being set up'

The wife of a Jacksonville man arrested in connection to cockfighting said she believes her family was set up.

Animal Control removed 56 wet, agitated, roosters and hens from their cages in the backyard of Timothy Prosser’s northwest Jacksonville home on Tuesday night.

Prosser was granted bail Wednesday morning.

He’s charged with having animals used for fighting and having equipment used for animal fighting.

“We feed our kids with the eggs. I mean, I love to bake,” said his wife Diane Griffin-Prosser. “We love our animals.”

She said her husband used to be involved with cockfighting, but not anymore.

“Yes, my husband did it years ago,” said Griffin-Prosser. “Long, long time ago.”

She said she believes the spurs, razor blades and steroids investigators said they found at their home were planted.

She said she suspects the original owners of the chickens, who were keeping the birds in their yard, are responsible.

“I feel that we were being set up,” said Griffin-Prosser.

She said her husband agreed to keep the chickens and pens at their home, and they knew they would be used for cockfighting.

She said the chickens' owners stopped using the chickens to cockfight “when my husband told them they couldn’t come back on our property because they owed us $500 for stealing stuff off my property. I feel like that’s why they planted this stuff.”

This is Prosser’s fourth Duval County arrest.

Prosser has also been cited by the city eight times for keeping chickens at a previous home that wasn’t zoned for it. The Duval County Clerk of Courts has no record he ever paid those $2,640 in fines.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has been called out to the Prossers’ home seven times in the past year.

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Animal Control Chief Jim Crosby said officers were originally called out to Prosser’s home on Tuesday night because someone reported two dogs tied up without proper food, water or shelter.

Those officers saw the chickens and other items while they were there.

Animal Control moved Prosser’s chickens to an undisclosed location, where they’re being evaluated by veterinarians.

“There are alterations that fighters make to the birds to take away vulnerable areas and also to enhance their ability, for instance, to make it so they can strap literally knife blades to the back of their legs so they can do more damage and slice up the other animal,” said Crosby.

Crosby said the red frills on top of some of the roosters’ heads have been cut off. He said it’s a typical practice in cockfighting, because it makes it harder for other roosters to grab onto the mutilated birds with their beaks.

Animal control made makeshift perches out of mop handles to make the chickens more comfortable in their new pens.

School board addresses allegations against Clay superintendent

School board chair Johnna McKinnon gave a statement on Wednesday about allegations against Clay Superintendent Charlie Van Zant.

Last week in a letter to board members, former principal Dr.  Susan Sailor accused Van Zant of knowing that several of his high school principals falsely labeled struggling students as having a learning disability to inflate graduation rates.

She also accused him of instructing her and another district employee to write research papers she believed he turned in as homework for his online master’s degree.

A special meeting with school board members was supposed to happen tonight, but the chair canceled it, saying that it goes against policy to review allegations in a public meeting.

“I am canceling tonight’s meeting and directing the assistant superintendent for human resources to conduct an investigation,” said McKinnon.

The school board attorney Dan Sikes said employees who were named in the letter need due process.

“What’s happened here in the bloodlust to go after the superintendent is that innocent people who have due process rights have been injured,” said Sikes.

He also claimed they would go after whoever leaked the letter to the press.

“We’re going to find out whoever released this information in violation of the policy, because they may have their own troubles by violating board policy,” said Sikes.

“I released it. I released this information, and it’s not in violation of board policy because it affects our superintendent, who is, again, an elected official,” said board member Janice Kerekes.

Kerekes admitted she released the letter and said she wants to talk about the investigation at the Aug. 18 regular meeting so that they can decide if an outside agency should investigate.

“We need an outside individual to come in the department of education, or an inspector general to do an unbiased investigation,” said Kerekes.

Students return to First Coast Technical College after investigation

Following an investigation, students at First Coast Technical College started a new school year on Wednesday under new leadership.

The St. Johns County School District revoked the technical college’s charter and took over last month after it investigated what the superintendent called “severe financial concerns.”

Celimar Soto has been planning to pursue a career as a dental assistant for years. But as she begins her first year at First Coast Technical College, the investigation and leadership changes there are weighing heavily on her mind.

“I just hope everything gets cleared up, especially financially, because that wouldn’t be good for us students, either,” said Soto.

St. Johns County Schools superintendent Dr. Joseph Joyner said the district’s investigation revealed First Coast Technical College had withdrawn money from its savings to pay its bills.

“You can only spend what you receive. And in their case, they were overstaffed, spending more than their revenue would allow,” said Joyner.

The superintendent sent a letter to the school’s president, Sandra Fortner, in April, saying the district was investigating.

In June, Fortner resigned.

“It is one of our schools now,” said Joyner.

The district has not cut any jobs at FCTC at this point, but has not filled any vacancies, either.

Joyner said the district also took over human resources, payroll and facilities at the technical college.

Soto said her biggest concern is whether the new leadership will cut her program.

“That’s already something that I have (a) mindset set on. That’s already something that I’m passionate about, because it’s been on my mind for so many years now. I don’t want to start over,” said Soto.

Joyner said he’s not planning any changes to programming or tuition for now.

Nassau County authorities on the lookout for Tennessee kidnapping suspect

The Nassau County Sheriff’s Office is asking people to be on the lookout for a Tennessee man suspected of kidnapping his daughter.

Skyla Lashay Wilson, 2, has been missing since Sunday.

Authorities believe Michael Wilson, 35, took her and could be headed to Fernandina Beach or Orlando.

Wilson may have ties to either of those places. Sheriff Bill Leeper said his deputies are on high alert just in case.

“If you were to see that, you would be extra cautious when you investigate further or stop the individual,” said Leeper. “If you feel like you need to have additional personnel with you, certainly call for help.”

Tennessee authorities said Wilson does not have custody of his daughter and they believe she’s in danger.

Deputies said Wilson picked up the toddler on her birthday last Thursday, but never returned her to her mother.

Wilson was last seen driving a 2014 black Kia Soul.

Skyla’s mother Stephanie Wilson told Action News Jax's CBS affiliate that she and Michael are separated.

She said he should be considered dangerous.

“It’s difficult for me knowing that he gets her, just because I know how he is with kids,” she said. “He’s a really rough person.”

Wilson’s Kia Soul was last seen Friday in Calhoun, Georgia at a truck stop's ATM.

If you have any information about the location of Wilson and his daughter, you’re asked to contact the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office at (423) 728-7337 or the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.

Jacksonville church adds $6,000 to reward for information about 8-year-old's attacker

A Jacksonville church added $6,000 to a reward for any information leading to the arrest of a man who sexually attacked an 8-year-old girl in Arlington a year ago.

Officers and community leaders sought the public's help in identifying the man at a press conference on the year anniversary of the attack.

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Director Tom Hackney said there have been strides in the case but he wished he had more answers 

Residents at the Eagle Point Apartments said the girl walked out of the woods, covered in blood. The victim ended up in a hospital's intensive care unit.

JSO said there was little to go on because no one witnessed the attack.

Physical evidence did not lead to a suspect in the case, Hackney said.

A Justice Coalition spokesperson said a 16-year-old victim's advocate, the youngest in the state, was instrumental in working with the girl to learn more information about the attack.

Neighbors and businesses in the area also provided all of the information they could, but JSO still has no suspect information.

Crime Stoppers received nine tips about the case and the latest came last August.

"This is not the first or last victim of this individual," First Coast Crime Stoppers Director Wylie Hodges said.

Anyone who has any information about the incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS. You can remain anonymous and receive a possible reward of up to $9,000.

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JSO Tom Hackney: Not a lot of information was provided at the time. Watch:— ActionNewsJax (@ActionNewsJax) August 10, 2016 JSO Tom Hackney: We are out here today to go back over (the case)— ActionNewsJax (@ActionNewsJax) August 10, 2016 JSO Tom Hackney: None of the evidence or interviews have led us to the suspect.— ActionNewsJax (@ActionNewsJax) August 10, 2016 JSO Tom Hackney and the team is asking for more help in the case involving the 2015 sexual assault of a young girl.— ActionNewsJax (@ActionNewsJax) August 10, 2016 Justice Coalition: "We need to crack this case, and get this person off the street."— ActionNewsJax (@ActionNewsJax) August 10, 2016 First Coast Crime Stoppers: It has received 9 tips on the case when it happened.— ActionNewsJax (@ActionNewsJax) August 10, 2016 First Coast Crime Stoppers said the last tip came in toward the end of August 2015, almost a year ago. Story:— ActionNewsJax (@ActionNewsJax) August 10, 2016 Call First Coast Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS to help with the case involving the 2015 sexual assault of a young girl.— ActionNewsJax (@ActionNewsJax) August 10, 2016 Hackney: The evidence haven't led us to a named suspect at this time.— ActionNewsJax (@ActionNewsJax) August 10, 2016 Hackney: There are results that may become helpful in the case. But not giving away what we have in the case.— ActionNewsJax (@ActionNewsJax) August 10, 2016 First Coast Crime Stoppers: The Impact Church just gave an additional $6,000.— ActionNewsJax (@ActionNewsJax) August 10, 2016

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