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Dixie County celebrates its
18th Annual Veterans Day event
The American Legion Post 383 (of Old Town) Color Guard arrives at the city park, still in step after marching in a parade for more than a mile on Saturday (Nov. 10).
Story, Photos and Videos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Nov. 11, 2018 at 5:08 p.m.
All Copyrights Reserved
CROSS CITY -- Mayor Tank Lee of the Town of Cross City brought people together Saturday (Nov. 10) to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Armistice Day when he again served as the leader for a parade and program for Veterans Day, which began as Armistice Day at the end of World War I -- Nov. 11, 2011.
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This video is the start of the parade in Dixie County on Saturday (Nov. 10)
This video is the Dixie County High School Band performing a military medley at the ceremony in the park.
Cross City Police Officer Adam Stinson (left) speaks with CCPD Inv. Stant Bradley (in the vehicle) and Citizen On Patrol’s leader Don Rofahl.
Here are some members of the Dixie County Citizens On Patrol who helped during the Veterans Day Parade. They are all volunteers who help with traffic control.
Dixie County Sheriff Dewey Hatcher Sr. donated an old DCSO cruiser to the Dixie County Citizens On Patrol for the use of that organization.
Cross City Mayor Tank Lee welcomes a visiting journalist (who is an honorably discharged United States Army veteran) to the event.
Official Flag Passer-Outers for the parade are (from left) Maggie Forehand, Carol Ann Forehand and Debbie Lee. They were equipped to give out 400 American flags. The day before they placed American flags on graves of American soldiers in Cross City, Eugene and Old Town.
Standing in front of perhaps the oldest vehicle in the parade – a 1930 Model A Ford (the Jolly Jalopy) – are (from left) Cross City Mayor Tank Lee, (Ret.) United States Marine Corps Sgt. Robert W. Davis, Bill Palmer (Mode A owner) and Victor Jones.
The engine of Bill Palmer’s Model A Ford shows it is a four-cylinder. He has a starter button, however the crank for the front is still functional to start it. (If a person uses the proper method, then he or she will not hurt themselves using the crank to start the vehicle.)
Here is the Model A with people on the other side of it. Classic!
Riders of American Legion 383 prepare to start. At the right of the picture is part of the Color Guard.
The parade gets ready to begin.
Chuck Elton, a well-established local photographer, is seen capturing moments at this Veterans Day event.
Dixie County Commissioner-elect Jamie Storey expresses his gratitude to Jesus and to veterans.
State Rep. Chuck Clemons says his heroes are on the battlefields more than on the football fields.
Some of the people who attended the ceremony are seen here. During parts of the program, children were heard in the background enjoying the city park facilities – more free right now from tyranny than they would be without the sacrifices of Americans veterans now and from centuries past.
The mayor introduces the guest speaker as two members of the American Legion hold the American flag and a POW-MIA flag, as they did throughout the hour-long ceremony.
The Dixie County High School Marching Band and Flag Corps stands ready to perform.
United States Navy Veteran Thomas W. Browne speaks about Vietnam War veterans.
Michelle Riles of the Church on the Move prepares to hand out another hotdog lunch to a veteran.
The front of the commemorative tee-shirt this year (it was more blue than shows up in this picture).
The back of the commemorative tee-shirt this year (it was more blue than shows up in this picture). Attorney Shannon Smith, representing Smith Asset Management Co. and Smith Law Firm, is a member of the Class of 1990 of the United States Military Academy at West Point. He was in the audience, as were Dixie County Clerk of Court Dana Johnson and some of the other sponsors shown here. These are the sponsors this year.
This marked the 18th Annual Veterans Day under the leadership of Mayor Lee, who initiated the first one and continues to make it happen with help from his family and others.
State Rep. Charles Wesley "Chuck" Clemons Sr. (R-Newberry, Dist. 21) and Dixie County Commissioner-elect Jamie Storey were a couple of unanticipated guest speakers at the program.
Steve Fremen set up the sound system speakers this year, in contrast with the man who has done so for every year since the second year – Bob Leichner of Dixie Music Center.
Dotti Leichner, who has expanded her sales of her art, had scheduled to participate in a Nov. 10 art show in Orlando before the mayor switched the traditional Nov. 11 event to be on Nov. 10 instead, and Bob Leichner needed to stay in Old Town to mind the store.
Another new aspect this year was Michelle Riles leadership and representation from Church on the Move. Church on the Move offered veterans a hotdog, cookie, and crackers and cheese as a lunch after the ceremony. Drinks were given to veterans too.
Riles and her colleagues also gave any veteran who wanted it bags of food and bags of meat. The bags of meat included bacon-wrapped sirloin medallions, and packages of prepared sliced smoked turkey breast.
The food packages contained pears, apples, packets of instant grits, sugar wafer cookies, granola bars, a bag of glazed doughnuts and more.
Mayor Lee, his wife Debbie Lee, Maggie Forehand and Carol Ann Forehand gave each veteran a commemorative tee-shirt from this event to honor veterans.
Tank Lee and Debbie Lee’s daughter Angel was extremely active in helping the program success again this year too.
The program was held after a parade, and the program included very thoughtful speeches by Mayor Lee, Rep. Clemons, United States Navy veteran Tom Browne and Mike Hutto, District Commander of the American Legion and former Post Commander of American Legion Post 383 of Old Town.
American Legion Post 383, American Legion Auxiliary 383, American Legion Riders 383 and American Legion Sons 383 were all among the veterans involved in the parade and other aspects of the ceremony.
The local VFW sent a strong contingent to the event as well.
The parade started at the Dixie County manager’s office and went down U.S. Highway 19 southbound to Highway 351 where it turned west to go to the Dixie County Courthouse and then to the city park behind the courthouse.
All along the western side of U.S. 19 there were hundreds of flags to honor veterans. Terry Dembo, project originator, and his wife Debbie Dembo are among the leaders of the Dixie County Chamber of Commerce involved with this project.
To see one of the stories about these flags, please visit this July 14, 2016 HardisonInk.com story by clicking HERE.
Cross City Police Officer Adam Stinson was driving the cruiser that led the parade.
After the cruiser, the American Legion Post 383 Color Guard carried Old Glory and a POW-MIA flag with riflemen marching on either side of the two flags.
Appearing for the first time in this parade were the American Legion 383 Riders. There were at least 16 of those vehicles, with many having a driver and a passenger.
At least a dozen more American Legion Post 383 members rode on a float pulled by a pickup truck.
A lady in wheelchair, a man on a riding lawnmower, Rep. Clemons and other walkers followed.
Next in line from the starting point was Bill Palmer driving his 1930 Model A Ford.
Mayor Lee pulled a model tank with an ATV. That tank included live tracer rounds from the Vietnam War. Also, from the Vietnam War and on that tank were a trenching tool and an empty mortar shell box.
Lee said before the parade that he did “fire” one of the tracer rounds by hitting the firing cap on the back with a nail. He said it was “cool” to see that tracer go through the air, but he has no plans to repeat that firing.
Mayor Lee is a member of the Sons of the American Legion 383.
Behind his tank, for their first time in a Veterans Day Parade, were the members of the Old Town Elementary School Color Guard. They carried white flags and red flags. There were many students in that unit of the parade.
Cub Scout Pack 24 and Boy Scout Troop 24 from Old Town participated in the parade as well.
Members of the Joppa Lodge No.4 F&AM Masonic Lodge of Old Town, and or the Shamrock Lodge No.268 F&AM Masonic Lodge of Suwannee participated.
The Dixie County Anti-Drug Coalition with Rebecca Fusco and another representative rode in the parade. Fusco was also recognized during the ceremony for the DCADC efforts to significantly improve the appearance of the stage at the city park.
Bringing up the rear of the parade was the Dixie County High School Red Regiment Marching Band and the DCHS Flag Corps, which performed in the parade and at the ceremony.
Mayor Tank Lee welcomed everyone to the park for the ceremony.
He thanked the Dixie County Chamber of Commerce for making the town beautifully decorated with flags next to U.S. Highway 19.
In addition to Terry and Debbie Dembo, Andrew Rains, Ben and Carol West and other Chamber members were recognized for their work to put up the flags and crosses.
The mayor spoke about the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. That war started in July of 1914 and it ended Nov. 11, 1918 – on Armistice Day.
Eventually, the Armistice Day celebration became Veterans Day to honor all American veterans who served in any war.
To honor the 100th Anniversary of Armistice Day, the America Legion has called for a bell-tolling to recognize peace, and the solemn sacrifice of the 116,000-plus American men and women who died in WWI. The bell rang in the park 21 times as part of this ceremony on Saturday.
American Legion District Commander Mike Hutto gave the opening prayer. MaShayla Rollison sang the Star-Spangled Banner a cappella (without accompanying instruments).
Cross City Mayor Lee mentioned his gratitude to the Town of Cross for him being able to have the program at the city park.
Dixie County Commissioner-elect Storey spoke to the people.
On behalf of the Board of County Commissioners, Storey expressed gratitude to every person who was in attendance at the event. He said “Thank you” to veterans and their families.
He said he is thankful to Jesus for the Good Lord protecting soldiers as they protect the people of America.
Rep. Clemons spoke next.
Nothing makes Clemons prouder, he said, than to drive through Cross City and see those American flags on the side of the highway.
“You know I’ve got heroes,” Rep. Clemons said. “None of them wear a football jersey. My heroes wear the uniforms (of the military service branches) that protect our liberties.”
Clemons’ grandfather was in WWI and he suffered for the rest of his life from the effects of mustard gas.
Mustard gas, or sulfur mustard, is a chemical agent that causes severe burning of the skin, eyes and respiratory tract. It can be absorbed into the body through inhalation, ingestion or by coming into contact with the skin or eyes.
“Every day should be Veterans Day in the United States of America,” Clemons said, after he mentioned the sacrifices of veterans to secure and keep the freedoms that some people take for granted.
A favorite uncle of Clemons will be 99 in April. This uncle loss the use of his left lung after a German machinegun took it out during combat during WWII, “… defending our liberties and our freedoms.”
The state representative for this district urged people in the audience.
“May we never forget these sacrifices,” he said. May we never forget the cold, the damp, the hunger – all things that our troops went through,” Clemons said, “so that we can enjoy the things that we enjoy today.”
Clemons said he wants God to bless “all of the defenders of the dream.”
Guest speaker Thomas W. Browne of Old Town is a member of the Military Order of the Cootie. The Military Order of the Cootie of the United States is a non-profit Veterans Service Organization. It is known as "The Honor Degree of the VFW" and its members are comprised of the officers and leadership of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.
Browne thanked everyone for attending the ceremony to recognize and thank the veterans who nobly served as they defended honor, duty and country.
He reminded listeners that since the first shots were fired in the American Revolution, patriots have responded to the call to duty. Millions of American have fought to defend freedom here and abroad, he said.
Even today, troops are giving their lives to defend freedom and serve the interests of the United States, he said. And even as some them die, still other Americans enlist to be part of the military service.
“We owe more than we can ever repay to veterans of all wars in which our nation has been involved,” Browne said.
He emphasized the debt to Vietnam veterans, of which he is one.
They served under some of the most difficult psychological pressures, he said. At the time, many of their peers and elders denounced their service to the country as immoral, Browne said.
They served while some avoided the draft, he said. They served without the full support usually seen for soldiers going to war.
Nevertheless, these soldiers served with a high level of professional competence, he said, and courage. America has a deep obligation to these fighting men and women.
“As they served us in war,” Browne said, “so must we serve them in peace. They protected our freedom and prosperity.”
Vietnam veterans, he said, are the forgotten and silent heroes of their generation.
The 6.5 million veterans who served during Vietnam, he said, are served by organizations that recognize their quiet courage. On this 51st anniversary of the end of that war, Browne says to those veterans “Welcome home.”
The veteran spoke about his family’s involvement in the military.
Browne concluded his presentation by saying “God bless America.”
Also on Saturday (Nov. 10) from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., there was a car show and craft show at Otter Springs Park and Campground in Gilchrist County near Trenton.
The craft show is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Car awards were presented at 2 p.m. There was food and music planned at this event as well.
Proceeds from this event are to help the Camp Valor Project that is being put together by ForVets Inc. For more information about the For Vets project, please call 352-463-0800.
The United States Marine Corps was founded Nov. 10, 1775, and so the celebration in Cross City also was sort of a birthday party for the USMC.
Today (Sunday, Nov. 11) the City of Williston hosted a Veterans Day event at 4 p.m. in Heritage Park.
Williston holds first city council meeting in new City Hall
The front of the new Williston City is so long it needed to be captured in two photos.
and yes, the car closest to the photographer in this shot is the 2008 PT Newser (Cruiser) that replaced the former late model Jeep Compass (Newsmobile) that was destroyed in a crash in Chiefland this year.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Nov. 8, 2018 at 11:38 p.m.
WILLISTON -- It has been several months since the old Williston City Hall was bulldozed away and construction of a new $3 million City Hall began.
The relatively unfurnished main entrance of City Hall is big. This view is looking from the front door toward the welcoming desk. There is some very attractive woodwork to be added to the front desk.
This view is from the front desk looking toward the front door.
This is the view of the audience as seen by the person in the City Council President’s seat. Each City Council member is not able to see every member of the audience. The podium used to be to one side of the audience, so that the people could see the speaker, as well as the full City Council.
This view from the back center of the audience section shows that Williston, like Bronson, has very awkwardly placed a podium so that the person speaking to the City Council will have their back toward the audience and there are only going to be a few, if any seats in the audience where a person can see the whole five-member City Council. This photograph was taken while the photographer was standing up at the back of the room.
City Council President Nancy Wininger
City Council Vice President Marguerite Robinson
City Councilman Justin Head
City Councilman Charles Goodman (seated) speaks to surveyor Steve McMillan about a replat of some previously platted property.
Planning and Zoning Administrative Assistant Alyssa Monaghan is seen in action as a substitute for City Clerk Fran Taylor.
Before the start of the meeting, seen here (from left) are Vice President Marguerite Robinson, City Councilman Justin Head, Mayor Jerry Robinson, City Council President Nancy Wininger, City Councilman Charles Goodman, City Councilman Elihu Ross, City Manager Scott Lippmann and Williston City Attorney Frederick L. Koberlein Jr.
One of the cute decorations from the Williston Peanut Festival is seen here in the lobby of the new Williston City Hall.
On Tuesday night (Nov. 6), the Williston City Council held its first meeting in the almost-finished structure. Yes, the certificate of occupancy is approved; but there is a bit of moving-in duties to be completed.
For instance, City Manager Scott Lippmann said his phone has an outlet in the wall, but there is no wire from that outlet to take the messages to and from the lines on the poles.
The city manager half-jokingly mentioned that he does not look forward to checking his voice mailbox, and that he is sorry for anyone inconvenienced as a result of this technical issue that may be hampering communication.
An almost-funny, relatively loud air-conditioner in the meeting room will reportedly be quieter before the next City Council meeting on Nov. 20.
City Clerk Fran Taylor was absent due to her duties on Election Day. In Taylor's place was Planning and Zoning Administrative Assistant Alyssa Monaghan.
The very first person to make a motion in the brand-new City Hall was City Councilman Justin Head, who on Item 1 moved for approval of additions, deletions and changes, and approval of that very night's agenda. Councilman's Head's motion was seconded by City Council Vice President Marguerite Robinson, and met with a unanimous vote of approval.
City Council President Nancy Wininger opened the meeting with the grace and style she regularly exhibits. She welcomed everyone to the new City Hall.
City Councilman Charles Goodman is showing progress in his project to grow hair for the Locks of Love group.
Locks of Love is a non-profit charity based in the United States. The organization accepts donations of human hair and money with the stated intention of making wigs for Canadian and American children in need due to medical conditions that have caused them to permanently lose their hair.
The city councilman’s daughter had cancer and he told her that he would grow it to donate to Locks of Love.
City Councilman Elihu Ross was the second Williston leader to make a motion in the new building. His motion to approve the minutes of the Oct. 16 meeting was seconded by Councilman Goodman and met with a unanimous vote of approval.
There was action related to some rezoning matters, which met with no resistance.
The City Council unanimously approved four standard resolutions required for the $700,000 Community Redevelopment Block Grant application for a sewer plant upgrade. Grant Administrator David Fox of Fred Fox Enterprises Inc. helped the municipal leaders understand why certain actions were required.
As for an official grand opening ceremony for the new Williston City Hall, Vice President Robinson, who is a member of the Williston Woman’s Club, said the club has spoken about co-hosting the event, which would include providing some refreshments.
The club prefers not to have this event on the same day of the Light Up Williston event – Dec. 1.
The day after, Dec. 2, a Sunday is a possible time for the celebration.
City Manager Lippmann and city staff will be working with the Woman’s Club to determine the best date and time for the event.
Landscaping project starts
Nov. 9 on Highway U.S. 19
in City of Fanning Springs;
anticipated to be in early 2019
By Troy Roberts, Communications Specialist
District Two, Northeast Florida
Florida Department of Transportation
Published Oct. 26, 2018 at 4:48 p.m.
Updated Nov. 9, 2018 at 8:28 a.m.
FANNING SPRINGS -- The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is scheduled to begin a landscaping project on U.S. Highway 19 through the City of Fanning Springs early next month (November), weather permitting.
The $285,120, half-mile project, which will take place between the Suwannee River and Northwest 90th Avenue, is scheduled to begin on Nov. 9.
Work will include temporary irrigation and highway landscaping in the median of U.S. 19. This will include the removal of the current palm trees and planting of new trees that will include crepe myrtles and oak trees.
Florida Green Keepers LLC, of Gainesville, has been hired to complete the work for FDOT.
Motorists should expect to see daytime construction activities Monday through Friday, but only occasional lane closures are anticipated throughout the duration of the project.
It is estimated that work will be completed by early 2019.
reenergizes in Levy County
DEC to organize on Dec. 1
By Jeff M. Hardison © Oct. 17, 2018 at 2:18 p.m.
WILLISTON -- A plan for the reestablishment of the Democratic Executive Committee (DEC) in Levy County includes two meetings on Dec. 1 (a Saturday) in Williston.
There will be two organizational meetings for the Levy County Democratic Executive Committee at 1610 120th Ave., Williston.
To accommodate disparate schedules, there will be two separate meetings: 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. There is no need for interested parties to come to both meetings. There is also no need to reserve a seat.
Brandon Peters, a past Democratic Party candidate for Congress, is among the local Democrats leading this effort.
On Wednesday morning (Oct. 17), during a telephonic interview, Peters said the event is at his father-in-law's house and it can comfortably seat 25 to 30 people.
During this meeting, Peters said, the plan is to review reasons why people believe it is important and timely to restore the Levy County DEC, which appears to have been relatively inactive since 2012.
The plan is to address past efforts by people to help the Democratic Party in Levy County, as well as to look at past issues in that regard, he said.
While this meeting will be after the general election of Nov. 6, Peters said this is reorganization of the Levy County DEC to "build for tomorrow."
The soon-to-be-reestablished Levy County DEC intends to prepare for the next election cycle, Peters said.
The Levy Cunty DEC intends to engage in three activities year-round, every year.
It will help encourage people to register to vote. It will engage in fundraising efforts to help Democrats. It will engage in community outreach across Levy County at every level to help people understand there is a major political party for people who are not inclined toward the Republican Party.
General Election results posted
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Nov. 7, 2018 at 9:18 a.m.
TRI-COUNTY AREA – Americans voting in the Tri-County Area of Gilchrist County, Levy County and Dixie County participated to a relatively high degree for a midterm election, according to information from the three counties’ supervisors of elections.
All of the numbers below are unofficial; however, they are only unofficial because there is a vetting process that must be completed and that takes more time.
In reference to the number of registered voters, Levy County had the most voters. From the perspective of percentages of active registered voters who could vote, it was Gilchrist County in first place; Levy County in second place; and Dixie County in third place.
There were no local issues upon which Levy County voters could choose because all of those choices were completed by voters during the primary election.
Dixie County had the only two candidates running for one elected office, which was decided last night (Tuesday, Nov. 7).
Gilchrist County had a “straw ballot” or a non-binding referendum question in regard to taxes and building a new jail.
Below are the results from those races, as well as the total District 21 Florida House of Representatives race, the total District 22 Florida House of Representatives race, and the total count for the race for Eighth Judicial Circuit Court Judge.
Information from the Office of Levy County Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones showed voter turnout was 61.43 percent of the 27,854 active registered voters.
In Levy County, there were 5,486 ballots cast by voters using the mail-in ballot; 3,443 voters ballots cast by voters using early voting; and 8,146 voters who cast their ballots on election day.
Levy County Supervisor of Elections Jones on Thursday morning (Nov. 7) said there was a 73 percent turnout for the Presidential election in 2016 and a 52 percent turnout for the Midterm election of 2014. Therefore, the 61.43 percent turnout for this year is an increase from the previous Midterm tally.
Information from the Office of Gilchrist County Supervisor of Elections Connie D. Sanchez showed voter turnout was 63.14 percent of the 11,751 active registered voters.
In Gilchrist County, there were 1,775 ballots cast by voters using the mail-in ballot; 1,800 voters using early voting; and 3,845 voters who cast their ballots on election day.
Information from the Office of Dixie County Supervisor of Elections Starlet Cannon showed voter turnout was 54.78 percent of the 9,669 active registered voters.
In Dixie County, there were 1,723 ballots cast by voters using the mail-in ballot; 1,500 voters using early voting; and 2,074 voters who cast their ballots on election day.
County Commissioner, District 4
Jamie Storey (NPA) 3,416 votes (61.31 percent)
John L. Driggers Jr. (NPA) 2,156 votes (38.69 percent)
No Local Elections -- all decided in the primary
Nonbinding Referendum Concerning Tax Increase for Construction of New Gilchrist County Jail and Correctional Facility. The Gilchrist County Board of County Commissioners have determined that a new jail and correctional facility is needed by Gilchrist County, Florida. In order to provide funding for the new facility, are you in favor of a tax increase by the Board to provide funding for the facility?
Yes - For approval of increasing taxes to provide funding for new jail and correctional facility. 2,165 votes (31.06 percent)
No - Against approval of increasing taxes to provide funding for new jail and correctional facility. 4,805 votes (68.94 percent)
EIGHTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
(Total Circuit Votes)
Circuit Court Judge
David Robertson (NOP) 62,736 votes (43.86 percent)
Gloria Walker (NOP) 80,300 (56.14 percent)
State Rep., Dist. 21 (Total District Votes)
Charles Wesley “Chuck” Clemons Sr. (Rep.) 39,806 (51.48 percent)
Jason Haeseler (Dem.) 16,227 (48.52 percent)
State Rep. Dist. 22 (Total District Votes)
Charlie Stone (Rep.) 48,373 (63.84 percent)
Bernard Parker (Dem.) 27,403 (36.16 percent)
Following are how the voters made their choices in each race.
To see how the vote was recorded with unofficial results for Levy County, click HERE.
To see how the vote was recorded with unofficial results for Gilchrist County, click HERE.
To see how the vote was recorded with unofficial results for Dixie County, click HERE.
Killer sentenced to
two life terms, plus 30 years
Michael Darnell Porter (in the orange jumpsuit with chains) is fingerprinted after being sentenced.
Story and Photo
By Jeff M. Hardison © Nov. 5, 2018 at 5:08 p.m.
TRENTON -- Eighth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Phillip A. Pena late Monday afternoon (Nov. 5) sentenced Michael Darnell Porter to prison for the rest of that murderer's life.
On the charge of first-degree murder, Judge Pena imposed a sentence of life on Porter. On the charge of burglary of an occupied dwelling with the intent to do harm, the judge imposed a sentence of life on Porter. On the charge of sexual battery, with special circumstances, the judge also imposed the maximum sentence – 30 years.
The judge said Porter is also to be designated as a sexual predator. Porter also was ruled to have to pay for all court costs.
Circuit Court Judge Pena gave the prisoner credit for 1,921 days on the life sentence for murder.
Porter and his attorney Michael Ruppert had returned to court minutes after the victim’s family had left. The killer and his attorney returned to address the issue of time served.
Porter, in his arrogant manner as was displayed in every instance of him being in court, said he served five years, three months and two days since his arrest on Aug. 3, 2013. The judge said that is 1,921 days to be credited only on the life sentence for murder.
Judge Pena imposed sentences on all three counts to be served in a consecutive manner. Consecutive sentencing means that when a criminal defendant is convicted on multiple counts, the sentences for each must be served one after the other.
Therefore, Porter will be in the Florida State Prison System for one life, and then if he has a second life, he would serve it in prison, and then after he is twice removed from life, he will put in another 30 years in the state penal system.
During the victims’ impact statements, each of three individuals asked the judge to show no mercy, and for the judge to impose the maximum sentence on each count.
Assistant State Attorney Robert Willis shared with the judge that the State Attorney’s Office felt this convicted murderer should never see the light of freedom from prison.
As Judge Pena told Porter about the terms the convicted murder and rapist was going to serve in prison, Judge Pena said Porter had violated the sanctity and security of Joyce Burrow’s home, and the sanctity of her body.
People who live in a civilized society, the judge said, can expect to have security in their homes. Every human has a right to the sanctity of life, which Porter violated when he performed these crimes.
The judge said the State of Florida had proved to a 12-member jury through evidence and testimony that Porter broke into Burrow’s home. He bound her. He tied an article of her clothing around her neck. He raped her.
When Burrow escaped, Porter tried to kill her as part of his method of hiding what he had done. He ran over her twice with a pickup truck; however, the judge added, even if this killer ran over her just one time, it was still a calculated act that showed a complete disregard for human life.
But Porter failed in that attempt to instantly kill the woman, the judge said. In her dying words, Joyce Burrow was able to say what happened to her.
The judge said evidence showed Porter tried to cover his crime by attempting to clean the bedsheet. However, evidence was found to prove he committed the crimes, despite his attempt to cover all of the evidence.
Investigators from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office worked as one team to show clear proof of the crimes committed by this burglar, and rapist and murderer.
Prosecutors -- Assistant State Attorney Willis and Assistant State Attorney Glenn Bryan -- proved Porter’s guilt by presenting evidence to show how this man violated the laws of Florida.
The judge conceded that none of this success in proving guilt can bring back Burrow. However, it does bring justice, he said.
And as Judge Pena said, the memories of Burrow can never be destroyed.
Before he levied the sentence, there were impact statements from some survivors.
Denise Miller, the victim’s last surviving sister, and Jason Burrow, the victim’s son were among the people giving statements.
A nephew of the victim also shared how this set of horrible acts affected him.
Joyce Burrow was a daughter, a mother, an aunt and a grandmother who was beloved by her family and others. Porter stole decades of her life, and so she will miss aspects of people’s lives.
The success of her son and his grandchildren cannot be seen by the woman Porter killed.
Porter was described as being “a monster.”
Miller said the murder of her sister came just 14 months after the family lost another one of her sisters to cancer. Miller said her mother questioned how God could take two of her three babies like that.
Jason Burrow said he tried last night (Sunday, Oct. 4) to create a written victim’s impact statement. He could not do that.
Instead, he wanted to share with the judge what the last conversation he had with his mother was about. She had told him that she wanted to be a grandmother to his children, and to be able to care for her own parents as they progressed in their age.
Jason Burrow said his mother was the greatest woman he has ever known.
Burrow said he saw the smirks on the face of the accused throughout the trial.
This community cannot be intimidated, he said to Porter.
“We will not back down,” Jason Burrow said.
More than five years after Porter killed Joyce Burrow, he was sentenced to prison for the rest of his life.
Jury rules man is guilty
of first-degree murder,
rape and burglary
Sentencing set for Monday;
Life sentence anticipated
Assistant State Attorney Glenn Bryan (left) and Assistant State Attorney Robert Willis prosecuted these cases as co-counsel against Michael Darnell Porter on behalf of the people of Florida through the Office of Eighth Judicial Circuit State Attorney William Cervone.
Story, Photos and Video
By Jeff M. Hardison © Nov. 3, 2018 at 12:38 a.m.
Updated Nov. 3, 2018 at 7:08 a.m.
TRENTON -- Twelve jurors took a few hours Friday afternoon (Nov. 2) to rule that a man broke into a woman’s house, raped her and then ran over her with a truck in 2013 – killing her with premeditation.
Among the people in the audience at points during this trial were (from left) Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz, Trenton Department of Public Safety Chief Matthew Rexroat and Gilchrist County Fire Rescue Chief James Campbell. Sheriff Schultz was among the witnesses for the state as well.
In this video, Sheriff Bobby Schultz speaks about the tie that binds the community of Gilchrist County when the force of evil causes a heinous crime such as the ones proved to have been committed by Michael Darnell Porter. The sheriff also answers other questions posed by a broadcast journalist, who came to Trenton on Friday afternoon (Nov. 2) from Gainesville after the trial.
Those eight women and four men were chosen from an initial pool of 400 jury notices mailed to prospective jurors, Gilchrist County Clerk of the Circuit Court Todd Newton said. From those 400, there were 238 qualified to be selected from on Monday (Oct. 29), he said.
The 12 jurors and two alternates listened to witnesses for the prosecution and the defense on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Both sides ended that aspect of the trial on Thursday afternoon.
On Friday, the members of the Court worked and agreed on jury instructions before both sides gave closing statements. From about 1:05 p.m. until about 4:15 p.m., the 12 members of the jury deliberated, and the two alternates were excused.
Jurors are paid $15 each day for the first three days of their service and $30 a day for each day after that, Newton said. The jurors are treated to a good lunch each day, he said.
Michael Darnell Porter of Archer (Bronson), was arrested Aug. 3, 2013 for the murder of Joyce Burrow who was 55 at the time of her death in July of 2013, according to records.
In this case, Porter, who was 53 at the time when he is now convicted of killing Burrow, was charged with raping the woman and then killing her by running over her with a truck in 2013, according to records.
During the third day of trial Thursday (Nov. 1), the 9-1-1 tape from that event was played. During that tape, Heather White of Bell, a registered nurse, was speaking with the dispatcher at the Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office.
For the 12 jurors, two alternate jurors, and any other civilized human being in the courtroom on Thursday, the experience of hearing that 9-1-1 tape was a terrible horror. At the outset, everyone knew the victim had died.
Heather White, the niece of Burrow was heard during the 9-1-1 call trying to keep her aunt breathing and conscious. White had just told listeners in the courtroom that it was about 3 a.m. on July 24, 2013, when she heard what she thought was a person "doing doughnuts" in the road between her and her husband's house and their aunt's house.
She told her husband John to check on the ruckus. He went and returned to report that Burrow was naked in the middle of the street and she had been run over. Heather White immediately went to the aid of Burrow and called 9-1-1.
Investigators proved that Porter broke into Burrow’s house, and he raped her. She then escaped, naked with a garment tightly tied around her throat. Burrow had barely escaped, however, only to have Porter chase her down and run over her with a red 1994 Ford F-150 pickup truck, according to testimony and evidence presented during the trial.
He either ran over her once and left, or he ran over her twice before leaving, according to evidence released during the trial.
The case for the state was presented by two co-counsels -- Assistant State Attorney Robert Willis and Assistant State Attorney Glenn Bryan.
These two prosecutors have been working together at the Office of Eighth Judicial Circuit State Attorney William Cervone since 2002. They represented the people of Florida as they brought facts, evidence and testimony to be weighed with the laws of the state against this defendant.
Michael Ruppert, an attorney from Gainesville, represented Porter. Willis, Bryan and Ruppert completed the presentation of their facts and evidence for jurors on Thursday.
While Willis had Bryan as co-counsel at his table, Ruppert was joined at the defense table by his client Porter, and private investigator J.D. Thomas of Pinellas County.
The jury on Thursday heard from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Jacksonville Laboratory Supervisor of the Biological Evidence Section – Daniel Escalada.
Escalada, an expert witness in forensic biology, was a crime lab analyst in 2013 and he identified the DNA of Porter as being found on certain pieces of evidence.
Escalada’s significant pedigree in this profession includes him earning a Master’s Degree from the University of Florida, specific to DNA forensic analysis. He is certified as an expert witness who has testified in cases in Alachua, Duval, St. Johns and several other Florida counties.
Jurors heard Assistant State Attorney Bryan question Escalada to show the trail of the custody of evidence and the procedures and safeguards by the FDLE to prove Porter’s DNA was in the blood detected on the fitted sheets of Burrow’s bed.
The odds of that blood being Porter’s as a result of DNA analysis was one in 400 quadrillion. That number is 57 million times greater than the entire population of the seven billion humans that are on the Earth now.
Porter’s DNA was found on a yellow sponge, which included Burrow’s DNA. From that sample, Escalada said the odds were one in 4.9 million; and that 4.9 million-to-one ratio were the odds that it was Porter’s DNA mixed with Burrow’s DNA on a pink silky garment (light nightgown), according to testimony.
FDLE Jacksonville Lab Analyst Elisa Sosa told jurors that she investigated Porter’s Ford F-150’s tires.
She took pictures of tires and impressions at the scene of the crime, made casts, rolled the suspected murder tires in sand, rolled them across ink and then on paper and studied the class characteristics and individual characteristics of the tires.
The class characteristics are those of a certain type of tire, where the individual characteristics are the particular unique aspects of a tire such as missing pieces of rubber, Sosa said.
Three of the tires were Goodyear Wrangler P235/75 R15, according to Sosa’s testimony.
The left rear tire, though, was a Uniroyal Tiger Paw, she tesitifed.
The three Goodyear tires did not prove to be useful in comparison with the impressions left at the crime scene by the murder truck. However, the Uniroyal left impressions that included many individual characteristics that corresponded in shape, size and other factors to those from the murder truck, according to her testimony.
The combined expert witness testimony Wednesday, and the testimony of the relative of the victim were final nails in the coffin of conviction for Porter. The strong case by the state included testimony by a number of other FDLE agents, health care professionals and Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz.
On Thursday, Ruppert called Dr. Edward Willey, also of Pinellas County. Dr. Willey is a medical doctor who now serves as an expert witness and has testified in 4,500 cases worldwide. Dr. Willey gave his extensive set of credentials before he began specializing as an independent contractor in forensic biological science.
On cross-examination by Assistant State Attorney Willis, Dr. Willey’s testimony did not appear to add much to helping there be reasonable doubt about this case being a homicide.
The final person on the stand was defendant Porter.
Eighth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Phillip A. Pena cautioned and advised Porter about his right to not testify, and that the jury would be instructed to not infer anything if the defendant were not to speak on his own behalf.
Circuit Court Judge Pena reminded Porter that the state must prove beyond reasonable doubt that Porter had committed burglary, rape and first-degree murder.
The judge cautioned the defendant to remember that if he took the stand, the prosecution has a right to cross-examine him.
Nevertheless, Porter took the stand.
Ruppert asked questions and Porter spoke about where he allegedly was during the time in question. Porter is a truck driver, and he told about going to Mississippi to deliver pine straw to Lowe’s for the Warren Pine Straw Co. of Branford.
Porter told long stories about how he slept in the cab of his truck. He said he had tools, like those used in burglary, on his truck because he needs to be able to repair the truck.
Porter said he owns cleaning materials, including a yellow sponge, which are to keep the semi-tractor clean.
As for the rubber gloves, the defendant said he uses those because when fueling a truck, cloth or leather gloves become soiled more quickly.
As for an X-rated DVD that investigators found in a storage shed, Porter said there were three of those there. They came in a pack of 10 or 12 random DVDs that he bought from other truckers. Porter planned to put them in a pack of several DVDs he would sell to other drivers, which he said is a common practice.
Prosecutors chose against cross-examining the defendant.
Ruppert asked Porter about video monitors at the Warren Pine Straw Co. parking area in Branford. The attorney asked the defendant if he saw his truck leave the parking lot, before a truck of that description was seen arriving in the parking lot. Ruppert said he never saw his pickup truck leave that lot, thereby making it “impossible” for him to have burglarized, raped and killed Burrow.
This trial started on Monday (Oct. 29) when the 12 jurors were selected. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday the jurors saw evidence and heard testimony.
On Friday, the two sides gave closing arguments and then the jury deliberated.
The prosecutors and defense attorney spent hours taking the jurors back through what they had seen during the previous few days.
Assistant State Attorney Bryan thanked the jurors for their dedicated focus on evidence and testimony presented to them.
The prosecutor showed how the state had gone beyond proving to the limit of reasonable doubt on all three charges – burglary, rape and first-degree murder.
Dr. William Hamilton of the Medical Examiner’s Office, had showed jurors pictures and evidence to explain why he thought the woman was murdered. Every rib in her body was crushed, and she was unable to survive that.
Burrow died in the ambulance before she reached a Gainesville hospital.
The state showed jurors several examples of how Porter demonstrated a consciousness of guilt.
He burned his clothes from that night, according to evidence and testimony. He used chemical and mechanical means to cover the damage on the front and underside of the murder pickup truck, according to testimony and evidence.
Evidence proved that Porter pried open a back door, made entry, raped and bound Burrow, including tying a garment around her throat.
That garment had Porter’s DNA on it, and that DNA was found in the area of the garment where he had to pull on it with force to make the knot tight. That article around her throat was so tight, it had to be cut loose by responding EMTs, according to testimony.
Assistant State Attorney Bryan said the naked woman who was bound and dying in the road said. “He broke in. He raped me. He ran over me,” as some of her dying declarations.
The victim could not describe the assailant, however DNA and other evidence absolutely tied Porter to the crimes.
Just because Porter said he did not commit the crimes, Bryan said, is not reason to believe him.
The story about some unknown person stealing Porters Ford F-150, taking a yellow sponge out of the semi he used for work and planting it on the sheet of the victim, and then somehow creating a better sample of his DNA from that sponge to put on the sheet for a complete DNA match, is not believable, Bryan said.
There is no reasonable doubt that Porter committed these three crimes, Bryan told the jury as he asked them to use common sense and to convict him.
Ruppert thanked the jurors for their service.
He reminded them to scrutinize the facts presented. He reminded the jurors that the state must prove beyond and to the exclusion of all reasonable doubt, based on credible facts, to the point that all 12 jurors had an abiding conviction of guilt that did not waiver or vacillate.
The defense attorney reminded the jurors that no person saw who killed the victim. In fact, he said it was his belief that the state did not show enough evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the woman was raped.
Porter was unanimously ruled by the 12 jurors to be guilty of first-degree murder, rape and burglary.
Victims’ impact statement and sentencing is set for Monday at 2:30 p.m. in the Gilchrist County Courthouse.
The odds are strong that Judge Pena will impose a life sentence without hope for parole.
First-degree murder convictions in Florida result in a life sentence or a sentence to death by execution. State Attorney Cervone did not seek the death penalty in this case. Therefore, it seems likely that Porter will spend the rest of his life in the Florida Department of Corrections Prison System.
This was not Porter’s first go-around in court related to being accused as a burglar, rapist and murderer. In fact, this most recent week-long trial resulted after the first attempt by the state from these very same events led the state to attempt to convict him – but the first attempt ended in a mistrial.
Even before that, though, this defendant maintained his presumption of innocence after a 1987 rape led to him being accused, according to records.
In 1988, Porter was convicted of burglary, kidnapping, robbery, aggravated battery, and sexual battery in Pasco County, according to records.
He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to records.
In 2002, a United States appellate court granted Porter’s petition for habeas corpus and set aside his conviction after concluding that the prosecution in the Pasco County cases had violated his due process rights under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S. Ct. 1194 (1963), by failing to disclose to him, for use at trial, two favorable police reports, both of which were material to his defense, according to records.
Later in 2002 -- this time equipped with the previously undisclosed reports -- Porter was retried and acquitted of all charges.
The charges against him that led to his life sentence in 1988, and then his acquittal in 2002 has this for a background, according to federal court records, where the first part of that narrative is published verbatim below:
Just before midnight on June 26, 1987, Morton Young was brutally attacked and raped in her room at the LaRue Motel in Holiday, Florida.
Following the attack, Young made her way to a nearby gas station to seek help.
William Karcinski and Sandy Nicholas were dispatched to the gas station in response to a call from the station attendant — at the time, Karcinski was a recently hired deputy sheriff with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, and Nicholas was his field training officer.
Karcinski and Nicholas were the first law enforcement officials to respond.
According to Karcinski, Young was “crying, nervous, [and] upset.” Karcinski interviewed Young at the gas station. He asked her if she could provide a description of her attacker and if she could recount the manner in which she had been attacked.
She did both. Karcinski recorded Young’s statements in a written incident report.
Karcinski’s report reveals that Young was watching television in her bedroom around 11:30 p.m. when she heard a noise coming from the kitchen/living room area. She got up to investigate and was confronted by a man who wrapped a belt around her neck and spun her around so she could not see his face.
Telling her to keep quiet, the man laid Young down on her stomach and said, “I bet you didn’t know I was going to do this. I’ve been watching you.”
The man tightened the belt around Young’s neck, dragged her from room to room throughout the unit, and tried repeatedly to have sex with her. After several failed attempts to obtain an erection, the man finally succeeded and proceeded to rape Young while she was submerged in a bathtub half filled with water.
When he was finished, the man told Young to lie face down on the couch because he was “going to take her money and leave.”
Young stayed on the couch for approximately half an hour before going to the gas station for help.
SHERIFF SCHULTZ COMMENTS
Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz commented on the weeklong trial that ended Friday. He did not comment about the previous trials of Porter.
The sheriff said he is grateful and thankful that justice has been served in Gilchrist County. In this set of three cases, he said, it seems as if it was "a long time coming."
The men and women of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office, the Eighth Judicial Circuit State Attorney's Office and all of the people involved in the investigation and prosecution of these crimes, the sheriff said, from July of 2013 through now have earned and deserve the gratitude of the people of Gilchrist County and of Florida, he said.
No amount of trials or anything else can bring back Joyce Burrow, Sheriff Schultz said.
"She was a lovely woman," Schultz said. "She was loved by many. To say this was a tragedy, would be an understatement."
The sheriff said he hopes this is the start of the closure phase of this ordeal for the family of the victim of these heinous crimes.
He said this is the type of thing that all people hope will not happen in their community. Homicides and horrendous crimes do not happen in Gilchrist County on a regular bases, the sheriff said.
"Gilchrist County is a small county," Sheriff Schultz said. "It is a very close-knit community, and when something like this happens, it certainly is big news. We wish it would never happen.
"But as far as the work that the law enforcement and (other) emergency personnel did on this day," he added, "and leading up to what we, again, believe is the appropriate verdict, I am thankful we have men and women who are willing to stand on that wall to protect us. And on those times when we can't protect them (the people in the community), to find justice (afterward)."
The sheriff said Gilchrist County is one family. When part of that family suffers a loss such as this, the rest of the family is there to help them through it, he said.
The community helps others pick up the pieces after horrible events like this, he said. This reflect the tie that binds the people of this rural community -- love for one another.
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106th Jingle Performers
Krista Campbell (seated with guitar) and Dotti Leichner perform the HardisonInk.com jingle on Sept. 7, 2018 in the Dixie Music Center in the City of Old Town. This is Campbell’s version of the jingle that she made for this performance. Leichner and Campbell made this version within five minutes of rehearsing and with one take. Campbell is playing the Ibanez guitar autographed by Josh Turner that is being raffled to help the Dixie County Education Foundation. (There are still some tickets available as of this minute.) Campbell won a Fender guitar autographed by Turner in 2015, when she was one of the raffle ticket-buyers that year to help the Foundation. Campbell is a renowned local musician who performs every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening at The Putnam Lodge on the very northern end of Cross City (in Shamrock) on U.S. Highway 19. She sings songs requested by people at the restaurant and bar from 6 to 10 p.m. on those three night. Dottie and Bob Leichner are musicians and business owners who sell musical instruments and equipment, and provide music instruction through their independently contracted music instructors. If you want to buy a guitar or anything musical, visit Dixie Music Center. If you see Jeff Hardison and you want to sing the jingle, just let him know or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. He asks people to sing it, too, and some of them agree to sing it -- like these two wonderful ladies above. (Thanks people!)
Published Sept. 17, 2018 at 4:08 p.m.
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