The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office has begun providing “perimeter security” at the Hastings Youth Academy while state officials and staff at the facility work to implement changes in the wake of three inmate escapes over the past three months.
The announcement from the sheriff’s office came in a news release Wednesday, just days after a massive search effort that netted two teens who escaped the facility Monday afternoon.
In April, four teens escaped only to be to caught hours later after deputies chased and eventually stopped a stolen pickup truck in the Hastings area.
Two of those same teens escaped briefly in March when they hopped a fence and were eventually stopped along State Road 207.
The spate of incidents prompted sharp criticism from County Commissioner Jeb Smith who asked the Department of Juvenile Justice review the procedures and protocols implemented at the facility by the contracted service provider.
The release described the assignment of deputies at the facility as a “mutually agreed upon strategy” between Sheriff David Shoar and DJJ Secretary Christina Daly that was the result of a recent phone conversation that emphasized “the need to enhance security” while DJJ performs its reviews.
Shoar also offered the assistance of his agency’s corrections or law enforcement divisions to assist in coming up with “policy or procedure enhancements.” And Daly told Shoar that “her conversations with the contracted company would include avenues to offset costs to taxpayers for the deployed security team, as well as the possibility of additional contract security personnel from the company,” the release said.
Woman arrested for starting brush fire
Putnam County sheriff’s deputies arrested a Palatka woman Wednesday after they said she started a brush fire at her house the day before.
Tina Marie Barnard, 51, was booked into the Putnam County jail on misdemeanor charges of illegal burning and reckless burning, a Wednesday news release said.
Deputies and “multiple fire departments” responded to Barnard’s State Road 20 home around 5 p.m. Tuesday, where firefighters fought the roughly 5-acre blaze for more than five hours before they were able to contain it, according to the release.
A subsequent investigation revealed Barnard “started a fire to burn beer boxes in her backyard and then went inside leaving it unattended” when it began to spread, the release said.
Putnam County is currently under a burn ban because of dry conditions.
In the news release, Sheriff Gator DeLoach said that Barnard’s “actions were reckless, and placed lives and property in danger.”
“Only a fool would burn beer boxes, or any trash for that matter, during a burn ban,” he said.
Body found on beach
St. Johns County sheriff’s deputies responded Wednesday morning to a report of a body found along a stretch of Vilano Beach shoreline, but stopped short of saying it was that of a Jacksonville man who went missing Sunday while swimming off Porpoise Point.
St. Johns County Marine Rescue and deputies received the initial call just after 7:30 a.m. and said not long after that the body “possibly” is that of Skyler Christian Taylor, whom crews searched for until nightfall Sunday and resumed searching for on Monday morning in a recovery effort.
As of Wednesday night, the identity had still had not been confirmed.