Mon, Dec
17 New Articles

GAINESVILLE – The State Attorney’s office plans to seek the death penalty against 58-year-old Russell Dewayne Hogg, the High Springs man accused of killing his wife and son in a September shooting.

The news came Oct. 13 when the Office of the State Attorney filed the notice of intent to seek the death penalty.  According to the filing, the notice also invokes another provision in the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, which requires Hogg’s mental state to be considered.

The rule states that the defense should present during the penalty phase of the trial, “expert testimony of a mental health professional, who has tested, evaluated, or examined the defendant, in order to establish statutory or non-statutory mental mitigating circumstances.”

The State Attorney also filed a notice of intent to seek enhanced penalties against Hogg under the “10/20/Life Offender” law.  The law mandates a minimum sentence based on the use of a firearm during certain crimes.

A case management hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 10.

Hogg was indicted by a grand jury in September on five charges, two of which were murder in connection with the Sept. 11 shooting deaths of his wife and son.

The grand jury indicted Hogg on two counts of first degree murder, one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and two counts of aggravated assault with a firearm.

Hogg is being held without bail on the murder charges and on $100,000 for each of the other three charges.

The Public Defender’s office has been assigned to represent Hogg against the charges.  Hogg’s counsel submitted a plea of not guilty on his behalf on Sept. 22.

Hogg, 58, has been accused of shooting and killing his wife, Trenda Hogg, 48 and their 22-year-old son, Anthony Wayne Hogg, on Sept. 11, reportedly after a family dispute over a pickup truck.

A recently-released report from the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO), where Hogg was picked up, sheds new light on what may have occurred at the scene of the shooting.  Some statements in the CCSO report are inconsistent with an earlier report by the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO).

According to the CCSO report, as Russell Hogg exited his car, he pulled out an AK-47 rifle and pointed it at his son who had reportedly just exited the truck in which he was sitting.

According to the report, Anthony Hogg said, “What are you gonna do, shoot me?”  In response, Russell Hogg is reported to have said, “I sure will,” after which he fired 2-3 rounds at Anthony, killing the 22 year old.

The CCSO report also states that after Russell Hogg shot his wife several times, she “fell to the ground and was still breathing momentarily.”

According to an ACSO arrest report, just before 1 p.m. on Sept. 11, Russell Hogg pulled into the driveway of the family home at 240 Poe Springs Road in High Springs.  He allegedly exited his vehicle, pulling out an AK-47 rifle and pointed it at his son stating, “I told you I was going to kill you,” to which Anthony Hogg replied, “shoot me then.”

Russell Hogg reportedly fired two rounds at his son, striking him in the torso.  The report states, “[Russell Hogg] then walked up to him and shot one round to his face.”

Upon realizing Anthony Hogg had been shot, Trenda Hogg ran outside where “Russell [Hogg] pointed the gun at her and fired several rounds at her,” the arrest record states.

Russell Hogg then threw the gun down and an eyewitness grabbed the gun and threw it under the house to prevent further access to it.  Russell Hogg then got into his car and left, officials report.

Two witnesses told investigators that Hogg stated his intentions to commit the crime beforehand.  “Russell was at their home and made the statement he “was going over to kill them.”  After the shooting, Russell Hogg allegedly returned to the witnesses’ home where he stated, “I told you I was gonna’ kill them,” the report states.

Columbia County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested Russell Hogg on U.S. Highway 441 a short time after the shooting.

Hogg made several statements acknowledging that he killed his wife and son, according to Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sandra Myers.

Among his statements to investigators was that, “Tony [Anthony Russell] had gotten too big for his britches,” and that if he could have whipped his son, he would have, “rather than having to kill him.”

Myers wrote, “Russell [Hogg] also stated that it hurt him to see his wife laying there barely breathing because he did not want her to die.”

“I just killed my family and the bread winner of the home,” Russell Hogg allegedly said.

Add a comment

GAINESVILLE – An arraignment hearing for charges of criminal contempt of court against Charles Grapski was delayed Tuesday afternoon.  The delay came at the request of the Office of the State Attorney after Grapski filed two separate motions to dismiss the charges.

Judge James Nilon said Grapski’s motions would need to be considered at the same hearing with the arraignment.  Assistant State Attorney Brian S. Kramer said he could argue in general Tuesday, but not specifically, on the points of law cited by Grapski in the motions to dismiss.

Grapski has reportedly also filed a motion requesting a statement of particulars, a document with pertinent information regarding the alleged contemptuous behavior.

One of those motions to dismiss essentially challenges the accuracy of the charge.

“The order shows that Grapski’s allegedly contemptuous acts took place in open court with the Court on the Bench,” the motion states.  “If true, these acts constitute direct contempt and not indirect criminal contempt.”

The first motion to dismiss was not available as a public record as of press time.

Judge Nilon granted the motion to continue the hearing until a later date when the arraignment and consideration of the motions filed by Grapski could be considered.  That hearing is tentatively slated for Nov. 22.

A one-time State House and City of Alachua Commission Candidate, Grapski is being charged with indirect criminal contempt of court following his alleged actions and statements made on June 21 in Nilon’s courtroom.

In a September hearing, the judge granted Grapski’s motion to dismiss the original charges on the basis of procedural flaws.  The dismissal came after Grapski argued that a sworn affidavit of the alleged events did not accompany the charging documents and that the Assistant State Attorney filing the contempt charges was not witness to the June 21 events.

The petition alleging Grapski’s contemptuous behavior resulted from a June 21 violation of probation hearing in which it is reported that he approached the podium and told Assistant State Attorney Shawn Thompson to “get a real job.”

At a later hearing on the same day, Grapski allegedly approached the table of Thompson in an “aggressive manner,” pointed his finger at Thompson and stated to him, “you are a f---ing liar” not less than two times, the order alleges.

Add a comment

NEWBERRY – As the City of Newberry seeks to build an identity centered around sports, Newberry Mayor Bill Conrad has reached out to Gatorback Cycle Park with a proposal about possibly annexing the company into the city limits.

Conrad and Wyrn Kern, event promoter for Gatorback, met several weeks ago and discussed how the cycle park could help Newberry further develop its sports image.

While the meeting failed to result in Gatorback’s agreement to voluntarily annex into the city, the cycle park did offer support to the Newberry community.

"What they want us to do is to push Gatorback as part of Newberry so people would go to Newberry, [its] restaurant, hotels or whatever they have," Kern said.

He added, “The only way we would promote Newberry is through our customers."

Conrad expressed his interest during the Oct. 10 city commission meeting, saying that Gatorback could possibly buy land in the future.

"He told me about his desire to have more land, to buy a second location where he can run more different types of races," Conrad said.

However, Kern said Gatorback is not interested in buying land in Newberry anytime soon.

Conrad said he hopes the business considers annexing in the future, adding that Gatorback is closer to Newberry than to Alachua – with only one parcel of land between Newberry’s city limits. The cycle park is five miles from Newberry City Hall, three miles closer than Alachua, according to Conrad.

Gatorback has been in the motocross business for around 40 years, and it offers four events a year, attracting over 1,000 people to the area, Conrad said. He said the city is currently in talks with several hotel chains, and including sports venues such as Canterbury Equestrian Center and Easton Sports Complex into what he calls a “sports event package,” would help attract hotel chains to Newberry.

Add a comment

HIGH SPRINGS – Excessive noise became a disturbance at the High Springs City Commission meeting Thursday.

Ironically, it was discussion of the city’s current noise ordinance that aroused fierce opinions among attendees. Commissioner Eric May said the ordinance is unclear and needs to be rethought.

“I believe we have a very archaic noise ordinance that is difficult for our staff to enforce,” he said.

The current ordinance, part of the land development code, requires enforcements on noise violations after 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends. Receiving a permit from the city allows events to be exempt from the ordinance.

May said he brought the issue to the commission because he has heard citizens’ complaints. He called for clear expectations to be put into place.

Thomas DePeter, city attorney, agreed with May, explaining that certain language in the ordinance is confusing.

“If you hear the noise, then they seem to be violating the regulation,” he said. “But it’s not just hearing the noise, it has to actually be a noise disturbance.”

Bob Bentz, owner of local restaurant Great Outdoors, said the city needs to set acceptable decibel levels.

Since a crucial part of his business is the live musical performances that take place on the patio of the restaurant, he bought a decibel meter. However, he does not know what the appropriate thresholds are.

“We don’t want to be bad neighbors to the community,” he said. “If they don’t tell us, we don’t know it.”

Bentz said a possible solution would be for commissioners to go down to the restaurant with him, stand in the street and determine an acceptable noise level with a decibel meter.

May said the important thing is agreeing upon what is tolerable in the community’s eyes.

“People are not going to be annoyed and businesses are not going to be unfairly harassed or anything like that, because there are set standards,” he said. “You know what to expect.”

DePeter said the ordinance is typically not enforced unless there’s a complaint. May agreed, calling the enforcement “probably close to zero.”

“We just need to get it done,” he said. “We want to give our officers and our code officers the actual tools to enforce the law.”

Bob Barnas, a citizen and city commission candidate, said if the police are not allowed to force people to unplug offending speakers, the officers cannot do anything about the problem.  He suggested adding a fine, saying that it “gives the officers the teeth to deal with those issues.”

May disagreed, saying people will simply take the fine into account when planning for an event. They will factor in the cost and take that as permission to ignore appropriate noise levels.

“Say there’s a big event with a big concert and you go hit them with a citation,” he said. “That’s just the cost of doing business. They’ll just do it.”

Mayor Larry Travis said the problem could be easily fixed with a combination of citations and a three-strike system. On a third violation over any period of time, an individual’s event would be shut down.

He also asked for a police directive to instruct officers in proper enforcement of the ordinance and to encourage them to be proactive about implementation.

DePeter said he will make small changes in the language of the resolution. It will be discussed at an upcoming meeting to modify the land development ordinance.

Whatever the solution, local resident Leda Carrero said something must be done. She said she called the police last year about the permit for an event held at Catherine Taylor Park. She asked for the volume to be turned down and was told that nothing could be done.

“There have been occasions where there’s a permit giving for them to have a 10 hour event, and the volume is so loud that I cannot sit on my porch and talk to someone next to me,” she said. “That’s excessive. And it doesn’t seem right to me to call and say look, ‘I don’t want to put up with this for 10 hours,’ and hear ‘there’s nothing we can do.’”

Vice Mayor Byran Williams responded to her comment, telling her she should notify the event’s planner about any noise issues.

“Me myself, every time I do something in the park over there, I’m the noise monitor,” he said. “I walk around. You can shake your head if you want to. Just, if you’ve got a problem, call and say, ‘Turn it down. I asked you to turn it down.’”

Carrero said, “I did.”

May said a citizen calling an event’s planner about a noise disturbance is “part of the problem we’re trying to eliminate.”

“There’s automatically going to be animosity between the two,” he said. “You want to call a neutral party like the police.”

Add a comment

Alachua_Accident_10-18-11Two people were killed Tuesday morning when their vehicles collided on U.S. Highway 441 near Hague.

IALACHUA – Two people were killed Tuesday morning when their vehicles collided on U.S. Highway 441 near Hague.  No one else was injured.

The accident happened at the intersection of U.S. 441 and County Road 237 around 9 a.m.  According to preliminary reports, a 2007 Chrysler minivan being driven by Penny Wilkes, 59, of Gainesville, was headed northbound on U.S. 441, when a tan Lincoln Town Car being driven by 97-year-old Ellis Hitzing of Alachua failed to yield the right of way.

Hitzing, who had been traveling on CR 237, was reportedly attempting to cross over the northbound land of U.S. 441, but pulled into the path of Wilkes.  The minivan struck the driver’s side of the Linoln.

Paramedics arrived shortly after the accident occurred, but neither Wilkes nor Hitzing survived the crash.  There were no passengers involved.

Alachua Police Department (APD) Officer Jesse Sandusky said the accident investigation is still ongoing.

A man located across the street reportedly witnessed the accident, Sandusky said.

Add a comment

NEWBERRY – Newberry is working with the University of Florida to hear Newberry residents’ opinions about the impact and use of its sports facilities.

Shannon Kerwin, UF assistant professor at the Department of Tourism, Recreation, and Sports Management, and one of the researchers conducting this study, said the survey will include 14 questions. Questions include how the sports facilities, Easton Newberry Sports Complex and Nations Baseball Park, are affecting the city economically and socially. She said she hopes to get 10 percent of the population to participate, around 300 residents.

“But if we don't get that at the town hall meeting on Thursday, then we are going to try to mail them those surveys to see if we can get more opinions from the community members," Kerwin said.

The team has previously interviewed residents about this subject, and a research report is expected to be released this year.

"We are hoping to have a report on the community perspective by the end of November or early December," Kerwin said.

Since five-member team has developed a relationship with city manager Keith Ashby and parks and recreation director Richard Blalock, Kerwin said they are going to provide the report along with recommendations, if issues needed to be addressed within the community.

Once everyone turns in their 10-minute paper surveys, the research team and Blalock will be present to answer questions.

One meeting was held Tuesday at the Easton complex.  The next meeting will be held Thursday from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Newberry Municipal Building, located at 25440 W Newberry Road in Newberry.

Add a comment

HAWTHORNE – Hawthorne’s vacant fire department building may be renovated to bring money into the city.

Commissioner DeLoris Roberts brought this idea to the commission’s attention during a meeting on Tuesday. She said she thought this renovation could increase the city’s income without taxing residents.

“We got this building here that we don’t utilize,” she said. “”It would give us something to work towards to give us some money in our pockets.”

Hawthorne has been trying to reactivate the former city-run fire department and use its buildings and resources. However, Roberts’ plan to renovate the building may never come to fruition if this were to happen.

The city needs a backup plan if the fire department does not return, and this renovation could be the solution to bring income into the city, Roberts said.

All citizens could use the building for parties, banquets and meetings. She said there currently is a lack of locations in the city to host these types of events.

Roberts said using the fire department would give the city an advantage because the building site is already there to be used. Also, there is a kitchen, washer and dryer on the property that could be used during events.

Roberts said this renovation could revitalize the area and bring people into the area.

The building’s interior and exterior have not been maintained throughout the years. The roof needs to be fixed, and areas of the building will need to be reconstructed since it is not up to code.

Also, furniture will need to be bought, and there would be annual operation costs once the property is functional.

Mayor Matthew Surrency said it is a good idea to consider this option if they are unsuccessful in bringing the fire services back to the city.

Hawthorne resident Leonard Jones said this idea might not be the answer to the city’s attempt to bring money into the local economy.

“We may be chasing a dream concerning that fire station,” he said. “Is it really important?”

He also said the utilities are still on in the building even though it is vacant, and there is personal property from local residents being stored there.

Although this issue was only brought up for discussion during the meeting, commissioners will discuss the idea further at a later date.

Commissioner Roberts said this building might help the city’s current financial situation.

“We have to capitalize on our resources. We have to utilize what we have to make our finances better.”

Add a comment

More Articles ...