Interpersonal communication experts will tell you that no response is still a response – and it sends a strong message.
With the election just days away, incumbent politicians are spending heavily to convince you and me that, if we return them to high office, they will be accessible – and responsive – to our needs.
While some live up to their obligations, unfortunately, many elected officials have proven that, once they ascend to the dais of power, unless you have given thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, neither your concerns – nor opinion – seem to matter.
It is called pay-to-play politics, and the pernicious effects of this legal quid pro quo system is evident throughout Volusia County.
For instance, a frequent criticism of incumbent Volusia County Councilwoman Deb Denys is her arrogant habit of ignoring the concerns and requests of her constituents, refusing to return telephone calls or emails, shutting off access, and sending a crystal clear message that her time is best spent servicing the wants and whims of those who stuff large sums of money into her campaign coffers.
Now, Dishonest Deb is in the race of her life with political newcomer Jeff “Plan B” Brower for the County Chair seat – the Big Enchilada of local politics – and her haughty practice of ignoring her constituents is coming back to haunt her. . .
Rather than even try and appear approachable, or within reach of John Q. Public, inexplicably, Ms. Denys continues to engage in whale-shit level politics, a weird no-holds-barred campaign that uses a murky Political Action Committee to foment lies and launch smear tactics – not to elevate her position on the issues – but to teardown her opponent personally and politically.
But just when you thought Ms. Denys could not stoop any lower – she did.
This weekend, The Daytona Beach News-Journal ran a story by Mark Harper entitled, “Attack tying Brower to Trump raises questions,” that attempted to explain a repulsive glossy mailer sent to some Democratic and nonaffiliated voters by Dishonest Deb which insinuated the worst form of party politics into the nonpartisan County Chair race.
The mailer referred to Jeff Brower as “A radical, rightwing puppet publicly supporting President Trump & his radical agenda!” (?) – essentially painting Ms. Denys – the darling of the local Republican apparatus – as a left-leaning democrat as she pretends to be all things to all people.
Even if it means shitting on everything her fellow Republicans hold dear – including slamming her party’s presidential candidate during a hotly contested race – just to gain a few votes in her own local contest.
In my view, this skeevy mailer best characterizes the self-serving, win at all cost, strategy that Ms. Denys and her well-heeled political benefactors have prosecuted since Mr. Brower beat her like a gong in the primary.
Now, how will Ms. Denys politically accountable supporters – like the uber-wealthy State Senator Tom Wright, Congressman Michael Waltz or Committeewoman Debbie Phillips – staunch Republican standard-bearers who enthusiastically endorsed Dishonest Deb’s campaign – reconcile the fact she turned on them with harsh criticism of republican values and a clear willingness to besmirch their presidential candidate for personal gain?
I don’t care which party’s candidate you support in the presidential race no one likes a backstabbing turncoat.
Clearly, when it comes to Ms. Denys propensity for wallowing in the mud, nothing is out of bounds – and this hypocritical horseshit that allows local GOP leadership to turn a blind eye is just one reason I, and many like me, have left the Republican Party to become proud No Party Affiliates. . .
Perhaps most telling was the fact Ms. Denys refused to return the News-Journal’s telephone calls on Friday.
I guess with over $244,000 in a campaign account (for a County Chair race?) – and some $82,000 in a shadowy Political Action Committee chaired by a political hitman who calls himself “The Prince of Darkness” – Ms. Denys no longer feels an obligation to answer inquiries from the working press – or her constituents. . .
No response truly is a powerful response – because it lets you know where you stand.
And it speaks volumes about the sense of entitlement and base arrogance that has defined Dishonest Deb’s eight year parasitic hold a Volusia County Council seat – with absolutely nothing to show for it – beyond a egoistic need to promote her own self-serving political aspirations.
It’s time once again to turn a jaundiced eye toward the newsmakers of the day – the winners and losers – who, in my cynical opinion, either contributed to our quality of life, or detracted from it, in some significant way.
Here’s a special thanks to everyone who took the time to read my series “The Barker Files: The Case of Mark Scribner,” an examination of a brutal murder which occurred 25 years ago this month.
Like I promised – this was not a contrived “feel-good” story – and readers have told me that the conclusion stayed with them for a while.
This was not the first homicide I investigated during my law enforcement career, and it would not be the last, but I think the indiscriminate nature of the killing makes for a compelling story.
I hope it serves as a fitting memorial for Mr. Scribner as well.
Writing the story and transcribing the report was cathartic, bringing memories and remembrances of working relationships back to the surface so they can be properly sorted and packed away – and a renewed sense of pride in playing a small role in bringing those responsible for this senseless crime to justice.
If you have not had the opportunity, the three-part series can be found in the October 2020 Barker’s View archive.
Thanks again for reading.
Let’s look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:
Asshole Daytona Beach City Commission
One of the many pitfalls of writing an alternative opinion blog is that the groups and officials you rail about often defend themselves by pigeonholing you as a chronic complainer.
Barker the Bitcher – a naysaying malcontent who obnoxiously whines about the issues without ever offering up a solution.
For the most part, they’re right.
But it does not negate the fact that the underlying issues exist.
After all, I don’t make this shit up.
While it shouldn’t come as a surprise that those who have invested heavily – politically and financially – are champing at the bit to put the first brushstrokes on the revitalization of downtown Daytona – the overpowering stench of the age-old intrigues required to obtain the lucrative government incentives that ensure a profit margin have once again come wafting from the inner sanctum at City Hall.
Now it has become apparent to everyone – including those long-time enablers on the editorial board of The Daytona Beach News-Journal – that something is terribly wrong at Daytona Beach City Hall.
Better late than never, I suppose.
Last Sunday, in his piece “Daytona City Hall’s bad communication,” editor Pat Rice expressed his views on the mysterious attempts by a senior faction in Daytona Beach government to facilitate millions of dollars in public incentives for a Tampa-based developer seeking to build an apartment complex and parking garage on the site of the former First Baptist Church.
I disagree with Mr. Rice on one point – this goes far beyond bad communication.
At an October meeting, Daytona Beach city commissioners were asked to discuss and take action on a plan that would see the developer, Framework Group, receive a $10.5 million tax break in exchange for a few public parking spaces and the potential of moving people into downtrodden downtown.
Interestingly, city staff provided the elected officials with support materials just six-hours before the meeting.
You read that right.
After a year of behind-the-scenes wrangling, Deputy City Manager Dru Driscoll, who also serves as the city’s fire chief, gave little explanation, beyond “…some of the documents were out of date.”
In my view, this represents one more backroom deal by City Manager Jim Chisholm, who openly put the screws to his city commission when he pressured them to make an important decision with little, if any, substantive information – and a flashlight-under-the-chin scary story about the dearth of developers eager to make a buck downtown.
“This is the only developer we’ve had come to us who’s willing to do a project,” Chisholm said. “It’s up to you if you want to let it go.”
Clearly, Chief Driscoll is out of his element – and, if he thinks Mr. Chisholm cares who takes the blame as he shuffles out the door, he should think again. . .
To their credit, the Daytona Beach City Commission rightfully decided to take a deep breath and ask city staff and the Framework Group to go back to the drawing board and develop hard answers before the matter comes back in early November.
Unfortunately, the damage is done – and I cannot understand why the elected representatives failed to take definitive action to ensure this type of public/private chicanery does not happen in the future?
In my view, both the City of Daytona Beach – and the developer – have now lost the trust and faith of the people.
And they have no one to blame but themselves.
Eventually, I believe the City of Daytona Beach will come to the inexorable conclusion that the design and planning of public spaces is best accomplished with the input of citizens and stakeholders in an open and transparent process.
While that might not do much for the bottom line of some local powerbroker with a profit motive, it will ultimately produce something we can all take civic pride in – and develop a creative atmosphere and clear vision for the future of the Halifax area that these backroom machinations can never produce.
Angel Pictona at Holly Hill and the City of Holly Hill
Last week, the City of Holly Hill played host to the Pictona Fall Vintage Pickleball Tournament at the beautiful Pictona at Holly Hill complex on Ridgewood Avenue.
It was a true community effort.
With City Manager Joe Forte and Commissioner John Penny staffing the bar-b-que grill – other city officials worked hand-in-glove with some 50 Pictona members who signed on as volunteers for the event as the facility hosted 650 players and hundreds of spectators for the three-day event.
Now, we have received the exciting news that Pictona at Holly Hill will host the International Federation of Pickleball’s 4th Annual Bainbridge Cup Tournament, April 7-11, 2021.
The international competition is expected to draw some 700 players to the area.
In my view, the pickleball courts and fitness complex is one of the most electrifying additions to the Halifax area in decades – and we owe a collective debt of gratitude to area residents Rainer and Julie Martens, who made a multi-million-dollar personal investment to see the project become a reality.
In my view, this is an outstanding example of what a true public/private partnership should be, as the Martens’ investment was supported with a $1.2 million contribution from the City of Holly Hill – bolstered by a $400,000 ECHO grant from Volusia County and $50,000 in sponsorships and private donations.
This wonderful facility showcases just one unique way Volusia County’s tax supported ECHO and Forever funds have enhanced our quality of life.
I hope you will join me in voting to preserve these important programs on Tuesday.
Asshole Volusia County District Schools
Sometimes I read the news of the day and shake my head in quiet disbelief – other times my incendiary temper gets the best of me as I slam my fists and scream – hoping I never come to accept the near constant gaffes, maladministration and good old-fashioned foul-ups that have become the operative characteristic of the Volusia County School Board and its senior administration.
Imagine the horror of Volusia County residents who perused the International edition of the British newspaper Daily Mail (or The Hill, Newsweek, most national electronic media, etc.) this week and found an article detailing the travails of Tyler Maxwell, 18, a Spruce Creek High student whose parking permit was brusquely suspended when he exercised his first amendment right and placed an elephant figure emblazoned “Trump” in the bed of his pickup truck and went to school.
You read that right.
The youth didn’t start a fight, disrupt a class, engage in a disturbance, or saunter onto the Spruce Creek campus armed with a knife and take a seat in an occupied classroom to “test school security” like some ambulatory drunk did a year ago – he was naturally proud of the fact this is his first vote in a presidential election – and merely parked in the designated lot without removing a clever sign supporting his candidate.
That apparently triggered the school’s high-handed administration.
Now, he is rightfully defending his right to free expression in a court of law. . .
According to reports, “Twenty minutes into his first class at Spruce Creek High School, Maxwell said he was called to the principal’s office and was asked to move his car off campus.”
“His father then drove to the school to demand a reason in writing for why the student couldn’t leave his car on campus with the elephant in the truck. After he said his father did not get a written explanation, Maxwell drove to school the next day with the figurine.”
“Tuesday morning, my parking pass was taken away,” Maxwell said.”
In turn, Maxwell’s family filed a federal lawsuit accusing Volusia County Schools of violating his freedom of speech.
Good for him.
I don’t particularly care who you support in the presidential race – but everyone should take offense when officious school administrators take it upon themselves to suppress free and constitutionally protected expression.
It also bugs me when my hard-earned tax dollars – which support a groaning district budget now approaching one-billion-dollars – are shunted to defend lawsuits because some shithead decided to flex his or her muscles because, “A passerby could interpret a large sign in a school parking lot to be an endorsement by the school district…”
Add to that the debacle at Tuesday’s School Board meeting, which was marred when DeLand Police were given the overbearing order to physically remove a group of Volusia County mothers who wished to attend the public meeting – sans face coverings – and speak on possible changes to the district’s mask regulations.
It was ugly.
In the spirit of the district’s hypocritical “do as I say, not as I do” culture, I found it interesting that both School Board Vice Chairman Linda Cuthbert – and the bungling Chief Operating Officer Greg Akin – removed their masks and spoke barefaced as they groveled for CARES Act funding before the Volusia County Council earlier this month.
I don’t recall either of them being manhandled out of the council chamber by a uniformed law enforcement officer. . .
After trespassing the young moms from the public building – effectively barring them from the Ivory Tower of Power for one-year – the tone-deaf School Board Chair Ida Wright had the cheek to say, “Thank you for being patient, but we live in a country where everyone is able to say his or her piece and we want to respect that.”
The last thing the Volusia County School Board does is respect their constituents right to free expression and public participation.
That’s why teachers and staff are forced to use anonymous social media sites to avoid retribution when they communicate valuable information and insight to families and colleagues.
If Ms. Wright meant what she said, taxpayers would not be under threat of a federal lawsuit to ensure a student’s first amendment protections – or shocked by the sight of a nursing mother being forced from a public meeting on the diktat of the board’s tyrannical Chairwoman.
When will someone – anyone – on the Volusia County School Board come to the realization that taxpayers have had enough international embarrassments from the ham-fisted antics of badge-heavy administrators and senior officials who seem totally incapable of making logical, diplomatic, and fact-based decisions?
Asshole Volusia Council Chair Ed Kelley
Look, I’m not running for anything.
It’s safe to say you won’t be seeing “Mr. Barker Goes to Washington,” (Unless you want a Wilber Mills type, ripped-to-the-tits on cheap vodka, chasing Argentinian strippers around the Tidal Basin – then I’m your man!)
Frankly, what passes for our political process in this foul year 2020 is nothing I want to be associated with.
It’s downright dirty. And depressing. . .
During this campaign season, we’ve been told, ad nauseum, that the Volusia County Council has very little impact on the “growth at all cost” sprawl that is destroying our natural places, threatening our water supply, and exceeding the capacity of our transportation infrastructure as our elected officials cravenly adopt the Three Wise Monkeys maxim toward growth and the influence of mega-developers – see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.
I believe our elected officials on the Volusia County Council know exactly what they are doing in facilitating the wants and needs of real estate speculators.
Earlier this month, the intrepid Edgewater environmental advocate Libby Lavette attempted to address the Volusia County Council during a scheduled public hearing to determine compliance with the Farmton Local Plan and Master Development of Regional Impact – essentially granting approval for the sprawling 66,000 acre project’s eastern gateway section to move forward.
In an blatant effort to keep the public hearing free of pesky public input, Chairman Ed Kelley forced Ms. Lavette to speak during the public comment section at the beginning of the meeting – then openly quibbled with her over petty aspects of her presentation, trifling over the designation of the agenda item, wasting time, and confusing everyone involved – including Ms. Lavette and the citizens looking on.
In my view, Old Ed clearly designed his meddlesome interference to suppress and confuse Ms. Lavette’s message.
According to a social media post, Ms. Lavette advised that following her allotted three-minutes, she left the council chamber – only to be chased down by County Attorney Mike Dyer, who explained Old Ed was “incorrect,” and invited her to speak during the public hearing on Farmton. . .
Ultimately, Ms. Lavette was able to make her point that the hearing should be postponed until current hydrology and environmental impact studies for the project can be reviewed.
Typically, when Councilwoman Heather Post saw the logic in Ms. Lavette’s request and moved to table the issue until the next meeting in November, her motion failed for lack of a second.
The Farmton development has been in the planning stage for 60 years, with building not expected to begin until 2026. Would postponing the hearing a few weeks to ensure environmental protections – and hold the developer accountable for promises made – have been that big of a deal?
Ultimately, the measure was approved 6-1 with Ms. Post dissenting.
Anyone see a pattern here?
I guess running interference – putting dust in the air at critical points to obscure the public’s view of development decisions – while ensuring that concerned citizens are suitably blocked and castigated whenever they attempt to have substantive input in their government is just one of the benefits developers and corporations receive in Volusia County.
Quote of the Week
“I would like to say “thank you” to Daytona Beach Police Captain Scott Lee. Lee took over at Code Enforcement a couple years ago. He met with neighborhood groups, and was willing to listen to residents and business owners who were fatigued by the lack of progress cleaning up our blighted beachside. He patiently heard plenty of suggestions and complaints from yours truly.
A big problem beachside is the blighted appearance of vacant lots and abandoned buildings. Sometimes used for paid parking without a permit, the owners make money and have no incentive to improve or build. We’re used to looking at broken walls and fences, trash and graffiti.
We’ve heard the excuse that owners are “out of state” but not all are. These properties should be held to redevelopment area standards just like our homes and businesses are.
Two of these properties are on the beach. The seawalls have long been compromised and dangerous. There is always graffiti, homeless people, and trash. But that is changing! These lots are now being cleaned up and the seawalls rebuilt. I know this is thanks to our intrepid Captain Lee.
The city can intervene to clean up properties – and get paid through an ad valorem assessment on the tax bill – if the property owner can’t be reached or is unwilling. Let’s use this method to remove more blight on the beachside, and other areas of the city. I’m hoping this is just the beginning.”
–Civic Activist Amy Pyle, writing in Letters to the Editor, The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Cleaning up beachside,” Sunday, October 26, 2020
Good work, Captain Lee!
Thank you for your diligence in overseeing this difficult, but infinitely necessary, essential service for the citizens of Daytona Beach.
And Another Thing!
There is a reason I do not accept advertising on this blogsite.
And I damn sure don’t take money to express opinions with a certain slant – favoring one candidate over another – or advocating for some convoluted tax increase or goofy public policy that always seems to favor the wants of a few over the needs of many.
That kind of bought-and-paid-for content is readily available if you want it.
Just not here.
The views expressed on Barker’s View are my own.
If I endorse one candidate over others – it means I have done some research and come to believe that the politician will serve in the public interest – rather than act as a malleable marionette for all the right last names.
I’m not infallible – subject to being duped like anyone else – and I make my share of mistakes; but I still believe that past performance is the most accurate predictor of future performance.
In short, a leopard rarely changes its spots.
That is why I support Jeff Brower for Volusia County Chair.
By any metric, the County Chair race has been an acrimonious shit show – with the incumbent Dishonest Deb Denys throwing everything in her sizeable arsenal at Mr. Brower – including some low blows that landed far outside the bounds of honesty and fairness.
With over $208,000 already filling her campaign coffers – along with tens-of-thousands more being hoarded in a shadowy Political Action Committee which Ms. Denys personally chaired, until she didn’t – Dishonest Deb continues to hold elegant fundraisers with well-heeled benefactors right up to the eleventh hour, clearly positioning herself for a future run for even higher office.
God help us. . .
In my view, Jeff Brower represents the kind of grassroots, substantive change and inspired vision Volusia County desperately needs at this critical crossroads in our history – a rejection of the oligarchical pay-to-play politics that uses massive campaign contributions to return hand-select perennial politicians to the dais of power – then uses them like dull tools to see the every want and whim of political insiders attended to.
All while We, The Little People are treated like a damnable annoyance whenever we approach our Monarchial rulers for redress of real grievances – or seek to improve our lot here on the Fun Coast.
Do not take my word for it.
I encourage everyone to watch archived video of Volusia County Council meetings and see for yourself how commoners – a.k.a. taxpaying citizens without a title of nobility or a chip in the game – are treated whenever we attempt to participate in our government.
It is despicable. And it needs to stop.
I also believe that District 4 Councilwoman Heather Post deserves to continue her service to the citizens of Volusia County – because both she, and her long-suffering constituents, have been denied equal and effective representation since she took office four-years ago.
That is not Ms. Post’s fault.
It is horrifying to watch as Dishonest Deb and her guru, that doddering fool Old Ed Kelley, try desperately to defend the status quo by beating any sense of independence out of Ms. Post – effectively blocking her every effort – making a mockery out of our representative democracy in the process.
For instance, at their October 20 meeting, it was frustrating to watch as Old Ed publicly ghosted Ms. Post – acting like an addlepated asshole – as he repeatedly feigned that he could not hear her on the monitor whenever she tried to participate.
It was sloppy. And painfully obvious.
Turn-up the Beltone, Ed. . .
Now we have reached the nut-cutting hour – and every vote counts.
In my view, we have a good start in changing this rotten culture with Councilman-elect Danny Robins, who won the District 3 seat formerly occupied by Dishonest Deb in the primary.
Let’s continue the purge of this malignant mediocrity.
In my view, we need committed servant-leaders like Jeff Brower – and Heather Post – to change the tone and tenor of an elected body run amok and restore the public’s trust in Volusia County government.
As Mr. Brower recently said:
“Don’t let a career politician who only represents those able to produce the largest campaign contributions lie and buy her way into a seat.”
Last weekend, I saw a photograph on social media that made me angry.
So, I reposted it – helping fuel something of a tempest in a teapot in the process.
Five days after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, some fifteen area residents became members of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary – Flotilla 44 – and guarded our coastline from the threat of German submarines and coastal infiltrators from the wooden watch tower at Ormond-by-the-Sea.
Armed only with a pair of binoculars, these intrepid citizens stood their post for the duration of the war.
In the early 1950’s – when Ormond-by-the-Sea was a much different place than it is today – locals used the tower to post gaudy real estate signs and, in a 1955 article in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, it was described as “…the biggest eyesore in three counties.”
After public outcry, those signs came down – and there was talk of removing the tower altogether to prevent it “interfering with or detracting from the ocean.”
Fortunately, the signs went and the tower stayed.
The watch tower was refurbished around 2007, and a plaque was placed at its base explaining the structures significance to the local wartime effort.
Relatively recently, mega-developer Mori Hosseini’s ICI Homes developed the Verona subdivision on the west side of A-1-A, immediately adjacent to the tower – replacing what had been an old filling station and mobile home park.
Inexplicably, some jackleg in the ICI Homes marketing department thought it would be appropriate to repeat history and affix hideous advertising signage to the north and south facing sides of this historic structure – complete with a large arrow pointing toward the subdivision.
My initial reaction was one of shock – this time-honored part of our local heritage being used as a cheap billboard struck me as a slap-in-the-face to those brave men and women who stood watch there during World War II – and a horrific example of how little some developers care about protecting and preserving that which is important to local residents.
I understand that a number of area residents placed calls to ICI Homes and local media outlets to express their concerns – taking a personal stake in preserving our quality of life and the scenic view on one of the last unspoiled sections of A-1-A.
Then, one of my personal heroes – the intrepid WESH-TV reporter Claire Metz got to the bottom of it – as did the incredible investigative reporter Mike Springer from WFTV Channel 9.
According to Claire, upon contacting ICI Homes, she learned that the advertising had been erected on the watch tower without the knowledge of ICI Home’s senior management – and representatives for the developer advised it would be removed immediately – with apologies to local residents who were rightfully offended by the defacement.
According to a release from ICI Homes:
“In light of the concerns raised from local residents over the few days, we have decided to take down the signs that were recently installed on the Watchtower across from our Verona Oceanside subdivision on A1A. The signs were modeled after historical photographs depicting signage on the tower.
ICI Homes wants to be a good neighbor and acted promptly once we realized the impact it was having on area residents.”
Now, that part about the signs being “modeled after historical photographs depicting signage on the tower” is complete horseshit – but I appreciate the sentiment – and the quick removal of the offensive billboards.
Frankly, Mr. Hosseini didn’t have to do anything – other than obtain a sign permit.
According to reports, when ICI Homes purchased the property, it included the watch tower – along with the traditional parking area at its base that was recently fenced off to public use by our friends at Volusia County.
Last night I had the pleasure of speaking with Clayton Park, business editor for The Daytona Beach News-Journal, who is doing a piece on the “Great Northshore Sign Debate of 2020.”
Through Mr. Park, I expressed my appreciation to Mori Hosseini for listening to the concerns of area residents and restoring this important piece of our local landscape to its pristine – if not slightly weathered – condition.
That truly is being a good neighbor.
Thanks to everyone who let their voices be heard.
In my view, this is the essence of civic involvement.
And kudos to ICI Homes for taking positive steps to correct a mistake that caused such a visceral reaction with Ormond-by-the-Sea residents who care deeply about preserving those historic, cultural, and environmental sites and amenities that make our area so unique.
“When daylight came, M.K. recalled that he an C.N. left the Mobile Avenue home. According to M.K., he vividly remembered how Benson openly bragged about the killing and said he “enjoyed it.”
After obtaining a sworn statement from M.K. detailing his knowledge of the incident, he was asked to review the still photographs and video taken from the 7-Eleven store, and, without hesitation, M.K. pointed to the first person seen entering the store as “Kris” – later positively identified as Kris Benson – then identified the second subject as being one of the Keith brothers.
In addition, M.K. was shown the knife that was discovered at the 7-Eleven convenience store, and he advised he could not identify the knife as having been at 527 Mobile Avenue; however, M.K. advised that the home contained numerous military or fighting-style knives.
The investigative strategy called for C.N to be interviewed independent of M.K. in attempt to verify his version of the events.
In order to facilitate this interview, C.N. would need to be approached away from the suspects’ home.
At approximately 23:30hrs, M.K. made a controlled telephone call to 527 Mobile Avenue and an unidentified male advised M.K. that C.N. was not at the home. At approximately 00:20hrs, M.K. was outfitted with a concealed transmitter of the type capable of monitoring and recording verbal communications and investigators drove him to a location near the Mobile Avenue home.
With this Investigator in constant visual contact from a vantage point on Silver Beach Boulevard, M.K. was observed approaching the house at 527 Mobile Avenue. The door was answered by a subject positively identified as Josh Keith, who advised that C.N. was not at the home.
M.K. then left the residence and was transported back to the Holly Hill Police Department.
On October 13, 1995, at approximately 11:00hrs, M.K. was again outfitted with the concealed transmitter and transported back to 527 Mobile Avenue where he would once again attempt to contact C.N.
With this Investigator and Inv. James Patton monitoring the conversation, M.K. approached the Mobile Avenue home where he contacted C.N.
At the time, the home was occupied by C.N., Kris Benson, K.S., Josh Keith, and a female acquaintance later identified as L.M.
Approximately one-hour later at 12:15hrs, C.N., M.K., and L.M entered C.N.’s Ford Thunderbird and departed the residence. With investigators conducting close surveillance, C.N. drove across the Seabreeze Bridge into the City of Holly Hill where Officer Wayne Race performed a traffic stop on C.N.’s vehicle near the intersection of Second Street and Daytona Avenue.
This Investigator approached C.N. and identified myself with police credentials.
I advised C.N. that I was investigating the death of Mark Scribner, and C.N. immediately stated that she wanted to cooperate.
Without prompting, C.N. stated she first heard about Kris Benson and Jason Keith’s involvement in the murder at approximately 02:00hrs on Tuesday, October 10, 1995, and agreed to voluntarily accompany investigators to the Holly Hill Police Department where a sworn statement was obtained.
In addition, investigators spoke with L.M. independent of C.N., who stated that her knowledge of the homicide came from her friend, K.S., who lives at the 527 Mobile Avenue home with Benson and Keith.
L.M. agreed to accompany investigators to the police department where a sworn statement was obtained.
During a recorded interview with C.N., she stated that at approximately 02:00hrs on Tuesday, October 10, 1995, while sitting outside the Mobile Avenue home she shares with Benson, the Keith brothers, and K.S., Kris Benson and Jason Keith arrived home, sweating profusely, while acting intermittently happy, nervous, and “paranoid.”
According to C.N., when she asked the pair what they had been doing, each replied, “nothing.”
After a while, C.N. advised she went inside the house and again confronted Benson and Keith about what they were doing earlier in the evening and became angry when she felt the pair were keeping a secret from her.
In turn, K.S. (described by C.N. as Benson’s ex-girlfriend) took C.N. outside the home and asked, “Remember what Kris said yesterday?” recalling that Benson had been discussing plans to kill someone. K.S. then described how the victim was a cab driver and that Benson had stabbed him to death earlier in the evening.
Later in the evening, C.N. spoke to Jason Keith alone and he described to her how earlier in the evening he and Kris Benson called a taxi and took it to the area of “Publix” at the Halifax Shopping Center.
According to C.N., Jason Keith told her he was seated immediately next to the driver in the front seat, while Kris Benson was directly behind the driver in the rear seat, and Benson initiated his attack by stabbing the victim in the back of the head with a knife he carried with him, describing the wound to C.N. as “pretty deep.”
C.N. stated that Keith told her Benson continued the attack by stabbing the driver in the back from behind.
When the victim exited the taxi and staggered away in an attempt to escape, Benson attacked again.
During this phase of the attack, Jason Keith told C.N. he observed blood “squirting” onto Benson, and when he looked back, the driver was laying on the ground “In a pool of his own blood.”
According to C.N., Keith then explained how the pair wiped down the taxi with their t-shirts to destroy fingerprints, and Benson wiped blood off his face, hands, and knife. The pair then threw the knife into the Halifax river, “really far, where no one would find it. Where there was a lot of mud.”
After disposing of the murder weapon, Jason Keith advised C.N. the pair walked home, taking backroads to avoid police.”
It is difficult to describe the living conditions at the Mobile Avenue home.
While monitoring the concealed transmitter that M.K. courageously agreed to wear, the background was near constant “death metal” shock-rock music played at top volume – an atmosphere where essentially feral teenagers – 16 and 17 years old – lived without any adult supervision.
During our investigation, we learned that 17-year old Kris Benson had become angry and depressed after one of his roommates, 16-year old K.S., rejected his desire for a more involved romantic relationship.
Benson’s reaction to rejection was increasingly despondent behaviors, including using a knife to carve designs into his own flesh.
“We were just dating. We weren’t serious,” K.S. said, “I didn’t want a serious relationship with him – told him I didn’t want any type of serious relationship, that we could date each other, you know. Be friends and occasionally go out on a date and stuff. And I guess he got, I don’t know, I guess attached or something. I don’t know what I did to make him all obsessed or whatever.”
On Monday, October 9, 1995, K.S. advised that Benson appeared depressed and told her that “life meant nothing to him” – that he did not care anymore – and nothing mattered.
During the discussion, K.S. recalled that Benson told her he planned to kill someone that night – something she felt was a meaningless boast designed to put her on a “guilt trip” so she would reconsider their relationship.
According to K.S., Benson talked about the murder all day, and eventually Jason Keith asked Benson if he could go along.
Eventually, Benson armed himself with a large, heavy-bladed knife and left the Mobile Avenue home to find a victim. . .
Having obtained the corroborating testimony of the suspects’ friends and roommates, investigators obtained a search warrant for the home at 527 Mobile Avenue signed by Circuit Judge James Foxman.
At 18:00hrs on Friday, October 13, 1995, I placed a call to the Daytona Beach Police Department and arranged for Inv. R.B. to meet with DBPD Inv. Paul Barnett and Inv. M. G. White – two of the best detectives I have ever known – at a predetermined location to coordinate the arrest of Kris Benson and Jason Keith.
While I maintained visual surveillance on the Mobile Avenue home from an unmarked vehicle, a perimeter of officers and investigators were staged around the residence, as M.K. was again outfitted with a concealed transmitter and entered the home to confirm both suspects were present.
At approximately 18:33hrs, I transmitted a signal directing the arrest of the suspects – and officers of the Daytona Beach Police Department expertly moved on the home – with Officer Robert Blackwell first observing the pair in the kitchen area as he moved through the backyard.
When Benson and Keith attempted to escape out a back door, Officer Blackwell – a brawny, gregarious veteran officer who epitomized the term “a good cop” – physically grabbed both subjects at once and ordered them to the floor.
I then entered the home and identified myself to both Benson and Keith with police credentials before advising them they were under arrest for the murder of Mark Clyde Scribner.
During the subsequent search of the premises by Holly Hill, Daytona Beach, and Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators and crime scene technicians, a black t-shirt of the type worn by Benson on the night of the murder was located in a bedroom of the home.
A forensic test performed on the shirt by FDLE Technician Kelly May showed presumptive positive for the presence of blood.
“Inside a trashcan near the bedroom dresser was a section of what appeared to be a driver’s license which contained the victim’s first name and a portion of the driver’s license number. This item was discovered by Inv. James Patton and collected by Technician Kelly May.
Inv. Patton discovered a second section of the same driver’s license was located near the doorway to the bedroom on the floor. This section contained the victim’s last name and the remainder of the driver’s license number and was collected as evidence by Technician May.”
Once at Holly Hill Police Department, Benson and Keith were secured in separate holding cells under constant observation while investigators began the arduous process of conducting interviews with witnesses, obtaining written statements, logging evidence, notifying the suspects’ parents, completing evidence reports, and preparing charging affidavits.
At approximately 23:30hrs, Kris Benson was brought from the holding cell into the Criminal Investigation Division by Inv. R.B.
In the presence of Officer J.G., Inv. R.B. explained the Miranda warning to Benson – and asked if he wanted to have his parents, attorney or anyone else present – and he said he did not have any relatives, or anyone else he wanted to contact, and he did not wish to use the telephone.
Inv. R.B. presented a waiver to Benson confirming that he did not wish to have an attorney present during any subsequent questioning which he signed.
When Inv. R.B. began presenting the evidence against him, Benson said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” and he was returned to the holding area.
At approximately 23:45hrs, Mr. John Keith, the father of Jason and Josh Keith, arrived at the police department and was briefed on his son’s involvement in the homicide.
According to Mr. Keith, he had spent some time with Jason earlier in the week and reported his son had not mentioned anything about the killing.
Given the circumstances, Mr. Keith was extremely upset, and asked me how he should proceed.
I explained to Mr. Keith that I was not his son’s advocate and suggested that he seek the advice and counsel of an attorney as soon as possible.
The crushing weight he was feeling as a father was palpable.
I told Mr. Keith that Jason would not be questioned in this matter until he had spoken to an attorney, then arranged for him to have monitored access to his son. During this limited contact, Jason told his father that he did not know anything about the killing of Mark Scribner.
At approximately 02:30hrs, I was told Jason Keith had a question, and I walked into the holding area where the suspects were being held, and Jason asked how much longer the pair would remain at the police department before transfer to the juvenile detention facility.
When I explained that the charging documents were being prepared, Kris Benson called out from an adjacent cell and asked that I approach his door.
Benson began by asking that I turn up the air conditioner, stating he was cold, and I explained that I had no control over the temperature as the thermostat was locked.
Then, Benson turned and sat down on the metal bench and again stated that he did not know anything about the murder he was being charged with.
I explained that the testimony of witnesses and physical evidence suggested no one else could have committed the killing – and advised that he should try to bring some closure to the incident in his own mind, explaining that the other tragedy of this event was his young age, and that two lives have been lost – his figuratively and Scribner’s literally.
Benson began to sob, holding his head in his hands, as I explained that each of his friends and roommates were giving statements detailing their knowledge of the murder.
I then asked Benson if he wanted me to contact his parents or anyone else to be with him during this time, and he responded, “I’ve never met my Dad, and I don’t get along with my Mom,” explaining his mother lived “somewhere in Virginia,” reiterating that he did not want her notified.
He continued to cry and stare at the floor.
I then explained to Benson that I did not know what to tell the victim’s family – I could not explain to them why Mark died – and he tearfully explained:
“Tell them a stupid kid killed him for no reason.”
Hearing the suspect in a violent crime admit their involvement is a major turning point – emotionally and strategically. In this case, the brutal and indiscriminate nature of the killing – coupled with the young age of those responsible – stunned me for a moment as I stared at the young man seating in the stark holding cell.
Benson looked me in the eye and said, “So talk.”
When asked why he killed Mr. Scribner, Benson said he could not explain the motivation, other than it was “…something that just came into my head and I couldn’t get it out,” and when asked how it happened, Benson said “I stabbed him in the skull.”
According to the investigative report:
“Benson went on to say that he had directed Scribner to drive him and Jason Keith to the marina behind the Halifax Shopping Center, then “One minute is wasn’t happening, the next minute it was.”
From the cell, Benson explained that Scribner said nothing to him after he delivered the first stab wound to the back of his head, then he attempted to escape, “But I had ahold of him,” stating that when the victim attempted to run away, “I chased him down in two seconds and started stabbing him in the back.”
When I asked whether the attack occurred closer to the rear wall of the shopping center or to the marina complex, Benson said, “both places,” and explained that, after the murder, “It felt like the best thing that ever happened, but the next morning I felt like shit for what I did.”
Benson told me that he had been having recurring nightmares of the killing.
He then looked in the direction of Jason Keith’s cell and stated, “He’s just a stupid kid who followed me, he wanted to come along.”
According to Benson, following the murder, he and Keith walked from the scene south to the 600 block of North Beach Street in Daytona Beach where he threw the knife “200 to 300 feet” into a canal.
As he spoke, Benson appeared to draw out the area where the knife was thrown with his feet on the cell floor before becoming quiet.
Then, he began crying hard, dissolving into racking sobs, before dropping his head into his hands Benson lamented, “There’s nothing I can do about it now. . .”
17-year-old confesses to killing cab driver – Remorse no comfort to victim’s mother
The Daytona Beach News-Journal
By Brendan Smith
Kris Benson, a 17-year-old kid with a fascination for knives and a penchant for murder, didn’t feel so brave after spending a few hours in jail Friday night.
After breaking down and crying at the Holly Hill Police Department jail, Benson confessed at about 3:00am Saturday to the brutal stabbing murder of cab driver Mark Scribner Monday night, police said.
“(Benson) said he had no reason why he did it,” Sgt. Mark Barker said. “He said, ‘I should tell his family a stupid kid killed him for no reason.”
That didn’t offer much comfort for Johanna Scriber, who buried her only son Saturday in Taunton, Massachusetts. Ms. Scribner said she had pictures of her son taken in the coffin because she still can’t believe he is dead.
“I’m so disgusted that kids like this can do that,” she said in a tearful telephone interview Saturday. “Mark gave them the money. They still wanted to kill him just for killing.”
It was Benson’s bragging about the crime to friends that led police to arrest him and accused accomplice Jason Taylor Keith, 15, at 527 Mobile Avenue Friday at about 6:30pm
Following a first appearance hearing Saturday the youths were taken to a high-security area of the juvenile detention facility on Red John Road.
After signing a waiver of his rights and declining the presence of an attorney, Benson told police Saturday he began thinking about murder after his girlfriend broke up with him, Barker said.
The girlfriend told police Benson began obsessing about the idea and used a knife to carve designs on his arms, Barker said. “She felt he was trying to elicit some sympathy from her,” Barker said. “She didn’t take it seriously until he came back to the house and showed her Mr. Scribner’s driver’s license.”
Benson then matched the driver’s license photo to a picture of the 39-year-old Scribner that ran in The News-Journal to prove to his friends he had done the deed.
Pieces of the license were found by police in a trash can at the youths’ house along with bloody clothes matching the description of the suspects’ attire.
Benson and Keith decided to target a cab driver after rejecting the idea of killing a nighttime stroller on the beach, Barker said.
Scribner, a driver for Checker Cabs for 18 months, happened to answer the call at the 7-Eleven convenience store, 301 S. Peninsula Drive in Daytona Beach at 10:13pm Monday.
According to Benson’s account to police, the two youths’ told Scribner they wanted to go to the Aloha Marina behind the Halifax Shopping Center, 231 Riverside Drive in Holly Hill.
When Scribner pulled in behind the center, Benson stabbed him twice in the head. Thinking he was being robbed, Scribner threw his money at the boys before staggering out of the cab.
“(Benson) said he chased him down in two seconds and continued to stab him in the back,” Barker said. “It was just a very sad and very brutal crime.”
While Keith tried to wipe fingerprints from the interior of the cab, Benson stooped in a rain puddle and washed the blood from his face, hands and hair before throwing the knife in the Intracoastal Waterway, Barker said.
They went home to the small, one-story beachside house they shared with Keith’s older brother, Josh, and two female teenagers. A friend of one of the girls came forward to police Thursday after hearing Benson brag about the murder.
John Keith, the boy’s father, used to live in the house but had moved in with a girlfriend in Ormond Beach, Barker said. Keith could not be reached for comment Saturday night.
Benson told police he did not know his father, and he was estranged from his mother, who had left him with the Keiths.
Some neighbors on Mobile Avenue said they were shocked by the crime. Others weren’t surprised.
Villie Bacev, owner of the Tropic Aire Motel which abuts the youths’ house, said he began carrying a gun with him because of run-ins with Keith.
Bacev said Keith’s father told him Keith had been arrested more than 30 times for shoplifting, but little was done by authorities.
“I’m not surprised at all. I’m disgusted,” Dacev said of the murder. “They didn’t even get slapped on the wrist (for past crimes). That’s now called batter on a minor.”
Bacev and several other neighbors said they suspected the youths in several break-ins and petty thefts in the neighborhood.
A grand jury will consider whether to indict Benson for murder and Keith on a charge of principal to murder. Barker said he did not know if prosecutors would try the youths as adults due to the seriousness of the crime.
Mrs. Scribner said it was too late for apologies from Benson.
“I just know my son is down in the ground and what can I say?” she said. “He was my only son. He was here two months ago. We laughed together. I can see his face in front of me.”
In September 1996, I reported to the FBI National Academy at Quantico, Virginia, for three months of intensive law enforcement leadership training, graduating from the 187th Session in December of that year.
I remained as supervisor of the Criminal Investigations Division, and in November 1997 was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.
In the spring of 1998, the trial of Kris Benson began in the Daytona Beach courtroom of Circuit Judge William C. Johnson, Jr.
Veteran Assistant State Attorney Noah McKinnon was assigned to prosecute the case by then State Attorney John Tanner with the assistance of the very capable Assistant State Attorney Richard Whitson.
During trial preparation, I was amazed by the hours of study and research Mr. McKinnon spent examining and questioning every aspect of the investigation, all while I sat quietly in a conference room ready to provide context or explanation.
We spent many hours together and I learned much from Mr. McKinnon’s extensive legal experience. One late night, Noah McKinnon imparted a valuable piece of wisdom that I have never forgotten:
“Luck favors the prepared mind.”
The prosecution of this case was not cut-and-dried. Far from it.
The court appointed veteran Daytona Beach trial attorney Jeffrey Dees, a graduate of Harvard Law, to defend Kris Benson at trial – and Mr. Dees provided his client a competent, aggressive, and passionate advocacy.
During pre-trial motions, Mr. Dees moved to have Benson’s confession thrown out on legal grounds.
Judge Johnson granted the motion.
According to the ruling, Benson was held at the Holly Hill Police Department for the better part of eight hours without a shirt, shoes, or socks and with nothing to eat.
As the supervisor in charge of the investigation, I should have had Benson and Keith transferred to the Juvenile Detention Center within six hours of their arrest per the regulations governing juvenile suspects.
“These statutes are not mere technicalities, but must be presumed to be the expression of the will of the people of this state,” Judge Johnson wrote.
He was right.
I made a mistake, and it cost the prosecution a vital piece of evidence. The fault lies with me alone.
Defense: Teen killed cabbie out of anger
The Daytona Beach News-Journal
By Joseph Ditzler
Mark Scribner died a bloody death, stumbling and falling as he fled the killer who stabbed him up to nine times in the back, according to the Volusia County Medical Examiner.
Five hours later, a policeman found the 39-year-old cabdriver’s body laying in a damp, secluded alley 242 feet from his cab. The can had been left in drive and its lights left on, had drained the battery.
The night’s receipts were gone.
But Scribner’s killer didn’t set out to kill or rob him, or anyone else, said the lawyer defending him against a murder charge Wednesday.
“This is a classic tale of a family gone wrong and the consequences on the children,” attorney Jeffrey Dees told jurors.
Dees didn’t deny his client, Kris Benson, 19, killed Scribner on October 9, 1995. But he explained to jurors in his opening statement that Benson, a child left to fend for himself, killed out of impulse and anger.
His mother, a serious crack cocaine user, abandoned the boy after moving around the country from house to house and boyfriend to boyfriend, Dees said.
“She neglected him for drugs,” Dees said.
Authorities charged Benson, 17 at the time of Scribner’s death, with first-degree murder and robbery.
If he is convicted, Assistant State Attorneys Noah McKinnon and Richard Whitson plan to ask the same jury to recommend the death penalty.
What jurors accept as Benson’s frame of mind at the time could prove crucial. If he intended to rob or kill Scribner, a first-degree murder conviction looms.
If not, then he faces second-degree murder or less.
His mother gone to Virginia in 1995, Benson moved in with the Keith family – Jason, 15, and Josh, 17, and their father John – on Mobile Avenue. Shortly afterward, the father moved out, Dees said.
The boys were left alone. Two 16-year-old girls, K.S. and C.N., moved in shortly afterward, Dees said. He said K.S. and her boyfriend kept them all supplied with LSD.
Benson and Jason Keith ingested two or three doses of LSD each the night of Scribner’s killing, he said.
And their housemates at 527 Mobile were under the influence of the hallucinogenic drug when the pair arrived home late that night.
They’re expected to testify Benson bragged of killing the cabdriver in order to impress K.S., who had dumped him after a brief romantic fling.
Dees cautioned their testimony may be suspect and said he would call an expert to testify about the effects of LSD.
The jury also viewed 35 photographs of the scene where Holly Hill police found Scribner’s body behind the Halifax Shopping Center at 231 Riverside Drive. Police Lt. Mark Barker described the blood-smeared 1985 Dodge cab and a blood-splattered wall nearby. Finally, he described Scribner’s body, his shirt soaked with blood and torn by a knife.
Dr. Ronald Reeves, district medical examiner, followed Barker to the stand to describe numerous abrasions on Scribner’s face and elbows, along with incisions in his scalp and stab wounds in his back.
“He died as a combination of all the injuries he sustained, a large loss of blood within a short period causing shock and ultimately death,” Reeves said.
Ultimately, Jason Keith pleaded guilty to lesser related charges and agreed to testify at Benson’s trial.
During his testimony, Keith recalled how Benson chased the victim down, who turned to face his killer and tossed a wad of cash at him, before backing up into a wall of the shopping center.
Keith said he turned away for 10 or 15 seconds, then looked again to see Benson standing over Scrinber’s body.
“What the fuck is going on here,” Keith recalled thinking.
“You saw Kris Benson kill this man?” asked prosecutor Richard Whitson.
“Yes, I did,” Keith said.
Keith then described how Benson walked to a pothole filled with rainwater and stooped to wash his bloody hands.
“Are you going to keep your mouth shut about this?” he said Benson asked. “You’d better or you’ll end up like the cabdriver.”
Keith testified that after the killing, the pair walked across the Main Street bridge to a convenience store where Benson, who had to borrow a quarter earlier in the night to call the taxi, bought each of them a fountain drink. . .
During his closing argument, prosecutor Noah McKinnon said Benson knew he wanted to go to a dark, secluded area behind the Halifax Shopping Center. “It is a place where a murder could occur,” he said.
“He wanted more than money. He wanted his very life.”
Jury urges life term for cabbie’s killer – The convicted murderer said he was on LSD when he committed the murder and robbery in 1995
The Orlando Sentinel
By Ludmilla Lelis
After hearing a Daytona Beach teen testify that he killed a cabdriver “to take him out of his pain,” a Volusia County jury recommended Wednesday the convicted murderer spend the rest of his life in prison.
Circuit Judge William C. Johnson will decide today whether Kris William Benson, 19, will be sentenced to life in prison for the death of cabdriver Mark Scribner, 39.
Earlier this week, the 12-member jury found Benson guilty of first-degree murder for the October 9, 1995, slaying and armed robbery with a deadly weapon. Benson, who was 17 at the time and high on LSD, stabbed Scribner to death from the back seat of the taxicab.
Testifying for the first time Wednesday, he said he now realizes what he did was wrong.
After striking Scribner in the head, Benson tried to hold him in the cab and continued stabbing him. The cab driver ran 200 feet away, but Benson chased him down and continued stabbing him.
“I had to finish it,” Benson said, trying to hide his face while he cried. “I couldn’t let him sit there and be in pain.”
“I don’t remember feeling anything,” he testified. “It’s my fault…I really don’t have a reason for it.”
Though he said he regrets his actions now, Benson admitted that he didn’t have remorse as he repeatedly stabbed Scribner. When asked by Assistant State Attorney Noah McKinnon whether he took mercy or had any pity for Scribner, Benson answered with a faint, “No.”
Scribner’s mother, Johanna Scribner, 63, of East Taunton, Massachusetts, said she could not forgive Benson because of that answer.
“I can say sometimes that I felt sorry for him, but when it came back to what he did to Mark and that he showed no pity, no, I can never forgive him,” she said.
In a letter read to the jury, she said Mark was her only son – an Army veteran and a music graduate of Purdue University who composed music and played the drums, keyboards and guitar. He enjoyed playing chess and volunteered for the Salvation Army every Christmas season.
“I’m glad justice is done,” she said, adding that she doesn’t think the death penalty was necessary for Benson. “I think he would suffer more in prison.”
Benson’s attorney Jeffrey Dees argued Wednesday that Benson had already suffered much in his short lifetime and eventually fell into drug abuse, like his mother. Jurors learned how he was ignored and mistreated by his crack cocaine-addicted mother and forced to fend for himself.
His parents divorced when he was 3, and his father lives in California.
After his parents divorced, Benson moved constantly, whenever his mother had a new boyfriend. His aunt, Julie Hines, and his mother’s former boss, Mary Shearer, remembered Benson as a sweet boy who was starved for attention, and for food.
Hines said Benson’s mother, Suzanne, smoked opium and took pills when she was 17 years old. Throughout his childhood, he lived in terrible conditions sleeping in closets, eating squirrels and living under bridges while his mother partied all night or was in jail.
“She wasn’t there for him,” Hines said. “She didn’t give him a stable home – nothing all his life.”
Shearer remembered that as an adolescent, Benson often came to the beauty salon where his mom worked, looking for food. “He was so kind and so loveable. I never heard any ill words out of his mouth.”
Following his conviction at trial, Circuit Judge William C. Johnson, Jr. sentenced Kris William Benson to life in prison. The judge also directed that Benson serve a concurrent sentence of 5 years and 4 months for armed robbery with a deadly weapon.
Due to his age at the time of the murder, Benson’s sentence was later changed to 40 years in prison.
On April 28, 1998, Jason Taylor Keith was sentenced to 4 years in prison for accessory after the fact to premeditated murder.
Following his release, in 2002, Keith was sentenced to 2 years and 6 months for a burglary in Volusia County.
Then, Keith was sentenced to 3 years, 8 months and 1 day in prison for another Volusia County burglary.
Jason Keith is currently serving a 16-year sentence for a robbery conviction in Seminole County.
He is currently being held at the Avon Park Work Camp and is scheduled for release on March 6, 2024.
In 2009, I was appointed Chief of Police for the Holly Hill Police Department. I had the distinct pleasure of serving the citizens of that wonderful community for a total of 31-years.
In March 2014, following my retirement, Inv. Stephen K. Aldrich was appointed Chief of Police for the City of Holly Hill Police Department – an incredibly talented law enforcement officer and true servant-leader who epitomizes honor, integrity and dedicated service.
Inv. R.B. continues to serve, having made a career conducting and supervising sensitive narcotics investigations for a law enforcement agency in Central Florida.
Officer Richard Klein honorably retired from active service with the Holly Hill Police Department and currently lives in quiet solitude in the mountains of Western North Carolina.
Richard recently wrote:
Mark, Thank you for the kind words you wrote about me and for your accurate recounting of an event, some 25 years after the fact, that is still fresh in my memory.
Until reading this article a few minutes ago, I never realized how deeply you delved into the victim’s background in an effort to learn all you could about his family, friends, interests and education in order for you to speak knowingly and passionately on his behalf during the upcoming hearings and trial that would inevitably follow this heinous murder.
I will not spoil the ending for your many readers, but I will say that this is a tale worth re-telling and it does provide the reader with a unique inside view of police procedure…the human side as well as the technical side.
Even though I was there through it all, your ability to paint an artful word picture of these events provides all your readers (including me) a clearer understanding of why we chose to become law enforcement officers in the first place. Stay safe.”
Thank you, Richard. . .
Inv. James Patton honorably retired from active service with the Holly Hill Police Department and currently lives with his wife in the southern Appalachian Mountains.
Daytona Beach News-Journal reporter Brendan Smith is now a freelance journalist in Washington D.C. – his help with this case was immeasurable.
Former Orlando Sentinel reporter Ludmilla Lelis now serves as the Court Communications Officer for the Seventh Judicial Circuit of Florida.
M.K. – the brave young man who so courageously came forward to provide information and assistance critical to bringing Benson and Keith to justice still lives in the Daytona Beach area. He can forever live his life with the pride of knowing that he did the right thing, for the right reason, under dangerous and difficult circumstances to see justice for the victim of this horribly violent crime.
The location of the other witnesses is unknown.
On June 13, 2020, after 25-years in prison for the murder of Mark Clyde Scribner, Kris Benson committed suicide at Columbia Correctional Institution at Lake City, Florida.
“The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment.”
George Orwell, 1984
Ed Kelley – Facebook
October 21, 2020 8:42am
You may or may not see these placed at the Ormond Beach Library but they will see you! We will file charges if you are seen destroying signs.
I had not planned on publishing an Angels and Assholes this morning.
In fact, I took a short vacation this week – a brief pause to get far away from the abject madness that has passed for a campaign season in this foul year 2020 – but sometimes the kooky acts of a King Hell Asshole simply cannot be ignored. . .
On Wednesday, our doddering fool of a lame duck County Chair-turned-Chief Inspector of the Sign Police, Ed Kelley, posted the above threat on social media essentially detailing the surreptitious placement of motion activated-night vision capable camouflaged video cameras at the Ormond Beach Library polling place, ostensibly to catch political sign snatchers in the act.
The fact our County Chairman – who has been extremely involved in the campaign of Dishonest Deb Denys as his preferred replacement – is running a covert private surveillance operation at a polling place should have a chilling effect on every registered voter in Volusia County.
In fact, after Secret Agent Kelley’s snooping was brought to light – many area voters I spoke with felt truly intimidated.
Perhaps that was Mr. Kelley’s intent?
Once I exposed the fact that people are uncomfortable having their image captured, presumably as they enter or exit the voting booth, then potentially used for nefarious purposes, Old Ed immediately started the patented Kelley Flip-Flop, quibbling about whether the cameras were placed on public property or private – then using the tyrants “only the guilty should fear my omnipresent watching eye” dictatorial excuse:
“Only those taking and destroying signs should be concerned of cameras on city property. You surely are aware of security cameras there and surrounding properties.”
Then, Mr. Kelley equivocated on whether he placed his eye in the sky on County owned property – or on adjacent private property:
“Not set up on County property! No permit required to video on public places.”
So, was Old Ed lying when he specifically said the cameras were “placed at the Ormond Beach Library,” or when he said they were not?
What a scumbag. . .
If Chairman Kelley wants to sit his sizeable ass in the parking lot of a polling place and play security guard all night protecting Dishonest Debs goofy signs – so be it – but keep your beady eyes off me and other law abiding citizens as we engage in our most sacred democratic freedom – which should remain safe from a government surveillance operation orchestrated by some befuddled old politician with a demonstrable bias.
Look, the theft of political signs is despicable.
Should not happen – but it does.
In all candor, I could give two-shits about Deb Denys campaign signs – or any other candidates for that matter.
What I do care about is preserving the sanctity of the voting environment – the ability to cast my ballot free from being spied upon by some addlepated Inspector Clouseau.
In my view, when the highest elected official in Volusia County takes it upon himself – with whatever assistance the mysterious “We” means – to set up secret video devices, spying on voters like the proverbial ‘owl in the ivy’ – casting a very wide net to capture a sneak thief while violating the already limited privacy of a polling place – it epitomizes the whale-shit level politics Mr. Kelley is infamous for.
I wonder when Ms. Denys’ was soundly defeated by Jeff Brower in the primary if her campaign ever once considered the pasty-faced liability that has been sitting next to her on the dais for the past four years?
On Thursday morning, I filed a verbal complaint with Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Lisa Lewis.
Because – while it is apparently legal in Florida to surreptitiously videotape voters entering and exiting a polling place (it remains illegal to photograph inside a polling place) in my view, when it is done by a sitting elected official/operative for an active political campaign, it smacks of intimidation – and demonstrates the depth to which the cheapjack politician he supports will stoop to win an election.
To her credit, Ms. Lewis and the members of her staff I spoke with could not be more helpful – or understanding – and I sincerely appreciate their efforts during this busy time.
If there is a potential positive:
Following this election, We, The Little People, of Volusia County will soon be shed of this arrogantly oppressive asshole once and for all, as Old Ed Kelley shuffles off to that fetid manure pile where washed-up political hacks go when their damage is finally done.
What we are left with is up to us.
In my view, Jeff “Plan B” Brower represents the kind of positive change Volusia County residents deserve.
This truly is a match between two diametrically opposed philosophies – the difference between substantive change in Volusia County’s fiscal, environmental and civic policies – and the stagnant status quo – which always places the wants of uber-wealthy insiders over the needs of many.
Trust me. Unlike Dishonest Deb, you will not find Jeff smooching the wrinkled backsides of well-heeled political benefactors at some lavish soiree at the Halifax Yacht Club.
I don’t know how you and your family feel, but I plan to stand firm in my conviction that clean water, greenspace, wildlife and natural places are more important to the lives of our children and grandchildren than the overstuffed pocketbooks of uber-wealthy land speculators and the sutlers who make their living on the crumbs left in their wake.
Always more, more, more – while our clueless elected “leadership” continues, full speed ahead, with no thought (or plan) for keeping our transportation and utilities infrastructure on pace with out-of-control development from Farmton to the Flagler County line.
I believe it is time we elect strong, ethical leadership who will stop the abuse, neglect and unfair manipulation of the marketplace that has become a malignancy on many areas of the Fun Coast that has left thousands of Volusia County families living at or below the poverty level.
In my view, Jeff Brower represents the passion and positive change we desperately need in Volusia County.
Clearly, Jeff Brower cannot be bought.
He has worked diligently to identify waste and mismanagement in County government, and has served as a tireless advocate for accountability, responsive representation, and the environmental protections that have been considered a nuisance by his opponent.
I also admire his active volunteerism and commitment to preserving our unique heritage of beach driving and access.
Most important, Jeff Brower knows that character counts.
I believe his impressive dedication to the highest ideals of the public service – ethical leadership, accessibility, and fairness – will serve the best interests of ALL citizens of Volusia County.
I strongly urge you to vote for Jeff Brower and support his bright vision for returning government to the people of Volusia County, Florida.
“Scribner had been employed by King Transportation Company, on and off, for approximately two-years, and had reported for work at approximately 18:30hrs on October 9, 1995, as the night driver of Cab #63.
The previous driver of the car that day was identified as D. P., who washed the vehicle immediately prior to turning it over to Scribner.
During an initial interview, R. C. reported that Scribner was a good employee, and recalled that he had been the victim of a strongarm robbery in the City of Daytona Beach approximately two-weeks ago.
That incident was not reported to police.
According to R. C., King Transportation’s night dispatcher was identified as R. T., who would be able to confirm Scribner’s runs for the previous evening.”
As the sun began to rise over the gruesome scene, the forensic processing was completed, and the taxi covered and loaded onto a flatbed wrecker for escorted transport to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s crime laboratory in Orlando.
To preserve items of trace evidence, the victim’s hands were covered with paper bags and securely taped in place before his body was carefully placed inside a non-porous human remains pouch – often called a “body bag” – and custody of the body transferred to the Volusia County Medical Examiner’s office for post mortem examination to determine the manner and cause of death.
In forensic science, Locard’s exchange principle holds that the perpetrator of a crime will bring something into the crime scene and leave with something from it, and that both can be used as evidence:
“Wherever he steps, whatever he touches, whatever he leaves, even unconsciously, will serve as a silent witness against him. Not only his fingerprints or his footprints, but his hair, the fibres from his clothes, the glass he breaks, the tool mark he leaves, the paint he scratches, the blood or semen he deposits or collects. All of these and more, bear mute witness against him. This is evidence that does not forget. It is not confused by the excitement of the moment. It is not absent because human witnesses are. It is factual evidence. Physical evidence cannot be wrong, it cannot perjure itself, it cannot be wholly absent. Only human failure to find it, study and understand it, can diminish its value.”
The process also requires meticulously documenting the chain of custody for each item of evidence, literally from the crime scene to the courtroom.
Who collected it, who transported it, who processed it, where and how it was securely stored – a continuous, unbroken record of possession that preserves the integrity and authenticates each item from point of discovery until its introduction in a court of law.
As Detective Sergeant, my job was to assume responsibility and coordinate all aspects of a multifaceted investigation – including ensuring everyone on the team maintained strict adherence to investigative processes, protocols and the legal requirements of proving or disproving a crime.
“At approximately 06:30hrs, I assigned officers to conduct a coordinated search of the area for any additional items of physical evidence. Officers and investigators covered a geographical area from Sickler Drive in Daytona Beach, north to the 300 block of Riverside Drive, and from the west bank of the Halifax River to the west shoulder of Riverside Drive.
This search included the rooftops of all surrounding buildings, all boats in the adjacent marina storage yard, all trash receptacles, and a thorough inspection of the rear maintenance area of the shopping center and marina.
The canvas failed to reveal any additional items of physical evidence or witnesses to the incident.
A call was placed to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team, who initiated an underwater search of the adjacent waters of the Halifax River immediately east of the scene with negative results.”
Homicide investigations require a multidisciplinary approach – that begins with building positive relationships with outside agencies.
The use of specialized units, crime scene technicians, forensic pathologists, experienced prosecutors, and myriad subject matter experts is all part of this team concept.
As our investigation continued, I assigned veteran Investigator James Patton to identify the victim’s next-of-kin and, if out-of-town, to locate a law enforcement agency to make the death notification.
Our department has a long-standing compassionate rule that no death notification – one of the most difficult tasks a law enforcement officer can perform – would be done by telephone. Once the next-of-kin were identified, the family’s local law enforcement agency would be provided the details so the tragic news could be delivered to the family in-person.
In addition, Inv. Patton was directed to begin the process of piecing together Mr. Scribner’s background – painstakingly recreating the last 24-hours of his life – as we began to build a picture of who he was and any risk characteristics (other than the obvious danger of being a nighttime cab driver) that may have contributed to his victimization.
“At approximately 07:00hrs, Investigator Stephen Aldrich obtained the dispatch records from King Transportation Dispatcher R. T.
These logs determined that, at approximately 22:00hrs on October 9, 1995, Scribner had been dispatched to the 7-11 convenience store at 301 South Peninsula Drive, Daytona Beach. After accepting the fare at the store, Scribner advised via radio that he was enroute to the Halifax Shopping Center with two passengers.
Dispatcher R. T. recalled attempting to communicate with Scribner approximately 15-minutes after his final transmission but received no answer.
The logs provided by King Transportation support the recollections of Dispatcher R. T.; however, the audio recording of dispatch communications with drivers for the time in question was inoperative and failed to record the final transmission of Mr. Scribner.
The victim’s personal vehicle was located at King Transportation, and Inv. Aldrich conducted a cursory search of the interior, locating a large envelope containing a return address for a “Johanna Scribner – East Taunton, Massachusetts.”
The information was transmitted to Inv. Patton for follow-up and the vehicle was towed to the Holly Hill Police Department for safekeeping.
At approximately 13:30hrs, Inv. Aldrich arrived at the City of Daytona Beach Police Department’s Code Enforcement Division. That agency supplied a copy of Mr. Scribner’s taxi drivers permit which contained both his photograph and signature.
In addition, Inv. Aldrich drove to the 7-11 convenience store at 301 South Peninsula Drive and took possession of the store’s surveillance video which many have captured the exterior of the building at the time Mr. Scribner picked up his final passengers.
At approximately 15:00hrs, the manager of the 7/11 store contacted the Holly Hill Police Department after seeing television media coverage of the incident.
The manager reports that overnight, a clerk at the store located a large knife in a trash receptacle located just outside the main entrance to the store at approximately 02:00hrs.
The knife was described as a large hunting-type knife, silver in color, and was initially observed laying on top of garbage inside the trashcan.
The clerk who discovered the knife removed it from the bin, showed it to a coworker, and placed it in a storeroom.
At approximately 15:30hrs, Inv. Aldrich arrived back at the 7-11 store to take custody of the knife and determine any relevance it may have to this case. During an interview with the clerk who discovered the knife, Inv. Aldrich learned that it was discovered when the employee was emptying the trashcan immediately outside the main entrance.
The knife is described as silver in color with large finger grooves in the handle with the scales missing from the grip. The very tip of the knife blade is missing/broken off and there are considerable stains on both the blade and handle.”
At approximately 09:00hrs, October 11, 1995, Investigator Patton attended the autopsy examination which was performed by Dr. Ronald Reeves at the Volusia County Medical Examiner’s office at Halifax Hospital Medical Center.
Inv. Patton brought the knife recovered from the 7-11 store for comparison.
According to Dr. Reeves, Scribner died as the result of multiple stab wounds to the upper-rear torso.
The knife penetrated the victim’s body in a downward direction, with at least one of the thrusts lacerating the aorta resulting in massive internal bleeding and death.
When examining the knife located at the 7-11 store, Dr. Reeves concluded that the knife is of similar type as that used to inflict the wounds.
At approximately 10:00hrs, Inv. Aldrich and Inv. R. B., analyzed the in-store video from the 7-11 store. A close and methodic review of the video reveals that at 22:01hrs on October 9, 1995, two white male subjects entered the store via the main entrance, having approached from the north (International Speedway Boulevard).
The first subject entered – followed immediately by the second – and the pair walked to the area of a fountain drink dispenser before approaching the clerks’ station.
The clerk, identified as A. G., can be seen handing one of the subjects two packages of cigarettes, as the first subject is seen exiting the store at a brisk pace drinking from what appears to be a large fountain drink held in his right hand.
Moments later, the second subject can be seen exiting the store carrying the cigarettes in his left hand.
After the pair exits, each walked across the front of the store from left to right in a northerly direction. (According to A. G., neither subject paid for the merchandise taken from the store.)
At 22:08hrs, both subjects are seen walking south from right to left across the front of the store toward a bank of pay telephones located along the southwest wall of the storefront.
At 22:13hrs, a Checker Cab operated by Mark Scribner is seen arriving at the 7-11 store, entering the parking lot from the north.
The two subjects are then seen approaching the vehicle from the area of the telephones, with one entering the rear passenger seat, immediately behind the driver, while the other enters and assumes the seat next to the driver in the front seat.
This segment of the tape concludes with Scribner driving the cab away from the parking lot onto South Peninsula Drive.”
To enhance the visual quality of the video, investigators took the tape to Beach Photo of Daytona Beach, where several still photographs were taken from the original tape and enlarged to show detail.
The tape was also taken to Media Photo-Graphics at 1625 Ridgewood Avenue, Holly Hill, and additional still photographs were taken and enlarged for definition, using computer video enhancement equipment.
From these photographs, PIP Printing of Daytona Beach reproduced flyers requesting information on the identity and whereabouts of the subject’s depicted on the video. These flyers were posted in prominent locations throughout the beachside of Daytona Beach to elicit information relative to this case.”
The media keeps the public informed of criminal incidents and has a valuable role in the investigative process in generating information and investigative leads from the public.
During my career, I recognized the importance of developing strong, trusting relationships with members of the local media – some of whom remain lifelong friends.
In this case, the team made critical decisions about what information to release – and what elements to hold-back – as a strategic balance between seeking quality external leads and while keeping secret critical elements only the killer would know.
Former Daytona Beach News-Journal reporter Brendan Smith, and incredibly talented writer who now serves as a freelance journalist in Washington D.C., did a masterful job of covering this disturbing story from the beginning – and was integral in developing information that led to its successful conclusion.
Video may help solve cabbie death
By Brendan Smith – The Daytona Beach News-Journal
Police hope a grainy surveillance video will help them catch a pair of men suspected in the stabbing death of a cab driver Monday night.
The video shows two young white men buying a pack of cigarettes before departing in a cab at 10:13pm Monday from the 7-Eleven convenience store, 301 S. Peninsula Drive.
They were cabdriver Mark Clyde Scribner’s last fare.
Scribner’s body was found at 3:15am Tuesday by Holly Hill Police on a routine patrol behind the Halifax Shopping Center, 231 Riverside Drive.
Scribner, 39, had been stabbed six times in the back and had attempted to flee before collapsing about 120 feet south his can on a service roadway behind the shopping center. Scribner told the taxicab dispatcher he was taking the men to the shopping center before the dispatcher lost contact with him.
Police think Scribner was robbed of less than $100.
Scribner moved from motel to motel and had no permanent address. A native of East Taunton, Mass. He had worked for Checker Cabs for about 18 months.
Johanna Scribner, the driver’s mother, said in a telephone interview Wednesday from Massachusetts that Scribner was an easygoing man who never got angry.
Scribner was single and had no children.
“Even if they wanted to rob him, why kill him?” Mrs. Scribner asked. “I don’t know why anybody would do that because he couldn’t have had too much money.”
“All he ever wanted was to marry somebody and have a family,” she said. “I always said whoever married him was lucky because he was not a violent one.”
The surveillance video provides general descriptions of the two suspects but needs to be enhanced before facial features will be visible, Sgt. Mark Barker said.
Cab drivers from cab companies in the Daytona Beach area have called police with tips that are being investigated, Barker said.
Some drivers have also expressed concern for their own safety. Several cab drivers who were interviewed said partitions should be installed in cabs to protect the driver from violent passengers.
But some cab company owners said partitions cut off ventilation and make the passenger feel like he’s in a police car instead of a cab.
“With the heat here in Daytona and when it’s cold here, the partitions are just not user-friendly for the passenger,” said Dale King, Jr. president of Kings Transportation Group, which owns Yellow Cab, Checker Cabs and City Cabs.
King said his company is reviewing the possibility of installing surveillance cameras in cabs or panic buttons that would alert dispatchers and the police that the cab driver was in danger.
King said there had been about five robberies over the past year from the 55 cabs in the Kings Transportation Group.
Tony Ciulla, owner of Southern Komfort Taxi Company, said he encouraged his drivers to carry weapons to protect themselves.
But King said his company discourages drivers from carrying weapons because drivers often can’t reach them if a passenger has already pulled a weapon.
Both suspect’s in Scribner’s murder are described as white males, 18 to 22 years old with blond hair.
The shorter subject, at about 5 feet 7 inches, was wearing baggy black calf-length shorts, a black t-shirt, a blue bandana, and black high-top basketball shoes.
The other suspect, at 5 feet 10 inches, was wearing black pants or jeans, a black shirt, and black and white Converse sneakers.
Anyone with information on the crime or the suspects should call police at 947-4184.
“On October 12, 1995, at approximately 21:30hrs, a subject identified as M.K. of Holly Hill came to the police department to report the following information:
On Monday, October 9, 1995, at approximately 21:30hrs, he placed a telephone call to a friend, identified as C.N., who resides at 527 Mobile Avenue, Daytona Beach. At the time of the call, C.N. stated that she was leaving for a short while and asked that he call back later.
At approximately 00:30hrs, October 10, 1995, M.K. telephoned the residence at 527 Mobile Avenue, and during the call, C.N. advised it would be alright for him to come over to the house.
M.K. states he put down the telephone to ask his father for a ride to Mobile Avenue, and when he returned to the telephone, a subject identified as Kris Benson was on the line.
M.K. advised Benson he was going to ride his skateboard over to the Mobile Avenue home and recalled that Benson asked him what route he planned to take. Benson then advised M.K. he would meet him in the Seabreeze Boulevard area.
M.K. stated he then told his mother he was leaving and rode his skateboard to the area of Seabreeze Boulevard to meet Benson. As M.K. approached the 300 block of Seabreeze Boulevard, he observed Benson standing on the south side of the street and the pair greeted each other with a handshake.
According to M.K., he and Benson then skateboarded east on Seabreeze Boulevard to Atlantic Avenue, then south on Atlantic Avenue where they stopped at 527 North Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Hot Grill.
At the pizzeria, Benson purchased an order of French fries from a large amount of currency carried in his pocket.
According to M.K., the pair sat inside the restaurant for approximately 30-minutes, eating the French fries and watching television. After departing Daytona Hot Grill, M.K. recalls he and Benson rode their skateboards south on Atlantic Avenue to Benson’s Mobile Avenue home.
As the pair passed through the Main Street intersection, M.K. states they were stopped by an unidentified Daytona Beach police officer who advised them to refrain from skating on the sidewalk.
Once at the Mobile Avenue home, Benson entered the residence while M.K. remained outside to smoke a cigarette, and a few moments later, Benson exited the home and asked M.K. to accompany him to the 7-Eleven store on Atlantic Avenue just north of Mobile Avenue.
After purchasing a pack of cigarettes, Benson and M.K. returned to the residence where they listened to music for a while.
When others at the home left to go swimming at the beach, M.K. remained at the home in the company of Benson and another juvenile identified as Josh Keith.
M.K. recalled that at some point Keith came out of a backroom of the home and made mention to Benson of an incident that had occurred earlier that night. While M.K. cannot recall Keith’s exact comments, he does remember that it caused a harsh reaction from Benson, who ordered Keith to be quiet and not discuss the matter in M.K.’s presence.
Several moments later, M.K. remembers that Benson changed his mind and stated to Josh Keith, “I guess we can tell him,” then Benson turned to M.K. and said, “If I tell you something, you can’t tell anyone.”
According to M.K., Benson then asked if knew anyone who had killed someone before, then stated, “Well, I killed someone tonight.”
At first, M.K. stated he did not believe that Benson has committed a murder. Then, Benson elaborated, stating, “Did you see any lights behind the shopping center?” – meaning on M.K.’s ride over the Seabreeze Bridge earlier in the evening.
M.K. reports that Benson then said, “The cab and the body are probably still back there.”
According to M.K., he was uncomfortable with what Benson had confessed to him and terminated the conversation. For a while, M.K. sat in the home and listened to music until the others returned from swimming.
When the group returned to the Mobile Avenue home, M.K. states he and C.N. walked to the beach so she could collect some belongings left behind. As they walked, the pair began discussing the homicide.
According to M.K., C.N. asked if he had heard about the incident, and he explained how Benson confessed to the killing earlier. M.K. recalled that C.N. stated that the act was “fucked up,” and that the cabdriver was just trying to make a living, and Benson had to “screw it up for him.”
M.K. stated he turned to C.N. and told her he did not want to talk about it anymore.
When the pair returned to the Mobile Avenue home, they entered the house and walked into a backroom where Jason Keith, his brother Josh Keith, a subject identified as K.S., and Benson were gathered.
When M.K. sat down, he heard Benson say to a subject known only as “Buck” – “What are you doing next Wednesday? – to which “Buck” facetiously replied, “I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow.”
Then Benson said, “Well, next Wednesday I’m going to have an axe. . .”
The City of Holly Hill Police Department has been blessed with a wealth of talent, dedicated public servants who provide quality essential services to the residents. In 1995, I was fortunate to work with an exceptional group of criminal investigators.
I will have more about their individual achievements and accomplishments in the epilog.
Please join me next week for Part III: The Investigation Continues
The great privilege of my life was serving as a police officer in the small community of Holly Hill, located in East Central Florida on the banks of the Halifax River.
Several months before I retired as Chief of Police on March 28, 2014 – exactly 31-years to the day from when I was hired – the Holly Hill Police Department was undergoing a periodic house-cleaning of archived public records – a purge of stale reports and forms that had exceeded their required retention period and were being removed from storage and destroyed.
With retirement approaching, it was an emotional time for me. I was watching what amounted to my life’s work being fed into the maw of an industrial shredder, never to be seen again. A written narrative of a period of municipal history – and one man’s career – lost forever.
Not that anyone would care about the reconstruction of a fender-bender or the resolution of some long-forgotten tit-for-tat neighborhood dispute.
But, as those yellowed pages were ground into confetti, it raised my wistful sense of nostalgia.
So, I asked the clerk overseeing the cleanout if she would kindly save anything bearing my name and she thoughtfully obliged – later handing me a bankers box marked, “The Barker Files.”
I have always wanted to try my hand at writing a detective novel, a police procedural in the genre of Joseph Wambaugh or Charles Willeford – unfortunately, while the experiences and memories remain vivid in my mind’s eye, I lack the authorial talent to get it on paper. . .
Then it hit me. These great stories have already been written!
While rummaging through a musty corner of my garage, I came upon the Barker Files – waiting patiently for the stories to be told.
I thought some readers of this blog might be interested in reading a few of the more interesting cases I was associated with during my long career in a small Central Florida community.
So, here goes.
As we pass the 25th anniversary of the brutal murder of Mark Clyde Scribner – a vicious homicide whose random nature galvanized the Halifax area for four days in October 1995 – I wanted to memorialize Mr. Scribner’s death with an insider’s view of the investigative efforts leading to the shocking conclusion in a series of installments from, The Barker Files. . .
The victim, Mark Scribner, was the only son of Johanna Scribner of East Taunton, Massachusetts, a U.S. Army veteran, and a music graduate of Purdue University who enjoyed composing songs and playing drums, keyboard, and guitar.
According to family members, Mark enjoyed playing chess and never failed to volunteer with the Salvation Army at Christmastime.
For some, this may stir bad memories of an indiscriminate tragedy.
That is not my intent.
I hope this story proves that, after a quarter century, the victims of violent crime remain forever in the minds and hearts of the men and women who worked so diligently to bring those responsible to justice.
The series you are about to read is true.
It chronicles, to the best of my recollection, an actual homicide investigation that I supervised from crime scene to courtroom – and represents exhaustive 20-hour days, the persistence of dedicated investigators, support personnel and the outstanding prosecutors who took the case to trial.
Any errors, then or now, are my own.
It is not a “feel-good” story with a contrived happy ending – and if you are easily disturbed by the graphic reality of violent crime, I suggest you stop reading now.
Some names have been changed or omitted.
REPORT OF INVESTIGATION
Homicide – 95-10-4247
Detective Sergeant Mark D. Barker
“On October 10, 1995, at approximately 03:18hrs, while on patrol near the south terminus of the Halifax Shopping Center, 231 Riverside Drive, Corporal Richard Klein located the body of a subject, later positively identified as Mark Clyde Scribner, lying in a driving lane at the rear of the complex.
Corporal Klein stopped his patrol vehicle approximately 25-feet south of Scribner’s location and illuminated the area with the vehicle’s headlights. After making a radio transmission to Holly Hill Communications, Klein exited the vehicle and approached the body on foot. . .”
As a police detective, whenever the phone rings after midnight it typically means you are going to work, just like the old homicide investigator’s joke says:
“Our day begins when yours ends.”
During the early morning hours of October 10, 1995, my wife Patti picked up the bedside telephone and sleepily placed it on my chest.
On the other end, a stoic telecommunicator advised that the on-duty supervisor had located a body behind the former Halifax Shopping Center, which was located on the grounds of what is now a luxury apartment complex in Holly Hill, Florida – a community of 12,000 people which borders the Daytona Beach Resort Area.
Corporal Richard Klein came to Florida from New Jersey late in life, leaving a successful business to move south and pursue a lifelong dream of becoming a cop.
I have liked Richard from the first day I met him.
His mannerisms always reminded me of the great Jack Lemmon – and he possessed those natural people skills and a deep empathy that served him well in the police service. To his credit, Richard is both incredibly smart and gifted with a unique sense of humor that never failed to break the tension – he could both give, and take, a joke with equal enthusiasm – and I rarely saw him without a smile.
Like many of the officers and investigators in this story, Richard has long since retired, and is now living comfortably in the southern Appalachian Mountains.
At his retirement party, Richard said to me in his own inimitable way, “I’m proud of myself. When I started this job I didn’t smoke, drink or cuss – after all these years – I still don’t smoke. . .”
On that awful night in October 1995, Richard Klein was the on-duty uniformed patrol shift supervisor.
“As Corporal Klein approached, he observed what appeared to be a large area of blood pooling around the victim’s body. Upon closer examination, Klein observed what appeared to be several cuts or tears in the victim’s dark t-shirt having the appearance of stab/puncture wounds, with some blood visible on the exposed skin beneath.
Several feet east of the body, Corporal Klein observed what appeared to be blood pooled on the asphalt drive near an area of standing water, along with a pair of eyeglasses located immediately next to another area of what appeared to be blood several yards northeast of the body.
After failing to detect any signs of life, Corporal Klein requested emergency medical assistance and directed that the on-call detective respond to the scene.
The victim was pronounced dead by EVAC paramedics at 03:30hrs.
At approximately 03:40hrs, this investigator arrived on-scene and began a preliminary investigation.
My initial observation of the crime scene found a 1985 Dodge Diplomat, marked as Checker Cab #63, parked at an angle in the driving lane approximately 242’ north of where the victim’s body was located.
In an effort to preserve physical evidence and protect the integrity of the scene, I ordered Corporal Klein to establish perimeter security, including an entry/exit log, with whatever assistance he deemed necessary, and directed paramedics from the Holly Hill Fire Department and EVAC Ambulance to leave the crime scene and recorded their exit on the crime scene log.
Additional assistance was requested from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Crime Scene Unit in Orlando, and Volusia County Medical Examiner, Dr. Ronald Reeves, was notified.
After ensuring the integrity of the crime scene, I began an initial assessment.
Due to the hour, the immediate surroundings were illuminated by security lightingalone.
The pavement upon which the body was resting was wet due to intermittent rain earlier in the evening. The ambient temperature was approximately 75-degrees and the sky mostly cloudy with high relative humidity.
This Investigator did not observe any foot/tire tracks in the immediate area, other than those identified from Corporal Klein’s patrol vehicle, the Holly Hill Fire Department apparatus, and the responding ambulance.
The victim’s body was that of a white male, approximately 40 years of age, clad in a dark, short sleeved shirt with dark pants and white athletic shoes.
The victim appeared to have a full head of thick dark hair, with a full dark beard covering the face.
Around the waist was what appeared to be a nylon zippered pouch. A close visual examination found the pouch’s compartment to be open.
The body was positioned facedown, with the feet oriented in a northerly direction and the head oriented to the south, with the arms and hands held close under the torso.
A large concentration of blood was noted on the victim’s body, pooling under the upper body and head, with two areas of what appeared to be vomitus observed – one under the victim’s face – the other on the pavement behind the victim’s head, indicative of the victim having laid on his back before rolling to the right.
The vomitus was white in color and contained an unidentified semi-digested substance.
Approximately 23’ northwest of the victim’s body was a pair of tinted prescription eyeglasses positioned immediately next to a small pool of what appears to be blood, with numerous drops of blood forming an irregular pattern leading from the eyeglasses to the victim’s point of rest.
A close examination of the victim’s posterior torso found multiple cuts in the victim’s shirt, each consistent with stab/puncture wounds. Through these openings in the shirt, this Investigator observed several puncture-type wounds and blood visible on the exposed skin.
Additionally, a large laceration was observed on the victim’s scalp at the rear of the head.
After visually examining the body, this Investigator proceeded to the nearby taxicab, which was parked at an unusual angle behind the shopping center, approximately 242’ north of the victim’s body.
The vehicle was a 1985 Dodge four-door sedan, yellow in color, with distinctive markings denoting a Checker Cab (Unit #63). All four doors were closed.
Through the windows, I observed what appeared to be blood spatter and casting on and around the interior of the driver’s door, to include the window and front bench seat.
Several pieces of paper could be seen scattered about the front seat, including what appeared to be the driver’s log sheet. The items were laying on top of the visible blood droplets on the seat, indicative of having been placed there after the initial event.
The door to the glove compartment was hanging downward in the open position.
On the floor, directly in front of the driver’s seat, was a plastic bag containing unknown items and a plastic milk container.
In a foam rubber scabbard affixed to the driver’s door was a large, heavy-bladed knife.
On the exterior of the vehicle, this Investigator observed what appeared to be blood draining downward from the bottom of the door jam. The vehicle’s headlight switch was in the fully extended “On” position, the gear shift lever was in the “Drive” position, and the ignition switch turned to the “Off” position.
At approximately 05:20hrs, FDLE Crime Scene Technician Al Horne arrived on-scene.
Upon completion of Horne’s forensic processing and photographs, Volusia County Medical Examiner Dr. Ronald Reeves – with the assistance of Inv. M. S. – conducted a cursory physical examination of the victim’s body.
Upon turning the body over, the victim was found to be clutching a small crystal amulet in the left hand which hung from the neck by a black cord.
Between the victim’s legs was a small piece of paper that appeared to be a gasoline receipt, which had presumably fallen or been removed from the open nylon waist pouch.
The victim’s shoes, waist pouch and the nearby eyeglasses were collected and taken into evidence by Horne.
Upon completion of the crime scene processing and physical examination of the body, Holly Hill Police Chief J. P. Finn escorted R. C., the owner/operator of Checker Cab Co. into the scene to positively identify the victim.
Mr. C. immediately recognized the body as his driver, Mark Clyde Scribner. . .”
Chief J. P. “Pat” Finn had a great influence in my life.
In 1982, the City of Port Orange Police Department sponsored me to Basic Law Enforcement Recruit Training at Daytona Beach Community College – also known as “Rookie School.”
There were no job openings available in Port Orange when I graduated, so, in March 1983, after a battery of civil service tests, background investigations and interviews, Chief Finn hired me as a Holly Hill police officer.
I was 22 years old. . .
Through the years, I learned a lot from Chief Finn – an old school cop, with a rough exterior, but a true heart of gold – he guided the early part of my career, helping me navigate the humps and bumps all young officers experience, always pushing me toward positions of increasing responsibility.
He taught the importance of character, honor, and perseverance to success in the police service – how to survive a small town physically and politically, and he allowed me to learn from my many personal and professional mistakes – which showed that it’s okay to take chances and consider alternative strategies, safe in the knowledge honest errors are not always fatal.
In October 1995, Pat Finn placed a great deal of trust in me to lead the Scribner homicide investigation – knowing full well that, as Chief of Police, the ultimate responsibility for my success or failure rested solely with him.
After all these years, Chief Finn and I remain in touch – often reminiscing on days gone by and ruminating on current events – and, yes, I still respectfully refer to him as “Chief.”
As you will see, this case stunnedmany in the Halifax area in the fall of ’95 – and changed the lives and perspective of those who worked it.
While it was not a particularly difficult crime to solve – for reasons that will become apparent – it took an emotional toll on everyone involved.
In fact, the terrible details of this case remain bright and intense in my memory 25-years on, and whenever I see one of those quartz amulets, I immediately return to that damp and bloody crime scene in my mind. . .
Please join me next week for Part II – The Investigation Begins
It’s time once again to turn a jaundiced eye toward the newsmakers of the day – the winners and losers – who, in my cynical opinion, either contributed to our quality of life, or detracted from it, in some significant way.
Let’s look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was.
Asshole Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland & Challenger Alan Lowe
The Palm Coast mayoral race is a shit-show of epic proportion.
A true dilemma.
There – I said what everyone else is thinking. You’re welcome.
In my view, the City of Palm Coast is failing at the seams – a City Hall in shambles, as besieged City Manager Matt Morton is allowed to crash about, butchering the careers of long-time civil servants, some of whom dared call foul on Mayor Holland’s dual function as elected official/sales person for Palm Coast tech firm, Coastal Cloud – roles which seem to have occasionally intertwined to the advantage of everyone but the citizens of Palm Coast.
According to reports, “Coastal Cloud has a unique arrangement with the city to provide some digital services. The company is also Holland’s daytime employer.”
Many fear it runs far deeper than that.
In June, as part of an excellent exposé by former Daytona Beach News-Journal reporter Matt Bruce, we learned that two former Palm Coast employees have been interviewed by the FBI, apparently as part of a larger investigation into Mayor Holland’s “connection with Coastal Cloud.”
At the time, former City Manager Jim Landon confirmed that he was interviewed by two FBI agents one year ago regarding “…the relationship between Coastal Cloud, Holland and the city.”
It is apparent to anyone paying attention that this goes beyond election year gossip and allegations. . .
On Wednesday, the News-Journal reported that some 80% of donations to Mayor Holland’s campaign account – over $40,000 – originated from outside Flagler County, including a cumulative total of $11,000 from eleven different Political Action Committees – with $10,000 from “…businesses owned by politically connected Daytona Beach developer Mori Hosseini.”
As if things could not get worse, this week we also learned that Mayor Holland saw fit to wallow in the mud and play the worst form of dirty politics when she ran a horrible advertisement against her uber-weird opponent, Alan Lowe, essentially accusing him of being a thief – while callously besmirching the character and reputation of an innocent third party.
According to a News-Journal report, “The theft claim in the ad was for a minor complaint against Lowe 28 years ago, and Lowe said he was not even aware of it. It never reached the court system, and Lowe was never charged or arrested.”
But what rightfully angered many was the fact Mayor Holland’s malicious attack featured clear racial overtones when her campaign positioned a photograph of Mr. Lowe in the company of an unidentified person of color, which glaringly implied the subject was somehow complicit in the allegations against Mr. Lowe.
According to reports, the photograph was taken when Mr. Lowe was on the island of Dominica supporting relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017.
“She used a photo of me with a person of color in her racist political TV ad and directly implied this man, because he is Black, is a criminal,” Lowe said in the video. “Nothing could be further from the truth. This man has a name. It is Philip and he is a survivor of Hurricane Maria.”
Naturally, Philip was reportedly “shocked” by Mayor Holland’s obtuse insinuation – and her wholesale destruction of the innocent man’s reputation for political gain.
Things turned even uglier when it was revealed that Holland’s campaign apparently used a Panama-based website (?) to launch attacks against Lowe – which included the unsubstantiated theft charge and some dry manure about a mortgage foreclosure from over 20-years ago.
Look, we have seen some whale-shit level tactics used by various local campaigns this season – but Mayor Holland’s blatant hit piece smacks of gross racial stereotyping – and it should not be tolerated by her constituents, colleagues, or supporters.
I realize our state’s ethics apparatus has become the neutered lacquey of sitting politicians, but doesn’t the Florida Elections Commission monitor this low rent, anti-democratic misrepresentation?
In my view, Mayor Holland has repeatedly crossed a very bright line – both in the mercenary use of her elected position – and in stooping to new lows by engaging in despicable racial profiling as a means of disparaging her political opponent.
It gets worse. . .
A lot worse.
Now, we learn that Holland’s opponent, Alan Lowe, may well be a dyed-in-the-wool kook.
In a disturbing article by Brian McMillan writing in the Palm Coast Observer, we learned that Mr. Lowe has never voted in a presidential election – and, in 1993, he renounced his Unites States citizenship “…as part of a spiritual awakening.”
You read that right. . .
“With the election less than three weeks away, anonymous emails were received by the Observer with several documents attached that appeared to be stamped and recorded by the Flagler County clerk of courts in 1993. The documents, signed by Lowe, say that his name is now legally “Alan S. Lowe Ambassador for Christ,” rather than just Alan Lowe.”
According to the report, Lowe said he never registered to vote until this year because “I just never had any interest.”
In turn, Lowe claims his oddball renunciation of his citizenship was due to a “spiritual awakening” during a “deep study” of the bible (?) – but to anyone paying attention – it looked like for a period of his life, Lowe embraced the strange sovereign citizen movement in a big way. . .
Now that he’s hip-deep in the Palm Coast mayoral race, Mr. Lowe attempts to shuck off this abject nuttiness, and assuage the fears of nervous voters, by chalking the whole thing up to a “temporary mindset?”
Right. . .
Talk about a Morton’s Fork, wrapped in a dilemma, inside a Hobson’s Choice. . .
My God. This is what passes for political alternatives in a major Central Florida city in 2020?
Good luck, Palm Coast. You’re gonna need it. . .
Angel City of Ormond Beach
This week, 100 Ormond Beach ‘movers & shakers’ donned their finery and gathered at the swank Oceanside Golf and Country Club to hear a video message from Mayor Bill Partington talk about “navigating new horizons” (whatever that means) during the State of the City Address.
I wasn’t there.
And neither were you.
Because all the tickets were purchased by the event’s “sponsors” in advance.
I’m told Commissioner Troy Kent yammered about a Federal Aviation Administration grant to fund improvements to an airport taxiway (something like five people in the world give two-shits about) – while Rob Littleton galvanized the crowd with talk of a wastewater project on North US-1. . .
I’m just being petty. I’m sure ol’ T-roy, Rob and the rest of the Funky Bunch said much more than that – but, after a while, it all sounds like hauteur gibberish to me. . .
According to reports, the final elected official to virtually address the crowd was Commissioner Susan Persis, who sent an encouraging message about the revitalization of Ormond’s historic downtown and improvements made to Cassen Park.
I know some of you will disagree with me on this – to each their own – but I believe the City of Ormond Beach is on target with planned improvements to the Cassen Park bait shop and restroom complex.
Recently, the Ormond Beach City Commission agreed to fund the design of new riverfront amenities that will incorporate an improved bait house and restroom facility, along with a covered pavilion to provide “a sense of place, opening/providing visual views, enhancing the walking experience, and providing access to the water.”
Whether or not you agree with the construction of the new floating docks on the southwest side of the Granada Bridge – which was paid for with a combination of Community Redevelopment Funds and grant money – clearly the marina is becoming a popular attraction for area boaters and will factor prominently in the continuing transformation of Ormond Beach’s thriving downtown.
As Jerry Janaro, a member of the Ormond Beach Mainstreet Board of Directors recently said in an op/ed for the Observer:
“It is hard to believe that a beautiful community like ours with a great river flowing through its center has taken so long to develop a plan that will allow thousands of boaters access to all our downtown has to offer. The dock at Cassen Park is a first-class facility that will be bringing vitality to our downtown for years to come.”
In my view, the extraordinary vision of downtown developer Bill Jones – who, with an eye toward creative historic preservation, has taken what was a languishing stretch of tired storefronts and nondescript buildings and transformed it into something remarkable – has set the tone for great things to come.
It is important that city officials assist this private investment when and where they can – not with handouts and giveaways – but by providing improved public amenities to invigorate the waterfront focal point, help build a sense of place, and improve walkability and access in Ormond’s historic downtown.
I believe that visionary revitalization and inspired entrepreneurship – coupled with symbiotic public investment – is the key to civic improvement.
Can it be risky? You bet.
But from what I have seen in vibrant communities that have invested smartly in revitalizing traditional downtowns – the risk is well worth the reward.
Asshole County of Volusia
I wrote about this earlier in the week, but it bears repeating.
On Sunday, Halifax area residents were treated to another excellent exposé by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, this time pointing out the seasonal occupation of beachside parks by homeless persons – and all that brings for area residents and visitors when the great unwashed hoards return. . .
A tableau of public urination/defecation, splash pads turned rudimentary washing machines, exposed bathing in beach showers, sleeping in pavilions, fouling picnic amenities, aggressive panhandling, open drug use, hypodermic needles littering the ground, raging alcoholism, and mental illness laid bare in our core tourist area.
Make no mistake – this is not a ‘policing problem’ – and no one has done more to alleviate the problem where the rubber meets the road than Chief Craig Capri.
If we’ve learned anything, it is that a community cannot ‘arrest’ or humiliate its way out of this intractable social issue, because homeless persons have a right to be – just like the rest of us – and many simply want a safe low barrier alternative to the mean streets, something we don’t offer in East Volusia.
In my view, Chief Capri and his staff have done a masterful job reducing the horrific visuals and impact in our core tourist area and beyond.
The Daytona Beach Police Department has been on the cutting edge of innovative solutions, including championing last year’s panhandling ordinance that saw roving bands of professional medicants removed from every intersection in the area virtually overnight.
That’s what happens when law enforcement has the tools to do their job.
Astonishingly, we now learn that after battling the nuisance crime and public sanitation problems inherent to the interface of homeless camps and our core tourist area, “up until about a week ago,” Volusia County had failed to post rules in beachfront county parks – a necessary and commonsense measure that would allow Daytona Beach police officers to enforce specific prohibitions.
My God. . .
I guess county officials were preoccupied posting No Parking signs in upscale beachfront neighborhoods and increasing fines for Volusia County residents to show how responsive Dishonest Deb Denys is to her well-heeled political benefactors, eh?
According to the News-Journal, Daytona Beach City Commissioner Quanita May asked the valid question – with the Volusia County Beach Safety headquarters located immediately next door to the county-owned park – “why the situation hasn’t been dealt with sooner.”
Commissioner May is right to question this mess.
This is inexcusable.
Sadly, Volusia County Councilwoman Billie Wheeler claims she has been getting complaints from residents for “a few months,” and has passed citizen concerns to county staff “every day.”
So why hasn’t anything of substance been accomplished?
Because, when I was playing government – if my department failed to address the legitimate concerns of a sitting elected official – my ass would have been slow roasted, thin-sliced, and served up with braised carrots and a fine Beaujolais. . .
That is why this latest blunder has many asking exactly which Rip Van Winkle in the executive suite at Volusia County Beach Safety Department Councilwoman Wheeler plans to hold accountable for ignoring her?
In my view, County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald has an obligation to serve the elected officials with equal enthusiasm – and ensure that the department heads are fulfilling their obligation to the public they exist to serve.
When Councilwoman Wheeler states in the newspaper that she has been forwarding complaints of unsafe and unsanitary conditions at a county-run park on a daily basis for “months” – that is a serious problem – and one that should not be ignored by our highly compensated County Manager.
I know he’s a nice guy – and I know nobody on the dais wants to hear it – but the fact is, when it comes to the operational elements of county government the buck stops with Mr. Recktenwald.
At least it should.
If Ms. Wheeler is too timid, or weak-minded, to formally address the issue and stand up for her long-suffering constituents – perhaps she no longer deserves a seat at the table?
This is unacceptable, folks.
Frankly, with her election just two-weeks away, Ms. Wheeler should be screaming from the rooftop of the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building – while she still has a voice relative to the discussion. . .
When will those who receive public funds to serve in the public interest in Volusia County’s Ivory Tower of Power be held accountable for their acts and omissions – like failing to simply post a list of enforceable rules in county-run parks before residents and visitors are set upon and our publicly owned amenities ruined?
Quote of the Week
“To the developers and their friends who are without doubt howling about this grotesque assault on their profit margins, I say the following: No one is forcing developers to develop in Daytona Beach. If they can find greener pastures elsewhere, please go. If they are unwilling to invest in the well-being of our entire city, why should we subsidize their profit?”
–Civic Activist Anne Ruby, guest columnist, The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Developers should back affordable housing,” Sunday, October 11, 2020
And Another Thing!
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired.
Which means I have become surly, brooding – given to jabbering and raving – with a steady diet of Irish whiskey and unfiltered cigarettes.
My friends keep their distance, and our neighbors are getting nervous.
When they lean over the fence and ask my wife, “What’s going on over there?” Patti just makes the sign of the cuckoo and whispers, “It’s the election season – my husband’s not right in his head.”
And there are still two-weeks to go. . .
We have reached that point in the election cycle where information overload – also known as infobesity or infoxication – results in many uninformed voters having problems making important decisions.
In his best selling 1970 book Future Shock, Alvin Toffler said:
“Information overload occurs when the amount of input to a system exceeds its processing capacity. Decision makers have fairly limited cognitive processing capacity. Consequently, when information overload occurs, it is likely that a reduction in decision quality will occur.”
Maybe that is what some incumbent politicians are counting on?
For instance, in the highly contested Volusia County Chair race, Dishonest Deb Denys has redundant, around-the-clock, attack advertisements running on television and radio – backed by dishonest glossy mailers – contemptable hit pieces which employ mischaracterizations, deception, and outright lies, all cleverly designed to sully the character and capabilities of her able opponent, Jeff “Plan B” Brower.
It is wrong. It is dirty. And it has become the accepted modus operandi of desperate candidates and their shameless shit-slinging operatives in this foul year 2020.
As a result, many low-information voters are led to believe they are doing the right thing in returning a perennial politician to the dais of power – a craven lapdog whose personal arrogance, ignorance of the serious issues facing Volusia families, and total submission to political profiteers who stand at the nexus of public funds and private advantage – who has done little more than protect the status quo that has kept Volusia County the laughing stock of Central Florida for decades.
For years I have railed against this pay-to-play system where a return on investment beats the needs and wants of long-suffering Volusia County residents every time – and a well-heeled clique routinely controls the outcome of our local elections – the commonweal be damned.
Don’t take my word for it.
Read the readily available campaign finance reports, consider the interesting make-up of the highbrow “Host Committees” sponsoring Denys fundraisers, then ask yourself why a few well-fixed real estate developers, phony powerbrokers, government contractors, sitting elected officials, and parasitic insiders would donate nearly $200,000 to Dishonest Deb’s campaign account – with another $49,500 coming from just eight donors to a shadowy Political Action Committee absurdly known as Volusia Citizens for Good Governance?
To determine the outcome of a county chair race?
Do you honestly think these people have your family’s best interests at heart?
Earlier this week, Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood took to social media and reiterated that he has not endorsed anyone in the County Chair race, then clarified Mr. Brower’s stance on public safety:
“In all my conversations with Jeff Brower, he’s made it clear that he believes law enforcement and other core public safety functions of government are not up for “defunding.” He and I agree that adequate funding for law enforcement is part of the foundation of a prosperous Volusia County.
In this political season, lies, exaggerations and misinformation are everywhere. These are just a couple of examples involving people I know personally. Don’t believe everything you see on a mailer or in a TV ad. Do your research and vote for the candidate who you believe will do the most good.”
In my view, Ms. Denys should be ashamed of herself.
Unfortunately, she seems to lack the basic human qualities of conscience, principles, and integrity. . .
Tragically, the obscene nature of what now passes for political contests in Volusia County (and elsewhere for that matter) all but ensures the spoils go to whomever can stoop the lowest, hit the hardest, and operate most comfortably in this blood-soaked slit-trench where nothing is considered immoral, unethical, or unfair.
Despite the fact the deck has been stacked against We, The Little People – with staggered terms and other pernicious protections designed to ensure the status quo survives at all cost – I believe we can protect our interests and bring positive change through the ultimate power of the ballot box.
It is time Volusia County voters begin the process of exercising our will – and replace this detestable oligarchy that has, by strategic design, ensured that the selfish wants of those political puppeteers who deftly manipulate the rods and cables of county government always outweigh the needs of those who are expected to pay the bills and suffer in silence.
Let’s return a sense of sanity and restore the public trust in our county government.
This one’s important.
Please vote Jeff Brower for Volusia County Chair.
Angels & Assholes will be on hiatus next week as we take a short pause before the final push to election day – A&A will return on Friday, October 30th!
On Sunday, Halifax area residents were treated to another excellent exposé by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, this time pointing out the seasonal occupation of beachside parks by homeless persons – and all that comes for area residents and visitors when the great unwashed hoards return. . .
A tableau of public urination/defecation, splash pads turned rudimentary washing machines, exposed bathing in beach showers, sleeping in pavilions, fouling picnic amenities, aggressive panhandling, open drug use, hypodermic needles littering the ground, raging alcoholism, and mental illness laid bare in our core tourist area.
Make no mistake – this is not a ‘policing problem’ – a situation that would go away if the rules were enforced with greater vigor – and no one has done more to alleviate the problem where the rubber meets the road than Chief Craig Capri.
If we’ve learned anything, it is that a community cannot ‘arrest’ or humiliate its way out of this intractable social issue, because homeless persons have a right to be – just like the rest of us – and many simply want a safe low barrier alternative to the mean streets.
Unlike our elected officials, Chief Capri doesn’t have the luxury of sitting around discussing the theoretical aspects of the “homeless problem” – because he must deal with the gritty reality of the issue every day – and he has done a masterful job reducing the horrific visuals and impact in our core tourist area and beyond.
The Daytona Beach Police Department has been on the cutting edge of innovative solutions, including championing last years panhandling ordinance that saw roving bands of professional medicants removed from every intersection in the area virtually overnight.
Clearly, it helps if law enforcement has the basic tools to do their job.
Now, we learn that, after battling the nuisance crime and public sanitation problems inherent to the interface of homeless camps and our core tourist area, “up until about a week ago,” Volusia County failed to post park rules in beachfront county parks – a sensible measure that would allow Daytona Beach police officers to enforce specific prohibitions.
My God. . .
I guess county officials were preoccupied posting No Parking signs in upscale beachfront neighborhoods and increasing fines for Volusia County residents to show how responsive Dishonest Deb Denys is to her well-heeled political benefactors, eh?
According to the News-Journal, Daytona Beach City Commissioner Quanita May is questioning why – with the Volusia County Beach Safety headquarters located immediately next door to the county-owned park – “why the situation hasn’t been dealt with sooner.”
Commissioner May is right. This oversight is inexcusable.
Now, Volusia County Councilwoman Billie Wheeler claims she has been getting complaints from residents for “a few months,” and has passed citizen concerns to county staff “every day.”
So why hasn’t anything of substance been accomplished for months?
And exactly which Rip Van Winkle in the executive suite at Volusia County Beach Safety will Councilwoman Wheeler hold accountable for dropping the ball?
Frankly, with her election just two-weeks away, Ms. Wheeler should be screaming from the rooftop of the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building – while she still has a voice relative to the discussion. . .
Exactly where does the buck stop in Volusia County?
Years ago, when it came time for our elected officials in the City of Daytona Beach and the County of Volusia to find a collective solution to a countywide problem – the Volusia County Council abdicated all responsibility beyond throwing our money around – leaving the Daytona Beach City Commission to take the lead.
While other communities, like the City of DeLand, saw a problem and developed an innovative homegrown solution to provide services, shelter and options – the Daytona Beach City Commission exacerbated a full-blown crisis with an astronomically expensive self-improvement seminar masquerading as a “shelter” that serves only those who operate it.
To say the First Step Shelter has been a shit-show of epic proportions is an understatement – and the chronology of this civic disaster serves as a tragic blueprint for how not to establish, operate and administrate a homeless shelter.
Shockingly, a homeless person interviewed for the News-Journal article (who claims to have been arrested some 205 times) said of the First Step “program,” “It’s like a jail,” he said of the shelter, which offers assistance with everything from getting a job to moving into permanent housing. “I would never recommend it to anyone.”
Wow. . .
In fact, for most of this year, the population of the First Step Shelter has been less than the number of people hired to run it – and, after months of inactivity, only recently did administrators get around to developing a quarantine system that will allow intake to resume.
Of course, First Step director, Dr. Victoria Fahlberg, throws the blame on an inability to access rapid COVID-19 testing, so, instead of adapting, the “shelter” simply stopped providing services to homeless persons.
That is one way to address the problem, I guess. . .
Conversely, The Bridge – which serves West Volusia – recently opened its doors and accepted its first residential client on September 21.
It is everything the First Step Shelter is not.
According to reports, the $2.1 million facility is operated by The Neighborhood Center, an established community non-profit committed to reducing homelessness in West Volusia.
In addition to giving DeLand police a compassionate place to relocate homeless persons (rather than trying in vain to get them accepted at the First Step Shelter in the hinterlands off US-92) The Bridge also provides nutritious come-as-you-are meals, health screenings, service referrals, and, if wanted, a transitional housing program leading to a more permanent solution.
Now, residents are referring to The Bridge as “an answer to prayer,” which is a far cry from the First Step’s widening reputation as a gulag.
Unfortunately, the News-Journal’s outstanding deep-dives into the social, civic and economic issues that plague the Halifax area often fall on deaf ears in the council chambers, chambers of commerce, and boardrooms of East Volusia – places where these startling revelations should have the most impact.
When will enough-be-enough?
When will those who receive public funds to serve in the public interest in Volusia County’s Ivory Tower of Power be held accountable for their acts and omissions – like failing to simply post a list of enforceable rules in county-run parks before residents and visitors are set upon and our publicly-owned amenities ruined?
News Alert: There is an election next month.
It is something long-suffering Volusia County residents might want to pay attention to.
Please join Barker’s View this afternoon on GovStuff Live! with Big John beginning at 4:00pm. We will be taking your calls and discussing the issues of the day on the “fastest two-hours in radio!”
Please tune-in locally at WELE The Cat – 1380am – or on the Worldwide Web at http://www.govstuff.org (Listen Live button).
Today, our guest will be Joan Anthony, candidate for Seventh Judicial Circuit Judge!
It’s time once again to turn a jaundiced eye toward the newsmakers of the day – the winners and losers – who, in my cynical opinion, either contributed to our quality of life, or detracted from it, in some significant way.
Let’s look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was.
Angel Nancy and Lowell Lohman
“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand.”
–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Rich Boy, 1926
I have known a few in my life who base the very worth of their existence on the accumulation of money.
Those who ignore all moral and ethical imperatives in furtherance of keeping and building wealth – as Keynes said, “The love of money as a possession — as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life. . .”
This includes denying family members – a constant suspicion of “friends” – and a compulsive hoarding of assets and cash, spending only that which expands their own sense of self-importance or span of control.
In private, these people tend to be dull and uninspired – even meanspirited – with any sense of happiness or personal contentment pushed aside by “wealth paranoia” that misleads them into believing everyone is seeking to take advantage.
How terribly sad.
Fortunately, there are others who find great purpose and enjoyment in giving to causes greater than their own self-interests – no strings attached – using their hard-earned wealth as a means to better the lives of their less fortunate neighbors, fund humanitarian initiatives, improve our quality of life, seek answers to community problems, and make a better world.
The Halifax area is blessed to have a precious few successful families who exemplify the term philanthropy – “the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes,” – who spend in a way that reflects their personal and civic values.
Few have been more generous with their time and money than Nancy and Lowell Lohman.
According to a report in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, the Lohman’s recently gifted Halifax Health with an initial $1 million installment on a $4 million endowment, to be donated over the next six years, “…establishing Lohman Diabetes Center of Excellence at Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach. It is conceived as a one-stop resource center for diabetes patients seeking access to world-class endocrinologists, on-site lab work, educational and lifestyle coaching, the Lohmans said.”
It has been reported that Mr. Lohman, 75, an incredibly successful entrepreneur with a variety of business interests, has suffered from Type I diabetes for over a half-century.
The new Center of Excellence will be based at Halifax Health’s Professional Building on Clyde Morris Boulevard, which will now be appropriately renamed the Lohman Building.
The Lohman’s generous support of Halifax Health’s efforts to research and treat diabetes is just part of their comprehensive effort to improve our quality of life in the Halifax area.
In total, the Lohman family has donated more than $6 million to local charities, which includes $1.6 million to the Halifax Humane Society, $1 million to the Council on Aging, and $2.5 million to the Museum of Arts & Sciences.
Thank you, Mr. & Mrs. Lohman.
You enhance and improve our lives through your generosity.
We’re glad you passed our way.
Asshole Dirty Politicians and Those Who Enable Them
Admittedly, I have not always been kind to Volusia County District 4 Councilwoman Heather Post – but I will not apologize for criticizing my elected representative when I felt her positions on the issues of the day were wrongheaded.
I don’t play favorites, and, when an elected official needs to be taken to the woodshed, I oblige them in this space, pointing out, as Roosevelt said, “…how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better,” an unabashed critic of those who hold great power, without fear or favor.
Even when we disagree, I have always respected Ms. Post – and that is why I will cast my ballot for her in November.
From the day she took office – Ms. Post has worked hard for her constituents – fighting tooth-and-nail to avoid lock-step obedience to the status quo.
And she has endured withering criticism from her “colleagues” for her sense of independence.
No matter how hard our doddering fool of a lame duck County Chair, Ed Kelley, and his maladroit protégé, Dishonest Deb Denys, have worked to pigeonhole Ms. Post – to pound her square peg of originality into the round hole of traditionalism and submission – she threw off the traces of conformity and made her own way.
Not always gracefully – as the political tag team of Kelley and Denys have made great sport of repeatedly shutting down Ms. Post from the dais – publicly dismissing her suggestions, torpedoing her attempts to serve on outside boards, malicious bullying, cruel embarrassment, while telegraphing their personal disdain with eye-rolling smirks and exaggerated histrionics.
Her opponent, the enigmatic newcomer Barbara Bonarrigo (whose campaign strategy apparently consists of being photographed with rich people and rubbing elbows with B-list politicians, while having zero grasp of the issues) has seen her run miraculously bankrolled by all the usual Big Money donors (?)
And persistent rumors say she was hand-selected by Chairman Kelley and his cronies in Volusia’s Ivory Tower of Power. . .
According to a News-Journal report:
“Of the $70,430 Bonarrigo raised in campaign donations as of Thursday (September 29), $36,000 came in the form of $1,000 individual donations. $10,000 of which came from the address associated with ICI Homes and developer and businessman Mori Hosseini. Bonarrigo also received at least $11,000 from addresses associated with Hyatt Brown and P&S Paving.”
I guess maintaining “business as usual” is incredibly important to many of our areas ‘movers & shakers,’ eh?
Now, Ms. Bonarrigo is suggesting to anyone who will listen that Councilwoman Post is “ineffective” – clearly playing on the groundwork so artfully set by Old Ed over the past four years.
Nothing wrong with that.
Calling out your opponent’s efficacy is what politicians are supposed to do.
But it quickly became apparent that Ms. Bonarrigo’s supporters were not satisfied with merely attacking Ms. Post’s political record. . .
Following the recent shit-show of a Presidential Debate, a mysterious text was sent to many Volusia County voters under Ms. Post’s name, praising President Trump’s performance.
The problem is – Ms. Post did not send, nor authorize, the shadowy communication.
The message essentially linked Post’s campaign to the hyper-partisan and extremely divisive presidential race, forcing her to deny the message, which no doubt left her at odds with both Republicans and Democrats alike during a non-partisan race.
In my view, that is a greasy tactic that stinks of whale-shit level politics.
But Ms. Post is not alone.
Add to that a creepy hit piece currently making the rounds against local attorney and current Circuit Judge candidate Joan Anthony – a slimy stain authorized by her opponent, St. Augustine attorney Dan Hilbert – which dredged up an unfortunate chapter in Ms. Anthony’s life from over 20-years ago, and you begin to see how this local election season has quickly become a political abattoir.
Perhaps most unnerving was last week’s shocking revelation that County Chair candidate Dishonest Deb Denys formed a Political Action Committee one day after she was trounced in the primary.
The PAC, deceitfully named Volusia Citizens for Good Governance – was formed with Eric Robinson, an out-of-town political hitman who calls himself “The Prince of Darkness” – which sent a wholly untrue glossy mailer to Volusia voters painting her credible opponent, Jeff “Plan B” Brower, as having pledged to cut funding for public safety.
That’s a bald-faced lie.
Now, Dishonest Deb has commissioned a demonstrably false television advertisement that reinforces the falsehood about Mr. Brower’s stance on public safety funding – then claims she has received the coveted endorsement of Sheriff Michael Chitwood – something the Sheriff has publicly denied.
My God. How low will Ms. Denys stoop?
Unfortunately, I think we can expect more of the same from Dishonest Deb and her political hit team before it’s all over.
In my view, whenever an incumbent politician resorts to these base forms of calumny to disparage and marginalize their opponent, it demonstrates a sad desperation, something easily recognizable to smart voters.
It is just one reason why Jeff Brower mopped the floor with Dishonest Deb on her own turf earlier this week when he handily won the Southeast Volusia Chamber of Commerce straw poll – garnering 61.36% of the vote to Debs dismal 38.64%.
Nobody said politics was an easy game – but fraudulent misrepresentation is something different.
By any metric, political contests have become a blood sport, and that continues to have a chilling effect on any reasonable person who might consider a run for public office.
In my view, if we want good candidates – independent, grassroots servant-leaders who may not have all the answers but are willing to look beyond their political benefactors for advice – then we must vote them into office!
That begins when Volusia County voters reject the despicable lies and no-holds-barred machinations of a perennial politician grasping desperately for another bite at the apple.
Angel Florida Department of Transportation
For years, the East ISB gateway has served as a painful panorama for residents and visitors alike, a shameful landscape of all that’s wrong with our beleaguered beachside.
Two years ago, I entered a gentleman’s wager with an old friend of mine – someone I have known since we were Boy Scouts together – who is an influential voice in civic issues throughout the Halifax area.
Unfortunately, he is also a strong proponent of the tired ‘party line’ that supports panacea projects and sings the mantra, “Good times are here again. Again.”
That’s okay. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.
I bet my friend that the East ISB corridor would look the same in a year as it did then – a blighted shithole that exudes the down-at-the-heels feel that is slowly killing the Worlds Most Famous Beach as a tourist destination, destroying property values, and driving away entrepreneurial investment.
My buddy was of the opinion that things would be markedly different on the “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” no doubt hanging his hopes on a July 2018 Regional Chamber of Commerce “Eggs and Issues” breakfast, during which Chamber President and CEO Nancy Keefer shared a glittery video showing what was just around the corner for East ISB:
“I think you’re going to see some pretty major changes starting now and moving forward if they can get some of the ordinances adopted that are going to make a big difference in this area,” Keefer said.”
One year later – he unfriended me on Facebook and I have not spoken to the man since. . .
This week, there was reason for optimism that at least one East ISB bugaboo may soon be resolved.
Kudos to the Florida Department of Transportation for hosting the long-anticipated public meeting to receive input on the future of the East International Speedway Boulevard and A-1-A intersection.
According to a report by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean writing in the News-Journal, residents used the forum to make it perfectly clear to FDOT – once and (hopefully) for all – that we do not want a roundabout creating hell and havoc at this important intersection.
“Absolutely, positively no to roundabouts,” said Bob Davis, president and CEO of the Lodging & Hospitality Association of Volusia County.”
I’m with Bob.
Anyone paying attention – including veteran traffic engineers like Maryam Ghyabi, who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes for an enhanced signalized intersection – can tell you that putting a massive loop-de-loop at Volusia County’s busiest beach approach is ludicrous.
Of course, not everyone has the future of the Daytona Beach Resort Area at heart.
According to the News-Journal report:
“Bob Lloyd, this year’s board chairman for the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber supports the road project either with a roundabout or an alternative idea to create an improved signalized intersection with extra right turn lanes.
After seven years of local leaders discussing the project, Lloyd said the Chamber is mostly interested in seeing some sort of improvements being completed as soon as possible.
“We hope it can come to a speedy conclusion for the businesses who have suffered,” said Lloyd, who’s also the executive vice president and general counsel for Brown & Brown Insurance.”
Can’t anyone make a decision in this town?
Look, it’s no secret that Mr. Lloyd’s boss – King J. Hyatt Brown – is no fan of beach driving, the one unique local amenity that has historically set Daytona Beach apart from other coastal destinations and helped draw millions of visitors for over a century.
It is also no secret that King Hyatt sits at the top of the current list of those who have spread enough hard cash around to directly influence public policy.
In 2015, after passing the initial ordinances that ultimately removed beach driving from the strand behind the Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock property, Mr. Brown stood before his hired hands on the Volusia County Council, patted their pointy heads, and said, “It is a positive step. It is one that we will never regret, and it is a step that in the future we will look back and say, ‘Good job you all.’”
In my view, King Hyatt’s fervent desire to kill beach driving and access for We, The Little People, played a major role in why the City of Daytona Beach originally supported the roundabout – a disastrous plan which will result in massive gridlock as residents and visitors approach the most-used beach access point in Volusia County.
Can you think of a better way to kill vehicular beach access at East ISB?
That said, given the wishy-washy direction given to FDOT by heavy hitters like the Daytona Beach City Commission and Regional Chamber of Commerce, I am not convinced the goofy roundabout is completely off the table.
Time will tell.
Now, it is important to let your voice be heard.
Please submit comments on the East ISB corridor to FDOT Project Manager Kathleen Enot by calling her at (386) 943-5149 or emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or mail your suggestions to 719 S. Woodland Boulevard MS 542, DeLand, Florida, 32720.
Quote of the Week
“(Pat) Northey, who has endorsed Denys in the high-profile, tense race for county chair, said she didn’t “have anything to add” regarding the Denys campaign advertisement, but she does recall running her own attack ad in 2014.
She said she regretted the decision as soon as she let the mailer go out.
“I felt dirty,” said Northey, who lost her 2014 run. “I said I would never do that again. Never do it again, no matter how much I thought that it needed to be done.”
–Former Volusia County Councilwoman Pat Northey, as quoted in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Volusia chair race heats up: Attack ads surface as race winds down,” Tuesday, October 6, 2020
And Another Thing!
Who is looking out for us?
The City of Daytona Beach?
The County of Volusia?
This week, many of us learned in a social media post from the intrepid civic activist, Paul Zimmerman, president of Florida’s premiere beach driving and access advocacy, Sons of the Beach, that unpermitted work had begun on a “contra lane” at the Protogroup’s massive on-again-off-again hotel-condominium project at A-1-A and Oakridge Boulevard.
The “valet lane” – which will allow exclusive access to the twin-tower’s multilevel parking garage on the west side of A-1-A – essentially routes traffic against three lanes of one-way traffic at the busy intersection – was originally permitted in 2017 as part of a development agreement between Protogroup and the City of Daytona Beach.
Something most area residents were not aware of until last summer.
The permit was valid for one year – and was not renewed. . .
Apparently, Protogroup subscribes to the “ask for forgiveness, not permission” (especially when it transfers the cost and inconvenience to the public) school of real estate development, because, in spite of the fact the FDOT permit had long-since expired, work has begun in earnest – tearing up a pubic sidewalk, closing a public roadway, pouring concrete for an elevated traffic barrier, etc.
Fortunately, the prohibited work has now caught the attention of regional Florida Department of Transportation officials who last week issued a stop work order to Protogroup.
According to a report in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:
“It is imperative that you cease and desist from any construction activity within the Florida Department of Transportation right-of-way unless and until a Driveway Connection Permit is applied for and approved,” said Ron Meade, FDOT DeLand operations engineer wrote in an Oct. 1 letter to Alexey Lysich, president of Protogroup, the Palm Coast-based developer of the project.”
Despite FDOT’s belated saber-rattling – now that Protogroup has been given 21-days to reapply for a new permit – anyone want to wager a guess whether we are getting a contra lane on Oakridge?
Yeah. Me neither. . .
Disturbingly, it was also reported that no one from Protogroup is answering the phone. Again.
So, keep panicking, people. You have good reason this time around. . .
To his credit, Paul Zimmerman stood firm in his commitment to preserving what is left of our quality of life:
“Is there any governmental body or individual in either Daytona Beach or Volusia County that is going to rein in this developer who has repeatedly violated agreements and time frames?” Zimmerman wrote. “Allowing a developer to continually ignore agreements invites future difficulties. Please someone stand up and call this developer to account.”
In a phone interview, Zimmerman also extended that call for action to FDOT officials.
“It’s FDOT’s road and certainly they have contractors who have equipment to scoop that concrete up and send the bill to the developer,” Zimmerman said. “Why doesn’t that happen, if there was no permit to do this work? At some point, they need to enforce their rules.”
Thanks for looking out for us, Paul.
Because no one who should seems to give a Tinker’s dam about us – so long as they can keep holding their breath, hoping-against-hope that – somehow, someway – this towering atrocity gets completed sometime within the next decade – and we aren’t left with the equivalent of the “I-4 eyesore” hulking over our challenged core tourist area. . .
I know what you’re thinking, “Hey, Barker, our elected and appointed officials have been neutered by this half-finished monstrosity! What are they gonna do about it at this point? That’s the equivalent of civic hostage holding!”
Tough shit, John Q.
Welcome to another “panacea project” that didn’t work out quite like our ‘powers that be’ expected.
We’re on our own, folks. You watch my back and I’ll watch yours. . .