Investigators in Putnam County have arrested three men in connection with several burglaries in Putnam and St. Johns counties, while also finding a home with poor living conditions and 23 people living on the property.
Deputies said that about a month ago, the Putnam County Sheriff's Office uncovered a crime trend involving higher-than-usual burglaries to businesses along the State Road 207 and Highway 17 South corridors.
Deputies said extensive investigation revealed that William Cribbs, 39, Raymond Sapp, 18, and Charles Blackwelder Jr., 18, were responsible for one of the burglaries and were suspects in several others in both Putnam and St. Johns counties. The investigation also revealed that the three were living at or frequenting a home in the 100 block of East McCormick Road in East Palatka, deputies said.
Because of Cribbs' criminal history, which consists of numerous cases of resisting arrest and burglary, the SWAT and Rifle Security Teams along with members of the Street Crimes Unit moved in on the East McCormick Road home on Wednesday morning to serve arrest warrants, deputies said. They said Sapp and Blackwelder were taken into custody without incident, but Cribbs tried to flee.
With deputies in pursuit, Cribbs scaled a large fence but was taken into custody after one of the SWAT team members deployed a non-lethal impact weapon to subdue him, deputies said.
While at the home, deputies said they learned that a total of 23 people, including 11 children from the ages of 2 through 16, were living on the property in abhorrent conditions. Fourteen people, including adults and children were living in sheds and a tent in the backyard, deputies said.
Because of the condition of the home and the conditions that the children were living in, the Department of Children and Families, Putnam County Code Enforcement and the Health Department were called to the scene.
As a result, the home and all out buildings were condemned, deputies said. They said the children were all removed from the property and placed with other family members.
The Florida Department of Parole and Probation also responded to the scene due to the fact that several people on active probation were found at the home.
All three men were charged with burglary and grand theft and were being held on bonds ranging from about $2,000 to about $75,000.
Junior Ayala was charged with violation of probation and is being held without bond.
Gloria Harvey, Candace Ayala, Junior Ayala, Mary Cribbs, James Cribbs Jr., Eric Blackwelder and Samantha Cribbs were all charged with child neglect. The child neglect charges were forwarded to the state's attorney's office.
Several items stolen from recent East Palatka burglaries were recovered from the home, deputies said.