White squirrels, Casanova Killer, sago palm dangers: The digital features that fascinated you in 2022

Looking back on the digital exclusive highlights of the year

White squirrels, the Casanova Killer and sago palm poisoning were among our top online-only stories of the year.

From white squirrels and poisoned puppies to a Jacksonville serial killer and local entrepreneurs, our News4JAX.com team worked hard this year to showcase a variety of special content for our digital audience.

Beyond these special features, we also provided important lists to help you out all year long, including back-to-school events, fun fall happenings, a county-by-county breakdown of sex offender rules for Halloween, and much more.

We wanted to take a look back at our digital exclusive features and see what captured your attention the most.

Here were the highlights from 2022:

White squirrels

Hands down, our most popular digital exclusive feature of the year was our piece on where you can find white squirrels living in Jacksonville. Complete with an interactive map and interesting facts provided by a Jacksonville Zoo vet, the white squirrels story trended for five days.

And viewers have been sending us white squirrel sightings ever since!

In case you missed the initial story in April -- or you want to revisit or share it with someone you know:

Tracking white squirrels: These rare animals appear to be living in at least 3 areas of Jacksonville

Photos taken in Titusville, Florida, of a white squirrel were sent to News4JAX. (Provided to WJXT)

Casanova Killer

Considering the popularity of true crime shows and documentaries, particularly those featuring serial killers, it’s not surprising that another of our top features was on Paul John Knowles, who later came to be known as the “Casanova Killer.”

Knowles, who claimed to have killed 35 people over a seven-month span, was linked to at least 18 murders in 1974 -- but the real point of interest for us was that he is believed to have started his killing spree after he picked a lock and escaped from his jail cell in Jacksonville.

‘Casanova Killer’: Serial killer linked to at least 18 murders in 1974 started reign of terror in Jacksonville

Paul John Knowles, also known as The Casanova Killer, is linked to the deaths of 18 people in 1974. (Associated Press)

Sago palm dangers

We’re not above sharing lessons from our own lives, especially if they can help our viewers -- and their fur-babies. Our piece on sago palm poisoning in dogs -- sparked by a personal incident -- generated a lot of feedback. Many viewers even shared their own encounters, some with sadly dire outcomes. Others vowed to get rid of the plants immediately to protect their pups (which, if we’re being honest, made us glad to know we could make a difference).

From the symptoms to watch for to how to know what toxic plants might be in your yard, you can check out the story -- or share it with someone who needs to see it:

‘She was lucky’: Sago palm almost killed my dog. Here’s what you need to know.

Joey was playing with the sago palm before she ingested the seeds. (Francine Frazier/WJXT)

‘Shark Tank’

We love sharing positive stories that showcase our diverse community, and it doesn’t get much more positive than Jim Stallings, CEO of PS27 Ventures, which invests millions in early-stage companies and focuses on industries like financial technology, sustainability and e-commerce.

Stallings launched the Rhea Fund, a $20 million venture capital fund focused on early-stage technology companies, with a specific goal in mind: allocating at least 50% of the investment capital to women-led companies, underrepresented minority founders and veterans.

With his own ‘Shark Tank’ and millions to invest, this man wants to help veterans and minorities with big ideas

Jim Stallings is the CEO of Jacksonville-based PS27 Ventures, a private investment company. (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

@Brainsurgerysurvivor

Another one on the positive and inspiring list is Matt Friend. The Florida man is documenting his recovery after brain surgery on social media as he relearns how to walk and talk at age 34.

He is now an open book — sharing his journey with millions of strangers on the internet. As of Dec. 24, Matt had 26,900 followers on his brain surgery survivor” TikTok page and 423,000 likes on his videos.

Relearning to walk, talk at 34: Florida man inspires others while documenting recovery after brain surgery

Relearning to walk, talk: Florida man documents recovery after brain surgery

Dynamic duo

Rounding out positivity corner are Dr. Derick McElveen Jr. and Dr. Theron Douglas -- two Jacksonville natives trying to change the course of beard and hair care for men.

The pharmacists have become entrepreneurs, launching EveryDay Fresh Club, a self-care brand that not only offers natural hair and beard care products designed without harmful chemicals or preservatives, but also fills what they say is a void of hair products created by and for Black men.

From pharmacists to entrepreneurs: Jacksonville doctors work to reshape self-care for Black men one beard product at a time

Dr. Derick McElveen Jr. (L) and Dr. Theron Douglas (R) (WJXT)

About the Author:

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.