Police make arrest in St. Johns County manhunt

Search for armed, 'desperate' suspect prompted lockdown of 3 schools

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – The manhunt for a man suspected of killing his estranged wife and another woman in a home in the World Golf Village area ended Thursday, during a traffic stop outside St. Johns County, police said. 

Police said that 35-year-old James Colley Jr. was arrested following a traffic stop outside of St. Johns County's jurisdiction.

Colley was arrested without incident police said. 

The original manhunt prompted the lockdown of three St. Johns County schools in the area. The lockdowns were lifted before 4 p.m. and all three schools allowed students to be released.

Colley, who works at a local bank, was driving a maroon Infiniti hard-top convertible (similar to one pictured), with the licence plate "BEAT 58."


Deputies said no other details were immediately available but that they would release new information after an internal briefing. 

UNCUT: Sheriff Shoar's news briefing

Neighbors on South Bellagio Drive called in reports of gunfire about 10:30 a.m. Shoar said four or five people were visiting at the house with Colley's 36-year-old wife, Amanda Cloaninger Colley, when he burst in and shot her and one of her friends, 39-year-old Lindy Dobbins. Both women died at the scene. Shoar said the others were able to get away without injury.

Police said James Colley, who had a history of domestic violence, had just left court Thursday morning after appearing for violating a domestic violence injunction that Amanda obtained against him on Aug. 10.

He was told to stay away from his wife and was given a 60-day suspended sentence. He had previously signed an affidavit stating that he didn't own any firearms.

"Here again we see another case where the no-contact orders only are as effective as the individuals that receive them," Shoar said.


James Colley (pictured with Amanda) enrolled in a batterers' intervention course after the injunction was filed. At one point, Amanda Colley testified that her husband had burned her clothes in the backyard. He texted her saying he had driven by her workplace looking for her and from there, the threats intensified. In the injunction request, Amanda claimed she was scared of James and that he had burned her clothes, threatened to kill her dog and threatened to cut her if he caught her cheating. The couple were in the process of divorcing.

"It's sad. Here's people that at one point were in love, and they were married, and things went bad to the point where people get killed and children become orphans," Shoar said. "I can't explain it."

The Colleys had two children together, Shoar said. One of those children attends an elementary school nearby, which was one of three schools locked down because of the shooting.

Mill Creek Elementary, Pacetti Bay Middle and Ward's Creek Elementary were all notified to keep their students indoors with the doors locked. The Sheriff's Office said there was no threat to those schools, but a lockdown is standard practice when there is criminal activity in the area. Deputies and state troopers were visible at the schools.

Parents waited for hours to pick up their children from Mill Creek Elementary. Traffic was backed up in both directions for several blocks.

The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office said schools will be open and operating normally Friday. Due to the circumstances involved in the investigation, the SJSO said it will maintain additional personnel both in the schools and around the community area.

Parents said they learned about the lockdown through an automated phone call from the St. Johns County School District. Some said despite everything that happened, they were confident their children were safe. But knowing Colley was still out there was unnerving.

"(He's) just a selfish jerk, because there's a little kid in there who came to school this morning, and they'll have Social Services pick them up, and it just breaks my heart," parent Tina Queener said.


Many parents expressed their condolences to the families of the two victims.

The school the couple's older child attends was being closely watched Thursday and dismissal was delayed. The couple's other child was at a pre-kindergarten, but is now in the custody of grandparents.

"Our primary concern right now is the safety of those children and the safety of other family members," Shoar said. "We have those schools covered up with deputies. We've got the family safe. Right now we've got everybody we think that might need some extra protection being protected."

A former co-worker of Amanda Colley told News4Jax she was devastated to hear of Amanda's death and that her husband is believed to have pulled the trigger. Kylee Lauderdale said she and Amanda became friends while they worked together, but she had not kept in touch with Amanda like she had wanted after moving to Hollywood, Florida, and she deeply regrets it. 

"It just was heartbreaking. Heart wrenching. Something I couldn't even wrap my arms around," said Lauderdale.

She said she remembers Amanda as a woman who always put family first and loved being a mother. Lauderdale said Amanda was a kind, loving person whose smile could light up a room.

"She was very excited to become a mom and then when she was a mom, she was very adoring and loving of her children. Very thrilled with them and was always excited to speak of them." Lauderdale said.

Now, she wants her friend to get justice.

"This is the mother of his children. And then of course, another victim who is a part of this should not be forgotten," Lauderdale said. "And it's just, it's all so incredibly sad and hard to take in."

 A colleague of Amanda Colley's reached out to News4Jax and said they plan to wear red on Friday in her memory.

Deputies had originally gone to a home in the 1100 block of Garrison Drive where James Colley had been living, but he was not there.


About the Authors: