Clay County Cold Cases: 6 homicides authorities are still trying to solve

Don Johnson

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=07VDzp_0hcZf2HJ00
Clay County has six cold cases.Photo via Clay County Sheriff's Office Facebook page.

Clay County has six cold cases with the oldest dating back to 1990. The most recent unsolved homicide occurred in 2014.

Cold cases were the topic of a meeting this week between the Clay County Sheriff’s Office and Ryan Backmann, founder of Project: Cold Case.

Project: Cold Case helps families of homicide victims by raising awareness of unsolved cases. It also helps bridge the gap between surviving families and the investigating agency.

The sheriff’s office is investigating four of the cold cases; the Green Cove Springs Police Department has one cold case and the Orange Park Police Department also has one case.

In an effort to distribute information on the unsolved homicides, Backmann’s organization produces decks of cards with photos and information on the cold cases. The decks include 52 different victims – all from Florida.

Backmann said the playing card decks are used to raise awareness of the cases

Sheriff Michelle Cook agreed to distribute 150 decks of the cards into the Clay County Jail, Backmann said.

The hope is that an inmate in the county jail might come forward with information about a case. Backmann’s organization also provides the playing cards to businesses and other groups.

Clay County cold cases include the 1990 death of Teryl Orcutt, a stabbing victim found near Black Creek. Her death is the oldest cold case being investigated by the sheriff’s office. The most recent cold case is the shooting death of Jillian Berrios in 2014. That case is being investigated by the Orange Park Police Department.

Two of the Project: Cold Case playing cards provide information on the cases of Orcutt and Berrios.

Details on some of Florida’s cases are on Project:Cold Case’s website – but only cases where families have come forward with information.

Backmann said he hopes more families of victims will come forward to add information to the website.

To reach the Project: Cold Case website, click here. If you have any information on a cold case, contact the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

Here are summaries of the six cold cases in Clay County based on the Project: Cold Case database and multiple news media reports at the time of the homicides.

Teryl Orcutt

Teryl Lynn Steele Orcutt’s red Ford Thunderbird car was found on the side of County Road 218 in Middleburg on the morning of Jan. 21, 1990.

The abandoned car was discovered, still running, parked on the side of the road. Orcutt, a bank manager, had left her boyfriend’s Jacksonville house around 5 a.m. and was heading to the Middleburg home she shared with her mother.

Orcutt’s purse containing cash and credit cards were found inside the car near a spilled soft drink. Her prescription glasses were found about 50 feet from her car.

Seven days later, the partially clothed body of the 26-year-old Orcutt was discovered by two young boys off Lee Drive, near Black Creek. The location was about four or five miles from where her car had been found. She was found wearing only underwear, socks and shoes.

She had been stabbed multiple times in the chest. It could not be determined if she had been sexually assaulted because of the decomposition to her body.

In 1997, Orcutt’s mother lost her battle with cancer and died never knowing who killed her daughter. According to the Project Cold Case website, when asked on her deathbed what she would say to the person responsible for killing her daughter she responded:

“Only thing I want to know from that person is why? I don’t want to know what you did, how you did it, or anything. I want to know why her?”

Orcutt’s sisters have created a Facebook page dedicated to finding Justice for Teryl Lynn Steele Orcutt. To view the page, click here.

Orcutt had no known enemies and by all accounts was a caring, well-liked, woman that had never been in any kind of trouble. Due to the position of Orcutt’s car on the side of the road and a nearby witness that claimed she was awoken by a woman screaming: “I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do anything.”; there was speculation that a law enforcement officer may have pulled Orcutt over and been responsible for her abduction and murder.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office accounted for and verified the whereabouts of all its officers on the day in question. However, they have acknowledged that someone impersonating an officer may have been involved, the website says.

Detectives have asked for anyone that encountered a person posing as a police officer in late 1989 to early 1990 in Northeast Florida to contact the investigators to report the circumstances.

To remain anonymous and possibly collect a reward up to $3,000 for information in the case, call First Coast Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS.

Yvonne Belcher

Yvonne Belcher was last seen in Green Cove Springs on Dec. 22, 2000. She was initially reported as missing, but is now presumed dead.

She and her husband, Andy Owens, got into an argument and Green Cove Springs police were called to the house. The couple lived in his mother’s house on Highland Avenue. Owens told police he last saw Belcher walking down Highland Avenue about 2:30 a.m. Media reports at the time say it was below freezing that night.

Police said a friend of Belcher said he gave her a ride to a house a few blocks away in the early morning hours. Belcher was spotted by another friend towards Florida Route 16 about daybreak. She has not been seen since.

Two days after she left, Owens reported Belcher as a missing person. He said Belcher had left home for several days after arguments in the past.

Owens died from an overdose after police sought to question him in the case.

Authorities still believe foul play was involved in Belcher's disappearance.

Jennifer Medernach

Jennifer Medernach, 14, lived with her mother in the Woodland Estates mobile home park in Jacksonville. On the day she disappeared, Jennifer had argued with her mother about cleaning her room. But before leaving to go to a nearby convenience store, she kissed her mother, saying she loved her, the Florida Times-Union reported in 2015.

Jennifer’s mother reported her daughter missing on Nov. 5, 2001 as a possible runaway.

Three days later, her body was found by a couple fishing in Long Branch Creek in Clay County.

Her nude body was found with multiple stab wounds. Investigators found the handle of a knife underneath her body. The blade of the knife was never found.

Clay County sheriff’s detectives have had persons of interest in the case, but no arrests have been made.

Chelsea Rohn/Matthew Brumbaugh

Chelsea Rohn, 16, and Matthew Brumbaugh, 21, were found shot to death in a home in Middleburg in April 2007. The pair were found by a third roommate about 2:30 a.m. and deputies were called.

Rohn was married but recently separated, according to media reports at the time. The victims were not romantically involved.

Both victims were shot in the head at close range, First Coast News reported in 2019. Authorities said drugs were being sold from the house.

Investigators have ruled out a murder-suicide.

Mark Gregg

The body of Mark Gregg, 54, was found by his wife about 9 p.m. on April 18, 2009 in their Green Cove Springs home. The former truck driver had been shot multiple times with a 12-gauge shotgun.

A 12-gauge shotgun with a revolving ammunition cylinder was found missing from Gregg’s gun collection.

Authorities said they believe that gun to be the murder weapon. There were no obvious signs of forced entry to the home, deputies said at the time.

Gregg was disabled and used a cane. The couple lived off his disability income and also pawned items to pay their bills, the Florida Times-Union reported in 2015.

Jillian Berrios

(The following is an excerpt from a collaborative story project in 2018 between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class. To read the full story by Andrea Davis, click here.)

Jillian Berrios’ life came to a sudden end in the early morning hours of Oct. 19, 2014.

The 27-year-old was dropping a friend off at her home in Orange Park about 5:30 a.m. after a night of dancing at clubs, the last of which was the Taboo Bar and Grill, where they were celebrating a friend’s birthday.

When the two women arrived at the friend’s Loring Avenue home, they came face-to-face with a man who fired five shots into the car, killing Berrios and injuring the passenger.

The man sped away in a red hatchback.

The passenger, whom police did not name, escaped with minor injuries and was taken to Orange Park Medical Center.

Berrios was the mother to a daughter and a son, both under the age of 10, at the time of the death.

She started work as a tax analyst in September 2013 in Orange Park, with a woman who would become her best friend, Amanda La Hawaiiana.

“She did a lot of things for fun. We would go out to karaoke, play pool, go the Spanish clubs just so we could dance salsa,” said La Hawaiiana. “We always had a little get together so that our kids could play together.”

Berrios also didn’t get into trouble or fight with people. That’s why friends and family do not understand why she became a victim.

Beatrice Mejies believes someone out there knows information needed to bring the person who killed her friend to justice.

“Jillian, or Jilly Beans to those who were close to her, was the type of person to give the shirt from her back if needed. She was a sweet, outgoing and humble type of person,” said Mejies. “Her death has left a huge hole in the lives of those who knew and remember her.”

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=0vWfCu_0hcZf2HJ00
The death of Jennifer Medernach is one of Clay County's cold cases.Photo via Twitter.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=4EX18f_0hcZf2HJ00
The death of Yvonne K. Belcher is one of the county's cold cases.Photo via Facebook.

Comments / 2

Published by

Veteran journalist with experience in website and newspaper content as an editor and writer. I have worked as a reporter at newspapers and websites in Florida, California and Arkansas. I am a former executive editor at the Tampa Bay Business Journal and worked for 12 years at The Tampa Tribune as an enterprise editor and business editor. At Patch.com, I produced stories for 24 websites in the Tampa Bay area and also edited content for websites in six states.

603 followers

More from Don Johnson

Comments / 0