Norton police last night ended a daylong nightmare for terrified residents of a Florida community.
City officers arrested a man wanted for allegedly shooting to death his estranged wife and her friend Thursday morning at her home in a St. Johns County subdivision near the city of St. Augustine.
City police went into action at about 9:48 p.m. Thursday when a local woman called Norton’s 911 dispatch center, according to Chief James Lane. She was driving on northbound U.S. 23, near the Powell Valley overlook, and said another vehicle was harassing her — matching her speed, running her off the roadway, pulling in front of her and stopping suddenly.
Sgt. James “Rusty” McReynolds and Officer Matthew Hubbard responded. They found the suspect vehicle, a maroon 2010 Infinity G37, running alongside the woman’s vehicle.
McReynolds got the car pulled over at the exit to merge with U.S. 58A, Lane said. McReynolds’ instincts told him to put a spotlight on the vehicle and order the driver to come out, instead of approaching the vehicle on foot.
The driver put his hands out the window and McReynolds removed him from the car. The man smelled of alcohol and was suspected of using narcotics, according to the chief. He was cooperative but apparently had little to say.
Officer Tanner Powers noticed that there were several guns in the car.
A DMV check revealed that the driver, James Terry Colley Jr., 35, from St. Augustine, is suspected in the murders of his estranged wife Amanda Colley, 36, and her friend Lindy Dobbins, 39, that morning.
Norton police charged Colley with driving under the influence and refusing a drug test. A fugitive warrant was obtained, and Colley is being held without bond at the Duffield regional jail.
Officers from the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Department drove through the night to Norton, where they sealed the vehicle. This afternoon, officers from Florida and Virginia State Police continued to process evidence from the car.
According to a St. Johns County press release, deputies responded to a home there at 10:36 a.m. Thursday and found the women shot to death. Witnesses identified James Colley fleeing from the area, the release stated.
Colley was described as 6’2’’ tall, weighing 220 pounds.
Schools in the neighborhood were locked down part of yesterday while officers searched for Colley.
But the timeline suggests that if Colley committed the murders, he apparently began driving and barely stopped until he was pulled over in Virginia, according to Lane.
In a phone interview, St. Johns sheriff’s office spokesman Commander Chuck Mulligan confirmed they suspect that Colley left Florida as soon as possible and apparently drove continuously until he got here. The murder scene is very close to Interstate 95, he noted.
Mulligan explained that his department had responded to several domestic calls involving Colley and his estranged wife, who obtained a court injunction against him around mid- or late July. Colley had violated the injunction by texting her and driving around in search of her. Police arrested him and he bonded out.
Thursday morning, Colley was in court and a judge sentenced him to one year of unsupervised probation, Mulligan said.
Evidence indicates that about one hour later, he showed up at the house where Amanda Colley, Lindy Dobbins and some other friends were gathered, according to Mulligan.
It’s not clear why Dobbins was shot, he said. The other people escaped unharmed.
Neither Mulligan nor Lane had information as to where Colley may have been headed or why he came through Southwest Virginia. Lane noted his understanding is that Colley has relatives in northern Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky.
Lane could not elaborate at this time on details of Colley’s incident with the local woman on U.S. 23. He noted that Florida investigators asked him not to release the 911 recording or other details yet as the investigation progresses. He did confirm that the woman is in her early 20s.
Mulligan was asked if anything Florida police know about Colley would help explain why he was allegedly harassing a Virginia motorist. He said investigators will be examining that question. One possibility, far too soon to weigh against actual evidence, is that Colley could have been low on gas and/or believed he needed to ditch his vehicle and take another one, he noted.