Man accused of using hammer as a weapon

OKEECHOBEE — On Saturday afternoon a 40-year-old Okeechobee man was arrested after being accused of hitting his wife with a hammer earlier that morning.

James Franklin Sellers, Northeast 56th Avenue, was arrested Feb. 3 on a felony charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. His bond was set at $15,000. Jail records indicate he has since been released on bond.

James Franklin Sellers, 40

According to an arrest report by Deputy Mark Margerum, of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO), at approximately 6:42 a.m. on Feb. 3, he responded to the 12800 block of Northeast 56th Avenue with other OCSO deputies in regard to a complaint of domestic battery in progress. Dispatch reportedly informed the deputies responding that the complainant’s truck was apparently set on fire and that she was hit in her hand with a hammer by her live-in husband, Sellers. The complainant also apparently informed dispatch that her ex-boyfriend, who owned and resided at the incident location, supposedly fired a shotgun at Sellers.

Upon arrival deputies reportedly made contact with Sellers. As Deputy Tim Higgins remained with Sellers, Deputies Timothy Porter, Timothy Miller, Robert Feldman and Margerum approached the house and made contact with the ex-boyfriend who said he believed the complainant was out feeding the goats on the property. The deputies then began to search for the woman by the goat pen and surrounding areas to include neighboring residences, but were unable to locate her with their announcements or witness statements.

Due to the nature of the call and the complainant not being located, the ex-boyfriend and Sellers were placed in hand restraints until the woman could be located. The neighbors did confirm however that they did hear a gunshot but could not pinpoint the origin.

The ex-boyfriend informed law enforcement that the complainant and Sellers were supposedly arguing that morning with the complainant telling him that Sellers swung a hammer at her and hitting her hand. The ex-boyfriend also told deputies that he witnessed Sellers light something on fire that hung out of the fuel tank of the complainant’s blue 2001 Dodge Ram pickup truck. He then said that he went into the bedroom and retrieved his shotgun, where he then fired one round over a tree in the direction of the truck. He then returned the shotgun back to his room after the complainant went inside the main residence.

Deputy Margerum then reportedly contacted OCSO Deputy Sergeant Donald Ellis who was with K-9 Deputy Matt Crawford to respond to the scene and assist in the search for the complainant. Almost two hours later, at approximately 8:38 a.m. the woman was located hiding under debris inside a semi-trailer on the northeast corner of the property.

The woman claimed to not hear the calls from law enforcement and said that she was hiding from Sellers in fear he would hurt her.

The woman said she saw Sellers take some of the ex-boyfriend’s property, put it in his red 1995 Toyota T100 pickup truck, and that he slammed the truck door on her. Sellers then apparently grabbed a hammer and swung it at the woman, supposedly striking the tips of her fingers on her left hand, although no marks or bruises were observed on the woman’s hand. It was noted that the complainant did not want Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to respond.

The woman then told law enforcement that after being hit with the hammer, Sellers busted the windows out of her truck and lit a rag on fire that hung out of the fuel tank in an attempt to catch her truck on fire. While the material did ignite, it apparently went out on its own stated the report. The woman then said her ex-boyfriend came out of the residence and fired his shotgun over a tree, with neither Sellers or her in the path of the fired round. She then apparently went inside and the ex-boyfriend put the shotgun away the report stated.

The woman said she told Sellers and her ex-boyfriend that she was going to feed the goats on the property but instead hid in the semi-trailer out of fear from Sellers, who she said has beat her up several times in the past which she did not report to law enforcement. The complainant then told law enforcement she did not wish to pursue criminal charges on Sellers and filled out a complaint affidavit stating what occurred and her desire to not pursue charges.

The report concluded that Sellers was arrested, transported and booked into the Okeechobee County Jail on the aforementioned charge. Photographs of the woman, scene and hammer – which was collected – were submitted into evidence at OCSO. The ex-boyfriend was released and warned of the possible dangers of discharging a firearm in close proximity to others. The woman received an OCSO agency card with Deputy Margerum’s name, OCSO phone number and case number, a domestic violence pamphlet and Martha’s House card. She was also told by law enforcement if any further problems were to arise, to contact OCSO.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, contact Martha’s House at 863-763-2893.

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