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Sunrise on Lake Okeechobee, photo by Kerry English. -TM

News Cast for January 18th:

A Lake County man will be going to prison for the rest of his life after being sentenced in Okeechobee County Court yesterday. 49 year old Cordell Allen was given a life sentence for his role in the attempted murder of a fellow inmate three years ago. Allen, who with the help of fellow inmate Vincent Mariner of Virginia, stabbed 58 year old Kenneth Gardiner of Port St. Lucie close to twenty times in the chest and upper bank with a prison made stabbing weapon on New Year’s Eve, 2015. Allen, already serving a life sentence for second degree murder, was convicted December 18th. It isn’t known what prompted Allen and Mariner to attack Gardiner. Prosecutor Don Richardson couldn’t be happier with the judge’s decision in this sentencing hearing. Mariner was to go on trial this month for his part in the stabbing of Gardiner but ended up accepting a plea deal for aggravated battery and was sentenced on Wednesday to fifteen years in prison. Mariner was already serving a forty year sentence for a murder he committed in Virginia before being brought to Okeechobee as part of the Interstate Compact. Attorneys for Allen and Mariner could not be reached for comment.

Richardson-Prison Stabbing Case Sentencing 1

Richardson-Prison Stabbing Case Sentencing 2

The Okeechobee City Council took the time this past Tuesday night during their first meeting of 2019 to present a service award and retirement plaque to Okeechobee Police officer John Paul (J.P.) Ziegler. Ziegler, who has been a police officer in Okeechobee for thirty years, will be retiring at the end of this weekend. Ziegler says he’s “very moved” and “very blessed” the city council took the time to recognize him and his career as a police officer. Ziegler says his favorite part about being a police officer is the opportunity it grants him to help others in need. Ziegler, a native of Melbourne and Okeechobee resident for thirty years, began his law enforcement career in Okeechobee this month in 1989, first on road patrol, moving up to detective in 2003 and then returning to road patrol in 2013. After his retirement on Sunday, he will continue to work with the department on a part-time basis. He is also an ordained minister.

Ziegler 1

Ziegler 2

Narcotics officers from the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department arrested a local man Wednesday evening on some serious drug offenses as part of a sting operation the officers conducted last fall. Officers say on October 30th, they met with a confidential source for the purpose of purchasing Hydromorphone Hydrochloride, otherwise known as Dilaudid, from 48 year old Earl Victor Williams Junior. The confidential source met with Williams and purchased the Dilaudid from him with officers documenting the transaction and recording the conversation between the two. The confidential source was then shown a photograph of Williams, identifying him as the man who sold him the Dilaudid. Williams was arrested just before seven o’clock Wednesday night and charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell. He was booked into county jail and his bond is set at one hundred thousand dollars.

A Fort Pierce man is in serious condition at Raulerson Hospital and is facing charges following a vehicle accident Sunday afternoon where several people were severely injured and a baby was killed. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 33 year old Jose Alvarez Herrera was driving a Dodge Durango east on Highway 70 near 721 in Highlands County just after three o’clock when he went into the opposite lane to pass other vehicles in front of him and collided head on with an oncoming Nissan pickup truck. The impact caused both vehicles to overturn. Two of Herrera’s passengers, 34 year old Godoy Concepcion also of Fort Pierce, was seriously injured, and a three month old child from Fort Pierce was severely injured and died the next day. Concepcion is being treated for his injuries at Raulerson Hospital. The occupants of the Nissan Pickup truck, 54 year old Eliseo Pastor Mendoza of Lake Placid and his 16 year old male passenger from Lake Placid are being treated for serious injuries at Lake Placid Hospital. Herrera is charged with driving without a license and improper lane changes. FHP is investigating.

On the arrest report:

43 year old Timothy James Burke of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on a warrant from Osceola County for violating probation on past charges of driving on a suspended license, drunk driving and drug possession. He’s being held without bond.

20 year old Elizabeth Eileen Shaw of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of trafficking stolen property and giving false information to a pawnbroker. She’s being held without bond.

Okeechobee Community Events 1-7-18

Tai Chi at the Senior Center –  Okeechobee Senior Services will again be offering Tai Chi classes on Monday and Wednesday mornings from 9:30 – 10:30 at the Lottie Raulerson Senior Center. Tai Chi offers many potential benefits to seniors such as relieving the physical effects of stress, reducing bone loss in menopausal women, improving lower body and leg strength, reducing arthritis pain and reducing blood pressure. Tai Chi is also known to increase energy by releasing endorphins, increase mental capacity and concentration, improve balance and stability by strengthening the ankles and the knees, and promote faster recovery from strokes and heart attacks. This is a great opportunity to do something good for your mind, body and soul, and who knows, you may make some new friends along the way. These classes are offered to beginners and the experienced at no cost. The Lottie Raulerson Senior Center is located at 1690 NW 9th Avenue, just south of the IRSC campus. For further information, please call Senior Services at 863-462-5180.