Local News

News Cast 9/20

News Cast for September 20th:

Two Okeechobee men, both being charged with first degree murder in separate cases, came face to face with a county court judge this week. 34 year old Kevin Franklin Hughes made an appearance in court Wednesday morning to answer for charges in the death of his wife, 40 year old Jennifer Minette Benson-Hughes, during the early morning hours of April 17th. Prosecutor Ashley Albright says Kevin Hughes pled not guilty to the first degree murder charge at his arraignment and he continues to plead not guilty. Albright says even with Hughes’ next court date, it will be quite a while before this case goes to trial. Kevin Hughes was originally charged with second degree murder of his wife on the front lawn of their home following an argument but the grand jury slapped him with murder one after hearing the evidence. Also seen in court on Wednesday was 36 year old James Wade Hodges, charged with the murder of 43 year old Paul Murphy of Jupiter in May after his bullet-riddled body was found in his car, submerged in Taylor Creek. He has pleaded not guilty and his next court appearance is October 23rd.

Issuing an ordinance to make the community aware of the reality of human trafficking was a topic of discussion at yesterday’s Okeechobee County Commissioners’ meeting and there will be a public hearing on the matter as voted on by commissioners. The issue was first discussed at the August 22nd meeting and an ordinance was prepared to have public awareness signs on human trafficking in certain areas such as massage parlors and strip clubs. After yesterday’s discussion on the matter, County Attorney John Cassels will be doing some follow up work on where else human trafficking public awareness signs should be placed. Commissioner Kelly Owens, who has been quite vocal on the subject, says this is an issue of the utmost importance because while residents might feel comfortable and safe living here and think it’s not happening here, it’s very easy to get too comfortable. Owens hopes this will also spur all businesses to have a human trafficking awareness sign on their premises. The public hearing on the matter will likely be held at the next commissioners’ meeting on October 3rd.

The soon to be built Property Appraiser, Tax Collector and Driver’s License Building will be getting a special dedication. County Commissioners granted the request of the Masonic Lodge #237, one of the longest standing fraternities in the world, to make a dedication in honor of the masons on the northeast corner of the building when it is completed. Masonic Lodge member Matt Buxton says he’s excited the commissioners approved this request and the northeast corner is traditionally set as the foundation of every building for this dedication. Buxton says it’s likely going to be a huge event for the community. This is the first building the masons have chosen for this dedication in the last 16 years. The Property Appraiser, Tax Collector and Driver’s License Building is expected to be completed sometime next summer.

For the first time in nearly a month, Okeechobee County firefighters had a structure fire to contend with Wednesday afternoon. Crews were called to the 17 hundred block of NE 3rd Street a little before five o’clock and found the blaze in a storage area. Firefighters got the fire controlled in about ten minutes with no one getting hurt. Investigators say the fire was started by two young boys, ages 5 and 7, who were reportedly playing with matches and they were curious about fire and were looking for a thrill. The boys were released to their parents. Total damage is estimated at about five hundred dollars in both property and contents.

On the arrest report:

38 year old Clinton Roy Sellers of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for possession of a 9mm handgun by a convicted felon following a traffic stop. His bond is set at ten thousand dollars.

29 year old Reggie Dontrea Jones of Okeechobee was arrested for withholding child support. His bond is set at a hundred dollars.

35 year old Tonya Marie Bell of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of fraud and giving false information to a pawnbroker. She was released after posting a two thousand dollar bond.

21 year old Gilmar Lopez-Moreno of Okeechobee was arrested for driving without a valid license after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a $250 dollar bond.

38 year old Sabrina Ann Hunt of Okeechobee was arrested for battery. Her bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

36 year old Daniel Angel Olvera of Okeechobee was arrested by police for possession of methamphetamine, oxycodone, drug paraphernalia and driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. His bond is set at six thousand dollars.


Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Kicks Off School Threats Awareness Campaign

Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Kicks Off School Threats Awareness Campaign

Tallahassee, Fla.—The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice announced today a new awareness campaign aimed at addressing school threats made by students in Florida. The “It’s No Joke” campaign aims to dissuade youth from making school threats, because doing so can lead to being arrested and charged with a felony.

“We want young people in Florida to understand that, in today’s environment, every threat is taken very seriously and, even if made in jest, can lead to devastating consequences,” said DJJ Secretary Simone Marstiller. “There is nothing funny about threatening a school, and there is nothing funny about being charged with a felony.  We want young people to think twice before casually threatening violence in their schools.”

School related offenses include making false reports concerning a bomb, explosives, or firearms and possessing or discharging weapons or firearms on school property on a school-sponsored event. The “It’s No Joke” awareness campaign seeks to educate youth and parents that even threats made online, including on social media and gaming sites, can lead to a youth being charged with a felony offense.

Youth, parents, and teachers are also encouraged to report any and all threats they see or hear. They can notify law enforcement of a threat or can report a threat anonymously through Florida’s FortifyFL app, a suspicious activity reporting tool that allows you to instantly relay information to appropriate law enforcement agencies and school officials.

“Our top priority is the safety and security of students and teachers,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “It is critical that students take threats very seriously and report suspicious activity. I encourage all students and educators to download the FortifyFL app to report potentially unsafe situations, which could prevent a tragedy.”

The number of Florida youth charged with school threat related offenses has risen steadily in the last three years. In Fiscal Year 2016-2017, 629 youth were charged with school threat related offenses, followed by 687 youth in Fiscal Year 2017-2018, and 779 youth in Fiscal Year 2018-2019.


News Cast 9/19

News Cast for September 19th:

Okeechobee County Commissioners will have a busy day beginning this morning. First, they will have their regular meeting and among the items up for discussion include the proposed human trafficking public awareness signs ordinance and they will also be looking to proclaim this month as National Preparedness Month in Okeechobee. The meeting will begin at nine o’clock in the Historic County Courthouse.

Later in the afternoon, commissioners will reconvene and they will have their last public hearing on the proposed $93 million dollar county budget for the next fiscal year and establish the millage rate. That will also be held in the Historic County Courthouse beginning at five o’clock. Both the commissioners’ regular meeting and budget public hearing will be streamed live on the commissioners’ website.

Speaking of the county commissioners, at their last meeting they gave the green light to an outside company to begin plans for a new kennel for Animal Control. Facility Maintenance and Development Director Donnie Oden says Port St. Lucie-based Kimley-Horn and Associates will be performing the engineering and designs for the Animal Control Phase 2 kennel. This new kennel, which Oden says was needed because the existing kennel is no longer large enough to accommodate the influx of animals, will be a 23 hundred square foot building and it’ll be nearly identical to the existing kennel. Oden says Kimley-Horn and Associates is being hired for this project because of their past working relationship with the county. Kimley-Horn’s services will cost the county just over $33 thousand dollars. The plans for the new kennel should be completed by November and go out for bidding in December.

Oden-New Kennel Plans

It was a rather busy day in the Okeechobee County courts yesterday, as three Okeechobee juveniles charged with violating the Florida Anti-Tampering Act for Food and battery on a law enforcement officer went before a judge. Prosecutor Ashley Albright says 17 year old Molly Spearow, 18 year old Alex Armstrong and 17 year old Logan Pope are still pleading not guilty on charges of violating the Florida Anti-Tampering Act for Food and Battery on a law enforcement officer in connection with an incident where a surveillance camera caught the three spitting into the food of sheriff’s deputies while working in the Highway 55 restaurant last spring. Albright says it’s likely this case will be resolved, one way or another, very soon. Albright says there’s a possibility that Armstrong may be changing his plea as early as next week. While it’s very unlikely and very unrealistic, all three are looking at a maximum of 30 years in prison. They are scheduled to be back in court on October 23rd.

Albright-Three Juveniles Case 1

Albright-Three Juveniles Case 2

An Okeechobee man and woman are in county jail on some serious drug offenses, the result of a series of sting operations that have been going on since last May. Narcotics officers in the sheriff’s department met with a confidential informant beginning in May and told this informant to purchase dilaudid, a controlled substance, from 36 year old Tacara Kantrail Lawton-Holmes, someone the informant has purchased the drug from previously. The informant bought the drugs from Lawton-Holmes and her boyfriend, 20 year old Harvey Hugh Barr Junior at her home. These drug buys were done several times between May and August, with narcotics officers recording the drug purchases for evidence. Barr and Lawton-Holmes were identified through photographs and were arrested Tuesday night. Barr and Lawton-Holmes were arrested and charged with selling hydromorphone within a thousand feet of a place of worship on several occasions. Barr’s and Lawton-Holmes’ bonds are set at $200 thousand dollars’ each.

On the arrest report:

27 year old Augusto Chavez Ramos of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for battery on his wife during a domestic dispute, driving without a valid license and resisting arrest following a traffic stop. His bond is set at two thousand dollars.

48 year old Shelley Anne Goist of Okeechobee was arrested on a warrant from Hendry County for violating probation on prior theft charges. Her bond is set at $25 thousand dollars.

28 year old Reinaldo Zamora of Okeechobee was arrested on a warrant from Hillsborough County for violating probation on past burglary and grand theft charges. He’s being held without bond.

24 year old John David Brighton of Okeechobee was arrested for driving without a valid license after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

52 year old Michael Bruce Morris of Okeechobee was arrested for burglary of an unoccupied vehicle. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

61 year old Clarence Lee McDuffie of Okeechobee was arrested for cocaine possession after a traffic stop. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

27 year old John Francisco Andres of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license for the second time after a traffic stop. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.

40 year old Cesar Salgado Renteral of Moore Haven was arrested for driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.


Commissioners Burroughs appointed to National Association of Counties Agriculture & Rural Affairs

Okeechobee County Commissioner Terry Burroughs has been appointed to the National Association of
Counties, (NaCO) Agriculture and Rural Affairs Steering Committee, Vice Chair

‐ Committee will be responsible for providing solutions to Florida’s widespread water crisis ‐
Washington, D.C. – Mary Ann Borgeson, President of the National Association of Counties has appointed
Okeechobee County Commissioner Terry Burroughs as the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Steering
Committee, Vice Chair.
“Committee participation at the national level is a serious commitment and responsibility” stated Ms.
Borgeson
“It is an honor to be appointed to serve as the Vice Chair on this committee. Agriculture is the lifeblood
of our rural Florida community and I intend on representing our County with honor and dedication”, said
Commissioner Burroughs.
As a member of the team lead by Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinley, Commissioner
Burroughs will play a key role in addressing matters pertaining to USDA Agriculture, rural development
programs, renewable energy development, research and extension, food safety and conservation
programs.
Commissioner Burroughs has also been appointed to Rural Action Caucus (RAC) Steering Committee. RAC
is the voice for America’s rural counties before Congress and the Administration. This committee is
dedicated to solving many critical issues impacting rural life and development. These include
infrastructure development, broadband deployment, development of new rural clinics and hospitals, road
and bridge construction and maintenance, business development opportunities and many more county
responsibilities.
The National Association of Counties (NACo) is an organization that represents county governments in the
United States. It is the only national organization that represents county governments throughout the
Unites States. Founded in 1935, NACo provides essential services to the nation’s 3069 counties.


News Cast 9/18

News Cast for September 18th:

Today will be a busy day in the Okeechobee County Courtrooms as two local men charged with murder and three young locals charged with violating the Florida Anti-Tampering Act for Food and Battery on a law enforcement officer, will be appearing before county judges to answer for their crimes. Prosecutor Ashley Albright says attorneys for 17 year old Molly Spearow, 18 year old Alex Armstrong and 17 year old Logan Pope presented written pleas of not guilty in court on behalf of their clients last June on charges of violating the Florida Anti-Tampering Act for Food and Battery on a law enforcement officer when surveillance camera footage at the Highway 55 restaurant caught the three juveniles spitting into the deputies’ food.  All three were released from their jobs and later arrested by Okeechobee Police. Albright says prosecutors chose to charge the juveniles as adults not just because of the seriousness of the crimes under the law, but also because of the ages of the three juveniles at the time of the incident. Albright says there’s a possibility Armstrong might change his plea by next week. Also appearing in court today will be 34 year old Kevin Franklin Hughes, charged with first degree murder in the death of his wife last spring and 36 year old James Wade Hodges, also charged with murder one in the death of 43 year old Paul Murphy of Jupiter in May. All are expected to be in court sometime after nine o’clock.

232 years ago yesterday, the United States Constitution was signed. To that end, at their last meeting, the Okeechobee County Commissioners declared September 17 thru the 23rd as Constitution Week in Okeechobee County. The Okeechobee Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution were on hand for this proclamation and one of the members, Letta Jordan, says she’s proud that the county is recognizing the importance of the US Constitution and the fact it’s the oldest document for our government that’s still being used today. Jordan says people, specifically schoolchildren, need to know more about it and understand it and by law, it has to be taught in schools and it’s not being taught as often as it should be. Jordan says she and her fellow Daughters of the American Revolution are trying to help change that in county schools. Jordan says it’s not being taught in schools as often as it should be because schools flat out don’t have the time to do it because of other items in their curriculums that need to be taught to students.

A traffic stop turned into a drug related arrest for an Okeechobee man Friday morning. Police stopped a Ford Escape SUV, driven by 26 year old Michael Anthony Thomas, on the six hundred block of Route 15S a little after eight o’clock for speeding in a school zone. Police say Thomas refused to give his name and date of birth to them and he tried reaching into a bag on the passenger seat. When he was told not to do that, he refused and police grabbed his left wrist, trying to place him in handcuffs. Thomas resisted and he was pulled out of his vehicle and placed in a patrol car. A K-9 unit was brought in to search the vehicle and they found an electronic cigarette which had cannabis in it and some other electronic cigarettes which also had marijuana in them. Thomas was arrested and charged with possession of cannabis, drug paraphernalia and resisting a law officer. He was booked into county jail and later released after posting a $35 hundred dollar bond.

A single vehicle accident in Glades County earlier this month resulted in two Lehigh Acres men getting seriously injured and resulted in an Alva-area man being arrested for drunk driving in the incident. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 26 year old Jonathan Clarke Busbin was driving a Toyota Tundra pickup truck north on Country Road 731 approaching a left curve on Walter Greer Road in Moore Haven a little before three o’clock on the afternoon of September 7th. Busbin failed to negotiate the curve properly, causing him to enter a grass shoulder and collide with a fence and then a tree. FHP officers say Busbin, who was not injured, was driving under the influence of alcohol. His two passengers, 27 year old TJ Albertelli and 27 year old John Knight, were taken to Lee Memorial Hospital for treatment of serious injuries. Busbin was arrested and charged with two counts of DUI causing serious bodily injury and property damage. The accident remains under investigation.

On the arrest report:

29 year old James Thomas Gainer Junior of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for violating probation on past charges of burglary and grand theft. He’s being held without bond.

33 year old Kevin Richard Harrison of Okeechobee was arrested for battery on his girlfriend during a domestic dispute. He was released after posting a five thousand dollar bond.

41 year old John Francis Nettle Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of drunk driving and driving on a suspended license. He’s being held without bond.

22 year old Raymond Lloyd Herndon Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for obstruction. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

52 year old Eliseo Samano Hernandez of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving and driving without a valid license after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. He was released after posting a $1250 dollar bond.

25 year old Gabriel Lee Chapman of Okeechobee was arrested for battery on his ex-girlfriend and criminal mischief during a domestic dispute. His bond is set at $15 hundred dollars.

25 year old Joseph Dwayne Cox of Okeechobee was arrested for battery on his girlfriend during a domestic dispute. He was released after posting a $750 dollar bond.

37 year old Shawn Thomas Eckenwiler of Okeechobee was arrested by police for driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a one thousand dollar bond.

62 year old Corveda Smith of Okeechobee was arrested on a local warrant for grand theft. She was released after posting a five thousand dollar bond.


News Cast 9/17

News Cast for September 17th:

An Okeechobee man facing first degree premeditated murder charges in the death of his wife last April is due back in court tomorrow. 34 year old Kevin Franklin Hughes will be facing a court judge tomorrow to answer for charges of premeditated murder one in the death of his wife, 40 year old Jennifer Minette Benson-Hughes, during the early morning hours of April 17th. Prosecutor Ashley Albright says the decision to charge Kevin Hughes with first degree murder was left to the grand jury. Kevin Hughes was arrested after sheriff’s deputies received a 911 call from him saying his wife tried to kill him and he thinks she’s dead. Jennifer Hughes’ body was found lying in the front yard of their home on the 33 thousand block of NW 192nd Avenue. Deputies arrested him after an investigation and originally charged him with second degree murder before the grand jury heard the evidence in the case last June and charged him with murder one. Kevin Hughes is expected to be in court sometime after nine o’clock in the morning. Albright says he is seeking the death penalty in this case. Kevin Hughes is pleading not guilty.

While the Guardian Program and funding for the School Resource Officer (SRO) program were major topics of discussion at last week’s Okeechobee County School Board meeting, the meeting was also a time to recognize three school faculty members who are retiring this month. Renee Geeting, the now former Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services, is retiring after 33 years in education, the last 15 spent here in the Okeechobee County School system. Geeting had been the Okeechobee County Assistant Superintendent of Schools for the past three years and before that she served time as an assistant principal and a principal and then the Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Services in the county. Geeting, who says she’ll miss the students and people she worked with over the years, says her greatest memories are setting up the curriculum for the instructional services and addressing the safety concerns for the county schools, well before the incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Prior to working in Okeechobee County, Geeting worked for 18 years in the Martin County School system as a teacher in the elementary, middle and high school levels. She intends to spend more time on her land tending to her animals and visiting with family. Geeting’s successor is Dylan Tedders, former principal of Okeechobee High School (OHS). Other retirees recognized at the meeting were Jason Egli, Language Arts Teacher at OHS and Connie Sherill, Physical Education and Drop Out Prevention teacher at OHS.

A traffic stop turned into an arrest on a host of charges for an Okeechobee woman Thursday morning. Sheriff’s deputies followed a blue colored Saturn Sky sports car, driven by 45 year old Diana Cruz Cruz Casiano, down Highway 441 because she was not wearing a seatbelt. She pulled into a covered parking area at the Cottages at the Lake condos as deputies arrived. Deputies, aware that Casiano’s driver’s license was suspended, put her in handcuffs and also noticed a Ziploc bag on her and it was found to be methamphetamine. Deputies say the car was reported stolen the day before by the rightful owner who woke up and found it was gone. Casiano was arrested and charged with grand theft auto, driving on a suspended license, methamphetamine possession and tampering with evidence. She was booked into county jail and her bond is set at just over ten thousand dollars. She was also found to be in contempt of court for not showing up to her court appearance.

Two men, one of them from Palm Bay, are dead following a vehicle accident early Friday morning in the Palm Beach County area. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 21 year old Kynlan W. Smith of Plantation was driving a Honda Accord south on the Florida Turnpike approaching the exit for Okeechobee Boulevard in Palm Beach a little after 3:30 when for unknown reasons, he went off the road and onto the shoulder and traveled up an embankment before striking an overpass beam of the exit ramp.  The impact caused the vehicle to go down the embankment and strike the concrete support beam for the overpass again.  Smith and his passenger, 22 year old Darrian L. Abney of Palm Bay, were pronounced dead at the scene by medics. The accident is under investigation.

On the arrest report:

29 year old Trinity Alan Casselton of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for trespassing. His bond is set at $250 dollars.

55 year old Mark Allen Lee of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. His bond is set at one thousand dollars.

26 year old Bradley James Chisum of Okeechobee was arrested for animal cruelty. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

18 year old Isaiah Lee, an inmate at the juvenile correction facility, was arrested for battery on a fellow inmate. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

30 year old Timmy Joe Lee of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of possession of methamphetamine, controlled substances without a prescription, obstructing an investigation and grand theft. He’s being held without bond.

50 year old Robert Ivan Starnes of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

32 year old Michael Bruce Morris of Okeechobee was arrested for loitering and prowling in people’s backyards. His bond is set at $15 hundred dollars.

55 year old Michael Lee Crawford of Okeechobee was arrested for battery on his wife during a domestic dispute. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

43 year old Brian Steven Benefield of Okeechobee was arrested by police for shoplifting at Wal-Mart. His bond is set at $35 hundred dollars.

26 year old Patrick Neal Naugle of Okeechobee was arrested on a local warrant for violating probation on past charges of methamphetamine, cannabis and hydromorphone possession. He’s being held without bond.

37 year old Nicholas T. Love of Clewiston was arrested on a warrant from Lake County on for failing to pay child support. His bond is set at just under seven hundred dollars.


News Cast 9/16

News Cast for September 16th:

Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) and Okeechobee County Emergency crews had their hands full this past Friday afternoon with a vehicle accident. FHP investigators say a man driving a Toyota sedan was pulling out into the road from Route 15A onto Highway 710 a little after two o’clock but didn’t yield the right of way to an oncoming tractor trailer truck, causing a collision in the center of 710. The truck driver was not injured but the driver of the Toyota sedan sustained minor injuries and had to be taken to Raulerson Hospital in Okeechobee for treatment. The accident didn’t shut down the road, but sheriff’s deputies and FHP officers were directing traffic in the area for a little over an hour. Names of the people involved in the accident have not been released at this time.

Just as the Okeechobee City Council had their first public hearing on their $7.6 million dollar budget last Tuesday night, county commissioners followed suit by having their first public hearing on their $93 million dollar plus budget this past Thursday night. Just like the city council had no one from the community speak on the budget during their hearing, no one showed up, much less spoke at the public hearing on the county budget. Commissioner Bryant Culpepper says this is not surprising because if you look at other communities’ budgets and compare it to Okeechobee’s, our increases were minute. That’s because, according to Culpepper, people who do pay attention to those statistics expect a certain level of services. A piece of good news that came from this year’s budget is the county has recouped just over $1.5 million dollars from FEMA for the $4 million dollars in damages incurred from Hurricane Irma , which will go into the Landfill Trust Fund. The second and final public hearing is scheduled for September 19th at five o’clock in the Historic County Courthouse.

It’s not often a business that’s been around for nine years would get a ribbon cutting ceremony but this past Tuesday that’s exactly what happened in Okeechobee County. People gathered at the Elite Office Services LLC, a bookkeeping and payroll company, at the 12 hundred block of SW 2nd Avenue to celebrate the business’s nine year anniversary. Dina Hampton, the owner of Elite Office Services, says “it’s been great” to receive this recognition for her business, which she says she has moved six times over these years because of “growing pains” and she now operates her business behind the Dairy Queen. Hampton, an Okeechobee native, says it’s the fact she loves what she does that has kept her from giving up on her business despite the constant moving over the years. The ribbon cutting ceremony was set up by the Chamber of Commerce, which Hampton says has been a big help to her and her business. You can check out her business at www.eliteofficeservicesllc.com.

A Clewiston man is being treated for serious injuries following a vehicle accident earlier this month in Hendry County that left a Bradenton woman dead. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 32 year old Larry Gerome Willis was driving a Dodge Caravan east on Route 80 just west of County Road 833 in Clewiston on the afternoon of September 7th when he was negotiating a curve in the road at the same time an oncoming Kia Rio, driven by 26 year old Francesca Antoine, was approaching the curve. Willis was attempting to pass slower moving traffic in a no passing zone. As both vehicles swerved to avoid a collision, the front of Willis’ vehicle hit the side of Antoine’s vehicle. The impact sent Willis’ car rotating counterclockwise and came to a stop on the westbound lane of Route 80 while Antoine’s vehicle went over an embankment and came to a stop off the road. Antoine was pronounced dead at the scene by medics. Willis was taken to Lee Memorial Hospital for treatment. The accident is being investigated.

An Immokalee man will be spending the rest of his life behind bars following a trial and sentencing in connection with child molestation charges late last month. A Lee County court judge sentenced 59 year old Manuel Sanchez to life in prison on August 30th after he was found guilty by a jury on charges of lewd and lascivious conduct and lewd and lascivious molestation of a child from the Cape Coral area. Sanchez’s trial took only a day to complete and immediately after the verdict was read, the judge sentenced Sanchez, who received a life sentence for the molestation charge and another 15 years in prison for the lewd and lascivious conduct charge. Court documents say Sanchez molested an underage girl over a two year period. The girl told someone about it, who then forwarded the information to the police. After an investigation was conducted, Sanchez was arrested and charged. The girl testified at the trial against her abuser.

On the arrest report:

28 year old Weston Lee Eisenbrey of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on a warrant from St. Lucie County for violating probation on past drunk driving and causing damage charges. His bond is set at $25 thousand dollars.

27 year old Kenneth Andrew Crawford of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past drug possession charges. He’s being held without bond.

29 year old Charity Hope Price of Okeechobee was arrested for robbery with a weapon. Her bond is set at $25 thousand dollars.

35 year old Malinda Elizabeth Yates of Okeechobee was arrested for methamphetamine possession, tampering with evidence and resisting arrest after a traffic stop. Her bond is set at nine thousand dollars.


News Cast 9/13

News Cast for September 13th:

The issue of funding school resource officers (SRO) for the next few years was a topic of discussion at Tuesday night’s Okeechobee County School Board meeting. The topic came up by way of the possibility of introducing a referendum to fund the SRO program but because of what school board members say is a constant back and forth between county commissioners and school board members with letters and calls, no referendum was approved. School board member Joe Arnold says possible sources of future SRO funding should’ve been discussed at the workshop held last June between county commissioners, school board members and law enforcement, but he says everyone was “silenced” and that the county commissioners say they would fund it but no sources of future funding were discussed. Arnold says because of this, it has led to bickering between both county commissioners and the school board and it’s led to miscommunication as well. Arnold says there needs to be a time when the county commissioners and the school board can meet and discuss all the possible sources of SRO funding as far as who’s willing to fund at what level and what is expected.

For the first time this month, there will be mosquito control spraying in Okeechobee County tonight. Okeechobee County Emergency Management officials say there will be mosquito control efforts in the north central part of the county tonight, weather permitting. Emergency Management Director Mitch Smeykal says there will be spraying of adulticide, an insecticide designed to attack adult mosquitos and control their breeding. Smeykal says adulticide is approved and regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) but it’s probably best to stay indoors while the spraying is going on. If you do go outside, wear long sleeves, use a mosquito repellent with the DEET chemical in it and make sure your pets are prepared. If the weather is unacceptable, the spraying will be done during the early morning hours tomorrow. If you see your area with an excessive number of mosquitoes, please call 1-800-203-6485. Any further questions can be forwarded to the Emergency Management Center at (863) 763-3212.

Okeechobee County Sheriff’s deputies have a local man in county jail on charges of assault and battery in connection with an incident early Tuesday morning. Deputies were called to an unknown location in the county after receiving reports that 47 year old Robert Lee Bell had assaulted the boyfriend of his niece. Deputies say the man had come to Bell asking him for a ride to his probation officer and Bell charged at him and fired a pellet from a BB gun at the man’s neck. Deputies say Bell, who is diagnosed as schizophrenic, did not take his medication that day. After Bell shot the man with the BB gun pellet, his niece called 911. Law enforcement arrived and arrested Bell. He was charged with aggravated assault and battery with a deadly weapon. His bond is set at $200 thousand dollars. The victim was treated for his injuries at Raulerson Hospital.

An Okeechobee man is in county jail at this time on charges of animal cruelty in connection with an incident on Wednesday. Sheriff’s deputies arrested 26 year old Bradley James Chism after deputies received reports about a possible animal abuse. Deputies say they arrived at Chism’s residence and found a young dog chained out in the yard and the dog was looking very skinny. There was no food or water for the dog and he looked very emaciated. The dog was taken to Okeechobee County Animal Control officials and seen by the veterinarian for evaluation and treatment. Deputies say the dog was dehydrated and emaciated and has heartworm. The two year old dog, whose name is Frog, weighed only 33 pounds. He remains in the care of Animal Control. Chism’s bond is set at five hundred dollars.

On the arrest report:

64 year old Van Robert Miller of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for drunk driving after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

36 year old John William Mendel of Okeechobee was arrested by police for trespassing. His bond has not been set.

55 year old Robert Earl Coney of Pahokee was arrested for failing to appear in court and contempt of court in connection with previous charges of driving on a suspended license. He’s being held without bond.

38 year old Shannon Ray Teele of Montura was arrested for driving a motorcycle without a valid license, having no endorsement and fleeing and eluding law officers during an attempted traffic stop and subsequent pursuit. His bond is set at $12 thousand dollars.


News Cast 9/12

News Cast for September 12th:

This evening will be that time of year when the general public can voice their opinion on the proposed budget for Okeechobee County for the next fiscal year. County commissioners will meet to hold a public hearing and hear the thoughts of the community on this year’s budget, which is projected to be just under $100 million dollars. $19 million dollars of that will be for the sheriff’s department. The public hearing will be held this evening at five o’clock in the Historic County Courthouse.

Speaking of budget public hearings, the Okeechobee City Council held their first of two public hearings on their budget this past Tuesday night. The city’s budget for the next fiscal year stands at just under $7.6 million dollars, more than a million from last year and the millage rate at just over 7.6 mills. No one from the public voiced their opinions on the budget and that didn’t surprise City Administrator Marcos Montes De Oca, who says after fairly lengthy workshops last month, the millage rate is at its lowest in about 30 years and the budget illustrates the idea that the city is turning a corner with regard to economic development. De Oca says if the city keeps progressing economically, the budget could be even better in the coming years. De Oca cited Finance Director India Riedel and other city department heads for helping to shape the budget. The next public hearing on the city budget will take place on September 24th in City Hall at five o’clock.

It’s official. Classroom teachers in Okeechobee County schools will be permitted to carry firearms to protect students in the event of an emergency. At their meeting Tuesday night, board members approved the motion to arm classroom teachers as part of the Guardian Program, which will serve as a backup to School Resource Officers (SRO) to protect students and faculty during an emergency situation similar to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland nearly two years ago. School Superintendent Ken Kenworthy is excited that the Guardian Program will now be open to teachers and there are already teachers that have volunteered to be trained for it. Okeechobee resident Adam Cohen, who spoke at the meeting on Tuesday and at last month’s meeting on this matter, says it’s great that teachers can now get involved in maintaining the security of school students. Cohen, who moved his family from Parkland a year and a half ago, experienced the Parkland shootings through his daughter who was a student at the middle school on that fateful day and he says since that time, school officials there have not taken much action at all. This issue was advertised for the public’s knowledge at last month’s meeting.

A Lake Placid woman is dead and another Lake Placid woman is in serious condition following a vehicle accident last Wednesday afternoon in Highlands County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 47 year old Frances M. Honaker was driving a Chevy HHR station wagon south on the inside lane of Route 27 approaching Lake Henry Drive in Lake Placid a little after one o’clock. For unknown reasons, Honaker failed to maintain control of the vehicle, causing her to go off the road and rotate counterclockwise before re-entering the road on the northbound side, causing a head on collision with an oncoming vehicle, driven by 71 year old Kathy Jean Hofmeyer. Honaker was pronounced dead at the scene by medics and Hofmeyer was taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center for treatment. The accident is being investigated.

On the arrest report:

28 year old Riley Michelle Tanner of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for battery on her mother during a domestic dispute. Her bond is set at five hundred dollars.

31 year old Josue Martinez Garcia of Okeechobee was arrested for driving without a valid license after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

28 year old Weston Lee Eisenbrey of Okeechobee was arrested on a warrant from St. Lucie County for violating probation on past drunk driving and causing damage charges. His bond is set at $25 thousand dollars.

27 year old Kenneth Andrew Crawford of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past drug possession charges. He’s being held without bond.

29 year old Charity Hope Price of Okeechobee was arrested for robbery with a weapon. Her bond is set at $25 thousand dollars.

35 year old Malinda Elizabeth Yates of Okeechobee was arrested for methamphetamine possession, tampering with evidence and resisting arrest after a traffic stop. Her bond is set at nine thousand dollars.

64 year old Van Robert Miller of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving following a traffic stop and field sobriety test. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

36 year old John William Mendel of Okeechobee was arrested by police for trespassing. His bond has not been set.

37 year old Christopher Joseph Gordon of Lake Butler was arrested for contempt of court during his hearing on past charges of driving without a valid license. He’s being held without bond.

 


News Cast 9/11

News Cast for September 11th:

Tomorrow evening, it will be that time of the year, the time when the general public can voice their opinion on the proposed budget for Okeechobee County’s next fiscal year. County commissioners will meet to hold a public hearing and hear the thoughts of the community on the budget, which is projected to be just under $100 million dollars, with just over $19 million dollars of that for the sheriff’s department. The public hearing will be held tomorrow evening at five o’clock in the Historic County Courthouse.

Speaking of budgets, a public hearing was held last night during the first Okeechobee County School Board meeting of the new school year, but no one from the public expressed any thoughts or concerns about the school district’s near $78 million dollar budget for the next fiscal year. School Superintendent Ken Kenworthy says this didn’t surprise him at all because the bulk of the budget is set for the county for the most part by the state legislature and Department of Education. Kenworthy says it’s important to note that the budget is over five and a half million dollars more for this fiscal year than last year’s and he says that’s due to “rollover funds” and not new funds. Kenworthy also reports the school’s general fund is also up to $58 million dollars because the base student allocation is up $75 dollars per student and that’s due to a projected increase of the number of students in the district this year. Overall, Kenworthy says he’s pleased with how the budget has turned out.

Last week, it was Guatemala-based Bautech USA, Inc. making a deal with the county to move their business to Industrial Park in Okeechobee, last night another new business will be making its way here following the city council meeting last night. Councilmembers unanimously approved the sale of a vacant lot at Commerce Center Park to a Texas-based business owner, who will use the property to build a business that will deal in picking up health care waste at local doctors’ and dentists’ offices and disposing of it. Megan Smith, President of the Okeechobee County Economic Development Corporation says this business owner, whose name cannot be revealed at this time due to a non-disclosure agreement with the corporation, came to them and chose Okeechobee for his business because of Okeechobee’s centralized location, the attractiveness of the park itself and the fact that it’s also ready made for his business. Smith says this is a big victory for Okeechobee County. The facility will be a 35 hundred square foot building and the business will mean at least twenty new jobs, all paying at least twenty dollars an hour. It should be ready by the start of 2020. Smith cited City Administrator Marcos Montes De Oca and officials from Florida Power and Light (FPL) in helping to make this possible.

A vehicle accident resulted in the arrest of an Okeechobee man Sunday evening. Sheriff’s deputies were called to the 14 thousand block of Highway 441 North shortly after 7:45 after receiving reports from a woman there that someone driving a Ford pickup truck backed into her car and the driver, identified as 39 year old Miguel Angel Lopez, tried to flee the scene but he could not because the bumpers of both vehicles were lodged together. Deputies say Lopez then got out of his truck and started walking away. Lopez was eventually found walking near the intersection of 441 North and NE 144th Street. Lopez was arrested and charged with driving without a valid license, leaving the scene of an accident and obstruction without violence. He was booked into a county jail and his bond is set at $15 hundred dollars.

On the arrest report:

22 year old Daniel Gonzalez of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for trespassing and disorderly conduct. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.

21 year old Candelario Vega of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. His bond is set at $250 dollars.

37 year old Nina Lynn Cyr of Okeechobee was arrested for grand theft auto. Her bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

24 year old Eric Anselmo of Okeechobee was arrested for introducing cocaine into a detention facility. His bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

31 year old Marshall Shane Abney of Okeechobee was arrested for disorderly intoxication and disturbing the peace in a public place and resisting arrest. He was released after posting a one thousand dollar bond.

52 year old Rupert Andy Goolsby of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. He was released after posting a $750 dollar bond.

31 year old Ronald Wade Palmer of Okeechobee was arrested by police on a local warrant for petit theft and driving without a valid license and possession of methamphetamine after a traffic stop. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.

39 year old Alexei Leonardo McCall of Port St. Lucie was arrested on a warrant from St. Lucie County for failing to register as a sex offender with the sheriff’s office. He’s being held without bond.


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