Local News

News Cast 10/12

News Cast for October 12th:

An Okeechobee man will be going to prison for a long time after a sentencing hearing in county court yesterday. 52 year old David Anthony Schwendenmann was sentenced to 25 years in prison for second degree murder of his wife, attempted manslaughter of a law officer, aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, robbery and fleeing a law officer. All of these charges are the result of an incident which took place on July 29th, 2016, resulting in Schwendenmann shooting and killing his then 31 year old wife Angela with a single shot from a 12 gauge shotgun. Schwendenmann was originally charged with first degree premeditated murder but at his trial last August, the jury could not come to a decision on that. Prosecutor Don Richardson says the first degree premeditated murder charge was changed to second degree in yesterday’s sentencing and it came as part of a deal with Schwendenmann. Schwendenmann must serve all 25 years of his sentence before he’s eligible for parole and based on his health, Richardson says it is doubtful Schwendenmann will be alive by the time he’s eligible for parole.

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This month is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Okeechobee County Commissioners made it official at their meeting yesterday. Commissioners approved a proclamation making October Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Okeechobee. Executive Director of Martha’s House Jonathan Bean was on hand to accept the proclamation and he says he’s proud that the commissioners made this proclamation official because of how domestic violence is a big issue not just locally but nationally. Bean says Martha’s House has been helping domestic violence victims since 1985 and in that time, there is a lot more awareness and understanding of domestic violence but it’s gotten to be a more complicated issue. Bean says domestic violence is a leading cause of women ages 18 through 44 being treated in the emergency room. Martha’s House has treated six hundred people, 450 of them women and families in the last twelve months.

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With the high population of aging war veterans in Okeechobee County, some of them needing transportation to get to and from the hospital to receive needed surgeries and other medical care because of their limited mobility, Okeechobee County Commissioner Bryant Culpepper has come up with a solution to help this situation which he brought to the attention of his fellow commissioners at yesterday’s meeting. Thanks to Debbie Clements from the 4-H Club, the county now has a 14 passenger van that Culpepper wants to surplus to the Warriors Club to assist in transporting veterans to the hospital to receive the care they need. Culpepper says this is a very personal issue with him. Culpepper says once the county surpluses the van to the Warrior Center, they can coordinate drivers for it. The issue will be brought back before the board as a formal item at a later meeting.

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Okeechobee County Sheriff’s deputies have a local man in county jail on battery charges following a domestic dispute Wednesday night. Deputies responded to a welfare check on the four thousand block of SE 24th Street just before eight o’clock and were told by a witness that 36 year old Shawn Thomas Eckenwiler reportedly punched his grandfather in the face following an argument. Deputies say Eckenwiler’s grandfather had an eye swollen when they arrived and Eckenwiler was passed out on the couch. Eckenwiler was arrested and charged with battery and his bond has not been set at this time.

An Okeechobee woman is in county jail at this time for drug possession after a traffic stop Wednesday morning. Sheriff’s deputies stopped 31 year old Ashley Nicole Nelson as she was riding her bicycle on the twenty-seven hundred block of SE Highway 441 just before 11:30 because she was riding her bike in and out of the traffic lanes and had to stop her bike with her feet because she had no brakes. Deputies say Nelson had no identification on her and she kept looking away when speaking to deputies and kept putting her hands in her pockets. A search of Nelson turned up a pipe and she pulled a pill out of her pocket and attempted to step on it. It was determined to be hydrocodone. Nelson was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance without a prescription. Her bond is set at five thousand dollars.

On the arrest report:

32 year old Ashley Nicole Rahm of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on a warrant from Putnam County, Georgia for burglary. She’s being held without bond.

27 year old Rachael Nicole Hennon of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation for previous drug offenses. She’s being held without bond.

20 year old Devin Scott Styles of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia after a traffic stop. He was released after posting bond.

34 year old Karla Jean Mosakowski of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges involving alcohol and not paying fines. She was released after posting a $25 hundred dollar bond.

38 year old Kellie Estelle Chapman of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of drug possession. She was released after posting a $25 hundred dollar bond.


News Cast 10/11

News Cast for October 11th:

Okeechobee County Commissioners meet today and they will look to approve proclamations for this month for Breast Cancer Awareness and Domestic Violence Awareness. They will also look at approving a grant agreement between Okeechobee County and the Okeechobee County Economic Development Corporation. The meeting begins at nine o’clock in the Historic County Courthouse. It will be streamed live on the County Commissioners’ website.

The Okeechobee County School Board on Tuesday night paid a special recognition to certain businesses and people responsible for bringing in a special exhibit called “Let Me Be Myself: The Life Story of Anne Frank.” This exhibit, which is now in the Okeechobee High School, coincides with the play “The Diary of Anne Frank” being performed there this week. Okeechobee High School drama teacher Debbie Raulerson says while doing research for the play she came across this traveling exhibit and through sponsorship with Green Design, and Helping People Succeed, she was able to get the exhibit brought to Okeechobee County area schools. Raulerson says the exhibit has made a very large, lasting impression. Raulerson says she chose “The Diary of Anne Frank” to be performed because it teaches empathy. The exhibit will be open to the public tonight, tomorrow night and Saturday night starting at six o’clock before the play “The Diary of Anne Frank” begins each night. Tickets are five dollars apiece.

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This last school board meeting on Tuesday night also marked the last school board meeting for one of its members. Dixie Ball served her last night on the board after four years and she was recognized for her service. Ball says she’ll miss the friends she made on the board as well as her ability to contribute to education. Ball’s educational career spanned nearly thirty years, over twenty of those years here in Okeechobee County. Ball believes her educational experience was her best attribute as a board member. Okeechobee County Exceptional Student Education paraprofessional Melisa Jahner, who defeated Ball in the primary election last August, will succeed Ball at the next school board meeting on November 20th. Ball will now devote more time to her embroidery business in Fort Pierce.

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An Okeechobee man is in county jail on a host of charges following a traffic stop with police Saturday night. Police were attempting to stop a Hyundai sedan, driven by 31 year old Joe Anthony Jenkins, after he failed to yield the right of way to an officer while turning onto Route 70 East. Police finally stopped Jenkins’ car in the parking lot of Zaxby’s. As officers returned to their vehicles to run Jenkins’ name through dispatch, he attempted to flee the scene on foot, running across the parking lot. Officers used shots from a taser to finally stop Jenkins and he was arrested and charged with fleeing the scene and resisting arrest. His bond is set at six thousand dollars.

A traffic stop turned into a drug related arrest for an Okeechobee woman late Monday night. Sheriff’s deputies stopped a Ford pickup truck on the eight hundred block of Highway 441 just before midnight because the driver was speeding. Deputies say after the driver provided his license and registration and when asked if his vehicle can be searched he declined, prompting deputies to search the truck with a K-9 unit. Both the driver and his passenger, 28 year old Amber Nichole Busby, were asked to get out of the truck. The search turned up a backpack, which belonged to Busby, in the passenger floorboard and inside of it there were syringes with methamphetamine in both of them. Busby was arrested and charged with possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. She was released from county jail after posting a $55 hundred dollar bond. The driver was not charged.

On the arrest report:

42 year old Steven Lee Batton of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on a warrant from Polk County on cash purging charges. His bond is set at $19 thousand dollars.

39 year old Robert Davis Rawls of Okeechobee was arrested for petit theft. His bond is set at two thousand dollars.

59 year old Robert Lee Harris of Okeechobee was arrested by police for driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.

64 year old Lerisson Remy of Fort Pierce was arrested for failing to appear in court on charges of harvesting an endangered plant without permission. He was released after posting a thousand dollar bond.


News Cast 10/10

News Cast for October 10th:

Hurricane Michael is expected to hit the Florida panhandle sometime today, possibly this morning. While Okeechobee and surrounding counties are not in danger of being hit directly from this storm, Emergency Management Director Mitch Smeykal says Okeechobee will be impacted somewhat by this storm as we can expect two to three inches of rain and some gusty winds. Smeykal says people should make a few preparations at this time. Hurricane Michael is expected to be no less than a Category 3 storm and Governor Rick Scott has declared pre-landfall emergencies for at least 25 Florida counties in preparation for the storm, which is expected to travel east across the southeastern US after it hits the panhandle. For updated information please visit the Okeechobee Emergency Management website or Facebook page.

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http://www.co.okeechobee.fl.us/departments/emergency-management

https://www.facebook.com/okeechobee.emergencymanagement/

Today is October 10th and it’s a good day to wear green. Why you ask? It’s a good day to wear green because today is World Mental Health Day. People are being asked to wear green to show support for mental health as part of a local and national awareness campaign. Jane Kaufman, family coordinator for the Okeechobee Children’s Mental Health System of Care says there are three hundred million people suffering or dealing with depression and even more than that are suffering from mental illness. Kaufman says despite these statistics, mental illness is still, to this day, a taboo subject to discuss. Kaufman says you can tag a photo of you or a group wearing green on social media using #OKEESOC, #NOTALONE or #WORLDMENTALHEALTHDAY and you can share your story.

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Okeechobee County Schools now have a medical marijuana policy in place. School board members approved the policy, which was introduced during their meeting last month and it was advertised for the public for the last thirty days as dictated by school board policy. Superintendent Ken Kenworthy says the state legislature required school districts to develop a policy to allow for medical marijuana to be distributed for students who have a doctor’s prescription for it. Kenworthy says there was the possibility that adopting this policy would open the door for the federal government to put school funding in jeopardy because of allowing for medical marijuana to be distributed but he says he doesn’t believe that will happen. The policy for administering medical marijuana says only a licensed caregiver can administer it to a student and that caregiver must remove the marijuana from campus after administering it.

Kenworthy-Medical Marijuana Policy Passed

An Okeechobee man is in county jail at this time on several charges following an incident at Wal-Mart early Monday morning. Police responded to Wal-Mart on Parrott Avenue just before 3:30 and found a man, identified as 28 year old Jessie James Wright, was running through the store yelling at customers and knocking items off the shelves. Wright left the store and sat down on the curb of the parking lot as ordered by police and as he was being searched, he became combative, forcing officers to use a taser on him twice before he was taken into custody. He was arrested and charged with resisting arrest with violence and disorderly conduct. His bond is set at ten thousand dollars.

A traffic stop of a local man on a bike turned into a drug arrest and incarceration Monday night. Okeechobee County Sheriff’s narcotics officers stopped a black bicycle, ridden by 18 year old Peyton Lee Hewitt, on the six hundred block of Highway 441 North as he was traveling southbound a little after seven o’clock. Deputies say Hewitt looked very nervous as he was being asked questions and was not making eye contact. A search of Hewitt’s backpack turned up a grinder used for measuring drugs and some vials containing some marijuana. Hewitt was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. His bond is set at $55 hundred dollars.

An Okeechobee man, already in trouble with the law for failing to appear in court, is in even more trouble following an incident Sunday morning. Sheriff’s deputies came to a home on the twenty-nine hundred block of NW 35th Avenue just before ten o’clock to serve an arrest warrant for 35 year old Jeremy Eugene Beecham for failing to appear in court for prior charges of resisting arrest. As deputies were taking Beecham to the patrol car, they discovered Adderall and Xanax pills in his pockets. Beecham received an added charge of possession of controlled substances. He was booked into county jail and his bond has not been set.

A Labelle man is recovering from serious injuries and is facing charges following a vehicle accident Saturday night in Hendry County. Florida Highway Patrol officers say 32 year old Ascencion Rodriguez was driving a Kia Optimus sedan north on Highway 29 when he rear-ended another vehicle in front him. The impact caused the second vehicle to drift onto the grass shoulder and hit a utility pole. Rodriguez’s car drifted into the opposite lane and hit an oncoming Ford Explorer head on. Deputies say Rodriguez had one infant passenger in the car who sustained a minor injury and an eleven month old baby who was a passenger in the second vehicle was ejected from the vehicle upon impact. That victim was taken to Tampa General Hospital for treatment. A passenger in the Ford Explorer, a minor was also injured in the accident. FHP officers say Rodriguez, who was taken to Lee Memorial Hospital for treatment of his injuries, was under the influence of alcohol at the time. The accident is under investigation.

On the arrest report:

51 year old Kendra Marie Cutcher of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for felony retail theft and resisting arrest with violence. She was released after posting a five thousand dollar bond.

29 year old Cody Marshall Maupin of Okeechobee was arrested on two warrants from Monroe County for domestic battery. His bond is set at $50 thousand dollars.

27 year old River Robert Maupin of Okeechobee was arrested on a warrant from Martin County for marijuana possession. He’s being held without bond.

57 year old Michael Allen Anderson of Okeechobee was arrested by police for trespassing. His bond is set at $750 dollars.

40 year old Derrick Scott Hughes of Clewiston was arrested for violating probation on past cocaine possession charges. He’s being held without bond.


News Cast 10/9

News Cast for October 9th:

The second political forum in Okeechobee County took place last night at the Osceola Middle School gymnasium and the race between William Wallace and Deborah Hooker for Okeechobee County Court Judge took on a rather contentious tone which got the crowd excited. Hooker has accused Wallace of obtaining and using a memo in his campaign that contained misinformation and falsehoods regarding Hooker’s decision to resign as a magistrate in 2011. Hooker said the reason for her departure was for a serious family emergency and the memo, written by a court administrator, which contained the falsehoods, misinformation and omissions, was withdrawn by a chief justice and Hooker was vindicated. Hooker says it’s disappointing that the political process has made its way into Okeechobee and she’s sad that her opponent has used this “whisper campaign” to undermine her reputation.

Forum 1 – Deborah Hooker

Meanwhile, Wallace says he’s disappointed that he’s been accused of these tactics and he says it’s “clearly not the case.” Wallace continued by saying that he’ll focus on his experience in all sorts of courtrooms, his ethics and his ability to show he’s the better candidate to win this seat.

Forum 2 – Bill Wallace

The four candidates for Okeechobee City Council spoke to the crowd of residents and code enforcement and economic development were the primary issues discussed. First time candidate and retired business owner Bob Jarriel says while the city badly needs economic development, the city is not fully prepared for it right now because of what he says is the lack of housing in the community.

Forum 3 – Bob Jarriel

Another first time candidate, Robert Keefe, a lifelong Okeechobee resident and former US Marine, says economic development is also badly needed because without growth, you get stagnant and die. But besides economic growth, Keefe says if he’s elected he’d like to see an influx of support on quality of life in Okeechobee, specifically in the area of parks and recreation.

Forum 3 Bobby Keefe

Meanwhile, candidates who are currently serving on the council, incumbent Mayor Dowling Watford were asked about their greatest accomplishments and Watford says it shouldn’t be about individual achievements; it’s a team effort. The other incumbent, Councilmember Gary Ritter was not available for comment.

Forum 5 – Dowling Watford

Other candidates who spoke at the forum last night include Robert Keefe, Bob Jarriel, Mayor Dowling Watford and City Councilmember Gary Ritter, all running for Okeechobee City Council; Nirlaine Smartt who is running for Circuit Court Judge of the 19th Judicial Court; Cary Pigman and Audrey Asciutto for FL State Representative of District 55 and Ben Albritton for District 26 FL State Senator. Also, Martin County Clerk of the Circuit Court Carolyn Timmann, spoke on the twelve amendments that will be up for vote on the ballot November 6th.

Florida Highway Patrol officers are investigating a vehicle accident that killed an Okeechobee man Sunday night. FHP officers say 62 year old Howard Francis Cohen was walking east on the north shoulder of Highway 441 a little before 7:30 and was attempting to cross the road to enter a residential area when he walked right into the path of an oncoming Lincoln Continental sedan, driven by 56 year old Alonzo Desmond Aiken and struck Cohen while he was in the eastbound travel lane. Cohen was pronounced dead at the scene. Aiken, also of Okeechobee, and his passenger, a three year old girl, were not injured.

Okeechobee County firefighters had a vehicle fire to contend with Friday afternoon. Crews were called to the thirty-one hundred block of Highway 441 South just after 3:15 and found a four door passenger car that was almost completely covered in flames. Crews got the fire controlled in about forty minutes, while using about five hundred gallons of water and with no one getting hurt. Investigators say the driver of the car heard a loud, continuous noise coming from the transmission area and as the engine failed, that’s when the smoke and fire appeared. The fire destroyed nearly seventy-five percent of the vehicle and its contents to the tune of nearly three thousand dollars. The incident is still under investigation.

Okeechobee County Sheriff’s deputies have a local man in custody on a host of charges following a traffic stop early Saturday morning. Deputies stopped a Chevy Tahoe, driven by 34 year old Thomas Allan Malone, on the one thousand block of Highway 441 North just before 6:30 for reckless driving. Dispatch revealed that Malone was driving without a valid license after multiple suspensions and a warrant from St. Lucie County for driving without a license. A search of the vehicle turned up a small black bag with methamphetamine, a glass pipe and a digital scale in it. Malone was arrested and charged with driving without a license and possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. His bond is set at $91 thousand dollars.

For the first time since early last month, the Okeechobee County School Board will meet tonight. Board members will be voting on the policy regarding administering medical marijuana to students who require it and they will also hear from principals of county schools regarding school improvement plans. The meeting begins at six o’clock in the school board office.

On the arrest report:

31 year old Richarda Morris of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on a warrant from Hillsborough County for violating probation. She’s being held without bond.

59 year old David Larue Drawdy of Okeechobee was arrested for battery during a domestic dispute. He was released after posting a $25 hundred dollar bond.

28 year old Melissa Ann Carter of Okeechobee was arrested for battery during a domestic dispute with her mother. Her bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

32 year old Jason S. Dillon of Okeechobee was arrested for threatening or intimidating a woman. His bond is set at $515 thousand dollars.

59 year old Gail Comtois of Okeechobee was arrested for battery during a domestic dispute with her brother. She was released after posting a $25 hundred dollar bond.

28 year old Brittany Lynn Cady of Okeechobee was arrested for battery after a domestic dispute with her mother. She was released after posting a $25 hundred dollar bond.

31 year old Joe Anthony Jenkins of Okeechobee was arrested for failing to appear in court on past charges of driving without a valid license. He’s being held without bond.

32 year old Jessica Mae Eaton of Okeechobee was arrested by police on a warrant for drug possession. Her bond is set at five thousand dollars.

27 year old Harold Suarez Colon of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past drug possession charges. He was released after posting a three thousand dollar bond.


News Cast 10/5

News Cast for October 5th:

Okeechobee County firefighters had their hands full with a vehicle fire early yesterday morning. Crews were called to the thirty-five hundred block of Highway 441 North a little after 4:45 and found a 2003 Chevy Suburban SUV completely engulfed in heavy flames coming from the engine and passenger compartment. Firefighters needed about fifteen minutes to get the fire controlled while using about five hundred to seven hundred gallons of water and a gallon of foam to put it out. Investigators say the fire also caused another vehicle about ten feet away to catch fire but it didn’t cause any damage. However, the Chevy Suburban SUV wasn’t as lucky; it was damaged to the tune of six thousand dollars. No one was hurt. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

It looks like the Okeechobee County law firm of Cassels and McCall will be representing the county for another year. At their last meeting, Okeechobee County Commissioners unanimously approved the renewal of the contract with attorneys John Cassels and Laura McCall to represent the county and commissioners on all legal matters, contracts, etc. Cassels says the renewal of his firm’s contract by the commissioners gives him mixed emotions; one the one hand it allows him and his partner’s firm to give back to the community but on the other hand, the workload gets larger and more difficult. Cassels’ and McCall’s firm has represented the county and commissioners since 1990 and in that time, according to Commissioner Bryant Culpepper, Cassels has acquired a wealth of knowledge and experience of this community, and it’s quite invaluable. The contract renewal for Cassels’ and McCall’s services will begin on October 25th for the sum of just over $133 thousand dollars.

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A traffic stop turned into a drug arrest for an Okeechobee man Wednesday night. Sheriff’s deputies stopped a Pontiac four-door sedan on the six hundred block of NW 11th Avenue just after 11:15 for a moving violation. Deputies say they asked the driver and his passenger, 54 year old Don Lawton Morgan Junior to step out of the car to allow a K-9 to search the vehicle because of the suspicious route the driver took before stopping. The vehicle search turned up a clear bag of methamphetamine in the passenger seat. A search of Lawton himself also turned up several small bags of meth. Morgan was arrested and booked into county jail for methamphetamine possession. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

On the arrest report:

26 year old Eugenio Aponte of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for violating probation for previous drug offenses. He was released after posting a $25 hundred dollar bond.

26 year old Marshal Tucker Perry of Okeechobee was arrested for marijuana possession after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

28 year old Dustin Allen Lee Lundy of Okeechobee was arrested for failing to leave private property after being asked to leave. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.


News Cast 10/4

News Cast for October 4th:

Okeechobee County firefighters had a couple of fires to contend with Tuesday night and both happened on exactly the same location at different times. Crews were called to the 19 thousand block of Highway 98 North just after five o’clock and found a pickup truck on fire with bales of burning hay in the trailer it was pulling. Crews needed about fifteen minutes and four thousand gallons of water to get the blazes to both the truck and hay-filled trailer controlled with no one getting hurt. Total loss is estimated at about $45 hundred dollars. Firefighters were called back there about six hours later to extinguish some of the reignited hay that fell off the truck. Crews got it controlled almost immediately with about a thousand gallons of water and foam, once again with no injuries. Cause of the truck fire is being investigated.

Okeechobee City Police Chief Bob Peterson gave a presentation to city councilmembers at Tuesday night’s meeting regarding the traffic problems, specifically speeding on the residential roads in the city. Peterson suggested the idea of purchasing Speed Awareness Monitor (SAM) trailers to be put on certain roads in the city for a week at a time. Peterson says these mobile speed trailers not only display the speed a motorist is traveling, but records the data and sends it back to the police station, allowing Peterson how and where to better deploy his department’s resources. Peterson says this will negate the need to hire more police officers to address the problem and not just because it’s more cost effective. Peterson suggested the council purchase two of these speed trailers which will cost about $25 thousand dollars total. If approved by the council at the next meeting, the speed trailers should be in place on city roads by mid-December.

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Okeechobee County Sheriff’s deputies have a local couple in county jail at this time on battery charges in connection with a domestic dispute Tuesday night. Deputies were called to the twenty-nine hundred block of SE 39th Avenue just before 8:30 and found 32 year old Benjamin Brito Villalobos with a laceration on his head. When questioned, he said his wife, 38 year old Jamie Brito, threw a crutch at him, hitting him in the head after he tried to grab a phone from her and accidentally poked her in the eye following an argument they were having. Deputies say the altercation took place in front of Villalobos’s son. Villalobos and Brito were arrested and booked into county jail. Their bonds have not been set.

On the arrest report:

35 year old Samantha Ann Thomas of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for battery, resisting arrest and failing to leave a property when ordered. Her bond has not been set.

28 year old Maria Maldonado and 33 year old Olga Maldonado, both of Okeechobee, were arrested for battery after a domestic dispute. Both were released after each posted $15 hundred dollar bonds.

19 year old Antonio Ortiz-Mejia of Okeechobee was arrested for battery after a domestic dispute. He was released after posting a $15 hundred dollar bond.


News Cast 10/3

News Cast for October 3rd:

If you’re looking to get to know your law enforcement heads in Okeechobee, this morning is the time to do it. Okeechobee County Sheriff Noel Stephen and City Police Chief Bob Peterson will be doing the annual “Coffee With A Cop”, a chance for residents to get to know Sheriff Stephen and Chief Peterson and ask them questions about anything that is on their minds or just to say hello and get to know each other in an informal way. Stephen says it’s a great way to break the perceived “barrier” between law enforcement and residents because it puts law enforcement in the residents’ environment. This is a nationwide event going on today.

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The Okeechobee City Code Enforcement Board will soon be coming to an end. At their meeting last night, City Councilmembers voted to implement a magistrate system to handle code enforcement issues on city properties, thus eliminating the need for the code enforcement board. Councilmembers voted to implement the magistrate system by a 3-2 vote. Code Enforcement Board member Michelle Sanders spoke at the meeting and she’s worried about a magistrate system as code enforcement issues will now be decided by one person and she says the reason it’s come to this is because in this day and age, everyone wants things done fast. Mayor Dowling Watford and Councilmember Noel Chandler voted no on implementing a magistrate. Chandler says he voted no because it really wouldn’t address the problem. The new magistrate will be implemented beginning February 1st of next year.

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An Okeechobee man is facing charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and carrying a concealed firearm in connection with an incident Sunday evening. Sheriff’s deputies were called to the sixty-six hundred block of NE 7th Street just after six o’clock, responding to reports that 32 year old David Carl Childers was brandishing a nine millimeter pistol and threatening his neighbors with it because of claims that their dog bit one of Childress’s daughters. Deputies say Childers was threatening to shoot the neighbors and their dog and he threatened them as his three daughters were present. Childers was arrested and booked into county jail. He was released after posting a ten thousand dollar bond.

Okeechobee County Sheriff’s deputies have a local woman in county jail on battery charges in connection with an incident early Sunday morning. Deputies responded to the six hundred block of NE 13th Avenue just after 6:15 after witnesses say 20 year old Tamira Ann Rosier pushed her mother down and punched her while she was down in the driveway. Deputies say Rosier, a known drug user, had been leaving her son unattended or leaving him with her mom to care for him while she disappeared for days at a time to do drugs. Rosier was arrested and booked into county jail shortly afterward. Her bond has not been set.

On the arrest report:

28 year old Charles William Hawk of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for driving on a suspended license with knowledge of it after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

22 year old Edgar Austin Ochoa of Okeechobee was arrested for robbery by snatching. He was released after posting a $25 hundred dollar bond.

22 year old Bruce Lee Snell Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for violating environmental rules and failing to appear in court on previous undisclosed charges. He’s being held without bond.

46 year old Vinson Edward Gonzalez of Okeechobee was arrested on several counts of grand theft and passing forged bills. He’s being held without bond.

18 year old Tyler Devon Lytle of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past burglary charges. He’s being held without bond.

31 year old Lackey Trent Barnett of Okeechobee was arrested by police for criminal mischief. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.


News Cast 10/2

News Cast for October 2nd:

Okeechobee City Councilmembers meet tonight and they will have their second and final public hearing regarding the need for a magistrate system to handle property code issues in the city, thus possibly eliminating the need for a code enforcement board. They will also be presenting Okeechobee Police Records Clerk Jeanna Kovak with a 15 year Longevity Service Award. The meeting will begin at 6pm tonight at City Hall.

Thanks to Okeechobee City Councilmembers, the city fire department has some brand new needed equipment. At their last meeting, City Councilmembers unanimously approved the purchase of some new protective gear for structure fires. Fire Captain Lalo Rodriguez says his crewmembers got two sets of bunker gear for those “hot zone” situations, two new sets of coats, pants, boots, helmets and masks. Rodriguez says one set will be the main gear while the other one will serve as a backup while the main gear is getting repaired or washed. The new gear, which cost just over $13 thousand three hundred dollars, was purchased from Pinellas Park-based Municipal Emergency Services. Rodriguez says the new gear should last about ten years.

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Okeechobee County Sheriff’s deputies have three locals, two men and one woman, in county jail on drug possession charges following an incident Sunday night. Deputies were called to the eight hundred block of NE 31st Terrace to check out a suspicious vehicle report. Witnesses say the vehicle had been circling the neighborhood for four hours. Deputies saw one person in the back seat with a syringe in his hand. Deputies say the driver, 29 year old Courtney Ellen Rediker, had an active warrant on her for failing to appear in court for driving on a suspended license. Rediker was ordered to empty her pockets and syringes full of methamphetamine were discovered. Rediker’s front seat passenger, 35 year old Joseph Paul Shane Moore, had two bags of marijuana in his lap and the back seat passenger, 36 year old Chad Ryan McWhorter, had syringes on him that were filled with methamphetamine. All three were arrested and booked into county jail. McWhorter’s bond is set at a thousand dollars, Moore’s bond is set at six thousand dollars and Rediker is being held without bond.

The Highlands County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a pair of armed robberies in the Avon Park area that may have been committed by the same suspect. Spokesperson Scott Dressel says the first robbery happened at the Citgo gas station on Route 27 South on May 13th of this year and the second one happened Sunday night at a Chevron Station on 27 North. Dressel says the suspect’s disguise and choice of weapon appear to be very similar based on video surveillance at both incidents. Dressel says in Sunday night’s robbery, the suspect accosted someone. Dressel says gas stations in that area are now under more intense surveillance by deputies. If you have any information on these robberies or the one responsible, please contact the Highlands County Sheriff’s office or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-TIPS.

Dressel-Gas Station Robberies 1

Dressel-Gas Station Robberies 2

An Okeechobee man is in county jail on battery charges following an incident Sunday night. Sheriff’s deputies say 38 year old Charmel Le Von Smith was walking down the twenty eight hundred block of NE 11th Court and accosted someone and claimed he was sleeping with his girlfriend. This prompted Smith’s girlfriend to come over and she and Smith got into an argument before Smith threw a beer at one of his girlfriend’s children and was threatening the kids with a stick. Smith punched a witness in the face and struck others with the stick he had in his hand before deputies arrived. Smith was arrested and charged with several counts of aggravated battery. His bond has not been set.

A vehicle accident this past Saturday morning could have been a complete disaster but thankfully it turned out to be considerably less than that. Okeechobee County emergency crews were called to the sixty-three hundred block of Highway 98 North just after ten o’clock for a report of a culvert that came off a truck and hit three other vehicles. Investigators say there were no injuries, damages or leakage of any flammable liquids. Crews were on scene for about ten minutes before declaring the area was clear. No traffic delays reported.

On the arrest report:

33 year old Evans Lewis Anthony of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for drunk driving after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a thousand dollar bond.

53 year old Debra Lee Casanova of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. She was released after posting a $250 dollar bond.

52 year old Brad Guyton Mims of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on previous charges of sexual misconduct. He’s being held without bond.

21 year old Clayton Barnes Arnold of Okeechobee was arrested for disorderly conduct. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

35 year old Jose Maria Leon Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for failing to re-deliver leased property to Rent-A-Center. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.


News Cast 10/1

News Cast for October 1st:

Okeechobee City Councilmembers meet tomorrow night and they will have their second and final public hearing regarding the need for a magistrate system to handle property code issues in the city, thus eliminating the need for a code enforcement board. They will also be presenting Police Records Clerk Jeanna Kovak with a 15 year Longevity Service Award. The meeting will begin at 6pm tomorrow night at City Hall.

Officials from the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department are reminding people about the importance of jury duty. It’s a civic duty which you’re obligated to participate in as a US Citizen and jurors owe it to their fellow residents and citizens to perform this service seriously or provide a good reason as to why you need to be excused from jury duty. Sheriff Noel Stephen says he was recently contacted by two circuit court judges regarding the lack of attendance by people who have been served to perform jury duty and some don’t even provide a valid excuse; they just simply didn’t show up. If you fail to show up for jury duty without a valid excuse, you run the risk of being arrested and having to appear before a judge in a mandatory  “order to show cause” hearing. Stephen says he’s gotten complaints of lack of juror participation at least three times in his tenure. Any questions regarding jury duty can be forwarded to the Clerk of Circuit Court.

Jury Duty 1

Jury Duty 2

Okeechobee County firefighters had a bit of an issue Friday morning with a gas leak. Crews were called to a home on the twenty nine hundred block of SE Highway 441 a little before nine o’clock and found the homeowners were outside complaining of a stench of propane gas in the house. Crews entered the home and found no fire or smoke but a very pronounced smell of propane gas in the house. Crews shut off the propane tank and called Florida Public Utilities to come down and check out the source of the leak. Crews were at the site for about ten minutes. No one was hurt and no damages.

While Hurricane Florence may be gone, the impact it left behind to millions in North Carolina remains. To that end, officials from the Highlands County Sheriff’s Department recently announced they are partnering with two organizations, Camp4Heroes and Paws and Warriors, to take part in “Operation Call to Action,” a supply connection to help those still suffering in the wake of Florence. Spokesperson Scott Dressel says the department is collecting non-perishable goods and a large load of supplies to send to North Carolina. Dressel says the Highlands County Sheriff’s Department is doing this to help those pass the time before FEMA and the Red Cross can come in. Any information about sending supplies to NC through “Operation Call to Action,” can be forwarded to the Highlands County Sheriff’s Department.

Dressel-Florence Victims 1

Dressel-Florence Victims 2

Okeechobee County Sheriff’s deputies have a Vero Beach man in county jail on a host of drug charges following a traffic stop Thursday night. Deputies stopped a Cadillac SUV, driven by 20 year old Marshall Kincaide Dreyer, on the sixty-two hundred block of Route 70 just after 9:15 for speeding. Deputies say as they were leaving the driver’s side door to issue a citation, they noticed Dreyer attempting to hide something in the side of the center console. A K-9 unit was brought in to search the vehicle and they found a Ziploc bag containing rolling papers, a glass pipe and some THC resin, better known as marijuana. A glass jar was found with more marijuana in it and another Ziploc bag containing cocaine. Dreyer was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana, cocaine and drug paraphernalia. His bond has not been set.

On the arrest report:

37 year old William Christopher Moore Junior of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for driving on a suspended license and having knowledge of it after a traffic stop. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

40 year old Shane Michael Sprague of Okeechobee was arrested on a fugitive warrant from Ohio for child neglect. He’s being held without bond.

23 year old Ethan Lane King of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of methamphetamine possession, grand theft auto, resisting arrest and tampering with an electronic device. He’s being held without bond.


News Cast 9/28

News Cast for September 28th:

Yesterday, Governor Rick Scott announced the re-appointment of three local women to the Children’s Services Council of Okeechobee County. Patricia McCoy, Assistant Superintendent with the Okeechobee County School Board, Wendy Coker, Director of Exceptional Student Education (ESE) with the school board and Heather Hancock, an employee relations officer at Center State Bank, were all re-appointed to the council, which provides services such as health needs, scholarships and funds to all children-oriented programs. Coker says she was “pretty excited” to be re-appointed to the council and says the best part of being on the council is scholarship students who keep in contact with the council. Coker says she chose to be a part of the council on the advice of her mentor and former supervisor at ESE, Kathleen Boyer, one of the founders of the Children’s Services Council. McCoy and Hancock were unavailable for comment at this time.

Coker 1

Coker 2

The Okeechobee County Education Foundation (OEF) held a luncheon Wednesday in appreciation of all those area groups and individuals who have donated scholarships and mini-grants for the betterment of education in the county. The OEF not only provides scholarships to students but it also recognizes excellence in teachers in the community. One teacher who spoke is Amie Eldred from Central Elementary, who received a five hundred dollar math and science grant from Glades Electric to purchase solar panels, wires, lights and buzzers to create kits and teach her students about electricity and using the sun to power the devices. Eldred says in her twelve years as a teacher, this is the first time she ever applied for, much less received, a teaching grant and she’s glad she did. Eldred says receiving the grant not only made her feel appreciated but it leaves a giant impact on students. Some groups that have donated mini-grants and scholarships to OEF include Okeechobee Cattleman’s Association, Inc. and Palmdale Oil Company.

Eldred 1

Eldred 2

The layout for the soon to be built new Okeechobee County Property Appraiser, Tax Collector and Driver’s License facility has been changed. At their meeting this past Tuesday, Okeechobee County Commissioners approved the new layout which will be rotated in such a way to provide additional parking for the building and overflow from the Judicial Center. The Board requested rotating the building 180 degrees positioning the building in and facing the northeast corner of the block.  In the first preliminary drawing, the building was positioned in the southwest corner of the block with the entrance facing southwest. Facility and Maintenance Director Donnie Oden says the newly tweaked layout of the building will allow for 91 parking spaces as opposed to 80 under the previous layout. Oden says construction won’t be for a while because they’re still in the design phase now. Lakeland based Straughn-Trout Architects was tapped last March to design the building.

Oden-PATCDL Plan

It was another day and another case of attempted fraud in Okeechobee County Wednesday afternoon. Sheriff’s deputies were called to the sixteen hundred block of SW 35th Street just after two o’clock after 75 year old Shirley Matson reported that she’d been receiving e-mails from a Judy Simpson, requesting Matson purchase two iTunes cards of a hundred dollars apiece and then take pictures of the numbers on the back of the cards and e-mail them back to Simpson. Deputies say Matson, who didn’t fall for the scam, say her church group has been receiving e-mails like this and she was afraid they would fall victim to this scam. Deputies say they could not verify where the e-mails came from and they told Matson to inform her church group about it. The e-mail address in question is revhousehold1991@yahoo.com. If you’ve gotten e-mails from this address, please contact the sheriff’s office.

On the arrest report:

39 year old Martha Marie Vandiver of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for disorderly conduct following an altercation with a friend she had been staying with the past few days. Her bond has not been set.


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