Local News

Okeechobee Man Sold Guns without a License

Okeechobee Man Sold Guns without a License

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. —A federal investigation is underway after officials said an Okeechobee man sold guns without a license, and some of the firearms ended up in the hands of criminals.

Barry Brunell, 72, was taken into custody by federal agents when they executed a search warrant at his Okeechobee home Wednesday.

Officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said they received a number of complaints from licensed dealers at gun shows that Brunell was selling firearms without a license.

Nine guns recovered at crime scenes across five states were traced back to Brunell, according to ATF agents.

Brunell appeared before a federal judge following his arrest and bonded out of jail. The ATF has 10 days after his arrest to federally indict him.

Leading up to his arrest, ATF officials said they warned Brunell three times over the course of six years to stop selling guns without a license.

Story credit to CBS 12 News.


SFWMD Begins Pumping Water at Vast New Storage Area

SFWMD Begins Pumping Water at Vast New Storage Area

Nicodemus Slough project holds Lake Okeechobee freshwater releases

West Palm Beach, FL — To increase storage of freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee and help protect the Caloosahatchee Estuary, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) has begun full-capacity pumping into the new Nicodemus Slough water storage area in Glades County.

“Working in concert with efforts to capture water on public and private lands and move water south, Nicodemus Slough provides some relief now to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries,” said SFWMD Executive Director Blake Guillory. “The project also adds to our critical storage options in the interim while regional projects now under construction — and making progress — are completed.”

With Lake Okeechobee’s level at 14.74 feet NGVD today — about a foot higher than this time last year — the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been releasing water out of the lake to both estuaries. In response, the District worked to accelerate construction and testing operations in order to begin full-capacity pumping several weeks early onto the Nicodemus Slough site.

To send water onto the 16,000-acre project area, four pumps are each moving 30,000 gallons of water per minute. It may take approximately six weeks of round-the-clock operations to fill the vast site. The project can store an annual average of 34,000 acre-feet of water, or about 11 billion gallons.

Located south of Fisheating Creek on the western bank of the lake, the Nicodemus Slough project is intended to provide interim water storage until projects such as the Caloosahatchee River (C-43) West Basin Storage Reservoir are completed. In a cooperative agreement with Lykes Brothers, the District is leasing the property for an investment of $2 million a year for 8 years, with an option to extend the agreement.

This project is one of multiple actions the SFWMD is taking to expand water storage opportunities. Since 2005, the District and a variety of partners worked together to enhance water storage opportunities on private and public lands through the agency’s Dispersed Water Management Program.

Approximately 87,000 acre-feet of water retention and storage has been made available in the greater Everglades system through the program, with the majority located in the Lake Okeechobee watershed. Nearly 100,000 acre-feet of additional storage, including six new projects approved in December 2014, are under development.

For More Information:

Deer huntin’ goes through March 1 in Zone D!

Deer huntin’ goes through March 1 in Zone D!

As I type this, I just arrived back in the Sunshine State after taking a great cruise to Grand Cayman and Cozumel with my family, my parents and my sister’s family. While the temperatures were certainly warm in the Caribbean, the cooler air here at home immediately reminded me that hunting season is still going strong.

General gun season is open on private lands in zones B and D through Feb. 22. And then if you don’t mind hunting with a primitive weapon, Zone D’s late muzzleloading gun season runs a week longer until March 1. This unique late season, which occurs only in Zone D, was established to give hunters the chance to hunt the rut, which occurs from mid-January through February in the Florida Panhandle.

A $5 Muzzleloading Gun Permit is required to hunt during this season, during which, on private land, hunters have the choice of using a muzzleloader, bow or crossbow. Of course, you’ll also need a hunting license, which costs residents $17 for an annual one – or you might opt to purchase the five-year license for only $79.

On wildlife management areas, this post-season is referred to as the archery/muzzleloading gun season. Hunters can use bows or muzzleloaders, but no crossbows – unless they possess a Disabled Crossbow Permit. Hunters who choose to hunt with a bow must have the $5 Archery Permit, and those using a muzzleloader need the $5 Muzzleloading Gun Permit.

The most common things to hunt during this season are deer and wild hogs. Only legal bucks may be taken (even if you use a bow), and south of Interstate 10 in newly established Deer Management Unit-D1, one antler must have at least two points. North of I-10 in DMU-D2, all bucks must have at least three points on a side or have a main beam at least 10 inches long to be legal to take.

And if you’re hunting deer, make sure you have the $5 Deer Permit. On private land, the daily bag limit is two. Season dates, bag limits and antler regulations for deer on WMAs can differ, so consult the area brochure before you hunt.

On private lands, wild hogs can be taken year-round with no bag or size limits. On most WMAs, there also are no bag or size limits, and hogs are legal to take during most hunting seasons except spring turkey. On selected WMAs, specific bag and size limits do apply, so, again, please check the area’s brochure to make sure.

During this season, dogs may not be used to hunt deer. However, you may use a leashed one to track a wounded deer if necessary. And it’s important to note that no turkeys may be taken during this season.

Bows and crossbows must have minimum draw weights of 35 pounds. Hand-held releases on bows are permitted. Broadheads used in taking deer must have at least two sharpened edges with a minimum width of 7/8 inch.

During this late season, the only muzzleloaders allowed are those fired by wheel lock, flintlock, percussion cap or centerfire primer (including 209 primers). Muzzleloaders that can be loaded from the breech are not legal during this time. For hunting deer, muzzleloading rifles must be at least .40-caliber, and muzzleloading shotguns must be 20-gauge or larger.

Legal shooting hours are between a half-hour before sunrise and a half-hour after sunset. You’re allowed to take deer and hogs over feeding stations on private land, but it is illegal to use such feed on WMAs.

Twelve of the WMAs in Zone D have a February archery/muzzleloading gun season, and if you plan to hunt any of ’em, you must have the $26 management area permit. Those areas are Apalachicola, Apalachicola River, Beaverdam Creek, Blackwater, Chipola River, Choctawhatchee River, Econfina Creek, Escambia River, Perdido River Point Washington, Tate’s Hell and Yellow River.

You can get all of the licenses and permits you’ll need at any retail outlet that sells hunting and fishing supplies, by calling 888-HUNT-FLORIDA or by going online at License.MyFWC.com.

So if you’re not quite ready to give up on deer hunting, have no fear, ’cause February’s here! Grab your favorite primitive weapon and head over to Zone D, where the rut is still on.

Registered Felon Arrested for Occupied Burglary and Stalking

Registered Felon Arrested for Occupied Burglary and Stalking

Arthur Farmer

Arthur Farmer

Osceola County -Osceola County Sheriff’s detectives arrested Arthur Farmer and charged him with Occupied Burglary, Wearing a Mask During the Commission of a Felony, Voyeurism, Stalking, Violation of Probation (previous Burglary charge) and Tampering with Evidence.

The investigation began on January 19 when deputies responded to a residence on Country Woods Boulevard in reference to a burglary. Upon arrival, deputies spoke with the victim who indicated she awoke to find an unknown male standing over her bed. The suspect fled the area. With the assistance of additional deputies and the K-9 Unit, deputies identified Farmer as a possible suspect who lives on the same street. The victim told deputies this was the second incident, the first one occurred January 14, but she did not report it to law enforcement.

On January 22, deputies conducted surveillance on Farmer and observed him watching the victim. Last night, detectives obtained a search warrant for his residence. They located evidence that links him to the burglary. Farmer was brought in for questioning, but did not cooperate. Based on the victim’s statements and the evidence, Farmer was arrested and booked into the Osceola County Jail.

In addition, another victim has come forward and detectives are investigating her allegations. Detectives are asking anyone who has had a similar encounter to call law enforcement. They believe there may be more victims. Anyone with information is asked to call the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office at (407) 348-2222 or Crimeline at (800) 423-TIPS (8477). Calls made to Crimeline remain anonymous, and tips that lead to the felony arrest of suspects and/or the recovery of stolen property and drugs are eligible for cash rewards of up to $1,000 dollars.

Arthur Farmer (DOB 2/28/88), 726 Country Woods Circle, Kissimmee

Suspect Arrested for Occupied Burglary and Stalking

Sheriff’s Office Warns Citizens About Skimming Devices at ATM Machines in Celebration

Sheriff’s Office Warns Citizens About Skimming Devices at ATM Machines in Celebration

Skimming Suspect pic1

Skimming Suspect pic1

Osceola County -The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office is cautioning citizens about skimming devices found at two SunTrust Bank ATM’s in Celebration. Skimming devices installed inside the ATM machine have recently been reported at the SunTrust Bank located at 650 Celebration Avenue and a drive-thru ATM located at 74 Blake Boulevard in Celebration.

Based on the investigation, detectives discovered two ATM’s were compromised with a device. One device, located on Blake Boulevard was recovered and taken into evidence. At this location, it is unlikely the suspects were able to extract the information prior to them being discovered and reported to law enforcement, but if you think your information has been stolen, call law enforcement to file a report.

Here are some tips to lessen the chances of becoming a victim:

  • Use your hand to conceal the numbers when you are entering your pin number.
  • Physically pull on the card reader. If it is a skimming device, it will detach easily.
  • Keep an eye on your accounts: Always know your account balance and keep a record of your purchases. If you see unfamiliar charges on your account, report that information immediately to your bank.

Skimming Suspect pic2Detectives have also identified a person of interest. He may be involved in other SunTrust Bank incidents throughout the southeastern United States. Anyone with information is asked to call the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office at (407) 348-2222 or Crimeline at (800) 423-TIPS (8477). Calls made to Crimeline remain anonymous and, tips that lead to the felony arrest of suspects and/or the recovery of stolen property and drugs are eligible for cash rewards of up to $1,000 dollars.

Video of the Skimming Suspect.

Sheriff’s Office Warns Citizens About Skimming Devices at ATM Machines in Celebration

Charles Murphy News 1/30

News Cast for January 30th:

The US Army Corps of engineers approved a 4 point 65 million dollar contract with Herve Cody Contractor this month for the MacArthur Ditch backfill construction. Only three construction contracts remain to be signed for the entire project, with 25 of them already completed. Project Manager, Tiphanie Jinks says in her six years on the project she has seen tremendous progress for the environment.

When completed more than 22 miles of canal will be filled and over 40 square miles of river channel and flood plain restored to the ecosystem.

Tiphanie Jinks of USACOE on Kissimmee River restoration

Among arrests, 50 year old Ronald Harrison of Owensboro, Kentucky was charged with failure to secure workers compensation coverage after the report of contractors soliciting door to door in eastern Okeechobee. The Florida Department of Insurance claims Harrison was doing a driveway paving job with employees with no insurance.

In the courts, 45 year old Joshua Alcott received 46 months in prison for an attack on a fellow Okeechobee county jail inmate, 50 year old Leonard Summa Junior on July 6th. The incident caught on video showed Alcott placed a homemade shank to the throat of the victim and kicked him in the ribs.

Sports Cast for January 30th:

OHS Softball Photo by Charles Murphy.

OHS Softball Photo by Charles Murphy.

Brian Chapman earned the Most Valuable player award for the third consecutive year for the OHS bowling team. He said he was honored by the award. Chapman hopes to become a doctor and wants to earn a college scholarship to bowl. He recently set another record at Stuart Bowl with an 848 series on January 17th. He had 17 strikes in a row at one point and then another 14 strikes in a row.

Chapman had two perfect games in the past year as well. He was asked how he does it. Chapman is trying to recruit new bowlers so the high school can have a bowling team next year.

Brian Chapman on bowling MVP

OHS Boys' Basketball vs Clewiston.

OHS Boys’ Basketball vs Clewiston.

Moore Haven girls’ basketball is headed to regionals next week, they defeated Canterbury 34-19 on Tuesday but lost the district championship game last night at home to Evangelical Christian 57-37. They’ll play on the road next Thursday, February 5th. Darlah Cypress had 20 points in a losing cause last night.

On the sports schedule tonight, boys’ basketball has their senior night game against Fort Pierce Central, freshman at 4, JV at 5:30 and varsity around 7 pm.

Moore Haven boys’ basketball hosts Clewiston at 7 pm in a rivalry game.

OHS softball continues their preseason classic tomorrow night at Palm Beach Gardens at 7 pm.



The Sunshine State has one of the highest rates of uninsured in the nation, and things could get worse, experts warn, if the Legislature does not take action.

Experts painted a grim picture of health care in Florida on Thursday during a League of Women Voters of Florida media conference call.

They warned of pending cuts if the Florida Legislature does not take action during the coming session and accept billions of dollars in federal money. On average, $5 billion per year is available for the state of Florida to help expand coverage to low income families for healthcare, should legislators approve a plan this coming session.

“Florida has one of the highest uninsured rates in the nation and is lagging behind other states in bringing in federal Medicaid dollars that have been set aside for states to use or lose,’ Joan Alker, executive director of Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families said.

“The most straightforward solution is to reduce the uncompensated care costs borne by safety net hospitals by accepting federal funding to help more Floridians find affordable coverage.” Alker said. “This would not only have a financial benefit to the state, it would help people working in tourism, retail, construction and other industries that often don’t provide health coverage to employees.”

Also on the call were Charlotte Joseph Cassel of Florida Legal Services and Deirdre

Macnab, the League’s state president.

Cassel said that historically, the Florida safety-net health care providers have relied on supplemental funding from the federal government to offset the cost of providing care to the uninsured, but that funding is scheduled to end beginning July 2015.

“It is critical that our elected officials find a way to expand coverage and ensure the viability of our safety-net system and access to health care for all Floridians,” Cassel said.

League president Deirdre Macnab said the League was hopeful that “sizable and growing pressure from the business community will  produce a successful smart choice by the Florida Legislature.”

While the League has not yet signed on to two business proposals put forth by A Healthy Florida Works and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, they are seen as key steps in opening up creative discussion towards final adoption of a unique Florida plan.

“Florida could catch up very quickly by taking advantage of the flexibility the federal government is offering right now by fashioning a Florida solution to help both citizens and businesses in the state of Florida combat their growing healthcare costs. ”
She added an optimistic note that pending proposals by the business community provide a window for the legislature to explore the possibility of taking advantage of this economic opportunity for the state of Florida.

Several other states across the country have begun to fashion custom agreements and details of these were shared on today’s call. Alker said that Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has shown extraordinary flexibility in allowing states to design their own plans to meet the needs of their residents. The federal government has offered to pay nearly all the costs of covering people earning up to $16,105 annually. The funding has already been earmarked for this purpose and Florida can either use it or lose it.

The full report from Florida Legal Services is available here.

Charles Murphy News 1/29

News Cast for January 29th:

The wife of a man on trial for attempted murder charges says she felt her husband was at her home that night to kill her. Ellie Fonseca recalled in detail the incident last March 23rd at the estranged couple’s residence in Okeechobee. The machete attack injured her fingers, arms, hands, and knee; she also suffered a skull fracture and other broken bones. She said her sons were able to break down the locked bedroom door and chase off her husband, Jose Fonseca Hernandez. Fonseca said she asked God to forgive her husband but still wants him to be punished for the injuries she suffered. Prosecutors allege Fonseca was motivated by jealousy because his wife had found another man, he had seen the two together the day before at a Whispering Pines convenience store.

An Okeechobee late last night found Jose Fonseca Hernandez guilty of attempted voluntary manslaughter, a lesser charge than the attempted first degree murder he was charged with.

Also in the courts, 50 year old Scott Carnley was sentenced to one year in the county jail for battery charges. An 11 year old girl claimed Carnley touched her inappropriately several years ago.

The Okeechobee county planning board agreed to allow Family Dollar stores at 1951 441 south east and 1984 highway 70 west to sell wine. They also approved a special exception to allow Acme Outdoors Company to add 12 cabins and 15 RV sites to their outdoor gun club and shooting range at 7055 North East 80th Avenue after a public hearing this week.

The Florida league of Cities honored Okeechobee city mayor Jim Kirk with a 25 year service award this month.

Sports Cast for January 29th:

OHS girls’ basketball season ends with a 55-26 loss to South Fork at the district tournament last night.

South Fork broke loose from a nine point halftime lead to the easy victory and improves to (16-8). Okeechobee finishes the season at (6-15).

Sebastian River slips by Okeechobee in high school wrestling last night 41-38. Okeechobee got pin fall victories from Alan Pineiro, Sebastian Fulleda, Drayton Billie and Eric Gaitan. Pineiro defeated Jerry Hill by pin, and led 14-2 at the time. Pinerio, a freshman, has been wrestling since third grade, and caught his opponent with a pit throw.

Alan Pineiro on wrestling match wtih Sebastian

Senior Brandon Shockley defeated Brice Hepp 10-1 in the 1 hundred and 70 pound weight division. He says you get butterflies when you wrestle at home but enjoyed a strength advantage over his opponent.

Brandon Shockley on wrestling match wtih Sebastian River

Brahman Coach Bruce Jahner said this was not the team he had been watching for the past month. He says keeping the kids motivated during a five month season is difficult.

Bruce Jahner on loss to Sebastian River

On the sports schedule today, OHS girls’ softball opens the season with a preseason classic at Palm Beach Gardens, taking on Seminole Ridge at 7 pm. Moore Haven boys’ basketball will host Seminole Ridge tonight at 7 pm. The OHS Lady Brahman golf team has their awards banquet tonight at 6 pm at Beef O’Brady’s.

Sharrod Hope on win over OHS

Tyrell Taylor on win over OHS




TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Governor Rick Scott today unveiled his 2015-2016 “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget which includes over $673 million in tax cuts for Florida families and businesses and has the highest per student funding for K-12 education in Florida’s history. Governor Scott’s “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget totals $77 billion and keeps a total of $5.2 billion in reserves.

Governor Scott said, “To the people of Florida: this budget shows that it’s your money. You can spend it better than government. Thank you for your hard work in helping businesses add more than 728,000 new jobs over the last four years. We know we have more work to do and this budget will certainly help ‘KEEP FLORIDA WORKING!

“There is a great temptation in government to think it can spend people’s money better than they can, but it’s not true. People know how best to spend their own money, and because of our job creation and pro-growth policies, we have a major budget surplus and are giving Floridians back $673 million in tax cuts.

“Some people will say that we should not cut taxes, but our ‘KEEP FLORIDA WORKING’ proves that we can. We can give families back $673 million in their own money – while saving money for everyone in this state who pays a cell phone bill or a cable or satellite TV bill. We can afford to help those families who have scrimped and saved and worked hard for the last four years by giving them back more of the money that belongs to them. Our budget cuts taxes while meeting – and exceeding – our requirements under Amendment 1 to protect the environment, and providing record K-12 total and per student funding.

“Our budget reflects the priorities I spoke about during the campaign last year. It is a strong budget because our economy is strong, and the key to keeping our economy growing even stronger is to give families back more of the money they already make.”

Click here to view “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget highlights.

Click here to view “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget FAQ.

Click here to view “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” complete budget.


Critical Wildlife Area’ signs go up around Bird Island in Martin County

Critical Wildlife Area’ signs go up around Bird Island in Martin County

Last week, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Martin County installed signs around a small island in Martin County, known locally as Bird Island, identifying it as a “Critical Wildlife Area” (CWA). The spoil island, also known as MC2, is an important nesting site for a variety of wading birds and one shorebird species. Bird Island received its CWA designation at the June 2014 Commission meeting.

For protection of these birds, the entire island, its breakwater structure and the waters immediately surrounding are closed to public access throughout the year in order to create a protective buffer. The buffer is marked by the newly installed signs. The FWC and Martin County accomplished this designation with the support of various partners, including the town of Sewall’s Point, city of Stuart and several other stakeholder groups.

Based on the abundance and diversity of birds using the island, biologists consider Bird Island one of the top 10 water-bird colonies in south Florida. The two-acre island provides nesting habitat for at least 17 bird species, eight of which are state or federally listed as species of special concern or threatened, and roosting habitat for many more.

Bird Island is the first critical wildlife area to be established by the Commission in more than 20 years. CWAs are established by the FWC to protect important congregations of one or more species of wildlife from human disturbance during critical life stages. Human disturbance can cause wildlife to abandon high-quality habitat that is necessary for their survival. Currently, there are 19 CWAs throughout Florida, which are managed for nesting and wintering shorebirds, wading birds, gopher tortoises and bats.

Located next to the town of Sewall’s Point, Bird Island is one of seven spoil islands in Martin County created as a result of dredging in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.

For more on critical wildlife areas, go to MyFWC.com/Conservation, click on “Terrestrial Programs” then “Critical Wildlife Areas.”

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