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News Cast 2/12

News Cast for February 12th:

Friday, former Okeechobee County Sheriff O.L. Raulerson was honored in a big way. A dedication ceremony was held in front of the sheriff’s department before the Raulerson family and others, re-naming NW 4th Street to “O.L. Raulerson Street.” Current Sheriff Noel Stephen and Mayor Dowling Watford were the guest speakers. Stephen says it was a perfect way to memorialize the former lawman. Raulerson’s widow Judy couldn’t have been happier. Raulerson also served time as a member of the Florida Highway Patrol and was actually elected sheriff in Highlands County as well as Okeechobee.

Raulerson Dedication 1

Raulerson Dedication 2

Raulerson Dedication 3

Raulerson Dedication 4

Okeechobee County Sheriff’s officials were alerted last week to reports of another portable toilet with the word “bomb” written in marker on the inside wall with a date on it at Florida Power and Light Power Plant on the 21 thousand block of Route 60. This is the second time in nearly two weeks that the plant had a portable toilet with the word “bomb” written on it. The first incident was reported by an official at Zachary Industrial. Zachary Spokesperson A.J. Rodriguez. Security has since been adjusted and random searches of employee lunch boxes have been implemented.

Bomb Threat-Rodriguez

As Lake Okeechobee’s water level drops to fifteen feet, the Florida Forest Service in collaboration with South Florida Water Management District, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will conduct a series of prescribed burns around the western shore of Lake Okeechobee, weather permitting. The initial burn will consist of approximately 2,000-acres of dried-out marsh rimming the lake between the Indian Prairie Canal boat ramp and the Buckhead Ridge Canal. The Florida Forest Service plans to conduct the burn within the next two weeks.  The final decision to burn is made daily, after reviewing the Predicted Fire Weather forecast.

On the arrest report:

49 year old James Rufus Vanover of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for drunk and disorderly. His bond is set at $500.00 dollars.

26 year old Marcus Ellis Robinson of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license with knowledge of it. His bond is set at $500.00 dollars.

35 year old Flor Morales of Okeechobee was arrested for driving without a valid license. She was released after posting a $1,000.00 dollar bond.

39 year old Steven Andrew Miller of Okeechobee was arrested for driving without a license and possession of the controlled substance alprazolam. His bond has not been set.

38 year old Amy Elizabeth Fink of Okeechobee was arrested for trespassing at Wal-Mart and giving false identification to an officer. Her bond is set at $1,000.00 dollars.

32 year old Sheena Marie Holycross of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on prior drug charges. She’s being held without bond.

37 year old Jason Edward Gillis of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on prior drug charges and trafficking stolen property. He’s being held without bond.


News Cast 2/9

News Cast for February 9th:

Today, former Okeechobee County Sheriff O.L. Raulerson will be honored in a big way. There will be a dedication ceremony held in front of the sheriff’s department, re-naming NW 4th Street to “O.L. Raulerson Street.” Sheriff Noel Stephen and Mayor Dowling Watford will be the guest speakers. Watford says the former sheriff was a complete man, both professionally and personally. Raulerson also served time as a member of the Florida Highway Patrol and was actually elected sheriff in Highlands County as well as Okeechobee. The ceremony began at 8am.

Stephen-Raulerson Dedication

Recently, Okeechobee County residents needed to be cautious of the spread of influenza, now there’s a new one to watch out for called Norovirus. Norovirus is a highly contagious gastrointestinal illness, causing stomach and intestinal inflammation and it has been detected in three recent stool samples in the county, according to officials at the county department of health. Spokesperson Brian Sell says the symptoms are not unlike influenza and the two can sometimes be confused with each other. The illness from Norovirus lasts from one to three days but the virus can remain in your system for up to two weeks. Sell recommends practicing good hygiene and talking to your healthcare provider for more information.

Sell-Norovirus 1

On the arrest report:

20 year old Marcus Damian Rutherford of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for strangling his girlfriend during a domestic dispute. His bond has not been set.

52 year old Thomas James Sullivan of Indian Rocks Beach was arrested for violating probation. He’s being held without bond.

20 year old Marc Anthony Rivas of Okeechobee was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill. His bond has not been set.


Kiwanis Donate To Big Lake Missions (AUDIO INCLUDED)

Kiwanis Donate To Big Lake Missions (AUDIO INCLUDED)

CAPTION FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Ken Keller, Bruce Swinford and Dowling Watford

This Kiwanis Club of Okeechobee recently held their annual “Souper Bowl of Caring” canned food drive. The event is a play on words that his held every Thursday before the Super Bowl is played.

The club collected non – perishable food items along with over $200 in cash donations and gave them to Big Lake Missions in Okeechobee.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO DIRECTOR BRUCE SWINFORD TALK ABOUT BIG LAKE MISSIONS. (RUN TIME 2:25)


Thornton Signs With Henderson State (AUDIO INCLUDED)

Thornton Signs With Henderson State (AUDIO INCLUDED)

Caption: Tanner signs his letter of intent at a ceremony Wednesday afternoon at Okeechobee High School. OHS Football Coach Chris Branham looks on.

Brahman senior Tanner Thornton played two years of football at Okeechobee High School and was able to use that experience to get a scholarship to play football at Henderson State University in Arkansas.

Tanner says it was the school’s location in a country setting was a big selling point for him. He says the coaches liked his versatility.

Thornton moved around to different positions during his two years at Okeechobee. He played defensive end, offensive tackle and tight end. Brahman coach Chris Branham says that Thornton’s willingness to do that for the team is very attractive Henderson State.

CLICK THIS LINK TO LISTEN TO TANNER THORNTON TALK ABOUT SIGNING WITH HENDERSON STATE (RUN TIME 3:30)

CLICK THIS LINK TO LISTEN TO BRAHMAN COACH CHRIS BRANHAM TALK ABOUT TANNER THORNTON (RUN TIME 4:40)


News Cast 2/8

News Cast for February 8th:

Okeechobee County Commissioners got a report from the Road Maintenance Division at their meeting this week regarding their paving plan for the fiscal year. Road Maintenance Director Peter De Pasquale says there will be several roads that will need a complete repair such as NE 64th Avenue in Four Seasons and NW 35th Avenue in Basswood. De Pasquale says there’s a multitude of reasons why complete repair is needed on these roads. De Pasquale says some roads will need only patches such as Kings Bay. The repairs will likely take place during the summer and will cost in excess of a million dollars.

DePasquale 1

DePasquale 2

Okeechobee County will soon have a local arts agency. Commissioners listened to a request from County Arts and Culture Director Bridgette Waldau on making Okeechobee Main Street the local arts agency for the county. Waldau says she was approached by the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs to do this based on the strong arts program they have and they are honored to be chosen for this. Waldau also says this opens up many future opportunities. Waldau says they have to decide who their board members are and fulfill other requirements before commissioners approve this as part of a resolution in a future meeting.

Waldau 1

Waldau 2

Florida Highway Patrol officers are investigating a deadly crash that killed two teen girls Tuesday night. Investigators say 17 year old Santia Myriah Feketa of Ft. Pierce was driving a Chevy Silverado east on Route 70 just west of Midway Road when 98 year old Walter Arthur Roney of Michigan was driving his vehicle on the wrong side of the road on Route 70 and hit Feketa’s car head on. Feketa and her passenger, 16 year old Britney Lee Poindexter of Port St. Lucie, were pronounced dead at the scene. Roney and his passenger, 75 year old Carolyn Bruns, also of Michigan, were taken to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Ft. Pierce for treatment. Both are in serious to critical condition. Route 70 at Midway Road was closed off to traffic for several hours.

Just a reminder, to please avoid traveling on Berman Road and NE 128th Avenue from now until 10 am today and tomorrow. Only local traffic in that area.

On the arrest report:

41 year old William Joseph Keenan Junior of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for an out of county arrest warrant. He’s being held on a $500.00 dollar bond.

29 year old Fernando Seca of Okeechobee was arrested for sexual misconduct on an underage girl. His bond has not been set.

47 year old Patricia Jane Edwards of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation. She’s being held without bond.

20 year old Marc Anthony Rivas of Okeechobee was arrested for disorderly conduct. He was released after posting a $500.00 dollar bond.

18 year old Noah Wyatt La Grange of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia after a traffic stop. His bond is set at $1500.00 dollars.

25 year old Kevin Nathan Smith of Okeechobee was arrested for disorderly conduct. He was released after posting bond.


News Cast 2/7

News Cast for February 7th:

Okeechobee County Commissioners got an update on the upcoming Music and Arts Festival at their meeting yesterday. Kevin Collinsworth, CEO of Soundslinger, a music and arts production company and regional promoter, says they’ll be providing a lot of facilities for the event, including signage and gates, fencing and lights and more. Collinsworth says one of the main things he and his company will be directly involved with helping to provide is emergency services. Collinsworth says he expects more than double the county’s population to be at or a part of the festival with performances from Travis Scott, Arcade Fire and more. The festival begins on February 28th.

Festival Update 1

Some residents of SE 128th Avenue and Berman Road spoke to the Okeechobee County Commissioners at their meeting yesterday about the dangers of semi-truck drivers barreling through that area in the morning at high speeds, usually when children are out there going to school and what can be done about it. County school bus driver Melissa Peaden said recently she had a couple of close calls within moments of each other with two semi-trucks not stopping when they should while she was stopped to pick up a student. Peaden says traffic courts have not been helpful. Peaden says the road should be widened somehow or at least patrolled by county authorities better.

Speeding Trucks 1

Speeding Trucks 2

Okeechobee City Councilmembers met as well last night in a very short meeting with the highlight being the presentation of longevity service awards. Fire Captain and Okeechobee native Lalo Rodriguez received a ten year longevity award. He says it feels great to receive the award and loves his job and working with his fellow firefighters. He says the difference between being a firefighter and his current job as captain, is administration. Rodriguez says he has designs of someday being chief. Firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician Les McGee got a five year longevity award for his service. McGee declined to be interviewed for this story. Councilmembers also approved the purchase of a new Dodge Journey vehicle for the Code Enforcement Unit.

Rodriguez 1

Rodriguez 2

The Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department is asking for the community’s help in identifying two men suspected of using a stolen debit card at several stores to obtain funds. Deputies say the first suspect is an African-American man, with short black hair and short cut beard with mustache, medium build,   standing between five feet, eleven inches and six feet tall, he was wearing a black short sleeve T-shirt with a grey long sleeve T-shirt under it, light colored blue jeans with dark colored sneakers with white soles. The second suspect is a Hispanic or white male with short black hair and possibly a thin beard, skinny build, possibly between five feet, eleven inches and six feet, one inch tall.  He was wearing a black or blue dark colored long sleeve shirt, blue jeans, with dark colored sneakers with white soles.  If you have information on any of these men, please contact the sheriff’s department.

Just a reminder, to please avoid traveling on Berman Road and NE 128th Avenue from now until 10 am every day until this Friday. Only local traffic in that area.

On the arrest report:

36 year old Kenneth Grover Bigford of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for failing to appear in court for previous drug charges, driving on a suspended license and giving a false name to law enforcement. He’s being held without bond.

28 year old Stephon Lamar Spann of Okeechobee was arrested on an outstanding warrant for battery. He’s being held on a $2,500.00 dollar bond.

35 year old Joshua James Pettit of Okeechobee was arrested for false imprisonment by force on his wife. He was released on a $5,000.00 dollar bond.

34 year old Jeremy Eugene Beecham of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation. He’s being held without bond.

29 year old Eric Andrew Pena of Okeechobee was arrested for trespassing on someone’s property. He’s being held on a $500.00 dollar bond.

50 year old James Lanard Wiggs of Okeechobee was arrested for violating parole. He’s being held without bond.


News Cast 2/6

News Cast for February 6th:

It will be a busy day of meetings for Okeechobee County elected officials today. County Commissioners meet this morning to hear among other things, an update on the upcoming music and arts festival and hear the Road Maintenance Division’s paving plan. Later, the city council will meet and consider approving the purchase of vehicles for the city fire department. The Commissioners meeting begins at 9 am in the Historic County Courthouse and the city council meeting begins at 6pm at City Hall.

Okeechobee County Firefighters had their hands full fighting fires, both grass and structure fires, over the weekend and all are under investigation. Crews were called to the 21 thousand block of NW 176th Avenue for a brush and grass fire burning in a pasture just after 10:40 Saturday morning. Reportedly the homeowner had set the blaze and he had a burn permit. Crews got the blaze under control in about an hour with no one getting hurt and no damages.

Sunday morning, crews were called to the 23 thousand block of NW 285th Way for another brush fire just after 11:20. The fire was burning about 25 to 50 acres when crews arrived but the fire kept jumping the control lines because of winds changing direction. The fire eventually burned about 400 acres of brush before crews got it controlled with the help of a few bulldozers. Crews needed about seven hours total to get it under control with about six thousand gallons of water. No injuries or damages.

Finally, just after 5:15 in the afternoon, crews were called to the 88 hundred block of SE 68th Drive for a reported building fire. Crews arrived and found the blaze had reportedly been extinguished by a neighbor with water from a garden hose. Another neighbor had a key and let sheriff’s deputies in to let the dog out and after inspection, found some light smoke but no hidden fire or hot spots. The homeowner had some household garbage and fiberglass in the garage and reportedly has had some problems with neighborhood kids. Total damage to the house is about $1500 dollars. No injuries.

A Sebring woman is in serious condition after a vehicle accident on Saturday afternoon. Florida Highway Patrol officers say 81 year old Gertrude Eck was a passenger in a car headed south on Route 27 in Highlands County when the driver of the car was making a turn into an intersection, right into the path of an oncoming car and hit it head on. The collision caused Eck’s car to overturn and end up on the roof. Eck was transported to Lakeland Regional Hospital for treatment. The accident is being investigated.

On the arrest report:

32 year old Sabrina Angela Davis of Okeechobee was arrested for violating her probation. She’s being held without bond.

20 year old Darian Kessler of Okeechobee was arrested for simple assault and battery during a domestic dispute. He was released after posting a $5000.00 dollar bond.

32 year old Sheena Holycross of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation. She’s being held without bond.

24 year old Michael Paul Valdes of Okeechobee was arrested on an out of county arrest warrant from Palm Beach for burglary. He’s being held without bond.

40 year old Herbierto Flores of Okeechobee was arrested for battery on his girlfriend during a domestic dispute. He was released after posting a $5000.00 dollar bond.

22 year old Mateo Lopez-Ramirez of Okeechobee was arrested for driving without a license and causing an accident and leaving the scene. He was released after posting a $1000.00 dollar bond.

29 year old Eric Andrew Pena of Okeechobee was arrested for cocaine possession after a traffic stop. His bond is set at $5,000.00 dollars.

60 year old Lucio Galorza of Okeechobee was arrested for aggravated assault with intent to commit a felony. He was released after posting a $5,000.00 dollar bond.

40 year old James Franklin Sellers of Okeechobee was arrested for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon on his wife after a domestic dispute. He was released after posting a $15,000.00 dollar bond.

29 year old John Noel Rodriguez of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a $5500.00 dollar bond.


News Cast 2/5

News Cast for February 5th:

Okeechobee County Sheriff Noel Stephen is putting together a special group called The Citizens Advisory Board. This group will be designed to help maximize the sheriff’s connection with the community and how his message is being received by the community. Stephen says this group will consist of two people from eight different very special groups. Stephen says the people selected for this board will not have any entitlements but rather it will be as diverse and honest a group as possible and not tell him what he wants to hear. These sixteen people will meet three times a year.

Stephen-Citizens Advisory Board 1

Stephen-Citizens Advisory Board 2

A six on one attack at the Okeechobee County Jail has resulted in battery charges for all six of them. Sheriff’s deputies arrested 19 year old Jordan Lee Cutler, 32 year old Joshua David Stevens, 51 year old Reinaldo Herrera, 26 year old Christopher Nelson, 37 year old Jason Edward Gillis and 35 year old Mark Daniel Smedley after they went into the cell of another inmate shortly after four o’clock Friday morning and beat him up. The victim was found by officers in his cell during breakfast with a badly injured face.  All six were arrested and their bonds have not been set. Gillis, Stevens, and Cutler, all hail from Okeechobee while Herrera, Nelson and Smedley are from out of town.

Thanks to a recent approval from the Okeechobee County Commissioners, the Emergency Medical Dispatching unit will receive a grant of just over $14,614 dollars to help pay for their training. Training Captain Earl Wooten says the training will allow city and county 911 dispatchers to be trained properly in talking with callers who call in emergencies and give them the right questions to ask. Wooten says while the grant amount may not seem like much, it will be quite sufficient. The grant was received from the Florida Emergency Medical Service County Grant Program.

Wooten-Medical Dispatcher Grant

On the arrest report:

20 year old Joshua Jon Madrigal of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for an out of county arrest warrant for drug offenses in Glades County. He’s being held without bond.

26 year old Mitchell Arthur Dean of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license with knowledge of it after a traffic stop. He is being held on a $250 dollar bond.

50 year old James Lanard Wiggs of Okeechobee was arrested for battery and false imprisonment after a domestic dispute with his girlfriend. His bond has not been set.

47 year old Patricia Jane Edwards of Okeechobee was arrested for marijuana possession when her purse was searched at the probation office. She was released after posting a $500 dollar bond.

39 year old Anita Fay Faircloth of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving after she was driving recklessly. Her bond has not been set.

35 year old Shawn Thomas Eckenwiler of Okeechobee was arrested for failure to appear in court on driving on a suspended license and resisting arrest. His bond is set at $4,000 dollars.


News Cast 2/2

News Cast for February 2nd:

Yesterday, Governor Rick Scott highlighted his proposed $50 million dollar investment to expedite repairs for the federally operated Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee. This funding will build on the $50 million in this year’s state budget to kick-start repairs to the dike. Governor Scott is the first governor in Florida’s history to invest money into this project. He made the announcement at the Hoover Dike Road City Ramp in Clewiston.

Several snapshots from professional and amateur photographers made their way into the Okeechobee County Historical Courthouse last night as part of the Okeechobee County Artist Series. The event was called “Picture: Okeechobee County.” Awards were given to the top three photos. Mayor Dowling Watford got third place for a picture he took, calling it “Pioneer Home.” He says he was surprised that was the one that got him an award. First place went to Okeechobee resident Joanie Engemann Tomlin for her picture of a cow lifting one of its hind legs, calling it “Hey Diddle Diddle,” and second place went to 14 year old Andrew Hines for his picture of a tree stump, calling it “Sit a Spell.” All the submitted pictures can be seen on the first floor of the courthouse.

Pictures 1

Pictures 2

A report from AAA says that gas prices were higher in January than they have been in four years. The average gas price per gallon for Florida alone was $2.47. AAA spokesperson Mark Jenkins says a big reason is that the prices per barrel of oil have gone up significantly and this is the time for oil refinery maintenance so gas is not being produced as often. Jenkins says that alone will drive up the price. He also says the introduction of summer blend gasoline will be a factor in rising prices. Jenkins recommends downloading the AAA app to your phone to compare cheaper gas prices in your areas.

Jenkins 1

Jenkins 2

On the arrest report:

25 year old Kari Michelle Thomas of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for stealing items at a gas station. She’s being held on a $250.00 bond.

39 year old Randy Allen Tucker of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on burglary and firearm possession charges. He was released after posting bond.

32 year old Peter Allen Brege of Okeechobee was arrested for burglary and criminal mischief on a home. His bond has not been set.

31 year old William Nicholas Johnson of Okeechobee was arrested for an arrest warrant from Highlands County. His bond is set at just over $1700.00.

32 year old Brian James Dansa of Okeechobee was arrested on three counts of possession of a controlled substance. His bond is set at $30,000.00


News Cast 2/1

News Cast for February 1st:

A recent report shows that of the 67 counties in Florida, 61 of them are showing an increase in flu cases over the last week. Florida Department of Health officials say flu activity in Okeechobee County is considered moderate while other counties’ flu activity is in the mild range. Okeechobee County Health Spokesperson Brian Sell says people need to practice proper precautions to avoid getting the flu such as practicing good hygiene; washing your hands, covering your mouth when you cough, etc. Sell also recommends getting a flu shot, however he says a flu shot is not always 100 percent effective. Sell also recommends taking at least a day off from work if you do have the flu so it can’t be spread to your co-workers and asking advice from your doctor or health care provider.

Sell 1

Sell 2

Earlier this week, Okeechobee County lost a lifetime resident and a pillar of the community. Bill Sherman passed away this past Sunday at the age of 81. Sherman had worked as the county appraiser for the better part of 42 years before retiring last year. Mickey Bandy, who succeeded Sherman as the county appraiser and had worked with him for nearly 15 years, says he absolutely loved his family and people in general and would do anything for them. Visitation will be happening today beginning at 5pm at Buxton and Bass Okeechobee Funeral Home and funeral services will be tomorrow at 10 am at the First Baptist Church of Okeechobee on the 400 block of SW 4th Street.

Bandy 1

Bandy 2

On the arrest report:

29 year old Matthew Dustin Cole of Winter Haven was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for possession and intent to sell methamphetamine. His bond is set at $50,000.00.

29 year old Stephanie Nicole Sickels of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of marijuana after a traffic stop. She was released after posting a $2,000.00 bond.

30 year old Melissa Dee Carnley of Okeechobee was arrested for cocaine and marijuana possession and driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. She’s being held without bond.

34 year old Michael Wayne Pizzolato of Okeechobee was arrested on an out of county arrest warrant. He’s being held without bond.

45 year old Brian Lee Peaden of Pahokee was arrested for driving on a suspended license and possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. His bond is set at $6250.00.


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