Local News

News Cast 4/9

News Cast for April 9th:

Okeechobee County School Board members will meet tonight where they will proclaim this month as School Library Month and they will also congratulate winners of this year’s Indian River State College (IRSC) Creative Writing Contest. The meeting will be held at the school board office beginning at six o’clock.

An Okeechobee man, already convicted of manslaughter and facing serious time in prison, was convicted on Friday on another serious charge. 49 year old Mark Glen Deschamps was found guilty of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The conviction stemmed from a case where he was found guilty in January in the stabbing death of his then girlfriend, 25 year old Flavia Munoz of Okeechobee and attempted first degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon on 40 year old Duane Thomas, also of Okeechobee, the man Munoz was seeing behind Deschamps’ back in October of 2016. Prosecutor Ashley Albright says the jury deliberated for exactly six minutes before returning with a guilty verdict; certainly among the fastest jury deliberation he’s ever experienced. Deschamps will be sentenced on all the charges he’s been convicted of on April 18th. If sentences are to run consecutively, Deschamps is facing at most ninety years in prison. Deschamps’ attorney, Donald Chinquina, declined to comment for this story.

Deschamps Verdict 1

Deschamps Verdict 2

An Okeechobee woman is in county jail at this time on some serious charges in connection with an incident Sunday night. Sheriff’s deputies were called to the 47 hundred block of NW 11th Drive sometime after nine o’clock where witnesses told them that 35 year old Stephanie Michelle Starcher assaulted a pregnant woman. Deputies say Starcher asked the woman, who was lying on the couch at the time, why she called the police. Even though the woman claimed she didn’t, Starcher began punching and slapping her. Deputies say the pregnant woman’s mother actually called police and it was not revealed why she called police. Deputies arrested and charged Starcher with aggravated battery on a pregnant woman. She was booked into jail and her bond is set at ten thousand dollars.

A grass and brush fire caught the attention of Okeechobee County firefighters Saturday night and kept them busy for a while, mainly because access to the fire was difficult. Crews were called to the twenty thousand block of Highway 98 North a little before 11:30 and it took them a while to gain access because of locked gates. Officials from Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC) had keys to the gates of the property, which belonged to South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). Crews worked on the fire, which was mainly tall grass and small oak trees for a couple of hours before finally getting it controlled at around 2:30 Sunday morning. No one was hurt and no structure damages. Cause is being investigated.

On the arrest report:

34 year old Kenneth Burton McQueen Junior of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for driving on a suspended license and fleeing law officers after they were trying to conduct a traffic stop. He was released after posting a three thousand dollar bond.

18 year old Anthony Dylan Hodges of Okeechobee was arrested for trespassing. He was released after posting a $250 dollar bond.

52 year old Maryann Puglia of Okeechobee was arrested for exposing her sexual organs in public, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct after she was caught urinating in public. Her bond is set at two thousand dollars.

39 year old Jeremiah Rhoden of Okeechobee was arrested for prowling and loitering on someone’s property late at night. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

38 year old Lucio Hernandez-Evangelista of Okeechobee was arrested for disorderly intoxication. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

56 year old Kimmie Martin Fulton of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of several controlled substances such as clonazepam and hydromorphone. Her bond has not been set.

25 year old Morgan Scott Tibbett of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

54 year old Jackie Horner Zanolin of Sebring was arrested on warrants from Highlands County for past charges of trespassing on school grounds and obstruction. Her bond is set at four thousand dollars.

45 year old Silverio Baranda Chavez of Clewiston was arrested for cocaine possession and tampering with evidence during a Mexican rodeo and concert at the Agri-Civic Center. His bond is set at ten thousand dollars.

56 year old Michael Dudley Olds of Sarasota was arrested for drunk driving and possession of cocaine, marijuana resin and drug paraphernalia after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a seven thousand dollar bond.


Kiwanis Club of Okeechobee Inducts Two To Hall Of Fame (AUDIO INCLUDED)

Pictured: 2019 inductees Darrell Enfinger and Bobbi O’Neill accepting on behalf of the late Gene O’Neill

Kiwanis Club of Okeechobee Inducts Two To Hall Of Fame (AUDIO INCLUDED)

The Kiwanis Club of Okeechobee inducted two new members to the clubs’ second annual Hall of Fame this week in a ceremony held at Lakeside Grill.

Gene O’Neill was inducted posthumously. O’Neill was a long time member, one time president and secretary of the club. O’Neill was the first Kiwanian from Okeechobee to serve as Lieutenant for the district. Gene’s widow Bobbi O’Neill accepted the honor on behalf of her late husband.

Darrell Enfinger became a Kiwanian in 1998, after being invited to the Club by Steve Padgett and Bruce Homer who were Kiwanis members at the time. Darrell actively got involved and became the “behind the scenes guy” for the club’s many activities, most notably the pancake breakfast, radio auction and Santa in the park. Enfinger remains an active member and still volunteers for most every Kiwanis function. Enfinger still attends almost every weekly meeting as he enters his 22nd year as a member.

The Kiwanis Club of Okeechobee created the Hall of Fame last year inducting five members to the inaugural class. O’Neill and Enfinger join Red Larson, Don Kelly, Jack Wolff, Donna Enrico and Dick Blair in the Kiwanis Club of Okeechobee Hall of Fame. The Club created the Hall of Fame to recognize and honor past and present members that have and continue to contribute to the club and community while setting a high standard for new and future members to follow.

CLICK THIS LINK TO LISTEN TO BOBBI O’NEILL SPEAK ON HER LATE HUSBAND’S INDUCTION (Run Time 43 seconds)

CLICK THIS LINK TO LISTEN TO SHERRI ENFINGER SPEAK ON DARRELL ENFINGER’S INDUCTION (Run Time 1:08)

 


News Cast 4/8

News Cast for April 8th:

The Okeechobee City Police Department is currently investigating a theft case involving two Hispanic men. The suspects used a stolen debit card number at Wal-Mart stores in both Okeechobee and in Clewiston. If you have any information on the possible identity of these two men or where they might be, please contact the Okeechobee City Police Department at (863) 763-9784 or you can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-273-8477 if you’d like to remain anonymous.

On the subject of crimes, with this being the week of April 7th, it’s also a very special week to remember victims of all crimes in this country. This week is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Commissioners proclaimed this week as National Crime Victims’ Rights Week in Okeechobee at their March 26th meeting. Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Brad Stark was on hand to accept the proclamation and he says it’s a very special week because of recent legislation that was passed where victims of crimes, specifically violent crimes, can now know when their court dates will be and the status of their cases before it goes to court. National Crime Victims’ Rights Week will culminate with a motorcycle ride on Saturday through Martin and Indian River Counties and then back to Okeechobee County for a luncheon.  Stark is also the vice president of the Victims’ Rights Coalition in Okeechobee County.

Stark-Crime Victims Week 1

Stark-Crime Victims Week 2

The streets of Okeechobee were littered with very special athletes Friday as it was the day of the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run. The Law Enforcement Torch Run supports and recognizes athletes from the Special Olympics and it began outside the sheriff’s department Friday morning and it ended in the Publix parking lot on Parrott Avenue. Once there, the athletes did a lap around the parking lot before being treated to a mess of barbecued ribs, compliments of Sheriff Noel Stephen who had been there barbecuing since five o’clock Friday morning. Stephen gave special thanks to all those who made this very special event possible. In all, well over a hundred people, ages eight through eighty, participated in the Law Enforcement Torch Run; the tenth of its kind in Okeechobee County. Stephen says it was a feel good event from start to finish.

2019 Torch Run 1

2019 Torch Run 2

A Labelle man is dead after a vehicle accident early Thursday morning in Hendry County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 68 year old Liborio Sosa Martinez was walking northbound, crossing West Cowboy Way east of Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard in Labelle a little after 6:30 when he walked into the path of an oncoming Dodge Caravan, driven by 62 year old Ignacio Garduno of Felda, and collided with Martinez. The impact sent Martinez into the north shoulder of the road, killing him instantly. Garduno was not injured in the accident. FHP is investigating.

On the arrest report:

23 year old Robert Edward Thompson Junior of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for battery on his girlfriend during a domestic dispute and violating probation. He’s being held without bond.

41 year old Cheri Lorene Newton of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of cocaine possession. She’s being held without bond.

20 year old Javier Hernandez of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of marijuana resin after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a five thousand dollar bond.

39 year old Luis Cardenas Parado of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license and giving a false name to law officers after a traffic stop. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.

 


News Cast 4/5

WOKC HAS MOVED LOCATIONS TO 3936 SE 18th Terrace Okeechobee, Florida 34974

News Cast for April 5th:

A vehicle accident in St. Lucie County yesterday claimed the lives of an Okeechobee man and woman and shut down traffic in the area for about two hours. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 44 year old Gary Walter Gerber was driving a Ford Ranger north on West Midway Road at the intersection of Highway 70 in Ft. Pierce with his passenger, 49 year old Tammy Lynn Radford, at around noon at the same time a semi-truck, driven by 53 year old Javier Gomez, also of Okeechobee, was heading east on Route 70 in the inside lane. Gerber was entering the intersection in order to go west on 70 and drove into the path of Gomez’s truck, causing a collision. The impact caused Gerber’s vehicle to go to the median and overturn. Gomez’s truck also overturned on the same median and the trailer got separated from the cab. Gerber and Bradford were pronounced dead at the scene. Gomez was treated for minor injuries. FHP officers are investigating the accident.

Speaking of accidents, for the third day in a row yesterday morning, Okeechobee County was the site of a serious vehicle accident. Emergency crews were called to the 42 hundred block of Route 70 East a little after six o’clock for an accident that reportedly involved at least two vehicles. No details are available on the accident as of yet, but the accident forced a shutdown of the road in both directions. On Wednesday, an accident took place on the 37 thousand block of Highway 441 North, shutting down traffic there in both directions for nearly five hours, and an accident Tuesday afternoon on route 710 claimed the life of a Boynton Beach man and seriously injured 19 year old Cameron Jarrett Maynard and 30 year old William Diaz-Helble, both of Okeechobee. They’re being treated at Raulerson Hospital.

This morning, Okeechobee County will be the site for the Law Enforcement Torch Run. This is an annual event to support and recognize the athletes of the Special Olympics. Sheriff Noel Stephen says the Torch Run will begin at the sheriff’s office at 8:30 and it will continue through the city down Route 441 to Publix where there will be a barbecue rib dinner served and Special Olympic athletes will run a lap around the parking lot with the torch. Stephen says this is one of his favorite parts of his job. The event will feature between 50 and 75 athletes. Stephen says they hope to raise more money for the Special Olympics this year than last year; last year they raised between six and seven thousand dollars.

Stephen-2019 Torch Run

Yesterday, the Okeechobee County Historic Courthouse was the very fitting recipient of a very important piece of American History. The Historic Courthouse received a doctor’s horse drawn buggy which was used during the late 1800’s. Commissioners approved the purchase of the buggy during one of their meetings last month. The idea to purchase the buggy was spearheaded by Commissioner Bryant Culpepper and he pushed for it to be placed in the Historic Courthouse. Culpepper, who was very excited at the arrival of the buggy, says he hopes it will stir young minds into wanting to learn more about the history of this country. The buggy is in mint condition and it will remain on display in the courthouse for a year before it’ll be moved to the Okeechobee Historical Society Museum as decided by commissioners at their last meeting.

Culpepper-Doctor’s Buggy Arrives 1

Culpepper-Doctor’s Buggy Arrives 2

Representatives of the Florida League of Cities made an appearance at the Okeechobee City Council meeting on Tuesday night to recognize their leader, Mayor Dowling Watford. The Florida League of Cities presented a resolution to Watford recognizing his 35 years of service to the city of Okeechobee. Mark Sittig, the Membership Services Manager of the Florida League of Cities says presenting this resolution to Watford was an honor and he says those who receive this recognition are those who not only serve their community for a long time, but they also get to know mayors and  councilmembers of other cities. Sittig says the fact that Watford loves what he does for Okeechobee is another factor in getting recognized because more often than not, it’s a “thankless” job according to Sittig. Watford says he’s “very honored” to receive this resolution and he says if he could, he’d serve the city for another 35 years.

Service Award 1

Service Award 2

A mobile home fire caught the attention of Okeechobee County Firefighters Wednesday afternoon and kept them busy for quite a while. Crews were called to the three thousand block of SE 39th Avenue a little after five o’clock and arrived to find the mobile home completely covered in flames. Firefighters say the fire was producing very thick, black smoke and the fire and smoke were venting through the roof and it was threatening a nearby home as it already had damaged the carport and two vehicles in front of the mobile home. A total of fifteen firefighters and about twenty thousand gallons of water were needed to get the fire extinguished, which took nearly two and a half hours. No one was hurt. The homeowner and family were evacuated and placed in the care of the local Red Cross. The mobile home was completely destroyed as were the two vehicles in front. Total damage is estimated at about $65 thousand dollars. The cause of the fire is being investigated.

A Stuart man is dead and a Stuart woman is in critical condition following a vehicle accident Saturday night. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 63 year old Leonard David Sclafani was in his car, stopped at a traffic light in the southbound lane of Route 1 near SE Monroe Street in Stuart a little after ten o’clock when a Volvo station wagon, driven by 30 year old Amanda Lynn Webber of Hobe Sound, was approaching from behind Sclafani and failed to stop in time before rear-ending Sclafani’s car. The impact ejected Sclafani and his passenger, 56 year old Debra Ann Sclafani, from the car and onto the center lane. A third vehicle, driven by 40 year old Chakeela Lashawn Bethel of Hobe Sound, was approaching the crash scene and collided with Leonard Sclafani, killing him instantly. Debra Sclafani was taken to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Ft. Pierce for treatment. Charges are pending for Webber and Bethel. FHP is investigating.

On the arrest report:

31 year old Servando Medrano of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia after a traffic stop. His bond is set at $55 hundred dollars.


News Cast 4/4

News Cast for April 4th:

A vehicle accident on Highway 441 North in Okeechobee County shut down traffic in both directions for most of yesterday morning. Officials from the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department say the accident happened a little after 7:30 at the 37 thousand block of 441 North, forcing traffic to be re-routed to Highway 68 East for northbound traffic and Highway 60 for southbound traffic. 441 North was re-opened to traffic a little after noon. Accident details are not yet known at this time.

An accident in Okeechobee County Tuesday afternoon not only shut down traffic flow for a while but it also unfortunately left one man dead and two Okeechobee men with serious injuries. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 56 year old Chet Buchanan of Boynton Beach was driving a Dodge 1500 pickup truck east on Route 710 near SE 58th Boulevard at about three o’clock when a GMC 3500 pickup truck, driven by 19 year old Cameron Jarrett Maynard was approaching from the opposite way. FHP officers say due to the inclement weather, Buchanan lost control of his truck, causing it to go counterclockwise and enter the westbound lane and collided with Maynard’s truck on the driver’s side. The impact sent both vehicles to the northern grassy shoulder of the road. Buchanan was pronounced dead by FHP. Maynard and his passenger, 30 year old William Diaz-Helble, were taken to Raulerson Hospital for treatment. The accident is under investigation.

The Okeechobee County Historic Courthouse will be the place to be this morning as it will be the very fitting recipient of a very important piece of American History. The Historic Courthouse will be receiving a doctor’s horse drawn buggy which was used between the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Commissioners approved the purchase of this buggy during one of their meetings last month. The idea to purchase the buggy was spearheaded by Commissioner Bryant Culpepper and he pushed for it to be placed in the Historic Courthouse. Culpepper says he hopes the arrival of this buggy will stir the minds of younger people to learn more about the history of the United States. The buggy is in mint condition and it should arrive at the Historic Courthouse by ten o’clock. Once it’s in the Historic Courthouse, it will remain on display there for a year and then it will be moved to the Okeechobee Historical Society Museum as decided by commissioners at their last meeting.

Buggy Arrival 1

Buggy Arrival 2

If you weren’t able to make the Town Hall Meeting put together by the Okeechobee City Council last month, you’ll get another chance before the end of 2019. At their meeting Tuesday night, councilmembers discussed the comments made by residents at the town hall meeting on March 19th at the Freshman Campus Auditorium and agreed that because it went so well, a second town hall meeting is in order for later in the year. The motion was made by Councilmember Wes Abney and seconded by Councilmember Bobby Keefe. Keefe says more time in front of citizens and more availability in an informal setting would encourage more community support. The measure passed by a four to one vote with Mayor Dowling Watford dissenting. Watford believes one town hall meeting a year is plenty. Some suggestions made were that the second town hall meeting take place in the afternoon rather than at night for those senior citizens who cannot drive at night.

Second Town Hall Meeting 1

Second Town Hall Meeting 2

A report of a building fire caught the attention of Okeechobee County firefighters late Monday afternoon but it turned out to be significantly less. Crews were called to a home on the 43 hundred block of SE Highway 441 a little after 4:30 and arrived to find some light smoke in the house. Firefighters secured the utilities and found a broken candle with some minor damage to a lamp and cabinet that the candle was sitting on. Firefighters removed the candle and ventilated the home before leaving the scene. No one was hurt and no structure damages. Total damage to the cabinet and lamp is estimated at about fifty dollars.

An Okeechobee man is in county jail at this time on drug and weapons possession charges in connection with an incident early Tuesday morning. Sheriff’s deputies were called to a home on the two hundred block of SE 66th Avenue a little before 3:30 and were told by the homeowner that 19 year old Ricky Wayne Courson reportedly stole gasoline from his family and fled the area in his girlfriend’s car. Deputies pulled over the car that Courson was driving and noticed he was wearing a law enforcement duty belt with a gun holster and found that there was a handgun in the holster. A search of the car turned up a black box in the center console with bags of methamphetamine in it and a straw commonly used to snort drugs. Courson was arrested for possession of methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia and a concealed weapon. He was booked into county jail and his bond is set at $65 hundred dollars.

On the arrest report:

37 year old Jason Michael Birchfield of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for trespassing on another property. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

43 year old Jason Lee Stigall Cooper of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of defrauding a vehicle rental company. He’s being held without bond.

39 year old Jose Salvador German-Amaya of Okeechobee was arrested for disorderly intoxication. His bond is set at two hundred dollars.


News Cast 4/3

News Cast for April 3rd:

The Williamson Center at Indian River State College (IRSC) was the setting for a very special ceremony yesterday by the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department. Four new officers were officially sworn in by Sheriff Noel Stephen while receiving their badges and name tags. One of the new officers was Deputy Shayne Hales, who will be moving from a position as a detention deputy to a road patrol deputy via the crossover program. Hales says he felt “pretty good” at being sworn in by Sheriff Stephen and he says his biggest adjustment from detention to road patrol will be his ability to communicate with the public. Sheriff Stephen says it’s “nice and rewarding” to get these new officers into his department and he believes the fact that they’re “homegrown” will be a major asset to the department and the community as they take on their new responsibilities. Other new deputies sworn in were Carl Jones and Justin White to road patrol and Kaitlyn Deschamps was sworn in as a new detention deputy. Officers receiving awards at the ceremony include Mark Champion and Quentin Speed with the Honor Guard, Deputy Brian Cross for his work with the canine unit and Deputy Steve Pollock as a Drug Recognition Expert.

Swearing In Ceremony 1

Swearing in Ceremony 2

Swearing In Ceremony 3

Swearing In Ceremony 4

This past weekend, an Okeechobee native was the big winner in a major fishing tournament on Lake Okeechobee. Boater Neil Nix brought five bass to the scale on Saturday morning, weighing just over 21 pounds to take home the top prize of just over $36 hundred dollars to win the T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League Gator Division tournament on the lake. Nix, who has been an avid bass fisherman for over 45 years, says it “felt good” to win and he enjoys the competition but he couldn’t believe the five bass he caught was enough to win. Nix also received an extra two thousand dollars in winnings from Ranger Cup because his boat is made by Ranger Cup and they are a major partner with FLW Bass Fishing League. FLW Spokesperson Brian Johnson says an estimated two hundred boaters and co-anglers participated in this tournament.

Fishing Tournament 1

Fishing Tournament 2

Okeechobee County firefighters had a vehicle fire to contend with Saturday afternoon. Crews were called to the 42 hundred block of SE 24th Road a little before four o’clock and found a two seat convertible with heavy smoke coming from the engine compartment. Firefighters had to access the fire through the fender wells of the car since there was no opening in the engine compartment. Firefighters got the fire extinguished in about fifteen minutes with no one getting hurt. Investigators say the vehicle owner told them the car stalled as he was returning home and when he restarted it, he drove it two blocks to his home before it started smoking heavily. Attempts to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher failed. Total damage to the car is estimated at about seven thousand dollars. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

A traffic stop led to a pursuit and drug related arrest for an Okeechobee woman Monday evening. Okeechobee County Sheriff’s patrol deputies were following a Nissan four door passenger car, driven by 38 year old Melissa Marie Schoonmaker, on the 12 hundred block of Highway 70 West a little after 5:30 for driving too closely to the vehicle in front of her and having an unassigned license tag on her car. As deputies turned on their emergency lights to get Schoonmaker to pull over, she kept going, leading deputies on a pursuit through Highway 441 and into a trailer park before finally stopping near a church. Deputies got Schoonmaker out of her car and put her in handcuffs before calling in a K-9 unit to search her car. The search of the car turned up nothing but a search of Schoonmaker herself turned up a bag of methamphetamine which weighed about 14 grams. Schoonmaker was arrested and charged with fleeing and eluding law officers and methamphetamine trafficking. She was taken to county jail and is being held on a $55 thousand dollar bond.

On the arrest report:

31 year old Jeremy Leland Carney of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on warrants from Highlands County for drug possession. He was released after posting bond.

41 year old Cheri Lorene Newton of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of cocaine possession. She’s being held without bond.

23 year old Taron Eric Rolle of Bartow, an inmate at the county jail, was arrested for battery on a fellow inmate. His bond has not been set.


News Cast 4/2

News Cast for April 2nd:

Okeechobee City Councilmembers will be meeting tonight in this second day of April and they will officially present the city’s new website and they will also present a resolution to Mayor Dowling Watford from the Florida League of Cities for 35 years of service to the city of Okeechobee. The meeting will begin at six o’clock in City Hall.

Indian River State College (IRSC) will be the site of a very special ceremony this morning. The Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department will be holding a special welcoming and swearing in ceremony for several new officers to the department. Community Relations Specialist Deputy Jack Nash says there will be four new employees to the department, three law officers and one corrections officer who will be receiving their badges and name tags from Sheriff Noel Stephen. Nash says this ceremony was put on to welcome new officers who in most cases didn’t have the benefit of a graduation ceremony. These new officers not only provides the department with some new blood, but Nash says it also gives them a sense of security and a hometown setting which often times makes them want to finish their law enforcement careers here as opposed to taking higher paying jobs in bigger departments in other cities. Besides welcoming new officers, there will also be awards given out to a couple of graduates of the National Honor Guard and a new Canine Instructor and a Drug Recognition Officer. The ceremony begins at ten o’clock in the Williamson Center of IRSC.

Nash-Welcoming Ceremony

The month of April has begun. With that, the Florida Highway Patrol is reminding motorists that April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. It’s a time for motorists to focus solely on the task of driving and don’t allow texting or other means be a distraction to you when you are driving. FHP Captain Thomas Pikul says distracted driving involves not having your eyes on the road or your hands on the wheel while driving. He also says distracted driving doesn’t just involve texting. There were a reported 52 thousand crashes caused by distracted drivers in 2018 in Florida; an average of over a thousand a week. Pikul recommends planning ahead: write that text or eat that meal before you go out driving.

Pikul 1

Pikul 2

A downed power line caught the attention of Okeechobee County firefighters Friday evening. Crews were called to a home the 45 hundred block of SE 141st Avenue a little before 5:30 and found a few power lines down and arcing. Firefighters say the lines were still hot, prompting them to keep people out of the area and waited for the arrival of Florida Power and Light (FPL) crews to assess and repair the downed lines. FPL crews secured the power to the lines and made it safe for people to return. No one was hurt and no damages reported. FPL is investigating the incident.

Okeechobee County firefighters were called into action again an hour later after receiving a report of a grass and brush fire. Crews were called to a home on the 66 hundred block of NE 7th Lane a little before 6:15 and found a small area of grass and vegetation that the property owner was burning. Firefighters say the winds began to pick up, causing the fire to get out of control. Crews got the fire controlled in about fifteen minutes while using about 250 gallons of water to get it under control. No one was hurt and no damages reported.

Okeechobee County Sheriff’s deputies have a local man in county jail at this time in connection with a domestic incident Saturday morning. Deputies were called to the 45 hundred block of SE 23rd Court just before 11:30 after receiving reports that 60 year old Robert Eugene Thompson had allegedly hit his 69 year old sister in the head and arm with a black belt containing a metal buckle. Deputies say the issue stemmed from Thompson’s sister complaining that she couldn’t hear her TV because the noise from Thompson’s TV was too loud. Thompson’s sister then went to her brother and asked him to turn it down and when he refused, she disconnected it. This caused Thompson to begin hitting her with the belt. Deputies arrived and arrested Thompson, charging him with domestic battery on a person over the age of 65. Thompson is being held in county jail without bond.

On the arrest report:

27 year old Heather Roxanne McDonald of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for driving without a valid license and possession of methamphetamine after a traffic stop. She was released after posting a bond of just over five thousand dollars.

29 year old Garrett Wade Fowler of Okeechobee was arrested for armed burglary of an occupied home with assault and battery and criminal mischief. His bond is set at $50 thousand dollars.

46 year old Andrew Joseph Luzar of Okeechobee was arrested for violating a pre-trial condition on a previous domestic abuse charge with his estranged girlfriend after he contacted her several times by phone. His bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

56 year old Geneva Guyton of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving after a traffic stop and subsequent field sobriety test. She was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

21 year old Marc Anthony Rivas of Okeechobee was arrested for unarmed burglary of an unoccupied home and battery by strangulation. His bond is set at ten thousand dollars.

34 year old Lus Del Carmen Landeverde of Okeechobee was arrested for battery on her boyfriend during a domestic dispute. Her bond is set at five hundred dollars.

55 year old Lyman De Carlos Smith of Okeechobee was arrested by police for driving on a suspended license for the second time after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

24 year old Julianna Rose Herrera of Clewiston was arrested for contempt of court during her hearing on past drug possession charges. She’s being held without bond.

44 year old Efrain Bruno Robles of Moore Haven was arrested for drunk driving following a traffic stop and field sobriety test. He was released after posting a one thousand dollar bond.


News Cast 4/1

News Cast for April 1st:

Officials from the Okeechobee Utility Authority say the Boil Water Order has been lifted as of Friday. The order had been in effect since Tuesday for residents using water for consumption following the breaking of a water main on SW 16th Avenue between SW 39th Lane and SW 44th Boulevard. The OUA declared the Boil Water Order in case any bacteria may have gotten into the water supply. The water main break shut down traffic for a few hours during repairs Tuesday afternoon.

Canal Point just outside of Port Mayaca got a very special visitor this past Friday; US President Donald Trump. Clad in a red USA cap and a dark colored blazer, US President Donald Trump traveled to the southeast area of the Lake Okeechobee near Canal Point and addressed the ongoing repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike and the issues surrounding the lake. Trump gave special thanks to local and state leaders, including Governor Ron DeSantis and former Governor and US Senator Rick Scott for their roles in helping to get the dike repaired and doing what he says is “very important” and “very dangerous” but a “great project for Florida.” DeSantis says with the success of the funding for the dike, he emphasized the need for funding for other issues surrounding the lake. Trump says the Herbert Hoover Dike project was “dying” before he and his administration got involved. Since last year, over 675 million dollars has been approved to fund the Herbert Hoover Dike repairs.

An Okeechobee man is in county jail at this time on charges of battery in connection with a domestic incident Wednesday afternoon. Sheriff’s deputies were called to the 27 hundred block of SE Highway 441 in Eagle Harbor sometime before four o’clock after receiving reports that 46 year old Andrew Joseph Luzar was being physically violent with his girlfriend. Deputies say the park manager heard a woman screaming and came and saw Luzar choking his girlfriend. The park manager told Luzar to get off of her and when Luzar ignored him, the park manager had to pull him off of her and detain him before deputies arrived. Deputies say the incident stemmed from Luzar’s girlfriend not wanting to go to the store to get him liquor, causing him to grab her arm and push her before choking her. Luzar was arrested and charged with domestic battery and was taken to county jail. His bond has not been set.

A now former Hendry County Sheriff’s deputy pled guilty late last month to perjury in connection with an arrest he allegedly made on behalf of a bail bondman’s family two years ago. According to the state’s attorney’s office, Deputy Germain Garcia pled guilty to perjury charges on March 20th after lying under oath in connection with an incident where a bail bondsman allegedly detained a person he believed committed a crime against the bondsman’s family member in 2017. Garcia responded and arrested the person. Both men were accused of giving false statements under oath about what actually happened based on evidence and witness testimony. Garcia was forced to surrender his certification as a law enforcement officer and will be placed on probation for three years.

On the arrest report:

33 year old Christine Nancy Maier of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for possession of heroin, marijuana and drug paraphernalia and obstruction following a traffic stop. Her bond is set at eight thousand dollars.

49 year old Charles Ray Mullis of Okeechobee was arrested for violating a condition regarding a previous domestic incident with his estranged wife when he showed up at her house and removed belongings from it. He was released after posting a $25 hundred dollar bond.


News Cast 3/29

News Cast for March 29th:

The leader of the free world will be coming to Lake Okeechobee today. US President Donald Trump will be coming to the lake this afternoon to see the improvements made on the Herbert Hoover Dike and he’ll also be checking the Everglades Restoration and the overall infrastructure of the lake. Jim Hurd, the Associate Director for Natural Resources Energy and Sciences says Trump will also be looking at a reservoir that will be built at some point south of the lake thanks to a feasibility report from the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and partnered with the US Army Corps of Engineers. Trump should be arriving at about one o’clock. There will be intermittent road closures on 441 north from the post office in Canal Point and southbound from the Martin County line from ten o’clock until one o’clock. Delays could last between 30 minutes to an hour.

Trump-Visit to Lake O

This is just a reminder that the deadline to register for assistance with Rebuild Florida is today. Rebuild Florida is a program designed to help as many Floridians as possible repair and rebuild their homes that were damaged by Hurricane Irma a year and a half ago. Tiffany Vause, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, says Rebuild Florida was created to help people mainly of low to middle income families have long term recovery from their damaged homes as a result of the hurricane. Rebuild Florida receives funding from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to, as Vause puts it, repair, rebuild and recover fully. Vause says this program is a last resort for those who’ve gone through FEMA, the SBA, and other programs. While Vause says this is the last day and anyone can register, the Department of Economic Opportunity will be prioritizing. Remember, the deadline to register for Rebuild Florida is today. To register, log on to rebuildflorida.gov or you can call (844) 833-1010.

Vause 1

Vause 2

This coming Sunday, March 31st is National Stop the Bleed Day. Massive bleeding from any cause, but particularly from an active shooter or explosive event where response is delayed, even for a few minutes where seconds count, can result in death. Similar to how we learn CPR and First Aid, we must learn proper bleeding control techniques, including how to use your hands, dressings and tourniquets to control bleeding. To that end, the Okeechobee County Health Department partnered with the Heartland Health Care Coalition to purchase and supply all county schools “Stop the Bleed” kits and each school employee was trained by county emergency crews in treating wounds where massive bleeding is apparent. Okeechobee County Fire Captain Ryan Hathaway says cost and available training were reasons why Okeechobee didn’t have access to this kind of capability before. Okeechobee County received 800 “Stop the Bleed” kits and representatives from Glades and Hendry Counties each got a hundred kits apiece. Hathaway says all credit goes to Brian Sell, formerly of the Okeechobee County Health Department for getting this program started here.

Hathaway-Stop the Bleeding 1

Hathaway-Stop the Bleeding 2

An Okeechobee man is in county jail at this time on a host of charges in connection with an incident early Monday morning. Sheriff’s deputies were patrolling an area of SE 28th Street in Treasure Island shortly before two o’clock and noticed three people walking down the street. Due to the hour and the residential neighborhood they were in, deputies asked them if they were carrying any weapons. One of them, 21 year old Bret McKlain Corrales, reached for his pocket and grabbed something, prompting deputies to approach him and demand he hand it over. Corrales resisted, and fought with deputies before being restrained and a small glass pipe used for smoking narcotics was taken from his hand. A search of Corrales’s backpack revealed a knife with a ten inch blade. Corrales was arrested and charged with possession of a concealed weapon and drug paraphernalia and resisting arrest. His bond has not been set. The other two people with Corrales were not charged in this incident.

An Okeechobee man was left without injuries following a vehicle accident Tuesday afternoon in Glades County but two other men were not as lucky. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 63 year old William Irven Froggatt was driving a semi-truck, hauling two trailers, west on Route 721 in Moore Haven a little after one o’clock when a Dodge Grand Caravan, driven by 28 year old Michael James Kerr of Ft. Lauderdale, was behind Froggatt’s truck. As Froggatt was turning left onto a sugar cane field, Kerr was trying to pass Froggatt’s truck on the left and ended up colliding with one of the trailers Froggatt was hauling. Kerr received minor injuries and his 64 year old passenger from St. Cloud was critically injured. Both men were taken to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Ft. Pierce for treatment. Froggatt was not injured. The name of the injured 64 year old St. Cloud man was not released pending family notification. FHP is investigating.

On the arrest report:

26 year old Jonathan Torres of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for resisting arrest without violence following a trespassing incident. His bond is set at $15 hundred dollars.

21 year old Devinn Rodriguez of Okeechobee was arrested for failing to appear in court for an undisclosed charge and contempt of court during his hearing for resisting arrest and driving on a suspended license. He’s being held without bond.

35 year old Joshua Loram Rogers of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court on past drug offenses and violating probation on past charges of battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest. He’s being held without bond.

48 year old Kenny Lynn Whaley of Okeechobee was arrested for battery on his girlfriend during a domestic dispute. His bond is set at $15 hundred dollars.


News Cast 3/28

News Cast for March 28th:

To help as many Floridians as possible repair and rebuild their homes that were damaged by Hurricane Irma a year and a half ago, the deadline to register for assistance with Rebuild Florida is tomorrow. Tiffany Vause, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, says Rebuild Florida was created to help people of low to middle income families have long term recovery from their damaged homes and belongings as a result of the hurricane. Rebuild Florida receives funding from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to, as Vause puts it, repair, rebuild and recover fully. Vause says this program is a last resort for those who’ve gone through FEMA and insurance. The difference here is people who register for Rebuild Florida don’t need to have insurance. Remember, the deadline to register for Rebuild Florida is tomorrow. To register, log on to rebuildflorida.gov or you can call (844) 833-1010.

While it was made official earlier this month, it was made official, again, earlier this week. At their meeting on Tuesday, Okeechobee County Commissioners formally accepted the donation of a doctor’s horse drawn buggy from 1876 to be placed in the Historic County Courthouse. There was a bit of a twist to the commissioners’ decision however; they decided to have the buggy remain in the historic courthouse for a full year and then it will be transported to the Okeechobee Historical Society Museum for display there. Commissioner Bryant Culpepper, who spearheaded the purchase of the buggy at an earlier meeting, originally wanted the buggy to remain in the courthouse permanently, but he did vote in favor of putting it in the museum after a year. Commissioner David Hazellief came up with the idea to move it to the historical society museum next year, where he believes it’s the right place for it (Buggy 3). The buggy will be moved into the historic courthouse either tomorrow or Monday.

A report of a cooking fire caught the attention of Okeechobee County firefighters Tuesday afternoon. Firefighters were called to a home on the 62 hundred block of NE 8th Way a little after 2:15 and found no fire present near the stove where the fire apparently happened and was already extinguished before firefighters arrived. Crews shut off the gas and electricity to the house and left instructions with the homeowner to contact an electrician. No one was hurt and no damage to the house. Total damage to the stove is about $350 dollars. The cause of the fire is being investigated.

A traffic stop turned into a major drug related arrest for an Okeechobee man Sunday night. Sheriff’s deputies stopped a Ford Explorer on the 43 hundred block of SE 26th Street for a traffic violation and noticed the passenger of the vehicle, 61 year old Robert Owen Hendershot, was looking very nervous when deputies were speaking to him. A K-9 unit was brought in to search the vehicle while deputies searched Hendershot. The search on Hendershot revealed some cocaine he had in a contact case and there was more cocaine belonging to Hendershot that was found in the vehicle, along with synthetic cannabis, methamphetamine and alprazolam pills. Hendershot was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, methamphetamine, cocaine and synthetic cannabis. He was taken to county jail and his bond is set at $20 thousand dollars. The driver of the vehicle was not charged in the incident.

On the arrest report:

29 year old Garrett Wade Fowler of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for violating a pre-trial condition from a previous domestic incident with his estranged girlfriend by contacting her through text and voicemail. He’s being held without bond.

44 year old Joseph Paul Shirey of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on previous felony battery charges. He’s being held without bond.

29 year old Tiffany Marie Garrett of Okeechobee was arrested for violating an ordinance from Fish and Wildlife. She was released after posting bond.

18 year old Javanta Jamar Ford of Okeechobee was arrested on out of county warrants for criminal mischief. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.

41 year old David Cardona of Okeechobee was arrested by police for possession of marijuana after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.


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