Local News

News Cast 6/4

News Cast for June 4th:

A report of a building fire caught the attention of Okeechobee County and city firefighters Saturday afternoon. Crews were called to the 370 block of NE 31st Terrace a little after five o’clock and arrived to find a mobile home that was partially on fire. After doing a walk around the building, crews found heavy flames emanating from the D side of the building. Firefighters attacked the blaze through the front door of the home and got the fire extinguished while using about two thousand gallons of water. The fire was extinguished in about an hour and a half. Investigators say the fire started in the kitchen and they were told by the homeowner that he was cooking with oil on the stove in the kitchen and he left for a moment only to return to find the kitchen on fire. No one was hurt. Total damage is estimated at just over $26 thousand dollars in property and contents. It remains under investigation.

Officials from the Okeechobee County Prosecutor’s office say they will charge three local juveniles as adults in connection with an incident where they allegedly spat into the food of sheriff’s deputies at a restaurant the three of them worked in last April. Prosecutor Don Richardson says 16 year old Molly Spearow, 17 year old Alex Armstrong and 17 year old Logan Pope are back in court for arraignment later this month and all three will be charged as adults. Pope, Armstrong and Spearow are charged with violating the Florida Anti-Tampering Act for Food and Battery on a law enforcement officer when surveillance camera footage at the Highway 55 restaurant caught the three juveniles spitting into the deputies’ food.  All three were released from their jobs and later arrested by Okeechobee Police. Richardson says his department chose to try the three as adults because he says “it’s a serious crime and it deserves serious consequences”. The arraignment is set for June 13th.  All three juveniles are being held in the Juvenile Justice Department. Attorneys for the juveniles, Roger Azcona and Shannon Eighmie, declined to comment.

Okeechobee County firefighters had a brush fire to contend with Wednesday afternoon. Crews were called to the 57 hundred block of Highway 70 East a little before five o’clock and found a brush fire that was being worked on by firefighters of the Department of Forestry. Some of the Okeechobee County firefighters were released from the scene while some stayed behind to help with the mop-up. Firefighters used about eight hundred gallons of water to keep the blaze from re-igniting. No one was hurt and no structure damages. Cause is under investigation.

Officers from the Fort Pierce Police Department are investigating a shooting that left one man dead Sunday night. Police responded to the two thousand block of Delaware Avenue sometime after eight o’clock and found three adult Hispanic men were shot. One of them was pronounced dead at the scene, and the other two were taken to area hospitals for treatment. Fort Pierce Police Detectives are working to identify the suspect and the circumstances surrounding this incident. Names of the deceased and wounded are not being released at this time. If you have any information regarding this shooting, please contact the Fort Pierce Police Department at (772) 467-6905 or (772) 467-6800.

On the arrest report:

41 year old Manuel Solis Perez of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

37 year old Jason Michael Birchfield of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court during his hearing on past charges of trespassing. He’s being held without bond.

29 year old Cory Ray Jenkins of Okeechobee was arrested for loitering and possession of methamphetamine and Alprazolam following an incident at an apartment complex. His bond is set at just over $15 thousand dollars.

28 year old Jordan Michael Lee of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past drug possession charges. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

38 year old Jerome Wade Selvey of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of marijuana resin after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a $35 hundred dollar bond.

30 year old Danny Anthony Bonilla of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

41 year old Thomas Ryan Koos of Okeechobee was arrested for resisting arrest during a fight with another man. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

19 year old Zaid Juvencio Calzada of Okeechobee was arrested for cocaine possession after he was caught trying to distribute it to someone. He was released after posting a $25 hundred dollar bond.

46 year old Adrian Jones of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving and driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. He was released after posting a one thousand dollar bond.

26 year old Anthony Lamar Jones, Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for resisting arrest after a traffic stop. He’s being held on a five hundred dollar bond.

35 year old Caleb Hunter Pearce of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving after he was found passed out at the wheel of his truck at a gas station and subsequent field sobriety test. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

35 year old Steven Henry Futch of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a $250 dollar bond.

 


News Cast 6/3

News Cast for June 3rd:

This past Saturday was June 1st and that means Hurricane Season is officially underway. With that, officials at FEMA are reminding people to start making a disaster plan now because we are moving to a time when things are changing and you don’t know what to expect and it could mean the difference between you and your family being safe or not safe during a hurricane. FEMA spokesperson Curtis Allen says one of the most important things to remember when creating a disaster plan is communication. Allen also recommends planning ahead when you have to evacuate and do not ignore the evacuation warnings. Creating a disaster kit is important and while it should contain food and water, it should also contain enough medication for at least 72 hours. Governor Ron DeSantis approved a disaster preparedness sales tax holiday from now until June 6th. That means no sales tax on items like batteries, generators and other supplies. For more information, you can log on to floridarevenue.com/disasterprep.

Okeechobee County firefighters had a report of a rubbish fire Thursday afternoon that required their attention. Crews were called to the 14 hundred block of SE 14th Terrace a little before 3:30 and found two small piles that were smoldering. Investigators say a table and logs were burning in one pile close to the road and the second pile appeared to be an old television set and a mattress, with the pile measuring 15 by 15 feet in size. Sheriff’s deputies on scene say the people who had lived there were recently evicted and the landlord was burning their stuff. Firefighters extinguished both piles within about twenty minutes with no one getting hurt. Cost of damages is estimated at five hundred dollars.

While Hurricane Season is officially underway, it didn’t stop grass fires from happening. Okeechobee County firefighters were called to assist crews from Highlands County in fighting a grass fire on the 30 thousand block of NW 72nd Avenue Friday morning. Firefighters arrived on scene shortly before ten o’clock and found a quarter acre sized grass blaze with minimal flames and moving slowly. Crews got the blaze controlled in ten minutes but not before it damaged a power pole. Firefighters waited until Florida Power and Light (FPL) crews arrived to repair the damaged pole. No one was hurt. Firefighters from the Department of Forestry also assisted in fighting this fire. Cause is under investigation.

While May is officially in the rearview mirror, it’s important to remember it was a month full of proclamations made official by county leaders. Well, believe it or not, there’s one more proclamation to talk about and that’s National Community Action Month, which was proclaimed by Okeechobee County Commissioners at their last meeting. Commissioner Bradley Goodbread, a member of the Treasure Coast’s Community Action Agency, accepted the proclamation on behalf of the county and it identifies people who are living in extreme poverty and desperately need help, by giving them food and teaching them a trade so they can gain solid employment. Goodbread says it’s a great feeling to accept this proclamation. Community Action Agencies were first created by then US President Lyndon Johnson in 1964 as part of his War on Poverty.

A Stuart man is facing some time in prison after pleading guilty last week to filing a false tax return with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Officials from the US Attorney’s office in the southern district of Florida say 80 year old Joseph J. Ferry the Third pled guilty to one count of willfully filing a false income tax return for his landscaping company, Ferry Enterprises, Inc., for the 2015 tax year. According to court documents, Ferry’s company provided landscaping services under contracts with Martin County and the city of Port St. Lucie and served customers in the Treasure Coast area. Ferry filed tax returns with the IRS which understated his total income for himself and his company from 2012 thru 2016. Ferry used funds from his corporate bank accounts to pay personal expenses and purchasing firearms. He’s facing a maximum of three years in prison when he’s sentenced July 26th. He’ll then be facing supervised release, restitution to the IRS and monetary penalties.

On the arrest report:

21 year old Athena Jo Katelyn Garland of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for possession of methamphetamine, a controlled substance without a prescription, marijuana and introducing contraband into a detention facility. Her bond has not been set.

30 year old Ryan Joseph Bosold of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of methamphetamine and introducing contraband into a detention facility. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

40 year old Zontina Jackson of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of armed robbery, kidnapping  and sexual battery. He’s being held without bond.

 

 


News Cast 5/31

News Cast for May 31st:

The month of May is almost over and here in Okeechobee County, the month has been filled with proclamations approved by county commissioners, city councilmembers and the school board at their respective meetings. So what’s one more, right? At one of their meetings earlier this month, county commissioners proclaimed this month as Foster Care Awareness Month. Pat McCoy, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction for Okeechobee County Schools, was on hand for the proclamation and she says feels great that commissioners are strong supporters of programs to help children in the county. McCoy, a foster mom to four kids, says there’s a shortage of foster homes and foster parents in the county and Okeechobee has the second highest rate of children going into foster homes in the four-county area. McCoy says the reason for that is quite simply, poverty. McCoy says besides the need for more foster parents and homes, the best way to fix the foster care program is not needing to have it; in other words, having better functioning families where children are never removed.

McCoy-Foster Care Awareness Month 1

McCoy-Foster Care Awareness Month 2

Okeechobee County firefighters had their hands full with grass fires yesterday morning. Crews were called to the three hundred block of NE 14th Avenue a little after 8:30 for what was originally reported as a tree fire but arrived to find a small brush fire on the west side of NE 14th Avenue. Firefighters say the blaze measured about ten by ten feet in size. Crews got the fire controlled in about five minutes while using about two hundred fifty gallons of water to get it extinguished. No one was hurt and no structures damaged. Cause is being investigated.

Nearly three hours later, Okeechobee County firefighters were alerted to another brush fire on the 16 thousand block of Highway 441 North. Crews arrived and were told by witnesses that this brush fire was caused by an earlier car fire. The owner of the car reportedly said his car made a loud noise as he was driving it, causing him to pull over and he noticed the fire underneath his car. He moved it and it ignited the brush. Crews got the blaze controlled in a few minutes with no one getting hurt and no damages.

Speaking of fires, while we’re on the brink of the start of Hurricane Season, officials from the Florida Forest Service are reminding people to burn responsibly on your property. Spokesperson Melissa Yunas says wildfire danger has been elevated as of late due to the lack of rainfall over the past week and a half. Vegetation has been drying out and wetlands have been drying out as well. Yunas says the best thing you can do is no burning at all, but if you must do any burning, keep the fires small and know the weather of the day. Yunas also recommends having a water source nearby, such as a garden hose, in case you need to put out the fire quickly. Keep burns at least 25 feet from your home and 150 feet away from an occupied building and 50 feet from public roads. Burns that get out of control requiring fire crews to put it out, will be your responsibility in terms of suppression costs.

Yunas-Burning Responsibly

On the arrest report:

34 year old Corey Lee Lankford of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for failing to appear in court and contempt of court on previous charges of battery, petit theft, methamphetamine possession and introducing contraband into a detention facility. He’s being held without bond.

37 year old Jason Michael Birchfield of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of synthetic cannabis after a traffic stop. He’s being held without bond.

54 year old Scott Denton Salmon of Okeechobee was arrested for grand theft auto and driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. His bond is set at six thousand dollars.

29 year old Rachel Marie Herndon of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of cannabis and tampering with evidence after a traffic stop. Her bond is set at ten thousand dollars.

 


News Cast 5/30

News Cast for May 30th:

As of today, the 2018-19 school year has ended for students while teachers have one more workday tomorrow before their summer vacations begin. It also will mark the end of a career for 18 teachers and other school officials who are retiring at the end of this school year. At their last meeting, the school board recognized these retirees. One of those teachers is Gerald Mayernik, a math teacher from Yearling Middle School. Mayernik, a Pittsburgh native, only taught at Yearling for two years after retiring the first time after over thirty years of teaching in his native Pennsylvania. He got back into it two years ago at the behest of his son and daughter in law, who also teach at Yearling. Mayernik says his favorite part about teaching in Okeechobee is learning about a culture that’s so much the same, yet so different from where he’s from. Other teachers and school officials retiring this year include Dixie Ball, from South Elementary School, Catherine Hyde from Okeechobee High School, Karen Van Beek from Central Elementary School and Bus Drivers Sharon Price & Elisa Cortez.

The Memorial Day weekend was not without its share of brush and grass fires in Okeechobee County. Firefighters were called to the 14 thousand block of NW 250th Street a little before two o’clock Friday afternoon and arrived to find a one acre sized brush fire in the side lot of the owner’s house. Forest Service firefighters also arrived on scene and put a line around the blaze to keep it from spreading. Crews got the fire controlled in about twenty minutes with no one getting hurt and no structure damages. Cause is under investigation.

Two nights later, crews were called to the 21 hundred block of NE 39th Boulevard for a reported grass fire. Firefighters arrived on scene at around 7:45 and found the twenty by twenty foot sized fire, burning mostly heavy grass and moving slowly. Crews got the fire controlled in about five minutes with no one getting hurt and no structure damages. Investigators say the fire was caused by mishandled fireworks.

A vehicle accident over the holiday weekend in St. Lucie County claimed the life of a Hopkinsville, Kentucky man and sent four of his passengers to the hospital with injuries ranging from minor to serious. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 42 year old Michael Ray Cardwell was driving a Toyota Tundra pickup truck south on State Route 91 in the outside lane a little before 8:30 on Saturday morning when for unknown reasons, he veered to the left and collided with a guardrail in the median. The impact sent the truck rotating clockwise and overturned several times before ending up in the opposite outside lane. Medics pronounced Cardwell dead at the scene. His passengers, 34 year old Heather Cardwell, 64 year old Martin Gamble and two young boys, all from Hopkinsville, Kentucky, were taken to area hospitals for treatment of their injuries. The accident is being investigated.

On the arrest report:

40 year old Terri Anne Teel of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia after a traffic stop. She was released after posting a six thousand dollar bond.

58 year old Lisa Brooks of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving and having a blood alcohol level of .15 percent with someone under the age of 18 in the vehicle with her following a traffic stop. She was released after posting a $25 hundred dollar bond.

31 year old Adrian Tyrone Brazell of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of marijuana after a traffic stop. His bond is set at two thousand dollars.

31 year old Delaneo Wayne Pryor of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of marijuana, cocaine and drug paraphernalia after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a $35 hundred dollar bond.

39 year old Catrela Denise Stallworth of Okeechobee was arrested for trespassing. She was released after posting a one thousand dollar bond.

19 year old Jessica Alexis Camp of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia at a bar. She was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

38 year old Tiffany Kristin Ocain of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. She was released after posting bond.

59 year old Edsall Conklin the Third of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

37 year old Cyteria Shontae Davis of Okeechobee was arrested for battery on her girlfriend during a domestic dispute. She was released after posting a one thousand dollar bond.

32 year old William Lee Smith of Okeechobee was arrested for trespassing. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

32 year old Jesus Martin Sanchez of Fort Pierce was arrested by police for driving without a valid license. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

35 year old Jacqueline Zamora of Fort Pierce was arrested on a warrant from Indian River County for failing to pay traffic support charges following a traffic stop. Her bond is set at a thousand dollars.

36 year old Nestor David Diaz of Clewiston was arrested for grand theft auto. He was released after posting a $25 hundred dollar bond.


News Cast 5/29

News Cast for May 29th:

Indian Hammock was the scene of a plane crash this past Memorial Day weekend but fortunately it turned out to be not as bad as one would think. Okeechobee County Sheriff’s deputies were called to the 32 thousand block of Highway 441 North a little after 2:30 on Saturday afternoon after receiving reports of a plane crashing. Deputies say the pilot was making his final approach at about 15 feet latitude when he encountered crosswinds and his plane, a model RV10 amateur aircraft, stalled, causing it to fall and hit the grass airstrip. The plane reportedly slid a hundred yards coming to rest on the airstrip. The plane sustained damage to the propeller, landing gear and the inner port of the fuel tank was punctured, causing about twenty gallons of fuel to spill. The pilot was not injured in the crash. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating the incident.

Much of the month of May in Okeechobee has been a time of proclamations but none more important than mental health. At their meeting last week, city councilmembers proclaimed the month of May as Mental Health Awareness Month. Tiara Weethee, director of marketing and communications of Suncoast Mental Health Center, was on hand to accept the proclamation and says she’s very proud the council is bringing awareness on the importance of mental health and she’d like people to realize it should be recognized on a daily basis and not just during this month. Weethee says it’s a daily battle not just for people who have mental illness but for those who have family members who have it. Some ways to boost someone’s mental health include animal companionship, social connections and recreational activity. County commissioners and school board members also proclaimed this month as Mental Health Awareness Month at their respective meetings.

Weethee 1

Weethee 2

An Okeechobee man is in county jail at this time on a host of charges, including sexual battery, in connection with an incident Sunday evening. Deputies were called to the one thousand block of Highway 98 North a little before 7:30 and were told by a woman living there that 42 year old James Carlos Gillis the Third forced himself upon her and attempted to have sex with her. The woman told deputies that Gillis, who had been very physical with her all day, wanted her to move out and while she was packing, Gillis forced himself on her and she tried to fight him off, but he was too strong. Eventually she was able to get free and call 911. Gillis was arrested and charged with sexual battery, hindering the communication with law enforcement, false imprisonment and battery causing bodily harm. He was booked into county jail and his bond is set at $111 thousand dollars.

A vehicle accident Saturday evening led to the arrest of an Okeechobee man on a host of charges. Sheriff’s deputies were called to an area on Highways 70 and 98 for an accident involving two vehicles a little before 7:30 and found that the one at fault, 27 year old Ethan Lynn Gopher, was found to be driving drunk. Deputies then ordered a search of the vehicle with a K-9 unit and the search revealed some marijuana, crack cocaine, a black digital scale, smoking pipes and a smoking pin with cannabis resin. Gopher was arrested and charged with drunk driving, possession of crack cocaine, marijuana, drug paraphernalia and cannabis resin. He was booked into county jail and released after posting a $21 thousand dollar bond. There was no report of any injuries in this accident.

A rubbish fire caught the attention of Okeechobee County Firefighters Sunday evening and kept them there for a while. Crews were called to the 13 thousand block of SE Highway 441 a little before 7:30 for what was originally reported as a brush fire but they arrived to find a large trash pile on fire. Crews needed almost two hours to get the fire controlled and Department of Forestry crews arrived to plow a line around the fire to keep it from spreading. No one was hurt. Total damage is estimated at about five thousand dollars. It’s under investigation.

Speaking of fires, Highlands and Glades Counties had some fires of their own to fight this holiday weekend and they’re still fighting them. Forest Service Crews are fighting a ten acre blaze on the border of Highlands and Glades Counties off Route 70 and DC Bar Ranch Road and a twenty acre blaze a mile south of the Highlands/Glades County lines off Route 721. Forest Service Spokesperson Melissa Yunas says these fires are different because they are burning organic peat moss, or muck and the fire is actually below ground and they’re emitting a smoke with a powerful odor, rather than a visible fire. Yunas says it’s making it very difficult for firefighters to get a handle on the blazes. Crews have had to use agricultural pumps to flood the affected fields to effectively fight the fires. Yunas says the emitting smoke mixes with fog creating a “super fog”, making it difficult for drivers to see clearly so if you’re driving in that area, especially in the morning, please use caution and use your low beams. The causes of these fires are being investigated.

Yunas-Muck Fires 1

Yunas-Muck Fires 2

On the arrest report:

35 year old Daniel James Foulke of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on a warrant from Glades County for not paying child support. He was released after posting bond.

25 year old Travis Eugene Butts of Okeechobee was arrested for battery on another man following an argument the two were having. He was released after posting a $750 dollar bond.

38 year old Karla M. Barnett of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of methamphetamine possession. She’s being held without bond.

35 year old Eric Scott Lawson of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license and possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia after a traffic stop. His bond is set at six thousand dollars.

42 year old Charles Edward Head of Okeechobee was arrested for battery on his sister during a domestic dispute. His bond has not been set.

46 year old Jeffrey Todd Forrester of Okeechobee was arrested for failing to obey law enforcement when told to stop his vehicle. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

49 year old Gary Wynn Fralix of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving for the third time in ten years following a traffic stop. He was released after posting a three thousand dollar bond.

27 year old Gerardo Hernandez Rivera of Okeechobee was arrested for leaving the scene of an accident. He was released after posting a $750 dollar bond.

41 year old Earlene Hope Ochoa of Okeechobee was arrested for battery on her boyfriend during a domestic dispute. Her bond has not been set.

38 year old Demetrio Aguilar of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on an expired license for more than six months following a traffic stop. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

55 year old Timothy Wayne Spradlin of Okeechobee was arrested by Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC) officers for operating a boat while intoxicated on the Kissimmee River in Okeechobee County. He was released after posting bond.

43 year old Andrew Steven Boyce of Moore Haven was arrested for drunk driving after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

54 year old Osvaldo Rios Rios Compte of Moore Haven was arrested for grand theft and using another person’s identification without their consent. He was released after posting a ten thousand dollar bond.


OPERATION BEER BUY

OPERATION BEER BUY

The Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office recently conducted “Operation Beer Buy”. Alcohol compliance checks were conducted at random establishments, where an underage person was sent into stores with instructions to attempt to purchase alcohol. These compliance checks are done periodically to make sure the merchants, who sell alcohol, check I.D.’s if there’s any chance the buyer is underage.

None of the stores that were checked sold alcohol to the underage person. We would like to express our gratitude to all of those stores for their compliance with the law. We will continue to conduct these operations from time to time.

The stores that were checked are as follows:

Ft. Drum General Store, 31309 Hwy. 441 North

Metro Gas Station, 14025 Hwy. 441 North

Shenanigan’s, 2237 Hwy. 98 North

Mary Ann’s Corner Liquor Store, 30 Hwy. 98 North

Town Star Gas Station, 1865 Hwy. 70 West

Applebee’s, 1210 Hwy. 70 East

Cowboy’s, 202 NE 7 Avenue

Sheriff Stephen stated, “The Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office conducted an operation to purchase alcohol using a minor. During the operation, these stores/restaurants were randomly selected. The minor was unable to purchase alcohol at these establishments. I would like to thank you and your staff for following the beverage laws and helping the Sheriff’s Office stop underage drinking.”

Michele Bell, PIO


Tuesday, May 28th News

At their meeting this past Thursday, the Okeechobee County Commissioners decided to deal with some properties in the county which they deem as “nuisances.” In this case, a nuisance property is one that is dilapidated to the point where it creates an infestation of bugs or rats, the roof has caved in and it’s just an overall blight to the neighborhood, not to mention a safety hazard. County Administrator Robbie Chartier says the commissioners voted unanimously to have these properties demolished at some point in the near future. Two of the properties that will be demolished are on the 36 hundred block of NW 21st Avenue and the third one is on the 92 hundred block of SE 59th Drive.

Just as the Okeechobee County Commissioners accepted a proclamation at a recent meeting declaring this month as Mental Health Awareness Month, the Okeechobee County School Board followed suit at their last meeting, accepting the same proclamation. Leah Suarez, project coordinator of the school district’s mental health system of care project, was on hand to accept the proclamation. Suarez says this is a time to organize and rally the community to recognize the seriousness of this disease and view it as such, but also promote evidence-based practices like “wrap around” case management that is successful in helping people struggling with mental illness. Suarez, a working foster mom, says this is an important month for her not just professionally but personally too; she wanted to take her own life five years ago. Suarez says she’s at a point in her life now where she “feels great” but also realizes the importance of self-care.

An argument with his father led to the arrest of an Okeechobee man on a host of charges during the early morning hours of May 11th. Police were called to the 19 hundred block of NW 7th Avenue a little before two o’clock after the homeowner said his son, 42 year old John Caleb French, battered him and took off in his Toyota 4-Runner while he was intoxicated after an argument the two of them had regarding his son’s drinking. Police spotted the vehicle near the 22 hundred block of 441 South and pulled him over after a short chase. Police say French was yelling and cursing at the officers and he was trying to grab some open beers in the car and hide them. French was arrested and charged with domestic violence and battery on a person over the age of 65, driving on a suspended license and tampering with evidence. He was booked into county jail and his bond is set at $56 thousand dollars.

This month is Building Safety Month in Okeechobee, and it’s a time for making sure that construction that’s going on is safe and correct. City building official and inspector Jeff Newell was on hand to accept the proclamation from the city council at a recent meeting. Newell says what tends to be overlooked sometimes is the tendency for contractors to “cut corners” in their work (Newell 1). Newell says this proclamation is especially important as we head into Hurricane Season. He’s been a building inspector for over thirty years. Hurricane Season officially begins June 1st.

An Immokalee woman is in serious condition after a vehicle accident last Monday afternoon in Collier County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 20 year old Noelia Vasquez was driving a Nissan Maxima west on County Road 858 in Naples a little before two o’clock. Vasquez reportedly lost control of her car, causing it to cross both lanes and then overturn into a water-filled canal. FHP officers say Vasquez was trapped in her car and sustained a head injury before an on-duty member of Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC) jumped in and rescued her. She was taken to NCH North Hospital in Naples for treatment where her condition is listed as stable. The accident is being investigated.

On the arrest report:

24 year old Juan Mejia Ortiz of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for aggravated battery on a pregnant woman during a domestic dispute. His bond has not been set.

34 year old Olga Maldonado of Okeechobee was arrested for battery during a domestic dispute. Her bond has not been set.

39 year old Travis Edward Adams of Okeechobee was arrested for violating a pre-trial condition regarding a previous domestic violence case. His bond is set at ten thousand dollars.

28 year old Lucas Dealon LaGrange of Okeechobee was arrested for indecent exposure. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.

50 year old Louise Ann Perkins of Okeechobee was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Her bond is set at $25 thousand dollars.

24 year old Daniel Espiridion Chavez of Okeechobee was arrested for aggravated battery on a pregnant woman. He was released after posting a $35 thousand dollar bond.

23 year old Baldemar Rodriguez of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of cocaine, reckless driving and eluding law officers during a high speed pursuit. He was released after posting a $51 thousand dollar bond.


News Cast 5/24

News Cast for May 24th:

With the time to discuss county budgets coming up soon, the Okeechobee County Commissioners discussed the issue of funding the School Resource Officer (SRO) program in county schools at their meeting yesterday. Sheriff Noel Stephen spoke at the meeting and he says historically there been a 50/50 split with the sheriff’s department and the school board to fund this program, which costs just over a million dollars to fund per year. Some commissioners brought up the idea that the school board should be putting up more funding for this program. Commissioners say a workshop is in order to discuss what can be done to secure more funding by the school board for the SRO program. Stephen believes this workshop will be a good idea because SRO’s are definitely needed in county schools (SRO Funding 1). Currently there’s thirteen SRO’s patrolling schools in Okeechobee County. The workshop will be done at some point in the coming weeks.

The city of Okeechobee will be getting a new emergency generator, just in time for Hurricane Season. At their meeting Tuesday night, city councilmembers approved the purchase of a new emergency backup generator for the city Fire Department and City Hall which will be needed when the city has a power outage due to a hurricane or other issue. City Administrator Marcos Montes De Oca says the previous generator was damaged severely when someone crashed into it during a high speed pursuit with law enforcement last month. The new generator is worth just over $24 thousand dollars but the city’s insurance company will pick up just over $23 thousand dollars of that tab while the city’s capital fund will handle the rest. The generator will be installed by Ft. Pierce-based Newman’s Power Systems, a company that the city has worked with before on their previous generator.

Detectives from the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department are investigating the theft of a rather large piece of equipment. Detectives say a 2018 Orange Kubota Mini Excavator was reported stolen from the 13 hundred block of SE Highway 441, sometime between Wednesday, May 15th and Wednesday, May 22nd. This mini-excavator, which is on tracks, has three teeth on the bucket and has a value estimated at twenty thousand dollars. The serial number on it is #30483 and the model number is #KX41-3VR1. If you have any information as to where this excavator may be or who may be responsible for stealing it, please contact the Sheriff’s Department or Treasure Coast Crime Stoppers at 1-800-273-8477 if you’d like to remain anonymous.

An unauthorized burning caught the attention of Okeechobee County firefighters Wednesday afternoon. Crews were called to a home on the 31 hundred block of Highway 710 a little before two o’clock and found several burn piles. Okeechobee County firefighters were met by firefighters from the Department of Forestry (DOF) who asked that the burn piles be extinguished. Investigators say the homeowner was denied a burn permit and he was trying to break down old burn piles but they ended up igniting again. He tried to get them extinguished but he could not do it. Firefighters needed about ten minutes to put the fires out with about five hundred gallons of water. No one was hurt and no structures damaged.

A Fort Pierce man will be going to prison for a while after recently being convicted of drug and firearms possession. A US District Court judge in the southern district of Florida sentenced 33 year old Jose Antonio Morales earlier this month to seven years in prison for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of a handgun. According to court records and evidence presented at his trial in February, Morales, a convicted felon, had two pounds of high grade marijuana and a loaded nine millimeter pistol in a safe in his bedroom when law officers came to execute a search warrant at his home last June. Prosecuting attorneys commended the work of officers in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Department in bringing Morales to justice.

On the arrest report:

57 year old John Keith Agnew of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on out of county warrants for violating probation on undisclosed charges. He’s being held without bond.

35 year old Christopher Kyle Baker was arrested for violating probation on past burglary and grand theft charges. He was released after posting a $25 hundred dollar bond.

23 year old Diana Rendon of Okeechobee was arrested for resisting arrest following a traffic stop. Her bond is set at five hundred dollars.

25 year old Jesus De La Paz of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.


News Cast 5/23

News Cast for May 23rd:

Okeechobee County Commissioners meet this morning and they will proclaim the month of May as National Community Action Month and they will consider a draft letter compiled by officials from Martin County staff for five other counties including Okeechobee, regarding the management of Lake Okeechobee. The meeting will begin at nine o’clock in the Historic County Courthouse and it will be streamed live on the commissioners’ website.

Speaking of the Okeechobee County Commissioners, they have given the green light to the Tourist Development Council (TDC) to submit a proposal to host next year’s Bass Pro Tour Major League Fishing Tournament. TDC coordinator Sharie Turgeon presented the proposal at the commissioners’ last meeting and they voted unanimously in authorizing funds in the amount of $55 thousand dollars to cover the host fee and host deliverables such as hotels, meeting rooms and a couple of motor homes for interviewing the fishermen and base of operations. Turgeon says she was approached on the idea of Okeechobee hosting from a man running Major League Fishing who was incidentally her contact when the county previously hosted the Bass Master Elite Series two years ago. Turgeon says she hopes the issues surrounding the levels of Lake Okeechobee will not be a concern when the tournament begins next year. The host city for this tournament should be known in the next few months.

Turgeon-Bass Pro Host Proposal 1

Turgeon-Bass Pro Host Proposal 2

The Okeechobee City Council recently approved a proclamation deeming this week as National Public Works Week. This is a time to recognize and appreciate the importance of your public works department as put together by the American Public Works Association. Okeechobee City Public Works Director David Allen was on hand to accept the proclamation and he says whether it’s turning on your lights or using your bathroom, it’s all because of public works. Allen also says the best part of his job is that no two days are alike. Allen says he’s discovered that public works tends to be unappreciated or taken for granted until something goes wrong such as a power outage or backed up plumbing. Allen has been Okeechobee’s Public Works Director for six years.

A traffic stop turned into a drug related arrest for an Okeechobee man Tuesday afternoon. Sheriff’s deputies stopped the driver of a Dodge four-door sedan on the five hundred block of Route 70 East a little before 2:30 for having a malfunctioning taillight. The driver looked very nervous, as was the passenger, 38 year old Mitchell Andrew Douglas, when they were questioned by deputies and they were not making eye contact. A K-9 unit was called to search the vehicle and the search revealed a cigarette box in the glove compartment with a clear bag in it containing methamphetamine and it belonged to Douglas. Douglas was arrested and charged with methamphetamine possession and booked into county jail with a bond set at five thousand dollars. The driver was given a verbal warning regarding his taillight and released.

An Indiantown man is dead and several others are in serious condition following a vehicle accident early Sunday morning in Martin County that kept the roads closed to traffic for several hours. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 38 year old Lavar Fairfax-Byrd of Port St. Lucie was driving a Mercedes sedan west on SW Citrus Boulevard in Palm City a little after 5:30 at the same time a GMC van, driven by 54 year old Miguel Marroquin of Indiantown, was approaching from the opposite way. For unknown reasons, Fairfax-Byrd drove onto the opposite lane and collided head on with Marroquin’s van. The impact sent the van rotating counterclockwise and ending up on the right shoulder of the road where another vehicle approaching from behind Marroquin’s van hit it head on. Marroquin was pronounced dead at the scene. His passengers, 79 year old Juan Diego Marroquin, 65 year old Juan Tomas Gabino, 18 year old Francisco Andres Frances and 49 year old Andres de Andres Lorenzo, all from Indiantown, were airlifted to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Ft. Pierce for treatment. Fairfax-Byrd, who has charges pending against her in this accident, was seriously injured and taken to Martin Memorial South Hospital for treatment. The accident remains under investigation.

On the arrest report:

27 year old Ryan Jeffrey Euard of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for failing to appear in court for past undisclosed misdemeanor charges. He’s being held without bond.

32 year old Ashley Nicole Harden of Okeechobee was arrested on two counts of contempt of court during her hearing on past charges of drug possession and introducing contraband into the jail. She’s being held without bond.

47 year old Sandra Jean Allen of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license and driving with a stolen license plate attached to her vehicle after a traffic stop. Her bond is set at $15 hundred dollars.

35 year old Marc Doffy Jeune of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest. He’s being held without bond.

27 year old Jolanda Mekal Chamberland of Okeechobee was arrested for obstruction during an investigation. Her bond is set at $750 dollars.

43 year old Christy Dawn Kackley of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court during her hearing on past charges of drug possession. She’s being held without bond.

38 year old James Michael Kendall of Okeechobee was arrested for grand theft of another man’s equipment for his job and possession of drug paraphernalia. His bond is set at six thousand dollars.


News Cast 5/22

News Cast for May 22nd:

Okeechobee Police are investigating some vandalism done to some of the attractions at Flagler Park. Police say this past weekend, the Huey helicopter received damage to the paint. Where the paint had oxidized, offenders reportedly wrote and walked on the paint leaving marks. Police took photos of the damages and the helicopter was also processed for latent fingerprints. Damage is valued at around three hundred dollars and it’s since been repaired by ex-service personnel. If you have any information as to who may be responsible, please contact the Okeechobee Police Department at 863-763-9784.

It looks as if the conservation easement and wetland mitigation that has hamstrung the development of Industrial Park at the Okeechobee County Airport and the airport itself is on the way to being removed. At their last meeting, county commissioners received a report from representatives of Orlando-based engineering firm Avcon concerning the easements on the airport land and commissioners gave staff direction to move forward on funding the removal of the easements and wetlands. Airport Director Adam Hied was happy with the commissioners’ decision and this will benefit not just Industrial Park, but the airport as a whole. The removal of the easements will cost around two million dollars. The issue will be discussed further at a later meeting.

Recently, officials at the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) declared this week as Water Re-use Week in Florida. Libby Pigman of the Water Management District says April and May are typically the driest months of the year and it’s the time of heightened awareness of how precious our water availability is and what we can do to better conserve it. Pigman says besides taking shorter showers and flushing your toilets only when necessary, you can also limit your irrigation water usage. Water Re-use Week was also approved by Okeechobee County Commissioners and the City Council as proclamations at recent meetings.

Okeechobee Police arrested a local man Friday afternoon on a host of charges in connection with a stolen debit card. Police arrested 47 year old Alton Aquilar Hunt Junior after it was discovered he stole a debit card that belonged to woman he was renting a room from. Police say the woman contacted police saying there was suspicious activity on her debit card after receiving an email from her bank saying it only had ten dollars on it. She told police that Hunt had been residing in her home and the debit card, normally in her bedroom, was now gone and there was no one else in the home. She believed Hunt took it and made six hundred dollars in purchases with it. Hunt was questioned and then arrested and charged with larceny and credit card fraud. He’s in county jail in lieu of a $21 thousand dollar bond. The case is being investigated.

A trash fire caught the attention of Okeechobee County firefighters Saturday morning. Crews were called to the 18 hundred block of SE Highway 441 a little before 10:30 and found an area measuring about three by five feet where some yard debris was burning near the roadway and left unattended. Firefighters say a witness was trying to put it out himself with dirt but to no avail. Crews got the fire extinguished in about five minutes with some water and with no one getting hurt and no damages reported. It’s under investigation.

On the arrest report:

26 year old Ryan Andrew Tiger of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for violating probation on past charges of discharging a firearm while in a moving vehicle and fleeing and eluding a law officer in Broward County. He’s being held without bond.

40 year old Juan Garcia of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on an expired license for more than six months following a traffic stop. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

44 year old Jack Madison Bunting the Fourth of Okeechobee was arrested for battery on his girlfriend during a domestic dispute when he reportedly strangled her. He was released after posting a five thousand dollar bond.

30 year old Melinda Amy Gonzalez of Okeechobee was arrested for passing a forged check. Her bond is set at five thousand dollars.

23 year old Austin Shane King of Okeechobee was arrested for failing to appear in court on past charges of grand theft auto fleeing law officers at high speeds and driving on a suspended license. He’s being held without bond.

55 year old Renee Bethene Lang of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license and introducing contraband into a detention facility when she tried bringing marijuana into the jail. She was released after posting a three thousand dollar bond.

27 year old Gregory Thomas Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past simple battery charges. He’s being held without bond.

39 year old Tracy Wayne McKinney of Okeechobee was arrested for fraud after not returning leased property. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

42 year old Ernie Paul Higginbotham of Okeechobee was arrested on a warrant from Hernando County for failing to pay child support. His bond is set at almost seven hundred dollars.

49 year old Raymond Lloyd Herndon of Okeechobee was arrested for withholding child support. His bond is set at $15 hundred dollars.

59 year old Tony Allen Harlow of Okeechobee was arrested for petit theft. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

35 year old Vanessa Sirmons of Fort Pierce was arrested for leaving the scene of an accident after she reportedly hit a pedestrian. Her bond is set at five thousand dollars.

49 year old Julian Martinez Calderon of Fort Pierce was arrested for driving on an expired license after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.


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