Local News

College Dreams Come True Thanks to Elks Scholarships

College Dreams Come True Thanks to Elks Scholarships

CHICAGO—The Elks National Foundation is proud to announce the start of the 2020 Most Valuable Student scholarship contest. The Most Valuable Student scholarship is available to high school seniors who are United States citizens. Applicants do not need to be related to a member of the Elks. Males and females compete separately and are judged on scholarship, leadership and financial need.

The application is completed online and must be submitted by the November 5, 2019, deadline. The 500 national winners will be announced in April 2020, after the top 20 finalists participate in the Leadership Weekend in Chicago, April 23-26.

No dream is too big for the Elks National Foundation. This year, the ENF is investing $4.1 million in college scholarships for our nation’s future lawyers, doctors, engineers, innovators, and more. We’ve invested wisely. MVS scholars—all of whom demonstrate scholarship, leadership and financial need—are graduating from college at a rate of 90 percent, nearly 40 percent higher than the national average.

Through the contest, the ENF will award 20 top scholarships ranging from $20,000 to $50,000. The remaining 480 runners-up will receive $4,000 scholarships. Since the ENF began awarding scholarships in 1931, it has changed the lives of tens of thousands of students, like 2019 MVS top winner Tabitha Escalante.

“I cannot express how thankful I am for the endless support of the Elks as I take my next steps into the future,” Tabitha says. “Having grown up in a city where most students weren’t expected to graduate high school, let alone attend college, this investment was beyond imaginable, and I’m so excited that it’s now a reality.”

Tabitha will attend Harvard University to major in government in the fall.

Applications for the 2020 contest are available on the Elks National Foundation’s website. For complete Most Valuable Student scholarship contest details, including the application link, visit elks.org/scholars or enf.elks.org/MVS.


News Cast 8/8

News Cast for August 8th:

Okeechobee County Commissioners meet this morning and they will be looking at lease conditions and terms of property leased to Martha’s House and they will also be reviewing the selection of the architectural firm that will create the blueprint for the proposed sheriff’s department jail renovation and expansion. The meeting will take place in the Historic County Courthouse beginning at nine o’clock and it will be streamed live on the commissioners’ website.

Speaking of the county commissioners, at their last meeting they established the millage rate for the county for the next fiscal year. Commissioners decided that the millage rate should be at eight mills. The measure passed by a four to one vote with Commissioner Bryant Culpepper dissenting. Culpepper believes the millage rate should be set at nine mills with the idea that it could be lowered if necessary. Culpepper says the millage rate, once set, cannot be raised because if we do, we’ll have to cut services. Culpepper added that setting the millage rate is premature because of the discussions regarding the sheriff’s budget.

The Okeechobee County Fire Department and the Okeechobee City Fire Department will be working together a lot more in certain situations. At Tuesday night’s city council meeting, councilmembers approved a new agreement that will officially allow both fire departments to automatically aid each other in certain emergency situations such as a structure fire or a major vehicle accident. County Fire Chief Ralph Franklin says the agreement means that if his department needs an extra engine or personnel or equipment from City Fire Chief Herb Smith’s department to assist in a certain emergency, he would automatically have that assistance no matter what so long as it doesn’t adversely affect Smith’s department and vice versa. Franklin says under the old agreement, it was mutual aid where the city would only assist within two miles of the city limits. With this new agreement, that’s no longer the case. The old agreement stood for 16 years but with changes made to stations, staffing and protocol on how they do day-to-day business, this change was needed. Okeechobee County Commissioners approved this new agreement unanimously at a meeting last June.

A Jensen Beach man is in critical condition following a vehicle accident Tuesday morning in Martin County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 86 year old Douglas Welock was riding a motorized scooter on the east shoulder of the 17 hundred block of Indian River Drive in Jensen Beach a little after eleven o’clock when a Buick Park Avenue sedan, driven by 73 year old Richard J. Wibbelt of Port St. Lucie, was approaching on the southbound lanes of Indian River Drive. As Welock was entering the southbound lane, the front of Wibbelt’s car collided with Welock’s scooter. The impact caused both vehicles to end up on the grass shoulder of the road. Welock was airlifted to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Fort Pierce for treatment. Wibbelt was not injured in the accident, but charges are pending against him. FHP is investigating the accident.

On the arrest report:

59 year old West Bill Guyton of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for violating probation on past charges of drunk driving. He’s being held without bond.

18 year old Hailey Marie Farley of Okeechobee was arrested for battery. Her bond is set at a thousand dollars.

33 year old Jason Steven Dillon of Okeechobee an inmate at the county jail, was arrested for contempt of court during his hearing on past charges of being involved in a fight at the jail. His bond has not been set.

46 year old Jamey Louis Douglas of Okeechobee was arrested by police for battery and simple assault for following an altercation in a parking lot with another man. His bond is set at $75 hundred dollars.

36 year old Douglas Alan Trimnal of Holiday was arrested for riding a motorcycle without a valid license. His bond is set at one thousand dollars.


News Cast 8/7

News Cast for August 7th:

Following a two plus hour regular meeting last night, the Okeechobee City Council met for another three hours discussing the city’s budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year in a workshop format. City Administrator Marcos Montes De Oca says the city budget for next fiscal year stands at just under $7.6 million dollars and the city’s reserves at just over eight million dollars. De Oca also says some good news about this upcoming budget is the millage rate could be less than last year’s budget, possibly the biggest millage drop in the last 20 years; a big plus for taxpayers. De Oca also reported an uptick in revenues, specifically in the city’s building department. The next city budget workshop is scheduled for August 20th at five o’clock.

Okeechobee County Commissioners meet tomorrow morning and they will be looking at lease conditions and terms of property leased to Martha’s House and they will also be reviewing the selection of the architectural firm that will create the blueprints for the proposed sheriff’s department jail renovation and expansion. The meeting will take place in the Historic County Courthouse beginning at nine o’clock and it will be streamed live on the commissioners’ website.

Speaking of the commissioners’ they got the opportunity to meet and confirm the appointment of the brand new Director of Community Services for Okeechobee County at their last meeting. Denise Whitehead applied and was appointed to the position after working the past seven months as the director of community relations for Martha’s House. Whitehead, a native of Wisconsin, has been living in Okeechobee for the last 18 years and part of her new role will be overseeing the Parks and Recreation division, previously helmed by Albie Scoggins, who retired in June. Whitehead says what attracted her to the job was the fact she has, as she puts it, a “heart for the community” (Whitehead 1). Whitehead began as Community Services Director on July 29th. She previously held jobs in juvenile justice and Glades Electric as Director of Communications.

An Alva man is dead following a vehicle accident early yesterday morning in Lee County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 45 year old Darrius Harden of Lehigh Acres was driving a Honda Civic sedan east on Route 80 near Charleston Park Drive in Alva a little before 5:45 when 35 year old Michael Alterma was walking in the area and he darted from the south shoulder of the road, right into the path of Harden’s oncoming car, causing a collision.  The impact caused Alterma to travel across the top of the car. Alterma was pronounced dead at the scene by medics. Harden was not injured in the accident and no charges have been filed against him. FHP is investigating.

On the arrest report:

39 year old Michael Clayton Stewart of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for drunk driving after a traffic stop and subsequent field sobriety test. His bond is set at $750 dollars.

28 year old Juan Diaz-Jimenez of Okeechobee was arrested for driving without a valid license after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a $250 dollar bond.

40 year old Casey Torria Casen of Okeechobee was arrested for disorderly intoxication and resisting arrest. His bond is set at one thousand dollars.

31 year old Thomas Colby Fralix of Okeechobee was arrested by police for burglary of an unoccupied building. His bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

18 year old Ken’Noris De’Vante Wilcher of Phoenix, AL was arrested for petit theft and having an unregistered license plate on his vehicle. His bond is set at $350 dollars.


News Cast 8/6

News Cast for August 6th:

The Okeechobee County Commissioners discussed their budget last month and tonight, it’s the city council’s turn. City Councilmembers will be having their annual budget workshops right after they have their regular council meeting. Items on tonight’s agenda include the promotion of Okeechobee Police Officer Cesar Romero to the rank of sergeant, swearing in of two new officers and they will also look at approving an agreement with an outside company for asphalt paving and striping on city roads. The budget workshop and regular meeting will be held in City Hall starting at a special time tonight, which will be five o’clock.

The reality of classroom teachers being armed to protect students is getting closer. At last week’s Okeechobee County School Board meeting, board members approved a motion advertising the Guardian Program for a month, with an amendment that the program will be open for teachers to participate unlike before. The implementing of the Guardian Program was music to the ears of one resident, Adam Cohen, who spoke at the meeting. Cohen, who moved his family from Parkland a year and a half ago, experienced the Parkland shootings through his daughter who was a student at the middle school on that fateful day. Cohen says he’s proud Okeechobee officials have done more to better ensure student safety than Parkland and that’s because Parkland has put politics before kids. Superintendent of Schools Ken Kenworthy says Cohen’s views on the matter are spot on. The issue will be discussed again for approval on the September 10th meeting.

The search for a new Okeechobee County attorney has begun and the county commissioners are opening their search rather wide. At their last meeting, county commissioners voted unanimously to put out a request for proposal for in house attorneys as well as outside firms to find the successor to John Cassels. It was announced on July 11th that Cassels would be stepping down as county attorney after nearly thirty years on the job, citing the pending retirement of his law partner, Laura Ann McCall at the end of the year and his own desire to cut back on his workload as reasons for not renewing his contract. Commissioner Kelly Owens says she and her fellow commissioners chose to look at both in house and outside attorneys for Cassels’ successor because they’ve never had to do this before. Owens says Cassels’ successor should be someone who understands contract language but mainly someone familiar with local government needs; which she believes is more important than familiarity with the county’s needs. The process of finding Cassels’ successor will take about two to three months and Cassels’ will have his current contract extended into December to help ease the transition.

A now former Martin County Sheriff’s deputy is facing a host of serious charges after being arrested early last week. 29 year old Steven O’Leary was arrested on July 29th after a six month long investigation found concerns in his drug arrests. In January, Martin County investigators say O’Leary claimed to find illegal drugs during traffic stops when he was employed as a sheriff’s deputy. While on duty, O’Leary made three drug-related arrests in which the substances found were not actual narcotics. O’Leary was relieved of his duties when the State Attorney’s office found problems with his arrests. He’s charged with official misconduct, false statements, evidence tampering, false imprisonment, petit theft and battery. O’Leary is being held in county jail on a one million dollar bond. Twenty people O’Leary arrested are suing the sheriff’s department for the questionable arrests. Martin County Sheriff Bill Snyder and State Attorney Nita Denton declined to comment.

On the arrest report:

34 year old Mauro Seca of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for not paying child support. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

54 year old Frank Ayala De Jesus of Okeechobee was arrested for petit theft. His bond is set at $750 dollars.

36 year old Olger Alberto Cano-Castillo of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving and driving without a valid license after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. He was released after posting a $750 dollar bond.

59 year old Penny Gallarday of Okeechobee was arrested for grand theft. She was released after posting a one thousand dollar bond.

40 year old Jose Alberto Alvarado Aguilar of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on an expired license after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a $250 dollar bond.

25 year old Gabriel Escamilla of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a $250 dollar bond.

18 year old Kaylee Marie Tinajero of Okeechobee was arrested by police for battery and simple assault. She was released after posting bond.


News Cast 8/5

News Cast for August 5th:

This is just a reminder that there will be some construction going on beginning today that will impact motorists for the foreseeable future. Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department officials say road workers will be working in the ditches and trenches along Route 70 from NE 34th Avenue to NE 80th Avenue to perform drainage improvements. Motorists should expect occasional lane closures on Route 70 in the daytime during construction. The construction begins today and it should be completed at some point this fall.

Just over a year ago, then Okeechobee High School (OHS) senior Cristian Rios gave the county school board a presentation on the Academic Framework Forum, a peer learning program made up of students who help fellow classmates succeed in all facets, classwork, test taking and looking into colleges. Fast forward a year, Rios, now a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), says he now has a grant to help expand this program to all schools not just in Okeechobee but in other schools in the Florida Heartland. Rios presented his plan to help develop this program further at last week’s school board meeting and MIT officials helped him get a five thousand dollar grant for that purpose. Rios says what makes this peer learning program special is that it’s run by students and not faculty. Rios will be helping to develop this program in other schools over the next few weeks before he goes back to MIT for his sophomore year. He’s proud of the fact that the program has the full support of the school board and administration.

People will soon notice a change in the 38 year old senior center in Okeechobee, but not to worry, it’s strictly a name change. At the Okeechobee County Commissioners’ last meeting on July 25th, they approved the change of the senior center’s name from the Lottie Raulerson Senior Center to the Young At Heart Center of Okeechobee. Senior Services Manager Tom Leach says he’s excited for the change and it’s designed to not diminish the contributions of Lottie Raulerson to the center but to provide a warmer and more welcoming atmosphere to people who’ll be coming there soon with a desire to stay active. Leach says if Lottie Raulerson were alive today, she’d definitely approve this name change (Leach-Senior Center Name Change 1). The name change will officially take place in January of next year. Leach believes people who use the senior center will welcome the name change.

A report of a grass and brush fire caught the attention of Okeechobee County firefighters Wednesday afternoon but it turned out to be not quite what they were expecting. Crews were called to the 51 hundred block of NW 30th Street a little after 2:30 and found a tree burning in the middle of an open field. Investigators say the tree was struck by lightning which in turn ignited the fire. Crews got the fire extinguished in about ten minutes while using about fifty gallons of water to put it out. No one was hurt and no structures damaged.

An Alva man is in serious condition following a vehicle accident early Thursday morning in Lee County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 19 year old Dalton DeWitt Harrison was driving a Kia Soul west on Route 78 near Serenoa Court in Alva a little before one o’clock when for unknown reasons he lost control of his vehicle. Harrison crossed the eastbound lane, went onto a grassy shoulder of the road and struck a culvert before overturning several times and then striking a wooden fence. FHP officers say the car was found on its roof. Harrison, who was cited for careless driving, was taken to Lee Memorial Hospital for treatment. FHP is investigating the accident.

On the arrest report:

42 year old Wayne Anthony Hunt of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for simple assault and threatening to do violence. His bond is set at one thousand dollars.

38 year old Crystal Gayle Elliott of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court during her hearing on previous charges of driving on a suspended license and failing to appear in court. She’s being held without bond.

19 year old Dustin Wayne Hunt of Okeechobee was arrested by police for battery and simple assault when he accosted someone at Wal-Mart. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.


News Cast 8/2

News Cast for August 2nd:

We’re in the thick of the summer and with the days getting warmer and more humid, that’ll mean more mosquitos, possibly the kinds of mosquitos that carry diseases. Okeechobee County Emergency Management officials are announcing that mosquito control efforts will begin tonight, weather permitting, in the north end of the county. Emergency Management Director Mitch Smeykal says there will be surveying and/or spraying of areas where mosquitoes are running rampant. Smeykal says this treatment will be performed by officials from Illinois-based Clarke Environmental, an environmentally friendly company. Weather permitting, Smeykal says the surveying and spraying will begin at ten o’clock and last until five o’clock Saturday morning. Be sure to keep your pets and pet food bowls indoors at night and keep your grass cut short. If you see your area with an excessive number of mosquitoes flying around, please call 1-800-203-6485.

It looks like it will be option number two for Fire Station #2 in the SW area of Okeechobee County. At their meeting last week, county commissioners decided to go with the option of renovating Fire Station #2, securing its foundation and expanding it. County Fire Chief Ralph Franklin says currently the station is too small, only built to accommodate four people and based on current and future staffing needs, and the future of the needs of that area, the 35 year old station needed this work. The cost of this project will be just over $770 thousand dollars, with $472 thousand dollars of that being covered by a state grant the fire department has received and the rest will be covered by the county, which Franklin says will come from the county’s fire rescue reserve funds. Franklin says he’s quite happy with the commissioners’ decision following several weeks of discussion. The other option was to just repair the station without expansion, which would’ve cost just over $530 thousand dollars. Plans for the project should be ready by the beginning of next year and the station should be completed by the fall of 2020.

A report of not one but two brush and grass fires in St. Lucie County required the attention and assistance of Okeechobee County firefighters Tuesday evening. Crews were called to the 12 thousand block of SE Center Street in St. Lucie County a little before 5:45 and found the two separate fires about a mile into the property. Firefighters from both Okeechobee and St Lucie Counties extinguished the fire in the NE area of the land while using about 750 gallons of water and then made their way to the SW area of the land and got the other fire extinguished. Both fires took about an hour and a half total to get under control. The sizes of both fires are not known. No one was hurt and no structure damages. Causes of both fires are under investigation.

A Pahokee area girl is dead and several others injured following a vehicle accident Tuesday evening in Lee County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 39 year old Christina Darling was driving a Nissan Altima sedan west on Route 80 approaching the intersection of Joel Boulevard in Lehigh Acres a little after six o’clock when Darling failed to yield to an oncoming Ford Explorer as she was turning onto Joel Boulevard and her car hit the Ford Explorer on it’s right side. The impact sent the Ford Explorer rolling over and ended up on its roof on the intersection. Darling, 18 year old Siuna Stone, a 16 year old girl and a 14 year old boy, all from Pahokee, were seriously injured and taken to Lee Memorial Hospital for treatment. The 16 year old girl was later pronounced dead by medics. The Ford Explorer driver, 59 year old Thomas Farabee of Palatka and his three passengers were all treated for minor injuries at Lee Memorial. Darling was cited for failing to yield to oncoming traffic. The accident is under investigation.

On the arrest report:

30 year old Billy Ray Starnes of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for trespassing. He was released after posting a $750 dollar bond.

34 year old Joshua Lamar Houston of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court on charges of driving without a valid license. He’s being held without bond.

33 year old Rolando Ryan Pena of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of giving false information to a pawnbroker and trafficking stolen property. He’s being held without bond.

32 year old Jeremy Lamont Jones of Okeechobee was arrested for battery on a law enforcement officer. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.


News Cast 8/1

News Cast for August 1st:

A report of a structure fire caught the attention of Okeechobee County firefighters Tuesday afternoon. Crews were called to the 46 hundred block of Highway 441 North a little after 12:15 and found a travel trailer with smoke emanating from the SW corner. Firefighters got into the trailer and found the fire in the south side of the trailer on the floor and the ceiling. Investigators say the fire started in the SW corner of the trailer and spread up the cabinets into the ceiling. Firefighters needed about 15 minutes to get the fire extinguished, while using about two thousand gallons of water to put out the blaze. Investigators say the cause of the fire was an electrical issue and not intentionally set. Red Cross officials were dispatched to the scene after the fire was extinguished. The blaze completely gutted the trailer to the tune of about $27 thousand dollars in property and contents. No one was hurt in the fire.

For the third time in a month, the Okeechobee County School Board will meet up again tonight. Board members will discuss the proposed county school budget and millage rates for the 2019-2020 fiscal year and they will also hear a presentation from 2018 Okeechobee High School (OHS) graduate Cristian Rios, now a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), regarding the Academic Framework Forum of which he was once president. The meeting will be held in the school board office beginning at six o’clock tonight.

Speaking of the school board, at their last meeting on July 24th, the board recognized two very important members of the community who have been the longtime directors of the Okeechobee Community Theater (OCT). Bob and Jacque Hayes were recognized for the performances they’ve helped put together since the OCT was founded in 1979. Ron Hayes says his favorite part of being the OCT director has been the people he and his wife Jacque have worked with over the years and friendships they’ve developed with people who’ve performed there over the years. Hayes says it’s hard to pinpoint a favorite show they’ve put together of the 88 shows they’ve done over these last forty years but he says a performance of “Oklahoma!” from this year does stick out in his mind because it was rather nostalgic. Ron and Jacque Hayes retired as OCT directors as of last June but they will still be involved with the company, specifically with selecting music for the shows.

An Okeechobee man is facing charges of grand theft in connection with an incident at Wal-Mart Monday morning. Police were called to the store on Parrott Avenue after receiving reports from the Asset Protection Manager that a large amount of cash was missing from a register at around 11:30. Police arrived and were told that a customer service manager was emptying a self-check-out register vault and she accidentally left a bag of money out next to the register. When she returned, the bag was missing. Video surveillance tapes identified the thief as 61 year old Carlton C. Alderman and he performed the theft sometime at around 6:45 in the morning. Police say the amount of money that was taken was in excess of $45 hundred dollars. Alderman was met by police detectives at his job at Raulerson Hospital and he cooperated, showing them the bag which was in the trunk of his car. Alderman was arrested and charged with grand theft and booked into county jail before being released on a $25 hundred dollar bond.

On the arrest report:

25 year old Jesus Onesimo De La Paz of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on a warrant from Lee County on an undisclosed charge. He’s being held without bond.

42 year old Eva Hofer Blackwood of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court during her hearing on charges of driving on a suspended license. She was released after posting bond.

29 year old Cory Ray Jenkins of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of criminal mischief. He’s being held without bond.

27 year old Ryan Jeffrey Euard, an inmate at the county jail was arrested for fighting with another inmate. His bond is set at $750 dollars.

34 year old James Thomas Prince of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of driving on a suspended license. He’s being held without bond.


News Cast 7/31

News Cast for July 31st:

A Pahokee man will be going home with his family and avoiding prison time, following an Okeechobee County court jury’s verdict yesterday. A six person jury of three men and three women found 40 year old Armando Baltazar not guilty yesterday following a one day trial and two hour deliberation on charges of burglary and assault and battery in connection with an incident over a year and a half ago involving a local woman Baltazar was allegedly seeing on and off over a two year period where he allegedly broke into her home after a night of heavy drinking and allegedly beat her and broke her finger after she earlier accused him of cheating. Baltazar’s attorney, Aaron Chaskelson, believes what tipped the scales in his client’s favor is there were too many conflicts in both the alleged victim’s testimony and the  chiropractor’s, Ben Epstein of Okeechobee, who operated on her hand. Prosecutor Ashley Albright, who sustained a rare courtroom defeat, was disappointed but he took the jury’s verdict all in stride. Chaskelson says he was “quite happy” with the verdict. Meanwhile the newly freed Baltazar declined to comment for this story.

While there may have been some talk of changing start times for some schools for this upcoming school year, it doesn’t appear to be any changes will take place. At last week’s Okeechobee County School Board meeting, board members decided to leave school start times as they’ve been, even though a workshop held last winter involved possibly changing the start times of the high school and freshman campus to at least an hour later because of recent studies showing increasing numbers of students coming to school looking very drowsy due to melatonin secretion in adolescents causing them to go to bed late and have trouble getting up for school in the morning. School Superintendent Ken Kenworthy says the problem with changing the schools’ start times is it would negatively impact the elementary and middle schools’ bus schedules. Interestingly, a recent survey showed nearly half of high school and freshman students would prefer the start times to remain the same. Kenworthy also cited students who have after school jobs as reasons for not changing the start times.

Officials at the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department say there will be some road construction going on beginning next week that may impact motorists. Road workers will be working in the ditches and trenches along Route 70 from NE 34th Avenue to NE 80th Avenue to perform drainage improvements. Motorists should expect occasional lane closures on Route 70 in the daytime during construction. The construction will begin Monday and it should be completed sometime in the fall.

On the arrest report:

63 year old Lori Edwards Cockfield of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for trespassing. She was released after posting a $350 dollar bond.

38 year old Crystal Jewel Hinton of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of marijuana resin following a traffic stop. Her bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

54 year old Troy Alan Walton of Okeechobee was arrested for lewd and lascivious behavior on a boy under the age of 18. His bond is set at $300 thousand dollars.

39 year old Michael Ford Stires of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past drug possession charges. He’s being held without bond.

27 year old Roger Jay Taylor of Okeechobee was arrested for molesting a victim under the age of 12. He’s being held without bond.

30 year old Edwin Javier Castro of Okeechobee was arrested for battery on his estranged wife during a domestic dispute. His bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

36 year old John Quartell Parks of Delaware County, Ohio was arrested on fugitive warrants for failing to pay child support. He’s being held without bond.


News Cast 7/30

News Cast for July 30th:

A jury has been selected and a trial is set to begin today in the case of a Pahokee man charged with a multitude of offenses dating back a year and a half. 40 year old Armando Baltazar will be on trial in an Okeechobee County courtroom on charges of burglary and assault and battery in connection with an incident that happened on January 18th 2018. Prosecutor Ashley Albright says it took a while for the case to get through the legal system. The jury for Baltazar’s case was selected yesterday and his trial is set to begin at 9:15. Baltazar has been held in county jail on a $100 thousand dollar bond since his arrest.

Recently, the Florida Department of Health in Okeechobee County has confirmed five reported cases of the Hepatitis A virus since the beginning of 2019, making Okeechobee County an impacted county. Hepatitis A is a very contagious viral liver disease that is usually transmitted person to person, often through sexual activity, sharing drug needles and drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food. Symptoms include upset stomach, vomiting, fatigue, jaundice (yellow skin), and diarrhea. Vickie Elkins, a nurse at the county health department says the best way to prevent Hepatitis A is getting vaccinated, although it’s a mystery to her as to why some people don’t choose to do that. Although there’s no cure for it, Hepatitis A is a short term illness. However, if left untreated, it could be life threatening. Vaccinations are available free of charge at the county health department. For more information, please contact the health department at (863) 462-5800.

An Okeechobee man, already in county jail, is facing more charges in connection with an incident Friday evening. Sheriff’s deputies say 25 year old Jonathan Lee Collins reportedly called his estranged girlfriend from inside the county jail; thus violating his pre-trial conditions. Deputies say Collins called his girlfriend twice before she answered and heard a jail automated recording advising an inmate was trying to contact her. As she answered, she asked the name of the caller and she heard the name “Jon.” Collins’ girlfriend immediately recognized him. Collins was already in county jail on previous domestic abuse and other charges from last month. Collins is being held without bond.

Charges await a Zolfo Springs man who was seriously injured in a multi-vehicle accident in Highlands County a week ago Sunday night, causing injuries to others. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 33 year old Nelson Adams was driving a Dodge Ram pickup truck west on Route 70 near Greenbrier Lane in Lake Placid at around 8:45 when for unknown reasons, he drove into the opposite lane and collided head on with a Buick sedan, driven by 83 year old Norma Foote of Sebring. The impact of that collision caused Adams’ truck to rotate and hit a GMC Terrain SUV vehicle. That collision caused another crash, this time into a Jeep Patriot. Adams was taken to Tampa Regional Hospital for treatment while Foote was taken to Advent Health in Lake Placid for treatment of minor injuries. Drivers and passengers in the third and fourth vehicles all sustained minor injuries and are being treated at local hospitals. Adams was cited for careless driving and other charges are still pending. FHP is investigating the accident.

On the arrest report:

37 year old Jessica Shalene Thomas of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for possession of the controlled substance hydrocodone without a prescription. Her bond is set at two thousand dollars.

50 year old Paul Edward Harris of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

20 year old Tanner Michael Smeltzer of Bradenton was arrested for drunk driving after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. His bond is set at $750 dollars.

36 year old Jason Darrell McKinley Osceola of Pembroke Pines was arrested for introducing contraband into a detention center. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.


News Cast 7/29

News Cast for July 29th:

The Okeechobee County Commissioners got a very special visit from a very special bear at their meeting Thursday. Officials from the Okeechobee County Fire and Rescue Department and Forest Service were on hand for a proclamation to celebrate the upcoming 75th birthday of Smokey the Bear. This is a celebration of Smokey’s wildfire prevention campaign which stands as the longest running public service campaign in US History. Melissa Yunas of the Forest Service says this campaign started developing the spring after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Yunas says it feels “just wonderful” the commissioners recognized the importance of Smokey the Bear and this campaign and it’s all due to the education efforts of Okeechobee County Fire and Rescue and Forest Service. In the last five years, Okeechobee County and Forest Service Firefighters have responded to over 259 wildfires that burned over 6900 acres, in many instances threatening communities.

For the third time in two months, the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department bid farewell to one of their most experienced and longest tenured officers this past week. Sergeant Cliff Howard Gill was honored this past Wednesday at a luncheon at the Okeechobee Shriner’s Club as he will be retiring from the department at the end of this month after nearly 36 years on the job. Gill began his career with the sheriff’s department in October of 1983 following his service in the US Navy. Gill says he’ll miss the people he’s worked with and dealt with over these years and the rapport he’s built with them over that time. When asked about his favorite part of the job, Gill couldn’t really say exactly what it was. During his time on with the sheriff’s department, Gill helped develop the breathalyzer/intoxilyzer program and was instrumental in developing the department’s dive team. Gill served under five sheriff’s during his time with the department, starting with John Collier. Gill was promoted to Lieutenant during his retirement luncheon. Brad Stark and John Rhoden retired last month.

An Okeechobee man is in county jail at this time on drug related charges following an undercover sting operation that took place four months ago. Narcotics officers from the sheriff’s department say they met with a confidential informant who was sent to purchase cocaine from 35 year old Virgil Tyrell Dixon on March 20th. The confidential informant met with Dixon on the six hundred block of NE 11th Avenue and purchased the cocaine while the deal was being filmed and recorded by narcotics officers. After the evidence was stored, the confidential informant told officers that Dixon was the man who sold him the cocaine. Dixon was arrested and charged Monday afternoon with cocaine possession with intent to sell. He was booked into county jail and his bond is set at fifty thousand dollars.

On the arrest report:

38 year old Angela Kay Allyn Hughes of Okeechobee was arrested on warrants from Highlands County for drug possession. Her bond is set at $31 thousand dollars.

28 year old Evaristo Garcia-Castro of West Palm Beach was arrested for contempt of court during his hearing on charges of driving without a valid license. His bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.


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