Local News

Charles Murphy News 3/8

News Cast for March 8th:

Two people died in a crash on Midway Road in St. Lucie County Tuesday morning. The Florida highway patrol says an east bound Chevrolet Traverse for some reason crossed the center line and collided with a 2003 Ford Truck. The drivers were killed, 59 year old Michael Price of Okeechobee and 68 year old Orrin Vickers of Fort Pierce.

Three passengers in the Chevy sedan wer hospitalized with serious injuries, 37 year old Amanda Jones, 11 year old Alexa Curley and Aleisha Curley, no age given.

A Florida Forest Service bull dozer collided with two South Florida Water Management pickup while firemen battled the large brush fire at Starvation Slough Monday. The sheriffs incident report said the FFS plow had caught fire fighting the blaze and the operator Joshua Cameron accidentally released the brake.  It went through the wooded area without a driver and came out at the boat ramp and struck the two parked trucks.  No one was injured.

A 22 year old Indiantown man gave Martin County deputies quite the time sending him to jail last week.  He faces charges of DUI, resisting arrest and battery on law enforcement.   He allegedly caused 5 hundred dollars in property damage to the vehicle.  He also allegedly fought with jail guards.

One of the women killed Sunday in a rear end collision, was returning home from the Okeechobee Music Festival.  The Sun Sentinel says the woman was a student at the university of Florida and wanted to be an architect.  Troopers are investigating what caused the crash.  The report said the driver who allegedly caused the crash, Joseph Lagrego has had eight traffic citations in the past three years.

The Okeechobee County planning board approved special exceptions to allow Cam’s Mobile Marine Sales and Service Center at 2435 US highway 441 south east, an agriculture equipment and trailer business at 455 US 98 north, and an automotive service center focused on air conditioning repair at 2307 US Highway 441 south east.

Sports Cast for March 8th:

Okeechobee pounded Martin County 11-1 in girls’ softball action last night. The Lady Brahmans are now 3-0 in districts. Jill Crosby threw five strong innings with seven strikeouts. She said her defense and the teams hitting helped her to relax. Every Brahman got at least one hit in the game. Megan Hargraves had two hits and two RBI. Taylor Amadon says she was able to break out of a recent slump. Raylee Coleman had two hits including an RBI double for Okeechobee. Coach Mary Huff has been working on the mental part of the game and said the girls responded

Boys baseball scored six runs in the first and went on to pound Fort Pierce Central 12-2 for their second win of the season Tuesday afternoon. Cody Louthan, Trevor Thomas and Ozzie Osceola had two hits apiece. Mason Adams and Baron Stuart both drove in two runs. John Wright pitched a shutout with six strikeouts to lead Moore Haven past community school of Naples 2-0 in boys baseball Tuesday.

On the sports schedule today OHS baseball holds its home opener against South Fork at 6:30 pm

Statement by Commissioner Adam Putnam on Today’s Historically Low Citrus Crop Forecast

Statement by Commissioner Adam Putnam on Today’s Historically Low Citrus Crop Forecast

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam released the following statement today after the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its monthly citrus crop forecast for the 2016-2017 season, which is down four-percent from the February forecast:

“Although not unexpected, today’s historically low forecast is the latest example of citrus greening’s continued devastation of Florida’s citrus industry. Until a long-term solution is discovered, which some of our state’s brightest minds are working on, we must support Florida’s multi-billion dollar citrus industry and the more than 60,000 jobs it supports.”

The USDA’s forecast today of 67 million boxes of oranges for the 2016-2017 season is down more than 17 percent from the 81.5 million boxes harvested last season. Today’s forecast represents a decline of more than 70 percent since the peak of citrus production at 244 million boxes during the 1997-98 season.

In support of Florida’s growers and industry groups seeking approval from the EPA for the use of certain antimicrobial treatments to combat greening, a bacterial disease spread by a tiny, invasive insect, Commissioner Putnam issued a crisis declaration in 2016 regarding their Section 18 application to the Environmental Protection Agency, which allowed the immediate use of these treatments.

For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit FreshFromFlorida.com

SFWMD Governing Board Takes Action to Protect the Everglades

SFWMD Governing Board Takes Action to Protect the Everglades

Protect the Everglades. Kill Pythons. Earn Money.

West Palm Beach, FL – One species, the Burmese python, has a stranglehold on the Everglades ecosystem, and it isn’t letting go. In response, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board today approved pilot program funding designed to incentivize private parties who are prepared to help eliminate these snakes from public lands. The monetary compensation program is a bold new action plan giving participants unprecedented access to District-owned lands in an effort to remove these destructive snakes that have become an apex predator of the Everglades.

“Anyone who has seen the now famous python vs. alligator video can attest that the fight for survival of the Everglades is real,” said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Dan O’Keefe. “This Board is taking appropriate action to push back the infestation of these invaders. Floridians should have no sympathies for this notorious strangler, and this latest initiative should pave the way for further exotic elimination efforts.”

On April 1, 25 participants will be selected to work with District staff to implement the program to kill pythons over a 60-day period. Participants are encouraged to register at www.sfwmd.gov/pythonprogram.(Registration begins on March 10). If retained, each participant will be given instructions and field identification guides allowing access to District lands infested with pythons in Miami-Dade County. Participants will be paid minimum wage hourly rate up to eight hours daily. Depending on the size of the snake presented, there will be an additional on-the-spot per python payment of $50 for pythons measuring up to 4 feet and an extra $25 for each foot measured above 4 feet.

An additional $100 will be given for each eliminated python nest with eggs.


Eligibility Rules:

Everyone is welcome to apply to become a participant by completing and submitting an application found on the website. Participants must be at least 18 years of age and possess a valid driver’s license. Participants must have access to a mobile device (iPhone or Android) for utilization of the required GPS software. Participants may not have been convicted of a wildlife-related offense. The District reserves the right to select applicants that have demonstrable experience, or other relevant expertise, over other candidates.

Once sought-after commodities, Burmese pythons have been sold by breeders as pets or showpieces to exotic animal collectors. Since making their way into the bountiful grounds of Florida’s Everglades, these pythons have thrived, assuming a top position on the food chain.

Researchers have been pressed to provide specific numbers related to those currently inhabiting the Everglades, but a rapid number of increased sightings from 2005 to 2010 is alarming. This species was once relegated to only Everglades National Park and Miami-Dade County, but recent tracking shows these pythons are moving westward into locations like Big Cypress National Preserve and Collier County and northward into Broward and Palm Beach counties.

The scaled menace possesses an insatiable appetite that can not only kill Florida native prey species and pose a threat to humans, but also rob panthers, birds of prey, alligators and bobcats of a primary food source.

In fact, a 2015 University of Florida study researched python impact on indigenous food sources. Researchers released 95 adult marsh rabbits in areas known to harbor pythons. Within 11 months of the release in the Everglades, the study showed that pythons accounted for 77 percent of rabbit deaths, reducing prey for native predators.

Charles Murphy News 3/7

News Cast for March 7th:

A large brush fire burned 545 acres in Starvation Slough, west of North West 160th Street and south of North west 256th Street Monday.  No homes were damaged and no injuries reported.

A two day drug interdiction effort led to 99 arrests in St. Lucie County.  Deputies along with Port St. Lucie police, the highway patrol, Drug enforcement agents, Alcohol tobacco and firearms, and the Border Patrol all took part.  1 hundred and 14 felony charges were levied while deputies seized mushrooms, marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, marijuana, spice, molly, heroin, lsd, and prescription meds.

Okeechobee resident, 31 year old Genaro Garcia among those arrested, he allegedly tried to flee deputies trying to pull him over on route 70 Friday.  Garcia allegedly threw out some marijuana and then tried to eat some pot.

Two people died in a rear end collision of four vehicles on Berman Road at 710 Sunday afternoon.

20 year old Caroline Alfano of Boca Raton died at the scene and her passenger, died at Lawnwood late Saturday.  Troopers say 22 eyar old Joseph Lagrego of Englewood, Florida caused the accident by failing to stop for three other vehicles at a stop sign.

19 arrests were reported at the Okeechobee music festival, with four for cocaine trafficking this weekend.  Those included 22 year old Sarah Tate, and 24 year old Jalen Lockhart of Georgia, 24 year old Kenneth Lyons of Illinois and 27 year old Alexander Demetriou of Michigan.

A pole barn fire caused over 120 thousand dollars in property damage early Monday on North West 43rd Street.  A bunch of lawncare equipment, a 2001 Ford and a race car were damaged.  No one was hurt.

75 acres burned in another wildfire in the 25 thousand block of North west 285th Way on Sunday evening.   The property is owned by South Florida Water Management District.

In the courts, 55-year-old Earl Baumgardt of Glades county received 94 months in prison for two counts of grand theft firearm and failure to register as a sex offender.  He allegedly befriended a couple in 2014 and then stole 30 thousand dollars in jewelry and firearms from their home.  He had prior convictions for rape, escape, robbery and kidnapping.

Sports Cast for March 7th:

Senior Morgan Buxton won a coach’s award for girls golf this year. She just started to play golf this year and says she got a lot out of the experience. She says golf will be one of her hobbies from now on. She also tries to keep busy with other activities

Most of the girl’s golf team had little experience this year but four girls will return next year.

On the sports’ schedule, today.

OHS softball hosts Martin County with JV at 5 and varsity at 7 pm

OHS baseball visits Fort Pierce Central for a matinee at 3:30 pm

Moore Haven baseball and softball host Community School of Naples with softball at 6 and baseball at 7 pm.

Florida Forest Service Provides Update, Releases App

Florida Forest Service Provides Update, Releases App

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.–Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam and the Florida Forest Service are urging the public to be careful with fire and all potential heat sources due to increased wildfire danger throughout the state. Dry conditions and gusty winds have led to erratic and dangerous wildfire activity recently, threatening homes and endangering the public. Dangerous wildfire conditions are expected to continue to increase over the next few months.

“Florida’s wildland firefighters are prepared to battle increasingly hazardous wildfires due to abnormally dry and windy conditions,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “Citizens can do their part by keeping preventable human-caused wildfires at bay and preparing their families and homes for wildfire.”

On Sunday, the Florida Forest Service responded to 26 new wildfires that impacted several Florida communities and burned more than 2,500 acres. Two significant fires in Lee County yesterday impacted residents in more than 120 homes. Of the homes impacted, the Florida Forest Service and its partners saved 115 homes. One home was destroyed and six were damaged but were not destroyed. In Miami, the Trail Fire has so far burned more than 740 acres. Crews are working diligently to contain the fire and minimize smoke impacts to the surrounding community. Motorists in wildfire-affected areas should also exercise caution. To see the locations of all active wildfires in Florida, the public may download the “FLBurnTools” app in Apple’s App Store or on Google Play.

The Florida Forest Service is urging residents to be cautious with fire and heat sources and to remember the following:

  • Call 911 or a local Florida Forest Service field unit office immediately in the event of a wildfire;
  • Obey Florida’s outdoor burning laws;
  • Never burn on windy days;
  • Always keep a water source and suppression tools on hand when burning yard debris;
  • Never leave an outdoor fire or hot grill unattended; and
  • Avoid parking vehicles on dry grass.

“When citizens are careful with fire, they are doing more than just protecting themselves and their property,” said Jim Karels, Florida State Forester. “They are helping to protect the lives of Florida’s wildland firefighters and first responders.”

The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than 1 million acres of state forests and provides forest management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests. The Florida Forest Service is also responsible for protecting homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire on more than 26 million acres. Learn more at FloridaForestService.com.

For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit FreshFromFlorida.com

Drug Interdiction Efforts Result in 99 Arrests

Drug Interdiction Efforts Result in 99 Arrests

Sheriff Ken Mascara announced that a highway interdiction operation conducted over a two-day period led to the arrest of 99 individuals for possession of narcotics and other illicit drugs.

According to the Sheriff, an operation focusing on the western-bound corridors of St. Lucie County, including State Road 70 and 68, along with Interstate 95 and Midway Road was conducted on March 2 and 3.

The operation included law enforcement from the Sheriff’s Office, Port St. Lucie Police Department, Florida Highway Patrol, DEA, ATF and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

According to the Sheriff, 750 contacts with citizens were made during the two-day operation, leading to 56 traffic citation, 275 warnings, 17 equipment corrections and 99 arrests. Of those arrested, 146 resulted in misdemeanor and 114 felony charges, most for possession of illegal drugs. These drugs included 198 grams of hallucinogenic mushrooms, 380 grams of marijuana edibles, 95 grams of Ecstasy, 22 grams of cocaine, 648 grams of marijuana, 28 grams of synthetic marijuana, 16 caplets of Molly, 1 gram of heroin, 61 strips of LSD, 4 hydrocodone pills and 24 pills of prescription medication not prescribed to the person who possessed it.

“These two days proved to be one of the most successful drug interdictions in our county’s history and pulled together a partnership of law enforcement all with the same core goal, to ensure that events in and around our county are safe and drug free,” said Sheriff Ken J. Mascara. “With the current heroin epidemic facing our state and country, the potential for deadly overdose from any drug is high, who knows how many lives were saved thanks to the efforts this operation.”

Booking photos, drug photos and arrest affidavits can be found at this DropBox link – https://www.dropbox.com/sh/vdrtbogs11qa1km/AADnO6QrMXEULSP8_teyjbroa?dl=0.

Results of Skimmers Sweep Targeting Popular Spring Break Destinations Announced

Results of Skimmers Sweep Targeting Popular Spring Break Destinations Announced

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.— In anticipation of the upcoming spring break season, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services inspected nearly 500 gas stations last week in popular spring break destinations for skimmers, devices that steal consumers’ credit and debit card information. Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam announced today that the sweep uncovered eight skimmers. If undetected, the number of consumers victimized by each skimmer averages around 100 per device, with an average of $1,000 stolen from each victim.

“From Okaloosa County to Miami-Dade County, these skimmers are being placed on gas pumps and stealing from unsuspecting residents and visitors,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “We will continue to crackdown on these devices – and the criminals responsible for them.”

Since early 2015, the department has found and removed more than 430 skimmers across the state. The areas inspected in this sweep, the number of facilities inspected and numbers of skimmers found are as follows:

  • Panama City Beach/ Panhandle –77 facilities, 0 skimmers found
  • Orlando area – 128 facilities, 0 skimmers found
  • Clearwater / St. Pete Beach – 66 facilities, 4 skimmers found

o   One Stop, Giant BP #109, 6151 4th St N, St. Petersburg

o   One Food of Pinellas Inc. #23, 901 4th St N, St. Petersburg

o   Quick Mart of Largo, 1990 West BAY Dr., Largo (2 skimmers)

  • Ft. Myers Beach – 36 facilities, 0 skimmers found
  • Daytona Beach/ Cocoa Beach/ Flagler Beach/ New Smyrna Beach – 75 facilities, 1 skimmer found

o   Sunoco Food Mart, 5625 N Atlantic Ave., Cocoa Beach

  • West Palm Beach – 51 facilities, 2 skimmers found

o   Mobil/7-Eleven Inc., 3035 N Military Trail, West Palm Beach

o   Texaco/Sunshine #37, 2274 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach

  • Ft. Lauderdale – 25 facilities, 1 skimmer found

o   Valero, 1 N Federal Hwy, Pompano Beach

  • Miami – 21 facilities, 0 skimmers found

In addition to regularly inspecting gas pumps, the department worked with the Florida Legislature last year to put in place additional safeguards against skimmers at the pump and increase the penalties against the criminals responsible.

There are steps consumer can take to protect themselves, such as:

  • Pay in cash inside the store to ensure the credit card information stays safe.
  • Check to make sure the gas pump dispenser cabinet is closed and has not been tampered with. Many stations are now putting a piece of security tape over the cabinet to ensure it has not been opened by unauthorized individuals.
  • Use a gas pump closer to the front of the store. Thieves often place skimmers at the gas pumps farther away from the store so they are not noticed as quickly.
  • Use a credit card instead of a debit card. Credit cards have better fraud protection, and the money is not deducted immediately from an account.
  • If using a debit card at the pump, choose to run it as a credit card instead of a debit card. That way, the PIN number is safe.
  • Monitor bank accounts regularly to spot any unauthorized charges.
  • Consumers who suspect their credit card number has been compromised should report it immediately to authorities and their credit card company.

For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit FreshFromFlorida.com.

Hunting with Wildfire Safety in Mind

Hunting with Wildfire Safety in Mind

As spring gobbler hunting season progresses, the Florida Forest Service is urging caution for those participating in hunting and other outdoor activities to avoid sparking a fire. Just one small spark/ember from a muzzle of a gun or a hot exhaust pipe on a vehicle can ignite the dry grass.

With that in mind, here are a few suggestions to help not only hunters, but all outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen trying to avoid sparking a wildfire:

  • When shooting close to the ground, be sure there is no dry grass or tinder in front of your muzzle. Though rare, it’s not impossible for a shot to ignite a fire.
  • Keep a bucket, a shovel, and a fire extinguisher in your vehicle and at your camp.
  • Be careful where you drive or park, and stay on designated trails. Avoid parking on dry brush or grass. Your exhaust system can ignite the plant material.
  • If you drive an off-road vehicle, such as an ATV or airboat, the sparks can fly out through the exhaust system. Equip your vehicle with spark arresters to prevent sparks from igniting a wildfire.
  • Keep water nearby when welding on stands.
  • Be aware that steel core ammo can cause sparks when striking a rock, and potentially start a wildfire.
  • Exploding targets and tracer ammunition create an explosion that can catch the dry vegetation on fire.

Okeechobee and Glades Counties have established a county-wide burn ban that prohibits the burning of yard trash, campfires, bonfires and burn barrels. Outdoor burning that requires an authorization from the Florida Forest Service is exempt from the ban.

Please keep wildfire safety in mind so we can all have a safe and memorable hunting experience.

One less spark means one less wildfire!

The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than 1 million acres of state forests, provides management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests, while protecting homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire on more than 26 million acres. Learn more at FloridaForestService.com.

Charles Murphy News 3/6

News Cast for March 6th:

The identity of a local woman killed in a fire single vehicle crash in late February was released Friday. 38-year-old Keli Rule died when a 2001 Caravan she was driving failed to negotiate a curve on Everglades Boulevard, left the road and struck railroad tracks, overturned and caught fire in the early morning hours of February 26th.

An Okeechobee man arrested on a West Virginia warrant Friday for sexual assault at Kissimmee River Estates.  67 year old Carlos Howerton was arrested by Highlands County deputies and will be extradited back to Raleigh County, West Virginia.

Troopers are looking for a hit and run driver that was involved in a fatal crash on route 720 in Glades County Friday morning.

18 year old Chase McNeil of Clewiston was riding a motorcycle and collided with the vehicle near Shawnee Farms Road.    He was thrown from the bike into a ditch and was located later by a Florida Fish and Wildlife officer.

St. Lucie deputies, Port St. Lucie Police and the highway patrol did a traffic interdiction this weekend on route 70 and 68.  ON Thursday, officers made more than 40 drug arrests, many from out of state.

Drugs seized included cocaine, LSD, mushrooms, ecstasy, marijuana, spice and methamphetamines.  The vehicles were pulled over for traffic violations.  26-year-old Justin Siegel of Louisville Kentucky was among a few charged with drug trafficking. Okeechobee deputies reported nine arrests on drug charges during the first day of the Okeechobee Music Festival that ended last night.

St. Johns County deputies served an Okeechobee warrant for sexual assault on Emilio Madrigal last week.  He was returned to Okeechobee over the weekend.

Sports Cast for March 6th:

Jensen Beach scored four times in their last at bat to rally past Okeechobee 5-4 on Friday. A dropped fly ball helped to fuel the rally for the Falcons. Coach Corey Cook says he’ll take the win.

Trevor Thomas, Ozzy Osceola and Baron Stuart drove in runs for the Brahmans who fall to (1-3) on the season.

Okeechobee softball rallied for two in the sixth to defeat South Fork 3-2. It has been awhile since Okeechobee defeated South Fork.

Coach Mary Huff says her team made her nervous throughout.  Lauren Bostwick had a key RBI triple for Okeechobee.

Megan Hargraves had an RBI and scored a run for the Lady Brahmans. She says this was a big win for their confidence.

Charles Murphy News 3/3

News Cast for March 3rd:

In the courts, 62-year-old Michael Higgins was sentenced to four years’ probation for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Higgins allegedly shot 51-year-old Robert Lineberger last May 14th during an argument.  Lineberger was upset that Higgins was allegedly spreading rumors about him at the Port LaBelle marina in Glades County. Higgins said he fired the shotgun in self-defense after a fist fight between the two men. The charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon was dropped.

The Heartland Rural Transportation Planning Organization passed a resolution of support to four lane route 70 west from Okeechobee to Bradenton. Pat Steed says several advisory committees identified route 70 as a key route for transportation of tourists, goods, and as a hurricane evacuation route. She was asked how much input this will have in Tallahassee.

The Okeechobee Elks Lodge is trying to grow as they look to purchase a building in the city limits. Michelle Harper says they also provide a number of programs for children including a summer camp.  They also help veterans and their families. She says a lot of people don’t know the services the Elks Club provides.

The Okeechobee music fest kicked off Thursday.   Police were busy east of Okeechobee yesterday with several traffic operations.

61 year old Stephen Hinkofer of Moore Haven was killed Thursday night when he was riding his electric scooter on US 27 at 4th Street.  The highway patrol says Hinkofer rode into the path of a west bound Hyundai sedan driven by 21 year old Milissa Hamaji of Lakeland.   No charges will be filed.

Sports Cast for March 3rd:

Two Okeechobee wrestlers qualified for the state wrestling finals that begin today in Kissimmee. Kallen Pinerio finished second at the regional in the 145 pound weight division.

Austin Scee finished fourth in the 132 pound division. Pinerio says he met his goal at regional and will live out a dream this weekend. Scee says he has worked for years to have this experience and wants to take advantage of it

Okeechobee as a team finished seventh at the regional.

Jill Crosby threw a shutout as Okeechobee dominated Clewiston 18-0 in girls softball action last night.

On the sports schedule today, the softballers return home to host South Fork, JV at 5 and varsity at 7.  Okeechobee track along with several big lake teams compete at a meet at Seminole Ridge this afternoon.  OHS baseball visits Jensen Beach at 7 pm.

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