Local News

Statement of Southern District of Florida U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer Regarding Investigation of Fire at Islamic Center

Statement of Southern District of Florida U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer Regarding Investigation of Fire at Islamic Center

Southern District of Florida U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer today released the following statement:

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Florida, the Civil Rights Division, the FBI and the ATF will continue to investigate the fire at the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce for potential violations of federal law.  The Justice Department will continue to work to ensure that acts – and threats – of violence targeting houses of worship are fully and completely investigated.”

Charles Murphy News 9/14

News Cast for September 14th:

The Okeechobee county commission approved a 94.5-million-dollar budget last night without debate. The county plans to spend over 52.4 million and keep over 42 million in reserves. The millage rate was dropped to 8.1354 mills, a two percent decrease over last year. Chairman Frank Irby said the budget process was very transparent with several workshops but very little in the way of public comment. The final public hearing is September 22nd.



Glades County commissioners approved a lease with the United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee counties that allows them open up offices at the Moore Haven fire station. Hope connections and as many as five other social service organizations could use the building.

Lisa Sands, United Way Director for Hendry and Glades, presented an award to the county employees and the property appraisers office for their generous support of their annual campaign. Sands says a grand opening will be held in the near future.

Sands 1

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Sports Cast for September 14th:

Ozzie Osceola took home the Yearling Award for boys’ basketball last year. While the team struggled with only one win, Osceola was a high light with his constant effort and hustle on the court. He said the award meant a lot to him. Osceola said he is determined to be a good basketball player in high school.

Osceola 1

Osceola 2

OHS girls golf hosts Jensen Beach 3:30 pm

Yearling hosts West Glades volleyball 4:30 pm

Operations Update: SFWMD Taking Additional Measures to Relieve Water Conservation Area 3A Flooding

Operations Update: SFWMD Taking Additional Measures to Relieve Water Conservation Area 3A Flooding

Miami, FL – The South Florida Water Management District this week began taking additional operational measures to move more water south out of Water Conservation Area 3A to relieve the high water conditions in that natural area caused by recent rainfall.

The SFWMD is using the S-334 structure to move 250 cubic feet per second of clean water from the conservation area south through the C-111 South Dade Conveyance System that includes the C-111 Canal where some of it will be sent to Biscayne Bay.

In addition, water managers are also using the S-39, S-38 and S-31 structures to move excess water out of the conservation area to help relieve high water levels.

These operational step increase the amount of water that can be moved out of Water Conservation Area 3A by an additional 807.7 million gallons of water per day, until the water levels are returned to regulation levels.

“Water Conservation Area 3A is a critical part of the District’s system of cleaning and moving water south as well as a critical piece of the Everglades ecosystem,” said SFWMD Chief Engineer John Mitnik. “We will always utilize whatever feasible operational measures to relieve high water levels in this area for the benefit of the wildlife, the Everglades and the entire water management system.”

Currently, because of heavy rainfall throughout South Florida over the past month the water level in Water Conservation Area 3A is at approximately 10.7 feet. That is a half-foot above the prescribed regulation level for wildlife health and 1.5 feet higher than the water level was at this time last year.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has closed the conservation area to recreation because of the high water levels, which can cause wildlife drowning concerns. High water levels in this conservation area also hinder the District’s ability to move water south from Lake Okeechobee to reduce the need for the U.S. Army Corps to make releases to the coastal estuaries for flood protection after heavy rainfall events.

Charles Murphy News 9/13

News Cast for September 13th:

Deputies rescued a two-year-old girl from a hot car Sunday. The mother accidentally locked the vehicle at 1640 highway 70 west while shopping and worked for several minutes to coax the girl to open the door. Deputies broke out the window and removed the toddler who was treated with an energy drink and cooled off.

10 Immokalee residents thought a fake note would allow them to pick palmetto berries on an Okeechobee ranch.  All 10 were charged Saturday after a report of trespassing on North West 2 hundred and 40th Street.   State and local officers say they found a van filled with bags of the berries.

Glades County Sheriff Stuart Whiddon endorsed the Democrat in the race, Sgt. David Hardin, in the race to replace him. Whiddon retires after 12 years as Sheriff in January. Hardin recently won the democratic primary over Daryl Lewis. Whiddon says Hardin has the experience and the traits to be a good sheriff. Whiddon adds that Hardin will continue some of the programs he started which have made Glades County the safest county in Florida. He said the formula for a successful Sheriff is being available and making smart decisions. Hardin is opposed by Hendry County Sheriff’s Captain Susan Harrelle.

Whiddon 1

Whiddon 2

Sports Cast for September 13th:

Mary Huff said her team made progress in 2016 despite a sub 500 record. Okeechobee again made it to the post season but lost in the first round to Dwyer. Huff said that was one of her disappointments. Huff said the team must improve at the plate with better, more disciplined hitting.

Huff 1

Huff 2

They also have to find some new pitchers to pick up for graduated senior, Jordan Lawlis. Many of the girls spent the summer with travel ball leagues.

  • OHS bowling hosts Westwood at 3:30 pm
  • OHS boys golf vs LPA at PGA 3:30 pm
  • OHS Girls golf at South Fork Hammock Creek CC at 3:30 pm
  • OHS swimming at Jensen Beach 4 pm at Sailfish Splash water park
  • OHS volleyball at Eau Gallie 6 pm
  • Moore Haven volleyball hosts First Baptist of Naples, JV 5 varsity to follow
  • Moore Haven cross country at Avon Park
  • PECS volleyball hosts Clewiston 5 pm
  • Yearling at Sebastian volleyball and soccer 4:30 pm
  • Oslo at Osceola volleyball and soccer 4:30 pm

Florida’s Broward College and Indian River State College Named Among Ten Finalists for 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence

Florida’s Broward College and Indian River State College Named Among Ten Finalists for 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence

Florida One of Only Three States in US with Multiple Finalists

$1 Million Prize for Excellence in Four Areas:
Learning, Degree Completion, Employment and Earnings, and Access and Success for Minority and Low-Income Students; Winner to be Announced in March 2017

Washington, D.C., September 13, 2016 – Florida’s Broward College and Indian River State College were named today as two of ten finalists for the 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s preeminent recognition of high achievement and performance in America’s community colleges.

The $1 million prize fund will be awarded in March 2017 in Washington, D.C. to the winner and up to four finalists with distinction. (See complete list of finalists below.)

The Prize, awarded every two years since 2011, recognizes outstanding institutions selected from an original pool of more than 1,000 public community colleges nationwide. With a singular focus on student success, the Prize assesses community colleges’ achievements in four areas: student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings for graduates, and access and success for minority and low-income students.

Broward College (63,000 students) (Fort Lauderdale, FL)

“Broward College has made incredible strides in achieving higher levels of college students success since they were last named a finalist for the 2013 Prize,” said Joshua Wyner, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program in Washington, D.C. “Their new educational model, called pathways, matches courses with what students need when they leave Broward College for high-demand jobs or four-year transfer. As a result, the college has made significant advances in the number of students who complete their degrees, how long it takes them to do so, and reducing excess credits.”

Broward College earned a place on the top ten finalists’ list for a second time after being named a finalist in 2013. The institution stands out as one of the nation’s top community colleges for many reasons, including:

  • Virtually no gap in three-year graduation/transfer rates between all students (47 percent) and underrepresented minorities (46 percent), compared to the national average (34 percent) for minorities
  • Clear career-oriented program pathways for all students
  • Mandatory academic advising when students reach half- and three-quarter-completion milestones to ensure they are on the path to graduation or have what’s needed to transfer to a four-year university

Indian River State College (24,000 students) (Fort Pierce, FL)

“Indian River State College’s efforts to get and keep students on clear program pathways aligned with labor market needs serves as a model for community colleges across the country,” said Joshua Wyner, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program in Washington, D.C. “IRSC students have access to advisors that guide them from their first day through graduation, helping them define goals, map the most direct routes to achieving them, and continually chart their progress.”

Indian River State College earned a place on the top ten finalists’ list for a second time after being named a finalist in 2015. The institution stands out as one of the nation’s top community colleges for many reasons, including:

  • 49 percent of students graduate or transfer within three years (compared to 39 percent nationally)
  • Associate degree earners who go on to the upper-level at IRSC or transfer to other institutions (and attend full-time), earn a bachelor’s degree at a rate of approximately 73% within four years
  • Policies focused on making sure students complete classes and graduate, including widely utilized early interventions by instructors and financial aid advisors

Community colleges today enroll nearly half of all US undergraduates—7 million students—working toward degrees and certificates. This includes rapidly growing numbers of low-income and minority students. While fewer than 40 percent of all community college students graduate, Aspen Prize finalist institutions demonstrate that every community college can help more students achieve success while in college and after they graduate.

This fall, the Aspen Institute will conduct a rigorous review process that includes examination of extensive data on performance and improvements in learning, graduation, workforce, and equitable outcomes for all students as well as multi-day site visits to each of the ten finalist institutions. Then, a distinguished Prize Jury of higher education experts will select a grand prize winner and up to four finalists with distinction.

The 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence was awarded to Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida. In 2013, Santa Barbara City College (California) and Walla Walla Community College (Washington) were co-winners. In 2011, Valencia College (Florida) was the inaugural Prize winner. According to the Prize rules, former winners were not eligible to reapply this cycle.

The Aspen Prize Finalists selected today reflect the diversity and richness of American community colleges.

The 2017 Aspen Prize Finalists (listed in alphabetical order):
Two colleges have been named finalists in four consecutive Prize cycles (indicated with *) and two others were finalists for a second time (indicated with #)

  • Anoka-Ramsey Community College – Coon Rapids, MN
  • Broward College – Fort Lauderdale, FL#
  • Chaffey College – Rancho Cucamonga, CA
  • Indian River State College – Fort Pierce, FL#
  • Lake Area Technical Institute – Watertown, SD*
  • Northeast Community College – Norfolk, NE
  • Odessa College – Odessa, TX
  • Pasadena City College – Pasadena, CA
  • San Jacinto College – Pasadena, TX

West Kentucky Community and Technical College – Paducah, KY*

SFWMD to Close Lake Okeechobee North Shore Lock for Gate Repair

SFWMD to Close Lake Okeechobee North Shore Lock for Gate Repair

The Taylor Creek boat lock will be closed for one month 

WHAT:  The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) will close the S-193 lock at Taylor Creek on the north shore of Lake Okeechobee for gate repair.
WHEN:  The lock will close Sept. 26 and reopen Oct. 27.
WHERE:   The S-193 lock is located at the Taylor Creek Mariner’s Access on the north shore of Lake Okeechobee in Okeechobee County.

Charles Murphy News 9/12

News Cast for September 12th:

Torres Mug Shot

Torres Mug Shot

The Okeechobee school board approved their latest strategic plan. On the list include replacement of Okeechobee high school. School board chairman Malissa Morgan would also like more staff at the elementary level where the important learning takes place Morgan also wants to address a growing attendance problem.  Over 19 hundred days were missed with unexcused absences last year. She suggests using the Okeechobee Achievement Academy for an out of school suspension program.

Morgan 1

Morgan 2

Other goals are increasing the graduation rate from 70 percent, increasing industry certifications and better performances on state exams.

In the courts, 25 year old Justina Billie received one year probation on reduced charges of battery.  The Seminole had been charged with child abuse for allegedly scratching a two year old child with a safety pin as a form of discipline, which is a cultural custom with the tribe.

On the roads, 22 year old Chad Motlow died in a roll over crash on County route 835 near Clewiston on Friday night.  23 year old Daylyn hall of Clewiston was treated at Hendry Regional with minor injury.  Troopers say the BMW sedan went out of control, flipped over several times and landed in a canal.

Sports Cast for September 12th:

Okeechobee put up nearly 5 hundred yards in total offense as they dismantled Moore Haven 45-7 in high school football on Friday. Lamar Williams had 175 yards and two touchdowns and Demetrius Clark had 130 yards in receptions on the night.

Jajuan Cherry rushed for 96 yards and a touchdown.  He said the team has a different mindset this year The defense held Moore Haven to 176 total yards.

Cherry 1

Defensive tackle Joseph Benjamin said everyone on the team played great. John Cox scored the Moore Haven touchdown on a 16 yard run in the first quarter.

Benjamin 1

Bubba Fludd had two touchdown passes and added a 47 yard touchdown run.

Fludd 1

Coach Chris Branham used his bench a lot and was glad to see how they responded

Branham 1

This week Okeechobee plays at Sebastian River in the district opener.

In other big lake games, Pahokee defeats Cardinal Newman 36-21, Clewiston lost to Fort Pierce Central 37-0 and Glades Central fell to American Heritage Delray 37-32.

Charles Murphy News 9/9

News Cast for September 9th:

The Okeechobee County Commission continued work on an 88 point 7 million dollar budget yesterday.  Just over 50.3 million could be spent this year. The sheriff cut his budget by 3.9 percent by 497 thousand dollars.   They also asked for county help in a vehicle replacement plan. The budget also includes 8.8 million for fire rescue and ems, 424 thousand for the supervisor of elections, 992 thousand dollars for the tax collector, 157 thousand for emergency management, and 561 thousand for parks and recreation. Commissioners want to continue to cut the millage rate.

A sign malfunction sparked a brief fire that threatened the gas pumps at the Treasure Island Shell Station Wednesday morning.  Firemen had the fire under control in four minutes.

An 18 year old Southfield, Michigan man was charged with burglary to a business, and grand theft for the theft of a 15 thousand dollar John Deere Gator.  Deputies learned Jerome Hayes allegedly posted the stolen gator on Craigs list.  They worked a sting where a detective offered to buy the gator for 4 thousand dollars and found the Gator in a wooded area on North west 8th Street

The Okeechobee school board Thursday approved their final budget of 70 point 3 million dollars.  It’ll cut the millage rate by point 35 mills this year. The board will see an additional 2 million dollars in state aid this year.  Money is also budgeted for employee raises. The board also held a workshop to tour Okeechobee High School as they continue to seek special state dollars to replace the high school.  The estimated cost is 60 million dollars.

Sports Cast for September 9th:

Brahman football tonight at Moore Haven and QB Bubba Fludd says he is very impressed with the improvement of the passing game this year. He praised Kysell Richardson for stepping up his game this year. Richardson had two touchdown receptions in the first game and Fludd is completing over 70 percent of his passes so far this season.

OHS JV volleyball lost 2-0 to Harmony last night.

Boy’s golf lost in a blowout to Jensen Beach.

Glades Day had a big win last night as they defeated Florida Christian 41-6. Alex Mineo threw three touchdown passes for the Gators.

OHS girls volleyball defeated Lake Placid 3-1 this week.  25-21, 25-22, 21-25, and 25-18. Raeley Matthews had 14 kills, Raylee Coleman 17 kills, and Michaela Myers had seven blocks for the Lady Brahmans. Carrie Wharin had 14 assists.

On the sports schedule tonight

  • OHS football at Moore Haven 7 pm
  • Clewiston football at Fort Pierce Central 7 pm
  • Pahokee football hosts Cardinal Newman 7 pm
  • Glades Central football hosts American Heritage Delray 7 pm

On Saturday

  • OHS swimming at Blackman Invitational in Sebring
  • OYFL hosts Poinciana Predators 9 am on

SFWMD to Close Lake Okeechobee North Shore Lock for Gate Repair

SFWMD to Close Lake Okeechobee North Shore Lock for Gate Repair

The Taylor Creek boat lock will be closed for one month

WHAT:          The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) will close the S-193 lock at Taylor Creek on the north shore of Lake Okeechobee for gate repair.

WHEN:          The lock will close Sept. 26 and reopen Oct. 27.

WHERE:        The S-193 Lock is located at the Taylor Creek Mariner’s Access on the North Shore of Lake Okeechobee in Okeechobee County.

Lion Family Reunited in Africa

Lion family reunited in Africa

Rescued against all the odds, hundreds of miles apart in South America, circus lions crossed the globe to become a pride again, home in Africa

September 8, 2016- South Africa- A lion family has been reunited in the African bush after they were torn apart by a traveling circus in South America. Leo, his mate Muneca, and daughters Africa and Kiara are back together. Animal Defenders International (ADI) is appealing for funds to complete an enclosure in the African bush where they can live out their lives together. https://lionsbacktoafrica.org/donate-for-leo/

The wonderful news comes after tens of thousands of people watched a viral video of Leo, groggy with anesthetic following dental surgery, battling to reach his daughter Africa as she willed him on and reached out for her father.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dm4NI_juV_0

Leo was rescued by ADI on the first day of a huge operation to enforce Peru’s ban on wild animals in circuses. But the circus had blocked the rescue of Muneca, Kiara and Africa, and then disappeared with them before a court could decide on their fate.  ADI never gave up on them and eight months later tracked down the circus over 600 miles away, in a remote region near the border of Ecuador, and Leo’s family was saved.

During the biggest operation of its kind ever undertaken, ADI rescued over 100 animals (lions, bears, tigers, monkeys and others) as they closed down Peru’s wild animal circus industry.  In May, ADI flew the 33 lions rescued during the mission to South Africa to start a new life at Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary.

Since then, the lions have been steadily rehabilitated, introduced to each other and are undergoing an intense veterinary program to repair the damage inflicted on them in the circus. The lionesses are also being neutered to prevent breeding.  These battered animals cannot return to the wild, but it is the aim of ADI and Emoya to give them a life as close to what nature intended as possible.

Leo, one of the oldest lions rescued had all of his canine teeth smashed in the circus and underwent three hours of dental surgery in August to repair the damage.  Leading veterinary dentist Gerhard Steenkamp, who repaired the damage, extracting teeth and doing root canals, noted “His mouth has taken a hell of beating.”  Muneca also had surgery for two smashed teeth.

The video of Leo recovering has moved tens of thousands of people online and shows the importance of family bonds in this social species.  As he began to recover from anesthesia and slowly stumbled and dragged himself towards his anxious daughter Africa, who appeared to be urging him on from behind a fence, even reaching her paw out to him.   Once Leo reaches her, they nuzzle and he settles beside her for a few minutes, but soon recovers and is back on his feet as if nothing had happened. At the time the lions were in “bonding” camps, preparing them for reintroduction, with mesh between them allowing contact but ensuring they could not fight.  Now the family is back together.

Jan Creamer ADI President: “It is wonderful that against all of the odds, these lions have been saved from circus suffering and the family reunited back where nature intended in Africa.  Now we are asking for people to help, and donate for a huge natural bush enclosure for this family, that will be their happy-ever-after.”

The final step for Leo and his family will be a huge natural bush enclosure with self-filling water holes and secure solar powered electric fences. ADI and Emoya need to complete these for all the lions rescued costing up to $150,000.

Please help Animal Defenders International raise $16,500 for Leo’s family enclosure, where the lions will be cared for life by ADI at Emoya. Any extra funds raised will go towards the enclosures for the other rescued lions and care for Leo and his family.  https://lionsbacktoafrica.org/donate-for-leo/


CONTACT: Lori De Waal        818-817- 4444     lori.dewaal@dewaalpr.com
ADI Media Desk   323-804-9920      mediadesk@ad-international.org

Images: http://www.4shared.com/folder/xzQf5hMC/Leo_and_Muneca.html

Operation Spirit of Freedom
Leo was rescued as part of Animal Defenders International’s Operation Spirit of Freedom, a mission with Peru’s authorities to enforce the ban on wild animals in circuses.  In the biggest operation of its kind over 100 animals were rescued from circuses and the illegal wildlife trade.  ADI previously enforced a ban on animals in circuses in Bolivia.

Animal Defenders International: 
With offices in Los Angeles, London and Bogota, ADI campaigns across the globe on animals in entertainment, providing technical advice to governments, securing progressive animal protection legislation, drafting regulations and rescuing animals in distress. ADI has a worldwide reputation for providing video and photographic evidence exposing the behind-the-scenes suffering in industry and supporting this evidence with scientific research on captive wildlife and transport. ADI rescues animals all over the world, educates the public on animals and environmental issues.

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