Local News



Local pros Matt Greenblatt, Scott Martin, Brandon McMillan, Kyle Monti and Mike Surman Look to Qualify for Forrest Wood Cup Championship

CLEWISTON, Fla. (Jan. 25, 2016) – The first tournament of the 21st season of the Walmart FLW Tour, the most competitive Tour in professional bass-fishing, kicks off Feb. 4-7 with the Walmart FLW Tour at Lake Okeechobee presented by Ranger Boats. Hosted by Roland & Mary Ann Martin’s Marina & Resort and the Hendry County Tourism Development Council, the tournament will feature 169 of the world’s best bass-fishing professionals and co-anglers casting for top awards of up to $125,000 cash in the pro division and up to $25,000 cash in the co-angler division.

Local professional anglers Matt Greenblatt of Port St. Lucie, Scott Martin and Brandon McMillan of Clewiston, Kyle Monti of Okeechobee and Mike Surman of Boca Raton, will be among the 170 anglers competing on the FLW Tour this season. 2016 will mark Martin’s 17th, Greenblatt and McMillan’s fourth, Monti’s second and Surman’s 21st season fishing as professionals on the FLW Tour.

One of the anglers competing against the South Florida contingent is 16-year FLW Tour veteran Scott Martin, the defending FLW Tour Angler of the Year, who lives on Lake Okeechobee and is considered an early favorite.

“I think that this Tour event is going to be a fantastic tournament,” said Martin. “The fish will have adjusted to the colder temperatures and I believe we are going to see a lot of fish caught. Water levels are up and it has really opened up a lot of new areas, which is very interesting. The water coming up 6 inches on Lake Okeechobee is a lot. The fish are much further back than they normally would be and with the right warming trend we could see a lot of those fish spawning in areas they haven’t been to in years.”

Martin said that standard springtime Okeechobee baits would be in play for tournament anglers. He divulged that he’ll be flipping a Tightlines UV Punch with a big 1½- or 2-ounce weight and throwing a Bruiser Baits Super Swimmer swimbait. Martin also mentioned that he would have various topwater and prop baits rigged up along with moving baits like lipless crankbaits, spinnerbaits, Z-Man ChatterBaits and swim jigs.

“It’s tough to try to predict a winning weight due to the unpredictable weather we’ve been having, but I believe that the winner will most likely weigh in a four-day total of more than 80 pounds,” Martin went on to say.

Fishing fans that can’t make the trek to Florida can still follow along with all of the tournament action at FLWFishing.com. Live on-the-water tweets, photos, updates and videos will be posted throughout the four days of competition as well as a live streaming video feed of the weigh-in held at 3 p.m. EST on Thursday and Friday and 4 p.m. EST on Saturday and Sunday.

In FLW Tour competition, anglers are also vying for valuable points in hopes of qualifying for the 2016 Forrest Wood Cup, the world championship of bass fishing. The 2016 Forrest Wood Cup will be on Wheeler Lake in Huntsville, Alabama, Aug. 4-7 and is hosted by the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

For complete details and updated information visit FLWFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/FLWFishing and on Twitter at Twitter.com/FLWFishing.

About FLW

FLW is the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, providing anglers of all skill levels the opportunity to compete for millions in prize money in 2016 across five tournament circuits. Headquartered in Benton, Kentucky, with offices in Minneapolis, FLW conducts more than 235 bass-fishing tournaments annually across the United States and sanctions tournaments in Canada, China, Mexico and South Korea. FLW tournament fishing can be seen on the Emmy-nominated “FLW” television show, broadcast to more than 564 million households worldwide, while FLW Bass Fishing magazine delivers cutting-edge tips from top pros. For more information visit FLWFishing.com and follow FLW at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Periscope: @FLWFishing.

Fort Pierce Resident Sentenced to 75 Months in Prison for Receipt and Possession of Child Pornography

Fort Pierce Resident Sentenced to 75 Months  in Prison for Receipt and Possession of Child Pornography

A Fort Pierce resident was sentenced today to 75 months in prison by United States District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg for receiving and possessing child pornography.

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Robert C. Hutchinson, Acting Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Miami Field Office, and Ken J. Mascara, Sheriff, St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, made the announcement.

Richard Joseph Ahearn, 56, of Fort Pierce previously pled guilty to one count of receiving child pornography, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2252(a)(2), and one count of possessing child pornography, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2252(a)(4)(B).  After his release from incarceration, Ahearn will be placed on supervised release for 10 years and will have to register as a sex offender.

According to court documents and information disclosed during the court proceedings, Yahoo! reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NMEC) several suspected child pornography images that had been uploaded to a Flickr account.  The email account and the internet protocol (IP) address associated with that account were connected to a physical address in Fort Pierce, determined to be Ahearn’s residence.  The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office obtained state search warrants for the Flickr account and associated email accounts.  Examination of those accounts revealed sexually explicit online chats with minors.  It was also determined that Ahearn was employed as an Information Technology Professional with the St. Lucie County Tax Collector’s Office.  After ICE-HSI joined the investigation, a federal search warrant was obtained for Ahearn’s residence and any electronic devices found therein.  A subsequent search of Ahearn’s computer revealed images of sexually explicit conduct involving minors (child pornography).

This case is brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice.  Led by U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.  For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of ICE-HSI and the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office.  This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Daniel E. Funk.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

Governor Scott Proclaimed January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Florida

Governor Scott Proclaimed January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Florida 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – This month, Governor Rick Scott issued the attached proclamation recognizing January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Governor Rick Scott recommended a $1.7 million increase in this year’s Florida First budget to expand services for adolescent victims of human trafficking. Governor Scott also signed four bills into law that recently went into effect that raise awareness of the signs of human trafficking, protect survivors from further exploitation, and establish harsher punishment against perpetrators.

Governor Rick Scott said, “We must keep working to identify instances of human trafficking in Florida and help rescue victims. It is unfathomable that this evil occurs in our state, but by expanding services and passing important legislation this year, we are helping to save and heal the lives of our state’s most vulnerable.”

DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said, “Since the department began taking reports of human trafficking in 2009, we have continued to see a rise in the number of reports throughout the state. Identifying victims is the first step in helping match children with the services they need. Every citizen should learn to recognize and report the signs of human trafficking to help end this horrific abuse.”

The Department of Children and Families and the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice also developed and recently launched a human trafficking screening tool to assist trained staff in the process of identifying and assessing child victims of human trafficking. During federal fiscal year 2014-2015, more than 1,200 reports of human trafficking were reported in Florida through the increased use of the Florida Abuse Hotline to help identify possible instances of human trafficking.

DJJ Secretary Christina Daly said, “We proudly stand with the Department of Children and Families to help eliminate human trafficking in Florida. By working together with our partners at the statewide and local level, the victims of this egregious crime can be identified, receive the necessary services to address their trauma, and start on the path towards healing.”

Human Trafficking Awareness Month is recognized every January. More information on how to recognize the signs of human trafficking, as well as how to report it, visit: www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/human-trafficking.

Gov. Scott: West Palm Beach Added 13,000 Jobs Over the Year

Gov. Scott: West Palm Beach Added 13,000 Jobs Over the Year

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced that the West Palm Beach area added 13,000 private-sector jobs over the year in December. The area’s unemployment rate declined by 0.3 percentage point over the year to 4.5 percent in December. Florida has added more than 1 million private sector jobs since 2010.

Governor Scott said, “The entire state of Florida is growing, including the West Palm Beach area. If we continue to cut $1 billion in taxes and create the new $250 million Florida Enterprise Fund, we will ensure that we continue to add jobs as we diversify our economy.”
The industries with the largest job gains over the year in the West Palm Beach area were professional and business services with 6,900 new jobs; and trade, transportation, and utilities, and education and health services, each with 3,100 new jobs. The West Palm Beach metro area also had 19,935 job openings in December, including 5,375 high-wage, high-skill science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) openings.
Florida created 21,000 private-sector jobs in December, and a total of 1,025,400 private-sector jobs since December 2010. Florida’s statewide unemployment rate for December was 5.0 percent. In December, more than 34,749 Floridians were placed in jobs by CareerSource Palm Beach County and the state’s other 23 regional workforce boards.

To view the December 2015 employment data visit www.floridajobs.org/labor-market-information/labor-market-information-press-releases/monthly-press-releases.

Gov. Rick Scott: 2015 Concluded with Florida adding 21,000 New Jobs

Gov. Rick Scott: 2015 Concluded with Florida adding 21,000 New Jobs

ESTERO, Fla. – While attending the dedication ceremony for Hertz’s new corporate headquarters today, Governor Scott announced that Florida businesses created 21,000 private-sector jobs in December 2015. In just five years, 1,025,400 private-sector jobs have been created in Florida. The state celebrated one million new private-sector jobs milestone in November 2015.

Governor Rick Scott said, “Florida is growing. Businesses in our state have created well over a million jobs in just over five years. This impressive milestone joins the news that our state is welcoming a record number of tourists, our crime rate is at a 44-year low and we have record high state revenues. We must continue this momentum into 2016 by cutting $1 billion in taxes and further diversifying our economy with the creation of the $250 million Florida Enterprise Fund.”

Over the year in December, Florida businesses created 238,900 new private-sector jobs. Florida’s annual private-sector job growth rate has exceeded that of the nation for 44 consecutive months, and is now 3.5 percent.

In December 2015, Florida’s unemployment rate for was 5.0 percent, the lowest in seven years. This is down 0.7 percentage point from the December 2014 rate, and down by 0.1 percentage point from the November 2015 revised rate of 5.1 percent. Florida’s unemployment rate has declined by 5.7 percentage points since December 2010.

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Cissy Proctor said, “Business in Florida is thriving, and the state continued its strong record of private-sector job creation to close out 2015. Investments like Governor Scott’s proposed $1 billion tax cut will continue to grow jobs across the Sunshine State, providing more opportunities for Floridians to support themselves and their families.”

Other positive economic indicators include:

  • Florida’s private-sector job growth month-to-month has been positive for 50 consecutive months.
  • Private-sector industries gaining the most jobs over the month in December were professional and business services with 8,400 new jobs and trade, transportation, and utilities with 5,200 new jobs.
  • Florida job postings showed 282,386 openings in December 2015.
  • In December, Florida’s 24 regional workforce boards reported more than 34,749 Floridians, including 1,847 veterans, were placed in jobs.

To view the December 2015 employment data visit www.floridajobs.org/labor-market-information/labor-market-information-press-releases/monthly-press-releases.

Governor Rick Scott Signs Three Bills into Law

Governor Rick Scott Signs Three Bills into Law

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott was joined by Senate President Andy Gardiner, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, their families, and other members of the Florida legislature to sign HB 7003 (Relating to Individuals with Disabilities), SB 672 (Educational Options) and SB 552 (Environmental Resources).

Charles Murphy News 1/22

News Cast for January 22nd:

Cypress, Lena

Cypress, Lena

An Okeechobee man was found guilty of four counts of sexual battery on children at his trial Thursday. Tommy Comfort is now 37 years old.  He was charged with molesting four different victims while he himself was a child. The defense argued the case was cold; details were mixed up, questioned the reliability of the witness’s memory and even hinted at perjured testimony. The state says the four victims had nothing to gain by lying and waited 23 years before they came forward to tell their stories for a variety of reasons.

Among arrests, 20 year old Lena Cypress of Brighton was charged with Xanax possession after a traffic stop on US 27 near Clewiston on Tuesday morning.

Vineyard and Schrader pictureLena Cypress Arrest Report

Okeechobee city council voted this week to allow a Big Apple Pizza to join Dunkin Donuts in their building on North East 2nd Avenue.   City fathers did express some traffic concerns about their drive thru window getting backed up during the day. City council also is working with the Florida Department of Transportation to have more red lights on 441. They’d like to have one at South West 6th Street and also at North West 9th Street. City councilman Noel Chandler says truck traffic going into the industrial park need the red light at 9th.

Press News Release Citizens Honored for Service

Sports Cast for January 22nd:

Cheyenne Nunez was among four seniors honored at Thursdays game

Cheyenne Nunez was among four seniors honored at Thursdays game

Okeechobee outscored Moore Haven 39-21 in the second half as they won their senior night game, 57-39 in girls’ basketball last night. It was the final home game for seniors Cheyenne Nunez, Aaliyah Johnson, Imari Roberts and Lahna Baker.

Raylee Coleman had 12 points and 18 rebounds and Johnson added 16 points for the Brahmans.

Johnson said she kept fighting after a poor first half. Coleman said the girls really came out strong together in the second half.

Nunez played with a knee injury but didn’t want to disappoint her fans.  She said she was disappointed she couldn’t play up to par. Sydnee Cypress led Moore Haven with 18 points.

On the sports schedule today, OHS girls’ basketball visits Desoto High with JV at 6 and varsity at 7:30.  Moore haven boys’ hoops host Pahokee with JV at 6 and varsity at 7:30.  OHS freshman, boys’ basketball plays Westwood at 4 pm.  The JV and varsity play Hardee at home tonight, JV at 6 and varsity at 7:30 pm.

Governor Rick Scott Awards Three Gainesville Police Officers with the Medal of Heroism

Governor Rick Scott Awards Three Gainesville Police Officers with the Medal of Heroism

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – During today’s meeting of the Florida Cabinet, Governor Rick Scott recognized Gainesville Police Corporal Kevin Clinton, Officer Patrick Hopkins and Officer Brett Kikendall with the Medal of Heroism for their immediate action to save a family from their burning home.

Governor Scott said, “Corporal Clinton, Officer Hopkins and Officer Kikendall demonstrated bravery and selflessness by risking their lives to rescue a fellow Floridian trapped inside of a burning home. The quick action of Florida’s law enforcement officers like these three heroes helps save countless lives each day, and I’m honored to present them each with the Medal of Heroism.”

­­­­­­­­­­Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones said, “Florida police officers like Corporal Clinton, Officer Hopkins and Officer Kikendall put their lives at risk each day because of their commitment to protect the families of the Gainesville community. We are proud of their courageous actions at the scene as well as providing supplies after the incident to help a family in need.”

About Corporal Kevin Clinton, Officer Patrick Hopkins and Officer Brett Kikendall

On June 26, 2015 Corporal Clinton, Officer Hopkins and Officer Kikendall responded to reports of a house fire with individuals trapped inside where approximately 80% of the house was engulfed in flames upon arrival of the officers. The mother of the victim directed the officers to where her daughter was located inside her home. Officer Hopkins broke into the burning home and found an individual with disabilities trapped inside. He lifted her to safety through the window, and Corporal Clinton and Officer Kikendall helped transport both the individual and Officer Hopkins outside to safety. The following day, all three officers visited the family and coordinated a collection of furniture, clothing and household goods as they recovered from the dangerous incident.

Charles Murphy News 1/21

News Cast for January 21st:

Fire at C&S Salvage

Fire at C&S Salvage

Authorities estimated 150 thousand dollars in property damage was done Tuesday by the fire at C and S Salvage.  No one was hurt but two dogs and a pet bird died in the flames. The Red Cross has come to the assistance of Diana Castiano who lived in the apartment. A space heater may have caused the afternoon blaze.

Four grown women who claimed they were molested at a young age were scheduled to testify this week in the Tommy Comfort sexual battery trial. The first witness claimed she was molested and raped in calf pens, a residence in Otter Creek and later a church bus and church sanctuary in Okeechobee. The defense has vehemently denied the allegations.  They point out each of the victims have inconsistent stories and can’t accurately say when the alleged assaults took place.  They also point out other adults were around and how could Comfort have gotten away with these things.

The victim said she was scared to say anything and until she was older thought it was normal behavior. She said the assaults led her to abuse narcotics. Testimony resumes this morning.

On the arrest list today, 34 year old Robert Aponte faces drug charges for a traffic stop in December near the county airport, authorities say they seized some methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia, a loaded pistol and over 11 hundred dollars in suspected drug cash.

24 year old Anthony Bonnett of Plano, Texas, who allegedly led authorities on a wild police chase on his motorcycle last month faces another charge now of aggravated fleeing and eluding that caused serious bodily injury.  His friend, Tiffany Grossman fell off the bike and was injured.  Two city cops including the police chief suffered minor injury.

41 year old Lashay Butler and 56 year old Terry Fisher of Deans Court were charged with luring a plain clothes police officer on routine patrol to an isolated spot to sell him crack cocaine.  They were both charged with conspiracy to sell cocaine.

58 year old Ronald Grumbling was charged with throwing a rock at his estranged wives vehicle and accused of trying to ram his vehicle into her car on South West 6th Street Tuesday.  The charge is aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon.

Kevin Cutts will receive a new sentence for the murder of Elisabeth Hatfield in 1995 on February 3rd.  The Florida supreme court this year found juveniles could not be sentenced to life on murder charges.

Sports Cast for January 21st:

Okeechobee boy’s basketball won their 14th game of the season with a 71-61 victory at Clewiston last night.

Pemayetv Emahakv swept Osceola in middle school basketball, the girls won 25-14, Julia Smith had 18 points for the Seminoles and LaFasia Smith six points for Osceola.  The boys team defeated Osceola 44-36.  Cole Younger had 16 points and Veyon Washington 12 points for Osceola.  Silas Madrigal had 15 points and Robert Harris 10 points for the Seminoles.

Lady Brahman basketball senior night tonight against Moore Haven at 6 pm.  Cheyenne Nunez will undergo knee surgery tomorrow and miss the district tournament. She will likely miss at least half of the softball season.  She suffered the injury two weeks ago against Martin County. She said it was a difficult decision to stop playing but she had to think about her future after high school.

Cheyenne Nunez on injury, volleyball and softball

The tip tonight is at 6 pm. Also Moore Haven boys basketball hosts Lake Placid tonight with JV at 6 and varsity a t 7:30 pm.

Check our Facebook page for video interviews and raw videos of sporting events.

Florida Sheriffs Association Announces Alternative Proposal to HB 163/SB 300

Florida Sheriffs Association Announces Alternative Proposal to HB 163/SB 300 – Open Carry

Tallahassee, FL – Florida’s elected law enforcement officials, including Florida Sheriffs Association President and Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell and Florida Sheriffs Association Legislative Chairman and Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, today announced a proposal to ensure that law abiding, concealed carry permit holders are protected from arrest and prosecution for inadvertently displaying a firearm. The FSA is offering this proposal to protect Florida’s 1.5 million concealed carry permit holders and clarify Florida laws related to the inadvertent display of firearms, without legalizing complete open carry.

“Today in Florida, responsible concealed weapons permit holders can face penalties for unintentionally displaying a weapon – highlighting a major oversight in the laws governing our ability to carry a concealed weapon,” said Sheriff Darnell. “Our proposal protects those who responsibly carry concealed and creates certainty in the law to prevent any unnecessary arrest and prosecution of gun owners who are otherwise following the law.”

Concerns related to the arrest and prosecution of concealed carry permit holders who inadvertently display a firearm were identified by the National Rifle Association (NRA) during the 2011 Legislative Session when the current law addressing briefly displaying a firearm was passed. However, in a recent appearance before the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee and in various other public statements, NRA Past President and current United Sportsmen of Florida President Marion Hammer stated as the reason for their support of the current open carry bill that “there have been problems for years of license holders who were carrying concealed whose firearms accidently and unintentionally became visible to the sight of another person, being stopped, harassed and even arrested and prosecuted under the ban on open carry because somebody saw their gun.”

The Florida Sheriffs Association is taking steps to address the problem as stated by Hammer and others, but our proposal stops short of Florida becoming a complete open carry state. In announcing the proposal, the FSA is asking the Legislature to consider an alternative proposal that closes the loopholes but balances public safety concerns.

Included in the proposal released today by the FSA are provisions to solve any concern of arrest or prosecution of concealed carry permit holders without negatively impacting public safety, tourism, private businesses and the general public law enforcement officers serve and protect. The FSA’s proposal:

  • Requires that someone intentionally and deliberately violate the law before they can be arrested;
  • Creates a presumption that a concealed carry permit holder is lawfully carrying;
  • Creates immunity for lawful citizens that did inadvertently or accidentally display their firearm;
  • Creates a requirement that a person be allowed to explain the situation and that they cannot be convicted if they were not given an opportunity to explain; and
  • Authorizes an expunction of the criminal history record associated with an arrest under this section if the person is found not guilty or if the charge is dismissed – regardless of other eligibility requirements.

“This solution is a solid alternative to opening the door to full-blown open carry, which creates significant public safety challenges for law enforcement,” said Pinellas County Sherriff Bob Gualtieri. “By addressing this significant legal challenge for concealed weapons permit holders, our proposal will truly strengthen rights for gun owners and in no way restricts a citizen’s constitutional right to responsibly own and carry a firearm.”

“This is about strengthening the legal rights of Florida’s 1.5 million concealed weapons permit holders, who already enjoy significant rights afforded under the Second Amendment and also Florida’s constitution including the right to openly and conceal carry in many different circumstances,” continued Gualtieri. According to Guns and Ammo Magazine, Florida’s gun laws have for many years “been the envy of gun owners nationwide.” In Florida, firearms owners may:

  • Openly carry a firearm in their home and on their property;
  • Openly carry a firearm at their place of business in accordance with the business’s rules;
  • Openly carry a firearm to and from a recreational activity including hunting or target shooting;
  • Carry a firearm concealed in a vehicle without a permit; and
  • Carry concealed with a concealed carry permit from the State of Florida.

The FSA’s leadership has been meeting with sponsors of the proposed open carry legislation and will continue to work with legislative members throughout session.

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