Local News



Indian River State College was recently reaccredited for the next ten years by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).  The reaffirmation was earned by IRSC following a flawless review and site visit of the College’s campuses, programs, and services by representatives of the prestigious accrediting body.

This review attests to the quality education provided by IRSC and the seamless transferability of IRSC credits to other colleges and universities.

“This reaffirmation is a seal of approval for the exceptional educational experiences that IRSC provides to its students,” said Dr. Tina Hart, Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness.

As part of the reaffirmation process, IRSC developed a Quality Enhancement Plan, entitled “Math at the Root of Success (MARS),” an institution-wide initiative committed to improving student learning and success.  This project helps students improve their math skills, recognizing that achievement in math is often a barrier to success.

Michelle Abaldo

Director of Institutional Advancement

Indian River State College

Charles Murphy News 7/9

News Cast for July 9th:

An Okeechobee trucker faces numerous charges in Winter Haven, accused of strangling and kidnapping a woman who refused to have sex with him. 40 year old Eddie Sellers was arrested in Alachua County by the Florida highway patrol. He is charged with kidnapping and battery. The victim was hospitalized in Ocala but will recover. A 15 year old client at the former Gator Nole program on Cemetery Road was charged with battery on a staff member, allegedly punching the female three times. 48 year old Shane Lanham was charged with fleeing and eluding police and aggravated stalking after an alleged domestic complaint and chase with city cops on Monday. Police say they seized a loaded firearm from the suspect. 27 year old Adam Murphy and 28 year old Dawn Helfinstine were charged with grand theft for allegedly purchasing stolen jewelry taken in a burglary on June 7th worth about 20 thousand dollars. Federal authorities seized a mobile home park in Okeechobee and sentenced several suspect to prison in a drug trafficking and money laundering case. 31 year old Rachel Bass of Okeechobee received 50 months in prison in the pill mill case in a plea deal to conspiracy charges. Vincent Colangelo received 20 years in prison, three other South Florida men received between 40 months and 10 years behind bars.

The investigation was called operation snake oil. Colangelo and his partners were accused of selling more than 660 thousand pain pills out of seven South Florida clinics. He forfeited over 2.5 million in property, and 22 million in cash and 49 vehicles in the plea deal.
In state court, charges of attempted murder were dropped against 25 year old Terrance Hill. Hill will still spend 23 years behind bars convicted of cocaine sales and a gun charge. He was accused of shooting at Javas Jones in November of 2012 near a then Jamaican night club in Douglas Park, Hill himself was shot in the buttocks by the victim.

Sports Cast for July 9th:

Okeechobee American Legion baseball dropped a double header Sunday to the Martin Bucs, 10-1 and 4-2. Okeechobee has played .500 ball this summer. Alex Hernandez was named the most improved wrestler for the OHS wrestling team this past season. He will be a junior in the coming year. He wrestled at 145 pounds. He said the award made all his work pay off.

Alex says he plans to work hard to become the best wrestler he can be. He said he learned a lot on the mat from his opponents this year. He said a pin fall victory over Sebastian River will be one of his top moments of 2014.

Shooting and Homicide Investigation

Shooting and Homicide Investigation



As previously reported, on Sunday, June 15, 2014, at about 11:16 p.m. Consolidated Dispatch received a call from a male subject later identified as Thomas Markland, 65 years-of-age, located at 122 Hill Court, Sebring, FL. Thomas Markland informed the dispatcher he had shot his nephew, later identified as Phillip ”Justin” Markland, 30 years-of-age, of the same address. While speaking with Thomas Markland, the dispatcher heard what appeared to be gunshots in the background.

Upon the deputies’ arrival, they found Phillip “Justin” Markland in the front yard of the residence, bleeding heavily from an apparent gunshot wound; and Thomas Markland lying on the floor of the residence with apparent gunshot wounds. Thomas had no vital signs and was pronounced dead at the scene by EMS personnel. Phillip “Justin” was transported to Lakeland Regional Hospital by Aeromed, in critical condition.

On Monday, June 23, 2014, at the request of Highlands County Sheriff’s Office detectives, Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested Phillip “Justin” Markland on an arrest warrant for second degree murder in the death of his uncle, Thomas Markland. Phillip “Justin” Markland was arrested upon his release from Lakeland Regional Medical Center. He will be booked into the Polk County Jail under a no bond status and will subsequently be transported to the Highlands County Jail.

This investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to contact Highlands County Sheriff’s Detective Kimberly Gunn at 863-402-7250. Anyone with information who wants to remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward is asked to call Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-TIPS(8477), contact us on the internet at www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com or simply scan the QR code at right. Anonymity is guaranteed!

Charles Murphy News 7/8

News Cast for July 8th:

252 acres burned in a wild fire on the Highlands and Glades county line on Thursday. No homes were threatened and its believed lightning sparked the blaze. A Florida forest service fixed wing aircraft helped fight the blaze.

The Okeechobee Economic Council will discuss the potential Florida Power and Light natural gas power plant considered for Okeechobee tomorrow. It’ll be held at the Williamson Center on the campus of Indian River State College tomorrow at 10 am.

Okeechobee County Emergency Management Director Mitch Smeykel said although experts predict it won’t be a busy hurricane season, people should still be aware of the danger this summer and fall.

Okeechobee high school alumnus Stephen Hirst is now an operations system engineer for United Launch Alliance. He works at Cape Canaveral and graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in science and aerospace engineering. He was recently involved with the MAVEN satellite project which stands for Mars volatile evolution satellite system to learn more about that planet. He says he is really excited to come from Okeechobee and get this opportunity at a premiere launch company.

Sports Cast for July 8th:

Crystal Castaneda won the Brahman Award for the OHS track team this year. Crystal specializes in the 16 hundred and the 32 hundred meters. She also runs cross country for the Lady Brahmans.

Crystal said she appreciated getting this award. Castaneda said she won’t rest on her laurels and expects to work hard to have a strong senior season this year. Crystal said her best race was the district tournament held in Okeechobee. She said she enjoyed the support from the crowd and her teammates that day.

Charles Murphy News 7/7

News Cast for July 7th:

Okeechobee County Fire and Rescue responded to a Diesel fuel spill on 441N and 68W last Saturday, June 28th. Crews arrived to find a disabled semi-truck on the side of the road and were notified that an unknown amount of diesel fuel was spilled. The Okeechobee Sheriff’s Department was on hand to control traffic while D.O.T arrived with a dump truck of dirt to absorb the spill. The scene was cleared after about three hours.

Fire and Rescue also responded to a brush fire on Sunday. Crews arrived to find 2 10X10 areas in pine trees and palmetto area. Witness say lightening was the heat source that started the fire. No property or content was damaged.

On the arrest report, Rosemarie Scheer was arrested and charged with attempted aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Scheer is accused of attacking her husband with a knife during an argument. According to the report, the husband used the bedroom door as a barrier. Scheer allegedly struck the door creating a hole.

Charles Buchanan Jr was arrested and charged with Grand Theft Auto on Sunday after being accused of stealing an acquaintances truck and attempting to sell tools in the truck including a concrete saw and an impact drill.

In 2015, Okeechobee will be celebrating it’s centennial. The centennial celebration ad-hok committee held their first meeting earlier in the week. The Okeechobee City Council assembled the committee which consists of seven voting members. This celebration will kick off January 1st.

4th of July Tips!

American flag and fireworksOverview-Fourth of July Safety Tips

Make sure to take extra caution during your holiday celebrations

*Sun Safety-Protect your skin against the sun with SPF, and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration

*Water Safety-Make sure everyone near water in pools, ponds, lakes or the ocean has the proper skills to swim, keep an eye on young children and check flotation devices for leaks

*Grilling Safety-Check to make sure your grill is in proper working order, don’t ignite charcoal with gasoline or lighter fluid, use heat resistant tools and never lean over an open flame

*Fireworks Safety-Stay a safe distance away from any fireworks display. Be mindful of children with sparklers, as the wire remains hot enough to burn skin even after the sparks have ended

*Family Safety-Over 240 million calls are made to 9-1-1 each year. No one ever thinks they will be one of those calls. Prepare yourself for any emergency

Enjoy and Be Safe!

Michele Bell, PIO



Find out how you can gain the competitive edge in today’s job market with a Bachelor’s Degree from Indian River State College by attending a free Information Session on Tuesday, July 15 at 6 p.m. in the Student Services Center, Room W227, on the corner of 35th Street and Virginia Avenue at the IRSC Main Campus in Fort Pierce. The Information Session will focus on the 23 workforce oriented Bachelor’s Degree programs offered by IRSC, specifically designed to prepare students for well-paying jobs and career advancement.

Business: Business degrees that apply to a wide range of industries, include Accounting, Business Administration and Organizational Management. The Business Administration and Organizational Management degrees can be completed entirely online, a convenience for those with a busy schedule.

Biology: Area residents interested in a career in the region’s growing biomedical field should select the Bachelor’s Degree in Biology. Students in the program participate in paid internships at Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies or at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute or USDA Horticulture Laboratory.

Public Service: The Criminal Justice degree provides a firm foundation for a career in public service. Graduates of the degree program in Public Administration are prepared for advancement in governmental careers, well prepared for Law School and graduate studies. The degree offers concentrations in Emergency Planning and Management and Public Policy and Leadership. The Human Services degree is among the most popular with specializations in General Human Services, Youth and Family Studies, and Addictions Studies.

Digital Media: Graduates of the Bachelor’s Degree program in Digital Media express their creativity and technical expertise in jobs working for Prime Source Associates, JVS Marketing, General Micro Systems, Southern Eagle Distribution, Liberator Medical , Cotton and Company and many other firms. Students can focus on Graphic Design and Visual Communication or Animation, Gaming and Modeling.

Education: Forty-five graduates of IRSC Bachelor’s Degree in Education programs have been recognized as outstanding teachers in Treasure Coast schools since 2004. They earned their degrees in Elementary Education, Middle Grades or High School Mathematics, Middle Grades Science, High School Biology, or Exceptional Student Education/ESOL.

Health Care and Nursing: Graduates of the Health Care Management program are highly valued by assisted living facilities, hospitals and other organizations and often hired or promoted immediately following their internships. The Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing is designed for those who hold an Associate Degree in Nursing.

Information Technology Management/Cyber Security – With the growing concern about technology management and cyber security in both the public and private sectors, individuals with IT skills are in demand.

The Information Session will provide in information on financial aid and scholarships, application procedures, campus locations, online courses and more. Registration for the 2014 Fall Semester begins July 8. For more information, visit www.irsc.edu or call 1-866-792-4772.

Charles Murphy News 6/30

News Cast for June 30th:

From the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office, Cody Cooper was arrested last week for possession of marijuana less than 20 grams and possession of drug paraphernalia. Cooper was the passenger in a car that was pulled over when the driver was observed not wearing his seat belt. The car also had expired tags. Cooper was transported to County jail and the bond was set at $1,000.

The Okeechobee County Sheriff’s department wrapped up the second of two camps last week with an awards luncheon at the Sports Complex on Friday. The camp was for teens between the ages of 12 and 15 years old. Campers enjoy a week of field trips, activities and learning things such as animal and fish identification, hunter safety, target shooting, archery and fishing. Camp Coordinator Mark Roberts wants the campers to have fun and learn but to also learn a valuable message. When asked what he thought the kids enjoyed the most, Roberts was surprised by what he observed. The camp has gone on for about 8 years now.

The Okeechobee Board of County Commissioners met at the Historic Courthouse located at 204 NW 2nd St. A majority of the meeting was a presentation and questioning with the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office Budget presentation. There have been a stale mate between the Sheriff’s office and the Board of County Commissioner’s office for sometime. The Sheriff’s office is asking for a total budget of 14.8 million for the 2014/2015 year. The County wants the Sheriff’s office to trim that budget to 12.8 million. Sheriff Paul May pulled statistics from comparison counties to show that the budget he is proposing is on par with the other counties of similar size compared to the amount of service provided. The County maintains that there is no room int he budget to make the two million dollar difference. A major point of interest is who will run the county jail. Sheriff May says he won’t run the jail and his department on a 12.8 million dollar budget and he would turn it over to the county. The County Commissioners stated they feel the jail would be more expensive to the tax payers if run by the county and less efficient. The board continues to look for alternatives before the issue goes to litigation.

On the police blotter, Dustin Dicara was arrested on the charge of aggravated assault using a deadly weapon. According to the police report, the alleged victim got into a dispute with Dicara about drugs when Dicara threw him out of his home threatening him with a firearm. His bond is set at $5,500.

Hurricane History Focus Of Kiwanis Club Meeting (AUDIO INCLUDED)

Hurricane History Focus Of Kiwanis Club Meeting (AUDIO INCLUDED)

Judge William Hendry pictured with Kiwanis Club President JD Mixon

Judge William Hendry pictured with Kiwanis Club President JD Mixon

Okeechobee Historian Judge William Hendry spoke to the Kiwanis Club  recently and entertained the club with stories about the hurricane history in Okeechobee, specifically from the years of 1928-1949. Where today we get hurricane updates with the click of a mouse, citizens had to be updated by watching for certain flags being raised in the middle of town. Judge Hendry says that Okeechobee is much better equipped to recover from a hurricane today because of the drainage system.


Charles Murphy News 6/25

News Cast for June 25th:

An Orange County couple sued the Okeechobee Sheriff’s Office for negligence for an August crash last year near Orlando involving one of the Sheriff’s information technology employees, Jason Knapp. Juan Caceres and Bertha Quispe were injured on the Florida turnpike. They allege they were stopped in traffic in a 2006 Dodge Charger and Knapp didn’t stop in time and caused a rear end collision. He was cited for an improper lane change but that citation was dismissed in traffic court, two months later. The litigation seeks damages for pain and suffering, loss of income, hospital bills and other claims. The litigation says Caceres suffered serious bodily injury in the wreck.

Three were arrested Monday afternoon in Okeechobee in the 600 block of NE 14th Ave. Officers arrived in reference to an unattended child in a park vehicle. Upon arriving, offers found a 20 year old Matthew Scott McGhee, 24 year old Megan Marker and Freddie Mott of Okeechobee in the car with the child. After smelling marijuana, offers searched the car and found substances tested to be oxycodone and heroin. Mott had a warrant for violation of probation and was placed under arrest with added charges of procession of controlled substance and heroin. McGhee and Marker were both placed under arrest for procession of controlled substance and heroin.

Okeechobee County Fire Rescue were called to a brush fire involving farm equipment last Saturday at 7365 SE 74th Way in Okeechobee. Units responded to find a SOD tractor on fire. A row of approximately six tractors and one trailer were positioned from north to south at the address. Crews were able to extinguish the fire using about 1000 gallons of water and half a tank of foam. Efforts were made by the OCSO to contact the equipment owner. The State Marshall were notified and scheduled an investigation.

The University of Wisconsin and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation came out with their annual health rankings. Okeechobee County Health Department Administrator Erin Hess recently discussed the results of the findings. Obesity, Teen Risky behaviors and safe places to play continue to be issues the department focuses on but one issue that has become a priority has become homelessness and the affect it has on school aged children. More on the rankings will be reported in a few weeks.

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