Local News

Attorney General Bondi Warns Parents About Flakka

Attorney General Bondi Warns Parents About Flakka

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—As many public schools close for summer break this week, Attorney General Pam Bondi is warning parents about the danger of Flakka, a synthetic drug that can be purchased online and is growing in popularity in Florida. Flakka has been linked to several dangerous incidents in recent months.

According to reports, one man impaled himself on a fence outside of a police station after taking the drug. Another teen, reportedly high on Flakka, stripped off her clothes and jumped through a closed window. In 2014, Flakka was linked to the death of a Florida concert goer.

“Flakka causes delusions, hallucinations and can increase body temperature to a dangerous level. Parents should talk to their children about this deadly synthetic drug and be aware of what their children are searching for and buying online,” said Attorney General Bondi.

Flakka, known in other states as Gravel, is not a new drug. Its main ingredient, Alpha-PVP, was outlawed in 2012 after Attorney General Bondi worked with law enforcement and state lawmakers to ban a number of chemical compounds. Reports of Flakka use in Florida have spiked in recent months and with students on summer break parents should know what to look for.

Flakka is sometimes referred to as gravel because it often looks like small white rocks. It can also be purchased in powder form, and is usually sold in small clear packages.

How Flakka is used:
Flakka is a bath salt and can be snorted, swallowed, injected, smoked or vaped using an electronic cigarette.

Symptoms of Flakka use:
Flakka causes delusions, hallucinations and increases the users’ body temperature to a dangerous level. Like all bath salts, Flakka, can cause chest pains, irregular heartbeats, increased blood pressure, agitation, muscle breakdown and seizures. Flakka use can also cause suicidal thoughts and violence.

Who to call if you suspect your child is using Flakka:
Call your local law enforcement agency and crisis intervention center. If your child is having a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.

Man catches state-record blue catfish during tournament

Man catches state-record blue catfish during tournament

Bill Stewart, 66, of Weeki Wachee, caught a 69-pound, 8-ounce blue catfish on the Choctawhatchee River, near Ebro, during the Choctawhatchee Catfish Roundup tournament on May 30. He beat the previous state record by 5 pounds.

Stewart had landed four flatheads and a nice channel catfish before he put the head from a skipjack herring, which he had caught earlier, on a big circle hook. Fortunately, his reel was loaded with 100-pound line because the blue catfish that took the bait a few minutes later was ready for a fight.

After getting a preliminary weight on tournament scales, he was informed the fish was approximately 69 pounds and if certified by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) would be a state record (See video at bit.ly/FLBlueCat).

After trying to find a certified scale himself, he arranged to meet FWC Investigator John Brown, who helped him get an official certified weight and measurements and to have the application notarized. FWC fisheries biologist Paul Thomas then came to Stewart’s on Monday evening to complete the process and verify that it was a blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus). The official measurements were 49.5 inches in total length, with a girth of 31.75 inches.

“Stewart’s blue catfish is the fourth Florida Freshwater Fish Record set in 2015, following two shoal bass and a flier, all from the Florida Panhandle area. Just one more reason why Florida is the ‘Fishing Capital of the World,’” said Tom Champeau, director of the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management.

The previous state record blue catfish was also caught on the Choctawhatchee River, by James Mitchell in 2008. Stewart says he is now after the flathead catfish record, which currently stands at 55.05 pounds and was caught in the Chipola River in 2011.

Anyone can try their hand at catching a record fish during license-free weekends. On June 6 and 7, people can fish for saltwater species without a saltwater recreational fishing license. On June 13 and 14, the state won’t require freshwater anglers to have a recreational license. All other fishing regulations – seasons, limits and sizes – still apply during these special opportunities.

State freshwater records require a biologist to verify the species and have a certified weight for the notarized application. The FWC maintains records for 33 freshwater species.

Big Catch is a long-standing, family-friendly angler recognition program for those same 33 species. It recognizes anglers with a certificate if they qualify by submitting a photo of their catch online and if the catch exceeds specified weights or lengths. There are youth, specialist, master and elite angler awards as well. People can learn more at BigCatchFlorida.com.

For information on verifying record saltwater catches, go to MyFWC.com/Fishing and select “Saltwater Fishing” then “Angler Recognition.”

Charles Murphy News 6/4

News Cast for June 4th:

SWAT Forgione CompetitionTwo women were arrested on drug charges after a search of a residence at 8042 Highway 441 south east on Tuesday. 31 year old Victoria Trzeszkowski and 31 year old Julie White were charged by the Okeechobee Narcotics Task Force. Deputies say Trzeszkowski had heroin caps, cash and spice in her bra. Charges will include possession with intent to sell or deliver heroin.

In the courts, 49 year old William Romine was sentenced to two years in state prison and nearly 48 thousand dollars in court and other costs for his role in a conspiracy to steal 2 hundred and 11 thousand dollars from Glades Electric Cooperative between 2008 and 2011. Romine pled to a grand theft charge while charges of organized fraud, and conspiracy were dropped by prosecutors. Two other men, 55 year old Jeffrey Friedman and 46 year old James Kelley have already been sentenced.

Florida power and light was impressed with the turnout for an open house on their proposed Okeechobee Clean Energy Center located north east of Fort Drum. They had staff available to answer all questions. The 1.2 billion dollar investment could bring a boost to the area’s economy with construction jobs, additional tax base and even spin off business.

Staff talked about engineering and location, environmental protections they take, the lengthy approval process with various government agencies, the economic benefits, and information on Florida Power and light it. Spokesperson David McDermitt said the support of the community has been impressive. The company would like to make a decision on whether to build the facility in Okeechobee in the next 4 to 6 weeks.

McDermitt 1

McDermitt 2

Fatal Crash off US 17 in Desoto County

Highlands Co – Fatal Pedestrian Crash

Sheriff’s Office SWAT Members Takes 1st Place in SWAT Competition

Sports Cast for June 4th:

Defense dominated the scrimmage between incoming freshmen during the Brahman purple White game last week. The defense was given points for stops, and turnovers, while the offense was allowed to score the conventional way. The defense came out on top 13-0. Coach Rex Erwin said they used a very light playbook and tried to keep things simple for the offense

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Defensive end Austin Smith led the way in tackles and had a tackle for loss, QB sack and fumble recovery. He said the team improved this spring

Smith 1

Brendon Doyle added an interception and Keegan Sarrows recovered a fumble for the defense. Offensive Tackle Evan Neal said his mind set was doing his assignments and create some holes for the running backs.

Neal 2

Duan Chastine led the Purple squad offense with 13 carries for 33 yards. QB Hayden Sloan completed three of seven passes for 62 yards. He rushed four times for 23 yards.

Charles Murphy News 6/3

News Cast for June 3rd:

The sheriff proposed a 15 million dollar spending plan to the county commission this week that would represent a 4.8 percent increase over last year’s spending plan. No new hires are planned, but the sheriff does want a 3 percent cost of living raise for employees, money to pay a 10 percent increase in health insurance and to purchase a transport van for the jail.

Court house security would increase by 43 thousand dollars to just over 514 thousand; law enforcement would increase by almost 405 thousand dollars, and 231 thousand in the jail.

The Sheriff also settled out of court before trial, the negligence lawsuit filed by the family of Kerrie Howard, who was found dead in the jail in November of 2010. Howard left a suicide note and the coroner ruled she died of asphyxiation. The settlement was for 75 hundred dollars.

Among arrests, a 62 year old Vero Beach man was charged in Glades County with trying to sell his testimony in an upcoming drug case. Osvaldo Almenares Castelon allegedly went to a defense attorney in the case and offered to not testify in the case. He faces two felony charges.

The 18 year old Fort Pierce youth, Javion Stevens, charged in May with two counts of attempted first degree murder, now faces affray charges for an alleged fight in the Okeechobee County jail with two other inmates on Monday. One inmate suffered a broken hand.

Animal abuse crimes are going up in the nation according to Nature Speaks, an animal rescue service in Jupiter. Rachel Ibarra helped rescue a horse in Okeechobee last year and was horrified in a recent arrest of James Bo Sharpe, where a video of him whipping the horse was shown. 11 horses were found malnourished allegedly. Ibarra said this was a horrible case She noted in many cases the owners don’t have the money to feed the horses and let them go malnourished. She noted there are many non-profit and rescue organizations willing to help in South Florida.

Sports Cast for June 3rd:

Hannah Raulerson won her third MVP trophy of the year as she took home the award for Lady Brahman tennis this spring.

Raulerson is a two time MVP for girl’s golf and also shared in the MVP for girls’ soccer this year. Raulerson said she decided to play tennis for her senior year and really was surprised she won an award. She only had played tennis a little while growing up but gave the sport a try. She said playing girls against Treasure Coast players at districts was a bit eye opening

She plans to attend Florida State University and study to become an environmental scientist.

Governor Rick Scott Announces Two License-Free Fishing Weekends in June

Governor Rick Scott Announces Two License-Free Fishing Weekends in June

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced four license-free fishing days in June for Florida residents and visitors. The license-free fishing weekends are:

  • Saturday and Sunday, June 6-7, saltwater recreational fishing license requirement will be waived.
  • Saturday and Sunday, June 13-14, freshwater recreational fishing license requirement will be waived.

Governor Scott said, “This summer, we’re excited to make it easier for families to enjoy the world class fishing our state has to offer. Florida is the fishing capital of the world and one of the many reasons we welcomed a record 98.9 million visitors to the Sunshine State last year. I look forward to fishing with my grandsons this summer, and I hope everyone takes advantage of license-free fishing this month.”

“We hope new anglers, including residents and visitors, are inspired to join in the excitement with those who already enjoy fishing,” said FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley. “This is an excellent way for the entire family to get out and enjoy all of the great fishing opportunities we have to offer in Florida: the Fishing Capital of the World!”

The four days in June are a part of the eight total license-free fishing days the FWC offers each year. All bag limits, seasons and size restrictions apply on these dates. To learn more about license-free fishing days, visit MyFWC.com/License.

Rooney: Defense Bill Funds National Security Needs, Troop Pay Increase

Rooney: Defense Bill Funds National Security Needs, Troop Pay Increase

Washington, DC – U.S. Representative Tom Rooney (FL-17), a member of the House Appropriations Committee and Chairman of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, issued the following statement on the FY2016 Defense bill approved by the Appropriations Committee today:

“A growing Islamic State, a nuclear ambitious Iran, an aggressive Russia, the continued threat of global terrorism – the dangers our nation faces have only grown, and we must stand ready to defeat them. This appropriations bill ensures our troops and commanders have the tools and resources they need to keep us safe. We’ve provided funding for military operations and national security needs, a well-deserved pay raise and improved health and quality-of-life programs for our troops and their families, and critical investments in research and development.

“While this bill meets our defense needs for the next year, we must still work together to reverse the dangerous impacts of sequestration on our national security. We need a long-term plan to ensure the men and women of our Armed Forces have the capability to protect our nation in an increasingly dangerous world.”

Rooney noted that the bill funds critical national security missions and military personnel programs based in Florida, including:

  • Supporting the missions of the combatant commands hosted at MacDill AFB, US Central Command (including $34 million for drug interdiction and counter drug efforts, and $83.3 million in direct support of Middle East missions) and US Special Operations Command ($3 billion to support worldwide counterterrorism and intelligence operations).
  • Providing $173 million for University Research Initiatives and Centers, which provides FL colleges and universities with the opportunity to collaborate on research and development activities with the DOD.
  • Providing funding, requested by Rep. Rooney, for advanced stages of research and development that focus on finding a cure for paralysis, for which significant strides are being made at the University of Miami.
  • Supporting funding, requested by Rep. Rooney, for collaborative cancer research at the Murtha Cancer Center at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the Moffit Cancer Center in Tampa, FL.

The bill was approved by a voice vote.

Additional bill highlights:

Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) – Provides $88.4 billion for the preparation and operation of our forces in the field, including funding for personnel requirements, operational needs, the purchase of new aircraft to replace combat losses, combat vehicle safety modifications, additional Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance assets, and maintenance of facilities and equipment. Provides critical support to key allies, such as Ukraine and Jordan, to resist aggression.

Military Personnel and Pay – Includes $133.2 billion to provide for 1,308,915 active-duty troops and 819,200 Guard and reserve troops. Fully funds the authorized 2.3 percent pay raise for the military, instead of 1.3 percent as requested by the President, and provides funding to maintain 100 percent of troop housing costs through the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH).

Support for Israel – Provides $165 million above the president’s request to support Israel’s comprehensive missile defense system in order to protect them from short-range rocket threats and to detect and protect long-range missile attacks stemming from Iran.

Electronic Medical Records – Requires continued oversight over the DOD’s development of electronic health records to ensure their compatibility with the VA health system.

Readiness and modernization – Includes $218.8 billion to support key readiness and modernization programs to prepare our troops for combat and peacetime missions, including flight time and battle training, equipment and facility maintenance, and base operations.

Research and Development – Contains $67.9 for research, development, testing, and evaluation of new defense technologies to advance the safety and success of current and future military operations and prepare our nation to meet a broad range of future security threats.

Equipment Procurement – Provides a total of $116.7 billion for equipment and upgrades to support readiness by providing the necessary platforms, weapons, and other equipment our military needs to train, maintain the force, and conduct successful operations.

Defense Health and Military Family Programs – Contains $31.7 billion for the Defense Health Program to provide care for our troops, military families, and retirees. Provides $252 million for cancer research, $105 million for medical facility upgrades, $100 million for traumatic brain injury and psychological health research (requested by Rooney), $212 million for suicide prevention outreach programs, and $283 million for sexual assault prevention and response. Directs the Department of Defense to submit plans for a pilot program that addresses the psychological health needs of military family members.

For text of the legislation, please visit: http://appropriations.house.gov/UploadedFiles/BILLS-114HR-SC-AP-FY2016-Defense-SubcommitteeDraft.pdf

Charles Murphy News 6/2

News Cast for June 2nd:

Okeechobee high school celebrated the annual Harvest of Hope as they honored migrant and Hispanic students for their academic achievements this year. Several businesses including Raulerson Hospital, Indian River State College, Harbor Community Bank, handed out awards.   Sandra Hernandez was awarded an 8 thousand dollar nursing scholarship. Osiel Luviano of Luviano Roofing and Construction, is an OHS alum who earned a degree at the University of North Florida. He said he wants to give back to a community that was generous to him.

Luviano 1

Luviano 2



Superintendent of Schools Ken Kenworthy intends to recommend Dylan Tedders as the next principal of Okeechobee High school. The school board votes on his recommendation next Tuesday.

Among arrests, 18 year old Jamyl Thomas was charged with felony battery for allegedly assaulting another client at the G 4 School, sending him to the hospital. The victim’s mother pursued the case for charges.

26 year old Jesus Santiago Latorre of Zephyrhills was facing charges related to methamphetamines, cocaine, marijuana and Xanax. City police say they also took two handguns out of a vehicle they stopped for alleged speeding on South West Park Street.



35 year old Robert Lanier was charged with dealing in stolen property and grand theft on a Hendry county warrant. He had been charged earlier with the theft of 18 calves from Hilliard Brothers, and with selling them at the Arcadia Livestock Market.

Two young people lived in a filthy home and allowed animals to die, that is what Okeechobee county deputies allege. 23 year old Emily Dreher faces four counts of animal cruelty. 22 year old Timothy Courson faces two counts of the crime. Two dead raccoons were found in a cage, along with a dead puppy and a sick dog at a residence on North West 17th Avenue. The dog is being cared for by Okeechobee County Animal Control.

Animal Cruelty Arrest Report

June is ‘Flood Awareness Month’ in South Florida

Suspect Arrested for Circle K Attempted Armed Robbery in St. Cloud

IR Fatal 6-1-15 Oslo Rd

Sports Cast for June 2nd:

WOKC sports photo Brahman spring game 2Senior leadership was hailed as the reason for a productive spring practice for Brahman football this year. Coach Chris Branham said it was intense every day and the kids worked very hard. Fullback Angel Garcia said the team leaders told the players they had to be committed or they should not play. He said that commitment showed in the Purple White game.

Garcia 1

Captain of the purple squad Jacob Emmick said he was given the opportunity to help choose the rosters and he’ll never forget his last spring.

Emmick 1

WOKC sports photo brahman spring game 6Wyatt Bessenbacher made a nice grab of a 41 yard pass in the second half. He said if the kids continue to work this summer, we can have a successful season.

Bessenbacher 1

The Okeechobee boys’ baseball team will hold their awards banquet tonight at OHS at 6:30 pm

Suspect Arrested for Circle K Attempted Armed Robbery in St. Cloud

Suspect Arrested for Circle K Attempted Armed Robbery in St. Cloud

Osceola County – Osceola County Sheriff’s detectives arrested Patrick McNerney and charged him with Attempted Armed Robbery, Criminal Conspiracy and Wearing a Mask/Hood During the Commission of a Felony.

The investigation began on May 31 at approximately 5:02 a.m. when deputies responded to Circle K located at 3820 Canoe Creek Road in St. Cloud. Upon arrival, deputies spoke with the store employee who indicated an unknown male wearing a shirt over his head and face attempted to enter the store. The store employee told him he would need to remove the shirt from his head and face before entering, but he refused. The suspect told the employee, “you don’t want me to do that” and reached behind his back implying he had a weapon. He demanded money a specific amount of money from the cash register, but the employee told him that amount was not there. The suspect fled the area on foot.

Detectives reviewed the surveillance video and were able to create a Crimeline bulletin with the suspect’s photo. These bulletins were displayed at the store and, later in the day, an employee who came to work saw the bulletin and recognized the suspect who was identified as McNerney. Detectives obtained a search warrant for his residence located at 3526 Pixie Lane in St. Cloud. McNerney was brought in for questioning and cooperated with the investigation. Based on his statements and the evidence, McNerney was arrested and booked into the Osceola County Jail.

Patrick McNerney (DOB 9/12/96), 3526 Pixie Lane, St. Cloud



HIALEAH, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott visited the Jose F. Caragol Jr. Emergency Operations Center where he was joined by state and local emergency management officials to mark the beginning of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season. The season, which extends from June 1 through November 30, represents the period when hurricanes are most likely to form in the Atlantic Ocean. Last year, Governor Scott’s budget included $750,000 for the new emergency operations center which will help the surrounding area be better prepared for disasters.

Governor Scott said, “Our number one priority is keeping Florida families and our visitors safe. As we begin another hurricane season, every family, visitor, and businesses should take the time to make a plan in case of disaster. As our state continues to grow and welcome record numbers of tourists, we have to continue to focus on preparedness and ensuring everyone has the tools they need to remain out of harm’s way.”

Florida residents and visitors should develop a plan centered on self-sustainability for the first 72 hours following a disaster. FLGetAPlan.com is an interactive website for users to generate a survival plan tailored to the specific needs of their household or business. The website includes valuable information for individuals, families and businesses, taking into account those with special needs, persons with pets, and the elderly.

“With June 1st marking the start of hurricane season, we are very proud to unveil our new Emergency Operations Center,” Mayor Carlos Hernandez states. “This important step not only ensures that our city continues day-to-day operations during an emergency, but it also ensures that the cities around us are taken care. The safety of our residents is critical during an emergency and this center provides an extra layer of protection.”

“June 1st is a date you simply can’t ignore if you live, work or vacation in Florida,” said FDEM Director Bryan W. Koon. “Get a plan for keeping your family safe, and if advised to evacuate, follow the instructions of your local officials. Know when to evacuate, how to evacuate, and to where you will evacuate should the need arise. Even if storm surge isn’t forecast in your area, you could be completely cut off for weeks if you are advised to leave and choose to stay instead.”

“The Florida National Guard stands ready to protect the lives and property of Floridians should a storm impact us this year,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Calhoun, Adjutant General of Florida. “Ensuring your family has an emergency plan including three days of supplies will position our Soldiers and Airmen to succeed in their missions to assist you.”

Food and water are important elements of any disaster preparedness plan. Each person needs a minimum of one gallon of water per day, as well as a three-day supply of non-perishable food for the three to seven days following a disaster. Remember to choose non-perishable foods that do not require refrigeration, and that will not make you thirsty.

“Starting today, Floridians should take all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of their loved ones and pets during hurricane season,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong. “Residents and visitors are urged to develop emergency plans, identify locations of special needs shelters and to prepare emergency supply kits with first aid, medications and plenty of food and water.”

For the latest information on the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season and to Get A Plan, visit FloridaDisaster.org.

Charles Murphy News 6/1

News Cast for June 1st:

OCRA Dixie Boys ages 13-14 Champions!

OCRA Dixie Boys ages 13-14 Champions!

4th grader Joshua Virway won the Okeechobee county schools spelling bee for the second consecutive year Friday. The student at South Elementary earns Straight As.

Virway said he tried to do well for his family, his classmates, God, and for his teacher and was left speechless by the victory. He won the contest by correctly spelling the word counterfeit. His mother Jade said they worked after school each day to prepare for the contest

Virway 1

Virway 2

Virway 3

Virway 4

Catelin McCourt of Yearling middle school was the runner up while Adriana Baker of Seminole Elementary took this place.

Picture of Angels Champions 9 & 10.

Picture of Angels Champions 9 & 10.

The Okeechobee County Planning Board approved a proposal from OK Corral Gun Club to build 12 new cabins at a public hearing last week. The cabins would be duplex style and measure 720 square feet apiece. Also approved was a storage and office building and a 36 hundred square feet covered pavilion. The Gun Club is located off North East 96th Avenue.

Sports Cast for June 1st:

Jajuan Cherry, Lamar Williams and Janavious Futch all had touchdown runs as the Purple Squad defeated the White Squad 21-10 in the annual intersquad scrimmage Friday.

Williams had two long runs in the game and his touchdown covered 60 yards. He said he got good blocking up front and took care of the rest. He had over 1 hundred yards rushing in the game.

Williams 1

Offensive linemen Edrick Neal said his team was favored to win but didn’t want to be too confident. The White squad got a 25 yard field goal from Jarrett Mills and a touchdown pass from Bubba Fludd to Drayton Billie that covered 30 yards.

Neal 1

Linebacker Terrance Boswell liked the fact his team fought until the end.

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