News Cast for January 3rd:

Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) investigators have now released the fourth and final name of those people killed in a two vehicle accident on Christmas Day in Highlands County. FHP investigators say 20 year old Joshua Lee Cruz of Okeechobee was driving a Buick Lacrosse sedan west on State Route 70 near 721, close to Seminole Brighton Reservation just before 12:30, when he approached a curve at the same time as an oncoming Toyota XA sedan and collided with the Toyota head on. The impact caused the Buick to overturn into a ditch and catch fire, instantly killing Cruz and his passenger, 46 year old Maggie Lara, also of Okeechobee. The driver of the Toyota, 56 year old Judy Mounts of Port St. Lucie and her 16 year old female passenger from Ft. Myers, were also pronounced dead at the scene. The road was closed in both directions for about five hours as fire and emergency crews cleaned up the area. The accident remains under investigation.

Two Okeechobee men are facing some serious charges following an incident at a bar early Saturday morning. Police were called to the Azteca bar on the six hundred block of NE Park Street just after 1:30 after receiving reports of shots being fired there. Police say 25 year old Juan Ibarra Alcala and 23 year old Sandro Alberto Fernandez had come into the bar reportedly looking for a fight. Witnesses say Alcala grabbed a man and punched him. When bouncers came to stop Alcala from doing any more harm, Fernandez pulled out a gun and starting shooting at the ceiling. Alacala and Fernandez fled the scene before authorities arrived and after a brief chase, Alacala and Fernandez were apprehended. Alacala was charged with battery and simple assault while Fernandez was charged with several counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and criminal mischief. Alcala was released after posting a bond of five hundred dollars and Fernandez was released after posting a $105 thousand dollar bond.

The civic importance of jury duty was a topic of discussion recently by the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department. It was reported that out of 325 county residents who were served with jury summons late last fall, 125 people failed to show up for jury duty. Sheriff Noel Stephen says this required his deputies to personally serve those 125 people an Order to Show Cause. This means you must appear before a court judge and explain why you didn’t show up for jury duty. Stephen says failing to show up in court for this order will make it even worse for you. Stephen says of those who didn’t show up for jury duty, he believes it’s not due to negligence or simply ignoring the summons, but rather people simply forgot. Intentionally or not, failing to answer a jury summons hurts not just you but also the court system because then they do not have enough of a jury pool to choose from for criminal cases.

Okeechobee County firefighters had a debris fire to contend with this past Friday night. Crews were called to the 13 hundred block of SE 5th Street just before nine o’clock and found a burn pile next to the roadside that was left unattended. Crews got the fire extinguished in a few minutes while using about ten gallons of water. No one was hurt and no damages. Cause is being investigated.

That was not the only one. The next night, just after six o’clock, Okeechobee County firefighters were called to the 36 hundred block of SE 18th Terrace for a brush fire that was unauthorized. Investigators say the homeowner was burning some old, moldy hay within an area that was fifty feet in diameter. Crews got the fire controlled in about ten minutes with no one getting hurt and no damages.

A Labelle man is dead and several more Labelle residents seriously injured following a vehicle accident Saturday night. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 22 year old Armando Casteneda Medrano was driving a Buick Riviera south on Route 29 in the left turn lane approaching Case Road in Hendry County just after 7:30 when an oncoming Jeep Laredo collided with Medrano’s car as Medrano was pulling into the Jeep’s path at a convenience store entrance. The impact sent Medrano’s car rotating clockwise and end up in a grass ditch. Medrano’s passengers, 22 year old Eduardo Casteneda Medrano, 18 year old Jesus Escobedo and three juveniles, all from Labelle, were taken to Lee Memorial Hospital for treatment. Eduardo Medrano was eventually pronounced dead by medics. Armando Medrano and the Jeep occupants were treated for minor injuries. FHP is investigating.

On the arrest report:

36 year old Shawn Thomas Eckenwiler of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop, failing to appear in court and contempt of court during his recent hearing on previous resisting arrest charges. He’s being held without bond.

23 year old Rudy Ramon Chavez of Okeechobee was arrested for battery on his girlfriend during a domestic dispute. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

23 year old Cody James Cooper of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving and driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. He was released after posting a thousand dollar bond.

57 year old William Henry Nettles of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

32 year old Miguel Gomez-Mederos of Okeechobee was arrested for resisting arrest following a report of a suspicious person. He was released after posting a $250 dollar bond.

23 year old Mateo Lopez-Romero of Okeechobee was arrested for driving without a valid license after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a $250 dollar bond.

37 year old Elizabeth Marie Rivas Starcher was arrested for violating probation on previous undisclosed charges. She was released after posting a $15 hundred dollar bond.

55 year old Jay Davis Sinclair of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of marijuana and breach of peace. He was released after posting a $15 hundred dollar bond.