News Cast for February 5th:

Okeechobee City Councilmembers meet tonight and they will be presenting awards to several police officers and swearing in some new officers. They will also look to approve some money to fund repairs of the ladder truck for the Okeechobee City Fire Department and the tractor for the Public Works Department. The meeting begins at six o’clock in City Hall.

An Okeechobee man is dead and an Okeechobee woman is in serious condition following an accident early Sunday morning. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 21 year old Alfredo Renteria was driving a Honda Accord west on NW 36th Street in Okeechobee a little after 2:15 when he was approaching a left hand curve. Renteria failed to negotiate the curve properly, causing him to drive off the road and strike a guardrail then striking a tree on a residential property. Renteria and his passenger, 18 year old Jewel Lagunas, were taken to Raulerson Hospital for treatment. Medics later pronounced Renteria dead and Lagunas is receiving treatment for her injuries. FHP officers are investigating the accident.

It looks like the wait will be a bit longer to find out what legal proceedings await an Okeechobee woman accused of several charges in connection with an attack from her pet spider monkey last spring. The case against 56 year old Tina Darlene Ballard has been continued until February 14th as she has retained another attorney after her previous attorney withdrew and her new attorney needs time to get familiar with the case. Ballard is charged with maintaining captive wildlife in a neglectful manner and culpable negligence causing harm when her spider monkey named Spanky attacked a Home Depot employee on June 4th. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Prosecutor Ashley Albright says there have been many continuances in this case and he says that’s not very surprising. Ballard missed two bond hearings after she fled the area last summer and was picked up in July at a North Carolina county jail after she had been jailed on a fugitive warrant and brought back to Okeechobee County. That added a tampering with evidence charge which is her most serious offense.

Albright-Ballard Continuance 1

Albright-Ballard Continuance 2

A traffic stop turned into a drug related arrest and incarceration for an Okeechobee man and woman early yesterday morning. Sheriff’s deputies were patrolling the area of NE 6th Street at about 1:30 when they noticed a Toyota utility vehicle parked at a stop sign. Deputies say the driver, 46 year old Jeffrey Allen Finger, had his head back and he was asleep at the wheel with the motor running. Finger and his passenger, 43 year old Michelle Renee Lighty, who was also asleep, were asked to step out of the vehicle. A search of Finger revealed a pouch in his front pocket filled with marijuana and about thirty alprazolam pills.  A search of the vehicle revealed a pipe used to smoke marijuana, along with some residue on it and another pipe used to smoke methamphetamine and some pills revealed to be a controlled substance called Buspirone Hydrocloride. Finger and Lighty were arrested and charged with possession of controlled substances without a prescription and drug paraphernalia while Finger was also charged with possession of meth and marijuana and driving on a suspended license. Finger’s bond is set at just over $30 thousand dollars and Lighty’s bond is set at just over $10 thousand dollars.

Okeechobee Police had their own issue with a driver on drugs Saturday morning. Police were called to the parking lot at the eleven hundred block of North Parrott Avenue just after one o’clock after receiving calls that someone was falling asleep at the wheel of a Nissan Altima and almost causing an accident. Police arrived at the scene, attempting to wake up the driver, 30 year old Eugene Dennis Junior of Okeechobee. Police say Dennis’s eyes were bloodshot and he was slurring his speech. A field sobriety test proved Dennis was not drunk but a search of his car revealed a synthetic cannabis called Spice. Dennis was arrested and charged with possession of synthetic cannabis and was released from county jail after posting a thousand dollar bond.

Okeechobee County firefighters had their hands full with a report of a structure fire which turned out to actually be a smoke scare. Crews were called to the 23 hundred block of SW 28th Street just after nine o’clock and found no fire but instead found some faint smoke inside the home. Firefighters used a thermal imager to check for fire and heat inside the home but none was found. The smoke, which was coming from the air conditioning vent, was the result of the outside a/c unit being iced over. Crews turned off the breaker switch before departing. No one was hurt and no damages reported.

On the arrest report:

20 year old Devon Shelby Jones of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for violating probation on past charges of felony battery. He was released after posting a $25 hundred dollar bond.

50 year old George Gerald Katevas of Okeechobee was arrested for battery on a woman and later reckless driving after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a $17 hundred and fifty dollar bond.

43 year old Christopher Odell Clemons of Okeechobee was arrested for passing forged checks and exploiting an elderly and disabled person. He was released after posting a $15 thousand dollar bond.

20 year old Jordan Lee Cutler of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of lewd and lascivious behavior and interfering with the custody of a child. He’s being held without bond.

27 year old Lucas Dealon La Grange of Okeechobee was arrested for trespassing. His bond is set at $250 dollars.

51 year old Kenneth Le Bon Griggs of Fort Pierce was arrested for drunk driving and driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a bond of just over $17 hundred dollars.