News Cast for March 13th:

It looks like the wait 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 will finally be over today. The case against 56 year old Tina Darlene Ballard will finally be heard in an Okeechobee County courtroom. The case was originally scheduled to be heard in late January but Ballard retained another attorney after her previous attorney withdrew and her new attorney needed time to get familiar with the case, forcing another continuance. 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. Her court appearance is set for nine o’clock.

You may have noticed a new addition to the Okeechobee Police Department and no, it’s not a new officer or a new addition to the building. This new addition is on the street in front of the police department and it’s in the form of a blue center line. Detective Bill Saum says this new blue center line is a moniker to support police in general but all of law enforcement. Saum characterized it as the “thin blue line” that law enforcement officers are between good and evil, or what stands between the law abiding citizens and those who wish to cause trouble or do harm unto others. Saum says this “thin blue line” is a kind of special standard that police try live up to. Saum says the idea to install this blue line was backed by Chief Bob Peterson. Saum says this same practice is being administered by other police stations throughout the country.  The blue center line was installed on Monday.

Saum-Blue Line 1

Saum-Blue Line 2

Okeechobee County firefighters had another grass fire to contend with Monday night but surprisingly were not left with the task of extinguishing it. Crews were called to a home on the four hundred block of SW 87th Terrace a little after 8:15 and found the grass fire, which measured about five by eight feet, surrounded by a dirt mound. Firefighters told the property owner that the fire could not be left unattended and the owner told firefighters that he would extinguish the blaze himself, which he did by smothering it with dirt from his tractor. No one was hurt and no damages reported.

A vehicle accident claimed the life of a Belle Glade man and woman early Friday morning. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 50 year old Sylvester Gibson was driving a Chevy Lumina sedan east on Runyon Village Road near Highway 441 in Palm Beach County at around 5:45. Gibson was turning onto 441 when the driver of a Ford Explorer was coming from the south on 441 and didn’t see Gibson’s vehicle approaching, causing the Ford Explorer driver to collide with Gibson’s vehicle on the front of the driver’s side. The impact caused Gibson’s vehicle to end up facing south in the northbound lanes of 441. Gibson and his passenger, 41 year old Sharon White, were pronounced dead at the scene. The Ford Explorer driver, 52 year old Samuel Solis Patino of Pahokee, was treated at the scene for minor injuries. FHP is investigating the accident.

On the arrest report:

60 year old Darris Dale Mills of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for harassing people for money as they were leaving the Race Trac gas station. He was released after posting bond.

50 year old Michael Judson Harmon of Okeechobee was arrested for battery on his girlfriend during a domestic dispute. His bond has not been set.