News Cast for March 14th:

Okeechobee County Commissioners meet this morning for the first time in March and they will recognize the retirement of Kathy Scott as the director of the county airport and they will also consider a proclamation to make March American Red Cross Month in Okeechobee County. Commissioners will also look at a request from the local chapter of the Kiwanis Club to install a free lending library at Kiwanis Park. The meeting begins at nine o’clock in the Historic County Courthouse. It will also be streamed live on the commissioners’ website.

Speaking of the commissioners’ meetings, the subject regarding the purchase of a piece of American history may be brought back up at today’s meeting. At their last meeting, commissioners approved the purchase of a doctor’s buggy used during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s for travel but it may have hit a bit of a snag. Commissioner Bryant Culpepper, who suggested the idea of buying this buggy from a man in Massachusetts, says another buyer may be interested in it, but Culpepper says the real issue is where to put this doctor’s buggy. While Culpepper says it belongs in the Historic Courthouse, there is a possibility that it will be put in the Historic Schoolhouse on Highway 98 across from the airport instead. Culpepper says the Historic Courthouse is the right place for this buggy, bar none. If the county does end up purchasing this buggy, Culpepper says he hopes it will raise interest in young people’s desire to learn about this country’s history.

Culpepper-Doctor’s Buggy 1

Culpepper-Doctor’s Buggy 2

A trial has been set for next month in the case of an Okeechobee woman accused of several charges in connection with an attack from her pet spider monkey last spring. An Okeechobee County court judge yesterday set a trial date for April 17th in the case against 56 year old Tina Darlene Ballard, charged with maintaining captive wildlife in a neglectful manner when her pet spider monkey named Spanky attacked a Home Depot employee on June 4th last year. Prosecutor Ashley Albright says Ballard’s attorney appeared in court yesterday on behalf of his client, who was not present yesterday and interestingly, is now living out of state. The case has gone through several continuances since last year, when Ballard’s original attorney withdrew from the case and she was subsequently represented by an attorney from Regional Conflict Counsel. 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 then brought back to Okeechobee County. That added a tampering with evidence charge which is her most serious offense. Ballard’s attorney, Jim Volpi, could not be reached for comment.

Albright-Ballard Hearing 1

Albright-Ballard Hearing 2

An Okeechobee man is facing charges of grand theft auto in connection with an incident Tuesday morning. Sheriff’s deputies were called to the 46 hundred block of Highway 441 North just after seven o’clock and were told by the victim’s boss that 32 year old Brian James Prescott had taken the victim’s pickup truck and drove around in it for a while after he quit his job the night before. Deputies say Prescott drove the truck to Douglas Park, the road next to Race Trac gas station then across from Kings’ RV Park. Deputies found Prescott and the truck sometime later at the same address where the victim reported it stolen. Deputies say the truck had some new damage to the front bumper and the GPS had been disabled. Prescott was arrested and charged with grand theft auto and transported to county jail. He was released after posting a ten thousand dollar bond.

A fire to a piece of equipment caught the attention of Okeechobee County firefighters Monday night. Crews were called to the 39 hundred block of SE 38th Avenue shortly before eleven o’clock for initially a reported structure fire but instead arrived to find a type of box beside a travel trailer that was on fire. Firefighters say there was a large plastic tool box near the patio that was smoldering and small spot on a carpet had burned in the house. Firefighters got the fire extinguished in a few minutes with some help from the neighbor who used a fire extinguisher. Investigators say the neighbor noticed the fire and called 911. The owner was reportedly out of town and attempts to reach him were unsuccessful. No one was hurt. Total damage to the tool box and carpeting is about $350 dollars. Cause of the fire is being investigated.

A Sebring man has died while receiving treatment from a vehicle accident he was involved in late last month in Highlands County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say on the evening of February 28th, 81 year old Philbert Neil Pettigrew was driving a Buick Lacrosse sedan on Davis Citrus Road, east of Route 27 in Sebring when he stopped at a stop sign. Pettigrew was turning onto the northbound lanes of Route 27 when he didn’t see a Ford Fusion sedan approaching and Pettigrew drove right into the path of the Ford Fusion, causing a rear end collision. The impact caused Pettigrew’s car to rotate and end up on the inside northbound lane of Route 27. Pettigrew and the Ford Fusion driver, 36 year old Aimee Michelle Wilson of Lake Wales, were taken to Advent Health in Sebring for treatment. Pettigrew succumbed to his injuries earlier this week and Wilson is still being treated for serious injuries. FHP is investigating.

On the arrest report:

41 year old Jason Edward Strange of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for burglary. His bond is set at $15 thousand dollars.

33 year old Dawn Nicole Helfinstine of Okeechobee was arrested for withholding child support. She was released after posting a one thousand dollar bond.

38 year old Heather Kristin Ellsworth of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of threatening people. She’s being held without bond.

23 year old Austin Spencer Adams of Clewiston was arrested for driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.