News Cast for April 3rd:

The Williamson Center at Indian River State College (IRSC) was the setting for a very special ceremony yesterday by the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department. Four new officers were officially sworn in by Sheriff Noel Stephen while receiving their badges and name tags. One of the new officers was Deputy Shayne Hales, who will be moving from a position as a detention deputy to a road patrol deputy via the crossover program. Hales says he felt “pretty good” at being sworn in by Sheriff Stephen and he says his biggest adjustment from detention to road patrol will be his ability to communicate with the public. Sheriff Stephen says it’s “nice and rewarding” to get these new officers into his department and he believes the fact that they’re “homegrown” will be a major asset to the department and the community as they take on their new responsibilities. Other new deputies sworn in were Carl Jones and Justin White to road patrol and Kaitlyn Deschamps was sworn in as a new detention deputy. Officers receiving awards at the ceremony include Mark Champion and Quentin Speed with the Honor Guard, Deputy Brian Cross for his work with the canine unit and Deputy Steve Pollock as a Drug Recognition Expert.

Swearing In Ceremony 1

Swearing in Ceremony 2

Swearing In Ceremony 3

Swearing In Ceremony 4

This past weekend, an Okeechobee native was the big winner in a major fishing tournament on Lake Okeechobee. Boater Neil Nix brought five bass to the scale on Saturday morning, weighing just over 21 pounds to take home the top prize of just over $36 hundred dollars to win the T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League Gator Division tournament on the lake. Nix, who has been an avid bass fisherman for over 45 years, says it “felt good” to win and he enjoys the competition but he couldn’t believe the five bass he caught was enough to win. Nix also received an extra two thousand dollars in winnings from Ranger Cup because his boat is made by Ranger Cup and they are a major partner with FLW Bass Fishing League. FLW Spokesperson Brian Johnson says an estimated two hundred boaters and co-anglers participated in this tournament.

Fishing Tournament 1

Fishing Tournament 2

Okeechobee County firefighters had a vehicle fire to contend with Saturday afternoon. Crews were called to the 42 hundred block of SE 24th Road a little before four o’clock and found a two seat convertible with heavy smoke coming from the engine compartment. Firefighters had to access the fire through the fender wells of the car since there was no opening in the engine compartment. Firefighters got the fire extinguished in about fifteen minutes with no one getting hurt. Investigators say the vehicle owner told them the car stalled as he was returning home and when he restarted it, he drove it two blocks to his home before it started smoking heavily. Attempts to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher failed. Total damage to the car is estimated at about seven thousand dollars. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

A traffic stop led to a pursuit and drug related arrest for an Okeechobee woman Monday evening. Okeechobee County Sheriff’s patrol deputies were following a Nissan four door passenger car, driven by 38 year old Melissa Marie Schoonmaker, on the 12 hundred block of Highway 70 West a little after 5:30 for driving too closely to the vehicle in front of her and having an unassigned license tag on her car. As deputies turned on their emergency lights to get Schoonmaker to pull over, she kept going, leading deputies on a pursuit through Highway 441 and into a trailer park before finally stopping near a church. Deputies got Schoonmaker out of her car and put her in handcuffs before calling in a K-9 unit to search her car. The search of the car turned up nothing but a search of Schoonmaker herself turned up a bag of methamphetamine which weighed about 14 grams. Schoonmaker was arrested and charged with fleeing and eluding law officers and methamphetamine trafficking. She was taken to county jail and is being held on a $55 thousand dollar bond.

On the arrest report:

31 year old Jeremy Leland Carney of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on warrants from Highlands County for drug possession. He was released after posting bond.

41 year old Cheri Lorene Newton of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of cocaine possession. She’s being held without bond.

23 year old Taron Eric Rolle of Bartow, an inmate at the county jail, was arrested for battery on a fellow inmate. His bond has not been set.