News Cast for August 22nd:

Okeechobee County Commissioners meet this morning and they will be having a discussion on whether or not to direct staff to prepare an ordinance dealing with public awareness signs on human trafficking and they will also continue to review the sheriff’s budget for the next fiscal year. The meeting will begin at nine o’clock in the Historic County Courthouse and it’ll be streamed live on the county commissioners’ website.

An Okeechobee man is being charged with first degree murder in the death of a Jupiter man last May. Okeechobee County lead prosecutor Ashley Albright says 36 year old James Wade Hodges was slapped with a murder one charge by the grand jury last week in the death of 43 year old Paul Murphy when his body was found inside his vehicle during the early morning hours of May 17th. His vehicle was found submerged in Taylor Creek and an investigation confirmed Murphy had sustained several gunshot wounds to his body, possibly the result of a drug deal gone wrong. Albright says Hodges was originally charged with second degree murder but the grand jury decided to make a change. Hodges will be arraigned on the new charge sometime next month. Only the grand jury can formally charge someone with first degree murder. Hodges’ attorney, Robert Watson of Stuart, could not be reached for comment on this story.

At their meeting this past Tuesday night, Okeechobee City Councilmembers received and went over a list of duties and responsibilities for the job of the city attorney following a discussion at their June 18th meeting on the needs for legal services in the city. Councilmembers decided the list of responsibilities should have more depth and content to it before making a decision on the future of the position. The issue is of more importance now because the contract of current city attorney John Cook expires at the end of next month and it has not been renewed as of yet. Mayor Dowling Watford says while it is a real possibility that Cook will not be retained, he hopes that will not be the case as it would leave a major void. The issue on Cook’s job status was originally brought up last June by Councilmember Bobby Keefe, who believes Cook is not up to the job. He cited past performance evaluations illustrating Cook’s dissatisfaction to attendance to meetings and timeliness in responding to issues as factors in his belief that Cook’s contract should not be renewed. The issue will be brought up again at the September 3rd meeting. Cook, who has been city attorney for 28 years, declined to comment.

A report of a building fire caught the attention of Okeechobee County firefighters Monday night. Crews were called to the 19 hundred block of NE 2nd Street a little after 9:15 and arrived to find a single family home with only some light smoke emanating from the windows but a closer look revealed a heavy fire in the center of the house. Investigators say the fire was especially heavy in the kitchen area. Firefighters got the blaze controlled in about ten minutes. While the state fire marshal will be called in to look into the incident, initial investigations say it was ruled an accident due to cooking grease catching fire, according to the homeowner. Investigators say the homeowner tried to put the fire out himself, but to no avail. Total damage to the home is estimated at about $20 thousand dollars in property and contents. No one was hurt. It remains under investigation.

On the arrest report:

28 year old Hector Adolfo Canales-Carbajal of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for contempt of court during his hearing on charges of driving without a valid license and drug possession. He’s being held without bond.

58 year old James Carlton Koger of Okeechobee was arrested for withholding child support. His bond is set at $15 hundred dollars.

43 year old Charles Samuel Leeks of Okeechobee was arrested for battery and resisting arrest. His bond is set at $15 hundred dollars.

33 year old Wanda Jean O’Shields the Fourth of Okeechobee was arrested by police for providing false ownership of items she rented to a pawnbroker. Her bond is set at five thousand dollars.

53 year old Clarence Lee Corkey of Okeechobee was arrested for trespassing and violating probation on past charges of aggravated battery. He’s being held without bond.