Monday, January 6th News

A report of fires to two structures caught the attention of Okeechobee County firefighters early Friday morning and it took two trips to get the fire controlled. A passerby informed firefighters of the blaze shortly before six o’clock and they were dispatched to the three thousand block of SE 39th Avenue and arrived to find a motor home almost completely covered in flames. Crews started knocking down the fire on the front of the motor home before making their way to the other sides of the motor home to put out the rest of the blaze. Crews needed several hours to get the blaze controlled and they used about four thousand gallons of water to put it out the first time. Crews were then called back again to an area very close to the first fire shortly before noon for a mobile home that caught fire and that mobile home was right next to the motor home that burned earlier. Firefighters arrived and found the mobile home completely covered in flames. Crews got that fire controlled in about an hour while using about three thousand gallons of water to put it out. Both the mobile home and motor home were completely destroyed to the tune of about $95 thousand dollars total in structure and contents for both. No one was hurt in either incident. Both fires are under investigation.

The sentencing that was to take place last November for an Okeechobee man on a host of charges stemming from two separate incidents just over a year ago will take place in less than two weeks. 51 year old Charles Alton Stratton Junior will be sentenced January 16th on charges of burglary, attempted robbery, battery on an elderly woman and third degree grand theft when he snatched the purse of 76 year old Janice Allen of Okeechobee from an area on the four hundred block of NE Park Street on the evening of December 6th, 2018. During that incident, Allen was injured trying to get her purse back from Stratton. He was also charged with burglary of a bar in Lake Okeechobee. Stratton’s attorney, Alex Nelson, had asked the court for a second straight continuance so he could file a report with the court, asking for leniency for his client. Despite the second straight continuance, Albright remains patient this case will be completed by next week (Albright-Stratton Sentencing 1). Nelson could not be reached for comment on this story. Stratton, who changed his plea from not guilty to no contest in September, is facing up to 30 years in prison. He was originally to be sentenced on November 21st.

It’s looking like the repair of the roof at Central Elementary School in Okeechobee County will be taking a bit longer following a report from School District Director of Operations Brian Barrett. At last month’s school board meeting, Barrett told board members that the repairs suffered a few setbacks mainly due to the poor worksmanship of the workers of the company that is doing the repairs, Property Renovation and Construction out of Melbourne. The work was scheduled to be completed by Christmas but it looks like it won’t be completed until next spring at the earliest. Barrett says they’ll now work with Roof Assessments Specialists out of Bradenton to make sure there’s no more issues with worksmanship (Barrett-School Roof Issues 1). Besides Central Elementary, Okeechobee High School, North Elementary School and Yearling Middle School are also due for roof repairs. Barrett says they will not change contractors because of the fact that Property Renovation and Construction was the lowest bidder and to take away their bond and re-bid the project will cost the school district at least a half million dollars.

The early morning hours of New Year’s Day unfortunately led to the death of a Sebring man following a vehicle accident in Highlands County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 31 year old Troy Lee Jones was driving a Pontiac Vibe hatchback southbound on County Road 627 near County Road 17A in Avon Park just after 1:20 when for unknown reasons he entered a private driveway on 17A and collided with a barbwire fence and then collided with an abandoned building. Jones was pronounced dead at the scene by medics. The accident is under investigation.

On the arrest report:

63 year old James Milford Hardy of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for drunk driving after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. He was released after posting a $250 dollar bond.

24 year old Steven Ryan Russo of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on 12 counts of grand theft and burglary. He’s being held without bond.

82 year old Melvin Lee Lipp of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. His bond has not been set.

71 year old Raymond Landen Dean of Okeechobee was arrested by police for resisting arrest without violence. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

26 year old Ronald Martrell Williams of Okeechobee was arrested for violation of a domestic injunction and carrying a concealed firearm. He was released after posting a $35 hundred dollar bond.

46 year old Edward Presley Barsh Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. His bond is set at $1250 dollars.

59 year old Debra Ann Rolen of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of oxycodone without a prescription and driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. She was released after posting a bond of just over ten thousand dollars.

27 year old Millard Wayne Bearden the Third of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of burglary and grand theft. He’s being held without bond.