News Cast 1/24

News Cast for January 24th:

Officials from the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department were on the hunt for one of the inmates from the Okeechobee Correctional Institute (OCI) who reportedly escaped from there last evening. A call was received just after 5:15 from OCI officials saying the inmate, identified as Timothy Howton-McLaughlin, reportedly escaped and may be in a missing OCI vehicle.

The Indian River County Sheriff’s Office have arrested the prisoner who escaped from a work camp in Okeechobee on Thursday afternoon. The sheriff’s office said that witnesses led them to an area where a deputy found Timothy Howton-McLaughlin and it eventually led to a chase. A K-9 deputy was able to catch him. The security staff for the Florida Department of Corrections at Okeechobee Correctional Institute found that McLaughlin had escaped while working on his outside work assignment. An immediate lockdown and full count of the facility were conducted, and one inmate was discovered missing from his assigned location, along with an FDC vehicle. FDC had contacted all state and local law enforcement officials and is coordinating a large-scale search effort focusing on highways and roads in the multi-county region. McLaughlin was serving an eight-year prison sentence for trafficking stolen property and burglary.


Paying close attention to your overall health is an important task all of us have and tomorrow is a time to really focus on that right here in Okeechobee County. The Agri-Civic Center will host the 13th annual Okeechobee Family Health and Safety Expo. In this event, representatives from several businesses will be on hand to speak with visitors about their health and you can have your blood pressure checked, your blood sugar checked, get a flu shot and more. It’s a family-oriented event with raffle prizes and a live DJ. Donny Arnold, a driver and engineer for the Okeechobee County Fire Department has been a part of this event since its beginning and it always draws a crowd, not just because of the family-friendly atmosphere but because it’s remained consistent for all these years.

Some of the more exciting events at the Family Health and Safety Expo will be Touch-A-Truck, cooking classes, Yoga & Zumba classes, a helicopter landing and tour and a live extrication demonstration done by county fire and emergency crews. The Family Health and Safety Expo will begin tomorrow at nine o’clock and conclude at two o’clock.  It’s completely free.

Phase one of the Okeechobee County Jail Renovation and Expansion is now ready to begin. At their meeting yesterday, county commissioners gave the green light to Lehigh Acres-based architectural firm Securitecture to begin pre-design and project definition of the county jail. Joe Mrak, Securitecture president and chief architect, says this is the time to determine the county’s needs, jail deficiencies and work with the citizens who will make up a committee to determine what is best for this project. This pre-design phase will take at least four months and Mrak says one of the biggest issues is overpopulation and that’s due to the new sentencing guidelines for inmates and the fact that there are more inmates with mental health issues and they tend to stay in the jail longer.

Mrak says kitchen and laundry facilities are also deficient and will be pressing needs in the jail. Paying for this project was also discussed with the idea of a referendum on the next ballot. Commissioner Bryant Culpepper says that’s not a good idea because it’s too expensive for the public and why do that if there are alternatives. A total of just over $246 thousand dollars from the Capital Projects Reserves will be used to secure the services of Securitecture.

A report of a building fire caught the attention of Okeechobee County firefighters Wednesday afternoon and unfortunately it cost the lives of two pets. Crews were called to the 62 hundred block of NE 11th Way sometime before two o’clock and arrived at a home where a 240 square foot shed was fully covered in flames. Okeechobee City firefighters were also engaged to fight this fire and crews needed just under two hours to get the fire controlled. Firefighters used about 25 hundred gallons of water to get the fire extinguished. Investigators say two dogs that were near the area of the fire’s origin were killed. The fire was reportedly started by accident from an electrical malfunction near the animal pen and it extended to the shed. The fire resulted in about eleven thousand dollars in property and content damages. No other structures were damaged and no other injuries reported.

On the arrest report:

37 year old Tara Marie Reynolds of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for driving on a suspended license and possession of drug paraphernalia after a traffic stop. Her bond is set at $15 hundred dollars.

26 year old Ronald Williams of Okeechobee was arrested for violating a domestic injunction protection order and giving a false name to law enforcement. His bond is set at $55 hundred dollars.

36 year old Stephanie Michelle Starcher of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past battery charges. Her bond is set at $25 hundred dollars and she must wear an ankle monitor.

28 year old Pierson Lee Hunsinger of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of driving on a suspended license. He’s being held without bond.

37 year old Saul Rangel Penalver of Okeechobee was arrested for domestic battery. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.

23 year old Carlos J. Rodriguez of Okeechobee was arrested on a warrant from St. Lucie County for driving without a valid license. He’s being held without bond.

59 year old Kim Williams Sabin of Okeechobee was arrested for battery and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. She was released after posting a $16 thousand dollar bond.

32 year old Laura Ann Grace Zamora of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past battery charges and withholding child support. Her bond is set at just over five thousand dollars.

36 year old Bruce Edward Bass of Okeechobee was arrested by police for trespassing. His bond is set at $750 dollars.

25 year old Zavius Corderra Long of Okeechobee was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting law enforcement. His bond is set at $1250 dollars.