News Cast 12/18

News Cast for December 18th:

An Okeechobee man walked away without a scratch but the same unfortunately cannot be said for a Brooksville man following a vehicle accident early yesterday morning in Okeechobee County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say the Okeechobee man, who is 28 years old, was driving a pickup truck south on Route 441 SE near SE 34th Avenue shortly before 6:15, at about the same time the Brooksville man, who was 53 years old and on a motorcycle, was stopped in the right shoulder in the same area. For what appears to be unknown reasons, the front right side of the Okeechobee man’s truck collided with the back of the Brooksville man’s motorcycle. On-scene medics declared the Brooksville man dead from his injuries. It remains under investigation. The accident forced FHP and local law enforcement to shut down the road in that area for a while during the cleanup and traffic had to be re-routed. FHP is not releasing the names of people involved in the accident due to Marsy’s Law.

An Okeechobee man who has spent more than half his life in prison for a homicide he plead guilty to committing over 35 years ago will be in an Okeechobee County courtroom this morning for a re-sentencing hearing. 51 year old Richard White will be re-sentenced in the case where he, along with his co-defendant, who were 16 and 17 years old respectively at the time, broke into the home of the then-87 year old Valentine Meserve and beat her to death with a rifle after she caught them burglarizing her home on August 5th, 1985. White and his co-defendant plead guilty and were sentenced to life in prison. Okeechobee County Lead Prosecutor Ashley Albright says a recently passed Florida Supreme Court law allows for someone to be re-sentenced if they were a juvenile at the time and received a life sentence. Albright says this law was designed to be, as he puts it, “softer” on juveniles.

Albright says other than some trouble he got into when he first entered prison, White has proven to be a model inmate and even completed some high school courses. The re-sentencing hearing will be held at nine o’clock.

You now have less than two more weeks to apply for funding for housing relief in Okeechobee County. Joy Jarriel, the coordinator of Okeechobee County’s State Housing Initiatives Program (SHIP), says you have until the end of the month to apply for the remaining thirty thousand dollars in CARES Act funding to address the needs of county residents who need help with foreclosure and eviction prevention brought about by a lack of income from under-employment or flat out unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The county originally received $240 thousand dollars in CARES Act funds last summer but that funding is now exhausted or encumbered, citing the need for more funding from the Florida Housing Finance Corporation for those who might’ve been turned away. Jarriel says income-eligible people can apply for these funds and the amount received is based on individual cases. Besides foreclosure and eviction prevention, the funding is also designed to address re-housing assistance (Jarriel-Housing Relief Reminder 1). Jarriel says applicants must have proper identification from all who live in the home as well as other documents such as tax forms. To apply for the funding, please call the SHIP Coordinator’s office at (863) 763-9312, extension 6 or email Jarriel at jjarriel@co.okeechobee.fl.us. Remember, this new funding will be available only through the end of this month. After that, no more funding will be available.

On the subject of COVID-19 in Okeechobee County yesterday, the number of positive cases rose once again, albeit only by three. Fortunately, the number of fatalities remained the same. As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the FL Department of Health, Okeechobee County has 2,218 recorded positive cases of the Coronavirus since March and fatalities are still numbering at 49. 2,203 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from infant to one hundred with the median age of the patients being forty. 228 county residents have been hospitalized with that figure rising by three. Those who have tested positive are being cooperative with the county and their health providers and going through routine contact tracing. Along with fever, coughing and shortness of breath, other COVID-19 symptoms to watch out for include chills, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, sore throat and a sudden loss of sense of smell or sense of taste.

As of yesterday morning, officials from the state health department are reporting 1,168,483 positive COVID-19 cases since March and 1,149,126 of those are FL residents. Florida’s death toll now stands at 20,305 with 59,291 people hospitalized.

Okeechobee County residents can be tested, by appointment only, for the Coronavirus at the County Health Department between the hours of eight and four every Monday thru Thursday and eight to two on Fridays. This is an oral swab test. The Florida Community Health Centers have a drive-thru and walk-up COVID-19 testing site available every Tuesday and Thursday from eight o’clock in the morning until noon at the former Okeechobee Surgery Center located at 1655 Highway 441 North. No appointment is necessary and you don’t need insurance, but if you have it, please bring your insurance card, or just bring photo identification. Testing is free in both locations.

If you have any questions related to the virus itself, please call the Okeechobee Health Department at (863) 462-5800 or the 24/7 Department of Health hotline at (866) 779-6121.

Remember, the key to avoiding the Coronavirus is good personal hygiene. Washing your hands for at least 20-30 seconds with soap and water or using a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol in it is recommended. Avoid touching your eyes or face with unwashed hands. Practice social distancing by keeping at least six feet away from someone when greeting them and not shaking any hands. Avoid shopping at peak hours and use delivery services instead.  Avoid places where there are 10 people or more.

If you need further information about the virus and recommendations for preventing it, please log on to the Department of Health at floridahealth.gov or the Center for Disease Control at cdc.gov.

On the arrest report:

60 year old Mark Howard Paul of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on a Martin County warrant for violating probation on past drunk driving charges. He’s being held without bond.

33 year old Anna Victoria Smyth of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of methamphetamine. Her bond is set at three thousand dollars.

35 year old Patricia Jane Coberly of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court for failing to appear to answer for past charges of driving on a suspended license and failing to appear for a status conference. She’s being held without bond.

32 year old Janet Alfonsina Estrella Kadlec of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving and child neglect after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. Her bond is set at three thousand dollars.

34 year old Jesse Dirke Zipperer the Second was arrested for possession of synthetic cannabis and tampering with evidence. His bond is set at ten thousand dollars.

52 year old Timothy Keith Hull of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court for failing to appear on drunk driving charges. He’s being held without bond.

25 year old Austin Spencer Adams of Okeechobee was arrested by police for violating a pre-trial condition for release on charges of domestic violence. His bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

42 year old Jason Michael Spaulding of Moore Haven was arrested for possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. His bond is set at three thousand dollars.