News Cast 6/18

News Cast for June 18th:

In less than two weeks, it will be the end of an era in the Okeechobee City Police Department. Longtime Okeechobee Police Detective Bill Saum will be retiring at the end of the month and he was honored by the city council during their meeting Tuesday night. Saum, with family members and fellow officers in attendance, received a retirement certificate and badge for his 35 years on the police force. He says he was “numb” from the kind of reception he got and he thanked the community. The 61 year old Saum, an Ohio native, began working for the city in the early 1980’s, first with the street department, then dispatch before becoming a full-fledged officer in December, 1985. Saum says his dad’s interactions led him to wanting to become a police officer.

Saum, who became a detective in 1997, says he’ll miss being able to help people the most but he’ll also miss what he calls “the chase” just as much, and he’s not talking about high-speed pursuits.

 Saum’s last day on the job will be June 30th and he says he’ll devote his time to sleeping, fishing and traveling with Gail, his wife of more than 30 years, once he’s retired. Saum’s departmental successor will be Officer Savanna Smith.

Don’t look now folks, but Okeechobee County has officially hit the double-century mark for positive Coronavirus cases.  As of yesterday, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County rose to an even two hundred. 198 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from 0 to 87 with the median age of the patients being 33. 18 patients have been hospitalized. Thankfully there have been no fatalities. Those who have tested positive are being cooperative with the county and their health providers and going through the routine contact tracing. Along with fever, coughing and shortness of breath, other COVID-19 symptoms to watch out for now include chills, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, sore throat and a sudden loss of sense of smell or sense of taste.

Most neighboring counties also experienced a rise in their COVID-19 statistics. As of yesterday, Martin County has 1,311 positive cases of the Coronavirus with 18 fatalities, Hendry County has 675 reported cases now with twenty-one fatalities, Glades County has 119 reported cases with one fatality, Highlands County is at 197 cases with nine fatalities, Osceola County has 892 positive cases with twenty two fatalities and Palm Beach has 9,472 cases with 444 fatalities. There’s now 82,719 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state; 80,676 of them are FL residents. The state’s death toll now stands at 3,018 with 12,389 people hospitalized.

Along with the Wal-Mart parking lot on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7am to 9am each day, Okeechobee County residents can be tested for the Coronavirus at the Okeechobee County Health Department, the emergency room at Raulerson Hospital or by contacting Florida Community Health Centers at (863) 763-7481. You must meet certain criteria before you can be tested and you need to make an appointment. If you’re not sure if you fit the criteria to be tested, please call the county health department and they’ll let you know for sure. These testing sites are available on weekends.

The Okeechobee County COVID-19 information line remains open from 8am to 5pm every Monday thru Friday.  This number, which also doubles as the phone number of the County Library is manned by live personnel and callers can ask about county updates on the Coronavirus and what is being done. The hotline will not address questions about the virus itself or medical questions. The County Library phone number/hotline related to county updates on the Coronavirus is (863) 763-3536. 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 or the Center for Disease Control at

Okeechobee County Commissioners will be in session this afternoon as they will discuss the status of the Coronavirus in the county with members of the county health department and emergency management. The meeting will be held in the Historic County Courthouse beginning at four o’clock. It’ll be streamed live on the commissioners’ website.

Officers in the Major Crimes Unit of the Hendry County Sheriff’s Department are investigating the shooting death of a Clewiston man last week in Clewiston. Officers responded to a call of gunshots being fired at Club Gossip on the 18 hundred block of 13th Street and found that 21 year old La’Ronte Le’Ahjanie Malkeek Turner had been shot and transported by citizens to a local hospital where he later succumbed to his wounds. Major Crimes investigators are seeking the public’s help for information on the whereabouts of Turner’s killer. If you do have any information, please contact the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office at (863) 674-5600.

On the arrest report:

58 year old Keith Gordon Woods of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for possession of cocaine and drug paraphernalia. His bond is set at three thousand dollars.

35 year old Preston Gene Woods of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving, driving without a valid license and leaving the scene of an accident. His bond is set at $15 hundred dollars.

32 year old Robert Anthonie Woods was arrested for driving without a valid license after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

18 year old Shanelle Willis of Okeechobee was arrested for driving without a valid license after a traffic stop. She was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

37 year old Courtney Marie Macias of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia. Her bond is set at five hundred dollars.

32 year old Dewayne Edward Rutherford of Okeechobee was arrested by police for a local warrant for violating probation on past drunk driving charges. He was released after posting a one thousand dollar bond.

30 year old Catherine Victoria Bearden of Okeechobee was arrested for a local warrant for violating probation on past charges of methamphetamine possession. She’s being held without bond.