News Cast 6/22

News Cast for June 22nd:

The LaBelle community remembered the life of fallen Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Officer Julian Keen, Junior last Wednesday night during a candlelight vigil in his honor in Barron Park. Friends say he always had a smile on his face, and they say his death is a major loss. But they are making sure he has a lasting legacy on the community he served. At least five hundred people turned out to hear and share stories about the 30-year-old, affectionately known as LaBelle’s son, Batman, Man, and now, to everyone, even those that didn’t know him, an angel. The organizer of the event, local resident Sherrodra Gregory, says he was filled with nothing but love and kindness. Gregory says he never saw race, only people.

Cory Raborn, a friend of Keen’s family, says he left behind a legacy that will never, ever be forgotten.

 Keen was shot and killed while assisting a hit and run case a week ago Sunday morning. 20 year old Eliceo Hernandez of Labelle was arrested and charged with Keen’s murder. He’s being held in Hendry County Jail on a half million dollar bond. A scholarship is being created in Keen’s name for Hendry County school students who have aspirations of a career in law enforcement.

This past Thursday’s Coronavirus meeting between the Okeechobee County Commissioners, Emergency Management and Health Department was about numbers as always, with some numbers rather troubling; Okeechobee having well over two hundred cases of the virus and Okeechobee ranking fifth in the state in the number of positive pediatric cases. But the meeting was not just about numbers or bad news; some of it was good news, that being the community’s public swimming pool was re-opened to the public for recreational use. Community Services Director Denise Whitehead says the re-opening of the pool for recreation and play was in the works throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. While she and staff had multiple meetings and kept an eye on the state’s directives and health department directives, Whitehead says she looked outside the box a bit.

Up until this weekend, the pool had been used strictly for lap swimming. Besides the normal precautions of maintaining social distancing and cleaning “touch points” the bathroom showers will remain closed. There will be a limit of fifty at a time at the pool. Any questions can be forwarded to the Parks and Recreation Department at (863) 763-6950.

Speaking of the Coronavirus, the number of positive cases in Okeechobee County has unfortunately risen again. As of Friday morning, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County rose to 230. 228 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. 19 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 significant rise in their COVID-19 statistics. As of Friday morning, Martin County has 1,421 positive cases of the Coronavirus with 19 fatalities, Hendry County has 724 reported cases now with twenty-one fatalities, Glades County remains at 121 reported cases with one fatality, Highlands County is at 206 cases with nine fatalities, Osceola County has 960 positive cases with 23 fatalities and Palm Beach has 10,116 cases with 464 fatalities. There’s now 89,748 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state; 87,643 of them are FL residents. The state’s death toll now stands at 3,104 with 12,774 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 now every Tuesday thru Saturday. 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

A 29 year old Port St. Lucie man is dead after a vehicle accident early Wednesday morning in St. Lucie County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say the man was driving a sedan north on South Indian River Drive just north of Midway Road in Fort Pierce at around 1:45 when he failed to properly negotiate a curve in the road. He traveled off the road to the right and onto the east grass shoulder. This caused him to overcorrect and go across the west grass shoulder before striking a wood barrier and then a tree. The man was then ejected from the vehicle. Area medics declared the man dead at the scene. It remains under investigation. The victim’s name cannot be released to the public due to Marsy’s Law.

On the arrest report:

37 year old Brett James Havens of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for driving on a suspended license, failing to obey law enforcement’s order to stop, resisting arrest and violating probation after a traffic stop. His bond is set at $65 hundred dollars.

26 year old Faith Marie Kahn of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of heroin, drug paraphernalia and tampering with evidence. Her bond is set at $11 thousand dollars.

39 year old Joseph Tomaszewicz Stafford of Okeechobee was arrested on three Broward County warrants on undisclosed charges. He’s being held without bond.

45 year old Jennifer Leigh Rogers of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. Her bond is set at three thousand dollars.

42 year old Jason Edward Strange of Okeechobee was arrested for criminal mischief. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.