News Cast 9/1

News Cast for September 1st:

This past January, an Okeechobee man was murdered via a fatal gunshot wound in front of his home in Playland Park and the investigation into his murder continues. Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department detectives are searching for the person or people responsible for the murder of 30 year old Jesus Torres. Some new information has been released on the case with detectives saying Torres’ killer is described as a young, tall, skinny African-American man. This man was reportedly accompanied by two equally tall, skinny Hispanic men. They were seen in a dark gray Dodge Charger with tinted windows. Sheriff Noel Stephen says this information was being kept under wraps because they were working on leads to the potential suspect that they developed based on other information, nothing given to them by on-scene witnesses. Stephen says despite the possibility of a reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible, it’s still a problem for anyone to come forward.

Stephen says a recent tip revealed that the suspect or suspects may be living in or frequent the Polk County and Palm Beach County areas. If you have any information about this case, please contact the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department or the Treasure Coast Crime Stoppers at 1-800-273-8477 if you’d like to remain anonymous.

During their August 12th budget workshop for the next fiscal year, members of the Okeechobee City Council instructed City Administrator Marcos Montes De Oca to speak with heads of all city departments about finding ways to make some cuts to their individual budgets to hopefully achieve some balance. Fast-forward six days and after speaking with department heads over a period of about three to four days, De Oca has achieved that without raising the $4.34 million dollar budget or 7.6018 proposed millage rate, and each department head was able to make needed cuts. De Oca says some budget cuts were larger than most, for example capital projects, but he says even with that, the city’s prognosis is still looking good and there’s still a goal in mind to improve the city.

De Oca admits that the city will likely dip into their reserves to better balance the budget but he says with the specter of COVID-19, now would be the best time to do that and give something back to the city’s residents. The city council will meet on Thursday night to have their first public hearing on the budget along with their regular meeting.

As of yesterday morning, Okeechobee County received two dozen more additions to their number of positive COVID-19 cases but once again thankfully no more fatalities, at least for the time being. Courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive cases in Okeechobee County is at 1,243 since March, with 15 fatalities. 1,239 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from zero to 94 with the median age of the patients being 38. 129 county residents have been hospitalized. 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.

Also as of yesterday morning, Hendry County has 1,975 positive cases of the Coronavirus since March with 39 fatalities. 1,955 of them are Hendry County residents. The age ranges of those that have been affected are zero to 101 with the median age being 37. 173 residents have been hospitalized. In all, there are 623,471 reported positive cases of the Coronavirus in the state since March and 616,629 of them are FL residents. Florida’s death toll is at 11,187 along with 38,495 people hospitalized.

Okeechobee County residents can be tested by appointment only for the Coronavirus at the County Health Department between the hours of eight o’clock in the morning and two o’clock in the afternoon. This is an oral swab test. The Florida Community Health Centers have a drive-thru and walk-up COVID-19 testing site every Tuesday and Thursday from eight o’clock 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, otherwise please bring photo identification. Testing is free in both locations.

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 floridahealth.gov or the Center for Disease Control at cdc.gov.

A Port St. Lucie man is dead after a vehicle accident yesterday afternoon in Martin County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say the man, who is 50 years old, was driving a pickup truck north on US-1 just south of Jensen Beach Boulevard in Stuart a little before two o’clock at the same time a sedan was approaching from the opposite direction. FHP officers say for unknown reasons, the 50 year old pickup truck driver crossed over the raised center median into the southbound lanes of traffic and collided head on with the approaching sedan. The pickup truck driver was taken to Martin Memorial North Hospital for treatment where he was later pronounced dead by medics. The sedan driver, a 79 year old man from Jensen Beach, received only minor injuries. The accident is being investigated. Names of the people involved in the accident cannot be released to the public due to Marsy’s Law.

On the arrest report:

53 year old Eliseo Samano Hernandez of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for violating probation on past charges of drunk driving. He was released after posting a $25 hundred dollar bond.

56 year old Robert Lewis Lineberry of Okeechobee was arrested for criminal mischief and disorderly intoxication. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.

59 year old Rhonda Godbold Freeman of Okeechobee was arrested for aggravated assault with intent to commit a felony. She was released after posting a twenty thousand dollar bond.

39 year old Robin Danielle Strandberg of Okeechobee was arrested by police on local warrants for grand theft and petit theft. She was released after posting a $55 hundred dollar bond.

18 year old Michael Joseph Lippman the Third of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of cannabis resin and drug paraphernalia after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a bond of just over $32 hundred dollars.

28 year old Sytishia Travontae Peterson of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. She was released after posting a $25 hundred dollar bond.

37 year old Sherita Vovon Thomas of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license for the third time following a traffic stop. She was released after posting a $25 hundred dollar bond.

33 year old Shane Anthony Goff of Rodgers, AR was arrested on an out of state parole violation for possession of controlled substances, fleeing and forgery. He’s being held without bond.