Thursday December 24th Local Newscast

Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department officials have a local man in custody at this time on murder charges in connection with the shooting death of a man last Friday evening. Okeechobee County Sheriff’s deputies arrested 63 year old Danny Ray Payne and charged him with first degree murder, attempted first degree murder and firing a missile into a dwelling following a dispute at a residence on the 58 hundred block of NW 30th Street a little after 6:20pm. Okeechobee County Sheriff Noel Stephen says the dispute was among several people at this residence, where alcohol and possibly illicit drugs were present and Payne reportedly pulled out a firearm and shot into the home and a bullet hit a man in the leg. The man would succumb to the wound a short time later despite attempts to save him by fire rescue personnel. Despite not getting a statement from Payne himself, Stephen says the excellent work of his deputies and investigation team led to Payne’s arrest.

While it may seem so, Stephen says it’s not uncommon for someone to receive a gunshot wound to the leg and not survive. The victim’s name is not being released to the public. Besides first degree murder, Payne is also charged with attempted first degree murder and shooting a missile into a dwelling. He’s being held without bond. The case remains under investigation.

Okeechobee County appears to be entering the next chapter in the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s a good one. Okeechobee County Health Department spokesperson Tiffany Collins spoke at yesterday’s County Commissioners’ meeting and she says that the first shipment of Moderna vaccine arrived at Raulerson Hospital on Tuesday and vaccinations of health care providers have begun. Collins says Raulerson Hospital officials will vaccinate health care providers there while other health care providers outside the hospital will be vaccinated by the local health department. Collins says of all the bad days we’ve had in the nine month history of this pandemic, this is definitely a good day.

Collins says staff and residents of long-term health care facilities in the county will be vaccinated by CVS and Walgreens. Those in nursing homes and assisted living facilities will be vaccinated in the next few weeks. The vaccines are not open to the general public yet and won’t be until likely next spring at the earliest.

On the COVID-19 front here in Okeechobee County, the number of positive cases as of yesterday unfortunately rose again, this time by a baker’s dozen of 13. However, the number of fatalities thankfully remained the same. As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the FL Department of Health, Okeechobee County has 2,298 recorded positive cases of the Coronavirus since March and fatalities are holding steady at fifty. 2,280 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. 231 county residents have been hospitalized as that figure rose by two. 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.

In Hendry County, like Okeechobee, it’s also a case of good news and bad news as positive cases of COVID-19 as of yesterday morning are still considerably higher than Okeechobee, as they now stand at 3,128, with that figure rising by 160 from the previous day. 3,112 of those people are Hendry County residents. That’s the bad news. Good news is fatalities are remaining steady at 48 on this Christmas Eve. 257 residents have been hospitalized as that figure also remained unchanged.

As of yesterday morning, officials from the state health department are reporting 1,234,399 positive COVID-19 cases since March and 1,213,760 of those are FL residents. Florida’s death toll now stands at 20,874 with 60,800 people hospitalized.

With Christmas Eve being here, that means all Hendry County government offices will be closed today and tomorrow, Christmas Day but they will re-open on Monday the 28th. There will be no waste pickup tomorrow as all Friday waste pickup services will instead be moved to Saturday. LaBelle and Clewiston transfer stations will be closed tomorrow as will Clewiston and LaBelle Hazardous Household Waste facilities.

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. The local health department offers COVID-19 testing every Monday thru Friday for first responders and for those who have symptoms.

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:

21 year old Javaris Jamar Frost of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for violating probation on two counts of cocaine possession with intent to sell it and contempt of court for failing to appear to answer for charges of cocaine possession. He’s being held without bond.

38 year old Kira Lynn Krantz of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. Her bond is set at five thousand dollars.

27 year old Robert Thomas Morris of Okeechobee was arrested on a Virginia warrant for failing to appear in court to answer for charges of manufacturing controlled substances. He’s being held without bond.

28 year old Justin Michael Neff of Okeechobee was arrested by police for trespassing after being warned by the property owner to leave. His bond is set at $750.00 dollars.

41 year old Jenelle Czech Pasley of Okeechobee was arrested for petit theft. Her bond is set at five hundred dollars.

56 year old John Michael Jackson of Okeechobee was arrested on a warrant from Colorado for forgery of checks. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.