News Cast 10/20

News Cast for October 20th:

Accused Parkland shooter pleads guilty

Nikolas Cruz pled guilty to 34 criminal charges of attempted murder and first-degree murder for shooting students at Parkland High School in Broward County.

The plea insured Cruz will be in prison for the remainder of his life.

The state still intends to seek the death penalty for 17 counts of murder.

The penalty phase could begin in January.

Cruz waived his right to a jury trial for the guilt phase and gave up rights to appeal his plea to a higher court.

The 17 attempted murder charges in addition to a plea last week for assaulting a jail guard can be used as aggravating factors in the penalty phase.

One neighbor good…one neighbor bad 

A ‘bad’ neighbor tried to set a mobile home on fire in Larkee Lakes on Southeast 57th Drive Monday afternoon. 

Okeechobee County Sheriff Deputies said the suspect set a pallet of wood on fire, it caught a car on fire, and then started the trailer to engulf in flame. 

Justin Ludington, 32 allegedly said ‘Gonna burn your house down,’ before he started the wood ablaze. 

He’d been in some kind of dispute with the neighbor. 

Another neighbor, Cledith Taylor saw the flames and pulled an elderly woman to safety from the flames. 

The woman was sleeping in a bedroom near the flames. 

The car and the trailer were destroyed and another vehicle was damaged. 

Ludington in jail on $70,000 bond on charges that include arson of an occupied structure in the first degree. 

County eyes improvements at Lock 7 

Okeechobee County wants to add a kayak launch at Lock 7, the Clif Betts Junior Recreation Area. 

Some County Commissioners don’t like the location near the boat ramp because they claim it will cause congestion with boaters. 

Community Services Director Denise Whitehead said it will make it easier for kayakers. 

The county recently approved a kayak rental station that is done on your smart phone at Lock 7. 

They are also planning to install Wi-Fi and a security gate at the facility soon. 

Whitehead said she felt this would improve security at the facility. 

Fire Contract new thing for Highlands

Highlands Counties Fire Rescue union approved their first ever contract with the county. 

The three year deal brings a modest pay hike.  75 positions are impacted. 

Commission chairman Scott Kirouac said they wanted to treat all county employees well but equally. 

The salary adjustment is equal to one given county employees who are non-union members. 

The deal followed two years of negotiation. 

Employees would receive a one percent cost of living adjustment this year. 

The county has discussed ways to improve fire and ambulance service to outlying areas like Lorida, Fort Basinger and Brighton.