News Cast 2/6

News Cast for February 6th:

Missing person case changed to homicide

The body of a Lyft driver missing since Monday was discovered in a wooded area off NE 40th Avenue on Saturday morning.

Officers had been searching the area for several hours when the discovery was made.

Gary Levin, 74, of Palm Beach Gardens, had driven a passenger to Okeechobee last Monday and the vehicle had been tracked to 70 and 441.

Lawmen had combed surveillance cameras in an effort to spot the car.  They also used cell phone data to try and locate the man.

The homicide suspect, 35 year old Matthew Flores was taken into custody on Thursday in North Carolina after a high speed chase in the dead man’s vehicle.

He was held on $2 million bond on Friday on several charges.

Police said Flores is also wanted in Wauchula for allegedly killing someone there on January 24.

Shootings were common this weekend in our region.

A man was shot in the head and found in a  vehicle at the US 27, Route 70 west intersection in Highlands County, the BP station on Saturday.  He’s in critical condition.

Arcadia Police said a 17 year old was shot to death as he attended the DeSoto County fair.  Three suspects are being sought in the Saturday slaying.

A man also was shot to death in Pahokee.  The body was found in the 100 block of Carver Place, found early Saturday.

The Okeechobee County Planning Board

Recommended approval of a rezoning to allow heavy industrial uses at 5800 highway 710.

The property was previously proposed for a bio char facility which the county turned down.  They later implemented a county wide ban on bio char facilities.

Residents said they still worry about truck traffic and blocking off SE 59th Boulevard with railroad cars.

Andrea Mitch wants to keep the neighborhood rural and natural.

“I built my house in an area where its nature.  I look out my windows and I see nature.  I don’t see a lot of heavy duty trucks coming in and out of my neighborhood and I don’t want to see these trucks.”

19 acres could be rezoned.  The county commission holds a hearing on the project Thursday.

The board also recommended a rezone to heavy commercial of the vacant gas station and convenience store on 441 south near SW 28th Street.  A restaurant could be developed.

An Okeechobee woman was seriously injured in the Publix parking lot last week after being struck by a vehicle.  She was hospitalized.

An elderly man apparently lost control of his vehicle and struck the woman and several parked cars.

He suffered minor injuries.

The Moore Haven City Council debated whether city hall should be selling Chalo Nitka T-shirts.

The Chamber of Commerce and Glades Tourist Development Council have no offices to sell t-shirts out of.

Susan Harris explained city hall was chosen because it gets a lot of foot traffic, “A lot of people like to come into city hall to purchase a shirt when they pay their utility bills.  A lot of people come into city hall to check out the area they are visiting and they come in and buy a shirt.”

Councilmember Jan Gunn said city hall staff have enough work to do and are not compensated for selling these shirts.

“Our girls get paid to work for the city of Moore Haven and not to sell Chalo-Nitka shirts.”

The $10,000 reward offered by the US Justice department to solve the Wildside Pawn and Gun burglary has generated plenty of tips.

Cops have also recovered some of the 27 stolen firearms.

A truck was used to break in the reinforced glass doors to the pawn shop and the suspects shot out the gun case to get the firearms.

Detective Aurelio Almazan, a guest on the WOKC morning show with Billy Dean, said the burglary call coming into dispatch was delayed several precious minutes.

“In this particular case it was seven minutes from the time they started breaking these doors to the time we got a phone call.  Now keep in mind Wildside is only a block away.  Our officers were dealing with the alarm at another gun shop.  They tried to break into the back door and the back door was very secure.  We found out we were dealing with a possible burglary there when these suspects were breaking into Wildside Pawn and Gun.”

Police Chief Donald Hagan encouraged local businesses to allow police officers to do inspections of their business to give them some tips on how to make the business more secure.  He applauded many gun shops for the extra precautions they take.