News Cast 5/20

News Cast for May 20th:

Jury chooses life in prison

Artavistus Ware, 38 was sentenced to life in prison, consecutive to a 17 year prison sentence for drugs on Wednesday for charges that include first degree murder and solicitation to commit murder.

A Glades County jury did not vote unanimously to impose the death penalty after two days of testimony.

Ware was convicted in the killing of Mario Hughes, an Army veteran in Moore Haven in 2014, to stop him from testifying at his drug trial.

The victim’s father Sonny Hughes told the court he was happy the jury recommended life in prison because he did not want Ware’s family to suffer.

He said his son won’t have the opportunity to be with his three children and live a happy life.

“He was helping to clean up our streets,” he said.

Hughes said his son was ambushed and that the bullets nearly struck a second person.

Okeechobee schools consider joining a class action lawsuit over vaping

The Okeechobee School Board heard from a law firm asking them to join the suit that includes schools across the country.

Vaping use among underage students has dramatically increased with school officials stating one student is suspended every other day for vaping.

Cigarette smoking rates among teens has dropped from 37 percent to eight percent in recent years.

At the same time, vaping among high school students has risen from 16 percent in 2015 to over 40 percent in 2021.

The schools are also waiting on the governor’s position on a new Okeechobee High School.

Board chairperson Amanda Riedell said the community will be thrilled if they receive the $67 million.

“I think the community will be very happy.  They have been really behind us.  Residents have gone to Tallahassee to speak to legislators.  It will be a win not only for the schools but for the community as a whole.”

Garage trashed, neighbor charged

Joseph White, 44 was charged with stealing firearms and $1,000 in cash from a safe.

Okeechobee Deputies said White had been allowed to live next door to the victims.

They reported that White started acting strange and went into the garage when they weren’t home.

The arrest report stated White did quite the mess with about $500 in damage by pouring out charcoal, ripping apart an Amazon package, and damaging the garage door.

Charges include armed burglary, grand theft and criminal mischief.

Bond was set at $27,500.

Economic group hears report on broadband

Efforts to bring broadband internet to Okeechobee and the Heartland Region continue.

The Heartland Economic Opportunity Board heard an update on the progress being made.

The legislature also worked on the issue this year.

Mike Grissom with the Florida rural economic development Association talked about the progress.

“They we making sure that the providers weren’t going to box out others and creating huge financial windfalls for the incumbent providers that are already here.”

One bill the legislature approved would transfer the Office of Broadband to the Department of Economic Opportunity.

The bill encourages broadband companies to serve rural areas by helping them with infrastructure needs and to identify federal grants and funding that can be available.

Okeechobee County Commissioner Terry Burroughs said the COVID-19 pandemic showed the holes in our internet services in the area.

“COVID-19 exposed huge holes in the fabric like telehealth, education from home, or just getting on the internet to order groceries.  It provided a scenario that probably nobody could ever expect.”