Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Curtis Clark Convicted Of Double Murder

DNA Evidence Catches Murderer In Lie

CLEWISTON, FL. -- In September, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent Matt Walsh received some good news from six members of a jury in Hendry County - "guilty."

(photo: Florida Dept. of Corrections)

The jury handed down the verdict against Curtis Leonard Clark, 24, convicting him on two counts of second-degree murder with a firearm and one count use of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

The verdict comes almost two years and five months to the day that the bodies of Melvin Williams, 39, and Marvin Dixon, 38, were found shot outside a neighborhood market in area known as Harlem just on the westside of Clewiston, Fl.

According to reports and witness statements, Curtis Clark was trying to collect on a drug deal with Melvin Williams and Marvin Dixon on the evening of April 24, 2003 when Clark shot both men multiple times killing Williams and Dixon. The Hendry County Sheriff's Office responded to the scene and collected evidence and took statements from witnesses in the investigation.

But a year passed and the investigation stalled. Hendry County detectives needed help.

In March 2004, Hendry County Sheriff Steve Worley contacted the FDLE Sebring Field Office and requested assistance in the investigation. Special Agent Matt Walsh was assigned as case agent. SA Walsh immediately began to gather information from Hendry County investigators and witnesses. Because of the amount of time that had passed since the crime he new it would be difficult finding reliable witnesses and evidence. But SA Walsh dove in and put his experience to work.

SA Walsh began to re-construct the crime and as a result was able to discover possible DNA evidence that had not been submitted to the crime lab. The DNA evidence, taken from beneath Marvin Dixon's fingernails, was tested at the Tampa Bay Regional Operations Center. Crime Lab Analyst Amy Rockhold found the sample and ran it through the CODIS database. The database identified a subject and after a comparison it was confirmed to be Curtis Clark's DNA. 

A crucial piece of evidence since Clark had told SA Walsh he had never met Williams or Dixon. CLA Justin Greenwell, also of TBROC, performed test on the bullets found at the crime scene and determined that
they were all fired from the same gun, another key piece of evidence. Just a little more than two months after being contacted about the case, SA Walsh working with Hendry County detectives and the State Attorney's Office had enough evidence and witness statements to make the arrest. But his work wasn't over.

While preparing for trial, two important witnesses in the case recanted their statements they made identifying Clark as the gunman. SA Walsh felt the witnesses had been intimidated into changing their stories. He had to
work fast to find corroborating witnesses. SA Walsh using information he received and good old fashion police work was able to find two additional witnesses that had information that put Clark at the scene and committing the murders.

That information and evidence went before the Jury and it took them a little more than an hour to return their verdict. Clark faces an October 17 sentencing date and it is expected he will receive a life sentence.

Update: As of April 2013 Curtis Clark was serving a life sentence at the Okeechobee, Florida Correctional Institution were he arrived in November, 2005.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Glades Hospital CEO Quits

More Troubles For Financially Strapped Rural Hospital

BELLE GLADE, FL. -- Daniel Aranda, chief exective officer of the Glades
General Hospital has resigned his post just as he left for a planned
vacation. Reportedly not happy with his role at the 73-bed facility
originally built in 1940, he gave a 30-day notice to the board. The board
has left unclear whether it will authorize a new multi-million dollar
facility, which may have contributed to Aranda's decision nothwithstanding
his $180,000 salary. This is his sixth hospital job since 1997.
Like many rural hospitals in poorer regions, Glades is a money loser for
Palm Beach County mainly because of the large number of uninsured
povery-line patients it treats. Insured patients tend to travel to the
coast for treatment, perceiving better facilities outside of rural Belle
Glade.

Hendry Top Citrus Producer

LABELLE, FL.(Sept. 25, 2005) -- Hendry County has regained its position as
the top citrus producing county in Florida. Polk county, the top producer
in 2003-04 produced only 24.8 boxes this season down from 42.2 million,
while Highlands county came in as the third top county. The three
hurricanes of last year greatly reduced the crop in Highlands and Polk
county. In Polk county, housing development has also taken over much of the
citrus acreage. The state's citrus crop was the lowest since 1985 and the
orange crop was the lowest since 1992.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

LaBelle Home Sales Pick Up

LABELLE, FL. -- During the week from September 6 to the 13th, there were 15
homes sold in the LaBelle area for an average price of $133,067. The
highest priced home sold for $259,000 on South Cypress St., while the least
expensive home went for $70,000 on South Obisbo Cir. in Port LaBelle.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Ortona Cemetery Gets Pavilion

MOORE HAVEN, FL. (Sept. 13, 2005) -- The Glades County Board of
Commissioners voted unanimously today to approve construction of Phase I of
the Ortona Cemetery Pavilion with funding from the County's 1%
discretionary surtax revenue, as presented by the Project Committee. The
Board also authorized a resolution designating the area of Ortona Cemetery
north of Central Avenue between 1st Street West and 1st Street East as
"Ortona Cemetery Pavilion Park" with such restrictions to limit uses of
this area to only those in accord with the purpose of providing an oasis of
serenity with functional service to Glades County citizens attending
cemetery related activities and activities authorized by Glades County
Board of Commissioners.

The construction contract, prepared by County Manager Wendell Taylor with
permitting fees waived, will be awarded to Albert Irvan Luckey in
acceptance of his bid of $49,340. Phase I will include the 24ft x 48ft
pavilion and ADA handicap accessible concrete sidewalks. The structure will
replicate the pavilion at Larry Luckey Ortona Indian Mound Park and will
feature the vented cupola with lattice ceiling for natural updraft
ventilation, with a galvalume hip roof. A podium, lectern, and table will
be permanently placed, and ceiling fans will be installed. Franklin Luckey,
who built the pavilion at Indian Mound Park, will be the project foreman.

The project idea, first presented to the Board in 2003, was to provide
sheltered bench seating for the comfort and convenience of bereaved
citizens attending funeral services and patriotic citizens attending
Memorial Day and Veterans' Day observances or other Commission authorized
activities at Ortona Cemetery. The Project Committee is composed of Alvin
Ward, Chairman, and members Glades County Property Appraiser Larry Luckey,
Glades County Clerk of Courts Joe Flint, and Donna Storter, who with her
husband J. C. Long, contributed $15,000 in 2003 for the project that will
be in tribute to her father Vance Storter 1917-2000, Glades County
Commissioner 1978-1982, who originated the pavilion plan.

Recognition is due to generous community donors including Johnson
Engineering, Inc. of LaBelle for providing the subdivision plot plan
overlays onto aerial maps, and preparing initial conceptual plans for the
building, and transmitting them to Fawley Bryant Architects, Inc. of
Bradenton, Fl who prepared the final construction plans, also gratis. The
Surveying Department of Johnson Engineering, Inc. headed by Matt Howard is
providing the construction lot surveying, staking and site plans. Jack
Queen Construction, Inc. J. C. Long Vice President, has pledged the
building site work, with fill dirt being provided by Florida Rock
Industries Weatherspoon Sand Plant in Ortona, courtesy of Carl Manning.
Florida Rock also pledged support for in-kind contributions of concrete
blocks and ready-mixed concrete. Glades County Solid Waste Director David
Whidden pledged financial support from Solid Waste Recycling Grant funds
for benches made of recycled materials. Daniel Akin, of Akin-Davis Funeral
Home participated in the planning process.

At a later date, Phase II will include installation of permanent bench
seating, xeriscape landscaping with sod and sprinkler system, designated
delineated parking areas to include eight handicap spaces connected to the
pavilion by ADA sidewalks and ramps built in Phase I, portable public
address system, lighted flagpole, a scenic mural, cemetery burial directory
kiosk, and underground utility service. Other in-kind pledges include Sabal
palm trees from Donnie Peeples, sod from Lykes Bros., landscaping
assistance from Glades County Garden Club, and artisans for the mural from
Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Pledges for funding of Phase II are solicited and contributions can be made
payable to Glades County Cemetery Pavilion and mailed to Glades County
Clerk, P. O. Box 10, Moore Haven, FL 33471. Contributions made as
memorial or honorariums will be acknowledged to the honoree or family. Any
individual, family, group, club, church or organization, wishing to fund
a bench, ceiling fan or other amenity or to provide materials or services
for landscaping or other in-kind contributions are invited to contact Alvin
Ward (863.946.0213), Larry Luckey (863.946.6025), Joe Flint (863.946.6010)
or Donna Storter (863.675.8850). A sponsor is also sought for the cemetery
burial directory and map which is to feature a touch-screen kiosk that will
be cross-referenced with lot/block burial sites and names of those
interred.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Hiking Program At CREW Trust Site

The Crew Trust Marsh Hiking Trails northwest of Immokalee will be open for
guided hiking on September 24, 2005 at 9:00 and 11:30 AM. Celebrate
National Estuaries Day by taking a wet hike at the CREW Marsh Trails. Join
CREW's environmental education specialist on an interactive guided hike
through some of CREW's wet trails. Experience the 5000-acre marsh up close
and personal as we identify the flora & fauna in this pristine watershed.
Come out and get WET at CREW! Reservations not required.
The CREW Marsh Hiking Trails are open to the public from sunrise to sunset
everyday. Self-guided tour brochures are available at the trailhead located
at 4600 Corkscrew Road, 2 miles south of State Road 82 or 18 miles east of
exit 123 off I-75.
The CREW Land & Water Trust, a nonprofit organization formed in 1989, is
dedicated to the preservation and stewardship of the water resources and
natural communities in and around the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem
Watershed (CREW). This watershed is crucial to sustaining our water supply
and providing natural flood protection. Additionally, the Trust offers
educational programs for all ages. For more information on the organization
or the trails, please visit our Web site at www.crewtrust.org or call
239-657-2253.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

LaBelle Home Sales Slow?

LABELLE, FL -- In what may be a slowing of LaBelle area home sales due to
hot weather or buyer demand or who knows what, only four residential sales
were recorded in the last 6 weeks. At an average price of $111,000 the
following were recorded at the Hendry County Courthouse: $174,000 on
Dolphin Cir., $137,000 on Lady Ln., $47,000 on N. Riverview St., and
$86,000 on S Edgewater Cir. in Port LaBelle.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

LaBelle Restaurant Burglary Suspect Arrested

LABELLE, FL. -- The Hendry County Sheriff's Office investigated a burglary at Boo Boo's
Riverhouse Restaurant on SR80 in LaBelle on September 5, making one arrest of an 18-year old male. A screen had been cut at the southeast corner of the building and a sheet of drywall
pushed away in order to gain entrance to the inside. A door had been forced open to the bar and storage area. Several bottles of liquor were stolen and office equipment was damaged by the burglar.

Sheriff Ronnie Lee said information was obtained by Investigators that Devon Sharrod
Kennedy age 18 was in possession of several bottles of liquor and was giving it to friends. Investigators determined the liquor was taken from Boo Boo's and Kennedy was arrested and charged with Dealing in Stolen Property.

In a separate case, Sheriff Lee reported that an investigation by members of the Hendry County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigations Division resulted in the arrest of a Juvenile male for a burglary committed at a residence at 836 Redish Circle in Clewiston

16 Arrests In LaBelle Traffic Stops

LABELLE, FL. (Aug, 6, 2005) --The Hendry County Sheriff's Office held a
traffic checkpoint south of
LaBelle on State Road 29 Saturday September 3, 2005 beginning at
10:00 p.m., and ending at 2:00 am., Sunday morning. Sheriff Ronnie Lee
said sixteen people were arrested on charges ranging from no
drivers license, to possession of cocaine, possession of marijuana,
driving with a suspended or revoked drivers license, and driving under
the influence. Sheriff Lee would like to thank Shone Phillips and his
staff at the local Florida Department of Transportation Office for
furnishing and setting up all traffic cones, signs, lighting and other
assistance as needed during the checkpoint operation.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Canker Found In New Alico Grove

LA BELLE, FL -- Alico, Inc., one of the South's best-known agribusiness
companies operating
in Central and Southwest Florida, and with approximately 136,500 acres in
real estate holdings, was informed on August 31, 2005, by the Florida
Department of
Agriculture and Consumer Services that citrus canker was confirmed in
Alico's
Knowles-Thomas grove located in Hendry County, Florida. Citrus canker is a
highly contagious bacterial disease of citrus that causes premature leaf and
fruit drop. Citrus canker causes no threat to humans, animals or plant life
other than citrus. In order to eradicate the disease, infected and exposed
trees within 1900 feet of the canker find, must be removed and destroyed in
accordance with Florida law.

John R. Alexander, Chairman and CEO of Alico, Inc. said, "This is the
second canker find in our groves this year. We recently hired two canker
inspectors so that we can discover the disease early if present, thereby
minimizing the loss. This find was discovered by our in-house inspectors.
The find is expected to impact approximately 350 acres of this grove
location.
The earlier find this year affected approximately 150 acres of a grove in
Polk
County, Florida." This find, coupled with the earlier find, affects
approximately 4.50% of the Company's 11,147 producing citrus acres. All of
the
trees in this grove are covered under the Federal Crop Insurance program. A
net loss of approximately $960 thousand, consisting of tree development
costs
and inventoried costs, will be recorded in the fourth quarter of fiscal
2005.
Reimbursements to be received from this insurance coverage are expected to
cover approximately 62% of the loss.

Additionally under the Florida Canker Eradication Program, citrus may
not
be replanted on the property until it has been determined that the property
has been canker free for two years. In light of this, the Company is
evaluating the property for its best future use. The Knowles-Thomas grove is
not contiguous to other Company groves.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Sheriff Collecting For Refugees

LABELLE, FL. -- In a press release today Hendry County Sheriff Ronnie Lee
says he along with other Florida Sheriff's are spearheading collection and
delivery of supplies to the areas of the Gulf Coast that were ravaged by
hurricane Katrina. Collection containers are being placed at Hendry County
Supermarkets in
Clewiston and LaBelle as well as the Sheriff's Offices in Clewiston and
LaBelle.

According to reports from Law Enforcement Agencies in the
stricken areas they are in special need of the following items: Bottled
Water Mosquito Repellent Baby Food Disposable Diapers Tooth Paste Tooth
Brushes Canned Food Canned Fruit Sheriff Lee also reported that
employees of the Hendry County Sheriff's Office have started a cash fund
to assist Law Enforcement Officers and their families in Canton,
Mississippi that were left virtually with just the clothes they were
wearing. Persons wanting to make a cash contribution can do so at the
Sheriff's Offices in Clewiston or LaBelle.

(While the Sheriff's intentions are honorable, we recommend cash only
contributions and giving only to national charities including the Red Cross
instead of gifts to local efforts which tend to be very inefficient and the
distribution to the appropriate storm victims in a timely manner
questionable. - Editor)

Gas Price Gouging Investigated

Attorney General Charlie Crist today sent teams of
investigators and sworn law enforcement personnel from his office to
locations throughout Florida, including Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm
Beach, Jacksonville, Ft. Myers, Orlando, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee
and Pensacola. The teams will be looking into complaints of price gouging
on the price of gasoline. Crist said investigators will be looking to
determine whether the rapid rise of gas prices meets the legal definition
of gouging, and vowed to prosecute any violations of the law.

As of 1:00 p.m. Friday, the Attorney General's toll-free consumer
hotline (1-866-9-NO-SCAM, or 1-866-966-7226) had received 1,050 complaints
about skyrocketing gas prices in the days since Hurricane Katrina ravaged
the Gulf Coast. The investigation seeks to determine whether the increases
are caused by legitimate market forces or are instead the result of illegal
price gouging.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Shirley Returns From Iraq Duty

LABELLE, FL. -- Army Spec. Joshua J. Shirley has returned to Fort Drum,
Watertown, N.Y., after being deployed to Iraq in support of Operations
Iraqi Freedom. The redeployed soldier, along with other soldiers from
various companies within the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment,
are members of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light
Infantry) at Fort Drum. All of the soldiers were awarded the Global War on
Terrorism Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, and the
National Defense Service Medal for their participation in Operation Iraqi
Freedom.

Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division (LI) helped the Iraqi
government to be self governing, conducted defensive and offensive
operations and infrastructure reinforcement, and trained Iraqi national
guard battalion members. By the end of their deployment, the soldiers were
responsible for military operations for almost half of Baghdad.

Shirley, an infantry team leader, has served six years in the Army. He is
the son of Bonnie S. and stepson of Bruce A. Whitehead of Clark St.,
Labelle, Fla. His wife, Gidget, is the daughter of David and Mary Ann
Dodson of Clipper Circle, Labelle, Fla.