Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Clewiston's Tommy Browning Arrested After Chase

High Speed Chase Into Immokalee

LABELLE, FL. -- Tommy Reaves Browning, aka Tommy Cherokee, 40 of Clewiston was arrested in Collier County Monday, February 27 for fleeing, driving with a suspended license, resisting without violence, and criminal mischief over $1,000.

Hendry county also charged him with fleeing, and driving with suspended license.

At about midnight Monday night, Hendry deputies had a report of a man hooking a chain to the shutters on a Felda store. Browning fled the scene at about 90 mph until he lost control and was arrested in Collier county.

Bond was set at $30,000 in Collier.

Browning had last been released from Hendry jail in 2004 after found guilty of habitual driving with suspended license and DUI.

He has a lengthy record with arrests going back to 1996, and convictions for theft, cocaine possession, contempt of court, and trespass.

Hendry-Glades Obituaries

Richard Barnes Welch, age 68, of LaBelle died Saturday, February 25, 2012 in Fort Myers, FL. Richard was born May 3, 1943 in Pittsfield, MA He served in the Army during the Vietnam war. 

He was a resident of LaBelle since 2007 and was a former, longtime resident of Lehigh Acres. He worked for many years as Shop Manager for A. Duda & Sons in LaBelle.

Survivors include his wife: Olga Welch of LaBelle, step son: Hienio Candia of Immokalee and step grandchildren: Nathan, Laura and Angelina Candia.

The funeral service will be held Thursday, March 1, 2012, 2:00 p.m. at Akin-Davis Funeral Home in LaBelle with Father Chester Domaszewicz officiating. Interment will follow in Fort Denaud Cemetery. Military Honors will be conducted by the U.S. Army.

Calling hours will be Thursday, March 1 from 12-2:00 Akin-Davis Funeral Home in LaBelle.

Manuel Jose Martinez Rodriguez, age 76, of Clewiston passed away Friday, February 24, 2012 in Clewiston, FL. Manuel was born April 23, 1935 in Spain. He is the son of the late Albenturo and the late Hilama (Rodriguez Cancedo) Martinez Sierra.

Interment will be in Ridgelawn Cemetery, Clewiston on Wednesday, February 29 at 2:00 pm.

Glades Amateur Radio Operators Asked To Participate

CQ, CQ, CQ! To All Licensed Amateur Radio Operators!

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- All licensed Amateur Radio Operators, please be aware that Terri and Austin Moorhouse will hosting as the Net Control Operators for the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) for Glades County under the support and control of the Glades County Emergency Management EOC.

The ARES-RACES Network was established to provide emergency communications during civil emergencies such as floods, hurricanes, tornadoes or any other civil emergency. All licensed Amateur Radio Operators in or near the Glades County area are invited and encouraged to participate in the ARES-RACES Net test drills held every Thursday evening at 8:00 p.m. on the two-meter frequency of 147.300 Hz on the Glades County Repeater W4TEJ 147.300 + 600 PL 100.00 HZ. 

Non FCC-licensed citizens can monitor that frequency on any scanner equipment.

In order to “check in”, operators need only to give their call sign followed by their first name. Subsequent to check-in, announcements and updates will be provided by the Net Control after which comments, suggestions and announcements will be solicited from the participating members.

Participation is voluntary and there is no permanent or long-term obligation. Yet, your help may be sorely needed in the event of a civil emergency. Interested parties please contact Angela Snow Colegrove at the Emergency Management Operations Center 863-946-6020 or Austin Moorhouse at 683-946-0697.

Hendry Speedway - 'Not Here!' Say Residents

Port LaBelle Not Happy Over "Car Club" Race Track Proposal

LABELLE, FL. -- At a Tuesday night meeting at the Church of the Good Shepard in Port LaBelle, area residents spoke against a Naples developer's proposed car club and sports car track on the Hendry and Glades county line at Birchwood Parkway.

Paul Roberts of the Southland Group of Naples, Fl. told a group of about 120 residents he is helping current landowner Armboz, Inc. develop a 240-acre Glades County "Driving Club" including a track where up to 25 sports cars can race around at speeds as fast as 150 m.p.h. on the straight away.

About 20 acres are in Hendry County's Port LaBelle along the county line near Birchwood Parkway.

The tract of land was foreclosed last May and two of the partners got title along with a $4 million note due in November, so the Southland Group is reportedly scrambling to find a plan to salvage the property to bring in money to save the owner's investment.

The proposed track and development is to include garages and storage areas with owner's apartments above and is sited less than a football field away from several well established residential subdivisions including Laurel Oaks and Port LaBelle Unit 101. Nearby are the condos and townhouses near the Port LaBelle Marina.

Roberts told an often angry crowd his plan is based on the as yet to open Autobahn Country Club in Joliet Illinois, billed as "The Fastest Club Around." Roberts says he may incorporate about 70% of the ideas from that development. The Illinois speedway is proposed to open in April, 2010.

Roberts cited the nearness of a hotel and marina for the site selection, saying his development was based on demographic studies in a 250 mile radius from the Glades county site. Roberts says State Road 80 will be perfect to bring people from all over to his "one of a kind facility."

He plans to begin construction one year from now taking nine months to complete, and spending $55 million on the track, claiming to add "83 people" to maintain the track. Residential homes are not the priority he said, but apartments above the storage and garages will be sold to car club members.

He speculated about 300 homes could be built there with some four to ten unit apartment buildings at some future date. He claimed to have 25 commitments from prospective sports car owners who "plan to store and work on vehicles" and join his club.

Roberts admitted he has never developed a car driving park project before, but said he's "never had a project go bad" and said he's currently working on three other much larger projects without specifically naming them and their success. He said eventually his group would become part owners of the development in the future under his agreement with the land owner.

The land owners purchased the property as it was under foreclosure of the previous owners.

Roberts said the cars to be raced on the track will be "street legal" but after audience questions admitted some cars might not be so. When questioned about why Glades county, he mentioned there's no noise ordinance in the rural county.

Noise was the main complaint from the audience comments and questions. Roberts tried to quell the uproar by saying the developer was studying the noise problem and had met with Glades officials, and suggested vegetative "walls" and berms would be his proposed solution, admitting he was not an expert in noise abatement.

Roberts repeatedly insisted he was not "proposing a race course" but a "driving park," but could not definitively answer audience questions about the difference between the two.

Sports cars would race around the track trying to go as fast as they can, competing for best times, as there's no speed limits, but Roberts said training would be required and drivers would be rated as to their abilities to handle the track.

He speculated the project would raise Glades County's tax base by 20%. Glades county's primary land owners currently are in agriculture, cattle,  and timber, with Lykes Brothers being one of the largest land owners.

Roberts said he is about "midway" through the permitting process. The next public meeting will be  at the Glades County courthouse in Moore Haven Tuesday, March 13th at 5:05 p.m. to consider an amendment to the Glades Comprehensive Plan to allow the new use. The Glades County Commission will meet on Tuesday April 10th at 9:00 a.m. to consider the proposals after the zoning hearing.

For details of the developer's submission to Glades County for an amendment to the Glades County Comprehensive plan and a change to County Ordinance 91-1:


Port LaBelle In Uproar Over Race Car Noise

Sports Car Club Proposed In Middle Of Residential Area

LABELLE, FL. -- Port LaBelle, Florida residents are in an uproar, and at a meeting Tuesday let their views be known to a Naples, Florida developer of a proposed car club at Port LaBelle.

 A proposed 240 acre "driving park" or sports car club has been proposed to be built by next year on the Glades and Hendry county line in the middle of several residential subdivisions.

(Video: Community members speak against the track proposal. Click to see full size in HD)

"Crazy" and "Insane" says one resident about the project, at a Tuesday night meeting at the Church of the Good Shepard in Port LaBelle.

Millionaire owners of sports cars and other high horsepower cars will be able to store and race their vehicles on tracks at the club. Up to 25 cars at one time may be on the track said the developer at the meeting. Speeds can reach 150 m.p.h.

The project's developer, Paul Roberts of Naples, Fl. tried to smooth over resident's concerns without much success at the meeting. Calling the real estate project a "driving club" didn't go over too well with meeting members after he said sports cars will be able to travel as fast as they want, some up to 150 m.p.h.

Speakers expressing their views from the audience included Glades Commissioner Donna Storter Long, noting public Glades county meetings on the matter will be held in March, and from the Laurel Oaks community Hugh Byron Chambliss, Philip Payntor, Ronald Gmitter, and others from the Port LaBelle Ranchettes community. John T Hollingsworth, president of the Laurel Oak Homeowner's Association organized the meeting.

Community residents are against the project because the noise from the track will adversely affect their homes which are adjacent to the project.

Developer Roberts says they have not addresses the specifics of how they might mitigate the noise, but suggested vegetative plantings and a berm. He says Glades county does not have a noise ordinance as far as he knows.

Glades Commissioner Storter did say Glades has a "nuisance" ordinance however.

(Video: Protesters speaking about the race track project.)
(Audio: Entire Meeting Recording of 2/28/12)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Gas Prices Rising Everywhere - 10% Higher Than Year Ago

Average retail gasoline prices in Florida have risen 8.2 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.74/g yesterday. This compares with the national average that has increased 11.3 cents per gallon in the last week to $3.64/g, according to gasoline price website

Including the change in gas prices in Florida during the past week, prices yesterday were 36.4 cents per gallon higher than the same day one year ago and are 23.0 cents per gallon higher than a month ago. The national average has increased 26.6 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 29.8 cents per gallon higher than this day one year ago.

"2012 is looking increasingly like 2008," said Gregg Laskoski, Senior Petroleum Analyst for "Gasoline prices are climbing aggressively as speculation drives crude oil higher; and once again, it's an election year. But this time its the volatility in the Middle East that has everyone wondering 'How high is up?'," he added.

LaBelle Heritage Museum Program Thursday

LABELLE, FL. -- Noted area author and educator Dr. Nancy Dale is the guest speaker at this coming Thursday's LaBelle Heritage Museum program meeting at LaBelle City Hall at 7 o'clock. There will be a recap of the 17th Annual Old Timers Dinner along with our activities at LaBelle's Night on the Town this past Tuesday and Saturday and Sunday activities at the 46th Annual LaBelle Swamp Cabbage Festival at our "new" museum location in the 1911 William Hardy Poole drygoods emporium and residence at 360 North Bridge Street in the Downtown LaBelle Historic District.

Margaret England and the nominating committee are still looking for a few good people willing to serve as officers and one three-year director. If you are willing to serve our LaBelle Heritage Museum as a three-year director, president, vice president and program chairman, treasurer, or secretary for a one year term, please contact Margaret at . Margaret will also appreciate getting suggestions for possible nominees if you know someone who would make a great officer or director.

LaBelle native and successful professional engineer and land surveyor Jim D. Hull will be the speaker at April's program meeting on April 5. He will enlighten us on Florida secrets that everyone should know, but nobody does. Election of officers for our 2013 program year will also take place at the April meeting.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Thousands Hit LaBelle Street For Annual Parade

Swamp Cabbage Festival Parade - One-Hour Long Annual Funfest

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry county's largest parade and festival brings thousands of visitors each February, the big- time weekend in LaBelle, Florida. Held the last full weekend of February each year, the Swamp Cabbage Festival and parade attracts crowds of thousands each year to the city's downtown area, and in the riverside Barron Park.

The Festival Parade traveled down Bridge Street (State Road 29) to Barron Park on the Caloosahatchee River at 10 a.m. Saturday. Festivities at the park included music, dancers, and vendors packing the park, while thousands milled the streets of LaBelle taking in a classic car show on Fort Thompson Avenue and lots of Harleys and other chromed motorcycles neatly parked for visitor's enjoyment.

After the parade, Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden hosted his annual BBQ for law enforcement agencies, the division of forestry, court employees, and other Hendry/Glades public service agencies at the Sheriff's office on Bridge Street.

The cabbage palm, the state tree of Florida, is cut down for making decorations from the palm fronds for parade floats and booths at the park,while the fleshy heart of the palm is cut out and boiled to make "swamp cabbage."

(Click on video above to see scenes from the parade and festival. Click here or on YouTube logo to see full size and in HD)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

LaBelle's Fun Weekend - Parade And Festival Attracts Crowds

Annual Swamp Cabbage Festival In Hendry County Bring Crowds

LABELLE, FL. -- Thousands of visitors and residents came out Saturday to join the festivities for the annual Swamp Cabbage Festival in LaBelle, Florida.

The day started off with the huge hour-long Swamp Cabbage Festival Parade, as marchers and festive floats flowed down Bridge Street to riverside Barron Park.

Festivities continued at the park along the Caloosahatchee River with plenty of fried foods, drinks and even alligator meat. Music was provided at the gazebo stage while the Rotary Club racing armadillos all day long.

Motorists may have been inconvenienced as Bridge Street and the bridge over the river were closed to traffic for several hours, but giving pedestrians a rare chance to walk freely across the bridge and leisurely watch the boats cruise the river.

(Video: Festival scenes from Bridge Street and Barron Park, Classic Autos & Motorcycles - Click here or on YouTube logo to see full size video and HD)

Hendry Judge Gives Ruby Parker 13 Year Sentence

Long Trial Ends With Sentencing For Ruby Parker

LABELLE, FL. -- Circuit Judge John E. Duryea, Jr. on February 24, 2012 sentences Ruby Yolanda Parker to 13 years in state prison after the conclusion of a two week long triple murder trial.

Assistant State Attorney Hamid Hunter argues in court for a long sentence, and after hearing arguments, the judge sentences Parker to two year less than the maximum possible..

Parker claimed she was afraid of her married boyfriend Richard Harker, who killed himself at a police road block after the two robbed three Clewiston residents, while Harker killed all three.

As there were no longer any witnesses, Parker said in court she was held against her will by Harker.

She received a guilty judgment from 12 jurors in LaBelle, Florida for robbery, a felony; and three counts of culpable negligence, misdemeanors.

(Video: Hamid Hunter argues for a long prison sentence for Ruby Parker, Judge gives Parker 13 years)

Pedestrian Seriously Injured In LaBelle

Failure To Use Crosswalk Ends In Injury

LABELLE, FL. -- An apparent visitor to LaBelle during Swamp Cabbage Festival Week was struck by a vehicle on Bridge Street at Yeomans Avenue after failing to use a crosswalk.

At about 5 p.m. Friday, Ali Ayyad, 26 of Fort Myers was standing on the east sidewalk of State Road 29 (Bridge Street) while a 1999 Ford driven by Kasey Mellady, 22 of Fort Myers was southbound on State Road 29. 

The Ford then moved into the southbound left turn lane as Ayyad failed to yield to oncoming southbound traffic. Ayyad then proceeded to travel east across the southbound lane of State Road 29. The front of the vehicle collided with Ayaad in the southbound left turn lane. 

The collision impact forced Ayyad onto the right side of the vehicles's windshield. The pedestriacame to rest in the southbound lane of State Road 29 and was turned onto his right side facing south.

Ayyad will be charged with failure to cross in a crosswalk. He is in serious condition at Lee Memorial Hospital.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Hendry Court Gives Parker Close To Max Sentence

Ruby Yolanda Parker - Judge Wasn't Inclined To Give "Mercy"

LABELLE, FL. -- After nearly an hour of legal arguments about how to calculate Florida's Criminal Punishment Score Sheet, Judge John E. Duryea, Jr. handed out a sentence of 13 years in state prison for Ruby Parker this morning.

Ruby Parker and married boyfriend Richard Harker went the home of Joey and Carolyn Whitaker and Myrtle Cox, 80-year old mother of Carolyn at 231 Avenida Del Rio in Clewiston on August 15, 2006. Hours later both Whitakers and Cox were dead, at the hand of Harker.

Parker claimed she was in fear of her life, and only did what Harker told her. Both were on cocaine at the time.

Parker was convicted last Saturday by a 12-member jury of three counts of culpable negligance, a misdemeanor,  in the deaths of the three Clewiston residents, and a 2nd degree felony for robbery. 

(Click on YouTube logo to see full size and in HD)

Before sentencing, the grandson of victim Joey Whitaker told the judge how he feels now that his grandparents are dead, "Holidays are not the same without them." Young Cardenas said to the judge, "I just hope you punish her as long as the law allows."

(see video to hear his statement to the judge as he stands in front of his mother Joy Cardenas)

Victim Joey Whitaker's elder brother Wayne said, "They presented this case where a 10-year old child could understand." But he added, "The system has failed us. I just feel like the jury failed. Clearly they have made a huge mistake in this case."

Speaking of drugs and it's effects he said, "Drugs has touched everybody in this room today...When drugs is involved we just give them a pass...I don't know what to do...the jury system, it failed me."

The jury Saturday, declined to find Parker guilty of murder, but instead found her guilty of robbery and three counts of culpable negligence.

Ruby Parker, now a felon, dressed in a Hendry County Jail orange jumpsuit spoke to the judge saying she just wanted to "go back to my life and forget about all this." She said, "I just want to go back home to my daughter...finish school...I am truly sorry for what happened..."

(on the video you can hear her chain shackles as she returns to her seat)

Jail Chaplain Lester Grant said, "I met someone who seemed to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders." Grant told the judge, she "is a changed individual." "She's truly remorseful," he said. "I told her she has a very serious call from the Lord," Grant said. Grant said Parker led bible studies in the jail.

Jail Chaplain Kathy Manta told Judge Duryea "Yolanda is one of the good ones." She explained, "I believe that through her, many souls will be saved."

Judge Duryea pointed out although Parker had not been in any trouble before the Clewiston triple murders in August 2006, and though she didn't even "have a parking ticket," he was not inclined to show mercy in sentencing.

Under state sentencing guidelines, the judge could have given Parker anywhere from 47 months, the minimum, to 15 years, the maximum permitted for 2nd degree robbery.

Judge Duryea gave Parker credit for time served for the misdemeanors.  She will be allowed five and one-half years spent at the Hendry county jail as credit off her 13 year prison sentence.

(Court Video Above: Family members of victims tell Judge of impact, Parker, jail chaplain plead mercy to court)

Additional Sentencing Video: Assistant State Attorney Hamid Hunter argues Parker's sentence, Judge Duryea announces sentence, close of hearing

"Driving Park" Proposed For Port LaBelle

Two Driving Tracks, Garages For Classic Car Owners?

LABELLE, FL. -- The Southland Group and Armboz, Inc. have submitted a request to Glades County to change the zoning on 235 acres from the Hendry County line east of Birchwood Pkwy north to Aspen Blvd to SR 80 and back to Laurel Oaks Village in Port LaBelle to allow for a "driving park" for automobile enthusiasts.

The proposed name is "The Driving Club of Port LaBelle (photo: planned plat - click on photo to see full size)

The plan proposes building a "drive park" for automotive enthusiasts including two driving tracks. Members will have options of building a garage to work on and store their vehicles, building a residence with similar garages or just coming to meet with other members to compete in auto competitions.

The property was the former Port LaBelle Golf Course, and had previously been subdivided into plats for residential housing. The parcel has been cattle pasture for the last half dozen years, classified for agricultural use.

Armboz, Inc., a Naples, Florida company began purchasing parcels in Glades and Hendry county in May, 2011. The new company is owned by Robert Armstrong and Micheal Bozzo.

To succeed in changing the land zoning, the proposal would need an amendment to the Glades County Comprehensive Plan and a change to county ordinance 91-1 to change land use regulations in Glades county.

The Florida Department of Community Affairs would ultimately have to approve the change. The Department has shot down numerous local proposals in the past including the proposed change of 1,618 acres near the Glades Middle School in Muse from agricultural to "mixed use village."

Two governmental public meetings are scheduled for March 13th, and April 10th at the County Courthouse in Moore Haven and a local community organized meeting for the public on February 28th.

Homeowners in the area of the proposed subdivision from Glades and Hendry county have organized a meeting to inform nearby residents of the proposal. Nearby residents are worried about the affect of noise, fumes and traffic should the proposed driving park be approved by Glades County zoning officials and county commissioners.

A meeting will be held by local residents at 7 p.m. Tuesday February 28th 2012 at the Church of the Good Shepherd, 1098 Collingswood Parkway just south of SR 80 in Port LaBelle.

A zoning hearing will be held at Glades County courthouse in Moore Haven Tuesday, March 13th at 5:05 p.m. to consider an amendment to the Glades Comprehensive Plan to allow the new use. The Glades County Commission will meet on Tuesday April 10th at 9:00 a.m. to consider the proposals after the zoning hearing.

For details of the submission to Glades County for an amendment to the Glades County Comprehensive plan and a change to County Ordinance 91-1:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why LaBelle's Country Place Restaurant Closed

Manager Changes Locks And Excludes Owners

LABELLE, FL. -- On August 30, 2011 the manager of the Country Place Restaurant in LaBelle changed the locks after writing to the owners saying "I want to pay you what is owed" and asked for "proof of money invested in the business."

Allegedly, $15,700 was taken from the restaurant bank account when a check was written by Norbeto Daniel Mazzarello to himself.

On September 8th, the company filed suit against Mazzarello to recover the money.

On September 15, the corporation removed him as one of four partners of A Country Place LLC, the corporation running the restaurant. "A County Place Restaurant & Bakery" was an unregistered fictitious name. The restaurant opened for business July 9th.

The three remaining partners were Carlos Lebeau, Pedro Alvarez, and Antonio Colletta, all of Miami. They had filed for incorporation in March, 2011.

LaBeau and Alvarez had interests in Miami's Capeda Corp. and LaBeau in Brown Cafe LLC and Cafe Con Leche At Westland, Inc.
The restaurant company leased the building on State Road 80 in LaBelle formerly the home of Flora and Ella's Restaurant, a landmark eatery in the city of LaBelle for many decades.

A court case against Mazzarello by A County Place LLC shows he originally was a partner with no compensation for his portion of ownership and had no rights to manage the limited liability corporation. However, he apparently did not sign the operating agreement the company filed with the court.

The company signed a lease to rent the building from Fred J. Burson, Trustee at $6,750 monthly beginning June 1 with a $5,000 security deposit due September 1 and and option to buy for $950,000. Mazzarello was one of the signatories of the lease.

Judge John Duryea ordered a temporary injunction November 7th, giving all four partners equal rights to manage the business, with Sherry Mazzarello, Norbeto's new wife, designated to be his representative.

A "total impasse" was the comment of Bruce Waddell, a court mediator after a December 13 meeting of the parties.

On December 20th, Burson got a writ of possession to have the Hendry Sheriff's office evict the company from the building.

On December 28, the court struck the defendant's affirmative defense pleading.

New Company Now Runs Restaurant - Partners Associated With Country Place

About the week of January 16th a new sign replaced the Country Place sign now reading "The Front Porch Restaurant." There is actually no legal company with that name. The corporation actually running the restaurant is a new one called The Heart Of LaBelle LLC.

A Miami duo, Alfonzo J. Cutillo and Nestor R. Colon started the company December 12, 2011 at about the same time the previous owners were being evicted. Coincidentally both corporations have the same registered agent in northweast Miami, Osvaldo Martinez. The name "Osvaldo Martinez" has been involved with 145 Florida corporations over the years.

Cutillo owns Avanti World Rental Car LLC in Miami with the three owners of the former A Country Place LLC, LaBeau, Alvarez and Colleta. Colon owns Cursor Computer, Inc. in Miami.

The new restaurant has not registered with the Florida division of restaurants and hotels and has not been inspected for food safety and sanitation since October 11, 2011 when 7 violations were found including 6 critical violations.

Where Are The Marzarrello's 

Norberto Daniel Mazzarello and Sherry have formed a new company "D.S.M Country Inn Corporation" to take over the restaurant at the Clewiston Inn. The company was formed November 9, 2011, about a month before the Country Place went out of business. The couple lives at Aqua Isles in LaBelle.

Unfortunately, on February 6th, the Division of Restaurants and Hotels inspected the Country Inn at the Clewiston Inn and found 17 food safety violations including 11 critical violations

Daniel Mazzarello also owned Izabella's Bakery in Miami according to state records.

Clewiston Inn's Restaurant New Owners - 17 Food Violations

17 Food Safety Violations At Mazzarello's Clewiston Restaurant

CLEWISTON, FL. -- The latest inspection of the "Country Inn" restaurant at the Clewiston Inn in Hendry county shows trouble may be brewing for patrons who are concerned about cleanliness and food safety.

The corporate and fictitious name registered with the state division of restaurants and hotels is "DMS Country Inn" but appears on the records of the Secretary of State as "D.M.S Country Inn Corporation." There is no fictitious name registered with the state. Thus making it a bit difficult to locate the actual owners of the restaurant if they advertise or use any other name than DMS Country Inn Corporation.

A February 6th inspection by the state division of restaurants found the following 17 violations of food safety and sanitation regulations, 11 being classified as "critical." There was no restaurant license found and no food manager was on premises nor had employees been trained in food safety. Employees were cutting and placing salads in containers with bare hands, says the report.

Violation  Observation
03A-07-1  Critical. Observed potentially hazardous food cold held at greater than 41 degrees Fahrenheit.Observed half & half coffee creamers stored at room temperature at coffee sevice in lobby Corrected On Site.Voluntarily discarded
03A-07-1  Critical. Observed potentially hazardous food cold held at greater than 41 degrees Fahrenheit.individual butter containers held at room temperature at waitstation Corrected On Site.voluntarily discarded.
03B-03-1  Critical. Potentially hazardous food not held at 135 degrees Fahrenheit or above.steam taable foods ranging from 123 to 133 degrees F Corrected On Site.turned up heat. to maintain 135 degrees F or hotter
08A-28-1  Critical. Observed food , box of rice,stored on floor in dry storage arrea..
09-04-1  Critical. Observed bare hand contact of ready-to-eat food by employees and establishment has no approved Alternative Operating Procedure in effect.observed employee chop and place lettuce into container for salads using bare hands. Corrected On Site.
25-04-1  Observed single-service items , box of handtowels,stored on floor in dry storag area.
29-03-1  Observed water draining onto floor from condenser drain line as evidenced by large lump of ice on floor at outside freezer.
29-07-1  Plumbing system improperly repaired.Observed grease trap covers with multiple 3 inch gaps to open air allowing acceess to vermin/flies.outside at back kitchen dumpster area.Rainwater backed up at greasetrap drain. but contained in concrete surface containment area.
33-13-1  Observed non-bagged food garbage in dumpster with lid open allowing access by birds,vermin andvflies. Flies present..
33-16-1  Observed open dumpster lid.
38-10-1  Light not walkin cooler outside at back kitchen door
50-09-1  Critical. Hotel and Restaurant license not properly displayed. License not available at inspection.
53A-01-2  Critical. Manager lacking proof of Food Manager Certification.
53A-07-1  Critical. No Certified Food Manager for establishment.
53A-09-1  Critical. No currently certified food service manager on duty with four or more employees engaged in food preparation.
53B-01-1  Critical. No professional hygiene and/or foodborne illness training provided.
53B-08-1  Critical. No proof of required employee training provided. All public food service establishments must provide the division with proof of employee training upon request, including, but not limited to, at the time of any division inspection of the establishment. Pro

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hendry Hit And Run Driver Sought After Hitting School Bus

Driver Hits School Bus And Flees

LABELLE, FL. -- Authorities are looking for the driver of a Dodge pickup truck that hit a Hendry County Schools bus about 3 p.m. Wednesday on State Road 80 at Missouri Street in LaBelle.

The truck and a 2009 Bluebirds school bus were westbound on State 80 (Hickpochee Avenue).  The truck was traveling in the inside lane.  The bus, driven by Debra Kay Bright, 50 of LaBelle was traveling in the outside lane.

Suddenly, the truck began to travel partially in the outside lane.  The right side of the truck then made contact with the left side of vehicle of the bus in the outside lane.  The bus then re-entered the inside lane while the truck continued westbound and fled the scene.

Bright turned onto Missouri Street and summoned  law enforcement. The truck may have had a passenger.

There were 12 students on the bus, aged from 11 to 16. None were injured.

If anyone has any information concerning this crash please call the FloridaHighway Patrol at 239-938-1800.

Ruby Parker Sentencing Friday - What Will She Get?

Sentence Depends On Score Sheet And Judge Duryea's Discretion

LABELLE, FL. -- Ruby Yolanda Parker, 36 is scheduled for an 8:30 a.m. hearing Friday for the court to determine her sentence after the 2006 murder and robbery of three Clewiston, Florida residents.

(Photo: Parker testifies at her LaBelle trial last week)

Ruby Parker and married boyfriend Richard Harker went the home of Joey and Carolyn Whitaker and Myrtle Cox, 80-year old mother of Carolyn at 231 Avenida Del Rio in Clewiston on August 15, 2006. Hours later both Whitakers and Cox were dead, at the hand of Harker. 

Harker killed himself by a gunshot to the head after the duo crashed though a police roadblock at the Big Cypress Indian Reservation.

Parker claimed she was held without her consent by Harker and feared for her life if she didn't do what he said.

The state wanted to prove three counts of 2nd degree murder and home invasion, trying to convince the jury Parker was a "principal" with Harker in the crimes.

At the conclusion of a two week trial Parker was found guilty of three counts of culpable negligence and robbery by a 12-member Hendry county jury in LaBelle. She has spent five and one-half year in the Hendry county jail.

The robbery conviction is a 2nd degree felony, as the Assistant State Attorney, Hamid Hunter could not prove Parker was carrying a firearm or weapon, which would be a 1st degree felony. The penalty is up to 15 years in prison for her conviction.

The three culpable negligence convictions are 2nd degree misdemeanors when one "exposes another person to personal injury." The penalty is 60 days in jail or six months probation on each count.

Under Florida sentencing guidelines, a score sheet is prepared, and depending on the number of points the defendant receives, the months of incarceration are determined, and a county jail or state prison sentence may be imposed.

The judge may increase the defendant's sentence up to 15 years in prison for a 2nd degree felony or grant a reduction if he finds mitigating circumstances merit a reduction, a so-called "departure" from the guidelines. The judge would make a written record of the reasons for any sentence reduction.

See Florida's Criminal Punishment Code "Score Sheet" for sentencing guidelines to see how many months of incarceration will be calculated for Parker on Friday.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It's Good Time Week In LaBelle, Florida

Parades, Festivals, And Great Food Hits Streets This Week

LABELE, FL. -- It's that time of year when the city of LaBelle puts on one of Southwest Florida's largest and most entertaining events. Visitors to Hendry and Glades county make the trek each year on the last full week of February to take part in the annual Swamp Cabbage Festival and more.

(Click on YouTube logo to see full-size video in HD)

Here's what you and your family can see and do this week and through the end of February:

Tuesday, February 21st from 5 pm to 8 pm, the third annual "LaBelle Night On The Town" on Ft. Thompson Avenue, between Bridge and Main Streets. Sponsored by the Hendry County EDC and the Greater LaBelle Chamber of Commerce.

"17th Annual Old Timer's Dinner" Thursday, February 23rd at the LaBelle Civic Center, sponsored by the LaBelle Heritage Museum. Tickets $15.00

Swamp Cabbage Festival - LaBelle, Parade 10 a.m. February 25 and activities in Barron Park through the 26th.

The cabbage palm, the state tree of Florida, is cut down for making decorations from the palm fronds for parade floats and booths, and the heart of the palms is cut out to make "swamp cabbage."

The Festival Parade travels south down Bridge Street (State Road 29) to Barron Park on the Caloosahatchee River at 10 a.m. Saturday. Festivities at the park include music, dancers, and vendors packing the park, while thousands mill the streets of LaBelle and quaint shops.

(Video: Scenes from 2011 Swamp Cabbage Festival At Barron Park and Parade down Bridge Street.)

Monday, February 20, 2012

LaBelle Painters Art Show At Library

LABELLE, FL. -- The Barron Library in LaBelle is hosting an Art Show and Sale for the LaBelle Painters Guild. 

The show opened with a wine and cheese reception Saturday, February 18th. 

Works of art will remain on display at the library through Swamp Cabbage Festival, February 25th.
The LaBelle Painters Guild is an organization of local artists who meet to paint and learn new techniques, under the direction of Meagan Leary Kissinger, a Freelance Artist/Illustrator out of Fort Myers. 

Photo: Looking at the art work is Rosalie Karau, Marty Cowen, and Mel Karau

Hang On - Florida Gas Prices Rising Quickly

Average retail gasoline prices in Florida have risen 3.3 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.66/g yesterday. This compares with the national average that has increased 4.5 cents per gallon in the last week to $3.51/g, according to gasoline price website

Including the change in gas prices in Florida during the past week, prices yesterday were 52.8 cents per gallon higher than the same day one year ago and are 20.5 cents per gallon higher than a month ago. The national average has increased 17.1 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 35.0 cents per gallon higher than this day one year ago.

"Gasoline prices have perked up a bit in the last week," said Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan. "As we continue to move towards warmer weather, gasoline prices will follow, with prices accelerating higher at a faster pace come late March into April, so if motorists think this is bad, they should really hold on to their chairs," DeHaan said.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Clewiston Man Critical Condition After Crash

Larry MacClennan, 46 of Clewiston was transported to Raulerson Hospital in Okeechobee after his Nissan SUV ran off the road about 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

The 2006 Nissan was northbound on State Road 78 (east) south of Banana Grove Road.  Suddenly, it departed the roadway and entered the east grassy shoulder of State Road 78.  It continued northeast across a service road  before coming to final rest against a group of small trees.

MacClannan was later transported to Raulerson Hospital in Okeechobee by Glades County EMS.  His state has been indentified as critical by Raulerson staff  because of his type two diabetic medical state.

Shirley MacClennan, 59, a passenger had no injuries.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Clewiston Triple Murder Trial - "Mistakes Made"

Hendry Jury Finds Parker Guilty Of Robbery, Culpable Negligence

LABELLE, FL. -- A twelve member jury in Hendry County, Florida found Ruby Yolanda Parker, age 36 guilty of three counts of Culpable Negligence, and guilty of Robbery in the five and one-half year old case of Florida vs. Parker. She stood accused of three charges of homicide in the murder of three Clewiston residents.

The elder brother of one of the murdered victims told the Judge there were "mistakes made in this court case."

An armed Richard Harker and girlfriend Ruby Parker visited the home of Joey and Carolyn Whitaker and Myrtle Cox, 80-year old mother of Carolyn at 231 Avenida Del Rio in Clewiston on August 15, 2006. Hours later the Whitakers and Cox were dead, at the hand of Harker.

Harker killed himself with a gunshot to the head after he and Parker went through a police barricade at the Big Cypress Reservation in a truck stolen from the Whitakers.

The state charged Parker with three counts of murder and home invasion. Her defense had been of being physically abused by Harker and held against her will in fear of her life.

After a two week trial in LaBelle, the jury this afternoon, at about 5 p.m. handed their verdict to Judge John E. Duryea, Jr.

Deputy Clerk Patti George read the verdict.

The jury started deliberations Friday night and went until midnight. reconvening at 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

Some observers thought the defense put on a good case for Parker while the state's case was weak in proving she was directly responsible for the three deaths since it was admitted by the state her boyfriend Richard Harker had actually killed all three people.

Assistant State Attorney Hamid Hunter, is was observed, did not make a convincing closing argument to the jury to support the state's evidence for a triple murder verdict. Glitches in his presentation included a power point presentation with type too small to read on some slides for which he apologized.

The three culpable negligence crimes are 2nd degree misdemeanors and robbery is a 2nd degree felony. "Points" will be accessed to determine state guidelines for sentencing Parker next week.

It may be she will be credited with "time served" on the misdemeanors, she has been in jail for five and one-half years, and up to 14 years on the robbery depending on the scoring system and the judge's discretion in sentencing under the guidelines. She has no prior criminal convictions.

Judge Duryea heard the daughter of the Whitakers, Joy Cardoza, and Joey Whitaker's elder brother Wayne Whitaker speak before the court.

Ms. Cardoza, extemely upset fought to get the words out to voice how her two young children were deprived of their grandfather and grandmother because of the senseless murders by Harker, accompanied by Parker.

Cardoza bemoaned how her family's lives have changed while the defendant will eventually get out of jail and go on with her life after just a few years in confinement.

Wayne Whitaker, the older brother of Joey Whitaker, visibly shaken recalled with pain how he remembers the tape used to suffocate the victims and how he had to identify the lifeless bodies, a sight that "will never leave my head," he said. He told the judge how he had suffered another family tragedy in 1990 when his daughter was murdered.

Whitaker expresses his opinion of the jurors decision: "I feel they mad a mistake today." "Yolanda Parker will ask God for forgiveness...she destroyed this family," he insisted. Whitaker pointed out the role of cocaine and drugs in the behavior of Parker and Harker during the preceding month before the murders saying "This is what drugs is doing to this country. We got to do something!"

Judge Duryea offered the victim's family another chance to come to the sentencing hearing and speak further of the impact of the crimes on them if they wished. Duryea declined to allow Parker to post a bond amount  to get out of jail, even though her conviction is now on lessor charges than murder the state has charged her for. He said she will remain in custody pending the sentencing hearing.

Sentencing will be held on Friday, February 24th at 8:30 a.m. at the LaBelle Courthouse.

(Video: The jury's verdict received by Judge Duryea and read by Deputy Clerk, sentencing date announced)

Glades Commissioner Storter Explains Tussle With Manager

Storter Feels Not Getting Good Answers From County Manager

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- In an open letter Glades county commissioner Donna Storter Long says her perceived "bulldog tenacity" is just a way to get straight answers.

After a recent commission meeting she explains her concerns about a new position being created, "...Our agenda packet included  the County Manager’s request to relocate a County Employee from one department to fill a new position in Community Development Department (CDD) titled Administrative Assistant with proposed salary range of $13.46 to $18.27 per hour.  Since the CDD does not have this position budgeted, the proposal was to take the budget line item (salary funding) with the transferred Employee from the Department where they are now working."

Storter went on to list questions for which she wanted answers and then Storter said in her letter, "Therefore when I asked questions about the new CDD position requested by the County Manager, all of the above information  had to be considered.  The responses I received from the County Manager were not definitive, were at times facetious, and possibilities were flippantly mentioned that could not  legally  occur, as pointed out by the County Clerk concerning budget transfers."

Storter ends, "My quest for information has been described as 'bulldog tenacity', that I 'don’t know when to let up'. Glades County Taxpayers, it is YOUR tax revenue the BoCC is spending and I can assure you that hearsay will not guide my decisions, only facts clearly stated.  When I approach other County Employees seeking information or help, they provide me with clear concise answers, usually very promptly  always with politeness. For that I am appreciative, and expect no less from the County Manager whose responsive conduct should be professionally courteous to all 5 commissioners, staff and You the Public.

"I hope this clears the Public’s perception of my persistent and polite questioning of the County Manager
whose position is paid $96,532 by YOUR tax dollars. Each County Commissioner’s salary is $25,444 plus $3600 per year for travel compensation.   It is incumbent upon us to protect County interests with decisions based on facts. You pay us to serve YOU."

Mack Truck Overturns - Spills Thousand Gallons

Cleaning Chemicals Spill On Florida Highway

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- A 2001 Mack Truck and trailer driven by Brian McQuaig, 39 of Zolfo Springs overturned on US27 west of Wagon Trail Road Friday about 2:49 p.m. leaving about $90,000 in damage after spilling 1,000 gallons of cleaning chemicals. 

The crash caused the driver of a motorcycle to suffer minor injuries.

McQuaig and a motorcycle were eastbound on US Highway 27 (State Road 25), the truck and towed trailer were behind the 2008 Harley driving by Peter Anthony Lacavalla, 71 of Cape Coral. 

A school bus then came to a stop in the outside lane of US Highway 27. The driver of the school bus then activated the vehicle's traffic devices. The motorcycle and several other eastbound vehicles came to a stop for the school bus. The truck then attempted to come to an abrupt stop and swerved to avoid colliding with the motorcycle.

The truck and towed trailer departed the roadway, the towed trailer overturned before coming to final rest in the center grassy median of US Highway 27. The impact caused the container of the towed trailer to rupture, spilling approximately 1,000 gallons of a non-hazardous cleaning solution. 

The Harley was showered with the liquid from the towed trailer, and the motorcycle driver then lost control and the cycle overturned onto it's left side in the outside lane.

Death In Montura As Pedestrian Struck

CLEWISTON, FL. -- A 2001 Dodge pickup struck a pedestrian in Montura Friday at about 7:09 p.m. leaving Santiago Sejuin, a pedestrian from Montura dead.

Justo Luiz Jimenez, 54 of Orlando was eastbound on Avenida Del Club in excess of the posted 35 mile per hour speed limit. Sejuin was positioned within the eastbound lane of Avenida Del Club; however it was undetermined if he was standing or walking. The front of the vehicle struck within the eastbound lane and was brought to a controlled stop approximately 150 feet east of the area of collision. 

Sejuin came to final rest in eastbound lane, approximately 10 feet west of the truck and was pronounced deceased at the crash scene. The accident is under investigation.

The Florida Highway Patrol requests that anybody with information regarding this crash contact Corporal Jeff Rongish at 239-344-1730 Ext.1192 or call CRIMESTOPPERS to remain anonymous.

Hendry Political Candidate List Grows

LABELLE, FL. -- Candidates for Hendry County's local political office positions are lining up for the coming November elections. About half of the open positions have yet to have qualified candidates registered, including none yet for Clerk of Court and various County Commission and School Board Seats.

As usual, the Sheriff and School Board Superintendent offices seem to have the most interest for candidates. Six candidates have qualified to run for Sheriff including incumbent Steve Whidden. Three candidates are running for school superintendent, including incumbent Rick Murphy and four for Election Supervisor as Lucretia Strickland retires after many years in the position.

The following Offices will be up for election and as of February 17th have qualified with the Hendry County, Florida Supervisor of Elections. (No name next to the office means no one has qualified yet.)

Included are phone numbers and email addresses as listed by each candidate with the elections office. (In the past we have noted the majority, if not all candidates, don't seem to respond to emails or return phone calls. Voters might wish to test each candidate's willingness to respond to an email or phone message.)

Clerk of Circuit Court

(Rep) E. Carmona, 1079 Luckey St., LaBelle, FL 33935 phone: 863-673-6029 email:
(Rep) Mark R. Chamberlain, P O Box 1180, Clewiston, FL 33440 phone: 863-983-7844 email:
(Rep) Raymond A. Van Houten, 590 Brittany Lane, LaBelle, FL 33935 email: phone: 863-944-3996
(Dem) Matthew A. Beatty, 410 E. Osceola Ave., Clewiston, FL 33440 email: phone 863-983-5959
(Dem) Steven Maldonado, P O Box 273, LaBelle, FL 33975 phone:863-673-1971
*(Dem) Steve Whidden, 2100 Scott Rd., LaBelle, FL 33935 phone:863-612-0678

Property Appraiser *(Dem) Phillip L. Pelletier, 1601 Fort Denaud Rd., LaBelle, FL 33935 email: phone: 863-673-3280

Tax Collector (Rep) Tom Corbitt, 199 Caloosa Estates Dr., LaBelle, FL 33935 Phone: 863-612-0868

Superintendent of Schools
(Rep) Paul Puletti, 110 Hardee St., LaBelle, FL 33935 phone: 863-675-5921
(Rep) Joel Williamson, 140 Evans Rd., LaBelle, FL 33935 phone: 863-675-4098 email:
*(Dem) Richard A. Rick Murphy, 1832 Red Rd., Clewiston, FL 33440 phone: 561-248-8100 email:

Supervisor of Elections
(Rep) Kevin Drummond, 4717 Sandlewood Ln., LaBelle, FL 33935
Phone: 863-234-3480 email:
(Dem) Kim Harris-White, P O Box 661, Felda, FL 33930-0661 phone:863-257-0070 email:
(Dem) Brenda Hoots, 580 N. Hacienda St., Clewiston, FL 33440 Phone: 863-885-1756 email:
(NPA) Rose Raulerson-Mason, 469 Maple Dr., LaBelle, FL 33935
Phone: 863-234-6401 email:

County Judge (Non-partisan) James D. Sloan, P O Box 1695, LaBelle, FL 33975

County Commission District #1 *(Dem) Janet B. Taylor, P O Box 764, Clewiston, FL  33440
Phone: 863-228-0612  email:
County Commission District #3 (Rep) Tristan G. Chapman, 405 Live Oak Ln., LaBelle, FL 33935
County Commission District #5
School Board District #2
School Board District #4
Hendry Hospital Authority District #1
Hendry Hospital Authority District #3
Hendry Hospital Authority District #5
Hendry Soil and Water Conservation District Seat #2
Hendry Soil and Water Conservation District Seat #
Port LaBelle Community Development District Seat #2
Port LaBelle Community Development District Seat #4
East County Water Control District Seat #1
East County Water Control District Seat #3 Joseph L. Whalen, 1402 4th St. E, Lehigh Acres, FL 33936 phone: 239-633-9423

East County Water Control District Seat #5 Edward T. Weiner, 20048 Lake Vista Cir., Lehigh Acres, FL 33936 phone: 954-648-5458

Central County Water Control District Seat #2 Miguel A. Solar, 303 Camino Real Blvd, Clewiston, FL 33440 Phone: 954-471-6888
Central County Water Control District Seat #4

* Incumbent

Friday, February 17, 2012

Attorneys Close Florida Triple Homicide Trial

Ruby Yolanda Parker Murder Trial Ready For Jury

LABELLE, FL. -- Closing arguments were begun today the at close of the two-week long trial of Ruby Yolanda Parker in the deaths of three Clewiston residents in August 2006.

The state and defense were each expecting to take two hours each to summarize their case to the 12 member Hendry county, Florida jury. After closing statements, Judge John E. Duryea, Jr. predicted taking about 30 minutes to read instructions on the law to the jury before he sends them to deliberate on the fate of the 36 year old defendant.

Murdered in their home five and one-half years ago were Joey and Carolyn Whitaker and Myrtle Cox, 80-year old mother of Carolyn. The victims lived at 231 Avenida Del Rio in Clewiston.

Assistant State Attorney Hamid Hunter led off his closing arguments to the jury explaining the legal requirements for the jury to find Parker guilty of 1st degree murder, home invasion and possible lesser charges.

Hunter described the deaths of the victims; Joey Whitaker strangled by Parker's boyfriend Richard Harker by a cord around the neck. Carolyn Whitaker smothered with double faced tape wrapped three times around her head as Harker sat on her head, according to testimony by Parker this week, and forensic investigation.

Elderly Myrtle Cox "fought for her life," strangled by Harker, with injuries to her neck.

Attorney Hunter told the jury he conceded Harker was responsible for all three deaths, but the issue was whether girlfriend Parker was a principal by assisting Harker.

Parker admitted helping Harker clean up the evidence from the home after the murders, taking tape and cords to the Whitaker truck which they then stole. They forgot to take tape off Mrs. Whitaker and left it behind.

Hamid told the jury Parker's testimony at trial didn't match what she told investigators right after her arrest. Her court testimony, he said, conflicted with the tapes and transcripts of 2006; she now explained she was held against her will and afraid to go against Harker for fear of her life.

Hamid said the testimony of Harker's wife, Mary this week showed true trauma as a result of spousal abuse against her by Harker; disorganized speaking, rambling speech, skipping from subject to subject, while defendant Parker, claiming to be an abuse victim in her testimony, was totally organized and had an answer for everything, even correcting Hamid when he misspoke.

Noted was the testimony of Parker. and a surveillance tape showing that Harker went to the Everglades Federal Credit Union in Clewiston about 3 p.m. to cash a check written by Mr. Whitaker, while Parker stayed behind at the house.

The jury will consider the guilt or innocence of Parker and a verdict may be possible by Monday.

Update: The jury deliberated until about midnight Friday without a decision. They will resume deliberations at the LaBelle Courthouse Saturday at 1 p.m.

(Video: Excerpts from the trial, including defendant Parker testifying, and Assistant State Attorney Hamid Parker's closing arguments.)

What Does Public Health Mean To You?

What Does Your Health Department Do?

LABELLE, FL. -- Public Health means your health. Most people don't understand what public health is or how it impacts their daily lives. 

By definition, Public Health is the science and practice of protecting and improving the health of a community, as by preventative medicine, health education, control of communicable diseases, application of sanitary measures, and monitoring of environmental hazards.

Many people think of the Public Health Department when they need to get immunizations for their children and family, but Public health is a field geared toward serving others. Public health professionals serve local, national, and international communities. They are leaders who meet the many exciting challenges in protecting the public's health today and in the future.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named the ten greatest public health achievements of the 20th century.

Vaccination. Eradicates life threatening diseases such as smallpox and polio
Motor-vehicle safety. Reduces death and disability due to unintentional injuries through the formulation of policies designed to protect the safety of the public, such as seat belt and worker safety laws
Safer workplaces and prevents pollution of our air and land through enforcement of regulatory controls and management of hazardous wastes
Control and prevention of infectious diseases (Measles, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, etc.)
Decline in deaths from coronary heart disease and stroke. Promotes healthy lifestyles to prevent chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes
Safer and healthier foods.
Healthier mothers and babies
Family planning. Educates populations at risk to reduce sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy, and infant mortality
Fluoridation of drinking water and assures our drinking and recreational waters are safe
Recognition of tobacco use as a health hazard

Seatbelt laws, flu vaccines, and fluoride in our drinking water are all achievements of public health. Public health debates are in the news everyday, whether it be the latest outbreak of swine flu or the eradication of trans-fats from entire cities.

The vision of the Florida Department of Health is to “Promote, protect, and improve the health of all people in Florida” and their mission is “A healthier future for the people of Florida”

Stop and think about what Public Health has done for you and the possibilities of what it can do for you in the future.

-From The Hendry-Glades Health Department, Pat Dobbins, Director

Memory Getting Bad? Visit The Bus This Month In Hendry

Mobile Clinic In Hendry To Detect Memory Problems Early
LABELLE, FL. -- The “Memory Bus” one of the Alzheimer Association’s initiatives is a mobile clinic that is open to anyone who is concerned about their memory or that of a family member or friend. 

The vehicle, coming to Hendry county is an innovative way of bringing the issues of memory loss and dementia to the public and it has travelled county wide. Personnel will give a simple test that takes a few minutes. The idea is to detect the earliest stage of Alzheimer's. 

The mobile clinic's test is not only for seniors but for people of all ages. No appointments are necessary.
The memory bus will be available at the following Hendry County Health Department Locations:

February 27, 2012 at 9:30 am - 2:00 pm at the Hendry County Health Department, 1140 Pratt Blvd, Labelle, Fl. and on February 28, 2012 from 9:30 am - 2:00 pm at the Hendry County Health Department, 1100 S Olympia Street, Clewiston, Fl.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 14 people over the age of 65 has some form of dementia and that number can increase to 1 in 6 for those over the age of 80. Early diagnosis and care for people with dementia, as well as educating those that care for them, is one of the strategic priorities for improving a person’s health and wellbeing. 

Memory problems can be common as people get older. Tiredness, stress, depression and certain medications can all affect memory. The important thing is for people to seek help if they have any concerns about memory loss. 

This event will allow people to talk, in confidence, with an expert. For more information, the national number is 1-800-272-3900 for Alzheimer’s Association.

Hendry Murder Trial Delayed As Attorneys Wrangle

Attorneys Working Out Jury Instructions

LABELLE, FL. -- The triple homicide trial of Ruby Yolanda Parker has been delayed a few hours as the attorneys for the state and defense work out wording of jury instructions and the verdict form with Judge John E. Duryea, Jr.

(photo: Ruby Parker on witness stand during this week's testimony)

Duryea is the last judge among a half dozen to be involved in the case since Parker's arrest for the triple homicide in August 206.

At least four possible verdicts may be on the jury's final verdict form, including possibilities of 2nd degree murder, manslaughter, accessory, or not guilty to the state's original charge of three counts of 2nd degree murder of three Clewiston residents in 2006.

Arguments over what should be on the verdict form and jury instruction have delayed the closing arguments until at least 1:30 p.m. Friday. There is a possibility the jury may deliberate on Saturday.

The defense asked the judge for an order of acquittal this morning arguing Parker had no intent of home invasion or homicide, and did not assist Richard Harker as he killed Joey and Carolyn Whitaker and 80 year old Myrtle Cox, mother of Carolyn.

Ruby Parker, who testified in her own defense this week, is the only living witness to what happened August 15, 2006. Her boyfriend, Richard Harker killed himself with a gunshot to the head after the two went through a police roadblock on the Big Cypress Indian Reservation.

Parker's brother and sister have been in attendance throughout the trial. Harker's widowed wife Mary Harker, a former resident of Clewiston, testified Thursday.

The state countered the motion for acquittal saying Parker's original statements to the police did not match what she told the jury this week. Parker now contends she was held against her will by Harker, who demanded she follow his instructions or he would harm her. She told stories of his physical abuse towards her and his irrational behavior as they both were on cocaine, and he on marijuana as well.

The state also pointed out, Parker and Harker entered the Whitaker residence armed with a gun, Parker helped Harker tie up a victim's hands, Parker's fingerprint was on a Whitaker check that Parker took to a Clewiston bank to cash, and Parker used a credit card of the deceased victim to buy beer at Mary Lou's Market in Montura.

The state contends it is up to the jury to sort out what is the truth of the matter, and the veracity of Parker's testimony to the jury this week.

Judge Duryea denied the defense motion for acquittal. Duryea also agreed with counsel from both sides that the jury will not be able to bring their notes to the jury room, or court exhibits of firearms, videos, and audio. Duryea will allow the members to review their note before going to the jury room, and can see excluded exhibits in the courtroom is necessary.

One juror was previously excused among the 12 members and two alternates, leaving one alternate who will be excused when the jury panel goes to deliberate probably this afternoon.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Florida Triple Murder Jury Hears Ex-Wife's Abuse

Homicide Trial Continues - Mary Harker Testifies About Spousal Abuse

LABELLE, FL. -- The triple homicide trial of Ruby Yolanda Parker continued this afternoon at the Hendry County Courthouse with testimony from an expert witness on cocaine and from the ex-wife of deceased Richard Harker on domestic abuse she received from him.

Harker killed himself with a shot to the head after crashing through a police roadblock in the early morning hours after the Clewiston homicides.

Parker, who was with Harker, is claiming she was held by Harker against her will and was only doing what he demanded to protect herself and those around her.

(photo: Ruby Yolanda Parker)

Parker is on trial for the Clewiston murders of Joey Glenn Whitaker, 52, wife Carolyn Cox Whitaker, 53, and Myrtle Lee Cox, 80, Carolyn's mother, on August 15, 2006. Harker had a business relationship with Joey Whitaker and was visiting the Whitaker home to talk about some money Whitaker owed Harker, Parker told the court Wednesday.

Dr. Frederick W. Schaerf, a Fort Myers psychiatrist led off testimony for the defense with answers to questions about the effects of cocaine on the brain. Parker and boyfriend Harker were both on cocaine at the time of the Clewiston murders.

Dr. Schaerf did not examine Parker, nor had even met her, but gave detailed medical explanations of how cocaine may affect the body, brain, and behavior.

The defense's primary witness today was the ex-wife of Harker, Mary Melissa Harker. Mrs. Harker was to testify about the spousal abuse she had suffered after marrying Harker and moving to Clewiston.

Mrs. Harker, then Mrs. Ward, met Richard Harker at the Glades Correctional Institution in Belle Glade. She was a correctional officer and he a prisoner, serving a 22 year sentence for 2nd degree murder.

Mrs. Harker grew up in Clewiston, worked at the Glades prison for 11 years, and met Harker through her then husband Robert Ward, also a correctional officer at Glades. Mr. Ward supervised a farm detail that included prisoner Harker.

As the marriage soured between Mrs. Harker and Ward, a new illicit relationship began between her and Harker. Harker would sneak into a prison farm office and make telephone calls to her at home, she told the court.

Eventually, Harker got caught making the calls, was disciplined and Mrs. Harker resigned from her job.

When Harker was transferred to a Miami prison, and then to Desoto Correctional in Arcadia, Mrs. Harker was working at the Hendry Health Department and a second job at Walmart. She would write to him with an assumed name, she said.

After getting a divorce from Ward, she started visiting Harker at the prison every weekend. Then married him while he was still in prison.

Harker got an early release on the murder charge due to a Florida court ruling, and the couple took up living in Clewiston where Harker got a job within weeks with an electrical contractor.

Mrs. Harker said she soon found out how unpredictable and abusive  Harker was, hitting her, dragging her by the hair, and threatening her and her children.

After she inheried 22 acres of land in Hawthorne, Florida they moved there and with her money began Harker and Associates, doing home inspections, building home foundation pads, and eventually doing hurricane cleanup work in Mississippi and later in Clewiston, Florida after Hurricane Wilma.

Ruby Parker had an affair with Harker in Mississippi, working with him in storm cleanup. Mrs. Harker had surmised there might be an affair.

Mrs. Harker suffered through the physical abuse for years, but she told the court, finally went to a shelter with her kids in fear of her life. Harker managed to find the shelter location and continued his threats by phone, and she allowed one of the children to go with him, after more demands from him.

After counseling at the shelter, she filed a court injunction against Harker, and got her child back. Parker showed up at Harker's side at the court hearing.

Mrs. Harker continued her testimoney, telling the court she received a phone call regarding Harker killing himself in Clewiston while she was still living in the shelter. She traveled to Clewiston for the investigation and remained in the shelter for another few weeks, even though Harker was now dead.

The defense rested it's case this afternoon after Mrs. Harker's testimony. Closing arguments from both sides are expected beginning at 10 a.m. Friday at the Hendry Courthouse in LaBelle.  John E. Duryea, Jr. is the presiding judge.

LaBelle Home Sales

From 1/24/2012 to 2/14/2012, there were 12 homes sold in the LaBelle area for an average price of $69,750.

1) Unknown price on 4th Ave
2) $105,000 on Castleton Ter
3) $22,000 on Citrus St
4) $20,000 on Clipper Ter
5) $125,000 on Emmitts Run
6) $23,000 on Lighthouse Ct
7) $215,000 on River Blossom Ln
8) $74,000 on Springview Cir
9) $50,000 on Trader Rd
10) $33,000 on E Lincoln Ave
11) $100,000 on N Cypress St
12) $70,000 on NE Beechwood Cir

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Judge Lets Drug Suspect Out Of Jail To Help Grandma

LaBelle's Bryan Boyle - Out Of Jail Again

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry Sheriff Steve Whidden and state prosecutors just can't keep Bryan Boyle in jail.

Last arrested on meth and meth pipe possession charges in December, and stuck in jail with no bond possible because of violating his probation terms, County Judge James Sloan gave him a get out of jail card Monday.

Boyle's West Palm Beach attorney Scott H. Cupp made a request to Sloan for a "furlough," a nice term for getting out of jail pending further order of the court.

Boyle told the court he was needed to take care of his ailing grandmother. The court order signed by Sloan February 13th says "Defendent is to be released on house arrest to care for his terminally ill grandmother. He is not to leave the residence unless it is due to a medical emergency."

The Assistant State Attorney Justin Chapman objected to Boyle's motion for "furlough." Sloan overruled the objection.

Boyle has spent about six weeks in jail on the meth charges. Hearings are pending.

Boyle lives with his mother Susan Lynn Kennedy, aka Susan Denning and grandmother Carolyn Kennedy in Port LaBelle's Laurel Oaks subdivision.

Susan is the subject of multiple Hendry arrests and jail stays. She was last adjudicated guilty of violating drivers license restrictions and sentenced by Judge Sloan to 3 days in jail on February 6th.

Photos: Bryan Boyle (top), Judge James Sloan (bottom)

UPDATE: Boyle was picked up by authorities at his grandmother's house on Springview Circle in Port LaBelle about 6 p.m. Thursday, February 16th.  This would make his 2nd violation of parole arrest. He reportedly was seen on an ATV this morning driving in the area, violating the terms of the "furlough" to be inside his grandmother's house at all times.

More Boyle Arrest Stories:

Ruby Parker Testifies In Clewiston Triple Murder Trial

"He Made Me Do It" - Claims Was Held Against Her Will As Three Murdered

LABELLE, FL. -- Ruby Yolanda Parker, 36, told a 12-member jury in LaBelle that she was held against her will in August 2006 by now deceased Richard Harry Harker, then 35 years old.  Parker, living in the Hendry county jail for five and one-half years admits she was with Harker when he killed three Clewiston residents in their home.

But in response to assistant State Attorney Hamid Hunter's questions, Parker claimed "He made me do it," referring to her complacency while accompanying Harker in the senseless killings of Joey Glenn Whitaker, 52, wife Carolyn Cox Whitaker, 53, and Myrtle Lee Cox, 80, Carolyn's mother August 15, 2006.

Harker, claimed Parker, went to the Whitaker home in the morning to talk to Joey Whitaker about money owed to Harker.  But, she said, after about 15 minutes things turned bad as Harker held a gun on the family, and tied them up.

Harker allegedly left the house about 3 p.m. to go to the bank and get cigarettes for the elder Cox, while Parker went to sleep next to the bound woman, at least according to Parker. Parker claims she was told to lay on the bed by Harker. She had no explanation why she didn't use the house phone to call for help other than she thought if the family did what Harker wanted all would be fine.

Parker said she slept one other time during the incident.

After the family was killed, Harker stole Whitaker's GMC truck, while Parker took Harker's smaller pickup and went to the Clewiston McDonald's for a "breakfast burrito." The two also stopped at Mary Lou's General Store in Montura to pick up a six pack of beer. Parker used the now murdered Myrtle Cox's credit card, signing Cox's name for the beer purchase.

Parker said even though there were a few people, including a child in the Montura store, she didn't ask for help, for fear Harker would kill them all.

Later, a pursuit by the Seminole Police and Florida Department Of Law Enforcement ended in the south section of the Big Cypress Indian Reservation on Snake Road when Harker rammed two Seminole Police cruisers at a police roadblock.

As police demanded the suspect exit the vehicle, Richard Harker committed suicide with a single gun shot to the head. Parker was sitting next to him in Whitaker's stolen truck. A second gun was found in the truck in addition to the one Harker used to commit suicide. Parker said she didn't know how that 2nd gun got there.

Parker told the jury she didn't know why Parker would kill the family, but said repeatedly he was forcing her to do everything, including taking powdered cocaine and crack cocaine for the month leading up to the killings.

Harker was also taking cocaine "most of the day," eating little and sleeping little, she said. "He had become paranoid," she said. "He had me take off all my clothes and sit on the bed," she told the court he would often do, as she described her last month with Harker. She sobbed as she said Harker would hit her if he didn't like what she said. 

Harker always carried a gun, usually in the front of his pants, she said, and took away her phone and "had control of all my possessions." He "controlled everything," and "I would just do what he said."

Ironically she also testified about an incident a month before where Harker gave her his gun and he said she could kill him if she wanted to.

The prosecution countered by having her admit there were many times when she was not with Harker, and had access to a phone to call for help, but she didn't do so. Parker said she didn't want to get anyone else involved, fearing Harker might kill anyone helping.

She said after Harker killed the first Clewiston victim, he said, "That's taken care of."

Parker said Harker forced her to help clean up the house with a sock after the murders, wiping fingerprints off surfaces, and cleaning ashtrays she used when smoking. About 4 a.m. they left the house in the two separate trucks, and when questioned about escaping at that time from Harker, said "Fleeing was not an option," because she didn't know where she was.

While following Harker, she lost him as he sped through a red light in Clewiston. He turned around, she says and was irate because she didn't go through the light after him.

They then rented a cabin at the Big Cypress Reservation, where she says she told him to "kill her if he was going to." At the cabin Harker, she claims, put two bunk bed mattresses on the floor and wanted to have sex with her, but she refused, enraging him, she says.

Parker says he hit her, pulled her by the hair into the bathroom and gave her a knife to kill herself "if she wanted." He laughed and taunted her, according to her testimony today.

The defense has two more witnesses to present to the jury, starting about 9:30 a.m. Thursday. John E. Duryea, Jr. is the presiding judge. Closing arguments by both sides are expected either late Thursday or Friday.

(video: Ruby Parker testifies at her murder trial in LaBelle under cross-examination by the state)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Florida Manatees Protected With Hi-Tech Gates

System To Be Installed At Lock Entrances On Waterway

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is preparing to install a hi-tech manatee protection system at the Moore Haven Lock in Moore Haven, Florida.

Installation of the MPS is part of the Manatee Pass Gates project, with the primary goal of safeguarding Florida’s endangered manatees from serious injury or death at water control structures and navigation locks by modifying these structures with the MPS.

Using a set of acoustic transmitters and receivers, the MPS detects the West Indian Manatee and prevents the gates from closing and harming the protected animal. 

No boating traffic will be allowed to use the Moore Haven Lock during the installation process which consists of dewatering the lock, mounting the MPS to the lock gates, testing of the system and re-watering the lock. The Manatee Protection System has been manufactured and above-ground fixtures have been installed. Work is expected to take no more than two months to complete.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District will host a public meeting Thursday, Feb. 16 to discuss the scheduled temporary closure of the Moore Haven Lock on the Okeechobee Waterway from April 2- May 25 during installation of the Manatee Protection System (MPS).

The meeting will be held in the South Florida Operations Office conference room, 525 Ridgelawn Rd., Clewiston, Fla. An open house will be held at 6:00 p.m., followed by a formal presentation at 6:30.

Technical experts will be available before and after the formal presentation to provide information and answer questions about the project.

“Work is tentatively scheduled to begin April 2 when water levels are lower and will take approximately two months to complete, prior to the start of hurricane season,” said Al Bruns, USACE project manager. “The purpose of this meeting is to provide information on the installation process and answer any questions or concerns.”