Thursday, December 31, 2009

Yearly Bird Count In Hendry County

Join Birders For The Annual Bird Count In Rural Hendry County

CLEWISTON, FL. -- The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) is joining with the Hendry-Glades Audubon Society as the group conducts its portion of the 110th Christmas Bird Count in Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) 5 in southeastern Hendry County. This is the Hendry-Glades Audubon's third year conducting the count at STA-5.

The data collected during the annual counts ­ which span North America and beyond ­ are critical to studies of the long-term health and status of bird populations. Such data is used to protect birds and identify environmental issues with implications for people as well, according to Audubon. The STAs, managed by the SFWMD, also provide the public with a variety of recreational opportunities, such as hiking, biking and excellent bird watching.

During the 109th Christmas Bird Count, Audubon teams in STA-5 and the surrounding area documented 112 species and more than 92,600 birds.

The event will be Saturday, January 2, 2010 beginning at 7 a.m. The gate at STA-5 is located on Blumberg Road in Hendry County, 12 miles south of the intersection of Blumberg and County Road 835. Blumberg Road ends at the gate after 10 miles of asphalt and 2 miles of dirt.
Information: Margaret England:

New Florida Boating Regulations This Year

Education Course Required For All Born In 1988 Or Later

LABELLE, FL. -- Boating-safety education requirements change in Florida beginning January 1. Boat operators who were born on or after Jan.1, 1988, must pass an approved boating-safety course and possess photographic identification and a boating-safety education identification card issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to legally operate a boat with a motor of 10 horsepower or more.

There are a few exceptions. For instance, a person born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, who operates a boat within 90 days after purchasing it, does not need a boating-safety education identification card if a bill of sale, which meets the requirements of Florida law, is onboard. After the 90-day period ends, the boat operator needs to meet the educational requirements.  Those who possess a current United States Coast Guard license also are exempt.   

For course information and educational requirements, visit and click �boating,� then click �boating safety.� For inquiries, contact FWC�s Division of Law Enforcement at 850-488-5600, or e-mail questions to the FWC at .  

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Florida's Top Consumer Complaints

Phone Sales Calls, Auto Parts Among ComplaintS This Year

LABELLE, FL. -- Unwanted telephone sales calls continue to be the top gripe for Florida residents, with more than 6,500 complaints filed with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in 2009.  Commissioner Charles H. Bronson has released the top 10 list of complaints and the state's "Do Not Call law continues to generate the most activity.  In fact, there were 1,500 more written complaints filed by people on the "Do Not Call" list than in 2008.

The department's Division of Consumer Services is the clearinghouse for consumer complaints in Florida.  The division regulates 11 industries but also attempts to mediate problems consumers have with unregulated businesses.  Complaints about industries that fall under the regulatory authority of another agency are referred to that agency.  There were about 38,000 written complaints filed in 2009, slightly more than the 37,227 filed in 2008. 

Telemarketing complaints not involving the "Do Not Call" law ranked second this year with 3,609 complaints.  Travel/vacation plans dropped to third place with 2,781 complaints, a decrease of more than 800 from 2008.  Fourth on the list was credit/banking with 2,774 complaints and rounding out the top five was communications with 2,302 complaints.

"People can save themselves a lot of trouble and probably money if they check out companies before they do business with them by calling our consumer helpline," Bronson said. "Consumers can find out if a regulated business is properly registered and check the complaint history of any company."

Problems with motor vehicle sales and accessories (such as truck tool boxes, bedliners and other items sold in auto parts stories) generated 1,644 complaints putting motor vehicle sales sixth on the list.  There were slightly fewer complaints, 1,625, against motor vehicle repair shops which took the number seven spot.  The eighth category on the list was medical issues, prompting 1,543 complaints. 

Landlord/tenant disputes continue to be in the top 10, this year at number nine with 1,523 complaints.  The final category in the top ten was complaints against real estate brokers/salespersons with 1,197 complaints.

Bronson encourages consumers to file a complaint if they feel they have been wronged by a business by calling the department's helpline at 1-800 HELPFLA (1-800-435-7352) or 1-800-FLAYUDA (1-800-352-9832) for Spanish-speaking operators. 

The department was able to obtain nearly $5.9 million in goods, services or cash refunds for consumers in 2009.  People can use those same helpline numbers to find out the complaint history of a business.  Consumers can also file complaints online by visiting the Division of Consumer Services website at

Hendry County Cat Shelter Closed

One Of Largest Cat Rescue Efforts In U.S. History

LABELLE, FL. -- One of the largest cat rescues in U.S. history came to an end Monday, December 21st, after the closure of a rural South Florida cat sanctuary led to the transfer of hundreds of thin and diseased cats to other agencies for rehabilitation.

Following a citizen's complaint regarding conditions at the sanctuary, a team of animal cruelty experts from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Humane Society of the United States, and the University of Florida Shelter Medicine Program accompanied La Belle Animal Control Director Doug Morgan on a surprise inspection of the facility on November 16.

After confronting sanctuary owner Maury Swee with their findings that unacceptable conditions at the sanctuary resulted in a high rate of illness and death among the cats, he stated that he was unable to make improvements and had insufficient resources to continue operating in its current state. The following day Swee elected to relinquish all of the cats to animal control and to close the sanctuary. An Animal cruelty investigation is ongoing.

Thirteen critically ill and suffering cats were immediately euthanized and submitted to the state's Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Kissimmee where necropsies revealed the emaciated cats suffered from severe anemia, infections, and organ failure brought on by parasitism, malnutrition, and untreated diseases. Swee said none of the cats had received veterinary care for their illnesses.

Morgan immediately recruited an interagency team of specialized volunteer responders from across Florida to help the nearly 600 cats remaining on the property. Responding agencies included experts in disaster animal sheltering led by the Bay Area Disaster Animal Response Team (DART), animal cruelty investigation led by the ASPCA Crime Scene Investigation unit, and animal triage and medical care led by the University of Florida's Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service and Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program.

Over a three-day period beginning November 23, the UF Shelter Medicine Program lead a team of veterinarians, veterinary students, and technicians in a triage operation to examine each cat, collect forensic documentation, test for feline leukemia virus, feline immunodeficiency virus, and heartworms, implant identification microchips, and treat for internal and external parasites. During this initial evaluation phase 93 cats were identified by the veterinary team as having severe illness affecting quality of life. It was determined that the most humane choice for these severely ill cats was humane euthanasia.

Volunteers from Bay Area DART remained on site to assist LaBelle Animal Control with the disposition of the remaining cats. A plan was implemented to give cat owners a chance to reclaim the animals that they relinquished to the sanctuary, to transfer cats to shelters and rescue groups throughout the southeast, and for the public to adopt unclaimed cats. While the sanctuary owner did not make information available regarding who originally relinquished the cats, he was asked to personally contact former cat owners to give them an opportunity to reclaim their cats.

"We were heartened by the response from so many humane agencies," said Connie Brooks, Operations Director of SPCA Tampa bay/Bay area DART. 

"Even though infectious diseases were rampant throughout this facility and about half of the cats were feral, we were able to transfer the vast majority to other agencies. The entire humane community pulled together to create a happy ending for this sad story."

The record for the longest distance traveled went to 5 cats flown to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah for treatment of advanced medical conditions. The largest transfer was 46 cats sent to Animal Refuge Center in Ft. Myers. Each agency received a thorough background and reference check to assure that the cats would not be transferred from one unacceptable situation to another.

"The vast majority of cats sent to this sanctuary died within a few years of arrival and many of the survivors had substantial medical conditions and carried multiple infectious diseases," Morgan said.  "Some had even arrived as victims of previous cruelty and hoarding investigations. We knew we had to be sure these cats were going to new placements that were prepared to provide for their special needs."

The cat rescue project was made possible by more than $40,000 in grants and free diagnostic testing services, cat food, litter, crates, and other supplies from IDEXX Laboratories, Petsmart Charities, ASPCA, HSUS, and private donors. Thousands of volunteer hours were expended. 

After more than 4 weeks, the interagency task force that kept the sanctuary open after its owner gave up the cats had exhausted all leads for cat placements.

The final statistics tell a story of success and sadness. The closure of the 10th Life Sanctuary represents one of the largest cat rescues in US history. A total of 110 cats were euthanized in the first days of medical triage due to critical medical illnesses, including 17 that were euthanized immediately following the unannounced inspection. Of the remaining 485 cats, 75 of the ferals were euthanized when new placements could not be found for them. This 15% euthanasia rate for the savable cats is in stark contrast to the vast majority of large-scale feline cruelty impoundments in which mass euthanasia is the most common outcome.

-from the University of Florida, Veterinary Science School


Friday, December 25, 2009

Hendry ATV Crash Puts 2 Kids In Hospital

Two Youths Crash ATV - Taken To Hendry Regional

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Two children riding an ATV four-wheeler illegally on a roadway, failed to yield at a Montura Estates intersection in mid-Hendry county and crashed into a car Wednesday December 24 about 1:30 p.m.

Jose A Trevino, 13 driving a 2005 Honda ATV with passenger Felix A Quinonez, age 11 were riding illegally south on North Kennel Street in Montura and failed to yield at a stop sign at Bald Cypress. The ATV struck a 1999 Toyota driven by  Benjamin Rogriquez Ofray, 30 of Clewiston.

Trevino was taken by helicopter to Lee Memorial Hospital In Fort Myers with critical injuries and Quinozez was taken to Health Park Medical Center, also with critical injuries.

The ATV suffered $3,000 in damages and the Toyota driven by Ofray ran up against some trees and had $10,000 in damage. Driver Ofrey suffered no personal injuries according to the Florida Highway Patrol report prepared by Trooper Travis Parks.

It is illegal under Florida law to drive ATVs on public roadways or on private property without the permission of the owner.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I-75 - State's Largest Road Project Opens

$430 Million I-75 Two-Year Long Project Open

FORT MYERS, FL. – Governor Charlie Crist has applauded the successful completion of the Interstate-75 Road Expansion Project (iROX) at a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new third southbound lane at the I-75/Daniels Parkway rest area.  Six lanes of I-75 in the 30-mile stretch from the Golden Gate Parkway interchange in Collier County to the Colonial Boulevard interchange in Lee County also opens Wednesday evening, a year earlier than initially projected and six years ahead of schedule.

The project is also making improvements to the I-75/Immokalee interchange in Collier County and completion by April 2010 is anticipated.  iROX is the largest single construction contract ever awarded by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).  The project cost an estimated $430.5 million and is part of the FDOT's new design/build/finance (DBF) approach to road building.  The DBF strategy offers an incentive to contractors for finishing projects ahead of schedule.

The DBF approach – the first in Florida's history – allowed construction crews to work alongside areas of the project that were still under design.  When started in October 2007, the I-75 improvements were expected to be completed five years ahead of schedule.  In reality, the expansion has been completed six years sooner than expected.

The Governor was joined at the ribbon cutting ceremony by Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottkamp, State Senator Garrett Richter, State Representative Gary Aubuchon and Stann Cann, district secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation.

Friday, December 18, 2009

418 Hendry-Glades Area Jobs Available

Florida Giving Help To Unemployed And Businesses

LABELLE, FL. -- Governor Charlie Crist this week announced that the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation, in partnership with the Florida Department of Children and Families, Workforce Florida Inc., and the Regional Workforce Boards, are launching a new program designed to bolster businesses and create jobs for as many as 25,000 Floridians.

Within a 25 mile radius of LaBelle there are 418 paid and volunteer jobs available according to a website developed by Florida's Agency for Workforce Innovation. Job seekers can visit for Florida Back to Work employment opportunities as they become available. The database includes many volunteer opportunities as well as paid employment. Searches can be customized for area, pay scale, as well as many other search criteria.   

Programs are now available so that public and private employers can enter into contracts with local Regional Workforce Boards to cover nearly all of the salary costs for employees.  The program will pay up to 95 percent of the salary cost for each employee.  For example, if an employee earns $12 an hour, the Florida Back to Work program pays $11.40 and the business pays sixty cents. 

Additional Florida Back to Work job sites will be locally coordinated through Florida�s 24 Regional Workforce Boards, which will link local businesses with eligible employees.  Businesses interested in participating in the program should contact the local Regional Workforce Board in their area.  Their contact information can be located at

Hendry Foreclosed Properties Bring Prices Down

Low Hendry House Prices A Great Deal For Some

LABELLE, FL. -- The abundance of bank owned properties after foreclosures continue to force bargain prices in low priced home in the LaBelle area of Hendry county.

From November 24 to December 15 there were four homes sold in the west Hendry county area for an average price of $87,250. All were in Port LaBelle except one property on Main Street in the city of LaBelle.

The properties sold in the last two weeks included:

1) $34,000 on Rainbow Circle
2) $65,000 on E Briarwood Circle
3) $30,000 on E Sunflower Circle
4) $220,000 on S Main Street

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hendry DUI Checkpoint Nets 15 Arrests

Four-Hour Late Night Checkpoint Nabs 15

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry county Sheriff's Deputies made some Saturday night arrests on State road 29 South during a unannounced traffic checkpoint set up just south of the city of LaBelle.

On Saturday night, December 12, 2009 between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. Sunday morning, December 13, 2009, Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden and members of the Hendry County Sheriff's Office conducted a DUI Sobriety Checkpoint near the intersection of State Road 29 and Wilson Road, just south of LaBelle.

During the 4-hour period of the DUI Checkpoint, deputies made 10 arrests of drivers with no valid driver's license, four Driving Under The Influence arrests, and one arrest of an individual with an outstanding warrant.

Immokalee Tech Center Growing

Immokalee iTech Now Offers Bachelor Degrees - Free Tuition For High School Students

IMMOKALEE, FL. -- Edison State College and Immokalee Technical Center (iTECH) have partnered to offer college courses leading to an Associate or Bachelor degree from Edison State College, right in Immokalee. 

The partnership began fall 2009 with two courses offered at the iTECH Collegiate Center, Psychology and English I, serving a total of 24 students.  Based on inquiries received during the course of the fall semester, Edison has now doubled its course offerings for spring 2010, offering 4 additional courses with a potential to serve 80 to 100 students. 

An added benefit of the partnership is the opportunity for Immokalee High School students to dual enroll taking courses for college credit while still in high school.  High school students who dual enroll in Edison State College courses at the iTECH Collegiate Center do not pay fees or tuition.  High school students wishing to register for courses at iTECH Collegiate Center may do so by contacting their high school guidance counselor.

Adult students pay Edison State College fees and tuition, a bargain compared to other institutions.

Spring 2010 courses are offered from Monday through Thursday and meet once per week from 6:00 - 8:40 p.m.  The course schedule is as follows: Monday - Human Growth & Development; Tuesday - US History to 1865; Wednesday - Composition I; Thursday - College Success Skills.

Glades-Hendry Motorists Urged To Call *347

How To Report Drunk, Aggressive And Dangerous Drivers

LABELLE, FL. -- According to the Florida Highway Patrol, drunk driving is one of the deadliest crimes in Florida. In 2008, 1,169 people died in alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes. That is 39 percent of all traffic crash fatalities in the state. Rural counties like Hendry and Glades county seem to have a higher percentage of drunk drivers than urban counties.

Motorists are urged to contact FHP or local law enforcement officials to report an impaired, aggressive or dangerous driver by dialing *FHP (*347) from a cell phone. Callers may remain anonymous. Motorists who experience car trouble on the highway or otherwise need assistance from the FHP are also encouraged to call *FHP.

The Florida Highway Patrol will use zero tolerance enforcement strategies to target impaired drivers, as well as those violating other traffic laws that put themselves and other motorists at risk. Motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians who comply with our state�s traffic laws and use sound judgment can help make the holiday period safer and less stressful.

Earlier this month, Gov. Charlie Crist proclaimed December to be Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month. As part of the state�s focus on safe highway travel during the holiday season, the Florida Highway Patrol will join thousands of other law enforcement and highway safety agencies across the nation to take part in Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest. The nationwide campaign aims to crackdown on impaired driving through January 3, 2010.
According to the FHP, if a trooper catches you drinking and driving, he/she will arrest you. Violators often face jail time, the loss of their driver license, higher insurance rates, attorney fees, time away from work and dozens of other expenses. So do not take the chance. Remember, if you are over the limit, you are under arrest.
Every sworn member of the Florida Highway Patrol will work a shift this month to target those driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In addition, FHP Auxiliary and Reserve troopers will augment the Patrol during the heightened travel period.

How's Your Hendry County Water?

Tests Show Some Surprises For Hendry County Drinking Water

LABELLE, FL. -- Water quality tests made available by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection lists the chemicals and other substances that may be in your drinking water in Hendry county from water plants around the county from Clewiston to LaBelle.

The city of LaBelle has incurred 10 EPA water quality violations over the period surveyed, Port LaBelle Utilities only 1. South Shore Water Association in Clewiston had 3 violations, Whisper Creek RV Park in LaBelle, 3 violations, and Riverbend Motor Coach Resort in western Hendry county, 4 EPA violations. The city of Clewiston has a fairly clean record compared to nationwide averages, and only had one bacteria monitoring failure in 2006 according to the report.

Drinking water quality reports now available online show results of 5 years of tests conducted by the area's water utilities as provided to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The drinking water statistics are part of EWG's national database that includes 47,667 drinking water utilities and 20 million test results. Water utilities nationwide detected more than 300 pollutants between 2004 and 2009. More than half of these chemicals are unregulated, but legal in any amount. Despite this widespread contamination, the EWG says the federal government invests few resources to protect rivers, reservoirs, and groundwater from pollution in the first place.

The information found online for Hendry county summarizes test results for each utility company and lists potential health concerns. At the website click on your water utility company's name to get five years of water pollutant details and any EPA violations incurred during the period studied.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Obama - We Must Think Anew About Just War And Peace

Barack H. Obama Nobel Prize Lecture - December 10, 2009

OSLO, NORWAY --  U.S. President Barack Obama accepted the 2009 Nobel Prize for Peace in Oslo today and in a prepared lecture speech says the world must find new ways to think about the concept of just war and a just peace.

Excerpts from the speech text, released by the President's Press Secretary:

Over time, as codes of law sought to control violence within groups, so did philosophers, clerics, and statesmen seek to regulate the destructive power of war. The concept of a "just war" emerged, suggesting that war is justified only when it meets certain preconditions: if it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the forced used is proportional, and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence.

For most of history, this concept of just war was rarely observed. The capacity of human beings to think up new ways to kill one another proved inexhaustible, as did our capacity to exempt from mercy those who look different or pray to a different God.

Wars between armies gave way to wars between nations – total wars in which the distinction between combatant and civilian became blurred. In the span of thirty years, such carnage would twice engulf this continent. And while it is hard to conceive of a cause more just than the defeat of the Third Reich and the Axis powers, World War II was a conflict in which the total number of civilians who died exceeded the number of soldiers who perished.
Terrorism has long been a tactic, but modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale.

Moreover, wars between nations have increasingly given way to wars within nations. The resurgence of ethnic or sectarian conflicts; the growth of secessionist movements, insurgencies, and failed states; have increasingly trapped civilians in unending chaos. In today's wars, many more civilians are killed than soldiers; the seeds of future conflict are sewn, economies are wrecked, civil societies torn asunder, refugees amassed, and children scarred.
...Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago – "Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones." As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life's work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak –nothing passive – nothing na├»ve – in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.
But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation... I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.
More and more, we all confront difficult questions about how to prevent the slaughter of civilians by their own government, or to stop a civil war whose violence and suffering can engulf an entire region.

I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war. Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later. That is why all responsible nations must embrace the role that militaries with a clear mandate can play to keep the peace.
Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe that the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America's commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions.

... peace is not merely the absence of visible conflict. Only a just peace based upon the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can truly be lasting.  I believe that peace is unstable where citizens are denied the right to speak freely or worship as they please; choose their own leaders or assemble without fear. Pent up grievances fester, and the suppression of tribal and religious identity can lead to violence.

... the promotion of human rights cannot be about exhortation alone. At times, it must be coupled with painstaking diplomacy. I know that engagement with repressive regimes lacks the satisfying purity of indignation. But I also know that sanctions without outreach – and condemnation without discussion – can carry forward a crippling status quo. No repressive regime can move down a new path unless it has the choice of an open door.
...we must try as best we can to balance isolation and engagement; pressure and incentives, so that human rights and dignity are advanced over time.
...a just peace includes not only civil and political rights – it must encompass economic security and opportunity. For true peace is not just freedom from fear, but freedom from want.  And that is why helping farmers feed their own people – or nations educate their children and care for the sick – is not mere charity.
Adhering to this law of love has always been the core struggle of human nature. We are fallible. We make mistakes, and fall victim to the temptations of pride, and power, and sometimes evil. Even those of us with the best intentions will at times fail to right the wrongs before us.

But we do not have to think that human nature is perfect for us to still believe that the human condition can be perfected. We do not have to live in an idealized world to still reach for those ideals that will make it a better place. The non-violence practiced by men like Gandhi and King may not have been practical or possible in every circumstance, but the love that they preached – their faith in human progress – must always be the North Star that guides us on our journey.
We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of depravation, and still strive for dignity. We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that – for that is the story of human progress; that is the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Clewiston Murder Suspect Turns Self In

Clewiston Murder May Bring Additional Arrests

CLEWISTON, FL. -- On Friday morning, December 4, 2009, at approximately 6:25 a.m. Hendry County Sheriff's Deputies responded to the area of 10th Street and Kentucky Avenue in the Harlem subdivision of Clewiston, Florida after receiving a call that someone had been shot.

(Photo: Murder Suspect Timothy Arthur Rumph) 

Once Deputies arrived on scene they immediately saw a man known to them as 35 year old Gee Gee Gary of 1220 Harlem Academy Drive lying on the ground suffering from a gunshot wound.  Medics arrived and transported him to Hendry Regional Hospital where he later died. 

Investigators with the Hendry County Sheriff's Office immediately began searching for witnesses and were able to locate one individual that saw the entire incident occur.  After speaking with several witnesses, Investigators were able to request an arrest warrant for Timothy Arthur Rumph for the charge of 2nd Degree Murder. 

On December 5, 2009, at approximately 4:45 p.m., 20 year old, Timothy Arthur Rumph turned himself in to Hendry County Deputies.  He was then placed under arrest and is currently being held in the Hendry County Jail on $250,000 Bond. 

Investigators acknowledge this is an ongoing investigation and additional arrests may be forthcoming.

Update: Trial is scheduled for May 23, 2011 at 9 a.m. in LaBelle.
Update2: The case was dismissed on January 30, 2012, and Rumph was released from jail.

Hendry Deputies 'Drug Warrant Roundup'

Eight Arrests On Drug Related Warrants

LABELLE, FL. -- On November 23, 2009, members of the Hendry County Sheriff's Office Special Operations Team conducted a county-wide warrant roundup arresting eight individuals on drug related warrants throughout Hendry county. 

The warrants stemmed from undercover drug buys and previous investigations by the Sheriff's department.  Two additional arrests were made in Highlands County and Lee County.

Those arrested were 30 yr-old Jose Gonzalez, sale and possession of cocaine, 34 yr-old Jaime Perle, cultivation and trafficking in marijuana, 42 yr-old Irenia Sariol, cultivation and trafficking in Marijuana, 45 yr-old Robert Peterson, sale and possession of cocaine, 48 yr-old Anthony Lyons, sale and possession of cocaine, 39-yr old Roberta Moxley, sale and possession of cocaine, 30 yr-old Alexander Roman, violation of probation, possession of cocaine w/intent to sell, possession of firearm by convicted felon, and 18 yr-old Brandon Mejias, Possession of cocaine and marijuana. 

Arrested in Highlands County on HCSO Warrant, was 46 yr-old Angel Martinez on charges of cultivation and trafficking in marijuana, and in Lee County, 68 yr-old Alfonso Maldonado charged with sale and possession of cocaine.

Marijuana Mail Sent To LaBelle Man

11 Pounds Marijuana Mailed From Texas To Hendry County

LABELLE, FL. On November 20, 2009, Hendry County Sheriff's Office was contacted by the U.S. Postal Service after intercepting a suspicious mail package that was later found to contain approximately 11 pounds of marijuana.  The package was sent from Alamo, Texas and addressed to a Robert Perez of Alice Street in the city of LaBelle. 

(Photo: Jose Pedro Vasquez)

On November 24, 2009, members of the Hendry Sheriff's narcotics division, special operations division along with U.S. Postal Service employees responded to the address on the package. 

An individual later identified as Jose Pedro Vasquez entered the driveway of 1191 Alice Street and got out of his vehicle.  Sheriff's deputies watched Vasquez for approximately one hour.  An undercover employee with the Postal Service, posed as a postal carrier pulled into the driveway to deliver the package.  

Before getting out of his vehicle Vasquez walked out to meet him.  After the undercover postal employee asked the man if he was Robert Perez, to which Vasquez stated he was, the package was then delivered to Vasquez.  Vasquez then placed the package inside of the vehicle he was driving and left the residence.  Sheriff�s office members followed Perez.  After witnessing him run a stop sign they initiated a traffic stop. 

Deputies were then able to verify the identity of the man, after he produced a Mexico Identification Card as Jose Pedro Vasquez.  It was then determined through a routine drivers license check that Vasquez did not have a valid Florida drivers license.  After additional questioning by authorities 33 year old Jose Pedro Vasquez was placed under arrest and charged with Possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, Possession of Marijuana over 20 grams, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and Driving without a Valid Driver's license.  

Vasquez is currently being held in the Hendry County Jail on a $31,500 bond.

Monday, December 07, 2009

110 Miles Through Hendry Farm Country

28th Annual Farm Tour Shows Rural Hendry To 300

LABELLE, FL. -- The Hendry County City-Farm Tour Council hosted hundreds of visitors Saturday for the 28th Hendry county farm tour visiting cattle ranches, citrus groves, a packing plant, a storm water treatment area, and an organic vegetable farm.

(Photo: Gene McAvoy, Hendry Agricultural Extension Director holds up some fresh vegetables at a south Hendry county packing house.)

Six busloads of people from Lee, Collier, and Hendry county were shown how agriculture affects everyone's life from the food they eat to the clothing they wear.  Agriculture in Hendry county saw nearly half billion dollars in sales last year from beef, citrus, vegetables, nurseries, sod, and sugarcane,

Citrus and vegetable growing make up most of Hendry's farm revenues, with sugarcane and beef cattle following. Cattle however take up the most Hendry county acreage of all by far, at 403,000 acres.

Tour leaders this year included Gene McAvoy, Les Baucum, Mongri Zekri, Kelly Morgan, Fritz Roka, Jack Johnson, Lindsey Wiggins, Chuck Obern and Butch Wilson.

Stops on the 110 mile round trip journey from LaBelle to Clewiston included Mobley Plant World in LaBelle, Duda Farms, Alico Ranch (one of southwest Florida largest landowners), Storm Water Treatment Area #5, Southern Gardens Citrus (owner of Florida largest contiguous citrus grove at 35,000 acres) and C&B Organic Specialty Vegetable Farm. A steak lunch was provided by the Hendry Cattlemen's Association at the Hendry County Fairgrounds in Clewiston.

One of the most interesting stops for many was Chuck Obern's C&B Farms. Obern started farming in Southwest Florida in 1986 with 10 acres and now farms over 1000 acres in the Devil's Garden area of southern Hendry. Producing 36 different vegetables including ethnic and specialties from arrugula to zucchini.

Another unique feature of the C&B Farm is a 40-acre composting operation where waste products are composted to produce high quality soil amendments to the naturally poor sandy soils.

Obern is one of a handful of family owned and operated vegetable farms in southwest Florida, and one of an even smaller number where the farmer lives on the farm. He and his wife typically work 7 days a week, 12 hours a day along with his Mexican farm workers.

At the conclusion of the tour, all had a greater appreciation of how agriculture is a vitally important part of the Hendry county economy and all left with full stomach after the great lunch, and a bag of specialty vegetables courtesy of C&B Farms.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Hit And Run In Clewiston's Harlem

Man In Critical Condition

CLEWISTON FL. -- The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating a hit and run that left pedestrian 32-year old Timothy Baulkman in critical condition Friday morning about 5:30 a.m. A 2003 Mazda sedan struck Baulkman on Harlem Academy  Avenue at 11st Street in Clewiston's Harlem subdivision.

According to FHP Trooper Travis Parks, Baulkman was walking on the paved shoulder of the road when the vehicle turned and struck him, propelling him several feet in the air. Baulkman was taken to Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers.

The hit and run vehicle was later found in Belle Glade at 1326 NW 13th Street.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Shook Murder Decision-Guilty Says Hendry Jury

Four-Day Trial Ends With 6-Member Jury Finding Guilt

LABELLE, FL. -- A five-female, one-male member jury begins deliberations at the Hendry County Courthouse in LaBelle this afternoon after hearing the State Attorney's arguments seeking a murder conviction of Joseph Shook.

After a little more than an hour, the jury found Shook guilty of the murder of his wife.

Shook was accused of murdering his wife Melissa Shook in 2007, and then burying her in a shallow grave on the Hendry-Lee county line just east of Alva, Florida. Prosecutors displayed evidence to the jury including duct tape and a shovel found at the Shook home which were said to be used by Joe Shook in the grisly murder/burial.

While Shook lived in Lee county, he was given a choice to stand trial in Hendry or Lee county. Shook only spoke once during the trial, telling the court he was not going to testify in his defense. His attorney put no defense witnesses on the stand during the trial. The state rested it's case Thursday, while the defense ended it's arguments Friday.

Jurors came in with a guilty verdict after deliberating about an hour after finishing a late afternoon lunch break. During deliberations, they had asked the judge for a magnifying glass, but the request was denied by Circuit Judge Cristine Greider.

Snake Hunters Welcome In South Florida

OK to take �big game snakes� during small-game seasons

LABELLE, FL. -- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reminds hunters that they may continue to take Burmese pythons and all other reptiles of concern within four South Florida wildlife management areas (WMAs).

An FWC executive order, which went into effect Aug. 29, gives all properly licensed and permitted hunters authority to harvest pythons and other reptiles of concern (Indian python, reticulated python, northern and southern African rock python, amethystine or scrub python, green anaconda and Nile monitor lizard) on Everglades and Francis S. Taylor, Holey Land, Rotenberger and Big Cypress WMAs during specified hunting seasons.

Besides Big Cypress WMA, small-game seasons are going on in the other three management areas, continuing through March 7.  On Big Cypress, general gun season is in, immediately followed by the area�s small-game season, which goes through Feb. 1.  In all four WMAs, only a Florida hunting license and management area permit are required to hunt reptiles of concern from now through the end of the small-game seasons.

With the exception of the small-game season in the Deep Lake Unit of Big Cypress (where only bows and muzzleloaders are allowed), hunters may use shotguns, rimfire rifles and handguns to take pythons.  Nets and snares also may be used, but no matter the method of take, all reptiles of concern must be euthanized on site.

Reptiles of concern may not be taken out of the wildlife management areas alive and must be reported to the FWC within 36 hours by calling, toll-free, 866-392-4286, or going to and selecting �Burmese pythons� in the �Quick Clicks� menu.  However, any reptile of concern taken from Big Cypress must be checked in at one of the area�s six check stations.

Hunters may do what they wish with the reptile�s skin and meat. However, according to the National Park Service, mercury testing on two dozen captured Burmese pythons in Everglades National Park revealed extraordinarily high levels of mercury in the meat - well above levels considered safe to eat in freshwater fish and alligators.

Officials estimate there are thousands of Burmese pythons in the wild in South Florida.  The FWC�s goal is to contain the spread of these pythons in the wild and prevent establishment of other reptiles of concern.  Data collected by hunters on these state-managed lands will assist in preventing their northern movement.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

LaBelle Man - Graduates Army Training

In The Service

LABELLE, FL. -- Army Pvt. Martin M. Gomez has graduated from basic infantry training at Fort Benning, Columbus, Ga.
During the nine weeks of training, the soldier received training in drill and ceremonies, weapons, map reading, tactics, military courtesy, military justice, physical fitness, first aid, and Army history, core values and traditions.  Additional training included development of basic combat skills and battlefield operations and tactics, and experiencing use of various weapons and weapons defenses available to the infantry crewman.
He is the son of Melissa Gomez of N. Oak St., LaBelle, Fla. Gomez is a 2009 graduate of LaBelle High School.