Monday, December 30, 2013

'Florida: A Sense Of Place' To Be Shown At LaBelle

LABELLE, FL. -- LaBelle Heritage Museum presents a showing of Patrick Smith's Florida: A Sense of Place at its 7 p.m. Thursday January 2, 2014 program meeting held at LaBelle City Hall, 481 West Hickpochee Avenue. 

 Museum members and guests can enjoy a trip through the Florida of the 1930's and gain a rare glimpse into the mind of the author of A Land Remembered who preserved a Florida that once was, but which never again will be. 

Admission is free, and attendees are asked to enter the rear door of City Hall directly into the Commission Chambers. Copies of this 56 minute video will be available for sale for $22 at the end of the meeting. 

Members and prospective members may also pay dues and receive 2014 membership cards.

Camper Arrested For Failure To Register As Sex Offender

LABELLE, FL. -- A 66-year old sex offender has been arrested at a southwest Florida RV campground after an investigation into the man's change of residence without notifying authorities.

Following up on information received through the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Deputy Sheriff Bonnie Weaver of the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office Sex Offender Unit, arrested 66 year old Ronald E. Jedrykowski on charges of Sex Officer Violation, Failure to Report Name or Residence Change and Violation of County Ordinance.

Deputy Weaver was contacted and did confirm that Jedrykowski had changed his address on his Florida Drivers License on November 17, 2013 but did not notify authorities in Maine of his change of residence. 

Mr. Jedrykowski registered as a sexual offender residing at 324 Youngtown Road, in Lincolnville ME. Deputy Weaver confirmed that Jedrykowski was in fact residing at Grandma’s Grove RV Park, Lot 138 in LaBelle. 

 After contacting the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office in Maine, she was told that their office had not received notice of intent to change residence to Florida from Mr. Jedrykowski; and written notice is required within 24 hours. 

Mr. Jedrykowski was requested to come to the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office for further review of the required notifications he is obligated to follow. Jedrykowski told D/S Weaver that he forgot to register in Florida after registering in Maine, and didn't give notification that he was moving to Florida.
According to Florida Statute 943.0435, Jedrykowski is required to register with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement because he has a lifetime obligation to register in the State of Maine. As a result of a conviction of Unlawful Sexual Contact he was designated a sexual offender and is subject to registration or, community or public notification, or both.

Additionally, Jedrykowski failed to comply with County Ordinance 2005-27 which states, it is unlawful for any person who is required by law to register, to establish a residence within 2500 feet of any public school or bus stop. Jedrykowski was living less than 2500 from a number of bus stops in that area.

Jedrykowski is currently being held in the Hendry County Jail on a $11,000.00 bond.

Where Will Gas Prices Go In 2014?

Average retail gasoline prices in Florida have risen 2.7 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.38/g yesterday, according to GasBuddy's daily survey of 8,237 gas outlets in Florida. This compares with the national average that has increased 4.9 cents per gallon in the last week to $3.29/gallon.

Including the change in gas prices in Florida during the past week, prices yesterday were 3.5 cents per gallon higher than the same day one year ago and are 6.4 cents per gallon lower than a month ago. The national average has increased 4.0 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 2.2 cents per gallon higher than this day one year ago.

"The sub $3/gallon gas was great while it lasted, but unfortunately it has nearly completely dried up," said Patrick DeHaan. "As of late Sunday night, zero states were seeing their averages under $3/gallon. As the New Year rolls in, this is a type of trend that we're used to seeing. The bottom is behind us and prices generally begin the New Year on a higher note, like they will again this year. The trend won't last forever though, as January and February feature generally weak demand that should limit increases and keep prices relatively moderate for the next month or two," DeHaan said.

Three Best Ways To Quit Smoking

Tobacco Free Florida Offers Free Services that May Double the Chance of Quitting
About 1.9 Million Floridians Expected To Want To Give Up Tobacco in 2014
The new year is right around the corner and now is the time to make a plan to turn a resolution to quit tobacco into reality. The Florida Department of Health’s Tobacco Free Florida program is encouraging tobacco users across the state to create a personalized quit plan with help from the state’s free and easy resources.

Using one of Tobacco Free Florida’s 3 Ways to Quit, which include the Florida Quitline, Web Coach, and in-person classes through the Florida Area Health Education Center network, may double your chances of success. Since 2007, more than 93,400 Floridians have successfully quit using one of these free services. Studies show nearly two out of three adult smokers would like to take steps toward being tobacco free.

“If you live in Florida, free evidence-based programs to help you quit tobacco are right at your fingertips,” said Tobacco Free Florida Bureau Chief Shannon Hughes. “Cutting tobacco out of your life not only vastly improves your health, but also saves money.”

Tobacco Free Florida’s resources include consultation from a certified and trained Quit Coach, as well as free FDA-approved Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) like the patch and gum, when medically appropriate. This combined approach of counseling and NRT may double or triple a tobacco user’s chance of quitting.

While quitting tobacco is difficult, it is not impossible. There are more former smokers in the state than there are current smokers. Those who have tried to quit but relapsed are encouraged to try again. Most former smokers make several attempts before quitting permanently. 5, Having a comprehensive quit plan increases the chance of success.

Tobacco Free Florida offers 3 Free & Easy Ways to Quit:

· CALL: Call the Florida Quitline at 1-877-U-CAN-NOW to speak with a Quit Coach who will help assess a user’s addiction and help create a personalized quit plan.

· CLICK: Enroll in the Web Coach®, which will help to create a web-based quit plan unique to each individual user, visit

· COME IN: Visit AHEC’s website,, to locate a local AHEC and sign up for Quit Smoking Now groupclasses.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Woman Dies After Hitting Palm Tree

Fort Myers, Fl. -- A 72-year old woman died after losing control of her vehicle on a curve, smashing into a palm tree in south Lee County, Fl.

A 2012 Lincoln, operated by Ms. Ruthann McBride, was traveling east on Slalom Course Court, just past Barefoot Ski Blvd. entered into a left turning curve and failed to negotiate the curve and drove onto the east grass shoulder.

The vehicle continued a short distance and it's left front struck a palm tree and came to final rest facing in a westerly direction. The exact time of the crash is unknown. 

Ms. McBride was pronounced deceased at the crash scene at 10:07 a.m. by paramedics with Lee County EMS.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Dodgers' Yasiel Puig Arrested - Driving 110 mph On I-75

MLB Outfielder Caught At High Speed By FHP Radar Gun
NAPLES, FL. — Los Angeles Dodgers' Yasiel Puig Valdes  was arrested after allegedly traveling over 100 miles per hour on I-75 Saturday morning.

On December 28, 2013 at approximately 9:30 AM on SR-93 (I-75) near the 99 mile marker in Collier County, the Florida Highway Patrol initiated a traffic stop on a 2013 White Mercedes for traveling at an extremely high rate of speed. The Mercedes was radar clocked at 110 mph in a posted 70 mph zone.

The driver of the Mercedes was identified by his Florida driver's license as Yasiel Puig Valdes, age 23. Mr. Puig is a Major League baseball player with the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Puig, number 66 on the Dodgers, a right fielder defected from Cuba in 2012. He signed a 7-year, $42 million contract with the team. In 2013, Puig hit .319 in 104 games with 19 home runs and 42 RBIs. He is 23 years old.

After the stop by Florida Highway Patrol, he was subsequently placed under arrest for willful and wanton reckless driving and transported to the Collier County Jail for further processing.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Panther Hunted For Relocation To More Rural Location

NAPLES, FL. -- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will redeploy traps as it continues efforts to capture a panther that has been sighted sporadically in an area of Golden Gates Estates west of Collier Boulevard (CR 951) in Collier County.

The FWC panther team, working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has been closely monitoring this area since late November, as part of an ongoing effort to relocate this panther to a more suitable, less urban habitat. 

Panther biologists have followed up on people’s reports of the panther with site visits and deployed game cameras to identify the panther’s travel routes. There has been an increase of FWC law enforcement patrols in the area, and the brochure, A guide to living with Florida panthers, has been distributed to area residents with the help of Defenders of Wildlife.

“Panthers are sometimes seen in urban areas, but these cats generally move on to more appropriate habitat,” said Kipp Frohlich, deputy director of the Division of Habitat and Species Conservation. “The FWC is assessing and acting on the best steps to protect the public, as well the best actions to ensure this panther can be safely relocated.”

The FWC is asking for the public’s help in reporting sightings of a panther in this area. People who have seen a panther, its tracks or other evidence of panther activity can call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

If you see a panther, remember to give panthers space. Florida panthers typically avoid confrontation. Make sure they have a way to escape. For more on Florida panthers, including a guide to living with Florida panthers, go to and click on the “Living with Panthers” PDF.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Crash Leaves Pedestrian Dead

Hit And Run Driver Kills Man

FORT MYERS, FL -- A 48-year old man is dead after a hit and run driver killed him at midnight Christmas Eve on McGregor Boulevard.

An unknown vehicle was traveling north on McGregor Blvd. near Kasamada Drive in Lee County. The Florida Highway Patrol says the vehicle drove upon a pedestrian that was in roadway and the front right of the vehicle struck the pedestrian.

The pedestrian, Michael J. Sasen, 48 of Fort Myers, died on scene as a result of his injuries.

The vehicle fled the scene. However, about 30 minute later, a suspect vehicle drove by the scene that had damage consistent with the hit & run vehicle. That driver was arrested on scene for DUI. His car & other evidence was collected and taken to the FHP office for further analysis. 

The investigation is ongoing to determine whether or not the suspect vehicle is the culprit in the hit & run crash.

Update: The driver is an investigator for the State's Attorney office in Lee county and has not been charged with the death at this time.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Reindeer Allowed To Enter U.S. Tonight Under Special Waiver

Fees And Inspections Waived For Reindeer For 12 Hours Tonight
The US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service today issued a movement permit to Mr. S. Claus of the North Pole, a broker with Worldwide Gifts, Unlimited. The permit will allow reindeer to enter and exit the United States between the hours of 6 PM December 24, 2013 and 6 AM December 25, 2013, through or over any northern border port.

“During this season of giving, USDA wants to do everything in its power to help Santa,” said Dr. John R. Clifford, USDA’s Chief Veterinary Officer. “We agreed to waive the normal application fees and entry inspection/overtime costs, provided he winks his eye and wishes port personnel a Merry Christmas at the time of crossing.”

APHIS also waived the normally applicable disease testing requirements, as the North Pole is recognized by APHIS as negligible risk for all livestock diseases and at a recent inspection, the reindeer were found to be healthy and able to prance and paw with each hoof.

As a condition of entry, the reindeer must be certified by Santa Claus as never having been fed anything other than hay, sugar plums, and gingerbread. The reindeer must also be individually identified with microchips or official eartag identification, and must respond to the names ‘Dasher’, ‘Dancer’, ‘Prancer’, ‘Vixen’, ‘Comet’, ‘Cupid’, ‘Donner,’ ‘Blitzen’ and ‘Rudolph’ when interacting with port personnel. 

No more than one reindeer in the group may be visibly affected by ‘Rednose Syndrome’, and upon entry, port personnel will visually inspect the reindeer to ensure they are healthy and fit for continued travel.

They will arrive pulling a wooden sleigh that has jingling bells attached and is filled with brightly-wrapped gifts. Port personnel will clean and disinfect the runners and underside of the sleigh at the time of entry.

“With these steps completed, the reindeer will continue their journey across the country and around the world, spreading holiday cheer as they go,” said Clifford.

APHIS regulates the movement of cervids, including reindeer, to protect the health of America’s livestock population. The permitting process provides assurance that only healthy animals enter the United States.

Commissioners Nix Port LaBelle Drug-Alcohol Rehab Facility

Citizens And County Commission Say Rehab Facility Is Bad Idea

MOORE HAVEN, FL -- At the request of Glades County and Hendry County citizens who reside in Port LaBelle, the Glades County Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted a resolution at it's Monday night meeting, opposing the change in zoning uses to allow industrial and religious use of the Port LaBelle Inn.

St. Mathews House, Inc. of Naples had applied last month for the change to be able to provide a drug and alcohol rehab facility at the Port LaBelle Inn. The organization has a contract to purchase the 48-room hotel subject to being able to get county permission to operate a rehab facility.

The commissioners said the described uses the St. Matthews House are applying for are not compatible with Hendry’s Comprehensive Land Use plan and Future Land Use Map.

Glades County owners of property in Port LaBelle addressed the Board last night, including Han Mouthaan, Dwayne House, Walt Ferguson and Hendry County resident Jack Zorn, who lives 50 feet from the Hendry-Glades county line. 

Chairman Donna Storter read the resolution into the record, Commissioner Echols moved to approve and Commissioner Beck seconded the motion.

Commissioner Beck commented at length about the inappropriateness of the Port LaBelle Inn location for such a facility. The Inn is sited right near the Hendry-Glades County line with its parking lot in Glades County, across the street from Port LaBelle Marina, owned by Dwayne House. House had previously made plans to eventually put housing units around the marina, now used as a pasture.

Chairman Storter requested the motion to include instructions to submit the Resolution to the Chairman of the Hendry County Local Planning Agency which will be considering the Saint Matthews House application at its January 15, 2014 meeting, and to the Chairman of the Hendry County Board of County Commissioners who will make the final decision on the application at a public meeting on January 28, 2014.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Finance Companies Sued - 331% Loan Interest Rates Alleged

Consumer Finance Companies Sued For Illegal Interest and Annual Percentage Rates
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –Attorney General Pam Bondi and Office of Financial Regulation Commissioner Drew Breakspear filed suit today against online consumer finance companies Western Sky Financial, CashCall, related companies and their owner John Paul Reddam. 

The suit alleges that the companies charged interest rates ranging from 95 percent to 169 percent and annual percentage rates from 139.13 percent to 331.38 percent to more than 6,000 Florida borrowers. 

It is alleged that Western Sky charges high origination fees for small dollar loans which results in higher annual percentage rates. These interest rates far exceed what is allowed under Florida law. The lawsuit asks the court to cancel the illegal loans, order refunds for consumers, and ban the defendants from collecting on the loans and making any future illegal loans to Florida’s consumers.

“Florida law protects consumers from outrageous interest rates that leave borrowers continually paying interest without making progress in paying off their debt,” stated Attorney General Pam Bondi. “This lawsuit is intended to protect Florida’s borrowers from these illegal interest rates."

“The OFR will continue to work tirelessly with our partners, including the Attorney General’s Office, to hold those accountable who seek to illegally separate Floridians from their hard earned dollars,” OFR Commissioner Drew J. Breakspear said. “We are committed to protecting the citizens of Florida through smart, efficient and effective regulation of the financial services industry.”

The Consumer Protection Financial Bureau filed a similar lawsuit against the companies and its owner last week for violations of the Dodd-Frank Act. Floridians who would like to file a complaint with our office can do so by visiting or by calling 1-866-9-NO-SCAM.

Follow this link to view a copy of the lawsuit:$file/WesternSky.pdf

How Low Will Gas Prices Be For Holidays?

Average retail gasoline prices in Florida have fallen 1.7 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.35/g yesterday, according to GasBuddy's daily survey of 8,237 gas outlets in Florida. This compares with the national average that has increased 2.2 cents per gallon in the last week to $3.23/gallon.

Including the change in gas prices in Florida during the past week, prices yesterday were 8.8 cents per gallon higher than the same day one year ago and are 4.7 cents per gallon lower than a month ago. The national average has decreased 2.4 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 0.9 cents per gallon lower than this day one year ago.

"Motorists hitting the road for Christmas travel are cringing as gasoline prices have picked up with the best now behind us," said Patrick DeHaan. "While prices will advance, I don't expect it to last too long- January and February generally also feature relatively low gasoline prices. And while motorists aren't looking forward to the higher prices, they may take some solace in our expectation that gasoline prices in 2014 should average lower than they will after 2013 is complete. Make no mistake- gas prices will see volatility, and there will be times when motorists will experience "motion sickness" at the pump, but that shouldn't discount that Americans will be able to spend less on a yearly basis in 2014 than they did this year," DeHaan said.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Hendry-Glades Obituaries

Billie Jo Walker Gaskins, age 75, of Venus, Florida went to rest and be with her Lord on December 18, 2013, in Lehigh Acres after a courageous 14 year battle with cancer.

Billie Jo was born March 2, 1938, to the parents of James Thomas and Linnie Belle Kirby Walker in McMinnville, TN. She met and married the love of her life, Thomas Gaskins, Jr on October 16, 1971 in Nashville, TN. She graduated from Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN. She worked for 20 years for Alico first as an administrative assistant, finally working as a Corporate Secretary. 

Billie Jo was a member of Central Church of Christ for many years. Billie Jo never met a stranger; she always made a friend anywhere she went.

Billie Jo leaves behind her loving husband of 42 years; Thomas Gaskins, Jr of Venus, two wonderful sons and their wives; Thomas Gaskins, III and his wife Jennifer of Labelle and James Gaskins and his wife Elise of Lake Placid, six of the greatest, adorable loving grandchildren anyone could ask for; Sadie, Thomas, Walker, Summer, Lily Jo and Wesley, two brothers; James Morris Walker and Larry Thomas Walker both of McMinnville, TN and a host of extended family and friends.

Celebration of Billie Jo's life will be held Saturday, December 21, 2013, at 12:00 noon in Central Church of Christ of LaBelle with Minister Steven Hildebrand officiating. Visitation will be Friday, December 20, 2013, from 6-8 p.m. in Akin-Davis Funeral Home - LaBelle. Interment will take place in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Arcadia immediately following the celebration on Saturday.

In lieu of flowers, Billie Jo's family has requested donations to the following charity organizations: Mt. Dora Christian Home 301 West 13th Avenue Mt. Dora, Florida 32757, Florida Cancer Specialist Foundation (FCS Foundation) 4371 Veronica S. Shoemaker, BLVD Fort Myers, Florida 33916, Hope Hospice -Development Office 9470 HealthPark Circle Fort Myers, Florida 33908, Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches, Inc. P.O. Box 2000 Boys Ranch, Florida 32064
Celebration Arrangements are being handled by Akin-Davis Funeral Home - LaBelle.

Kenneth Lanning, Jr, age 51, of Clewiston, passed away December 19, 2013 in Clewiston.
He was born Dec. 14, 1962 in Florence, SC, to the late Kenneth Lanning Sr.and the late Jessie Mae (Brown) Lanning.

Survivors include his sister: Donna Marie Murdock of Port Charlotte, niece: Brenda Murdock and nephew: Donovan Murdock.

Cremation Arrangements by Akin-Davis Funeral Home - LaBelle.

Memorial Service For George Albert

LABELLE, FL. -- A memorial service will be held Sunday December 29th 2013 at 10:00 AM to honor George Albert who was a long time winter visitor to Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in LaBelle. The service will be conducted by Father David Jackson at Church of the Good Shepherd at 1098 Collingswood Pkwy. The service will be followed by a pot luck luncheon.

Vahram Albert (Albertian) Sr. died June 28th, 2013. He was born on January 9, 1924 to Vahram Hagop Albertian and Caroline Francis Ross in Roslindale, MA. He had resided in South Orleans, MA in the summers and in Moorehaven, FL in the winters.

He was a World War II veteran, and at the age of 23, he was the youngest Commander in the State of Massachusetts for Post #36, Irving Adams. At the age of 26, he was a Whitehat Aide for Senator John F. Kennedy, and become Chairman of the Veterans Housing for the United States of America.

He was a member of the Disabled Veterans Association, Elks, Moose Lodge, and the American Legion. He was a graduate of Wentworth Institute of Technology. He was also a school teacher for shop and woodworking, and was always willing to lend a hand to a student.

He is survived by three sons, two daughters, a granddaughter he raised, Lori Albert Hopkins, along with 12 other grandchildren, 12 great grandchildren and two great great grandchildren. He is also survived by his best friends Jimmy Paul and Ethel Jennings. He was preceded in death by his mother Caroline Frances Ross, father, Vahram Hagop Albertian, sister, Virginia "Jenny", and brother, William.

A graveside service was held on Monday, July 8th, 2013 in Massachusetts National Cemetery, Bourne, MA.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Obama Releases 21 Criminals - Mostly Male And Mostly From South

President Obama Grants 21 Commutations and Pardons
Today President Barack Obama granted clemency to 21 individuals, consisting of eight commutations and 13 pardons, nearly all from southern states and nearly all males with crimes ranging from cocaine distribution to money laundering, fraud, and bank embezzlement.

The President granted commutations to the following eight individuals:

Clarence Aaron - Mobile, Ala.
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute cocaine; attempt to possess cocaine with intent to distribute (Southern District of Alabama)
Sentence: Life imprisonment, five years' supervised release (Dec. 10, 1993)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014
Stephanie Yvette George - Pensacola, Fla.
Offense: Conspiracy to possess cocaine base with intent to distribute (Northern District of Florida)
Sentence: Life imprisonment, ten years' supervised release (May 5, 1997)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014
Ezell Gilbert - Tampa, Fla.
Offense: Possession with intent to deliver cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute marijuana (Middle District of Florida)
Sentence: 292 months' imprisonment, five years' supervised release (Mar. 25, 1997)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to time already served
Helen R. Alexander Gray - Ty Ty, Ga.
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute cocaine base; possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (Middle District of Georgia)
Sentence: 240 months' imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release (Oct. 8, 1996)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014
Jason Hernandez - McKinney, Tex.
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances; possession with intent to distribute cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine; possession with intent to distribute a mixture of methamphetamine and cocaine hydrochloride; distribution of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a protected property; establishing a place for manufacture and distribution of controlled substances (Eastern District of Texas)
Sentence: Life imprisonment; eight years' supervised release; $5,000 fine (Oct. 2, 1998)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to 240 months (20 years)
Ricky Eugene Patterson - Fort Pierce, Fla.
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute cocaine base (Southern District of Florida)
Sentence: Life imprisonment, 10 years’ supervised release (Aug. 3, 1995)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014
Billy Ray Wheelock - Belton, Tex.
Offense: Conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of crack cocaine; possession with intent to distribute more than 5 grams of crack cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school; possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine; aiding and abetting possession with intent to distribute and distributing more than 5 grams of crack cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school (Western District of Texas)
Sentence: Life imprisonment, 10 years' supervised release, $3,000 fine (Jun. 9, 1993)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014
Reynolds Allen Wintersmith, Jr. - Rockford, Ill.
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute cocaine and cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute cocaine base (Northern District of Illinois)
Sentence: Life imprisonment, five years' supervised release, $1,000 fine (Nov. 23, 1994)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014

The President granted pardons to the following thirteen individuals:

William Ricardo Alvarez - Marietta, Ga.
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin ; conspiracy to import heroin (District of Puerto Rico)
Sentence: Time served after service of nine months' imprisonment, four years' supervised release (Apr. 30, 1997; amended Jul. 31, 1997)
Charlie Lee Davis, Jr . - Wetumpka, Ala.
Offense: Possession with intent to distribute and distribution of cocaine base; use of a minor to distribute cocaine base (Middle District of Alabama)
Sentence: 87 months' imprisonment, five years' supervised release (Mar. 21, 1995)
Ronald Eugene Greenwood - Crane, Mo.
Offense: Conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act (District of South Dakota)
Sentence: Three years' probation, conditioned on six months' home confinement and 100 hours’ community service, $5,000 restitution, $1,000 fine (Nov. 18, 1996)
Little Joe Hatch , aka Joe Hatch Sr. - Lake Placid, Fla.
Offense: Possession with intent to distribute marijuana (Southern District of Florida)
Sentence: 60 months' imprisonment, four years' supervised release (May 15, 1990)
Martin Alan Hatcher . - Foley, Ala.
Offense: Distribution and possession with intent to distribute marijuana (Southern District of Alabama)
Sentence: Five years' probation (Nov. 9, 1992)
Derek James Laliberte - Auburn, Me.
Offense: Money laundering (District of Maine)
Sentence: 18 months imprisonment, 2 years' supervised release (Oct. 2, 1992, as amended May 21, 1993)
Alfred J. Mack - Manassas, Va.
Offense: Unlawful distribution of heroin (District of Columbia Superior Court)
Sentence: 18 to 54 months' imprisonment (Apr. 5, 1982)
Robert Andrew Schindler - Goshen, Va.
Offense: Conspiracy to commit wire fraud; conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud (District of Utah)
Sentence: Three years' probation conditioned on four months' home confinement, $10,000 restitution (May 14, 1996)
Willie Shaw, Jr. - Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Offense: Armed bank robbery (District of South Carolina)
Sentence: Fifteen years' imprisonment (Aug. 7, 1974)
Kimberly Lynn Stout , formerly known as Kimberly Lynn Cooley - Bassett, Va.
Offense: Bank embezzlement; false entries in the books of a lending institution (Western District of Virginia)
Sentence: One day of imprisonment, three years' supervised release, conditioned on five months’ home detention) (Nov. 9, 1993)
Bernard Anthony Sutton, Jr. - Norfolk, Va.
Offense: Theft of personal property (Eastern District of Virginia)
Sentence: Three years' probation, $825 restitution, $500 fine (Apr. 4, 1989)
Chris DeAnn Switzer , formerly known as Chris DeAnn Rasco - Omaha, Neb.
Offense: Conspiracy to violate narcotics laws (methamphetamine) (District of Nebraska)
Sentence: Four years' probation, conditioned on six months’ home confinement and 200 hours' community service (Jun. 25, 1996)
Miles Thomas Wilson - Williamsburg, Ohio.
Offense: Mail fraud (Southern District of Ohio)
Sentence: Three years’ probation (Jul. 15, 1981)

Mass Casualties With Shooter In Mock Event This Morning

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Friday morning the Hendry Regional Medical Center participated in a drill with the Sheriff's office simulating a mass casualty event. 

The event simulated an active shooter with mass casualties, an exercise involving the students in the Clewiston High School Criminal Justice Class participating as victims.  

The Hendry County Schools including Clewiston High School, Clewiston Middle School, Eastside/Westside and Central Elementary schools also participated in a complete school lock down as a drill.

Residents and motorists in the area of Hendry Regional Medical Center were warned to be aware of a large number of emergency vehicles along with the possibility of a medical transport helicopter landing.

Santa's Elves Busy Decorating Near River Site

LABELLE, FL. -- It looks like some of Santa's elves have been busy at the old chimney near the Fort Denaud Bridge in LaBelle, Florida.

Photo courtesy Brenda Barnes

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hendry County Offices Closed Next Week

Christmas Week Closing Of Nearly All County Offices

LABELLE, FL. -- As a reminder, all Hendry County offices are closed all next week with the exception of the Clerk of Court office which is closed Tuesday and Wednesday only for the Christmas Holiday. 

If you have a birthday next week and need your drivers’ license renewed or vehicle tags you may want to do it Thursday or Friday, December 19 or 20th.

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Google Recalls Chromebook 11 Chargers For Overheating, Melting Danger

Google has recalled 145,000 Chromebook 11 power supply chargers due to the possibility of overheating and melting of the charger units.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says consumers should stop using this product unless otherwise instructed and notes it is illegal to resell or attempt to resell a recalled consumer product.

The computer’s charger can overheat and melt, posing fire and burn hazards, said a news release on Tuesday.

Consumer caontact: Google toll-free at (866) 628-1371 between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. PT seven days a week, or online at and click on the Chromebook link at the top of the page and then click on Support for more information.

This recall involves chargers that were sold with the HP Chromebook 11. The charger is black with outlet pins, measures 1¾ inches by ¾ inches, and has a 6-foot long cord with a micro-USB connector on the end. The model number of the charger is MU15-N1052-A00S, which is stamped on the face of the battery charger that has the outlet pins.

Google has received nine reports of chargers overheating and melting during use. There is one report of a small burn to a consumer and one report of minor property damage to a pillow from an overheating charger.
Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled charger for the HP Chromebook 11 and contact Google for a free replacement charger.

The computers were old at: Best Buy stores nationwide and online at,, Google Play at, and HP Shopping at from October 2013 through November 2013 and included with the Chromebook 11 which sold for about $280.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

James Mansfield Dies At 78

James R Mansfield, age 78, of Moore Haven, passed away December 9, 2013 in Fort Myers after a long illness. He was born July 25, 1935 in Burlington, NC, to the late Ernest and the late Margaret (Campbell) Mansfield. 

He was a resident of the area since 1980. He was a founding member of the Muse VFD. James was also a founding member and past president of the the LaBelle Moose Lodge. He also was a member of VFW Post#10100 and American Legion Post #130 in LaBelle.

Survivors include Phyllis Mansfield, daughters: Becky Mansfield and Jennifer Mansfield, son Rodney Hernandez, daughter in law: Brittney Kinney, brother: Darrell Mansfield, sister: Eleanor, sister in law: Rita; seven grandchildren, one great-great granddaughter and many, many friends. He was preceded in death by his son: Timmy Mansfield, brother: Ed Mansfield and sister, Ernestine Butler

Cremation Arrangements by Akin-Davis Funeral Home - LaBelle.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Drop In Gas Prices For Christmas?

Average retail gasoline prices in Florida have fallen 3.9 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.37/g yesterday, according to GasBuddy's daily survey of 8,237 gas outlets in Florida. This compares with the national average that has fallen 2.4 cents per gallon in the last week to $3.21/gallon.

Including the change in gas prices in Florida during the past week, prices yesterday were 12.8 cents per gallon higher than the same day one year ago and are 15.4 cents per gallon higher than a month ago. The national average has increased 0.7 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 3.8 cents per gallon lower than this day one year ago.

"Another downward trend in gasoline prices has emerged as motorists hit the roads in the last full week before Christmas," said Analyst Patrick DeHaan. "Historically, this is about the time of year that gasoline prices hit their yearly lows, but this time around, I have more optimism that prices may move even lower in the next few weeks. As we finish our 2014 forecast we can say that 2014 does offer some relief compared to what we'll end up seeing in terms of average in 2013, but for the time being, the next week looks to see a continued drop in gasoline prices," DeHaan said.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Air Conditioning Company Caught Scamming Customers

Alleged Abuse Of Seniors And Scamming For Unneeded Repairs

FORT MYERS, FL. -- Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has obtained an order granting a temporary injunction and asset freeze against Service Star Enterprise Inc., a Fort Myers-based air conditioning company, and its owners, Salvatore Tavolacci Jr. and Darrielle Tavolacci. 

According to a state investigation, Service Star often made unnecessary and excessive repairs, used intimidating sales practices, failed to honor requests for cancellation, used contracts that do not comply with Florida law, and in some cases demanded payment in cash from senior citizens. 

The judge's order for the injuction temporarily prohibits the defendants from engaging in air conditioning repair, requires them to preserve computer files and financial statements, and prohibits them from hiding or disposing of assets that could be used to repay affected consumers.

According to complaints received by the Attorney General’s Office, Service Star:
· Employed technicians who falsely claimed that air conditioning units needed repair or replacement when they were working correctly;
· Falsely claimed the business only accepted cash for payment;
· Failed to obtain required permits before starting work; and
· Failed to provide goods and services paid for by consumers.

Additionally, the Judge found sufficient evidence that technicians coerced senior citizens into paying cash for excessive and unnecessary repairs and replacements of their air conditioning units. The Court noted that in some cases, technicians drove elderly customers to the bank, or berated them on the cell phone in an attempt to compel them to withdraw thousands of dollars to pay for services.

“Abusing customers, including senior citizens, who trust you with their money to do an honest job is deplorable,” stated Attorney General Pam Bondi. “My office will go after any company that is scamming money from customers and violating Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.”

The State's court complaint:$file/FinalComplaintServiceStar.pdf

Panthers Invisibly Roaming Southwest Florida

NAPLES, FL. -- Collier County is panther country; take precautions says the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who want to remind residents of Collier County that they are living in a natural habitat for the Florida panther.

Florida panthers are rarely seen by people. Typically, they live in remote, undeveloped areas. But they also can live in fairly rural areas, like eastern Golden Gate Estates, and occasionally they pass through more urbanized areas where people live.

Collier County residents and visitors need to be aware of precautions they should take if they see a panther and how they can help protect panthers by slowing down on highways with panther-related speed zones. 

People also are asked to report their panther sightings online at

In recent weeks, the FWC received reports of a panther lingering in an area of the Golden Gate Estates west of Collier Boulevard (County Road 951). The area under observation is relatively small and not ideal panther habitat. The frequency of sightings of this particular panther raised concerns among panther biologists, who are attempting to capture it.

“Over the years, the FWC has monitored panthers wandering into urbanized areas, and in all of those cases the panthers were able to find their way back to better habitat,” FWC Panther Team Leader Darrell Land said. “The FWC will continue to monitor the current panther situation closely and is prepared to take any actions deemed necessary.”

If you see a panther, here are some safety tips:
Keep children close to you. Pick up small children so they don’t panic and run away.
Avoid crouching or bending over, which can make you look smaller, resembling a prey animal. Make yourself appear larger and intimidating by raising your arms and gesturing.
Give them space. Florida panthers typically avoid a confrontation. Make sure they have a way to escape.
Do not run. Running may stimulate a panther’s instinct to chase. Stand and face the animal. Make eye contact.
If attacked, fight back. Large cats usually try to bite the head or neck, so remain standing.

For more on Florida panthers, including a guide to living with Florida panthers and safe roads for people and panthers, go to

People who see an injured or dead panther should call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone. Another option is texting usage fees may apply).

Thursday, December 12, 2013

$9 Billion Fed Funds Earmarked For Orange Tree Disease

Federal officials today unveiled a stepped-up effort to combat a citrus-killing disease that’s threatening to decimate Florida’s $9 billion citrus industry.

The plan, announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and urged by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), creates the framework for a new coordinated effort between federal, state and industry officials to fight the deadly disease that has infected crops in Florida, California, Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina.

The disease, commonly known as citrus greening, produces green, bitter and misshapen fruit. According to a study done last year by the University of Florida, citrus greening has cost the state’s economy $4.5 billion and 8,000 jobs between 2006 and 2012.

Citrus greening is named for the green, misshapen, and bitter-tasting fruit it causes. While this bacterial disease poses no danger to humans or animals, it has devastated millions of acres of citrus crops throughout the United States and abroad. 

In the United States, the entire States of Florida and Georgia are under quarantine for HLB, and portions of California, Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas are also under quarantine for the disease. The U.S. Territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are under HLB quarantines as well.

“If we don’t find a cure soon, we won’t be growing oranges in Florida much longer,” Nelson said.

The Florida lawmaker, two years ago, helped secure $11 million to fund the research into finding a cure. In a teleconference with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last year, they announced the remaining $9 million of that money would be available right away and not spread out over four years as originally planned.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Hendry-Glades Obituaries

Raymond W. Ford, age 76, of West Palm Beach, passed away December 7, 2013 in West Palm Beach. He was born July 1, 1937 in Nashville, GA, to the late Lonnie Sylvester and the late Floresia (Sutton) Ford. He served in the Army from 1956 to 1959. He worked at Kelly Tractor as a parts salesman for many years.

He is survived by his wife: Ruth W.(Whitson) Ford, daughter: Glenda Hastings, grandchildren: Amanda Adams and Anjelica Hastings. He was preceded in death by his parents, brother James Lamar Ford and sister Patsy Vonadore.

A graveside service will be held Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 1:00 pm at Ridgelawn Cemetery, Clewiston. Interment will be in Ridgelawn Cemetery, Clewiston.

Mark William Syrie, age 53, of Clewiston, passed away December 7, 2013 in Clewiston.
He was born Aug. 20, 1960 in Canada, to the late Martin William Nathan and Rosetta Mae (Garden-Syrie) Charlton.

He is survived by his wife: Bridgett K.(Newsome) Syrie, mother: Rosetta Mae (Garden-Syrie) Charlton, sister: Sharon Clarke, brother: Edward Charlton, daughter: Angela Syrie, step sons, Joe and Josh; step daughters, Wendy, Summer and Jessica, twelve grandchildren, three nephews, five nieces. He was preceded in death by his son, Matthew Syrie and sister, Robin Jane Syrie.

A memorial service will be held Thursday, December 12, 2013 at 6:00 pm at Akin-Davis Funeral Home, Clewiston. In lieu of flowers donations may be made in Mark's name to Hope Hospice, 9470 HealthPark Circle, Ft. Myers, FL 33908.

Edward Kenneth Stiles, age 66, of Clewiston, passed away December 5, 2013 in Clewiston, Florida. He was born Dec. 4, 1947 in Clewiston, FL, to the late Charles Arthur and the late Daisy Mae (Sullivan) Stiles. Mr. Stiles married Linda Gann. He served during Vietnam War in the United States Navy.
Survivors include his wife: Linda (Gann) Stiles, one son: Daniel Westberry and two daughters: Shelley Stiles, Michelle Westberry, grandchildren: Chandler Stiles, Bradley Stiles, Olivia Barber, Riley Westberry, Gavin Miles, Kiszka Westberry; Brothers and Sisters-in-law, Margaret Stiles, Joann Stiles, Dennis and wife Nell Gann, Sandra and husband James Ingram, Caroline and husband Brad Keller, Rebecca and husband Bill Young.

He was Heavy Equipment Operator for United States Sugar Corporation for several years.

A Memorial service was held Monday, December 9, 2013 at 10:00 am in Evangel Assembly Of God, Clewiston with Pastor Gary Corley officiating. Inturnment will take place in Fort Denaud Cemetery at a later date.

Tafarya Williams Sought By Sheriff In Shooting

19-Year Old Shot, Shooter Reported To Be Injured

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Monday morning, December 9, 2013, at approximately 9:30 am, Hendry County Sheriff’s Office responded to the 1200 block of Harlem Gardens, Clewiston, Florida after receiving a call of a man being shot.

It was reported that the victim, 19 year old Arthur Harrington of Clewiston, Florida had been shot.

Hendry County Investigators are trying to locate 29 year old, Tafarya Deon Williams, aka Snake, Kid, Stank, Snake Kid. It was reported that Williams also received injuries and may be seeking medical attention. The shooter was reported to be wearing blue colored pants and a sleeveless white shirt.

Photo: Tayarya Deon Williams

Williams was released from Florida Department of Correction on February 25, 2013 for Aggravated Assault with Firearm and Aggravated Battery. Currently Deputies are attempting to Locate Williams for questioning. If subject is located, do not approach as Williams is considered armed and dangerous.

The victim is currently in stable condition with no life threatening injuries.

Investigators are following up on all leads. Anyone with any information is asked to contact Hendry County Detective Sergeant Kristy Herrera at 863-674-5600.

Hunger For Agriculture Information Says Public Issues Study

Residents in southwest Florida hunger for more information about the region’s agriculture, according to research by the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education.

Participants in six focus groups in the five-county region said they valued agriculture’s economic, nutritious and historical impacts on the area but need more information to address concerns over environmental and labor issues.

As the final installment of a two-part collaboration with the Gulf Citrus Growers Association, PIE Center researchers asked residents about their attitudes and perceptions of the region’s agriculture, as well as their opinions on the formation of an agricultural organization in southwest Florida and specific messages about the agricultural industry.

PIE Center Director Tracy Irani said the attitudes expressed in the focus groups mirrored the results in the PIE Center’s survey, conducted earlier this year. Respondents in Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties shared a positive outlook on the region’s agriculture but more than three-fourths of respondents said their opinions would improve if they had more information.

“Our research continually shows a widening gap between those who produce food and those who consume it,” she says. “This study, however, shows that people are truly invested and interested in agriculture, and they really want to support the industry at the local and regional level.”

Throughout the focus groups, participants discussed their desire to become more involved with agriculture, primarily by visiting farms and getting to know farmers. PIE Center researchers suggested that agricultural organizations and leaders can build consumer trust and relationships by attending and sponsoring community events and hosting families or organizations at their property.

Similarly, the focus groups uncovered an opportunity for agriculture to communicate with future generations of consumers. School gardens, farm field trips and after-school activities are all ways for agriculture to build a presence with younger consumers, according to master’s student Caroline Roper, who led the study.

“Participants don’t feel that youth are learning about agricultural production practices,” she said. “Agricultural leaders have a chance to teach them how to apply that knowledge in a practical, direct way by becoming more engaged with them.”

Participants responded favorably about the formation of an organization that would represent southwest Florida’s agriculture, saying that it could create a presence in local schools, establish quality standards and provide information about seasonality or growing practices.

PIE Center researchers also tested four specific message strategies with the focus groups to get a better understanding of participants’ interest in learning about agriculture. Roper created mock newspaper clippings and asked participants for their reactions to the headline and what type of image they would like to see with the article.

Participants had the most positive reactions to the headlines, “Get to know your farmer” and “Local families, local food, local future,” which they saw as an invitation for community members to become involved with local farmers and something that would have a direct impact on their lifestyle. Participants were least favorable of the headline, “Take a look into your food.”

The Gulf Citrus Growers Association will use the completed study to work within the local agricultural community to develop an informative campaign to strengthen the relationship between the region’s agriculture, opinion leaders and consumer interests, according to Ron Hamel, executive vice president of the Gulf Citrus Growers Association.

“This PIE Center research, including the electronic survey of more than 500 southwest Florida participants and the six ‘urban-oriented’ consumer focus groups truly provides the regional agricultural community with many key findings on which to base an effective communications and education program,” he said.

Two Arrested After Battery On Florida Highway Patrol Trooper

FORT MYERS, FL. -- Two men were arrested after midnight on Sunday December 8, after an altercation with an FHP Trooper at a gas station on U.S. 41.

At approximately 12:16 am, a Florida Highway Patrol Trooper observed a car enter the 7-11 gas station on US 41 at Littleton Road in North Fort Myers at a high rate of speed, squealing its tires.

Once in the parking lot, the driver Jose Crismatt age 22, exited his vehicle and was approached by the trooper. At this point, the driver ignored the verbal request of the trooper. In the meantime, a second vehicle, driven by Alexander Crismatt age 20, pulled into the same parking lot and exited his vehicle.

Alexander Crismatt was verbally told by the trooper not to interfere and to leave the location of the traffic stop, but Crismatt refused to comply. Both subjects then approached the trooper in an aggressive manner and a physical altercation ensured resulting in the eventual arrest of Jose Crismatt on scene. 

Alexander Crismatt fled the scene in his vehicle but later turned himself in without further incident. Jose Crismatt was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest with violence, marijuana/paraphernalia possession, and DUI. 

Alexander Crismatt was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest. Both subjects were booked into the Lee County Jail.

As a result of this incident, the trooper sustained minor injuries but was not transported to the hospital. This incident remains under investigation, said the FHP.

Gasoline Prices Still Higher Than Last Year

Average retail gasoline prices in Florida have fallen 2.5 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.41/g yesterday. This compares with the national average that has fallen 0.7 cents per gallon in the last week to $3.24/g, according to gasoline price website

Including the change in gas prices in Florida during the past week, prices yesterday were 10.6 cents per gallon higher than the same day one year ago and are 23.3 cents per gallon higher than a month ago. The national average has increased 3.9 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 10.4 cents per gallon lower than this day one year ago.

"The National Weather Service says this week begins with much of California under a 'hard freeze warning' and separate storm systems tracking across the Great Lakes region and from the Gulf Coast to the northeast, bringing snow, sleet and freezing rain from the Lower Mississippi River Valley northeastward to New England,' said Gregg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst.

"Under conditions like that, consumer demand usually declines and that often results in a nominal decrease in retail gas prices," Laskoski added. "That may be what lies ahead this week."

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Hendry-Glades Obituaries

Waylon Bruce Bass, Sr., age 77, of LaBelle, passed away December 6, 2013 at home.
He was born Jan. 1, 1936 in Glendale, FL, to the late Hubert and the late Cora Belle (Blair) Bass.

He is survived by his wife: Barbara (Carlan) Bass, two sons: Waylon Bruce Bass, Jr., Richard A. Bass (Tammy Kay), three daughters: Cynthia B. Sanders (Bill), Sandra A. Taylor (Paul), Charlotte B. Sykes (Tim), sister: Faye B. Massey, twelve grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held Sunday, December 8, 2013 at 3:00 pm at Mount Zion Primitive Baptist Church, Felda with Elder Hollis Albritton, Jr. and Pastor Preston Long officiating. Visitation will be 1 hour prior to service at Mount Zion Primitive Baptist Church, Felda, FL.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations be sent to Hope Hospice, 9470 HealthPark Circle, Fort Myers, FL 33908

Oliver Thomas Murray, age 90, of Fort Denaud, passed away December 5, 2013 in Fort Denaud. He was born Mar. 25, 1923 in Olga to the late Earl Randolph and the late Ruth Mildred (Jones) Murray. He served in the Navy during WWII. .

Survivors include his wife: Betty Browning Murray, sons: Gerald Wayne (Donna L.) Murray, William Darrell Murray, Rodney E. (Sonya) Murray, Don L. (Michelle) Murray and Oliver Boyd Murray, sister: Helen Murray Williams of Florence, AL nine grandchildren, seventeen great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild. He was also survived by his cousin: Hank Jones and numerous nieces and nephews.

Funeral services will be held Monday, December 9, 2013, 2:00 pm at Community Harvest Worship Center in LaBelle with Pastor L. W. Howard and Pastor Don L. Murray officiating. Interment will follow at Fort Denaud Cemetery in LaBelle. Visitation will be Monday from 1:00 p.m. until time of service at the Community Harvest Worship Center in LaBelle.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Florida Baptist Children's Homes or Eastside Baptist Church Mission Fund.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Veterans Get New Cost Of Living Raise Starting In January

New Rates for Compensation and Pension Benefits in 2014 - $2,858 For Disability
Veterans, their families and survivors receiving disability compensation and pension benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs will receive a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase in their monthly payments beginning Jan. 1, 2014. 

For Veterans without dependents, the new compensation rates will range from $130.94 monthly for a disability rated at 10 percent to $2,858.24 monthly for 100 percent. The full rates are available on the Internet at

The COLA increase also applies to disability and death pension recipients, survivors receiving dependency and indemnity compensation, disabled Veterans receiving automobile and clothing allowances, and other benefits.

For Veterans and separating Servicemembers who plan to file an electronic disability claim, VA urges them to use the joint DoD/VA online portal, eBenefits. RegisteredeBenefits users with a premium account can file a claim online, track the status, and access a variety of other benefits, including pension, education, health care, home loan eligibility, and vocational rehabilitation and employment programs.

For more information about VA benefits, visit, or call 1-800-827-1000.

How Your Taxes Compare To Other U.S. Counties

Surprising Results In Property And Local Tax Survey

A new study by the Brookings Institution says the mix of state and local taxes varies significantly across states, depending on their economic activities, physical characteristics, and policy choices. 

An interactive map presents an overview of residential property taxes in the U.S. and recent trends in aggregate property tax revenues at the county level. Most counties levy property taxes that are less than $1,000 per homeowner and below 1% of house value.

Interactive Map

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Free Tai Chi For Better Balance Workshop

12-Week Class - Now Registering For January 7 Start

LABELLE, FL. -- A Tai Chi "Moving for Better Balance Workshop" will be given in LaBelle at the L.J. Nobles Senior Hope Connections Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. starting January 7, 2014.

(Photo: Participants of 12-week Tai Chi Workshop in April, 2013)

The course is based on traditional Chinese Tai Ji Quan exercise, the world's most popular form of exercise with 80 million practicing daily, promoting better balance and strength.

Tai Ji Quan For Better Balance (also popularly known as Tai Chi) was developed by Dr. Fuzhong Li of the Oregon Research Institute in Eugene, Oregon and has been recognized by the Center For Disease Control as an effective exercise course for preventing falls in older adults.

Pre-registration is required for this free 12-week class designed for adults 50 and over to help assist with balance and movement. This is a basic beginner 8-movement Tai Chi falls prevention workshop. Participants must be willing to conduct a pre and post "balance" test.

There is no cost to participants but space is limited to 15 in the class. Funding is provided by an Older Adult Falls Prevention Mini Grant through the Florida Department of Health.


Elderly Motorcyclists Injured After Hitting A Deer

MANATEE COUNTY, FL. -- Two people were seriously injured in the early morning hours Thursday after the Harley-Davidson motorcycle on which they were riding hit a deer.

Curtis B. Jackson, 65 and Shirley E. Jackson, 60, both of Avon Park, Fl. were eastbound on State Road 64 about 3 a.m. Thursday morning when a deer attempted to cross the road. The motorcycle hit the deer, overturned, then slid along the roadway 316 feet.

Both Jacksons were ejected from the cycle and neither was wearing a helmet according to FHP Trooper Barbara Ehrhart. They are in serious condition at Blake Medical Center. No charges have been filed.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Hendry-Glades Obituaries

Thomas James Walker, age 64, of Clewiston, passed away November 30, 2013 in Loxahatchee.

He was born May 10, 1949 in Canton, OH, to Walter and Lois (Cummins) Walker. Mr. Walker married Nancy Lott He proudly served his country during the Vietnam War in the Marine Corps. 

He worked as a policeman in Belle Glade for 10 years leaving the department as a Sergeant, and then later working for Southern Gardens Cirtus Production Company for twenty years. He was a member of the Elks Lodge of Clewiston.

Survivors include his loving wife: Nancy (Lott) Walker; parents; Walter and Lois Walker, three daughters: Lisa Crumb and husband Greg, Lorie Potts and husband Timmy, Leslie Dyess and husband Travis, two brothers: Doug Walker and wife Carol, Kim Walker and wife Suzie, seven grandchildren and numerous other family members and many friends.

Gathering of friends and family will held on Thursday, December 5, 2013 from 6-8 p.m. in the Akin-Davis Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, the family of Thomas suggests donations to your favorite charity in memory of him.
Sandra Lidie Howard, 68, of LaBelle passed away in her sleep on Thanksgiving evening. 

Born January 21st, 1945 in Pennsylvania, Sandra was a devoted wife, mother and grandmother. Sandra graduated from Delhaas High School in June of 1963. After graduating, Sandra took on the responsibility of raising her siblings until they were of age. 

Sandra married Jerry Wendell Howard and moved to Florida, where they proceeded to raise a family. After more than a decade of living in Florida, Sandra was offered a job working for the Bucks County Court system in Pennsylvania. The family relocated to New Jersey and eventually, Bucks County, PA. 

After her retirement from the Court House in 2011, Sandra and Jerry moved back to LaBelle, FL.
Sandra loved reading, shopping and artwork depicting rural scenery from Pennsylvania. She enjoyed site seeing, particularly places of historical and cultural significance. Font Hill, the Mercer Museum and the Tile Works of Doylestown, PA were favorite attractions of hers.
Sandra especially enjoyed spending quality time with her grandchildren. Whenever her children needed help of any kind from her, she was always there to lend a hand. When she was not physically with her daughters, she kept in constant contact with them by phone. She was never unavailable when she was needed.
Sandra was a loyal friend and maintained lifelong friendships. She was a happy, outspoken person who identified strongly with her Irish heritage.
She is survived by her loving husband Jerry, daughters Michelle (Keppel) and Jeriann, son George grandchildren Jason, Maia, Orion and Angelina, and her siblings Helena, Alex, Sue, Evelyn, Debbie, Celeste, and Teresa.
Service will be held Wednesday December 4, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. at the Caloosa Baptist Church in LaBelle, FL. A life celebration will follow at the Howard home at 12:00 noon.
In lieu of flowers the family has requested donations be made in her name to the Caloosa Baptist Church 550 Hickpoochee Ave./Highway 80 Labelle, Florida 33935.

Pastor David Alan McClusky, age 60, of Clewiston, passed away November 29, 2013 in Loxahatchee.

He was born Aug. 20, 1953 in Pontiac, MI, to the late Danny Denzil and the late Donna Lou (Merchant) McClusky and raised by his grandmother. Pastor McClusky married Lydia L. Leidy March 17, 1975 at Pontiac, Michigan; she survives.

Pastor David was an instructor in the 1970s in Michigan with the Emergency Medical Technician Education Program for many years. He and Lydia moved to Florida to make their home, where he worked for Belle Glade Hospital for many years and currently working for Hendry Regional Medical Center. 

David was also a pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Clewiston from 2007 to present. He was a CPR instructor in the Clewiston area for many years.

Survivors include his loving wife: Lydia L. (Leidy) McClusky and one son: Thomas H. McClusky and his wife Chelsea of Wake Forrest, North Carolina and many other family members and close friends. Pastor David was preceded in death by his son: Daniel in 1992.

Funeral services will be held Thursday, December 5, 2013 at 11:00 am at Calvary Baptist Church, Clewiston with his son; Mr. Thomas McClusky officiating. Interment will be in Ridgelawn Cemetery, Clewiston. Visitation is Wednesday from 6-8 p.m. at Akin-Davis Funeral Home, Clewiston, FL.

In lieu of flowers, family would like donations to be made to the American Cancer Society or the American Arthritis Foundation.

New Recreational Wetland Areas Open To Public In South Florida

CLEWISTON, FL. --  In a continuing effort to increase access to public lands, the South Florida Water Management District has opened Stormwater Treatment Area 5/6 (STA-5/6) in southeastern Hendry County to the public for expanded recreation. 

Visitors to the wetland will arrive to a new parking area and trailhead with restrooms and an educational kiosk and a picnic shelter farther into the site.

The vast wetland that cleans Everglades-bound water is already popular with bird watchers and hunters during organized activities with District partners such as the Hendry-Glades Audubon Society. Now, large portions of the approximately 16,000-acre area will be open to the general public for activities such as hiking, biking and wildlife viewing.

“A remarkable diversity of birds has already made this water quality facility a renowned recreational area,” said SFWMD Executive Director Blake Guillory. “Increasing access provides new opportunities for the public to enjoy South Florida’s unique slice of nature.”

Outdoor enthusiasts can walk or ride bicycles along levees in the STA, framed by an array of wading birds, alligators and aquatic life. Existing features at the site include a boardwalk built for disabled veterans and residents.

“This is something that has been needed for years, and to see it come together is wonderful,” said Hendry County Commission Chairman Karson Turner, who also serves on the SFWMD Water Resources Advisory Commission (WRAC). “Now, not only will the thousands of visitors we have come to this area be able to experience STA-5/6 in a more comfortable manner, but it will allow our local population to become more acquainted with this area and experience this facility in a more tangible way.”

The District has steadily increased access to the site south of Clewiston, with the first organized bird-watching program beginning in 2005 with a partnership with the Hendry-Glades Audubon Society. To date, Audubon volunteers, in coordination with the District, have hosted more than 6,700 bird watchers and photographers from across the globe on 183 individual tours at the site.

Since 2002, the District’s partners at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have led a series of organized waterfowl and alligator hunts at this wetland.

Hours of Operation
· Sunrise to sunset on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
· The area will be closed to the general public on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for wetland management purposes.
· The area will be closed on Sundays starting the Sunday before Thanksgiving until the first Sunday in February to allow for hunting activities.

Throughout South Florida, the District provides recreational access to its public lands while continuing to manage them to support environmental restoration, water supply, water quality and flood control missions.

At present, the District owns approximately 621,000 acres of land that are open to the public. Many of these properties are in their natural state or have enhancements such as picnic tables, informational kiosks, primitive campsites and hiking trails.

Museum Meeting Features Jane Lofton Gourley

Jayne Lofton Gourley, Captain Forrey's youngest granddaughter, will present a program on one of LaBelle's major "movers and shakers" from during the first quarter of the 20th Century at the December meeting of the LaBelle Heritage Museum. 

M. E. Forrey was a Spanish American War veteran who came to LaBelle as captain of a dredge boat around 1909, married a local "belle", became a successful businessman who traded with the Seminoles, served on the Town Council and later the Hendry County Commission, and organized the LaBelle Chautauqua in 1922. 

Jayne says she has unearthed information that was not available to her first cousin Geraldine Burchard Nobles, Ph D, when she wrote her scholarly paper on M E Forrey some 30 years ago.

The rear door to the LaBelle City Hall Commission Chambers at 481 West Hickpochee Avenue (State Road 80) will open shortly after 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 5, for LaBelle Heritage Museum's monthly program meeting that starts at 7 o'clock. 

The meeting is open to the public. Members may renew their dues for 2014 and receive new membership cards, and we will also welcome new members who want to support LaBelle Heritage Museum and our endeavors to keep LaBelle's rich heritage alive for long time and new full and part-time residents as well as the interested traveler, too.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Holiday Traditions For Florida Game Hunters

December filled with holiday hunting traditions

by Tony Young
There’s finally a chill and certain festiveness in the air as most of us try to take time off from work to enjoy spending quality time with family and friends and reflect on the passing year. Children will be out of school on winter break soon, and while the holiday season is upon us, so are several traditional hunting opportunities.

The second phase of waterfowl and coot season comes in statewide Dec. 7 and runs through Jan. 26. In addition to the usual hunting license and permit requirements, duck hunters also must have a Florida waterfowl permit ($5) and a federal duck stamp ($15).

The daily bag limit on ducks is six, but you need to know your ducks before you pull the trigger, because there are different daily limits for each species. For instance, within the six-bird limit there may be only one black duck, one mottled duck and one fulvous whistling-duck.

Only two of your six-bird limit may be canvasbacks, pintails, redheads or scaup, and three may be wood ducks. And you may have no more than four scoters or four mallards (of which only two may be female) in your bag. All other species of ducks can be taken up to the six-bird limit, except harlequin ducks.

The daily limit on coots is 15, and there’s a five-bird limit on mergansers, only two of which may be hooded.

When hunting waterfowl, hunters may use only nontoxic shotgun shells. Only iron (steel), bismuth-tin and various tungsten-alloys are permissible.

For something different, try woodcock hunting. Woodcock season again runs Dec. 18 – Jan. 31. Woodcocks are excellent game birds because they hold well for pointing bird dogs and provide a challenging shot when flushed. The daily bag limit is three.

The third phase of mourning and white-winged dove season opens Dec. 14 and runs through Jan. 12. The daily bag limit is 15 birds.

From November on, the shooting hours for all migratory birds are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. However, you must get a no-cost migratory bird permit where you purchase your hunting license before you hunt any of these birds.

The only firearm you can use to hunt migratory game birds is a shotgun, no larger than 10-gauge. Shotguns must be plugged to a three-shell capacity (magazine and chamber combined). Bows also are legal.

Retrievers and bird dogs can be useful in hunting migratory game birds. Artificial decoys and manual or mouth-operated bird calls also are legal and essential gear for duck hunters.

You may hunt migratory game birds over an agricultural field if the crop was planted by regular agricultural methods. However, don’t even think about “sweetening” the field by scattering agricultural products over it – or anywhere near it – or you could wind up in serious trouble. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t the one who scattered the bait. If you knew or should have known that such bait was present, you’re accountable under federal law.

Some other things you can’t do while hunting migratory game birds include using rifles, pistols, crossbows, traps, snares, nets, sinkboxes, swivel guns, punt guns, battery guns, machine guns, fish hooks, poisons, drugs, explosive substances, live decoys and recorded bird calls, sounds or electrically amplified bird-call imitations. It is also against the law to shoot from a moving automobile or boat and herd or drive birds with vehicles or vessels.

Bobcat and otter hunting season always runs Dec. 1 – March 1, and there’s no daily bag or season limit on either species.

Like foxes, bobcats may be chased year-round with dogs, but possessing firearms during the closed season, between March 2 and Nov. 30, is prohibited. On a few wildlife management areas, bobcats and otters may not be taken, so please consult the specific area brochure before you hunt.

December has the hunting opportunities you’re looking for, whether you are upland-bird hunting with friends and family, shooting ducks on the pond with your favorite lab or taking that big cat as he slips up behind an unsuspecting fawn.

Here’s wishing you happy holidays and a successful hunting season. If you can, remember to introduce someone new to our great sport. As always, have fun, hunt safely and ethically, and we’ll see you in the woods!

Tony Young is the media relations coordinator for the FWC’s Division of Hunting and Game Management. You can reach him with questions about hunting at

How High Will Holiday Gas Prices Reach?

Analyst Predicts Declining Price - But Will He Be Correct?

Average retail gasoline prices in Florida have risen 1.3 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.44/g yesterday, according to GasBuddy's daily survey of 8,237 gas outlets in Florida. This compares with the national average that has fallen 1.4 cents per gallon in the last week to $3.25/gallon.

Including the change in gas prices in Florida during the past week, prices yesterday were 9.4 cents per gallon higher than the same day one year ago and are 21.7 cents per gallon higher than a month ago. The national average has decreased 1.3 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 14.2 cents per gallon lower than this day one year ago.

How Accurate Will Analyst Prediction Be This Holiday Season?
"With the Thanksgiving behind us it appears that a nominal decline in retail gasoline prices will ring in the first week of December for most parts of the country," said Gregg Laskoski. "With the government's report of healthy fuel inventories and U.S. refinery output reaching its highest level since early October, the savings at the pump is coming just in time," Laskoski added.

Tyler Beck Presenting Bird Habitat Program At Museum

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Learn about habitat management and restoration work being conducted on Lake Okeechobee at the Clewiston Museum's free December program.

FWC Biologist, Tyler Beck will present an informative program “Monitoring the Bird Response to Lake Okeechobee FWC’s Habitat Management and Restoration” at 7 p.m. on Monday December 9 at the Clewiston Museum located at 109 Central Avenue Clewiston, Florida (across the street from The Clewiston Inn). Everyone is invited to attend this free program hosted by Hendry-Glades Audubon.

Tyler Beck grew up in Lake Placid and has a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Florida Gulf Coast University and a Master’s degree from Florida Atlantic University. His thesis work focused on the unique bird communities of the Stormwater Treatment Areas. 

He also worked with wading birds in the Everglades and Scrub Jays while doing an internship at Archbold Biological Station. Currently, Tyler is a Biologist for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in the Aquatic Habitat Restoration and Enhancement Subsection. His group is responsible for doing restoration and habitat management on Lake Okeechobee and nearby wetlands.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Motorcyclist Dead After Crash

Fort Myers Cyclist Dead In Crash

ZOLFO SPRINGS, FL. -- 44 year old Matthew Miranda of Fort Myers was traveling eastbound on Sweetwater Road, Hardee County Road 634 about 11:42 a.m. Sunday when his 2011 Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle traveled into a left hand curve.

For an unknown reason, Miranda lost control and traveled onto the southern grass shoulder and overturned.

He was ejected and expired on scene from injuries received in this crash.

The motorcycle came to final rest on its right side facing in a westerly direction on the southern shoulder. FHP Trooper Cpl. D. Brunner said it is unknown at this time if alcohol was factor. Miranda was wearing a helmet.