Cantonment Man Gets 10 Years In Prison On Multiple Animal Cruelty Charges

June 30, 2015

A Cantonment man convicted on multiple animal cruelty charges was  sentenced Monday to 10 years in state prison.

Randolph Hewell Rigby, 45, was found guilty June 3 of two counts of felony cruelty to animals and two counts of unlawful confinement of animals. The charges involved four different horses.

The investigation by Escambia County Animal Control officers began in response to an anonymous call about a downed horse at 452 Crowndale Court. Upon arrival, animal control officers found a deceased horse entangled in a fence.

Further inspection of the property revealed multiple emaciated and malnourished horses.  The horses were kept in an enclosure with no grass and lacked fresh food and water.  Over the next two months, several follow up inspections were conducted; little to no improvement in the condition of the property or care of the horses was observed.  Ultimately, all livestock was removed from the property and five individuals were arrested as a result of the investigation.

George Edward Kenneth Ahl, 24, Casey Tyler Ahl, 20, and Frances Rebecca Ahl, 73,  pleaded prior to trial. Each was sentenced to a year on probation and prohibited from possessing animals.  Suspect   George Washington Ahl, 76, died before his case was heard. Only Rigby chose to go to trial.

A 17-page document released by the State Attorney’s office detailed the investigation and provided numerous graphic examples of abuse investigators said they found.

Officers reported finding one horse that was dead and apparently stuck in a fence. Several horses were so malnourished that their bones were protruding, while other had hair loss and marks consistent with a condition called rain rot fungus. Many of the animals had numerous sores and wounds, according to the report. Most were malnourished, and one horse had resorted to eating feces. There was little food available for the animals.

Animal Control also located eight poodles, a doberman and five cats on the property.

One of the malnourished horses, a black Tennessee Walker named Ebony, was taken to Panhandle Equine Rescue for rehabilitation. When officers found Ebony on the property, her bones were showing, her stomach was distended and distended, and she suffered from rain rot.

Over the next several weeks, PER and volunteers worked to save  Ebony. She was the subject of several articles as PER and volunteers kept watch over her and raised funds for a sling to help her to her feet. Now, she’s back up on her own and doing well.

Pictured above: Escambia County Animal Control, the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, Escambia County Fire Rescue’s Cantonment Station and volunteers use a makeshift sling to lift Ebony, a horse seized from Crowndale Court in Cantonment. Pictured below: Ebony, was unable to get on her feet in her stall about a week after she was seized. file photos, click to enlarge.

Florida Forest Service Sends Crews To Battle Wildfire In California

June 30, 2015

Florida has sent 40 land firefighters to assist with wildfire suppression efforts in California.

“Florida Forest Service wildland firefighters are a key component and valuable asset among the national firefighting community. We are committed to protecting lives, homes and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire both at home and abroad,” said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.

Two initial-attack hand crews, consisting of 35 Florida Forest Service wildland firefighters and five firefighters from partnering agencies, traveled to California, where they will receive assignment to the highest priority wildfire. Hand crews assist with front-line firefighting and mop-up operations using hand tools such as shovels, axes and rakes to manually create a fire break or fire line around the wildfire perimeter.

“This type of work can be exhausting and hazardous due to California’s extreme terrain and intense flames. By assisting other states, our wildland firefighters will build upon their first-class training and experience to become an even stronger firefighting organization for the citizens of Florida,” said Jim Karels, State Forester.

Domestic Dispute Ends In Shooting, Suicide Near Flomaton

June 30, 2015

A family dispute turned violent Monday night just outside Flomaton, ending with a shooting and an apparent suicide, the Escambia County (AL) Sheriff’s Office said.

Deputies  received a 911 call Monday evening that someone had been shot on Old Atmore Road near Tom Shivers Road, just north of the Alabama-Florida line. Deputies arrived to find an unidentified 41-year old male suffering a gun shot wound to his shoulder, according to Escambia County (AL) Chief Deputy Mike Lambert. Deputies also learned that the alleged suspect was in the backyard of the home.

“As deputies approach the suspect, they heard a gunshot,” Lambert said. “They found the alleged suspect suffering from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.” A LifeFlight medical helicopter was dispatched. but deputies said the alleged shooter died from the apparent self-inflict gunshot wound before transport.

The shooter and apparent suicide victim was identified as 66-year old Curtis Golden of Old Atmore Road. Lambert said Golden had an ongoing domestic dispute with his wife; the couple was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday in Brewton.

The chief deputy said Golden reportedly fired from the backyard into the home in an attempt to strike his wife, but instead he struck his stepson in the shoulder. The stepson was transported to a Pensacola hospital.

Lambert said alcohol may have been a factor in the incident. file photo.

Escambia Man Gets Federal Prison For Child Porn

June 30, 2015

An Escambia County man was sentenced to prison Monday on child porn charges.

Thomas Victor Sway, 25, was sentenced to eight years in federal prison for receipt of child pornography.

At trial, the government presented evidence that, between November 2012 and May 2013, Sway received and possessed child pornography, including videos depicting images of minors less than  years of age engaged in sex acts.  Undercover law enforcement officers discovered and downloaded the pornographic files from a public file sharing network that could be traced to Sway’s computer.  After agents executed a search warrant at Sway’s residence, a forensic analysis of his hard drive revealed at least 140 video files containing images of child pornography.  Additionally, the system file history indicated a pattern of Sway using dozens of distinct search terms to locate child pornography on the internet.  Sway was convicted on April 15, 2015.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, the Pensacola Police Department, and the other agencies that are part of the Northwest Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, whose joint investigation led to the charges in this case.  It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney J. Ryan Love.

“This sentence is just one example of the hard work of our district’s prosecutors and law enforcement professionals to combat child exploitation crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Marsh.  “These cases illustrate how dangerous the internet can be, and we will continue to investigate and charge those who target children.”

“Protecting children is a top priority for HSI, and we will continue to work in partnership with other agencies, like the Pensacola Police Department and the Northwest Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, to stop the exploitation of our children,” said Susan L. McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. “It is imperative for law enforcement to protect those who cannot protect themselves.”

Rain Chance At 50 Percent Today

June 30, 2015

Here is your official North Escambia area forecast:

Tuesday: A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 89. West wind 5 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph.

Tuesday Night: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 72. Southwest wind 5 to 10 mph becoming light after midnight.

Wednesday: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 90. Light west wind becoming southwest 5 to 10 mph in the morning.

Wednesday Night: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 75. Southwest wind around 5 mph becoming calm in the evening.

Thursday: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 90. Light southwest wind increasing to 5 to 10 mph in the morning.

Thursday Night: A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 75. Southwest wind 5 to 10 mph.

Friday: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 92. Southwest wind 5 to 10 mph.

Friday Night: A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 72. Southwest wind 5 to 10 mph.

Independence Day: A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 91.

Saturday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 74.

Sunday: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 92.

Sunday Night: A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 74.

Monday: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 93.

Supreme Court Signs Off On Lethal Injection Protocol

June 30, 2015

.A sharply-divided U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge to the lethal-injection protocol used in Oklahoma and other states, opening the door for executions to resume in Florida.

In the 5-4 majority opinion issued Monday, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that Oklahoma prisoners failed to prove that the use of the drug midazolam, the first of the three-drug lethal cocktail used also used in Florida, “entails a substantial risk of severe pain.”

The petitioners also failed to offer an alternative execution method that would be less painful, Alito wrote.

The Florida Supreme Court in February halted the execution of convicted killer Jerry William Correll, saying it “must err on the side of extreme caution,” until the high court ruled on the issue. The lethal-injection protocol used in Oklahoma is nearly identical to Florida’s.

Attorney General Pam Bondi quickly filed a request with the Florida court on Monday, asking that the justices lift the stay on Correll’s execution.

“Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which cites Florida’s brief multiple times, states that the use of midazolam in our lethal injection protocol is constitutional, reaffirming that the state has been correctly administering executions,” Bondi said in a statement.

An aide to Gov. Rick Scott, who signed more death warrants in his first four years as governor than any of his predecessors, said his office “respects the court’s decision and will continue to follow the law.”

Scott’s “foremost concern is for the victims of these heinous crimes and their families,” his spokesman John Tupps said.

Lawyers for Oklahoma prisoners in the Glossip v. Gross case had argued that midazolam hydrochloride does not effectively sedate inmates during the execution process and subjects them to pain that violates the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Florida and other states began using the sedative as the first step in a three-drug execution cocktail in 2013, after previously using a drug called pentobarbital sodium. The states switched because Danish-based manufacturer Lundbeck refused to sell pentobarbital sodium directly to corrections agencies for use in executions and ordered its distributors to also stop supplying the drug for lethal-injection purposes.

“…Because some risk of pain is inherent in any method of execution, we have held that the Constitution does not require the avoidance of all risk of pain. After all, while most humans wish to die a painless death, many do not have that good fortune. Holding that the Eighth Amendment demands the elimination of essentially all risk of pain would effectively outlaw the death penalty altogether,” wrote Alito, in an opinion joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia.

But, in a harshly-worded dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued that it is essential that the first drug effectively render inmates unconscious because the following two drugs “in a tortuous manner” cause “burning, searing pain.”

Allowing the use of midazolam, Sotomayor wrote, leaves inmates “exposed to what may well be the chemical equivalent of being burned at the stake.” Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan joined Sotomayor’s dissent.

In a separate dissent Breyer went even farther, questioning the constitutionality of the death penalty altogether.

“Today’s administration of the death penalty involves three fundamental constitutional defects: (1) serious unreliability, (2) arbitrariness in application, and (3) unconscionably long delays that undermine the death penalty’s penological purpose,” Breyer wrote.

And he blasted the majority for upholding the current lethal-injection protocol in part because prisoners failed to provide a less painful option.

“…Under the Court’s new rule, it would not matter whether the State intended to use midazolam, or instead to have petitioners drawn and quartered, slowly tortured to death, or actually burned at the stake: because petitioners failed to prove the availability of sodium thiopental or pentobarbital, the State could execute them using whatever means it designated,” Breyer wrote in an opinion joined by Ginsburg.

Despite Bondi’s almost immediate attempt to get executions back on track in Florida, one lawyer with a long history of representing Death Row inmates was heartened by Monday’s ruling.

“It’s merely a failure of proof, not a statement that midazolam is OK. They’re saying that the petitioners didn’t present enough proof, which I think is an important distinction,” said Martin McClain, a lawyer representing at least 10 prisoners condemned to death. “It means that the issue isn’t dead. Other people can raise the issue and present additional evidence.”

McClain also said that Breyer’s dissent, coupled with a recent opinion in a separate death-penalty case, lays the groundwork for a broader challenge regarding the constitutionality of the death penalty.

“I’m going to get busy and figure out what to do,” he said.

Escambia Academy Names New Softball, Baseball Coaches

June 30, 2015

New baseball and softball coaches have been name at Escambia Academy outside Atmore.

Allie Park has been named the new softball coach. Park played for Charles Henderson High in Troy, AL, where she was Super 12 Player of the Year in 2005. She also played for Alabama Community College and Webster University. Her coaching experience includes Clayton High in St. Louis, MO, Hooper Academy near Montgomery and Pike Liberal Arts School in Troy, AL.

Jeffrey D. Price, Jr. has been named the new Escambia Academy baseball coach. The 2009 EA graduate red-shirted at the University of West Florida, pitched at Faulkner State and pitched at at the University of Mobile where his ERA record was 5th best all-time in school history.

Pictured: Escambia Academy softball coach Allie Park, athletic director Hugh Fountain and baseball coach Jeffrey Price Jr. Photo by Ditto Gorme for, click to enlarge.

Stuck Car Carrier Slows Highway 29 Traffic

June 30, 2015

A stuck car-carrier created minor traffic delays on Highway 29 Monday evening. The car-carrier trailer bottomed-out in the driveway of the Shell station at Highway 29 and Kingsfield Road. Photos by Andrew McKay, NewsRadio 1620 for, click to enlarge.

Blue Wahoos Drop Game, And Series, To Mississippi

June 30, 2015

Barrett Astin made a good showing in his Double-A debut for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos after getting called up from the High-A Daytona Tortugas.

He left the game after 5.1 innings of work with the game tied, 2-2, but the Mississippi Braves scored twice in the seventh inning to win the game, 4-2, over Pensacola and capture the series, 3-2, Monday at Trustmark Park.

Astin, who was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers in the fall, compiled a 4-3 record and 2.29 ERA at Daytona before moving up. On Monday, Astin gave up eight hits, walked two and struck out four and currently has a 3.38 ERA in his first start in the Southern League.

Mississippi pulled out the victory when catcher Matt Kennelly singled to center field to score left fielder Sean Godfrey to go up, 3-2. Then the Braves added another run to go ahead, 4-2, when center fielder Matt Lipka scored on a ground out by first baseman Kevin Ahrens to shortstop.

Pensacola scored first in the top of the second inning when Blue Wahoos catcher Kyle Skipworth singled and was driven in by left fielder Sean Buckley’s single to left.

Mississippi then tied the game, 1-1, in the bottom of that inning when third baseman Rio Ruiz doubled in Ahrens.

The Braves went on top, 2-1, in the third inning when Kennelly doubled and scored on a KD Kang triple, his fourth of the season, to right field.

Skipworth singled to center and scored for the second time Monday to tie the game, 2-2, in the fifth inning when second baseman Ray Chang grounded out to shortstop.

June was a good month for several Blue Wahoos, including Chang, who hit .329 in 22 games with eight RBIs.

Pensacola right fielder Jesse Winker hit two homers and knocked in eight, while batting .325 with a .415 on-base percentage. In the first series after the Southern League All-Star break, Winker went 8-19 or .421 with a homer and two RBI against Mississippi and now has a seven-game on-base streak.

Finally, first baseman Marquez Smith—who went 0-4 Monday, ending his six-game hitting streak—hit .312 and had a .384 on-base percentage in June.

Bear Hunting Permits Available In August

June 30, 2015

Permits to participate in Florida’s first bear hunt in more than 20 years will be available to licensed hunters starting August 3.

The hunt, approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission last Wednesday, begins October. 24 and will last from two to seven days, depending upon the number of bears killed. The state agency expects about 300 bears to be killed in the four regions of the state where hunting will be allowed. The state isn’t putting a limit on the number of special-use bear permit being sold, but hunters will be limited to killing a single bear during the week.

The cost for a permit is $100 for Florida residents and $300 for non-residents. The permits will be available through 11:59 p.m. on October. 23. People who purchased a Lifetime License prior to July 1, 1998 — when those license still covered bear hunting — must still obtain one of the new permits, but are exempt from the cost.

by The News Service of Florida

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