Video Released: Molino Pharmacy Burglarized

December 30, 2015

Scott’s Pharmacy in Molino was burglarized early Wednesday morning.

The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office responded to an alarm at the Highway 29 business about 3:30 a.m. to find the glass front door had been smashed in. Surveillance video showed two people, believed to be males, entering the building and putting prescription medications into a trash can, according to Amber Southard, spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office. She said about $41,000 worth of medications were stolen.

Pharmacist Ron Scott said the suspects were completely covered-up by clothing and gloves, and there was no description of them available.

(The surveillance video is at the top of this page. If you do not see it, it is because your home, school or work firewall is blocking YouTube videos)

Anyone with information on the burglary is asked to call the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office at (850) 436-9620 or Crime Stoppers at (850) 433-STOP.

Pictured: Scott’s Pharmacy in Molino following a burglary early Wednesday morning. photos, click to enlarge.

State To Seek Death Penalty In Cantonment Double Murder

December 30, 2015

An Escambia County Jury has indicted a Cantonment man for a double murder earlier this month on Jacks Branch Road.

Chad Mark Fontenot, 45,  was indicted on two counts of first degree murder in the death of Kim Boswell and Wendell Nichols. They were found shot to death at Boswell’s home on Jack’s Branch Road on December 13. Fontenot is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges on Thursday. Prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty in the case.

After receiving a 911 call on December 13 about 8:15 p.m. from Fontenot reporting the shooting, deputies arrived at the home in the 900 block of Jacks Branch Road to find Fontenot standing the garage where he was taken into custody without incident.

Inside the home, deputies discovered the bodies of Wendell Dwayne Nichols, age 50 of Cantonment, on the living room couch and Kim M. Boswell, age 46 of Cantonment, in a bedroom. Both were pronounced deceased at the scene.

Fontenot was transported to the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office to be interviewed after telling he deputies that he knew what he did and was willing to cooperate, according to an arrest report. He requested a lawyer once at the Sheriff’s Office, ending the interview.

Nichols’ girlfriend told deputies that she had been dating him for about two weeks and he was living with Boswell while he recuperating from a recent injury. The witness said Boswell and Fontenot were in a relationship, but they were constantly arguing and that Fontenot was very controlling and aggressive with Boswell. Nichols’ girlfriend said she received a text from him about 4 p.m. saying that he was sick of hearing Boswell and Fontenot argue and that he wished he had never moved in.

Nichols’  girlfriend called him at 8 p.m. and spoke for him for just under eight minutes. She told investigators that she heard a loud bang, a woman screaming and then the phone disconnected. She attempted to call Nichols and Boswell several times without success.

When investigators searched the home, they found a revolver sitting on top of  freezer in the garage. The revolver contained four spent casings and five unspent casings, according to an arrest report.

Fontenot remains in the Escambia County Jail without bond. photos, click to enlarge.

Showers, Thunderstorms Today, Tonight

December 30, 2015

Here is your official North Escambia area forecast:

Wednesday: Showers and possibly a thunderstorm. High near 68. Southwest wind around 5 mph becoming north in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 90%.

Wednesday Night: Showers and possibly a thunderstorm. Low around 55. North wind around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%.

Thursday: Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 62. North wind 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.

Thursday Night: Showers likely. Cloudy, with a low around 46. North wind 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.

New Year’s Day: Showers likely. Cloudy, with a high near 53. North wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.

Friday Night: Showers likely, mainly before 7pm. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 39. North wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.

Saturday: A 20 percent chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 52. North wind around 10 mph.

Saturday Night: A 20 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 37. North wind 5 to 10 mph.

Sunday: A 20 percent chance of showers before 7am. Partly sunny, with a high near 54.

Sunday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 36.

Monday: Sunny, with a high near 58.

Monday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 38.

Tuesday: Sunny, with a high near 60.

Ninth Red Bulb Placed On Fire Safety Wreath

December 30, 2015

The ninth green bulb has been replaced for the “Keep the Wreath Green” fire safety campaign after Escambia County Fire Rescue recently responded to a fire in the 3500 block of Muldoon Road.

The first 911 call was received Monday at 4:05 p.m., with on-site crews reporting that the home was full of smoke. The fire was extinguished upon arrival of on-site crews, and it was determined that the incident was caused due to an electrical malfunction of a television. Escambia County Fire Rescue reminds citizens to make sure they do not overload electrical outlets or circuits, which can result in a safety hazard.

The “Keep the Wreath Green” fire safety campaign is a collaborative initiative with City of Pensacola and Santa Rosa County to promote fire safety during the month of December. During the month-long campaign, five-foot wreaths will be on display at 23 different county fire stations. Every time firefighters respond to a residential fire, a green light bulb will be replaced with a red one to remind citizens of the dangers posed by holiday decorations. file photo, click to enlarge.

Brothers Indicted For Motel Murder

December 30, 2015

State Attorney Bill Eddins announced Tuesday that an Escambia County Grand Jury indicted Daniel Lee Durning, 28, and Aaron Lee Durning, 34, for first degree murder in the death of 57-year old Lisa Barberi.

Her body was found dead on November 22 at the Quality Inn on New Warrington Road.  An investigation determined that Barberi was strangled to death, according to the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.

The Durning brothers will be returned to Escambia County to face charges of first degree premeditated murder.
The brothers will be arraigned Thursday.

Flood Warnings For Perdido, Escambia Rivers; Big Escambia Creek Down

December 30, 2015

A flood warning continues for the Escambia River at Century until further notice. Early Wednesday the river was at 19.94 feet. Minor flooding is occurring; flood stage is 17 feet. The river will continue rising to near 21.8 feet by Thursday morning then begin falling. At 19.5 feet, flooding of farm and pasture lands will gradually subside as the river level drops, but some flooding will continue the next several days.

The flood warning continues for the Perdido River at Barrineau Park. Early Wednesday, the stage was 6.9 feet. Flooding was not occurring but is forecast. Flood stage is 13 feet. The river will rise above flood stage on Friday evening and continue rising to a stage of 15.9 feet by Saturday evening then begin falling.

There are no flood warnings for the Big Escambia Creek at Flomaton. The creek was at 7.08 feet Wednesday morning. Flood stage is 14 feet; the creek is forecast to reach 12 feet by early Friday.

Pictured top: The Escambia River out of its banks and blocking access to Fischer’s Landing in Century on Tuesday. Pictured below: Big Escambia Creek was at about 14.5 feet Christmas Day (at the level of the black on the pictured power pole) but

ECUA Announces New Year’s Holiday Schedule

December 30, 2015

ECUA offices will be closed on Friday, January 1, 2016, in observance of the New Year’s holiday.

Residential Customers: Garbage, Yard Trash & Recycling Services

• Friday pick-ups will be on Saturday

• Please place real wreaths and Christmas trees, free of stands and decorations, at the curb for pick-up with regular yard waste collection.

Commercial Customers: Dumpster Services
• Friday pick-ups will be on Saturday

Residential Garbage, Yard Trash &Recycling Services

• No garbage, yard trash or recycling collection on Jan. 1.

• Garbage and yard trash will be collected on the next normally scheduled collection day for those routes (Tuesday).

• Please place real wreaths and Christmas trees, free of stands and decorations, at the curb for pick-up with regular yard waste collection.

• Recycling collections scheduled for Jan. 1 will be collected on Saturday, Jan. 2.
All other holiday week collections will remain on normal schedule.  Customers may call ECUA Customer Service at (850) 476-0480, if they require further information.

2015 In Photos: March

December 30, 2015

Today, we continue our look back at the year 2015 in photos with a look at March.

The Blue Angels soar over Pensacola Beach the last Sunday afternoon in March.

Vietnam veterans were recognized during a National Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home Day ceremony in Atmore.

The Special Olympics were held at Tate High School.

The Special Olympics were held at Tate High School.

Demolition of the old Ernest Ward Middle School building neared completion.

Construction activities began in March to replace a 75-year old Highway 97 bridge over Little Pine Barren Creek in Walnut Hill.

Dozens were injured and two people were killed when a commercial plane crashed into Pensacola Bay — all part of a emergency drill scenario that involved a long list of emergency response agencies.

The 2015 Law Enforcement Torch Run in support of Florida Special Olympics began in Century.

Northview’s junior varsity hosted West Florida.

March saw Opening Day ceremonies at the Molino Ballpark.

Molino Park Elementary School held its annual Arts Day, with the students spending the day immersed in a variety of arts.

Northview beat Chipley.

The second annual Branden Penegar Memorial Car Show was held in March at the Gonzalez United Methodist Church.

Elementary students learned about agriculture during the annual Northview High School FFA “Fresh From Florida” program.

Tate High students created a lip dub video.

The Northview Chiefs held their season-opening track meet Tuesday in Bratt.

Turtles on Jernigan’s Lake lined logs  to enjoy the warm sunshine. Jernigan’s Lake, sometimes called Wiggin’s Lake, is located just east of Century off the Escambia River.

A Century resident escaped injury  when her own SUV came crashing into her house after been slammed by a sleepy driver.

Destiny Cleckler, 13, was named Miss Ernest Ward Middle School  in a “Night in Holleywood” pageant at the school.

Northview defeated Holmes County.

The Town of Century opened a new grant funded playground at Showalter Park in Century.

Ten potential applicants attended an organizational meeting to learn about the $25,000 Century Business Challenge.

A March NorthEscambia sunset.

Century Mayor Freddie McCall presented a personal $50 check to the winner of the town’s recent slogan contest. Josie Leonard of Milton, a Northview High School graduate, submitted the winning “A Century that lasts forever” slogan.

Hundreds of people attended the 41st Annual Walnut Hill Ruritan Club Farm Equipment Auction in Walnut Hill. photos, click to enlarge.

Bill Seeks To Preserve Bear Habitat, Reduce Conflicts

December 30, 2015

Pointing to a lack of coordination between agencies, House Minority Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, filed a bill Tuesday designed to protect black-bear habitat while reducing conflicts between bears and humans.

The bill is filed for the 2016 legislative session and is identical to a measure  filed earlier by Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando. The bills came after the state held a controversial bear-hunting season this fall and amid concerns about potentially dangerous interactions between bears and humans in residential areas.

The proposal points to the roles of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in managing wildlife and state lands.

“Both state forests and state parks constitute prime habitat for the Florida black bear,” the proposal says. “The Legislature also finds that there has been a lack of interagency coordination to preserve the habitat for the Florida black bear. This lack of coordination has resulted in an increase in human-bear conflicts.”

The proposal, in part, would take steps such as changing schedules for controlled burns in state forests and state parks that include bear habitats. The changes would be aimed at allowing the growth of oak trees, saw palmettos and other berry-producing plants that provide food for black bears.

Also, the proposal would create a state account with at least $50 million to help local governments buy bear-resistant garbage containers. Cities and counties in bear-prone areas would be able to borrow money from the account to buy and distribute the containers to all residents in the areas.

by The News Service of Florida

Prosecuting Juveniles As Adults Draws Legislative Debate

December 30, 2015

Bills are moving in the House and Senate that would limit the ability of Florida prosecutors to charge juvenile offenders as adults, a legal practice known as “direct file.”

Each measure has passed one committee, and they could be on a collision course — turning on the question of how much discretion prosecutors should have in such cases.

Opponents of direct file point to a 2014 report by Human Rights Watch that found Florida transfers more juveniles to adult courts than any other state. The report also found that between 2009 and 2014, more than 60 percent of the roughly 12,000 juveniles who were transferred to Florida’s adult courts had been charged with non-violent crimes.

A coalition of opponents is pushing a measure — SB 314 by Senate Judiciary Chairman Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami — that would require judges to sign off on juvenile-to-adult court transfers. The bills are filed for the 2016 legislative session, which starts Jan. 12.

“Due process is the hallmark of our justice system, and I think that there has to be checks and balances,” said Wansley Walters, a former secretary of the state Department of Juvenile Justice and a backer of the Senate bill. “And I absolutely believe that our society has to have that with children.”

But supporters of direct file say it works and that it is necessary for public safety. They point to the state’s crime rate, which is at a 44-year low. Juvenile arrests statewide dropped 4 percent for fiscal year 2014-2015 — for a total decline of 32 percent over the past five years.

“We don’t direct-file on anybody but dangerous people,” said Tallahassee-based State Attorney Willie Meggs, whose office prosecutes cases in six counties. “It gives us the ability to have jurisdiction over that person for a much, much longer period of time. … If we direct-file on them, and get them into the adult system, then they’re treated as adults, and you can have them on probation for the rest of their life — if it is necessary.”

About 9 percent of the state’s juvenile offenders are described as “serious, violent, chronic offenders,” according to the Department Juvenile Justice.

The Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association supports the House version of the bill — HB 129, filed by Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-Treasure Island, and Rep. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach — which puts some limits on prosecutors but doesn’t include review by judges.

Edwards also proposed a bill for the 2015 session that would have restrained the use of direct file, but it faced opposition from prosecutors and died. The House bill filed for the 2016 session initially called for allowing judicial review. But the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee changed the bill this month, removing the judicial review —- despite the sponsors’ objections — and then passed it unanimously.

As it stands, the House bill would eliminate the current practice of what is known as “mandatory” direct file, which requires prosecutors to send juveniles to adult court under certain circumstances. For instance, a prosecutor faced with a 16- or 17-year-old who has been found guilty of committing a violent crime in the past and is charged with another violent offense must transfer the youth to adult court. Under the House bill, that would be discretionary.

The House bill also would modify current discretionary use of direct file, creating a two-tiered system, based on age and severity of offense, in which prosecutors could choose to transfer juveniles to adult court.

“Direct filing should be a serious matter, of a serious nature,” said House Judiciary Chairman Charles McBurney, R-Jacksonville. “You should not be able to direct-file on a misdemeanor.”

As a prosecutor in the 1980s, McBurney said, he used direct file to transfer juveniles to adult courts in Northeast Florida, but only for habitual violent offenders.

The House bill is a work in progress, McBurney said. He would not speculate on which chamber’s version would prevail.

But Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said the Senate bill — which contains both the tiered system and the right to judicial review — is more “balanced” than the House version.

“Under the Senate bill, you can still be treated as an adult under our criminal justice system,” Bradley said. “That doesn’t change. All the Senate bill does is ensure that there is an extra layer of review, and that review is in the hands of a judge. … We have judges to look at both sides, both the defense and the prosecution, and then make a reasoned judgment after hearing all the evidence.”

Both sides agree that the use of direct file has declined. “Now we direct-file sparingly,” said Buddy Jacobs, general counsel for the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, who also said the practice had been used “very judiciously” by the prosecutors. From fiscal year 2008-09 to fiscal year 2013-2014, Jacobs said the number of direct files decreased by 53 percent.

by Margie Menzel, The News Service of Florida

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