Florida Executes Double Murderer

April 24, 2014

Robert E. Hendrix, convicted in the 1990 murders of a Lake County couple, was executed by lethal injection Wednesday at Florida State Prison near Starke. Hendrix, 47, was pronounced dead at 6:21 p.m., according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

The execution is the 16th since Gov. Rick Scott took office in January 2011. Hendrix shot and stabbed Elmer Scott Jr. and Michelle Scott, according to a death warrant.

The governor’s office said Hendrix murdered the couple in an attempt to prevent the husband from testifying against him in an unrelated armed-burglary case. Elmer Scott was Hendrix’s cousin.

Two Arrested In Escambia Homicide; Deputies Seek Four For Questioning

April 23, 2014

Two people have been arrested in an April 14 murder, and Escambia County deputies are searching for as many seven other people for questioning.

Taris Donice Tolliver, 21 has been charged with felony murder, and Jim Edward Williams, 22, has been charged with first degree murder in connection with the shooting death of Dequarius Frederick Durant. He was shot and killed in the 100 block of Emerald Avenue in what was described as a drug deal gone wrong. Durant tried to drive away as gunfire began, but he suffered multiple gunshot wounds before crashing into a house.

“We are working with other state and federal agencies on promising leads which we believe will lead to the arrest of others,” the Escambia County Sheriff’s office said in a news release.

The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office said the following individuals are wanted for questioning only in the homicide:

  • Pierrie Arthur James Blankenship10/2/1990
  • Clarence Joseph Martin 4/5/1992
  • Reginald Lee Booker III 6/9/1990
  • Javon Galloway 3/12/1992

Three other individuals previously wanted for questioning have been located, the Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday afternoon.

Florida Lawmakers Take Aim At Insurers Over Guns

April 23, 2014

With supporters pointing to Second Amendment rights, the Florida House on Tuesday gave final approval to a bill that seeks to prevent insurers from denying coverage or increasing rates based on customers owning guns or ammunition.

But critics questioned the need for the bill, saying there is little evidence insurers take into account gun ownership.

“I don’t see any kind of quote-unquote discrimination going on in the marketplace,” said Rep. Kevin Rader, a Delray Beach Democrat who also described the bill as a “waste of time.”

But bill sponsor Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, said Floridians have a constitutional right to bear arms, and even one case of insurers taking action because of gun ownership is “too much.”

“How much discrimination based on the exercise of a constitutional right is tolerable?” Gaetz asked.

House members voted 74-44, along party lines, to approve the bill (SB 424). The Senate also passed the National Rifle Association-backed bill last month, meaning the measure is ready to go to Gov. Rick Scott.

The bill would apply to property and automobile insurers and add language to part of state law that deals with “unfair discrimination” As an example, the bill would seek to block insurers from refusing to issue policies because of customers’ lawful ownership or possession of firearms. Similarly, it would bar them from charging “unfairly discriminatory” rates based on gun ownership or possession.

But much of the debate Tuesday focused on whether problems exist with insurers considering customers’ gun ownership. Rader and Rep. Richard Stark, D-Weston, said they are longtime insurance agents and have not seen insurers asking about firearms.

But Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, questioned why they were arguing so heavily against the bill if that is the case.

“This is just a good, sound statement for freedom that we’re going to stand behind your constitutional rights,” Baxley said

by Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida

Chiefs Advance To District Championship Game

April 23, 2014

The Northview Chiefs are headed to the District 3-1A championship game Thursday night. The Chiefs beat Holmes County 6-3 Tuesday night to advance to the finals at Chipley.

The varsity Chiefs finished the regular season at 15-5, 7-3 in the district.

Chipley shut out the Jay Royals Tuesday night, 4-0.

NorthEscambia.com photos by Ramona Preston, click to enlarge.

Celebrate Earth Day With Escambia’s Dump Dash 5K & Trash-A-Thon

April 23, 2014

On Saturday,  Escambia County residents can celebrate Earth Day by participating in the 2014 Dump Dash 5K & Trash-A-Thon and help bring awareness to recycling and solid waste issues on a cross-country road with hills and trails.

Held at the Perdido Landfill located at 13009 Beulah Road, funds from this family friendly event will raise money for The United Way of Escambia County and The Environmental Education Fund.

Prizes will be awarded to the top male and top female runners and walkers in various age categories, best race costume made from recyclables and a team competition will also take place.

Race day is Saturday 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. at the Perdido Landfill. Day of race registration is $15 for teams, $20 for individuals.

A post-race cookout and an Earth Day Activities will take place immediately following the event.  Guided nature walks on the Perdido Riverwalk and tours of the Perdido Landfill will also be available.  All are welcome to celebrate Earth Day.

Scott Presents ‘Shine Award’ To Escambia County Teacher

April 23, 2014

During a meeting of Florida Cabinet Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott recognized an Escambia County teacher and two other educators for their contributions to learning with the Governor’s Shine Awards. The Shine Award is presented to Florida educators who have impacted the lives of students through the classroom. The teachers who were recognized during the Florida Cabinet meeting were recently named District Teachers of the Year for their respective counties.

Governor Scott said, “These three county Teachers of the Year work hard to ensure each of their students has the opportunity to receive a high-quality education, and it is an honor to present them with the Shine Award. Teachers play a fundamental role in sculpting the minds of our youth, and Florida’s education system is one of the best in the nation thanks to the diligence and dedication of our teachers

The Shine Award was presented to Jana Pavlus, teacher at Woodham Middle School.  Pavlus has served as a seventh grade science teacher at Woodham  for four years. She has been known for “capturing kids’ hearts” and making a difference in the lives of her students. In her relationship with her students, she has been open and honest about herself and her life. This has allowed the students to build a strong bond and grow deeper themselves.

The awards were also presented to teachers from Walton and St. Johns counties.

“These three county Teachers of the Year work hard to ensure each of their students has the opportunity to receive a high-quality education, and it is an honor to present them with the Shine Award. Teachers play a fundamental role in sculpting the minds of our youth, and Florida’s education system is one of the best in the nation thanks to the diligence and dedication of our teachers,” Scott said.

Pictured top: Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Senate President Don Gaetz, Jana Pavlus, Gov. Rick Scott, Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward, Rep. Mike Hill and CFO Jeff Atwater pose Tuesday in Tallahassee.  Photo for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Suns Down Wahoos

April 23, 2014

The Jacksonville Suns and the Pensacola Blue Wahoos went back-and-forth Tuesday night at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, but in the end, it was the Suns that prevailed 6-5 to assure the series win with a game to play. Travis Mattair put the Wahoos in front with his first home run of the year, a solo shot in the seventh, but the Suns answered with two runs in the bottom of the frame to move ahead for good.

Mattair’s home run snapped a 4-4 tie, but the lead was short lived. The Suns capitalized on a leadoff walk and a hit batsman to move in front. Brady Shoemaker, who reached on the walk, scored on a wild pitch with the bases loaded. Shortly after, J.T. Realmuto scored from third on a ground out to short giving the Suns all they needed for the win. Pensacola had the tying run at second with one out in the eight but couldn’t score, and left the tying run at first in the ninth after a two-out single.

The Blue Wahoos had three two-hit games. Mattair led the way with a 2-for-5 night. He scored twice and drove in two runs. Rey Navarro (2-for-5, R, RBI) and Bryan Anderson (2-for-4, 2 RBI) had the other multi-hit games.

Jon Moscot started but didn’t get a decision. He logged 6.0 innings allowing 4R/3ER on six hits. He walked four and fanned three. Mikey O’Brien (L, 0-1) was tagged with the Suns runs in the seventh, thus getting charged with the loss.

The Blue Wahoos chased Suns starter Justin Nicolino from the game after just 4.2 innings. He was charged with 4R/ER on seven hits with two walks and just one strikeout.  Despite allowing Mattair’s go-ahead home run in the seventh, Edgar Olmos (W, 1-0) picked up the win in just one inning out of the bullpen. Grant Dayton (S, 2) held the Wahoos off over the last two innings to pick up the save.

The series concludes on Wednesday when the Blue Wahoos send RHP Michael Lorenzen (2-1, 1.45) to the mound against Suns RHP Jose Urena (1-2, 6.28). First pitch is set for 12:05 p.m. CT from the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.

by Tommy Thrall

U.S. Supreme Court Turns Down Scott On Worker Drug Testing

April 23, 2014

In a blow to Gov. Rick Scott, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday said it would not take up his appeal of a ruling that blocked across-the-board drug testing for state employees.

The Supreme Court did not give a reason for its decision, which was included in a list of dozens of other cases it declined to hear. Justices receive thousands of appeals a year but decide to hear arguments in only about 100.

Scott issued an executive order in 2011 seeking drug testing for state workers but quickly faced a legal challenge from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. They contended that the policy violated the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.

Attorneys for Scott pointed, in part, to drug testing that is common in the private sector. But opponents argued that “suspicionless” drug testing by government is unconstitutional.

“Every court that has heard Gov. Scott’s argument agrees: Without a threat to public safety or suspicion of drug use, people can’t be required to sacrifice their constitutional rights in order to serve the people of Florida,” Shalini Goel Agarwal, the ACLU’s lead attorney in the case, said in a prepared statement Monday.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that drug tests could not be justified constitutionally for many of the 85,000 workers who would be subject to Scott’s policy and sent the case back to a district court to determine which workers could be tested. That prompted Scott to file a petition in January asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the appeals-court ruling.

The Supreme Court’s decision, however, does not end litigation in the case. The two sides continue to carry out a painstaking process of looking at different categories of workers to determine whether some could be subject to drug testing — a process stemming from the appeals court ruling.

In it decision, for example, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said drug testing could be justified in “safety sensitive” positions, such as for employees who operate heavy machinery.

A document filed April 11 in federal court in Miami indicates that the process of determining which employees are subject to drug-testing could take months and lead to clashes between the two sides. Scott issued a statement Monday indicating he hasn’t budged on the need for drug testing.

“State employees should have the right to work in a safe and drug free environment, just like in any other business,” Scott said. “The merits of this case are still being deliberated in the U.S. Southern District Court, and we will continue to fight to make sure all state employees, who are paid by taxpayer funds, can work in a safe, drug free workplace.”

by Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida

Escambia Man Sentenced To Life For 2012 Murder

April 22, 2014

An Escambia County man was sentenced to life in prison for an Escambia County murder.

Circuit Judge Terry Terrell sentenced 19-year old Bennie Louis Robbins III to life in state prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

Robbins was convicted of first degree felony murder, grand theft auto and possession of controlled substance by an Escambia  County jury in January of this year.

On July 27, 2012, 19-year old Matthew Cox was shot and killed by Robbins in the Montclair community. Just prior to midnight, Robbins approached Cox outside of  his home, displayed a firearm and demanded money. After Cox gave his money to  Robbins, Cox fled. Robbins chased after Cox and fired the fatal shots.

DNA found at the scene identified Robbins as a suspect. Additionally, during a traffic stop three weeks later the murder weapon was found in the vehicle Robbins was driving.

Hunter Jumper Horse Show This Weekend At Equestrian Center

April 22, 2014

The James C. Robinson Escambia County Equestrian Center will host the Pensacola Hunter Jumper Association Horse Show this weekend, Saturday, April 26, and Sunday, April 27. Classes begin each day at 8:30 a.m. and run until everyone competes.

As Pensacola’s only Hunter Jumper club, 200 participants are expected to compete in the show and travel to Escambia County from surrounding states. This event is free to spectators and there is a full service concession stand on site.

The James C. Robinson Escambia County Equestrian Facility is a multi-use facility that hosts horse and dog shows, rodeos, concerts, festivals and more.  The facility is located at 7750 Mobile Highway, Pensacola.

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