Alabama Pursuit Ends With Crash In Florida; Driver Airlifted To The Hospital

June 16, 2019

A man being pursued by Alabama deputies crossed in Florida and crashed his van into a tree just west of Century late Saturday evening.

The Escambia County (AL) Sheriff’s Office attempted a traffic stop on the van in Alabama, according to Sheriff Heath Jackson, when the driver crossed the state line into Florida. The man continued south on Creamer Road about eight-tenths of a mile. He failed to stop at a stop sign before crossing over Highway 4A and crashing into a tree about 6:30 p.m..

The man, whose identity has not been released, was airlifted by LifeFlight helicopter to Baptist Hospital in Pensacola. An update on his condition was not available.

Jackson said he the traffic stop originated because the man was believed to have outstanding warrants in Alabama. He also said his department will be seeking additional warrants related the pursuit.

In addition to the Escambia (AL) Sheriff’s Office, the Escambia County (FL) Sheriff’s Office, Escambia County (FL) EMS and the Century Station of Escambia Fire Rescue responded to the crash site. The Florida Highway Patrol did not respond to the crash.

NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.

DePine Sentenced To Federal Prison On Child Porn Charges

June 15, 2019

An Escambia County man was sentenced Friday to federal prison on child pornography charges.

Michael Lee DePine, 62, was sentenced to 18 years for production of child pornography and five years, to be served concurrently, for possession of child pornography.  He previously pleaded guilty to the charges. When his sentence is complete, he will be on supervised release for five years, pay $10,000 in fines and register as a sex offender.

In December 2018, law enforcement officers received information from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that DePine and a local minor female were engaged in illicit sexual communications and activity via Facebook Messenger. After Homeland Security Investigations and the Pensacola Police Department geolocated DePine’s criminal activity to his Pensacola residence, law enforcement obtained a federal search warrant for the residence. In January 2019, law enforcement searched DePine’s residence. While the residential search was underway, DePine was located at his place of employment, Navy Federal Credit Union.

A forensic review of DePine’s seized digital media confirmed that he was in possession of multiple child pornographic images and videos of the minor victim. DePine produced these images and videos of the minor female in his bedroom at his residence on Lobelia Lane off West Nine Mile Road. The investigation revealed that DePine had been picking the minor female up at her residence in the middle of the night to bring her back to his residence and engage in sexual acts. DePine also provided the minor female with intimate apparel and electronic funds for her expenses.

Lawrence Keefe, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida said: “Tragically, the internet and social media can allow child predators a gateway to victimize children, the most innocent and vulnerable members of our communities. Together with our investigative partners, we will vigilantly pursue and prosecute those who hurt minors.”

“The harm this predator has caused to a young child is unimaginable to most of society,” said HSI Tampa Special Agent in Charge James C. Spero. “Thanks to the diligence of our special agents and the Pensacola Police Department, he will be held accountable for that harm, and we hope today’s guilty plea is a small step on the road to recovery for the young survivor of his crimes.”

After the arrest, a Navy Federal spokesperson said, “Navy Federal fully cooperated with investigators in this case.  As soon as we learned of this investigation, Navy Federal took immediate and appropriate action.”

The case was investigated by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, the Pensacola Police Department, and the North Florida internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Whataburger Sold To Chicago Investment Firm, No Longer Family Owned

June 15, 2019

Whataburger is no longer family owned. As of Friday, a majority interest has been sold to Chicago-based investment banking company BDT Capital Partners.

The burger chain will remain headquartered in Texas, and the group will “begin exploring expansion plans”. There are currently more than 700 Whataburger stores in 10 states.

“Whataburger has grown significantly over the years. And, in order to keep satisfying our customers, we’ve been exploring different options to expand the brand and introduce it to new audiences. We’ve gone through this process purposefully and diligently because we wanted to find a partner who honors our values, culture and 69-year legacy of family tradition,” said Whataburger President/CEO Preston Atkinson.

“We’re excited about the partnership with BDT because they respect and admire the brand we’ve built,” Atkinson continued. “They want to preserve it while they help us continue growing a sustainable, competitive business over a long period of time. They don’t plan to change our recipe for success.”

“More than anything, we’re beyond grateful for our 43,000 Whataburger Family Members who work in our restaurants 24/7,” said current board chair Tom Dobson. “And to our Whataburger fans: You’re part of our family. And as we grow, we know our Whataburger team will continue to make you proud.”

Pictured: The Whataburger restaurant on North Century Boulevard in Century. NorthEscambia.com photo, click to enlarge.

Water Service To Be Cut For Hours Monday Along Part Of Muscogee Road

June 15, 2019

Water service will be interrupted for several hours Monday night for many Farm Hill Utilities customers.

Along Muscogee Road from Hicks Street to Stinnis Street water service will turned off at about 8 p.m. and be off for an estimated 6-8 hours , according to the utility, due to an Escambia County project.

Upon restoration of service, a precautionary boil water notice will be in effect.

Additional updates will be posted Monday on NorthEscambia.com.

Moped Traffic Stop Ends With Multiple Criminal Charges

June 14, 2019

A Century man on moped is facing multiple charges after a traffic stop in Ensley.

An Escambia County Sheriff’s deputy observed two mopeds traveling on South Palafox Street. One moped was pulling the other moped. The deputy conducted a traffic stop and identified the first moped driver as Billy Burns, Jr.

A computer check revealed that Burns had a Florida drivers license that was suspended in 2008 and four prior driving while license suspended convictions. Records also showed he had an Alabama drivers license suspended in 2009 for five failure to appear cases in Alabama, and one outstanding warrant.

Deputies found heroin and marijuana on Burns’ person, according to an arrest report.

Burns was charged with possession of a controlled substance (heroin), possess of marijuana, driving with a suspending license and failure to register a motor vehicle. He was released from jail on a $4,250 bond.

Here’s What We Found When We Visited The Escambia County Animal Shelter

June 14, 2019

We recently paid a visit to the Escambia County Animal Shelter, and here’s what we found.

It was a bittersweet trip, a few weeks after the passing of our almost 14-year old Harley, a oversized Maine Coon kitty that when healthy weighed about 18 pounds.

Animal shelter staff had no idea they were speaking to anyone from NorthEscambia.com, and nothing was mentioned during our visit to give them any reason to think they should try to impress. But impress they did.

They were busy on a Saturday afternoon not long before closing time. But we were greeted quickly after entering the bright, friendly lobby. We explained we were looking for a cat, and we inquired about Roscoe (we later dropped the “e” in the spelling, so we’ll call him Rosco for the rest of this story).

We’d found Rosco using the online search linked from the county website. He caught our eye because he was a pretty big guy, about 12 pounds, and because he had been at the shelter over two months, longer than any other kitty as of that day. Also, he is three years old…past that wild kitten tearing up the couch stage.

“Oh! You’re here about Rosco,” the animal shelter staffer said. “I think he’s still here, but I’ll go look.”

In the meantime, staff explained the two areas with kitties. One, a couple of rooms off the main lobby, held felines in their kennels. Many were not yet ready for adoption, on medical holds or waiting out their time for someone to claim them. If the cat was available for adoption, it could be removed from the kennel for a play session. Visitors were playing, well trying to catch up with, a fast little fluffy grey kitten. He was going home today.

We looked around, playing with a few and reading the info cards posted on each kennel. The room and the kennel were well kept and very clean. No scary smells.

The staffer returned.

“Rosco is still here. He’s in the Catnip Cafe,” she said with a smile. Well more of a grin.

The Catnip Cafe? Had Starbucks expanded their empire to the animal shelter? Little grande catnip fraps, perhaps?

The Catnip Cafe (pictured top) was another room where the kitties had their kennels for private space but were free to roam and play. Behind the bright pink door, there were plenty of toys and lots for a kitty to do. Climbing shelves on the walls, cat towers and even toy fish tanks for entertainment. There was also an enclosed outdoor patio for the outdoor types. Again, it was all bright, clean and free of odors.

There in the middle of the room, sitting alone on the benches for people to sit and visit, was Rosco, a big guy that seemed to be in charge.

I sat down next to Rosco and started petting him. He purred, kind of loudly. Three strokes later, he bit me. My wife petted him. And he bit her.

We played with the other cats in the room, and my wife fell for Oreo. A handsome black and white in color fellow that’s five years old. He enjoyed being held like a baby. Total opposite of Rosco.

But there was just something about Rosco I just liked.

My hand had stopped bleeding, so I decided to sit down next to him and try again. He purred. And bit me again.

“Oh you found Rosco! He has been here awhile,” the staffer said when she returned. And she began to tell his story.

Turns out Rosco was a tough guy with plenty of street cred around the shelter. We were told he suffered from overstimulation aggression. That’s vet lingo for pet him and at any moment he will turn and bite or scratch when he’s had enough. Tough guy.

My wife really wanted Oreo, and I liked something about Rosco. We decided to adopt them both.

We let shelter staff know, and excited word begin to spread that Rosco was going home. All the staff knew him.

Animal shelter employee Aleisha Blair took care of the adoption paperwork, and had plenty of Rosco stories. “He can get pretty aggressive,” she said. “He would always make a good barn cat if things don’t work out as an inside cat.”

She showed us pictures of Rosco on her phone. It was obvious that Aleisha cares a lot about shelter animals, as did everyone that we met. We just can’t say enough nice things about the shelter, staff and volunteers.

Rosco and Oreo have been at their new furever home for about three weeks now. Both have fit in well and have become an important part of our family, and the NorthEscambia.com family (they are even learning that certain sounds on the fire scanner mean dad is going somewhere).

Oh, and as for Roco’s big bad aggression problem, the picture below tells the story. With a happy home away from the shelter, he’s become a big baby that loves attention and loves to sleep.

For information on the Escambia County Animal Shelter, click here. Adoption fees include spay or neuter, microchip, heartworm tests, basic vaccinations including rabies, and other veterinary care as needed while at the shelter.

NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.

Work Continues On Crary Road Bridge Replacement

June 14, 2019

Work is continuing on a $776,874 Florida Department of Transportation FRONTproject to replace the current bridge on Crary Road over Pritchett Mill Creek near Century.

The work involves replacing the current structure with a box culvert, paving the roadway approaches, and improving drainage. Crary Road has been closed between Tedder and Byrneville roads since November 2018 for construction.

Photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

South Alabama Fugitive In Custody After A Week On The Run

June 13, 2019

A fugitive on the run for a week in South Alabama is now in custody after a four to five hour standoff with police Thursday.

John Cobb was arrested near the Covington-Conecuh county line about 6:30 p.m. Thursday by deputies from the Covington, Conecuh and Escambia County (AL) sheriff’s offices.

Deputies said John Cobb was at a home in the Damascus area Friday night but was gone by the time they arrived. The search continued in the area until 3:30 a.m. Saturday. Sunday night, K-9s tracked Cobb until rain washed out the scent trail.

Tuesday, deputies responded to a burglary and found that someone had showered and slept in a camp house, and they found a shotgun had been stolen from another camp house. A truck Cobb allegedly stole was recovered in Conecuh County.

And Tuesday night deputies from Escambia and Conecuh counties responded to a burglary in Brooklyn where a pistol and rifle were stolen.

For the next two days, Cobb continued to elude law enforcement.