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Dixie County High School Red Regiment Marching Band Drum Major Janna Varnes holds cymbals she used to play in The Star-Spangled Banner on Friday Night (Oct. 2) in Cross City. The band performed The National Anthem with excellence. To read about the football game between the DCHS Bears and the Williston Red Devils, please see the LEISURE PAGE.

Photo by Jeff M. Hardison © Oct. 3, 2015 @ 11:07 p.m.

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Four dead from
Levy County shooting

By Jeff M. Hardison © Oct. 2, 2015 @ 12:27 a.m.
Updated Oct. 4, 2015 @ 10:27 a.m.
     INGLIS - One Good Samaritan died early Thursday night (Oct. 1), and a husband and wife and a friend of theirs were victims of fatal gunshot wounds as well, after an estranged husband channeled his hatred through the barrel of a gun in the Town of Inglis, according to information provided by Lt. Scott Tummond of the Levy County Sheriff's Office on Friday morning.
     (The fourth victim died. For that story, please see the POLICE PAGE.)     
     The LCSO 9-1-1 dispatchers started receiving calls of gunshots and injuries at 6:10 p.m. on Thursday, Tummond said. They sent out a radio call for response to the scene by law enforcement and Emergency Medical Services, Tummond said.
     The scene of the crime was a house across the street from Inglis Town Hall, which is next to a public park where children were playing at the time, Tummond said. Tummond was the scene commander on Thursday night and into the wee hours Friday morning. He is also the public information officer for the LCSO.
     Inglis Fire Department Assistant Chief Ken Kotas said he heard six or seven shots. Two girls ran into the station from the park and said men had been shot.
     Kotas said one victim had no pulse but the other one was alive. Then he saw Levy County Public Safety Department arrive at the scene. Kotas said the shooter who was on the porch went into the house. Kotas and a member of the LCDPS staff took Bean behind the ambulance to safety, and then put him on a stretcher and transported him.
     The LCDPS EMS team  saw it was an active shooting event, Tummond said, and they responded properly.
     LCDPS David Knowles said there were two LCDPS paramedics who responded. They were Harry Sparks and Paul Shear. LCDPS EMS Supervisor Paige Hiers was part of that team, Knowles said.
     Three ambulances and one supervisor from Nature Coast EMS of Citrus County responded, Knowles said, adding that he is thankful for the neighboring counties who always help when called upon.
     Tummond said that the EMS responders saw one person dead on the front lawn and one wounded.
     The lone survivor from the shooting spree was Otis Bean, 68, the owner of the house. He was rescued from the front yard by Assistant Chief Kotas and the LCDPS transported him to the helicopter which went to UF Health at Shands in Gainesville, Tummond said.
     Tummond said Bean was taken from the scene in critical condition.
     LCDPS Director David Knowles said EMS called for ShandsCair to airlift Bean, and that is how this victim was transported to Gainesville.
     Bean was still in critical condition as of 4 a.m. on Friday, Tummond said.
     As for the law enforcement response to the active shooting scene, it was quick and strong, Tummond said.
     "It is just by luck that the United States Marshals Service Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force happened to be in the area," Tummond said.
     This group includes members of the United States Marshals Service, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the LCSO and Chiefland Police Department. Tummond said they were working on something entirely different than what appears to be a domestic violence case.
     The dead man on the front yard was Walter Scott "Buzz" Terhune, a Vietnam veteran, Tummond said
     Terhune had heard the shots while he was with a friend. This man left his care to approach the area where he heard the shots to tell the person about the dangers of shooting in an area near to where children are playing, Tummond said.
     That victim did not realize he was walking up on a situation where a very angry man with so much hatred in his heart that he was going to kill people was in the midst of that act, Tummond said.
     Officers saw a man who had gone into that house, Tummond said.
     Members of the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office SWAT responded to the LCSO request for assistance, Tummond said. When it was determined that it was safe to enter the structure. Officers investigated and found
Patricia Tyson, whose age was unknown, dead on the ground floor, Tummond said.
     They found the gunman, identified as her estranged husband, 57-year-old Walter Tyson, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The couple had been married 32 years, Tummond said.
     Tummond said two guns were recovered from the scene.
     Evidence leads investigators to currently believe the Tysons, of nearby Citrus County, had recently separated. Their relationship with Bean was not immediately clear.
     A Tampa Bay Area TV station noticed tweets from the scene as its reporters were looking at information from the shooting deaths at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, Tummond said, and that is how it gained first insight about this tragic event.

Chiefland approved
for road grant

Hospital starts to gel
Chiefland City Manager Mary Ellzey (left) and Deputy City Clerk Laura Cain prepare for the start of the meeting on Monday night (Sept. 28).

Story and Photos

By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 30, 2015 @ 12:07 p.m.
     CHIEFLAND – Anyone who has lived in the Tri-County Area of Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties for the past 10 years knows there have been rumors and stories about a hospital that is planned to be built next to Walmart.

     To see the most recent story about that hospital project being completed in 2017, please click HERE.
     On Monday night (Sept. 28), an announcement from Chiefland City Manager Mary Ellzey as well as some discussion about the city’s sewage capacity lends more credence to the potential of that hospital being built in the future.
     Ellzey said the request by Chiefland for assistance from the Florida Department of Transportation on the Northwest 11th Drive project was granted. Florida DOT’s Small County Outreach Program (SCOP) allows the DOT to assist counties and municipalities with paving.
     The state will pay 100 percent of paving Northwest 11th Drive – which will be the future road running parallel to U.S. Highway 19 in the general area of Barbecue Bill’s (Manatee Springs Road) to the area where a future hospital is planned to be built on the east side of Walmart in Chiefland.
    The latest version of the hospital name is Suwannee River Hospital and Medical Office Building.
     Chiefland Finance and Projects Coordinator Bryan Hassell did a lot of work to bring this SCOP to fruition, Ellzey said. She said it is also thanks to the efforts of state officials and the Chiefland office of the DOT. There was a letter of support from the developers of the hospital, too, Ellzey said.
     Chiefland enjoys consideration from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity as well, because Chiefland is part of the pilot program known as Competitive Florida – where the state promises to help certain cities with economic development.
     Even beyond the hospital developers’ letter, there were letters of support from both Rotary Clubs in the immediate area – the Chiefland Rotary Club and the Suwannee Valley Rotary Club. Another interest to help get the SCOP for this project, Ellzey said in an interview on Wednesday (Sept. 30), was Mike Michaelis of Don Martin Insurance.
     Michaelis has been a proponent of this road improvement for traffic safety for a long time, Ellzey said on Wednesday.
     This project is seen as a windfall for safety as well as for business interests in that part of the city.
     “That is going to pull a lot of traffic off of (U.S. Highway) 19 in that very congested area,” City Commissioner Teresa Barron said during the meeting on Monday night.
     Ellzey said she will provide more details about the project as they become available.
     Another hospital-oriented question arose Monday night. City Commissioner Rollin Hudson asked about the current capacity of the city’s sewer plant. Hassell said it is operating at 50 percent capacity. When it reaches 75 percent, the city should start planning for its expansion, Hassell said.
     When asked about the impact of the hospital on the sewer plant, Hassell said the developers have not provided information yet to show the projected gallons-per-day to be added. There was some talk about a future residential development that might have a significant impact on the wastewater treatment plant if that development is built, but there was no detailed discussion about that on Monday night.
     In other unanimous action by the Chiefland City Commission:
     * An ordinance to amend the city’s ordinances was adopted so that the City Commission is the local planning board.
     * The city agreed to advertise for interests to help in matters related to the replanting of pine trees near one of the city’s wellfields.
     * A five-year commercial lease renewal agreement with Coarsey Fiberglass was approved.
     * A commercial lease agreement with Old Florida Distributors Inc. was approved. Now, all of the building space available for lease in the city’s industrial park is leased.
     * A lease renewal and expansion agreement to dump sludge was reached with Mark L. Graham. The city now uses 128.5 acres of Graham’s property for the application of wastewater sludge at a current price of $5,400 a year. Ellzey told the City Commission there is more acreage involved, but those other acres are for a buffer. The methods for putting the sludge on property are well-regulated and the city operates within the bounds set by law in that regard.
     * The annual agreement for Chiefland Fire Rescue to serve the Town of Otter Creek was approved. Also approved unanimously in that regard, is the automated annual approval of that agreement.

Crab Fest Killer
gets 20-year sentence;

Suspected litterbug gets 20 hours
Eighth Judicial Circuit Senior Judge Aymer Laughner 'Buck' Curtin pauses for a moment after serving in Levy County on Monday morning (Sept. 28). Like his colleagues who are senior judges in Florida's various circuits, he can serve as the judge in civil and criminal proceedings in county and circuit courts. The Honorable Judge Curtin ruled that a plea-negotiated agreement in a littering case was allowed, and this let him dismiss many individuals who had been called to potentially be one of the six persons to serve on the six-member jury that day. The judge thanked them for their service, and said that without it, the plea-negotiated agreement may not have reached conclusion that morning. Eighth Judicial Circuit Court Judge William E. Davis was the most recent judge listed for the felony cases involving Devonte Termaine Ocasio - the Crab Fest Killer.

Story and Photo

By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 29, 2015 @ 12:07 a.m.
Updated 6:47 a.m.

     BRONSON -- The wheels of justice turn slowly, and the gears of the judicial system properly grind up facts and evidence until a point is reached where defendants are acquitted or convicted based on how those facts and evidence fit into the law.
     There are finer points too.
     As cases in point, one man who murdered in Levy County will spend every day of a 20-year sentence in the Florida Department of Corrections Prison System (unless he dies before the end of that term), and one man who also entered into a plea-negotiated agreement will spend 20 hours picking up litter.
     The judgements come from Friday (Sept 25) and from Monday (Sept. 28) and were ruled upon by different judges who were active on those days in Levy County.
     There has been a lot of jockeying since the April 2, 2013 shooting death of Barry Barney, 36, and the wounding of four other people at the “Williston Crab Fest.”
      Devonte Termaine Ocasio, 23, of Reddick was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Friday (Sept. 25), Levy County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Scott Tummond said on Monday.
     Ocasio faced six felony charges – first degree murder; attempted first degree murder; and four counts of aggravated assault with a firearm, according to records. Each of these charges carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, because he is believed to have used a firearm – specifically a .45 caliber pistol.
     Ocasio has remained in jail since his April 29, 2013 arrest with a bond of $1.5 million.
     Tummond said that while Occasion will serve every day of the 20-year prison sentence, he does receive credit for the time he has spent as an inmate so far.
     Eighth Judicial Circuit Assistant State Attorney Brian Kramer was the prosecutor who made the plea-negotiated agreement with the suspected killer.
     Assistant State Attorney Darla Whistler has been on the prosecutorial team for these cases since the arrest of the defendant, according to records.
     The lead defense attorney for Ocasio is attorney Michael Hines of Gainesville, according to record.
     Court records showed two prisoners were to be called from their cells to testify in this trial.
     Tevin Hargrove, 22, is in the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections, and he has been called for this case, according to records.
     Keller Durell Dukes, 28, is in the custody of the United States Department of Justice, and he has been called for this case, according to records.  
     Dukes was one of those wounded during Ocasio’s shooting spree in the area east of Williston.
     Before the Levy County Grand Jury found reason to indict Ocasio on the six felonies involving a firearm, witnesses called in information from Levy County, Pinellas County, other Florida cities and counties and even from Alabama. LCSO investigators went to Levy County Judge James T. “Tim” Browning and secured an arrest warrant, and with the help of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, they arrested the suspect, Tummond said.
    Barney died at about 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 27, 2013, when he was among the victims of the shooting at the Williston Crab Festival, Tummond said.
     The other four gunshot victims were Dukes – now a federal prisoner, Ariana Brown, Kristopher Brumfield and Nikeria Solomon, according to the charging documents.
     Although it is generally called the “Williston Crab Fest,” this event is to the east and outside of that city’s limits.
       This event attracts thousands of people every year. It has grown over the years. The event is unsanctioned and has no permit issued from the county government, Tummond said.
     The plea bargain struck by Ocasio with the state, combined with a capital sex crime defendant who also made a plea deal on Friday, opened the criminal case docket.
     On Monday, a misdemeanor case was ready for trial in Levy County Court.
     Levy County Court Judge James T. “Tim” Browning was on vacation.
     Senior Judge Aymer Laughner "Buck" Curtin, who recently turned 73, began the process to select a jury for the trial of Felix Manuel Quinones on Monday morning (Sept. 28).
     The Honorable Judge Curtin opened the Eighth Judicial Circuit's State Attorney's Office in Levy County on Oct. 1, 1978, as an assistant state attorney. This is his 42nd year in the criminal justice system. Judge Curtin has been a senior judge since 2005. He was an Alachua County Court Judge from 1989 to 2004, according to records.
     The courtroom was full of candidates for the six-person jury.
     Assistant State Attorney Jamie Whiteway, who works in the office of Eighth Judicial Circuit State Attorney William "Bill" Cervone, was the prosecutor. Attorney and Counselor-at-Law Christian A. Straile of Gainesville (and Ocala) represented the defendant.
     Whiteway and Straile reached an agreement as jurors were out of earshot.
     Quinones, 54, agreed to plead "No contest" to the charge of littering on private property. This means he is not admitting his guilt, but that he believes it is in his best interest to concede to the point that the state appears to have enough facts and evidence to show he violated the law.
     The judge assured that the defendant understood all of the aspects from making the plea.
     As a condition of this plea-negotiated agreement (plea bargain), an adjudication of guilt is being withheld.
     Therefore, if Quinones pays the courts costs (no fines), and if he works for 20 hours picking up litter, then it will be as if he was not convicted of this first degree misdemeanor. He therefore will retain his innocence from this charge, although he will have been suspected of being a litterbug to the extent that he was arrested.
     If the man had gone to trial, and if the jury had convicted him, then he would have faced a maximum sentence of one year in the county jail and a $1,000 fine.
     Quinones was arrested after a witness showed a Levy County Sheriff's Office deputy enough evidence to support an allegation that Quinones dumped trash from the back of a burgundy colored Ford F-250 pickup on Jan. 10 on private property in Morriston.
     The victim noted for the deputy that Quinones and his wife had recently been evicted by her from a residence she owns in the neighborhood where the trash was dumped.
     A witness who saw it happen identified the vehicle and the alleged offender. The trash that was dumped included postage that belonged to Jennifer Quinones, the wife of the suspected litterbug.
     According to the Florida Supreme Court website, senior judges – like Judge Curtin -- are a very valuable asset in every circuit.
     In the Eighth Judicial Circuit, which serves Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist and Union counties, the senior judges in addition to Curtin are Judge Maurice V. Giunta; Judge Stan R. Morris; Judge David L. Reiman; Judge Phyllis M. Rosier; Judge Peter K. Sieg and Judge Joseph E. Smith.
     In the Third Judicial Circuit, which serves Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee and Taylor counties, there are no senior judges listed on the website for the circuit.
     Senior judges are a vital judicial resource, the Florida Supreme Court notes on its website. When judicial workload exceeds capacity and the judicial need deficit is not addressed—as has been the case since 2007—senior judges significantly improve the services that Florida’s courts are able to provide citizens, the Justices noted on their website.

The Addams Family
Play Is A Must See
Assistant Director Becky Gill (left) holds SVP mascot Ladybug and Director Diana Child stands next to the sign proclaiming the next play to be performed by the Suwannee Valley Players -- The Addams Family. Seen here Thursday evening, the two women provided information that will help patrons enjoy this remarkable play even more. Reserve seat tickets are being sold in advance of the play. One great method for buying a ticket to see the musical -- The Addams Family -- which is slated for shows on Oct. 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25, 30, 31 and Nov.1 is the Open Ticket Window. Becky Gill will be at The Chief Theater, 25 E. Park Ave. to sell tickets and reserve seats. Just walk into the Lobby and see the seating chart and select a seat on the date you want to reserve a seat (if it is not already sold). Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for children, senior citizens and active military personnel. To see about the play, scroll down on the Community Calendar and see the listings. The first Open Ticket Window was from 6 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 17. The next ones are Sept. 24, Oct. 1 and Oct. 8 -- each night  from 6 to 8 p.m. Another way to reserve a seat is to contact Becky Gill at 352-443-9096 or contact the Suwannee Valley Players at 352-493-ARTS (2787). For this play, especially, do not wait to get a ticket. This play may be sold out and people who show up at the box office may not be able to buy a ticket on the night or at the matinee. People with prepaid tickets walk into the theater, give their ticket to the ticket taker, they get a stub back to show an usher and then are escorted to their seats. This play includes some extraordinary set design, and there are loads of surprises. Each play performed by the Suwannee Valley Players is unique. This one, though, is one that is bound to set the bar for entertaining.This play is kooky, funny and entertaining, Child said, not scary. For more on the play, please see the CALENDAR PAGE.
Photo by Jeff M. Hardison
© Sept. 17, 2015 @ 11:17 p.m. is
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Sixty-Third Jingle Singer

The newest performer of the jingle is Kona Joe Sterople . He sang on Sept. 20 on Cedar Key. Kona Joe is a famous drummer. He and his wife Edie Zaprir founded and operated Kona Joe’s Café on Cedar Key, until they retired from that. He sang on Sunday morning (Sept. 20). Everyone is invited to sing the jingle. If you see Jeff Hardison and you want to sing the jingle, just let him know or send an email to He asks people to sing it, too, and some of them agree to sing it. (Thanks people!) The next set of jingle performers are * 64 – (from left) Karen ‘Gundeck Carrie’ of Pirate Fashions of Tampa, Madd Mike O’Harrow of Pirate Fashions of Tampa, and Josie and George Nugent of Haines City (Pirates For Life) sing on Sept. 20 on Cedar Key; and * 65 – Joseph ‘Capt. Jack Sparrow’ Cassella and Cheryl Guagliardo ) sing on Sept. 20 on Cedar Key. That Sunday (Sept. 20) was a big day for finding jingle singers.
Published Oct. 5, 2015 @ 8:37 a.m.
-- Video by Jeff M. Hardison

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-- UPDATED --  

WED.   OCT. 6   7:27 a.m.



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