Suwannee Democrat

Local News

December 29, 2011

Democrat's top 10 stories of 2011

The Suwannee Democrat's top 10 stories of 2011.

1. Suwannee County is wet

(Published Aug. 17, Nov. 18)

Suwannee County voters reversed a 65-year ban on alcohol sales containing more than 6.243 percent of alcohol by volume Aug. 16 by a vote of 7,489 to 3,612. Voters also elected to allow the sale of such alcohol by the package and drink as opposed to the package only.
On Nov. 14, the county became officially wet since there were no challenges to the election. Those that may have wanted to file a lawsuit against the election had until 4:30 p.m. Nov. 14.

2. Fallen officer

 (Published May 25, June 1)

About 1,500 people attended the funeral of Suwannee County Sheriff’s Cpl. Gary Edwards May 28. Edwards, 43, was killed after his vehicle was forced off SR 51 late Saturday night, May 21 in Live Oak. Pedro Leyva Terrero, 53, Live Oak, struck the rear of Edwards’ vehicle as they were traveling northbound on SR 51, just down the road from Edwards’ home. The impact caused Edwards’ truck to lose control where it ran off the roadway and struck a utility pole.
The Democrat received over 200 messages from the community wanting to express their thoughts on Edwards.

3. Firefighters lose their lives battling blaze

(Published June 24)

Two Florida Forest Service firefighters lost their lives while battling a wildfire in Hamilton County June 20. Brett Fulton, 52, and Joshua Burch, 31, were helping to contain the Blue Ribbon wildfire about 14 miles east of Jasper. The two were killed when one of four tractors plowing fire containment lines got stuck on a stump around 4:45 p.m. Another tractor came to help, but the flames shifted, trapping Burch and Fulton.
Fulton grew up in Wellborn and graduated from Suwannee High School.

4. Howze agrees to plea deal

(Published Oct. 26)

James Lindsey Howze entered a plea of guilty Oct. 24 and avoided the death penalty for the August 2010 execution style slaying of three members of a McAlpin family in the home they shared. As part of the plea deal, Howze, 39, must testify against his co-defendant, Lonnie Robert Munn, 48, for his involvement in the killings. He is slated to go to trial in January.

5. Wellborn man bludgeoned to death in home

(Published March 4)

Robert B. Przybysz, 82, was found beaten to death March 1 in the camper trailer in which he lived. Suwannee County Sheriff Tony Cameron said he was beaten with a meat cleaver.
A suspect was arrested late March 2 in Marion County. He was identified as Shane Scott Worrell, 37, who was said to be homeless. Worrell was said to have been living near Przybysz’s camper either with someone or in a tent. Cameron said Worrell hit Przybysz in the head more than once with the meat cleaver, then took Przybysz’s wallet, which contained $20, and fled.

6. Landfill application filed

(Published Oct. 19, others)

One of the most opposed issues we have seen.
Cross Environmental Resources Management LLC, of Crystal Springs, filed application Oct. 17 with the Suwannee County Zoning and Planning Department for the purpose of locating a class I landfill north of Live Oak, near the city’s newly installed water tower and well fields. Opposition was quick. The city of Live Oak formally opposed the proposed landfill on Nov. 8. The four organizations that make up the Economic Alliance took a stand against it on Nov. 15 and countless folks sent in messages to the Democrat stating their opposition.
The company withdrew its application on Monday, Dec. 5, just a day before the public hearing of Suwannee County commissioners to either approve or deny the special zoning request. On Dec. 7, the president of Cross Environmental, Clyde A. Biston, told the Democrat the company would be filing another application in the future. On Dec. 19, the company filed another application, one day before Suwannee County commissioners voted to draft a moratorium to be placed on future landfills.

7. Water woes

(Published July 1, Nov. 9, Dec. 16)

The month of May was the driest since 1932, as the Suwannee basin experienced a 25 inch rainfall deficit compared to an average year. Several months of drought has led to the record-breaking lows on the Suwannee River.
Three neighboring counties, Columbia, Hamilton and Suwannee, met Nov. 29 in Lake City to learn that since the St. Johns River Water Management District has already granted the JEA a permit to withdraw 155 million more gallons of water per day from the Floridan Aquifer, there may be nothing that can be done to challenge the permit.
On Dec. 13, the Suwannee River Water Management District approved four permits to area farms to pump about 5.5 million more gallons of water from the Floridan Aquifer. Conservation groups and residents are worried about the state of local springs, lakes and rivers.

8. ‘Stop the bullying’

(Published March 11)

Promptly at 5 p.m. March 8, a crowd of about 150 began a silent march up Walker Avenue toward Pinewood Drive in Live Oak. When the group reached Pinewood, chants of “stop the bullying” and other slogans began.
They were walking, they said, in memory of Lizbeth Garcia, the 12-year-old Suwannee Middle School girl who took her life Feb. 23.
No one knows why Garcia did what she did. Some say she was bullied.
Suwannee County Sheriff Tony Cameron said no suicide note was found and the Suwannee County School District was just as perplexed.

9. Felony murder charges dropped

(Published Jan. 26)

A Suwannee County Grand Jury failed to indict a local man on felony murder charges Jan. 25. Bryan Van Auken, 21, had been jailed following a Jan. 4 drug deal gone bad, in which a gun-wielding companion of his was shot to death by a teen whose father the man had threatened.
Robert Bruce Koester, 47, Live Oak, burst into a Live Oak home the night of Jan. 3 wielding a handgun. Van Auken was inside the home conducting a drug deal at the time. A fight broke out between Koester and Ralph Michael Ortiz, 52.
Ortiz’s son, Anthony Michael Ortiz, 16, entered the room with a rifle and fired, striking Koester in the head and killing him instantly. Van Auken fled but was later arrested and charged with home invasion robbery and felony murder.
Under the felony murder rule, a suspect in a felony can be charged with murder in the event of a death during its commission, even if he or she did not anticipate violence.

10. Palm tree controversy

(Published June 3, June17, Dec. 7, others)

The streets of downtown Live Oak were marked by a controversial new staple: palm trees, dozens of them. The new trees are the result of efforts to revitalize downtown by Live Oak Mayor Sonny Nobles and the Community Redevelopment Agency. The project was fully funded by the Florida Department of Transportation.
Crews worked overnight to plant the trees throughout various parts of downtown Live Oak. They began removing the old shrubs to make room for the palms shortly after 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5.
The issue was controversial when first introduced earlier this year. Some spoke out against the idea saying they didn't want a South Florida staple such as the palm trees to be planted along Live Oak's roadways.

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Did your student take advantage of local summer activities?

Yes, through 4-H or another club.
Yes, through Parks & Recreation.
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