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Man's body found in orange grove

Man's body found in orange grove

Haines City, FL - Detectives from the Polk County Sheriff's Office arrived to a citrus grove near Haines City on the afternoon of Dec. 15, when the deceased body of an unidentified Hispanic male was found. The Sheriff's Office is actively investigating the the death, which is being considered a homicide, and an autopsy will be completed today.

The body was found near Water Tank Road, near Bice Grove Road, and the PCSO Homicide Unit has only said that "the circumstances of the death are suspicious."

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Cops for Kids holiday party offers opportunity to give

Cops for Kids holiday party offers opportunity to give

Lakeland, FL - The Lakeland Police Department is hosting a holiday party tonight, Dec. 16, in support of their annual Cops for Kids program, which helps local families in need. Generous community members have made the event a success in the past, and the city is requesting Christmas gift donations from the community this year, so children between the ages of 0 to 12 will have toys this year.

The event is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at the Lakeland Police Station. Santa will be at the party and the children will also receive a holiday meal donated and catered by the Texas Cattle Company in addition to a gift. Police are expecting
approximately 386 children to attend the party this year.

Brush fire sweeps Bartow

Brush fire sweeps Bartow

Bartow, FL - Cold and dry weather conditions have left Bartow vulnerable to brush fires, as the official website of Polk County's advisory early last week. The high-risk area fell victim to one such fire on Dec. 15, but no injuries or property damage was reported. Fire crews arrived near Highway 17 and State Road 640 in the afternoon, when there were reports of structures in danger.

Polk County Fire Rescue officials are continuing to urge residents to use extreme caution while participating in outdoor activities.

“Conditions are once again favorable for the rapid development and spread of brush fires,” said Fire Chief David Cash.  “We need our residents to understand they play a significant role in preventing the spread of brush fires.  Pay attention to what you’re doing and be thoughtful if you must burn.”

Polk schools reprimanded for faulty finances

Polk schools reprimanded for faulty finances

Bartow, FL - At a Polk School Board meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 14, members emphasized the need for stricter rules on money-handling in area schools. An annual district audit suggests that when funds have been collected for field trips, fundraisers, and other special events, 29 out of 30 schools have made mistakes when handling money.

Issues like delayed deposits and reports, lack of transaction documentation, and lost receipts were the primary concerns of the board. The non-offending school was Wendell Watson Elementary in Lakeland.

The Board suggested that district officials should penalize any schools who don't improve their compliance with the strict rules, which will fall primarily to principals and finance secretaries and will be tracked by continued district-wide audits. Further recommendations include a clear checklist and consistent system to guide all Polk schools.

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Elderly driver blacked out before striking deputy

WINTER HAVEN, Florida (AP) -- An elderly driver says he blacked out shortly before his vehicle struck and killed a sheriff's sergeant on Sunday.

Authorities say the sports utility vehicle driven by 79-year-old Leo John Saunders plowed through a 7-Eleven parking lot where Polk County Sheriff's Sgt. Wesley Whitmore was making a traffic stop. The SUV hit the patrol car, which then spun around and hit 60-year-old Whitmore.

A passenger in the car Whitmore had just pulled over rushed to the deputy's side and called for help.

Officials say Saunders is cooperating with investigators. No charges have been filed.

 

Family remembers Polk deputy hit and killed

Family remembers Polk deputy hit and killed

Winter Haven, Florida - A Polk County Sheriff's deputy was killed Sunday morning after his patrol car was struck in the parking lot at the 7-Eleven store located at the corner of Spirit Lake Road and Recker Hwy.

60-year-old Sgt. Wes Whitmore spent 15 years with the department.

Before that, he served more than 25 with the United States Air Force.

"My dad was a very selfless person.  Probably the most selfless person I've ever known in my life," said his son, also named Wes.

Photo Gallery: Sgt. Wes Whitmore Junior

Deputies say Whitmore had just gotten out of his car at the 7-Eleven around 10:30 a.m.

That's when witnesses say a Cadillac Escalade came off the road, went through metal barriers, hit a woman and her business, before ramming into Whitmore's car as he stood next to it.

Court rules against donors seeking Crist refund

Court rules against donors seeking Crist refund

Lakeland, FL. (AP) -- A state appeals court has ruled against Republican donors who were trying to get party-switching Gov. Charlie Crist to return their campaign donations.

The Second District Court of Appeal on Friday declined to hear appeals of two GOP donors who tried to keep Crist from spending $7.5 million in campaign donations and who also sought class-action status for the effort.

The ruling means that donors seeking refunds will have to file individual lawsuits.

A state circuit judge in Naples had earlier ruled against the two unhappy donors.

Crist switched from Republican to independent April 29 while trailing badly in the polls to Marco Rubio for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate. He was trounced by Rubio in the Nov. 2 election.