Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Noel Heimburg: 1976-2006

Today a family remembers a son, a father and a friend. A year ago an armed robber shot and killed 29-year-old Noel Heimburg on the stairwell of his Marina Landing apartment in Metro West. He died in his wife’s arms, leaving behind a 9-year-old son and a devastated family. A year later, the crime remains listed as unsolved.

Since then members of Heimburg’s family, especially his mother Patricia Small, have become staunch advocates of improving the safety of our city and combating the increasing crime rate. Small was present recently at the presentation of Gov. Charlie Crist’s “Anti-Murder Act,” part of a $21.8 million proposal designed to jail repeat offenders who violate their probation. Small also joined the Guardian Angels in early January. The family also held a blood drive last year in Noel’s honor and set up a memorial website to remember him. Currently Patricia Small has become involved with the League of Women Voters and they plan to meet with our state senators in Tallahassee on March 18-19 to talk about juvenile justice. It is believed that the man that murdered Small’s son was only 16-years-old. Small and a group of other mothers in similar situations plan on taking advantage of Governor Charlie Crist’s open door policy and meeting with Crist, the head of the Department of Juvenile Justice Walter McNeal and Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp to discuss the issue of juvenile justice. These are the efforts of a family that would see Noel remembered for the man and father he was, and to ensure his death not be in vain.

We all remember last year being the ‘Deadliest Year’ for Orlando and Orange County. By December 31st, 2006 there were 49 murders in Orlando, and 64 in unincorporated Orange County. Each one of those murders is someone’s son or daughter, someone’s mother or father; they are not statistics or mere numbers. Many of these cases sit shelved and unsolved. Many families are still without answers. Even the highly publicized case of Jennifer Kesse, the young former UCF student who disappeared last year, still has police left looking for answers.

What else can be done so that another family doesn’t have to go through what the Heimburg’s, the Kesse’s and many other families have had to go through? Floridians by nature want more spending on crime and crime prevention yet aren’t willing to deal with the tax cuts. We as citizens must be willing to accept a slight increase in taxes if we want our police force to be properly funded. Police forces are only as good as the manpower and money that is spent on them. An overworked, underpaid and understaffed police force is an ineffective one.

Just the fact that recent events have brought the attention of the Guardian Angels to our city sends chills up my spine. While I applaud and respect them for their pro-active efforts, I’m willing to bet that they wish their presence wasn’t necessary, and the fact that it is should send a message to the city that it needs to tighten its belt and rein in the crime in Orlando. If that means upsetting a few taxpayers in order to fund the police force, hire more officers and fund enforcement programs, then so be it.

Noel Heimburg should not be forgotten, nor the score of other murders last year. Each one is a tragic and disappointing blight on our city and we can only hope that we don’t have similar tragedies this year.

The Sentinel filed a story today on the further efforts of Patricia Small which includes an audio interview with Small where she talks about her son’s murder and her mission to combat crime in Central Florida.

If you have any information regarding this or other unsolved cases, please call CrimeLine at 407-423-8477.
See the Florida Blood Center for information on how you can donate to those that need it.

Tigger Cleared Of All Charges

News 13 reports that Tigger Bounces Back (my hat is tipped to the editor for that nice title) and the employee, Michael Fedelem, who donned the classic Disney character costume was cleared of any wrongdoing in the recent video tape hub bub of an alleged assault at MGM Studios. It appears presecutors decided not to pursue the case, assumably after realizing the tape makes it pretty obvious this was just a scam to illicit money out of the park.

Let’s hope Monaco junior and senior get the proper harrassment and embarassment they’ve earned as their peers constantly poke fun at claiming to be beaten by the plush furry glove of a cartoon character.

Beary, Beary Interesting.

According to a press release by the Florida Commision on Ethics:

The Commission found probable cause to believe that KEVIN BEARY, Orange County Sheriff, had a conflict of interest when a corporation for which Beary served as President sold a domestic security product to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). At the time of the purchase, Beary also served as co-manager for an FDLE Regional Domestic Security Task Force. The Commission found probable cause that, because Beary was paid by the private corporation, he also had a prohibited employment relationship with an entity that was doing business with his agency (FDLE) and that the employment may have created a conflict between his private interests and the performance of his public duties as Sheriff and co-manager for FDLE’s Task Force.

The Commission also ruled that Beary may have misused his position and public resources by authorizing the use of Sheriff’s Office personnel, facilities, office equipment, and funds to pay for travel and office expenses during the development of the product, for the benefit of himself or others. Additionally, the Commission determined that there was probable cause to believe that information gained by Beary in his capacity as Sheriff and Task Force member may have been used for his personal benefit or the benefit of others.

Allegations that Beary solicited or accepted payments from the private corporation or that he knew or should have known that those payments were given to influence his official action as Sheriff or Task Force member were dismissed.

Ok so it’s not some scathing indictment of Sheriff Beary, but it reinforces the suspicion that he is a less than model Sheriff. Even if he’s not taking funds in order to influence action, the conflict of interest that arises by being a private security consultant and owner makes me a little uneasy.

Pat Campbell of 540W FLA asked a good question: If Beary used his position and department to produce a product, then shouldn’t all proceeds from that product belong to the taxpayers?

Something definitely smells.

Christmas Storm Victims to Now Get FEMA Aid

When Christmas Day storms destroyed several mobile home parks in Volusia county, victims were originally told by FEMA that the situation wasn’t bad enough to warrant their help. This, despite the fact that not only were many storm victims living with family or in ruined homes due to their own homes being inhabitable, but the state of Florida had also declared the areas in need of help.

Last week’s tornado damage seems to have changed the agency’s mind, however. FEMA has reversed it’s decision and said these areas now fall under the requirements needed. The agency’s new disaster declaration means the victims can now qualify for individual grants and other benefits.

Though this is good news for the affected residents who have been suffering so long, many say they’re disturbed it took a second disaster to make them eligible for federal help. Many state leaders echo that sentiment.

“That’s why we filed an appeal very quickly after we got the first negative response, but you never give up,” Florida’s Governor Crist said on the news. “You just keep moving forward, and it got us to a good place today.”

Just like with last week’s storms, victims must first register with FEMA by visiting or by calling 800-621-FEMA (3362). Hearing-impaired victims can call 800-462-7585. A FEMA site was also set up today for Christmas Day storm victims only at the Wal-Mart at 1699 North Woodland Boulevard in DeLand.

Disney Cast Member Arrested On Child Porn Charges

Disney cast member arrested on child porn chargesOn the heels of the recent controversy regarding a Disney cast member who plays Tigger, comes word that another character worker at the parks has been arrested on child porn charges.

Matthew Wendland, 20, was arrested at his apartment last night by police, after an anonymous tip by his roommates. This led them to a suitcase of photos and computer discs full of child pornography that was downloaded from the internet by him. Some of the children involved in sex acts in these photos are said to be as young as 3.

Wendland played Beast of “Beauty and the Beast” at the parks, but occasionally also played other tall characters, like Goofy. Police said on the news that they don’t believe that Wendland, who has been employed by Disney for about 7 months, ever molested or violated any children he encountered at the parks.

Though he has been charged with 51 felony counts of child pornography, Wendland was released this morning on an $8500 bail bond.

According to Disney spokeswoman Kim Prunty, “The alleged behavior is something that’s just not tolerated. We feel we’ve taken the appropriate action by suspending him without pay.”

For more on this story, visit or the Orlando Sentinel.

I don’t think Disney could have done more than they did with their initial background checks at his hiring, but it’s downright creepy to think that pedophiles can have this kind of access to children in their job, and unless they’d been caught before (which to my knowledge Wendland wasn’t), it’s really hard to single them out.

What are your thoughts on this?

BankFIRST initiates Lake County Tornado Relief Fund

Local community bank, BankFIRST, has initiated the Lake County Tornado Relief Fund to aid those affected by the recent storms that damaged and destroyed nearly 1,500 homes this past week. Interested parties can contact any BankFIRST branch for information on how they can donate to the fund.

Currently they are accepting cash and check donations. The funds will be distributed to Red Cross and other local charities that are assisting in the recovery and rebuilding effort. It has been assured that the funds will stay in Lake County only and will be spent directly on those affected by the storms.

BankFIRST has branches in Sanford, Clermont, Eustis, Apopka, Winter Park, Goldenrod and Winter Garden. Donations are being accepted at all branches.

It’s what Tiggers do best.

Smacking kids in the face!

Story here.

Federal Courthouse Lockdown in Orlando Yesterday

I was watching WESH news yesterday afternoon when they broke in with news from one of their reporters that the Federal Courthouse downtown had been locked down. The reporter was covering the trial of the people who had scammed FEMA of hurricane money when it seems an envelope full of white powder was received at the building. Security took full precautions and locked down the building while they examined the contents of the package.

The lockdown has since been lifted, so I’m guessing the powder turned out to not be a bio-terrorist threat, like anthrax. But since the initial news reports, I haven’t heard anything further, which I find strange.

Any of our readers out there have any news nuggets on this to share?

Orlando Feels Effects of Earthquake

earthquake map courtesy of the USGSI was sitting watching tv yesterday when my chair started vibrating with a slow intensity like I was sitting front row on a rollercoaster headed up that first big hill. A second later, all the glassware started clinking — which, with my penchant for buying anything made of glass on trips, made quite a sound. The whole episode was over about 20 seconds later.

“Did we just have an earthquake?” I said to my friend sitting next to me.

“In Florida?” says she.

But yes, it was indeed an earthquake. A check at the US Geological Survey (USGS) website confirmed that yesterday, just before 11am, a 6.0 earthquake happened in the Gulf of Mexico, about 250 miles from the west coast of the state. It originated about 6 miles under the ocean and was strong enough to be felt all the way to the eastern side of Central Florida. Our Metroblogging family in Miami felt it, as well.

Earthquakes are rare in Florida — we most often associate them with the Western states of this country — but they have happened before, though the most recent occurance was over fifty years ago. Following the quake yesterday, there was some worry about a tsunami being spun off from the shockwaves, but the epicenter was far enough down that it didn’t happen.

Did any of you feel the earthquake or know of others who did?

Central Florida 511 System Ranked #1

Last week the Florida Department of Transportation released the results of a recent analysis which revealed that the Central Florida 511 Travel Information System is ranked No. 1 in the nation in the number of calls per capita.

511_Logo.gif511 is the three-digit number you can dial from any phone to access the service that provides free, real-time traffic information on Interstate 4 and 14 other major highways, including road closures and major evacuation routes in the case of hurricanes or wildfires. High density population areas like Florida and California see high usage by daily commuters seeking information on traffic back-ups, accidents and construction delays, while travelers in the Midwest and West typically use the service to keep on top of severe weather conditions.

After hearing about this report I began searching my memory for instances where I had made use of the 511 service in the past. I could only recall one time that I dialed 511 for traffic information. That may be due to the fact that most of the time my daily drive is a short one that does not involve having to make use of the Interstate, 408, 417 or 528. I also still find myself getting my traffic updates from the radio, which I admit is so 20th century.

Between January 1st and June 30th of this year, the Central Florida 511 Travel Information System received 115,000 calls each month and since the service became available in June of 2002 it has received more than 5.6 million calls.

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