Florida Good News: Trooper’s Return, Miami Fitness Model, K-9

LAKELAND, FL — A Florida trooper makes a spectacular return to duty while a Miami fitness model helps jumpstart our New Year’s resolutions to get in better shape. Meanwhile, hundreds attend a heartfelt memorial for a slain Florida K-9. These are some of the good news stories we found in the Sunshine State.

Our roundup is guaranteed to put a smile on your face:

MIAMI, FL — After his near-death experience and "miraculous recovery," Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Carlos J. Rosario-Flores made a spectacular return to duty. "Thank you to all of you for… Read more

MIAMI, FL — If your New Year’s resolution is to get in better shape for 2019, Miami fitness model David Morin offers three simple steps to help you succeed. You don’t even need to join a gym…. Read more

WEST PALM BEACH, FL — Hundreds of people turned out Thursday to honor a slain Florida police K-9. Cigo was killed Christmas Eve and the people of this South Florida community wanted him to know that… Read more

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Accused Florida Killer Told Deputies He Had To Get Rid Of Devil

HAINES CITY, FL — A 60-year-old Lake Wales man told police he had to get rid of the devil after he allegedly shot and killed his former girlfriend and seriously wounded the woman’s friend early Saturday morning. David Murdock was found sitting outside the murder scene when deputies arrived at the Sweetwater Golf and Tennis Community, acccording to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

"Lots of people blame the Devil for their misdeeds, but it takes a person to pull a trigger," explained Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. "We are going to hold Murdock accountable for murdering his ex-girlfriend and trying to kill another woman."

The incident happened at about 1:15 a.m. in the 300 block of Melbourn Drive. Murdock was taken into custody without incident and charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, armed burglary with assault/battery and shooting into a building. A handgun was found near Murdock in the driveway and his gray 2013 Dodge pickup was parked in front of the residence.

"Deputies discovered 66-year-old Sandra Andrews … on the front screened porch of the residenc," said Scott H. Wilder of the sheriff’s office. "She had an apparent gunshot wound to the face. She told deputies that ‘David’ shot her."

Andrews was taken to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center and is expected to survive. But first responders were too late to save 56-year-old Lisa Bunce, who was visiting from Ohio and who previously lived in Lake Wales.

Bunce was found dead inside a bedroom closet with an apparent gunshot wound to the head, Wilder said.

"According to interviews with friends, Ms. Bunce had a previous troubled relationship with Murdock that had ended in December of 2017, and then she moved to Ohio," Wilder said. "Ms. Bunce recently traveled to Florida after Christmas to visit friends, including Ms. Andrews; Ms. Bunce was to return to Ohio on Jan. 8."

A friend told police that Murdock tried calling Andrews twice on Friday but she did not answer. "Ms. Bunce blocked Murdock’s number so he could not contact her," Wilder said. "The friend told deputies that Ms. Bunce previously told her that Murdock had threatened violence against her in the past."

Murdock was being held at the Polk County Jail without bond.

Photo courtesy Polk County Sheriff’s Office

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Lakeland Religious Leaders Appeal For Calm Following Teen’s Death

LAKELAND, FL — Local religious leaders in Lakeland were expected to ask the public to remain calm and not rush to judgment following Wednesday’s police-involved shooting death of 17-year-old Michael Jerome Taylor. The Lakeland International Ministerial Alliance along with other local clergy were planning to host a press conference on Friday at First Institutional Baptist Church to discuss the shooting.

Lakeland police have released video of the "large chaotic scene" outside Salem’s Gyros & More early Wednesday morning moments before Taylor was shot by police. He later died at Lakeland Regional Medical Center. See also Lakeland Police Release Video Of ‘Chaotic Scene’ Before Shooting

Lakeland Police Chief Larry Giddens said multiple officers opened fire on Taylor as the teenager was driving a stolen Camaro through the crowded restaurant parking lot at the corner of North Florida Avenue and Memorial Boulevard around 2:21 a.m.

"While the officers were there dealing with over 200 patrons in the parking lot, they noticed a black Camaro that was stolen and has been confirmed stolen out of Winter Haven," explained Giddens.

"It was a large chaotic scene — lots of people in the parking lot," said the chief. "The driver of the vehicle noticed the officers approaching. He aggressively began to speed through the parking lot, driving at one of our officers, placing them in fear for their life along with all the other patrons that began to scatter."

The shooting has sparked protest and concern by some members of the Lakeland community.

The Lakeland officers involved in the shooting incident were later identified as Officer Markais Neal, Officer Joseph Novis and Officer Raj Patel.

Photo courtesy Lakeland Police Department

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Lakeland Weather: Sunny Tuesday

LAKELAND, FL — Tuesday will have patchy fog early in the day before turning sunny with a slight breeze. Forecasters are calling for a high near 72.

Here is the detailed forecast from the National Weather Service for the Miami area:

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Tuesday

Patchy fog before 10 a.m. Otherwise, sunny, with a high near 72. Light north northeast wind.

Tuesday Night
Partly cloudy, with a low around 50. Calm wind.

Wednesday
A 30 percent chance of showers after 1pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 74. Calm wind becoming southeast 5 to 8 mph in the morning.

Wednesday Night
Showers and thunderstorms likely, mainly after 1 a.m. Cloudy, with a low around 62. Southeast wind around 6 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70 percent.

Thursday
Showers and thunderstorms. High near 73. South southeast wind 9 to 14 mph, with gusts as high as 29 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90 percent.

Thursday Night
A 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 58. Southwest wind 11 to 13 mph, with gusts as high as 18 mph.

Friday
A 40 percent chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 66. Windy, with a west southwest wind 13 to 20 mph, with gusts as high as 32 mph.

Friday Night
Partly cloudy, with a low around 48. West wind 8 to 13 mph.

Photo courtesy city of Lakeland

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Private Gated Estate In Lakeland Will Set You Back $2 million

LAKELAND, FL —This private, gated estate in Lakeland sits on 3.5 beautifully landscaped acres. Priced at $2 million, the stunning property features an ornate library with built-in shelves and its own guest house.

With a gorgeous view of Lake Scott, the estate boasts its own wine room, refinished dock and brand new boat house.

Find this home and other great properties on Realtor.com.

Check out more details below:

Price: $1,995,000 Square Feet: 6124 Bedrooms: 5 Bathrooms: 4 Full and 1 Half Baths Built: 1996 Features: This private gated estate on 3.5 beautifully landscaped acres has 5 bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms along with top of the line features and finishes. Also on the property is a 2,000 sq ft guest house with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms perfect for guests or multigenerational families. Entering into the impressive foyer, straight ahead is the library with ornate built in bookshelves and a gorgeous view of Scott Lake. To the left is the formal dining room with pocket door leading to butler’s pantry and kitchen. The eat-in gourmet kitchen with large island and built in desk area features built in refrigerated drawers, built in fridge, gas range, double ovens, dishwasher and trash compactor. Just off the kitchen is a cozy living room with gas fireplace. This home boasts a huge bonus room with vaulted wood ceiling, wet bar, wine room, and guest bath perfect for entertaining guests. The first floor master has tray ceilings, a gas fireplace, and lake views. The master bath is luxurious, like taking a trip to the spa with its jacuzzi tub and steam shower. Upstairs you will find the other 4 bedrooms and 2 full baths. Stepping outside you will find a large lanai with outdoor living room, outdoor kitchen, and salt water pool with spa and waterfall. Also included is, a home gym space, home generator, garages for 5 cars, decorative window treatments and chandeliers, and a refinished dock, brand new boat house, and boat lift. If you are looking for privacy and luxury, this home is for you!

This listing originally appeared on realtor.com. For more information and photos, click here.

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‘Bumbling’ Florida Burglar Drops Shorts During Heist

LAKELAND, FL — A "bumbling" Florida burglar lost his shorts during a recent heist at a Hyundai dealership and Lakeland police are asking for the public’s help in tracking him down, preferably with his shorts back on.

"Can you help identify this not-so-smooth criminal," police said in releasing video of the Nov. 18 burglary Thursday. The incident took place around 9 p.m. at night. The dealership is located at 1430 W. Memorial Blvd.

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The crook used a fire extinguisher to break through a wall.

"Climbing in through the hole in the wall wasn’t as easy as he thought," police said. "He even lost his shorts on the way in. However he was able to make off with a generator and was last seen heading southbound on Brunnell Parkway."

To report a tip, call Detective Scott Hutton at 863.834.8969. Alternatively, or to remain anonymous call Heartland Crime Stoppers Florida at 800-226-TIPS or log onto www.P3tips.com to submit your tip via the web. For a secure and password protected mobile app for your smart device, go to the app store and download the free "P3tips" mobile app.

Photo and video courtesy Lakeland Police Department

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Thanksgiving 2018: Get Your Gobble On Around Lakeland

LAKELAND, FL — There’s options around Lakeland this Thanksgiving if you are looking for a great holiday meal but don’t want to cook.

Patch consulted OpenTable.com for our restaurant roundup for the Lakeland area. We’ll keep updating right up until the plump turkey sings so refresh your browser and check back often.

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Here now is our Thanksgiving 2018 roundup:

The restaurant is open on Black Friday but closed on Thanksgiving. This upscale Latin-inspired restaurant uses a number of locally-sourced products. The restaurant pigs and chickens that are raised naturally.

The Bay Street Bistro is open on Black Friday but closed on Thanksgiving. This eclectic restaurant and art gallery serves French, Italian and American cuisine, as well as displaying the areas most talented artists.

The Bay Street Bistro is your destination for top quality dining in a relaxed atmosphere, located conveniently in downtown Lakeland. The business prides itself on making everything possible from scratch, using the highest quality ingredients!

It is also available for private bookings, dinner parties, business meetings and catering for your next event.

A full Thanksgiving offering will be served from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The cost is $55 per person. Reservations are required.

Discover why The Terrace Grille is recognized as one of the top restaurants in Central Florida.

Offering a relaxed, fine dining atmosphere and a savory menu right on site, the Terrace Grille features masterfully restored historic architecture in addition to delectable menu selections.

bd’s will be closed on Thanksgiving but will reopen on Black Friday. Since 1992, bd’s Mongolian Grill has been delivering unique, interactive dining experiences that sets the restaurant apart from the competition and has made it a great Create Your Own Stir-Fry restaurant concept.

The restaurant’s "Stir It Up, Your Way!" philosophy gives guests ownership in choosing ingredients from a great variety of choice meats and seafood, fresh vegetables, crisp salads, and flavor-packed sauces and spices that are Always Market Fresh. The food is then prepared by expert grillers on a 500° 7-foot grill.

The restaurant will be closed on Thanksgiving but will reopen on Black Friday. For nearly 40 years, Texas Cattle Company, a family owned and operated restaurant, has been a local favorite serving only select U.S.D.A. Choice and Prime, three-year-old grain-fed beef. Texas Cattle Company steers clear of fancy cooking methods, flame-broiling steaks on a custom-built pit over a natural wood-burning fire made from Florida orange-wood and oak. Managers cut and season steaks daily to guarantee the absolute best tasting steaks anywhere! The restaurant shops for the freshest local seafood and produce available to ensure that you will have an amazing dining experience. Whether you’re having a family celebration or a casual meal for two, remember Texas Cattle Company and experience the taste that has everyone all "Fired-Up"!

The restaurant will be closed on Thanksgiving but will reopen on Black Friday. Ovation Bistro & Bar is unashamedly passionate about the food and drinks it creates. The family-owned and operated business, is always ready to serve mouthwatering ribs and in-house smoked meats. Sit back and relax with a refreshing drink in a warm and casual atmosphere. Voted the #1 restaurant in Davenport and the Best Smokehouse in Central Florida, the restaurant guarantees Ovation Bistro & Bar will never disappoint you!

The restaurant will be closed on Thanksgiving but will reopen on Black Friday with its regular menu. Come in for a taste and you will stay for the flavor. Café Roti, where "every day is festive and every meal is a feast."

The restaurant is closed on Thanksgiving but will reopen on Black Friday. Red Lobster welcomes you by offering PRIORITY SEATING to reduce your wait time in the restaurant, so you can spend more time doing the things you love. Or, come enjoy a drink at the bar and a Tasting Plate while you wait. Red Lobster is the world’s largest and most loved seafood restaurant company, offering high quality, freshly-prepared seafood, sourced in a way that is traceable, sustainable and responsible. The restaurant offers lunch and dinner daily, featuring classics like the Ultimate Feast®, Garlic Shrimp Scampi and Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut Shrimp, and feature limited time flavors and preparations during events like Lobsterfest®, Crabfest® and Endless Shrimp®. And, who can resist the famous warm and cheesy Cheddar Bay Biscuits®?

Photo via Shutterstock

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FLORIDA CITY VOTES MONEY TO MOVE CONFEDERATE SOLDIER STATUE

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) – A Confederate soldier monument will be moving from a Florida city’s downtown park now that money has been found to pay for it.

The Lakeland Ledger reports that the city commission voted to use $225,000 from red light camera violations to move the monument from Munn Park in Lakeland’s downtown to a local park dedicated to veterans. The move is expected to be completed by Jan. 31.

The commission voted in May to move the statue to the veterans park but provided no taxpayer money to pay for it. Private donations fell well short of the amount needed.

The statue, like many others across the South, depicts a generic Confederate soldier atop a pediment. Some commissioners said the veterans’ park is a more appropriate site for the monument.

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Lakeland Man Kills Self After 3 1/2-Hour Standoff With SWAT Team

LAKELAND, FL — A mother and son have been found safe following a domestic dispute that turned into a standoff with Polk County Sheriff’s deputies Thursday, Nov. 1.

At 7:27 p.m., two deputies went to a home near Skyview Drive and Goodyear Avenue in Lakeland after receiving a domestic violence complaint. When they arrived, the resident, Michael Manning, shot at them five times with a shotgun.

"The shots went on either side of one of the deputies, narrowly missing both deputies," said Polk Sheriff Grady Judd. "It was only by the Grace of God that these deputies were not hurt."

A 3 1/2-hour standoff ensued. At about 10:50, SWAT team members heard a muffled gunshot followed by a thump. They went into the home and found Manning dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The domestic violence victims, Manning’s wife, 44-year-old Jennifer Manning, and their 14-year-old son, Shawn, were not inside. Detectives found out later that they left the home prior to deputies arriving.

Image via Shutterstock

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Drowsy Driver Causes Massive Crash At Florida Toll Booth

A drowsy driver caused a huge accident at a toll booth in Polk County, Florida, slamming their GMC Envoy into the back of a Chevrolet Silverado, propelling the pickup truck forward with a lot of force.

As a result, the Envoy ended up getting stuck underneath the Chevy, although its driver, who received a citation for careless driving from Florida Highway Patrol troopers, was nowhere near as injured as the driver of the Silverado.

ABC News reports that the 32-year old Silverado driver, one T.J. Lawson, was taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center with a broken leg. Unfortunately, he also suffered a seizure for which he had to be placed in intensive care.

“My heart as his sister like can you imagine the impact coming on you? You can’t even help yourself,” said Antayvia Lawson, adding that her brother was very confused following the crash.

“He was like totally lost, wondering what happened, why I’m here, what went on. He didn’t understand his leg was broke. He thought he was going to get up and walk.”

According to data released by the FHP, there have been 4,329 crashes due to drowsy driving last year, resulting in 28 fatalities. Polk County alone saw 28 crashes, a small sample size compared to the statewide numbers.

Troopers also say that toll booth accidents aren’t common, especially since the speed limit is 25 mph (40 km/h).

“The limited access roadways like our Suncoast Parkway, Veterans Expressway, Polk Parkway are generally relatively safe for the number of cars that go through there every day,” said Sgt. Steve Gaskins of the Florida Highway Patrol.

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