Lakeland Drama Teacher Accused Of Leaving Scene Of Crash

Christina Dobbs Lee has been accused of running a red light, striking another car and then leaving the scene of a crash. (Via Polk County Sheriff’s Office)

LAKELAND, FL — A drama teacher at Kathleen Senior High School in Polk County has been accused of running a red light, striking another car and then leaving the scene of a crash in which a woman reported being injured.

Forty-seven-year-old Christina Dobbs Lee of Lakeland was arrested Thursday night after a driver who witnessed the crash followed her home and got her tag number, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

The crash occurred around 5:53 p.m. Thursday at the intersection of Knights Station Road and Galloway Road in Lakeland,

"This is yet another reminder that drivers have a moral and legal responsibility to stop if involved in a crash," said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. "If you are able, and it is safe to do so, render aid. Ms. Lee turned this crash from a traffic citation to a third-degree felony with one bad decision."

Kyle Kennedy of Polk County Public Schools told Patch that Lee has no disciplinary actions in her personnel file as a teacher at Kathleen Senior High School.

"Christina Lee has not been placed on any form of administrative leave at this time," Kennedy told Patch. "Our human resource services department will obtain a copy of the arrest affidavit and review whether any internal investigation should take place."

Lee was charged with leaving the scene of a crash with injuries without rendering aid and booked into the Polk County jail. She was later released after posting a $1,000 bond

The other driver, a 30-year-old woman from Lakeland, told Polk County Fire Rescue personnel that her left leg was very sore and that she planned to go to the hospital after leaving the crash scene. She refused to be taken by ambulance.

Lee answered the door of her home in the 3900 block of Laurel Branch Drive when deputies arrived Thursday night.

"Ms. Lee answered the door and told the investigator that yes, she drove a red Mazda SUV, and that yes, she was involved in a crash and left the scene."

Deputies found the Mazda parked inside Lee’s garage with front-end damage to the front passenger side. The airbags had also been deployed.

"She told the deputy: ‘I was driving northbound on Galloway Road North; I ran the red light and crashed into the other vehicle,’"the sheriff’s office said. "She told deputies that the abrasions on her arm were from the airbag deployment."

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1 sent to hospital after critical-injury crash on I-4 in Lakeland

The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating a critical-injury crash that occurred Wednesday afternoon just before rush hour on I-4.

According to an FHP media release issued Thursday, a 2008 Toyota Corolla driven by Michelle M. Lavecchia, 30, of Largo was traveling eastbound on I-4 near milepost 33 in the center lane at 4:36 p.m.

A 2018 Toyota Prius driving by Carole Ann Harris, 76, of Lakeland was traveling eastbound in the outside lane, said the FHP.

While changing lanes, Lavecchia lost control of her vehicle, which rotated and collided with the Prius, according to reports.

Lavecchia’s vehicle then continued to the shoulder and hit a light pole, while Harris’ vehicle entered the center median and hit the guardrail.

Lavecchia suffered critical injuries and was transported to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center. Harris had no injuries, according to reports, and neither did her passenger, 57-year-old Juliana Lupori of Akron, Ohio.

Everyone in both vehicles was wearing seatbelts, and alcohol was not a factor in the crash, according to the FHP media release issued Thursday.

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Civil rights complaint being filed for Florida student who wouldn’t stand for Pledge of Allegiance

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By Kimberly C. Moore / The Lakeland (Fla.) Ledger

The 11-year-old at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy was suspended and arrested for disrupting a school function and resisting arrest without violence.

LAKELAND, Fla. — An attorney for an 11-year-old Polk County student who was arrested for disrupting a school function and resisting arrest without violence after refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, said he is filing a civil rights complaint with the United States Department of Education.

Roderick Ford, an attorney with the Cochran Law Firm in Tampa, said he and the student’s family are also hoping the state attorney’s office will not move forward with formal charges against the student because he was exercising his constitutionally protected right of free speech.

“There is an improper constitutional deprivation of rights that goes to the heart of the founding of this country,” Ford said during an interview Monday evening. “He is very proud to be an American, and he was acting in the greatest tradition of being an American.”

Ford’s comments stem from the arrest and suspension of the sixth-grader at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy on Feb. 4 after the student refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance and was then asked to stand up by a substitute teacher, Ana Alvarez.

“I asked the student to stand up for the pledge and he answered that he won’t because the flag of this country was racist,” Alvarez wrote in a statement to police. “He then started to explain why the National Anthem was offensive to black people.”

Spokesmen for the Lakeland Police Department and Polk County Public Schools stressed that the student at the magnet school for gifted students was not arrested for refusing to participate in the pledge.

“Students are not required to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance,” according to a statement from the district Monday morning.

The student’s mother, Dhakira Talbot, said there was at least one other student who was also not standing and she didn’t understand why her son was singled out.

“I just want people to know that my son is not a monster; he is not a disrespectful kid,” Talbot said, wiping away tears. She said her son was doing what she has taught him to do. “You standing up for yourself is not wrong.”

She said she and her son have been emotionally overwhelmed by the media attention surrounding the incident. Stories have appeared in The Washington Post, NBC Nightly News, USA Today and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, among others, regarding the incident.

“You don’t know that feeling of having to raise your kids on what to do if you’re stopped by police,” said Talbot, who noted she is two classes shy of a business degree from college.

Alvarez’s statement shows she told the student that “Why, if it was so bad here, he did not go to another place to (live).” She explained that she moved here from Cuba and that “the day I feel I’m not welcome here anymore, I would find another place to (live).”

According to the arrest affidavit, the substitute teacher called the office to have the student removed. School Resource Officer Carlos Cortes and School Dean Michael Simpson responded and asked the student to leave the room with them.

The student “continued to yell that the teacher had told him to, ‘Go back to Africa’,” Cortes wrote in his report, adding that he asked the student “several times (over 20 times)” to leave. He said the student continued saying, ”’I’m not leaving. Do your job and take her, she’s the racist one who told me to go back to Africa.”

Cortes also wrote in the report that the student told the dean not to touch him and that he would call the police on him. After finally leaving the classroom, the student continued yelling in the hallway that “You’re all racist.” When he entered the office he began crying and screamed, “I’m going to beat that teacher.”

The student also asked to call his mother. When he wasn’t allowed, he went to the guidance office. School Principal Brian Andrews took the student by his arms, telling him to calm down, the student told him that “I’m going to get you fired. I’m going to get all of you fired.”

District officials said Alvarez will not be hired again as a substitute teacher in Polk County. They said they are reviewing their training process for substitutes.

The student was taken to a juvenile facility for evaluation but has since been released. Talbot said she has transferred her son to a different school.

Kay Fields, the only black member of the Polk County School Board, said she is awaiting the results of an investigation.

“I just think it’s unfortunate, especially over the pledge,” Fields said Monday afternoon at Girls Inc., a nonprofit that helps underprivileged girls with homework and social skills. Fields recites the Pledge of Allegiance before each school board meeting and said she also stands for the national anthem.

“Times are different today,” Fields said. “If I had a girl at Girls Inc. who didn’t want to stand for the pledge, I wouldn’t make a big deal of it. I might pull her aside and talk with her about it to find out why and talk with her parents about it.”

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ROH TV taping in Lakeland, Florida (reports needed): Ten matches advertised for tonight’s event

The following matches are advertised for the ROH television taping that will be held tonight in Lakeland, Florida at RP Funding Arena.

-Jeff Cobb vs. Silas Young for the ROH TV Title

-Kelly Klein vs. Stella Gray for the WOH Championship.

-The Kingdom vs. Marty Scurll, PCO, and Brody King for the ROH Six-Man Tag Titles

-Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Rocky Romero

-Jay Lethal and Jonathan Gresham vs. Coast 2 Coast

-Dalton Castle vs. Kenny King

-Rush vs. Tracy Williams

-The Briscoes and Shane Taylor vs. Cheeseburger, Eli Isom, and Ryan Nova

-Mayu Iwatanai vs. Holidead

-Willie Mack vs. Rhett Titus for the NWA National Title

Powell’s POV: ROH is also advertising Bandido and Mark Haskins for the taping. We are looking for reports or basic results. If you are going to tonight’s show or Sunday’s event in Miami, Florida and want to help, email me at

Check below for the new Pro Wrestling Boom with Jason Powell and Will Pruett discussing the All Elite Wrestling rally in Las Vegas, the potential fallout from the partnership with Mexico’s AAA promotion, Kenny Omega signing, and much more.

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Lakeland Weather: Thursday Mostly Cloudy And Windy

LAKELAND, FL — Thursday will be mostly cloudy. Forecasters are calling for a high near 60 and windy conditions at times.

Here is the detailed forecast from the National Weather Service:

Mostly cloudy, with a high near 60. Wind chill values as low as 36 early. Northeast wind 9 to 13 mph, with gusts as high as 18 mph.

Thursday Night
Mostly cloudy, with a low around 53. Northeast wind 8 to 11 mph.

A 30 percent chance of showers after 1pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 70. East northeast wind 8 to 10 mph.

Friday Night
A 20 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 60. Northeast wind 6 to 8 mph.

Photo courtesy city of Lakeland

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Cuteness Alert: Lakeland Girl Walks Pet Chicken on Leash

LAKELAND, Fla. — Lakeland’s Ava Hutchings has a pet you don’t often see being walked on a leash — a chicken.

"Athena," as she’s named, actually enjoys taking the walks with Ava and her entire family. She’s not at all flustered when Ava fits her with a harness and leash.

When I met them both, I asked Ava if she thought Athena, who’s also known as "Tina," likes going for walks.

"I think she does," Ava said. "Because if she’s had a long day too, maybe she likes it, too."

Turned out she liked walking with me, too.

To learn more about Rick’s chicken-walking adventure, watch the video above.

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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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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.

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.

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.

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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