Invasive reptile, which was dispatched with a knife, measures 18 feet, 8 inches, and weighs 128 pounds
May 20, 2013 by Pete Thomas
A Miami man briefly wrestled with and ultimately used a knife to kill a Burmese python measuring 18 feet, 8 inches.
That sets a state record for pythons captured or killed in the wild. The previous record measured 17 feet, 7 inches.
Jason Leon was not hunting pythons but, while driving late at night recently in southeast Miami-Dade County, he and a friend spotted about 3 feet of snake protruding from the brush.
Leon applied the brakes, climbed out of the car, grabbed the visible portion of the snake, and began hauling it onto the road.
The giant constrictor responded by trying to wrap its body around one of Leon’s legs, but he was able to dispatch the reptile with a knife.
Burmese pythons are native to grassy marshes of Southeast Asia and can grow to about 23 feet and weigh up to about 200 pounds.
In Florida, where they’ve been released as pets and escaped from wildlife facilities, there are thousands of them, mostly within the Everglades ecosystem.
As such a large and voracious invasive species, they’re a threat to native wildlife. The state would like to eradicate them, if that were possible.
Leon, meanwhile, is being praised.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission issued a news release, in which exotic species specialist Kristen Sommers stated:
“The FWC is grateful to him for both safety removing such a large Burmese python and for reporting its capture…With the help of people like Mr. Leon and our ongoing partnerships with other agencies, the FWC is advancing what we know about Burmese pythons in Florida.”
Leon, who said he once owned Burmese pythons and has experience handling the nonpoisonous snakes, reported the capture via a hotline used for reporting exotic species.
The python was delivered to the University of Florida’s Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center where it was measured and a necropsy was performed.
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(CNN) -- A body with a self-inflicted gunshot wound was found along with a bag of bombs in a dormitory room at the University of Central Florida early Monday, prompting officials to cancel classes at the main Orlando campus until at least noon, a school spokesman said.
Police made the discovery shortly after 12:20 a.m., after a fire alarm sounded at the Tower 1 dorm and someone called 911 about a person with a gun there, school spokesman Grant Heston said on CNN's "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien." Officers entered the dorm and found a male dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a bedroom, Heston said.
Police also found a handgun, an assault weapon and a bag of improvised explosive devices in the room, Heston said.
The Orange County Sheriff's Office and the FBI are assisting the UCF Police Department with the investigation. The Sheriff's Office's bomb squad is on campus to examine the IEDs found at the scene, UCF said.
Heston didn't say whether the dead person was a student, nor did he release a name.
The dorm, home to about 500 students, was evacuated.
"The safety of our students in Tower 1 and our entire campus community is our top priority," UCF Police Chief Richard Beary said.
UCF said it was providing the evacuated students counseling and food at the university's Veterans Academic Resource Center.
The parking garage closest to Tower 1 was initially closed off, but the university reopened it around 9 a.m.
UCF has more than 59,000 students at its main campus and 10 regional campuses, according to the school.
CNN's Marlena Baldacci contributed to this report.
TALLAHASSEE -- After a tumultuous two years, Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll has resigned in the wake of a federal probe into a company she represented with ties to Internet cafes.
"Effective immediately, I hereby resign the Office of Lieutenant Governor of the State of Florida. It has been an honor to have served the State of Florida in this capacity," her two-sentence letter dated Tuesday states.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers interviewed Carroll two days ago about her ties to Allied Veterans of the World, company that runs Internet cafes. On Tuesday, federal law enforcement arrested officials from the company along with a Jacksonville police union chief on racketeering charges.The non-profit held itself out to be a charity for veterans that was associated with the Veterans Administrationand oversaw dozens of store-front "electronic sweepstakes" centers that it called "fund-raising centers," according to a federal search warrant affidavit, prepared by an Internal Revenue agent.
"In fact, the 'fundraising centers' were nothing more than internet casinos that operated slot machines in violation of Florida's gambling laws," the affidavit said.
That amounted to "a conspiracy and scheme to defraud the public and governmental agencies," the affidavit said.
The company grossed $290 million between 2007 and 2012, the affidavit said, but only donated $6 million to charity.
Gov. Rick Scott's office is not expected to name a replacement for Carroll until after the 60-day legislative session ends in May. One candidate on Scott's short-list in 2010, Miami Sen. Anitere Flores, declined to comment on her interest. "Rather not right now. Jennifer is a good friend," she said after a Capitol committee hearing.
An email from Florida Chamber of Commerce political director Marian Johnson to other lobbyists noted the "widespread speculation on who the new LT. Governor might be."
"For some time, Miami Senator Anitere Flores has been discussed as a future statewide candidate," she wrote. "Is this the time that Senator Flores will rise to the top of the list?"
Other Republicans said the opening was a good chance for Scott to shore up support by tapping an Hispanic replacement. Scott "has a chance to pick, frankly, someone who he thinks can help with the campaign," said Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine.
Carroll, a former Jacksonville state legislator, was Florida's first African-American lieutenant governor. Her Jacksonville public relations firm, 3N and JC, did work for Allied in 2009 and 2010.
In Tallahassee, Scott's chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, issued this statement Wednesday morning:
"Individuals were arrested [Tuesday] for racketeering and money laundering charges in connection with Allied Veterans of the World's illegal gambling companies.
"Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll consulted for Allied Veterans while serving as a member of the Florida House of Representatives in 2009 and 2010. She was interviewed by Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers [Tuesday] regarding her work with the company. Lt. Gov. Carroll resigned in an effort to keep her former affiliation with the company from distracting from the administration's important work on behalf of Florida families. She made the right decision for the state and her family."
The announcement of Carroll's resignation drew a blistering statement from Allison Tant, chair of the Florida Democratic Party.
"Floridians expected an administration focused on solving the problems facing Florida's families, but instead got a scandal plagued Governor and a revolving staff door," Tant wrote.
"Rick Scott and his administration have made a mockery of the Governor's office — embarrassing Floridians while failing to accomplish his legislative priorities. Scott campaigned on changing Tallahassee but his first three years have been more of the same corruption and waste that taxpayers have come to expect from Florida Republicans."
Lenny Curry, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, was considerably more subdued.
"Lt. Gov. Carroll has been a great leader for our party and our state," Curry said in a statement. "She was a terrific advocate for Florida's military and economic development efforts. Her resignation is disappointing, but she made the right decision to protect both her family and the work she has done to move our state forward over the last few years."
Carroll, 53, is a former Navy officer elected to her Jacksonville-area Florida House seat in 2003, where she stayed until Scott tapped her as his running mate in 2010. As part of the job, she chaired Space Florida, the economic-development agency that promotes space.
But she has been a cause for controversy before during Scott's term.
In 2011, the Jacksonville Times-Union reported she had used false documents to qualify for a Jacksonville minority-owned grant program for her firm. Last year, her aide Carletha Cole, was charged with giving a T-U reporter a recording of her conversation with her chief-of-staff. In court filings, Cole accused Carroll of having an inappropriate relationship with another female employee, prompting Carroll to make a controversial remark to a TV reporter that "black women that look like me" aren't lesbians.
Authorities were tight-tipped about a news conference scheduled for 2:30 p.m. today and the investigation. Those who are slated to attend the briefing include Attorney General Pam Bondi, FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey, U.S. Attorney Bobby O'Neill, and representatives from theU.S. Secret Service, the IRS, and multiple local law-enforcement agencies.
Allied Veterans of the World sued Seminole County over its ban on the so-called Internet cafes, which offer cash and prizes through computerized games that simulate devices found in casinos like slot machines.
Last year, a federal appeals court ruled Seminole County could continue its ban, and Allied Veterans has since dropped its opposition.
The group said it sold one of its strip-mall casinos in the Apopka area on State Road 436, but the federal affadavit said it continued to send money to Allied Veterans.
No one answered the phone this morning at that location.
Kathleen Haugney of the Tallahassee Bureau contributed to this story.
Copyright © 2013, Orlando Sentinel
By Joe Sutton and Ed Payne, CNN
updated 1:42 AM EDT, Wed March 13, 2013(CNN) -- Two days after he was pulled from the bottom of a swimming pool at a Disney resort in Florida, a 13-year-old boy from Missouri has died.
Anthony Johnson died Tuesday morning, according to the Orange County Sheriff's office. No cause of death was given.
"We are saddened by Anthony Johnson's passing and our hearts go out to his family, friends and loved ones," a statement from Disney said. "We have reached out to his family to offer care and assistance during this difficult time."
The boy was swimming at Disney's Pop Century Resort pool on Sunday evening with family members and other guests when he was spotted in about 4 feet of water by a cousin, who pulled him out, sheriff's deputies told CNN affiliate WKMG-TV. Lifeguards were not on duty at the time of the incident.
Buffalo, New York, firefighter William Cybulski said he gave CPR to the boy.
"You never want to see something like that especially when you're on vacation, or any child in general no matter where you are," he said in an interview with WKMG.
Cybulski's girlfriend, Crystal Loschiavo, told the affiliate she did her best to keep the family calm, including Johnson's brother.
"The little boy was really upset that it was his brother," Loschiavo said. "He kept saying 'this is my only brother, this is my only brother. I don't want anything to happen to him.'"
The Pop Century Resort is located in the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Lake Buena Vista, near Orlando.
It celebrates the "unforgettable fads of the 1950s through the 1990s," by saluting the "timeless fashions, catch phrases, toys and dances that captivated the world through the decades," the Disney website says.
CNN's Marylynn Ryan contributed to this report
SEFFNER, Fla. (AP) — Engineers worked gingerly Saturday morning to find out more about a slowly growing sinkhole that swallowed a Florida man in his bedroom, believing the entire house could eventually succumb to the unstable ground.
Jeff Bush, 37, was in his bedroom Thursday night when the earth opened and took him and everything else in his room. Five other people were in the house but managed to escape unharmed. Bush's brother jumped into the hole to try to help, but he had to be rescued himself by a sheriff's deputy.
Engineers began doing more tests at 7 a.m. Saturday. Crews with equipment were at the home next door, one of two that has been evacuated. By 10 a.m., officials moved media crews farther away from the Bush house so experts could perform tests on the home across the street. It's unclear how large the sinkhole is, or whether it leads to other caverns and chasms throughout the neighborhood. Experts say the underground of West Central Florida looks similar to Swiss cheese, with the geography lending itself to sinkholes.
Experts spent the previous day on the property, taking soil samples and running various tests — while acknowledging that the entire lot where Bush lay entombed was dangerous. No one was allowed in the home.
"I cannot tell you why it has not collapsed yet," Bill Bracken, the owner of an engineering company called to assess the sinkhole, said of the home. He described the earth below as a "very large, very fluid mass."
"This is not your typical sinkhole," said Hillsborough County administrator Mike Merrill. "This is a chasm. For that reason, we're being very deliberate."
Officials delicately addressed another sad reality: Bush was likely dead and the family wanted his body. Merrill, though, said they didn't want to jeopardize any more lives.
"They would like us to go in quickly and locate Mr. Bush," Merrill said. Officials added Saturday morning that a fund had been set up to help the families affected by the sinkhole.
On Saturday, Jeremy Bush — who tried to rescue his brother when the earth opened — lay flowers and a stuffed lamb near the house and wept.
Hillsborough County Fire Chief Ron Roger called the situation "very complex."
"It's continuing to evolve, and the ground is continuing to collapse," he said.
Sinkholes are so common in Florida that state law requires home insurers to provide coverage against the danger. While some cars, homes and other buildings have been devoured, it's extremely rare for them to swallow a person.
Florida is highly prone to sinkholes because there are caverns below ground of limestone, a porous rock that easily dissolves in water.
"You can almost envision a piece of Swiss cheese," Taylor Yarkosky, a sinkhole expert from Brooksville, Fla., said while gesturing to the ground and the sky blue home where the earth opened in Seffner. "Any house in Florida could be in that same situation."
A sinkhole near Orlando grew to 400 feet across in 1981 and devoured five sports cars, most of two businesses, a three-bedroom house and the deep end of an Olympic-size swimming pool.
More than 500 sinkholes have been reported in Hillsborough County alone since the government started keeping track in 1954, according to the state's environmental agency.
The sinkhole, estimated at 20 feet across and 20 feet deep, caused the home's concrete floor to cave in around 11 p.m. Thursday as everyone in the Tampa-area house was turning in for the night. It gave way with a loud crash that sounded like a car hitting the house and brought Bush's brother running.
Jeremy Bush said he jumped into the hole but couldn't see his brother and had to be rescued himself by a sheriff's deputy who reached out and pulled him to safety as the ground crumbled around him.
"The floor was still giving in and the dirt was still going down, but I didn't care. I wanted to save my brother," Jeremy Bush said through tears Friday in a neighbor's yard. "But I just couldn't do nothing."
He added: "I could swear I heard him hollering my name to help him."
A dresser and the TV set had vanished down the hole, along with most of Bush's bed.
A sheriff's deputy who was the first to respond to a frantic 911 call said when he arrived, he saw Jeremy Bush.
Deputy Douglas Duvall said he reached down as if he was "sticking his hand into the floor" to help Jeremy Bush. Duvall said he didn't see anyone else in the hole.
As he pulled Bush out, "everything was sinking," Duvall said.
Engineers said they may have to demolish the small house, even though from the outside there appeared to be nothing wrong with the four-bedroom, concrete-wall structure, built in 1974.
Jeremy Bush said someone came out to the home a couple of months ago to check for sinkholes and other things, apparently for insurance purposes.
"He said there was nothing wrong with the house. Nothing. And a couple of months later, my brother dies. In a sinkhole," Bush said.
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ORLANDO, Fla. - A College Park couple's vegetable garden is on the chopping block again after the city threatened fines if they don't uproot it by Thursday, according to the Institute for Justice Florida Chapter.
Jason and Jennifer Helvenston are launching "Plant a Seed, Change the Law," a protest of Orlando’s law, which they say violates their constitutional right to peacefully use their property to grow their own food.In November,
Local 6 broke the story about the controversial garden after the city told the Helvenstons their 25-by-25-foot front yard vegetable garden was not in compliance with the city's code.
After hundreds of emails supporting the couple flowed in and initially allowing the Helvenstons to keep their garden, saying it will hold off on violations, the city has since asked the couple to uproot the garden and replace it with a lawn or face fines.
"The greatest freedom you can give someone is the freedom to know they will not go hungry,” said Jason Helvenston. "Our Patriot Garden pays for all of its costs in healthy food and lifestyle while having the lowest possible carbon footprint. It supplies valuable food while being attractive. I really do not understand why there is even a discussion. They will take our house before they take our Patriot Garden."
According to Ari Bargil, an attorney for the Institute for Justice, the Helvenstons have a scheduled inspection and will be fined starting on Thursday, up to $500 a day.
"We are seriously interested in taking a look at this," Bargil said, when asked if the firm would be suing the city of Orlando. "We're focused on helping the Helvenstons get the word out, encouraging the city to reach a sensible compromise here."
Local 6 has reached out to the city of Orlando for comment, but has not received a response.
"We are asking residents across Orlando and the country to join us in planting a ‘Patriot Garden’ in their own front yards,” said Jennifer Helvenston. “Please email us at email@example.com
and we will send you a free packet of radish seeds and a small sign for your front yard that says ‘Patriot Garden: Plant a Seed, Change the Law.’"
Watch Local 6 for more on this story.
- Copyright 2013 by ClickOrlando.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
The wife of a Florida millionaire who vanished six months ago says she is stuck in financial limbo as police try to figure out if she is a widow or an abandoned wife.
Guma Aguiar, a 35-year-old Brazilian-born oil and gas magnate, was last seen June 19 driving his motorboat through Port Everglades. Since he disappeared, Aguiar’s wife, siblings, mother and an uncle have all been fighting over his $100 million fortune, according to the Orlando Sentinel
With no body turning up, it could take five years for Aguiar to be declared legally dead. In the meantime, Jamie Aguiar, who reportedly had threatened to divorce her husband and had tried to challenge their prenuptial agreement, may be forced to continue fighting his legal battles without him, the paper reported.
“It's a very difficult time,” Jamie Aguiar, 33, of Rio Vista Isles, Fla., told the Sentinel. “I try and count our blessings every single day and try and think of what I'm grateful for.”
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/12/27/wife-missing-fla-millionaire-wonders-if-abandoned-or-widow/#ixzz2GGj2VDhm
By NBCMiami.comOne of the U.S. Marshals Service's 15 most wanted fugitives
was arrested Thursday in Fort Myers, Fla., authorities said.Murder suspect Felipe Alex Torrealba
was being transported to the Broward County Jail Thursday night, according to U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Barry Golden.
Earlier this year, the Broward Sheriff's Office described Torrealba as a suspect in the murder of Kris Smalls, 42, of Weston, Fla.
, who was found dead in his SUV in March a week after he was reported missing.
Two handguns, about $15,000 in cash, a pair of binoculars and a wig were found inside the two-story townhouse where Torrealba was arrested, the U.S. Marshals Service said in a statement.More stories from NBCMiami.com
A rental vehicle with two different Texas license plates, which was parked outside the townhouse, is believed to be the vehicle that Torrealba used to elude law enforcement, the agency said.
Torrealba's attorney, Jim Lewis, said he has not heard from his client since February.