If you noticed a lot of activity around the two local hospitals yesterday, don’t worry – the flurry of activity was only a drill. Both Highlands Regional Medical Center, Florida Hospital and other local organizations including the School Board "practiced" for what they’d do in the case of a serious wreck involving a school bus. The drill included the whole enchilada from transfers between emergency rooms to flight-for-life calls, and even Sherriff’s Department PIO Scott Dressell playing the part of a pesky and persistent reporter asking what was happening.
The legacy of Highlands County Sheriff’s Office Deputy William Gentry will continue to live on in a way that will help save lives. As an action memorializing the fallen officer, County Tax Collector Eric Zwayer and Sherriff Paul Blackman yesterday announced that Zwayers’ office was waiving the fees normally charged to add organ donor status to your driver’s license. It’s normally a $31.25 charge to make that modification, but Zwayer enlisted the state’s support and got it, so both state and local fees to change your status – are – effective immediately – waived. After Gentry was killed in the line of duty last month, it was fairly well publicized that he was organ donor – in fact, his return to Highlands County was delayed a couple days so Gentry’s donations could save multiple lives almost immediately.
The DeSoto City man who confessed to stabbing his female roommate 99 times back in May of 2017 won’t see the outside of a prison again. Yesterday, Circuit Judge Peter Estrada sentenced Richard Strickland III to life in prison for the killing, telling Strickland, “you have lost the right to live among us.” Strickland had told authorities that he “lost it” during an argument with Shirley Ann Temple and began stabbing her. He told authorities that after Temple stopped moving he called families to tell them goodbye. Strickland pled guilty to second-degree murdet in a plea bargain back in May; he’ll be sent from the County Jail to the State Department of Corrections to serve his sentence.
Highlands County students will need to dig a little deeper to pay the lunch lady this upcoming school year … elementary and secondary school lunches will go up in price by a nickel this fall. Breakfasts stay free – elementary lunches will be $2.75 and middle and high school lunches will be $3. Don’t blame the School Board or the lunch lady for this – it’s part of a federal pricing equity formula. Grownup lunches, by the way, stay at this past year’s $4 price tag.