News Update 06/19/24

A man is dead after a shooting in Polk County. It happened yesterday in Lake Wales on West Northside Drive. The sheriff’s office says there was an argument that led to the shooting, but no details were released. A man is in custody, and deputies say he has an extensive criminal history. His identity has not been released. Investigators haven’t said who the victim is, either. The sheriff’s office promises more details today.

The U.S. State Department is planning to open its second passport office in Florida. Representative Maxwell Frost broke the news earlier today, saying the new location will operate out of Orlando. The facility will help residents expedite services for passports or foreign visas. Currently, the only office in the Sunshine State is located in Miami and it was backed up for weeks last summer as people tried to plan their vacations. Frost says it could take the General Services Administration up to a year to find a potential site.

There are new details about a Hillsborough County suspect accused of killing his parents on Father’s Day. Court records show that a judge ordered 19-year-old Christos Themelis to surrender his guns last February after he allegedly threatened someone. Police say Themelis was able to get a hold of a new firearm over the weekend. He is accused of shooting his father and mother before firing at deputies at a Tampa home on Sunday. The 19-year-old was killed in the shootout. A deputy was hurt during the incident, but is recovering.

Florida is making what the governor calls substantial investments in pediatric and cancer care. Governor Ron DeSantis signed three bills yesterday that he says further health care innovation, research and patient care. One of the bills creates a grant program aimed at advancing research and cures for rare pediatric diseases. Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo says these investments will help ensure Floridians continue having as many opportunities as possible to achieve their health goals.

August. F. Tobler Memorial Park in Placid Lakes will be getting some new additions. The war memorial will be getting a new bench installed, as well as a future second bench that will include the names of 11 U.S. wars, their dates, and the number of people killed. At least two veteran groups will be donating money to purchase and install the benches. The war memorial currently includes a statue of a soldier carrying a wounded colleague to safety and a plaza made of bricks containing the names of veterans. Highlands County residents are still able to purchase bricks at cost, to display the names of relatives who have served.

Day seven of the penalty trial for Zephen Xaver opened Tuesday with the defense calling Michael Mitchell, Zephen Xaver’s former stepfather. Jurors also heard testimony from a family friend and former teachers who described Xaver as a quiet young man with no behavior problems, with the exception of a refusal to do homework. Xaver’s mother, Misti Hendricks, was recalled to the stand and spoke to the struggles to get Xaver into a residential treatment facility for long term treatment, citing insurance as a contributing factor. Henricks also said that Xaver stopped taking his medication in 2018.

The Starliner test mission at the International Space Station has been extended again. Astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams won’t return to earth this weekend as tentatively planned. NASA’s Steve Stich says they’re now looking at undocking of Starliner from the ISS next week with landing by parachute in the southwest U.S. for Butch and Suni Wednesday, June 26th. Stich says they’re also working to better understand the spacecraft’s helium leaks in orbit as well as the thruster failures at docking with the ISS.

Some property insurance customers may be in line for a rate hike. The Citizens Property Insurance Corporation’s Board of Governors will meet today. They’ll consider raising rates by an average of 13-and-a-half percent for most homeowners and over 14 percent for condo owners. The state’s Office of Insurance Regulation would need to approve the increases before they take effect. Citizens is the largest property insurance carrier in the state with over a million policies.