News Update for 06/17/24

Emotional victim impact statements from the family members and friends of the five women Zephen Xaver killed were given on Friday in Xaver’s penalty trial. The State has rested its case against Xaver and the defense will now present their case. The jury will decide if Xaver will get the death penalty or life without parole. Xaver’s trial will be one of the first high-profile cases in Florida where the death penalty sentence no longer hinges on a unanimous jury verdict. Florida law now states that a defendant may be sentenced to death if at least 8 of the 12 jurors recommend execution. Court resumed at 8:30AM this morning.

A Hillsborough County deputy is on the road to recovery after what the sheriff calls a truly scary situation. Sheriff Chad Chronister released body-cam video yesterday from the scene of a deadly shooting Saturday in Tampa. Deputies say 19-year-old Christos Themelis, Jr. shot and killed his parents on Cactus Wren Place. When deputies arrived, Themelis allegedly fired towards them and five deputies returned fire. Themelis was found dead inside his home. Deputy Shane McGough was shot in the leg and had surgery yesterday but is expected to make a full recovery.

The City of Fort Meade has been awarded $1.95 million in state appropriations to bolster fire department infrastructure and equipment. $1.5 million of the funding will be for the construction and hardening of a new fire house, $250,000 will go towards essential fire safety equipment, and $200,000 will be for a state of the art fire command vehicle. Fort Meade had a volunteer fire department for nearly 100 years since the department’s inception in 1926, but the city commission voted to transition to a combination department last year.

Florida’s citrus industry is still trying to recover after it was severely impacted by Hurricanes Ian and Nichole two years ago. The latest report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows the current harvest is about eleven-percent higher than the previous year, which saw its lowest numbers in more than nine decades. Crops were also impacted by a disease known as citrus greening. Last Wednesday’s forecast shows that the state is expected to produce nearly 18-million boxes of oranges this season. The new state budget signed by the governor earlier last week will set aside nearly 50-million dollars for the citrus industry.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is working to expand health care for veterans as Florida sees one of the highest increases for enrollees. The Department of Veterans Affairs reports a 30% increase in vets enrolling for VA health care over the last year. Florida has one of the highest increases, with almost 33,000 new enrollees. In an effort to expand access to that care, the Department of Veterans Affairs is opening more health care clinics. that are able to offer convenient and comprehensive services under one roof. Another new VA clinic is set to open in Polk County in July.

The National Hurricane Center is watching a new tropical disturbance that is forming in the Atlantic. Meteorologists say the disturbance could form into a more serious storm system by the middle of next week. Forecasters say the system has a 20-percent chance of strengthening over the next week. Officials are also tracking a second system off Mexico’s east coast that has the potential to reach tropical-depression by mid-week.