News Update for 07/02/24

A man is in custody in connection to the deadly shooting of his estranged girlfriend in Polk County over the weekend. Haines City police say a 29-year-old woman was found shot multiple times near La Fiesta Mexicana Restaurant Sunday morning. The suspect, Rolando Zarate, was later spotted in Winter Haven. Authorities say Zarate confessed to the crime and claimed the victim was going to take their children away from him. The suspect is facing a series of charges, including aggravated stalking, tampering with evidence, and first-degree murder.

The new FAST scores show improvement for students in Central Florida. The state education department released the results yesterday of the latest Florida Assessment of Student Thinking tests. Orange County students made gains from last year in biology, math, reading and language arts. Seminole County students did better in civics compared to last year and Osceola County showed gains across the board. You can see the test results at

A 30-year mystery is solved in Orange County. The sheriff’s office announced yesterday that remains found in 1993 have recently been identified. The skeletal remains were found in the woods in Orlando. Investigators knew it was a white man who died of a gunshot wound to the head, but that was it. The sheriff’s office contacted Othram Labs and they used genetic genealogy to identify the remains as those of Greg Carpenter. He was 48 when he was last seen alive the day after Christmas in 1992.

Triple-A is helping Floridians celebrate the Fourth of July responsibly. The auto club will bring back its "Tow to Go" program later this week as a way to keep impaired drivers off the roadways. The free service will allow people to dispatch a tow truck to their location and bring them to a safe spot within a ten-mile radius. It’s available for everyone, regardless of if they are a member of the association. It will run from 6 p.m. on Wednesday through 6 a.m. on July 8th.

An Orange County woman hopes a new state law can save lives. As of yesterday, those who engage in street racing will face tougher penalties. A second offense is now a felony, and fines are steeper. Windermere’s Holly Marino lives on Serenity Bend where street racing has been a problem for years. Marino welcomes the new law, but she says it won’t do much good if it’s not enforced. Sheriff John Mina asks anyone who witnesses street racing to call 911 or the sheriff’s office. Marino says she hopes this problem stops before she sees a young body on the road.

A judge has ruled that Sarasota police illegally searched the phone of former state Republican Party chair Christian Ziegler during a rape investigation. The 46-page ruling from Judge Hunter Carroll says three search warrants used by police were too broad. Prosecutors ultimately did not bring charges against Ziegler over allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman involved with himself and his wife Bridget, who sits on the Sarasota school board. Ziegler was forced out of his party post earlier this year.

Hurricane Beryl is now at Category 5 strength after weakening slightly as it heads towards the Caribbean. According to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Beryl has maximum sustained winds of 160 miles-per-hour and is moving west-northwest at 20 miles-per-hour. Forecasters say Beryl is expected to remain an extremely dangerous major hurricane as it moves through the Windward Islands into the southeastern Caribbean, with hurricane conditions possible in Jamaica by Wednesday.

The Supreme Court is pumping the brakes on state’s efforts to limit how social media companies’ moderate user content. The case involved Republican-backed laws in Florida and Texas challenging sites like Facebook and TikTok from blocking mostly political posts deemed objectionable. The two states argued this amounted to censorship and violated the Constitution’s First Amendment against restrictions of speech. The big tech companies challenged the laws and the justices unanimously ruled today the lower courts did not look at First Amendment issues, and now must go back and re-litigate the case.

A new law is designed to protect Floridians from moving scams. Attorney General Ashley Moody says the law that took effect yesterday requires moving companies to register with the state, provide clear contracts and avoid misleading advertising. The law also increases penalties for movers who refuse a lawful order to return private possessions to a client. Moody also updated a resource called ‘Scams at a Glance: On the Move.’ The tips include knowing that interstate movers must be licensed with the federal government, and those handling moves within Florida must be registered with the state.