On Air Now

Listen Now

Weather

heavy-rain-night
63°
Mostly Cloudy
H 66° L 60°
  • heavy-rain-night
    63°
    Current Conditions
    Mostly Cloudy. H 66° L 60°
  • cloudy-day
    61°
    Morning
    Mostly Cloudy. H 66° L 60°
  • cloudy-day
    75°
    Afternoon
    Partly Cloudy. H 78° L 57°
Listen
Pause
Error

The latest newscast

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

Add Event
Add Event
Facebook
Twitter
Feb 14

K @ Osceola County Fair

Osceola County Fair1875 Silver Spur Ln, Kissimmee, FL 34744a

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • A former wildlife park owner and one-time Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate who goes by the moniker “Joe Exotic” was sentenced Wednesday to 22 years in federal prison in a plot to kill a woman with whom he clashed over his mistreatment of animals. Joseph Maldonado-Passage, 56, of Wynnewood, Oklahoma, was found guilty last April of two counts of murder-for-hire, eight counts of falsifying wildlife records and nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act. Arrested Sept. 7, 2018, in Gulf Breeze, Florida, he went to trial in late March in Oklahoma City. Maldonado-Passage is former owner of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park. The Tampa Bay Times reported that he also ran unsuccessfully for Oklahoma governor in 2018. The “Joe Exotic” case has garnered national attention, including as the subject of a podcast by Wondery for its series, “Over My Dead Body.” The description in a trailer for the podcast calls Maldonado-Passage a self-described “gay, gun-carrying redneck with a mullet.” He also had his own YouTube channel, JoeExoticTV, on which videos were posted until last week. The Oklahoman reported that Maldonado-Passage’s first husband, 23-year-old Travis Maldonado, died of an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head Oct. 6, 2017, at the animal park. Maldonado told those present that the gun would not fire because he had removed the magazine, the newspaper said. A bullet was in the chamber when he pulled the trigger, however. Maldonado-Passage, at that time the Libertarian candidate to replace outgoing Gov. Mary Fallin, was not present when his husband died. He remarried two months after the fatal shooting, the Times reported. Maldonado-Passage’s federal convictions for violating the Endangered Species Act and for falsifying records, which is a violation of the Lacey Act, involve his treatment of the animals that were in his care when he ran the animal park. “Maldonado-Passage falsified forms involving the sale of wildlife in interstate commerce, killed five tigers in October 2017 to make room for cage space for other big cats, and sold and offered to sell tiger cubs in interstate commerce. Because tigers are an endangered species, these alleged killings and sales violated the Endangered Species Act,” a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma said. The current owners of the animal park, Lauren and Jeff Lowe, wrote on Facebook Jan. 16 that it would be just six more days before the “monster” who killed the tigers would go to federal prison. The post was accompanied by photos that appeared to show the slain animals’ bones being excavated from the ground. “His tyranny in the animal world is over,” the post read. “He will never own another animal again unless his cell has cockroaches.” In an interview with KOCO in Oklahoma City, the Lowes said they were relieved by the sentence and were looking for a fresh start without a connection to “Joe Exotic.” They announced plans in 2018 to move the animal park to a new location not sullied by Maldonado-Passage’s actions. “His name will not be mentioned,” Lauren Lowe told the news station. “He will have nothing to do with the new facility. Going to let this place in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, die with him.” Animal rights activist Carole Baskin, the woman Maldonado-Passage tried to have killed, spoke in court last week about the decade of threats and verbal venom Maldonado-Passage subjected her to. Her statement, in its entirety, has been posted on her sanctuary’s website and on YouTube. Baskin is the founder of Big Cat Rescue, an animal sanctuary based out of Tampa, Florida. She told the court Maldonado-Passage’s conviction was based on “only a handful of vivid examples of his malicious intent to murder me. “The prosecution didn’t need to present the daily barrage of threats to harm, rape or kill me that were my daily experience for the past 10 years,” Baskin said. She said that the trial evidence showed how, over a span of several years, Maldonado-Passage repeatedly tried to coerce, and then hire, someone to kill her. “Because of his constant threats to kill me, I have found myself seeing every bystander as a potential threat,” Baskin said. “There is nowhere that I have felt safe, and worse, no way that I feel I can safeguard those around me. “So many of his threats involved blowing me up, so that he could thrill over seeing me burn to death. Even from jail he gleefully talks about the prospect of me dying a fiery death.” Baskin told the judge it was “nothing short of a miracle” that she was able to stand up in court and ask that he consider everything Maldonado-Passage took from her. “As you consider his sentence, I would just like you to take into account that if this vicious, obsessed man is ever released from jail, my life and my family’s lives will return to what it was like during the decade leading up to his arrest,” Baskin said. “If he completes his sentence and is released, we will end up spending the rest of our lives constantly looking over our shoulders.” Watch Carole Baskin talk about Joseph Maldonado-Passage’s sentencing below. Maldonado-Passage, who also goes by the name Joseph Allen Schreibvogel, had an ongoing dispute with Baskin stemming from her criticism of his wildlife center’s care, exhibition and breeding practices for big cats like lions and tigers. “Until 2011, the dispute was carried on primarily through traditional and social media,” a November 2018 indictment in the case reads. That year, Baskin filed a civil lawsuit against Maldonado-Passage. The Times reported that, in retaliation for Baskin’s outreach efforts to stop people from booking his traveling petting zoo, Maldonado-Passage had renamed the attraction the “Big Cat Rescue Entertainment.” The trademark infringement suit in February 2013 resulted in a judgment against Maldonado-Passage, requiring him to pay Baskin more than $1 million. She and her sanctuary have never received any of the money. By January 2012, Maldonado-Passage’s criticism of Baskin turned to threats of violence, including threats on Facebook and YouTube. According to an interview Baskin did with the Times, the threats included a video Maldonado-Passage made of himself shooting a blow-up doll dressed to look like her. He also produced an image of Baskin hanging in effigy, the newspaper reported. In early November 2017, Maldonado-Passage began trying to hire a hit man to travel to Florida and kill Baskin, the indictment says. On Nov. 6, the supposed hit man traveled from Oklahoma to Dallas to get fake identification for use when traveling to Florida. Later that month, Maldonado-Passage mailed the man’s cellphone to Nevada to conceal the proposed gunman’s involvement in the plot. That same day, Nov. 25, Maldonado-Passage gave the man $3,000 he had received in the sale of a big cat to the man as payment for Baskin’s murder, the indictment says. Thousands more would be paid once the job was complete. That plot never materialized. The Times reported last year that the would-be killer ran off with the money and never made it to Florida. Jurors at Maldonado-Passage’s trial also heard that, beginning in July 2016, Maldonado-Passage repeatedly asked a second witness to kill Baskin or to help him find someone who would. The person he went to that time went to authorities and arranged a December 2017 meeting with a supposed hit man. The hit man was an undercover FBI agent. “The jury heard a recording of his meeting with the agent to discuss details of the planned murder,” a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Watch a “Joe Exotic Sizzle Reel” from Maldonado-Passage’s YouTube channel below. It may contain some graphic language. Timothy J. Downing, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma, said Maldonado-Passage’s conviction and sentencing was the result of “countless hours of detailed investigative work by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” “We are thankful for the court’s thoughtful consideration of the gravity of this murder-for-hire scheme, as well as the defendant’s egregious wildlife crimes in imposing a 22-year sentence,” Downing said. Edward Grace, assistant director of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement, said the successful prosecution was the result of cooperation between the U. S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Wildlife crime is often connected with other criminal activity, such as fraud, narcotics, money-laundering and smuggling. Mr. Maldonado-Passage added murder-for-hire,” Grace said in a statement. “The service, along with our partners, will continue to bring to justice those involved in wildlife trafficking and other assorted crimes.”
  • Health officials in Texas are investigating a suspected case of 2019 novel coronavirus, the deadly new virus that’s killed more than a dozen people and sickened hundreds more in China. Authorities said the patient in Texas, who was not identified, traveled recently from Wuhan, China, where the virus originated. The patient 'met the criteria for coronavirus testing and is being kept isolated at home, while the precautionary testing is done,' according to the Brazos County Health District. If confirmed, the case would mark at least the second in the U.S. since reports of the coronavirus first surfaced last month in Wuhan, according to The Associated Press. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Tuesday that the first American case of the deadly coronavirus strain had been confirmed in Washington state. Health officials believe the virus can spread from person-to-person, though it remained unclear Thursday just how easily the virus spread. Officials recommend that any people who have recently traveled to Wuhan and subsequently experienced flu-like symptoms -- including fever, coughing, shortness of breath or a sore throat -- contact their health care providers. The Brazos County Health District released the following recommendations to prevent the spread of coronavirus: Everyone 6 months and older is encouraged to get a flu shot. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Stay home when you are sick. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, and then throw the tissue in the trash. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • The cold weather we've felt over the past few days has manatees searching for warmer waters. Hundreds of sea cows are floating around the constant 72 degree spring water at Blue Spring State Park. Non-profit Save the Manatee operates two live cameras at the park, one above-water and one below-water. Manatees are at risk of suffering from cold stress if the water they're in drops below 68 degrees. You can see more live webcams at various Florida state parks here. Heads up for all manatee enthusiasts: Save the Manatee is holding a manatee festival this weekend at Blue Spring State Park!
  • Jim Lehrer, the debate moderator and journalist who co-founded “PBS NewsHour” and spent the next 36 years anchoring the show has died, PBS announced Thursday. He was 85. PBS officials said Lehrer died “peacefully in his sleep at his home” Thursday in Washington, according to the network and The New York Times. “With heavy hearts we report the death of PBS NewsHour co-founder Jim Lehrer at age 85,” employees of news show wrote Thursday afternoon in a tweet. “A giant in journalism, his tenacity and dedication to simply delivering the news remain the core of our work.” Lehrer retired in 2011, 36 years after he and his friend Robert MacNeil co-founded “PBS NewsHour,' according to CNN. The show, then called “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” was the only hour-long national news broadcast to air nightly in the country at the time of its debut. “I’m heartbroken at the loss of someone who was central to my professional life, a mentor to me and someone whose friendship I’ve cherished for decades,” Judy Woodruff, who in 2013 succeeded Lehrer on the anchor desk at PBS NewsHour,” said in a statement. “I’ve looked up to him as the standard for fair, probing and thoughtful journalism and I know countless others who feel the same way.” Tributes poured in from colleagues and watchers alike, including from Fox News’ Bret Baier, who called Lehrer “an inspiration to a whole generation of political journalists— including this one.' Dan Rather said “few approached their work with more equanimity and integrity than Jim Lehrer.” And Jake Tapper of CNN called Lehrer “a wonderful man and a superb journalist.” Lehrer was best known for his anchoring work, but he also moderated a dozen presidential debates and wrote several novels four plays and three memoirs, according to The New York Times. Prior to joining PBS, Lehrer worked as a reporter for Dallas public television station KERO, the Dallas Morning News, the Dallas Times-Herald and the National Public Affairs Center for Television. Lehrer was born May 19, 1934. He attended Victoria College in Texas before studying journalism at the University of Missouri. He served for three years as an infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, according to PBS. He is survived by his wife of nearly 60 years, Kate Staples; his daughters Jamie, Lucy and Amanda and six grandchildren. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • A Pennsylvania woman has been charged with the extreme neglect of her son, who was hospitalized in October weighing 26 pounds. The boy is 16 years old. Elisabet Estrada, 41, of Chambersburg, is charged with aggravated assault and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, Franklin County court records show. She remained in the county jail Thursday, unable to post her $25,000 bond. Editor’s note: This story contains graphic details that may be disturbing for some readers.  The Chambersburg Public Opinion reported that Chambersburg police officers were called to the family’s home early on the morning of Oct. 24 to help caseworkers with Franklin County Children and Youth Services. Estrada’s 16-year-old son had been admitted to Penn State Hershey Medical Center in a state of extreme malnourishment the night before. He was hospitalized after Estrada took him there for genetic testing, CBS21 in Harrisburg reported. An endocrinologist told police the boy was suffering from “psychosocial dwarfism,” meaning his condition was due to a lack of proper nutrition. Estrada’s three other children “appeared to be in good general health,” an affidavit in the case states, according to the Public Opinion. CBS21 reported that one of the boy’s siblings is a 16-year-old girl, though the station did not say if the pair are twins. The document alleges that the teen was “very frail, gaunt, ribs extremely evident and ravenously hungry.” He “laid in bed in the fetal position in a way that appeared as though he didn't have the ability to stretch out in his bed.” Investigators wrote in the affidavit that the boy “ruminated his food” at the hospital -- he ate the food, threw it up and then ate it again. Police described the boy’s actions as eating as though he couldn’t get enough food at home, the newspaper reported. According to the Mayo Clinic, the precise cause of rumination syndrome is unclear, but it can be related to a number of issues, including developmental disabilities in children or an increase in abdominal pressure. “Rumination syndrome is more likely to occur in people with anxiety, depression or other psychiatric disorders,” the Mayo Clinic website says. The disorder can lead to weight loss, malnutrition, esophageal damage and other problems. The court records allege that Estrada had not used any therapy or early intervention for her son since 2005, when he was 3 years old. Police officials said the boy is developmentally delayed and nonverbal. Fox43 in York reported that Estrada told police her son, who was born in December 2002, weighed 6 pounds at birth. At the time of his last medical visit, in January 2005, he weighed 22 pounds. When he was next seen by a doctor 14 years later, he weighed only 3 pounds more, the court records show. The affidavit indicates the teen was seen at a walk-in clinic in February 2019, at which point he weighed 34 pounds, Fox43 said. His weight had dropped by about 5 pounds in April, when he was seen at Penn State Hershey. It was unclear if Children and Youth Services became involved in the boy’s case during his April visit to the hospital. The Public Opinion reported that Estrada railed in October at the genetics specialist treating her son, insisting that he “has no medical issues that require hospitalization,” the court records show. She “voiced anger” at the specialist and, saying she “did everything” for her son, said she did not understand why she could not treat him at home. She also could not comprehend why she had no say when he was admitted immediately into acute care at the hospital, the newspaper reported. The boy gained 2.2 pounds during his first two days of treatment, the court records show. Upon his discharge after about two months of treatment, he weighed 45 pounds. He had also grown taller while under the hospital’s care. The police investigation showed that Estrada did not have a primary care provider for the boy. She claimed the boy received medical care through Early Intervention Services, March of Dimes, Keystone Peds and Penn State Hershey, the Public Opinion reported. She home-schooled her children, and it appeared the teen “had limited interaction outside of the mother and three other children,” the affidavit says. A specialist with Penn State Hershey was consulted by police on Jan. 13, CBS21 reported. The doctor offered the opinion that the boy’s emaciated condition was caused by malnutrition and medical neglect -- and that his mother was to blame. Estrada “failed to seek appropriate medical care from an early age until he was 16 years of age and failed to appropriately feed him,” the affidavit says. Estrada was jailed on the charges Friday. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for next week. The whereabouts of her other three children were not publicly disclosed.

Washington Insider

  • While Republican Senators continue to wave off the case presented by House Democrats in President Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial, the GOP is expressing concern that the impeachment battle may have a negative impact on a group of Senators who are already in tough re-election battles in 2020. 'The entire process is not to remove the President from office, it's simply to remove certain Republican Senators,' said Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), as he rattled off a series of states where polls show incumbent Republicans with struggling poll ratings. 'Colorado, North Carolina, Iowa, Maine, and Arizona - this is absolutely an opportunity for them to over take the Senate,' Scott told reporters during a break in the Trump impeachment trial. Polling shows that GOP Senators from three of those states - Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, and Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona - have some of the worst approval/disapproval ratings in the country. Two others, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, and Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina are also facing concerted attacks from Democratic Party groups, hoping to unseat them in November. Back in Maine, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) - already in hot water for her decision to support Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh - is now seeing a prime Democratic rival, Maine House Speaker Sarah Gideon, zeroing in on her votes in the Trump impeachment trial. While Collins is facing tough votes in the Trump trial, Gideon has been back in Maine firing away at the Maine Republican. “Senator Collins voted with Mitch McConnell to block witnesses and evidence from the impeachment trial,” Gideon said. 'She (Collins) has proven that she has won tough races in the past, but this will be her most difficult re-election,' said Nathan Gonzales, an elections analyst with Roll Call, told C-SPAN earlier this week. Also getting involved in some of these races is former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is funneling some of ad money into Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, and Maine.