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Latest from Joe Ruble

    Eleven fires have been intentionally set in garbage bins or dumpsters since November 29 in or near downtown Orlando. No suspect has been identified. Arson investigators are canvassing neighborhoods to find witnesses and possible surveillance video that could help them. As they work around the clock, the Orlando Fire Department is asking the public to help by keeping an eye out for suspicious activity and reporting it.  With dates, here are the locations where the fires have been discovered: 11/29/2018  10:31 pm - 1003 Concord  10:40 pm - 301 Hillcrest   11/30/2018  5:32 am - 215 East Livingston Street  5:33 am - 209 East Livingston Street  5:39 am - 472 Ruth Lane   12/02/2018  10:12 pm - 1230 East Hillcrest   12/03/2018  5:23 am - 441 Highland Avenue   12/06/2018  3:00 am - 2212 Hillcrest Street  4:36 am - 608 North Hillside Avenue  9:13 pm - 1814 Lucerne Terrace   12/07/2018  5:57 am - 117 Annie Street OFD is asking people who live near the addresses that, if they have any information and especially video surveillance, to contact Crimeline at 800.423.TIPS.
  • You can tell a longtime resident of Winter Park from others by whether their family has been in the annual Christmas parade down it’s main street. “My first iteration is that I was in the parade. My second iteration is my kids were in the parade. What I’ve been told, the Holy Grail is, that your grandkids are in the parade,” explained Betsy Eckbert, now president and CEO of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce. Once again, the chamber is hosting this year’s parade on December 8 from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on Park Avenue. The event has been held each December for more than 60 years, making it the oldest continuous holiday parade in Central Florida, according to the chamber’s website. Park Avenue and Central Park are decorated with the trappings of the holiday season, drawing people back to downtown.  “So commercially we love that, because it’s the kind of experience that people are going to come back to, again and again.” said Eckbert.
  • Justices Barbara Pariente, Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince are leaving the bench in January, ending decades of service by at least one African-American on Florida’s Supreme Court. Governor Ron DeSantis will select new justices from a list of 11 nominees, none of whom are black. The dean of the Florida A&M University College of Law finds the pending change “significant” because an all-white court will lose “the perspective of someone who can speak from” the African-American community. LeRoy Pernell calls that development “problematic” with issues expected to come before the high  court, including the death penalty, voting rights and perhaps legal challenges to the so-called “stand your ground” law. “I have no reason to believe that any justice on the Florida Supreme Court will make a ruling based on race,” he explained. “But I do think that their decisions are influenced by the experiences you bring to the court.” Dean Pernell says other states look upon Florida and the legal decisions of its high court. “Much of the country, politically, will look very carefully at what Florida does with these issues.”
  • Jack Kazansas loved to see city and utility workers hang the holiday star in downtown Orlando each year and he showed up with coffee and donuts in hand for them. He also wore an elf hat to help get everyone into the holiday spirit. Later, after he raised funds to keep the tradition intact, they named the star after him and it hangs over Orange Avenue and Central Boulevard each year. This year, the star was upgraded after parts of it failed to light up in 2017 and city employees were forced to make repairs after it was in position over the busy street. “It needed new acrylic because the sun made it fragile and brittle,” said David Dunn, Orlando Fleet and Facilities Division Manager. And while that work was going on, he said it was decided to upgrade the entire display with LED technology and drivers that will save the cost of lighting it. “We actually are operating it as 50% of the power capacity,” he added. It looks different this year and some have commented on social media.
  • Orange County Property Appraiser Rick Singh is the subject of a lawsuit that has accused him of creating a hostile workplace and misusing public funds for personal travel. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Orlando by the office's former director of finance and former director of communications. Aisha Hassan and Laverne McGhee also allege that Singh brought strippers to the office after hours. In addition, the lawsuit contends that Singh ordered his staff to falsify documents for an audit, while lying about his travel expenses to justify having taxpayers pay for them. A spokeswoman for Singh declined to comment on pending legislation, however an investigation last year failed to substantiate any of the allegations. “I’m a target. But I’m not going to be a punching bag,” Singh said to the Orlando Sentinel.
  • The number of uninsured children in the United States has increased for the first time in nearly a decade, according to a new report by Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families. More troubling, some of the highest rates are being seen in Florida. “The rate of uninsured children in Florida rose from 6.6% in 2016 to 7.3% in 2017,” explained Marni Stahlman, whose non-profit Shepherd’s Hope provides medical care to people around Orlando who have no or inadequate insurance. She reacted to the report’s findings, calling it “startling” during a time of economic strength in this country. “Florida and Texas lead the list because we have refused to expand Medicaid and children has lost their coverage,” she added. Under President Obama's Affordable Care Act, Florida could have received federal funding to help pay for health coverage for nearly 900,000 people, but the Republican-led Legislature voted against it, according to the Associated Press.
  • Recycle your disposable batteries, compost your dryer lint, but throw away your plastic ribbons and bows. It’s some of the advice in a comprehensive list of household items you might want to throw in the trash, but wonder if its recyclable. The City of Winter Park’s Sustainability Program has launched a customized version of ReCollect Systems, Inc.’s waste management communication platform, called “Think Twice, Don’t Waste It WP.” The tool on the city’s website also helps you find your street’s collection schedule and even to sign up for reminders from the city that are sent to your email or phone. Click here to learn more.
  • It’s time to share what you know about this place we live in, Orlando. The Orlando Economic Partnership is conducting an online survey through November 30 to determine what residents in the six county area surrounding Orlando think about this place they call home. The survey also seeks to get a better understanding on residents’ knowledge of the benefits and offerings in greater Orlando. The information helps the partnership develop marketing programs that promote work, play and  tourism in greater Orlando. Click here to take the survey.
  • Volusia County deputies trade gunfire with a suspect in an attempted murder case, shooting him twice while avoiding injury on Monday afternoon. Dillon Parker, 33, was rushed to Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach where he is listed in critical condition, but is expected to survive. The confrontation took place on U.S. 17 as Dillon tried to flee pursuing deputies. His vehicle was disabled by stop sticks and he stopped in a grassy median where he got out and started the gunfire. App users click here to view the video on YouTube. The sheriff’s office reported today that the deputies involved are Wesley Blum, a five-year veteran of VCSO and Kevin Moss, who has been with the law enforcement agency since 2000.  A DeLand police officer, armed with a rifle, was also involved in the shooting and arrest. Parker is wanted for the November 10 shooting of Daniel Dekmar in DeLeon Springs. 
  • Zachary Martin Polsenberg died of heat stroke from football practice last year in Fort Myers. His father James is making sure that doesn’t happen again to other youth in Florida through education on heat illnesses and efforts to equip players with devices that can quickly cool their overheated bodies.  James and his wife Claudine donated a shoulder pad cooling system to Robert E. Lee High School last week. “They get peak performance, but it’s more about safety of the student athlete,” he explained. “We are just trying to get it introduced to the high school (athletic) association.” The Polsenbergs are also trying to get Zach’s Law passed in Tallahassee, which would mandate a cold water immersion tub at all practices and games, as well as the use of Wet Bulb Globe Thermometers for “feels like” temperature readings. The law would apply to all scholastic sports, not just high school football. “We want to protect all the players, all the kids if we can.” he said.
  • Joe Ruble

    Joe Ruble is a veteran radio reporter, afternoon anchor and baseball fan.

    He claims to have been to every spring training site in Florida over the last ten years. "Steinbrenner Field in Tampa is one of my favorites," he said.

    Before landing in Orlando a year after the hurricanes did, Joe reported for Newsradio 740 KTRH in Houston for 15 years. He also covered news in Denver at KOA and was a news director for KYGO AM-FM. He is now a Broncos fan after watching John Elway from the press box at Mile High Stadium for two seasons. 

    Joe was raised in Hawaii and began his reporting career there while still a student at the University of Hawaii. He has earned awards for his reporting from natural disasters like volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. Not wanting to press his luck, he stayed away from high surf.  

    Joe has interviewed former presidents, professional athletes and music legends over the years. Most memorable chat? "Stevie Wonder, he joined me live on the radio in Hilo one night. He was touring and writing music for an album. I played his records while he sat on the other side of the turntable talking about his songs. Unforgettable."

    Ruble is married, raising two pups and living in Ocoee, Fla.

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The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • A University of Central Florida employee suffered burns Monday after a chemical reaction, according to Orange County Fire Rescue officials. Firefighters were called to 3512 Perseus Loop Lane near the Facilities Operations building on UCF's campus around 3 p.m.  The 29-year-old who was the only person in the building at the time, and was transporting the chemicals when a static discharge sparked a fire.  He was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center with burns to his face, arms and chest according to responding firefighters.  A university spokeswoman said the incident happened in a building on campus that is designed to handle chemicals and no students were involved in the incident or ever in any danger.  The worker's name was not released. Mike Jachles with OCFR said he was conscious and alert when he was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center.
  • Four days after the announcement of a series of executive actions to fund his signature border wall, President Donald Trump’s administration still needs to fill in the details on his plans to shift over $6.6 billion from the Pentagon and Treasury Department into funding border security, as members of Congress continue to wonder if the move will dig into their local military base construction projects. On Capitol Hill, lawmakers and their staffs were awaiting guidance on where the Pentagon would look for money in the $3.6 billion sought by the President in his emergency declaration from military construction projects, which was already the subject of new lawsuits. “Congress has not enacted any emergency legislation even remotely related to border wall construction, and thus the President’s reallocation of funds is unlawful,” read a suit filed against the President and Pentagon by several environmental groups. In a letter to the Acting Secretary of Defense, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) asked for a breakdown of which projects would be put on hold – as under the ‘national emergency’ law used by the President, the Pentagon would make those decisions – not the Congress. Congress approved $10.3 billion for military construction in Fiscal Year 2019 – the $3.6 billion sought by the President would be more than one-third of that amount – which has drawn expressions of concern from lawmakers. As Kaine noted in his letter, the move to shift money from military construction comes at a time when the Pentagon already was having to deal with hurricane damage at two major domestic bases – Camp Lejeune for the Marines in North Carolina, and Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. Tyndall was seriously damaged by Hurricane Michael in 2018 – and despite support for rebuilding the base, Congress has not yet acted on extra money for the Pentagon – or on broader hurricane relief for those hit in Florida and Georgia. During the partial government shutdown, Democrats in the House approved a bill which had $12.1 billion in disaster aid, both for hurricanes and wildfires – but that bill does not seem to be on the agenda in the U.S. Senate at this point. @DrNealDunnFL2 Dr Dunn, we are hearing here in the Panhandle that Trump is going after Tyndall rebuilding money for his wall. Please don’t let this happen! No Tyndall would be catastrophic to our area. Please help! — Billy Shears (@BillyShears9) February 14, 2019 The Commandant of the Marine Corps said over the weekend that he needs $3.5 billion just for repairs at Camp LeJeune from damage caused by Hurricane Florence in September of 2018 – which is equal to the figure of how much in military construction the President wants to shift into a border wall. Earlier this month, Air Force officials said they planned to spend $3 billion to rebuild Tyndall, which was flattened by Hurricane Michael in October of last year. House Democrats say they plan to hold a hearing as soon as next week to get a better idea on what military construction projects the Pentagon wants to scrap – in order to move money to the wall. Also still unclear is the legal underpinnings for two other moves announced last week by the White House, where the President would move money from a Treasury Department drug forfeiture fund, as well as money from a Pentagon anti-drug account – into a border wall.
  • Following two accidents in recent months, the Orlando Fire Department has announced new roadway safety procedures. The changes include shutting down two additional lanes of traffic on major highways and other roads, as well as placing cones between the crash and the responding unit, and requesting additional backup from the Orlando Police Department following an accident. This will include accidents on major roads such as I-4, State Road 408 and State Road 417. An additional fire suppression unit will also head to the scene, and be angled in a way to alert drivers of an upcoming accident. It comes after an accident Sunday on I-4, when a car slammed into a fire truck, injuring four firefighters and two others. Also, on December 21st, 2018, a vehicle rear ended a fire engine on State Road 408, causing minor injuries to the driver and three Orlando firefighters. The changes are set to take effect immediately. 
  • It's Star Wars movie season once again, and the latest installment in the series has finally finished filming. Director J.J. Abrams made the announcement on Twitter saying: ' It feels impossible, but today(Friday) wrapped photography on Episode IX. There is no adequate way to thank this truly magical crew and cast. I'm forever indebted to you all.'  To celebrate the occasion, he posted a picture of stars Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac embracing each other on the final day of filming.  Now that the filming is out of the way, the fun part is getting everything else done before the December 20th deadline, when it is released in theaters. So far there has been no official title, trailer, or teaser of any kind, but of course, we can expect that to come out as we get closer.
  • A Minnesota man was arrested last week after DNA from a used napkin he threw away at his daughter’s hockey game matched DNA left at the scene of the brutal 1993 stabbing death of a Minneapolis woman. Jerry Arnold Westrom, 52, of Isanti, is charged with second-degree murder in the slaying of Jeanne Ann Childs, according to the Minneapolis Police Department. The arrest was made Feb. 11 following a years-long renewed investigation by Minneapolis detectives, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s forensic lab, Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office investigators and Minneapolis-based FBI agents.  “Our efforts to increase public safety and ensure justice has no timeline. This case is an excellent example of great collaboration between our law enforcement partners,” Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said in a news release.  Jill Sanborn, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Minneapolis field office, said the case “underscores law enforcement’s ability to use every tool at its disposal” to solve crimes.  “We all hope Jeanne’s family can finally find peace as a result of this tenacious effort by officers and agents,” Sanborn said. >> Read more trending news Members of Childs’ family were in the courtroom Friday as Westrom made his first court appearance, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Westrom’s wife, son and daughter were also there, along with about 20 other supporters.  They watched as the well-known businessman’s defense attorney, Steven Meshbesher, successfully argued that his client’s bail should be reduced from $1 million to $500,000.  Meshbesher argued that Westrom, a lifelong resident of Minnesota, was not a flight risk. According to the Star Tribune, he manages an organic farm just outside of Isanti.   “What we’ve got is a very unsolved case and it was charged, in my opinion, prematurely,” Meshbesher said, according to the Star Tribune.  Westrom was released on bond Friday night, according to Hennepin County Jail records.  A violent death The criminal complaint against Westrom, which was obtained by the Star Tribune, outlines Childs’ violent June 13, 1993, death: Minneapolis police officers were called to an apartment Childs allegedly used for prostitution because another tenant in the building saw water coming from the apartment. The officers found Childs dead in her running shower, naked except for a pair of socks.  She had dozens of stab wounds, including several inflicted after she was already dead, the complaint said.  The walls of Childs’ bathroom, bedroom and living room were covered with blood, the Star Tribune reported. Finger, palm and footprints were found at the scene.  It was not immediately clear if any of those prints matched Westrom. Investigators at the time collected Childs’ bedding, a towel, a washcloth and a T-shirt, as well as a bloodstain found on the sink, the newspaper reported.  Childs’ live-in boyfriend was ruled out as a suspect after detectives confirmed he was not in Minnesota at the time of her death.  The case soon went cold, but a Minneapolis detective, encouraged by the advances in DNA technology, renewed the investigation in 2015, the Star Tribune reported. DNA samples from the scene were sent to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and a private DNA company.  FBI agents ran the results through an online genealogy website last year, using the same technique California cold case investigators used to secure the arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo, the alleged Golden State Killer who killed more than a dozen people and raped more than 50 women in the 1970s and 80s.  Since DeAngelo’s arrest, about 50 other cold cases across the U.S. have been solved using public genealogy websites, the Star Tribune reported.  Following the DNA trail The genealogy website used by Minnesota investigators led them to two possible suspects in Childs’ slaying, one of them Westrom. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman told the Star Tribune either Westrom or a close family member had apparently submitted DNA to learn more about their family tree. Westrom, who was 27 and single at the time of Childs’ killing, worked in Minneapolis in 1993. He moved about six months after the homicide, the newspaper reported.  Investigators began trailing Westrom in January, seeking an opportunity to surreptitiously obtain a sample of his DNA. At his daughter’s hockey game at a Wisconsin hockey rink, they had their chance. Westrom bought a hot dog from the concession stand, wiping his mouth with a napkin when he was done eating, the Star Tribune reported. Investigators picked up the napkin after he tossed it in the trash. DNA taken from the napkin matched the DNA from the Childs crime scene, Freeman said. Another DNA sample taken from Westrom after his arrest confirmed the match.  The prosecutor said he is confident the case will withstand any legal challenges by the defense.  “When discarding something in the trash, the (U.S.) Supreme Court has said many times, it is fair game,” Freeman said.  Westrom’s attorney told Minnesota Public Radio News that the evidence against his client is thin. He argued that the DNA sample obtained at the crime scene was from semen, not blood. Because Childs was a sex worker, the evidence links him to possible sex, but not the homicide, the defense lawyer said.  “The sperm shows up allegedly matching, but not the blood,” Meshbesher told MPR News. “What we’ve got is not any record of violence, not connecting it to the blood, not to the weapon, because they didn’t find it.” MPR News reported that the criminal complaint alleged that the DNA samples from the crime scene came from Childs’ comforter and the towel.  The Star Tribune reported that investigators have not yet compared Westrom’s DNA to the blood found in Childs’ bathroom. The complaint stated the case remains under investigation.  “They don’t know what the facts are,” Meshbesher told MPR News. “You don’t charge a case before you know what the facts are. You need to do the investigation first.” A sordid arrest history Westrom denied all the allegations against him, the criminal complaint said. He denied recognizing Childs, being in her apartment or having sex with any woman in 1993. Investigators said he told them he had no explanation for how his DNA could have been at the crime scene.  Meshbesher disputed the account of his client’s interview given in the complaint, MPR News reported.  Despite Westrom’s high standing in his community, part of which comes from his involvement in youth sports, he has a record of drunken driving convictions dating back to 1996, court records showed.  He also has two arrests on his record for prostitution-related offenses. A 2012 charge was dismissed, but he was convicted in Stearns County in 2015 of trying to hire a prostitute.  The Star Tribune reported Westrom was snagged in a police sting in which he thought he was soliciting a teenager for sex. His probation for that offense ended in February 2018, the court records showed.  Childs’ mother, Betty Eakman, told the newspaper the story of her troubled daughter, who dropped out of school in the sixth grade and was a repeat runaway as a teen. Eakman said her daughter’s problems seemed to begin following the 1971 shooting death of her stepfather, who was killed by his brother-in-law and business partner.  She said her daughter bounced from place to place in Minneapolis prior to her death. Eakman expressed gratitude for the science that helped solve her daughter’s slaying. “I am so happy they have come out with this new technology so it can help other cases to be solved,” Eakman told the Star Tribune. Childs’ sister, Cindy Kosnitch, credited Eakman with keeping Childs in the minds of investigators.  “This has been very hard on our family, of course, but I have a very determined mom who always kept in contact with Minneapolis police,” Kosnitch told the paper. “She refused to let Jeanie be forgotten and wanted some type of closure, as most parents would.”