By DREW WINCHESTER STAFF WRITER SARASOTA COUNTY — Two people were charged Friday, including a 17-year-old girl, in connection with a prostitution ring that used underage girls from area high schools, according to the Venice Police Department. Sarasota High School student Alexa Nicole De Armas, 17, was charged with one felony count of human trafficking, […]

BY DREW WINCHESTER STAFF WRITER BRADENTON — Charlotte County Commissioner Chris Constance called for the termination of Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority’s Executive Director Pat Lehman on Wednesday, claiming that Lehman constantly abused his authority and undermined the direction of the governing board. Constance said a “cavernous abyss” existed between Lehman’s leadership and […]

By DREW WINCHESTER STAFF WRITER NORTH PORT — With the city now the sole owner of the Warm Mineral Springs Day Spa, conversations again are turning to what should be done with the beleaguered 81-acre natural attraction that has been shuttered twice in just over a year. Is it a park? An economic engine? Or […]

By DREW WINCHESTER STAFF WRITER SARASOTA COUNTY — County commissioners will have the first of two public hearings Wednesday to amend a zoning ordinance governing potential medical marijuana dispensaries and grow sites, a decision approved last week by the county’s Planning Commission. Planning commissioners, for the most part, stayed away from taking a stance on […]

By DREW WINCHESTER STAFF WRITER NORTH PORT — Two teenage girls who were passengers in a car that rammed another vehicle at Price and Sumter boulevards last month were allegedly taken from a children’s shelter in the Florida Keys and used for prostitution at a Miami motel. How and why they came to be in […]

By DREW WINCHESTER STAFF WRITER NORTH PORT — Police Chief Kevin Vespia announced Thursday that Officer Jeff Wilson had been fired from the department for having sex multiple times while on duty. Wilson , a seven-year veteran of the North Port Police Department, had also been subject of a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation […]

By DREW WINCHESTER STAFF WRITER SARASOTA COUNTY — A North Port man turned himself over to authorities Tuesday after being charged in a 3-year-old scheme to distribute hundreds of prescription pills obtained through fraudulent means, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Joshua Hearns, 27, of the 3400 block of Katcher Road, faces one […]

By DREW WINCHESTER STAFF WRITER NORTH PORT — A North Port K-9 officer and Police Explorer adviser was placed on 30 days suspension following an internal investigation that found he repeatedly kissed a 16-year-old girl who also served in the Explorer program, according to Police Chief Kevin Vespia. Shawn Rice, who has been employed with […]

By DREW WINCHESTER STAFF WRITER VENICE — The 9-year-old Georgia girl hit by a small plane Sunday on Caspersen Beach died from her injuries on Tuesday, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. Oceana Irizarry and her father, Ommy, 36, were walking along the shore just south of Venice Municipal Airport around 2:45 p.m. when […]

By DREW WINCHESTER STAFF WRITER SARASOTA COUNTY — It was a mix of personal history, a message to his parents and a plea to the court — an hour of confession by convicted child sex offender Shawn Connelly Gray. The former JAG officer stood before 12th Circuit Judge Charles Roberts Tuesday at the Sarasota County […]