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Grand jury to hear details of brutal slaying
week of August 21, 2014

As gruesome details emerge on last June's brutal killing of Sebastian River Medical Center nurse and Moorings resident Diana Duve, the state is convening a grand jury on Tuesday to consider formal first-degree murder charges against former PNC Wealth Management employee Michael David Jones. Jones, who is accused of strangling Duve to death and leaving her in the trunk of her car in a Melbourne parking lot, pled not guilty last month and requested a jury trial. In order to proceed with first-degree murder charges, the state must obtain an indictment by the grand jury because Florida is a death penalty state. Chief Assistant State Attorney Tom Bakkedahl said he could not comment about the state's case against Jones as presented in the 22-page complaint released last week. "At this point in time the discovery is going to have to speak for itself," he said. Bakkedahl said Indian River County has its own grand jury, which has a total of 21 jurors, at least 15 of whom must be present for any session. Proceedings are held in secret at the Indian River County Courthouse with, on average, five to 10 witnesses being called to give testimony. READ FULL STORY


Vero's real artists are latest target of scam artists
week of August 21, 2014

More than a dozen Vero artists got their hopes up this week when they were emailed by a person wanting to buy their art after seeing it on line. But the flattered artists were shot down one by one when they followed up, and found out their "fans" wanted banking information – supposedly to wire funds for the purchase. Other artists were offered checks that exceeded the price of purchase, and were asked to cash them, keep enough to pay for the painting, then send the rest back. "It's very common," said Indian River County Sheriff's Detective Kevin Heinig, who has already issued two subpoenas trying to find out the identities of the emailers involved. "They send a fake check for more than the amount (of purchase), and they want the person to cash it. That just goes into your account and when it bounces, you're responsible." So far, no Vero artists appear to have actually lost money, even when scammers asked credible questions like "What was your inspiration?" In one email, though, the scammer referred to moving to "the Hampton," in the singular. READ FULL STORY


St. Paul's seeks help from new neighbors
week of August 21, 2014

A $1 million donation has made it possible for St. Paul's Church to purchase a long-empty Central Beach building – home years back to the Ocean Oaks dental practice – which will become the Anglican church's permanent home on the barrier island. But money isn't enough. St. Paul's, which has been conducting services in a conference room at the Surf Club Hotel on State Road A1A since the ministry was established three years ago, won't be able to open its doors without help from its new neighbors. "Parking is a real issue," Pastor Jon Robbins said of the two-story, 7,000-square-foot building located on Flamevine Lane, just off Ocean Drive, where the new church would include a 175-seat sanctuary, classrooms and administrative offices. "Right now, we're short by a number of spaces, so we're working with city planners and our neighbors to see if we can get shared parking agreements." According to Robbins, the Vero Beach city code requires one parking space for every three seats in the church – in this case, at least 58 spaces – and the property has room for only 21. He declined to identify the neighbors he has approached, but he said he's optimistic he'll be able to solve the parking problem. READ FULL STORY


Arts supporter Alice Beckwith dies at 83: 'A magical woman with a magical smile'
week of August 21, 2014

Radiant as the sunshine she came to Vero to enjoy, with energy seemingly as boundless, Alice Snodgrass Beckwith was an unforgettable presence at Vero's cultural institutions. With a classic blond pageboy, a brilliant smile and intellect to match, she turned heads into her 80s as she lent tireless support to sculpture parks and botanical gardens, public theaters and private schools. Alice Beckwith, widow of James Beckwith, to whom she was married 56 years, was the mother of three children including two who live in Vero. Calmly, in the days before her death, she informed her kids that she was ready to be with Jim again. She died at home Aug. 2 at age 83. "She just sort of ran out of gas and said, OK, time to be with Daddy," said daughter Kate Beckwith Woody. That her sunny outlook would include a realm beyond this earth would not surprise those who knew her. She enjoyed long conversations with Rev. Bob Baggott, her minister at Community Church. She went to concerts and plays at every opportunity including a chamber music concert at the Vero Beach Museum of Art in late April. READ FULL STORY


Island's McCulloch appears in 'Dolphin Tale 2'
week of August 21, 2014

Renowned marine mammal rescue expert and island resident Steve McCulloch will attend the red carpet Los Angeles premiere Sept. 7 of the movie "Dolphin Tale 2," in which he appears along with island veterinarian Dr. Juli Goldstein. The film starring Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman is a sequel to the 2011 hit movie "Dolphin Tale," which was No. 1 at the box office three years ago. The original film tells the story of a rescued bottlenose dolphin named Winter that was fitted with a revolutionary artificial tail at Clearwater Marine Aquarium with the help of McCulloch and Goldstein. The sequel, which opens in Florida on Sept. 10, portrays the rescue and rehabilitation of a second dolphin, Hope, that became Winter's companion. "Steve and Juli were a big part of Winter's and Hope's stories and we want them there at the premiere so we are flying them out," says David Yates, CEO of Clearwater Marine Aquarium. He came up with the idea for "Dolphin Tale 2" and is one of the film's producers. READ FULL STORY


A farewell to off-season: The island's busiest summer ever
week of August 14, 2014

The barrier island is in the middle of its busiest summer ever, with hotels, restaurants and real estate companies on the beach reporting business up as much as 35 percent over last year's already bustling summer season. A revived economy, innovative marketing campaigns and Vero's increasing national and international reputation as an idyllic beach vacation spot are driving what can only be described as a tourism boom on the beach. "It is kind of scary to say it, but Vero Beach has been discovered," says Ocean Grill General Manager Beth Edwards. "Our business is up 15 to 20 percent over last summer." "I remember last year at this time, I was saying, 'Wow, we are really busy for summertime,'" says Scott Varricchio, executive chef at Citrus Grill. "My only concern was about how I would ever top that level of business. As it turns out, we are exponentially busier this summer than last. We are doing season-like numbers on weekends and almost season-like during the week." "We have been extremely busy, indeed," says Vero Beach Hotel and Spa General Manager Duncan Clemens. "Business is up 10 or 12 percent over last summer, mainly due to our fellow Floridians coming here for summer vacation. READ FULL STORY


Parking: The big oceanside problem
week of August 14, 2014

The planning and zoning meeting at City Hall last Thursday could have been a fashion show as owners of upscale shops lined up to question what effect the outdoor expansion of Mulligan's restaurant would have on parking for businesses in Central Beach. While they applauded Mulligan's success, they worried aloud that more business for Mulligan's could mean fewer on-street parking spots for their customers. "I have no problem with what Mulligan's is trying to do. But our older clients are not going to park down the road, and if they can't park close to us they are not going to come into our shops," said Laurie Connally, whose family owns the Petite Shop in Sexton Plaza. "Aren't there penalties for the extra seating at Mulligan's and not getting it cleared first?" Veranda owner Cathy Padgett asked the planning board, which was deciding on Mulligan's request for a variance after the fact. The answer came back that Mulligan's had been fined $50 but had since met code requirements for its additional tiki roofs and tables, and the planning board was trying to work with them. READ FULL STORY


Hospital, District escalate dispute
week of August 14, 2014

The Hospital District and the Indian River Medical Center's management have escalated their legal dispute over the reimbursement rate for indigent care, and each is now presenting the other with different arbitration demands. The two parties can't even agree on which issues are up for arbitration – a good indication how far they are apart in their respective positions. As a result, both sides appear ready to go to full-scale legal war with high-powered attorneys. The latest ratcheting up of the dispute came late Friday afternoon, when hospital CEO Jeff Susi had a letter delivered to the Hospital District office, formally informing the District that the hospital was declaring the District in default of the Indigent Care Agreement between the parties. Further, it said, if the District did not cure the default within 30 days, the hospital would demand arbitration.What seemed perplexing to outside observers was that the District and hospital were already in the next few weeks headed to arbitration demanded by the District over the hospital's failure "to meet, bargain and negotiate in good faith ... a mutually satisfactory confirmation of the continuance of the (Indigent Care) Agreement." READ FULL STORY


Scripps says it is getting rid of Press Journal
week of August 7, 2014

How many Vero Beach residents are aware that the E.W. Scripps Co. announced last week it plans to get rid of our daily newspaper, the Press Journal? Probably not many. Unlike 1996, when Scripps announced with great fanfare that it was acquiring the Press Journal from longtime local owner John J. Schumann Jr., last Thursday's announcement that the E.W. Scripps Co. is dumping all its newspapers – including the Press Journal – was buried in a back section of our local daily under the curious headline: "New Venture for Scripps Newspapers." Given Scripps growing contempt for its Vero Beach readers, it seems only fitting that the story never actually mentioned our community. Hence, it was not all that surprising to discover a couple of days later that most area residents were totally unaware Scripps was jettisoning the Press Journal. But the first nine words of the story – written by a Scripps reporter (!) – said it all: "The E.W. Scripps Co. will say goodbye to newspapers ..." READ FULL STORY


Lagoon seagrass and fishing making a comeback?
week of August 7, 2014

At long last, seagrass seem to be beginning to recover in parts of the central and northern Indian River Lagoon. The rebound is not widespread but Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute scientist Dennis Hanisak says he is encouraged by what he has seen in recent weeks. It's the best news – possibly the only good news – about the health of the lagoon received in years, and may help explain why many local people say that fishing in the lagoon is better now than it has been in a long time. "We just started our summer survey for one of our seagrass projects and we saw a lot of regrowth by Grand Harbor and near the south canal, which are two areas we monitor that had a lot of loss in 2011 and 2012," Hanisak said. "The shoal grass is almost back to where it was before the blooms. On a personal level, it felt good to see that. "Both beds have always been small – 90 or 100 feet by a couple of hundred feet – but the regrowth is encouraging. I think there is room for optimism." READ FULL STORY


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