Top Polk Stories of 2013
Readers Voted Top Stories
Amazon Warehouse Banana George Bicyclist Killed Bullying Child Porn Citrus Drop Deputy Death Dr. Swygert Florida Poly Four Die Gene Roberts Honeybees Judge, Assistant Arrest Juvenile Detention Lawsuit Juvenile Facility Riot Lakeland Mayor Laurence Dickey Legoland Hotel LPD LRMC-USF McKeel Principal Middle School Teacher Polk Fire Rescue Sex Scandal Prostitution Arrests School Bus Fight School Superintendent Spitting Arrest Streamsong Student Explosives Arrest Terry Jones The Landings Westboro Baptist Church Winter Haven Hospital Wonder House
Lakeland Police Department leadership is called into question because of a series of scandals, including a grand jury presentment, the state attorney refusing to let certain officers testify, an officer accused of rape and an internal sex scandal.
Two Lakeland teens are charged with stalking – and charges are later dropped – when Sheriff Grady Judd said their bullying led to the suicide of a 12-year-old former classmate.
Polk Deputy Joseph 'Shane' Robbins, 40, died from injuries sustained in a car accident near the Bartow airport in April.
|16||Judge, Assistant Arrest|
Circuit Judge Beth Harlan and her former judicial assistant, Alisha Rupp, were accused of falsifying Rupp’s time sheets so Rupp would get paid for time she didn’t work. Trials are expected in March.
Online retail giant Amazon announced it will open a warehouse on County Line Road, making a $102 million capital investment at the Lakeland site.
Lakeland voters turned incumbent Mayor Gow Fields out of office, electing Howard Wiggs, who campaigned on changes in city administration.
Florida Polytechnic University made strides toward opening for the 2014-2015 school year and opened the first building at its northeast Lakeland campus.
|8||Polk Fire Rescue Sex Scandal|
A Polk County Fire battalion chief and two medical supervisors were fired after an internal investigation found the three had ongoing and sexual affairs while on duty and on county property.
Dr. Scott Swygert, chief quality officer and chief medical information officer for Lakeland Regional Medical Center, died at Shands Hospital in Gainesville before he was able to receive a lung transplant after being diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. He was 45.
|7||Student Explosives Arrest|
A 16-year-old Bartow High School student was arrested on allegations she detonated a bottle of explosive materials on the school grounds. Criminal charges were later dropped.
|7||School Bus Fight|
Patrice Sanders, a former Polk County school bus driver, was sentenced to nearly two years in prison for driving about 30 students to her house, where she let two feuding girls fight in her front yard.
A Florida pastor known for anti-Muslim events, was arrested in Mulberry on his way to burn 2,998 Qurans as a 9-11 protest. He pleaded not guilty.
Separate stings by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office netted 92 and 78 arrests each.
Harold Maready, the superintendent of the Schools of McKeel Academy, resigned in November in the aftermath of an investigation into problems at the school.
|6||Juvenile Facility Riot|
A riot broke out at a juvenile detention facility, causing thousands of dollars in damage, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Charges were filed against 61 youths.
|6||Juvenile Detention Lawsuit|
A federal class-action lawsuit against Sheriff Grady Judd and Corizon, a medical company contracted to care for jail inmates, went to trial in Tampa. The Southern Poverty Law Center alleges juveniles were housed in abusive conditions, including misuse of pepper spray.
The Polk Sheriff’s Office continues to make arrests for child porn, including a sweep of 41 announced in January.
A mixed-use development once proposed to take over Winter Haven’s city-owned Chain of Lakes Complex, The Landings is the subject of a lawsuit filed by its financier, Taylor Pursell, after city commissioners terminated the contract in January.
Two Lakeland police officers were disciplined after arresting a 29-year-old Lakeland man for spitting tobacco juice on a sidewalk.
Kathryn LeRoy, former chief officer of mathematics and science for Duval County Public Schools, was selected as Polk County’s school superintendent.
Legoland Florida broke ground on a four-story, 152-room hotel to boost the attraction’s ability to draw visitors for overnight stays instead of day trips from Orlando.
Ben Hill Griffin Inc. has been fined after a state investigation found it illegally sprayed pesticide that caused the death of millions of honeybees.
The 2012-2013 citrus harvest came in at 13 percent below forecast, which growers and scientists attribute to greening, a bacterial disease which caused infected groves to shed fruit before harvest.
Laurence Dickey was sentenced to 40 years in prison for killing his wife, Beatrice 'Bea' Dickey, a Polk County Sheriff’s Office administrator, with a baseball bat.
A bicyclist was killed on Lake Hollingsworth Drive in September in a collision with a car that also sent the car driver to Lakeland Regional Medical Center.
A Bartow treasure that once attracted site-seers now stands deserted and desolate, victim of a divorce.
|2||Westboro Baptist Church|
Members of a Topeka, Kan., church came to protest at several local high school graduations, but were met by local pickets preaching love.
|2||Middle School Teacher |
A 22-year-old Lakeland native and first-year middle school teacher died in May when her car struck a bus carrying 43 southwest Florida students on Interstate 10.
Lakeland Regional Medical Center's progress toward an academic affiliation with University of South Florida Health has slowed with the departure of USF Health's leader.
A Lakeland man and his three young children were killed in January in a single-car accident in Lake County.
The Water Ski hall-of-famer who barefooted with boyish enthusiasm well into his 90s died in October of natural causes at his home in New York City about 9 p.m. He was 98.
The Mosaic Co. opened an $80 million golf resort at the site of a former phosphate mine in South Polk County.
Eugene L. "Gene" Roberts, who ran unsuccessfully 10 times for elective office as both Democrat and Republican, yet never lost his enthusiasm for political campaigns, died of congestive heart failure. He was 81.
|0||Winter Haven Hospital|
Winter Haven Hospital joins Bay Care Health System.
Most-Viewed StoriesHere are the 25 most-viewed stories on theledger.com and newschief.com in 2013:
- Bobby Bowden's Grandson, 1 Other Dies in Winter Haven Crash
- Lakeland Girl Commits Suicide After Years of Being Bullied
- 'Free Android Tablet' Letter Deceiving
- Hunger Games: The New Science of Fasting
- Investigation Uncovers Allegations of Sexual Misconduct at the Lakeland Police Department
- Ben Hill Griffin Inc. Accused of Killing Honeybees, Faces Fine
- State Attorney's Office Report Details Wider Range of Involvement in LPD Sex Scandal
- Chief, Medical Supervisors Fired for Having Sex on Duty
- Man Arrested for Spitting on Sidewalk
- Air Force Sidelines 17 Officers With Authority to Launch Nukes
- Polk Judge Arrested, Charged With Grand Theft
- Police: Girl Had Explosive Materials at Bartow High School
- Giving a Full Two-Weeks' Notice Can Cost You
- Polk Detectives Arrest 78 in Prostitution Investigation
- 'Highly Questionable' Method: Bra Searches by Lakeland Police are Criticized by State Attorney
- Educators Say High School Band Students Have Advantages in Several Ways
- At Least 15 Girls Were Part of 12-Year-Old's Social Media Circle
- Family, Friends Mourn Dr. Scott Swygert, 45
- Sheriff's Deputy Killed in One-Car Crash
- Final Defendant in Teen Beating Gets Jail Time
- Bartow's Historic Wonder House Abandoned, Falling Into Ruin
- 4 Lakeland Police Officers Suspended or Reassigned
- Sheriff's Office Names 41 Suspected of Child Porn Offenses
- Lakeland Man, Three Children Die in Lake County Crash
- Middle School Teacher From Lakeland Killed in Crash on I-10