2013 Top Stories  

Top Polk Stories of 2013

Readers Voted Top Stories

Amazon Warehouse Amazon Warehouse

Online retail giant Amazon announced it will open a warehouse on County Line Road, making a $102 million capital investment at the Lakeland site.

Banana George Banana George

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.

Bicyclist Killed Bicyclist Killed

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.

Bullying Bullying

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.

Child Porn Child Porn

The Polk Sheriff’s Office continues to make arrests for child porn, including a sweep of 41 announced in January.

Citrus Drop Citrus Drop

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.

Deputy Death Deputy Death

Polk Deputy Joseph 'Shane' Robbins, 40, died from injuries sustained in a car accident near the Bartow airport in April.

Dr. Swygert Dr. Swygert

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.

Florida Poly Florida Poly

Florida Polytechnic University made strides toward opening for the 2014-2015 school year and opened the first building at its northeast Lakeland campus.

Four Die Four Die

A Lakeland man and his three young children were killed in January in a single-car accident in Lake County.

Gene Roberts Gene Roberts

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.

Honeybees Honeybees

Ben Hill Griffin Inc. has been fined after a state investigation found it illegally sprayed pesticide that caused the death of millions of honeybees.

Judge, Assistant Arrest 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.

Juvenile Detention Lawsuit 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.

Juvenile Facility Riot 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.

Lakeland Mayor Lakeland Mayor

Lakeland voters turned incumbent Mayor Gow Fields out of office, electing Howard Wiggs, who campaigned on changes in city administration.

Laurence Dickey Laurence Dickey

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.

Legoland Hotel Legoland Hotel

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.

LPD LPD

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.

LRMC-USF LRMC-USF

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.

McKeel Principal McKeel Principal

Harold Maready, the superintendent of the Schools of McKeel Academy, resigned in November in the aftermath of an investigation into problems at the school.

Middle School Teacher 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.

Polk Fire Rescue Sex Scandal 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.

Prostitution Arrests Prostitution Arrests

Separate stings by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office netted 92 and 78 arrests each.

School Bus Fight 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.

School Superintendent School Superintendent

Kathryn LeRoy, former chief officer of mathematics and science for Duval County Public Schools, was selected as Polk County’s school superintendent.

Spitting Arrest Spitting Arrest

Two Lakeland police officers were disciplined after arresting a 29-year-old Lakeland man for spitting tobacco juice on a sidewalk.

Streamsong Streamsong

The Mosaic Co. opened an $80 million golf resort at the site of a former phosphate mine in South Polk County.

Student Explosives Arrest 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.

Terry Jones Terry Jones

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.

The Landings The Landings

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.

Westboro Baptist Church 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.

Winter Haven Hospital Winter Haven Hospital

Winter Haven Hospital joins Bay Care Health System.

Wonder House Wonder House

A Bartow treasure that once attracted site-seers now stands deserted and desolate, victim of a divorce.




VotesStory
47LPD
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.
30Bullying
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.
26Deputy Death
Polk Deputy Joseph 'Shane' Robbins, 40, died from injuries sustained in a car accident near the Bartow airport in April.
16Judge, 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.
16Amazon Warehouse
Online retail giant Amazon announced it will open a warehouse on County Line Road, making a $102 million capital investment at the Lakeland site.
12Lakeland Mayor
Lakeland voters turned incumbent Mayor Gow Fields out of office, electing Howard Wiggs, who campaigned on changes in city administration.
9Florida Poly
Florida Polytechnic University made strides toward opening for the 2014-2015 school year and opened the first building at its northeast Lakeland campus.
8Polk 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.
8Dr. Swygert
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.
7Student 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.
7School 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.
6Terry Jones
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.
6Prostitution Arrests
Separate stings by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office netted 92 and 78 arrests each.
6McKeel Principal
Harold Maready, the superintendent of the Schools of McKeel Academy, resigned in November in the aftermath of an investigation into problems at the school.
6Juvenile 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.
6Juvenile 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.
6Child Porn
The Polk Sheriff’s Office continues to make arrests for child porn, including a sweep of 41 announced in January.
5The Landings
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.
5Spitting Arrest
Two Lakeland police officers were disciplined after arresting a 29-year-old Lakeland man for spitting tobacco juice on a sidewalk.
5School Superintendent
Kathryn LeRoy, former chief officer of mathematics and science for Duval County Public Schools, was selected as Polk County’s school superintendent.
5Legoland Hotel
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.
5Honeybees
Ben Hill Griffin Inc. has been fined after a state investigation found it illegally sprayed pesticide that caused the death of millions of honeybees.
5Citrus Drop
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.
4Laurence Dickey
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.
4Bicyclist Killed
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.
2Wonder House
A Bartow treasure that once attracted site-seers now stands deserted and desolate, victim of a divorce.
2Westboro 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.
2Middle 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.
2LRMC-USF
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.
2Four Die
A Lakeland man and his three young children were killed in January in a single-car accident in Lake County.
2Banana George
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.
1Streamsong
The Mosaic Co. opened an $80 million golf resort at the site of a former phosphate mine in South Polk County.
1Gene Roberts
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.
0Winter Haven Hospital
Winter Haven Hospital joins Bay Care Health System.

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