Were you out of town last week or too busy to follow all the local news?
Here is a look back at the week that was in Southwest Florida:
FORMER COLLIER TEACHER ARRESTED IN S.C.; GRANDSON SAFE
After nearly two years in hiding, a former Collier County middle school teacher was arrested Tuesday in South Carolina accused of kidnapping of his grandson.
Donald Byrd, 59, was arrested at a Myrtle Beach condominium on a felony warrant for child stealing. Investigators believe Byrd kidnapped his grandson, Zachary Byrd, 14, on Sept. 2, 2011, from his mother’s California home.
The kidnapping came after years of a contentious family dynamic in which custody of Zachary switched hands from his mother to his grandparents several times during the boy’s childhood.
Zachary grew up with his grandparents in Naples Park until 2011, when his mother regained custody and he went to live with her in California.
About one month after his arrival, investigators said he left his mother’s house with his grandfather.
“Listen, I’m who you are looking for. You got me,” Byrd told Horry County S.C. deputies who knocked on his door Tuesday, according to a Sheriff’s Office spokesman.
LEE MAKING ANOTHER PITCH FOR NATIONALS
Looks like Lee County will take one last swing for the fences after all.
The county is again looking to lure the Washington Nationals to City of Palms Park for spring training, officials confirmed this week.
County Manager Roger Desjarlais told commissioners Tuesday that his staff had reached out to gauge the Major League Baseball team’s interest, a move prompted by Osceola County’s rejection of funding for a new stadium for the team.
Lee County and the Nationals were previously unable to reach terms on a $36 million venture. The Nationals asked for upgrades to City of Palms, but the county does not have the money. Parks and Recreation Director Dave Harner said creative financing will need to be arranged to strike a deal.
The City of Palms Park has gone largely unused since the Boston Red Sox relocated their spring training activities to Jet Blue Park in 2012.
“Hold the bulldozers,” Commissioner Frank Mann joked.
BONITA TO ANNEX 136 ACRES
Bonita Springs is about to get bigger.
The City Council on Wednesday unanimously agreed to annex 136 acres at the city’s northwest corner in 30 days. The land, which was owned by WCI Communities, was recently purchased by The Pelican Landing Community Association.
After the land is annexed, Bonita’s northwest boundary will fall just short of including the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point — a fact not lost on leaders of unincorporated Estero, who have been outspoken about keeping the resort in their community.
In response to recent annexations by Bonita Springs, members of the Estero Council of Community Leaders have begun an incorporation push. Bonita Springs Mayor Ben Nelson is asking the ECCL to leave 600 Pelican Landing homes out of its incorporation plans so those residents can vote on which city they want to belong to.
“We’re both adults; we’re perfectly capable of working this out,” he said.
PANTHERS TO SUE COLLIER, 4 COMMISSIONERS
Photo by MICHEL FORTIER // Buy this photo
The Florida panthers and the red-cockaded woodpeckers want their day in court.
The animals, the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Collier Audubon Society are plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit filed late Wednesday against Collier County and four commissioners.
The suit asks a judge to issue an injunction to halt further land clearing, development, mining and road extensions in their endangered habitats on 1,110 acres in rural Collier County.
The suit comes as Judge Cynthia Pivacek will be asked Monday to sign an order approving a county settlement in a nearly $92 million 2008 lawsuit involving the county’s rock mining ban and the preservation of habitat for endangered panthers and woodpeckers in that area. The settlement would allow mining to occur and eliminates the $92 million liability to taxpayers.
The panthers contend that land clearing approved by the commissioners and the settlement would violate the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
“I am not sure which of the panthers and woodpeckers anointed these people to sue,” John Vega, an attorney representing the landowners and mining company said of the Florida Wildlife Federation and Audubon Society. “This seems like a little bit of chutzpah.”
DEPUTIES SEIZE 16,000-PLUS PILLS FROM HOTEL
Illegally obtaining prescription pills in Southwest Florida is going to be more difficult after Collier County detectives arrested an alleged drug kingpin and seized more than 16,000 pills.
It was the largest seizure of pills in Collier County history, Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said on Friday.
David “Eddy” Delly, 33, is accused of spearheading a multistate pill trafficking operation in which he purchased prescriptions from people and distributed them across the Southeast.
Deputies worked with a confidential informant, who purchased pills from Delly at a local hotel. After arresting Delly during a traffic stop and serving a search warrant at his hotel room, authorities found thousands of Dilaudid, Xanax and Conazepam tablets.
“We are very serious and have been for years about removing pills from the streets of Collier County,” Rambosk said, “and we want to make it very clear that for those who want to engage in it, that we will find you and we will arrest you.”