In Brief: Historic milestones, change of watch

Marco Eagle

Suspect in Lee, Collier bank robberies arrested

A Miami man arrested more than a week ago as a suspect in a Collier County bank robbery is now expected to face to face similar charges in Lee County.

On Aug. 9, a male walked into the BB& T Bank at 12971 McGregor Boulevard and gave a note to the teller demanding all the cash in her drawer and claimed to be armed. The man fled after the clerk handed over an undisclosed amount of cash. In December, detectives with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office developed Ismael Alvarez Martin, 23, as a suspect in a bank robbery in their county and noticed similarities to the suspect in the Fort Myers robbery.

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The FBI coordinated efforts with investigators from Lee, Collier, Polk, Brevard and St. Lucie counties to compare notes on similar bank robberies in their communities and Martin was confirmed as being a suspect in nine bank robberies around the state between May 25 and Nov. 30.

On Jan. 9, Collier detectives were notified by Lee County detectives that Martin’s vehicle was spotted in Naples and the bank robbery suspect was found and charged with one count of robbery.

Martin later gave a full confession of his involvement in the Lee County robbery, police said.

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A Lee County arrest warrant was served Tuesday and once Martin is released from the Collier County

Jail he will be extradited to Lee County.

Martin may also face additional charges from other jurisdictions.

Historical Society, museum celebrate 2019 accomplishments

As 2020 begins, the Marco Island Historical Society (MIHS) celebrates many significant 2019 accomplishments. The “Year of the Cat” now becomes the “Years of the Cat” as the Smithsonian Institution loaned Key Marco Cat and other rare Pre-Columbian Native American artifacts on loan from the University of Pennsylvania continue on exhibit until April 3, 2021 at the Marco Island Historical Museum (MIHM). 

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This important and historic exhibit — a collaborative effort between MIHS and the Collier County Museums — was recognized with the 2019 Florida Association of Museums Award for Museum Excellence — the highest honor for a museum in the state of Florida.

Among other 2019 honors, MIHS was recognized by the Southeastern Museums Conference (SEMC) for the expanded exhibit Paradise Found: 6,000 Years of People on Marco Island in which the Key Marco Artifacts are showcased.

MIHS staff members also have received 2019 honors.  MIHS Curator of Collections Austin Bell received an appointment as a Consulting Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia. In addition, Collections Manager Heather Otis was awarded the Southeastern Registrars Association Travel Scholarship for Emerging Professionals to attend the 2019 SEMC conference in Charleston, South Carolina.

According to MIHS Executive Director Pat Rutledge, “We are so proud of our great professional team members as well as our partners and supporters who have made it possible for us to reach for excellence in everything we do in our work to preserve and present the fascinating and important history of our area to residents and visitors from throughout the world.”

The Marco Island Historical Museum is located at 180 S. Heathwood Drive. The Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free and the site is handicapped accessible. For general information visit or call 239-642-1440.

MIYC Change of Watch, Commodore’s Ball set for Saturday

Outgoing Commodore Jeff Comeaux

On Saturday, Jan. 18, the Marco Island Yacht Club will hold its annual gala event, the Change of Watch and Commodore’s Ball. New officers of the bridge, a nautical term for center of operations, will be installed at the formal Change of Watch ceremony. The festivities will then move inside to the beautiful Harbour Dining Room for dinner and dancing, overlooking the yacht basin, the Marco River, and the Jolley Bridge.

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The time honored installation ceremony, Change of Watch, is based on military tradition in which responsibility, authority and accountability are transferred from the current leader to the new commander. Outgoing Commodore Jeff Comeaux will hand over command to the new Commodore, Ray Rosenberg.  At the Marco Island Yacht Club, this is signified by lowering the Past Commodore’s burgee (triangular flag) and replacing it with the new Commodore’s burgee.  

2020 Commodore Ray Rosenberg

The Commodore has overall responsibility for the cruising fleets, regattas, boating programs, matters relating to the Florida Council of Yacht Clubs and social activities. Commodore Rosenberg will swear to uphold the MIYC mission statement, “To provide an extraordinary member experience of boating, social events and dining in a beautiful and welcoming Club setting where fun and friendship flourish.”

The festivities commence at 5 p.m. with cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres, followed by a Change of Watch Ceremony and Evening Colors held in the Courtyard. Then the celebration moves upstairs with a gourmet dinner and dancing to the music of the Classics II.

Boating Club announces leadership for 2020

America’s Boating Club – Marco Island installed its 2020 officers at a Change of Watch Ceremony held at the Marco Island Yacht Club on Jan. 8.

“I am delighted to work with our new leadership team to promote boating education and safety in and around Marco Island,” said Robert N. Smith, who was installed as the Club’s Commander for the coming year.

Bridge Officers installed at the event include Robert N. Smith, commander; Wanda Burson, executive officer; Patricia Cavanagh, education officer; John Maciolek, assistant education officer; Steven Riley, administrative OFFICER; William Kreppein, assistant administrative officer; Margaret Smith, secretary; Mary Kreppein, assistant secretary; Lindsay McFadden, treasurer;  Robert Gloodt, assistant treasurer; and executive committee members Thomas G. Morr, John Salotto, Donald Cates and Dennis Enstrom.

“Boating safety continues to be our number one priority” said Smith.”  “I encourage all Marco Island boaters to take advantage of our educational courses to improve their boating skills and to call us for a free vessel safety check to help protect family and friends.”

News flash from Florida legislators: Telegraph era is over

Florida lawmakers are transmitting a news bulletin: The telegraph era is over.

Before there was instant messaging, emails and even corded telephones, there was the reliable telegraph to instantaneously transmit messages far and wide. Now, people turn to the internet, text messaging, Twitter, gifs and emojis to write their long-distance notes.

While thumbing through a volume of Florida laws, state Rep. Tommy Gregory and a colleague came upon old statutes regulating the telegraph industry.

“I wondered if they were now obsolete,” said Gregory, a former lieutenant colonel in the Air Force.

“We probably haven’t sent a telegraph in the state of Florida in more than a decade,” Gregory said in an interview. Indeed, it’s anybody’s guess when that final Florida missive might have been tapped into the ether. Western Union, once a leading telegraph service provider, sent out its last telegram on Jan. 27, 2006.

Gregory considered the statutes useless in today’s era of smartphones and emails, and he moved to rip the laws out of the state’s books.

A state House committee on Wednesday agreed unanimously to repeal Chapter 363 of the Florida Statute in its entirety. One lawmaker cheekily registered his vote by using his fingers to tap into the dais as if using Morse Code.

Back in its day, the telegraph was cutting- edge technology. Until Samuel Morse invented his eponymous code and sent out the first message by telegraph in 1844, stagecoaches were still the speediest way to get a message from coast to coast.

“WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT?” the first telegraph message asked.

The Florida law was adopted more than a century ago and remained mostly unchanged since 1913.

It established penalties against telegraph companies that refused to transmit messages, making them liable for damages for mental anguish and physical suffering because of their failure to promptly and correctly transmit or deliver a telegram.

Based on their research, legislative staffers concluded that “the provisions of chapter 363, F.S., are outdated.”

Florida could expand law to compensate wrongfully imprisoned

Florida could expand a law to compensate people imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit under a bill unanimously approved by a House committee on Wednesday.

Florida law currently allows wrongfully incarcerated prisoners to received $50,000 for each year they were imprisoned for a crime they didn’t commit. But it doesn’t allow people to make a claim if they were previously convicted of an unrelated violent crime.

A bill sponsored by Democratic Rep. Bobby DuBose would strip what’s called the “clean hands” provision of the current law. Dubose said Florida is the only state with a law to compensate wrongfully incarcerated people that includes the clean hands language.

“Like I tell my kids, when you’re wrong, you’re wrong” Dubose said. “If the state is wrong, we’re wrong, and we need to address it.”

The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee unanimously approved it in the first of three committee stops. A similar Senate bill has one more stop before going to the full chamber.

The bill would address anyone exonerated after July 1. Former death row inmate Herman Lindsey spoke in favor of the bill even though, as written, he wouldn’t benefit from it. Lindsey was on death row for two years before the state Supreme Court released him in a unanimous 2009 decision, finding there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him of a 1994 slaying in South Florida. Lindsey described what it was like sitting in a death row cell while other inmates were being executed even though he was innocent. He said there have been many others exonerated after being condemned.

“We have to sit there and watch people executed and we have to wonder one day are we are going to be the ones that are executed. Then the glorious day comes where our innocence has been found and we are released,” Lindsey said. “Then we have to fight for compensation. We already don’t get apologies … I never received an apology.”

Several members of the committee, including Chairman Republican Rep. James Grant, praised Lindsey for his testimony. Grant also expressed a commitment to try to amend the bill going forward to compensate people like Lindsey.

“There is no greater threat to our liberty than government actually taking your life or liberty, and in Mr. Lindsey’s case, having his liberty taken while his life was about to be taken,” Grant said. “If we believe that that is as grave as injustice as it is, then shouldn’t we try to figure out how to make it retroactive to living individuals?”