3 To Know: Golden Gate shooting, saving bats, more

Marco Eagle

1. Sufficient space? FWS proposes 1.2 million acres of critical habitat for endangered bat, but some question if it’s enough

A federal agency charged with protecting listed wildlife and their habitat last week proposed to set aside nearly 1.2 million acres of critical habitat for the endangered Florida bonneted bat.

A volunteer recently found a roost for the rare Florida bonneted bats around a Coral Gables golf course.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is following up on a court order that directed the agency to propose and designate habitat for the rare bat.

“The service is committed to working with local communities, state and federal agencies, Tribes, conservation groups and private sector partners to ensure they have the tools they need to protect and recover America’s imperiled species,” said FWS’s Leopoldo Miranda-Castro, in a news release. “Revising the proposed critical habitat ensures we incorporate the public’s comments and best science available into protecting Florida bonneted bats.”

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FWS first listed the bonneted bat in 2013, and it’s only found in South Florida (mostly in Monroe and Miami-Dade counties).

The proposal includes designating all or parts of 13 counties: Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Lee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Osceola and Polk.

A public process comment will come next, and then the agency will finalize the rule.

The designation means FWS must not permit actions that destroy or adversely modify the designated critical habitat. – Chad Gillis/Staff

2. Man in stolen BMW shot in face during Golden Gate shootout

A shootout in Golden Gate left one man with a gunshot wound to the face on Monday, the Collier County Sheriff's Office said.

Four people in a stolen white BMW pulled up at a residence near 50th Terrace Southwest and 23rd Court Southwest, according to the Sheriff's Department. Two people came out of the home, and gunfire was exchanged.

“The BMW fled the scene,” The Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post. “Detectives said one of the occupants of BMW was shot in the face and was transported to a hospital for treatment.”

Four people are in custody and are being questioned by detectives. Charges are pending and the investigation is ongoing, the Sheriff's Office said. – Dan Glaun/Staff

3. Double homicide trial for North Fort Myers man set

The trial for the man accused of a 1990 double homicide in Cape Coral was rescheduled to next year after its prior scheduled date would’ve been just days after Hurricane Ian’s landfall.

The trial for Joseph Zieler, 60, a suspect in the May 1990 murders of 11-year-old Robin Cornell and Lisa Story, 32, in Cape Coral, last slated for Oct. 6 before Judge Robert Branning, will instead begin Feb. 23.

Joseph Zieler attends a motion hearing in front of Judge Robert Branning at the Lee County Courthouse on Wednesday, February 10, 2021. He is charged in the May 1990 Cape Coral slayings of Robin Cornell, 11, and Lisa Story, 32.

Before the October date, the trial was scheduled for August, but availability of experts and the discovery of two evidence boxes by Cape Coral police ultimately delayed the case.

“A lot of it is duplicates,” said Kevin Shirley, defense attorney, of the newly found boxes at the time. However, he agreed, there could be evidence or information not previously seen by the defense.

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Zieler, of North Fort Myers, was charged in the slayings of Cornell and Story after a grand jury returned an indictment in November 2016. He remains jailed.

Story was babysitting Cornell when Zieler allegedly attacked them.

The bodies of the victims, who had been sexually assaulted and suffocated, were found by Cornell’s mother, Jan Cornell, when she returned home the morning of May 9, 1990.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in Zieler’s case. – Tomas Rodriguez/Staff