Florida missing child alert issued for Lake City teen

A missing child alert was issued Thursday afternoon for a Lake City teenage girl, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said.

Columbia County deputies are searching for 13-year-old Coyoete Turner, who was last seen about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday walking from a home on Southwest Tustenuggee Avenue off U.S. Highway 441 South in Lake City.

According to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office’s missing-persons report, family members told deputies that Coyoete may have been attempting to walk to her mother’s boyfriend’s home on Northwest Starling Street, about 10 miles northwest.

The teen’s mother told investigators that she periodically stays at her boyfriend’s home and was at his home when her daughter disappeared.

Coyoete was last seen wearing a purple hoodie, gray leggings and purple Converse sneakers. She’s described as being 5 feet 2 inches tall, weighing 125 pounds with blond hair and hazel eyes.

Anyone who sees her or has any information about her whereabouts is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 386-719-2005.

Lawmakers seek more money for opioid epidemic

Two Democratic senators are pushing to increase by $25 million the amount of funding the Senate has committed to addressing the state’s opioid problems in the upcoming year.

Sen. Kevin Rader praised Senate leaders for proposing to spend $100 million on mental-health services and school-safety programs in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last week that left 17 people dead. But he said they also need to put more money into a plan to curb the opioid epidemic.

“It looks like we are finding a lot of mental health funding, and that’s great. And I absolutely, completely support it and it’s much needed,” said Rader, a Delray Beach Democrat whose district includes Parkland, where Marjory Stoneman Douglas High is located. “I hope in the next two weeks …. we can really put the money into the opioid funding to take an enormous bite out of this apple and really help Floridians who need it.”

Rader’s remarks came as the Legislature enters the last two weeks of the annual legislative session and prepares to go into budget negotiations. The Senate is earmarking about $53 million for a variety of programs for opioid treatment, outpatient care and case management, medically assisted treatment, and naloxone for emergency responders.

Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said Thursday he has spent “a long time talking” with Rader and Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, about the opioid epidemic, and he thinks the Legislature ultimately will increase funding from the current levels.

Rader is working closely with Rouson, who has drafted a plan that directs funding to a number of different areas. They include spending $2 million on an additional seven “bridge programs” between hospital emergency departments and community-based opioid programs, spending $2.9 million for evidence-based prevention and launching a statewide media campaign, similar to the state’s effective anti-smoking campaign.

The four-page draft obtained by The News Service of Florida contains handwritten notes with numbers by each of the ideas. The proposal marked No 1 is a request to increase funding to managing entities, which have contracts with the state to coordinate care regionally, by $3.1 million to provide housing options for people who suffer from both mental health and addiction issues and are frequently jailed or require emergency room services.

The proposal does not include additional funding beyond what already is targeted for medication-assisted treatment programs. Negron though, indicated that he would direct additional dollars toward medication-assisted treatment.

“I want to make sure the prevention is directly related to tangible items that we can measure rather than just diffuse dissemination of information, which I don’t think is effective,” Negron said.

Gov. Rick Scott in May 2017 declared a state of emergency due to the opioid crisis, fueled by an increasing number of deaths associated with the drugs. A state report shows that in 2016, Florida had 952 heroin deaths, 1,390 fentanyl-related deaths, 723 oxycodone-caused deaths and 245 hydrocodone-related deaths.

To try to address the issues, the House and Senate are considering bills (HB 21 and SB 8) that would limit physicians’ abilities to prescribe opioids. Also, the state Medicaid program announced last week that it is limiting prescriptions for narcotics to a maximum seven-day supply, unless a physician determines it is medically necessary to increase the prescription.

During a discussion in a Senate committee, Rader reminded Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Chairwoman Anitere Flores, R-Miami, that she acknowledged earlier the Senate hasn’t gone far enough in its recommendations for the upcoming year.

“You said, and I didn’t put words in your mouth, that this is ‘woefully underfunded and needed hundreds of millions of dollars of help as well,’ ” Rader said to Flores during a Wednesday meeting. “We just can’t keep the eye off the ball.”

Florida inmate among 3 in US set for execution tonight

If executions set for Florida, Alabama and Texas are carried out Thursday as scheduled, it would mark the first time in more than eight years that three convicted killers were put to death in the U.S. on the same day.

According to statistics kept by the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, it is not uncommon for multiple executions to be scheduled in one day, but it is unusual for them all to be carried out. That’s because punishments often are halted by courts and execution dates often are withdrawn or rescheduled.

States have carried out three or more executions 13 times since capital punishment was reinstated in the U.S. in 1977. The most recent time was on Jan. 7, 2010, when executions took place in Louisiana, Ohio and Texas.

Four prisoners were put to death Dec. 9, 1999, in Oklahoma, Indiana, Texas and Virginia.

The prisoners set to die Thursday are Eric Scott Branch in Florida; Doyle Lee Hamm in Alabama; and Thomas “Bart” Whitaker in Texas.

Branch, 47, is set to die for the 1993 rape and fatal beating of 21-year-old University of West Florida student Susan Morris.

Hamm, 61, is set to die for the 1987 shooting death of an Alabama motel clerk during a robbery. Whitaker, 38, faces lethal injection for masterminding the fatal shootings of his mother and brother at their suburban Houston home in 2003.

The number of executions in the U.S. peaked at 98 in 1999 and has trended downward since. So far in 2018, three prisoners have been executed in the U.S, all in Texas. Last year, 23 prisoners were executed in the nation, three more than the previous year.

Serial Flasher Sought by Texas police

The San Antonio Police Department’s Special Victims Unit is looking for a serial flasher, linked to at least 15 indecent exposure incidents in Texas since the end of 2016, KSAT reports.

The suspect can be seen in surveillance footage with his face covered, but not wearing anything between his neck and ankles. The man is accused of approaching women at businesses, typically between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., and performing a sex act on himself before running to a truck parked a short distance away.

“He is out there. He is still doing it and they need to call the police and to report him,” SVU Detective Wesley Ross told KSAT.

Suspect description:

White male, light complexion
5’9″, 250 pounds
35-50 years old
Wears a hat, dark sunglasses and a camouflage bandana over his face
Drives a dark blue or black Toyota Tundra with a chrome stepside
Anyone who believes they can identify this suspect is asked to call 911 or SAPD’s Special Victims Unit at (210) 207-2313.

If arrested, the suspect will face multiple misdemeanor charges of indecent exposure.