February 21, 2024

Central Florida Roundup

Life or death issue in Florida

Jason Garcia | 4/26/2017

On Jan. 9, Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton approached Markeith Loyd at a Walmart in west Orlando. There was a warrant out for Loyd, who authorities say had shot and killed his pregnant girlfriend. When Clayton ordered Loyd to stop, police say he shot and killed her. In the chaos that followed, Orange County deputy Norman Lewis was hit by a van while driving to the scene; he also died that day.

The encounter set off a manhunt that ended nine days later when police say they captured Loyd, wearing body armor and armed. Orlando police Chief John Mina called him a “triple murderer.”

Loyd appeared headed for death row until March 16, when Aramis Ayala, the newly elected state attorney for Orange and Osceola counties, announced her office would not seek the death penalty for Loyd — or for any future defendants. The announcement has ignited a constitutional battle with Gov. Rick Scott, who has removed her from the case and 21 others.

Ayala says she cannot support a death penalty that she says does nothing to deter crime or protect police but does clog the courts and forces family members of victims to endure extra emotional trauma.

The announcement, which drew national attention, was the first introduction for many to Ayala, a 44-year-old former public defender and prosecutor who was elected state attorney for the Orange-Osceola circuit after a Democratic primary that was closed to other voters because of a write-in candidate. Ayala won thanks in large part to hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on her behalf by the billionaire George Soros.

Ayala dismissed claims that she hid her true feelings. “All voters know now,” she said.

Innovation Traffic Data

VHB, an engineering and design firm with offices in Florida, is helping the Florida Department of Transportation turn an evergrowing volume of data — produced by everything from sensors embedded in highways to drivers’ cell phones — into information useful for planning. The company’s Orlando team developed a graphical dashboard allowing FDOT to make near-instant queries to assess the performance of roadways — determining, for instance, a highway’s current “speed difference” (speed limit vs. the speed of traffic) and how it compares to the average over the past week, month or year. The analysis is helping to assess the returnon- investment for new transportation projects.

Business Briefs

BREVARD COUNTY — Dredgers began removing muck from the Indian River Lagoon in hopes of restoring the seabed.

CAPE CANAVERAL — SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket loaded with cargo for the International Space Station from launch complex 39A, the first launch from the pad since the end of the space shuttle program.

EUSTIS — Lake Technical College has broken Ground on a $4.4-million advanced-manufacturing training center.

KISSIMMEE — The Florida Supreme Court lifted a temporary injunction preventing a local Planned Parenthood clinic from performing abortions. Orlandobased Williams Company Southeast broke ground on a 225,000-sq.- ft. Retail center on 33 acres near the Turnpike and U.S. 192.

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Walt Disney World will add a 15-story, 500-room tower to its Coronado Springs Resort.

ORANGE COUNTY — Timeshare contract sales leapt nearly 15% during the fourth quarter of 2016 at Marriott Vacations Worldwide, driven in part by sales at new locations in New York, San Diego and Washington, D. C. Attendance at SeaWorld Entertainment theme parks fell by nearly half a million in 2016, continuing a slump for the marine park operator. Meanwhile, Tilikum, the killer whale that killed a Sea- World Orlando trainer in February 2010 and became the subject of the Blackfish documentary, died in January of bacterial pneumonia. The Orange County School Board voted to remove Confederate Army Gen. Robert E. Lee’s name from a middle school. A Kissimmee real estate developer donated $5 million to the University of Central Florida’s athletics department, the largest gift from an alumnus to the program. The fast-growing Orchard Supply Hardware chain, now owned by Lowe’s, opened its first location in central Florida. At least two more are in the works.

ORLANDO — The downtown Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts broke ground on a $230-million second phase, with a projected opening in May 2020. Orlando City Soccer Club opened a 25,500- seat, soccer-specific stadium. Universal Orlando opened a new attraction based on NBCUniversal’s “Tonight Show” franchise. After initiating foreclosure proceedings, a bank Took over operation of the Orlando Fashion Square Mall, an aging, indoor mall just east of downtown.

OVIEDO — A Los Angeles-based buyer purchased the Oviedo Mall for just over $15 million.

PORT ORANGE — The city agreed to sell 15 acres for $1 million to locally based Thompson Pump & Manufacturing, which will build a 100,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility.

SANFORD — Aviationmaintenance firm Constant Aviation plans to open a facility at Orlando Sanford International Airport with plans to hire up to 75 workers.

SEMINOLE COUNTY — County commissioners voted to impose new restrictions on when and where residents can use fertilizers with phosphorous or nitrogen.

WINTER SPRINGS — HCA will open a Care- Now Urgent Care, the first central Florida location in its chain of urgent-care clinics.


Harbor House of Central Florida, a shelter for victims of domestic violence, named Michelle Sperzel CEO and Millie Irizarry COO. Sperzel was previously CEO at Girls in the Games, a health and fitness organization in Chicago, while Irizarry had been a special assistant in Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs’ Office of Public Engagement and Hispanic Affairs.

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