Residents at Ten Mile Canal begin to assess damage

Homeowners near the banks of the Ten Mile Canal left their homes for the first time after days of severe flooding.

Five days and garage doors just began to open for the first time Thursday.

“The water level was several inches high,” Ken Holland of Lee County said.

Holland lives in the Terraverde community where homes are built on top of garages, but several inches of rain put their belongings in jeopardy.

Only after the water receded enough did neighbors make their way to ground level.

Once inside their garages, everything was soaked. Holland bought brand new bar stools and carpeting that had to be thrown away.

Some things you cannot put a price on. A woman who goes by the name D.D. showed the view from her apartment where the golf course outside her window was completely under water.

 A once in a lifetime rain flooded the banks leaving D.D. home for days.

“I had to find out from other people working that life is going on outside,” D.D. said.

Even in the darkest of times, there was still a glimmer of hope. D.D. had almost given up on finding her books and photo album tucked deep in her garage. That was until her boyfriend found the books propped up from the standing water. For once there was good news.

“I’m so glad I get to keep a piece of my history with my children and family. It means a lot right now, so much,” D.D. said.

Those we talked to said they were caretakers for the homes of their seasonal neighbors, so they stayed to make sure everything was alright. They said dozens of garages have yet to be opened.


9 arrested in Lee County drug bust

Deputies, guns, and dogs swarmed a North Fort Myers community Thursday. Investigators said operation “Cabana Crush” led to the arrest of nine suspected drug dealers. Six others are still wanted.

One woman said she saw the whole take down just south of Pondella Road. 

“They broke down two doors there in different apartments,” she said.

Seven units were ransacked by Lee County deputies after a  long investigation. 

Deputies said the big bust targeted 15 drug dealers. 

The Narcotics Unit became aware of the suspicious activity after getting 150 calls from people who live nearby, many complaining of drug use and violence. 

“These people are simply criminals spreading poison on our streets,” Undersheriff Carmine Marceno said.

Investigators said dealers were selling and using near a church and small children. 

The suspects are called career criminals, many with past cocaine and heroin arrests. 

Together, the 15 are facing 250 charges.


Island Park residents looking to move forward from flooding

Dry land is finally visible in Timberwood Village off Island Park Road in Lee County. 

“It’s been a couple of days of trying to find roots, trying to figure out where we’re going to go with our car situation,” Ashley Hayes said.

Hayes and her husband both lost their cars in the flood. 

“We’re just thankful,” she said. “Friends and relatives, my work, my husband’s work, everybody has been so understanding and so kind and so generous.”

The outpouring of support is helping them stay positive and patient because parts of the community were still underwater Thursday. 

“I’ve lived here my entire life in Southwest Florida, and I’ve never seen it this bad before,” neighbor Madison Brewer said. 

Brewer still can’t park in front of her home, afraid her car won’t make it through the water. 

“I obviously parked way over there when my house is over there because I don’t want to go through that,” Brewer said. 

“Moving forward, we just rely on the kindness of strangers and the hope that there is better out there,” Hayes said. 


Cape mother busted with toddler in car during drug deal sting

A mother is accused of dealing drugs while her 2-year-old son sat in his car seat behind her.

Cape Coral police officers arrested 20-year-old Darian Nare this week after they caught her in a sting operation.
Police said undercover officers coordinated with Nare on the phone before meeting in person at a Shell gas station on Del Prado Boulevard to buy cocaine from her.

Reports said she sold the drugs to the authorities, who then found her 2-year-old son in his car seat. He was there during the drug deal.

Police charged Nare for having the drugs with intent to sell as well as child neglect.

Nare is still in custody at the Lee County jail under  $75,000 bond.


Hormone pellets offer menopause symptom relief

“I was just hot all the time,” 48-year-old Shannon Scott said about hot flashes she suffered for years. “When I would wake up in the middle of night I would be soaking wet around my neck and I would have to change in the middle of the night.”

She’s a receptionist for Dr. Marlene Moulton, the listening doctor who specializes in treating menopause symptoms.

Such symptoms include the following:

  • Hot flashes
  • Weight gain
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Fogginess
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of labido 

“It’s not a psychiatric problem. It’s a mood problem driven by hormone instability,” ______ said.

When Scott heard the doctor talk about hormone pellets in the office, she wanted to give it a try.

“Within three days I felt like…mental clarity came back,” Scott said. “The hot flashes were easy enough within a few days and now I don’t have them at all.”

Moulton said pellets are a more natural form of hormone therapy. She uses bio-identical tiny pellets, inserted under the skin, made from soy and yams.

“It takes the place of trying to use the annoying vaginal gel or the creams or the topical patch 36 it lasts for 3 months,” she said. “You cant take it out so we have to make sure that is right for the patient.”

She said she makes sure it’s right by coming up with a hormone dosage plan through blood tests. And while the hormones testosterone and estrogen she uses are FDA approved, putting them in the form of a pellet is not.

That concerns Dr. Jane Daniel.

“The FDA has its drawbacks. It has its limitations but it does keep us safe,” she said.

Daniel prescribes hormone replacement therapy of estrogen and progesterone.

“Women come in and they’re very desperate to get treated because they don’t feel like themselves  and they don’t like the way they feel,” she said.

She does not typically prescribe testosterone, unlike Moulton.

Daniel said testosterone is mainly for labido muscle mass not other menopause symptoms and there are side effects like excessive hair growth.  

Scott said that was a minimal side effect for her.

“I did have a few little areas on facial hair that may have come back a little stronger, but over-the-counter product and it’s gone,” she said. “So no I did not turn into a mustache person that I thought I would.”

Scott said she’s happy she gave the pellets a chance.

“No hot flashes anymore,” she said, “and my husband likes me again. I’m not mean.”

Still, Daniel isn’t quite sold.

“I would not discourage a woman from exploring the pellets if that works for her, but it’s not for everyone and I think there are better alternatives,” she said.


Woman shot, killed by Lee County deputy identified

A Lee County sheriff’s deputy shot and killed a woman who pointed a gun at him Thursday night on Fort Myers Beach.

Authorities were called to a house on Lazy Way for a “disturbance” around 5:15 p.m. When they arrived, a woman pointed what appeared to be a rifle at a deputy. The deputy then fired at the woman, who has been identified as Debi Lynn Thorkelson, 54.

This all happened feet away from Sean Ryan’s home.

“All of a sudden I hear commotion going on outside, so I went to the door and saw three cops sitting there,” Ryan said.

Ryan said deputies told him to run. He eventually made it into a deputy’s squad car where he heard the end of the standoff.

Undersheriff Carmine Marceno said Thorkelson pointed, what he called, a rifle at the deputy.

“Our deputy feared for his life and safety and he discharged his firearm,” Marceno said.

“Unfortunately, the female did not survive the event,” he added.

Four deputies have been placed on administrative leave for the investigation.

Latest release from LCSO:

On August 31, 2017 at approximately 5:16 p.m., deputies responded to a 9-1-1 hang-up call at 431 Lazy Way, Fort Myers Beach.

Deputies arrived and tried to speak to the subject.  The subject pointed a firearm that appeared to be a rifle at a deputy.  The deputy, fearing for his life and safety, discharged his firearm.  The subject succumbed to her injuries.

The decedent has been identified as Debi Lynn Thorkelson (DOB 7-8-63).

Four deputies have been placed on administrative leave, which is standard protocol for this type of case.

The investigation continues.

App users click here to see video of the scene


Cape contractor closes shop before refunding dissatisfied customers

A reputable Cape Coral home builder abruptly closed his business, leaving customers out hundreds of thousands of dollars.

There are 17 open cases against Southern Premier Homes three months after the company shut down.

Sixteen of those cases were filed in the last two months.

The owner, Chris Cheney, is under scrutiny for accepting payments from some of those customers the same week he shut down.

Dalia and Rolandas Girdvainis paid Cheney a $10,000 deposit, and a $27,000 first draw. One year later all they have to show for it is an empty lot.

“Just sad. We are sad. We felt, what did we do wrong? How did this happen?” Dalia Girdvainis said. 

The Girdvainis’ did their homework before hiring Cheney, checking his credentials and talking with his references. He had a stellar resume online.

He was even featured in Gulfshore Business Magazine’s 40 Under 40 article, last year.

“It looks like we did everything right,” Girdvainis said. 

Lisa and Randy Johnson of Pine Island share a similar story. They’re out $15,000.

“It was quite devastating to find out that the money had just been taken from us,” Lisa Johnson said.

In addition to leaving buyers high and dry, Cheney also burned his sub-contractors. And in Florida, when sub-contractors aren’t paid by the general contractor, the homeowner has to pay a second time to cover the contractor’s bad debt.

“Not only do they have a problem with Southern Premiere, but they have a number of sub-contractors who Southern Premiere did not pay,” real estate attorney Kevin Jursinski said. “Those sub-contractors have now filed liens against my clients’ house, seeking to get payment against my client, when she already paid Southern Premiere for their work.”

Where is Chris Cheney and where is the money he took from all of these people?

The NBC2 Investigators went to his former business, but the space is now occupied by new tenants. We also went to his home in Cape Harbor, but he didn’t answer the door.

We learned that he has hired a Cape Coral attorney, but the attorney declined to talk with us about this report.

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation has also ordered the emergency suspension of both of Cheney’s licenses, Certified Residential Contractor and Financial Responsible Officer.  


How some dog owners are ruining the beach

Not enough people are cleaning up dog poop on Lee County beaches, and now some hope the county acts to correct it.

The parks advisory board discussed various proposals Thursday. Some included banning dogs. 

Jenua Evans takes her dog to the beach at least twice a week. 

“We walk the beach, just enjoy the day. Have some lunch, some drinks. She’s a great partner,” said Evan. “Always have someone to come to the beach with.”

She was concerned when she heard county leaders are considering plans that could potentially change that. 

“She jumps and plays in the waves just like a child would. Why would you deny her of that?” asked Evans.

Park Advisory Board Members said the lack of uniform beach rules is an issue. 

While you can walk your dogs on a leash on Fort Myers Beach, but if you take them just a few hundred yards down to Bonita Beach you could get a citation. That’s why some said the rules should be the same across all beaches, but not everyone agrees. 

“You know one community doesn’t want to allow dogs then fine but put signs up, so people are aware,” said Sarah Day. 

Some community members also complain that some let their dogs run on the beach without a leash. There is also concern about those who don’t clean up after their pets. 

“People don’t pick it up, and then you have little kids who are going to step in and play in it. That’s gross. I wouldn’t want my kids to step in dog poop either,” said Ryan Weber. 


Cape Coral makes second land swap offer, includes new addition

A land swap offer by the city of Cape Coral to keep an old golf course a green space has come as a surprise to many. 

John Bashaw’s home is near the 7 Islands property in northwest Cape Coral. 

“It’s just a phenomenal piece of property,” Bashaw said. “It’s unique in its location, its unique in its amenities.”

Bashaw is also the president of the Northwest Cape Coral Neighborhood Association, and he was very involved in planning for the 7 Island’s future. 

“The plan has been developed. The land-use is moving forward,” Bashaw said. 

Now he’s worried all of those plans could be thrown out after seeing an email from the city manager to the city council members. 

The city manager said he has offered the owners of the old golf course on Palm Tree Boulevard three city properties to swap, including 7 Islands. 

“That’s what the city manager should do, is try to get ahead of the game,” councilwoman Rana Erbrick said, “but it would’ve been nice to let us know that he was doing that.”

City council hasn’t been able to agree on a plan for the golf course, which residents have been fighting to keep green. 

“A lot of it is it’s the last real piece of large green space in SouthEast Cape,” president of Save Our Recreation Barth Wolf said. 

The city can’t afford the property to keep it a green space, which is why a land swap was offered once before to a developer looking to buy the course. 

“Let’s not lose sight of the long-term vision for a short-term solution,” Erbrick said. 

This second swap proposal taking many by surprise because this is the first time 7 Islands is on the table. 

“I propose that if we were to solve the old golf course problem with 7 Islands that creates another problem elsewhere,” Bashaw said.

We reached out to the city for comment, who said, “At the present time, the City Manager does not wish to provide any comments on the information emailed to City Council.”


Plea deal talked about for Punta Gorda police officer

Talks of a plea deal surfaced in the case of former Punta Gorda Police Officer Lee Coel in the shooting death of Mary Knowlton. 

Knowlton was killed a year ago in a police demonstration for members of the chamber of commerce.

Coel did not attended the hearing Thursday to talk about a possible plea deal. He faces 30 years in prison if convicted of manslaughter charges. 

Despite talking about a plea deal, neither the prosecution or defense gave specifics. 

The judge told both sides to keep working in case they can’t make a deal. She wants the case to be ready for trial by early 2018. 

Both sides will be back in court in November if there is not a plea hearing set before then. 

The Knowlton family did not want to comment on a possible plea deal until they hear what the prosecutors offer.