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Archive for the ‘Florida Tattoo’

Most Wanted Wednesday: We feature some of SWFL’s most wanted suspects; May 5 – Wink News05.06.21


This weekly WINK News segment features fugitives from justice right here in Southwest Florida.

This is your chance to help out the community and give the tip that gets these people off the street. These suspects need to be found and you can help. If you have seen them, reach out to Crime Stoppers or your local law enforcement. Call 1-800-780-TIPS (8477).

Here are three fugitives wanted by Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers.

William David (DOB 6/5/75) wanted in Lee County for DUI, 5 counts of DUI with property damage., 3 counts of leaving the scene of a crash, and driving while license suspended or revoked (third or more).

David has been booked eight times previously for battery, DUI and domestic violence.

This latest warrant stems from an incident where he was drunk behind the wheel not too far from his house. While driving in the neighborhood, David plowed down a string of mailboxes, yet kept on driving.

When police were called to the scene, they found David appearing under the influence, and asked him to perform a series of field sobriety tests, which he failed.

As it turns out, not only should David not have been driving while impaired, but he also had a driver license that had been suspended several times over. He was arrested that night, but was later allowed to post bond.

Last week, a judge reconsidered Davids release and issued a new warrant recalling him back to a jail cell. Davis is 511, 190 pounds and was last known to be living in Southwest Cape Coral.

Mari Grondin (DOB 9/2/85) wanted in Lee County for violation of probation for grand theft, uttering forged bills and petit theft. Detectives say that Grondin pilfered a checkbook from a local business and wrote a $1,200 check payable to herself, using identification cards that she had also stolen from someone who bears some resemblance to her.

When detectives were able to track the check back to Grondin, they found her in possession of a small collection of credit cards, Social Security cards and driver licenses that all belonged to other people in addition to cocaine which she also had stashed.

Right now, she has four active felony warrants for her arrest, all of which call for no bond. She has 11 previous bookings on multiple counts of theft and drugs, as well as fraud and DUI. She is 56, 220 pounds and was supposed to remain on state probation until December 2025, but with this latest violation, theres a good chance that term will be extended. She has several tattoos, including a lizard on her right calf, tribal art on her neck and the sun on her left ankle. She was last known to be living in Cape Coral.

Raymond Gwaltney (DOB 1/5/82) wanted in Lee County for violation of probation for the possession of meth. This charge stems from an incident where someone called in a suspicious person hanging around a known drug house in North Fort Myers.

When deputies arrived, they ran into Gwaltney who said he was there to talk to a friend. As it turns out, he was in possession of a baggie of meth, which landed him in jail for seven months.

Because of his extensive criminal past, that charge also landed him in prison for a year.

Hes barely been out for six months and is already in violation of his probation something hes done many, many times before. In total, hes been booked 25 times before in Lee County and three times in Charlotte County for battery/domestic violence, DUI, theft, as well as multiple counts of the possession/sale and delivery of narcotics.

He has a tattoo of a lion on his right leg, a clown on his left arm and the grim reaper on his right arm. He is 62, 200 pounds and upon his arrest, he will be held without bond.

If you have a tip on the whereabouts of any of these wanted suspects contact Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers. All callers will remain anonymous and will be eligible for a cash reward of up to $3,000.

Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers1-800-780-TIPS (8477)

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Former Cody man named as suspect in Torrington homicide, arson – Powell Tribune05.06.21

Sean Pettus

A former Cody resident has been named as a suspect in connection with the killing of a 20-year-old woman in Torrington last week. Sean L. Pettus, 32, has also been formally charged with crimes alleging that he set his Torrington business ablaze and stole a vehicle on the morning of April 20.

As of Wednesday, Pettus was being held in the Goshen County Detention Center on felony charges of first-degree arson and theft, with bail set at $500,000.

Although he has not been charged in connection with her death, Torrington police have also named Pettus as the suspect in the killing of Madison S. Cook. Few details have been publicly released about the case, with police saying only that they believe the homicide was related to the alleged arson and theft and that Pettus is the only suspect.

Shortly after Pettus arrest last week, Torrington police called the investigation complex, saying they were working with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation and the coroner to gather all of the available evidence so that the truth can be learned and justice sought for the victim.

Madisons loss is a blow to her family, her many friends, and our community, Torrington police added in a Friday statement. We ask for continued thoughts and prayers for those who have been impacted.

In their Facebook profiles, Cook and Pettus indicated they had been married since January.

Cook was a Torrington native who graduated from Lingle High School. According to her obituary, Cook took art classes at Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington before entering the workforce and becoming certified in tattoo art.

Pettus had opened a tattoo shop in Torrington last fall, called BadDreams & Robots. On the morning of April 20, prosecutors say he poured gasoline on the walls of the building he was leasing and started a fire. Firefighters and police were summoned to the fire at 6:08 a.m., but Goshen County prosecutors said the commercial duplex was ultimately destroyed.

Torrington Assistant Police Chief Patrick Connelly said the adjoining hair salon suffered burnt walls, flooring and ceilings, blistered paint, broken mirrors and heavy smoke damage.

As police and firefighters worked the scene of the fire, Connelly said a couple employees at a nearby store reported that Pettus had just stolen a bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey; they said hed left behind a hooded sweatshirt that smelled like gasoline.

As Torrington police went looking for Pettus, they found Cooks body. Shortly after that, at a nearby location, a resident reported that someone had driven off with her 2007 Ford Taurus, which shed left running outside her home.

Pettus eluded authorities for roughly four hours after that.

But around 11 a.m., Goshen County Sheriffs deputies located the stolen vehicle sitting at a Torrington park, with Pettus inside. He was taken into custody after a brief confrontation, Torrington Police Sgt. Matt Davis wrote, adding that, It appeared that he had been in the river, as he was soaking wet.

While being interviewed by police in custody, Pettus allegedly admitted that hed started the fire and stolen the alcohol.

Charging documents quote Pettus as saying hed stopped at his tattoo shop early in the morning, and came outside to find someone had put sugar in his gas tank.

Pettus was angry because he feels like people have been messing with him for a long time, so he said, F it, and set the building on fire, Connelly recounted.

Pettus previously lived in both Florida and Cody, with court records showing contact with Park County law enforcement dating back to 2010. In 2009, court records show that, in addition to being charged with participating in a break-in at a Titusville, Florida, food market, Pettus was reportedly caught with homemade napalm and a detonator for making an incendiary device. When questioned by Titusville police, they said Pettus admitted to making the device because he wanted to blow something (inanimate objects) up for fun.

Police filed a charge of possessing a hoax bomb, but prosecutors ultimately dropped the case last year.

In Park County, Pettus was convicted of burglary for a 2016 incident in which he reportedly stole a Hoover steam vacuum and other items from a Powell trailer home; Pettus claimed he had paid for the items and continued to assert his innocence even after he pleaded guilty to the offense.

Pettus initially received probation for the burglary, but it was revoked in 2019 after he failed to successfully complete a drug court program in Sheridan. In March 2019, District Court Judge Bill Simpson ordered Pettus to serve four to six years in prison, with credit for the roughly two years hed already spent in confinement.

Crime victim records indicate that Pettus was paroled in early July 2020.

Asked Wednesday whether Pettus remained on parole and whether hed previously been housed at the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution in Torrington, a Department of Corrections official told the Tribune to file a formal public records request. Since eliminating a public affairs position as part of state budget cuts, the department has generally been requiring media outlets to file public records requests for any inquiries.

Meanwhile, Pettus is tentatively set for a May 3 preliminary hearing on the arson and theft charges in Goshen County Circuit Court.

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Blazing Trails: Women Who Left Their Marks on the Art World – Cheddar04.05.21

As Cheddar celebrates phenomenal women during the month of March, we're taking a second to highlight a few trailblazers who have helped shape the world we live in. These women have had a significant impact on the arts in America.Maud Stevens Wagner

Born in 1877 in Lyon County, Kansas, Maud Stevens Wagner is widely known as the first woman tattoo artist in the U.S. Wagner joined several traveling circuses and met her husband, Gus Wagner along the ride.

After being enamored by his full-body tattoos, she convinced Gus to teach her how to set ink to skin. She eventually became a master at the hand poke technique and was said to be one of the last known American tattoo artists to continue the art without a tattoo gun.

Together, the Wagners are credited with bringing tattooing to middle America from its origins on the urban coasts.

Zitkala-a was born in 1876, a member of the Yankton Dakota Sioux tribe. After being forcibly taken from the Yankton reservation in South Dakota to be taught in American schools, she learned white America had essentially no real knowledge about indigenous people and she set out to set the record straight.

She began writing personal stories and collected stories from other tribes, sending them to the nations most prominent magazines. As an author, Zitkala-a's first book fought against Native American stereotypes. Her commitment to telling Native stories continued when she co-authored the first American Indian opera, the Sun Dance Opera.

In 1926, Zitkala-a and her husband founded the National Council of American Indians, which she ran until her death in 1938.

A key figure in the Harlem Renaissance, Augusta Savage got her early start in the arts after realizing the soil in her hometown of Green Cove Springs, Florida, was full of red clay. Savage began sculpting toys for her sibling, catapulting her into local success.

A teacher paid Savage to teach her classmates how to sculpt, and she would eventually enter the West Palm Beach fair. There she secured a $25 prize for her sculptures and then it was off to New York to study the arts.

Savage also spent time studying in France before returning to Harlem where she continued her career as a renowned sculptor.

The Puerto Rican-born writer took an interest in the written word after relocating to New York City in 1920. After leaving a job in the garment industry for a position in a Harlem library the first Puerto Rican hired by the New York City public library Belprs love for books and storytelling became even more clear.

Belpr's bilingual skills made inroads into the growing Puerto Rican population in New York on behalf of the library system, and she would go on to author Prez and Martina in 1932, one of the first English-language books by a Puerto Rican author written in English. She would earn further renown for collecting the first-ever English-language anthology of Puerto Rican folktales.

Anna May Wong was the first Chinese-American actress to be cast in American films, but as the first, she was often typecast in supporting roles that depicted Asian women as either passive or sexually aggressive. Furthermore, due to laws against interracial marriage and intimacy at the time, she would never be the romantic lead, being unable to kiss a white co-star on-screen. She took a stand and demanded more out of her career.

Wong would eventually leave for Europe to seek better roles and she became an international star. Eventually, she would become the first Asian American woman lead actress in a U.S. television series when she starred in The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong and received one of the inaugural stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.

Video produced by Megan Pratz, Aly Ellis, and Bella Santos. Article written by Lawrence Banton.

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Jason Licht wont be joining the Tampa Bay tattoo parade, yet – NBC Sports04.05.21

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Multiple members of the Buccaneers have gotten tattoos to commemorate the teams Super Bowl championship, including coach Bruce Arians (but not quarterback Tom Brady). One member of the organization who wont be getting a permanent reminder of the accomplishment is G.M. Jason Licht.

I have nothing against tattoos, Licht told reporters on Thursday. I think theyre cool. I didnt get one. Maybe next year. Maybe next year, Ill get a face tat.

He was kidding about the possibility of a Tysonesque gesture. (Then again, he does live in Florida.)

I need to think through it a little bit, Licht added. What Id want and where Id want it.

Again, the ultimate all-in play would be to get a Super Bowl LVI tattoo now. With so many sports figures willing to make verbal guarantees to the point where theyre meaningless, its high time for someone to put their epidermis where their mouth is.

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Former Patriots WR Accused in $300K Scam – Heavy.com04.05.21

FormerNew England Patriotswide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins is in some significant trouble with the law.

The 32-year-old has been charged with access device fraud and aggravated identity theft. According tocharges filed by federal prosecutors, Thompkins allegedly stole the identity of several residents of Florida.

The former Cincinnati Bearcats star allegedly used the stolen identities to collect close to $300,000 in unemployment insurance benefits from the state of California. Thompkins name was released by South Florida officials who are investigating CARES Act fraud, which was the first COVID-19 relief bill.

Prosecutors allege Thompkins used the stolen identities to send debit cards with unemployment benefits to his addresses in Miami and Aventura, Florida. Reports indicate Thompkins withdrew $230,000 from ATMs in just over a month from mid-August to late September.

According to the United States District Court of South Floridas official criminal complaint, Thompkins was identified on surveillance cameras primarily because of a distinctive tattoo on his left arm. Thompkins allegedly used the debit cards at several Bank of America branches.

The investigation kicked into high gear in January when a search warrant was executed at Thompkins Aventura home. There, authorities recovered handwritten notes with the names and social security numbers of multiple victims in the crime.

Thompkins had seemingly escaped the entrapments of the environment he grew up in Liberty City, Florida. In high school, Thompkins wasarrested for armed robbery and drug possession.

Still, hed manage to attend Cincinnati and to play 33 games in the NFL with three different teams. By landing an NFL career with the Patriots, and later two other NFL teams and a CFL squad, Thompkins had overcome the odds, establishing himself as a bit of a feel-good story.

Unfortunately, things may have gone left again for Thompkins with these charges. Its unbelievable how quickly a persons situation can change.

The Patriots signed Thompkins as an undrafted free agent in 2013. As a 25-year-old rookie, he played in 12 games and started eight of those contests.

In his first season, he had 32 catches for 466 yards and four touchdowns. Those grabs included a memorable last-second game-winning grab from Tom Brady to beat the New Orleans Saints.

Tom Brady game winning TD vs the Saints 10/13/12 (Scott Zolak and Bob Socci Call)***********All rights reserved to the NFL********** Scott Zolak and Bob Socci from 98.5 the Sports Hub call Tom Brady's game winning TD pass to Kenbrell Thompkins to defeat the New Orleans Saints on October 13th, 2013 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. "Unicorns! Show Ponies! Where's the beef?" Scott Zolak2013-10-30T20:34:25Z

Thompkins began the 2014 season with the Patriots but was released in October. Thompkins would then land with the Oakland Raiders, where he played 12 games and had six starts. For the Raiders, Thompkins played in 12 games and started six.

He had 15 more receptions for Oakland and 209 yards. The Patriots added Thompkins to their practice squad in September 2015, but he was again released less than a month after being brought back. Thompkins played seven games for the New York Jets in 2015 before heading north toplay in the CFL with the Winnipeg Blue Bombersin 2018.

At 61 198 pounds, Thompkins brought decent size to the wide receiver position, but he went undrafted after failing to post impressivenumbers at the NFL Combine.

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Panama City native debuts ‘Spring Break Town’ single – The News Herald04.05.21

Rising country music star reveals secrets to song

PANAMA CITY BEACH When rising country music starNoah Garner thinks of his years in Bay County, he recalls Panama City Beach as a "Spring Break Town."

Which just so happens to be the title of the first single release from his new EP. "Spring Break Town," an upbeat summer anthem,debuted March 26.

More: Country artist Christon Birge follows dream

I wrote this song because I have lived and heard the stories of many people that had experienced the excitement of Spring Break. I lived in Panama City ... for ten years, and I was able to add my own personal story to it, Garner said. I came up with the idea when I was talking to my mom and best friend about Panama City and said the words, 'Its nothing but a Spring Break town,'and I ran with the idea. It is the first song that my good buddy, Lenny Pey, and I worked on together.

Garner shot parts of a new music video at Sharky's Beachfront Restaurant,15201 Front Beach Road, a couple of weeks ago. He'll perform there from 8:30 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday, April 2 and 3, to celebrate the release of the new EP, joined byvocal powerhouseKatrina Austin of Nashville.

"There's just nothing like it," Garner said of Panama City Beach especially during Spring Break. "It has a vibe nowhere else in Florida or anywhere else in the world has."

Co-written by Garner and Pey, "Spring Break Town"wasproduced by Michael Cruz and Buddy Hyatt, recorded at Freeway Sound Studios and Music City Trax, distributed by Mercia Records/Sony Orchard, and is available on all streaming and download platforms.

More: Country music star Lorrie Morgan drops by local restaurant

Working on Spring Break Town was a breath of fresh air as a creator. Noah and I set out to produce a full and lasting experience, said Cruz. From the dirt roads to the polished downtown lights, 'Spring Break Town' is destined to get you up and dancing.

The idea behind "Spring Break Town" is the classic story of a hot, fast-burning romance that happens over a once-in-a-lifetime getaway. The hope, Garner said, is listeners will take away "that good feeling you get when you think about that wild Spring Break you had that one time, in that special place, with that special someone."

The other tracks on the "Spring Break Town" EP include: "Gotta Get To You," "Cover Up Tattoo" and "Gonna Drink Again," all written by Garner.

The23-year-oldGarner began singing and playing guitar at the age of 6. Born in Dade City, he and his family moved to Panama City Beach when he was still in elementary school. He calls Panama City "home."

His love of country music started at a young age while riding around in his grandfather's truck singing along with the radio. But his love of performing blossomed in Bay High School's drama program.

"I started taking it seriously as a teen," he said Thursday. "We had this Improv Night, like 'Whose Line Is It, Anyway?' and I loved it. I got to make people laugh and connected with people. That's what I love about it that connection."

More: OUR VIEW: Five years later - Spring Break never died. It cleaned up its act

Garnerspent his early teens performing in and around the Florida Panhandle. At 16, he auditioned for American Idol in Tallahassee, got his golden ticket and advanced to the Executive Producer round. He has also been honored as the Alabama Music Association Male Entertainer of the Year for Traditional andNew Country.

At age 17, Garner received the Horizon Male Vocalist Award and the Most Promising Male Entertainer of the Year from the North American Country Music Association.One week after graduating from high school, Garner got a chance to perform at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge in Nashville. He left home three weeks later and made the move to Nashville to pursue his dream of making a living doing what he loves.

"Somehow, by the grace of God, I was blessed with the talent to sing and play," he said. "Music gave me a way to express myself at a time when I couldn't express myself. A way to connect with people on that emotional level. ... There's nothing more beautiful in the world."

He was one of the youngest artists to performon the famous Honky Tonk Row, becoming known for his energetic stage performance, unexpected low country vocals, and his ability to connect with his crowd. That's where Nashville recording artist Big Smo discovered him; Garner toured with Smo as acoustic andvocals, and the title track to his 2018 debut EP, "Off the Hitch," was a collaboration with Smo.

Garner'sfirst single, "Is It Raining Where You Are,"released to commercial radio August 2017, followed by his second single, "It's a Huntin' Thang." All proceeds of this release are beingbe donated to the nonprofit organization, Camo Dreams, which provides outdoor opportunitiestodeservingchildrenwithdisabilitiesorterminalillnesses.

Garner considers his charity work among his most important activities:He has volunteered as a music therapist with special needs children; he is the Music Ambassador for Camo DreamsInc.; and he is also a Kids Wish Network Angel, meeting and providing memorable experiences for children who love country music and whose wish is to visit Nashville.

Garner is currently back in the studio, recording his highly anticipated debut full-length album, "Pieces of Me." He recently released the first single off that album, "Gotta Get To You," which is also available on all platforms.

"It's really exciting to think about," he said. "By the end of the year, we'll have about 13 brand new songs out."

Spring Break in Panama City Beach has inspired a number of musical tributes, from Luke Bryan to Tim McGraw. Bryan's "Rollercoaster" is one of Garner's favorites, and he said he would love for "Spring Break Town" to rank among the others.

"That's kind of up to the people," he said, adding that he was "humbled that there are fans" who follow his music already. He hopes they will, "Keep keeping on."

Discover more about Garner on his website,

"... We all got someone we just cant shake /No matter how hard we try to erase / Or replace or drown out those feelings we have /For someone that we know just aint coming back ..."

excerpt from "Spring Break Town"

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Ex-Patriots wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins allegedly involved in $300G unemployment scheme – Fox News04.05.21

Former New England Patriots wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins is facing federal identity theft charges, prosecutors announced Wednesday.

Thompkins, 32, of Miami, was charged with access device fraud and aggravated identify theft, the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Southern District of Florida said as federal prosecutors gave an update on their criminal enforcement efforts against fraud under the CARES Act.


The former NFL player is accused of using stolen identities of Florida residents to obtain unemployment benefits in California. He is accused of siphoning about $300,000 from California in fraud benefits.

"California distributed these unemployment benefit funds in the form of debit cards, which were subsequently mailed to addresses associated with Thompkins in Miami and Aventura, Florida. Court documents allege that from August 16 through September 23, 2020, Thompkins used these debit cards to withdraw funds at various ATMs in Miami-Dade County," prosecutors said.


Thompkins was identified in surveillance video and authorities said he has a "distinctive" left tattoo on his forearm, reported, citing a criminal complaint. Authorities said a search warrant executed on his Florida home found notes with social security numbers and three alleged identity theft victims.


Thompkins signed with the Patriots in 2013 as an undrafted free agent. He played in 12 games and caught 32 passes for 466 yards and four touchdowns. He also played with the then-Oakland Raiders and New York Jets. He played in the Canadian Football League in 2018.

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Kenbrell Thompkins Has Gone From Catching Tom Bradys Touchdowns To a Disturbing Case Involving COVID-19 and Fraud – Sportscasting04.05.21

Nearly a decade ago, it appeared the New England Patriots might have found something special in undrafted receiver Kenbrell Thompkins.

Although Thompkins had an impressive rookie season in 2013, he never caught on the way that Tom Brady and the Patriots hoped. Now, with his NFL days long behind him, Thompkins is involved in a disturbing case that could send him to prison for over 10 years.

RELATED: Lenny Dykstra Has Really Hit Rock Bottom Now

Over five years since his most recent NFL game, Kenbrell Thompkins is in serious legal trouble.

Thompkins, 32, is facing federal identity theft charges. According toofficial documents, the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Southern District of Florida believes Thompkins used stolen identities of Florida residents to obtain unemployment benefits in California.

South Florida officials named Thompson among a slate of indictments related to fraud and the CARES Act, the first major COVID-19 relief bill released amid the ongoing pandemic.

Prosecutors said California distributed roughly $300,000 to Thompkins in the form of debit cards, which were subsequently mailed to addresses associated with Thompkins in Miami and Aventura, Florida. Court documents allege that Thompkins withdrew $230,000 of those funds from August 16 through September 23, 2020.

According, officials used surveillance video to identify Thompkins by a distinctive tattoo on his left arm when he used the cards at several Bank of America branches in Florida.

According to the documents, a January search on Thompkins residence in Aventura found handwritten notes with the names and social security numbers of at least three identity theft victims.

RELATED: Former New Orleans Saint Joe Horn Takes Different Approach to NFL Insurance Fraud

Kenbrell Thompkins is facing a long stretch of prison time if the legal process plays out a certain way.

Prosecutors charged Thompkins with one count of access device fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. Thompkins was also charged with two counts of aggravated identity theft, which carry a penalty of two mandatory years imprisonment.

Thompkins has a long history with the legal system.The Boston Globereported in 2013 that police arrested Thompkins seven times between the ages of 15 and 18.

At one point, Thompkins spent time in a military-style boot-camp program following an arrest for cocaine possession with intent to sell.

RELATED: Tom Brady Indirectly Explained Why Hes Not Ready to Retire From Pro Football Just Yet

Kenbrell Thompkins has come a long way since he burst onto the scene as an undrafted rookie in 2013.

Thompkins started eight games and played in another four for the New England Patriots that year, turning 32 receptions into 466 yards and four touchdowns. Although Thompkins had six catches for 53 yards across his first two games in 2014, the Patriots cut him early in the season.

Thompkins quickly signed with the Raiders and had 15 catches for 209 yards in 12 games. A midseason signing of the Jets in 2015, Thompkins had 17 receptions and 165 yards that year.

Thompkins last played professional football for the CFLs Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2018.

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Palm Beach County Teacher of the Year brings together lessons of Holocaust, racism – Palm Beach Post04.05.21

An award-winning English teacher with a national reputation in Holocaust education and a penchant for making those lessons relatable to students at an alternative high schoolhas landed a new title: Palm Beach County Teacher of the Year.

This year, school administrators once again scrapped the traditional surprise classroom visit from Superintendent Donald Fennoy, this time in choosing tod broadcast an award ceremony on its cable channel and online Tuesday.

Toshimi Abe-Janiga, 59, has been a fixture at Riviera Beach Preparatory for 14 years, teaching both English and an elective in Holocaust studies.

Her route to teaching lessons ofJewish genocide to some of the most challenging students, often from some of the county's poorest neighborhoods, seems unlikely for agirl born halfway around the world.

"I often puzzle people," agrees Abe-Janiga, who left Japan to work at Lynn University in Boca Raton in 1992 and found her way to teaching English and Japanese to high schoolers in 2005.

More: This tech savvy Boca Raton educator is Palm Beach Countys principal of the year

Abe-Janigawas always turned on by teachingbut discovered the power of Holocaust education froma student with a spider web tattoo on his hand a mark she recognizedas a possible nod to prison time.

When asked to bring a book to class, this young man chose "Night" by Elie Wiesel.

"He told me that he was horrified by the cruelty of the Nazis' oppression and moved by Elie Wiesel's silence as an answer," Abe-Janiga recalled.

"He told me, Mrs. Toshimi, you have to teach this book," Abe-Janiga said. First the beginning high school teacher had to read it. "it was so powerful and at the same time I was interested in the students' response."

Inspired, Abe-Janiga traveled the world to Israel, to Germany, to Lithuania to further her understanding of World War II events. But she also soughtto give her students awindow to that history, landing grants for travel to the U.S. Holocaust Museum and inviting survivors to their classroom.

Her advocates say Abe-Janiga is successful because she makes lessonsrelevant to her students. Her class is a space to work through the bigotry and racism, not just in a long-ago war, but also inAfrican-American history and current events.

She has received a grant for a schoolwide reading initiative that incorporates Black history and discusses systemic racism in our society.

More: Board considers raising starting teachers' salaries to $47,500; others get 3.5% boost

Her studentshave contemplated the comparisons drawn by poet Langston Hughes between the oppression of Jews by the Nazis and African Americans by Southern whites.

They have culled the writings of politician and civil rights activist John Lewis to create what she calls "found poems," by using only words and phrases plucked from the text.

Abe-Janiga touched her own roots whenshe did a project about a WWII-eraJapanese diplomat who saved thousands of Jews and connected her students to otherstudents in both countries.

Her class has dialed up an authorfor a coast-to-coast chatregarding his novel that follows a group of outcasts as they tackle inequality and discrimination at their high school.

Abe-Janiga's influence goes beyond the classroom. Her grant writing prowess has paid off in intense test prep boot camps to boost her students' college exam scores. She's brought in thousands to give students a three-stop Florida college tour. Her students have left the classroom to clear graves in a historically Black cemetery in Riviera Beach and visited the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum in Delray Beach.

"When I teach a student about the Holocaust, I want them to participate, to prevent the next atrocity," she said in a video highlighting the county's finalists. "I want them to understand the warnings of what's coming. I want them to make a choice to do the right thing as a human being."

In an interview Tuesday afternoon, trophy secured, Abe-Janiga couldn't contain her surprise. "I'm so glad I listened to that student. I have to say thank you to him."

Toshimi Abe-Janiga rose to the top in a field of more than 77nominees. Having won the title, she is eligible to win Florida's 2022 Teacher of the Year titleIn addition to announcing that honor, Schools Superintendent Donald Fennoyalso awarded the School Related Employee of the Year to Hernan Avila, also known as WellingtonHigh's "Coach H."

Avila, 27, began as a behavior specialist at the school and rose to a job in technologythere, but really, he's Mr. Fix It the person administrators, teachers and students turn to when a challenge arises, say Wellington High administrators.

Those challenges can be logistical, like organizing the handing out of laptops during the pandemic, or more personal, such as finding a way to re-engage a student distraught over a death in the family.

Said Wellington principal Cara Hayden, "He's extremely special and so loved."

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Palm Beach County Teacher of the Year brings together lessons of Holocaust, racism - Palm Beach Post

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Martin County resident and pet tree frog garner national attention as the 2021 Cadbury Easter Bunny – TCPalm04.05.21


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MARTIN COUNTY Kaitlyn Vidal didn't thinkher pet tree frog "Betty" stood a chance when she entered the amphibianinto the 2021 Cadbury Bunny Tryouts in February.

But why not, Vidal thought, at the very least, it wouldbe a cute photo opportunity.

Donned in a 3D printed top hat and handcrafted felt bunny ears, Betty captured the hearts of the judges immediately earning the four-legged contestant a spot in the semi-finals, then the Top 10 and eventually the big win.

Vidal, of Martin County, and Betty have garnered national attention ever since The Hershey Company declared the tree frog this year's Cadbury Easter Bunnyon March 23.

"It's hard to wrap your mind around it," said Vidal, a 21-year-old student at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. "I think it's just a huge blessing to be given this platform. (Betty) has been such a gift to so many people, and I think it's just so sweet to see."

Kaitlyn Vidal's pet tree fog Betty, dressed in a 3D printed top hat and handcrafted felt bunny ears on Friday, April 2, 2021, in Martin County, won a national contest to become the 2021 Cadbury Easter Bunny. The win came with a $5,000 prize Vidal will use to fund a summer graduate program in speech-language pathology at the University of Central Florida and a national TV ad featuring Betty. "It's so crazy how God has used a frog to let me get this money," Vidal said. (Photo: LEAH VOSS/TCPALM )

Betty, a 1-year-old White's tree frog, was the first amphibian to win the award and clenched the prestigious holiday title with over 7,000 votes, Vidal said, beating out over 12,000 other contestants including a llama, goat, donkey and miniature horse.

The two hopped right into their new responsibilities.

Producers and photographers flew into Orlando to feature Betty in Cadbury's nationwide commercial. Vidalhasbeen inundated with interview requests, she said, and was highlighted in People magazineand NBC's TODAY show website.

Betty the frog will be the next Cadbury Easter bunny. She lives in Stuart, Florida.(Photo: The Hershey Company)

The positive reaction has been the best part, she said. Though most have expressed admiration on social media, Vidal added that there have been some unexpected appeals.

A tattoo artist in California sent Vidal a picture of a client who gota tattoo of Betty earlier this week.

Vidal and Betty were also asked to make a guest appearance in a Pennsylvania first-grade classroom via Zoom.

Betty, a 1-year-old Australian White tree frog, is the 2021 Cadbury Easter Bunny after winning a national contest by 2,000 votes. Betty, named after a Taylor Swift song, splits her time between her Martin County home and at the University of Central Florida with her owner, Kaitlyn Vidal. "It's really cool to see all the joy that she's bringing people," Vidal said. (Photo: LEAH VOSS/TCPALM )

"It's just really cool to see all the joy that she'sbringing people. Even in the hardest seasons, you can find joy in such simple things, and I think that Betty has been that for many people," Vidal said, adding that Betty has helped her cope with her own anxiety.

Vidal also won $5,000 from the competitionand is selling "Betty The Frog" merchandise, all of whichshe said is going to offset graduate school tuition.

When she's not in the spotlight, Betty is hanging out with her fellow frog friends Stevie, Gilbert, Charlie and Monk all of whom Vidal entered into the Cadbury contest.

Vidal knew Betty would be the front-runner, she said, because of her confident, energetic personality and natural ease in front of the camera.

After the Easter season, Vidal isn't sure what the future holds for Betty's Cadbury Bunny duties, but is excited to continue sharing her famous frog with the community.

"I definitely think Stuart had a big help with our win," Vidal said. "I'm very grateful, all the support has been really great."

Catie Wegman is TCPalm's community reporter.You can keep up with Catie on Twitter@Catie_Wegman, on Facebook@catiewegman1and email her

Read more of Catie's stories, andsupport her work with a TCPalm subscription.

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Martin County resident and pet tree frog garner national attention as the 2021 Cadbury Easter Bunny - TCPalm

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