LISTEN LIVE

Susan Giles Wantuck

Reporter/Host

Susan Giles Wantuck is our midday news host, and a producer and reporter for WUSF Public Media who focuses her storytelling on arts and culture. 

She also serves as a music host on Classical WSMR 89.1 and 103.9. 

She is a lifelong resident with family roots that stretch back in Florida before it garnered statehood.  Susan holds a B.S. in Mass Communication from USF. The Florida Associated Press Broadcasters Association and the Society of Professional Journalists have honored her hosting and reporting work.

Ways to Connect

Sarah Curran

Slow-moving Tropical Storm Debby has spawned sinkholes in Hernando County, tornadoes in Polk and Pinellas and a deadly twister in Highlands that stole a mother from her toddler.

Now it's forcing people in Pasco County out of their homes because of flooding. 

Pasco County authorities have an emergency evacuation underway in parts of New Port Richey. 

Courtesy of Purdue University

If you don't already hate Tropical Storm Debby, just wait. 

All the standing water from Debby will soon spawn pesky, disease-carrying mosquitoes,according to Steve Huard, Public Information Officer with Hillsborough County Health Department.

"So the community really needs to kind of get ready and think about the risks associated with all the mosquitoes that will be out and about and make sure they have their mosquito repellent with DEET in it and just be ready for the next onslaught," Huard said. 

He says the mosquitoes should be here in a couple of days. 

Dr. Ruben Quintero, who pioneered a surgery to correct twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome and once directed USF's Maternal-Fetal Medicine in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, is now on the University of Miami team making international headlines for this groundbreaking procedure.

Sarasota is one step closer to buying a sculpture by artist John Henry. 

It's called "Complexus" and stands seven stories high.  Early this week, the Sarasota City Commission approved The Sarasota Art Fund (SPAF) request to purchase the work and give it to the city.

"Art in public view plays a vital role in a city's appeal, quality of life and economic viability. That's why so many of us are extremely motivated to keep 'Complexus' in Sarasota," said SPAF president Thomas J. Savage.

She became known as the girlfriend of Dontae Morris -- the man accused of gunning down Tampa Police Officers Dave Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab in June 2010. 

Now, Cortnee Brantley will go to trial on federal charges that she knew Morris was a felon in possession of a gun and did not report it.

Police say Brantley was driving the car when the shooting took place. Curtis and Kocab conducted what appeared to be a routine traffic stop, which ended with the two officers dying by the side of the road.

Courtesy of Outdoor Life

The Florida Highway Patrol says a 12-foot alligator was crossing Interstate 275 early Sunday morning when it was hit by a Toyota sedan.  The creature managed to escape into the woods. 

The gator then showed up on the Southbound lanes of 275 near Gandy Boulevard and was struck by a Kia. 

Both cars were damaged in the accidents, but their drivers were unscathed.  The alligator died after it was hit the second time and a trapper came to take its carcass away. 

Courtesy of Polk County Sheriff's Office

The final victim of that plane crash in Polk County Thursday has been found.  Sheriff Grady Judd says searchers recovered the body of 13-year-old Boston Bramlage this afternoon.

"There was no other wreckage in the immediate area of Boston, it was just him, in the woods, underneath some trees," Judd said.

"So he would have been impossible to find, except for some very experienced men from FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission)," he said.

Courtesy of University of Tampa

Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor says dogged police work by Detective Sal Augeri helped them crack the 2009 murder of University of Tampa runner Ryan McCall.

Police charged 22-year-old David Earl Williams, Junior with the murder.  He's already behind bars in South Florida.

McCall and a friend were walking home to the university in the early morning of August 19, 2009.  On the bridge on South Boulevard, they were approached by a robber who pistol-whipped his friend and shot and killed Ryan McCall. 

An ultra-long wait to get through customs and fatigue didn't dim the light of Cuban conductor Enrique Perez Mesa. He is unassuming and funny.

He's in town for performances with The Florida Orchestra as part of its multi-year cultural exchange and makes his U.S debut this weekend. And the orchestra's Henry Adams was gracious enough to translate for us.

Mesa helped me understand how the Cuban system of teaching music compares to the one in Venezuela known for raising up famed conductor Gustavo Dudamel. Mesa says students in Cuba have to undergo a series of hard tests and compete for full tuition at the state-funded arts program which educates with the goal of its students having a career in music or other arts. 

For students of the violin or piano, that may mean a study of 20 years.

He likens it to the "Palacio de Bellas Artes" in Mexico.

Courtesy Monkey Jungle

Largo Police say a man who's been arrested a number of times for DUI was taken in again today for going 70 on East Bay Drive early this morning. 

The Florida Department of Corrections says 36-year-old Eugene Carl Kotelman has served time before in Pasco County for driving with a suspended license.  And Largo police arrested him for Felony DUI.

He wasn't alone.  He also had a little monkey in the truck with him. He bonded out of jail on the other charges related to drinking and driving.  But he was arrested again, this time for Possession of Wildlife.  Florida Fish and Wildlife took charge of the monkey.

Courtesy of Bay News 9

Two people are dead after a bad accident early today that snarled traffic and left drivers fuming for miles and hours.

The wreck happened at Interstate 4 and Alexander Street in Plant City at 6:10 this morning.

The Florida Highway Patrol says it all started when an aggressive driver cut off Michael Anthony Bennett and his wife Letara Tenell Bennett of Lakeland.  Bennett overcorrected and that sent his GMC Envoy ping-ponging off another car.  The Bennetts' car flipped and they were both ejected from the SUV. They both died.

The driver of the third car was not hurt.  Authorities are looking for the aggressive driver who caused the accident.  The car was a dark-colored compact. 

If you witnessed the crash, the FHP wants to hear from you at 813-631-4020.

Courtesy GOP

Yes, the Florida Republicans will be staying at Innisbrook Golf Resort in Palm Harbor. That's about 30 miles from downtown Tampa, where the main RNC events will be going on. But there may be bigger concerns for the Florida GOP when it comes to how the state will play on the national stage come August.

University of South Florida Political Scientist Dr. Susan MacManus says in Denver Democrats faced a similar fate.  "In both instances, the parties went early and out of turn and the national party punished them for it.  Some would say that Innisbrook's not so bad, however."

Florida is in the doghouse for violating GOP party rules and pushing up its Presidential Preference primary to January 31st.

But MacManus says there are bigger issues for the GOP and Florida Republicans to tackle before the convention.  She says there are three things Florida Republicans would like to see at the RNC:

Courtesy Sarasota Ballet

Here are a few things you may not know about Sarasota Ballet Director Iain Webb:

  • He was born in the North of England and his life story is "eerily" similar to "Billy Elliot," though he's never had any communication with the movie producers.
  • He's never seen "Black Swan" and says "Dancing with the Stars" has had a bigger impact.
  • Says he might have reconsidered whether his company should go to  Ballet Across America III it had it been at the Met in New York, rather than at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.  Because of the youth of the company.

Tonight is The Sarasota Ballet's final performance of several world premieres by company dancers in "Theatre of Dreams."

City of Sarasota

Love it or hate it, Sarasota's "Unconditional Surrender" statue will be missing from the city's waterfront for awhile. Just how long is not clear.

The nearly 3-story high statue that resembles a famous Alfred Eisenstaedt photo of an impromptu kiss between a sailor and a nurse in Times Square on V-J Day, was struck by a car on Thursday.  The statue has stood along Sarasota Bay for years and is on loan to the city.

Courtesy WFTV

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement today released its report on the deadly January accidents on I-75 in Alachua County. 

The FDLE found no criminal intent in decisions made by the Florida Highway Patrol or other government agencies.  At the time of the accidents, there was dense fog on the road and smoke from controlled burns at nearby Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.  And the wrecks happened in north and southbound lanes on a low-lying stretch of I-75.  Eleven people died and nearly two dozen were hurt.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

More than two dozen cases of whooping cough have cropped up in Hillsborough County.

Hillsborough County Health officials say an entire family came down with pertussis also known as whooping cough and individuals who came into contact with that family helped to spread it around.

Today a judge will decide whether to set George Zimmerman free until his trial for killing Trayvon Martin.

Legal experts tell AP when it comes to the question of whether to allow bail, there is a lot weighing in Zimmerman's favor. He was never convicted of a crime before, he has ties to the local community and he's not considered a flight risk, since he turned himself in last week after he was charged with second-degree murder. 

"Although it's not routine for people charged with murder to get bond, they do get bond, and I think there is an excellent argument to be made in his specific case for him to be released on bond," said defense attorney Randy McClean, who practices in Seminole County, about 15 miles northeast of Orlando.

But  the two main issues at hand are: would he be allowed to leave the U.S. and how would he stay safe.

Public scrutiny of the Zimmerman-Martin case is intense. And The New Black Panther Party put a $10,000 bounty out to capture Zimmerman. 

Dear Dick Clark,

A lot of stories I'll read about you today will be about where you were born, your long career and blah, blah, blah.

All that stuff doesn't hold a candle to what you've meant to my life. 

Seminole Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler is expected to decide by this Friday whether to continue to preside over the George Zimmerman murder trial. 

Zimmerman's attorney Mark O'Mara asked the judge to take herself off the trial for possible conflict of interest after it came out that her husband works with Mark NeJame. He's an Orlando-area attorney providing legal analysis for CNN.  And he was approached by Zimmerman with a request to handle his defense against murder charges.

St. Petersburg Police have arrested Matthew Cook of St. Petersburg, the man suspected of killing a cyclist last week.

He's facing several criminal charges, including DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide, and child abuse.  Police say Cook was speeding through South St. Petersburg on Saturday with his 3-year-old daughter strapped into her car seat. 

Police think he was racing another car when he tried to pass on the right.  That's when his car plowed into Kris Ann Jones, who was cruising along in the bike lane.  Jones and her bike landed on Cook's windshield and she died at the scene.

St. Petersburg Police say the force of the collision was so powerful it sent a Dodge Durango parked along 1st Avenue South into a tree, and hurled Jones to the pavement.

Pages