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.

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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.

Art Nadel a man notorious in Sarasota for his crimes, has died in a North Carolina prison. 

He was the main man in the largest investment swindle the history of Southwest Florida, cheating investors out of more than $160 million dollars.  And prosecutors said he had stolen away many investors' life savings. 

Nadel was called a "mini-Madoff" according to the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

There may be nothing new under the sun, but in the Sunshine State, the Feds say identity-theft tax fraud is an epidemic that's spreading to other states. 

And it's only going to get worse. 

It seems Florida inmates are sharing "how-tos" in prison.  

George Zimmerman's attorney is asking that the judge in the case be removed over a possible conflict of interest. Yahoo News reports:

Mark O'Mara, Zimmerman's attorney, requested that Seminole Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler be removed after she revealed that her husband works with Mark NeJame, a CNN legal analyst. Last week, after O'Mara agreed to take Zimmerman as a client, NeJame revealed that he had been approached by Zimmerman—the 28-year-old neighborhood watchman accused of second-degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin—about representing him.

 

Zimmerman was turned away by NeJame, but not before NeJame recommended other defense attorneys, including O'Mara.

Zimmerman stands accused of 2nd degree murder for killing teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford in late February.  It happened after neighborhood watch captain Zimmerman flouted the advice of a 911 operator and followed Martin and the two had some sort of confrontation.

NBC Sports put together its mascot power rankings recently.

And is it any wonder that the cool cat who rules the Trop came out on top? Yes, I am talking about DJ Kitty, mascot for the Tampa Bay Rays:

He started as a scoreboard gimmick during the 2010 ALCS, when someone found a cat, dressed him in a Rays hat and tiny jersey, and placed him behind a DJ turntable. In that sense, DJ Kitty is a cousin to the Angels’ Rally Monkey and the Cardinals’ Rally Squirrel … 

The Deej beat out a variety of other critters and vegetables to take top prize.

And the kitten has morphed from just a video-based real tune spinning cat to a costumed cat over the years.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

Routine patrol early Sunday morning turned out to be anything but for Hillsborough Deputy Juan Lazu.

Around 1:00 a.m. he was hit nearly head-on by a driver in a Ford Excursion going the wrong way with his lights off on Bearss Avenue westbound near the Jimmy B. Keel Public Library. 

The impact sent the squad car spinning and Deputy Lazu was able to radio for help.  Other deputies pulled him from the squad car before it and the Ford exploded and burst into flames.  Deputy Lazu had minor injuries and is expected to recover fully and get back to work. 

Tonight, the Florida Highway Patrol announced that 24-year-old Michael Graziano died early this afternoon from injuries in an April 3rd wreck. 

The Graziano's family attorney, George Tragos,  spoke to the Tampa Bay Times.

"It's a devastating tragedy for a family that has already suffered more than their share of tragedy."

Graziano was the passenger in a speeding car whose driver tried to overtake a dump truck before dawn that day at Ulmerton and 66th Street in Pinellas County.  The Volvo rear ended the truck, leaving Graziano in critical condition.

The Graziano family are not strangers to tragedy or car accidents.  About 5 years ago, Michael's older brother John was the passenger in a speeding car driven by Hulk Hogan's son, Nick Bollea.  John Graziano suffered severe brain damage when Bollea's car struck a tree and his family has been caring for the Iraq war veteran ever since.

President Obama is making his case for the "Buffett Rule" in Florida today. 

He'll also beef up his campaign war chest with fundraisers at stops in Boca Raton and in Tampa on Friday. 

Courtesy Katie Ball

I know Honda owners who brag about getting more than 200,000 miles out of their cars. That is, if they change the all-important timing belt. 

But one Orlando woman has them beat.  By hundreds of thousands of miles. 

Rachel Vietch is going blind.  And at 93, she's ready to hang up her car keys for good.

The Twitterverse was really rocking with discussion of what's been happening in the U.S. Supreme Court today.  It was the final day of oral arguments over the centerpiece policy of the Obama Administration, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. 

A circus atmosphere pervades the space outside of the U.S. Supreme Court today, where justices started hearing a record six hours of testimony as they weigh in on The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the centerpiece of the Obama Administration. 

But what does this mean for Florida, which has lead the way in challenging the constitutionality of the law?

My grandma used to say, "up yonder" and "man alive."  She was from Gainesville, Georgia.  My family's roots on my dad's side are steeped in Florida.  My ancestors were here before Florida became a state. 
 
So you'd think I'd be a veritable cornucopia of Florida-based words. Well, not really.  I do know that my dad used the term, "mosquito hawk" for a dragonfly when he was a boy.  And that's the same word my friend's mom used for mosquito.  She grew up in Hillsborough County, as my father did.

But other than that, I can't really say what term my family used for a heavy rain, for instance.  Was it gullywasher?  I only wish I knew. 

Courtesy of Quantum Leap Farm

I've seen first hand the horse power of animal healing.  Years ago, I had to opportunity to volunteer at Quantum Leap Farm, in Odessa, Florida.  I only spent a couple of days working there, but even a few hours showed me that this was no fluke.

Volunteering there was a family affair that started with my sister, then me, and eventually my husband, Frank Wantuck.  He forged friendships with the people who worked there and those who were served there and of course, the animals, like Sonic the horse. 

Some time ago, I produced this Florida Story featuring Frank and the founder of Quantum Leap, Edie Dopking.  I knew it was a good one, because even while recording it, I was overwhelmed with the beauty and power of the story.

All of this came to mind when I heard Julie Rovner's feature on NPR about animal therapy.

You may have noticed gas prices going up...and up.  Some are predicting $5 dollars a gallon by summer, but The AAA Auto Club South doesn't think it will get that high. 

Politicians have been weighing in on the gas situation. GOP presidential hopeful Ron Paul even used a debate in Arizona this week to claim that on that day, gas prices hit $6 a gallon in Florida.

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