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Orlando Woman Charged With DUI With Serious Bodily Injury After Crash Critically Injuring 2 Young Children In Frostproof Crash

32-year-old Ashauntie Cox (DOB 2/15/1991) of Orlando, who caused serious bodily harm to two children in her vehicle while fleeing from two crashes and driving under the influence, was arrested in Polk County on Friday, May 19, 2023, and charged with several felonies.

According to witnesses and information developed during the investigation, the first crash occurred around 8:00 p.m. on US Hwy 27 at the intersection with US Hwy 98 near Frostproof. Cox was driving a blue Kia southbound on Hwy 27 when she struck a grey Chevy Silverado pickup truck and then fled at a high rate of speed. As she continued to recklessly speed south down Hwy 27, weaving in and out of slower moving traffic, she rear-ended a 2016 Honda CRV while trying to pass between that SUV and the vehicle next to it which were both also going southbound. The victim driving the CRV was taken to Sebring Hospital, where he was treated and released with minor injuries.

The collision caused Cox’s vehicle to flip several times, ejecting two Orlando children, ages 5 and 8 years old. Both sustained significant injuries, and they were taken to Tampa General Hospital where they are both in critical condition. A 27-year-old female passenger was also seriously injured along her spinal cord, hip, and back. She remains at Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center in stable condition.

When deputies arrived at the scene of the crash, they detected the odor of marijuana and located a bottle of tequila in Cox’s vehicle. Cox was transported to the hospital and interview by deputies. Cox told deputies they were driving from Orlando to Avon Park to celebrate the 5-year-old’s kindergarten graduation. She admitted to smoking marijuana earlier in the day, and to having four shots of tequila. Her blood was drawn for further analysis, and she displayed several signs of impairment. 

She was booked into the Polk County Jail and is being charged with:

·        Three counts DUI with serious bodily injury (F3)

·        Two counts negligent child abuse with great bodily harm (F2)

·        Reckless driving (F3)

·        One count DUI with property damage (M1)

·        One count DUI (M2)

Further charges are pending the outcome of the investigation. 

“This woman had no regard for anyone’s life when she got behind the wheel intoxicated and then drove recklessly down a major highway, but what’s worse is the blatant disregard she had for the lives of the innocent children in her car. I expect a successful prosecution to hold her accountable—and let’s hope she loses her driving privileges if she’s released from jail or prison. Please keep these babies and their families in your prayers.” – Grady Judd, Sheriff

Lake Wales Police Arrest Man, 79, Accused Of Trying To Suffocate His Wife To Death In Hospital

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“If you want me to do it, I will.” These were the words allegedly spoken by Eugene Dudley, a 79-year-old Lake Wales man who was allegedly caught smothering his wife with a pillow at Advent Health Lake Wales. He was arrested for 1st degree attempted murder with a weapon.

On March 27, 2024, Lake Wales police officer Landon McCosco was dispatched to Advent Health Lake Wales “in reference to a suspicious incident,” according to the police affidavit. A witness, a certified nursing assistant (CNA), told him she had witnessed the suspect allegedly placing a pillow over the face of the victim, his wife in her room.

Eugene placed the pillow over his wife’s ace three times for two seconds each time, the affidavit reported. He allegedly made statements about wanting to move on and have him and his wife go “their separate ways.”

“The witness confronted Eugene and told him what he was doing was wrong,” Officer McCosco wrote in the affidavit. “The witness stated Eugene made statements advising he was tired and wanted his wife to get better so he could go his separate way. Eugene further told the witness he could not ‘do it anymore.'”

Another witness, also a CNA worker, who had informed the first witness about the incident, had observed Eugene covering her face with a pillow. Upon removing the pillow, he had allegedly said, “I am tired, if you want me to do it, I will,” before smothering his wife with the pillow once more.

The victim was asked by the officer if she had requested her husband to place a pillow over her head. She replied, “no. ” After being read his Miranda rights and agreeing to speak without an attorney present, Eugene told the officer he was trying to wake his wife up by tapping her with the pillow.

“Eugene stated his [wife] has been having a hard time staying awake,” the affidavit reported. “Eugene stated he was trying to “rattle” [her] to wake up with a pillow by tapping [her] on the head with it. Eugene advised his wife is not eating any food the hospital has given and sleeps often.

“Based on the above mentioned statements and facts,” the affidavit reported, “there is probable cause to believe Eugene Dudley committed the act of 1st degree attempted murder, by knowingly and intentionally covering his wife’s face with a pillow in an apparent attempt to suffocate while stating ‘if you want me to do it I will.”

It should be noted that Eugene Dudley is no stranger to law enforcement. Arrest for drugs, driving without a license and rape of a child under 12 (1995). In 1996 he was sentenced to 25yrs in State Prison. He appears to have served 8 yrs of that sentence and was released in 2004. He has since been arrested multiple times for violating his probation. 

Joey Foley Helping Organize Three-Day Fundraiser for Autism Awareness This Weekend

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by James Coulter

Listen to the Podcast with Joey here:

Local musician Joey Foley has performed everywhere in the Southern U.S. from Orlando and Tampa to Gatlinburg and Nashville. But perhaps his most honorable performances are at local fundraisers like the upcoming Rockin’ on the Chain.

Not only will Foley be one of the 30 musical acts performing at the three-day music festival this weekend, but he is also helping to organize it.

Having to juggle 30 acts on a rotating stage over three days proves to be quite the challenge, but when it comes to supporting a good cause like Autism Awareness, Foley is more than up for it.

“I am up for the challenge,” he said. It is a blessing to be able to have musicians in Polk County who are willing to give their time and effort to help with Autism and to help with this event. My goal is to keep this thing rolling and keep it rolling smoothly throughout the day, to have it start on time and have it end on time.”

Foley was previously involved with a similar event, Rockin’ on the Chain. He was approached by some people in Winter Haven to help organize a similar event in town.

“So I jumped right in with both feet,” he said. “I am a sucker for a good cause. And when these people came to me and said, ‘Hey, let’s do this,’ I was all in. Let’s do it. Let’s make it happen. And let’s make it bigger and better than it ever was before.”

Proceeds from this year’s event will go toward the new sensory garden being constructed at Winter Haven Public Library. With more than 40 years of experience performing at and organizing benefits and fundraisers, Foley is both excited and honored to organize this year’s Rockin’ on the Chain.

Rockin’ on the Chain will be hosted from Fri. Apr. 5 to Sun Apr. 7 at Tanner’s Lakeside, located at 1006 Lake Howard Dr. SW, Winter Haven, FL 33880.

For more information, visit their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/Rockinonthechainbenefitingautismspecialneeds

Joey Foley recently appeared on the Chattin on the Ridge podcast to discuss Rockin’ on the Chain and his involvement with it. Listen to the episode on Acast: https://shows.acast.com/chattin-on-the-ridge/episodes/ep-30-rockin-on-the-chain-wjoey-foley?

City of Lake Wales Gives Preliminary Approval to Fiscal Sustainability Plan for Buckmoore Road Forcemain Extension and Septic to Sewer Project

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by James Coulter

The City of Lake Wales is one step closer to extending the forcemain along Buckmoore Road and improving both sewer and septic services for its residents now that commissioners have offered preliminary approval on a fiscal sustainability plan.

At their regular meeting on Wednesday evening (which was rescheduled from Tuesday due to city elections), Lake Wales City Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the first reading of a fiscal sustainability plan for the Buckmoore Road Forcemain Extension and Bel Ombre Septic to Sewer project.

The project, as the name implies, would extend the forcemain pipeline along Buckmoore Road and convert the current sceptic system for residents to a sewer system. The city was required by Florida law to first approve a fiscal sustainability plan, as was required for the Project Sponsor’s Certification for the State of Florida State Revolving Fund (SRF).

“Modifications to the Clean Water Act enacted in 2014 (section 603 (d) (1) (E)) now requires the recipient of a loan for a project that involves the repair, replacement, or expansion of a publicly owned treatment works to develop and implement a Fiscal Sustainability Plan,” the city staff memo explains.

According to the staff memo, the water and energy conservation measures incorporated into the project include the following:

· Selection of quality pumps with a high efficiency, saving operation and maintenance cost.

· Extension of force main to new customers improved maintenance costs to owners who are on septic.

· The use of the submersible and bypass pumps that are sized appropriately for the calculated inflows now and for the future.

· Installation of SCADA software to allow the City to monitor the stations.

· Having new piping helps lower the friction head loss, decreasing the amount of power and energy used by any pumps.

· Air release valves were installed at high points to release air to decrease the probability of failure due to air pockets.

“Prior to the loan closing and administrative close out of the project, certification that the requirement is met is accomplished through the approval of a resolution,” the city staff memo further elucidated. “Construction for the project is complete and the final disbursement request is being prepared.”

Lake Wales Incumbents Find 2024 Election Voters Tough On Them Unofficial Results In

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Lake Wales, Florida – The two Lake Wales City Commissioners up for reelection in 2024 saw a community rebuke their voting record over this past year. The votes are in and unofficially the two incumbents found out just how their constituents felt.

Seat 4 appears to be a sound defeat of Danny Kruger by Carol Gillespie. The Unofficial results are Gillespie 1,325 and Kruger 983.

Seat 3 appears to be headed to a recount election between incumbent Daniel Williams and Brandon Alvarado as only one vote separated the two of them. Their were 3 people in the running for this seat. The votes goes like this Williams 939, Alvarado 938 and the other candidate Crystal Higbee 347.

The Daily Ridge reached out to the supervisor of elections and the advised the results won’t be official until Thursday. A recount will be determined at that time.

This is a developing story and we will update as information becomes available.

Lake Wales Area Chamber to Host Annual Golf Scramble Friday, April 26th

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Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce will host its 2024 Golf Scramble, on Friday, April 26, 2024. The annual fund raiser will take place at the Lake Wales Country Club and will begin with registration, lunch, and contests at 11:30 am, followed by a 1:00 pm shotgun start, and end with an awards presentation.

The Chamber encourages all area businesses and organizations to support this very worthwhile cause.

The members of the Golf Committee are seeking tournament, corporate and contest sponsors, hole sponsors, and door prize donations, as well as teams of golfers who will participate in the 4-person scramble event. Entries are limited to 30 teams of players. The $450 entry fee for each four-person team also includes a hole sponsorship, a $100 value.

And, new this year is the inaugural Taste of the Chamber Festival! Our desire is to show off our member restaurants, giving them a chance to highlight a specialty food item by offering a treat to the golfers as they begin each hole.

Any company or person interested in sponsorship, making a door prize donation, or reserving a slot to play is urged to contact the Chamber for more information at 863-676-3445.

Click image below to register:

Polk County Emergency Responders Rescue Man Who Appears To Have Been Trapped Overnight Down Embankment 

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The Polk County Fire Rescue was involved in yet another dramatic rescue. Last week PCFR came to the aid of a man trapped in a tree in Winter Haven. This time it was a driver who went over an embankment in Lake Wales. 

According to the Polk County Fire Rescue’s Public Information Officer, Katelyn Hoverkamp, shortly after 9am a call went out for a crash on Japonica Ave off Lakeview Dr. in Indian Lake Estates community of Lake Wales. Responders found a Jeep with a single occupant over an embankment. The man was reported missing by friends and family the night before. Friends and neighbors found him and alerted authorities. It is believed he did not have any food or water supplies with him. 

Two crews initially responded and then 8 more units responded. The man was responsive, but the location of the vehicle did not make it easy to rescue the victim. 

After multiple hours the victim of the crash was extracted from the vehicle and transported to a helicopter for medical evacuation and believed to be taken to Tampa General.

The Polk County Fire Rescue could not advise of the victims immediate condition other than to say he is a trauma alert patient. 

We will update as more information is released. 

Lake Wales Charter School Superintendent Welcomes Investigation

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By Kip Kirchberg
The Lake Wales Charter School Board was scheduled for a Special work session / financial meeting, however, Board Chair Danny Gill was forced to change the meeting to a special session due to an HR complaint/grievance that was brought to his attention regarding Superintendent Dr. Rodolfich.

Danny Gill, Lake Wales Charter School Chair

To kick off the special meeting Danny Gill made a statement to the Board. “Todays meeting is to not to pass judgement or make decision on the validity of the subject matter. We do not have the direct insight knowledge or information to make that call. We are here to get the report from our HR Director and vote on the recommendation action provided which is an investigation of the allegations.”


Danny Gill stated that he received a notice from the HR Director regarding complaints or grievances received. Noting that is the responsibility and the duty of the HR Director to report a grievance complaint to their Supervisor, which is the Chairman of the Board Danny Gill. Once the grievance complaint was passed on to the Chairman from the HR Director, Danny Gill stated he has a “duty and obligation to report that onto the board. And the only way I can do that is through a public meeting to be under sunshine. So LaQuanda will you present the information to the board?”

LWCS Special Meeting


HR Director LaQuanda Burroughs read the HR complaint to the board. On March 19th HR Director LaQuanda Burroughs received a grievance from an employee stating that Dr. Rodolfich had created a toxic and hostile work environment. The complaint stems from over a year of interactions with the Superintendent, according to the complaint all staff members have been listed as witnesses. As part of the complaint HR Director LaQuanda Burroughs stated that On March 18, 2024 at 8am Dr. Rodolfich yelled at an employee and pounded on the table. It was referred to as demoralizing and embarrassing. Upon receipt the Board Chair, Danny Gill, was informed of the grievance.


Based on the grievance, Dr. Rodolfich allegedly created a culture of fear, mistrust and toxicity. It was also reported that Dr. Rodolfich has discriminated against and singled out an employee due to race. HR Director LaQuanda Burroughs recommended that an external employment law firm be retained to investigate and substantiate the claims.


Danny Gill reminded the board that they are in no position to make any confirmations or validities of the information and wants to make sure they keep themselves unbiased and impartial to make sure they make no judgment until information is provided. Danny Gill wants to ensure Dr Rodolfich is treated fairly and that the allegations are handled in a professional manner.

Dr. Rodolfich, Lake Wales Charter School Superintendent

“I welcome the investigation” said Dr. Rodolfich who also made a brief statement to the board. “This is the first time that I have been made aware that anyone in my office has an issue with my communication. And that occurred whenever we returned from spring break. And I just want to make sure that everybody understands that I was not aware that anyone was offended by anything that I had said at any meeting prior to or during. Because anyone that ever has been has come to my office and told me how they felt. I think that is a much more proactive way of communicating if you have an issue with something I have done as Superintendent.”


Dr. Rodolfich also asked that “Its only fair to my family that I am given a fair opportunity when there has been no complaints levied against me at any point while I’ve been the Superintendent here. There is no record of anything like that. I do have a deep concern about the origin of these allegations and the hostility towards me within my office as it relates to the people making these accusations toward me.”
According to the HR Director three separate employees filed complaints against Dr. Rodolfich. LaQuanda Burroughs made the recommendation in the best interest of the board, organization, and employees to have someone impartial that specializes in employment law to review this case.

Tanya Stewart, Lake Wales Charter School Trustee


Danny Gill asked the investigation to be conducted by a firm outside of Lake Wales to maintain neutrality. Tonya Stewart recommended that they look for a firm outside the county.


Dr. Rodolfich stated hee feels he “earned the right to continue to do the work I am doing”. “ I have a pristine 3 decade record of working for children.”. “If I am over passionate, I am over passionate about the fact that our children deserve better”. “You can beat us up, you can say things about us, but we are still gonna keep working for the kids here. We don’t know it any other way in the Rodolfich household, so I would like to keep working for my kids”.


Dr. Rodolfich made a recommendation that he should work remotely during the investigation and he would retrieve items from the office after hours or work with HR Director to retrieve items during the day. The board ultimately decided to accept his recommendation.


This is an ongoing investigation and we will report additional details once they become available.

Lake Wales Charter School Superintendent Under HR Investigation and Barred from LWCS Office During Business Hours

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The Lake Wales Charter School Board was scheduled for a Special work session / financial meeting, however, Board Chair Danny Gill was forced to change the meeting to a special session due to an HR complaint/grievance that was brought to his attention regarding DR Rodolfich.

HR Director LaQuanda Burroughs read the HR complaint to the board. March 19th HR Director LaQuanda Burroughs received a grievance from an employee stating that Dr. Rodolfich had created a toxic and hostile work environment. The complaint stems from over a year of interactions with the Superintendent, according to the complaint all staff members have been listed as witnesses. As part of the complaint HR Director LaQuanda Burroughs stated that On March 18 at 8am Dr. Rodolfich yelled at an employee and pounded on the table. It was referred to as demoralizing and embarrassing. Upon receipt the Board Chair, Danny Gill, was informed of the grievance.

Based on the grievance Dr Redolfich allegedly created a culture of fear, mistrust and toxicity. It was also reported that DR Redolfich has discriminated against and singled out an employee due to race. HR Director LaQuanda Burroughs recommended that an external employment law firm be retained to investigate and substantiate the claims.

Dr. Rodolfich made a recommendation that he would work remote during the investigation and he would retrieve items from the office after hours or work with HR Director to retrieve items during the day. The board ultimately decided accept this recommendation.

This is an ongoing investigation and we will report additional details once they become available.

Lake Wales Residents Say “NIMBY” to Proposal to Transfer Lake Alta Park to Private Developer

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by James Coulter

Giselle Baker bought her home near Lake Alta Park in 2003. She loves being able to open her door in the morning and see the lake from across the street.

Often, she takes her granddaughter on walks around the lake, where the young girl often picks the wildflowers and even rides her bike. Baker also loves being neighbors with plenty of local fauna that have taken up residence in the area including owls, frogs, and even a family of foxes.

However, if a controversial proposal is approved by the city, Baker and her neighbors will no longer be able to see a lake from their homes. Instead, they will see a residential development with approximately 15 cottage-style houses.

Aside from the 3.5 acres of untamed wildlife being replaced with residential housing, and the other potential issues that would arise including traffic and parking, Baker is also concerned with the stormwater, as the lake often fills up during the rainy season.

“The city should protect our parks, not give them away,” she said. “Because once they are gone, we cannot get them back; when they are gone, they are gone.”

Baker was one of many residents who took to the podium during public comments at the recent Lake Wales City Commission meeting to speak against two ordinances that would change the future land use and zoning designation to a parcel of land known as Lake Alta Park.

Lake Wales City Commissioners voted 3-1 to approve the first reading of two ordinances that would amend the zoning and future land use designation for a 3.5-acre parcel located on the north side of town.

Both ordinances would change its land use designation from “Public” to “Low-Density Residential”, and the zoning from “Recreation” to “R-1C Residential.” Mayor Jack Hilligoss gave the only “nay” vote for both ordinances.

The 3.5-acre parcel is located north of Kissimmee Avenue, east of 3rd Street North, south of Osceola Avenue East, and west of 4th Street North. The parcel had been transferred by the city to the Community Redevelopment Agency, which is considering transferring the land to a private developer.

According to the city staff memo, the developer plans on utilizing the property: “to build cottage-style homes on approximately 1.7 acres to the west. Lake Alta Park will be left open to the public and will be maintained by the HOA associated with the cottage homes. The transfer of the property will allow the developer to cluster alley-loaded infill homes along 3rd Street and Lake Alta Park, with the park designated as open space and recreation credited towards the associated Planned Development Project (PDP), 3rd Street Cottages.”

However, residents fear that, even if the Lake Alta Park area remains intact, the land will still be transferred from the city to a private developer, which would then confer its maintenance to an HOA, thus taking the property away from existing residents and into the hands of other individuals.

“The neighborhood had a park taken away from them,” said one resident, Becky Winecoop, who spoke during public comments. “Had y’all kept it you, we would not be here today. Here is where the city has failed the community, and now we are suffering. I don’t know what the builder will have planned in the future, but we [residents] are at an unfair advantage.”

David Price, President and CEO of Bok Tower Gardens, mentioned how the land itself had been designated by Olmstead Firm as a city park. To remove it from city ownership and place it in the hands of private developers to do as they so wish would go against the city’s legacy of being a “city in a garden.”

“It is not just a random piece of land,” he said. “If this is changed, you will be destroying a traditional neighborhood.”

City Commissioner Robin Gibson argued that both ordinances should be approved, as the proposed development would help “set the stage” for the Lake Wales Envisioned plan, a city-approved initiative to help Lake Wales better prepare for future development and growth. Gibson said the proposed development would show what Lake Wales Envisioned is capable of.

“The thing to do is approve these two [ordinances] and set the stage,” he said. “Here is a regular standard neighborhood we can make special and use it as an example of what can be done…So, the way I see it, we approve these two ordinances, the stage is set for the opportunity to look at doing something that is magnificent and great for the neighborhood and a great example for the rest of the town.”

City Commissioner Keith Thompson voted in favor of both ordinances, claiming that the proposed development would be necessary for the city’s growth and that residents who were against it needed to accept that change happens.

“I got a message for you on that: Lake Wales is not going to stay just the way it is, not in your neighborhood, not in my neighborhood, not in anyone else’s neighborhood,” he argued. “We are all going to have to get used to the fact that the Crown Jewel has been discovered, and there are people who are moving here, and there are landowners who don’t know what to do with empty and vacant property that they own and they have a say in what goes on there.”

Mayor Jack Hilligoss gave the only ‘nay” vote for both ordinances. He said that he had changed his mind about them after speaking with residents who live in that area, and how he now sympathizes with their concerns.

“I did live in that neighborhood,” he said. “I thought that if I lived there now, I would be excited about this development, but I don’t…If this property was completely owned by the developer, I would be in favor of this without hesitation. But we are doing something that affects that neighborhood that has to happen to make it happen. And I have been in favor of this until I listened to folks who live in that neighborhood, and I simply understand their concerns.”

Lake Wales High School Student Ranks 4th at State in Wrestling

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by James Coulter

A Lake Wales High School student recently placed 4th during the FHSAA State Wrestling Championship.

Husam Mustafa, 16, ranked 4th place within the 165 lbs. division during the consolation finals. He had reached the finals after winning four straight matches, which he was able to compete in, even after coming up short in the first round against the #2 ranked student-athlete in the state, his father, Al Mustafa explained.

Husam was able to compete in the FHSAA State Wrestling Championship after winning the County Championship, District Championship, and placing in the Top 3 in the Regional Championship. Last year, he was one win away from achieving a similar victory, yet he came up short, Al explained.

“I am just proud of him,” his father said. “The work he put in since last season, most kids will not sacrifice to get to the level that he has.”

Husam is a junior at Lake Wales High School. He has been wrestling since sixth grade. Often, while still in middle school, he would practice and compete against high school athletes.

Husam maintains a strict training regimen and diet. He trains at three different wrestling clubs from Tampa to Orlando, and he has a personal trainer who helps him with strength and conditioning.

[My son trains] seven days a week; and when I say seven, I mean seven,” his father said. “He practices at home, and he trains at home. If he is not at work or school, he is training.”

Last year, Husam had reached the state championships and was one win away from achieving the same victory he had this year. However, even after coming up short, he was unperturbed and started training for the next event the very next day, his father said.

Al also has a daughter, Jennah, 16, who is not only a wrestler, but also a state champion. He is proud of both his children for pushing their limits and going the distance while balancing their home and school life.

“I can’t even explain how proud I am of both of them,” Al said. “They are both great students and you see their success on the mantle. Very proud of them as a father.”

As for Husam himself, he is grateful that both his father and his coaches push him to train his hardest. Finally, being able to rank high in the state championship this year more than pays off his hard work and effort.

“It feels great. I did not even make it last year, so all the hard work I have been putting in feels good,” he said. “Next year, I plan on winning state.”