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College student becomes youngest elected to Florida House of Representatives

Amber Mariano cut her four classes on Tuesday, but the third-year political science major at the University of Central Florida more than likely won’t be penalized by her professors. In fact, she might get extra credit.

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Not only was she studying the political process, she was winning at it.

Mariano, a Republican candidate who turned 21 on Oct. 18, became the youngest person ever elected to the Florida House of Representatives, winning District 36 by 719 votes over incumbent Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy. Before Mariano, the youngest person elected to the Florida House was Adam Putnam, who was 22 when he won in 1996 and is now Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture.

“It was honestly the best night of my life,” Mariano told WFTS.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that the margin was 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent out of 66,939 ballots cast in Pasco County, located north of the Tampa Bay area — according to final but unofficial results.

Mariano the youngest of any gender since 1996, when Adam Putnam, then 22, won his first statehouse race.

According to her website, Mariano gained experience on the issues of education and health care during her time working for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in Washington, D.C. During the 2016 Florida legislative session, she worked for state representatives Rene “Coach P” Plasencia and Scott Plakon. She received endorsements from Rubio and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

Mariano, who plans to attend law school after graduation, is no stranger to politics. Her father, Jack Mariano, won re-election to a fourth term as a Pasco County commissioner.

“We didn’t expect this opportunity to present itself so quickly in her life,” Jack Mariano told WFTS. “But I will tell you at 6 years old she said she wanted to be the first woman president.

“So it’s been in her blood from way back when.”

“He says I’m leapfrogging him. He just wanted me to follow my dream,” Amber Mariano told WFTS.  “And this is my dream.” 

Your one stop guide to voting in Oklahoma

As Tulsa's Election Headquarters, KRMG takes the responsibility to help inform voters very seriously.

That's why we've prepared this summary of important information to help sort out any confusion over the large number of state questions on the ballot November 8th.

We've also assembled a number of helpful links to additional resources that will aid voters before they head to the polls.

Click here for sample ballots


The State Questions

SQ776 - A legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. It would enshrine the death penalty in the state constitution. Proponents say it will "protect" the death penalty, which has come under scrutiny after a series of botched executions in the state. Opponents argue it overrides judicial authority to rule on the constitutional issues involved. They point out that if the measure failures, the death penalty will remain on the books in Oklahoma.

SQ777 - The "right to farm" proposal was also referred by the legislature, and it would also amend the state constitution. It would require courts to rule on any restrictions on agricultural practices in the state that weren't already on the books before Dec. 31, 2014, subjecting them to "strict scrutiny." Proponents believe the measure would protect farmers and ranchers from overregulation. Opponents argue that the right to farm is already protected in Oklahoma, and that requiring any regulation of the industry to pass the test of protecting a "compelling state interest" would effectively make it impossible to protect water quality, domestic animals, and the ability of small farms or ranches to compete against large, industrial farming and ranching enterprises.

SQ 779 - A voter-initiated constitutional amendment, it would institute a one-penny, statewide sales tax dedicated to education. It also mandates a $5,000 raise for teachers and requires annual review of how the funds are spent. Proponents say education funding has fallen off for years, and the state is losing teachers because of low pay. They claim the legislature has failed its responsibility to fund education properly, and it's up to taxpayers to fill the gap. Opponents argue that the sales tax is regressive, and will have a negative impact primarily on low- and middle-income Oklahomans. Many also believe schools overspend on administration, athletics, and other expenses not directly related to classroom instruction.

SQ 780 - A voter-initiated state statute that would reclassify some nonviolent drug and property crimes as misdemeanors, thereby reducing the prison population. It is related to SQ 781, which would pass the money saved back to counties for rehabilitation, counseling, and job training. Proponents say it would save money and turn people away from crime and substance abuse, making them productive members of society. Opponents say the legislature has already instituted some criminal justice reform measures. They also worry that reducing some crimes to misdemeanors would make it harder for prosecutors to use a potential felony charge to compel witnesses to take plea deals, and/or testify against other defendants.

SQ 781 - A voter-initiated state statute which would mandate that any money saved by SQ780 would be returned to the counties to be spent on rehabilitating criminals and drug addicts. This measure would only go into effect if SQ780 passes. Proponents believe rehabilitation and counseling would turn potential career criminals into productive citizens. Opponents argue that it's unclear how much money, if any, would actually be saved and that there's not enough specificity in how the funds would be allocated.

SQ 790 - A legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, which would remove the language banning the use of public money for religious purposes (Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma State Constitution). Specifically, this measure would allow a 10 Commandments monument to return to the grounds of the state capitol. Proponents say the "Establishment Clause" in the U.S. Constitution which bans governmental endorsement of any religion would still stand. Opponents argue that passage would threaten some protections already enjoyed by churches and other religious organizations.

SQ 792 - Another constitutional amendment referred by the legislature, it would allow grocery and convenience stores to sell full-strength beer and wine, seven days a week. Retail liquor stores would also be allowed to sell products other than alcoholic beverages, in limited amounts. Proponents say the state's liquor laws are outdated and harm business in Oklahoma because people go out of state to make purchases of liquor, wine and beer. Opponents say the law would benefit large, out-of-state corporations at the expense of small, locally-owned companies.

Oklahoma Voting FAQs


Oklahoma recognizes three political parties: Democratic, Libertarian, and Republican. There are presidential and down-ballot candidates for office representing all three parties, as well as some independents. Local races in some cities (Tulsa, for example) are non-partisan, as are most judicial races. You can vote a straight ticket for any of the three recognized parties.


Writing in a name on a ballot is not valid in Oklahoma. However, any other votes on the ballot that are correctly marked will still be valid, and will be counted.


Voting machines in Oklahoma are not networked to one another, nor to the election board, nor the Internet. The machines are monitored at all times during voting, making tampering extremely difficult. Oklahoma replaced all of its voting machines in 2012.


The Oklahoma legislature passed a law in 2015 authorizing the State Election Board to implement an online voting registration system for all citizens with a valid state-issued ID or driver's license. That system is still in development; it is hoped it will be available prior to the 2018 election cycle.


Early voting is available at the county election boards from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on the Thursday and Friday before all elections. It is also available from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on the Saturday before election day during state and federal elections. Tulsa County also offers early voting during those same hours at Hardesty Library, 8316 E. 93rd Street (just southeast of 91st and Memorial). Those locations are NOT available for voting on election day; all in-person ballots must be cast at your local precinct.


Any registered voter may request an absentee ballot, and no explanation is required. Use the link below to find a form and request an absentee ballot. Absentee ballots must be delivered in person or received by mail by 7:00 p.m. on election day. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is 5:00 p.m. on the Wednesday prior to election day.


Oklahoma law requires a voter to present valid identification in order to vote. A state-issued photo ID or driver's license, a military ID card, a tribal ID card, or a U.S. passport are all considered valid forms of ID, as long as they have not expired. You can also use the voter registration card issued to you by your county election board. If you do not have a valid ID, you can still fill out a provisional ballot. You will be required to sign an affidavit affirming your identity and explaining why your vote should be counted. Provisional ballots are sealed and are not put through the voting machines. The county election board will investigate all provisional ballots and approve or reject them based on their ability to confirm the information contained in the affidavit. Voter Resources

A one-stop tool for obtaining all the information on your local precinct, including your city ward (if applicable), State House and Senate Districts, and US House and Senate Districts

Information on absentee ballots, including a link to request one online

Full ballot titles of State Questions

Oklahoma Democratic Party website

Oklahoma Libertarian Party website

Oklahoma Republican Party website

Jacksonville attorney arrested for sexual contact with inmate

A Jacksonville attorney has been arrested for battery on a female inmate, who is his client.

The affidavit for arrest warrant obtained by WOKV claims 45-year-old Anthony Blackburn was alone with his client in an interview room at the Pre-Trial Detention facility with the lights off and door closed for 16 minutes. During that time, Blackburn allegedly showed his female client pornographic images while “he attempted to arouse himself”.

Blackburn is then accused of starting a sexual conversation with the inmate, grabbing her hand to put on his penis and placing his hand on her vagina, outside of their clothing. He stopped after seeing a Corrections Officer approach the room, according to the affidavit. The CO then opened the door and told Blackburn to turn on the lights.

The affidavit says the inmate did not want to allow Blackburn to touch her, but “felt obligated to do so because the defendant led her to believe he would help her get her jail sentence reduced”.

Blackburn is also accused in court records of giving the tablet with pornographic images to another female inmate he was representing. That inmate confirmed to investigators that she had had “inappropriate sexual conduct” with Blackburn while at the jail.

Court records show Blackburn has posted bond on the misdemeanor charge of simple battery. His arraignment has been set for October 17th.

WOKV has reached out to the Sheriff’s Office for comment on the alleged activity within the Jail facility. We will update as more information becomes available.

What we know and don't know about Florida face-biting case

More than a week after Michelle Mishcon and John Stevens were killed in their southern Martin County home, Florida, much remains unknown about what led to the seemingly random, but unusually brutal, stabbings.

The couple often kept their garage door up, said Stevens’ brother-in-law, Doug Maddox, with a seat open and the TV on for friends and family. Mishcon was found stabbed to death at about 9:30 p.m. Aug. 15 in that garage. Stevens was found dead in the driveway.

>>Read more trending stories

When sheriff’s deputies arrived at the home on Southeast Kokomo Lane, just north of the Jupiter border, they also found 19-year-old Austin Harrouff. The Jupiter teen was clinging to Stevens and biting off pieces of the man’s face. He already had bitten the man’s abdomen, deputies said.

A neighbor told deputies he tried to intervene in the attack but was stabbed, too. That neighbor, Jeff Fisher, went back to his home across the street and called 911. He was “bleeding profusely,” he told a dispatcher. His wife said he had been stabbed in the back.

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder called Harrouff “abnormally strong.”

Yet friends of the sophomore at Florida State University said he “wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

So what was the motive?

“We may absolutely never know,” Snyder said.

Nothing indicates Harrouff knew the couple. Their family members have said they don’t recognize the teen. Fisher told a dispatcher shortly after he was stabbed that he didn’t either.

>>READ MORE: Dad says Austin Harrouff may have mental illness

Officials have been unable to talk to Harrouff, the Sheriff’s Office says, because he has been sedated or hooked to breathing tubes since he arrived at St. Mary’s Medical Center immediately following the stabbings. The sheriff's office reported that Harrouff regained consciousness Friday, but has not provided a statement.

The details of Harrouff’s injuries, and a complete toxicology report, haven’t been released.

He arrived making “animal-like noises,” the Sheriff’s Office said, and was delusional. His parents said the teen had been acting strange for at least a week; his father said the strange behavior had been going on for months. His mother told Jupiter police that Harrouff had told her he had “super powers” and that he was immortal.

Harrouff’s dad, Wade, thinks mental illness may have triggered the attacks. The teen hasn’t been diagnosed, his dad said, but schizophrenia runs in the family.

Were drugs involved?

The sheriff speculates drugs, like flakka or bath salts, may be involved. Yet Harrouff dared deputies to drug test him after they took him in to custody: “Test me. You won’t find any drugs.”

>>READ MORE: What is flakka and what does it do to your body?

Initial tests indicate Harrouff didn’t have street drugs, like cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine or marijuana, in his system at the time of the attacks.

“I don’t think he did (use drugs),” Wade Harrouff said. “I guess we’ll find out when the test comes.”

Those drug tests of Austin Harrouff’s blood -- which are being done by the FBI -- will show whether drugs like flakka or bath salts were in the teen’s system.

Until then, detectives are in “a holding pattern,” the Sheriff’s Office said.

Is Austin Harrouff’s condition affecting the investigation?

The teen’s condition also is stalling the investigation.

The sheriff's office reported that Harrouff regained consciousness Friday, over a week after the incident. He has not spoken to authorities yet. 

The day after the fatal stabbings, Snyder said Austin Harrouff’s injuries were “life-threatening” and that his condition was getting worse. Eight days after the attack, officials are saying the teen is in critical, but stable condition. On Tuesday, though, his father said his organs were failing. His son’s liver is malfunctioning, his lungs are filling with fluid and he has bleeding of the esophagus. The Sheriff’s Office said it would not release details of Austin Harrouff’s treatment plan at the hospital. 

The night of the attack, Harrouff was out to dinner with his parents at Duffy’s Sports Grill in Jupiter with his parents. Harrouff left the restaurant, his father said, and went to his mother’s house. There he attempted to drink cooking oil, according to his father.

Afterward, Harrouff’s mother, Mina, brought him back to the restaurant. There, Harrouff’s father became upset with his son and grabbed him by the collar.

It’s unclear if there was a fight, but surveillance video from the restaurant shows Harrouff eventually leave, walking calmly out of the restaurant. He then made his way to Stevens and Mishcon’s home, about four miles north along Island Way.

What happened when Harrouff reached the garage?

The Sheriff’s Office said the teen may have ingested something “caustic” in the couple’s garage.

“There were things he could have consumed, and that first night at the hospital, the hospital speculated based on what they were seeing in his body fluids, that perhaps he had ingested something caustic from the garage,” Snyder said.

The blood test results “will provide a big piece of the unknown,” Snyder said.

What happens when Harrouff is released from the hospital?

As soon as Harrouff is released from St. Mary’s Medical Center, the Sheriff’s Office said it will charge him with two counts of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder.

Jacksonville man arrested for armed robbery at Clay County auto parts store

A man law enforcement considers dangerous is off the streets after a search that spanned three counties.

Ricky Barker was arrested in Duval County Wednesday afternoon.

He is being held at the Clay County jail on no bond for an armed robbery at an auto parts store.

Officers believe he is responsible for armed robberies at Advance Discount Auto Parts in Clay County Sunday and Advance Auto Parts in St. Johns County Tuesday.

And this isn’t Barker’s first time in trouble with the law.

Action News Jax did some digging and found out he was arrested by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at least 18 times on various crimes dating back to 2003.

His charges range from possession of marijuana to domestic battery.

Taso Alimonos was in Clay County at the auto parts store on Sunday and he said he went to pick up some oil but walked right into an armed robbery.

"The guy in front of me just fell on the ground, I said 'what's wrong with this guy.' Then I heard 'get down it’s a robbery,'" Alimonos said.

He was then forced to go to the back of the store and into the bathroom.

"Oh man, this guy got a gun he's going to start shooting or something, so I didn't do anything, but go in the back," Alimonos said.

The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office is now considering Barker a person of interest because of the similarities in both robberies.

Alimonos said he is thankful for a quick arrest.

"He don't need to be doing stuff like that. Like I said, he could have started shooting over here," Alimonos said. 

Wigged robber who held 4 people at gunpoint at Clay County auto parts store arrested in Jax— Brittney Donovan (@brittneydonovan) August 10, 2016

Proposal could give less taxpayer money to divorced spouses of troops

A new proposal in Congress could send less taxpayer money to divorced spouses of U.S. military personnel.

It’s part of a bill amendment that would change the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act.

Right now, retirement pay is awarded to ex-spouses based on the rank and years of service at the time of retirement, but the proposal changes it to the rank and years served at the time of the divorce.

“Twenty years in the Navy, I’ve seen a lot of relationships come and go,” retired Navy veteran Barend Watkins said.

Watkins said he knew fellow sailors who have been required to give large portions of their retirement pay to ex-spouses even if those service members divorced the spouses years before achieving their highest rank.

Watkins said the amendment can put a stop to that.

“It’s definitely a good step in the right direction,” Watkins said. “It’s fair to everybody.”

Retired Petty Officer Chris Taylor, who served as a hospital corpsman in the Navy, said he has known a number of people who are now remarried with families after going through a divorce early in their military career.

“I remember my first deployment when we came from Fallujah, there were probably four Marines whose wives at the time were sitting there with divorce papers on the flight line as we flew back,” Taylor said. “A lot of those guys have gone on to be staff sergeants, gunners, master sergeants, and when they retire for their wife at the time to get full benefits, I mean that’s crazy.”

Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla., introduced the legislation in the House.

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1 year later: Suspected child rapist still on the loose in Jacksonville

Wednesday marked one year since an 8-year-old girl was raped and beaten in a wooded area near University Boulevard North. She has since moved to North Carolina with her sister and mother but the memory of the attack is still vivid in the minds of neighbors.

Her attacker remains on the run. All leads have run dry.

Community leaders including the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, the Justice Coalition, and CrimeStoppers gathered steps away from the area where the attack happened to hold a news conference.

The goal of the news conference was to put the story back in the forefront and help jog someone’s memory who could help police.

“Why hasn't this guy been caught?” said Denneth, the victim’s father.

Action News Jax is only using his first name to protect the victim’s identity.

“I talked with my daughter around the 17th, she really didn't seem like herself, she seemed distant," he said.

JSO Director of Investigations and Homeland Security Tom Hackney said 25 pieces of evidence were processed, interviews completed, but they still have not been able to crack the case.

“Perhaps this person who did this has talked to somebody, has made a comment, has made a statement over a beer said something,” said Hackney.

Hackney said he has a piece of evidence that could be useful but what he’s lacking is a name.

“This wasn't a crime that occurred from 20 to 30 yards away, he had to look this little girl in the eyes and do what he did to her. There's a special place for this guy,” said Hackney.

Neighbors are concerned the suspect will attack again if someone doesn’t step up and give police the tip their need to make an arrest.

“You got more kids still in danger. This person is free to do this to another child,” said Tameika Walton.

Action News Jax learned about the attack around 7:20 the night of Aug. 10, 2015 thanks to a viewer who called our newsroom.

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But it wasn’t until nearly four hours later that Hackney, who was at the scene that night, confirmed an 8-year-old girl was sexually battered and her attacker was still on the loose. Action News Jax reporter Lorena Inclan questioned Hackney about that delay. “We look at everything we can do at the Sheriff's Office to see if there's a better way we can do it and that burden of responsibility falls on me as the director of investigations and sometimes I get out as quick as I can,” said Hackney. “I don't like to get out and I don't like to have my staff get out with false information or not enough information.” The hope now is that the renewed attention on the case will generate more leads. CrimeStoppers Executive Director Wyllie Hodges said it’s been nearly a year since they received a tip on the case. “This is not the first or the last victim of this individual. We need people to step up, we need this guy put in jail,” said Hodges. Thanks to a $6,000 donation from Impact Church, the reward stands at $9,000 for information that leads to an arrest. According to Hackney, they don’t have reason to suspect anyone in the child’s immediate circle of friends and family.

Fifteen people arrested in undercover child sex sting in Jacksonville

Fifteen people were arrested in an undercover child sex sting in Jacksonville, including a man who left a 6-year-old child unsupervised to meet up with who he thought was a minor for sex.

Officers said 11 people were arrested after phase one of Operation Blue Hawk.

Mugshots: 15 people arrested in Jacksonville child sex sting

The suspects solicited sex from officers who were posing as children, ages 12-14, online.

The suspects came to a location in Jacksonville and were arrested by officers.

One man traveled from Ocala to meet with who he thought was a child.

In the second phase of the operation, five suspects from outside Jacksonville were identified. Four have been arrested, including one person from Nassau County and another suspect from St. Augustine.

All of the suspects were between 25 and 45 years old.

Charges include use of computer to solicit sex acts from child, traveling to meet a child after solicitation and unlawful use of two-way communication device.

One person is also charged with child pornography after he showed up to the meeting place with child porn on a device.

Several agencies assisted in the investigation into child sex crimes.

It was initiated by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

JSO said more arrests are expected as a result of the investigation.

#JSO News conference scheduled for 2:00 p.m. to announce the details of undercover operation "Blue Hawk". #JAX— Jax Sheriff's Office (@JSOPIO) August 10, 2016

St. Johns County investigators recreate crime scenes with specialized scanner

A cutting-edge tool is helping the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office solve crimes.

It's a story you will only see on Action News Jax. Investigators are now able to create a digital replica of crime scenes using a Leica scanner.

A laser takes millions of measurements at the crime scene. That information can then be used to check witness or suspect testimony and later on during court cases.

When major crimes happen in St. Johns County, capturing every detail is key. That's where the high-precision scanner comes in.

“It’s putting out that laser, it’s getting a 360 degree view of the entire area,” said crime scene technician Stefanie Elliott.

Laser measurements combined with a camera allow investigators to document every inch of the scene.

“This way, we have absolutely everything we could possibly to be able to reconstruct the scene,” Elliott said.

Once every part of the scene is covered, the information is turned into a 3D model that allows investigators to actually walk through the scene long after the crime.

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“We’ll insert a camera with a height and let’s say they were 5’5,” Elliott said.

The tool provides the ability to verify what officers, suspects and even witnesses saw.

“That can kind of show whether or not that person could have seen what they’re saying they saw,” Elliott said.

A useful tool for solving crimes and later if the case goes to court.

“What this enables us to do is to take to those jurors the scene without having to recreate it in the real world. We can actually fly through if you will and show them what that scene looked like to the investigators and what was found that night,” Mulligan said.

The Sheriff's Office got its Leica Scanner in 2013. It was paid for by using forfeiture funds.

The scanner is most often used on homicide, traffic homicide, and officer involved shooting cases.

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