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    Metro Week in Review

    By Times staff reports
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published January 20, 2002

    Plea deal in the works in mercy killing

    INVERNESS -- Clifford Micklos shot his wife in the head. But the 86-year-old is going to receive house arrest and probation in a plea deal for what he calls the mercy killing of his gravely ill wife.

    Micklos, who has been living in Waco, Texas, with his grown daughter since April, is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 13, when attorneys will present a plea agreement to Circuit Judge Ric Howard, who must approve it.

    Ruth Micklos, 80, had been hospitalized off and on for the past eight years before her husband shot her with a .25-caliber German Mauser pistol in March 2000. Micklos dialed 911 and told an emergency dispatcher that his wife of more than 20 years didn't want to live.

    "She's had such an awful time trying to live," Micklos said. "I just couldn't take it anymore, and she wanted to die."

    Micklos was originally held on a charge of first-degree murder. A grand jury indicted him for manslaughter, a lesser charge.

    Top nuclear leader favors radiation-blocking pills

    CRYSTAL RIVER -- The state of Florida has in the past refused to distribute radiation-blocking pills for residents who live near nuclear plants, fearing some would hesitate to evacuate in the case of an attack or leak.

    The message coming out of a public forum Thursday on the Crystal River nuclear plant: Give us a little credit for brains.

    Nils J. Diaz, one of five directors of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, called the use of potassium iodide "prudent."

    "What, do you think people are dumb?" Diaz asked while addressing a packed crowd at Crystal River City Hall, a few miles from Florida Power's nuclear plant on U.S. 19.

    Two of the region's legislative representatives pledged to fight for the pills, which have proved effective in preventing thyroid cancer.

    "My constituents want the right to have the choice," said state Rep. Nancy Argenziano, R-Crystal River. "They are not going to hold up the bottle of pills and say, "Now let's go watch the meltdown.' "

    State officials have resisted the idea of distributing the pills, also known as KI. But in recent days, the state said it would not rush a decision.

    Whooping crane leaves flock without a trace

    CHASSAHOWITZKA -- One of the famous whooping cranes that made a historic migration behind an ultralight aircraft from Wisconsin has flown the coop.

    The whooping crane known as No. 10 vanished from the wildlife refuge here last week.

    Of the original 10 birds in the project, only eight left Wisconsin on Oct. 17. Seven made it to Citrus County, one by truck. That bird was killed by a bobcat a few weeks after arriving at Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.

    The hope is that the cranes return to Wisconsin on their own in the spring. If successful, more cranes will be flown to Florida over several years, with the goal of establishing a self-sustaining population of about 125 birds.

    At best, researchers say, the crane discovered another habitat in the refuge.

    "It's frustrating because we're doing our best to protect them," said Takako Hashimoto of Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. "But this is nature. It's not unexpected."

    Inmate petition prompts Pasco jail inspection

    LAND O'LAKES -- A petition by Pasco County inmates decrying jail conditions caught the attention of county officials.

    That led to a tour Wednesday that revealed a clean but crowded detention center on the verge of an upgrade expected to add 192 bunks and ease congestion.

    In a 14-page list, the inmates complained of crowding, dirty sheets, dust in the air and broken plumbing. It also claimed several women in the jail do not have permanent bunks, sleeping instead on plastic cots -- dubbed "blue boats" -- in common areas or in cells. Many of them were sleeping in a common area during the afternoon tour.

    County Commissioner Pat Mulieri plans to discuss the allegations with Sheriff Bob White.

    "I don't think they hide anything," Mulieri said of jail officials. "I don't think if you commit a crime you should be in the Taj Mahal. . . . But they talked about dirty sheets and dust flying, so we have to look at that."

    Fire Marshal Larry Whitten said he is planning another inspection "very, very soon," but has never found a major violation.

    "We don't have any problem with anybody looking at us," said sheriff's Maj. Michael Page, who has overseen the jail since early last year. "The day I walked in here, it was 10 years old and it still looks like a new penny. That says a lot for the staff."

    In short . . .

    TAMPA -- F. Dennis Alvarez, Hillsborough's former chief judge, walked away from his lifelong dream of being Tampa's mayor last week. After two heart-related hospitalizations in one week, Alvarez said God himself was sending a message to stay out of the grueling campaign.

    ST. PETERSBURG -- Two of Salvador Dali's most famous works that feature melting watches will be displayed together for the first time at St. Petersburg's Salvador Dali Museum in March. The Museum of Modern Art in New York City, owner of The Persistence of Memory, has agreed to lend its painting to the Dali museum, which owns The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory.

    TARPON SPRINGS -- The bailout of Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital seems to be working as planned, according to hospital administrators. The hospital lost about $3-million last year, compared with $7-million the year before, and is showing signs of stabilization, said the president of affiliate University Community Hospital.

    Coming up this week

    Lawmakers head back for the regular session of the Legislature Monday in what could turn into an ugly budget battle. With revenues falling in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, state Senate President John McKay has been trying to drum up support for tax reform. He wants to reduce the sales tax, but eliminate many of the special interest tax exemptions. Meanwhile, opponents are mounting an advertising campaign in an effort to kill the idea.

    East Pasco's Kumquat Festival is getting national attention as a big-time celebration of the tiny fruit. The festival took up a full page in Southern Living and scored national television exposure during coverage leading up to the NFL's Super Bowl. Organizers are gearing up for Friday's opening, expecting it to be the biggest year yet in Saint Joseph.

    -- Compiled by Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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