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Zoo officials puzzled over Florida panther's death

By Wire services
Published January 19, 2004

JACKSONVILLE - Zoo authorities want to know what caused the death of an endangered Florida panther in their care.

A full necropsy will be conducted to determine what killed the 12-year-old panther, thought to be the only female in captivity in the state young enough to reproduce.

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens officials said the cat died Friday. It had been in the zoo's veterinary hospital after it was observed acting different and not eating, senior veterinarian Nick Kapustin said.

Conservation experts think 50 to 70 adult Florida panthers, an endangered species and the official state mammal, remain in the wild, said Dennis Pate, executive director of the zoo.

20 teens escape serious injury in I-95 bus accident

JACKSONVILLE - A bus carrying 20 teens to Sunday school overturned into a ditch off Interstate 95 after colliding with a car.

The teens, ages 13-17, were transported to Shands Jacksonville Hospital with minor injuries.

All but one of the teens were treated and released, said Wilford McCormick, a pastor at Harvest Baptist Church.

One girl who suffered a broken collarbone was expected to be released Sunday night, McCormick said.

The Florida Highway Patrol said a car driven by Kevin W. Neff struck the back of the bus, causing the bus to spin and overturn off the embankment just after 9 a.m. The bus landed on its tires.

"It was God's hand," McCormick said. "It is an absolute miracle."

Neff, 42, was charged with failure to use due care and driving with a suspended license.

Police shoot drunk man they say threatened them

FORT LAUDERDALE - A man was shot at least twice after failing to drop a gun he was brandishing, police said.

Tim Retcher, 42, of Fort Lauderdale, was in fair condition at Broward General Medical Center on Sunday, a day after Fort Lauderdale police were called to his home and found him drunk and carrying a gun.

Two officers told Retcher to drop the gun.

"He refused and started telling them that he would have to kill them, that they would have to take him out," said Sgt. Alfred Lewers Jr., a public information officer.

The officers both fired and Retcher was struck at least twice, said Lewers, who did not say how many rounds the officers fired or from what distance.

Neighbor Michael Mahan described the sound as "an enormous amount of gunfire."

Police tagged 38 pieces of evidence on the street in front of the home. Lewers said some of the items were shell casings.

Witnesses said Retcher had a BB gun, but Lewers did not confirm whether the recovered gun was a BB gun or a firearm.

Couple finds mother's bottled grief for dead son

LAUDERDALE-BY-THE-SEA - A New Jersey couple has found a bottle with a message written by a grieving mother thousands of miles away.

Clementine Foley and her husband, Tim, were walking along the beach when they stumbled upon a vodka bottle with a plastic bag inside.

The retirees visiting from Holmdel, N.J., saw there were two scrolls inside the plastic bag. Clementine Foley opened one scroll and read the message.

"This bottle has been put adrift in memory of a loved one, Joel Percy," the note said. "It has been put out with the tide in honor of the day of his birth. ... We are hoping this bottle will make it to the far reaches of the earth, because his memory is in here."

The message contained in the bottle traces its origins to Providence St. Peter's Hospital in Lacey, Wash., where Sandra Ruzicka's son died of hepatitis C on Aug. 19, 2002.

Ruzicka wrote a poem to her son, Joel Dean Percy, and her family crafted a small note to go with it. They made copies of the poem and the note, put them in several bottles and cast them into the Pacific Ocean on May 31, 2003.

They also mailed copies to a friend in New Orleans, who placed them in a vodka bottle and dropped it into the Gulf of Mexico a week later.

Seven months later, that bottle washed up on the beach, where the Foleys found it Jan. 12.

[Last modified January 19, 2004, 01:15:44]

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