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Bush signs death warrant for killer

By wire services
Published April 29, 2004

TALLAHASSEE - A child molester once convicted of threatening former Vice President Dan Quayle is set to die May 25 for killing another inmate. That date is the 25th anniversary of Florida's first execution since the death penalty was restored in 1976.

Gov. Jeb Bush signed a death warrant Wednesday for John Blackwelder, who received a death sentence after pleading guilty to murdering convicted killer Raymond Wigley. He was slain on May 6, 2000, at Columbia Correctional Institution in Lake City.

Blackwelder, 49, formerly of Fort Pierce, testified he wanted to commit a crime to get the death penalty because he was unable to accept life in prison. He was serving a life sentence for sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy in St. Lucie County but insisted he was innocent.

The execution, by lethal injection, is set for 6 p.m. on May 25 at Florida State Prison in Starke.

Antideath penalty activist Abe Bonowitz compared Blackwelder's death wish to "suicide by cop" in which people try to end their lives by doing something to make police shoot them.

"This time it's suicide by governor," said Bonowitz, executive director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Blackwelder will be the seventh such death penalty volunteer to be executed since Bush took office in 1999, he said.

Dealings renewed for mineral rights

OCHOPEE - The federal government has renewed negotiations to buy mineral rights from a pioneering southwest Florida family to prevent future oil and gas drilling on some of the nation's most sensitive land, officials said Wednesday.

The government previously offered $120-million to the Collier family for drilling rights in about 400,000 acres, including land in the Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, areas abuting or near Everglades National Park.

But an inquiry into whether the government was offering too much money to a politically powerful family stalled the deal, and it expired in November.

Negotiations to come up with a new offer began in earnest Tuesday when Bennett Raley, the Interior Department's assistant secretary for water and science, surveyed the area and met with the Colliers, for whom Collier County is named, in Naples.

"The president and Secretary (Gale) Norton are committed to acquiring the Collier mineral estates," Raley said at a Big Cypress visitor center. "Our task now is to pick up and move on to the end goal of acquiring the resources."

[Last modified April 29, 2004, 01:35:43]

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