MARIANNA - About 130 men and women of the Florida National Guard's 144th Transportation Company headed for Fort Bragg, N.C., Wednesday for as long as 45 days of processing and training before deploying to Iraq as part of an 18-month call-up.
They will have one of the most dangerous jobs in Iraq, using more than 60 trucks to transport supplies, equipment and troops on roads where insurgents have attacked military vehicles.
Three Florida guardsmen have been killed in Iraq since April 2003.
The company departed four days after other Florida Panhandle guardsmen and reservists were welcomed home from Iraq and Afghanistan in Panama City. This is the second time the 144th has been activated in the past 15 months.
2 migrant workers killed when van rolls over
PORT ST. LUCIE - Two migrant workers were killed and another was critically injured when an overcrowded van carrying 11 people rolled over on Interstate 95, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
The accident came two months after a van rollover crash in nearby Fort Pierce killed nine migrant farm workers on their way home from work in citrus groves. The Ford Aerostar van, designed to hold about seven passengers, was traveling to North Carolina when it flipped about 9 p.m. Tuesday, said FHP Lt. Tim Frith.
Two men died at the scene, and another was flown to a Melbourne hospital with critical injuries, Frith said. A fourth man was in serious condition Wednesday afternoon.
None of the men had driver's licenses, and only a few had any identification. Immigration authorities will help sort out the men's identities.
Most were from Guatemala but lived and worked in Palm Beach County, Frith said.
Minister, wife accused of stealing from elderly
PANAMA CITY - A minister and his wife face charges of neglecting, exploiting and stealing from elderly members of their church, including two who died after the couple duped a nursing home into denying them treatment, police say.
The Rev. James Sansom, 54, and his wife, Sandra, 51, of nearby Fountain, were arrested and then released on bail Tuesday from the Bay County Jail. They are pastors at Zion Ministries, a charismatic nondenominational church in this Panhandle city.
Police say the Sansoms used their religious influence to steal more than $80,000 by lying to parishioners and health care officials, telling one woman they needed $50,000 to take care of her mentally disabled son.
They misrepresented themselves as having power of attorney for Lester and Beulah Hale to the nursing home where the couple lived and then refused to allow needed medical care, Detective Larry Lock said.
Lester Hale died in July 2003 and his wife four months later, prompting their grandson and his wife to contact police about the couple's treatment.
James Sansom is charged with grand theft from a person older than 65, neglect of an elderly person and two counts of exploitation of the elderly. His wife is charged with being a principal to each of the counts her husband is facing plus trafficking in the prescription painkiller oxycodone and possession of Darvocet, also used for pain, within 1,000 feet of a church.
Attorney complains about judge's prayer, pledge
ORLANDO - An attorney has complained about an Orange County judge's habit of opening proceedings with a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance, saying the practice is unfair to his clients.
Attorney Steve Mason said Circuit Judge Frederick Pfeiffer offered only Christian prayers, indicating a "blatant sponsoring of religion," and set a tone that hurt his Canadian clients' case.
His clients "felt compelled to participate" in the pledge, fearing they would otherwise offend jurors, Mason said.
Pfeiffer, 78, said a prayer and the pledge have been part of his court proceedings since 1973, but he stopped referring to Jesus after being admonished by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1984.