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State logs first West Nile case

By wire services
Published June 11, 2004

TALLAHASSEE - The first case of West Nile virus in Florida this year was confirmed in Sarasota County, state health officials said Thursday.

The agency, however, did not identify the victim or reveal the age or gender. The victim is expected to recover.

"While our resident's exposure may have been during a recent vacation to another state, we know that West Nile virus is present year-round in Florida," Sarasota County Health Department Administrator Bill Little said.

County health officials also reminded residents that mosquitoes are prevalent during the summer rainy season and that everyone should cover their skin when outdoors at dusk and dawn.

People age 50 and older are generally at a higher risk for severe symptoms.

Health officials said the virus typically causes flu-like symptoms such as fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches. But in some cases, it progresses to life-threatening encephalitis or meningitis.

Ex-priest accused of sex assault

MIAMI - Miami-Dade County prosecutors charged a retired Catholic priest with fondling a 12-year-old boy who was visiting his ailing grandmother at a nursing home in 2001.

The Rev. Trevor Smith, who served in the Archdiocese of Miami for 35 years, is the first clergyman to be arrested on sex-abuse offenses here. He has consistently denied the allegations.

Smith, 67, surrendered at the county jail and was charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious assault on a minor before he was released on $75,000 bail. He faces as much as 30 years in jail if convicted, though sentencing guidelines recommend between two and three years for each count.

The charges come less than nine months after the archdiocese settled a 2002 lawsuit with the alleged victim and his mother for $500,000, while admitting no wrongdoing. The alleged incident is the only complaint against Smith, who retired in 2002 after working at several South Florida parishes and nursing homes, records show. Smith was the chaplain at Villa Maria Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in North Miami when he is accused of inviting the boy into his living quarters and showing him a picture book of naked children.

The priest forced the boy to touch him, and fondled the boy, while telling him it was "OK for two guys to touch each other," according to North Miami police.

Neither Smith's criminal attorney, David Raben, nor archdiocese officials returned calls for comment Wednesday.

Gray foxes bite two at FSU

TALLAHASSEE - A rabid gray fox bit a 5-year-old girl who lives in a graduate student dorm at Florida State University on the same day another fox bit a 72-year-old resident of the complex, university officials said.

Both victims are receiving anti-rabies shots and are expected to be fine, said Nancy Selken, FSU associate director for family services.

The girl was playing outside FSU's Alumni Village when she was bitten, according to university police reports.

An officer found the fox in a nearby bush and beat it to death with a nightstick, the police report said. The animal's body tested positive for rabies. The fox that bit the older woman on Friday ran away, reports said.

No Bush testimony on suspension

TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Jeb Bush will not have to testify during next month's trial in which ousted Broward County elections supervisor Miriam Oliphant will seek reinstatement and financial damages, a state official ruled Thursday.

But Secretary of State Glenda Hood is likely to testify, said Senate attorney Stephen Kahn, the special master overseeing the Oliphant case.

Bush suspended Oliphant in November for neglect of duty, incompetence and misfeasance stemming from a botched 2002 gubernatorial primary. Hood oversees Florida's Division of Elections and ordered studies of Oliphant's performance.

Under Oliphant's watch, Broward voters received bad ballots and inaccurate registration information, and thousands of votes were not counted until a week after the election.

2 convicted of murdering teen

PENSACOLA - The first two of five defendants charged with killing an 18-year-old to steal her mother's marijuana have been convicted and are facing mandatory sentences of life in prison without parole.

A jury Thursday found Donnie Lee Williams, who turns 20 today, guilty of first-degree murder, robbery and burglary.

A separate jury convicted William Allen Jr. on the same counts Wednesday, which would have been the 20th birthday of victim Jessica Snyder. She was beaten to death with the butt of a shotgun March 10, 2003.

Allen, who cried as the verdict was read, was not present during the murder. He was convicted because he took part in the crimes that led to her death, dropping off other defendants and helping them remove a safe from the home of the victim's mother, Christine Snyder. It contained a pound of marijuana and $425.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty only for Charles Miller, 23. Escambia County sheriff's investigator Terry Kilgore testified that Miller, who will be tried later, confessed to killing Jessica Snyder.

Allen, who briefly dated the victim, was accused of dropping Miller, Williams and Jermond Thomas, 22, at the Snyder home. The fifth defendant, Ryan Holle, 21, allegedly lent Allen his car for use in the crimes.

Christine Snyder, who had worked with Allen at an upscale restaurant, is serving a three-year prison sentence for possessing the marijuana.

Circuit Judge Jan Shackleford sentenced Williams to three life sentences without parole for the murder.

She set sentencing for Sept. 14 for Allen to give him a chance to testify against the other defendants, but he refused to take the stand against Williams. In exchange, he could get reduced penalties for robbery and burglary, but the judge can only give him life without parole for the murder.

Healthy Kids program to expand

TALLAHASSEE - Agency officials said Thursday they'll work hard to help thousands of families in Florida's Healthy Kids program renew their enrollment in the government-subsidized insurance program.

About another 35,000 children will be able to join the program, but they won't be able to sign up until next January under changes state lawmakers made this spring.

Families who are currently enrolled will have to provide documents showing their income under another change.

If their employers provide health insurance that costs less than 5 percent of their pay, the families will have to pay more if they stay in Healthy Kids.

But Rose Naff, executive director of Healthy Kids, said she didn't think many families would be affected by that change.

Some 300,000 children are enrolled in Healthy Kids now. Another 46,000 are in smaller programs designed for preschoolers and children with special medical needs.

[Last modified June 11, 2004, 00:01:55]

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  • Around the state
  • State logs first West Nile case

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