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Man in trouble for killing an alligator named Elvis

By wire services
Published November 6, 2004

SARASOTA - A man has been cited in the stabbing death of an alligator that a golf club community's residents fondly named Elvis.

The 5-foot alligator was found dying in October with a hunting knife stuck in its head. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said Friday that Rick Allen Burns, 49, of Sarasota, told them he killed the reptile in self-defense while fishing on a pond.

Burns faces a misdemeanor charge of possession of an alligator without a permit. He could be fined as much as $500 and jailed for 60 days if convicted.

Burns told investigators he killed the alligator after it bit on his baited hook. He said he reeled it in and tried to cut the line, but the reptile lunged at him.

Residents of the golf course community said Elvis showed up about 18 months ago. They said the animal never bothered anyone, even ducks living nearby.

Investigators had offered a $1,000 reward for information. They said Friday they were led to Burns through an anonymous tip.

Six-year-old brings crack cocaine to school

ORLANDO - A first-grader who brought more than $1,000 worth of crack cocaine to school was suspended and her mother is under investigation.

The 6-year-old, who attended Tangelo Park Elementary, said she found the bag of more than a dozen pieces of crack at home, according to sheriff's deputies. But her mother said she must have gotten it trick-or-treating.

School officials sent a letter home with students on Thursday, explaining how an antidrug campaign led another student to recognize the crack and reassuring parents their children are safe.

Following Monday's incident, the girl was removed from the classroom. Tangelo Park's principal said the mother used a false address to get her into the school, so she won't be allowed back.

The state Department of Children and Families has entered the investigation.

Barge opens 6-foot gash in hull of cruise ship

KEY WEST - A docked Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. ship was struck Friday by a barge, leaving a 6-foot puncture in the vessel's hull. No one was injured.

A tugboat was pushing the barge when it struck the hull of the Enchantment of the Seas, leaving a 50-foot scrape mark on its side, Coast Guard Petty Officer Ryan Doss said. The puncture was about 6 feet above the water line.

Michael Sheehan, a Royal Caribbean spokesman, said 2,040 passengers and 741 crew members were on board at the time. Sheehan said the company had begun repairs and the ship was expected to depart as scheduled, continuing its four-day itinerary. It is scheduled to return to Fort Lauderdale on Monday.

Man guarding home hit by Ivan kills intruder

PENSACOLA - A man defending his hurricane-damaged home fatally shot an intruder as the two scuffled, Escambia County sheriff's deputies said.

Retired oil industry worker James Workman, 77, and his wife, Kathryn, have been living in a mobile home next to their house just west of Pensacola since it was damaged by Hurricane Ivan.

Deputies said the intruder, Rodney Dean Cox, 35, of Asheville, N.C., entered the couple's yard about 2:20 a.m. Wednesday.

Workman told investigators he confronted the man and when he refused to leave tried to warn him away by firing a shot from his .38-caliber handgun into the ground.

Workman said the intruder then entered the mobile home, where Workman's wife was. Workman told deputies he went in after the man and, during a struggle, shot him several times.

Investigators said Cox came to Florida to work after the Sept. 16 storm. They declined to identify his employer.

State prosecutors are deciding whether the shooting was justified.

Sarasota-bound plane crashes off Key West

KEY WEST - A single-engine plane bound for Sarasota crashed in the ocean minutes after taking off, killing both people on board, authorities said.

The TB-20 Trinidad took off from Key West International Airport Thursday evening. Soon afterward, the pilot made a distress call asking to return because of an unspecified problem, said Coast Guard spokesman Ryan Doss.

The plane "dropped off the radar" as it flew back to the airport, Doss saidtime.

Authorities found a half-mile-long debris field about 4 miles south of Key West. Divers were searching the area Friday.

The Coast Guard did not release the identities of the pilot and passenger.

Producer gets probation on peeping charges

FORT LAUDERDALE - The executive producer of Fort Lauderdale's annual Air and Sea Show was sentenced to three years' probation after pleading no contest to charges resulting from a peeping Tom investigation.

Mickey Markoff agreed Thursday to submit a DNA sample, undergo polygraph testing about voyeuristic behavior and stay out of his neighbors' yards in a plea agreement approved by Circuit Judge Leonard Feiner.

He was adjudicated guilty of two trespassing charges, one loitering and prowling charge and one disorderly conduct charge.

Markoff, 49, president of MDM Group Ltd., was charged Sept. 30 after an almost yearlong investigation into whether he looked into a 25-year-old woman's window at a Fort Lauderdale apartment complex last November.

The woman came out of her shower to see a man looking into her bedroom window, police reports said. The man backed away and left on a motorcycle. But he returned, this time driving a car and wearing a different shirt, and again looked into the window. The sentence won't affect Markoff's position with the popular Air and Sea Show, said Elaine Fitzgerald, a spokeswoman for the event.

Mexican consulate seeks investigation in shooting

POMPANO BEACH - The Mexican consulate has asked for an investigation into the shooting of a Mexican citizen by a Broward County sheriff's deputy.

The shooting of German Gomez, 22, looked "like a real case of abuse of authority," David Kubiliun, an attorney for the consulate in Miami, said Thursday.

Gomez, who was in critical condition at North Broward Medical Center, was shot once in the head in the parking lot of a Pompano Beach apartment complex Wednesday evening by a deputy responding to a report of an attempted burglary.

Gomez's family said he and a cousin, Javier Dominguez, 21, who had both recently moved from the southern Mexican province of Chiapas, mistakenly went to the wrong apartment when they returned home from work.

Kubiliun said the two men tried unsuccessfully to open the door to apartment C-218, after mistaking it for their apartment, E-218, in an adjacent building.

A neighbor heard the men trying to open the door, yelled at them and called 911, said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright. Gomez and Dominguez ran but were confronted by two deputies in the parking lot.

Sheriff's officials said Deputy Lewis Perry, 38, shot Gomez. They would release no other details.

[Last modified November 6, 2004, 00:56:27]

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