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Around the state

Governor appoints 19 to hurricane study panel

By wire services
Published October 7, 2005

TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Jeb Bush appointed 19 people to a committee that will study growth issues in areas where even the weakest of hurricanes would require an evacuation.

The committee will make recommendations on how officials can manage development in the coastal areas, including ways to keep residents safe and preserve coastline, while improving tourism and business opportunities.

About 80 percent of the state's residents live in Florida's 35 coastal counties.

The committee includes the heads of the state's emergency management, health, environment and transportation departments, as well as lawmakers from coastal areas; insurance, wildlife and business officials; private business representatives; and local planners and officials.

Members include Ronnie Duncan, a Pinellas County commissioner, and Joseph Formusa, senior vice president of State Farm Insurance in Tampa.

Death sentences upheld for ex-cop, three others

TALLAHASSEE - A former police officer convicted of raping, strangling and drowning an 11-year-old girl while on duty in 1987 was among four death row inmates who lost appeals Thursday in the Florida Supreme Court.

The justices for a second time affirmed the conviction and death sentence of James Duckett, 48. He was a rookie police officer in Mascotte, a town in Lake County, when Teresa McAbee vanished from a convenience store where she went to buy a pencil. The girl's body was found in a nearby lake.

The high court, which initially ruled against Duckett in 1990, unanimously rejected several new arguments for a reversal.

The justices also let stand death sentences for:

Jim Eric Chandler, 51, convicted for the 1980 stabbing deaths of an elderly couple in Indian River County.

McArthur Breedlove, 58, convicted for the 1978 stabbing death of a man during a residential burglary in Miami-Dade County.

Michael Duane Zack, 36, convicted for the 1996 stabbing and beating death of a woman he met at a beach bar in Escambia County. Zack also was convicted and sentenced to life for a similar murder in Okaloosa County.

Muslim inmate claims jail denies religious freedom

ORLANDO - A Muslim inmate is suing Seminole County jail officials, saying they prevent his exercise of religious freedom.

In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Ernesto Holmes says he is not allowed Juma prayer service on Fridays, hasn't received a prayer rug and can't see a daily menu to make sure he isn't consuming pork.

The suit says Jewish inmates suffer similar violations.

Seminole County sheriff's Chief Deputy Steve Harriett wouldn't comment on specific claims, but said the jail "considers any request that is of a religious nature, including requests related to diet."

Harriett said Muslim and Jewish leaders are allowed to visit, but jail chaplains work for the Christian Good News Jail and Prison Ministry.

Alzheimer's patient raped, shot after wandering off

POMPANO BEACH - An 85-year-old Alzheimer's patient who wandered away from her home was found less than an hour later, raped and shot.

The woman was recovering at a hospital after surgery, Broward County Sheriff's Office spokesman Jim Leljedal said.

"She doesn't remember the attack, at least at this point," Leljedal said Wednesday.

The woman's daughter helped her get dressed about 5 a.m. Monday at the home they share. The daughter went to another room for a few minutes, and when she came back her mother was gone. She couldn't find her, and called 911.

About 6 a.m. a deputy patrolling outside a nearby jail found the woman lying on the sidewalk, clothed, with a gunshot wound to her pelvic area and a broken leg. A hospital examination found that she had been sexually assaulted.

"I don't know that we've ever seen a worse case," Leljedal said. " ... This is about as bad as it gets."

[Last modified October 7, 2005, 01:49:15]

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