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Around the state

Athlete who shed weight to be a Marine dies in Iraq

By wire services
Published October 27, 2005

PENSACOLA - Lance Cpl. Jonathan Spears, who shed some of the weight that made him a formidable football player before the Marines would let him enlist, is the first service member from the Pensacola area to die in Iraq.

Spears, 21, of Molino, a community north of Pensacola, was killed by small-arms fire Sunday in Ar Ramadi. He was with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Regiment of the 1st Marine Division.

"He was one of the best sons a daddy could want," his father, Timothy Spears, said Tuesday through tears. "He gave his life doing what he believed in, and he served his country proudly."

A 6-foot-1, 265-pound offensive lineman at Tate High School, he was too bulky for the Marines. He worked at a home improvement store and attended Pensacola Junior College while dropping nearly 60 pounds, enough that he could join up in 2003. Home on leave last month, he was down to 180.

"He was a great kid," said his former football coach, Charlie Armstrong. "He had to work for everything he got, but he was very motivated, very dedicated."

Spears had told family members in an e-mail that his Iraq duty fulfilled a search for purpose by helping ensure democracy for people who had never known it.

Jury selection continues in Carlie Brucia case

SARASOTA - Forty-eight more potential jurors for Joseph P. Smith's murder trial made it past the first round of questioning Wednesday, for a total of 93 who will get more scrutiny.

Smith is scheduled to go on trial Nov. 7 for the alleged abduction, rape and murder of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia in Sarasota in February 2004. The crimes and a carwash surveillance video showing Carlie's abduction received international attention.

For two days, Circuit Judge Andrew D. Owens and seven prosecution and defense attorneys have questioned prospective jurors individually, hoping to seat by sometime next week an impartial panel of 18, including six alternates.

Smith could receive the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.

Jury selection continues today.

Manatee commissioners oppose desalination plant

BRADENTON - Drop the idea of building a water desalination plant in Manatee County, county commissioners have told their staff and a state water management official.

Locating a treatment plant that turns seawater into drinking water at or near Port Manatee must not be among the possibilities for expanding the water supply by up to 10-million gallons a day, they said Tuesday.

"We're the owners of the restaurant," Commissioner Joe McClash said. "There are some things we'd like on the menu. This is not one of them."

McClash and Commissioner Amy Stein said they feared environmental damage from a briny byproduct and organic compounds created in the desalination process that could harm Tampa Bay.

A Manatee desalination plant was among 82 ideas for expanding the water supply in Manatee, Sarasota, DeSoto and Charlotte counties that consultant Greeley and Hansen of Sarasota presented to the Water Planning Alliance, an advisory panel to the Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority.

Among other ideas: cleaning brackish coastal water, diverting water from Flatford Swamp, digging wells, building reservoirs, building storage ponds and using more reclaimed water for irrigation to preserve potable water.

Man gets 40 years for prostitution ring

PENSACOLA - An Ohio man was sentenced Tuesday to 40 years in federal prison for leading a multistate prostitution ring that involved girls as young as 13.

Wayne Robert Banks, 27, of Toledo, Ohio, pleaded guilty in July to six federal charges. He was arrested in March after an Escambia County sheriff's deputy saw a juvenile talking with a potential customer.

Banks and other men traveled with or sent young females to various states to engage in prostitution from August 2003 until his arrest, court records show.


[Last modified October 27, 2005, 01:27:13]

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