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Florida briefly

Published August 9, 2006

Orlando sets murder record with 37th slaying

ORLANDO - This city broke a decades-old murder record Tuesday, keeping the tourism mecca on pace for a year among America's most bloody cities.

Christopher Charles, 50, of Maitland was Orlando's 37th homicide victim this year, breaking the record of 36 set in 1982 amid gang wars over crack cocaine.

If killings continue at this pace, Orlando's per capita murder rate in 2006 could put it among the top 15 cities nationally - well above its ranking of 107th two years ago, the last year for which full FBI crime data are available.

Police didn't immediately release details about the most recent slaying, reported just after 2 a.m. in the general area where most have happened: predominantly black, impoverished and just west of downtown, where window bars and barbed wire-topped fences guard beat-up businesses. Most of the victims have been young males involved with drugs or killed by someone who was, police say.

So far this year, police have been quick to point out, none of the slayings have occurred in Orlando's large theme park areas, located miles away, south and west of downtown.

The city of Jacksonville, Florida's murder capital 12 of the past 17 years, is also coping with a skyrocketing murder rate.

Dolphin programs gain $300,000 from plate sales

FORT PIERCE - Dolphin research programs will share about $300,000 raised in the past year through the sale of the state's "Protect Wild Dolphins" specialty license plates, according to Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, which oversees the program.

Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota will get $160,000 for public service announcements and to study how hurricanes and Red Tide in Port Charlotte have affected dolphin habitats, the Palm Beach Post reported. Florida State University will use about $70,000 to study dolphin tracking technologies, and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society's DolphinSMART project was awarded about $72,000 to develop a code of conduct for dolphin tour operators.

The dolphin license plate program has raised more than $4.5-million for research programs.

Man chases down alleged supermarket groper

LAKELAND - A man whose wife said she was groped in a supermarket chased down the alleged offender and held him until police arrived, authorities said.

Chris Goflin and his children were waiting in their minivan in the parking lot when the man ran out of the Publix, pursued by store employees.

Goflin said his wife then came out, crying, and said she and an 8-year-old girl were groped in the store.

Goflin said they jumped in the van and followed the man. When they caught sight of him, Goflin chased and tackled him on a nearby golf course while his wife called 911.

The man, Charles William Hunter III, 30, a convicted sex offender, was charged with lewd and lascivious molestation of a child, simple battery and resisting arrest without violence, a report said.

Long-missing teen heads home from Florida

GOFFSTOWN, N.H. - Despite a shoplifting charge she faces at home, a Goffstown teenager and her family were in high spirits Tuesday, a day after her five-month disappearance ended with her arrest in Florida.

"Our prayers have been answered," Laura Mackenzie's father, Bill, said at a news conference in Goffstown.

Meanwhile, in Florida, Mackenzie, 18, met with her mother, Enid, and assured a judge she wanted to waive extradition on the charge.

"Yes, I want to go back to New Hampshire," she said.

Mackenzie is accused of shoplifting more than $900 worth of clothes and other items from a mall store in Manchester, N.H. Unbeknownst to her parents, she was due in Manchester District Court on March 8, the day she drove off for Goffstown High and disappeared.

Acting on a tip, police found her car and arrested her Monday in St. Augustine Beach, where they said she had been a restaurant worker.

At the news conference in Goffstown, County Attorney Marguerite Wageling said the store suggested soon after Mackenzie's disappearance that the charges be dropped. Wageling would not say whether that would happen.


[Last modified August 9, 2006, 01:28:46]

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