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Teen erects memorial for seven children

Published December 13, 2006


A teenager took her babysitting money and solicited donations to build a memorial to seven children killed when their car was hit by a truck and slammed into the back of a school bus at Lake Butler Jan. 25. Molly Lewis, 16, spent months collecting enough to pay for the 5-foot granite monument that now sits in front of Fellowship Baptist Church. The monument is engraved with the names and has pictures and quotations about her best friend, Cynthia Nicole "Nikki" Mann, 15, and Mann's siblings and other relatives, Elizabeth Mann, 15; Johnny Mann, 13; Heaven Mann, 3; Anthony Lamb, 20 months; Ashley Keen, 14, and Miranda Finn. Though Lewis is from Jacksonville, about 40 miles to the east, her family and five Mann children attended the Raiford church. Lewis declined to say how much the monument cost, but a church member said she raised several thousand dollars. "Me and Nikki promised each other we'd be best friends all the way to heaven," Lewis told the Gainesville Sun.

Stay the education course, Bush urges

Outgoing Gov. Jeb Bush urged state Board of Education members, all hand-picked by him, to continue his policies during a final appearance before the panel Tuesday. Bush, who implemented such programs as private school vouchers, teacher performance pay and a school grading system based on standardized tests while in office, told board members they should be proud of their role in reforming schools. "I hope you stay the course," he said. The board unanimously decided to keep T. Willard Fair, vice chairman, and chairman Phil Handy as its leaders for the next two years - except that they will swap jobs. Gov.-elect Charlie Crist, who could replace Fair and Handy with his own appointees before they go before the Florida Senate for confirmation, has not disclosed his plans.

Man ran car theft ring from prison

An ex-drug lord admitted he ran a car theft ring from behind prison bars, selling roughly 250 stolen vehicles worth $8-million between 1999 and 2005. Lorenzo "Fat Cat" Nichols pleaded guilty last week to racketeering charges and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. That comes after a life sentence for drug trafficking and a 40-year sentence for the killing of his former parole officer. Nichols had been jailed in Florida under a witness protection program, but is again behind bars in New York, said John Sherer, spokesman for Attorney General Charlie Crist, who is governor-elect.

Girl leaves school and disappears

Police were searching Tuesday for a 12-year-old girl who disappeared from a middle school four days ago. Julie Mae Dotson has run away before, but she has never gone this long without calling to be picked up, officials say. Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials said she may be in danger. Julie was staying at the Boys & Girls Town residential treatment home in Tallahassee. Her family lives in Milton in the Panhandle. The 5-foot-1, 110-pound girl was last seen wearing a dark sweater, tan pants and blue-and-white Fila shoes.


[Last modified December 13, 2006, 01:12:01]

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