Around the state
Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 16, 2001
Tornado hits Panhandle, kills one, destroys homes
WAUSAU -- One person died and 10 were injured when a predawn tornado Thursday cut a quarter-mile-wide path of damage through a sparsely populated area of the Florida Panhandle.
The tornado leveled about a dozen mobile homes or houses and knocked over trees near Wausau, a hilly rural town about 90 miles west of Tallahassee.
Three homes also were damaged in the Alford area of Jackson County, where no injuries were reported. Wind damage was reported in the Bay County town of Lynn Haven near Panama City.
Hubert Elton Worley, 59, died when his mobile home was destroyed along with about five others in the Highview Acres community, said Richard Hagan, Washington County director of emergency management. He said 10 other people were injured, including Worley's wife Marilyn, 41, who was listed in critical condition at Southeast Alabama Medical Center in Dothan, Ala.
About a dozen homes were destroyed and up to six others were damaged, Hagan said. Washington County Sheriff Fred Peel said there were "hundreds of trees with their tops blown out."
Jury awards damages to defamed ex-reporter
TITUSVILLE -- A jury has awarded a former Florida Today reporter more than $400,000, deciding that an editor at the newspaper and an executive with its parent company defamed her by describing her uninvited entry into a jailed murder suspect's apartment as a crime.
Kathy Reakes and another reporter were fired by the paper in February 1996 after they went into the apartment and took papers from the premises.
The civil court jury decided Tuesday that Florida Today's managing editor in 1996, Melinda Meers, defamed Reakes by telling another editor Reakes was fired for committing "criminal acts."
The jury ordered Meers and Florida Today to pay $400,000 to Reakes, 45, of Melbourne Beach. The jury said Meers' statement was neither "substantially true" nor made with "good motives."
Reakes testified that Meers' statement and a comment by Phil Currie, senior vice president of news at Gannett Co., Florida Today's parent, had made it impossible for her to find newspaper work.
Currie, responding to a national media debate regarding the firings, said in a corporate speech that "newspaper people should not break the law" and two reporters "appear to be heroes for admittedly having done so."
The jury ordered Currie to pay Reakes $500.
South Florida hit with tighter water restrictions
MIAMI -- South Florida businesses and residents face the severest water cutbacks ever ordered as officials Thursday approved tougher restrictions to battle the state's record drought.
The South Florida Water Management District board, meeting in West Palm Beach, voted in favor of the new restrictions.
Starting March 28, residents will be limited to one-day-per-week lawn watering for three hours. Under the previous restrictions, irrigation was allowed twice per week, four hours each day.
The restrictions will also further limit watering hours for golf courses, car washes and farmers.
Man shoots ex-wife, kills self outside school
PENSACOLA -- A man fatally shot himself Thursday after wounding his ex-wife in a car outside a school where they were to pick up their 6-year-old son.
Mason and Allison Acree were arguing about their December divorce before the gunfire erupted at about 2 p.m., police said in a news release.
The shooting occurred off school grounds and no students at A.K. Suter Elementary were outside at the time. A teacher took the couple's son home with her until relatives were notified, police said.
Allison Acree, listed in serious condition at Baptist Hospital, was shot in the hand and back while inside the car. She got out and ran screaming for help before collapsing on a street corner.
Man dies of injuries suffered in hotel fall
DAYTONA BEACH -- A Clermont man who fell off a fifth-story hotel balcony and suffered severe head injuries has died, hospital officials said.
Stephen Larsen, 20, died at Halifax Medical Center, where he was taken after he slipped off a balcony railing at the Fountain Beach Resort and fell to a parking lot nearly 40 feet below.
Larsen was trying to lower himself to a balcony of the room below his when the accident occurred around 9 a.m. Tuesday, police said. Witnesses said Larsen had been drinking and partying with friends the night before.
Larsen was the second person in three days to die of injuries from a fall from a hotel balcony. On Sunday, a 19-year-old Rutgers University student fell three stories from a Fort Lauderdale motel balcony while trying to jump into a swimming pool. He died the next day.
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From the Times state desk
From the state wire