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Around the state

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 27, 2001


Expert views autopsy photos of Earnhardt

DAYTONA BEACH -- An independent medical expert viewed images from Dale Earnhardt's autopsy Monday as part of a compromise between the racing legend's widow and the Orlando Sentinel.

Dr. Barry Myers, a Duke University crash expert, spent two hours in the Volusia County Medical Examiner's Office studying 14 slides, 46 digital images on a computer and other reports related to the autopsy.

He said he would issue a report within weeks on the cause of death and type of head injuries Earnhardt suffered.

Citing privacy concerns, the racing hero's widow, Teresa Earnhardt, got a judge to seal the images, which normally are public record, shortly after he was killed at the Daytona 500 on Feb. 18. The Orlando Sentinel went to court to ask that its own expert be allowed to see the photos for an investigation into NASCAR safety. Both sides allowed a court-appointed mediator to choose Myers to examine them. The photos then are to be sealed permanently.

Earnhardt died of blunt force head injuries, according to a final autopsy report released Monday by the Medical Examiner's Office.

Youngest double lung transplant recipient dies

GAINESVILLE -- A 6-year-old girl who three years ago became the youngest person in Florida to receive a double lung transplant died of complications from a rare lung disease.

Megan Jones-Margrave of Daytona Beach Shores died at Shands at the University of Florida after a lifelong battle with idiopathic interstitial pneumonitis, which slowly scars tissue between the air sacs and lungs. The disease attacked her new lungs, heart and kidneys.

Megan made medical history on Christmas Day 1998 when she became the youngest person in the state to get a double lung transplant. Doctors said the operation would be successful in the short term but warned that the girl's condition would deteriorate again. Megan died Friday, two weeks before she would have turned 7.

Former merchant marine found floating dead in gulf

VENICE, Fla. -- A 73-year-old former merchant marine was found dead floating off the coast Monday after departing on an overnight fishing trip.

Robert Dietz left Venice Sunday night on his 21-foot power boat. He planned to sleep on the boat, Dietz's daughter, Regina Dietz-Waldrep, told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

The U.S. Coast Guard received a report at about 8:30 a.m. Monday that an unmanned boat was circling in the Gulf of Mexico about 6 miles off Venice, said Petty Officer Harry Craft. A helicopter crew spotted Dietz's body around noon.

The death is believed to be accidental, said Sarasota County Sheriff's Office spokesman Cpl. Chuck Lesaltato.

Man gets 10 years in pornography case

ORLANDO -- A 40-year-old Orlando man was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison and 10 years' probation for possessing pornographic photos of a neighbor taken when she was a child.

Richard Junior Harris once lived on the same street as the girl, who is now married and living with her husband and son in Orlando.

The woman told police she had repressed many memories of Harris forcing her to pose for sexually explicit photos beginning when she was about 11.

She told Circuit Judge Bob Wattles she kept silent about Harris' actions for 16 years, during which time he moved away. But when he returned to Taft, an Orlando suburb, before Christmas 1999 to live with his mother, the 29-year-old woman said she feared for her safety.

"The worst part was telling my mother," she said. "I had tried to save everyone from pain."

The woman broke down and cried as she recalled how Harris had threatened her and forced her to pose for the photos.

Harris quietly said, "I'm sorry about this whole situation, that so many people had to suffer."

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