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  • Around the state
  • State Democratic Party keeps Poe as chairman

  • From the state wire

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  • An excerpt from the unanimous ruling in the Schiavo case
  • Four confirmed dead after small plane crash in Panhandle
  • Correction: Disney-Cruise Line story

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    Around the state

    By Times staff and wire reports

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 19, 2000

    State Democratic Party keeps Poe as chairman

    TALLAHASSEE -- Bob Poe has been re-elected chairman of the Florida Democratic Party.

    Poe, 46, was first elected March 25 to replace former Chairman Charles Whitehead. He was unanimously re-elected Saturday to a four-year term by the party's state executive committee at a meeting in Orlando.

    Father goes to Cuba, hoping to get son back

    HAVANA -- The father of a boy taken from Florida to Cuba by his mother has flown to the island in an effort to bring the 5-year-old back to the United States.

    Jon Colombini, 31, was in Havana on Monday hoping to persuade his ex-wife, Arletis Blanco, to let him return to the United States with their son, Jonathon.

    Colombini traveled to the western province of Pinar del Rio, where Blanco lives with the boy, and spent several hours playing with his son, he said. In brief comments to reporters, he described the visit as congenial.

    "Today was just a social visit," he said. "There were no lawyers."

    Blanco, 29, embarked on a 21-foot fishing boat from the Florida Keys to Cuba on Nov. 12 with her son, boyfriend Agustin Lemus, 37, and their infant daughter.

    Blanco has been living in Pinar del Rio with the boy and says she wants them to begin a new life. She was being investigated by Florida authorities on embezzlement charges when she left the country.

    Colombini and his wife share custody of the boy, and Colombini has said he wants to raise the boy in the United States.

    In Florida, the case has been dubbed "Reverse Elian," in reference to Elian Gonzalez, the 6-year-old boy who was taken from Cuba to Florida last year without his father's permission. The boy became the focus of a protracted custody battle.

    Colombini said his lawyer Michael Berry would arrive in Havana Monday night and the two would return to see the boy on Tuesday.

    Bradenton slaying suspect kills self after W.Va. chase

    FRANKLIN, W.Va. -- A man wanted for questioning in a Florida murder led West Virginia state police on a chase in a motor home before he killed himself early Sunday.

    The body of Howard Carpenter was found inside the motor home along U.S. 220. State police in Franklin said he shot himself in the head with a sawed-off shotgun.

    Carpenter, 60, was wanted for questioning in the death of Sandra L. Gruber, 59. Her body was found Wednesday in a Bradenton home Carpenter owned.

    Acting on a tip, state police found the 30-foot motor home. Carpenter, who was alone, took off and led them on a low-speed chase on the twisting, two-lane highway.

    Carpenter eventually pulled over and refused to talk with troopers. About four hours later, after receiving a warrant for his arrest, state police fired gas canisters into the motor home.

    State police said two notes were found. One mentioned Gruber and asked police to contact Florida officials. The other was addressed to a family member and contained personal information.

    Court records show Gruber filed for a restraining order against Carpenter in July.

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    From the Times state desk