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Around the state

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 23, 2000


Gov. Bush says he's happy Brogan's staying in Florida

MIAMI -- Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Friday he is happy that Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan says he will not go to Washington and work for Bush's brother.

Earlier this week, the governor had touted Brogan for secretary of education in President-elect George W. Bush's Cabinet.

"Frank is such an integral part of our team," Jeb Bush said on a visit to Little Havana. "He would have been the best secretary of education that this country would have ever seen. (But) it would have been impossible for me to imagine what it would be like without Frank Brogan at my side."

But the lieutenant governor hadn't been contacted for an interview before he withdrew from consideration. "I'm staying right here," Brogan said Thursday. Brogan, 47, a former Martin County school superintendent, was Florida education commissioner from 1995 to 1999.

Prison guards to be tried in July in Valdes killing

GAINESVILLE -- Four corrections officers charged with second-degree murder in the 1999 beating death of condemned inmate Frank Valdes are scheduled to face a jury on July 16.

The date was set for the trial of Florida State Prison guards Timothy Alvin Thornton, Charles Austin Brown, Robert William Sauls and Jason Patrick Griffis.

The four were involved in a violent confrontation with Valdes while trying to take him from his cell. Valdes, 36, died from injuries a medical examiner said he sustained in the July 17, 1999, beating. Newly elected state Sen. Rod Smith, who has handled the case from the beginning, has been appointed special prosecutor.

Fire kills two as family gathers for Christmas

BRONSON -- A Christmas gathering turned tragic after a fire ripped through a mobile home, killing a boy and a 64-year-old man in the bedroom they shared.

Carl "Catfish" Jones, 5, and the man he considered his grandfather, Dexter Miller, died Thursday morning, Levy County sheriff's deputies said. Three other children and the boy's mother escaped.

"The kids were all there because they were going to decorate for Christmas," said Michelle Layfield, Carl's sister. "This was the house where we all came for the big Christmas dinner."

Authorities in this Levy County town about 20 miles southwest of Gainesville were trying to determine what started the fire.

The boy's older brother, Raymond Layfield, 15, and their mother, Mary Jones, 43, escaped, along with Allyson Thornton, 8, and Michael Thornton, 10.

Another 'Tropicale' episode upsets passengers

FORT LAUDERDALE -- A bit of bad weather and some clogs in the plumbing combined to create another public relations headache Friday for Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines and its Tropicale.

The problems surfaced after poor weather prompted the Tropicale to cancel a stop in Cartagena, Colombia, so it could complete its 10-day itinerary on time, a spokeswoman said. Separately, wash cloths and other foreign objects flushed down toilets clogged pipes, forcing some cabins to be without water pending repairs, she said.

The canceled stop upset a group of about 30 Colombians from Chicago heading to their homeland for Christmas.

Fred Medina said that on Thursday, two days before they were to arrive in Cartagena, the ship's captain announced they would not be able to dock in the port because of bad weather. But Medina said the seas weren't any different from when the ship left Port Everglades.

When the group went to the ship's officials to complain, they were shouted down and surrounded by security, Medina said.

The incident marked the second time the 19-year-old Tropicale made the news in the past two years. In September 1999, an engine fire disabled the ship and left 1,096 passengers adrift in the Gulf of Mexico as Tropical Storm Harvey closed in. A month later, malfunctioning toilets filled the boat with the stench of sewage during a five-day cruise.

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