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   WINTER PARK, Fla. (AP) — The SUV driver accused of causing a car to crash into a Florida day care, killing a 4 year old girl and injuring 14 others, most of them children, surrendered to authorities Thursday.
   The Orange County Sheriff's Office tweeted that Robert Alex Corchado was in custody at the jail. Corchado's attorney, Jack Kaleita, confirmed it, but refused to comment further.
   The surrender came a day after police say Corchado, 28, crashed his Dodge Durango into a convertible, which in turn smashed into the KinderCare building. Authorities — and the mother of the little girl who was killed — pleaded for the suspect to give up, even as they blanketed the state searching for him.
   Authorities did not immediately announce charges against Corchado, but he already has a long criminal history. Nicole Quintus, whose daughter Lily Quintus was killed, said he was responsible for heartbreak.
   "Families are emotionally destroyed because of what he did," she said in an interview with The Associated Press.
   The mother softly sobbed as she spoke of her daughter. She said Lily loved princesses, "Star Wars," the TV series "Doctor Who" and ranch dressing on seemingly everything she ate — even pizza and hot dogs. Lily was sitting at a table waiting for her afternoon snack when the car crashed into the building, and Nicole Quintus said a teacher called her soon after, screaming but unable to say what happened.
   "One minute everything was normal and the next there was an explosion and smoke and screams," she said.
   The girl's 7 year old brother is an aspiring engineer who wants to design a time machine to bring Lily back, the mother added.
   "She was beautiful and passionate and innocent," the mother said, "and she deserved so much more."
   Lily was on the minds of those who turned up at the day care, where the gaping hole was boarded up with plywood and a cluster of stuffed animals, flowers and candles were left in memoriam.
   Ralph Velez, 48, left a stuffed bear from his 5 year old son Xavier, who goes to the day care but was unhurt. The bear was a gift from a few Christmases ago, and Xavier — who can't stop talking about the crash — wanted to give it to honor his friends, Velez said.
   "He'll say, 'stupid car,' or 'stupid driver,'" Velez said. "He told us last night that he remembers the driver, who wasn't hurt, getting out and saying, 'What did I do? What did I do?'"
   Local television footage showed small children and infants in cribs being taken outside to the day care's playground Wednesday. Several of those injured were carried out on stretchers. Parents were later seen waiting to pick up their children, then clutching them in their arms as authorities escorted them to their vehicles.
   Corchado has been arrested eight times since 2000.
   Department of Corrections records show he served prison time for trafficking cocaine and extortion. He most recently was arrested in December on a misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of a crash involving damage, a felony charge of selling narcotics, and felony marijuana possession. He was released on more than $10,000 bond and pleaded not guilty to the charges. He was due back in court in May.
   A man who answered the phone at a number listed for Corchado hung up. Florida Highway Patrol Maj. Cindy Williams said Corchado was linked with the Latin Kings gang and could have been aided by other members.
   Ten people remain hospitalized from the crash, including one child who remains in critical condition and two others who are listed in serious condition, according to the patrol.
   The day care's website says the center provides childcare for children up to 12 years old and has been in the community for more than 25 years.
Published in National News
   WINTER PARK, Fla. (AP) — A vehicle crashed into an Orlando-area day care Wednesday, injuring a dozen people, 11 of them children, a Florida Highway Patrol official said.
   Several were reported to be "very, very serious condition," said highway patrol spokeswoman Wanda Diaz. The injured include 11 children and one adult.
   "This is a very fluid situation and we need as much as help as possible," FHP spokeswoman Wanda Diaz said.
   Diaz said a silver or grayish Dodge Durango crashed into a vehicle that then struck the KinderCare building in Winter Park. The Durango then left.
   The vehicle is believed to have damage to the front bumper. Anyone with information is urged to call the patrol at 407-737-2300 or 911.
   "Please keep a look out and let us know if you see anything," said Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said.
   Jacobs called the crash an "absolute tragedy and disaster."
   Local television footage showed small children and infants in cribs taken outside on the day care's playground and several of the injured were carried out on stretchers.
   The highway patrol reported that the injured were taken to five different hospitals.
   A woman who answered the phone at KinderCare said she didn't have time to talk.
 
Published in National News

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — A white software developer is about to go on trial in Florida in the death of a black teenager — in a case that raises comparisons to the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday in the trial of 47-year-old Michael Dunn.

Police say Dunn fatally shot 17-year-old Jordan Davis in 2012 outside a Jacksonville convenience store after arguing over loud music that Davis and his friends were playing from their SUV.

Dunn says he fired multiple shots into the SUV after the teens threatened him and one raised a shotgun. Dunn was arrested the next day.

Zimmerman, a Hispanic, was acquitted of second-degree murder last year in the death of Martin, a 17-year-old black teen.

Published in National News
   WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (AP) — An argument over texting in a Florida movie theater Monday triggered a retired Tampa police captain to fatally shoot a man sitting in front of him, as about 25 horrified moviegoers looked on, sheriff's officials said.
   "Somebody throws popcorn. I'm not sure who threw the popcorn," said Charles Cummings, who, as a birthday treat, was about to watch the movie "Lone Survivor" at The Grove 16 Theater.
   "And then bang, he was shot."
   Curtis Reeves, 71, has been charged with second-degree murder and it's not immediately clear whether he has retained an attorney.
   Pasco County Sheriff's officials said the shooting happened when Reeves asked 43-year-old Chad Oulson to stop texting at the theater in Wesley Chapel, a suburb about a half hour north of downtown Tampa.
   Reeves and his wife were sitting behind Oulson and his wife. Oulson told Reeves that he was texting with his 3-year-old daughter, Cummings said.
   "It ended almost as quickly as it started," said sheriff's spokesman Doug Tobin. The sheriff's office says an off-duty Sumter County deputy detained Reeves until police arrived.
   Cummings and his son Alex — who both had blood on their clothes as they walked out of the theater — told a group of reporters Monday afternoon that the show was still in previews when the two couples started arguing.
   Cummings said the man in the back row — later identified as Reeves — got up and left the auditorium, presumably to get a manager. But he came back after a few minutes, without a manager and appearing upset. Moments later, the argument between the two men resumed, and the man in the front row stood up.
   Officials said Oulson asked Reeves if he reported him to management for using his phone.
   Cummings said the men started raising their voices and popcorn was thrown. Authorities said Reeves took out a gun, and Oulson's wife put her hand over her husband, and that's when Reeves fired his weapon, striking Nichole Oulson in the hand and her husband in the chest.
   "I can't believe people would bring a pistol, a gun, to a movie," Cummings said. "I can't believe they would argue and fight and shoot one another over popcorn. Over a cellphone."
   Cummings, who said he was a combat Marine in Vietnam, said Oulson fell onto him and his son.
   "Blood started coming out of his mouth," said Alex Cummings. "It was just a very bad scene."
   Charles Cummings said his son went to call 911, while Cummings and another patron who claimed to a nurse began performing CPR on the victim.
   A man sitting next to the shooter grabbed the gun out of his hand, and the suspect did not attempt to get away, Cummings said.
   Oulson and his wife were taken by ambulance to a Tampa-area hospital, where the Chad Oulson died, Tobin said. His wife's injuries weren't considered life-threatening.
   Tampa Police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said in a news release that Reeves was a captain when he retired from the department in 1993. She added that he was instrumental in establishing the agency's first tactical response team. After he retired, Reeves worked security for the Busch Gardens theme park and was on the board of a neighboring county's Crime Stoppers organization. Reeves' son also is a Tampa officer, police said.
Published in National News
Tuesday, 03 December 2013 15:38

Nativity scene on display at Florida Capitol

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Christmastime manger scenes in public spaces have often been the subject of legal fights in the U.S.

But the American Civil Liberties Union says the creche scene installed by the Florida Nativity Scene Committee at the Capitol in Tallahassee is legal - because it is privately funded, not government sponsored.

Still, the ACLU says that by allowing the exhibit, which depicts the birth of Jesus, the state will now have to allow anyone to use the premises of the Capitol to express messages.

Later this week, the Freedom From Religion Foundation will put up a banner at the Capitol stating opposition to religion in government.

Published in National News

 TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida Lottery officials say a winning Mega Money ticket worth $1.3 million remains unclaimed.

The ticket expires Dec. 15, which is 180 days after it was purchased. The numbers for the June 18 drawing were 10-28-34-43 and the Megaball was 19.

Records show the ticket was purchased at a Miami store, Davis Grocery. Lottery officials are encouraging players who may have gone to that store to go back and check their old tickets.

Published in National News
Monday, 18 November 2013 14:28

George Zimmerman arrested again in Florida

APOPKA, Fla. (AP) - Officials say George Zimmerman has been arrested in Florida.

A Seminole County Sheriff's Office statement says Zimmerman was arrested Monday afternoon after deputies responded to a disturbance call at a house in Apopka, about 15 miles northwest of Orlando. Zimmerman will be transported and booked into jail.

The statement provided few other details, and it was not immediately known what charges he faced.

Monday's arrest was just the latest legal trouble for the former neighborhood watch volunteer, who was acquitted earlier this year of all charges in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin.

Zimmerman and his estranged wife were involved in a domestic dispute in September. Police said no charges were filed against either of them because of a lack of evidence.

That dispute took place just days after Shellie Zimmerman filed divorce papers.

 
Published in Local News

 KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) - U.S. endurance swimmer Diana Nyad told supporters on a Key West beach that they should never ever give up.

 

   Nyad made the comment Monday shortly after she became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage.

 

   Nyad looked dazed and sunburned and her lips were swollen. She arrived at the beach just before 2 p.m. EDT, about 53 hours after she began her swim in Havana on Saturday.

   She is being taken by ambulance to a hospital.

   As she approached the beach, spectators surrounded her in the water, taking pictures and cheering her on.

 
Published in National News

   PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Gregg Matthews fancies himself a lumbering Star Wars character of sorts as he treks along a popular Florida beach. He wears stout hiking sandals on the squishy sand and uses ski poles for balance as he shoulders a 40-pound backpack, a blue-orb with 15 cameras extending over his head.

   "It attracts a lot of attention," Matthews laughed about all of his gear, while trodding along Panama City Beach.

   Matthews and his trekking partner, Chris Officer, are contracted through Visit Florida, the state's tourism agency, to gather images for Google Maps. All told, they have already walked more than 200 miles of Florida beachfront, each logging up to 7.5 miles a day with the camera orb. Each camera on the orb takes a shot every 2.5 seconds as they walk.

   Their quest: to create panoramic views to place online of every Florida beach — similar to the internet giant's Street View — which has taken photos of everything from ordinary homes and businesses to world-famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State building.

   Visit Florida has partnered with Google in the effort to map all 825 miles of Florida's beaches. And for good reason: tourism is Florida's top industry, accounting for 91.4 million visitors last year and $71.8 billion in spending that employed more than 1 million in the state.

   The project began in late July when Matthews and Officer began walking from the Alabama-Florida border. After mapping Florida Panhandle beaches, they will hopscotch over to Florida's Atlantic coast and move south. Eventually, another camera team will take over, curling past Miami's South Beach and other hotspots aiming to finish the project sometime in November.

   Google has a similar project with mappers trekking the trails of the Grand Canyon. But the Florida project is the first large-scale beach mapping project.

   The mapping teams were contracted through Visit Florida. Agency spokeswoman Kathy Torian said the project is entirely funded with public money and Visit Florida budgeted $126,000 for a private contractor to oversee the production of images to be sent to Google.

   The mappers are paid a straight fee of $27 per mile, but no expenses, she said, with the walkers covering all of their own transportation and accommodations. The only money Google will pay is $1,000 at the end to buy images from the state, she said.

   For Matthews, $27 a mile is worth it. And he's even shed 15 pounds in the first three weeks alone.

   "It is enough to cover expenses but mostly it is fun and probably cheaper than a gym for me," Matthews told inquisitive sunbathers as he passed them on his Panama City Beach walk.

   The project could be a boon for beach towns around Florida in their competition to draw tourists from other states and countries.

   Susan Estler, vice president of marketing for the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Google's beach view will let potential visitors see the clear turquoise waters and gleaming white sand — an enticement to any and all to check out the scene in person.

   "Certainly Panama City Beach is known for its beautiful beaches and having that available with Google is just the perfect way of presenting the beach," she said.

   But Matthews said it is the people who will never set foot on a Florida beach that he thinks about the most when he is out walking.

   "I enjoyed most the desolate stretches of unpopulated islands where literally all I heard for hours was waves and birds," he said. "This is a way to bring those experiences to people who for whatever reason — health, money, whatever — will never be able to get here."

   Matthews and Officer have seen dolphins frolicking, sea turtles, sting rays, even alligators. On a remote bird-sanctuary beach, a shore bird even dive-bombed the Google cameras.

   Already, the duo has trekked past thousands of vacationers splashing in warm Gulf waters or relaxing on powdery white beaches in such destinations as Pensacola, Destin and Panama City. "I've had a couple of people offer me a beer. Unfortunately, I don't take it because I'm kind of in the middle of a workout," Officer said.

   The men trade off carrying the camera pack — usually, one will take the morning shift and the other the afternoon. Their heft includes a battery pack that provides up to six hours of power for the cameras.

   Pictures, once taken, are uploaded to camera hard drives. When the photos are eventually posted — probably next spring — online viewers will be able to see panoramic images from any spot the teams walked.

   "It is pretty ground breaking. It is really cool to know that our work is going to contribute to people being able to see different beaches all over the world," Officer said.

   The two will finish mapping the Panhandle soon and then map about 100 miles along the east coast until they hand off duties to another two-person team.

   For Matthews, the toughest part of the job has been the blisters on his feet. He began by walking barefoot, but switched to hiking sandals and neoprene socks after the blisters set in. Officer has walked barefoot the entire time.

   Using the special socks and converted ski poles to balance the load, Matthews stays fairly comfortable during his daily five-to-seven-mile beach walks.

   Though both are tanned — not burned — they wear hats and protective gear against the blistering sun.

   "You look hot in all that," a young girl splashing in the surf told Matthews as he walked past on Panama City Beach.

   "Yes, that's why I get in the water a lot. It helps," he responded.

   The finished beach maps will include views of some small barrier islands, accessible only by boat, and glimpses of breathtaking mansions tucked away on exclusive stretches of beach. But the maps will not include some sections of military-owned beaches in the Panhandle that authorities restricted because of security concerns.

   Matthews said he has heard other concerns from beach-goers worried about having their bikini-clad bodies captured on the beach views on Google maps — Street View once caught a Miami woman standing naked in her front yard.

   But Matthews said any faces will be too blurry to recognize.

Published in National News
Tuesday, 13 August 2013 17:22

Two plead not guilty in Florida terror case

MIAMI (AP) - Two men accused in South Florida of providing thousands of dollars and fighter recruits to terrorist organizations overseas have pleaded not guilty to a 15-count federal indictment.

A judge on Tuesday also ordered 30-year-old Gufran Ahmed Kauser Mohammed and 25-year-old Mohamed Hussein Said held without bail. Both men are charged with conspiracy and attempting to provide material support to al-Qaida and two affiliated terrorist organizations in Syria and East Africa.

Prosecutors say an FBI undercover agent posing as a terror financing middleman used Internet chat rooms to build cases against the men. They were both arrested in Saudi Arabia earlier this month and flown to the U.S. to face the charges.

The indictment says Mohammed sent thousands of dollars in wire transfers intended to support the terror groups.

 
Published in National News
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