Pruitt decides to leave office early
Sen. Ken Pruitt, a top state Republican who founded Florida's Bright Futures college scholarship program, has decided to leave office early to spend more time with his family in Port St. Lucie. His last day in the Legislature will be Aug. 4. Gov. Charlie Crist will have to call a special election for the term that ends in 2010. Pruitt, the Senate president from 2006 to 2008, has served for 18 years in the Legislature. Known as one of the most effective legislators and bipartisan leaders, Pruitt founded the scholarship program and steered huge sums to colleges, research institutes, his district and the Everglades. Pruitt, 52, declined to comment, but friends say he grew weary of office after his 29-year-old son's death in 2007. His wife has also battled cancer. Senate Republicans are expected to rally around former state Rep. Joe Negron of Stuart as a replacement. Negron had already filed to run for the seat before Pruitt's resignation.
Greek church settles sex assault lawsuit
A man who claims he was sexually assaulted as a teen by a suspended Jacksonville priest has settled his lawsuit with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
The church reported the settlement on its Web site Thursday and said there was no finding of fault or liability against it. The church said the terms of the settlement remain confidential.
The archdiocese's statement notes the September 2007 lawsuit was based on allegations of inappropriate behavior of the Rev. Nicholas Graff while he served as priest of St. John the Divine Church in Jacksonville. Graff has been suspended since June 2007 and has been prohibited "from acting in any pastoral, administrative or other official capacity within the Orthodox Church."
Graff, the church and the archdiocese in New York were sued in 2007 by the man, now 23, and his family. Neither the man nor his family is identified in the lawsuit.
Killer loses appeal five days before execution
Five days before his scheduled execution, convicted killer John Richard Marek has lost an appeal at the Florida Supreme Court.
The high court turned down Marek's appeal Friday afternoon. Marek and another man are accused of kidnapping, raping and killing a woman who had car trouble on Florida's Turnpike near Jupiter in 1983.
He is scheduled to die at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Florida State Prison near Starke. He has several federal appeals remaining.
Officials, firefighters differ in view of ducks
Ocala officials want to euthanize 200 ducks they say are a nuisance at a park, while across the street firefighters have adopted a mother duck as their mascot.
Ocala's Recreation and Parks Department is planning to euthanize the 200 Muscovy ducks at Tuscawilla Park. Director Kathy Crile said Thursday that too many ducks in one area can become diseased and messy.
Meanwhile at the Ocala Fire station, Chief Brian Stoothoff says they're eagerly waiting for the eggs to hatch. As he puts it: "They certainly are cute."
Arrest is made in killing of black bear
Authorities have arrested a man accused of fatally shooting an 80-pound black bear in a West Florida park.
Authorities say 40-year-old Kevin Doerr was arrested Thursday night and charged with a felony for allegedly shooting a protected animal.
Wildlife officials say the bear wasn't a threat, and they believe self-defense was not a factor in the shooting.
Times staff and wires