Execution date set for killer in 1983 murder
Gov. Charlie Crist on Friday set an execution date of March 9 for David Johnston, who was convicted of killing an elderly woman in 1983. Johnston, 49, was convicted of murder for stabbing and strangling 84-year-old Mary Hammond at her Orlando home. Crist signed a death warrant in April but the Supreme Court stayed Johnston's May 27 execution so DNA testing could be conducted. The tests showed material from under the victim's fingernails was consistent with Johnston's DNA.
State to get Medicare refunds
Florida will be getting a refund of $282.5 million in overpayments to Medicare because of a recalculation of drug premiums for low-income elderly. Health News Florida also reported Friday that the Health and Human Services Department is giving other states refunds as well, totaling $4.3 billion. The department says the states will get back some of the money they paid as their share of Medicare drug-plan premiums for the so-called "dual eligibles," who have incomes so low they qualify for Medicaid. Officials say the state will get the refunds in higher Medicaid payments over time, not in a lump sum.
Deputy fired over inmate letters
A Polk County detention deputy has been fired after her supervisors reportedly learned she was exchanging letters with an inmate and lying about it. The sheriff's office internal investigation concluded that 31-year-old Maria Guzman sent five letters to Terrence Barnett. He was in jail on murder charges awaiting trial for a 2007 Highlands County slaying. Jail officials say they learned of Guzman's relationship after Barnett fatally attacked a guard in August. Barnett claimed Guzman and other deputies helped him smuggle drugs into the jail and operate a tax scam. Investigators didn't find evidence of the drug smuggling or tax scam, only found Guzman's letters.
Woman finds 1978 insurance check
An 85-year-old South Florida woman looking for a photo of her ex-husband found a $17,500 insurance claim check from 1978 instead. Barbara Cosgrove found the check, dated Jan. 23, 1978, in an unopened envelope inside a nightstand drawer at her Lauderhill home. She says she doesn't know why she hadn't found the check sooner and had looked inside the drawer "a thousand times" before the discovery. Cosgrove says the check stems from an accident that occurred under the Brooklyn Bridge in 1976. A tarp filled with rainwater fell 200 feet onto her car, damaging the vehicle. It's unclear if Cosgrove can claim the money from the check, which was issued by an insurance company that has been declared insolvent and liquidated.
Rubio, Crist debate about debate
Rather than actually have a debate with each other, Gov. Charlie Crist and former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio are having a debate about where and when to debate in the Republican U.S. Senate race. Crist, after months of brushing off questions about whether he'd debate Rubio, struck first Friday by saying he'd debate on Meet The Press on March 7 and then Fox News Sunday on March 28. Not good enough for Rubio. He said he wants the debate on Republican-leaning Fox to take place first.
Marc Caputo, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau