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Man arrested, police think he may have sparked Palm Bay blaze



Authorities have arrested a man who police said sparked a small blaze early Wednesday in a town where wildfires have gutted homes and scorched thousands of acres.

Officials were questioning Brian Crowder, 31, about that fire and larger wildfires that have found ample fuel in developments on Florida's Atlantic coast. He has not been charged with arson or any crime connected with the fires, said Palm Bay spokeswoman Yvonne Martinez.

Since the fires began Sunday, about 20 homes have been destroyed and 140 other structures damaged. The damage was estimated at approximately $3.5-million, said Palm Bay City Manager Lee Feldman. Officials had earlier reported 40 homes destroyed.

Efforts to contain the fires that have burned about 15 square miles were improving, officials said. Still, major highways in the area were being intermittently closed.


$47-million in cuts for University of Florida

The University of Florida's governing body unanimously approved $47-million in budget cuts Wednesday that will result in reducing enrollment and laying off some faculty members.

The board of trustees largely approved the plan released last week by President Bernie Machen and made only minor changes.

The proposal calls for laying off about 14 faculty members and 118 staffers, leaving 290 empty positions unfilled, reducing research and reducing enrollment by 1,000 students a year for four years.

The University of Florida is the state's largest public university with about 52,000 students and about 5,285 faculty members.

UF's general revenue budget is $69-million less than it was a year ago.


Teachers to sue over voucher proposals

Florida's statewide teachers union will sue to keep off the ballot two proposals designed to expand vouchers that let students attend private schools at public expense, the group's spokesman, Mark Pudlow, said Wednesday.

The proposed state constitutional amendments are designed to undo a pair of court rulings striking down one voucher program and to protect others existing now or created in the future from similar legal challenges.


Prison nurses win $630,000 in case

A federal jury has found the Florida Corrections Department guilty of condoning sexual harassment of female nurses by male inmates at the Martin Correctional Institution.

The all-male, eight-member jury returned a verdict Tuesday awarding the women $630,000.

The nurses, a doctor and a classification officer claimed that between 1999 and 2002, male inmates at the prison routinely exposed themselves, shouted obscenities and performed lewd acts in front of them. They alleged that the state Corrections Department didn't do enough.


Grandfather charged with sex abuse

A 63-year-old Central Florida man forced his granddaughter to have sex with him in a cemetery, authorities say.

Obie Robinson is charged with domestic sexual battery. Investigators believe he had been sexually assaulting the girl since she was 7. She is now 19.

Robinson allegedly asked the girl if she would have sex with him, then molested her after she said no.


Animal trainer bitten during video shoot

An animal trainer is recovering after his white tiger bit him during a rap music video taping in Miami.

Mark McCarthy suffered puncture wounds on his calf down to the bone. The Loxahatchee wildlife sanctuary owner says his tiger Sabi panicked when her chain tightened around her neck and body during the video shoot on May 5.

McCarthy says Sabi "calmed right back down" and continued working at the Rick Ross video shoot on Star Island.


Simpson's girlfriend hurt in car accident

Christie Prody, O.J. Simpson's girlfriend, was injured early Saturday after pulling over to an expressway emergency lane because she had two flat tires, Highway Patrol Lt. Pat Santangelo said.

When the 32-year-old got out and walked around the car, she was hit by another car. She was being treated Wednesday for broken legs. Prody was cited for the accident. Troopers found an empty alcohol bottle in her car but could not say if Prody was intoxicated.

Associated Press

Man arrested, police think he may have sparked Palm Bay blaze 05/14/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 14, 2008 11:16pm]
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