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Walton County identifies shooting victims as Chileans

BARTOW

Defendant guilty of slaying gay man

A Polk County man has been convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in the death of a 25-year-old gay man. After nearly two days of deliberation, jurors returned a guilty verdict on Friday for 23-year-old Joseph Eli Bearden. Prosecutors had been pushing for a first-degree murder conviction. Bearden's defense attorney called the verdict a partial victory because the death penalty is now off the table. Bearden is one of two men charged with the 2007 murder of Ryan Skipper. Prosecutors say Bearden and 22-year-old William David Brown Jr. fatally stabbed Skipper and stole his Chevrolet Aveo. Brown is still awaiting trial. Skipper's death received much attention from gay rights advocates, many of whom believe the murder was a hate crime.

MIRAMAR BEACH

Shooting victims identified as Chileans

Walton County sheriff's officials have identified the victims of a shooting that left two dead and three wounded.

The victims all were Chileans participating in a program that allowed them to travel and work in the United States during school break.

Authorities said they were attending a house party Thursday when a neighbor fired a rifle into the building. Dannie Baker, 60, was arrested and charged with two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder.

Nicolas Corp, 22, and Racine Baldontin, 23, died at the scene. Officials said Sebastian Arizaga and Francisco Cofre are still being treated at a local hospital, while David Bilbao was released.

WEST PALM BEACH

Chiquita insists it had no connection to group

Chiquita Brands International asked a judge Friday to dismiss lawsuits claiming the banana company paid Colombian paramilitary groups that killed hundreds or even thousands of people.

Attorneys for Chiquita insisted that the money it paid over seven-years to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia had no direct connection to massacres, kidnappings, assassinations and acts of intimidation committed by the group in banana-growing regions.

"There are no allegations that Chiquita was directly involved in any of these incidents," said Gregg Levy, an attorney for Cincinnati-based Chiquita.

The company acknowledges that a subsidiary had paid the right-wing paramilitary group and another group. But its attorneys contend that the company was essentially extorted by the groups that controlled areas where its bananas are grown.

TALLAHASSEE

Official: State losing business in TV, movies

The state's film commissioner says Florida is losing business in the television and movie industry and blames it partially on having its annual $25 million budget slashed.

Commissioner Lucia Fishburne said television and movie productions are not always looking for the most beautiful location, but the best business deal.

Florida has offered cash incentives to moviemakers for years as a way to attract film productions like HBO's movie Recount.

ORLANDO

World War II-era projectile detonated

The Army Corps of Engineers detonated a high-explosive projectile Thursday on a former World War II-era bombing range in southeast Orlando. Since July 2007, the corps has removed more than 14 tons of bomb debris from the neighborhood and destroyed more than 300 bombs and rockets.

Times wires

Walton County identifies shooting victims as Chileans 02/27/09 [Last modified: Friday, February 27, 2009 10:21pm]

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