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Official says spitting was "self defense'

A Miami Beach commissioner and hotel owner says he spit on a newspaper reporter last week in self-defense and refused to apologize. "In my opinion, the most powerful weapon a person can have is spitting," Abe Hirschfeld said at a news conference Monday. "You have to defend yourself. I did it in self-defense. I had no other choice." Hirschfeld twice spat on Miami Herald reporter Bonnie Weston last Friday as she was interviewing people attending the public auction of Hirschfeld's hotel. Hirschfeld said the spitting was directed at the Herald, which he accused of waging a campaign to damage him. "Nothing made me happier than spitting," he said. "It achieved all the results I was looking for. The way it was done I was very happy about." The action was condemned by other city officials. "Commissioner Hirschfeld's despicable conduct is revolting to all of us," Commissioner Bruce Singer said. "He has disgraced the office he holds and has destroyed any vestiges of respect anyone could have for him."Wife pleads innocent to neglect charge

MOORE HAVEN _ A woman has pleaded innocent to charges she criminally neglected her quadriplegic husband as gangrene spread across his body. Cheryl Mickler, 35, entered the plea Monday to the charge of abuse or neglect of a disabled adult, a second-degree felony that carries a maximum prison term of 15 years. Her husband, Scott, 31, died Sept. 10 shortly after he was taken to a hospital by paramedics. The rescue workers said they found him in a bed surrounded by garbage at his home near Lake Okeechobee. Mrs. Mickler remains free on $50,000 bail.

Ex-deputy kills self after questioning

WAUCHULA _ A former Hardee County deputy who was a suspect in the shooting death of a sheriff's sergeant shot and killed himself at his home as investigators begged him not to fire the gun, officials said. "They did everything they could to talk him out of it, to get him to put the gun down, but he refused," sheriff's Capt. Jeff Maddox told the Tampa Tribune. Charlton Hampton Griffin Jr., 42, shot himself in the head Saturday after investigators with the sheriff's office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement interviewed him, Maddox said. He said investigators did not go to Griffin's home to arrest him. Maddox said Griffin was a suspect in the death of Sgt. Earnest Lovett, 32, whose body was found Oct. 22. Griffin was fired from his deputy's job in 1980 after he was convicted of several burglaries, Maddox said.

Cooler weather caused fish kills

MIAMI _ The sudden cool snap last week meant relief for many people but death for thousands of fish, a state fisheries biologist said. More than 100 fish kills occurred around the state when atmospheric conditions lowered the oxygen content in freshwater lakes, biologist Frank Morello of the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission said Monday. The kills ranged in size from a few dozen to several thousand fish, said Morello, who added that fish kills are common after cool spells.

$2-million approved for turtle refuge

SEBASTIAN INLET _ Congress has approved $2-million for the development of a sanctuary to protect endangered sea turtles. The Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, planned for a 20-mile stretch of oceanfront land in Indian River County, will be home to loggerheads and green sea turtles. The federal allocation, however, is only a fraction of the money needed for the refuge, said Peter Bandre, president of the Sea Turtle Preservation Society. He said an estimated $40-million to $80-million is needed to purchase the stretch from Melbourne to Wabasso Beach where organizers want to develop the refuge honoring turtle researcher Archie Carr. Brevard County is the world's second-largest nesting area for sea turtles, Bandre said. The largest nesting area is the Persian Gulf region, he said.

Student pilot killed in crash

MARATHON _ A student pilot died and his instructor was critically injured when their single-engine plane crashed Tuesday during a training flight in the Florida Keys, investigators said. Martyn Niles, 37, of nearby Duck Key and his instructor, Geoffory D. Cleall, 27, of Chicago were practicing touch-and-go landings at Marathon Airport when they crashed, said Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Selvan Ramjattan. The 1966 Cessna 150 hit nose-first short of the runway about 8 a.m. and was destroyed, Ramjattan said. Niles was pronounced dead after rescue workers cut open the plane to remove the two men and took them to Fisherman's Hospital in Marathon. Cleall was in critical condition and undergoing surgery Tuesday evening, a hospital spokeswoman said. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating to determine the cause of the crash.

_ Compiled by DAVID CONYERS from wire reports