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Exchange student molested by host, police say

A convicted sex offender who hosted three foreign exchange students has been charged with molesting one of them, prompting a national placement organization to consider criminal background checks. The victim, from Thailand, was placed in the home of optometrist Wayne Pharr, 46, by the American Institute for Foreign Study, which arranges for foreign students to live with U.S. families. "We don't ask about convictions, and I guess we should," said Libby Cryer, director of AIFS' Academic Year in America program. In July 1983, Pharr was convicted of molesting two teen-age boys who were patients, but the exchange organization knew nothing about it. As part of the screening process used now, a local coordinator interviews the host family in their home, checks their references and reports on the interview to the national office, Cryer said.Youth killed in crash

of his graduation gift

LOXAHATCHEE _ An 18-year-old Wellington dancer who graduated from high school during the weekend died the next day in the car his parents had given their only child as a graduation present. Christopher Grogis, who set records running track, danced professionally and last acted in a Pepsi commercial with Gloria Estefan, died late Sunday. He had run a stop sign on a darkened dirt road after pulling from a friend's driveway, and his car, traveling with only its parking lights on, was broadsided. Two passengers in Grogis' car were hospitalized.

Southern Bell to pay fine

for delays on complaints

TALLAHASSEE _ Southern Bell agreed Tuesday to pay a $40,000 fine for taking too long to put someone on the phone when customers call to complain. The Florida Public Service Commission agreed to accept that rather than a $96,000 fine its staff proposed, as long as Public Counsel Jack Shreve agrees. Part of the proposed $96,000 fine was for another problem: failure to give rebates to out-of-service customers. The commission will continue to investigate the rebates. Shreve said he was still seeking information for a decision on whether to oppose the $40,000 fine. He said he had 20 days to decide. The commission staff said in May that several evaluations showed Southern Bell, which has about 4.4-million customers in Florida, failed to answer trouble calls from customers within 20 seconds.

Would-be thieves turn

prison break inside out

KISSIMMEE _ This time, the bad guys broke into a prison. Three men entered the prison yard at Kissimmee Correctional Center about 3:30 a.m. Saturday by cutting a hole in the 6-foot chain link fence, which is topped with several strands of barbed wire, police said Tuesday. Prison officials said the trio tried to cart off two 25-inch television sets from the inmates' day room but ran when a guard saw them. They abandoned the color television sets just outside the fence. Police said the men also entered several dormitories at the minimum-security prison. When challenged by inmates, they acted as though they were guards and demanded the inmates' "DC number," the number assigned each prisoner by the Florida Department of Corrections. "They knew exactly what to do when they encountered an inmate," said prison chief John Marsh. "I'm sure this is probably some of our alumni."

Three qualify for election

to replace retiring senator

TALLAHASSEE _ Three candidates qualified Tuesday for a special election in July to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Brown of Volusia County. Ed Dunn, a Democrat who held the District 10 seat from 1974 to 1986, Republican Locke Burt and independent Tom Visconti each filed official papers with the state by the deadline of noon Tuesday. All three are from Ormond Beach. With no challengers in either party, a scheduled primary in July and runoff will not be held. The general election for all three candidates is set for July 30. Brown, who held the seat since 1986, is quitting to take a job with the state Department of Natural Resources.

Lake Okeechobee rises

to normal level after 3 years

WEST PALM BEACH _ For the first time since Florida's drought began almost three years ago, Lake Okeechobee has crept up to normal levels, water officials say. "This could be considered quite the turning point," South Florida Water Management District spokeswoman Ann Overton said Monday. Last year at this time, the lake stood more than 2 feet below Monday's reading of 13.11 feet above sea level. Normal for Monday was 13.08 feet. A wet spring and the recent week of rain helped bring the lake back to its normal range. The last time the lake was at normal levels was Oct. 15, 1988.

_ Compiled from wire reports