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Judge recuses herself from nursing home case

Circuit Judge Barbara Gurrola has stepped down from the case of a Floral City woman who is suing Citrus Health and Rehabilitation Center. A new judge, Daniel Merritt, has taken over, and trial will begin Monday, as previously scheduled. Lawyers for the nursing home and the company that manages it said they feared Gurrola would fail to give their clients a fair trial for three reasons: The plaintiff's lawyer represents the Citrus County Clerk of the Circuit Court's office; he once represented the fiancee of Gurrola's stepson; and he has indicated he wants to seek appointment as a circuit judge. The lawyer, Michael Smith, noted that he reviewed a case involving the judge's stepson's fiancee but never took the case. Gurrola, in a written order, said the request "appears to be without merit," but agreed to step down "to avoid even the implication of impropriety."

Arson of car reported

at Homosassa house

HOMOSASSA _ Authorities are investigating what they believe was an attempted arson on a Mercury Grand Marquis left overnight in a Homosassa driveway Wednesday. Citrus County sheriff's spokeswoman Gail Tierney said three windows in the car had been broken and two plastic containers holding gasoline had been placed on the rear seat and on a ledge beneath the rear window. A partially burned paper towel was found in the car, she said. The car had been parked in the driveway at 5360 S Elm Ave. The owner of the car, Toni Bassett, 32, who lives at another address in Homosassa, discovered the car Thursday afternoon about 12:45 p.m., Tierney said. Bassett told investigators the damage had not occurred when she last saw the car, about 9:45 p.m. Wednesday. Bassett told authorities that on Thursday she noticed a strong gasoline smell coming from inside the car, Tierney said.