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Barking chihuahua praised as lifesaver

An 8-inch Chihuahua is being credited with saving his owner's life after she collapsed in her home.

Mary Mussetter, 66, was getting a drink of water early last Thursday morning when she collapsed in her dining room.

She couldn't get up and was too weak to call for help, Mussetter said. Her dog Peppy tried to lick her face. "I had to push him away and told him to go get Gail."

Gail Mussetter, her daughter, was asleep behind a closed door in a guest room. She awoke to barking and scratching.

"It was about 3 a.m., and I heard Peppy raising holy hell," Gail Mussetter said. "I came out and found her on the floor."

Gail Mussetter called 911. Paramedics took Mary Mussetter to a hospital, where doctors installed a pacemaker to aid her heartbeat.

"I have no doubt (my mother) would have died if he had not woke me up," Gail Mussetter said.

Panel proposes changes

in child abuse inquiries

TALLAHASSEE _ A task force has recommended 60 changes in how the state handles child abuse investigations after a review of about 25,000 cases.

The study was prompted by the beatings of three Central Florida children last May, two of whom died. It helps show what needs to be fixed, Department of Children and Families Secretary Kathleen Kearney said Wednesday.

The two-volume report, about 800 pages long, is based on an intensive review of child abuse cases from Orlando and three neighboring counties during the first six months of 1999.

The 23-member panel that Kearney appointed found that there wasn't enough information to tell if children were at risk in nearly a third of the cases. And in 12 percent of the cases, staff reviewing the files concluded that the danger facing the children was greater than originally thought.

Recommendations included better training, more detailed guidelines and some policy changes, including eliminating the 30-day deadline for finishing an investigation into alleged child abuse. The deadline change will require legislative approval, Kearney said.

Jack Levine, president of the Center for Florida's Children, praised Kearney for the depth and breadth of the new research and said the data prove how important it is for Florida to fund programs that will prevent abuse.

Undercover officer used

alias to defraud, police say

ORLANDO _ A police officer is under arrest on charges he used his undercover identity to defraud companies and hide a bad credit history.

Charles Lorenzo Mays, a 35-year-old former undercover drug officer, is charged with grand theft, making false statements to obtain credit, common-law cheating, scheming to defraud and unauthorized use of driver's licenses. He is free on $5,000 bail.

According to an arrest affidavit, Mays used a fake driver's license issued to him for his undercover work to open accounts and avoid paying those bills.

Using the name Charles Devine, his undercover identity, he ran up outstanding debts of $436 with the Orlando Utilities Commission, Time Warner Communications and Blockbuster Video, police said.

Mays, an eight-year veteran of the force, was put on paid leave four months ago when the investigation began.

Arrest made in slaying

committed eight years ago

SARASOTA _ A former Sarasota resident has been arrested in Kentucky on charges he suffocated a neighbor eight years ago.

William Benson, 35, is charged with first-degree murder in the February 1992 slaying of Lauren Bannon.

Police said Benson has bragged to friends in recent months that he killed the 34-year-old waitress and AIDS volunteer inside her apartment.

Benson was arrested Friday at his mobile home in Grand Rivers, Ky. Three Sarasota officers have questioned him in Kentucky. He has not confessed, police said, but has told them he will not oppose extradition to Florida.

Benson will undergo DNA, hair and blood testing to see whether samples can be matched to evidence taken from Bannon and her apartment, police said.

_ Wire reports

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