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Woman in attack remains in hospital with severe injuries

Linda Varone, the 53-year-old Crystal River woman who was seriously injured during an attack Wednesday night, remained in critical condition Friday at Tampa General Hospital, a spokeswoman said. Dennis A. Burke, who lived with his mother around the corner from Linda Varone and her husband, is being held at Citrus County jail on two counts of attempted first-degree murder, one count of armed burglary of a conveyance, one count of armed burglary of a dwelling and one count of grand theft. According to authorities, Burke was working on a shed in the Varones' back yard when he suddenly became enraged. After bludgeoning Linda Varone with the shovel, he attempted to shoot her husband, Frank, but the gun did not fire. Frank Varone was treated for injuries at Seven Rivers Community Hospital and released Thursday. Deputies did not release a motive for the attack, but said they believed Burke was under the influence of alcohol.

Inverness man accused of sexual battery on children

INVERNESS _ A 36-year-old Inverness man has been accused of forcing three young children between the ages of 9 and 11 to perform oral sex on him. Mark Andrew Higgins is being held on three counts of sexual battery on a child younger than 12 years and three counts of luring a child to engage in sexual conduct. After he was arrested, Higgins admitted to committing sexual acts with a fourth victim, according to an arrest report. The victims told Citrus County Sheriff's deputies that Higgins also performed oral sex on them. The fourth victim lived in Higgins' neighborhood, said Ronda Hemminger Evan, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office. Anyone with information or concerns about Higgins is asked to call the Crimes Against Children unit at 726-4488, ext. 295, or 1-888-ANY-TIPS.


The county's proposed budget for 2001-02 does include $30,000 for the Youth and Family Alternatives runaway shelter in Brooksville. A story in Thursday's Citrus Times said otherwise.