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Byrd weighs in on video gaming at tracks

House Speaker Johnnie Byrd says he doesn't think video lottery games at horse and dog tracks are the best option for raising money to help the state get through its current financial crisis.

But he's willing to consider it, Byrd said in a statement released Thursday.

Senate President Jim King suggested the approximately $1-billion that could be raised by permitting video lottery terminals to be installed at parimutuel facilities around the state might be a way to help come up with enough money to lower classroom sizes and meet other financial needs.

Byrd issued the statment after an Orlando Sentinel editorial criticized legislative leaders and Gov. Jeb Bush for indicating they will consider the gambling proposal.

"I do not support the expansion of gambling in Florida," Byrd said in a written statement released late Thursday. "I believe that we should build a better Florida based on the strengths of people and not their weaknesses."

Man takes plea deal in Brandon woman's murder

BRADENTON _ A man who helped melt down the gun used in the shooting death of 18-year-old Marie Roehrig-Stephey of Brandon admitted his involvement in court Thursday.

Constantino Quiroz, 27, of Seffner agreed to testify against three other men in a plea deal that sends him to prison for six years. Circuit Judge Rick DeFuria accepted his no-contest plea to a charge of accessory after the fact to first-degree murder.

Prosecutor Art Brown that after the murder, Quiroz took portions of the gun to a friend to melt it down and was part of a scheme to create fake evidence to try to frame an uninvolved person in the crime.

In February, Roehrig-Stephey was shot in the back of the head and dumped in a retention pond in Manatee County. Authorities say she was killed because she knew too much about a gun-running scheme planned by Edward Sauthoff of Riverview, who is charged with first-degree murder.

In September, Jason Hirshberger, 23, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and agreed to testify against Sauthoff and the others charged in the slaying: Wesley David Collins, 25, of Valrico, who investigators say pulled the trigger, and Brian Bathe, 21, of Brandon, Roehrig-Stephey's ex-boyfriend. Bathe, Collins and Sauthoff are scheduled for trial Feb. 18.

_ Staff and Bradenton Herald reports

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