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Leaking gas valve closes road during rush hour

A gas leak Wednesday morning near the entrance to the FishHawk community forced emergency workers to shut down Lithia-Pinecrest Road from Browning Road to Boyette Road for about an hour during rush-hour traffic.

Hillsborough Fire Rescue spokesman Ray Yeakley said firefighters responding to reports of a gas smell about 8:30 a.m. found a small valve was open and leaking gas.

No one was evacuated, but sheriff's deputies diverted traffic from the area around the leaking valve while they repaired the problem.

By 9:30 a.m., workers had finished and Lithia-Pinecrest Road was reopened. The leak happened south of where a section of the road washed away Tuesday because of flooding along the Alafia River, forcing the closure of Lithia-Pinecrest from Lithia Springs Road to Coconut Cove Place through Oct. 14.

Man sentenced to death

in 2001 slaying of woman

TAMPA _ William Kenneth Taylor, convicted of the 2001 murder of a River-

view woman, was sentenced to death Wednesday in Hillsborough Circuit Court.

Circuit Judge Barbara Fleischer followed a jury's unanimous recommendation in June that Taylor be executed for the murder of 42-year-old Sandra Kushmer.

Prosecutors said Taylor, 46, killed Kushmer in May 2001 during a burglary, in an attack that also severely injured her brother, William Maddox Jr.

Arguing against the death penalty, defense attorneys said Taylor had a harsh childhood, with damage to his brain's frontal lobe.

"He would try to kill again in prison, and it would be a guard or a nurse that has a family," prosecutor Pam Bondi said.

Pastor from Brandon accused

in New York embezzlement case

NEW YORK _ A former pastor of a Baptist church in Queens, his secretary and her husband are accused of embezzling nearly half a million dollars in church funds for car and mortgage payments and a Hawaiian vacation, prosecutors announced Wednesday.

Charles Betts, former pastor of the Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church, and the two other defendants were charged in a five-count indictment with grand larceny and falsifying business records for diverting more than $494,000 from the church treasury between 1996 and 2003, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Betts, 68, who lives in Brandon, his former assistant, Anna Lenore Kilpatrick, 47, of Freeport, N.Y., and her husband, Barry Kilpatrick, 47, each face as much as 15 years in prison if convicted.

The Kilpatricks were arrested Wednesday and pleaded not guilty. Bail was set at $150,000 for the wife and at $50,000 for the husband. A warrant was issued for Betts.

Compiled from staff and wire reports