A Bradford County jury on Wednesday found the state Department of Children and Families 100 percent at fault in the death of a 3-year-old girl left in an abusive home.
Ciara Floyd, 3, was beaten to death by her mother's boyfriend in 1996, a month after the girl's father took her to a hospital with bruises on her chest and back. A state child abuse investigator said there was not enough evidence to remove the child from her mother's home.
The boyfriend, Larry Christopher Noegel, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Jurors awarded $250,000 to Ciara's father, William Floyd.
DCF's lawyer, Deputy Attorney General Denis Dean, argued that the investigator had no recourse but to leave Ciara with her mother, because there was no doctor's report indicating abuse.
But Floyd's attorney, Val Bates, argued that the bruises, an earlier admission to domestic battery by her mother's boyfriend and a verified abuse report involving another child should have prompted Ciara's removal.
DCF is "exploring our legal options" regarding a possible appeal, spokesman Tim Bottcher said in a statement.
Recaptured jail escapee also faces murder charge
LA BELLE _ Authorities a Hendry County jail escapee who was caught early Wednesday likely killed a prominent businessman while on the run.
James Robert Henderson, 19, was arrested in Muse in south Hendry County after sheriff's deputies and officers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement cornered him.
Henderson was charged with escaping from jail last Thursday. He is expected to face charges in the death of hardware store owner Daniel Woosley, 39, who was killed at his La Belle home the same day.
Woosley lived about 2 miles from the jail. He had once taken Henderson into his home, Hendry County Sheriff Ronnie Lee said.
Henderson walked away from a work detail at the jail, where he had been held since Sept. 30 on two counts of auto theft.
Quillian Yancey, longtime Polk legislator, dies
LAKELAND _ Former legislator and Polk County State Attorney Quillian Yancey, whose career of public service spanned four decades, has died of heart failure. He was 82.
Mr. Yancey, known for his characteristic Stetson and no-nonsense attitude, served in the Florida House from 1966 to 1972 and in the Senate from 1990 to 1992. In between, he was elected Polk County state attorney in 1976.
The son of a Georgia sharecropper, he served in the Army during World War II in Europe. He graduated from Florida Southern College in 1949 and became an FBI agent stationed in New York and Washington.
He earned a law degree from George Washington Law School and returned to Florida.
"He was really someone who took public service seriously," said his son, Polk Circuit Judge Jay Yancey.
The funeral is today.
Jury convicts woman of poisoning her boss
FORT LAUDERDALE _ A jury found a Miami woman guilty Wednesday of poisoning her boss by putting rat poison in his can of soda.
A hidden camera caught Femesha Foster, 37, dropping the poison into Mark Caruso's drink in 2000. They were co-workers at a Wal-Mart store in Pembroke Pines.
Foster said she only wanted Caruso to go home sick, because she knew he had discovered she had written checks from his account. Caruso was treated at an emergency room.
Foster could receive as much as 30 years in prison.
Foster was convicted previously, but a state appeals court overturned the verdict in May because she was charged with "attempted poisoning" _ not a specific crime under Florida law.
FEMA extends deadline for hurricane assistance
PANAMA CITY _ The Federal Emergency Management Agency again has given victims of four hurricanes that struck Florida last year more time to apply for assistance.
The new deadline is Feb. 28.
FEMA spokesman Jack Heesch said here Tuesday the agency was still getting 1,500 new registrations daily, prompting the extension. The agency earlier had set a Nov. 15 deadline and then extended it to Dec. 31.
Floridians can call 1-800-621-3362, toll-free, or register online at www.fema.gov.
More than 140,000 Floridians have registered for FEMA assistance so far.
_ Wire reports