- - Friday, January 1, 2010

FLORIDA

County jailer fired for joining KKK

GAINESVILLE — An internal affairs report by the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office said that Detention Officer Wayne Kerschner, who was fired after telling investigators that he was an officer of the Ku Klux Klan, defended the group as a faith-based organization.

Mr. Kerschner told investigators that he blogged on a KKK Web site, attended a rally in Tennessee and paid dues to the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He said his wife was also a member.

Mr. Kerschner was fired Wednesday for violating a department ban on subversive or terrorist organizations. He had worked four years at the jail in Gainesville. The investigation began after a tip from a sheriff’s deputy working on an FBI investigation.

GEORGIA

Wave of swine flu down to 4 states

ATLANTA — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data Thursday saying swine flu was widespread in only four states last week: Delaware, Maine, New Jersey and Virginia.

Swine flu was widespread in seven states the previous week. Reported infections have been dropping since a peak in late October, when 48 states reported high levels of sickness.

CDC officials said swine flu vaccine is increasingly easy to get, with more than 118 million doses now available. They said people should still get vaccinated because there could be another wave of infections this winter.

INDIANA

Eli Lilly heiress dies at 94

INDIANAPOLIS — Ruth Lilly, 94, a prolific philanthropist who was the last surviving great-grandchild of pharmaceutical magnate Eli Lilly, died Wednesday.

Over the course of her life, the Indianapolis native gave away much of her inheritance from the Eli Lilly & Co. fortune. Court documents showed in 2002 that Miss Lilly had bequeathed nearly $500 million to charitable and arts-related groups.

That included an estimated $100 million to the influential literary magazine “Poetry,” which had rejected Miss Lilly’s submissions for years. She began writing poetry in the mid-1930s. Her attorney said in 2002 that she didn’t take rejections from the publication personally.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art is located on the site of Miss Lilly’s parents’ estate, which she and her brother donated in 1966, along with a trust income to maintain it.

Miss Lilly’s wealth was valued at more than $1 billion in 2002. The family statement said she gave away “the vast bulk of her inheritance, largely to Indiana-based institutions.”

MASSACHUSETTS

Deaths in arson ruled homicides

NORTHAMPTON — The deaths of two men in one of a string of nine suspected arsons Sunday have been ruled homicides by the Massachusetts Medical Examiner’s office.

Dr. Andrew Sexton on Wednesday “presumptively” identified the victims in the Sunday fire in Northampton, Mass., as Paul Yeskie, 81, and his son, Paul Jr., 39. Family members had publicly identified the Yeskies as the victims. Additional dental tests are needed to positively identify the victims.

Authorities said the men died of asphyxiation due to smoke inhalation and “thermal injuries.”

PENNSYLVANIA

400 to 500 animals dead in home

PHILADELPHIA — Investigators said some kind of religious ritual may be behind the discovery of the remains of 400 to 500 dead animals at a Philadelphia house.

Officer George Bengal, director of law enforcement at the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said investigators spent hours combing through the home in the city’s Feltonville neighborhood Wednesday.

He said the animals were apparently used in some kind of religious ritual. The remains include deer, turtles and other animals.

Authorities are trying to find the people who lived in the rented home.

Mr. Bengal says that there is no law against sacrificing animals for religious purposes as long as it is done humanely.

A report of dogs living in unsanitary conditions initially led animal control officers to the house.

SOUTH DAKOTA

Blood alcohol level a possible record

RAPID CITY — South Dakota authorities said Wednesday that Marguerite Engle — found passed out, slumped over the steering wheel in a stolen delivery van last month — registered a blood alcohol content of .708, nearly nine times the legal limit and a possible record for the state.

Authorities said that Miss Engle missed an initial court hearing Dec. 15, but that they found her Monday in another stolen vehicle and she had been drinking. Authorities do not have results of the blood alcohol test for the second incident.

Meade County State’s Attorney Jesse Sondreal said the highest blood alcohol content that state chemists he spoke with could recall was a .56. The state’s legal limit is .08.

Miss Engle was being held on two counts of driving under the influence. It wasn’t immediately clear whether she was facing other charges. Her attorney declined comment.

VERMONT

Man pleads guilty to 1982 killing

BARRE | Theodore Caron, 47, of Barre, has admitted in a plea deal to killing an 18-year-old girl in 1982.

Caron was arrested in February in the strangulation of Pamela Brown after a DNA sample linked him to the slaying. Brown was strangled with a cord from her blouse.

He initially pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. On Wednesday, he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder, punishable by a 15-to-35-year sentence, but Caron’s attorney said he is likely to become eligible for release in less than seven years, based on 1982 sentencing rules.

The state parole board would determine whether to release Caron once he become eligible.

From wire dispatches and staff reports