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American Scene

- - Tuesday, April 5, 2011

CALIFORNIA

Convicted killer gets life for boy's murder

INDIO | A man convicted of a horrific murders in Idaho was sentenced to life in prison for torturing and killing a 10-year-old boy in California in 1997.

Joseph Edward Duncan III was sentenced to two life terms in Superior Court on Tuesday, the Riverside County district attorney's spokesman John Hall said.

Duncan had pleaded guilty and waived his right to an appeal in an agreement with prosecutors.

Duncan was charged with killing Anthony Martinez after he was abducted while playing near his Beaumont home. Anthony's body was found two weeks later in the desert.

Duncan confessed after he was arrested in Idaho in the 2005 killings of two boys, their mother and her fiance and the abduction of the boys' sister.

GEORGIA

High winds, rain lead to seven deaths

JACKSON | A fast-moving storm system packing tornadoes, hail and lightning blew through the South, uprooting trees, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands and killing at least seven people.

The storms were part of a system that cut a wide swath from the Mississippi River across the Southeast to Georgia and the Carolinas on Monday and early Tuesday. Drivers dodged debris during the morning commute in Atlanta, where one person was killed when a tree fell on his car. Felled trees killed at least two drivers elsewhere.

Around the region, the National Weather Service was investigating reports of at least 20 possible tornadoes, while the system had moved over the Atlantic Ocean by late Tuesday morning. With the sun emerging, workers climbed polls to mend power lines, officers directed traffic under dark traffic lights and chainsaws could be heard in many places.

In central Georgia, a father and his young son were killed when a tree fell onto a home in Butts County, Georgia Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Lisa Janak said. The sheriff's office there said Alix Bonhomme Jr., 28, and the 4-year-old Alix III were killed early Tuesday when a tree limb crashed onto a bed where they were sleeping.

The child's mother, Marcie Moorer, and the couple's younger son, Iysic, 3, were able to escape.

NEW JERSEY

Man convicted in schoolyard murders

NEWARK | A 20-year-old man was convicted Tuesday of murder and robbery in the execution-style slayings of three college-bound friends in a Newark schoolyard in 2007.

Alexander Alfaro was one of six people charged in the gruesome attacks in August 2007. All three victims were shot in the back of the head as they knelt in front of a wall, and one was slashed with a machete. A fourth victim was slashed and shot but survived and testified against Alfaro.

Alfaro was found guilty on 16 of 17 counts. He was found not guilty of attempted murder on the survivor of the attacks.

The jury reached its verdict after about 20 hours of deliberation over four days. It received the case Thursday afternoon.

Alfaro's half-brother and another man already are serving multiple life sentences for the killings. Three defendants' cases are pending.

TENNESSEE

2 missing in spill at sewage plant

GATLINBURG | Two workers were missing Tuesday after a wastewater treatment plant in a Smoky Mountains tourist town failed and spilled millions of gallons of sewage.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said a holding tank at the Gatlinburg plant gave way Tuesday morning, sending the sewage into the west prong of Little Pigeon River.

Between 1.5 million and 3.2 million gallons of sewage spilled, TEMA spokesman Jeremy Heidt said.

Some of the spill entered the small river that flows past Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Both cities are top destinations for tourists visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Eric Brakins, assistant city manager for Pigeon Forge, told the Associated Press that his city is helping to look for the two workers.

The cause of the failure hasn't been determined, state officials said. The Mountain Press newspaper in Sevierville reported that there was a mudslide or rock slide in the area after heavy rains. The paper said the breach was accompanied by what sounded like an explosion and then water began rushing out.

TEXAS

Death row inmate gets reprieve

HUNTSVILLE | The U.S. Supreme Court blocked the first scheduled execution of a Texas death row inmate using pentobarbital on Tuesday.

Cleve Foster was to have been executed Tuesday evening for the 2002 slaying of a Sudanese woman in Fort Worth — the first Texas execution since the state switched to pentobarbital in its lethal three-drug mixture.

On Tuesday morning, the high court agreed to reconsider its January order denying Foster's appeal that raised claims of innocence and poor legal help during his trial and early stages of his appeals.

Foster's attorneys also have argued that Texas prison officials violated administrative procedures last month when they announced the switch to pentobarbital from sodium thiopental, which is in short supply nationwide. Foster's attorneys contend that the rules change in Texas required more time for public comment and review. Lower courts have rejected their appeals and attorneys had planned to take their case to the Texas Supreme Court.

From wire dispatches and staff reports