- - Monday, August 15, 2011

ARIZONA

Third man sentenced in deaths of girl, father

TUCSON — A third defendant convicted in the deaths of a southern Arizona girl and her father has been sentenced.

Albert Gaxiola was sentenced Monday to two life terms in the 2009 deaths of 9-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father, 29-year-old Raul Flores.

The Arizona Daily Star reports the 44-year-old Arivaca resident was convicted last month of murder. The jurors spared Gaxiola the death penalty for the murder of Raul Flores but could not reach a unanimous decision as to his punishment in the girl’s death.

Prosecutors decided to leave Gaxiola’s punishment up to Pima County Superior Court Judge John Leonardo.

Authorities believe Gaxiola recruited Shawna Forde and Jason Bush to kill Flores because of a drug-smuggling feud. Forde and Bush were both sentenced to death row earlier this year.

CALIFORNIA

Protest starts after workers unearth Indian remains

SANTA CRUZ — Protesters want construction halted at a California housing development after builders unearthed American Indian remains at what is believed to be a 6,000-year-old burial site.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel says that about 100 people participated in a two-mile march Sunday to demand a halt to construction of 32 homes.

Protesters held signs reading, “All cemeteries are sacred” and “No bulldozers on sacred ground.”

Coroner’s investigator Naomi Silva says builder KB Homes earlier this month found a partial skull or mandible of an American Indian child buried in the grassy open space. A piece of an Indian necklace was also found at the nine-acre site.

Sunday’s demonstration was organized by a group called Save the Knoll, which formed about a week ago after members learned about the remains.

COLORADO

Police officer retires after alleged wild ride

DENVER — A suburban Denver police officer allowed to represent his department at a South Dakota lawman’s funeral has retired after authorities say he and a fellow officer took an alcohol-fueled ride through Wyoming on their way to the service.

In his letter of retirement, Bradley B. Bickett apologized for his conduct.

“I offer my most sincere apologies to the Aurora Police Department, the citizens of Aurora, and all of law enforcement for this incident,” he wrote, according to a police statement.

Mr. Bickett could not be reached for comment.

He and Gerald Kirby were accused of speeding past traffic with their emergency lights flashing and tossing trash from a window on their way to the South Dakota funeral of a fallen police officer.

Their squad car was pulled over Wednesday after authorities say a volunteer firefighter spotted the car driving erratically on a state highway outside Torrington, Wyo., about 80 miles northeast of Cheyenne. Mr. Bickett was charged with driving while impaired, careless driving and speeding, while Mr. Kirby was charged with littering.

FLORIDA

Mom claims insanity in slaying of teens

TAMPA — A Florida woman accused of killing her two teenage children at home will use an insanity defense.

Her public defenders filed their intention late Friday to argue that 50-year-old Julie Schenecker couldn’t discern right from wrong when she shot each of the teens twice in the head Jan. 27.

The filing said Ms. Schenecker was suffering from “bipolar disorder with psychotic features.”

Ms. Schenecker faces two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of her 16-year-old daughter, Calyx, and 13-year-old son, Beau, in their Tampa home. She told authorities she did it because the children had been “mouthy” and disrespectful.

Her ex-husband told detectives that she had struggled for years with mental illness and recent substance-abuse issues.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. A trial date has not been set.

ILLINOIS

Oldest survivor of Bataan Death March dies at 105

NASHVILLE — A World War II veteran recognized as the oldest living survivor of the Bataan Death March has died at age 105 in an Illinois nursing home.

His biographer, Kevin Moore, says Albert Brown was recognized as the oldest survivor of the deadly 65-mile trek at an annual survivors’ convention in 2007. His granddaughter says he died Sunday.

Japanese soldiers forced Mr. Brown and 78,000 other prisoners of war to march through the Philippines to a prisoner of war camp in 1942. As many as 11,000 died.

But Mr. Brown survived. When the war ended, he moved to California and rented properties to the era’s biggest Hollywood stars.

Mr. Moore said Monday that Mr. Brown’s story of endurance and hope has as much relevance for today’s wounded warriors as it did for World War II veterans.

NEW JERSEY

Man, 65, jailed for sex assault on Continental jet

NEWARK — A New Jersey man who fondled a sleeping female passenger on a flight from Hong Kong to Newark will spend a year in prison.

Ramesh Advani of Berkeley Heights was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Newark.

Prosecutors say Advani, 65, was seated next to the victim on an overnight Continental Airlines flight in May 2010. Advani admitted he reached under a blanket covering the woman and assaulted her. She awoke and alerted the flight crew, and Advani was detained when the plane landed.

Advani had pleaded guilty in April to a charge of abusive sexual contact.

He also has been fined $10,000 and must serve five years of supervised release once he’s freed.

NEW YORK

Vet thrown from coaster receives military funeral

BUFFALO — A double-amputee Iraq war veteran who was thrown to his death from a western New York roller coaster has been laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

About 150 friends and relatives were at the historic Virginia cemetery Monday for Sgt. James Hackemer’s military funeral.

At the solemn service, Sgt. Hackemer’s brigade commander presented a flag to his parents, John and Nancy Hackemer of Gowanda, N.Y.

The 29-year-old father of two, who had lost both legs to a roadside bomb in Iraq, died July 8 when he was flung from his seat on the Ride of Steel coaster at Darien Lake Theme Park. Sgt. Hackemer wasn’t wearing his prosthetic legs on the ride.

A wrongful death suit filed by Sgt. Hackemer’s family against the amusement park is pending.

PENNSYLVANIA

Driver cited in bus crash that injured 14

PHILADELPHIA — Pennsylvania State Police say a Greyhound bus crash that injured 14 people was apparently caused by driver error.

Trooper Glenn Fields says 24-year-old Philadelphia resident Kareem Edward Farmer was cited Monday with two summary offenses in connection with Saturday’s crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

A Greyhound spokesman says 14 of the 18 people aboard were injured, but all were treated and released from hospitals.

The crash happened after the bus, which left out of New York City, had stopped in Philadelphia and traveled about 75 miles westbound on the way to Columbus, Ohio.

A telephone number for Mr. Farmer could not immediately be located. He was cited for leaving his lane and causing a commercial vehicle to overturn.

RHODE ISLAND

So far only 9 same-sex couples get civil unions

PROVIDENCE — Few Rhode Islanders are seeking civil unions more than a month after the state began offering them to same-sex couples. Only nine couples were joined in a civil union in July, the first month licenses were available.

Dawn Euer, a spokeswoman for Marriage Equality Rhode Island, says couples may be skipping civil unions to hold out for true marriage. Her group plans to push gay marriage legislation in the Ocean State again next year.

But Rep. Peter J. Petrarca, the state lawmaker who wrote the civil union bill, says couples may just be trying to figure out if a civil union is right for them.

The state’s General Assembly passed legislation authorizing civil unions this year after a gay-marriage bill stalled.

From wire dispatches and staff reports