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American Scene

- - Thursday, September 15, 2011

FLORIDA

Anthony must pay almost $100K for probe

ORLANDO — Casey Anthony must pay almost $100,000 in law enforcement costs for the investigation into the death of her 2-year-old daughter, a Florida judge ruled Thursday.

Circuit Judge Belvin Perry Jr.'s ruling fell well short of the more than $500,000 prosecutors and law enforcement agencies in Orlando sought during a hearing earlier this month.

Prosecutors had asked that Miss Anthony be forced to pay those costs because she lied repeatedly to investigators who were searching for her missing toddler, Caylee, in summer 2008. The judge said the costs should cover only the period when detectives were investigating a missing person and not the homicide investigation — a sum of $97,676.

Miss Anthony, 25, was acquitted in July of murdering Caylee, but she was convicted of four misdemeanor counts of lying to authorities. She told officers a baby sitter had kidnapped the child. Authorities later learned the baby sitter never existed.

Miss Anthony has appealed her misdemeanor convictions. Judge Perry denied requests that she be ordered to pay for prosecutors' costs of pressing the murder charges and said they were entitled to just $50.

GEORGIA

CDC: Lung cancer rates fall, led by Western states

ATLANTA — The West is leading a national decline in the rate of new lung cancer cases, with states including California and Nevada accounting for much of the improvement, particularly among women.

Smoking rates in the West have long been lower, and that's credited for the good health news for that region. Roughly 90 percent of lung cancer cases are attributed to smoking.

Lung cancer rates for men have been declining for years, but the drop among women is much more recent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that lung cancer rates for women decreased nationally about 2 percent from 2006 to 2008, the last year studied. The rate for women in select Western states fell about 4 percent in the same period.

Declines among men were similar, including a 4 percent decline in the West and about a 3 percent drop nationally.

MICHIGAN

Father of 3 boys sentenced to 10-15 years

ADRIAN — A Michigan man suspected of killing his three young sons, who have been missing since visiting his home on Thanksgiving, was sentenced to up to 15 years in prison on Thursday, a punishment that will keep him behind bars while police pursue murder charges.

Before hearing his sentence, John Skelton told Lenawee County Circuit Judge Margaret M.S. Noe that he has cried every day since he last saw his sons. He and his ex-wife were going through a bitter divorce and she had been granted sole custody of the boys. Skelton insists he gave them to a group to protect them from their mother, but he has refused to identify the group.

Judge Noe sentenced him to 10 to 15 years in prison, a stiffer penalty than the four to 12 years the state recommends for the unlawful-imprisonment charge to which he pleaded no contest in July.

The unlawful imprisonment charge pertains to Skelton's failure to return the boys to his ex-wife the day after Thanksgiving.

NORTH CAROLINA

Stepmom sentenced in disabled girl's murder

NEWTON — A North Carolina woman will spend up to 18 years in prison after pleading guilty Thursday to murdering her disabled 10-year-old stepdaughter, nearly a year after freckle-faced Zahra Baker's disappearance and death shocked communities here and in her native Australia.

Elisa Baker, 43, entered the courtroom wearing a hot-pink jail jumpsuit and handcuffs. She sat between two defense attorneys and teared up before pleading guilty to second-degree murder with aggravating factors that included desecrating the body of Zahra Baker, who used a prosthetic leg and hearing aids after a struggle with bone cancer.

Baker also pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in the case and to charges unrelated to Zahra's death, including obtaining property by false pretenses, financial identity fraud and bigamy.

Adam Baker, Zahra's father and Elisa's husband, was present in the courtroom. Mr. Baker, who came to the U.S. with his daughter after meeting Elisa online, faces multiple criminal charges of his own, although none is related to his daughter's death.

From wire dispatches and staff reports