TALLAHASSEE — State health officials say 131 people have died from swine flu in Florida.
The Florida Department of Health spokeswoman Susan Smith released the H1N1 death toll Thursday.
Health officials are urging Floridians to seek medical help if they feel sick, to wash hands frequently, practice good hygiene and to stay home if they feel ill.
Florida reports slight decrease in hate crimes
TALLAHASSEE,— The number of hate crimes in Florida dropped slightly in 2008.
Statistics released Thursday by the attorney general’s office show there were 182 hate crimes reported in 2008, compared to 193 the year before.
Nearly half the crimes — 86 offenses — were motivated by the victims’ race. About 21 percent were motivated by the victims’ religion and 19 percent were because of the victims’ sexual orientation.
About 12 percent of the crimes, or 22 offenses, were motivated by the victims’ ethnicity or national origin.
State investigators say inmate death was homicide
FORT LAUDERDALE — Broward sheriff’s investigators say an inmate who died of internal bleeding after less than 24 hours in jail is a homicide victim.
They declined to say Wednesday exactly how 41-year-old Jeffrey Willis was killed, or whether they had any suspects. A day after Willis died, a judge ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to support his arrest or the charges against him.
Fort Lauderdale police arrested Willis in July for alleged trespassing and resisting an officer without violence. The next night, a jail guard found him alone and unresponsive.
Tampa Bay teen loses hand after electric shock, fall
TAMPA — Doctors have amputated the hand of a Tampa Bay-area teenager who was shocked and fell from a telephone pole earlier this month.
A family friend says the doctors removed Alexander Davidson’s left hand on Tuesday after performing several operations over the past few weeks to try and save it.
Davidson had climbed a telephone pole Oct. 1 to take a picture of the sunset when he was shocked and fell to the ground. The fall left him paralyzed from the waist down.
Former deputy accepts plea deal for sexual assault
TAMPA — A former Hillsborough County deputy accused of forcing a woman to perform oral sex on him in his patrol car has reportedly agreed to a plea deal that would require him to serve five years in prison.
An attorney for 37-year-old Raymond Choy said Wednesday that his client has agreed to plead guilty to sexual battery and false imprisonment.
Choy had faced up to 60 years if convicted at trial of sexual battery and kidnapping.
A hit-and-run suspect accused Choy of agreeing to release her from custody if she performed oral sex on him in April 2007. DNA test results later linked Choy to the victim.
Choy’s official sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 10.
Boy allegedly stabs two with hypodermic needle
MARATHON — An 11-year-old boy has been turned over to the Department of Juvenile Justice after authorities charged him with stabbing two 9-year-olds with a hypodermic needle and threatening a third one.
The suspect, who was not named by Monroe County Sheriff’s officials because he is a minor, was standing in a cafeteria line in school last Thursday.
Monroe County Sheriff’s deputies said the suspect stabbed two kids in the buttocks with a hypodermic needle. He then chased a third boy, who ran away and hid. The two victims told a teacher, who found the needle hidden in the suspect’s book..
Man gets probation for not taking boy to hospital
ORLANDO— A Florida man got 5 years probation for his part in failing to take his girlfriend’s son to the hospital after he became unresponsive.
Orange Circuit Court Judge Bob LeBlanc on Thursday also ordered Clarence Lee, 22, to 80 hours of community service. Lee was initially charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child, but he pleaded no contest to child neglect.
The 4-year-old boy’s mother, Maritza Meade, pleaded guilty to the same charge.
Lee was wrestling with the boy when he fainted and became unresponsive. They decided not to take him to the hospital. They reported he was fine the next few days but then became unresponsive.
A doctor for the defense found he had pre-existing bleeding in the brain that contributed to his death, authorities said.
— Herald wire services