Judge refuses to set aside death sentence

FORT LAUDERDALE — A Broward County circuit judge refused a convicted killer’s request to set aside his murder conviction and death sentence for a 1983 slaying.

John Richard Marek, 47, was convicted of the June 1983 kidnapping, raping and strangling of Adella Marie Simmons.

Circuit Judge Jeffrey Levenson issued his ruling to the Florida Supreme Court on Friday. He wrote that evidence presented during a hearing did not offset the overall evidence against Marek.

The Supreme Court now has the final say on Marek’s fate.

Man wanted in killings arrested in north Florida

ORANGE PARK — A man authorities believe is connected to three Orlando slayings has been arrested by federal agents and Orlando police in north Florida.

The U.S. Marshal’s Florida Regional Task Force reports that 30-year-old Alex Smart was wanted on two counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder. He was arrested Monday after hiding in an attic of a house in Orange Park.

He is suspected in the July 30 shooting at the Palms Apartments in Orlando.

Mother, stepfather arrested in teen’s death

NORTH PORT — The parents of a Sarasota County teenager have been charged with child neglect in the boy’s death.

North Port police found the body of 15-year-old Nikolas Block Friday night in a motel room. Authorities said they don’t suspect foul play, and drugs may have been involved. Toxicology reports have not been completed.

Authorities said Nikolas was staying at the motel with his mother, Linda Courtright, and stepfather, Billy Jack Courtright. The two were arrested Sunday on charges of child neglect. Billy Courtright also faces charges of distributing a controlled substance to a minor.

Orlando airport to get $15 million in stimulus

ORLANDO — Orlando International Airport is getting a little more money.

Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano was in Orlando Monday to announce $15 million in funding for the airport. The money was part of the economic stimulus legislation signed by President Obama in February.

The money will be used to build two new inline baggage handling systems. Airport officials say the systems will accelerate passenger check in and improve the airport’s screening capabilities.

Coast Guard seizes $2.3 million of marijuana

MIAMI — The Coast Guard says it has seized nearly 1,250 pounds of marijuana worth about $2.5 million off the coast of Miami.

Crew members from the Coast Guard Cutter Dolphin located a vessel traveling west from Bimini, Bahamas. The crew boarded the vessel to conduct an initial safety inspection and made a plain view discovery of the marijuana.

The Coast Guard says it offloaded the 115 bricks of marijuana June 13.

The two suspected smugglers aboard the vessel were detained and transferred to U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents. .

The vessel and the marijuana were transferred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Religion heats debate for new turnpike interchange

BOCA RATON — Florida’s Turnpike officials and some residents in Boca Raton are clashing over a proposed SunPass interchange because of religious concerns.

Turnpike officials say Palmetto Park Road is the best location for a $119 million interchange to relieve congestion in the area. But residents who live near the road say an interchange there would impact the community’s large population of Orthodox Jews, who walk on the Sabbath and other Jewish holidays.

Fla. Keys to get new $19 million trail

KEY WEST — The Department of Environmental Protection will spend $19 million over the next two years on trails throughout the Florida Keys.

Officials say the goal is to provide a continuous biking and running trail from Mile Marker 106 in Key Largo to Mile Marker 0 in Key West by 2013.

According to state statistics, 414,724 bicyclists and pedestrians used existing trails from Stock Island to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in the first four months of this year.

The DEP is also working with local businesses along U.S. 1 not to block their driveways or access.

— Herald wire reports