2/22 FLORIDA BRIEFS: Killer gets death in beheading

TALLAHASSEE -- A man found guilty in the 2007 decapitation murder of a Georgia nurse has been sentenced to death.

A Tallahassee jury deliberated for about an hour Monday before reaching its decision on 64-year-old Gary Michael Hilton.

Hilton was found guilty last week in the killing of 46-year-old Cheryl Dunlap.

He was earlier sentenced to life in prison in exchange for a guilty plea in the murder of 24-year-old Meredith Emerson.

The headless bodies of both women were found in forests where Hilton camped in northern Georgia and the Florida Panhandle.

Orange County deputy arrested on DUI charge

KISSIMMEE -- A central Florida deputy has been arrested for allegedly driving drunk.

Orange County Deputy Richard Perez was off duty and driving his personal vehicle when he was pulled over early Monday in neighboring Osceola County. He was relieved of duty on the scene and his law enforcement credentials were taken away.

Service held for teen killed in rodeo accident

RIVERVIEW -- Hundreds of students turned out for a sunrise memorial service for a Tampa Bay teen killed in a bull-riding accident.

Brooke Ann Coats died Friday after being thrown from a bull and kicked in the chest. The Riverview High School sophomore was riding at the 301 Rodeo in Tampa. She was able to stand and walk out of the ring, but then had trouble breathing and collapsed.

Grief counselors were available at the high school Monday.

The Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office says its investigation continues.

Miami police chief will meet families of 7 shot

MIAMI -- Miami’s police chief is meeting with the families of seven men his officers have shot and killed since early last year.

All but two were armed. They were all shot in confrontations in Miami’s black neighborhoods.

Cmdr. Delrish Moss says Chief Miguel Exposito will meet privately with the men’s families. Moss says Exposito will reveal some details about the shootings and outline how police shooting investigations unfold.

Critics have blasted Exposito for revealing little about the shootings. Miami-Dade County prosecutors are still reviewing the shootings to determine whether the officers broke any laws.

Rust-colored substance off Panhandle is algae

MIRAMAR BEACH -- A rust-colored substance found in the waters off the Florida Panhandle has been confirmed to be algae, not oil.

The Walton County Sheriff’s Office was notified about a possible oil sighting in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday.

Sheriff’s spokesman Mike Morrison says scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tested the substance. They determined that it was algae.

The algae is expected to clear up in a few days.

Mom makes son wear sign announcing 1.22 GPA

TAMPA -- A Tampa mother is defending her decision to stick her teenage son on a street corner with a sign that said, among other things, “GPA 1.22 ... honk if I need education.”

Ronda Holder says she and the boy’s father have tried everything to get their 15-year-old to shape up academically. They’ve offered help, asked to see homework, grounded and lectured him, confiscated his cell phone. James Mond III’s indifference at a school meeting last week was the final straw. The next day, Holder made the sign and made her son wear it for nearly four hours.

Experts criticized the move as humiliating and ineffective, and someone reported Holder to the Department of Children and Families. Holder insists she’s fighting for herchild’s education.

Repairs under way in Key West’s historic cemetery

KEY WEST -- Some renovations are under way in Key West’s historic cemetery.

Fifty marble or concrete grave stones are being repaired. Next weekend, construction crews will begin rebuilding four grave shelters that protect family plots.

Bruce Neff of the Key West Historic Marker Tour says the grave shelters are thought to be unique to this city at the very end of the Florida Keys. The tin-roofed, wooden shelters were built in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. They protected the remains of the dead, as well as the living who came to plant flowers around the graves, from the harsh sun or inclement weather.

The Historic Florida Keys Foundation has been running classified ads to find descendants of the families buried under the shelters.

-- Herald wire services