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Regional News: Ala Shooting Deaths; Fla Drowning; Mom Accused of Trying to Drown Her Children

By: ap
By: ap
Man, 91, and wife, 88, found shot to death in Ala home... Coast Guard suspends search for missing Mobile man... Ala runway

This booking photo released by the Volusia (Fla.) County Division of Corrections shows Ebony Wilkerson. Wilkerson, accused of driving a minivan carrying her three young children into the ocean surf off Florida, was charged Friday, March 7, 2014, with attempted first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse, though she has denied trying to harm anyone, authorities said. (AP Photo/Volusia (Fla.) County Corrections)

ASHFORD, Ala. (AP) -- Authorities in southeast Alabama are investigating the gunshot deaths of a man and his wife, whose bodies were found in a home near Ashford.
Houston County Coroner Robert Byrd identified the couple as 91-year-old Laurence Dantzer and his 88-year-old wife, Phyllis Dantzer.
Houston County Sheriff Andy Hughes tells The Dothan Eagle that deputies responded to the single-story home in the Loveland community around 9 a.m. Saturday. They found both people with fatal gunshot wounds.
Byrd said authorities believe the shooting likely happened sometime during the early morning hours Saturday. He said the home is about three miles south of Ashford.

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) -- U.S. Coast Guard officials say they have suspended their search for a man who apparently slipped into the ocean from a fishing boat nearly 60 miles south of Mobile Bay.
A spokesman for the Coast Guard says 35-year-old Benjamin Sorrells was leaning over the side of the fishing vessel AC III when he fell overboard Thursday evening.
Crew members on the fishing boat tried to rescue Sorrells but failed. He was wearing blue jeans but didn't have a life jacket on.
Coast Guard officials said in a statement Saturday that the search was being suspended.
They said rescue crews searched for 34 hours and covered more than 1,980 square miles.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- The nation's largest regional passenger airline is advising pilots to avoid landing on the runway where a UPS cargo jet crashed in Birmingham. ExpressJet Airlines issued the guidance after an internal review that followed the UPS accident last year. The alert was dated in September.

Police probe vandalism at senior center garden
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Police in Birmingham are investigating vandalism at a vegetable garden tended by older adults.
Officials at the Shepherd Center East say vandals broke apart a cement bench, stole another bench, toppled some planters and pulled up some cement stepping stones. They got in by cutting part of a chain-link fence that surrounds the garden.
WBRC-TV reports that the non-profit center provides a place for active seniors to engage in the community and with each other.
Shepherd Center East Director Mackie Horowitz said the garden was funded by local agencies, businesses and the city. She says the damages are estimated to cost $500 to $1,000 -- and they are repairs the center can't afford.

MULBERRY, Fla. (AP) -- A plane became entangled in the strings of a skydiver's parachute, sending both crashing into the ground near Tampa, Fla., with both the pilot and jumper hospitalized with minor injuries.
Polk County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Carrie Eleazer says 87-year-old pilot Shannon Trembley was doing takeoff and landing maneuvers Saturday in his Cessna at the South Lakeland Airport in Mulberry.
On his third landing pass, the wing of his plane became entangled in the strings of 49-year-old Gainesville skydiver John Frost's parachute about 75 feet above the ground.
Frost was flung to the ground, and Trembley's plan nose-dived to the surface as well.
Eleazer says neither sustained serious injury, but went to the hospital. Frost was treated and released. Trembley was held for observation.
The National Transportation Safety Board and FAA are investigating.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- The investigation into the death of a woman at her house in an upscale enclave of Tallahassee has dragged on for two weeks with no answers.
Samira Frasch was found dead Feb. 22 at the bottom of a swimming pool at her home. The cause of death has not been announced. Her estranged husband, podiatrist Adam Frasch, has been questioned but denies any involvement.
Samira Frasch filed for divorce in September after four years of marriage, temporarily gaining custody of the house and the couple's two young children.
She told friends she had worked as a model in France and was educated at a prestigious Paris university.

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- A Florida judge set a bond of $1.2 million for a pregnant South Carolina woman accused of driving her minivan into the ocean in an attempt to kill her three children.
Volusia County Court spokeswoman Ludmilla Lelis says that 32-year-old Ebony Wilkerson's bond was set Saturday for three charges of attempted murder and three charges of child abuse causing great bodily harm.
Wilkerson was represented by the public defender's office and did not enter a formal plea. But Judge Shirley Green found probable cause for the case to proceed.
An arraignment date was not released.
Wilkerson told police she was not trying to hurt her children, but she was driving too close to the water.
Her children told investigators another story, saying their mother was trying to kill them.
Authorities also say she tried to call off bystanders hustling to rescue her three screaming children from the water that was rushing in through the windows.

TITUSVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- A Titusville woman has been sentenced to 40 years in prison after being convicted of nearly starving to death a child under her watch.
Florida Today reports (http://on.flatoday.com/1il1NHC ) that Sharon Glass was sentenced Friday despite a tearful plea for forgiveness. Her 90-year-old father also spoke on her behalf. Prior to imposing sentence, Judge David Dugan called Glass's conduct in abusing a 12-year-old boy calculated and evil.
Glass was convicted in January of seven felonies connected to the abuse. The child was found weighing 40 pounds when he was discovered by authorities in 2012. The boy in the case is the son of Glass's boyfriend, who faces similar charges.
If Glass completes her prison sentence she will have to serve another 30 years of probation.

ALZHEIMER'S-FATAL SHOOTING
Woman doubted man was threat before Ga. shooting
ATLANTA (AP) -- The girlfriend of the man who mistakenly killed a disoriented Alzheimer's patient said she had doubts the stranger at her home was a threat just before the shooting.
The woman described the events leading to the shooting of 72-year-old Ronald Westbrook in documents released to The Associated Press under Georgia's open records law.
Westbrook suffered from dementia and wandered away from his home early Nov. 27.
He walked to the home where Joe Hendrix was staying with his then-girlfriend, rang the doorbell and tried opening the door. The woman called 911. Hendrix ultimately went outside and shot the man.
The woman said that she did not consider the stranger "a big deal" and warned Hendrix that he appeared to be an old man.

NTSB: Police chopper too low, likely causing crash
ATLANTA (AP) -- Federal investigators have determined an Atlanta police helicopter likely crashed -- killing both officers on board -- because the pilot was flying too low and was unable to see and avoid a power pole and wires during a search for a missing child.
After a 16-month investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board determined the probable cause of the Nov. 3, 2012 accident in a report released this week.
The NTSB's report states that the likely cause was the pilot's failure to maintain sufficient altitude, which resulted in the crash in a southwest Atlanta neighborhood. The chopper went down, then burst into flames as the officers searched for a 9-year-old boy who had run away.
The pilot, 48-year-old Richard J. Halford; and 40-year-old tactical flight officer Shawn A. Smiley were killed.

1st blind hiker to trek Appalachian Trail dies
SEBEC, Maine (AP) -- Bill Irwin, the first blind hiker to complete the Appalachian Trail without assistance, has died in Maine at the age of 73.
A posting on Irwin's website says he died of prostate cancer on March 1, the anniversary of the start of his historic 1990 journey.
In November 1990, Irwin arrived at a campground in Millinocket, Maine, with his sole companion, his guide dog Orient. After nine months and 2,167 miles, he became the first blind person to make the solo hike from Georgia to Maine.
At the time, he said he felt "an indescribable feeling of gratitude" and credited his faith for carrying him along the trail.
A memorial service was set for Saturday in Bangor.
Irwin is survived by his wife, Debra, and four children.

Police seek car suspected of Savannah vandalism
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) -- Police in Savannah have obtained surveillance video of a car seen spinning circles in a park that honor soldiers killed and wounded in the 1779 Battle of Savannah during the American Revolution.
Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police say the purple or dark blue Ford Mustang fastback is believed to be responsible for vandalism that left as much as $25,000 in damage to the Soldiers Stone Monument at Battlefield Memorial Park on March 2. The monument features 800 granite stones that sit atop submerged pylons and represent those who died or were wounded.
Authorities say the vandals damaged more than 70 stones. Thirty-five of them had to be removed completely, officials have said.
The car appears purple in the video, but may be a color the Ford Motor Co. calls "vista blue."


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