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DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AGENCY-INVESTIGATION

Domestic violence agency's CFO cashed in on paid time off

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The chief financial officer of a nonprofit domestic violence agency says she cashed in 15 weeks of paid time off given to her two days before a recent fiscal year ended. Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence CFO Patricia Duarte told a House committee Thursday that she was awarded the 75 days of paid time off in 2018 and was told she could cash it in over the following two days or save it for a future date. She cashed it in. The coalition is under investigation for exorbitant executive compensation.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-FLORIDA

Florida officials express caution -- not panic -- over virus

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is reassuring his state that health officials are prepared for any cases of a new strain of coronavirus that has already killed thousands abroad. At a Thursday morning news conference, the governor said there were no confirmed infections in Florida from the virus known as COVID-19. State health officials are attempting to calm fears, but critics say state officials aren't being forthcoming about any suspected cases in the state. Meanwhile, some colleges and universities have canceled trips abroad as precautions. A key business analyst said this week that the state should be “concerned but not panicked” about the outbreak's threat to the Florida economy.

FAMILY KILLED-FLORIDA

Police: Florida man killed mom, stepsister in knife attack

LARGO, Fla. (AP) — Investigators say a Florida man is accused of attacking his mother and stepsister with a knife and killing them. A man called 911 around 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday and told the dispatcher that his son was attacking two family members inside their apartment in Largo, which is near St. Petersburg,  When officers arrived at the apartment, they found one woman dead and a younger woman severely injured. She was taken to a hospital, where she later died. Police haven't release their names. But 49-year-old Wiley Mackenzie was arrested and taken to jail. He's charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

BANANA ART-PROTEST

Charge dropped against artist who wrote on art-banana wall

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Charges have been dropped against an artist who scrawled a red message about sex offender Jeffrey Epstein on a wall where an artist had previously duct-taped a banana. Artist Rod Webber walked out of a Miami courthouse Thursday and declared victory as he took a bite out of a banana, peel and all. He says the case has been dismissed. He was charged with criminal mischief in December when he wrote in lipstick, “Epstien didn't kill himself," on a blank wall where another artist had duct-taped a banana that sold for over $100,000 and was widely parodied on social media.

FLORIDA MAYOR-DEATH

Medical examiner: Wilton Manors mayor died of brain aneurysm

WILTON MANORS, Fla. (AP) — A medical examiner has determined that Wilton Manors Mayor Justin Flippen died of a brain aneurysm. Officials say Flippen was on his way to Tuesday night's commission meeting when police received a call for medical assistance. Officers found 41-year-old Flippen unresponsive in his vehicle. They began CPR and paramedics rushed him to a hospital, where he died. The city commission meeting began without Flippen and was abruptly adjourned a short time later. Flippen was elected mayor in 2018. He had previously served on the city commission as well. City officials say a celebration of life is being planned.

BODY IN TRUNK

Woman in custody after body found in trunk

TITUSVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Police say the body of a Florida woman missing since last Friday was found in the trunk of a car in Tennessee and a suspect was taken into custody. A statement from police in Titusville, Florida, says investigators identified the body found Wednesday as Anna Primavere. The body was discovered by police in Lebanon, Tennessee, after the execution of a search warrant. Police say the car's owner, 27-year-old Courtney Dawn Gibson, turned herself in on Thursday. Titusville police said they think Primavere was killed Friday and Gibson left the area Saturday and went to her parents' home in Tennessee.

DISNEY-BOAT EVACUATED

Guests evacuated after boat at Disney World takes on water

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A boat filled with guests at Walt Disney World had to be evacuated after it took on water. No one was hurt, and the passengers aboard the Jungle Cruise boat got off the vessel safely Thursday. Firefighters from the resort's private government were called to the scene at the Magic Kingdom. The attraction was opened a short time later. Disney officials didn't say how many passengers were on the boat or what caused it to take on water. A photo posted on Twitter by a passenger showed other passengers standing on seats with water covering the boat's bottom.

ELECTION 2020-LABOR UNION

Labor union unveils $150M campaign to help defeat Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — One of the nation’s largest labor unions is unveiling plans to invest $150 million in a nationwide campaign to help defeat President Donald Trump. The sweeping effort is focused on eight battleground states and voters of color who typically don’t vote. The investment marks the largest voter engagement and turnout operation in the history of the Service Employees International Union, which claims nearly 2 million members. The campaign will span 40 states and target 6 million voters focused largely in Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. Union president Mary Kay Henry says Trump is “systematically unwinding and attacking unions.”

AP-CRIMINAL JUSTICE-FLORIDA

Senate passes bill to give judges flexibility in drug cases

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida judges would have more flexibility in sentencing people convicted of possessing or selling small amounts of drugs under a bill passed by the Florida Senate. The Senate passed the bill Wednesday on a 39-1 vote. It would allow judges to deviate from mandatory minimum sentences in low-level drug cases if the defendant didn't have previous drug convictions.  The defendant would also have to provide law enforcement with information and evidence about the crime itself.

CORAL RESTORATION

UAE grants $3.5M for reef restoration in Florida Keys

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) — The government of the United Arab Emirates has granted a $3.5 million gift to help kick off a major coral reef restoration program in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The grant was announced Wednesday by officials of United Way of Collier and the Keys. It is the first funding commitment of the $100 million Mission: Iconic Reefs program announced last December by The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its Keys sanctuary. The program calls for restoring seven iconic coral reef sites off the Keys. The effort is likely to take two decades.