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NATION IN BRIEF

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Survivor of Hate Crime Jumps From Ship, Dies

HOUSTON -- A teenager who survived a brutal beating and later testified before Congress in support of a hate-crimes bill died Sunday after jumping from a cruise ship into the Gulf of Mexico, his father said.

David Ritcheson, 18, was beaten unconscious and sodomized with a plastic pole during an April 2006 party at which one of his assailants shouted, "White power!" He was hospitalized for more than three months and endured 20 to 30 operations, declining to get counseling after the attack. Two men were convicted of aggravated sexual assault in the attack.

David Henry Tuck, then 18, was sentenced to life in prison. Keith Robert Turner, then 17, was sentenced to 90 years in prison. Each must serve at least 30 years before being eligible for parole.

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· MIAMI -- A Rockville man was rescued off the Florida coast after he jumped from a cruise ship while apparently drunk, authorities said. Scott Durrin, 29, and three friends had been drinking when he decided to get into one of the ship's lifeboats, FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela said. "He took the ax and was struggling to cut the ropes" and then jumped into the water when a security officer tried to get him out of the raft, she said. Durrin fell about 36 feet into the water about 50 miles off the coast of Boca Raton. Crew members aboard the Liberty threw life rings and life jackets over the side. Coast Guard crews located Durrin about an hour later.

· TOLEDO -- The mother of a condemned inmate whose execution took almost 90 minutes -- an hour longer than is typical -- sued the head of Ohio's prisons, calling on the state to change the way it carries out death sentences. Prison staff had problems finding a usable vein on Joseph Clark in May 2006, and a vein they used collapsed. The state changed its lethal injection process after Clark's execution to ensure that veins can be found more carefully and quickly to avoid similar delays, a prison spokeswoman said. But this May, an execution team struggled to find veins in another inmate's arm. Christopher Newton died nearly two hours after the scheduled start of his execution.

· CANTON, Ohio -- Prosecutors accused a woman of helping dispose of the body of a pregnant woman who authorities say was slain by her boyfriend, a police officer. Previously, investigators had said Myisha Ferrell lied to authorities investigating the deaths of Jessie Davis and her fetus, but they had not given details. Ferrell, charged with obstruction of justice, is a former high school classmate of Bobby Cutts Jr., the police officer accused of killing Davis and the girl she planned to name Chloe.

· CHICAGO -- A Roman Catholic priest accused of fondling young boys pleaded guilty to five counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and was sentenced to five years in prison. The Rev. Daniel McCormack, 38, was accused of abusing five boys, ages 8 to 12, in the rectory of the church where he served as parish priest.

· OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Kansas officials said they are trying to contain damage from a significant oil refinery spill that occurred over the weekend as raging floodwaters wreaked havoc through the southeast part of the state. Environmental Protection Agency officials said they had not yet determined the amount of oil that escaped Coffeyville Resources, a 108,000 barrel-per-day refinery in Coffeyville that has 2.7 million barrels of storage for crude oil and refined products.

· A commander in Colombia's main rebel group was sentenced to nearly 17 years in U.S. prison on cocaine charges. Anayibe Rojas Valderama was convicted in a Washington federal court of exporting cocaine to the United States to finance the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). She goes by the nom de guerre "Sonia." The United States considers the FARC, which has been battling to topple the Colombian government for 40 years, a terrorist organization.

· SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. -- Firefighters have fully contained a weeklong fire at California's Lake Tahoe after it destroyed more than 250 buildings and consumed 3,100 acres of dry forest, officials said.

-- From News Services

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