Florida Begins to Brace

For Two Tropical Storms

TALLAHASSEE -- State officials began preparing for Tropical Storm Bonnie to push into the Florida Panhandle by noon Thursday, possibly followed by Tropical Storm Charley on Florida's west coast a few days later.

Bonnie was chugging along in a northerly direction at 6 mph Tuesday evening, more than 300 miles from landfall, the National Hurricane Center reported.

The state's emergency operations director, Craig Fugate, said the storm's 60-mph winds could intensify overnight and reach hurricane status.

Charley, meanwhile, was moving quickly across the Caribbean Sea toward Jamaica, but was expected to curve to the north Wednesday or Thursday, forecasters said. A hurricane center forecast chart showed Charley possibly moving up the western side of Florida on Friday. Authorities said portions of the Florida Keys could fall under warnings Wednesday or Thursday.

* PORT ALLEN, La. -- Jurors convicted Derrick Todd Lee, 35, of second-degree murder in the death of Geralyn DeSoto, 21. DNA evidence links Lee to the deaths of seven south Louisiana women, and he faces at least three more trials.

* BOSTON -- A federal appeals court upheld the corruption conviction of former Providence, R.I., mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci, who is serving a five-year sentence for racketeering conspiracy.

* HIDALGO, Tex. -- A carload of illegal immigrants speeding away from the Mexican border plunged into an irrigation canal and overturned, killing eight illegal immigrants and their alleged smuggler, state troopers said. A ninth undocumented migrant survived.

* LOUISVILLE -- Rep. John N. Hostettler (R-Ind.) pleaded guilty to a charge of bringing a loaded gun to the airport and received a suspended 60-day sentence.

* BISMARCK, N.D. -- A train loaded with corn derailed, spilling its cargo, damaging tracks and disrupting Amtrak service between Chicago and Seattle. A Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokesman said 31 of the 110 cars jumped the tracks.

* COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Three children found dead in the ruins of their burned home had their throats slashed before one of their parents set the fire, authorities said. The father of Denia Meza, 14; Denise Meza, 8; and Jayro Meza, 5, had recently been accused of molesting one of the children. Autopsies determined that the father, Jose Denis Meza, 39, and mother, Marbely Zeldon Meza, 30, died from smoke inhalation and burns.

* INDIANAPOLIS -- Prosecutors accused a house painter of starting a fire in the back of a truck by flicking a lighter near paint thinner to annoy a co-worker, fatally burning Otis Turner, 46, and John "Jay" Webster III, 30. Tommy McElroy, 27, faces two counts of reckless homicide and one count of criminal recklessness.

* MINNEAPOLIS -- A woman was arrested after attempting to board a flight to Syria with more than $24,000 in cash hidden in her clothes, officials said. Amneh Ahmad Abbas, 49, a Syrian citizen who lives in New Orleans, was charged with trying to evade currency reporting requirements.

-- From News Services