CALIFORNIA
Forest fire continues to ravage Orange County

Firefighters worked Friday to keep a growing Southern California forest fire that is feeding on dry brush and trees from reaching foothill neighborhoods a day after flames roared to new ferocity and came within yards of homes.

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) declared a state of emergency for Orange and Riverside counties as the fire carved its way along ridges in the Cleveland National Forest.

Hundreds more firefighters joined the battle, bringing the total to 1,200. The Holy fire in Orange County has chewed through 28 square miles of dense chaparral and is only partly contained. It’s one of nearly 20 blazes burning across the state.

The man accused of setting the 18,000-acre Holy fire made his initial court appearance Friday. Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, made several outbursts during the hearing in Santa Ana, calling the charges against him a “lie” and insisting that he was being threatened, according to City News Service.

When a court commissioner ordered his bail to remain at $1 million, Clark said he could easily afford it. His arraignment was postponed until Aug. 17.

Clark has been charged with multiple counts of arson.

Meanwhile, Yosemite National Park will reopen Tuesday, 14 days after a wildfire choked the park with smoke at the peak of tourist season, officials said Friday.

— Associated Press

NEW YORK
Father held without bail in East River case

A man who fled to Thailand after allegedly tossing his dead 7-month-old son into a river sent a chilling text to the baby’s mother while he was on the run about the fate of the child, prosecutors said Friday.

When the mother asked where her son was, James Currie replied, “You will never see [him] again,” according to a criminal complaint.

Currie, 37, was ordered held without bail Friday in state court in Manhattan, where Assistant District Attorney Shawn McMahon said he had been caught “literally on the other side of the world.” The Bronx father was charged with concealing a human corpse as authorities continued to try to determine a cause of death.

Currie is accused of throwing the lifeless body of his son, Mason Saldana, into the East River near the Brooklyn Bridge on Sunday. A tourist spotted the body and went into the water to retrieve it.

Currie texted the mother on Wednesday, telling her she would never see the child again, the complaint says. It adds that he also wrote “I am not in the USA,” and “The good news is that we will never see each other again.”

— Associated Press

Utah man says slain city worker 'got what she deserved': A Utah man who allegedly shot and killed a city worker, torched her truck and set his neighbor's house on fire told witnesses that he did it after "years of harassment" over cleaning up trash and weeds outside his home, police said Friday. Kevin Wayne Billings, 64, said the code enforcement officer in suburban Salt Lake City "got what she deserved," police said in jail documents. Jill Robinson, 52, was investigating a routine call, officials said. He poured gasoline on her city pickup truck, then set it ablaze Thursday, police said. He also started a fire on his neighbor's deck that spread to their home and destroyed it, killing six dogs and two cats. Billings was arrested on suspicion of aggravated arson, murder and other charges.

Fla. woman killed at drive-through: A Florida woman was ordering food at a McDonald's drive-through when someone walked up and fatally shot her, authorities said. Jacksonville sheriff's officials said the unidentified woman was found in her car Friday morning with at least one gunshot wound. She died at a hospital. It's unclear whether she was targeted.

Police say La. mother stabbed while pushing baby stroller: Police in Louisiana say a mother was pushing her 1-year-old son in a stroller when her boyfriend allegedly stabbed her 29 times and left her to die early Thursday. Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson said Traniel Gray, 35, died of stab wounds to the face, neck and body. The child wasn't hurt and is in the custody of the state Department of Children & Family Services. Gray and Damone Ussin, 41, were seen walking with the stroller on surveillance cameras. Ussin was charged with second-degree murder.

Judge dismisses murder charges for Calif. man: A judge has agreed to dismiss murder charges against a man suspected of killing 10 homeless men in Los Angeles in the 1970s because he has only six months to live. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler dismissed Bobby Joe Maxwell's case on Friday following a request from prosecutors. Maxwell was convicted in the 1980s of two killings, but an appeals court overturned his conviction decades later. In 2013, prosecutors refiled five murder charges against him. Authorities said the 68-year-old, who has been comatose since December, is unlikely to recover.

Judge in Neb. refuses injunction in lethal injection case: A federal judge on Friday refused to block Nebraska from carrying out its first lethal injection despite a German pharmaceutical company's lawsuit that claims the state illicitly obtained its drugs. U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf denied the request to temporarily block state prison officials from executing Carey Dean Moore, one of the nation's longest-serving death row inmates. Moore is scheduled to die Tuesday in Nebraska's first execution since 1997 with a never-before-tried combination of drugs.

— From news services