Cars sit stranded in flood waters along Interstate 17 in Phoenix. (David Kadlubowski/AP)
1963 church bomber Blanton denied parole

The lone surviving Ku Klux Klansman imprisoned for killing four black girls in a church bombing in 1963 will remain behind bars after Alabama’s parole board heeded the victims’ families Wednesday and refused an early release.

The board rejected parole for Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr., 78, who has served 15 years of a life term for being part of a group of Klansmen who planted a bomb outside Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church during the civil rights movement.

Lisa McNair, a sister of bombing victim Denise McNair, was relieved by the decision.

“Justice is served,” she said afterward.

Blanton, who lives in a one-person cell and rarely has contact with other inmates at St. Clair prison, will again be eligible for parole consideration in five years, the board said. The automatic review was the first for Blanton.

Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr., a one-time Ku Klux Klansman convicted in the 1963 church bombing that killed four black girls in Birmingham, Ala. (AP/AP)

Blanton was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison for his role in the Sept. 15, 1963, bombing. The blast killed the 11-year-old McNair and 14-year-olds Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Morris, also known as Cynthia Wesley.

Inmates do not attend parole hearings under Alabama law, and no one showed up to speak on Blanton’s behalf. Opponents took up seats normally reserved for inmates’ relatives, and members of the Birmingham NAACP chapter rode to Montgomery by bus to attend.

— Associated Press

Officials vow to stay committed to Flint over water crisis

Federal, state and local officials said Wednesday that they will remain committed to fixing Flint’s drinking water system after a federal emergency declaration over the city’s lead crisis expires this month.

The declaration ends Aug. 14, after which the state will bear the full cost of bottled water, filters and other water-related supplies being given to residents after tests showed elevated levels of lead in the blood of some local children. But officials said federal resources, health programs and monitoring efforts will remain in place.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s acting regional administrator, Bob Kaplan, said Flint’s water system is now among the best-monitored in the nation. While water quality is improving, he said, the end of the declaration does not change officials’ focus.

“We won’t be at the finish line until testing can confirm that Flint residents are receiving safe, clean drinking water,” Kaplan said in a statement.

— Associated Press

Bank robber seeks prison: Linda P. Thompson has pleaded guilty in federal court after authorities said she robbed a bank in Wyoming so she could return to prison. Thompson told the judge that going back to prison would be like going home. Sentencing was set for Oct. 12.

Death toll in bus crash reduced: A crash that nearly sliced a bus in half on a central California highway killed four people, not the initially reported five, a local sheriff said Wednesday. Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke, who also serves as coroner, gave the new total after canvassing hospitals and checking with coroner’s officials in a neighboring county. He said he knew of no deaths among those taken to hospitals.

— From news services