STARKE, Fla. (AP) - The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a stay of execution for a Florida inmate who orchestrated the 1987 ambush murder of a prison guard, then published three books and maintained a blog while on death row.
William Van Poyck (pronounced poyk) is set to die by lethal injection at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Florida State Prison for the murder of prison guard Fred Griffis. His case garnered international attention because Van Poyck went on to write books.
The 58-year-old Van Poyck declined a final meal and visited Wednesday with his sister, four friends and a spiritual adviser.
Van Poyck and Frank Valdes ambushed a prison van outside a West Palm Beach doctor's office in a failed attempt to free their friend, James O'Brien. Griffis was fatally shot.
ILLINOIS (AP) - Another governor is trying to lure away Illinois companies.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott sent a letter to Illinois' top 100 companies this week asking them to buy a "one way" ticket to Florida. The Republican says Florida is undergoing "an incredible economic turnaround" and touts the state's credit ratings.
Scott also scrutinizes Illinois' high taxes, including a 2011 income tax increase.
His letter comes the same week Texas Gov. Rick Perry was in Chicago trying to poach companies. Perry says he wants to spark a competition between the states and has criticized Illinois' nearly $100 billion in pension debt.
Governors from Indiana, Wisconsin and New Jersey have made similar attempts.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has dismissed them as publicity attempts and says Illinois is a great place to do business.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida's craft brewers are pushing to legalize 64-ounce beer growlers.
Growlers are the name given to beer containers filled right at the brewery. While the state's craft brewers can sell unlimited numbers of gallon and quart growlers, Florida is one of only three states where the half-gallon size is illegal.
Bills have been filed in the House and Senate to legalize the containers, but a lobbyist representing beer distributors for Anheuser-Busch has successfully stalled them.
The bills' sponsors argue that allowing the half-gallon growlers that are an industry standard will help small businesses grow, and they point out that it's silly that people can by two quarts, but not one half gallon.
Pascoe County sheriff's spokeswoman Melanie Snow said the two men took part with 20 other people Saturday in jumps in Zephyrhills, about 30 miles northeast of Tampa. Authorities say a search began when only 20 of the 22 skydivers returned.
Snow said the bodies were founded near each other Saturday evening in woods south of the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport. She would not comment whether their parachutes of the skydivers had opened, saying that was part of the investigation.
The spokeswoman later said the dead were identified as 41-year-old instructor Orvar Arnarson and 25-year-old student Andrimar Pordarson. No hometowns were given.
The search for Jeff Bush, 37, was called off Saturday, and a heavy machine with a large bucket scoop was moved into position Sunday on what was believed to be solid ground. The 20-foot-wide opening of the sinkhole was almost covered by the house, and rescuers said there were no signs of life since the hole opened Thursday night.
Jeremy Bush, the man who tried to save his brother, was escorted with a woman by a deputy to the front of the house early Sunday before equipment moved into position. He repositioned some flowers from a makeshift memorial to a safer location, where Bush and the unidentified women knelt in prayer.
People gathered on lawn chairs, bundled up with blankets against unusually chilly weather. Several dozen milled about within view, including officials and reporters.
Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill said officials had talked to Bush family Sunday. Crews would try their best to move the structure forward, toward the street, so the family can get some belongings, Merrill said.
"We don't know, in fact, whether it will collapse or whether it will hold up," he said.
He said crews' goal for Sunday is to knock down the house, and on Monday they will clear the debris as much as possible to allow officials and engineers to see the sinkhole in the open.
Bush was in his bedroom Thursday night in Seffner - a suburb of 8,000 people 15 miles east of downtown Tampa - when the ground opened and took him and everything else in his room. Five others in the house escape unharmed as the earth crumbled.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is conducting the investigation. Detective Larry McKinnon said that sheriff's office and the county medical examiner cannot declare Bush dead if his body is still missing. Under Florida law, Bush's family must petition a court to declare him deceased.
"Based on the circumstances, he's presumed dead, however the official death certificate can only be issued by a judge and the family has to petition the court," McKinnon said.
Jeff Bush, 37, was in his bedroom Thursday night when the earth opened and took him and everything else in his room. Five other people were in the house but managed to escape unharmed. Bush's brother jumped into the hole to try to help, but he had to be rescued himself by a sheriff's deputy.
Engineers were expected at the home to do more tests after sunrise Saturday. They spent the previous day on the property, taking soil samples and running various tests - while acknowledging that the entire lot was dangerous. No one was allowed in the home.
"I cannot tell you why it has not collapsed yet," Bill Bracken, the owner of an engineering company called to assess the sinkhole, said of the home. He described the earth below as a "very large, very fluid mass."
"This is not your typical sinkhole," said Hillsborough County administrator Mike Merrill. "This is a chasm. For that reason, we're being very deliberate."
Officials delicately addressed another sad reality: Bush was likely dead and the family wanted his body. Merrill, though, said they didn't want to jeopardize any more lives.
"They would like us to go in quickly and locate Mr. Bush," Merrill said.
Two adjacent houses were evacuated and officials were considering further evacuations. Even the media was moved from a lawn across the street to a safer area a few hundred feet away.
"This is a very complex situation," said Hillsborough County Fire Chief Ron Rogers. "It's continuing to evolve and the ground is continuing to collapse."
Sinkholes are so common in Florida that state law requires home insurers to provide coverage against the danger. While some cars, homes and other buildings have been devoured, it's extremely rare for them to swallow a person.
Florida is highly prone to sinkholes because there are caverns below ground of limestone, a porous rock that easily dissolves in water.
"You can almost envision a piece of Swiss cheese," Taylor Yarkosky, a sinkhole expert from Brooksville, Fla., said while gesturing to the ground and the sky blue home where the earth opened in Seffner. "Any house in Florida could be in that same situation."
A sinkhole near Orlando grew to 400 feet across in 1981 and devoured five sports cars, most of two businesses, a three-bedroom house and the deep end of an Olympic-size swimming pool.
More than 500 sinkholes have been reported in Hillsborough County alone since the government started keeping track in 1954, according to the state's environmental agency.
The sinkhole, estimated at 20 feet across and 20 feet deep, caused the home's concrete floor to cave in around 11 p.m. Thursday as everyone in the Tampa-area house was turning in for the night. It gave way with a loud crash that sounded like a car hitting the house and brought Bush's brother running.
Jeremy Bush said he jumped into the hole but couldn't see his brother and had to be rescued himself by a sheriff's deputy who reached out and pulled him to safety as the ground crumbled around him.
"The floor was still giving in and the dirt was still going down, but I didn't care. I wanted to save my brother," Jeremy Bush said through tears Friday in a neighbor's yard. "But I just couldn't do nothing."
He added: "I could swear I heard him hollering my name to help him."
A dresser and the TV set had vanished down the hole, along with most of Bush's bed.
A sheriff's deputy who was the first to respond to a frantic 911 call said when he arrived, he saw Jeremy Bush.
Deputy Douglas Duvall said he reached down as if he was "sticking his hand into the floor" to help Jeremy Bush. Duvall said he didn't see anyone else in the hole.
As he pulled Bush out, "everything was sinking," Duvall said.
Engineers said they may have to demolish the small house, even though from the outside there appeared to be nothing wrong with the four-bedroom, concrete-wall structure, built in 1974.
Jeremy Bush said someone came out to the home a couple of months ago to check for sinkholes and other things, apparently for insurance purposes.
"He said there was nothing wrong with the house. Nothing. And a couple of months later, my brother dies. In a sinkhole," Bush said.