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GREENVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Chad and Nikki Watson moved around western Kentucky over the years before returning to Muhlenberg County - the coal-laden ground where they both grew up - to raise their nine children in a home owned by a relative.

Eight of those children and their mother died in that house early Thursday morning after a blaze tore through the structure. Only the father, 36-year-old Chad Watson and an 11-year-old daughter, Kylie Watson, survived.

Kentucky State Police Trooper Stu Recke said 35-year-old LaRae "Nikki" Watson and her children were found in the master bedroom of the home, part of which had collapsed during the blaze. Recke said that could be an indication they were trying to escape through a window, but investigators weren't sure.

Relative Ricky Keith described the Watsons as a loving couple who worked hard to provide for their children.

"I don't know how they made it as long as they had. They've struggled as long as I've known them, but they loved one another, I know that and they loved them kids," Keith said.

Along with Nikki Watson, the remains of 15-year-old Madison Watson, 14-year-old Kaitlyn Watson, 13-year-old Morgan Watson, 9-year-old Emily Watson, 8-year-old Samuel Watson, 6-year-old Raegan Watson and 4-year-old twin brothers Mark and Nathaniel Watson were retrieved from the burned-out structure by Thursday afternoon.

Chad Watson and Kylie Watson remained hospitalized Friday morning at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., in critical but stable condition.

Investigators say the fire in the community of Depoy, just west of Greenville and about 130 miles southwest of Louisville, started when a combustible material fell against an electric baseboard heater.

Recke said the nighttime temperatures dipped into the teens and single-digits. There's no indication of foul play, he said.

Muhlenberg County Judge-Executive Rick Newman said grief counselors would be meeting with first responders Friday. School Superintendent Rick McCarty said counselors were being made available to students and staff.

Recke described the region as "a rural area where everybody knows everybody." The house is in a small neighborhood of single-family dwellings, trailers and farmland.

"The whole county is close. You've got a very small community, everybody knows everybody," Newman said. "They know their business, their hardships, the whole deal."

The side and roof of the small, white-wood frame house with three bedrooms and an enclosed porch collapsed around the chimney. In front of the house, a white van stood on a concrete parking pad. At least five kids' bikes and a child's riding toy were strewn about the yard near a swing set.

Keith said the home was "wore out" and the children played constantly outside.

"They kept them in the yard and didn't let them out of their sight," Keith said.

Several first responders lived near the home and reported that the house was fully engulfed when they arrived within minutes of getting the call, Recke said.

Newman said he worries about the neighbors and first responders in the area. While the county had seen coal miners die, the deaths of nine family members is nearly unheard of.

"This is a strong community," Newman said. "But, man, I'm telling you, it's difficult."

Thursday's blaze was Kentucky's third fire in a little more than a year that has killed five or more people. Last January, four children under 6 and their father were killed in a blaze near Pikeville in eastern Kentucky that also severely burned their mother. Authorities said the home lacked a smoke detector.

In March, a fire at a home in the southern Kentucky community of Gray killed a young couple and five children, the oldest of whom was 3.

---

Associated Press reporter Brett Barrouquere contributed to this report from Louisville, Ky. Reporter Bruce Schreiner contributed from Frankfort, Ky. Reporter Dylan Lovan contributed from Greenville, Ky.

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

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SEATTLE (AP) — Amanda Knox is facing what seemed like a distant worry when she was giving national television interviews and promoting her autobiography last year: the possibility of being returned to Italy to serve decades in prison for the death of her roommate, Meredith Kercher.
 
Any decision on whether to extradite the 26-year-old from the U.S. is likely months away, at least. Experts have said it's unlikely that Italy's justice ministry would request Knox's extradition before the verdict is finalized by the country's high court.
 
If the conviction is upheld, a lengthy extradition process would likely ensue, with the U.S. State Department ultimately deciding whether to turn Knox back over to Italian authorities to finish serving her sentence.
 
Here's how that might play out.
 
___
 
EXTRADITION
 
Extradition is the process of one country surrendering to another country a person who has been accused or convicted of a crime. Under the terms of the extradition treaty between the U.S. and Italy, the offense must be a crime in each country and punishable by more than one year in prison.
 
Any request to extradite Knox would go to the U.S. State Department, which would evaluate whether Italy has a sufficient case for seeking Knox's return. If so, the State Department would transfer the case to the Justice Department, which would represent the interests of the Italian government in seeking her arrest and transfer in U.S. District Court.
 
American courts have limited ability to review extradition requests from other countries, but rather ensure the extradition request meets basic legal requirements, said Mary Fan, a former U.S. federal prosecutor who teaches law at the University of Washington in Seattle.
 
"The U.S. courts don't sit in judgment of another nation's legal system," Fan said.
 
___
 
THE POLITICAL AND THE LEGAL
 
Fan suggested that any decision by the State Department on whether to return Knox to Italy is "a matter of both law and politics." From an American standpoint, the case at first seems to raise questions about double jeopardy — being tried twice for the same offense, as barred by the U.S. Constitution. Knox was first convicted, then acquitted, then, on Thursday, the initial conviction was reinstated.
 
Some observers have dismissed the double-jeopardy issue because Knox's acquittal was not finalized by Italy's highest court.
 
That said, creative defense lawyers might make an effort to fight extradition over concerns about the legal process or the validity of the conviction, Fan said, and those arguments could carry political weight too. "Many Americans are quite astonished by the ups and downs in this case, and it's the U.S. that will ultimately be making the call about whether to extradite," Fan said.
 
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said in a statement Thursday she was "very concerned and disappointed by this verdict."
 
"I will continue to closely monitor this case as it moves forward through the Italian legal system," Cantwell said.
 
Christopher Jenks, a former Army attorney who served as a State Department legal adviser and now teaches at Southern Methodist University's law school, said Italy has a low bar to clear in compiling a legally sufficient extradition request.
 
"There would be a political or policy decision to be made by the State Department, but it's got to be founded in law or in reason," he said.
 
Jenks noted that the extradition treaty works both ways.
 
"If the U.S. ever wants to have any chance of extraditing an Italian murder suspect who has allegedly killed people in the U.S.," he said, "you have to give to get."
 
___
 
HAS ITALY HAD ENOUGH?
 
There have been other high-profile tussles over whether Americans suspected of crimes in Italy would face justice there.
 
In 1998, a low- and fast-flying U.S. Marine jet sliced a cable supporting a gondola at a ski resort in the Italian Alps, killing 20 people. Many Italians wanted the pilot and crew tried in Italy, though NATO rules gave jurisdiction to the U.S. military. The pilot faced a court martial in the U.S. and was acquitted of negligent homicide charges.
 
Italian courts convicted — in absentia — 26 CIA and U.S. government employees in the 2003 kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric suspected of recruiting terrorists in Milan. One, a U.S. Air Force colonel, was pardoned last year on the grounds that it was unprecedented to try an officer of a NATO country for acts committed in Italy. Another, the former CIA base chief in Milan, Robert Seldon Lady, has also requested a pardon. Lady was briefly held last summer in Panama based on an international arrest warrant issued by Italy, which has not yet formally requested his extradition.
 
"I suspect that the Italians feel there have been enough incidents of them not being able to prosecute Americans for crimes committed in Italy," Jenks wrote in an email.
Read more...
   ATLANTA (AP) — Hundreds of drivers have been reunited with abandoned cars and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal ordered state employees back to work as the Atlanta area rebounds from a winter storm that coated the area with snow and ice.
   Many school districts throughout the metro area announced that they'd remain closed Friday, and Deal extended a state of emergency to Sunday night.
   He said in a statement that the declaration was extended to allow the state to continue using certain resources to help local governments clear roads and deal with other storm-related issues. Deal and emergency response officials have taken responsibility for poor planning leading up to the storm.
   Temperatures in the region are expected to reach the low 50s Friday, which should help responders clear ice accumulations from roads.
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