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Published: Saturday, January 24, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 23, 2004 at 11:32 p.m.

POLICE BEAT: Three man charged with building bonfire

  • Three Gainesville men were arrested early Friday morning for having a bonfire near a vacant northeast Gainesville house.
    A Gainesville Police officer was on patrol when he saw a fire next to a vacant wooden house at 1511 NE 2nd St., according to the arrest report.
    The fire was about four feet from the side of the house and was partially under an overhang, the report states.
    Gainesville Fire Rescue put the fire out.
    Mark Giddens, 48, told police he was living in the yard and he and his two friends decided to build the fire because they were cold, the report states.
    Giddens, along with William Lehmann, 48, and Greg Faretta, 40, were all charged with building a bonfire. They were booked in to the Alachua County jail.
    Court records list Lehman's home address as the St. Francis House, a homeless shelter. Faretta's address is listed as a post office box.
    Having a bonfire is illegal within the city limits unless Gainesville Fire Rescue issues a permit for it, GFR spokesman Michael Heeder said.
    Heeder discouraged people from outdoor burning right now because conditions have been dry and breezy.
    - Kathy Ciotola

    STATE: National Guard soldiers are returning from Iraq

  • ST. AUGUSTINE - About 300 soldiers in the Florida Army National Guard's 124th Infantry Regiment are scheduled to return to Fort Stewart, Ga., on Jan. 31 after service in Iraq.
    Two of their soldiers, however, were killed in the war.
    Cpl. Travis Rivero, 23, of Gainesville and Tampa, was killed on April 17 when his Humvee overturned while on a mission in western Iraq. Spec. Jeffrey Wershow, 22, of Gainesville, was shot and killed July 6 while on a security detail in Baghdad.
    Returning are:
  • Company C, 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, headquartered in Orlando, with about 120 soldiers.
  • Company B, 3rd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, headquartered in Panama City and from the armory in Pensacola, with about 120 soldiers.
  • Company C, 3rd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, headquartered in Panama City and from the armories in Chipley and DeFuniak Springs, will return with about 60 soldiers.
    The soldiers will arrive at Hunter Army Air Field and then take a bus ride to Fort Stewart. After about five days of processing, they will be allowed to return home to Florida, said Senior Airman Thomas Kielbasa, a spokesman for the Florida National Guard.
    - The Associated Press

    STATE: State changing payouts for Mega Money game

  • TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Lottery is changing the payouts of its Mega Money game next week to increase jackpots to a maximum of $2 million spread over 20 years, officials said Friday.
    The first drawing under the new format will be Friday.
    Jackpots will start at a minimum of $500,000 and if there is no winner, roll over to a top prize of $2 million.
    When the jackpot reaches the limit, the prize money paid to runners-up will also increase and are estimated to be double the normal prize amount.
    If there is only one winner, that ticket-holder could claim a one-time cash option or receive the full jackpot by taking 20 annual payments. Players must pick four numbers from 1-to-44 and one Megaball number from 1-to-22, and the odds of winning the jackpot is about 3 million to one.
    Tickets will still cost $1 and drawings will still be held Tuesdays and Fridays. There will now be seven consolation prize levels for picking some of the numbers instead of six, including a chance to win a free ticket for matching just the Mega Ball.
    "We asked the players how we could make the Mega Money game better. They said that the game needed a bigger jackpot and more ways to win," lottery spokeswoman Leslie D. Steele said.
    - The Associated Press
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