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This Hour: Latest Florida news, sports, business and entertainment

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FATAL HOUSE FIRE

1 dead in Little Haiti house fire

MIAMI (AP) - One person is dead following a house fire in Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood.

Miami broadcast stations report that two women and a man were able to escape as fire swept through the home late Wednesday.

The victim's name hasn't been released.

No further details were immediately available. An investigation is underway.

STAND YOUR GROUND-GOLFER

Judge denies golfer's 'stand your ground' claim

(Information in the following story is from: Daytona Beach (Fla.) News-Journal, http://www.news-journalonline.com)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - A central Florida judge has denied a "stand your ground" claim by a golfer who is accused of beating a man who claimed a golf ball had hit his pickup truck.

Circuit Judge R. Michael Hutcheson on Wednesday determined that 44-year-old David James Barror's "piston-like punching" of 64-year-old Richard Fillingame last summer was an overreaction.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports Fillingame confronted Barror while he was golfing last summer. No damage was found on the truck. The incident led to a confrontation that left the older man with several broken bones. Barror was charged with aggravated battery punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

The judge said neither man is a bad person and suggested the attorneys get together and reach a compromise.

PORT TUNNEL-OPENING

Delayed Miami port tunnel set to open

MIAMI (AP) - PortMiami's long-awaited tunnel is finally set to open to the public.

The $1 billion tunnel that travels for three-quarters of a mile under Biscayne Bay is set to open Monday morning. It was originally set to open May 19, following a grand opening ceremony that featured Gov. Rick Scott. But delays stretched into 11 weeks, thanks to malfunctions that included an exhaust fan malfunction and a drainage pipe leak.

The Miami Herald reports the tunnel is expected to pull some 16,000 port-bound vehicles a day off the streets of downtown Miami. The vehicles will be routed onto the MacArthur Causeway and then under the bay.

The first cars will pass through the tunnel at 6 a.m. on Monday.

FLORIDA PANTHERS-RANCHERS

AP Exclusive: Study finds panthers kill livestock

IMMOKALEE, Fla. (AP) - Since Florida's frontier days when cattlemen drove their herds through the state's vast fields and forests, ranchers and native panthers have been natural enemies.

The ranchers seek to nurture and protect their calves, while the panthers see them as prey.

Now, with Florida panthers recovering from near-extinction, a University of Florida researcher has found that panthers are killing calves at a southwest Florida ranch in an area where the panthers are thriving.

In the past, ranchers simply would have shot panthers, but because the 100 to 180 panthers are protected under the Endangered Species Act, they have few options.

The study is a first step toward creating a new program that would pay ranchers for preserving panther habitat rather than trying to verify every calf killed.

HOUSTON CHURCH-THEFT

Suspect in videotaped Houston church theft caught

HOUSTON (AP) - A suspect has been charged with stealing from a purse during a 2011 Houston church service in a theft recorded on security video.

Harris County jail records show 46-year-old Cynthia Martinez was being held without bond Thursday on charges of credit card abuse, forgery and tampering with a governmental record. Online jail records don't list an attorney for Martinez, who's also known as Cynthia Gonzalez.

Surveillance video from the June 2011 robbery at St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton Catholic Church shows the victim going forward for communion. A woman one pew back allegedly goes through the victim's purse, then leaves.

The victim's checks were used for nearly $400 in purchases.

Martinez was arrested in Florida in September 2011 on unrelated charges. She recently was transferred from custody in Quincy, Florida.

MYRTLE BEACH AMUSEMENT PARK

Tennessee company plans SC amusement park

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) - A Tennessee company that operates a family amusement park in the Smokey Mountains is planning a similar park in Myrtle Beach.

The Sun News of Myrtle Beach reports that the company that operates The Track in Pigeon Forge wants to open a Myrtle Beach location to be operating by the end of 2016.

The proposal calls for an elevated go-cart track, bumper boats, an arcade, a shop and a Ferris wheel. The site is on about 6 acres along Restaurant Row at the north end of Myrtle Beach.

The Myrtle Beach Planning Commission is holding a public hearing next month on the project.

The Track Family Recreation Center also operates a family amusement park in Destin, Florida.

TAMPA BAY TOLL ROAD

Price tag for new Tampa area expressway is $454M

(Information in the following story is from: The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune, http://www.tampatrib.com)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - Florida Department of Transportation officials say a new expressway linking two major roads in the Tampa Bay area will cost about $454 million - about $116 million more than first announced.

Most of the extra expense is from buying right-of-way along the route, a cost estimated at $93.5 million.

The expressway will eventually link Interstate 275 and U.S. 19, and the unfunded project has been moved forward by as much as 20 years.

The Tampa Tribune reports that DOT officials revealed the cost of right-of-way purchases to the Pinellas County Commission at a workshop Tuesday. They also announced that the toll to drive elevated sections to avoid stoplights will be 75 cents and that the five-year construction schedule also could make life complicated for the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport.

PEOPLE-DAVID CASSIDY

Tweet derails Cassidy DWI plea deal hearing

SCHODACK, N.Y. (AP) - A horse racing tweet prompted prosecutors to halt a court hearing at which a lawyer for seventies heartthrob David Cassidy was supposed to accept a plea deal on the singer's behalf.

Cassidy was charged last summer with driving while intoxicated in the town of Schodack (SKOH'-dak), near Albany. Because he lives in Florida, prosecutors agreed to let his lawyer appear in court for him Wednesday.

But a tweet by the New York Racing Association said Cassidy was at Saratoga Race Course, 40 miles north of Schodack.

A prosecutor told The Daily Gazette of Schenectady that officials were "disturbed" to learn Cassidy was nearby but apparently unable to appear. Cassidy's lawyer said his client may not have known the timing of his court date.

A new court date is being scheduled.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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