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Funeral gunman shoots slain teen's mom

COCOA, Fla. -- A gunman fired into a crowd gathered at a Saturday afternoon burial service for a teenager fatally shot by a Florida sheriff's deputy this month, officials said. The teen's mother was wounded by the bullet, Florida Today reported.

The shooting happened as guests gathered at Riverview Memorial Gardens to pay their respects to 18-year-old Sincere Pierce. He and 16-year-old Angelo Crooms were killed Nov. 13 by a Brevard County deputy.

The shot rang out as the pastor had just finished his prayers and the teen's friends and loved ones were placing flowers on the casket, the newspaper reported. The loud popping sound was followed by stunned silence before Quasheda Pierce screamed that she'd been hit.

The newspaper reported that mourners were slow to react before realizing what had occurred, then began rushing to cars and leaving quickly.

Friends and family members helped Quasheda Pierce into a minivan before ambulances arrived. Deputies carrying rifles arrived a short time later.

Pierce was taken to a hospital, but the severity of her injury was not immediately known.

The teens were killed when Deputy Jafet Santiago-Miranda fired shots into their car when they didn't pull over. Sheriff Wayne Ivey said the deputies thought the vehicle might have been stolen, but the teens' families and lawyer said they had permission to use the car and called it a case of mistaken identity.

Manson follower's parole blocked again

LOS ANGELES -- California Gov. Gavin Newsom has reversed parole for Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten, marking the fourth time a governor has blocked her release.

A California panel recommended parole in July for Van Houten, who has spent nearly five decades in prison. Newsom reversed her release once previously, and his predecessor, Jerry Brown, blocked it twice.

Van Houten's attorney, Rich Pfeiffer, said they will appeal. "This reversal will demonstrate to the courts that there is no way Newsom will let her out," Pfeiffer said. "So they have to enforce the law or it will never be enforced."

Van Houten is serving a life sentence for helping Manson and others kill Los Angeles grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, in August 1969. Van Houten was 19 when she and other cult members fatally stabbed the LaBiancas and smeared their blood on the walls. The day before, other Manson followers killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four other people.

Newsom said in his decision that "evidence shows that she currently poses an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison."

Manson died of natural causes at a California hospital in 2017 while serving a life sentence.

McCain widow said top U.K. envoy pick

Cindy McCain is reportedly the odds-on favorite to be named President-elect Joe Biden's ambassador to Great Britain.

The widow of former Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain has been tipped to be Biden's envoy in London once he takes over the White House in January, the Times of London reported Saturday.

Cindy McCain, a lifelong Republican, switched sides to campaign for Biden against President Donald Trump this fall. She is credited with helping nudge some Republicans away from Trump, especially in her home state of Arizona, where the McCain name is political gold.

Biden has vowed to reach out across the aisle.

Tony Gardner, President Barack Obama's ambassador to the European Union, is also being considered, the paper said.

Not at killings, suspect tells sister

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- A Connecticut physical therapist charged with killing his wife and three children at their Florida home told his sister in a phone call from jail that he couldn't have stopped his family from being slain -- because he wasn't around.

"I couldn't stop this because I wasn't there," Anthony Todt told his sister Chrissy Caplet in recordings of one of two phone calls obtained by The Day of New London, Conn.

Authorities allege that Todt, who worked in Connecticut and spent weekends with his family in Florida, killed his wife and three children, as well as the family dog. The decomposing bodies were discovered Jan. 13 in the family's home in Celebration, a planned community near Walt Disney World.

Todt, 45, claimed in a June letter to his father obtained by the Orlando Sentinel that his wife, Megan, had drugged the children and then stabbed and suffocated them. Todt wrote that his wife then drank a bottle of Benadryl and stabbed herself in the abdomen.

Defense attorneys have not spoken publicly about Todt's claim that his wife was the real killer. Orange-Osceola public defender Robert Wesley said Sunday that he had no comment.

Investigators with the Osceola County sheriff's office said Todt confessed at the time of his arrest to killing Megan, 42; their children, Alek, 13, Tyler, 11, and Zoe, 4; and the dog, Breezy. Prosecutors have said they intend to seek the death penalty.

-- Compiled by Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports

Print Headline: The Nation in Brief

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