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In brief: Mom of missing girl says test clears her

IOWA CITY, Iowa – After submitting to a second polygraph test, the mother of one of two missing Iowa cousins said Monday the results should prove that she had nothing to do with their disappearance and allow investigators to focus their attention elsewhere.

Misty Cook-Morrissey said a state agent asked during Monday’s polygraph whether she had anything to do with the abduction of her daughter, 10-year-old Lyric Cook-Morrissey, and niece, 8-year-old Elizabeth Collins. She said she was asked whether she knows where they are and if she could take investigators to them, adding she answered “no” to all those questions.

“It went well,” she said in a phone interview. “They can rule me out of their book and move on to something else.”

The girls have been missing since they went for a bike ride July 13 in Evansdale, a town of 4,700 people in northeast Iowa.

Convicted killer gets court reprieve

JACKSON, Ga. – The Georgia Supreme Court stayed Monday’s scheduled execution of a man convicted of killing a fellow prison inmate, saying it would consider a defense challenge to the state’s recent adoption of a single-drug injection method.

The court also said it declined to review a separate defense appeal that claimed Warren Lee Hill is mentally disabled and shouldn’t be executed for that reason. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that executing the mentally disabled constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, and Georgia law prohibits it.

Hill was convicted in the Aug. 17, 1990, beating death of a fellow inmate, Joseph Handspike. Hill was serving a life sentence at the time for the shooting death of his 18-year-old girlfriend.

Hill was the first Georgia death row inmate scheduled to be executed since the state announced last week it was changing from a three-drug combination to a single lethal dose of the sedative pentobarbital to carry out court-ordered death sentences.

At issue, the Georgia Supreme Court said in an order Monday, was a question raised by the defense whether switching to a single drug required a public hearing before it could be instituted under existing administrative procedures. The court order didn’t specify how long it would take to consider the issue.

Ex-officer Peterson goes before jurors

JOLIET, Ill. – Drew Peterson formally introduced himself to would-be jurors Monday in his long-delayed murder trial, but it was clear many of them already were familiar with the former suburban Chicago police officer known to make crass jokes in the media.

Peterson, 58, is charged with killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004. Her body was found in a dry bathtub in her home, her hair soaked with blood, but her death was ruled accidental until police began investigating the 2007 disappearance of the ex-police sergeant’s fourth wife, Stacy Peterson. He is a suspect in that case as well, although he has not been charged.

Once a jury is selected, opening statements at Peterson’s trial in Joliet are slated for next Tuesday.

Identifying 14 killed in crash difficult

McALLEN, Texas – With little more than photographs and fingerprints, authorities were trying to identify 14 suspected illegal immigrants who were killed when a pickup truck packed with nearly two dozen people crashed in South Texas in one of the nation’s deadliest immigrant smuggling accidents.

The victims – men, women and children – were carrying toothbrushes, toothpaste and changes of socks and underwear but no identification. Authorities said the white Ford F250 was carrying 23 immigrants from Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala when it veered off a highway and crashed into trees Sunday night.

Adrian Fulton, a local funeral home director who picked up the 11 people who died at the scene, said it is the worst crash he has seen in 40 years. Fulton estimated their ages from 8 to 30.

Federal immigration agents are looking into the human smuggling aspect of the case.

New heat shield passes re-entry test

ATLANTIC, Va. – An experimental heat shield for future spacecraft landings successfully survived a test launch Monday that brought it through the Earth’s atmosphere at speeds of up to 7,600 mph, NASA said.

The demonstration launch from Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore involved a 680-pound cone of high-tech rings covered by a thermal blanket of layers of heat-resistant materials.

The purpose of the launch was to determine whether a space capsule can use an inflatable outer shell to slow and protect itself as it enters an atmosphere at hypersonic speed during a planetary entry and descent.

Newsman dies who aired JFK’s death

DALLAS – Eddie Barker, who aired the first report of President John F. Kennedy’s death from an assassin’s bullet, has died. He was 84.

Daughter Leslie Barker Garcia said her father died Monday morning in a Dallas nursing home after a long period of declining health.

Barker was the longtime news director of KRLD Radio and KRLD-TV (now KDFW-TV), the CBS affiliates in Dallas when Kennedy made his fateful 1963 visit to Dallas.