Articles written by Terry Spencer


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  • Tropical rainstorms in South Florida lead to flight delays and streets jammed with stalled cars

    FREIDA FRISARO and TERRY SPENCER|Jun 14, 2024

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A tropical disturbance that brought a rare flash flood emergency to much of southern Florida delayed flights at two of the state's largest airports and left vehicles waterlogged and stalled in some of the region's lowest-lying streets. "Looked like the beginning of a zombie movie," said Ted Rico, a tow truck driver who spent much of Wednesday night and Thursday morning helping to clear the streets of stalled vehicles. "There's cars littered everywhere, on top of sidewalks, in the median, in the middle of the s...

  • A Florida law blocking treatment for transgender children is thrown out by a federal judge

    TERRY SPENCER|Jun 12, 2024

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday struck down a 2023 Florida law that blocked gender-affirming care for transgender minors and severely restricted such treatment for adults, calling the statute unconstitutional. Senior Judge Robert Hinkle said the state went too far when it barred transgender minors from being prescribed puberty blockers and hormonal treatments with their parents' permission. He also stopped the state from requiring that transgender adults only receive treatment from a doctor and not from a registered n...

  • Florida sheriff's office fires deputy who fatally shot airman at home

    TERRY SPENCER|May 31, 2024

    A Florida Panhandle sheriff on Friday fired a deputy who fatally shot an airman at his home while holding a handgun pointed to the ground, saying the deputy's life was never in danger and he should not have fired his weapon. Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden fired Deputy Eddie Duran, who fatally shot Senior Airman Roger Fortson on May 3 after responding to a domestic violence call and being directed to Fortson's apartment. Duran shot Fortson, 23, multiple times two seconds after he opened his door. Fortson was holding his legally owned gun in...

  • Driver of pickup that collided with farmworker bus in Florida, killing 8, is arrested on DUI charges

    MIKE SCHNEIDER and TERRY SPENCER|May 22, 2024

    OCALA, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Highway Patrol has arrested the driver of a pickup truck that crashed into a farmworker bus early Tuesday, killing eight, on charges of driving under the influence-manslaughter. Bryan Maclean Howard, 41, faces eight counts of DUI-Manslaughter, the FHP said in a statement. No further details were released, including what substance allegedly left Howard impaired. Troopers said he was driving the 2001 Ford Ranger when it crossed into the center line on State Road 40, a straight but somewhat hilly two-lane road that p...

  • Prosecutor in Trump classified papers case calls claims of hostility toward co-defendant 'garbage'

    TERRY SPENCER and ERIC TUCKER|May 22, 2024

    FORT PIERCE, Fla. (AP) — A lawyer for Donald Trump's personal valet accused federal prosecutors Wednesday of targeting the valet because he refused to cooperate against the former president in the classified documents case. A prosecutor called the claim "garbage." Walt Nauta was charged alongside Trump last year in a federal case accusing them of conspiring to conceal boxes of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, Trump's estate in Palm Beach, Florida, Both men have pleaded not guilty. The case, among four criminal prosecutions against Trump, h...

  • Driver of truck that hit farmworker bus in Florida, killing 8, arrested on DUI charges

    MIKE SCHNEIDER and TERRY SPENCER|May 15, 2024

    OCALA, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Highway Patrol has arrested the driver of a pickup truck that crashed into a farmworker bus early Tuesday, killing eight, on charges of driving under the influence-manslaughter. Bryan Maclean Howard faces eight counts of DUI-Manslaughter, the FHP said in a statement. No further details were released. Troopers say Howard was driving the 2001 Ford Ranger that crossed into the center line, sideswiping the bus and causing it to veer off the road at about 6:40 a.m. It crashed through a fence and into a tree before o...

  • Driver said he smoked pot oil, took medication before Florida crash that killed 8 Mexican workers

    MIKE SCHNEIDER and TERRY SPENCER|May 15, 2024

    OCALA, Fla. (AP) — A man with a long record of dangerous driving told investigators he smoked marijuana oil and took prescription drugs hours before he sideswiped a bus, killing eight Mexican farmworkers and injuring dozens more, according to an arrest report unsealed Wednesday. Bryan Maclean Howard, 41, pleaded not guilty to driving under the influence-manslaughter and remained jailed without bond for Tuesday's crash. The Florida Highway Patrol says he drove his 2001 Ford pickup into the center line on a two-lane road and struck the bus, c...

  • Chatty robot helps seniors fight loneliness through AI companionship

    TERRY SPENCER|Dec 22, 2023

    CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. (AP) — Joyce Loaiza lives alone, but when she returns to her apartment at a Florida senior community, the retired office worker often has a chat with a friendly female voice that asks about her day. A few miles away, the same voice comforted 83-year-old Deanna Dezern when her friend died. In central New York, it plays games and music for 92-year-old Marie Broadbent, who is blind and in hospice, and in Washington state, it helps 83-year-old Jan Worrell make new friends. The women are some of the first in the country to r...

  • Hurricane Idalia hits Florida with 125 mph winds, flooding streets, snapping trees and cutting power

    TERRY SPENCER|Aug 30, 2023

    PERRY, Fla. (AP) — Hurricane Idalia tore into Florida at the speed of a fast-moving train Wednesday, splitting trees in half, ripping roofs off hotels and turning small cars into boats before sweeping into Georgia and South Carolina as a still-powerful storm that flooded roadways and sent residents running for higher ground. "All hell broke loose," said Belond Thomas of Perry, a mill town located just inland from the Big Bend region where Idalia came ashore. Thomas fled with her family and some friends to a motel, thinking it would be safer t...

  • Ex-Miami US Rep. David Rivera arrested in Venezuela probe

    JOSHUA GOODMAN and TERRY SPENCER|Dec 4, 2022

    WASHINGTON (AP) — A former Miami congressman who signed a $50 million consulting contract with Venezuela's socialist government was arrested Monday in connection with an ongoing federal criminal investigation, law enforcement officials told The Associated Press. David Rivera, a Republican who served from 2011 to 2013, was arrested at Atlanta's airport, said Marlene Rodriguez, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami. She said Rivera was indicted by a Miami grand jury last month, but that document remains sealed and she could n...

  • Families unleash grief and anger on Parkland school shooter

    TERRY SPENCER|Nov 2, 2022

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Families of the 17 children and staff members Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz murdered cursed him to hell, wished him a painful death and called him a coward Tuesday as they got their one chance to address him directly before he is sentenced to life in prison. For hours, parents, wives, siblings, children and some of the 17 Cruz also wounded at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine's Day 2018 stood 20 feet (6 meters) from him. They looked the shackled killer in the eye and gave vehement, angry a...

  • Parkland school killer formally sentenced to life in prison

    TERRY SPENCER|Nov 2, 2022

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz formally received a sentence of life without parole Wednesday after families of his 17 slain victims spent two days berating him as evil, a coward, a monster and a subhuman. Cruz, shackled and in a red jail jumpsuit, watched Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer as she pronounced 34 consecutive life sentences — one each for the slain and the 17 he wounded — for the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in suburban Fort Lauderdale. The judge's voice broke...

  • Parkland shooter prosecutors call for probe of juror threat

    TERRY SPENCER and ANTHONY IZAGUIRRE|Oct 14, 2022

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Prosecutors of Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz called for an investigation Friday after a juror said another panelist threatened her during the deliberations that ended with a life sentence for Cruz's murder of 17 people four years ago at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Prosecutor Carolyn McCann told Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer during a brief hearing that prosecutors are not trying to invalidate Thursday's jury vote and reported the threat only for safety reasons and so the Broward County Sh...

  • Attorneys argue over school shooter's fate: death or prison

    TERRY SPENCER|Oct 12, 2022

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The prosecutor and defense attorney for Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz agreed Tuesday that his 2018 attack that killed 17 people was horrible, but disagreed in their closing arguments on whether it was an act of evil worthy of execution or one of a broken person who should be imprisoned for life. Lead prosecutor Mike Satz and his defense counterpart, Melisa McNeill, painted for the 12 jurors competing pictures of what drove Cruz's attack at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine's Day. For...

  • Psychologist: School shooter suffered fetal alcohol damage

    TERRY SPENCER|Sep 11, 2022

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Attorneys for Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz began building their argument Monday that his birth mother's alcohol abuse left him with severe behavioral problems that eventually led to his 2018 murder of 17 people at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Paul Connor, a Seattle-area neuropsychologist, said medical records and testimony by prior witnesses show that Brenda Woodard drank and used cocaine throughout much of her pregnancy before Cruz's birth in 1998. Woodard, a Fort Lauderdale p...

  • Judge: Jury can see swastikas school shooter drew in class

    TERRY SPENCER|Sep 2, 2022

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — In a failed attempt to bar the admission into evidence several swastikas Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz drew on assignments, his attorneys made an unusual argument Thursday at his penalty trial: he was an equal opportunity killer who shot his victims without regard to race or religion. The attorneys told Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer outside the jury's presence that the Nazi symbol creates such strong anger and revulsion that allowing the panel to see those drawings violates his right to a fair trial b...

  • Prosecutor recalls coldness, cruelty of Parkland gunman

    TERRY SPENCER|Jul 17, 2022

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The prosecutor seeking the death penalty for the gunman who massacred 17 people at a Parkland, Florida, high school detailed for jurors Monday how Nikolas Cruz coldly mowed down his victims, returning to some as they lay wounded to finish them off with a second volley. Some parents wept as prosecutor Mike Satz described in his opening statement how Cruz killed their children at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018. Others sat stoically, their arms crossed over their chests. One woman who lost her d...

  • Nikolas Cruz pleads guilty to 2018 Parkland school massacre

    TERRY SPENCER|Oct 21, 2021

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Nikolas Cruz pleaded guilty Wednesday to murdering 17 people during a rampage at his former high school in Parkland, Florida, leaving a jury to decide whether he will be executed for one of the nation's deadliest school shootings. Relatives of the victims who sat in the courtroom and watched the hearing via Zoom broke down in tears and held hands across families as Cruz entered his pleas and later apologized for his crimes. "Today we saw a cold and calculating killer confess to the murder of my daughter Gina and 1...

  • Attorney: Cruz to plead guilty to Parkland school massacre

    TERRY SPENCER|Oct 15, 2021

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The gunman who killed 14 students and three staff members at a Parkland, Florida, high school will plead guilty to their murders, his attorneys said Friday, bringing some closure to a South Florida community more than three years after an attack that sparked a nationwide movement for gun control. The guilty plea would set up a penalty phase where Nikolas Cruz, 23, would be fighting against the death penalty and hoping for life without parole. Cruz attorney David Wheeler told Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer that h...

  • Ex-Marine held without bond in shooting of Florida family

    TERRY SPENCER and FREIDA FRISARO|Sep 5, 2021

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A former Marine sharpshooter who told authorities he was high on methamphetamines when he invaded a home in Florida and fatally shot a mother, her 3-month-old baby and two others was ordered held without bond during his first court appearance on Monday. Bryan Riley, 33, also asked for his own lawyer and will be appointed his own lawyer until he can get one, a judge said. Riley surrendered on Sunday morning after a furious gun battle with authorities who brought in at least one armored vehicle during their s...

  • Judge blocks Florida governor's order banning mask mandates

    TERRY SPENCER and CURT ANDERSON|Aug 27, 2021

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Florida school districts can legally require their students to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a judge ruled Friday, saying Gov. Ron DeSantis overstepped his authority when he issued an executive order banning such mandates. Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper agreed with a group of parents who claimed in a lawsuit that DeSantis' order is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced. The governor's order gave parents the sole right to decide if their child wears a mask at school. Cooper said DeSantis'...

  • Hospitals run low on nurses as they get swamped with COVID

    TERRY SPENCER and JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER|Aug 11, 2021

    The rapidly escalating surge in COVID-19 infections across the U.S. has caused a shortage of nurses and other front-line staff in virus hot spots that can no longer keep up with the flood of unvaccinated patients and are losing workers to burnout and lucrative out-of-state temporary gigs. Florida, Arkansas and Louisiana all have more people hospitalized with COVID-19 than at any other point in the pandemic, and nursing staffs are badly strained. In Florida, virus cases have filled so many hospital beds that ambulance services and fire departmen...

  • US now averaging 100,000 new COVID-19 infections a day

    TERRY SPENCER|Aug 8, 2021

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The U.S. is now averaging 100,000 new COVID-19 infections a day, returning to a milestone last seen during the winter surge in another bleak reminder of how quickly the delta variant has spread through the country. Health officials fear that cases, hospitalizations and deaths will continue to soar if more Americans don't embrace the COVID-19 vaccine. Nationwide, 50% of residents are fully vaccinated and more than 70% of adults have received at least one dose. "Our models show that if we don't (vaccinate people), we...

  • Recovery workers vow not to let up in Florida condo collapse

    TERRY SPENCER|Jul 9, 2021

    SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP) — Rescue workers now focused on finding remains instead of survivors in the rubble of a Florida condominium collapse vowed Thursday to keep up their search for victims until they cleared all the debris at the site. A fire official told family members at a meeting that crews "will not stop working until they've gotten to the bottom of the pile and recovered every single of the families' missing loved ones," Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said at an evening news conference. He did not identify the official, but said the f...

  • Search of collapsed condo shifts from rescue to recovery

    TERRY SPENCER and ADRIANA GOMEZ LICON|Jul 7, 2021

    SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP) — Emergency workers gave up Wednesday on any hope of finding survivors in a collapsed Florida condo building, telling sobbing families that there was "no chance of life" in the rubble as crews shifted their efforts to recovering more remains. The announcement followed increasingly somber reports from emergency officials, who said they sought to prepare families for the worst. Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah told families at a private briefing Wednesday afternoon that crews would stop using rescue dogs and list...

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