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DEATH PENALTY TRIAL

Death penalty case shifts focus to slain Ill. kids

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) - Prosecutors are presenting evidence that an ex-Marine facing possible execution for murdering a Navy sailor in 2009 also killed two Illinois girls when he was only 16.

A federal jury in Alexandria must decide whether 25-year-old Jorge Torrez should be executed or receive life in prison for the murder of Petty Officer Amanda Snell, a barracks-mate at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington.

On Tuesday, prosecutors presented testimony linking Torrez to the 2005 killings of 8-year-old Laura Hobbs and 9-year-old Krystal Tobias, in Torrez's hometown of Zion, Ill.

Authorities in Illinois initially charged Laura's father with the killings, after prosecutors say a 20-hour interrogation yielded a false confession. But DNA evidence eventually led authorities to Torrez.

Torrez has ordered his lawyers not to fight prosecutors' case for execution.

MCDONNELL DEFENSE FUND

Mitt Romney gives to McDonnell defense fund

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Newly released tax records show former Gov. Bob McDonnell's legal defense fund raised nearly $150,000 during the first quarter of this year.

Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, gave $10,000. Coal baron Richard Baxter Gilliam gave $50,000, the single biggest donation.

The former Republican governor and his wife Maureen are charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 from Jonnie Williams, the former CEO of dietary supplements maker Star Scientific Inc., in exchange for helping promote his products. Their trial is set to begin in July.

McDonnell was once a rising star in the Republican Party and had been considered a possible running mate for Romney.

The fund has spent $140,000, with $100,000 going to the law firm Jones Day.

COAL ASH SPILL-NORTH CAROLINA

Duke: Moving coal ash would cost up to $10 billion

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Duke Energy says that removing all of the company's coal ash away from North Carolina's rivers and lakes would take decades and cost up to $10 billion, with the state's electricity customers likely footing nearly all the bill.

Duke's North Carolina president Paul Newton told state lawmakers Tuesday the company needs flexibility to consider more cost-efficient options that include leaving much of its 100 million tons of toxic ash in place after being covered with giant tarps and soil. State officials say all 33 of Duke's unlined dumps are contaminating groundwater.

Environmental groups are calling for new legislation requiring Duke to move its coal ash to lined landfills away from waterways following the massive Feb. 2 spill in Eden that coated 70 miles of the Dan River in gray sludge.

COAL DUST RULE

Long-awaited US rule on coal dust to be announced

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - Top federal labor and mine safety officials are heading to West Virginia to release a long-awaited final rule on coal dust.

The announcement will be made Wednesday in Morgantown. Among those attending will be U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez and Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. The director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, John Howard, will also discuss the new rule.

For 3½ years, the Obama administration has been working on the rule to reduce miners' exposure to dust that causes black lung.

Black lung, or coal workers' pneumoconiosis, is an irreversible and potentially deadly disease caused by exposure to coal dust.

FIRE-FOUR DEAD

Affidavit: 2 of 4 fire victims possibly stabbed

PETERSBURG, Va. (AP) - Court documents indicate two of the four people found dead after a Petersburg house fire may have been fatally stabbed.

Media outlets report that a detective said in a search warrant affidavit that he saw wounds on two victims consistent with puncture wounds, and a large knife with red stains was found at the scene.

The warrant was issued to search the home of Alexander Roosevelt Hill Jr., who was named by police as a person of interest in the case. The affidavit says investigators also found Hill's cellphone with a text message telling someone to claim his remains and ensure they are cremated. Hill has not been located.

Three women and a young boy died in Saturday's fire. Their names have not been released.

WOMEN SHOT-SEVERANCE

Bizarre behavior fuels questions in Va. killings

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) - Alexandria Police have never referred to Charles Severance as a suspect as they investigate three unsolved, possibly connected slayings in the city.

But Severance has caught authorities' attention, and on Wednesday a West Virginia judge will hear arguments on whether Severance should be extradited back to Virginia, where authorities have said they want to question him as part of their investigation.

Severance is being held on an unrelated firearms charge.

The 53-year-old Severance, a former Alexandria resident, made quite an impression in the city more than a decade ago as a fringe candidate for offices including mayor and congressman.

The current congressman, Jim Moran, even recalls a political forum where Severance lunged at him with the business end of a flagpole supporting the Stars and Stripes.

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

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