Told their treehouse must go, owners appeal to Supreme Court

Told their treehouse must go, owners appeal to Supreme Court


Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen built a Florida beachfront treehouse that would be the envy of any child. It’s got two levels, hammocks and windows looking out on the Gulf of Mexico.

But the hangout has cost the couple a handsome sum: about $30,000 to construct and probably five times that in legal fees as they’ve fought local authorities over it, Tran said. Now, they’re at their last stop, the Supreme Court. Unless the high court intervenes, the treehouse must be torn down.

The justices had their first opportunity to consider taking the case at a conference Friday, and a decision on whether they will weigh in could come Monday.

The couple’s lawyer, David Levin, acknowledges the case is unlikely to be accepted by the justices, who only hear arguments in about 80 of the thousands of cases they’re asked to take each year. But he argues that his clients’ rights were violated when a Florida court “rubber stamped” a ruling proposed by the city of Holmes Beach without any evidence of independent consideration.

Tran and Hazen haven’t been willing to give up on the structure she calls their “getaway.”

City seeks dismissal of lawsuit by robber injured by cop


Cleveland has asked a judge to dismiss a federal lawsuit filed by a convicted robber who was shot in the back and paralyzed by a police officer because he’d lied during a deposition. reports 24-year-old Alex Littlejohn said in the deposition he gave a gun used in the 2014 robbery of a Family Dollar store to his accomplice, his half brother. Littlejohn told his attorney after the deposition he tossed the gun while running from the store.

Littlejohn subsequently submitted a written statement acknowledging the discrepancy.

A city attorney filed court documents Thursday seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed because of Littlejohn’s contradictory statements.

Littlejohn’s attorney disagreed. Paul Cristallo says the lawsuit shouldn’t be dismissed because Littlejohn’s statement shows he wasn’t armed when the officer shot him.

Pope on Epiphany: Don’t make money, career your whole life


Pope Francis on Saturday advised against making the pursuit of money, a career or success the basis for one’s whole life, urging in his Epiphany remarks to also resist “inclinations toward arrogance, the thirst for power and for riches.”

During a homily at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis said people “often make do” with having “health, a little money and a bit of entertainment.” He urged people to help the poor and others in need of assistance, giving freely without expecting anything in return.

Many Christians observe Epiphany to recall the three wise men who followed a star to find the baby Jesus. Francis suggested asking, “what star we have chosen to follow in our lives?”

“Some stars may be bright, but do not point the way. So it is with success, money, career, honors and pleasures, when these become our lives,” the pope said.

Later, during an appearance from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Francis urged tens of thousands of faithful gathered below not to be indifferent to Jesus.

Man charged in fatal stabbing of daughter, girl’s mother


Authorities say a 24-year-old man has been charged with two counts of murder in the stabbing deaths of his 4-year-old daughter and the girl’s mother in Ohio’s capital city of Columbus.

Police say Kristofer Garrett was arrested Friday night in Columbus after a traffic stop. A police affidavit says Garrett waited outside the home of 34-year-old Nicole Duckson and 4-year-old Christina Duckson on Friday morning and stabbed them multiple times.

Their bodies were found in the backyard of the home Friday morning by a co-worker of Nicole Duckson’s who became concerned when Duckson didn’t pick her up.

The affidavit says Garrett told officers during the traffic stop that he’d cut his hand earlier in the day at Duckson’s home.

Man, daughter killed in Ohio house fire


Authorities say a 37-year-old man and his 2-year-old daughter were killed in an Ohio house fire while his wife and another young daughter managed to escape the flames.

The Wyandot County Sheriff’s Office has identified the victims as Shawn Stock and his daughter, Avery.

The Sheriff’s Office says 34-year-old Lisa Stock called 911 on a cellphone just before 1 a.m. Saturday, saying she’d dropped 1-year-old Alana Stock to the ground from a window of the burning home but couldn’t get out herself.

A deputy sheriff arrived and helped Lisa Stock escape through a window of the Tymochtee Township home. Heavy smoke prevented Sgt. Brandon Kromer from getting inside to rescue Shawn and Avery Stock.

An initial investigation indicates the fire was caused by a wood-burning stove in the basement.

Health officials report more than 2,000 flu hospitalizations


The Ohio Department of Health says more than 2,000 flu hospitalizations have been reported during this flu season.

Health officials Friday reported 2,104 flu-associated hospitalizations for the 2017-18 flu season, compared with 369 during the same period last year.

Ohio hasn’t reported any flu-associated pediatric deaths so far for this season. There’s no requirement for reporting adult flu-associated deaths to public health agencies.

The Ohio Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot as soon as possible. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for protection against the flu to set in.

Health officials say some who get vaccinated may still get the flu, but their symptoms will likely be less severe.

Panel suggests ride safety review after fatal fair accident


A state panel is recommending another look at the ride-inspection process and public perception of ride safety nearly six months after a deadly accident at the Ohio State Fair.

The Ohio Advisory Board on Amusement Ride Safety discussed at a meeting Thursday that a committee should be created to handle both issues. Ride industry officials and others selected by the state Department of Agriculture would serve on the committee.

The advisory board declined to discuss details concerning the July accident that killed a man and injured seven people when a ride called the Fire Ball broke apart. The ride’s Dutch manufacturer, KMG, has said the accident was caused by excessive corrosion on a support beam.

The agriculture department says it will not fine the ride’s operators.

Man calls 911 to report himself drunk driving


Florida authorities are sharing the details of an unusual 911 call on New Year’s Eve, from a man who said he wanted to report himself drunk driving.

Polk County Sheriff’s officials say the dispatcher kept him talking while directing officers to the scene.

When the dispatcher asked Michael Lester where he was, he said, “I’m too drunk. I don’t know where I’m at.”

And when she asked what he’d been doing all night, he said “I don’t know, driving around, trying to get pulled over, actually.”

“I’m driving on the wrong side of the road,” he said later.

The operator repeatedly urged him to park his truck and wait for officers to find him. Unfortunately, he chose the wrong spot.

“Look, I’m parked in the middle of the road,” he said. Sirens could be heard in the background a short time later.

Deputies said Lester admitted drinking beers and swallowing methamphetamine. He also said he’d barely slept for several days.

The sheriff’s office Facebook post says Lester’s criminal history includes DUI, aggravated battery, drug possession and hit-and-run.

Dunkin’ Donuts scaling back 10% of food, drink menu


So long, strawberry banana smoothie. Goodbye, steak-and- egg breakfast sandwich.

Dunkin’ Donuts is cutting back on its food and drink offerings. The Boston Herald reported the new, simplified menu is expected to roll out in New England locations starting Monday before expanding nationwide in mid-March.

The Canton, Mass.-based company founded in 1950 says the reduction represents about 10 percent of its offerings and is meant to streamline service.

Among the casualties are less- popular items and ones that are time-consuming to make, such as smoothies, afternoon sandwiches and certain breakfast sandwiches.

The company announced earlier that it had removed artificial dyes from all doughnuts sold in the U.S. It plans to do the same for the rest of its U.S. food and drink offering by the end of the year.

Associated Press

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