People in South, Midwest pray for relief from heat

n NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Residents across the South and Midwest were hopeful that the weekend would bring some relief from brutal temperatures that have killed more than three dozen people and set records for power demand.

Forecasters expected temperatures in Memphis and other parts of the Mississippi Valley to drop slightly, into the 90s, by Saturday or Sunday, a relief from several consecutive days of triple digits.

In all, 41 deaths in the South and Midwest have been confirmed as heat-related, and other deaths are suspected, authorities said.

Chopper pilot lands illegally to grab lunch

n MIDLAND, Mich. - Lunch on terra firma apparently proved too tempting for a helicopter pilot and his passenger, police said.

The pilot was ticketed for an illegal landing Tuesday after he touched down on a grassy area on a busy commercial corridor in Midland, about 100 miles northwest of Detroit.

The man and the female passenger then crossed the road to eat lunch at Logan's Roadhouse, police said. Employees at the store next to the parked chopper called police.

Astronauts relieved to skip repairs

n CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Endeavour's astronauts said Friday they were relieved by NASA's decision to skip repairs to the deep gouge on their spaceship's belly, and noted it would have been tough to pull the job off.

'We were not looking forward to doing it only because there was a lot of risk involved,' said Rick Mastracchio, who would have been the main repairman.

It would have been difficult to prepare all the tools and get to the gouge on Endeavour's underside, Mastracchio said.

4 killed in Marine helicopter crash

n PHOENIX - A U.S. Marine Corps search-and-rescue helicopter crashed during a training flight over southwest Arizona, killing four people on board, officials said Friday. One person survived.

The HH-1N Huey crashed about 20 miles north of Yuma on Thursday. The wreckage was discovered early Friday, and three Marines and one Navy sailor were pronounced dead at the scene, said 1st Lt. Rob Dolan, a spokesman for the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma.

4th teen indicted in Fla. gang rape

n WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - An 18-year-old man was held without bail Friday on charges that he participated in a brutal gang rape and beating of a woman and her 12-year-old son in a crime-ridden housing project.

Tommy Lee Poindexter, 18, was indicted Thursday on 14 counts, including sexual battery, kidnapping and burglary. He is accused of participating in the rape of a 35-year old woman with as many as nine other suspects, all of whom police believe are teenagers.

Millionaire falsely claimed that son plotted his shooting

n CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Millionaire technology guru John J. Donovan Sr. was convicted Friday of falsely claiming to police that he was shot in an attack arranged by his son.

Judge Kenneth Fishman found Donovan, 64, guilty of filing a false police report, a misdemeanor, in the bench trial. Donovan was immediately sentenced to two years' probation and a $625 fine. He also must complete 200 hours of community service.

5 people killed in small airplane crash

n KETCHIKAN, Alaska - A small airplane crashed near this island city in southeast Alaska, killing five people, authorities said.

There were four survivors in the crash Thursday, including a 2-year-old girl, Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said.

Identifications of those aboard were not immediately available.

Ex-convict accused in multistate crime spree pleads guilty

n CONCORD, N.H. - An ex-convict who authorities say went on a multistate crime spree after leaving prison this spring pleaded guilty Friday to killing three men during a botched robbery last month in Conway.

After hearing from the victims' families, Judge Edward Fitzgerald sentenced Michael Woodbury, 31, to mandatory sentences of life in prison without parole.

Woodbury admitted fatally shooting James Walker, manager of the Army Barracks outdoors gear store in Conway, on July 2, along with two customers, William Jones, 25, and his friend Gary Jones, 23.