Flooding forces evacuations, floods roads in Midwest

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Rising water from the Cedar River forced the evacuation of a downtown hospital Friday after residents of more than 3,000 homes fled for higher ground. A railroad bridge collapsed, and 400 city blocks were under water.

In Des Moines, 100 miles to the southwest, officials issued a voluntary evacuation order for much of downtown and other areas bordering the Des Moines River. Mayor Frank Cownie said the evacuations were an attempt 'to err on the side of citizens and residents.'

Des Moines is Iowa's capital and largest city, with about 190,000 residents. But the hardest-hit was Cedar Rapids, a city of 124,000 people.

Gov. Chet Culver declared 83 of the state's 99 counties to be state disaster areas, and nine rivers were at or above historic flood levels. Elsewhere in the upper Midwest, rivers and streams tipping their banks forced evacuations, closed roads, and even threatened drinking water.

Jury rules in favor of R. Kelly in trial

CHICAGO - R. Kelly was acquitted of all charges Friday after less than a day of deliberations in his child pornography trial, ending a six-year ordeal for the R&B superstar.

Kelly dabbed his face with a handkerchief and hugged each of his four attorneys after the verdict - not guilty on all 14 counts - was read. The Grammy award-winning singer had faced 15 years in prison if convicted.

Manson follower Atkins mulled for sick release

CORONA, Calif. - Former Charles Manson follower Susan Atkins, convicted in the 1969 murder of actress Sharon Tate, could soon be released from prison because she is near death, authorities said.

Atkins, 59, is terminally ill and being considered for so-called 'compassionate release,' state corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton said. She gave no details of Atkins' illness, but said a doctor had determined she had less than six months to live.

The corrections department was reviewing the request, which if approved would then be passed to the state Board of Parole which has the power to release Atkins under state law so they can die with loved ones, at their expense.

Police: 2 dead in shooting at N.C. bottling plant

CONCORD, N.C. - Two people were shot and killed Friday morning during an apparent robbery at a soda bottling plant north of Charlotte, authorities said.

Concord deputy police chief Guy Smith said authorities were using a helicopter and police dogs to hunt for the shooter, who was seen running away from the Sun-drop Bottling Co. carrying a box. He remained at large late Friday afternoon.

'We have 25 to 30 investigators who are following every lead,' Smith said. 'When someone is carrying a box from the scene, you want to talk to them.'

Missing clip not seen as problem for shuttle's re-entry

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - A metal clip broke off Discovery's rudder and only four hours passed before the seven space shuttle astronauts got the good news: The missing part poses no danger for today's re-entry and landing.

Ever since the Columbia tragedy five years ago, any shuttle part seen floating away in orbit gets NASA's attention - fast.

Mission Control reassured commander Mark Kelly and his crew on Friday that their spaceship was safe for coming home, and that the missing clip would not jeopardize anything. Good weather is expected for today's landing in Florida.

N.C. couple face murder in death of son tied to tree

RALEIGH, N.C. - A couple accused of tying their 13-year-old son to a tree for two nights to punish him for disobedience has been charged with murder in his death, authorities said Friday.

Brice Brian McMillan, 41, of Macclesfield, told a deputy that the child was being disobedient and was forced to sleep outside Tuesday while tied to a tree, the Edgecombe County Sheriff's Office said. The teenager was released Wednesday morning but again tied up that night for bad behavior, authorities said.

The boy was left tied to the tree until the following afternoon when his stepmother found him unresponsive, Sheriff James Knight said. Knight said authorities believe the boy was bound to the tree with plastic ties and possibly other kinds of material.

Serial killer pleads guilty to slaying from 1979 in Pa.

READING, Pa. - A confessed serial killer has pleaded guilty to the 1979 rape and murder of a nurse in southeast Pennsylvania.

Sixty-three-year-old Timothy Krajcir was sentenced to life in prison Friday after admitting that he killed 51-year-old Myrtle Rupp inside her Berks County home in 1979.

Krajcir has admitted killing nine women in four states in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He has received life sentences for five killings in southeast Missouri and two killings in southern Illinois.