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NATION BRIEFS: Police: Boy found dead in luxury Manhattan hotel

Photo by Mary Altaffer

Photo by Mary Altaffer

Pathologist: Peterson's ex-wife didn't die in fall

JOLIET, Ill. -- A pathologist who concluded that the death of Drew Peterson's ex-wife was a homicide and not an accident as first determined testified Friday that her injuries weren't consistent with a fall in a bathtub.

Dr. Larry Blum, in his first public comments since the 2007 autopsy of Kathleen Savio, said he didn't think bruises on her body and a laceration to the back of her head came from a single fall. Savio's body was found slumped forward in a dry bathtub in 2004, and Blum said that her position wasn't consistent with a fall.

''There was no blood, hair or tissue on the tub,'' said Blum, who looked at photographs from the original autopsy and crime scene to help make his determination.

Blum said Savio did drown but her death was not accidental, as another pathologist initially found.

Police: Boy found dead in luxury Manhattan hotel

NEW YORK -- New York City police say an 8-year-old boy was found dead and his socialite mother near death in a room at a luxury Manhattan hotel.

Police said they're investigating the death at the five-star Peninsula Hotel just off Fifth Avenue as a possible murder and attempted suicide. They say prescription drugs may have been involved.

Police spokesman Paul Browne says an apparent suicide note was found at the scene, but he won't disclose what it said.

Space shuttle Endeavour cleared for launch

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- With many still in shock over this week's space exploration shake-up, NASA managers insist the launch team is focused on safely launching Endeavour on Sunday.

Mission managers cleared the space shuttle for liftoff even as they used words like ''angst'' to describe the mood of the work force at the launching site.

''Distractions are there. Shock is there. Uncertainty. But ... I do not worry about the folks'' while they're doing their job, launch director Mike Leinbach said Friday.

Judge awards $22M damages in torture case

MIAMI -- The son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who commanded a brutal paramilitary unit in his father's government, was ordered Friday by a federal judge to pay $22.4 million in damages to five Liberians who were tortured and abused during the West African nation's bloody civil war.

The Liberians sued Charles McArthur Emmanuel, also known as Charles ''Chuckie'' Taylor Jr., shortly after Emmanuel was sentenced to 97 years in prison for a criminal conviction under a U.S. anti-torture law. The Emmanuel criminal case was the first and so far only prosecution under that 1994 law, which allows U.S. charges for torture committed overseas.

The ruling on damages in the civil case by U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan will ''serve as a deterrent to others who believe they could mistreat fellow humans in this manner and never be held accountable,'' said Piper Hendricks, an attorney with Human Rights USA who represented the Liberians along with Troy Elder, a law professor at Florida International University -- whose law students did research in the case.

RI man charged with operating on his own dog

BARRINGTON, R.I. -- A Rhode Island man who said he couldn't afford veterinary care for his dog has been charged with illegally operating on the pet.

Alan MacQuattie recently removed a cyst from the leg of his 14-year-old Labrador mix. The dog was operated on again by professionals to deal with an infection from the first surgery.

E.J. Finocchio, president of the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, calls the surgery a ''heinous crime.''

Smart: No role in plotting husband's death

BEDFORD HILLS, N.Y. -- Even after 20 years, the New Hampshire school aide convicted of persuading her teenage lover to kill her husband insists she had nothing to do with plotting the death.

Pamela Smart, 42, is serving life without parole after being convicted in 1991 of recruiting her teenager lover and his friends to murder her husband a year earlier. Smart was a 22-year-old high school media coordinator and Flynn was 16 when he shot Gregg Smart to death at the couple's Derry, N.H., home.

''I'm so much more than the worst mistake of my life,'' Smart told WMUR-TV in an interview at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in New York.