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NATION IN BRIEF: Trustee: Nearly half of Madoff losses recovered

Trustee: Nearly half of Madoff losses recovered

NEW YORK -- Nearly half the money invested by thousands of people in Wall Street swindler Bernard Madoff's multi-decade fraud has been recovered, a court-appointed trustee announced Thursday as he revealed a settlement that adds more than a billion dollars to the total.

Trustee Irving Picard said the latest agreement was reached with more than a dozen domestic and foreign investment funds, their affiliates and a former chief executive associated with Tremont Group Holdings Inc., a multibillion-dollar money management company based in Rye, just north of New York City.

The settlement will boost recoveries of money available to jilted investors to more than $8.6 billion, nearly half the approximately $17.3 billion in principal lost by Madoff, who pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges and is serving a 150-year prison sentence in Butner, N.C..

Polygamist head mute at opening statements

SAN ANGELO, Texas -- A Texas prosecutor told jurors Thursday he would present an audio recording of a polygamist sect leader raping a 12-year-old and other evidence showing the 55-year-old impregnated a 15-year-old girl during the man's sexual assault trial.

The trial began shortly after Warren Jeffs fired his high-powered defense team and a judge allowed the ecclesiastical head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to defend himself.

But when it came his turn to present an opening statement, Jeffs was mute, sitting silently in his courtroom seat.

Then, as the prosecutor continued to present his case, Jeffs stared off into space, appearing not to be paying attention to the proceedings.

Phoenix cops: 4 people arrested in child's death

PHOENIX -- Four people were arrested in the death of a 10-year-old girl who police said Thursday had been placed inside a plastic container for punishment.

During the initial investigation, family members told police that Ame Deal and other children in her family had been playing hide and seek, and they believed that Ame must have climbed into the box to hide and accidentally suffocated.

However, detectives said they're now treating the July 12 death as a homicide after determining the child had been placed in the box as punishment.

Colo. cops: Four killed in 3 shootings

DENVER -- The mayor of Colorado Springs called it ''a sad day'' for his city after a spate of violence: three unrelated shootings that left four people dead and two others wounded.

Sgt. Steve Noblitt said the three shootings Wednesday night were unrelated and occurred in different areas of the city.

Noblitt said the heaviest toll came in central Colorado Springs, where three men were killed. When police arrived to investigate a report of shots fired, they found two men dead and one wounded. The injured man later died at a hospital.

Army: Soldier admits to Fort Hood attack plan

KILLEEN, Texas -- An AWOL soldier who had weapons stashed in a motel room near Fort Hood has admitted planning an attack on the Texas post, where 13 people died in 2009 in the worst mass shooting ever on a U.S. military installation, the Army said in an alert issued Thursday.

Pfc. Naser Abdo, a 21-year-old soldier granted conscientious objector status this year after he said his Muslim beliefs prevented him from fighting, was arrested Wednesday. Agents found firearms and ''items that could be identified as bomb-making components, including gunpowder,'' in his motel room, according to FBI spokesman Erik Vasys.

N.M. officials look for sniper who killed cat

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Someone shot and killed a neighborhood cat that was sitting on the porch of a house, leaving residents of the quiet part of northeast Albuquerque on edge and city animal welfare officials looking for clues as to who might be responsible.

The black and white cat, named Pris, was brought to the city's animal welfare department by a resident after being found dead early Tuesday. City spokesman Chris Ramirez said X-rays showed a bullet lodged near the cat's ribs.