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Briefs

Nephew of mayor kills 5, dies in gunbattle

– The nephew of a small-town Illinois mayor shot and killed five people, including two boys, before leading police on a chase that ended in an exchange of gunfire that left him dead, authorities said Wednesday.

Illinois State Police said they believe Rick O. Smith, 43, entered a Manchester home through the back door and shot the victims at close range with a shotgun, leaving two women, one man and the boys dead. Two people were found in a bedroom, two in a second bedroom and the man in the hallway. A sixth victim, a 6-year-old girl, was injured and taken to a Springfield hospital.

“The offender took the 6-year-old out of the residence and put her in the hands of a neighbor,” State Police Lt. Col. Todd Kilby said.

Officials have not revealed a motive for the killings.

Mosque destroyed during fight in Syria

The 11th-century minaret of a famed mosque that towered over the narrow stone alleyways of Aleppo’s old quarter collapsed Wednesday as rebels and government troops fought pitched battles in the streets around it, depriving the ancient Syrian city of one of its most important landmarks.

President Bashar Assad’s government and the rebels trying to overthrow him traded blame over the destruction to the Umayyad Mosque, a UNESCO world heritage site and centerpiece of Aleppo’s walled Old City.

“This is like blowing up the Taj Mahal or destroying the Acropolis in Athens. This mosque is a living sanctuary,” said Helga Seeden, a professor of archaeology at the American University of Beirut.

Gay marriage clears Rhode Island Senate

Rhode Island is on a path to becoming the 10th state to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry after a landmark vote in the state’s Senate

The Senate passed gay marriage legislation by a comfortable 26-12 margin, following a House vote of approval in January. The bill must now return to the House for a largely procedural vote, likely next week.

Hundreds of people filled the Statehouse with cheers following the vote.

“I grew up in Rhode Island and I’d like to retire in Rhode Island,” said Annie Silvia, 61, who lives with her partner in North Attleboro, Mass. “No. 10 is a nice round number, but I’d like it to be bigger. Fifty sounds good to me.”

Abortion doctor will not take stand

A Philadelphia abortion provider won’t testify or call witnesses at his capital murder trial, leaving jurors to weigh five weeks of prosecution evidence.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, is charged with killing four babies allegedly born alive at a clinic that authorities have described as filthy. He is also charged in the 2009 overdose death of a 41-year-old refugee who died just months after coming to the U.S.

Gosnell’s defense rested without calling a witness. Closing arguments are expected to be heard Monday.

Egg fossil goes for $101,813 in London

A massive, partly fossilized egg laid by a now-extinct elephant bird has sold for more than double its estimate at a London auction.

Christie’s auction house said Wednesday that the foot-long, nearly nine-inches in diameter egg fetched 66,675 pounds ($101,813). It had been valued at 20,000 to 30,000 pounds pre-sale, and was sold to an anonymous buyer over the telephone after about 10 minutes of bidding.

Flightless, fruit-gobbling elephant birds resembled giant ostriches and could grow to be 11 feet high. Christie’s says their eggs are 100 times the size of an average chicken’s.

Acts of nature ruled out in blast

Investigators picking over the scene of last week’s deadly fire and explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, ruled out a lightning strike and other “natural” causes.

Debris is scattered across a 37-block area of town following the April 17 disaster, Assistant State Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner said. Investigators are working from the outer edges of the scene toward the center, he said. The fire wasn’t caused by a rail car at the facility, Kistner said.

About 70 investigators are poring over the scene, Kistner said. They’ve interviewed 60 to 70 witnesses, including passers-by and emergency crews.

Dad of girl killed in footlocker charged

The father of a 10-year-old Arizona girl who authorities say died after another relative padlocked her in a footlocker pleaded guilty to an attempted child abuse charge.

David Martin Deal, 53, isn’t charged in the July 2011 death of his daughter Ame Deal. He admitted in court Wednesday to putting her into the plastic box and throwing the box into a pool about a year before her death.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Susanna Pineda asked Deal whether the allegations against him were true. “Yes,” answered Deal, who faces up to 16 years in prison for guilty pleas to attempted child abuse and marijuana possession charges.

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