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SUSPECT ARRESTED IN THEFT OF DISASTER RELIEF FUNDS

U.S. border guards in California have arrested a man in connection with a string of robberies in New York State, including the theft of a Red Cross disaster relief donation jug containing $600 from a convenience store.

David A. Padilla, 19, of Sayre, Pa., was taken into custody Saturday near San Diego while trying to re-enter the United States from Mexico, the New York State Police said.

Padilla is accused of participating in 10 robberies between Oct. 3 and Oct. 12, including holdups in Binghamton, Johnson City and Apalachin.

State troopers had been hunting for Padilla since Oct. 17, when they arrested three other people in connection with the robberies. A routine computer check at the border was all it took to arrest him upon his return to the United States.

Padilla is accused of swiping the Red Cross donation jug from a convenience store in Newark Valley, 57 miles south of Syracuse, just two weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The bandit in that heist used an American flag to cover the license plate of his getaway car.

After the theft, local residents rallied to replace the stolen funds. One woman walked into the store and gave the manager an envelope containing $700 in cash.

First lady notes bonds
among people strengthening

NEW YORK (AP) -- First lady Laura Bush said Tuesday that family bonds and friendships have strengthened around the country since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Families have come together," she said. "Our family bonds are strengthened, and we've also grown closer to our friends and neighbors."

Mrs. Bush spoke at a Manhattan luncheon where she was honored as one of several "Women Who Inspire Us" by Woman's Day magazine.

"We've learned a lot about humanity in the last seven weeks," she said. "Now we all have a stronger idea of what it means to be an American."

She cited, as an example of a new goodwill, programs in which Jewish and Christian women volunteered to shop for Muslim neighbors who were afraid to be seen outside.

"Some worry that the wave of goodwill will swell and pass," she said. "I'm an optimist. I believe human connections are more lasting and our country is entering an important time of renewal."

State reports drop in total
of deer killed by vehicles

ALBANY (AP) -- The number of deer killed in vehicle collisions in New York dropped 12 percent last year to 9,253, state environmental officials reported Tuesday.

With New York's deer population estimated at around 1 million, State Environmental Commissioner Erin Crotty said drivers should be particularly wary now because of the onset of the peak season for deer-vehicle crashes.

"During the late fall and early winter, there is a greater likelihood that deer may wander onto roadways, creating hazards for drivers," Crotty said. "All motorists should be alert for deer, especially during dawn and dusk, when commuter traffic is at its highest volume."

St. Lawrence County reported 728 fatal deer-vehicle collisions in 2000, the most of any county in the state. Oneida County ranked second with 559 collisions, followed by Erie County with 481.

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