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AROUND THE STATE

> ROCHESTER

Former utility exec wins mayoral election

ROCHESTER (AP) -- Democrat Thomas Richards, a one-time chief executive of Rochester's gas-and-electric utility, coasted past former three-term Mayor William Johnson Jr. on Tuesday to win a special mayoral election.

With almost all precincts reporting unofficial returns Tuesday night, Richards led by 49 percent to 42 percent for Johnson in the race to succeed Robert Duffy, who became New York's lieutenant governor in January.

Richards, 67, a party nominee who became Duffy's deputy mayor in October, headed Rochester Gas & Electric Corp. from 1998 until he was forced out in a 2002 merger.

He left retirement in 2006 to become the city's corporation counsel.

Johnson, a fellow Democrat who ran on an independence ticket, was elected to City Hall on his first try in 1993. He stepped down in 2005.

The shortened mayoral campaign has been relatively low-key, with candidates focusing on how best to spread out a scarcity of funds to lift ailing, inner-ring neighborhoods.

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> ALBANY

Murder victim's estate can file for insurance

ALBANY (AP) -- New York's top court ruled Tuesday that the estate of a man run down by a homicidal driver is entitled to make insurance claims for injuries caused by an accident.

The Court of Appeals said that even though Ronald Popadich pleaded guilty to murder for killing Neil Conrad Spicehandler when he intentionally drove into Manhattan pedestrians in 2002, it was clearly "unexpected and unforeseen" from Spicehandler's point of view.

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. denied liability on the grounds that it wasn't an accident, initially winning the case in court after Popadich's conviction in 2005.

In a five-day crime spree, he had also shot two people, killing a neighbor in New Jersey and wounding a cab driver in New York, and running down 24 people at random.

The court majority in the 5-2 ruling said Spicehandler's estate is entitled to claims under his policy's three endorsements for uninsured/underinsured motorist, mandatory personal injury protection and death, dismemberment and loss of sight.

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> BRONX

Tweeter-turned-snake posts clues on location

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Bronx Zoo may still be looking for its missing cobra, but a tongue-in-cheek Twitter user is charting its supposed progress.

Someone using the handle "BronxZoosCobra" and posing as the 20-inch, highly venomous snake has been tweeting to a quickly growing number of followers -- more than 40,000 by Tuesday afternoon. The Bronx Zoo had 6,000 followers.

"On top of the Empire State Building!" BronxZoosCobra posted. "All the people look like little mice down there. Delicious little mice."

Tweets included a "Sex and the City" reference: "I'm totally a SSSamantha."

The Reptile House at the Bronx Zoo, run by the nonprofit Wildlife Conservation Society, closed Friday after zoo workers searched but did not find the Egyptian cobra.

Zoo officials are confident the snake is hiding in the Reptile House.

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