“The Fast Five:” Florida Lunchtime Headlines

Here are five story’s that are hot topics from the state of Florida at noon on this Friday.

Controversial Florida prosecutors receives noose in the mail

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — An investigation is underway after a noose was mailed to the office of a Florida prosecutor who refuses to seek the death penalty in cases.

Orange County Sheriff’s officials say the first letter arrived March 20 at the office of Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala.

The Orlando Sentinel (http://bit.ly/2pKm3gi ) reports a clerk saw a racist message scrawled on an envelope addressed to Ayala, who is Florida’s first African-America state attorney. About a week later, the clerk found a second letter containing a noose made out of green twine and taped to a postcard.

The sheriff’s office redacted the contents of both letters.

Gov. Rick Scott reassigned 23 of Ayala’s capital murder cases after she announced her refusal to seek the death penalty. Ayala is suing Scott, claiming he can’t remove her from the cases.

Florida unemployment rate drops to 4.8 percent

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s unemployment rate is dropping.

State figures released Friday show unemployment was 4.8 percent in March, down from 5 percent the month before. Florida added 6,200 jobs over the month.

But the state’s unemployment rate is still higher than the national rate of 4.5 percent.

There were 483,000 jobless Floridians out of a labor force of 10.1 million.

Monroe County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 2.8 percent, followed by St. Johns County at 3.3 percent and Okaloosa and Wakulla counties at 3.5 percent.

Hendry County had the highest unemployment rate at 6.4 percent, followed by Sumter County at 6.1 percent and Citrus and Hardee counties at 5.9 percent.

Florida man accused of bashing father’s skull, killing him

OVIEDO, Fla. (AP) — A 34-year-old Florida man faces a first-degree murder charge after police say he used a blunt object to bash his father’s skull.

Chandler Belaston was arrested Thursday and is expected to make a first appearance in court Friday afternoon.

Local news outlets report police found Jean Belaston’s body April 13 on the floor of his home in Oviedo, which is a suburb of Orlando.

Oviedo police Lt. Heather Capetillo says there was a large amount of blood around his body and a pair of black pants covered his face. Police believe a crowbar was used in the attack as well as a large blade, such as a machete.

Police haven’t released a motive for the killing.

Chandler Belaston is being held without bond. Records don’t list an attorney.

Authorities: Murdered girl’s mother dies of overdose

BARTOW, Fla. (AP) — Authorities say the mother of an 11-year-old Florida girl who was killed after being abducted in 2004 has died of a heroin overdose.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Thursday that Susan Schorpen’s death is one of eight fatal overdoses being investigated in the central Florida county.

The Herald-Tribune (http://bit.ly/2pYR2nW) reports the 47-year-old woman died April 10.

Schorpen’s pleas for the return of Carlie after she was kidnapped by Joseph P. Smith from a car wash captivated the nation during a six-day search in February 2004. The girl’s body was found in the woods behind a church less than three miles from where she was abducted.

Smith is attempting to have his death sentence vacated. He was convicted of first-degree murder, sexual battery, and abduction.

Massive empty barge washes ashore in South Florida

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Coast Guard officials are working to remove a massive barge that has washed ashore in South Florida.

The empty barge was being towed by a tugboat when it broke loose near the Lake Worth Inlet during a crew switch early Thursday morning.

The Palm Beach Post (https://tinyurl.com/k8paobt ) reports no one was injured and there is no stress of pollution.

It’s unclear where the barge was coming from or where it was headed.