Noon briefing: Grim Sleeper sentenced to death

Lonnie Franklin, who has been dubbed the 'Grim Sleeper' serial killer. Photo / AP
Lonnie Franklin, who has been dubbed the 'Grim Sleeper' serial killer. Photo / AP

1 'You are truly a piece of evil'
A serial killer known as the "Grim Sleeper" was sentenced to death today for the murders of nine women and a teenage girl that went unsolved for years as the body count grew in a poor section of Los Angeles haunted by the scourge of crack cocaine. The moment of reckoning for Lonnie Franklin came after those whose lives were altered by his violence questioned how he could have been so cruel and shown so little remorse. "You are truly a piece of evil," said Enietra Washington, who managed to survive after being shot and testified against him at trial. "You're right up there with Manson." The killings occurred over more than two decades and community members complained that police didn't seriously investigate them because the victims were black and poor and many were drug users and prostitutes. No one has been put to death in San Quentin State Prison since 2006 and there are nearly 750 inmates on death row.

2 Water park boy 'decapitated'
A 10-year-old boy was decapitated as he rode a 51m-tall waterslide at a water park in Kansas, a person familiar with the investigation said today.

The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person is not authorised to speak about the boy's death, told AP that Caleb Schwab was decapitated on Monday on the "Verruckt" raft ride at the Schlitterbahn WaterPark in Kansas City, Kansas. Caleb was in a raft with two women who were not related to him when he was killed. The women were treated for facial injuries. A spokeswoman for the water park declined to discuss the circumstances of Caleb's death. At least two people who recently rode on "Verruckt" - German for "insane" - have said nylon shoulder straps came loose during the ride. It's unclear whether the straps played any role in Caleb's death.

3 Hope for Aleppo aid deliveries
The Russian military said that fighting in Aleppo will cease for three hours daily to allow humanitarian aid deliveries, but it was unclear whether rebels had agreed. A UN official said a break in fighting for at least 48 hours was needed to get sufficient aid into the city. Lieutenant General Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military's General Staff said the daily ceasefires will be observed from 10am to 1pm local time starting today. He didn't say whether the rebels have agreed to respect the halts in hostilities, or explain how they would be enforced. Rudskoi says Russia supports the UN proposal to oversee the aid deliveries, adding that the Russian military is discussing the issue with UN experts and the US military.

4 Shooting stars
The heavens will be bursting with shooting stars tomorrow. The annual Perseid meteor shower is expected to peak with double the normal number of meteors. Scientists call this an outburst, and they say it could reach up to 200 meteors per hour. The last Perseids outburst was in 2009. Thanks to a gravity nudge from Jupiter, debris from comet Swift-Tuttle could stray closer to Earth again. These scattered specks of dust - a trail in the comet's wake - are what flash as they enter the atmosphere at a mind-blowing 132,000 mph and burn up. The Perseids are so named because the meteors appear to emanate from the constellation Perseus, the Medusa-killing hero of Greek mythology.

5 Fires kill four
Wildfires raging in Portugal have killed at least four people and more than 1000 people have been evacuated on the tourist destination island of Madeira, where flames spread to its regional capital, Funchal, authorities say. The Portuguese Interior Ministry said it had requested help from the European Union. Neighbouring Spain sent two planes and Italy one aircraft to help with the fire-fighting efforts. Lisbon also sent a force of more than 100 emergency service workers on a military plane to Madeira, where the fires, fanned by strong winds, have destroyed about 40 homes and a five-star hotel in the hills above Funchal. On mainland Portugal, thousands of firefighters struggled to control dozens of forest fires.

Firefighters battle a fire that reached the old centre of Funchal, the capital of Portugal's Madeira Island. Photo / AP
Firefighters battle a fire that reached the old centre of Funchal, the capital of Portugal's Madeira Island. Photo / AP

6 Soldier deported
A former Guatemalan soldier deported from the United States in handcuffs and flanked by security maintained his innocence in the face of accusations that he helped massacre more than 200 people more than three decades ago during his country's gruelling civil war. Santos Lopez Alonzo landed in Guatemala City on a charter flight for American deportees, advocates for victims' relatives said they hoped he'd be held accountable for the onslaught that wiped out the small village of Las Dos Erres in 1982. "We are very happy they deported him and that he must now face Guatemalan justice, above all, for the victims, who have always demanded justice," said Francisco Vivar, an advocate for victims. The now-64-year-old Lopez served with an elite unit of the Guatemalan Army. Lopez says he guarded women and children during the massacre but killed no one.

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