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The nation in brief

by Compiled Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports | June 10, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.

Marines relieve general in fatal sinking

SAN DIEGO -- The U.S. Marine Corps is relieving a general of his duties for failing to properly train Marines and sailors and evaluate a platoon before an exercise last summer when their seafaring tank sank off the Southern California coast, killing nine Marines, the military announced Wednesday.

The investigation found Maj. Gen. Robert F. Castellvi "bears some responsibility" for the accident off San Clemente Island, 70 miles from San Diego. It attributed the accident to inadequate training, shabby maintenance of the amphibious assault vehicles and poor judgment by commanders.

The crew of the amphibious assault vehicle was left in the dark, using their cellphone lights to desperately try to find an unmarked escape hatch as they took on water, according to the investigation. There also were no safety boats nearby to save them.

At the time, Castellvi served as commanding general of the 1st Marine Division of Camp Pendleton and oversaw the preparation of the troops.

Castellvi was suspended in April from his current position as Marine Corps inspector general and will not be returning to that position.

Castellvi could not be immediately reached for comment.

Texan taken off death row after 45 years

HOUSTON -- The longest serving death row inmate in the U.S. was resentenced to life in prison on Wednesday after prosecutors in Texas concluded the 71-year-old man is ineligible for execution and incompetent for retrial due to his long history of mental illness.

Raymond Riles has spent more than 45 years on death row for fatally shooting John Thomas Henry in 1974 at a Houston car lot following a disagreement over a vehicle.

Riles was resentenced after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in April that his "death sentence can no longer stand" because jurors did not properly consider his history of mental illness.

Riles attended his resentencing hearing via video conferencing. His attorneys said he various health issues that make him susceptible to contracting covid-19.

During his time on death row, Riles has been treated with heavy antipsychotic medications but was never deemed mentally competent to be executed, according to prosecutors and his attorneys.

Governor says clemency bid not priority

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said that addressing a clemency petition for a man who's been behind bars for a triple murder for more than four decades is not a "priority," even though prosecutors say he didn't commit the crime.

Parson said this week that Kevin Strickland, 62, was tried "by a jury of his peers" and found guilty. But he added that he knew there was "a lot more information out there."

"When something like that comes up, we look at those cases, but I don't know that that necessarily makes it a priority to jump in front of the line," Parson said during a Monday news conference.

Parson has a backlog of about 3,000 clemency requests.

Strickland has maintained his innocence since he was convicted in the April 1978 deaths of three people in Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reported in September that two men who pleaded guilty in the killings for decades swore Strickland was not with them and two other accomplices during the shooting. The only eyewitness has also recanted and wants Strickland released.

Those calling for Strickland's exoneration and release include Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, federal prosecutors in the Western District of Missouri and members of the team that convicted Strickland.

Marines probe recruit's training death

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Authorities are investigating the death of a 19-year-old Marine Corps recruit during a strenuous exercise that caps a 13-week training course at South Carolina's Parris Island.

According to a Facebook post from officials with the installation -- one of two Marine training depots in the country -- Pfc. Dalton Beals died Friday during an exercise known as "The Crucible," the final test of recruit training.

Further details about Beals' death, which remains under investigation, have not been released.

Beals graduated in 2020 from Pennsville Memorial High School in Pennsville, N.J., the school noted in a Facebook post.

Several days before Beals began The Crucible, his mother posted on Facebook about the details of the grueling exercise, which she called "the final leg of my baby's journey to becoming a Marine!" The 54-hour effort, during which recruits are allowed limited food and sleep, includes 48 miles of hiking, loaded with heavy gear.

A GoFundMe set up to help Beals' family with funeral expenses noted that he had been set to graduate from training on June 18.

There have been a number of recruit deaths through the years at Parris Island, which has been training Marines since 1915 on the island off South Carolina's coast.


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