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OHIO HOME EXPLOSION

Authorities say southwest Ohio blast 'suspicious'

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) - Authorities are calling "suspicious" a natural gas explosion that leveled a vacant home and damaged 48 nearby structures in Dayton.

Assistant Fire Chief Michael Caudill says investigators aren't sure what would have caused the gas to ignite. One possible explanation is that inexperienced metal scrappers were taking pipes out of the home. But he says that is only speculation at this point.

The Dayton Daily News reports that the blast Monday caused several minor injuries, shattered windows and caused structural damage to some homes in the southwest Ohio city's west side. Federal and state investigators have been helping local authorities.

One neighbor says he smelled gas five to 10 minutes before the explosion, which he says sounded like war had broken out.

GAS DRILLING-EARTHQUAKES

Fracking foes challenge Ohio earthquake assurances

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A concerned citizens' group in a northeast Ohio region where earthquakes have been tied to fracking says it won't take the word of state regulators that new permitting guidelines adequately address public safety.

Youngstown-based Frackfree Mahoning Valley plans a news conference Wednesday to discuss persisting concerns.

A state geologist's finding released last week for the first time linked earthquakes in the Utica Shale to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique used to access oil and gas deposits. The state's review called the link "probable."

The finding led Ohio to issue a moratorium on fracking within three miles of the seismic activity's epicenter and to issue new permit conditions viewed as among the nation's strictest.

The anti-fracking group says a Youngstown State University geologist has identified 12 earthquakes near fracking activity.

DEAD BOATER FOUND

Body of missing boater found in Ohio lake

JAMESTOWN, Ohio (AP) - Authorities say the death of a boater reported missing on a southwest Ohio lake appears to be an accident.

Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer tells the Dayton Daily News that the body of the 63-year-old man was found Tuesday afternoon near the boat dock at Shawnee Lake near Jamestown, southeast of Dayton.

The man, whose name hasn't been released, was found a few yards from his truck and boat trailer. An autopsy was planned.

Authorities began searching for the man Tuesday morning after a resident heard calls for help from the area of a boat ramp and responders spotted an empty boat floating on the lake.

Pete Dodge, who lives on the lake, says the man also lives on the lake and does maintenance work on the property.

OHIO PARKS-UPGRADES

Ohio state park facilities to be modernized

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - State officials are preparing to invest $88.5 million to upgrade and modernize trails, campgrounds and recreational facilities in Ohio's state parks over the next two years.

The outlay headed to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources through the state capital budget is more than four times larger than average. Details were announced in Grand Lake St. Mary's on Wednesday.

Natural resources department director James Zehringer told The Associated Press in an interview that the money will be shared among Ohio's 74 state parks. Ohio's is one of only seven park systems nationally that charges no entry fees.

Through a website, parks visitors will help decide which camp sites, cabins, lodges, restrooms, shower houses, trails, roads and wastewater treatment facilities see improvements.

DOCTOR SLAIN-DNA

Ex-Ohio cop freed in killing can stay free for now

CINCINNATI (AP) - A former Ohio police captain released after nearly 15 years in prison for his ex-wife's killing can remain free as the state's highest court considers taking his case.

The Ohio Supreme Court's ruling Wednesday will allow former Akron Capt. Doug Prade to stay out of jail until at least the summer.

That's when the court should decide whether to consider Prade's appeal of a lower court's ruling.

The March ruling by Ohio's 9th District Court of Appeals found a judge was wrong to free Prade based on bite-mark DNA testing.

If the Supreme Court takes the case, Prade would remain free as the justices weigh whether to overturn the lower ruling.

If the court turns down the case, Prade would have to go back to jail.

DEAD BABY-METH LAB

Ohio police probe baby death in alleged drug lab

MANSFIELD, Ohio (AP) - Police in northern Ohio are investigating the death of a 3-month-old baby who lived in a home where they say a drug lab was operating.

Mansfield police Lt. Doug Noblet says officers began investigating after the infant was taken to a hospital Monday. The coroner has not announced a cause of death, and the child and mother have not been identified.

The Mansfield News Journal reports that investigators who searched the house found the makings of a methamphetamine lab.

The mother's live-in boyfriend, 29-year-old Alexander Dickson, was jailed on charges of illegal manufacture of drugs and illegal assembly or possession of chemicals. He is not the father of the child.

Dickson is being held on $250,000 bond. Online jail records did not list an attorney for him.

CATHOLIC TEACHER CONTRACTS

Ohio marchers protest Catholic teacher contract

CINCINNATI (AP) - Demonstrators gathered in Cincinnati's Fountain Square to protest new language in contracts for teachers in southwest Ohio Roman Catholic schools that place more restrictions on personal behavior.

About 60 people showed up Tuesday to march to the offices of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to hand-deliver petitions protesting the new contracts, which specify behaviors and actions that can get them fired. That includes such things as abortion, artificial insemination and "homosexual lifestyles."

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports the march drew a mix of parents, students, former teachers and others who support their cause.

All teachers in the 19-county archdiocesan school system are required to sign the contracts for the 2014-15 school year. The archdiocese has said it has no plans to change it.

OHIO CHURCH BREAK-INS

Man pleads guilty to breaking into Ohio churches

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio (AP) - A man has pleaded guilty to kicking in the doors and looting more than two dozen central Ohio churches to help feed his drug habit.

Twenty-six-year-old Cash Yoakem on Tuesday pleaded guilty in Chillicothe, south of Columbus, to 44 counts of felony breaking-and-entering. Prosecutors said he broke in and stole from at least 27 Ross County churches, some more than once, from October through January.

The churches reported the theft of everything from televisions and copper wire to heirloom communion trays. Yoakem is also charged with breaking into two car washes.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that prosecutors are pushing for four years in prison when Yoakem is sentenced June 6. His attorney is urging the judge to stick to sentencing guidelines, which call for probation.

CHILD'S GRAVESITE-THEFTS

Police seek woman who took toy from baby's grave

ONTARIO, Ohio (AP) - Police are trying to identify a woman who took a stuffed animal from an Ohio boy's gravesite after other toys and solar nightlights were stolen from there.

On Saturday, the child's family left a stuffed yellow duck for Easter at a cemetery in Ontario, near Mansfield. Surveillance video taken hours later shows a woman pick up the duck, look around and walk away.

Detective Jon Sigler says the duck was found Wednesday, apparently thrown along a cemetery road.

Sigler says toy tanks and flowers also have disappeared in recent years from the grave of the 14-month-old boy, who died in 2007.

His mother, Jaclyn Sheridan, tells The Mansfield News Journal that solar lights on other gravesites have been left alone and that she suspects her son's grave has been targeted.

WOMAN DEAD-SON SENTENCED

Ohio man, 23, gets 20 years for strangling mother

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A judge has sentenced a 23-year-old central Ohio man to 20 years in prison for strangling his mother during an argument over money last year.

Tyler Dunkle was sentenced Tuesday in Columbus after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and other charges in the death of 44-year-old Terri Menendez. The sentenced was approved by both sides as part of a plea agreement.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that Dunkle's attorney told the judge the former high school honor student was suffering from alcoholism and mental illness. Police say he strangled his mother and hid her body in a closet at their apartment in suburban Hilliard on March 29, 2013.

Dunkle told police they were arguing about finances.

Family members agreed to the plea bargain to avoid a trial.

BOEHNER-OHIO DISTRICT

Speaker Boehner works his home Ohio district

GREENVILLE, Ohio (AP) - With a contested primary election less than two weeks away, House Speaker John Boehner (BAY'-ner) is making the rounds of his western Ohio district.

The West Chester Republican was set Wednesday for a breakfast speech to the Darke County Chamber of Commerce in Greenville, followed by a visit to Hartzell Propeller in Piqua (PIK'-quh). Boehner on Tuesday toured an auto parts business in Eaton.

Boehner faces an unusually crowded primary field in the 8th District he first won in 1990. Three Republicans oppose him May 6.

While Boehner is expected to handily win nomination, his campaign began early this month running television commercials in the Cincinnati and Dayton markets. They were his first TV campaign ads at home since 2010. Aides have said Boehner's ads will help other Ohio Republicans.

RESTAURANT-TRADEMARK FIGHT

Restaurant sues ex-Cardinal Edmonds over name

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A Cincinnati restaurant owner is suing former Cardinals outfielder Jim Edmonds over the name of the Precinct, a restaurant he co-owns in downtown St. Louis.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Jeff Ruby filed a federal lawsuit against Edmonds' business late last year. The suit alleges that Edmonds' steakhouse infringes on the Ohio restaurant group's trademark.

The St. Louis Precinct features police and sports memorabilia and is located next to the new city police headquarters building. The Precinct in Cincinnati opened in 1981 and occupies a former police patrol building.

Edmonds played for the Cardinals from 2000 to 2007. He later played for the Cincinnati Reds before retiring from baseball in 2011.

EARNS-PROCTER & GAMBLE

Procter & Gamble 3rd-quarter results mixed

CINCINNATI (AP) - Procter & Gamble Co.'s fiscal third-quarter net income rose 2 percent, bolstered by some lower expenses and a reduced tax rate.

Its adjusted earnings topped analysts' estimates, but revenue fell short.

The world's biggest consumer products maker also cut its 2014 adjusted earnings forecast on Wednesday.

For the three months ended March 31, the maker of Tide detergent and Gillette razors earned $2.61 billion, or 90 cents per share. That compares with $2.57 billion, or 88 cents per share, last year.

Excluding restructuring charges and other items, earnings were $1.04 per share. Analysts' forecast $1.02 per share.

Revenue totaled $20.56 billion, down slightly from last year's $20.6 billion on foreign currency fluctuations. Wall Street expected $20.68 billion.

P&G now foresees full-year adjusted earnings climbing 3 percent to 5 percent. Its prior outlook was for 5 percent to 7 percent growth.

The stock fell slightly in premarket trading.

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