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Jan. 14, 2013 at 10:53 PM
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Agriculture Secretary Vilsack staying on

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Monday he is staying on in the post in President Obama's second term.

The former Iowa governor said he is pleased to continue working with Obama "to grow more opportunity in rural America."

"President Obama and I share a deep appreciation for rural America and its unlimited potential in the years ahead to feed a growing world population, revolutionize America's energy, further protect our natural resources and create more jobs here at home," Vilsack said in a statement.

"We will continue to urge Congress to pass a food, farm and jobs bill that will help us continue USDA's wide range of efforts to support this work."

Father, 2 sons, found dead after hike

CENTERVILLE, Mo., Jan. 14 (UPI) -- A Missouri man and his two young sons died in the cold after getting lost along the Ozark Trail during the weekend, authorities said.

The family members, along with their 4-month-old Labrador retriever, were found Sunday morning on the bluffs near Black, Mo., the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Temperatures had fallen into the 20s and there had been a freezing rain, authorities said.

Reynolds County Coroner Jeff McSpadden pronounced David Decareaux, 36, dead at the scene. His sons, Dominic, 10, and Grant, 8, were transported to a hospital where they were pronounced dead about 2 p.m., officials said.

County Sheriff Tom Volner said David Decareaux, his wife and their five children were in the area for a family trip and to go hiking. On Saturday, Decareaux and the two boys went for a walk and were reported missing after they failed to return home that night.

"When they took off in the morning, it was near 60 degrees," Volner said. "They were last seen by a passer-by at about 2 p.m. [Saturday] on top of Sutton's Bluff. At the time it was raining, and the passer-by asked if they needed a ride. David told the gentleman they could make it back."

Shootout suspect sues for damages to home

OGDEN, Utah, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- A Utah man is suing his insurance company to cover the damage caused in a deadly shootout with police, his lawyer said.

Matthew D. Stewart, 38, returned a check worth $3,321.29 from his insurance company, Fire Insurance Exchange and Farmers Insurance Group, to cover a portion of the estimated $8,400 in damages to his Ogden home caused during a drug raid, The Salt Lake Tribune said Sunday. Stewart is charged with aggravated murder for allegedly shooting Webster Morgan Strike Force Agent Jared Francom Jan. 4, 2012. Francom was one of several agents to raid Stewart's home on suspicion of a marijuana-growing operation inside.

Stewart allegedly began firing at officers, striking and killing Francom. Stewart has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

Though Stewart's lawyer said his client is entitled to the full amount of damages to his home, the insurance company said in a letter it is not liable for "intentional damage" done to the property.

Calif. mulls more prison releases

SACRAMENTO, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- California prison reform advocates are calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to release more "low-risk" inmates and reduce overcrowding in the state's prison system.

Law enforcement types, however, note "low-risk" is a misleading term and only means convicts with certain traits such as good behavior or older prisoners are less likely to be convicted of another felony if released. That group would include infamous cult leader Charles Manson, who, due to his age (78), is a "low-risk" offender.

Brown recently ordered more than 40,000 inmates freed. Department of Corrections spokesman Terry Thornton said further releases, as are being sought in California courts, could put the public in danger, the San Francisco Chronicle said Sunday.

"It's ridiculous for the plaintiffs to say that ... the state can release some of them with no threat to public safety," Thornton said.

Emily Harris of Californians United for a Responsible Budget, said paying to keep aging prisoners who aren't likely to re-offend makes no fiscal sense.

"The emphasis needs to be on shifting resources away from locking up people to a social safety network" of support services, education and affordable housing that can lead to rehabilitation, Harris said.

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