As Anakin turns...

The line started forming early and the tickets sold quickly Wednesday as Columbia sci-fi fans prepared to experience “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.”

Matt McGlasson arrived at Forum 8 at 6 p.m. for the first screening, scheduled for midnight. He planned to wait for the theater to open while watching “Star Wars” movies on his portable DVD player.

No troubles as housing chief retires

When Doris Chiles came to work as the executive director of the Columbia Housing Authority in 1996, there were 157 vacant low-income apartments. The staff needed reorganization and the authority had a poor reputation. During Chiles’ first four years on the job, the authority’s administrative offices were located in seven public housing units. Chiles’ office was on the second floor of a two-bedroom housing unit.

“Troubled status is a designation by HUD as one that receives significant oversight,” Chiles said.

Skala is replaced on zoning board

After serving six years on the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission, Karl Skala has been replaced by a Columbia resident interested in neighborhood issues.

The Columbia City Council on Monday night voted to renew the five-year term of commissioner Neil Cady, but after several votes, it replaced Skala with Glenn Rice, a 20-year resident of the city.

City priorities

Columbia City Manager Ray Beck outlined city government’s priorities Wednesday for fiscal 2006 during his annual State of the City address. Here are the highlights.

A day of graphic detail

The murder trial of Steven Rios began Tuesday with prosecutors showing photos of the dead body of 23-year-old Jesse Valencia and concluded with lingering questions about the lack of a weapon and the possible misuse of a police restraint technique.

In his opening statement at the Boone County Courthouse, special prosecutor Morley Swingle of Cape Girardeau portrayed Valencia as a fun-loving college student with aspirations of attending law school. He described Valencia’s last hours, as he went from party to party, and Swingle then gave a graphic account of Valencia’s death.

Missouri consumer advocate is fired

JEFFERSON CITY — The state’s official consumer advocate has been fired by Republican Gov. Matt Blunt’s administration after a legislative session in which he criticized “the anti-consumer initiatives” backed by Blunt and Republican lawmakers.

Floyd, UM curators object to UMKC split

KANSAS CITY — The University of Missouri will not support any effort to separate its Kansas City campus from the university system, President Elson Floyd said last week.

Two high-profile consultants serving on a task force evaluating the relationship between the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the community suggested at recent forums that the Kansas City campus could increase local fundraising ability if it were on its own.

Bank on city’s north side robbed

Employees at a Paris Road bank were in the process of alerting other area banks to a suspicious person they had seen in their bank when First National Bank and Trust Co. was robbed by a person who fit the description, Columbia police said.

“At that bank, they were very aware that something was wrong, that he was not acting in a normal manner,” Capt. Zim Schwartze said. Schwartze would not name the bank.

Summer school’s troubles tackled

After ironing out some trouble spots with summer school, the Columbia Public Schools have worked hard to make changes that include a streamlined transportation system, incentives that can be donated to charity and a curriculum that will better parallel the regular academic year.

The district renewed its contract with private summer school provider Newton Learning, and the changes announced at a Board of Education meeting Monday will go into effect on June 13, the first day of summer school. Last year, a record 6,000 were enrolled in the tuition-free program.

Columbia kids reap rewards for reading

About 1,200 students from every elementary and middle school in Columbia gathered on at MU on Tuesday for the annual Columbia Reading Club Day as a reward for taking part in their school’s extracurricular reading programs.

Students who completed the program’s requirements spent the day listening to speeches by a group of authors and storytellers rather than sitting in their usual classrooms. To earn the reward, students typically read at least 10 books, said Gentry Middle School media specialist Susan Nichols.

Dig begins at farm ‘steeped in history’

It’s nothing much, yet — broken chunks of bricks, scraps of mortar, square iron nails, fingernail-size bits of pottery, a pea-sized piece of lead buckshot. But every fragment could help build the story of Lexington, a one-time overnight stop for settlers headed west that was established not long after the War of 1812 broke out.

What’s left of the settlement is being excavated by about a dozen volunteers on Bill and Judy Heffernan’s 500-acre farm about five miles northeast of Rocheport.

Jury selected for Rios murder trial

LIBERTY — While sitting at a conference table alongside his defense attorneys Monday, Stephen Rios saw for the first time the potential jurors who will determine his guilt or innocence.

Rios, a former Columbia police officer, is accused of killing Jesse Valencia, a 23-year-old MU student who was found dead near his Wilson Avenue apartment June 5, 2004, with his throat cut.

Land on south side annexed, rezoned

Columbia grew by 97 acres Monday night when the City Council unanimously approved the annexation and rezoning of wooded land on the southern edge of the city.

More than 200 single-family homes are being planned for the site along the south side of Old Plank Road. Robert Hollis, an attorney for the site’s owners, Charles and Barbara Roberts, said he expects the houses to sell for $180,000 to $1.2 million. They will be situated on plots ranging from a quarter of an acre to three acres.

New dean named for College of Education

Carolyn Herrington enthusiastically sought the top job at MU’s College of Education.

“With relish,” she said.

Missourians to get $1 million in restitution

A repayment of $1 million will reach 250 Missourians who invested in variable annuities exchanged by Waddell & Reed, a broker-dealer firm based in Kansas.

The company reached an agreement with the National Association of Securities Dealers on April 29 and said it would make a total of $11 million in restitution to 5,000 customers across the nation.

It’s time to recall our friendly past

One of the things I’ve learned from living in a politically charged environment is that it is not differences in political philosophy that divide people as much as differences in attitudes.

Remember when it was considered bad manners to bring up politics or religion at social gatherings? In those days, we valued good relationships with our neighbors and friends more than putting forth our positions on political or religious issues. For the sake of maintaining a pleasant environment, we were all willing to forgo the opportunity to express our opinions, saving them for expression at the proper time and in the proper place. As a result, regardless of which party has been in power, I have always been impressed with the friendliness, helpfulness and warm hospitality Missourians extend to visitors.

Mo. officials challenge base closures

WASHINGTON — Missouri’s congressional delegation has begun its long-shot fight to save a few thousand jobs targeted in the latest round of military closures and realignments.

Sen. Kit Bond met late Monday afternoon with Anthony Principi, chairman of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, to complain about the Pentagon’s plan to move the Missouri Air National Guard’s 131st Fighter Wing out of Lambert Airport in St. Louis. The shift would cost about 250 military and civilian jobs and $135 million in economic impact to the region.

A ‘Ronald McDonald’ house for the four-legged

Marilyn Gaffney’s quest to help her ailing dog Ricci took her halfway across the state, from her home in St. Louis to treatment facilities in Columbia. For a month, she would make that trip twice a week.

Ricci’s veterinarians in St. Louis weren’t sure what was wrong with her, so they referred Gaffney to MU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Ay, Chihuahua!

Angela Henson does not leave home without her dog. From class to work to an occasional party, she takes her

10-pound Chihuahua, George, almost everywhere she goes.

St. Louis killer to be executed tonight

ST. LOUIS — Lawyers and death penalty opponents fought Monday to halt the execution of a St. Louis man twice sentenced to die.

Barring a court ruling or clemency from Gov. Matt Blunt, Vernon Brown, 51, is scheduled to die by injection at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday at the Eastern Reception Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre. It would be the third execution in Missouri this year.