- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 6, 2004

CALIFORNIA

Peterson portrayed as preparing to flee

REDWOOD CITY — In the weeks before he was arrested, Scott Peterson bought a car using his mother’s name and lied about why his hair had turned from brown to blond, according to testimony at his double-murder trial.

Prosecutors preparing to wrap up their case against Mr. Peterson again are trying to portray the former fertilizer salesman as a liar who might have been preparing to flee after his pregnant wife’s body was discovered.

Michael Griffin took the stand on Monday to testify about selling Mr. Peterson a used Mercedes in April 2003, shortly before Mr. Peterson’s arrest. He said Mr. Peterson purchased the car under his mother’s name — Jacqueline Peterson.

Longtime Peterson friend Mike Richardson also testified, saying Mr. Peterson had bleached-blond hair and a goatee in April 2003.

Mr. Richardson said Mr. Peterson told him that the chlorine in a friend’s pool had bleached his hair. But the friend, Aaron Fritz, testified that Mr. Peterson had never been in his pool.

MASSACHUSETTS

House fire kills family of five

DENNIS — A couple and three children died in a house fire yesterday that might have been burning for an hour before a neighbor called authorities.

A neighbor called authorities after noticing “a huge glow” from the fire in a two-story, wood-frame duplex, acting Dennis Fire Chief John Donlan said. Firefighters in the Cape Cod town were unable to enter the duplex immediately because of flames and because a portion of the roof had collapsed.

Smoke detectors apparently had not been working, said Jennifer Mieth, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Fire Services. The other side of the duplex was not occupied.

Several news outlets, citing friends and family, identified the victims as Cherie White, 24; Ronald Mero, 29; Nathan Mero, 2; Jordan Mero, 9, Ronald Mero’s son from another relationship; and Destiny Becotte, 5, Cherie White’s daughter from another relationship.

ALABAMA

Ex-governor, aide cleared of conspiracy

TUSCALOOSA — Prosecutors dropped the Medicaid fraud charges against former Gov. Don Siegelman and a top aide yesterday after a judge threw out a conspiracy charge that was the linchpin of the case.

U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon ruled there was insufficient evidence to support the conspiracy charge against Mr. Siegelman and former Chief of Staff Paul Hamrick. That left only a health care fraud charge against the two.

Judge Clemon dismissed the charges with prejudice, which prevents the government from bringing them again.

A tearful Mr. Siegelman hugged his wife, Lori.

Mr. Siegelman, 58, and Mr. Hamrick, 40, were accused of conspiring with a supporter, Tuscaloosa physician Phillip Bobo, to rig a bid on a lucrative Medicaid contract.

ARIZONA

Slain soldier’s mom collapses, dies

TUCSON — A 45-year-old woman collapsed and died days after learning her son had been killed in Iraq, and just hours after seeing his body.

Results of an autopsy were not released, but friends of Karen Unruh-Wahrer said she couldn’t stop crying over losing her 25-year-old son, Army Spc. Robert Oliver Unruh, who was killed by enemy fire near Baghdad on Sept. 25.

“Her grief was so intense — it seemed it could have harmed her, could have caused a heart attack. Her husband described it as a broken heart,” said Cheryl Hamilton, manager of respiratory care services at University Medical Center, where Mrs. Unruh-Wahrer worked as a respiratory therapist.

ARKANSAS

Safety house causes blaze

MAGNOLIA — A portable house used to teach children how to escape from a burning home clipped a power line while it was being towed yesterday, causing a nearby house to catch fire.

No people were hurt, but a dog died in the blaze.

The unlikely series of events started while the fire department towed the Arkansas Children’s Hospital “smokehouse” to an elementary school. Firefighters had taken the route before. But since the last visit, new utility poles had been installed, and the smokehouse caught a low wire, pulling it away from the home of Cassie Farrar. The home caught fire, and her Chihuahua died of smoke inhalation.

A live wire fell on the fire department pumper truck that was following the smokehouse to the school, so the truck could not be used to put out the fire. Other firefighters had problems with their directions and were late arriving at the burning home.

HAWAII

Pilot rescued after ditching plane

HONOLULU — A pilot who treaded water for hours in the Pacific after his small plane crashed, and then spent part of the night bobbing in a life raft, was rescued by a container ship yesterday and was doing well, shipping officials said.

Ray Clamback, 67, of Australia, was spotted Monday evening by the crew of a C-130 airplane from Honolulu that had been searching for him for about seven hours, said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Marsha Delaney. His plane had gone down about 750 miles south of Oahu.

He climbed into a life raft dropped from the C-130, and about 9 hours later he was picked up by the crew of the container ship P&O; Nedlloyd Los Angeles, which was on its way from Los Angeles to Melbourne, Australia, Chief Petty Officer Delaney said.

ILLINOIS

Hormone pills linked to blood clots

CHICAGO — Estrogen-progestin pills double post-menopausal women’s chances of developing dangerous blood clots, and the risk is even higher for overweight patients and those older than 60, researchers say.

The findings continue the drumbeat of bad news about estrogen that has led to a sharp drop in sales of the supplements, which have long been prescribed to relieve symptoms of menopause.

The results came from the Women’s Health Initiative, the same study that was halted two years ago.

MINNESOTA

Worker slainafter confrontation

BROOKLYN CENTER — A gas station attendant was fatally shot early yesterday after he stood up to a teenager who had been taunting a developmentally disabled customer, police said.

The suspect was harassing a female companion and calling the disabled man names just before 3 a.m. when the attendant intervened and stopped him, said Deputy Police Chief Laura Goodman, who declined to identify the victim or the suspect.

After threatening the attendant, the teen left but returned with a weapon about 20 minutes later, Chief Goodman said. The attendant was shot at least seven times as he cleaned up outside and died at the scene, police said.

The suspect was arrested nearby, Chief Goodman said.

NEW YORK

Chapman denied parole again

ATTICA — John Lennon’s killer will remain in prison for at least two more years after being denied parole yesterday because of the “extreme malicious intent” he showed in gunning down the former Beatle in 1980.

Mark David Chapman, 49, was notified of the decision late yesterday after appearing before a three-member panel earlier in the day.

“Following a personal interview, a review of your records, and deliberation, your release to parole supervision at this time is denied,” the parole board said in a statement, citing the “extreme malicious intent” exhibited when Chapman fired on Mr. Lennon “multiple times.”

It was Chapman’s third bid for freedom.

TENNESSEE

Exonerated convict gets compensation

NASHVILLE — A man who spent 22 years in prison for a rape he didn’t commit before DNA evidence cleared him has been awarded more than $800,000 in compensation from the state.

Clark McMillan, 47, learned of Monday’s decision from his attorney, Democratic state Rep. Rob Briley.

“Thank the Lord,” Mr. McMillan told Mr. Briley.

Mr. McMillan was released from prison in 2002 after DNA testing on evidence revealed he could not have been the man who raped a Memphis teenager.

Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, exonerated Mr. McMillan about five weeks ago after a unanimous recommendation by the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole.

The state Board of Claims, making its first award for wrongful imprisonment in more than two decades, also voted unanimously to grant the compensation.

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