- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 28, 2004

CALIFORNIA

Record producer charged with murder

LOS ANGELES — Pop-music producer Phil Spector was charged in an indictment unsealed yesterday with murder in the shooting death of a B-movie actress at his mansion last year.

Mr. Spector, 64, leaned on the arm of his attorney as the indictment in the slaying of 40-year-old Lana Clarkson was read, but showed no emotion. Outside court, free on $1 million bail, he railed at District Attorney Steve Cooley.

“The actions of the Hitler-like DA and his storm-trooper henchmen are reprehensible, unconscionable and despicable,” said Mr. Spector, who suggested in an interview with Esquire magazine that Miss Clarkson shot herself.

WASHINGTON

Series of quakes hits volcano

SEATTLE — Small earthquakes rattled Mount St. Helens at the rate of one or two a minute yesterday, and seismologists were working to determine the significance of some of the most intense seismic activity in nearly 20 years.

Carbon dioxide and sulfur gas samples collected above the volcano — which erupted to devastating effect in 1980 — will tell scientists what is happening. They want to know whether the quakes are the result of water seeping into the mountain or magma moving under its crater.

“If it’s magma, we’ll be a lot more nervous,” said Jeff Wynn, chief scientist at the Cascade Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Wash.

FLORIDA

Woman killed by alligator

FORT MYERS — A 20-year-old woman died after an alligator bit off her arm as she apparently went out for a late-night swim in a lake near her grandparents’ house, authorities said.

The body of Michelle Reeves, of Roswell, Ga., was found by her father in a lake near a residential area Sunday, Lee County sheriff’s spokeswoman Ileana LiMarzi said. Miss Reeves and her father were in town visiting her grandparents, she said.

Miss Reeves’ right arm was bitten off at the elbow and she had puncture wounds on her left arm and upper body, Miss LiMarzi said.

She had last been seen about 2:30 a.m. Sunday. Miss Reeves’ father began searching for her about 10 a.m. and found his daughter’s nightgown near the lake. He then called sheriff’s deputies, and he found the body after they arrived.

State wildlife officials said an alligator was removed from the area.

GEORGIA

Veterinary school gets $2 million

ATHENS — The University of Georgia’s veterinary school has something to purr about thanks to a $2 million gift.

Tom and Dorothy Morris, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., picked the school as the recipient of their entire estate because their favorite veterinarian, William Meriwether, went to school there.

“Since they had no children, I think they just wanted to leave their legacy to animals,” said Peter Armold, the deceased couple’s nephew and representative of the estate.

Mr. Morris died in the 1980s, and Mrs. Morris died last year.

Their bequest will turn into a $90,000-a-year trust for students working toward a doctorate of veterinary medicine and Ph.D. simultaneously, said Dot Sparer, public-relations coordinator for the veterinary school.

HAWAII

State named in abuse lawsuit

HONOLULU — The state has been named in a lawsuit filed by the legal guardians of a 16-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted by a guard at the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility. The Circuit Court lawsuit names the Department of Human Services, Office of Youth Services, the correctional facility, former guard Lia Olione and two administrators.

The lawsuit says the state failed to protect the girl from harm and failed to remove her from the facility immediately after she reported the assault.

IDAHO

Panel will hearabout testing effects

IDAHO FALLS — In response to hundreds of letters from citizens, the National Academy of Sciences will accept testimony in Idaho about the effect that Cold War nuclear testing had on their health.

About 150 residents submitted comments on the need to extend the federal government’s compensation program to Idaho victims of radioactive fallout from atmospheric testing in Nevada in the 1950s and 1960s.

The academy’s Board on Radiation Effects Research is writing a report that will recommend whether the government should expand the compensation program.

MAINE

Lobster harvest lags this year

PORTLAND — The lobster harvest is down sharply this summer and there are no signs the catch will pick up this fall, lobstermen and dealers said.

The catch is estimated to be down 25 percent to 40 percent from last year at this time.

MASSACHUSETTS

House speaker resigns amid probe

BOSTON — Thomas Finneran, who, as speaker of the Massachusetts House has stood firm against abortion and homosexual “marriage,” resigned his leadership post yesterday amid a federal investigation, opening the way for the selection of a more liberal fellow Democrat.

Mr. Finneran, 54, said he will serve out his legislative term, which ends Jan. 1, but will step down as speaker today. He said the probe had nothing to do with his departure and that he will take a job heading a biotechnology trade group.

His departure comes amid a federal investigation into his role in the redrawing of the state’s legislative districts. After a lawsuit was filed claiming that the map was drawn to favor incumbents such as Mr. Finneran, the House speaker testified that he was not involved in the process. Federal prosecutors are looking into whether Mr. Finneran lied under oath.

House Majority Leader Salvatore F. DiMasi, who favors homosexual “marriage” and supports abortion rights, is expected to be named speaker tomorrow.

MONTANA

Man, 108, gets gifts of cigars

GREAT FALLS — A 108-year-old man has taken up smoking again, encouraged by gifts of cigars from as far away as London.

Retired railroad worker Walter Breuning spoke at his birthday party Sept. 21 of how he reluctantly quit smoking cigars at the age of 99 because he couldn’t afford them.

After his story was widely distributed, the Great Falls man heard from people like the English cigar fan who sent two Havanas.

“They were $12 cigars and they were good,” Mr. Breuning said.

He also received a birthday note and a few more cigars from a former Great Falls resident now living in Oregon.

Fred Aimi, of Lolo, was reading newspaper stories to a group of blind neighbors when he came across an account of Mr. Breuning’s birthday. “That hurt,” Mr. Aimi said. “I like a good cigar myself.”

Mr. Aimi said he sent a box of two dozen cigars on Friday to Mr. Breuning.

NEW MEXICO

City urged to flush toilet tax

SANTA FE — Santa Fe may be reaching a saturation point with retrofitted low-flow toilets, and many entrepreneurs are calling for an end to the city’s “toilet tax.”

Officially known as the Santa Fe Water Offset Program, the law passed by City Council in 2002 requires the owners of new construction projects to retrofit old water-guzzling toilets elsewhere in the city with new “low-flow” models to offset the increased water use of the new buildings.

Will Adams, an owner of Willee’s Blues Bar, told the Albuquerque Journal that to open a nightclub he had to pay $18,000 to install new toilets across the city.

Because local plumbers have been feverishly installing the devices all over town, new business owners find they have to purchase “retrofit credits” accumulated by the plumbers.

Since the law went into effect, 19,335 toilet credits have been approved and the city has collected $773,401 in administrative fees.

NEW YORK

Station evacuated after fires break out

NEW YORK — Penn Station was evacuated and train service was halted yesterday after two fires broke out, causing chaos for hundreds of travelers at one of the nation’s busiest commuter hubs.

The fires occurred in a transformer beneath the East River and on tracks near a terminal entrance, authorities said. Five persons were taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation, but no serious injuries were reported.

The causes of both fires were under investigation. The fires forced Amtrak, the Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit to alter routes. Subway service through the station was unaffected.

NORTH CAROLINA

Widow indicted in arsenic death

RALEIGH — The widow of an AIDS researcher who died of arsenic poisoning almost four years ago was indicted yesterday on a murder charge.

Police had never called Ann Miller a suspect or offered a motive for Eric Miller’s poisoning in 2000.

Investigators have said Mrs. Miller was having an affair with co-worker Derril Willard Jr. and that both had access to an arsenic compound at the laboratory where they worked.

She was a research scientist at GlaxoSmithKline in Research Triangle Park and her 30-year-old husband was a pediatric AIDS researcher at the University of North Carolina.

Mrs. Miller has since moved to Wilmington, remarried and changed her name to Ann Kontz.

OKLAHOMA

Six persons killed in house fire

OKLAHOMA CITY — Hearing screams for help, neighbors tried in vain to rip burglar bars off the windows of a burning house where six persons were killed. The victims included three teenagers and an 11-year-old girl.

Authorities discovered the bodies of Jack and Connie Somers-Wilder, their children — Daneel, 19, Leisylle, 17, and Aimy, 11 — and friend Kayla Hayes, 15, in the family’s garage Sunday.

Kayla, who had spent the night at the Somers-Wilder home, lived down the street.

Authorities believe the victims were overcome by smoke, Oklahoma City Fire Department Maj. Brian Stanaland said. The cause of death was being investigated by the state Medical Examiner’s Office.

It was not clear what triggered the fire, but officials said it was reported by someone inside the house.

PENNSYLVANIA

Brawl at school leads to 28 arrests

CHESTER — Police arrested 28 students at a suburban Philadelphia high school yesterday and had to call in reinforcements from surrounding towns to break up a huge brawl raging in the school’s halls.

The fighting at Chester High School broke out near the cafeteria at noon and spread throughout the halls as scores of teens from two rival groups joined in, Chester police Chief John F. Finnegan said.

School security officers were unable to stop the brawl on their own and called for city police, who, in turn, sought additional help from other police departments. Officers used stinging sprays to subdue some fighting students.

No serious injuries were reported. Classes were canceled for the day.

Chief Finnegan said it was not clear what caused the brawl.

TEXAS

Golfer collects clubs for GIs

HUNTSVILLE — Some people who think Iraq is just one big sand trap now have some tools to tackle the terrain.

A local resident, Doug Murdock, was inspired to collect golf clubs and balls for soldiers after hearing that the son of his friend, Claude Dance from Shreveport, La., had been sent to Iraq.

“Prior to his son going, Claude had seen that some of the troops were making makeshift golf courses. They would round up clubs and balls and play golf,” Mr. Murdock said.

Before long, buckets full of clubs and balls were being donated and gathered at the Elkins Lake Golf Course.

Care-package organizer Joe Peery attributed the response to the community’s support of the troops in Iraq.

WEST VIRGINIA

Prosecutor exits chicken-cruelty case

MORGANTOWN — The prosecutor investigating reported torture of chickens at a West Virginia slaughterhouse has stepped down over a potential conflict of interest, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals promised yesterday to keep the pressure on his successor.

The West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Institute is trying to find a replacement for Hardy County Prosecutor Lucas See, who sought guidance from the state bar association after workers fired by Pilgrim’s Pride met with his father, also a lawyer in Moorefield. Mr. See’s wife is a partner with her father-in-law, further creating the potential appearance of impropriety.

“I didn’t think that was enough, personally, to step down, but I was advised to just basically exercise caution,” Mr. See said.

In July, PETA released secretly recorded video of workers stomping, kicking and slamming chickens against walls at the Moorefield processing plant. Texas-based Pilgrim’s Pride fired 11 employees, re-educated its work force at all 24 North American plants, and added quality-assurance monitors on both shifts in Moorefield.

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