- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 17, 2006

ALABAMA

Murder suspects escape from jail

PHENIX CITY — Police in Alabama and Georgia searched yesterday for two murder suspects who fled from an overcrowded jail after overpowering guards and wounding one with a makeshift knife, authorities said.

Searchers used tracking dogs in the hunt for Johnny Earl Jones, 17, who was charged with killing a child he was baby-sitting, and Lamar Elan Benton, 19, charged in the rape-slaying of a 39-year-old woman.

They escaped early Saturday from Russell County Jail in Phenix City. A third murder suspect fled with them but was recaptured quickly by officers using tracking dogs and helicopters. The three men attacked two guards, then went to the front of the jail, where they knocked down another officer, took her keys and escaped, Russell County Sheriff Tommy Boswell said.

CALIFORNIA

High court rejects last-ditch appeal

SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday rejected an appeal from a 76-year-old convicted killer who argued that he was too old and feeble to be executed.

The ruling cleared the way for Clarence Ray Allen — legally blind, nearly deaf and in a wheelchair — to be executed by injection early today for a triple murder that he ordered from behind bars to silence witnesses to another killing.

He raised two claims never endorsed by the high court: that executing a frail old man would violate the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment and that the 23 years he spent on death row were unconstitutionally cruel as well.

The high court rejected all three of his requests for a stay of execution, about 10 hours before he was to be put to death.

HAWAII

Settlement reached to preserve valley

HONOLULU — An out-of-court settlement was reached to purchase and preserve Waimea Valley on Oahu from development.

The Army, two state agencies and the National Audubon Society agreed to pledge $9 million, along with the city’s $5 million, to purchase the land on the island’s rural North Shore. The valley includes a botanical garden, waterfall and burial caves.

LOUISIANA

Three wounded at unity parade

NEW ORLEANS — A parade intended to show unity and support for the city’s rebuilding was marred by violence Sunday when shots rang out, wounding three persons as the event drew to a close.

Not long after the parade ended, police officers patrolling the route heard gunfire. They found a 34-year-old man with multiple wounds, police spokesman Gary Flot said.

More shots rang out minutes later. Officers discovered an 18-year-old woman and a 20-year-old man wounded in the leg.

All three were admitted to hospitals, where the 34-year-old was listed in guarded condition, the 20-year-old was in fair condition, and the 18-year-old was in good condition Sunday night, Mr. Flot said.

MASSACHUSETTS

Archdiocese reports increase in donations

BOSTON — Donations to the Boston Archdiocese are climbing slowly after large drops in response to the church’s handling of the clergy sexual abuse crisis.

The archdiocese’s Annual Catholic Appeal, which ends this month, has received $11 million in pledges, matching last year’s total, the Boston Globe reported. After the sex abuse crisis, fundraising dropped from more than $15 million in 2001 to $8.8 million in 2002.

MINNESOTA

High school paper reveals royal con

OAK PARK HEIGHTS — A convicted sex offender who tried to pass himself off as a teenage member of English nobility says he just wanted some respect, until some high school journalists uncovered his past.

Joshua Adam Gardner, 22, visited Stillwater Area High School three times in December and January, posing as “Caspian James Crichton-Stuart IV, the Fifth Duke of Cleveland” and telling students he was 17 and was interested in attending the school.

“Becoming ‘Caspian,’ I was given respect,” Gardner said in a jailhouse interview broadcast yesterday on NBC’s “Today.” “And people … don’t look at you in that way that they would look at a sex offender.”

The student reporters learned that Gardner was convicted in 2003 of criminal sexual conduct in Winona County, in southeastern Minnesota, for having sex with his underage girlfriend two years earlier. The girl was 15, and Gardner was 18. He was put on probation and apparently had been living lately in Stillwater and Austin.

MONTANA

Snowmobilers’ bodies found after avalanche

KALISPELL — Rescuers recovered the bodies of two snowmobilers who disappeared over the weekend in an avalanche west of Glacier National Park, officials said.

Flathead County Undersheriff Mike Meehan identified them as Christopher Schmalz, 21, and Danelle Bloom, 22, both of Kalispell. Authorities were alerted to the avalanche by a third snowmobiler, Dan Kenfield, 20, of Kalispell, who was rescued by other snowmobilers in the area after being buried under a few feet of snow, officials said.

Mr. Kenfield and his rescuers later found the body of Mr. Schmalz, who was wearing an emergency beacon, officials said. Mr. Bloom did not carry one.

WEST VIRGINIA

Interviews to begin in mine accident

CHARLESTON — Federal and state investigators looking into the Sago Mine disaster plan to begin interviewing miners privately, coal company officials and inspectors said yesterday.

The mine where 12 men died is being purged of deadly gases, and investigators probably will not be able to enter for at least a few more days, said federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) spokesman Dirk Fillpot.

The interviews will be conducted at a courthouse in Clarksburg by officials with MSHA and the state Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training. Investigators want to know what sparked the blast and how the victims spent their final hours.

The sole survivor, Randal McCloy Jr., 26, remained hospitalized in serious condition in Morgantown.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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