- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2006

ALABAMA

State adds charges to federal arson case

CENTREVILLE — Three college students accused of setting fire to a string of rural Alabama churches face state arson and burglary charges, in addition to federal conspiracy counts, state Attorney General Troy King announced yesterday.

The fires damaged or destroyed five churches in Bibb County, south of Birmingham, on Feb. 3, and four churches in western Alabama on Feb. 7.

Matthew Lee Cloyd, 20, of Indian Springs, and Benjamin Nathan Mosley, 20, and Russell Lee DeBusk, 19, of Birmingham, were arrested March 8, and are being held in the Shelby County Jail on the federal conspiracy counts. They have pleaded not guilty.

Mr. King said the state filed charges, too, as insurance, to make certain “justice will be had.”

FLORIDA

Disney to offer milder space ride

ORLANDO — Florida’s Walt Disney World yesterday said it will offer a toned-down version of Mission: Space after two persons died after taking the thrill ride in the past year.

Visitors will have the choice of the original ride aboard a rocket simulator and a version in which the ride’s centrifuge, which works to give people a momentary feeling of weightlessness, is turned off.

Al Weiss, president of Walt Disney World Resort, said the choice of rides will “encourage all guests to carefully consider posted health advisories when making their decisions.”

Both persons who died after riding Epcot’s Mission: Space had serious underlying health problems, autopsies showed. A medical examiner said that Hiltrud Bluemel, 49, of Germany had signs of severe and long-standing high blood pressure. An autopsy found that Daudi Bamuwamye, 4, of Pennsylvania, had an undiagnosed heart defect.

LOUISIANA

First lady to help rebuild libraries

CHALMETTE — First lady Laura Bush visited two Gulf Coast schools yesterday to announce $500,000 in grants to help school libraries wiped out by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Mrs. Bush, a former librarian and public school teacher, was at Chalmette High School in St. Bernard Parish, where every building — including 15 schools — flooded. The money will go to seven public and private schools in Louisiana and three in Mississippi.

“Rebuilt libraries will bring children back to their schools, and rebuilt schools will help bring families back to their revitalized Gulf Coast,” she said at the day’s second stop, in Mississippi.

The money is coming from the Laura Bush Foundation’s Gulf Coast Library Recovery Initiative.

Ann Moore, chairman and chief executive officer of Time Inc., said her company is offering magazines to every school that receives a grant from the foundation and, with German media giant Bertelsmann AG, also will provide books.

At Chalmette High, where the flood wiped out the library’s entire collection of books and magazines, including every issue of Life magazine since 1936, Mrs. Moore had an additional gift: a complete replacement set.

MICHIGAN

Woman in scam accused of polygamy

ROSEVILLE — A suburban Detroit woman who police say was married to three men at once, and scamming them all, was ordered yesterday to stand trial on felony polygamy charges.

Douglas Rice, one of the three husbands, said he met Kyle McConnell on the Internet last summer and married her a few months later in a civil ceremony. Police say she had a trail of as many as 15 husbands in her past.

“She told me she only had been married once, but I found out I was only one sucker in a bunch,” Mr. Rice said.

McConnell, 46, was sentenced in April to 22 months to 10 years in prison for trying to defraud another husband, Richard McConnell. Prosecutors said she passed bad checks written to Mr. McConnell and his family that were drawn on the bank account of yet another husband, Len Battaglia.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Clergy to plan for flu pandemic

CONCORD — To prepare clergy for a flu pandemic, churches are working with the state to develop workshops in Keene, Portsmouth and Manchester.

They will discuss whether clergy would be allowed to make hospital visits during an outbreak, whether church services should continue and how to organize congregations to help.

NEW YORK

Woman, 3 children killed in house fire

BINGHAMTON — Fire swept through a home early yesterday, killing a woman and three of her children and damaging four other buildings, including a neighboring church.

The father managed to alert his eldest daughter in time for her to escape and then jumped to safety from a second-floor window, Fire Chief Clifford Colgan said.

The father, Michael Ray, 56, was listed in fair condition yesterday afternoon at the Wilson Medical Center in Johnson City. His daughter, Courtney, 17, was treated and released.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

RHODE ISLAND

Students charged in mansion burglary

NEWPORT — Two college students have been charged with stealing items worth more than $100,000, including vases and a mantel clock, from a seaside mansion that was once railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt’s summer “cottage.”

Investigators say Eric Fudge, 18, of Boxford, Mass., and Joseph Sullivan, 18, of Scarborough, Maine, stole eight items during break-ins at the Breakers mansion on Friday and Saturday.

The students drove the stash to Maine, then brought it back to Rhode Island when they realized police were questioning fellow students at Salve Regina University, just up the road from the Renaissance-style palace, police Lt. Michael Brennan said yesterday.

The two were arrested Tuesday after abandoning the collection near a large trash bin at a public beach, Lt. Brennan said. The suspects, charged with breaking and entering, were released yesterday after posting $500 bail each.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Thrifty lawmaker drives golf cart

COLUMBIA — The rise in gas prices has prompted one lawmaker to buy a golf cart for his commute.

Rep. Todd Rutherford, a Democrat, began driving his EZ-GO golf cart to the Statehouse last week. The lawyer bought the electric vehicle last fall after Hurricane Katrina caused fuel prices to spike. He drives it to his office and courts downtown.

The cart’s accessories include a stereo and 15-inch flat screen television, which he promises that he watches only when it is parked. He said he spent an impatient winter waiting for the weather to turn warm before taking the cart back out.

Mr. Rutherford said the 1-mile drive from his home to the Statehouse takes 5 minutes by car and 10 minutes by golf cart, time well worth the savings in gas.

His other vehicle is a BMW, which most recently cost him $45 to fill up, “and that lasted two days,” Mr. Rutherford said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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