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Metro Briefs

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 14, 2007

VIRGINIA

YORK

Death row inmate's trial delayed

A trial in York County to determine whether a death-row inmate is mentally retarded has been continued indefinitely.

The York County Circuit Court clerk's office said no new trial date has been set for Daryl Atkins of Hampton.

Atkins was scheduled to be executed in December 2005 for the murder of Eric Nesbitt two years earlier. His case led to a U.S. Supreme Court ban on executing the mentally retarded, and now his mental capacity is in question.

Last year, the Virginia Supreme Court overturned a jury decision that Atkins was not mentally retarded because an expert witness for prosecutors was found to be unqualified to testify and because the judge told the jury that Atkins had been sentenced to death.

CHRISTIANSBURG

Teacher pleads guilty to '70s rape of girl

A former teacher in Blacksburg pleaded guilty yesterday to 10 counts of rape in the early 1970s.

Montgomery County Commonwealth's Attorney Brad Finch said Jonathan Utin, 65, began having sex with a girl when she was 11 and continued for several years.

Mr. Finch said the victim said the abuse happened about once a week until 1974. He also said Utin threatened to hurt a boy who had witnessed Utin fondling the girl.

Under a plea agreement, Utin will serve 40 years in prison.

Before he begins his sentence in Virginia, he must complete a 15-year sentence in Ohio for having sex with a girl there.

Utin taught science at a Blacksburg middle school from 1968 to 2003, and was a gymnastics coach, Sunday school teacher and swim club manager in the area.

MARYLAND

BALTIMORE

State to retake Hickey school security

Two years after the state said it was closing the "dysfunctional" Charles H. Hickey Jr. School, the troubled facility continues to give officials headaches.

The O'Malley administration said it will end the contract of the private firm that provided security at the juvenile detention center after three escapes this year.

Watkins Security Agency Inc. of Baltimore won the contract in October after the administration of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. took the job away from state employees.

Now, security again will be in the hands of state employees, Juvenile Services Secretary Donald W. DeVore said.

"We're moving to terminate the contract," Mr. DeVore said. "We're going to assume those responsibilities with our own staff."

Describing the detention center as dysfunctional, the Ehrlich administration closed parts of Hickey in 2005 with great fanfare after state and federal monitors complained of long-standing problems, including physical abuse of juveniles by staff, deficient suicide-prevention measures and inadequate medical and mental health care. But the state continued to operate a section with beds for youths awaiting court appearances.

Meanwhile, security remained problematic. In May, 10 youths used wire cutters to break through a fence. Two others escaped July 31, although Juvenile Services officials do not know how. In January, two youths walked away from a gym.

A spokesman for the Department of General Services, which oversees state contracts, said his agency had informed Watkins that the contract will end Aug. 27.

CROFTON

DUI charges filed after officer hit

A Crofton man was charged with driving under the influence after Anne Arundel County police said he struck an officer.

Officer Alex Swartz, 36, had stopped another vehicle early Saturday on Riedel Road, police said. After placing that driver in his patrol car, police said, Officer Swartz was on the driver's side of the cruiser when he was struck by David Gregory, 21.

Police said Mr. Gregory had a blood alcohol level over the legal limit.

Officer Swartz was treated at Anne Arundel Medical Center for lower-body and leg injuries. Two other police officers from Crofton and Anne Arundel County were at the scene and took Mr. Gregory into custody.

BURTONSVILLE

Van hits workers on road, killing one

A construction worker was killed and another sustained life-threatening injuries after a van plowed through a construction site on Route 29.

The driver of the van took off on foot into the woods. Others may have been in the van and also fled, police said.

The accident happened about 1 p.m. when five workers were sitting on the guardrail at northbound Route 29, just before the Howard County line. A white Ford van went out of control and crashed into a construction truck nearby, which caused the van to veer to the right and hit all five workers, police said.

Martin Ruffin, 30, of Baltimore, was killed and three others were hospitalized, one with serious injuries.

Police are looking for the driver who fled, saying he may be hurt, too. They have asked employers and hospitals to be on the lookout for someone with injuries consistent with the accident.

QUEEN ANNE

Cinder block fight leads to stabbing

A Queen Anne man was charged in the stabbing of his neighbor during an argument over cinder blocks, police said.

The county sheriff's office said Larry Forsythe, 52, stabbed Stephen Campbell, 53, with a 6- to 8-inch butcher knife in his back and arm and cut across his abdomen.

Mr. Campbell was in critical condition at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

FREDERICK

Judge tosses suit on raw-milk ban

A judge yesterday threw out a dairy farmer's lawsuit challenging a state ban on "cow-sharing" agreements aimed at skirting a prohibition on retail sales of raw milk.

Kevin Oyarzo of Buckeystown had sought to let people buy into his herd and receive unpasteurized milk in return. Some states, including Virginia, allow such arrangements to help meet a growing demand for raw milk.

Frederick County Circuit Judge Julie Stevenson Solt rejected Mr. Oyarzo's argument that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene acted improperly by issuing emergency regulations prohibiting cow-sharing after he told the agency of his plans last summer.

Public health regulators say raw milk can contain harmful pathogens that are killed during pasteurization. Raw-milk proponents say the heat of pasteurization also kills healthful components in milk and degrades the flavor.

Mr. Oyarzo's attorney, Paul Walter, declined to comment on the ruling, saying he needed to first read it and then consult with his client.

At a hearing last month, Assistant Attorney General Lisa Barkin said cow-sharing deals are "sham agreements" designed to circumvent the 35-year-old sales ban.

Mr. Walter acknowledged during the hearing that Mr. Oyarzo's plan was "possibly an avoidance" of the state law, but he said the new regulation amounts to an illegal ban not just on sales, but consumption, of raw milk.Twenty-eight states allow sales of raw milk for human consumption, according to the Washington-based Weston A. Price Foundation, a natural-foods advocacy group.

BELTSVILLE

Police chase ends in fatal crash

A police chase early yesterday ended with a crash that killed the driver.

Authorities said an officer saw two men get out of a minivan and go into a convenience store and thought the men looked like they were casing the store.

Police said the minivan's driver noticed the officer and pulled away from the store without turning on his lights.

The officer followed the minivan, which lost control and hit a tree. The driver was dead at the scene.

Police were searching for the other two men.

CHURCHTON

Man's body found floating in water

A teenage girl swimming near a pier discovered the body of a man floating in the water Sunday, Anne Arundel County fire officials said.

The girl was swimming with friends when she bumped into the body of John Frederick Tucker Jr., 33. The friends helped the girl drag Mr. Tucker onto the community beach.

Anne Arundel County police Cpl. Randall Gann, the first officer to arrive at the scene, could not find a pulse on Mr. Tucker.

Mr. Tucker was taken to Anne Arundel Medical Center and pronounced dead.

Friends of Mr. Tucker's told authorities that they saw him go under the water and not come back up. An investigation was planned.

GREENBELT

Third gang member sentenced to 35 years

A member of the street gang Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Jose Hipolito Cruz Diaz, 28, of Lanham, was convicted by a federal jury in April of racketeering charges stemming from gang slayings, assaults, robberies and other offenses.

During the trial, witnesses testified that Diaz headed a small unit of MS-13, called a clique, in the District.

Prosecutors said Diaz and another man shot at a crowd of youths at a Fairfax apartment complex in January 2005, killing one and injuring two others.

Two other MS-13 leaders also were convicted on racketeering charges. Henry Zelaya, 21, was sentenced last month to life in prison. The other will be sentenced next month.

BALTIMORE

Arrest made in killing near mayor's home

Baltimore police have charged a teenager in a killing that happened near Mayor Sheila Dixon's house last month.

Tevon Allen, 18, of Baltimore, is charged with first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Jordan Brown, 21, on July 30. After Mr. Brown was shot less than a half-mile from Mrs. Dixon's home, he called police and attempted to drive himself to a hospital.

On the way, he saw a police car belonging to a member of the mayor's protection detail parked off Edmondson Avenue near Winans Way. The officer called an ambulance, but Mr. Brown was later pronounced dead at Sinai Hospital.

Police have not released a motive.

UPPER MARLBORO

Escaped rape suspect turns himself in

A man who was accidentally released from police custody after being charged with sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl surrendered yesterday.

John Henri Palmont, 27, turned himself in to the Prince George's County Jail at about 2 p.m., accompanied by his attorney.

Mr. Palmont is charged with sexually assaulting a girl who lived in his Capitol Heights neighborhood after he knocked on her door and was let in to use the phone. He was arrested Aug. 3.

He was in a secure ward of Prince George's Hospital Center on Friday night, being treated for breaking his arm and cracking two ribs when he jumped out of a window during his arrest.

He left the hospital when a corrections officer walked into the wrong room and handed him release papers meant for another man.

Mr. Palmont is being held without bail and also will be charged with escaping from custody because he knew he should not have been released.

From wire dispatches and staff reports