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Around the Nation

- The Washington Times - Monday, June 18, 2007

ILLINOIS

Mob trial focuses on murders

CHICAGO — It seemed like a good idea at the time. A gang of burglars decided in December 1977 to break into the home of Tony Accardo, one of the most powerful men in organized-crime history, and rob his basement vault.

Mr. Accardo was not amused. The six men whom Mr. Accardo blamed for the heist were swiftly hunted down and killed, according to papers filed by federal prosecutors in preparation for Chicago's biggest mob trial in years, scheduled to begin tomorrow.

And that's only one of the grisly tales that jurors are likely to hear at the trial stemming from the FBI's "Operation Family Secrets" investigation of 18 long-unsolved mob murders reportedly tied to the Outfit, Chicago's organized-crime family.

Reputed top mob bosses head the list of defendants. All have pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Accardo died in 1992 at 86.

TENNESSEE

Rare turtle hatches at aquarium

CHATTANOOGA — A rare turtle has hatched at the Tennessee Aquarium, one of only three places in the United States that display the endangered species, aquarium officials announced.

A Beal's four-eyed turtle, named for two white spots on the back of its head that look like a pair of eyes, hatched from a clutch of three eggs, officials said Friday. The turtle weighed 0.21 ounces and was 1.52 inches long when it hatched June 9.

There are only 18 known Beal's four-eyed turtles in the United States and Europe. The Dallas Zoo and the Charles Paddock Zoo in Atascadero, Calif., also have the turtles, officials at the Chattanooga aquarium said.

A male Beal's four-eyed turtle is on display at the aquarium, but the baby will not be exhibited until it is older.

FLORIDA

Masked men open fire at party

MIAMI — Four armed men with white bandannas covering their faces opened fire at a party early yesterday, killing a 20-year-old man and injuring six other persons, police said.

Authorities were searching for the four men, and the shootings were thought to be gang-related, police said.

About 300 people were attending the graduation and birthday party that began Saturday night and continued into the early morning at the Polish American Club in Miami.

At about 1 a.m., the four gunmen entered the party and began arguing with people, police said. They then started shooting, hitting people ages 15 to 20, police said.

The 20-year-old man, whose name was not immediately released, died at a hospital, police said.

Two victims were in critical condition yesterday. The rest were in stable condition, police said.

LOUISIANA

Police deputy had seen that snake before

RAYVILLE — The chief deputy of Richland Parish didn't just capture the 8-foot snake that had stopped highway traffic. He recognized it.

That let Chief Deputy Terry Thompson reunite the one-eyed boa constrictor with its owner, who had lost it when he moved to Rayville in March.

Deputy Thompson said that when he got to the spot where the snake had been spotted Friday morning, he was told that a driver had tried to run over the boa and shoot it.

A man and his wife stuck around to make sure the snake did, too.

One look told Deputy Thompson that it wasn't poisonous.

"I caught it by the tail, pulled it out, and picked it up and put it into a pillowcase," he said.

Then, he looked it in the face and realized they'd been introduced.

Last year, Deputy Thompson said, Chad Foote had brought the snake into investigators' office to show it off.

MINNESOTA

Third sextuplet dies at hospital

MINNEAPOLIS — Half of the sextuplets born prematurely to a Minnesota couple have died, while the others remained in critical condition, hospital officials said Saturday.

A third boy, Lincoln Sean Morrison, died Friday. Two of his brothers, Tryg and Bennet, died earlier in the week.

The four boys and two girls were born last Sunday about 4½ months early at a Minneapolis hospital. Doctors had advised the couple to selectively reduce the number of viable fetuses to two, but they declined.

Parents Ryan and Brianna Morrison released a statement saying it's been "a difficult week" for them and thanking everyone for their prayers and support.

"We continue to trust in the Lord and are hopeful for a good outcome for Cadence, Lucia and Sylas," the statement said.

Hospital officials said no further information would be released.

NEW YORK

Shark hunt attracts commerce, protesters

MONTAUK — In this Long Island fishing hamlet, hundreds of adults drank beer and children marveled at the bloodied sharks caught in a fishing contest, including a heart from a gutted 180-pound thresher shark that several children poked with awe.

A banner that flew overhead read "Enter the Cruel Shark Tournament Now." It belonged to a smaller group protesting what they said was the killing on Friday and Saturday of a species that was already declining in number.

The small group of protesters, backed for the first time by a large U.S. animal-protection group, want to stop the shark-hunting tournament, one of the largest in the United States where the winner can take home more than $400,000 in prize money and from bets placed among fishermen.

Organizers refused to shut down the tournament, and Sam Gershowitz, the owner of the Star Island Yacht Club, which hosts the event, now in its 21st year, said it did not contribute to declining shark populations and instead educated the public.

He expected 35 sharks to be large enough to be caught and killed.

PENNSYLVANIA

Man says he found snake head in beans

PHILADELPHIA — Earl Hartman was a little rattled by something he says he found in a can of green beans: a snake head.

The Philadelphia man said he found the inch-long head on his plate Wednesday night, right between a chicken breast and buttered noodles. He said it came out of the green-bean can.

Mr. Hartman said he called the Pathmark store where he bought the beans and got a call back from Seneca Foods in upstate New York, where the vegetables were canned.

Rich Savner, a spokesman for Carteret, N.J.-based Pathmark Stores Inc., confirmed that a customer reported finding a "foreign substance" in a can of green beans but said officials had not determined what it was.

The store conducted spot checks of other cans, but nothing out of the ordinary turned up, Mr. Savner said. Similar cans were removed from the shelves as a precaution.

TEXAS

Gay councilman loses mayor's vote

DALLAS — Choosing a wealthy retired businessman over an openly homosexual city councilman, voters elected Tom Leppert as Dallas mayor Saturday by a wide margin.

Capping a swift rise from political unknown to the top office of the nation's ninth-largest city, Mr. Leppert won the most expensive mayoral race in Dallas history. He received about 58 percent of the vote in the final but still unofficial results of the runoff, beating Ed Oakley by more than 13,000 votes.

Mr. Leppert, the former chief executive officer of construction giant Turner Corp., had never run for elected office before. He had scant name recognition when he decided late last year to enter the race to replace outgoing Mayor Laura Miller, who was not seeking re-election.

Mr. Oakley and Mr. Leppert were the top fundraisers before the May 12 election, in which they beat nine other candidates to reach the runoff.

Mr. Leppert spent about $1.1 million on the campaign from early May to early June, compared with about $833,000 for Mr. Oakley.

WASHINGTON

Car stolen twice on same day

YAKIMA — This is one Honda Accord thieves may want to avoid. The car was stolen twice in one day in Yakima County, and authorities quickly arrested suspects both times.

The car was stolen near Tieton early Friday, according to the sheriff's office. A detective in an unmarked car spotted it about 10:45 a.m. in Terrace Heights as it raced another Accord. The detective gave chase, losing one of the Hondas when the pair split up.

He followed the other until the driver abandoned it. Then, the detective chased the driver on foot until he kicked in a door at a nearby residence and went inside, sheriff's officials said.

Officers found a 21-year-old Yakima man in the home and arrested him for investigation of possessing the stolen car, attempting to elude police and burglary.

Meanwhile, another man got behind the wheel of the freshly abandoned Accord and stole it. That man, a 22-year-old from Sunnyside, also abandoned the vehicle a short distance away after realizing it had a flat tire, sheriff's officials said. He also was arrested.

From wire dispatches and staff reports