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Around the Nation

- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 19, 2008

Jury convicts 911 operator

DETROIT — A jury convicted a 911 operator yesterday of willful neglect of duty after authorities said she didn't take seriously a boy's calls to report his mother had collapsed. The mother was found dead three hours after the first call.

The misdemeanor charge against Sharon Nichols is punishable by up to a year in jail. She will be sentenced March 11.

Miss Nichols, 45, testified she could not hear the then-5-year-old boy on the other end of the line. Authorities said Robert Turner called 911 twice on Feb. 20, 2006, to report his mother had passed out.

Robert, now 7, testified that Miss Nichols hung up on him and accused him of playing games.

Police found Sherrill Turner, 46, dead three hours after the first call. A wrongful death lawsuit against the city argues Sherrill Turner, who had an enlarged heart, would have survived if help had been sent immediately.

Spellings pushes compliance with law

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings warned state leaders in a letter yesterday they still must comply with the No Child Left Behind law, even though a federal court has revived a lawsuit against it.

"No state or school district should regard the ruling as license to disregard NCLB's requirements," Mrs. Spelling wrote to chief state school officers.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals this month revived a lawsuit — brought by the National Education Association (NEA) and several school districts — regarding NCLB funding. The NEA and allies argue the law is an unfunded mandate. Their case initially was dismissed, but the appeals court ruling reversed the dismissal.

Mrs. Spellings said she is exploring legal options to overturn the ruling. If it stands, she wrote, "it would represent a fundamental shift in practice."

Police find bodies in submerged car

SPARTA, Ky. — The bodies of a family reported missing more than a week ago were found in a car submerged in a car in a northern Kentucky creek, police said yesterday.

Foul play is not suspected, state Trooper Chip Perry said.

The car was found Thursday in Eagle Creek in Gallatin County, near a sharp curve on a rural road about 30 miles southwest of Cincinnati. Authorities removed the car and found the bodies of two adults and three children inside.

The family members were identified as Glenn Allen Johnson Jr., 33; Kendra Nicole Johnson, 26; Sevin Johnson, 5; Mekenzie Johnson, 2; and 18-month-old Mya Johnson. All were from Sanders in Gallatin County.

The family had been reported missing Jan. 10 to police in Hamilton, Ohio, about 20 miles north of Cincinnati, authorities said.

Man pleads guilty to robbery charges

TRENTON, N.J. — One of four men suspected in a series of bank heists that resulted in the death of an FBI agent last year pleaded guilty to robbery and weapons charges yesterday.

Michael Cruz, 22, admitted driving the planned getaway car, and acknowledged that he and two other suspects brought a .38-caliber handgun, an assault rifle and another rifle with them to an attempted bank robbery in April 2007.

FBI Special Agent Barry Lee Bush, 52, was part of a stakeout attempting to catch the men thought responsible for four armed bank robberies in central New Jersey that netted nearly $90,000. The FBI has not released the results of its investigation, but has said Agent Bush was shot accidentally by another agent outside the bank.

Cruz, who was arrested outside the bank, pleaded guilty to robbery, armed robbery, conspiracy and weapons offenses. He faces 17 to 19 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on April 28, according to Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles McKenna.

Carbon monoxide kills hotel guest

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Carbon monoxide fumes killed a hotel guest and sickened four others yesterday after a construction canopy blocked venting from the building's hot water heaters, officials said.

Levels of the poisonous, odorless gas were so high that rescuers were forced to retreat until the Best Western Allentown Inn & Suites could be ventilated.

The dead hotel guest was identified by the coroner's office as Philip D. Prechtel, 63, of Hilton Head Island, S.C. Four guests who felt the effects of the gas were taken to a hospital, Berks-Lehigh Regional Police spokesman Pete Nickischer said. Five emergency workers also were taken to the hospital as a precaution.

The building had been completely ventilated by late morning and there was no further risk, said Grant Grim, the Upper Macungie Township fire commissioner.

From staff reports and wire dispatches