- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 1, 2008

Bodybuilding stars admit to slaying

LAS VEGAS - Two former bodybuilding stars have entered guilty pleas in connection with the death of their personal assistant, just days before their high-profile murder trial had been set to begin.

Craig Titus, 43, pleaded guilty late Friday to second-degree murder, kidnapping and arson in the December 2005 slaying of 28-year-old Melissa James. The woman’s body was found in the trunk of a burned-out luxury sedan in the desert outside Las Vegas.

Titus’ wife, Kelly Ryan, 35, pleaded guilty to arson and entered a “no contest” plea to a battery charge.

“We’ve always believed that Craig Titus was responsible for Melissa’s death, and Kelly was primarily involved in covering up the death,” said Deputy District Attorney Robert Daskas. “Whether we obtained those results by a jury verdict or guilty plea was unimportant to us.”

Sentencing was set for July 18. Titus’ attorney said yesterday that the bodybuilder, who faces 15 to 55 years in prison, took the deal to spare his wife. Each of her charges carry sentences of two to 15 years in prison, or the judge can give her probation.

Army chief thanks academy graduates

WEST POINT, N.Y. - The class of 2008 graduated yesterday from the U.S. Military Academy, 972 men and women who were saluted by the top Army official for their willingness to serve during deadly conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Army Secretary Pete Geren told the cadets that 11 West Point graduates have died in service since last May’s graduation ceremony. He lauded their courage and thanked them for defending the “transcendent” ideals of the Constitution.

“There’s always a personal cost in your profession of arms. Your willingness to bear the cost ennobles you, your calling and this gathering,” he said.

West Point graduates become second lieutenants, and most are expected to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan. About a dozen already had served as enlisted troops in Iraq or Afghanistan.

“Our nation needs you, and we salute you,” he said under a cloudy sky that gave way to rain before the traditional hat toss.

Obama asks of film at Mount Rushmore

MOUNT RUSHMORE NATIONAL MEMORIAL, S.D. - Democratic Sen. Barack Obama paid an unscheduled late-night visit to Mount Rushmore on Friday and indicated that he thought a famous movie scene involving the national monument was actually shot on the clifflike mountain.

Mr. Obama said it was his first visit to the landmark. He expressed curiosity about the filming of a chase scene in “North by Northwest,” Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 classic starring Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint that included a death-defying scramble over Mount Rushmore’s presidential faces.

“How did they get up there in the first place?” he asked ranger Wesley Jensen.

“They didn’t. It was a movie set,” Mr. Jensen told him. The Department of the Interior refused to let Mr. Hitchcock shoot at the actual site.

FEMA clears out last Katrina trailers

BAKER, La. - Cleveland Stampley grinned as he locked the door to his FEMA trailer one last time. Out front, a case worker’s pickup truck waited to take him to his new home at a nearby apartment complex.

“Hope I ain’t got to come back here for nothing else,” the 59-year-old said as he carried one last load of belongings to the truck.

Mr. Stampley was among the last Louisiana residents displaced by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 being moved from the state’s remaining six trailer parks managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA planned to close all six by today - the official start of hurricane season - but said it would take a few more days to move everyone into apartments or motels.

The last FEMA-managed trailer park in Mississippi closed in May, but by yesterday the state still had eight group sites for mobile homes open.

More than 800 families have come through Renaissance Village, where Mr. Stampley was living, since it opened in October 2005. By yesterday, only about 40 of the 575 units were occupied, and more than 20 of those households already have apartments to move into in the coming days, FEMA spokesman Manuel Broussard said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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