- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 31, 2008

Deal approved in pet-food suit

CAMDEN, N.J. - A judge granted initial approval yesterday to a settlement in which companies that manufactured or sold contaminated pet food would compensate pet owners for all costs related to the death or illness of their dogs and cats.

Under the deal, granted initial approval by U.S. District Judge Noel Hillman, pet owners in the United States and Canada would be notified of the settlement by June 16 and would have until early December to submit claims. A final hearing on the $24 million settlement is scheduled for Oct. 14.

Menu Foods Income Fund, which makes dog and cat food under about 90 brand names from its base in Streetsville, Ontario, and other companies that make or sell pet food announced April 1 they were settling lawsuits with pet owners. Last year, some of their products were discovered to contain wheat gluten imported from China that was contaminated with melamine, a chemical used to make plastics.

The discovery led to what’s believed to be the largest pet-food recall ever.

Rapper’s home burned to ground

DIX HILLS, N.Y. - A multimillion-dollar home at the center of a bitter dispute between 50 Cent and the mother of his son was destroyed by a suspicious fire early yesterday.

Six people, including the rapper’s ex-girlfriend Shaniqua Tompkins, their 10-year-old son, Marquise, and her son by another man were taken to a hospital after suffering smoke inhalation and later released. 50 Cent, whose real name is Curtis Jackson, was not at the home and does not live there.

A statement from a Jackson representative said he “expressed deep concern over this fire at his property” and “is extremely thankful that everyone including his son, Marquise, escaped the burning house safely.”

Investigators from the Suffolk County arson squad were called to the scene after Dix Hills Fire Chief Larry Feld deemed the blaze suspicious “because of the intensity of the fire” and who was involved.

Miss Tompkins filed a lawsuit earlier this year claiming Mr. Jackson had promised her a house more than a decade ago. Her lawyer, Paul Catsandonis, said the dispute had become “extremely, extremely contentious” in recent days, including an “extremely dangerous incident” involving the parties Monday in his Manhattan office while taking a deposition for the lawsuit.

Dolly tracks solve soda-machine theft

HUGHES, Ark. - Police didn’t have to look too hard to figure out the source of a soda vending machine found in a front yard - they just followed the tracks.

Deputies from the St. Francis County sheriff’s office spotted a Pepsi machine Thursday in the yard of a home in Hughes. A set of dolly tracks in front of the machine led back to a liquor store less than a mile away that had reported it missing.

Two men in the yard fled when authorities arrived. One was arrested on suspicion of theft, fleeing on foot and obstructing government operations. The other remains at large.

Gunman kills 2, self in convenience store

HAZARD, Ky. - A man shot and killed an elected official and a county employee at an eastern Kentucky convenience store yesterday, then turned the gun on himself, a deputy coroner said.

Jerry Fugate, 55, shot Magistrate Jimmy Darrell Neace and county road department employee Lewallen Caudill once each at close range with a shotgun, deputy coroner Kyle Wolfe said.

Police said the shooting happened around 11:30 a.m. yesterday in the parking lot of Ben’s Quick Stop near Hazard, a rural town more than 100 miles southeast of Lexington.

Police did not give a motive. Mr. Neace’s brother, Don Neace, told the Lexington Herald Leader that he couldn’t understand why anyone would want to kill him.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” he said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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