- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 19, 2009

ALABAMA

Church fires ruled arson cases

MONTGOMERY | Two fires that destroyed churches in rural Alabama last weekend are likely arsons, authorities said.

State Fire Marshal Ed Paulk said Wednesday that investigators have no suspects, but are pursuing leads in the fires that destroyed two churches near the Georgia state line Saturday morning.

The churches were about seven miles apart and the fires were reported within six hours of each other. Another nearby church was damaged by fire the same day.

Investigators have not yet linked the arsons together.

The fires at the three small, rural churches brought back memories of two similar spates of church arsons in Alabama in recent years.

CALIFORNIA

Man kills self in cathedral

GARDEN GROVE | A man fatally shot himself in front of a cross inside televangelist Robert H. Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral on Wednesday, police and church officials said.

The man handed a note and his driver’s license to two ushers, walked to the cross and then shot himself in the head as he appeared to be praying, Senior Pastor Juan Carlos Ortiz said.

The man’s identity was not released, but police Lt. Dennis Ellsworth said the man was in his 40s. Church spokesman Mike Nason said there was no record of the man at the cathedral.

CONNECTICUT

Chimp’s owner says it wasn’t on Xanax

STAMFORD | As authorities considered criminal charges against the woman whose 200-pound domesticated chimpanzee went berserk and mauled a friend, she backtracked Wednesday on whether she gave the animal the anti-anxiety drug Xanax.

Sandra Herold told the Associated Press on Wednesday that she never gave the drug to her 14-year-old chimp, Travis, who was fatally shot by Stamford police Monday after he grievously wounded Charla Nash, a friend of Ms. Herold.

However, Ms. Herold said in an interview aired Wednesday morning on NBC’s “Today” show that she gave Travis the drug in some tea less than five minutes before he attacked Ms. Nash.

Police have said Ms. Herold told them that she gave Travis some Xanax, which had not been prescribed for him, earlier Monday to calm him because he was agitated.

FLORIDA

Crime scene items match Anthony home

ORLANDO | Evidence discovered in the woods where Florida toddler Caylee Anthony’s remains were found in December match items found in the house where she lived, according to court documents released Wednesday.

The documents released by the state attorney’s office reveal several new details about the case of the Orlando girl who was missing for a month before authorities were notified.

Caylee’s mother, Casey Anthony, has been charged with her daughter’s murder. She claims that Caylee was kidnapped by a baby sitter and has pleaded not guilty.

The same types of laundry bag, duct tape and plastic bag discovered at the crime scene also were found by investigators in the house where Caylee lived with her mother and grandparents, according to detectives’ reports on the evidence.

Along with a skull and bones, investigators found a stained Winnie the Pooh blanket, pink-and-white-striped shorts and a shirt that said “BIG TROUBLE Comes Small” in the woods at the crime scene.

LOUISIANA

Grand jury indicts group leader

NEW ORLEANS | A Louisiana grand jury on Wednesday indicted the purported leader of a Ku Klux Klan group on a second-degree murder charge in the death of an Oklahoma woman.

The grand jury indicted Raymond Foster, 44, and three other suspected group members. Authorities said Cynthia Lynch, 43, of Tulsa, Okla., was recruited to the group over the Internet and was shot to death when a disagreement arose during an initiation in November.

Mr. Foster’s 20-year-old son, Shane, and another suspect have been indicted on an obstruction of justice charge. A fourth suspect was indicted on an accessory after the fact charge.

Four others arrested in the case were not indicted.

Investigators said they found weapons, Confederate flags and six Klan robes at the campsite where Miss Lynch was killed.

NORTH DAKOTA

State law declares life at conception

Pro-life advocates Wednesday cheered North Dakota’s passage of a law declaring that unborn children are “persons” under the law from the moment of conception.

Lawmakers in the North Dakota House voted 51-41 on Tuesday to pass the Personhood of Children Act, which confers the same basic rights on “all human beings from the beginning of their biological development, including the pre-born, partially born.”

The bill is expected to go before the state Senate in about two weeks. If passed, it would be used to challenge the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which made abortion a constitutional right, legal analysts said.

“The purpose of these laws is to challenge Roe v. Wade. Once Roe v. Wade is overturned, it doesn’t mean abortion is illegal in all 50 states, but it says that the states decide what to do with abortion,” said Brian Rooney of the Thomas More Law Center.

Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, noted that the original Roe decision said “that if personhood is ever established for the human being at the moment of his conception or creation, the Roe versus Wade decision would fall.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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