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American Scene

- - Tuesday, November 10, 2009

CALIFORNIA

Rig driver killed in bridge plunge

SAN FRANCISCO — California Highway Patrol Sgt. Trent Cross said the driver of a rig hauling produce on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge lost control on the westbound bridge's troublesome S-curve at about 3:30 a.m. Monday.

The rig went over the side, plummeted 200 feet, and landed on Yerba Buena Island, killing the trucker on impact.

There have been more than 42 crashes in the bridge's S-curve area since it opened Sept. 8. Sgt. Cross said speed is the cause.

The speed limit was lowered from 50 to 40 mph. Flashing lights warn drivers of the sudden curve ahead.

FLORIDA

Ferrari seized in fraud probe

FORT LAUDERDALE — Federal agets are seizing assets from a Florida lawyer suspected of orchestrating a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme.

FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents were at the ritzy Fort Lauderdale home Monday of 47-year-old lawyer Scott Rothstein. A Miami Herald photo shows agents seizing a red Ferrari. The seizure warrants are sealed.

Mr. Rothstein is accused by investors of misappropriating $100 million or more through investments in legal settlements. No criminal charges have been filed. Mr. Rothstein's lawyer didn't immediately return a telephone call Monday.

A judge has removed Mr. Rothstein as chief executive officer of the law firm and appointed a receiver to untangle its finances. The receiver was scheduled at a Monday hearing to give an update.

MONTANA

University proposes tobacco ban

MISSOULA — The University of Montana is proposing a campuswide ban on all forms of tobacco that would take effect in the fall of 2011.

The Associated Students of the University of Montana Senate endorsed the ban, and President George Dennison sent an e-mail informing faculty, staff and students of the proposal.

Over the next year, the university will gather comments from students, faculty and staff and hold public meetings and smoking cessation programs.

NEW YORK

Stolen Hebrew Bible returning to Vienna

NEW YORK — A 16th-century Hebrew Bible looted by the Nazis has been returned to the Jewish community in Vienna, Austria. The Bible was turned over by U.S. officials during a New York City repatriation ceremony Monday.

The two-volume Bible was published in Venice in the early 1500s and was donated to the Vienna Jewish community library in 1908.

The Nazis confiscated it in 1938, and it wound up in Berlin.

The U.S. attorney's office and immigration officials said the Bible had been offered for sale in June by a New York City auction house specializing in rare books. The auctioneer had been unaware of its history and withdrew it from the sale.

OHIO

Multiple killings case expands overseas

CLEVELAND — Authorities are investigating whether the Cleveland man who owned the home where several bodies were found is connected to any killings in places he lived while in the military.

FBI spokesman Scott Wilson said Monday that the agency would investigate any leads in the case against 50-year-old Anthony Sowell.

Mr. Sowell served in the Marines from 1978 to 1985 and was stationed at various times at Parris Island, S.C.; Cherry Point, N.C.; Okinawa, Japan; and Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Detective Sgt. Ken Bolton in adjacent East Cleveland said his department is reviewing three unsolved slayings in 1988 and 1989. That's after Mr. Sowell returned to the city from service in the Marines and before he went to prison for attempted rape.

Mr. Sowell has been charged in Cleveland with five counts of aggravated murder. Remains of at least 11 people were found in and around his home.

TEXAS

4 bodies found in rural home

CLEVELAND — Authorities called to check on a family's well-being in a rural southeast Texas home found the bodies of four people who had been shot.

San Jacinto County Capt. Carl Jones said Monday that Oliver Bills Jr., 42, fatally shot his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter and his mother, Gloria Bills, 71. Capt. Jones said Bills then killed himself.

Sheriff James Walters said the gunman "might have been off his medication," but declined to elaborate.

Authorities have not released the names of Bills' girlfriend or her daughter. Both of them lived with Bills in the house about 55 miles north of Houston.

WASHINGTON

Police call suspect domestic terrorist

SEATTLE — The man accused in the Halloween night shooting death of a Seattle police officer remains hospitalized, and authorities were expected to talk more about why they think the suspect is a domestic terrorist who held a grudge against law enforcement.

King County prosecutors were preparing a potential death penalty charge against Christopher Monfort, 41, the Seattle Times reported.

Police also think Mr. Monfort played a role in the Oct. 22 fire-bombings of four police vehicles.

Mr. Monfort was shot by detectives in the parking lot of his suburban Tukwila apartment complex Friday. The detectives were pursuing a tip that a car at the complex matched the description of a vehicle seen nearby when Officer Timothy Brenton was killed.

Authorities said the detectives opened fire after Mr. Monfort pulled a handgun.

From wire dispatches and staff reports