- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 31, 2010

CALIFORNIA

Serial killer given death

SANTA ANA | A judge on Tuesday sentenced serial killer Rodney Alcala to death before hearing emotional testimony from the families of four women and a 12-year-old girl he strangled in the 1970s.

The sentence was announced three weeks after a jury recommended death for Alcala, 66, who was convicted last month of five counts of first-degree murder after a sometimes surreal trial.

Alcala acted as his own attorney during the trial and used a rambling defense that included questioning the mother of one of his victims, playing an Arlo Guthrie ballad and showing a clip from the 1970s TV show “The Dating Game.”

After the verdict, authorities released more than 100 photos of young women and girls found in Alcala’s possession with the hope of linking him to other unsolved murders across the country. Authorities from New Hampshire to Washington are now trying to determine whether the UCLA graduate may have killed in their states.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Gray announces bid for mayor

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is getting more competition for his job.

D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray on Tuesday announced he would enter the 2010 mayor’s race and filed papers that will allow him to raise money. There has been speculation for months that Mr. Gray would enter the race, as polls showed about 50 percent of D.C. voters disapproved of the job Mr. Fenty is doing.

Mr. Gray is now the most recognizable name in the race after Mr. Fenty.

Mr. Gray’s first challenge is fundraising. Mr. Fenty has $3.3 million on hand, according to a March report with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance.

FLORIDA

Two rescued from stalled ride

MIAMI | One of two people stranded high in the air aboard a stalled fair ride for nearly an hour in South Florida on Tuesday said she would be willing to give the Space Roller another try.

Both riders were rescued and no one was reported injured at the Miami-Dade County Fair, officials said. The ride stalled at 1:54 p.m. with the two riders strapped in the leather seats turned horizontally with their legs dangling.

“It all of a sudden stopped,” said stranded rider Shankia Tinsley, 18.

Miss Tinsley of Miami said that she would give it another try sometime.

Around 2:45, the ride was slowly moving again toward the ground before Miss Tinsley and the other rider, Megan Dewey, 20, got off.

“It happens. It happens everywhere,” said Miss Dewey’s mother, Maggie. “It’s an accident.”

INDIANA

Ammonia leak forces evacuation

TAYLORSVILLE | A dangerous ammonia gas leak led to the evacuation of hundreds of people from their homes and sent at least three people to hospitals early Tuesday, after authorities say thieves tried to steal the chemical from a farm to likely use it to make methamphetamine.

A passer-by notified authorities about the gas cloud and odor south of Taylorsville about 2:30 a.m., said Lt. Rob Kittle of the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department.

Authorities said they evacuated hundreds of people from all or parts of at least three subdivisions, and shut down part of U.S. Route 31 near the farm where the leak occurred for four hours.

KANSAS

Body parts found at waste company

KANSAS CITY | A coroner is trying to identify body parts found inside a truck at a medical-waste company.

Seven heads, a torso and several limbs were found last week in a truck at Stericycle Co.

Kansas City, Kan.-based Stericycle handles medical waste such as operating room debris and syringes. But it generally doesn’t dispose of major body parts.

A Stericycle spokeswoman said Tuesday that the company won’t comment.

Bio Care’s Web site said it is a nonprofit that handles donations of human bodies to science. The company also provides cremation services at no cost.

MICHIGAN

U.S.: Christian militia an imminent threat

DETROIT | Federal authorities had been monitoring members of a Michigan-based Christian militia for some time but were forced to “take them down” over the weekend after learning of an imminent threat against police, the U.S. attorney leading the prosecution said Tuesday.

Barbara McQuade’s comments came three days after eight members of a small group of “Christian warriors” were arrested in several Midwestern states and a day after the FBI nabbed a ninth suspect, Joshua Stone, after a standoff at a trailer in rural Michigan.

“The time had come that we needed to arrest them and take them down,” Miss McQuade told the Associated Press in an interview at her office.

Across the street in Detroit federal court, Mr. Stone was arraigned Tuesday and was ordered held without bond until a hearing Wednesday.

The nine suspects were charged with seditious conspiracy — plotting to go to war against the U.S. — possessing a firearm during a crime of violence, teaching the use of explosives and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction — homemade bombs. Eight appeared in court Monday, with seven asking to be represented by public defenders.

NEW YORK

Synagogue attack seen as hate crime

ALBANY | A person can be guilty of a hate crime even if the violence is directed at a building rather than a person, New York’s top court ruled Tuesday.

The Court of Appeals unanimously said the stricter penalties imposed for such crimes apply to a man convicted of trying to bomb a Bronx synagogue in 2000.

“It is self-evident that, although the target of the defendant’s criminal conduct was a building, the true victims were the individuals of Jewish faith who were members of the synagogue,” Judge Victoria Graffeo wrote. She upheld rulings by the trial court and a midlevel court on a state statute enacted in 2000.

“The evidence in this case proved that defendant committed an attempted arson of the synagogue because of his anger toward a particular religious group,” the judge wrote.

Mazin Assi, 30, is serving five to 15 years in prison.

NORTH CAROLINA

Slayings and suicide suspected in deaths

CHARLOTTE | A North Carolina man apparently killed his wife and two daughters days ago, but spared two other children before killing himself as police arrived, police said.

Charlotte police said Tuesday that Kenneth Jermaine Chapman, 33, fatally shot himself as police arrived at the family’s apartment in southeast Charlotte late Monday. Two children then ran from the apartment unharmed.

Officers said they found Na’Jhae Parker, 13, and 13-month-old Nakyiah Jael Chapman, who appeared to have been dead for days.

Investigators then went to another apartment that Nateesha Ward Chapman, 34, was leasing, where they found her dead. Police didn’t say how she and the children died.

PENNSYLVANIA

Charter school probed on club, spending

PHILADELPHIA | A Philadelphia charter school under fire for operating in a building that doubles as a nightclub is also under investigation for its financial practices.

City Controller Alan Butkovitz said his office has found questionable spending at the Harambee Institute of Science and Technology Charter School.

Mr. Butkovitz announced his findings Tuesday after reports that Harambee operates in the same building as Club Damani. Authorities said the club served alcohol despite having an expired liquor license.

A message left at Harambee was not returned. A statement on its Web site says recent media reports contain “inaccurate allegations.”

Superintendent Arlene Ackerman is demanding the school end the shared-space arrangement.

RHODE ISLAND

State anticipates a 100-year flood

CRANSTON | The second major rainstorm of the month pounded the Northeast on Tuesday, pushing rivers over their banks, closing roads and schools, prompting evacuations, and shattering at least one rainfall record.

Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri asked residents Tuesday afternoon to get home by dinnertime to avoid traveling in what officials expect to be the worst flooding to hit the state in more than 100 years.

“The worst is still ahead of us,” he said during a broadcast carried live on the state’s major TV stations. “We’re in a serious, serious situation.”

National Guard troops were activated in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, where neighborhoods still recovering from earlier flooding were again swamped after two days of unrelenting rain. Troops in Connecticut were put on alert.

A storm two weeks ago dropped as much as much as 10 inches of rain on the same region. The National Weather Service said nearly 13 inches of rain had fallen during March in Boston, breaking the previous record of 11 inches for the month set in 1953. New York City could also break its March record.

WYOMING

University cancels ex-radical’s speech

CHEYENNE | The University of Wyoming has canceled a speech by former 1960s radical William Ayers after it raised a slew of objections from citizens and politicians.

Mr. Ayers was scheduled to speak Monday on the Laramie campus about social justice issues and education.

He was invited by the UW Social Justice Research Center.

In a statement released by the university, UW President Tom Buchanan thanked the center for reconsidering its invitation to Mr. Ayers, which had caused intense controversy.

Mr. Buchanan said academic freedom is a core principle of higher education but the visit would have adversely affected the public’s confidence in the university.

Mr. Ayers is an education professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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