- - Tuesday, October 5, 2010

CALIFORNIA

Driver helps abducted girl flee

FRESNO | An 8-year-old girl who was abducted outside a Fresno home escaped from her captor Tuesday morning, thanks to an alert driver, police said.

Police said the driver spotted a truck that matched the description of the kidnapper’s and followed it. When he saw the girl’s head in the window, he cut off the truck and the girl bolted.

Elisa Cardenas was found about 11 hours after she disappeared. She was taken to a hospital, where she was said to be in good condition.

Police said a suspect was arrested.

Authorities said Elisa was playing with six other girls Monday night when a stranger lured her into his pickup and drove off. Witnesses chased the vehicle, and an Amber Alert was issued.

CONNECTICUT

Parolee convicted of killing mom, girls

NEW HAVEN | A paroled burglar was convicted Tuesday of murdering a woman and her two daughters during a night of terror inside the family’s home in a well-to-do Connecticut town.

Steven Hayes, 47, was convicted of capital felony, murder, sexual assault and other counts by a jury that heard eight days of gruesome testimony. The verdict triggers the trial’s second phase, beginning Oct. 18, in which the same jurors will decide whether Hayes should be executed or face life in prison.

Prosecutors said Hayes and another ex-convict, Joshua Komisarjevsky, broke into the family’s house in Cheshire in 2007, beat the girls’ father with a baseball bat and forced their mother, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, to withdraw money from a bank before sexually assaulting and strangling her.

Then they tied the girls, ages 11 and 17, to their beds, put pillowcases over their heads, poured gasoline on or around them and set the house on fire, authorities said. The girls died of smoke inhalation.

The sole survivor, Dr. William Petit, appeared to hold back tears as the verdict was read.

KANSAS

Women testify about sex with HIV airman

WICHITA | Two women testified at a military hearing Tuesday that they would not have had sex with an airman had they known he was HIV-positive, and one said she believed him when he said he wasn’t because he was in the Air Force.

Tech Sgt. David Gutierrez has been charged with violating military law by having unprotected sex with at least 11 people without telling them he was infected.

The two women who testified Tuesday detailed numerous encounters when they had unprotected sex with Sgt. Gutierrez, including at several so-called swinger parties in the Wichita area. Some of their sexual encounters were videotaped by the 43-year-old airman’s wife, they said.

One woman, from Topeka, testified that she asked Sgt. Gutierrez whether he had any sexually transmitted diseases and believed him when he assured her he didn’t.

Asked why she believed him, she tearfully replied, “Because he is Air Force. They have integrity. I trusted him.”

Sgt. Gutierrez, who was stationed at McConnell Air Force Base with the 22nd Maintenance Operations Squadron, has been under arrest there since Aug. 9.

LOUISIANA

Mardi Gras float builders settle spat

NEW ORLEANS | A father and son who fought for control of a family business that has been building Mardi Gras floats in New Orleans for more than 50 years announced Tuesday that they have resolved their feud, less than a week after the son sued his father.

The agreement calls for Barry Kern to be reinstated as president of Blaine Kern Artists Inc., the company that bears his father’s name. The younger Mr. Kern said he would withdraw a lawsuit seeking to oust his father, Blaine Kern Sr., from the company.

“Mardi Gras is more important than our spat,” Barry Kern said.

The captains of the Bacchus and Endymion carnival krewes helped broker the agreement, arranging a meeting Tuesday between the Kerns.

Barry Kern said he resigned last month after his father tried to fire him without authority. The elder Kern’s attorney has said Barry Kern was fired for “serious wrongdoing,” but wouldn’t elaborate.

NEW YORK

Most 9/11 responders sign settlement

NEW YORK | A lawyer representing 10,000 ground zero workers suing New York City over their exposure to World Trade Center dust said Tuesday that 75 percent have signed a settlement resolving their claims and most of the rest have indicated that they will do so.

Those figures suggest that the city may be close to resolving a painful legal battle with construction workers, police officers and firefighters who developed respiratory problems and other illnesses after working in the sooty ruins after Sept. 11, 2001.

The settlement, worth as much as $713 million, requires that 95 percent of the plaintiffs sign on by Nov. 8.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg implored workers again Tuesday to take the settlement, saying they would avoid a drawn-out fight while guaranteeing themselves at least some compensation.

Since spring, the thousands suing over the lack of proper masks and other protections at the disaster site have been deciding whether to take a deal that would pay them a few thousand dollars to more than $1 million, depending on the severity of their illness and the likelihood it is connected to the dust.

Attorneys on both sides of the case have been campaigning hard for several months to hit the 95 percent target.

PENNSYLVANIA

2 more Philadelphia police officers arrested

PHILADELPHIA | Two uniformed Philadelphia police officers robbed a supposed drug dealer of 20 pounds of marijuana and $3,000 in cash in what proved to be an undercover sting, authorities said.

The arrests of Officers Sean Alivera and Christopher Luciano were the latest in an embarrassing series of in-house arrests for the city’s police department. With the arrests Monday, at least seven Philadelphia officers have been accused or convicted in the past year of trying to rob drug dealers, sometimes in violent home invasions. An eighth is charged with stealing $825 from a tavern.

Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey wants to raise eligibility requirements for the 6,600-member force, to require that applicants be at least 21 and have two years of college credit and driving experience.

TENNESSEE

Firefighters without fee let home burn

SOUTH FULTON | Firefighters let a mobile home burn down because the owner didn’t pay a $75 yearly fee for fire protection, authorities said.

Jeff Vowell, city manager of South Fulton, told the Union City Daily Messenger that the city fire department let Gene Cranick’s double-wide trailer home burn last week because he didn’t pay the subscription common in many rural areas.

Mr. Cranick’s home is outside city limits, but South Fulton offers fire protection to nearby residents for a fee and did protect a neighboring house whose owners had paid.

Police said Mr. Cranick’s son was so angry that he later went to the firehouse and punched the chief.

WISCONSIN

Felons plead guilty to voting illegally

MADISON | The state Justice Department said two felons admitted that they voted illegally during the 2008 presidential election.

David Lewis and Ramon Martinez pleaded guilty to one count of voting by a disqualified person. Prosecutors agreed to drop a charge of providing false information to election officials against Lewis as part of a plea bargain.

Each faces up to 42 months in prison and $10,000 in fines.

Prosecutors say Lewis and Martinez were on probation for felony convictions in Milwaukee County when they voted on Nov. 4, 2008. Lewis had a 2004 conviction on felony child support charges, and Martinez was convicted of felony theft in September 2008.

Sentencing is set for Nov. 9.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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