- - Tuesday, December 13, 2011

NEW YORK

Corpse found near beach is likely prostitute

OAK BEACH — After a yearlong search, police on New York’s Long Island said Tuesday they think they have discovered the skeletal remains of a New Jersey prostitute whose disappearance sparked an investigation into a possible serial killing spree.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said searchers found the bones at around 9:15 a.m. in a dense wetland thicket, about a half-mile from where Shannan Gilbert, 24, disappeared after meeting a client for an early-morning sexual encounter.

The remnants were found about a quarter-mile from where authorities discovered Gilbert’s pants, shoes, pocketbook with ID and other personal items last week.

Police said they were searching for the Jersey City, N.J., woman last December when they discovered the first of what would become 10 homicide victims strewn along several miles of thicket and bramble along a parkway leading to Jones Beach.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Area near cracked water tank evacuated

ROCHESTER — A fracture and leak in the city’s 1-million-gallon water tank led officials who feared it would collapse to evacuate homes, a children’s hospital and a small airport Tuesday.

The leak is at the base of the water tank, which is on the ground, not atop a tower, Rochester City Manager Daniel Fitzpatrick said. The tank didn’t appear to be at risk of collapsing, but there was a potential it could, he wrote in an email to city employees.

NEW JERSEY

Doctors arrested in kickback probe

NEWARK — Federal authorities charged more than a dozen doctors Tuesday in an alleged kickback scheme, accusing them of receiving cash payments for referring patients to a northern New Jersey diagnostic facility for tests.

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman says 15 doctors and other health care providers have been charged with receiving bribes in exchange for referring mostly Medicaid and Medicare patients to the Orange Community MRI radiology and diagnostic facility in Orange.

An attorney for the facility said he was unaware of the charges.

NEW YORK

Convict arraigned in officer’s slaying

NEW YORK — A convict accused in the cold-blooded slaying of a New York Police Department officer during a botched robbery already was wanted in a non-fatal shooting in North Carolina but remained on the streets because arrest warrants didn’t require his return there, NYPD officials said Tuesday.

The shooting suspect, Lamont Pride, was arraigned late Tuesday on a first-degree murder charge in the officer’s killing. Four other men accused of being involved were arraigned on second-degree murder charges. All were jailed without bail.

CALIFORNIA

Atheist messages displace park nativity scenes

SANTA MONICA — Atheist messages have displaced most of the Christmas nativity scenes a coalition of local churches had placed in Santa Monica’s ocean-view park for nearly six decades.

Local churches have traditionally claimed 14 of the 21 Palisades Park display spaces to illustrate the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. But atheists managed to get all but three of the spaces this year because of a new city lottery system.

The Santa Monica Daily Press reported that churches had little or no competition for the spaces during the past 57 years. This year, 13 people bid for spaces, prompting City Hall to use a random lottery system to allot the spots.

Two individuals snagged 18 spaces. One person can request a maximum of nine spaces.

“Our belief is that these new applicants have been working together to displace and push out the nativity scenes from the park, rather than erecting a full display of their own,” said Hunter Jameson, a spokesman for a coalition of the city’s churches.

Secularist Damon Vix is behind the anti-Christian crusade.

PENNSYLVANIA

Abortion doctor’s wife pleads guilty

PHILADELPHIA — The wife of a Philadelphia doctor has admitted performing an illegal abortion at a filthy clinic that authorities describe as a “house of horrors.”

Court documents indicate Pearl Gosnell pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges including performing one late-term abortion and conspiring to perform another.

Gosnell is the wife of Kermit Gosnell, who is charged in the deaths of seven babies and a woman who died of a painkiller overdose.

Authorities say babies born alive were killed at the west Philadelphia clinic by having their spinal cords severed with scissors.

Besides the Gosnells, eight others were also charged in the case. Several have already pleaded guilty.

LOUISIANA

Oil-leases auction challenged by lawsuit

NEW ORLEANS — Environmental groups challenged the first attempted auction of offshore petroleum leases in the western Gulf of Mexico since the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, filing a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court.

The suit now before the District Court in Washington, D.C., claims the federal government has failed to take steps to avoid a repeat of the BP oil spill, which leaked more than 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The suit was filed by Oceana, Defenders of Wildlife, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity.

The U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement plans to auction 3,900 blocks off the Texas coast Wednesday in New Orleans. The sale covers about 20.6 million acres.

TEXAS

Officials seek answers in shooting of students

Dozens of law enforcement officers trudged through soggy brush near a South Texas middle school Tuesday looking for bullet casings and other evidence to help explain how two boys were shot while trying out for the school basketball team.

Investigators have questioned three men who were found on adjacent ranchland after the shooting Monday afternoon. Two were practicing target shooting near the school. A third was an illegal immigrant with an assault rifle who was trespassing on the property.

The target shooters were released. The other man remained in custody.

The boys, ages 13 and 14, were in a parking lot that had been converted into a temporary basketball court behind the school when shot about 4:45 p.m. Monday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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