- - Monday, December 26, 2011

CONNECTICUT

House where 5 died in Christmas fire razed

STAMFORD — A house severely damaged in a Christmas morning fire that killed three children and two grandparents, one of whom worked as Santa Claus at Saks Fifth Avenue, has been torn down.

The building department determined that the $1.7 million house was unsafe and ordered it razed, Stamford fire chief Antonio Conte said.

The home’s owner, advertising executive Madonna Badger, and her male acquaintance escaped from the fire. But Ms. Badger’s three daughters — a 10-year-old and 7-year-old twins — and her parents, who were visiting for the holiday, died, police said.

Neighbors said they awoke to the sound of screaming shortly before 5 a.m. Sunday and rushed outside to help, but they could do nothing as flames devoured the large, turreted home.

Police said the male acquaintance who escaped the blaze with Ms. Badger was a contractor working on the home. He was also hospitalized but his condition was not released.

Ms. Badger, an ad executive in the fashion industry, is the founder of New York City-based Badger & Winters Group. A supervisor at Stamford Hospital said she was treated and discharged by Sunday evening.

MAINE

Police chief: Someone took 20-month-old girl

WATERVILLE — Investigators looking for a 20-month-old girl reported missing a week before Christmas believe someone took her from her father’s home, the police chief leading the investigation said Monday.

The comment by Waterville police Chief Joseph Massey marked the first time since the search for Ayla Reynolds began that police have directly said they don’t believe she left the home by herself.

“We certainly feel someone took Ayla out of that house,” Mr. Massey said at a news conference at which he announced a $30,000 reward was being offered for help finding her.

The reward, assembled with donations from people and businesses in the Waterville area, is the biggest ever offered in the state for a missing person, state Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland said.

Hundreds of police officers, game wardens and local residents have searched for Ayla since she was reported missing by her father, Justin DiPietro, on the morning of Dec. 17.

Mr. DiPietro told investigators he last saw her when he put her to bed the night before. Ayla ended up with her father after child welfare workers intervened while her mother, Trista Reynolds, checked herself into a 10-day rehabilitation program.

NORTH CAROLINA

Would-be robber punched in the nose by store clerk

HENDERSONVILLE — Police say a would-be robber who demanded money from a store clerk got a fistful.

Before the suspect could run off with any cash, the clerk at the We Buy Gold store in Hendersonville punched him in the nose Friday. Sgt. Dale Patton with the Hendersonville Police Department told the Times-News of Hendersonville that 25-year-old Mostafa Kamel Hendi dropped to the floor.

The clerk, 26-year-old Derek Mothershead, then grabbed the gun — it turned out to be a pellet gun — and called police who arrived and arrested the suspect.

Mr. Patton said the clerk was on high alert because the store had already been robbed once recently.

PENNSYLVANIA

Facebooked burglary leads to 4 suspects

PITTSBURGH — An 18-year-old Pittsburgh man is accused of burglarizing a market with three teens, then posted pictures on his Facebook page showing the suspects mugging with some of the loot.

Isaiah Cutler who has been jailed since Friday in the Dec. 12 burglary.

Police say Mr. Cutler, a 17-year-old and two 14-year-olds stole more than $8,000 worth of cash, cigarettes, candy and checks from the business. About an hour later, police say, Mr. Cutler posted pictures of the teens posing with the loot on his page on the social networking site.

The younger suspects have been charged in juvenile court and been released to their parents.

INDIANA

FBI joins search for missing 3-year-old

FORT WAYNE — The FBI has joined the search for a missing 9-year-old Indiana girl and agents are scouring a mobile home park that’s also a haven for registered sex offenders.

Agents on Monday descended on the mobile home park where Aliahna Lemmon lived in Fort Wayne.

Aliahna went missing from a family friend’s home Friday. About a half-dozen people in black windbreakers were at the mobile home park Monday. Several identified themselves as FBI agents.

Search dogs were seen at a nearby storage facility.

A state website says 15 registered sex offenders reside at the mobile home park.

OHIO

Hundreds empty airport after fire alarm sounds

CINCINNATI — Officials briefly evacuated the Cincinnati airport after a fire alarm went off, requiring a few hundred passengers to leave and go through security again.

Barb Schempf, spokeswoman for Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, said there was no fire and officials don’t know why the alarm went off.

She said a terminal was evacuated at about 7:30 a.m. Monday and reopened about an hour later. Between 800 and 1,000 passengers were affected.

CALIFORNIA

San Francisco Bay spill damaged Pacific herring

SAN FRANCISCO — The cargo ship accident that dumped tens of thousands of gallons of thick, tarry ship fuel into San Francisco Bay caused lasting damage to the region’s once-plentiful schools of Pacific herring, the bay’s only commercially fished species, according to a study released Monday.

Herring embryos collected from shorelines left coated in oil starting about three months after the November 2007 Cosco Busan spill suffered from unusually high death rates and a range of ailments and deformities associated with exposure to the chemicals in crude oil, the study found.

By 2010, death rates had returned to normal, but the embryos continued to show heart defects that are a common symptom in herring of oil exposure.

The bay’s Pacific herring are the largest coastal population in the continental U.S. and a key element of the bay’s complex food web, according to the study, which was published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The spill that resulted from the massive cargo ship striking one of the pillars of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in heavy fog killed more than 6,800 birds and closed beaches to swimmers for weeks.

UTAH

Kidnap victim used Facebook to procure police rescue

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah police say a woman used Facebook to get help after she and her 17-month-old son were held hostage at a residence for nearly five days.

Salt Lake County Jail documents say the woman posted Saturday that she and her son would be “dead by morning” if they were not rescued. That prompted a welfare check at the home by Sandy police.

Officers arrested Troy Reed Critchfield, 33, and booked him into jail on suspicion of aggravated kidnapping, forcible sodomy, aggravated assault, domestic violence, child abuse, animal cruelty and other charges. He remained in jail Monday.

Police say the woman hid in a closet and used a laptop to post the Facebook message.

From wire dispatches and staff reports