- - Sunday, July 3, 2011

CALIFORNIA

Marines accused of sham marriages for money

CAMP PENDLETON — Military officials are charging three California-based Marine corporals with fraud and larceny for entering in a pair of sham marriages to collect housing funding, officials said.

The military says that a lesbian couple — one a Marine, the other a civilian — decided to live together off-base and wanted to collect the $1,200 housing benefit granted to married Marines.

The female Marine found a male Marine willing to get married, allowing them to collect the housing benefit, and the civilian woman also eventually married a Marine and collected funds, 1st Lt. Maureen Dooley, a spokeswoman at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, said Saturday.

The female Marine, Cpl. Ashley Vice, told San Diego’s KGTV-TV that she and her partner, Jaime Murphy, were forced to enter sham marriages because the military doesn’t provide allowances for unmarried couples and they couldn’t afford to live off-base without the extra money.

“It doesn’t matter what their sexual preferences are, if they’re violating the law and making fraudulent use of government money, they will be held accountable,” 1st Lt. Dooley said.

NEW MEXICO

Los Alamos residents allowed to return home

LOS ALAMOS — A smattering of summer rain gave a boost to firefighters battling a huge forest fire near Los Alamos, giving authorities enough confidence to allow about 12,000 people to return home for the first time in nearly a week.

Residents rolled into town Sunday morning, honking their horns and waving to firefighters as the word got out that the roadblocks were lifted and the narrow two-lane highway cut into the side of a mesa leading to Los Alamos was open. They had fled en masse Monday as the fast-moving fire approached the city and its nuclear laboratory.

“Thank, you! Thank, You! Thank, you!,” yelled Amy Riehl, an assistant manager at the Smith’s grocery store as she arrived in Los Alamos to help keep the store open for returning residents.

The town was last evacuated because of the 2000 Cerro Grande fire. That time, residents returned to a town that had lost 200 homes, several businesses and had to cope with damaged utilities and other county enterprises. This time around, residents were returning to a town that is completely intact, although the fire destroyed 63 homes west of town.

Although the threat to Los Alamos and the nation’s premier nuclear research lab had passed, the mammoth wildfire raging in northern New Mexico was still threatening sacred sites of American Indian tribes.

NEW YORK

Crash kills cyclist at helmet-law protest

ONONDAGA — Police say a motorcyclist who was participating in a protest ride against helmet laws in upstate New York has died after he went over the handlebars and hit his head on the pavement.

The accident happened Saturday afternoon in Onondaga, a town in central New York near Syracuse.

State troopers told the Post-Standard newspaper of Syracuse that 55-year-old Parish resident Philip A. Contos was driving a 1983 Harley-Davidson with a group of bikers who were protesting helmet laws by not wearing helmets.

Troopers say Mr. Contos hit his brakes and the motorcycle fishtailed and went out of control, flipping the driver over the handlebars. Troopers said Mr. Contos, who was pronounced dead at a hospital, likely would have survived if he’d been wearing a helmet.

PENNSYLVANIA

Gettysburg lightning strikes hurt 5 re-enactors

GETTYSBURG — A lightning strike at a camp of Civil War re-enactors in Gettysburg, Pa., has sent five people to hospitals.

The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee said in a statement that during a severe thunderstorm at about 2:45 a.m. Sunday, lightning struck a tent pole in the Confederate artillery camp, damaging three tents and causing moderate injuries to two people and minor injuries to three others.

The five were taken to Gettysburg Hospital. One is in stable condition. Two others in stable condition were treated and transferred to York Hospital. Two others were treated and released.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Authorities: Man kills 4, then commits suicide

COLUMBIA — Authorities say a man killed four people in South Carolina, then took his own life after officers chased him in a car belonging to one of the victims.

Capt. Charles Barranco, an Aiken County Sheriff’s spokesman, says 46-year-old Kenneth Myers led deputies Sunday morning to the spot in Wagener where three bodies were found about nine hours earlier and shot himself.

The coroner identified the dead as Mr. Myers’ wife, 25-year-old Angela Myers; her twin sister, Tabitha Brown; her mother, 50-year-old Vicki Brown; and Myers’ ex-wife, 47-year-old Esther Baldwin. All four died from single gunshots.

Investigators say they are still trying to figure out why Mr. Myers went on a killing spree. Capt. Barranco says deputies weren’t familiar with him before Saturday night.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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