- - Monday, December 3, 2012

GREENSBURG — Authorities say four people died when a small plane crashed as it was approaching a southeastern Indiana airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the crash happened Sunday evening about a mile south of the Greensburg Municipal Airport and that all on board were killed. The FAA says the plane had been cleared to approach the airport but then never arrived.

Greensburg police Detective Bill Meyerrose said emergency dispatchers received a 911 call about 6:15 p.m. about a possible crash. The wreckage was found about 10:45 p.m. where the plane had crashed through a tree line and ended up in a farm field in the area about 40 miles southeast of Indianapolis.

The single-engine Piper is registered to a Greensburg man, but authorities didn’t immediately release information about the victims.

Prosecutor: Blast probe is ‘painstaking’ process

INDIANAPOLIS — The investigation into an explosion that killed an Indianapolis couple and devastated their neighborhood is a “painstaking” process with no timetable for a resolution, a prosecutor said Monday.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said police are conducting interviews based on input from the public as investigators continue to seek the cause of the Nov. 10 blast that killed Jennifer and John Longworth. Authorities have said they think the explosion was intentional and caused by natural gas, but have released no other details.

The explosion caused an estimated $4.4 million in structural damage and scattered debris throughout the neighborhood. Thirty-three badly damaged homes are slated to be demolished.

Experts say explosions and arson cases can take years to close. Nationally, less than 20 percent of 43,412 arsons ended in arrests in 2011, according to the FBI.

Peter Beering, an Indianapolis terrorism consultant and former prosecutor who specialized in arson, told The Indianapolis Star such investigations are difficult.

TEXAS

Military court ousts judge in Fort Hood shooting trial

FORT WORTH — The military’s highest court ousted the judge in the Fort Hood shooting case Monday and threw out his order to have the suspect’s beard forcibly shaved before his court-martial.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ruled that Col. Gregory Gross didn’t appear impartial while presiding over the case of Maj. Nidal Hasan, who faces the death penalty if convicted in the 2009 shootings on the Texas Army post that killed 13 people and wounded more than two dozen others.

But the court said it was not ruling on whether the judge’s order violated Maj. Hasan’s religious rights. Maj. Hasan has argued that his beard is a requirement of his Muslim religion, although facial hair violates Army regulations.

“Should the next military judge find it necessary to address [Maj. Hasan’s] beard, such issues should be addressed and litigated anew,” judges wrote in the ruling.

Maj. Hasan appealed after Col. Gross ordered that he must be clean-shaven or be forcibly shaved before his military trial, which had been set to begin three months ago but has been on hold pending the appeals.

In a statement issued Monday night, Fort Hood officials said proceedings in the case will resume after a new judge is appointed by the Army’s highest legal branch. That indicates Army prosecutors will not appeal this ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

GEORGIA

Girl recalls dolphin bite at SeaWorld

ATLANTA — An 8-year-old Georgia girl says it “really, really hurt” when a dolphin snatched her hand in its mouth while she fed the animal as part of an attraction at SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla.

Jillian Thomas of Alpharetta, Ga., said she raised the paper carton she was holding, and “when the dolphin saw that, it leaped at me and bit me, ate the carton.”

“It really, really hurt,” Jillian said in an interview Monday with ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Jillian suffered three puncture wounds to her hand. Her father, Jamie Thomas, who was with her at the theme park when the dolphin lunged from its pool Nov. 21, described his reaction as “instant fear.”

After his initial thought that he might have to dive into the tank to rescue his daughter, a SeaWorld employee offered to help.

SeaWorld officials said in a statement that the safety of their guests is paramount, and they are taking the situation seriously.

OHIO

Town helps post office keep Rudolph postmark

RUDOLPH — Volunteers in the northwest Ohio village of Rudolph have come together to save the most famous postmark of all.

Thousands of letters flood the village post office every December so that they can be stamped with a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer postmark.

But the tradition was in danger of ending when the post office staff was cut down to one, and the work became too much to handle.

That’s when volunteers in the community decided to take over the job.

Close to 75 people, including a few retired postal workers, have signed up to stamp the special Reindeer Station postmark on the 80,000 letters and cards that come in from across the country.

CALIFORNIA

No break in stormy weather for state

SAN FRANCISCO — Northern California residents recovering from a series of wet, windy storms won’t get much of a break.

The National Weather Service said another significant system is expected to hit parts of the region on Tuesday, with rain continuing into the following day.

As much as 5 more inches of rain could fall before the storm moves out.

National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Keeton said the rain could be especially heavy at times in areas north of Redding and across the Sierras. Still, it will be nothing like the downpours that left between 15 to 20 inches of rain in some of those areas over the five-day period that ended Sunday.

Coast Guard member dies after boat rammed

VENTURA — A suspected smuggling vessel rammed a U.S. Coast Guard chase boat during a counternarcotics operation off the California coast, killing one Coast Guard member and injuring another, authorities said.

Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III, 34, of Redondo Beach, was pronounced dead Sunday after he was brought ashore at Port Hueneme, said James Baroni, Ventura County chief deputy medical examiner.

Chief Horne suffered a traumatic head injury in the crash near the Channel Islands west of Malibu, Coast Guard officials said.

The second man was treated for minor injuries. His name wasn’t released.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet A. Napolitano said Monday that Chief Horne and fellow crew members of the Coast Guard cutter Halibut “were engaged in an at-sea interdiction when they came under threat by a small vessel that rammed their small boat.”

Smuggling boats carrying drugs or illegal immigrants from Mexico have been ranging farther and farther north along the California coast.

A Coast Guard maritime patrol aircraft spotted a low-sided fishing boat favored by Mexican smugglers, and the cutter was sent to intercept it.

Ms. Napolitano said the tragedy was a reminder of the dangers men and women in uniform face daily while protecting the nation.

 

PENNSYLVANIA

Police: Man shoots, kills ex at church

COUDERSPORT — An elementary school music teacher has been jailed on charges that he walked into a north-central Pennsylvania church service and shot and killed his ex-wife.

The defense attorney for 52-year-old Gregory Eldred, of Coudersport, did not immediately return a call for comment Monday.

Mr. Eldred is charged with first-degree murder for Sunday’s shooting of 53-year-old Darlene Sitler, also of Coudersport.

Troopers from the Coudersport barracks did not immediately offer a description or explanation of the shooting at the First United Presbyterian Church where, the Bradford Era reported, Ms. Sitler served as organist and choir director.

Police said Mr. Eldred shot Ms. Sitler Sunday about 11:20 a.m. during a church service, but that nobody else was injured.

Others in the congregation grabbed Mr. Eldred and held him until police arrived.

 

From wire dispatches and staff reports