- - Thursday, February 23, 2012

WASHINGTON

Ex-con suspected in trooper’s death kills self

PORT ORCHARD — A suspect in the shooting death of a Washington state trooper has died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Thursday afternoon that the man had passed away after being taken to Tacoma General Hospital.

The suspect was 28-year-old Joshua Jearl Blake, an ex-con with a history of drugs, assaulting the mother of one of his children, and kicking out the window of a police car. Blake was the registered owner of a pickup truck that Trooper Tony Radulescu pulled over just before he was fatally shot early Thursday.

Investigators tracked Blake to a home near Port Orchard, where he shot himself as a SWAT team closed in.

NEW YORK

Judge orders anonymous jury for bomb-plot trial

NEW YORK — A federal judge has ordered an anonymous jury for the upcoming trial of a New York City man accused of plotting to attack the city’s subway system with homemade bombs.

The judge hasn’t yet decided whether the jurors should be escorted daily from their homes to the court.

The Daily News reported that prosecutors have requested the extra security, citing the “extraordinarily compelling facts” surrounding the case.

Adis Medunjanin is accused of plotting with two accomplices to bomb subway lines during rush hour near the 8th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. He’s also accused of trying to recruit a fourth person to travel to Pakistan “to wage violent jihad.”

Authorities have called it one of the most serious terrorism threats since 9/11.

WASHINGTON

Killer’s in-laws: System to protect kids flawed

OLYMPIA — Josh Powell’s in-laws say Washington’s child-protection system is flawed.

Chuck and Judy Cox said Thursday that they are hoping to see changes to better ensure safety of children involved in custody cases. The Cox family had cared for Powell’s two young boys until he killed the children and himself in a fire earlier this month.

Chuck Cox is supporting several changes to the system, including more rights for grandparents, restrictions on private home visitations and less of a focus on trying to reunify children with their biological parents.

He and attorneys are also backing a bill that would prohibit a child-custody award to a murder suspect. Powell’s wife, Susan, has been missing since 2009, but Utah authorities never publicly labeled her disappearance as a murder. Investigators also never called Powell a suspect.

MISSOURI

St. Louis, suburbs clash over homelessness

ST. LOUIS — The communities surrounding St. Louis have long been accused of using the city’s downtown as a dumping ground for homeless men. But as the weak economy and foreclosures push more people onto the streets, overwhelmed city officials say enough is enough.

St. Louis leaders want suburban areas to start taking care of their own.

Advocates for the homeless point to repeated examples of dumping. They say homeless men sometimes emerge from out-of-town police cruisers that stop at shelters. Others turn up still wearing gowns from suburban hospitals.

Suburban leaders insist the complaints are based on a myth. They say transient people often make their way to the city on their own, not because of a concerted effort to shoo them away.

FLORIDA

Peru makes long-shot bid for Spanish treasure

TAMPA — The government of Peru is making a last-minute, long-shot bid at ownership of 17 tons of Spanish silver recovered from a warship that sank nearly 200 years ago.

Spain took control of the treasure earlier this week after prevailing in a legal battle with the Florida-based deep-sea explorers who raised it from the Atlantic Ocean five years ago. The treasure is scheduled to fly to Spain as early as Friday.

The Peruvian government asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the shipment until it could make further arguments to support its claim of ownership.

The coins were minted in Peru. Descendants of merchants who owned the money aboard the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes have in the past made unsuccessful claims to it.

TEXAS

Accountant: Stanford’s bank audited properly

HOUSTON — There was nothing “extravagant” about the millions that were paid to the outside auditor of jailed Texas tycoon R. Allen Stanford’s Caribbean bank, an accountant told jurors Thursday at the financier’s fraud trial.

Prosecutors contend the bank was at the center of a Ponzi scheme that took billions from investors. But Morris Hollander, a forensic accountant hired by Mr. Stanford’s defense team, testified that his review of financial statements and other documents seemed to show the bank was being properly audited by the businessman’s outside auditor, C.A.S. Hewlett, and the bank was adhering to international accounting rules.

Mr. Stanford is accused by prosecutors of orchestrating a 20-year scheme that bilked more than $7 billion from investors through the sale of certificates of deposit from his bank on the Caribbean island nation of Antigua. They also allege Mr. Stanford, whose financial empire was headquartered in Houston, lied to depositors by telling them their funds were being safely invested but instead spent it on his businesses and his lavish lifestyle.

Mr. Stanford is on trial for 14 counts, including mail and wire fraud, and could be sentenced to more than 20 years in prison if convicted. Once considered among the U.S.’s wealthiest people with an estimated net worth of more than $2 billion, he has been jailed without bond since being indicted in 2009.

GEORGIA

Bus driver suspended after pen stabbing

KENNESAW — Authorities say a Georgia commuter-bus driver who was stabbed in the face with a pen while trying to resolve a dispute with a passenger has been suspended for not following protocol in the incident.

Cobb County Transit Director Rebecca Gutowsky told the Marietta Daily Journal the driver should have called dispatch for assistance and not confronted the passenger.

Police say the driver went to the back of the bus to keep a quarrel from escalating Monday, and a female passenger grabbed a pen from the driver’s pocket and stabbed him several times in the face.

He was suspended by Lombard, Ill.-based Veolia Transportation, which provides drivers for the system. Veolia spokeswoman Valerie Michael says the company is still investigating.

She says the bus driver is doing fine.

ALABAMA

Stepmom gives birth after arrest in death

MONTGOMERY — An Alabama woman has given birth the same day she was arrested for the death of her 9-year-old stepdaughter, who authorities say died after being forced to run for three hours as punishment for eating a candy bar.

Etowah County District Attorney Jimmie Harp says Jessica Mae Hardin is under guard at a hospital after giving birth Wednesday.

Mrs. Hardin and her mother-in-law, Joyce Hardin Garrard, were charged with murder in the death of Savannah Hardin. Mr. Harp says his office is interviewing witnesses and may upgrade the charges to capital murder, which carries a possible death sentence.

Mr. Harp says Savannah Hardin had a bladder condition and was not supposed to have the caffeine in chocolate. He says there is no evidence the condition contributed to her death.

MAINE

Toddler walks mile in middle of night

BAILEYVILLE — A 3-year-old Maine girl, possibly confused by a dream, walked a mile to a grocery store in the middle of the night, thinking her mother was inside buying pizza.

Police say Hope Trott woke up in the middle of the night last week, put on shoes, threw a jacket on over her nightdress and walked to the store through freshly fallen snow. Temperatures were around 29 degrees.

An employee found the girl crying outside the store at 4 a.m. and called police.

Police officers followed her footprints to her Baileyville home, found the front door open, and thinking a home invasion was in progress, entered with guns drawn. They found Hope’s parents and siblings asleep.

Her parents have since installed a chain and deadbolt.

From wire dispatches and staff reports