- - Monday, March 19, 2012

BALLWIN, Mo. — The fatal shooting of a woman and her three young daughters at a Missouri resort has been ruled a murder-suicide.

Christine Adewunmi, 37, and her daughters Lauren, 8, Samantha, 6, and Kate, 3, were discovered Saturday afternoon on a gravel road at the Blue Springs Ranch & Resort near Bourbon, Mo., about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

Crawford County Sheriff Randy Martin told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Monday that the mother killed her daughters and then turned the gun on herself.

Neighbors of the Adewunmi family in the St. Louis County town of Ballwin described Christine Adewunmi as an attentive mother whose life revolved around her girls.

CALIFORNIA

San Francisco’s sheriff sentenced to probation

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco’s sheriff has been sentenced to three years’ probation and must undergo a domestic violence program for a New Year’s Eve dispute with his wife.

Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s sentence Monday was part of a deal struck with prosecutors over allegations that he bruised his wife’s arm.

Sheriff Mirkarimi initially faced multiple misdemeanor charges, including domestic violence battery. That could’ve landed him in prison for up to a year, if convicted.

Instead he pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of false imprisonment. The move came after a round of pretrial testimony about his love life and images released of his tearful wife, Eliana Lopez, with the bruised bicep.

Sheriff Mirkarimi still could face political repercussions. Mayor Ed Lee has said he’s considering whether to attempt removing the sheriff from office.

GEORGIA

Sheriff: Missing balloon pilot’s body found

ATLANTA — Searchers found the body Monday of a hot-air balloon pilot who went missing after he was hit by a thunderstorm in Georgia, a sheriff said.

A helicopter spotted the balloon, and searchers on the ground then found the body of 63-year-old Edward Ristaino, Ben Hill County Sheriff Bobby McLemore said.

The balloon was found about seven to eight miles east of Fitzgerald, the sheriff said. It was draped over the basket containing the body in a heavily wooded area.

A fast-developing thunderstorm sucked in Mr. Ristaino’s balloon while he was ferrying skydivers Friday, then sent the craft plummeting toward the ground. The skydivers parachuted to safety.

Authorities had used helicopters, airplanes, horses and all-terrain vehicles to search the woods in south Georgia for Mr. Ristaino.

Two of the skydivers say Mr. Ristaino kept them safe by spotting a field where they could safely parachute and telling them to jump as the storm approached.

“If we would have left a minute later, we would have been sucked into the storm,” said skydiver Dan Eaton of Augusta, Ga.

He said he didn’t think Mr. Ristaino’s choice to embark on the trip was reckless. They took off into a blue sky from a festival in Fitzgerald, Ga. From the air, they could see only a foglike haze that later turned into a fierce thunderstorm.

The storm “came out of nowhere,” said skydiver Jessica Wesnofske of Cornelia, Ga.

NEW YORK

Security up at Jewish sites after France attack

NEW YORK — The New York Police Department stepped up security at synagogues and other sites Monday after a deadly attack on a Jewish school in France.

The NYPD dispatched extra patrols to more than 50 locations throughout New York on the news that an armed man on a motorbike had attacked a school in Toulouse, a southwestern city north of the Pyrenees mountains. The shooting left a rabbi, his two young sons and a schoolgirl dead.

NYPD Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said though there were no specific threats against New York, which has the largest Jewish population outside Israel, the police department decided to take the measures as a precaution.

“We have to be concerned about what happens overseas,” he said. “We have a significant Jewish population in this city, and we have to take that into account.

“We know that we’re the top of the terrorist target list, so we’re concerned about the so-called ‘copycat syndrome,’ where someone might see the events unfolding in Toulouse and take it upon themselves to act out.”

The locations getting additional security included the Museum of Jewish Heritage in lower Manhattan, the Israeli Mission to the United Nations in midtown and the 92nd Street Y on the Upper East Side.

MASSACHUSETTS

Officials try to freeze assets of Bulger’s girlfriend

BOSTON — Federal prosecutors are trying to freeze the assets of mobster James “Whitey” Bulger’s girlfriend to cover any fine she may be ordered to pay when she is sentenced for helping Bulger evade authorities for 16 years.

They have asked a judge to order a garnishment of any assets belonging to Catherine Greig held by Eastern Bank, according to court documents.

In the filing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Donato says prosecutors believe Greig “holds significant assets and/or funds.”

Greig pleaded guilty last week to helping Bulger avoid capture since 1995. Bulger has pleaded not guilty to participating in 19 murders. The couple was captured last summer in Santa Monica, Calif.

Mr. Donato said he believes there’s a strong likelihood Greig will be ordered to pay a fine when she’s sentenced in June. He has asked a judge to order any Greig asset held by Eastern Bank to be paid to the government if a fine is ordered.

During a hearing in U.S. District Court on Monday, Greig’s attorney, Kevin Reddington, said Greig does not plan to transfer any property or funds.

“The money will maintain a status quo … and the same thing with the real estate,” Mr. Reddington said. “It’s not going anywhere, I assure the court of that.”

U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock did not immediately rule on the request.

NEW YORK

Zoo gorilla tranquilized, keeper treated for bites

BUFFALO — A 400-pound gorilla that escaped from its cage at an upstate New York zoo and bit a zookeeper has been captured in a zookeepers’ lounge and tranquilized.

The Buffalo Zoo says a 24-year-old male gorilla named Koga got out of his cage into an aisle where the keeper was working Monday morning and bit her on the hand and calf.

The keeper locked herself in with the zoo’s other gorillas and called the animal escape team.

Police locked down the zoo while Koga was confined to a lounge outside public areas and tranquilized.

The Buffalo Zoo has six western lowland gorillas in its main animal building: Koga, four females and a baby female. It’s investigating how Koga escaped.

The zookeeper suffered minor bite wounds. She was taken to a hospital for evaluation.

PENNSYLVANIA

Philly priests lay out defense before rape trial

PHILADELPHIA — Lawyers for two priests charged with raping boys in the mid-1990s said Monday they plan to attack the accusers’ motives when the landmark trial starts next week.

The Rev. James Brennan’s lawyer will tell jurors that Father Brennan’s accuser sought the priest out as an adult when he needed to do court-ordered community service.

“He could have [gone] to a soup kitchen. Of all places, he seeks out his alleged abuser, Father Brennan,” lawyer William Brennan, who is of no relation, argued at a pretrial hearing.

Defrocked priest Edward Avery’s lawyer will also question his accuser’s motivation at trial. Mr. Avery’s accuser had been expelled from an archdiocesan high school at age 14 and began a long battle with drug addiction.

He disclosed the allegations of abuse — which he said occurred when he was a 10-year-old altar boy — in therapy at age 21. Defense lawyer Michael Wallace plans to argue that the accuser hoped to get revenge for his school expulsion, get money from a related lawsuit and resolve drug-related criminal problems by helping prosecutors.

Mr. Wallace will note that the accuser also lost his grandmother, his closest relative, about the same time he was expelled.

“He was hit with a lot of traumas that year. There are alternate reasons for developing a drug habit,” Mr. Wallace said. He called the accuser’s motivation and bias “the entire defense.”

The judge said she would allow both lines of cross-examination.

From wire dispatches and staff reports