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American Scene: Statue of Liberty reopens on 126th birthday Sunday

- - Thursday, October 25, 2012

NEW YORK

NEW YORK — The Statue of Liberty is set to reopen to the public Sunday, the U.S. landmark's 126th anniversary.

The statue has been closed for renovation to its interior, although the public has been allowed to visit its Liberty Island grounds in New York Harbor.

The $30 million renovation that began last year included replacing the stairs to the crown and making them less steep. There are now 393 steps, instead of 354.

For the first time, visitors using wheelchairs will be able to visit one of the observation decks at the top of the pedestal. National Park Service spokeswoman Mindi Rambo said that is as high as it's possible to provide wheelchair access while preserving the historic structure.

COLORADO

Prosecutors: Teen confesses in 10-year-old girl's death

GOLDEN — A Colorado teenager has confessed in the abduction and killing of a 10-year-old girl and in a separate attack on a runner, prosecutors said Thursday.

The suspect, Austin Reed Sigg, 17, made his first court appearance Thursday in the death of Jessica Ridgeway and an assault on a 22-year-old female runner in May.

Authorities said Thursday they have "overwhelming" DNA evidence against the suspect.

The teen lived about a mile from Jessica, who disappeared Oct. 5.

NEW YORK

2nd arrest made in case linked to police officer's death

HEMPSTEAD — A man was arrested on charges he assisted a suspect in the fatal shootings of a New York police officer and a carjacking victim, prosecutors said Thursday.

The announcement of the man's arrest came the same day Darrell Fuller was ordered held without bail on murder and other charges in the deaths of Nassau County Police Officer Arthur Lopez and a New York City man gunned down during a carjacking.

The shootings took place shortly before noon Tuesday in Nassau County, just over the border from the New York City borough of Queens.

The second suspect was not accused in the killings, but possessed the murder weapon, authorities said. Gerard Williams, 27, was held on two weapons possession counts by prosecutors in Queens.

CALIFORNIA

Superintendent addresses high school sex fantasy league

PIEDMONT — The superintendent of a San Francisco Bay Area school district where high school athletes created a statistics-based fantasy sex league said the story has been sensationalized and the district has "really good kids that can make mistakes."

Piedmont Unified School District Superintendent Connie Hubbard said at a school board meeting Wednesday that the district does not condone the students' behavior but would discuss parents' concerns and move forward, according to The Oakland Tribune.

"The media swirl the last few days began as an honest communication with parents. Viral voices sensationalized what the story was. We will not let this deter us," she said.

There was no information reflecting criminal conduct, according to Ms. Hubbard.

The league -- created by male athletes at Piedmont High School -- awarded points when girls the boys "drafted" were rumored to have engaged in sexual activity.

NEBRASKA

Insurance company apologizes for rift with deputy and his K-9 dog

OMAHA — An insurance company that canceled the homeowner's policy of a sheriff's deputy because of his K-9 unit dog said Thursday it is looking to change its practices regarding police dogs.

American Family Insurance Co. also offered an apology Thursday to Douglas County Deputy Andy Woodward, who received a letter from the insurer this month informing him his policy would end Dec. 19 "due to the additional liability exposure of your police dog."

Deputy Woodward, 36, said he learned in July after the insurance company conducted its annual inspection of his home that American Family was considering ending his homeowner's policy because he cares for his K-9, Diezel -- which the insurer said violated its policy of insuring those with aggressive dogs.

Steve Witmer, a spokesman for American Family, called the cancellation "an unfortunate misunderstanding" Wednesday, saying the company expected the deputy to provide confirmation that Douglas County held liability insurance on the dog.

OHIO

College professor arrested in sex assaults on young men

SPRINGFIELD — Authorities say a teenager who grabbed an attacker's cellphone led to the arrest of an Ohio college professor in connection with sex assaults against young men.

The Springfield News-Sun reports that Hollant "Max" Adrien, 52, was arrested on rape and kidnapping charges.

Mr. Adrien, who teaches French at Wittenberg University, pleaded not guilty Wednesday.

Springfield police say Mr. Adrien has been connected to two rapes in the area, as well as the attack on a 17-year-old earlier this month. In that case, the teen pushed away his attacker and grabbed the assailant's bag and cellphone as he fled.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports