- - Wednesday, October 31, 2012

BOSTON — Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is asking for an independent probe into a state drug lab at the center of a testing scandal.

Annie Dookhan, a former chemist, is accused of skirting protocols and faking drug-test results. She has pleaded not guilty to obstructing justice. Officials say she tested more than 60,000 drug samples involving the criminal cases of about 34,000 individuals over a nine-year period.

Firm tied to meningitis outbreak recalls entire product line

BOSTON — A company with the same founders as the specialty pharmacy linked to a deadly meningitis outbreak says it’s recalling all its products.

In a statement Wednesday, Ameridose said the voluntary recall comes after FDA officials told the company it must improve its sterility testing. The Westborough, Mass., company says it has no reports of problems with its products, or any impurities, but issued the recall “out of an abundance of caution.”

TEXAS

Widow: Man who beat, killed pastor mentally ill

FOREST HILL — The man who rammed his car into a Fort Worth-area church then beat the pastor to death with a guitar apparently suffered from a mental illness.

Speaking after a prayer vigil for the Rev. Danny Kirk Sr. Tuesday night, Shanellia Harris Birdow said she does not know why Derrick Anthony Birdow attacked the minister the previous day.

“He was sick, really sick … mentally ill. … Even these last couple of days (before the attack) he was trying to get help, but he didn’t get it,” she said.

Forest Hill police say Derrick Birdow, 33, attacked the pastor in the church parking lot, chased him inside and fatally beat him. Police used a stun gun on Birdow, who was later found unresponsive in a patrol car and pronounced dead at a hospital.

DA: Grand jury to consider charges in helicopter shooting

McALLEN — A grand jury will consider the case of two Guatemalan immigrants killed when a state trooper in a helicopter opened fire to stop a tarp-covered truck that authorities thought was ferrying drugs, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra said after meeting with investigators that the case “will be taken to a grand jury, there’s no doubt about that.” He added that he asked the Texas Rangers to tell the state Department of Public Safety that policies allowing shooting from helicopters need to be reviewed.

On Oct. 25, a DPS helicopter joined state game wardens near La Joya in pursuit of what they thought was a drug-laden truck barreling down a rural gravel road. Instead, the tarp concealed six passengers including the two Guatemalans who died.

A trooper aboard the helicopter fired in an effort to disable the truck. Later it was discovered that there were no drugs in the truck, but rather nine Guatemalan immigrants in addition to the driver and another passenger.

MICHIGAN

Police seek suspect in 24 shootings over 2 weeks

DETROIT — Officers have begun pulling over and questioning drivers in four Michigan counties in hopes of catching a man suspected of shooting at other motorists over the past two weeks, including one driver who was wounded over the weekend.

Officers are searching for anything out of the norm during their traffic stops in Oakland, Livingston, Ingham and Shiawassee counties, where the suspect is thought to have fired on two dozen vehicles since Oct. 16.

Husband charged after death of 400-pound wife

WARREN — The husband of a 400-pound Detroit-area woman has been charged with abuse after her recent death.

Authorities are accusing Michael Brooks of ignoring Yolanda Reese-Brooks and allowing her to fester in a bed surrounded by her own waste. The 40-year-old Warren woman died of morbid obesity and other injuries last week.

The prosecutor’s office says Mr. Brooks was his wife’s primary caretaker after she sustained a crushed pelvis and ruptured bladder in a 2011 auto wreck.

NEW YORK

NYC Marathon awaits word from city on Sunday’s race

NEW YORK — New York City Marathon organizers say they’re moving forward with plans for Sunday’s race, but await final word from city officials on whether the event can go on after superstorm Sandy.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had said Tuesday that he expected the marathon would be run. The city must determine whether holding the race would be safe and viable with flooding, power outages and transit shutdowns still afflicting the five boroughs.

New York Road Runners President Mary Wittenberg said Wednesday that organizers were preparing to use more private contractors than past years to reduce the strain on city services.

 

VIRGINIA

Feds: Defense firm put untrained guards in Iraq

ALEXANDRIA — The federal government has joined a whistleblower’s lawsuit against a major defense contractor in Iraq.

The lawsuit claims Triple Canopy Inc. used hundreds of poorly trained security guards to protect the Al Asad air base. The suit also claims the Virginia-based company falsified documents to cover up its guards’ deficiencies in accurately shooting their AK-47 assault rifles.

Triple Canopy received a one-year, $10 million contract in 2009 to provide security at the base, Iraq’s second-largest. The lawsuit was filed by a whistleblower under a law that allows the government to intervene if it believes the whistleblower’s claims.

KENTUCKY

3 severely burned in fire at chemical train derailment

LOUISVILLE — Authorities say three workers have been severely burned in a fire that erupted while contractors were removing debris from a train derailment in southwest Louisville, Ky.

Officials said the workers were critically injured Wednesday with second- and third-degree burns covering 90 percent of their bodies.

MAINE

Man has stroke in office, dies after 5 days alone

PORTLAND — A computer specialist had a stroke in his office, but wasn’t discovered until five days later, then died at a hospital, relatives and authorities said Wednesday.

David Norton, 45, of Portland, was barely alive when police found him Oct. 10 inside his University of Southern Maine office. He died Oct. 15 at Maine Medical Center.

He had a stroke the Friday before Columbus Day and was found in his locked office by USM police the following Wednesday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports