- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 24, 2002

NEW YORK

Wrongfully convicted man released after 17 years

BUFFALO A 36-year-old man who spent almost half his life in prison on a murder charge has been released after having his conviction overturned.

Angelo Martinez of Brooklyn, N.Y., was convicted in the 1985 murder of Rudolph Marasco outside a bingo hall in Queens.

Another prisoner confessed to the murder about a decade ago, said Oscar Michelen, Mr. Martinez's defense attorney.

But authorities didn't believe the prisoner, Charles Rivera, because he failed a lie-detector test.

Deeper investigation by the Queens district attorney's office later confirmed Rivera's confession that he had killed Mr. Marasco as a favor to another man.


NORTH CAROLINA

Miss North Carolina resigns her title

ST. PAULS Miss North Carolina resigned her title yesterday, citing a former relationship that was "physically and emotionally abusive."

Rebekah Revels, 23, said in a statement she had recently learned a former male friend had contacted the Miss America Organization "in a calculated attempt to defame my character."

"It is not my desire that my personal life or the physically and emotionally abusive relationship of which I was once a part should be used to bring any degree of reproach upon a program that I truly admire," Miss Revels said.

She said she hoped her case would motivate other women "who might find themselves in the same situation, and that they will be motivated to seek help, as I did, to dissolve a volatile and potentially harmful relationship." She did not elaborate.

The first runner-up, Misty Clymer, will become Miss North Carolina and compete for the Miss America in September, said Allen Clouse, executive director of the pageant in Raleigh.


ALASKA

Man survives fall down mountain

JUNEAU Angel Varela was faced with a sheer drop on one side and a rock face on the other when Juneau Mountain Rescue crews found him clinging to a ledge on the side of Mount Juneau early Sunday morning, the Empire reported.

Mr. Varela sustained only minor injuries, including a fractured right leg, when he tumbled about 60 feet down the mountain around 7 p.m. Saturday, according to Capital City Fire and Rescue.

Visiting Juneau from Encinada, Mexico, he went for a hike late Saturday afternoon and was chased by a bear, according to police. He slipped, slid 60 feet and lost consciousness when he landed on a rock ledge.


ARIZONA

Arsonist suspected of starting more fires

PHOENIX The man accused of setting one of the two fires that joined in a 469,000-acre wildfire and destroyed nearly 500 homes is suspected of starting hundreds of small fires, a federal law enforcement agent said.

Leonard Gregg, a contract firefighter in jail awaiting trial on two federal felony counts, emerged as one of several possible suspects last year during a Bureau of Indian Affairs investigation of the smaller fires, BIA investigator Daniel Hawkins said in yesterday's editions of the Arizona Republic.


CALIFORNIA

Forest fire threatens redwoods

PINE FLAT A raging wildfire threatened some of America's giant sequoias yesterday and the Forest Service called in more than 1,000 firefighters plus air tankers and helicopters in an all-out effort to save the towering symbols of the West.

The 38,000-acre blaze roared through the deep valleys of the Giant Sequoia National Monument and came within two miles of the Trail of 100 Giants, a grove of majestic sequoias that are among the largest and most ancient trees on Earth, with trunks up to 1,500 years old and 20 feet in diameter.

As of midday, the fire had consumed only some smaller species of trees, and the winds were blowing the flames away from the Trail of 100 Giants. But the blaze was headed toward another stand of the big redwoods, the Freeman Creek Grove.

Sequoias can live more than 3,200 years, their massive trunks capable of withstanding countless fires. But fires can kill them when other trees spread flames to the sequoias' limbs high above the ground.


FLORIDA

Jury finds Salvadorans liable for torture

WEST PALM BEACH A jury held two retired Salvadoran generals responsible yesterday for atrocities committed during El Salvador's civil war two decades ago and ordered them to pay $54.6 million to three torture victims.

The generals, who now live in the United States, were sued by a church worker, a doctor and a professor who fled their homeland after being brutalized by Salvadoran soldiers.

The federal jury found that retired Gens. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova and Jose Guillermo failed to stop their troops from torturing and killing civilians.

Two of the victims, Carlos Mauricio and Neris Gonzalez, were in court and wept as the verdict was read.


GEORGIA

Brothers shot to death in suspected robbery

VILLANOW Two brothers were shot to death in what appeared to be a robbery at a home for troubled boys where they were working as volunteers.

Larry Phelps, 62, and Arvin Phelps, 69, were clearing brush at the Mountain Top Boys Home when they were shot at close range Monday, authorities said.


IDAHO

Historical center to honor Sacajawea

SALMON Work has begun on the nation's first historical center for the Lemhi Shoshone Indian woman who helped guide Lewis and Clark across the Continental Divide.

The $1.5 million Sacajawea Interpretive and Education Center being built in Salmon is just north of Tendoy, where Sacajawea is believed to have been born.

The facility and displays are to open for the start of the Lewis and Clark bicentennial next year.


INDIANA

Fraud complaint filed against church group

INDIANAPOLIS In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court, the SEC has accused the fund-raising arm of the Church of God of defrauding investors out of $85 million.

The Securities and Exchange Commission said in the court documents filed Monday that it had negotiated a preliminary settlement with the group, called Church Extension of the Church of God. The fund-raising arm is accused of artificially inflating income in correspondence with investors and misleading them about the risk of investments.


IOWA

Town public library bans teen-advice book

DES MOINES In her book, teen-advice columnist Sari Locker tackles such questions as: How do I tell my parents I got a tattoo? Should I get together with someone I met online? Can I get birth control without my parents' permission?

Her answers won't be available to teens in the library of the small eastern Iowa town of Dyersville, where trustees of the James Kennedy Public Library voted to ban her book from its shelves.

Some of the book, "Sari Says: The Real Dirt on Everything from Sex to School," was too sexually explicit, said Wayne Hermsen, library board chairman.

Mr. Hermsen said it's the first time a book has been banned at the library in Dyersville, a town of 4,000 some 20 miles west of Dubuque.


MAINE

New report shows state's health habits

PORTLAND Oxford County has the highest percentage of overweight residents in southern and central Maine, and Androscoggin County has the most smokers.

Those are among the findings of survey results of health indicators for 10 Maine counties.

The report, released yesterday, marks the first-time rates of obesity, smoking, inactivity, nutritious eating and other health-related factors have been broken down by county. Officials said they hope the findings motivate residents to adopt healthier lifestyles.

The new report, "Community Health Profiles 2000," is an expansion of an annual statewide health survey the Maine Bureau of Health has conducted since 1987.


MASSACHUSETTS

Boater survives 19 hours adrift

HYANNIS A Naval Reserve officer survived 19 hours in the waters of Nantucket Sound without a life jacket after falling off his sailboat, officials said. Daniel Griffin, of Groton, Conn., credited his training for his survival.

Mr. Griffin, 28, was knocked from his boat by a boom while trying to repair loose rigging. Fighting off sleep and hallucinations, he swam, treaded water and floated until rescued by a passing boat.

He said thoughts of disappearing without a trace motivated him to survive.


MICHIGAN

Group asks for probe of anti-Islamic message

DETROIT An Islamic civil rights group is asking for a federal investigation of anti-Islamic graffiti reportedly scrawled in the home of a man charged with trying to enter the country with $12 million in phony cashier's checks.

After Secret Service and FBI agents searched the home of Omar Shishani on Thursday, his brother, Abdallah Shishani, said he and his wife found the words "Islam is Evil" and "Christ is King" written on a Muslim prayer calendar on the refrigerator.

On Monday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations said it believed a federal agent scrawled the words, and asked Attorney General John Ashcroft to investigate.

"While law enforcement authorities have the right, and even the duty, to follow all legitimate leads in the search for those who would cause harm to our nation, they do not have the right to insult the religious beliefs of those they are questioning," the group said in a letter.


MONTANA

Commission chilly to food store

BOZEMAN South Bozeman could use a grocery store, but one as large as 35,000 square feet doesn't belong on the edge of a residential neighborhood, city commissioners told representatives of Town & Country Foods on Monday.

"I love Town & Country and I would love to be able to support your project," Commissioner Marcia Youngman told the Chronicle. "But there's still only so far you can go next to a residential neighborhood."

The Bozeman City Commission was responding to an early version of Town & Country's proposal to build a 35,000-square-foot grocery store on the corner of Kagy Boulevard and South Third Avenue.


OHIO

Store clerks accused of stealing $18,200

BEREA An employee with the Dollar General Security Agency went to the police after finding that three employees of the Dollar General store on West Bagley Road had stolen $18,200 in cash and merchandise, reports the News Sun.

According to a police report, over the past several months the three suspects, all women, stole merchandise by sliding it down the counter and not really ringing it up.

One of the suspects, a 28-year-old Sprague Road woman, supposedly used a manager's key to steal money, as well.


PENNSYLVANIA

Mayor to patrol bad neighborhoods

PHILADELPHIA Mayor John F. Street is combining his enthusiasm for exercise with a new crime-fighting program. He's hopping on a bicycle to patrol some of the city's most notorious drug corners, and he wants residents to join him.

Starting this week, Mr. Street plans to spend four hours a week pedaling on his donated police-issue Mercedes-Benz mountain bicycle through neighborhoods where drug dealing has been most common.

He has recruited some of the city's top officials to ride with him as part of an expansion of Operation Safe Streets, a crackdown on open-air drug markets.


RHODE ISLAND

Doctor supports gun-locks program

PROVIDENCE Ten years at Rhode Island Hospital has taught emergency room physician Dr. Selim Suner that a "moment's carelessness" with a gun can put a child beyond his help.

He has treated about five children shot by accident while playing with guns. He's treated some 50 other children and teenagers shot intentionally by others or by their own hands.

What Dr. Suner has learned in the emergency room brought him to the Statehouse yesterday to support a two-week program to distribute free gun locks throughout the state.

Lt. Gov. Charles J. Fogarty, with a cast of law-enforcement officers behind him, opened Project HomeSafe in Rhode Island yesterday morning. The nationwide program is paid for in part by the firearms industry.


SOUTH CAROLINA

Starr joins challenge to tattoo ban

COLUMBIA A tattoo artist who has spent three years trying to get South Carolina's ban on tattooing overturned has enlisted the help of former special prosecutor Kenneth W. Starr.

Mr. Starr, who returned to private practice in Washington after investigating former President Clinton, said Monday that he has filed an appeal petition with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the tattoo artist.

"This was a very important issue in terms of our system of free expression," Mr. Starr said in an interview. "Our country believes in liberty, the ability of individuals to express themselves."

Ronald White, 33, has been fighting the ban since 1999, when he was arrested and fined $2,500 for giving an illegal tattoo on television.


SOUTH DAKOTA

Convert to Islam wins custody battle

FLANDREAU In a custody case that has attracted the attention of Muslim groups, a judge has ordered that a 5-year-old boy be returned to his mother even if she decides to move to Egypt.

Circuit Judge Rodney J. Steele last month granted temporary custody to the woman's father and his new wife. But on Monday he said Sally Barakat has a constitutional right to raise the boy as she sees fit.

Some Muslim groups had said the judge's earlier decision was driven by anti-Islamic bias. The boy's mother converted to Islam and said she wanted to live in Egypt with a man she had married there.

Custody was conditioned on her not taking 5-year-old Trevor Rederth out of South Dakota until visitation rules can be set up with his grandfather and his wife, Conrad and Julie Rederth.


VERMONT

High-tech bridge nearing completion

MORRISTOWN It's taken two years into the new millennium, but Vermont is about to complete its bridge to the 21st century, the Burlington Free Press reports.

The span is reinforced with plastic and outfitted with fiber-optic sensors that allow traffic and stress on the structure to be monitored from 50 miles away.

Its designers say it will be the first bridge of its kind in the world unique in that neither of the two layers of the rebar grid that give strength to its concrete deck are made of steel.


WEST VIRGINIA

School breaks ground with robot technology

BLUEFIELD Follow the white lines and go around the traffic cones. Sounds simple? Well, it's a simple obstacle courses for the average human being. But for teams of students trying to create a self-navigating robot, it's Mount Everest.

The Telegraph reports that instructors and students at the Bluefield State College engineering technology senior research project lab have spent months designing and building robots capable of navigating their own way through an obstacle course. One result was the Centurion Autonomous Ground Robotic Vehicle.

This robot, developed through the efforts of approximately 50 Bluefield engineering students, prompted the Central Measurement and Signature Intelligence Organization to award a $70,000 grant to the Applied Research & Technology Center at the college.


WISCONSIN

Driver rams pickup into squad car

HOBART In what is being called an intentional act of violence, a man is accused of killing two police officers by slamming his pickup truck into their squad car while it was stopped on a street.

Capt. Dennis Kocken with the Brown County Sheriff's Department said investigators would ask the district attorney to file homicide charges yesterday against the 27-year-old driver, who was jailed after receiving treatment at a hospital.

The Monday crash killed Robert Etter, 55, and Stephanie Markins, 32, both of the Hobart-Lawrence Police Department. The crash left the department with only two officers and the police chief and wrecked its only squad car.


WYOMING

Disease can't drag wild-horse racer away

CHEYENNE Two years ago, Stephen Leigh got the bad news that a wheelchair would be in his near future.

The 46-year-old has a rare, hereditary form of muscular dystrophy that strikes one person in every 5 million. The disease mutated and generated a second debilitating disease that causes great pain in his feet.

Now he stands in the cowboy ready area for wild-horse racers, suited up and ready to go.

"It isn't about money or buckles," he told the Tribune-Eagle on Monday. "This year, this is about going out one [last] time and doing what I love."


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