- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 19, 2003


Elderly woman rescued from ditch

KINGSTON — A 78-year-old diabetic woman fell into a ditch near a shopping mall and survived for four days through hail and lightning before she was rescued.

Remarkably, Ruth Merritt only sprained her ankle and suffered a few bumps and bruises.

Mrs. Merritt was reported missing by friends last Tuesday after failing to return to her assisted-living home in Poughkeepsie from the Hudson Valley Mall, about 50 miles south of Albany.

She had taken a taxi to the mall, authorities said. After having lunch there, Mrs. Merritt tried to cross the road to get to a store. She walked down a rocky embankment bordering the road when her knees weakened and she fell 15 feet into the ditch.


Despondent mother kills daughter, self

AKRON — A woman apparently upset over money problems walked into a lake with her daughter and son in tow, drowning herself and the 4-year-old girl, police said yesterday.

Kenetta Lockhart, 32, of Akron, drove her Jeep up to Summit Lake on Sunday, parked it and either walked off a boat dock or ramp with her daughter and 8-year-old son, police said.

The boy, who was able to swim to shore, was listed in fair condition at Children’s Hospital.

With nearly a dozen family members watching from the beach early yesterday, divers recovered 4-year-old Kayla Langdon’s body.


State budget cuts eliminate bonus

JUNEAU — After living in Alaska for 27 years, retiree Ron Hammett had hoped to stay as long as he was physically able.

But the money that Mr. Hammett, 76, needs to survive in the expensive state may be gone before his health because cash-strapped Alaska has eliminated a program that supplemented retirement income for long-term residents.

Mr. Hammett and his wife were among 18,000 senior citizens who received monthly checks of up to $250 under the Longevity Bonus program.

He has no plans to move soon, but losing one-fourth of his family income will hurt.

Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski ended the program in June by vetoing $44 million in funding, maintaining that the state could not afford to continue it. After a run of 31 years, the final checks for the program were sent out July 31.


State first lady earns money for charity

LITTLE ROCK — When the tips were tallied, Arkansas first lady Janet Huckabee had helped earn $1,838.70 as a waitress — all for charity.

“We were on our feet all night,” Mrs. Huckabee said last week, after doing the overnight shift at Waffle House. “I think we sat down one time for 15 minutes. I can tell I have stood up for 10 hours.”

Mrs. Huckabee, along with current and former state beauty queens, waitressed at the west Little Rock restaurant from 9 p.m. Thursday until 7 a.m. Friday to raise money for the Florence Crittenden Home. The charity helps unwed mothers.

“My children came in and they left me a tip,” said Mrs. Huckabee, who had five minutes of training for the job. “That was special. I had my picture taken. I had autographs.”


Judge bars television from Peterson hearing

SAN FRANCISCO — A judge has barred TV cameras from the preliminary hearing set for next month in the case against Scott Peterson, accused of murdering his pregnant wife, Laci, according to a decision made public yesterday.

“The application to permit cameras [television and still] and recording devices during the preliminary hearing are denied,” Judge Al Girolami of Stanislaus County Superior Court wrote in a document dated Aug. 15 but released yesterday.

“While there is clearly a presumptive right of the public to attend the preliminary hearing in this matter, that right does not mandate the presence of cameras in the courtroom,” he wrote, adding, “Televising these passionate proceedings is not … necessary to the process.”

Mr. Peterson is charged with murdering his wife and her unborn son on Christmas Eve and then dumping her into San Francisco Bay. He has pleaded not guilty. A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept. 9, at which time prosecutors will make public their evidence against him for the first time.


Governor signs budget into law

HARTFORD — Gov. John G. Rowland signed the state’s two-year, $27.5 billion budget into law at his home, his spokesman said.

The action ended months of gridlock between the Republican governor and Democrat-controlled legislature.

The General Assembly will return to Hartford next month to put finishing touches on a few outstanding budget details, including bonding for school construction and prison overcrowding.


One killed, one injured in plant explosion

OCALA — An explosion tore through a plastics plant yesterday, killing one worker and injuring another in a blast that rattled nearby windows and shot a huge fireball into the sky, officials said.

The explosion occurred about 8:30 a.m. in a hopper containing wood chips at U.S. Plastic Lumber Ltd., which makes building materials, furnishings and industrial supplies. The cause was not immediately known.

The company’s 50 employees were evacuated.

One man, Scott Stokes, 34, was killed, said police Sgt. Russ Kearn. Michael Day, 26, suffered minor injuries and was taken to a hospital for observation.


Army’s ID teams to search for remains

HONOLULU — Hawaii-based teams from the Army’s Central Identification Laboratory are headed to Germany, Belgium and Albania in search of the remains of U.S. servicemen who died in World War II.

The two-month deployment is the latest by the laboratory, which has identified more than 1,120 missing soldiers since it began operations in 1973.


More motorists to use I-PASS lanes

PARK RIDGE — Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, announced an $8 million project that will double the number of lanes allowing Chicago-area motorists to use electronic transponders to pay tolls without stopping.

The plan calls for converting 37 manual-pay lanes to I-PASS lanes by April.


Neighbor covers up nude statue

EVANSVILLE — A man who put a replica of Michelangelo’s nude “David” sculpture in his yard responded to neighbors’ objections by engaging in a cover-up.

Christopher Schapker last week used a strategically placed sheet to counteract concerns about the male nude in the side yard of his home.

Parents of students who attend a neighboring center that provides services for disabled people had expressed concern over the statue’s nudity.

Mr. Schapker and his housemate, Kerry Niehaus, spent $2,000 for the sculpture to enhance the early-20th-century style of their home.


PTA membership falls in state

LOUISVILLE — Statewide parent-teacher association membership has fallen to 113,552, officials say. It reached a high of 196,169 in 1991 at the start of the state’s education-reform efforts.

PTA leaders blame the loss on factors such as a sluggish economy, busier parents, higher dues, poor outreach or too little emphasis by the district.


Nantucket employers subsidize rents

NANTUCKET — Many employers on this island off Cape Cod are subsidizing rents and building employee housing because the high cost of living has discouraged qualified job seekers.

The Nantucket College Hospital has spent $1 million to build eight duplex-style apartments and is converting other units into apartments.


Girl dies after being run over by forklift

LEONI TOWNSHIP — A 6-year-old girl died after being run over by a forklift driven by her 10-year-old brother, police said.

The children were at Lindsay Heating & Cooling with their mother’s boyfriend, who owns the business, when the accident happened Sunday, Leoni Township police said.

The girl, identified as Arika Hamilton, was taken to a hospital, where she later died. An investigation was continuing.


Riptide pulls swimmer to his death

DULUTH — A swimmer drowned in Lake Superior after he was pulled out by a dangerous riptide that forced swimming beaches to close.

Several people were rescued Sunday in Minnesota and Wisconsin, where high water and unusual shoreline currents created dangerous conditions.

A dive-team rescuer who was overtaken by the strong currents and pounding waves was hospitalized, and two other divers had to be helped from the surf.

The body of a 21-year-old man from Duluth who was pulled out by the tide washed ashore late Sunday in the area where rescue crews had been searching, said Capt. Al Shovein, who leads the St. Louis County volunteer water-rescue team. The swimmer’s name was not immediately released.


Crews battling huge forest fires

MISSOULA — Firefighters kept an anxious eye on the weather yesterday as they used hand tools and bulldozers to strengthen defensive lines around houses threatened by a wildfire that exploded across the landscape during the weekend.

The remains of a third house destroyed by the flames were found in the ashes yesterday. About 70 families remained out of their homes, down from the 250 families evacuated during the weekend.

The fire several miles west of Missoula traveled three miles in two hours Saturday, charging across some 6,000 acres, as powerful winds blew through the area. Firefighters said they were able to save about 100 homes by spraying them with foam.

The weather was calm and overcast Monday and the fire remained at about 7,300 acres, but fire officials said more strong wind was possible as early as today.


Woman turns 100, becomes U.S. citizen

OMAHA — It was not an ordinary birthday weekend for Mei-Fen Yeh — not that 100th birthdays are ever ordinary.

With granddaughter Francis Phang, 16, translating, the native of Hangzhou, China, became a U.S. citizen on Sunday, a day after she turned 100.

It was the culmination of a 10-year project for her family, who helped her learn enough American history and teach her enough English to pass the citizenship test.

The elderly woman said she had many reasons for becoming a U.S. citizen, including her affinity for Americans and the weather in the United States. She also said it will ease her travels back to China.


Tourist electrocuted during rainstorm

LAS VEGAS — A tourist was electrocuted near a Las Vegas Strip casino during a weekend rainstorm.

Rebecca Longhoffer, 39, of Louisville, Ky., was walking across a median near the Treasure Island hotel-casino late Saturday when she stepped on a wet traffic signal wiring box and collapsed, authorities said.

Clark County Public Works spokesman Bobby Shelton said a worn wire inside the traffic box may have caused a short circuit. The victim was not wearing shoes, police Lt. Chuck Mangrum said.

The computer programmer and mother of four was visiting Las Vegas with her fiance, who was playing in a billiards tournament.


First ‘wired’ creek to aid trout researchers

SUTHERLIN — The first fully “wired” creek in Oregon is ready for research, officials say.

Trout implanted with microchips and creeks wired with electronic sensors are part of an ambitious project to help improve forest management and limit environmental damage from logging.

The $750,000 project along a privately owned watershed just north of Roseburg will track the movements of cutthroat trout.


Groundhog statues to grace Punxsutawney

PITTSBURGH — The trend of decorating an urban area with large decorated creatures — such as the elephants and donkeys of Washington or prehistoric animals of Pittsburgh — is hitting another town.

And what critter will they use in Punxsutawney, Pa.?

As if it weren’t famous enough for its rodents, the “Weather Capital of the World” is launching a public art project that will grace its streets and parks with 20 “bigger-than-life” fiberglass groundhogs, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

They’re calling them “Phantastic Phils.”


Malfunctioning elevator kills student doctor

HOUSTON — A surgical resident was killed when an elevator malfunctioned and decapitated him, authorities said.

Hitoshi Nikaidoh, 35, was stepping into a second-floor elevator at Christus St. Joseph Hospital Saturday morning when the doors suddenly closed, pinning his shoulders. His head was severed when the elevator car moved upward.

A hospital employee witnessed the accident and spent about 20 minutes trapped inside the elevator before firefighters rescued her. She was treated for shock in the hospital’s emergency room, hospital spokeswoman India Chumney Hancock said.

Harris County medical examiners were conducting an inquiry into the accident. Police said earlier that maintenance crews had worked on the elevators during the week.


Police find body in 1980s killing spree

SEATTLE — Remains found in a woods last weekend were identified yesterday as those of a 16-year-old girl believed to have been murdered by a serial killer who targeted mainly prostitutes and runaways in the 1980s.

The skeletal remains of Pammy Annette Avent were found Saturday near Enumclaw, about 34 miles southeast of Seattle. The cause and manner of death were pending further tests, the King County medical examiner’s office said yesterday.

At least 49 women are believed to have died in the 1980s Green River serial killings. Miss Avent’s body was one of seven that had not been found.

King County Sheriff’s Detective Kathleen Larson would not say whether Gary Ridgway, who is charged with aggravated first-degree murder in the deaths of seven Green River victims, told authorities where to look for the remains.


Eight sickened at swimming pool

STANLEY — A community pool was closed for cleaning after eight persons developed an illness caused by cryptosporidium, a parasite spread by human and animal waste.

Because of the outbreak, the Stanley-Boyd Community Pool, located in a public school building, was closed for cleaning earlier than usual, and will reopen Aug. 24, officials said.

School Superintendent Jim Jones said the cleaning process includes use of a higher level of chlorination than recommended by the state, to make sure the parasite is eradicated.

None of the six children and two adults who became ill required hospitalization. Tests are underway to determine whether five others were infected.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide