- The Washington Times - Monday, December 22, 2003


Fossilized fruitcake to go on TV

TECUMSEH — A fruitcake that is an estimated 125 years old is expected to make a tasty debut of sorts when it is introduced on national TV.

Morgan Ford, 83, of Tecumseh, is taking his great-grandmother Fidelia Bates’ fruitcake to Burbank, Calif., to share a piece with host Jay Leno on today’s “The Tonight Show.”

The cake rests in a glass bowl, covered by a glass top. A large raisin and what might be a clove are visible among the brown mass — Mr. Ford says it’s fossilized — and emits a pleasant odor of spices.

Its baker died in Berkey, Ohio, in 1879, and the cake remained untouched for 85 years. Mr. Ford intends to pass along the fruitcake to his son, James.


State trooper fatally shot

GARY — Indiana state troopers had a suspect in custody yesterday after an early morning fatal shooting of Trooper Scott Patrick in Gary.

The state police said Trooper Patrick was investigating a disabled car, reported stolen in Chicago on Dec. 16, when he made contact with the car’s driver, Darryl J. Jeter of Chicago.

Authorities say Mr. Jeter produced a pistol and shot Trooper Patrick in the upper body, killing him. The drivers of two trucks witnessed the shooting. Police say Mr. Jeter attempted to escape in one of the trucks when Trooper Jeff Gruber arrived and shot Mr. Jeter.

Mr. Jeter’s injuries are not life-threatening.


Residents say officials ignore flood protection

TUCSON — Residents who live downstream of a mountain charred by a summer wildfire say authorities are ignoring their calls for protection against post-fire flooding, which killed one man in August.

Catalinas residents say forest officials have neglected their area in favor of nearby vacation spot Summerhaven.

Authorities deny that recovery efforts are lopsided.


Inmates get gifts at Christmas

LITTLE ROCK — It doesn’t matter if you’re naughty or nice: If you’re a prisoner in Arkansas, you will receive a gift this Christmas.

Prison officials will give each of the 13,500 inmates in the state two apples and two oranges, as well as $5 on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, in a bid to make life a bit brighter for those behind bars over the holidays.

The $70,000 cost for the program is funded by prison vending-machine profits and from rebates the system receives on long-distance calls placed by inmates. The fresh fruit is donated from various U.S. orchards.

For security reasons, the prison system forbids inmates’ friends and relatives from sending gifts to prisoners at any time of year — except for gift packages purchased through prison commissaries.


Convicted rapist meets his match

BAKERSFIELD — A 140-pound rapist met his match in an angry, 275-pound prostitute, police said.

Authorities say Adrian Castillo Ramirez tried to sexually assault a 24-year-old Bakersfield woman who was nearly twice his weight.

But she took his knife, stripped him naked and paraded him in front of other prostitutes, after asking how many of them had ever been forced into sex at knife-point. Then she tried to take him — still naked — to the police station, reports said.

Castillo was charged with failing to register as a sex offender, and with committing forcible sex acts on the 24-year-old and on a 37-year-old woman in a previous incident. Castillo, who had previous rape convictions, pleaded not guilty last week.


Woman gets money with her breakfast

WESTON — A mother of three got a lot more than breakfast at a McDonald’s drive-through window.

Janice Meissner says she ordered a bagel and a Diet Coke, but when she got her bag it seemed “super heavy.”

That was because it had hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in a sealed plastic bag — money that turned out to be the restaurant’s bank deposit.

McDonald’s officials, who wouldn’t say how much money was in the bag, said the deposit was placed in a food bag as a security procedure to make it less conspicuous before it was taken to the bank. They said it accidentally was left too close to the window.

Miss Meissner paused for a moment before backing up her minivan to the pickup window and returning the money to the employee who handed her the bag.

McDonald’s officials said last week they would send Miss Meissner a thank-you letter and $50 in gift certificates.


Judge rejects abortion funding

ATLANTA — A judge has denied a request by Georgia health clinics to have Medicaid fund abortions for pregnancies that are threatening to the mother’s health.

Attorneys representing the Feminist Women’s Health Center, Planned Parenthood of Georgia and clinics around the state had sought a temporary restraining order against Georgia’s current statute that allows Medicaid to pay for abortions only if the pregnancy is life-threatening or a result of rape or incest.

During a hearing on the issue last week, attorney Louise Melling argued that a temporary injunction against the law was needed because dozens of women would be at risk if they don’t have an abortion in the next few months.

But the state argued that there was no evidence of an emergency to warrant the temporary restraining order.

In his ruling yesterday, Fulton County Superior Court Judge M. Gino Brogdon sided with the state, saying, “Such relief should not be granted unless the alleged injury is pressing, delay is dangerous and there is no adequate remedy at law.”


Adoptive mom accused of murder

SCHAUMBURG — A 6-year-old boy adopted from Russia last month was fatally beaten, and police charged his adoptive mother with murder.

Irma Pavlis admitted that she struck her son, Alex, on several occasions, police Lt. Dennis Carroll said.

Lt. Carroll said Mrs. Pavlis, 32, called 911 on Thursday afternoon to report that the boy was not breathing. He died Friday evening at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood. The cause of death was blunt head trauma, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said.

Authorities said Mrs. Pavlis and her husband, Dino Pavlis, adopted Alex and a 5-year-old girl in Russia early last month. The girl, who apparently was unharmed, was placed in state custody. Police said Mr. Pavlis was at work at the time the child was injured and was not involved.


Jokers dress lobster in Barbie outfit

MOUNT DESERT ISLAND — Practical jokers Jim Bright and Chris Costello never imagined that their idea of dressing a female lobster in a Barbie outfit — accessorized with pink high heels — would save her from the steam pot. But it did.

As a gag, the fishermen clad the crustacean and placed her in a friend’s trap in September.

“It’s a monotony hauling traps day after day,” said Mr. Costello, “and we just wanted to break it up a little bit. It totally worked.”

Barbie Lobster, as she has come to be known, has been hauled up — and thrown back — at least 10 times. The radios used by lobstermen buzzed with chatter and laughter each time a new sighting of Barbie was reported.

Mr. Costello said it was a challenge to put the high heels on the little lobster legs.


School officials seize hundreds of weapons

JACKSON — School officials seized 476 weapons from students statewide over the last school year, state education officials said. Vicksburg and Warren County, the sixth-largest school district in Mississippi, had the most incidents with 35 weapons confiscated.

The state’s director of school safety says districts with a higher number of reported incidents are enforcing high standards of student behavior.


Wrong number brightens Christmas

LAS VEGAS — Elizabeth Meltzer got a wrong number when she called seeking donations for the family of a former student. It turned out to be the right place to call, though.

She called the mayor’s office last week seeking help finding a charity that would donate to her student Ronnie, a 4-year-old with autism and hemophilia, and his siblings. She jotted down the number she was given and called. She left a voice-mail message. Later someone returned the call. Miss Meltzer said she thanked her, and then asked a question about the charity.

“She said, ‘I don’t know. This is Prudential Americana,’” Miss Meltzer told the Las Vegas Sun.

People in the office of Kayla Davis, executive administrative assistant at the Prudential Americana Group Realtors corporate office in Las Vegas, pitched in with clothes, personal items such as makeup, and a used computer.

The story didn’t end there, though. Miss Meltzer was at Summerlin Jewelers talking about what happened. She noted that the mother, Kim Kelly, didn’t get anything. Store owner Larry Minden donated an 18-karat gold and stainless steel bracelet for the mother.


Out-of-staters frequent state liquor stores

HAMPTON — Shoppers from Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and points south outnumber New Hampshire residents at the state liquor stores on Interstate 95 these days.

The out-of-staters are taking advantage of low prices and stocking up on New Year’s libations. December liquor sales are about 65 percent higher than in the slowest months, January through March, officials say.


Mistake mars Christmas tree gift

NEWARK — Gary and Linda Manla nicely donated a blue spruce, towering over their home for decades, to Newark for its official Christmas tree.

But the Manlas weren’t in the crowd when the tree’s 10,000 lights were switched on earlier this month, in a ceremony attended by singer Melba Moore, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Community Choir and 100 other guests.

The state’s largest city had neglected to invite them or tell them their tree had been chosen.

“It’s no big deal,” Mrs. Manla said. “Mistakes happen.”

“I took a lot of ribbing at work,” said Mr. Manla, an equipment operator for the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission.

The Manlas finally got to see the glowing 35-foot tree in front of City Hall last week, as the personal guests of Mayor Sharpe James.


Drug dealer gets life sentence

NEW YORK — A drug dealer yesterday received life in prison for the slaying of a witness after a Brooklyn jury deadlocked over whether he should receive the federal death penalty.

The capital case — only the third in three decades in Brooklyn’s federal district — drew attention last year after U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft overruled local prosecutors’ decision to seek a life term.

The jurors deliberated one day before notifying a judge they could not reach a unanimous decision on whether Emile Dixon should be executed — automatically putting him behind bars for life without parole.

The same jury found Dixon guilty of murder and drug conspiracy earlier this month in the trial’s first phase.

A racketeering indictment had identified Dixon, 33, as a leader of a violent gang called the Patio Crew, which peddled cocaine in Brooklyn, Albany, N.Y., Richmond, Va., and Raleigh, N.C.


Mix-up gives honor to wrong community

UNION — There are more than 25 Union Townships in Ohio, and one city of Union. None is the community that Money magazine meant to honor in its list of “America’s Hottest Towns.”

So Union Mayor Robert Packard, in the city with 6,400 residents north of Dayton, was surprised to get a congratulatory call from the magazine last month. “I thought it was a joke,” he said.

The accolades were meant for West Chester Township, population 56,800, in Butler County about 20 miles north of Cincinnati. The community changed its name from Union Township in 2000, but the U.S. census from that year uses the old name.

Money’s Web site at first listed Union, linked to a map of the city. The link was removed when editors learned of the mix-up, and the listing was corrected first to Union Township, then West Chester Township.

The change came too late for the print edition, reading “Union Twp,” which went on newsstands yesterday.


Police seize video gambling machines

COLUMBIA — State police seized three video gambling machines in a 10-county sweep of 500 businesses. Two machines were seized in Horry County and one in Lexington County.

State Law Enforcement Division Chief Robert Stewart said he believes many owners had moved machines out of state before the sweep. South Carolina outlawed video gambling in 2000.


Senior volunteers aid Santa as secretaries

KNOXVILLE — One child asked Santa Claus for a swimming pool and $1,000, and another wanted a blue bike. Some children were worried Santa would forget to bring presents to children whose military parents were stationed in Iraq.

Each of these wishes and many more like them are contained in letters addressed to “Santa Claus, North Pole.” The main Knoxville post office collects them and asks volunteers to be Santa’s secretaries. The volunteers, most of them senior citizens, read each letter and then send a preprinted postcard as a reply from Santa.

The project, coordinated through the Knoxville-Knox County chapter of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, kicked off its 14th year earlier this month. RSVP is administered nationally by the same organization overlooking AmeriCorps.

Volunteer Jean Smith, 62, remembered one letter in particular from a girl that made her giggle.

“The only thing she wanted was for her brother to quit calling her names,” she said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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