- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 24, 2003


Inmate released; DNA IDs suspect

WINSTON-SALEM — A man twice convicted in the murder of a newspaper employee was released from prison yesterday, two days after another man was charged in the 1984 rape and slaying.

Darryl Hunt had served 18 years of a life sentence for the death of Deborah Sykes.

Through two trials and several hearings over nearly two decades, his supporters had accused police and prosecutors of railroading Mr. Hunt with questionable witnesses despite the lack of physical evidence tying him to the crime. Then, last week, investigators looking into the case came up with a new DNA match — tying the crime to another man, Willard E. Brown, 43.


Cyber-cafes arrive in Iraq

COLUMBIA — U.S. soldiers are keeping in touch with their families by phone and e-mail this holiday season through dozens of so-called cyber-cafes that have been set up in tents across Iraq.

The goal is to install 145 systems for Army troops stationed in Iraq. Each tent has 20 laptop computers and eight telephones. Engineers and communication specialists at a center in South Carolina developed the mobile communication stations.

The center shipped about 700,000 pounds of equipment through the Charleston Air Force Base, said Jim Condon, a senior manager for the center.

He said the $20 million program was devised as a morale booster for the troops and was developed as a “high priority” by Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top military commander in Iraq.


VFW color guard may be disbanded

LAKE HAVASU CITY — The color guard of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars will be disbanded after Memorial Day unless new volunteers can be found, the group said.

The current members have been volunteering for nearly a decade, but they’re getting older and need to be replaced by younger men, said Rick Portillo, the color guard captain. The color guard appears at public holidays and ceremonies.


Official urges end of embargo on Cuba

MONTGOMERY — State Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks urged the federal government to lift economic embargoes on Cuba.

Mr. Sparks made his second visit to Cuba last week to promote Alabama timber, cotton, poultry and other products. He said the United States should normalize trade relations with Cuba as it has with Russia, China and Vietnam.


JonBenet’s parents sue Fox News Network

DENVER — The parents of slain 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey filed a $12 million federal defamation lawsuit against Fox News Network over a story that they say cast suspicion on them.

In the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Atlanta, John and Patsy Ramsey took issue with a report that aired last year for the sixth anniversary of JonBenet’s death. In it, a Denver-based employee stated that there has “never been any evidence to link an intruder to her brutal murder.”

The Ramseys have maintained their innocence and said an intruder killed JonBenet, who was found strangled and beaten Dec. 26, 1996, in the basement of their Boulder home. The couple now live in Atlanta.

Prosecutors and a federal judge have said that evidence in the case was more consistent with the theory that an intruder killed JonBenet. The parents were not charged.


‘Mr. Christmas’ pulls plug on display

KILLINGLY — Christmas just won’t be the same for this small eastern Connecticut town that had been set aglow during the holidays by one man and his spirit.

Mervin Whipple, known as “Mr. Christmas” to the people of Killingly, has decided to pull the plug on his brilliant, gigantic holiday light display. Partly, it was the pricey bills — $19,000 last year. But mostly, there just isn’t enough Christmas spirit, the once-jolly Mr. Whipple said.

“It’s a changed world,” Mr. Whipple said, fighting back tears. “The spirit of Christmas is gone.”

More than 1.5 million people from across the country visited the display in its 35-year run.


EPA resets limits on water pollution

WILMINGTON — The federal Environmental Protection Agency has set new water-pollution limits for the Appoquinimink River, lowering allowed levels of nitrogen and phosphorus.

Delaware also must take steps to ensure adequate oxygen levels in the river. Nitrogen and phosphorus, often used in fertilizer and detergents, promote the growth of microbes that harm aquatic life and habitats.

Among other provisions, the EPA limits will require a 60 percent reduction in nutrients from storm water drains and runoff.


Swallowed ring to be evidence

CLEARWATER — A woman suspected of jewelry theft who swallowed a 1.5 carat diamond ring has been forced by nature to give up the evidence, Florida police said.

A Clearwater Police Department spokesman said yesterday that Mary Flowers, 38, was arrested last week after a surveillance tape showed her putting the $20,000 ring in her mouth at a jewelry store in a mall.

She denied swallowing the ring until an X-ray revealed otherwise. She was kept under observation in a jail cell until the ring passed through her digestive system late Monday.


Christmas-lights fire leaves 40 homeless

ROSWELL — A fire caused by malfunctioning Christmas lights swept through an apartment building, destroying 16 apartments and leaving 40 persons homeless.

Rain late Tuesday helped keep the fire from spreading to other buildings in the sprawling apartment complex, firefighters said. No one was injured, but members of one family had to jump from second-story windows to escape the fire.

Red Cross volunteers handed out clothing and helped residents find other places to stay for the holidays.


Fire chief puts out pornography sites

ANDERSON — It got a little too hot at the fire station, so Anderson Fire Chief Mike McKinley pulled the plug on Internet access.

A computer technician discovered adult pornography sites on the hard drive after it crashed. The chief immediately blocked Internet access. Computers in other fire stations also are being reviewed and will be reformatted.

Chief McKinley and incoming Fire Chief J.R. Rosencrans said they planned to meet with all firefighters to tell them that downloading pornography while at work would not be tolerated.


Man pleads no contest in death of son

LEAVENWORTH — A man accused of stabbing his developmentally disabled son and leaving him to die on the Kansas Turnpike pleaded no contest yesterday to second-degree murder.

Raymond Boothe, who had been charged with first-degree murder in the August 2002 death of his son, Levi, is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 30. He faces at least 12 years in prison, authorities said.

Boothe, of Cameron, Mo., was driving through Kansas with Levi and his other three children when he stopped along the turnpike, took the 11-year-old boy into the ditch and stabbed him repeatedly with needle-nose pliers.

An autopsy found that Levi died of multiple blunt trauma injuries, possibly from being struck by vehicles.


Bias against gays banned in state jobs

LANSING — Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm has issued an order banning discrimination against homosexuals in state employment, a move critics condemned as a first step toward legalizing gay “marriage.”

The order issued Tuesday covers the executive branch, which has about 55,000 employees — about 95 percent of all state workers. It also bans discrimination based on sexual orientation. Michigan is the 10th state to adopt such a homosexual-rights policy, according to the Triangle Foundation, a homosexual rights advocacy group.


Children’s Services chief named

NASHVILLE — Viola P. Miller, whose reforms of children’s services in Kentucky led to national accreditation, was sworn in Tuesday as the new commissioner of Tennessee’s troubled Department of Children’s Services.

Miss Miller, 60, who lost her job of eight years when a new governor was inaugurated earlier this month, replaces Michael Miller, who resigned at Phil Bredesen’s request last month. The governor ousted Mr. Miller because of slow progress in implementing foster care reforms required by the court settlement.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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