- The Washington Times - Monday, December 29, 2003


NASA adjusts course of Mars-bound rover

PASADENA — NASA said yesterday it successfully adjusted the course of a rover that is scheduled to land on Mars this weekend as part of a mission to search for evidence of life on the Red Planet.

Engineers altered the course by firing the thrusters of the Spirit spacecraft for 3.5 seconds Friday, shifting the scheduled landing spot by about 34 miles, mission manager Mark Adler said.

It was the fourth time the course has been adjusted for the six-wheeled robot. Such adjustments become necessary as the craft gets closer to its destination.

Spirit is being sent to Gusev Crater, a depression the size of Connecticut that scientists believe once held a lake. It is set to land Saturday.

Spirit is one-half of a $820 million double mission to Mars. Its identical twin, Opportunity, is scheduled to land Jan. 24.


Winds eyed in fatal RV crash

DRAPER — Investigators said powerful winds might have caused a recreational vehicle to crash off a highway bridge Sunday, killing six family members and injuring four.

Those killed were the mother and father and four of their children. One of the victims was an infant, and the others were ages 7, 6 and 4. Four others were injured, including a 12-year-old who is in critical condition.

It is not known why the motor home left the road, but investigators said high winds from a snowstorm might have been a factor. Investigators initially ruled out weather as a cause.

The vehicle was traveling on Interstate 15, about 20 miles south of Salt Lake City, when it drove into the median and through a guardrail, and then plunged nose-first onto a highway 30 feet below.


4 die as plane, glider collide in midair

PHOENIX — A glider and a small plane crashed in midair in the desert skies north of Phoenix Sunday, killing all four persons aboard, aviation officials said.

They said the glider and a Piper Cub, each carrying two persons, had taken off from the Turf Soaring School in Peoria, Ariz., a small community about 25 miles from downtown Phoenix. Both planes were destroyed.

“We’re pretty well crushed here,” said an official at the school, who declined to be identified. “This is a tough day.”


Lawmakers to eye improved finances

DOVER — After years of budget cuts, the upcoming legislative session is likely to center on how to spend money. Delaware’s economy is improving, and many lawmakers agree there will be pressure to spend any extra money quickly.

Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, Democrat, said schools can expect more money to whittle down a backlog of about $200 million in construction projects.


County buys Kmarts to use as schools

BONITA SPRINGS — Lines of students instead of shoppers will fill two Kmart stores when county officials convert them into schools by 2005.

Faced with overcrowded classrooms, Lee County officials agreed to buy the vacant buildings last week. Renovating them will be slightly less expensive than building new ones, and because the structures already are in place, they can open sooner.

“If we don’t use facilities like Kmart, our overcrowding will be horrendous,” Estero High Principal Fred Bode said. “We need to get beyond the aesthetics of a school.”

The vacant Kmart buildings were bought for $11.6 million, and officials expect site work, remodeling and furniture to cost an additional $17.4 million. They are supposed to open by August 2005.


Weather may heat up Polar Bear Swim

GAINESVILLE — Forecasts of a warm New Year’s Day could dampen the chill of the annual Polar Bear Swim.

Participants at the seventh annual swim at Lake Lanier Olympic Center are expecting mostly cloudy conditions, a 20 percent chance of rain and temperatures in the lower 60s, said Gerald Birdow of the National Weather Service.

The event is a fund-raiser for the Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club. Participants can jump into the lake from a special platform at the dock. After the plunge, swimmers can jump into the comfort of four canoes filled with warm water. Chili, pastries and hot chocolate also are provided.

Event officials expect 130 persons to participate.


Ranks of new teachers decline in state

DES MOINES — The number of new teachers in Iowa fell for the second straight year, state education officials say. About 1,100 new teachers started work this school year, down 23.5 percent from last year.

School districts are hiring fewer teachers and often cut jobs of first-year teachers because of budget cuts, officials said.


Man gets life in sheriff’s murder

SOMERSET — A drug dealer who helped plot the murder of a county sheriff was sentenced yesterday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Judge Paul Braden followed a jury’s recommendation in sentencing Kenneth White, one of three men accused in the killing of Pulaski County Sheriff Sam Catron. White, 57, was convicted on Nov. 12.

In shackles yesterday, White again denied he had anything to do with the sheriff’s death. “Whether you believe it or not, I didn’t,” he told Mr. Catron’s family members in the courtroom.

Jeff Morris, a former deputy who was running against Mr. Catron, and Danny Shelley, the triggerman who was helping in Morris’ campaign, both pleaded guilty and were sentenced to life in prison.


Parade organizers win lawsuit

BOSTON — Organizers of Boston’s main St. Patrick’s Day parade won a court victory yesterday in a dispute over whether an antiwar group should have been allowed to march at the end of this year’s parade.

The South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, which hosts the event, sued the city in October after police allowed the antiwar group to walk behind the main procession.

Judge Robert B. Collings ruled that allowing such unauthorized groups to march so close to the actual parade was a violation of the organizers’ free-speech rights. He said unauthorized groups now must march at least a mile behind the parade.

“This decision says the city can’t compel us to say something we don’t want to say,” said Chester Darling, an attorney for parade organizers.


Fighting roosters found at rural home

CLYDE TOWNSHIP — Authorities uncovered a cockfighting business at a rural home in western Michigan.

Police found 21 live fighting roosters and 14 dead ones at the house. They seized money, fighting paraphernalia, videos, an unregistered pistol and the birds. No arrests were made, and the case remains under investigation.


Firewalking offered on New Year’s Eve

ALBUQUERQUE — Those looking to get their new year off to a sizzling start have a hot option.

Jim Campbell, a corporate consultant and motivational trainer, is offering three dozen people a chance to walk barefoot across a bed of piping hot coals in a workshop he calls “Ignite Your Passions for 2004.”

The workshop, which costs $95, will begin with four hours of planning on how to deal with fear and challenges and “setting some inspirational goals for life,” he said.

Mr. Campbell said New Year’s Eve “is a time when a lot of people want to set resolutions for the new year and new experiences.”

“Firewalking is a dynamic way to do that,” he said.

The firewalking will start at about 11 p.m. Wednesday at a private home in east Albuquerque.

“I’m often asked, ‘Do people get burned?’” he said. “My answer is yes. If they didn’t get burned, there wouldn’t be any power.”


Seven persons killed during police chase

TROUTMAN — A car trying to outrun a police officer ran off a road and crashed early yesterday, killing all seven young persons inside, the state Highway Patrol said.

All of the victims — five males and two females — were thought to be in their teens, Highway Patrol Sgt. Terry Robinson said.

A police officer from Troutman gave chase after seeing the 2001 Dodge Intrepid weaving in its lane, the patrol said.

“They passed us going 85 to 100 miles an hour with the police car passing us,” said a witness, Brandon Jackson.

The officer chased the car about five miles on U.S. 21 until it crashed shortly after midnight just south of Statesville, Mr. Robinson said. It flipped over after hitting an embankment, crashed into a tree and then skidded to a stop upside down in a creek.


‘Clauses’ tie knot on Christmas Eve

AKRON — The “Clauses” tied the knot on Christmas Eve.

David Johnston and Leisa Russell got married dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus, saying they wanted their marriage to last “as long as the myth of Santa Claus.”

Each of the 26 wedding guests donned a Santa hat for the ceremony in the gazebo of Shadyside Park.

Minister Brett Barnhill said he had never presided over a costumed wedding, but felt the couple had a beautiful sentiment behind their plans.

The couple sealed their vows with a kiss, after which some of the guests sang “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”

Miss Russell, 45, of Uniontown, met Mr. Johnston, 52, of Akron, just three months ago.

“He asked me to marry him about five times. The first time I said, ‘Someday.’ The second time I said, ‘Two to five years.’ Then I said, ‘I think next year would be doable,’ and finally I said, ‘Christmas Eve,’” Miss Russell said.


Pregnant woman found dead with fetus gone

HOLDENVILLE — A woman who had been telling people for as much as 10 months that she was expecting a baby killed a pregnant acquaintance and cut the fetus from her womb, authorities said yesterday.

Prosecutor Linda Evans said she planned to file two murder charges against Effie Goodson, 37, in the slaying of Carolyn Simpson, 21, who was six months pregnant, and the fetus.

A hunter found Miss Simpson’s body in a field near Lamar, about 100 miles from Oklahoma City, on Friday. She had been shot in the head, authorities said.

Miss Simpson was last seen on Dec. 22, leaving a tribal casino in Okemah where she worked and Miss Goodson was a patron, Sheriff Houston Yeager said. Investigators think the two left the casino together.

The next day, Miss Goodson brought a dead fetus that had reached six months gestation to a Holdenville hospital. Miss Goodson claimed to be the mother, but investigators determined that she could not have given birth, and she was taken into custody, authorities said.


Two dead in shootings at drug-rehab center

PHILADELPHIA — A man killed a co-worker at a drug- and alcohol-treatment center in North Philadelphia yesterday, then fatally shot himself, police said.

“It appears to be a murder-suicide,” said Officer Richard Devlin, a police department spokesman.

Police said a male employee shot a 34-year-old female co-worker once in the head, then shot himself at around 12:20 p.m. in a third-floor office at a treatment center operated by Eagleville Hospital.

Police did not immediately release their names or possible motives for the killing.


Judge OKs closing of tribal smoke shop

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island authorities acted properly when they shut down the Narragansett Indian tribe’s tax-free smoke shop, a federal judge ruled yesterday.

U.S. District Judge William Smith said the state had the right to tax cigarettes sold at the shop on the tribe’s settlement land in Charlestown.

Seven members of the tribe, including the tribal leader, were arrested by state police in a tumultuous raid on the shop in July.

The tribe filed suit after the raid arguing that, as a sovereign nation, it has a right to sell tobacco free of state taxes. The state argued that the tribe is bound by terms of a 1978 settlement agreement that gave the tribe 1,800 acres of land.

Judge Smith ruled that the state’s tax falls on the tobacco consumer, not the tribe, making the tribe simply an agent for collecting the tax.


Study faults juvenile-defense lawyers

TACOMA — Juvenile-defense lawyers handle too many cases and aren’t adequately trained, a state study says. The study also says attorneys don’t help clients with mental-health problems and don’t assist them after the case is concluded.

It was based on interviews in six counties with judges, lawyers, social workers and young defendants. The American Bar Association partly sponsored the study.


Judge allows tape in abuse case

MILWAUKEE — An audiotape of a school bus driver shouting at a boy with Down syndrome aboard his bus can be used at his child-abuse trial, a judge ruled yesterday.

Brian Duchow, 28, is accused of slapping and threatening Jacob Mutulo, who was 9 at the time of the incident last April.

The boy’s parents had put a tape recorder in their son’s backpack because they wanted to know more about reports that he was misbehaving.

Circuit Judge Michael Brennan had ruled in September that the tape was inadmissible because Mr. Duchow had a right to privacy when it was recorded. But the judge changed his mind and sided with the prosecution yesterday, saying the bus driver gave up his right to privacy because he spoke in a loud voice in a public place.

On the tape, the driver can be heard shouting at Jacob and threatening to break the boy’s arm and beat him. At one point, the driver is heard warning the boy to “stop before I beat … you.”

No trial date has been set.

From staff reports and wire dispatches.

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