- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2003


Pregnant woman, 5 children die in fire

PONTIAC — Fire swept through a two-story brick house, killing five children and their mother, who was pregnant with twins, police and neighbors said.

The cause of the blaze had not been determined.

The home’s front entrance was cordoned off yesterday by yellow police tape, and about two dozen teddy bears and a collection of flowers sat on the steps. Windows and doors were boarded up, and a pair of children’s shoes were on the grass.

Guillermina Valiente Carrasco, 26, and Selena Valiente, 1, were pronounced dead at the scene, authorities said.

Grecia Valiente, 7; twins Francisco and Eduardo Valiente, 3; and Veronica Valiente, 2, were pronounced dead at a hospital.


State backs wolf hunting

SHERIDAN — Wyoming has approved a plan for managing gray wolves, despite federal concerns about whether it adequately protects them.

Since being reintroduced to the region in 1995, gray wolves have thrived. The state Game and Fish Commission also asked that wolves be removed from the endangered species list when Wyoming, Montana and Idaho complete wolf-management plans.

Wyoming’s plan has raised the most concern because it would classify the wolf as a predator that could be killed with few limitations in most of the state.


Man sentenced for dousing protestors

KENAI — Jeff Webster was sentenced to 320 hours of community service for dumping water on street-corner peace demonstrators last spring while his son was fighting in Iraq.

Mr. Webster, 44, drew the sentence for three misdemeanor counts after he refused to say he was sorry or had learned a free-speech lesson. He did promise not to repeat his actions.


Body found in desert, had been buried alive

WHY — Sheriff’s investigators said a man whose body was found in the desert had been buried alive.

Authorities don’t know the identity of the man and are asking for the public’s help.

On July 16, U.S. Border Patrol agents patrolling about 120 miles west of Tucson discerned a foul odor and discovered the body of a man “almost completely buried” in the desert about 50 yards from the road, said a sheriff’s department spokesman.

Investigators revealed that the man had died of suffocation after being buried alive, according to the Arizona Daily Star.


Governor bows out of watermelon festival

HOPE — Gov. Mike Huckabee says he won’t bring his rock ‘n’ roll band to his hometown’s annual Watermelon Festival next month because city leaders wouldn’t invite him to talk about his plan for reshaping Arkansas’ school system.

Chamber of Commerce officials said they wanted to remain neutral about Mr. Huckabee’s school plan, which includes possible consolidation of small high schools.


Rock group fans offered hepatitis vaccine

HAYFORK — Fans of the rock group String Cheese Incident were offered a dose of vaccine with a dose of music.

Sixteen persons who follow the band from show to show have tested positive for hepatitis A, a virus that causes nausea and vomiting for a week or two but is rarely life-threatening.

With the blessing of the band, doctors were ready with several hundred hepatitis A vaccines for those who wanted them.

In the tradition of the Grateful Dead, String Cheese Incident attracts fans who follow the band from city to city on summer tours.

“Our primary focus is kids traveling with the band,” Dr. Greg Armstrong, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, told the Rocky Mountain News.


Death reported from Legionnaires’ disease

DOVER — A second Delawarean has died of Legionnaires’ disease, state public health officials said yesterday in reporting the 15th case of the disease in the past two months.

The latest fatality, a 77-year-old Sussex County man, was diagnosed with the disease Saturday. He died early yesterday in a Sussex County hospital, said Paul Silverman, chief of disease prevention and control for the state Division of Public Health.

Meanwhile, an 82-year-old New Castle County man who was diagnosed with legionellosis on Tuesday remained hospitalized yesterday.

State officials continue to remind health care providers to take into account an unusually high number of cases of the disease this year as they diagnose and treat patients with symptoms of respiratory problems.


Campus Crusade founder remembered

ORLANDO — Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright never passed up a chance to spread the Christian message, whether to a single person or to millions of people through his worldwide ministry, mourners said yesterday at a memorial service.

The service drew more than 3,000 people, including such evangelical Christian leaders as Pat Robertson, chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network; James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family; Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries; and the Rev. Franklin Graham.

“The ministry that Bill founded, led, inspired is probably the most significant of any that has come into being in the 20th century,” Mr. Robertson said.

Mr. Bright, 81, died July 19 in Orlando of lung disease. He was buried Tuesday in Orlando.

Minister after minister recounted how Mr. Bright, who at one time called himself a “happy pagan,” embraced Christianity and followed the scriptural command to “go make disciples of all the nations.”

Mr. Bright and his wife, Vonette, started Campus Crusade for Christ at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1951. The ministry, geared toward young people on college campuses, now has a presence in 191 countries and 26,000 employees.


19-year-old arrested in library fire

ATHENS — Authorities charged a 19-year-old Athens man with first-degree arson in the fire last week that caused more than $1.5 million in damage to the main library at the University of Georgia.

Jason Allen Nelms, who was arrested yesterday, is not a university student and is not believed to have ever been a student at UGA, said university police Chief Chuck Horton.

“We did get some information from a member of the public that was very helpful to the investigation,” said state Fire Commissioner John Oxendine.

Neither Mr. Horton nor Mr. Oxendine would discuss potential motives for the fire, which apparently was set just before 6 p.m. on July 23 inside boxes of books waiting to be reshelved. No one was injured.


Comptroller fights pay raises for judges

CHICAGO — Illinois judges have taken their fight for cost-of-living raises vetoed by the governor to familiar turf: the courtroom.

The state Supreme Court has ordered Comptroller Daniel Hynes to give the judges a 2.8 percent raise despite the governor’s veto. It argued that while the veto removed funding, it did not change the law obligating the state to pay them.

Cook County Circuit Judge Benjamin Novoselsky filed a complaint with the Supreme Court to direct Mr. Hynes to pay the raises to the state’s more than 900 judges, including all seven Supreme Court justices. Judicial salaries range from $127,247 for associate circuit judges to $158,103 for justices of the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Judges Ann Jorgensen and Stuart Nudelman sued Mr. Hynes and Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich in Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of all Illinois judges, arguing that it is unconstitutional to refuse the pay increases.


Worker dead, 12 hurt

in truck fire

INDIANAPOLIS — A painting company’s truck burst into flames on a busy highway, and workers riding in the back couldn’t jump out until the vehicle had stopped. One died of burns and 12 were injured, 11 of them critically.

Witnesses said the painters piled out of the truck screaming as the flames burned some of their clothes and shoes and left their skin in shreds.

Two passers-by poured bottled water on the men to soothe their burns until ambulances arrived.

The fire apparently started when a cigarette sparked fumes from paint thinner or lacquer thinner as the truck drove along Interstate 465 near the Indianapolis International Airport on Tuesday, said Michael Olinger, medical director of Wishard Ambulance Service.

The truck, owned by RPT Painting Co. of Franklin, was traveling from a job site, and all those aboard were company employees, state police said. Four persons riding in the cab were unhurt.


Ex-mistress of governor pleads not guilty

FRANKFORT — Tina Conner, Gov. Paul E. Patton’s former mistress, yesterday pleaded not guilty to one count of federal mail fraud.

Judge Joseph M. Hood set an Oct. 6 trial date for Mrs. Conner, who was to be released on her own recognizance. Mrs. Conner, who sobbed during the proceedings, did not make any statements before the court and would not talk to reporters on her way into the building.

Prosecutors said in an indictment against Mrs. Conner that she fraudulently obtained certification for a “disadvantaged business enterprise” for a construction company that she and then-husband Seth Conner owned. Mr. Conner primarily operated the business, ST Construction Co. The disadvantaged business enterprise program is aimed at helping women and minority-owned businesses by steering government contracts their way.


Cochlear implants linked to meningitis risk

BOSTON — Children with cochlear implants to restore hearing have a small but increased risk of dangerous bacterial meningitis, and parents should watch for symptoms and ensure that their youngsters are vaccinated, a government study concludes.

About half of the increased risk appears to be due to one model of implant that was taken off the market a year ago. Nevertheless, those with other brands are still about 16 times more likely than usual to have bacterial meningitis.

Nearly 10,000 U.S. children with severe hearing loss have cochlear implants, which are inserted into the inner ear to activate nerves, allowing sound to be transmitted to the brain.

Last year, the Food and Drug Administration reported 52 cases of meningitis after implants, including five deaths. The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigated the magnitude of the problem and reported the findings in the New England Journal of Medicine today.

They studied 4,264 children who received cochlear implants between 1997 and last year and found that 26 had gotten bacterial meningitis.


County sheriff arrested on extortion charge

JACKSON — The sheriff of Tunica County was arrested yesterday on federal charges of extortion and bribery, officials said.

The charges against Sheriff Jerry Ellington involve accusations of kickbacks in the sheriff’s office and extortion in the bail-bond business, said U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee and FBI Special Agent in Charge Edwin Worthington.

A four-count indictment was returned Monday.

Sheriff Ellington’s arrest comes more than a month after 17 deputies said in a federal lawsuit that Ellington threatened their jobs if they did not support his re-election bid.

Sheriff Ellington, who is in his first term, took office after his elected predecessor pleaded guilty to extortion. He faces four opponents in the Aug. 5 Democratic Party primary.


About 17,000 to have benefits reduced

HELENA — About 17,000 Montanans who receive public assistance will see their benefits reduced 26 percent beginning Friday, officials said.

The average family of three on public assistance is expected to see the monthly benefit check drop from $507 to $375.

An increasing number of welfare recipients is vying for a shrinking pool of state money.


Humane Society holds cute-pet fund-raiser

GRAND ISLAND — Finally, a calendar full of pin-ups worthy of drooling over, howling at and even wagging a tail for.

The Central Nebraska Humane Society is planning a cutest-pet photo contest that will result in the winners being included in a 15-month calendar.

“Everybody has a cute-pet picture. They are all proud of them, too,” said Janie Hoch, a member of the Humane Society’s board of directors who came up with the idea.

Color photos of all pets, even birds and fish, are welcome. Entries cost $15 each and must be submitted to the humane society by Aug. 7.

All the photos entered will be put on display at local businesses and the Humane Society for three weeks for people to vote on their favorite. Each dollar donated to a picture counts as one vote.


Patient sues doctor over three-hour wait

LAS VEGAS — Aristotelis Belavilas got so fed up waiting three hours to see his doctor that he left and headed for his lawyer.

Mr. Belavilas, 58, sued Dr. Ty Weller for $5,000, saying he wanted to teach him a lesson about treating patients with respect. A small claims court in Las Vegas this month awarded Belavilas $250.

“My time is worth something just like his is,” Mr. Belavilas said.

Dr. Weller, a pain-management specialist, said he was overbooked the February day he scheduled Mr. Belavilas for a back-pain injection, but said he was trying to accommodate Mr. Belavilas before the patient left on vacation.

“I can’t hurry a patient along who needs my attention just to be on time,” Dr. Weller said.

Dr. Weller said he’ll appeal the decision.


State executes convicted killer

McALESTER — A man who fatally stabbed and bludgeoned an elderly couple in 1999 was executed Tuesday by injection.

Harold Loyd McElmurry III asked for forgiveness just before he was put to death at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.

McElmurry’s wife also was convicted in the deaths of the 80-year-old paraplegic and his 75-year-old wife at their rural home near Lenna in eastern Oklahoma.

McElmurry, who had done odd jobs for the couple, testified at his trial that he felt bad about killing Robert Pendley and said the murdered man “was always real nice to me.”

The couple was bludgeoned with garden implements. Robert Pendley was knocked from his wheelchair and stabbed repeatedly with scissors.

Vivian Pendley tried to escape, but investigators said that McElmurry had his wife catch and hold the woman while he beat her to death. Vickie McElmurry is serving two life sentences.


Foxes, not humans, likely behind cat killings

SALT LAKE CITY — The discovery of nearly a dozen mutilated house pets during the past year had sparked fears of a serial cat killer. But the cats probably were killed by hungry foxes, an animal control official said Tuesday.

“In a way we’re relieved because there’s not a deranged bad guy that is torturing this neighborhood. But we’re not going to have an arrest of a hungry fox,” said Temma Martin, spokeswoman for Salt Lake County Animal Services.

The deaths began in northeast Salt Lake City in May last year. Cats were found with holes in their sides or with half their bodies missing. Eight cat bodies were found last summer, and three more have turned up since spring.

Investigators initially thought it was some sort of grisly prank and residents were frightened to leave their pets outside. But Miss Martin said Tuesday that a more thorough investigation and a fox den found near where many of the cats turned up point toward predators, not people.

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