- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 9, 2003


Dickinson to succeed Ann Landers

CHICAGO — A journalist who raised her daughter as a single mother and worked as a receptionist, nightclub singer and Sunday-school teacher has been named to take over the late Ann Landers’ advice column.

Starting July 20, Amy Dickinson, 43, a distant relative of the poet Emily Dickinson, will answer questions about infidelity, sickness, marriage and other of life’s joys and pitfalls in a Chicago Tribune column to run seven days a week, the newspaper reported yesterday. Syndication will start this fall.

The column, which will be named “Ask Amy,” will fill a void in the newspaper created by the death of Esther Lederer, who for nearly five decades doled out advice to thousands of readers under the Landers name.

Mrs. Lederer, known as Eppie, died last year at 83.


Mother guilty of drowning son

TROY — A woman diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic was found guilty yesterday of murder and attempted murder for drowning her 4-year-old son in a bathtub and trying to drown her 5-year-old, who escaped.

Christine Wilhelm could face up to 40 years in prison on both counts when she is sentenced Aug. 27.

Wilhelm had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the April 2002 drowning of Luke, 4, in their Hoosick Falls home and the near drowning of Peter, 5.

During the trial, prosecutors said Wilhelm masked a hideous crime with her mental illness while the defense said Luke’s drowning was a tragedy caused by her horrifying psychotic delusions.


Motorcycle gangs raided; 30 arrested

PHOENIX — Hundreds of law enforcement officers fanned out across the state and arrested 30 persons, including several associated with the Hells Angels motorcycle gang, authorities said. Charges included murder-for-hire, drug trafficking and weapons violations.

Tuesday’s raids yielded 560 illegal weapons, including silencers, pipe bombs, sawed-off shotguns and machine guns, along with ammunition, $50,000 in cash and drugs, authorities said.

Officials declined to say whether those arrested were connected to a brawl more than a year ago at a casino in Laughlin, Nev. Two Hell’s Angels and one Mongols motorcycle gang member were killed and at least 12 were hurt in the fight, which remains under investigation.

Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives and a Phoenix police detective who infiltrated the Hells Angels motorcycle gang posing as recruits from Mexico took part in the two-year investigation, said U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton.


Home scrutinized after drug-related deaths

BENTON — A state nursing home for the mentally ill closed its pharmacy after mistakes in dispensing medication led to two of six suspected negligent deaths in the last year.

The state also has urged federal regulators to mete out an additional $10,000 fine for the latest death at the Arkansas Health Center in Benton, which occurred May 30. The State Attorney General’s Office is considering recommending criminal charges against the center or its staff.


Man turns self in after relatives found slain

BAKERSFIELD — An elementary school vice principal wanted for questioning in the shooting deaths of his estranged wife, mother-in-law and three young children turned himself in early yesterday in North Carolina.

The FBI and law enforcement agencies across the country had been asked to help search for Vincent Brothers, 41, after police discovered the bodies Tuesday in a Bakersfield home.

Bakersfield police Capt. Neil Mahan said Mr. Brothers is being treated as “a possible suspect” and that police had no other suspects in the slayings. Bakersfield detectives flew to North Carolina to question Mr. Brothers, who turned himself in after being informed of the killings by family members in North Carolina, Mr. Mahan said.


New commander takes over academy

AIR FORCE ACADEMY — Lt. Gen. John Rosa took command of academy yesterday, two days before he is expected to appear before a panel investigating the institution’s sexual assault scandal.

Lt. Gen. Rosa alluded to the scandal during a ceremony marking the change in command. About 200 cadets attended the festivities.

“Our vision for the Air Force Academy is clear: to make it the best and most respected military training and educational institution in the world, one that produces America’s finest military officers and a place where moms and dads are proud to send their children,” Lt. Gen. Rosa said. “To achieve this vision, we must create and sustain an environment free of discrimination, free of harassment and assault of any kind.”

Lt. Gen. Rosa succeeds Lt. Gen. John Dallagher, who was replaced along with other top commanders under pressure from Congress after dozens of female cadets said they had been punished for reporting sexual assaults.


Groundwater levels drop; well-drilling permits rise

REXBURG — Applications for new wells are rising in the Upper Snake River Valley as the groundwater level drops. The water table has fallen 10 feet since 1995.

The state has issued nearly as many well drilling permits this year as it did all of last year. Officials are blaming persistent drought and more-efficient irrigation methods that limit aquifer replenishment.


Riverwalk investors oppose casino

DES MOINES — Principal Financial Group threatened to withdraw a promised investment of $10 million in a downtown riverwalk if the city pursues a riverboat casino near the project.

CEO Barry Griswell told the Des Moines Register that a casino would run counter to the intention of the riverwalk, which is to attract housing, business and restaurants. Work is expected to begin this fall.


Patton’s ex-lover indicted on fraud charges

COVINGTON — Gov. Paul E. Patton’s former mistress was indicted yesterday on a federal charge of improperly applying to have a business certified for special treatment by the government.

Tina Conner is accused of fraudulently applying to get a construction company run by her former husband certified as a “disadvantaged business enterprise” under a federal program that sets aside contracts for companies operated primarily by women and minorities.

Mrs. Conner, who had a two-year affair with the Democratic governor, asserts that the governor used the power of his office to aid and then to ruin her nursing home business. Mr. Patton has acknowledged the affair but denied misusing his power.


Judge blocks specialty license plates

NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge has blocked the state from issuing specialty license plates, a decision stemming from the Legislature approving an anti-abortion plate while refusing one for the abortion rights view.

In a decision filed late Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval agreed with challengers who said the plates constitute a public forum covered by free-speech rights — and not the expression of government, as the state had contended.

The Legislature and the governor approve specialty plates, which are sold for $25 and raise money for diverse groups and causes including universities, wildlife conservation and the Girl Scouts. There are nearly 150 of these plates in Louisiana.

William Rittenberg, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said yesterday that the ruling does not ban specialty plates, but merely the way the state authorizes them.


Fire association urges tougher inspections

QUINCY — A committee of the National Fire Protection Association yesterday recommended tougher fire-safety rules for building-exit inspections in the hope of preventing a disaster like February’s deadly Rhode Island nightclub fire.

The NFPA panel recommended that building owners be required to inspect establishments’ exits each time they open to the public.

The committee is considering broad fire-safety and crowd-management changes to its code, which has been adopted in one form or another by more than 30 states.

The changes were prompted by the February blaze at the Station nightclub in West Warwick, R.I. The fire, sparked by a band’s pyrotechnic display, engulfed the building within minutes, killing 100 persons and injuring nearly 200 others as people scrambled for the same exit.


Hitchhiking raccoon causes traffic jam

ST. PAUL — Rush-hour traffic was hairier than usual in the Twin Cities because of a hitchhiking raccoon.

Susan Gallagher had just dropped off her children at a day care center Tuesday and was on her way to work when something pushed her accelerator.

Mrs. Gallagher checked the minivan’s cruise control. When she looked again at the gas pedal, she said, “that’s when I saw the claws and the raccoon on top of my foot, so I knew that he was with me in the vehicle.”

After Mrs. Gallagher pulled over, state troopers arrived and decided to tow the van for fear that releasing the raccoon on the freeway might cause an accident. As it was, the scene caused a traffic jam on Interstate 35E.

Animal-control officers took the raccoon, and Mrs. Gallagher wonders how the critter got into her van.


Disabled girl’s body dumped in trash

NEW YORK — The body of a severely disabled 9-year-old girl was found dumped in the garbage yesterday after her foster mother told police the child died in her care.

An autopsy was being conducted to determine the cause of death for Stephanie Ramos. Police said she was physically underdeveloped, weighed only 28 pounds and could not see, speak or walk.

Her foster mother originally reported Stephanie missing on Tuesday, but changed her account after being questioned, police spokesman Sgt. Michael Wysokowski said.

The woman said she panicked after Stephanie died, then put the body in a black plastic bag and dumped it, investigators said. Police found the body at a collection site after tracing trucks that had removed the neighborhood’s garbage.


Fire atop old Capitol forces evacuation

RALEIGH — The roof of the old state Capitol caught fire yesterday as workers repaired the building, sending smoke through the old House and Senate chambers and forcing the evacuation of workers and visitors inside.

Authorities said there were no reports of injuries or extensive damage to the 1840 Capitol building, which now houses the offices of Gov. Michael F. Easley. The Democratic governor was not in the building at the time of the fire, said State Capitol Police Officer Charlie Twitty.

Workers were soldering the copper when wood under the roof began to smolder, said Raleigh Fire Department Battalion Chief Tommie Styons said. The smoke entered the building through the ventilation system, according to authorities, prompting fire alarms to sound around 1:50 p.m.

About a dozen fire and rescue vehicles arrived at the scene. Firefighters climbed scaffolding in 90-degree heat to get to the roof and used fire extinguishers to douse the fire within five minutes, Mr. Styons said.


Prisoner ID leads police to escapee

HARRISBURG — An escaped inmate made it easy for police to track him down: He used his prisoner ID card to check into a hotel after fleeing from a halfway house.

Shane E. Betts’ decision to use the ID “isn’t as stupid as it sounds,” Comfort Inn manager Will Koonse said Monday. He said the hotel requires identification from any customer who pays in cash, and it isn’t unusual for people who aren’t fugitives to show prisoner IDs.

“Many times when they’re released, that’s all they have,” Mr. Koonse said.

But Mr. Koonse said seeing the ID on Sunday helped the clerk remember a newspaper story about Betts’ escape from the Harrisburg Community Corrections Center.

The clerk called police, who checked Betts’ room and found a woman inside. Police said the woman told officers that Betts, 29, who was in the halfway house for a burglary conviction, had gone out for beer. Officers arrested Betts when he returned.


Two officers killed laying spike strip

MOUNT JULIET — A car fleeing police for several miles crashed yesterday into two officers laying a spike strip on Interstate 40, killing them and critically injuring the two passengers in the vehicle, authorities said.

The dead were a Wilson County deputy and a Mount Juliet city policeman, said Beth Tucker Womack, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Highway Patrol. The names were not released pending notification of next of kin.

The two officers were trying to use a spike strip to stop a Mercedes-Benz that other law enforcement officers had been chasing for about 30 minutes.

The accident, about 9:50 a.m., ended a chase that began with a report of a reckless vehicle. Officers from three nearby police agencies began pursuit when a check of the license plate indicated the vehicle might have been stolen from east Tennessee.

Two suspects, both female, were taken by helicopter to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which declined to provide information on their condition.


Black bear attacks sleeping camper

SALT LAKE CITY — A black bear tried to drag a teenager out of his sleeping bag as he and other campers slept under the stars in a remote canyon — the first bear attack in Utah in 11 years, officials said.

Nick Greez, 18, was treated for puncture wounds and lacerations at a hospital in Price and released, officials said. The animal grabbed him by the head and neck, but the other campers chased the bear away after hearing Mr. Greez’s screams.

Wildlife officers tried to find the bear to kill it, but the animal apparently had left the area, said Bill Bates, southeastern region wildlife manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Mr. Greez was part of a group of 15 campers and five instructors from the Utah Outdoor Leadership School who were sleeping in the open early Monday in the canyon about 120 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. The group was on an 80-mile, four- to five-day float trip on the Green River.


Injured dog finds his own hospital

BECKLEY — It was canine intuition when an injured black Labrador retriever did a doggone good job of getting medical attention.

The dog, apparently struck by a car on July 4, found his way to Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital, hobbled through the sliding glass doors and waited for assistance in the hallway.

“It’s the darndest thing,” said Ted Weigel, marketing director at Beckley. “The dog limped in and laid down where people could see it. It seemed to know exactly where to go for help.”

Hospital workers gave the dog water, called a veterinarian and offered to pay the bill.

Dr. Roger Ward treated the animal, and the vet said the canine suffered road burns, scrapes and an infected wound on his leg.

From wire service dispatches and staff reports.

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