- The Washington Times - Monday, October 6, 2003


Sniper task force offers reward

CHARLESTON — A joint task force investigating three sniper-style shootings in West Virginia announced yesterday a $50,000 reward for information leading to the identification of the killer.

The offer came nearly two months after three Kanawha County residents were fatally shot outside convenience stores late at night during August. All three were shot with the same .22-caliber weapon, likely a rifle.

No motive has been determined.

Investigators have said they are looking for a heavyset man with a goatee believed to have been driving a late model, dark-colored, two-tone Ford F-150 pickup.


Mom convicted in son’s suicide

MERIDEN — A woman was convicted yesterday of contributing to the suicide of her 12-year-old son, who hanged himself in his closet with a necktie after being picked on for months at school over his bad breath and body odor.

Judith Scruggs, 52, was found guilty of one count of risk of injury to a minor for creating a filthy home that prosecutors said prevented J. Daniel Scruggs from improving his hygiene. She faces up to 10 years in prison.

Prosecutors said they took no joy in bringing charges against a grieving mother, but felt a jury should decide whether Mrs. Scruggs’ actions contributed to the boy’s death.

Mrs. Scruggs acknowledged Daniel would sometimes have body odor or bad breath and would soil himself to get out of going to school. She said she frequently told Daniel to take showers, but said she could not force him to do so.


Literacy pushed with liberal lending

BRENTWOOD — If city librarian Leonard Roudman has his way, everyone in this community about 50 miles northeast of San Francisco will be reading the same book.

Under Brentwood’s first “CityRead” program, Mr. Roudman is making 225 copies of William Saroyan’s “The Human Comedy” available at the library and a few coffee shops around Brentwood.

No library card is needed to participate in the program, intended to promote adult literacy and spur community conversation about the work by the renowned California author.

Participants are encouraged to read “The Human Comedy,” which is set in the San Joaquin Valley during World War II, and then pass it on to friends and relatives through the end of October. There will be a community book discussion led by the author’s niece on Nov. 1.

“This is a chance to read some good literature and to discuss it with friends,” Mr. Roudman said. “Some people don’t have library cards. We want everybody to participate and make it as easy as possible.”


Skydiver dies after hitting bridge

CANON CITY — A skydiver attempting a stunt was killed Sunday when he hit a 1,000-foot-high bridge and fell onto the rocks below, police said.

Dwain Weston, 30, died after the inaugural Go Fast Games, in which he and other parachutists had jumped off the 1,053-foot-high Royal Gorge Bridge, said Heather Hill, a vice president of event sponsor Go Fast Sports & Beverage Co.

Mr. Weston, of Australia, had jumped from an airplane with another parachutist. They were supposed to free-fall until they reached the bridge, at which point Mr. Weston was to go above the bridge and the other athlete would go under it.

Mr. Weston, who was traveling an estimated 100 mph, miscalculated his distance from the structure, the world’s highest suspension bridge. He struck a railing and fell onto a rock face roughly 300 feet from the bottom of the gorge.

There were about 200 people on the bridge at the time of the accident, said Royal Gorge Bridge and Park executive director Mike Bandera. The bridge was shut down for about 15 to 20 minutes.


State may break job-loss record

DOVER — Delaware is on target to break an unwanted economic record in 2003.

Economists and labor analysts say it’s unlikely the state will experience a burst of job creation before the end of the year. That means Delaware would mark its third straight year of job losses.

State economists say this losing streak would be the longest since officials began keeping records in 1939.


Man killed fighting with driver

TAMPA — A man who fought the driver of a moving truck while hanging from the side window died when the truck hit a tree.

Hector Lopez, 20, of Houston, was killed Saturday when the truck hit a palm tree and the vehicle landed on him, sheriff’s deputies said.

Carlos Jimenez, 21, of Tampa, was charged with DUI manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident involving death. He was jailed without bond.

Sheriff’s Cpl. Dan Tewmey said he did not know why the men were fighting. They were acquaintances and had dated the same woman, he said.


Crabbers oppose proposed restrictions

ATLANTA — A proposal to ban crabbing three days a week is netting opposition from crabbers who say their livelihoods are in danger.

The Department of Natural Resources says the blue-crab harvest needs to be reduced by 35 percent or the crabs will disappear. Crabbers say the population has rebounded since the drought ended and that no limits are needed.


Children’s dieting may prompt gain

CHICAGO — Children who diet may actually gain weight in the long run, perhaps because of metabolic changes but more likely because they resort to binge eating, doctors reported yesterday.

“Although medically supervised weight control may be beneficial for overweight youths, our data suggest that for many adolescents, dieting to control weight is not only ineffective, it may actually promote weight gain,” said the report from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

The study was based on a look at more than 16,000 boys and girls ages 9 to 14 from 1996 to 1998. It was published in the October issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The report found that about 30 percent of the girls and 16 percent of the boys were dieting to one degree or another when the study began.


Woman catches suspected peeper

INDIANAPOLIS — Hannah Arbuckle, 28, jumped into the bed of a moving pickup truck to catch a man she suspected of peeping in her windows, police said.

She called police from her cell phone as the truck sped along a street. Her actions led to the arrest of Robert Braun, 57, on charges of felony voyeurism. Police said Braun, a convicted rapist, had been spying on her since April.


Man wants to stay in jail

LAGRANGE — A mentally disabled man imprisoned for more than 50 years told public defenders and his family that he wants to stay behind bars.

Dave Embry, 69, was likely incompetent to stand trial when he pleaded guilty to fatally shooting a Butler County farmer and his wife in 1952, his lawyers say.

Embry is incarcerated in a wing of the Kentucky State Reformatory in La Grange reserved for inmates with psychiatric problems. He will mark his 51st year in state custody Nov. 6.


Doctors sue for late payment

PONTIAC — A group of doctors is suing Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

They contend the insurance company takes too long to reimburse them. Some doctors have taken out loans to meet payroll while waiting for checks, says a county medical society.

The doctors said Blue Cross blames computer problems for delays. Blue Cross says it knows of no major computer glitches and that the lawsuit is unwarranted.


Man hijacks sugar-beet truck

MOORHEAD — This hijacker couldn’t beat the rap and ended up in a pickle.

Authorities say a man with a knife hijacked a sugar-beet truck and threatened the driver. The truck then collided with another truck before the suspect was apprehended by other drivers.

Mandy Fulsebakke, of Fargo, said she was driving her truck into a field at a beet-piling station last week when the hijacker approached.

“He showed me that he had a knife, ordered me back to my truck and told me to drive,” Miss Fulsebakke said.

She said she was able to signal to another driver and jump out of the truck. The other driver called for help. Authorities say other truck drivers held the suspect until he was taken into custody.

“We were told that [the hijacker] got angry at something or somebody there, and when the manager was called, he had already left the beet plant,” Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist said.


Fire kills 5 children left home alone

YAZOO CITY — A fire roared through a wood-frame house early yesterday, killing five of six children who officials say had been left home alone. Police have charged the children’s two mothers.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known.

Police Chief Mike Wallace said Clara Bell and Eugenia Bell, sisters and mothers of the children, were each charged with five counts of negligent manslaughter and one count of felony child neglect. The two were in jail pending a bond hearing.

Neighbors discovered the burning home and rescued a 9-year-old boy by smashing a window with a chair. The smoke prevented them from getting the other children, ages 1 to 10.


Campus bar serves oxygen, not booze

LINCOLN — There was no chance of students getting drunk by bellying up to a bar on the University of Nebraska at Lincoln campus.

The bar was serving bottled oxygen, not booze.

“I’m not wasted,” student Tim Randall, 23, said after inhaling 97-percent pure oxygen for about five minutes. “I’m more relaxed.”

Students lined up for the chance to sit at one of three stools at student union last week and inhale the oxygen, scented with one of 12 aromas including lavender, vanilla and strawberry.

“It smelled like incense,” Mr. Randall said.

As an added option, students could also use earphones that played a monotone sound meant to block outside distractions or wear sunglasses fitted with tiny lights that blink.


State sues companies over gasoline additive

CONCORD — The state sued 22 major oil companies yesterday because of the gasoline additive MTBE, which has been found to pollute water, Gov. Craig Benson said.

The lawsuit, filed in Merrimack County Superior Court, asserts that the oil companies have added increasing amounts of the additive to gasoline, even though they knew years ago it would contaminate water supplies.

Attorney General Peter Heed, at a news conference with the Republican governor, called MTBE “the Houdini of pollutants” because the chemical is water-soluble and seems to be able to escape from ground tanks and pipes.

MTBE was added to gasoline to cut air pollution. The oil companies chose MTBE instead of other additives, such as ethanol, that would have caused fewer problems, the suit said.

Mr. Heed said preliminary figures for 2003 show that more than 40 percent of public water supplies in Rockingham County were contaminated.


Budget cuts leave city with 1 trooper

FLORENCE — State budget cuts have left this coastal city with only one state-police trooper to protect 25,000 area residents. The Florence office previously had six troopers.

Trooper Andy Kenyon has to rely on sheriff’s deputies and city police for backup, and they are smarting from cutbacks, too. Statewide, 129 troopers have been laid off.


Officials try to flush toilet display

MONACA — A protester-turned-political-candidate says town officials are trying to flush his campaign by claiming the toilets he has displayed on his home the past four years are a health hazard.

Officials in Monaca, about 20 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, last week sent Tom Suica a letter telling him the 10 commodes on the roof of his garage had to come down because they could be a breeding ground for mosquitos and West Nile virus.

The borough rescinded its request after discovering Mr. Suica, a plumber and Democratic candidate for councilman in the borough of 6,300, taped the bowls to keep water out.

Mr. Suica began his potty protest in 1999 to stop a bank from building a parking lot next to his home. Mr. Suica said the toilets symbolize his view that his neighborhood should remain residential.

Mr. Suica has successfully argued in court that the toilets are decorations and an expression of free speech.


Lake Oahe matches record-low level

PIERRE — Drought-plagued Lake Oahe matched its lowest recorded water level, and Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota and Fort Peck Lake in Montana are expected to follow suit in the next few months.

Lake Oahe, which stretches 231 miles from central South Dakota into North Dakota, dropped to 1,580.7 feet above sea level, tying the record set in November 1989, the Army Corps of Engineers said.

From staff reports and wire service dispatches.

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