- The Washington Times - Friday, September 26, 2003


Woman extraditedin missing-girl hoax

INDIANAPOLIS — A woman accused of impersonating a couple’s daughter who has been missing since 1986 was extradited to Indiana yesterday to face charges.

Donna Walker, 35, is charged with felony identity deception and misdemeanor false reporting. The Topeka, Kan., resident was booked into the Boone County Jail at about 3 a.m. and was being held on $50,000 bond, jail officer Brad Bailey said.

She is accused of posing as Shannon Marie Sherrill, who disappeared while playing hide-and-seek outside her Indianapolis home at age 6. Authorities said Miss Walker used different names and voices to pull a hoax on the girl’s parents and police in July after the case was briefly publicized again.


Eighth-grader heldin shooting at school

LAWNDALE — An eighth-grader fired two shots inside a middle school yesterday morning, but no one was injured and the boy was quickly taken into custody by a sheriff’s deputy working at the school, a school spokeswoman said.

Justin Daniel Earwood, 13, was charged with felony possession of a firearm on school property.

The student fired a 9 mm handgun inside Burns Middle School at about 8 a.m. as fellow students were heading to their first classes of the day, Cleveland County schools spokeswoman Donna Carpenter said.

Cleveland County Deputy Tim Russ, who is assigned to the school, went to the school’s third floor and told the boy to drop the weapon, Miss Carpenter said. When he refused, Deputy Russ “basically tackled the student and took the weapon away from him,” she said.


Legislature passes austere budgets

MONTGOMERY — Alabama’s Legislature gave final approval yesterday to austere budgets that will cause layoffs of some state employees and leave most public school children without new textbooks.

In the wake of a Sept. 9 statewide vote rejecting new taxes, the House gave final approval to a $1.2 billion General Fund budget that cuts funding to most state agencies by 18 percent. The Senate, meanwhile, passed a $4.2 billion education budget that allows teachers to retain their jobs, but cuts money for textbooks.


Oil dividend checks down to $1,107

JUNEAU — Nearly every Alaska resident will receive a $1,107 check this year as their share of the state’s oil riches — a $433 drop from last year’s payout.

The dividend checks are distributed every year from an oil royalty account called the Alaska Permanent Fund, created in 1976 after oil was discovered on the North Slope. Anyone who has lived in the state for more than a year gets the dividend. Almost 599,000 people are expected to receive it this year.


Berkeley chancellor to step down

BERKELEY — The chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley announced yesterday he would step down after six years at the head of a school known for its activism as much as its academics.

Robert Berdahl will leave next June.

“He hasn’t had a sabbatical for more than 20 years and it’s time for one,” said campus spokesman George Strait.

Mr. Berdahl, 66, plans to take a year’s leave and then return to the Berkeley campus to teach and study.


Nonprofit group buys Cypress Gardens

TALLAHASSEE — Cypress Gardens, a venerable but recently closed Florida tourist attraction famous for water skiers and Southern belles, has been bought by a nonprofit environmental group in a $22 million deal that would save the park from immediate dissection.

Five months after the Winter Haven theme park shut its doors, the Trust for Public Land said yesterday it had reached agreement with the park’s owners to purchase the park that was a vacation destination for millions of tourists over its 60-year life.

The group hopes to sell the property to another buyer that would reopen the park’s extensive botanical and historic exhibits to visitors, said Public Land spokeswoman Anne Nelson.


Flu shot supply to be plentiful

ATLANTA — This year’s supply of flu vaccine is expected to be plentiful, and shots will be available starting next month, federal officials said yesterday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said October and November are the best months to receive a shot to be protected during peak flu season, which typically runs from December to March.

Flu shots may be given to those 6 months or older. The CDC urges shots for the elderly and people with heart or lung disease, diabetes, asthma or illnesses that suppress the immune system such as AIDS.


Settlement reached in Honolulu bus strike

HONOLULU — Striking bus workers reached a settlement yesterday in a 31-day-old walkout that snarled traffic on Hawaii’s most populous island.

The five-year contract includes wage and pension increases for the 1,300 bus drivers, mechanics and clerks, said Mel Kahele, president of the Hawaii Teamsters. No further details were released.

The union will recommend that the workers accept the offer at a ratification vote scheduled for tomorrow, Mr. Kahele said.

Bus service could resume by Monday, said Oahu Transit Services Vice President Roger Morton.

On Wednesday, the City Council raised bus fares 25 cents to $2, which is expected to generate $6.8 million in additional revenue to avoid cutbacks and layoffs of drivers.


State asks hunters to donate their kills

DES MOINES — Iowa hunters are being asked to help feed the needy this year while thinning the state’s growing deer herd.

State officials want hunters to shoot more deer and donate the meat. The Food Bank of Iowa will coordinate distribution of venison to help food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters. State officials will issue 30,000 additional deer permits.


Foes of smoking ban seek injunction

LEXINGTON — Bar and restaurant owners asked the state appeals court to block a citywide ban on smoking in public places from going into effect next week.

The Lexington-Fayette County Food and Beverage Association’s request for an emergency injunction was filed Wednesday, the day after a county circuit judge refused to issue a temporary injunction.

The ban, set to take effect Monday, has sparked a fierce debate in the heart of burley tobacco country. It was approved by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council in July.

John Walters, an attorney for the restaurant association, said he was “extremely hopeful” that the Court of Appeals would rule before Monday. A three-judge panel of the court could either issue a ruling or ask to hear oral arguments.

The association argues that state laws bar local governments from regulating public smoking. The group also claims the ban infringes on the rights of business owners.


Audubon Society wants new state bird

PONTIAC — Michigan’s state bird apparently has become far too run-of-the-mill for the Michigan Audubon Society.

The group lobbied to have the American robin named the state bird in 1931. Now it has mounted a similar effort on behalf of a species it says is more deserving.

The Michigan Audubon Society and Detroit Audubon Society want to replace the robin with the Kirtland’s warbler, which nests only in Michigan and winters in the Bahamas.

“The main reason is it is the only bird that is unique to the state of Michigan,” Detroit Audubon Society President James Bull said Wednesday.

The proposal has ruffled some feathers in the Michigan Legislature, which has to approve the change. State Rep. Ruth Johnson is not ready to reject the robin. “I don’t want to take away our state bird,” she said.


Woman pleads guilty to 9/11 aid fraud

KANSAS CITY — A woman accused of collecting about $64,000 in September 11 relief funds by inventing a brother and reporting him missing after the terrorist attacks was sentenced yesterday to nearly two years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey ordered Cassaundrea E. Montgomery to repay the money, calling her acts “heinous” and “twisted.”

Montgomery, 42, told police her brother had gone to the World Trade Center to apply for a job on September 11 shortly before the Twin Towers were destroyed.

She pleaded guilty to fraud and was sentenced to 21 months in prison, the maximum under federal guidelines.


Commandments stone moved from courthouse

MILES CITY — A monument displaying the Ten Commandments has been removed from a courthouse lawn, ending a six-year dispute over a religious display on public property.

Workers in this community in eastern Montana on Wednesday moved the stone to the city’s Range Riders Museum, which is privately run.

“I’m pleased that the issue has been resolved,” said County Commission Chairman Janet Kelly, who voted to move the monument. The stone’s removal effectively ends a 4-year-old lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, which contended the monument violated the principle of separation of church and state.

The Fraternal Order of Eagles donated the stone to Custer County in 1968. In 1997, several people complained about the monument and a nearby Nativity scene. Two years later, the ACLU sued.


Doctor apologizes to long-waiting patient

LAS VEGAS — A patient infuriated that he was kept waiting three hours for a doctor’s appointment has received what he wanted: an apology.

“I’m happy. That’s exactly what I was looking for,” said patient Aristotelis Belavilas, 58. “He should have apologized in the beginning.”

Mr. Belavilas, of Las Vegas, won a $250 judgment earlier this year after filing a $5,000 small claim against Dr. Ty Weller.

The case sparked a national debate about waiting room etiquette, and fueled physician concerns that it would set a costly precedent.

Dr. Weller’s attorney, Monica Pierce, said Dr. Weller, a pain management specialist in Las Vegas, was satisfied with the settlement.


Theaters to be made accessible for disabled

NEW YORK — Half the theaters on Broadway, including some of its most famous stages, will become fully accessible to disabled people under an agreement announced yesterday between the landlord and the government.

Work on the 16 landmark theaters operated by the Shubert Organization is to be finished by year’s end.

The organization has spent $5 million over several years to improve wheelchair seating areas, restrooms, entrances, exits, ticket windows, concession areas and drinking fountains. But legalities formally bringing the theaters into compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act were completed only this week.

Kevin McGuire, of Boston, a disabilities access consultant who uses a wheelchair and who advised Shubert, demonstrated the importance of improvements at the Music Box Theatre, which is presenting Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” After buying tickets at the box office — fitted with a pullout box he could reach — he wheeled himself to one of six reserved orchestra section spots where the once-sloping floor was leveled off to accommodate wheels.


Woman, 82, honored as Carnegie hero

PITTSBURGH — An 82-year-old woman who dove into a pond to rescue a fellow retirement home resident became the oldest person honored in the 99-year history of the Carnegie Hero Fund, established to recognize human courage.

Carolyn Kelly, a retired medical technician, heard a car splash into a pond at the Glen Retirement Village in Shreveport., La. She jumped in and held 83-year-old Nina Hutchinson’s head above water until help arrived on Sept. 1, 2002.

Among 16 others honored yesterday were 74-year-old Marguerite Zachary, a retired nurse, who treated and comforted her wounded apartment manager, who survived, despite being under fire by a sniper in Dallas, Ore., on Sept. 24, 2002.

Taxi driver Rodney Lee Venice, 43, of Fenton, Mo., one of three persons awarded medals posthumously, helped a woman escape from a man pistol-whipping her in a Sunset Hills, Mo., parking lot on Nov. 19, 2000. Mr. Venice pulled the gunman away from the woman, allowing her to drive to safety; he was shot three times and died.


University shuts down protest bake sale

DALLAS — Southern Methodist University shut down a bake sale Wednesday in which cookies were offered for sale at different prices, depending on the buyer’s race or sex.

The sale was organized by the Young Conservatives of Texas, who said it was intended as a protest of affirmative action.

A sign said white males had to pay $1 for a cookie. The price was 75 cents for white women, 50 cents for Hispanics and 25 cents for blacks.

A black student filed a complaint with SMU, saying the sale was offensive. SMU officials said they halted the event after 45 minutes because it created a potentially unsafe situation.

“This was not an issue about free speech,” Tim Moore, director of the SMU student center, said in a story for yesterday’s Dallas Morning News. “It was really an issue where we had a hostile environment being created.”

Members of the conservative group said they meant no offense and were only trying to protest the use of race or sex as a factor in college admissions.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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