- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 4, 2003


Driver charged in children’s drownings

CLINTON — A man who was behind the wheel when a car plunged into a lake, killing his girlfriend’s three children, has been charged with driving under the influence.

Authorities are still investigating and have not determined whether the plunge was an accident or why the car was next to the lake, Sheriff Roger Massey said. The couple were not launching or retrieving a boat, authorities said.

Sheriff Massey would not say what substance the driver, Maurice Lagrone Jr., 28, is suspected of having used. Mr. Lagrone also was charged with driving with a suspended license.

Mr. Lagrone and his girlfriend, Amanda Hamm, 28, escaped the car after it went off a boat ramp Tuesday evening, but the three children were trapped inside, Sheriff Massey said. Miss Hamm called 911 from a pay phone.

Authorities said a special prosecutor will be assigned because Miss Hamm’s mother works for the state’s attorney.


Modern-day train robbers prey on cargo

NEWARK —Instead of six-shooters and horses, these modern-day train robbers used two-way radios, night-vision goggles and bolt cutters. Instead of bandanas, they had ski caps monogrammed “CRB,” for Conrail Boyz.

Train robbery, a quintessentially 19th-century crime, has rolled on into the 21st century.

With the technology, though, the targets have changed. The old gangs preyed mostly on passenger trains, snatching gold and cash from riders and the baggage-car safe. Today, freight trains loaded with such merchandise as electronics, cigarettes and tires are the lure.

“If you can sell it on the street easy, they’ll get it,” said James Beach, a captain for the Union Pacific railroad police in Fort Worth, Texas.

Conrail police had made dozens of arrests of Conrail Boyz since 1992, but mostly on relatively light charges, and they were back on the streets quickly. During the summer, though, 24 suspects were charged in a racketeering indictment, and all but one were rounded up.


Judge dismisses commandments suit

MONTGOMERY — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to return a 5,300-pound Ten Commandments monument to the lobby of the Alabama Judicial Building.

The lawsuit was filed by three Alabama residents who claimed that removing the monument unconstitutionally established the religion of “nontheistic belief.”

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled yesterday that the removal of the monument, which he had ordered, did not violate the Constitution.

“The empty space of nothingness in the rotunda of the Judicial Building is neither an endorsement of ‘nontheistic belief’ nor a sign of disrespect for Christianity or any other religion,” Judge Thompson said in his decision.


Man convicted in officer’s death

FLAGSTAFF — Eric Clark was convicted of murdering police Officer Jeff Moritz, the first Flagstaff officer to die in the line of duty.

Clark, who shot Officer Moritz during a June 2000 traffic stop, faces a sentence of up to life in prison.

Clark’s attorney argued that his client suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. Prosecutors said Clark knew his actions were wrong.


Skimpy swimsuit gets man ticketed

CADDO VALLEY — A man’s skimpy swimsuit was too much — or too little — for Taco Bell workers.

Employees at Taco Bell called police Sunday when the man walked into the restaurant wearing only a tiny black Speedo swimsuit and a cutoff T-shirt during the Labor Day weekend.

Caddo Valley Police Chief Hiram Latin said his attire, or lack thereof, was too revealing.

“He was inappropriately dressed for a restaurant,” said Chief Latin. He said the man had left his clothes at a lake.

The man faces a $750 fine and jail time if convicted of indecent exposure. Police ticketed the man and took photos of him in the Speedo, for use in court.


Voters to decide ban on smoking

GREELEY — Voters will decide this fall whether to join a growing list of Colorado communities that restrict smoking in public places.

The City Council sent the issue to voters despite pleas from smoking ban supporters to adopt the restrictions outright.

The ban would apply to bars, restaurants, private clubs and any other public, enclosed place where people gather.


State boosts fares on two ferries

WETHERSFIELD — The state Department of Transportation boosted fares on two ferries that have transported people across the Connecticut River since Colonial times.

The ferries shuttle tens of thousands of people and vehicles across the river between Rocky Hill and Glastonbury and between Chester and Hadlyme.

Fares for a car and driver more than doubled to $5.


No charges filed in death of infant

GEORGETOWN — Charges will not be filed against a 15-year-old Georgetown girl who gave birth to a baby found dead in a department store toilet, police said.

Autopsy results released Wednesday list the cause of death for the baby boy born July 26 at a Kmart store in Rehoboth Beach as damage “due to placental abruption,” said Allison Taylor Levine, a spokeswoman for the department of Health and Social Services.

Miss Levine said prematurity was a contributing factor in the baby’s death and the manner of death was ruled natural.

Police said the baby’s mother, a recent immigrant from Guatemala, was shopping in the store on Route 1 when she went to the restroom. Other customers heard the girl giving birth and contacted store security.


Man, 91, lies on roof two days

EDGEWATER — A 91-year-old man grew weak while cleaning his roof last weekend and lay there for two days before purposely rolling off, falling 8 feet into his back yard where he was rescued.

The man, whose name was not released, cried for help while in his yard for several hours Monday until a neighbor heard him and called 911, said Mark O’Keefe, an ambulance service spokesman.

Paramedics treated the man for dehydration, exposure, including a sunburn and bug bites, and minor scrapes and bruises, Mr. O’Keefe said. He was taken to Bert Fish Medical Center in New Smyrna Beach and released later Monday.

The man told paramedics he climbed onto the roof to clean it, but experienced an episode of weakness and could not get back to the ladder, Mr. O’Keefe said. He called for help for two days, but no one heard him.


Diabetes rate trails obesity

ATLANTA — Diabetes in the United States rose only slightly during the 1990s despite a sharp increase in obesity, a trend that surprised federal health officials.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that diabetes rates crept up from an estimated 8.2 percent of adults from 1988 to 1994 to 8.6 percent in 1999 and 2000. That is an increase of less than 5 percent.

The CDC expected a larger increase because obesity — which can lead to diabetes — has been rising quickly, climbing 61 percent during the 1990s. As of 2000, 19.8 percent of U.S. adults were obese, the CDC said.


Flag case lawsuit thrown out of court

SOUTH BEND — A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging Indiana’s flag-desecration law brought by a Goshen high school student.

U.S. District Court Judge Allen Sharp ruled that Megan Lawson had no case because prosecutors never threatened to charge her.

Miss Lawson carried an American flag painted with a peace sign during an antiwar rally in March.


Heavy rain fails to end drought

WICHITA — Heavy rain across Kansas last week improved the state’s depleted soil moisture levels, which had fallen to their lowest in at least 15 years.

However, much more is needed to end the drought. The rain came too late for most row crops, except for late soybeans and sorghum in some areas, the Kansas Agriculture Statistics Service said.


University builds antenna system

MOREHEAD — Morehead State University has broken ground on a $3 million space tracking system on a ridge overlooking Eagle Lake. The antenna system will be used to investigate galactic phenomena and track commercial satellites.

As part of the university’s Space Science Center, it also may provide support for National Aeronautics and Space Administration missions. It is expected to open next year.


University upgrades classroom furniture

ALBANY — Students returning to the State University at Albany sat in tilt-back chairs at larger desks.

The college has invested $1 million in the first classroom furniture upgrades since the late 1960s. More than two dozen classrooms now are considered ergonomically correct.


Ex-official indicted on federal charges

RALEIGH — Former North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps, already facing state charges in a probe of campaign finances, was indicted yesterday on 28 federal charges, including extortion and fraud.

The daughter and granddaughter of North Carolina governors resigned in June after three former aides were indicted in a federal probe examining whether her campaign solicited illegal campaign contributions from carnival companies. A month later, she was charged in state court with perjury and obstruction of justice.

The federal counts include mail fraud, wire fraud, extortion, conspiracy, bribery, obstruction of justice and witness tampering.


Mayor finds employees slacking off on job

CRANSTON — Private investigators hired by Mayor Stephen Laffey found public employees showing up late, leaving early, sleeping on the job and visiting fast-food restaurants rather than working.

Since April, the city has spent $15,000 on private investigators who videotaped and followed city employees.


Reactor shutdown unneeded, agency finds

CHATTANOOGA — The Tennessee Valley Authority was properly cautious in shutting down a reactor at the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant, but the intervention and subsequent alert were probably unnecessary, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman said yesterday.

“They didn’t need to do it that quickly,” NRC Atlanta region spokesman Roger Hannah said of TVA’s Aug. 28 decision to manually shut down the Unit 1 reactor at the Soddy-Daisy plant about 18 miles north of Chattanooga.

TVA spokesman John Moulton said the plant’s Unit 1 reactor resumed full power Sunday after the NRC ruled it in “safe condition.”

The NRC’s review of the shutdown showed “the safety implications were not as serious as we first thought they were,” Mr. Hannah said.

No injuries were reported in the alert issued by TVA after its steam turbine shut down during testing, apparently because of a pressure switch failure, and the reactor continued to run until operators powered down manually.


Ex-employees charged in restaurant slayings

TEXARKANA — Two former employees were charged with murder in the slayings of three workers at a steakhouse this week.

Stephon L. Walter, 24, was arrested yesterday in Hope, Ark. Richard M. Henson, 20, was arrested Wednesday in Texarkana. The two Texarkana men were denied bond on charges of capital murder.

The victims, including a 24-year-old pregnant woman, were found early Monday inside an office at an Outback Steakhouse where they had been doing end-of-the-month inventory.

Police Chief Danny Alexander said the two men had worked for the restaurant. Mr. Walter was fired several weeks ago. Robbery also might have been a partial motive, Chief Alexander said.


Disgruntled residents battle roosters

BECKLEY — Some southern West Virginia residents say roosters on steroids are clucking relentlessly all day long, and they want the birds to pipe down.

A disgruntled resident gave a recording of the roosters’ noises to Raleigh County prosecutor Larry Frail and Bill Roop, the county commission’s attorney.

Mr. Frail and Mr. Roop said Tuesday that they didn’t notice anything unusual when they inspected the area near state Route 3, but they planned to return for further evaluation.

County Commissioner John Aliff said a man is raising gamecocks, and the birds have been injected with steroids. Raising gamecocks is legal in West Virginia as long as they are not used for cockfighting.


Toxic feed suspected in deaths of horses

MADISON — Twelve Belgian draft horses died after eating feed that contained a drug that helps cattle gain weight but is toxic to horses.

The drug probably got into the feed accidentally, said David Fredrickson, director of investigation for the state Agricultural Resource Management Division.

He said the feed had been custom-made, so it was unlikely other batches contained the drug, monensin.

Mr. Fredrickson would not identify the company that made the feed but said it was cooperating with the investigation.

Three other horses were still alive and being treated.


Escaped parrot returns to cage

LANDER — Joann Arno feared her parrot was gone for good when the bird flew out the front door during a thunderstorm in June.

Turns out, Peaches was just touring the neighborhood.

The bird escaped June 20, when high wind from a thunderstorm blew the front door open while Miss Arno was watering the lawn.

The Lander woman launched a radio campaign asking for the community’s help in finding the bird. A month passed with no news. Two weeks ago, a neighborhood resident called the radio station after seeing a parrot in his back yard, but the bird was gone by the time Miss Arno arrived.

Last week, another couple noticed an exotic visitor in their back yard and called the radio station. Miss Arno left the bird’s cage with Don and Maryellen Pedlar, who hung it on their clothesline one night with water and food inside. Peaches, Mrs. Pedlar said, flew right inside.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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