- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 10, 2004


Basketball players killed in van crash

PARIS — A tractor-trailer rig slammed into a van carrying Navarro College basketball players, killing two players and injuring the seven others in the van.

Justice of the Peace Ernie Sparks, who pronounced one victim dead at the scene, said the van was “busted to pieces” in the Monday night accident, which occurred as the van was making a U-turn.

“The ones who were in there, I don’t know how they survived, but they crawled out,” Mr. Sparks said. “All the windows were gone. It was lying on its side with the top side up.”

The players were returning in two vans to Corsicana from Paris, where they had played Paris Junior College in the evening.


Man convicted in child-buying attempt

OAKLAND — A man infamous for kidnapping a young boy 30 years ago was convicted Monday of trying to buy a child last year in what a prosecutor described as the would-be “last hurrah” of a long criminal career.

Kenneth Parnell was convicted of trying to persuade a woman to procure him a young boy for $500. Now 72 and in a wheelchair, Parnell was convicted in 1980 of abducting 7-year-old Steven Stayner, changing the boy’s name and keeping him for seven years.

There was no actual child in the current case. The woman, Diane Stevens, cooperated with police in setting up the meeting.


Conjoined tortoises successfully separated

MESA — Peanut Butter is finally free from Jelly.

The pair of conjoined tortoises — so named because you can’t have one without the other — were separated Sunday at a Tempe animal hospital. Peanut Butter and Jelly were joined at the side of the belly near the tail end, slightly offset in a heart-shaped configuration.

The two African leopard tortoises spent about half their lives with one on its back and the other trying to kick itself over.


Suspect’s loud clothes help police catch him

LITTLE ROCK — A helpful tip for would-be thieves: Remember to be as inconspicuous as possible.

Police say Undra Williams, 24, of Little Rock, was wearing a bright orange Hawaiian shirt when he failed in an attempt to rob a convenience store last week and then successfully held up a bank 20 minutes later.

A security-camera video was shown on local television later in the week, and Mr. Williams was arrested Sunday after the images showed off the robber’s taste in loud clothes, police said.

“Once we saw the video, we though it would be fairly easy to catch him,” Little Rock police Sgt. Terry Hastings said Monday.

Mr. Williams was charged with two counts of aggravated robbery and one count of theft. He was being held in the Pulaski County jail.


State to launch Internet encyclopedia

ATHENS — In a small corner of the University of Georgia’s main library, researchers are busy compiling the nation’s first state encyclopedia designed and written for the Internet.

They hope to have 700 articles — on topics ranging from government to sports and featuring well-known Georgians such as former President Jimmy Carter and singer James Brown — ready in time for the site’s official launch tomorrow.

The site, developed through a partnership of the Georgia Humanities Council, the Governor’s Office, the University of Georgia Press and the University System’s Galileo online server, was funded by federal, state and private grants totaling about $2 million.


Activists try to block release of records

DES MOINES — An activist group asked a federal court Monday to block a judge’s subpoena ordering Drake University to turn over names of its local members and others who took part in an antiwar gathering.

The judge’s subpoena, linked to a grand jury probe, seeks records relating to the Drake chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, including names of officers and the location of offices. It also orders the university to turn over records about a Nov. 15 forum for antiwar activists.

The forum offered sessions on the war in Iraq and nonviolence training for those planning to participate in a protest the following day at the Iowa National Guard headquarters.


Restaurant owner fights hypnotism law

TOPEKA — When a restaurant owner scheduled a hypnotist to perform at his steakhouse, he expected hysterical laughter, maybe one or two people strutting like roosters.

What he didn’t expect was for a sheriff’s deputy to show up later that month telling him that the performance was against a Kansas law that prohibits hypnotism for entertainment purposes.

Faced with the possibility of breaking state law or losing money from customers who wanted to see a hypnotist at his restaurant, owner Kansas Walker chose to take his chances — and fight. The businessman described his frustration Monday for the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is considering a bill to repeal the statute against hypnotism as entertainment.


Rodent-control officer to use inflatable rat

EDGARTOWN — The rodent-control officer on Martha’s Vineyard wants to make his services more visible. And he figures you can’t miss a 12-foot rat.

T.J. Hegarty raised $5,000 in private donations to buy a 12-foot tall inflatable rat that he plans to bring to parades and other local events to increase public awareness of his rodent-control program. He expects to take delivery of the bulky beast in six weeks.

Though Mr. Hegarty says there isn’t a major rat problem on the island now, rats have proliferated on and off for years, aided by an abundance of food sources and a lack of natural predators.


School district underestimates costs

PONTIAC — A school district that persuaded voters in 2001 to approve a tax increase to pay for renovations at four schools underestimated the costs by $33 million, district officials said. The work will cost nearly three times the $17 million originally approved.

Oakland Intermediate Schools district provides special education and vocational training for 28 other school districts.


Firefighters may repay for overcharged meal

HELENA — Four firefighters who overcharged the state for a meal during the summer forest fires will be required to repay the difference, if they can be located, a state official says.

The overcharge amounted to about $36, but the state is reviewing closely the $66 million bill it incurred for firefighting-related costs in the summer.


Divers find body of senator’s aide

McCOOK — Divers found the body of an aide to Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat, in a pond Monday, a day after he was seen walking his dogs in a park here, authorities said.

Two of Scott Hoffman’s dogs had returned to his home without him and another was picked up Sunday afternoon. Authorities think Mr. Hoffman, 33, might have gone after his dogs as they chased geese onto the park pond’s thin ice.

Mr. Nelson issued a statement Monday that Mr. Hoffman “will be missed and remembered fondly by all who knew him.” Mr. Hoffman was the senator’s field representative in McCook.


Powdery substance found at post office

MONROE TOWNSHIP — The Williamstown Post Office was evacuated as a precaution yesterday after several postal carriers found a white powder in their mail, officials said.

Members of the Gloucester County hazardous-materials squad were sent into the building, said Cathy Yarosky, spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service. FBI agents joined the investigation, said agency spokeswoman Linda Vizi.

“We’re taking samples and will make a determination as to what the substance is,” Miss Vizi said.

Six postal workers were taken to a hospital after they complained of feeling ill, Miss Yarosky said. They were expected to be treated and released, officials said.


Man sentenced in snowstorm rape

ERIE — A man who kidnapped and raped a driver who picked him up during a snowstorm was sentenced Monday to at least 33 years in prison.

Job Knighton, 22, pleaded guilty to rape, kidnapping and other offenses in October, admitting that he attacked a woman who offered him a ride during the storm. After raping her, he stuffed the woman into the trunk of her car and drove off.

Police found the woman after Knighton slid off the highway as he mixed a rum-and-soda drink near Meadville, about 85 miles north of Pittsburgh. Officers who arrived to help after the accident heard noises from the trunk and found the woman inside.

Police said Knighton told them that he had planned to rape a woman for days because he was angry that his girlfriend repeatedly refused to have sex with him.


Woman drops suit over Jackson stunt

KNOXVILLE — Less than a week after filing a class-action lawsuit because of her outrage over Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl stunt, Terri Carlin thinks she has made her point.

The Knoxville banker is withdrawing the suit filed last Wednesday in U.S. District Court against Miss Jackson and Justin Timberlake, as well as MTV, CBS and their parent company, Viacom.

The lawsuit had sought billions of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages.

Mrs. Carlin said she and others who watched the show during the Super Bowl were injured by the performers’ lewd actions — Mr. Timberlake tore off part of Miss Jackson’s costume, exposing her right breast.

The notice of dismissal filed in federal court says Mrs. Carlin wants to see whether “remedial measures” announced by federal regulators and the companies involved succeed in preventing similar stunts.


Girl dies after coat is caught in car door

CEDAR CITY — A girl was killed yesterday when her coat got caught in a car door and she was dragged for about three miles on rural roads.

The girl, thought to be 7, was waiting for a school bus at a stop on a country road when a relative drove up to a nearby mailbox, Deputy Sheriff Michael Crouch said. The girl asked for a ride to school and climbed into the back seat, but got out again when she was told that the relative did not have time to drive five miles into town, the deputy sheriff said.


Shooting suspect pleads no contest

CHARLESTON — A former maintenance worker accused of shooting a teacher at a school-board meeting and trying to ignite two persons doused with gasoline has pleaded no contest to criminal charges.

Richard Bright, 59, entered the pleas Monday to wanton endangerment and assault during the commission of a felony for actions at a Kanawha County School Board meeting on July 17.

He was accused of walking into the meeting and dousing a maintenance supervisor and a personnel official with gasoline. When he could not ignite the fuel, Bright pulled an AK-47 assault rifle from his overcoat and shot a high school teacher in the abdomen before members of the audience knocked him to the ground. The teacher was released from a hospital the next day.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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