- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 19, 2004


Fourth worker dies after crane collapse

TOLEDO — A fourth construction worker died yesterday from injuries suffered when a crane collapsed during a bridge project.

Arden Clark, 47, had been in critical condition since Monday’s accident.

Three other members of the Ironworkers union were killed instantly.

The 1,000-ton crane was piecing together sections of a ramp that will lead to the bridge across the Maumee River just north of downtown Toledo.

The cause of the accident is under investigation.


Appeal filed in Edwards case

BATON ROUGE — Attorneys for imprisoned former Gov. Edwin Edwards filed an appeal yesterday of his corruption conviction, saying prosecutors withheld information and the judge might have been impaired by painkillers.

Defense attorney Mike Small said that the trial was “grossly unfair” and that Edwards did not have all the necessary information to properly defend himself.

Edwards was convicted in May 2000 of extorting payoffs in return for riverboat casino licenses during his fourth and final term in office. Convicted with him were his son, Stephen, and three other men. Edwards is serving a 10-year prison sentence.

The defense said U.S. District Judge Frank Polozola could have been impaired during the trial by painkillers for a back injury. The defense also said prosecutors failed to explain the full details of a plea bargain with a key witness, former casino owner Robert Guidry, that proved Mr. Guidry had a financial motive to testify against Edwards.


Senate toughens anti-stalking law

An effort to strengthen Alabama’s antistalking law headed to the state House yesterday after passing the Senate by unanimous vote. The bill, which changes the definition of “credible threat” under Alabama law to include a threat communicated directly or indirectly, also allows for action based on a stalking victim’s “reasonable fear of death or bodily harm.”

Critics of the current law, which requires the subject to “fear serious bodily harm,” have advocated the change on the grounds more attention needs to be given to the conduct of the accused rather than the victim.

The bill’s author, state Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, a Democrat, is herself a stalking victim.


More ‘drop houses’ found in Phoenix

PHOENIX — At least 100 illegal immigrants who had been smuggled into the country from Mexico were found in two so-called “drop houses” in Phoenix.

The discovery Tuesday came after the 186 men and women were found at two other Phoenix houses within the past week, said Russell Ahr, a spokesman for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Mr. Ahr said the people were either waiting to be taken to other locations or being held until relatives paid off their smuggling fees.

Officials typically see a sharp increase in illegal immigration in January and February, when immigrants seeking seasonal farm work and other jobs in the United States begin crossing the border.


Ex-student suspected in professor’s death

PASADENA — A California State University professor was stabbed and decapitated in her home, and the suspect, a one-time graduate student who had worked with her, later committed suicide, police said.

The body of Glenda Vittimberga, 37, was discovered in her Pasadena home early Monday. She had been stabbed several times, and her head was found in the living room fireplace.

Meanwhile, before dawn Monday, Mark Stephen Guerrero stripped off his clothes and ran in front of a truck on a San Bernardino County highway, killing himself, police said.

Authorities identified Mr. Guerrero, 38, as the suspect in the slaying, and police were trying to determine whether blood found in his vehicle matched Miss Vittimberga’s blood.


Burglar binds puppies, sets them on fire

ARVADA — Two puppies are dead and a third seriously burned after a burglar broke into a Humane Society shelter, took the dogs, bound their paws with duct tape and set them ablaze.

The abuse occurred in two incidents 20 miles apart Monday. The burned dog that survived sustained burns to her paws. Melting plastic from a kennel she was trapped in dripped onto other parts of her body and smoke had filled her lungs, the Rocky Mountain News reported.

The shepherd mix, believed to be 10 to 14 weeks old, was rushed to an animal hospital. She is expected to make a full recovery. The dog was found Monday behind a movie theater. She was caged with another puppy in a plastic kennel that was on fire. Both dogs had their front and hind legs bound together. Their muzzles were also wrapped in duct tape, police said.

The second puppy died in the fire. About three hours later, a worker at a Bally’s Fitness Center smelled something burning. The worker saw a small dog on fire. A man holding two other puppies was standing over the animal, police said.


Rescued sea turtles arrive from Cape Cod

SARASOTA — Sixteen sea turtles that nearly froze to death in the frigid waters of Massachusetts’ Cape Cod Bay have been brought to Florida rehabilitation centers.

The turtles were among 55 found in November and December by volunteers along Cape Cod, where the animals had become stranded in the hook-shaped bay as they tried to migrate to warmer waters.

Volunteers distributed the turtles last week to the Mote laboratory, SeaWorld in Orlando and the Florida Aquarium in Tampa. Mote’s received six Kemp’s ridleys, a green sea turtle and a hybrid.

Of the other turtles, 23 died, five still were being treated at the Boston aquarium and 11 were shipped to the Audubon Museum in New Orleans.


Warden helps inmates be better moms

DWIGHT — The new warden at Dwight Correctional Center wants to turn the state’s primary prison for women into a model for helping inmates become better moms through parenting classes and a summer camp.

Warden Alyssa Williams, 29, focuses on children because she previously worked with juvenile offenders.


Armored car guard killed by masked man

DETROIT — A gunman in a black ski mask ambushed an armored car as its crew loaded cash from a bank automated teller machine yesterday, killing one guard and critically wounding another. The gunman apparently fled without any money, police said.

The gunman walked around a corner of the Comerica Bank branch where three guards had parked their truck and opened fire with a rifle, said police spokesman Derek Jones. He fled in a white truck, Mr. Jones said.

Mr. Jones said the driver of the armored car probably drove off after his co-workers were shot at, as is standard procedure.


Murder rate in St. Louis drops

ST. LOUIS — In a city that averaged 145 killings a year over the past decade, police Chief Joe Mokwa scribbled “99” on a scrap of paper and gave it to the head of the homicide unit, Harry Hegger. Neither man really believed keeping slayings in 2003 below 100 was possible.

But by year’s end, St. Louis had done better than that. Far better.

The death toll was 69, matching the city’s lowest total since 1962, which was also the last time St. Louis had fewer than 100 murders.

“We’re seeing tangible results, and it’s pleasing. We’re sending a message that we’re not going to tolerate that kind of behavior anymore,” Mayor Francis Slay said.

During the past couple of years, the city has added 100 police officers. Stepped-up patrols concentrated on the dozen neighborhoods that once accounted for half of the city’s homicides. From there, police systematically zeroed in on specific streets and troublemakers.

St. Louis’ homicide toll has declined more than 60 percent in the past two years.


Court:Commandments in park must go

LINCOLN — A federal appeals court upheld a ruling yesterday that a Ten Commandments monument must be removed from a city park in Plattsmouth.

The American Center for Law and Justice, a group that focuses on family and religious issues, had asked the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review an earlier ruling by a federal judge. U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf of Lincoln had rejected the city’s argument that the monument is protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom.

The lawsuit in which Judge Kopf ruled was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a Plattsmouth resident who says he is an atheist. It charged that the monument fails to maintain a proper separation between church and state.

The monument lists the Ten Commandments and is emblazoned with two Stars of David, which are symbols of the Jewish faith. Judge Kopf said the monument “conveys a message that Christianity and Judaism are favored religions.”


Breaks on loans offered to Guardsmen

FORT DIX — Four banks agreed to offer deferred-payment loans of up to $10,000 to New Jersey National Guard members and reservists called to active duty.

The New Jersey Freedom Loans are intended to help ease financial burdens their families often face. Gov. James E. McGreevey announced the program during ceremonies to honor 180 Guard members being deployed to Iraq.


Stealth fighter plane may get makeover

HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE — The F-117A fighter jet, the radar-eluding stealth plane known for its angular design and charcoal black color, may be getting a makeover in a new shade of gray.

The U.S. Air Force has painted one of its stealth fighters at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, to see if the plane called the Nighthawk might be harder to spot when it flies during daylight hours in a color other than black.

“Obviously, if you can see it less during the day, you can fly it more,” said Col. Jim Carter, vice commander of the 53rd Wing at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, which is overseeing the test.

The $45 million fighter plane first rolled off the assembly lines about 20 years ago and is painted a sleek black.


Fakery charged in ‘sniper’ shooting

COLUMBUS — Authorities said a man made up a story that his minivan was struck by a bullet yesterday in an area where 24 highway shootings are under investigation.

The man admitted to authorities he shot his own van and told investigators the gunfire occurred while he was driving, the task force investigating the shootings said.

Charges are pending against the man, whom authorities did not name. “Valuable time, resources and manpower were wasted because of this foolish action,” investigators said in a statement.


Town won’t change name to Veggieville

OKLAHOMA CITY — A truckload of veggie burgers wasn’t enough to get a small Oklahoma town to change its name to Veggieville.

Members of Slaughterville’s town council amicably heard presentations by members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals before voting against the suggestion Tuesday night. PETA officials contend the current name conjures up images of violence against animals.

More than a dozen people at the standing room only meeting offered opinions on why the town should keep its name.

Residents of the town of 3,600 point out that the town was named after a grocery store run by James Slaughter in the early part of the 20th century. PETA had promised $20,000 in veggie burgers to the local school district if it agreed to a name change.

Before the meeting, PETA gave away veggie burgers, but residents of Slaughterville gave away hot dogs and held up signs that said, “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner.”


Ex-banker who got Bush pardon dies

DALLAS — A former Dallas area banker who was pardoned Saturday by President Bush for his role in a $25 million bank fraud, has died of cancer at age 79, his family said yesterday.

Bruce McCall, who died Tuesday, got Mr. Bush’s pardon after lobbying by Texas Republican leaders in what the Justice Department called an “act of compassion” because Mr. McCall was in a coma and near death.

“When this happens, and the president pardons him, it makes you believe in goodness again,” Rep. Ralph Hall, a Texas congressman who recently switched parties to become a Republican, told reporters.


Capitol reopened after bomb threat

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Capitol was evacuated for about three hours yesterday morning and armed police searched the building because a “credible” bomb threat was made, the Utah Highway Patrol said.

The building was reopened after a room-by-room search using four bomb-sniffing dogs turned up nothing suspicious, authorities said. The telephone bomb threat was received at about 7:30 a.m., said patrol Sgt. Wade Breur. Officials decided it was “credible” after reviewing a recording of the call, spokeswoman Kat Dayton said.

The caller, “a very agitated male,” warned that there would be “a lot of damage done and lives lost,” Sgt. Breur said. The man had no specific grievance, he added.

About 650 people were evacuated before troopers entered the Capitol with dogs for the room-by-room search.


Last relocated wolf killed by officials

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK — The last of a group of Canadian gray wolves brought here nearly a decade ago in a successful effort to repopulate the species was shot by federal officials after repeatedly killing young cattle.

The female wolf was shot less than two weeks after her sister was killed in a battle with other wolves.

The wolf had to be killed because she had been preying on calves in the Sunlight Basin area north of Cody, said Ed Bangs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s wolf-recovery coordinator.

Wolves now thrive in the area. Fish and Wildlife is ready to declare the wolf population recovered and remove the wolf from the endangered-species list — but only if Wyoming, Montana and Idaho agree to manage the wolves to ensure their numbers don’t nose-dive again.

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