- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 21, 2004


Cheerleader had high blood alcohol level

LAHAINA — An 18-year-old New Jersey cheerleader who fell to her death from a hotel balcony had a blood alcohol level more than double the state’s legal limit, police said Tuesday.

Lauren Crossan’s blood alcohol content was 0.18 percent, police said. Hawaii’s legal threshold for drivers is 0.08 percent, and the state’s legal drinking age is 21.

Miss Crossan, of Randolph, N.J., died early on Jan. 12 after falling 80 feet from a balcony at the Maui hotel. She was in Hawaii to perform at halftime of Jan. 17’s college football Hula Bowl.

Miss Crossan’s death remains classified as an accident. All her injuries were consistent with a fall.

Police said Miss Crossan had gone to the room of two men the night she arrived at the hotel.


School official named interim president

AUBURN — Auburn University trustees named state schools Superintendent Ed Richardson interim president. The appointment was made despite some faculty concern that the board was acting too quickly while the school is on academic probation.

Mr. Richardson, 64, said he doesn’t intend to seek the permanent post. He received his undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degree from Auburn.


Judge chosen for Peterson trial

SAN FRANCISCO — A retired judge whose long experience with high-profile cases dates back to the sensational 1970s trial of black militant Angela Davis was picked yesterday to preside at the murder trial of Scott Peterson.

Retired Contra Costa County Judge Richard Arnason, 82, was chosen a day after Judge Al Girolami decided to move the trial to the San Francisco Bay area because of hostility toward Mr. Peterson in his slain wife’s hometown of Modesto.

The trial is scheduled to start Monday but probably will be postponed. Prosecutors asked for two weeks to move their operation to San Mateo County, and a hearing is scheduled later this week to discuss a delay.

Mr. Peterson, 31, is charged with two counts of murder in the death of his pregnant wife, Laci, and unborn son just before Christmas 2002. Her body was dumped into the San Francisco Bay.


Obesity illnesses cost taxpayers

ATLANTA — Taxpayers foot the doctor’s bill for more than half of obesity-related medical costs, which reached a total of $75 billion in 2003, a study shows.

The public pays about $39 billion a year — or about $175 per person — for obesity through Medicare and Medicaid programs, which cover sicknesses caused by obesity including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, several types of cancer and gallbladder disease.

The study, to be published tomorrow in the journal Obesity Research, evaluates state-by-state expenditures related to weight problems. The research was conducted by the nonprofit group RTI International and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Obesity has become a crucial health problem for our nation, and these findings show that the medical costs alone reflect the significance of the challenge,” said Tommy G. Thompson, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

States spend about one-twentieth of their medical costs on obesity — from a low of 4 percent in Arizona to a high of 6.7 percent in Alaska. California spends the most on health care for the obese, $7.7 billion, and Wyoming spends the least, $87 million.


Coroner says arson responsible for deaths

CHICAGO — Arson is the only plausible explanation for a fire at a downtown government high-rise building that killed six persons, the county coroner said yesterday. Criminal investigators, however, say they have yet to determine whether the fire was deliberate or accidental.

Medical Examiner Dr. Edmund Donoghue ruled that the deaths were homicides and caused by carbon-monoxide inhalation from smoke and soot from the Oct. 17 fire in the Cook County Administration Building.

Dr. Donoghue said there is “no plausible reason” besides arson for traces of gasoline found in the 12th-floor storage closet where the fire started, the Chicago Tribune reported.


Dog show banned from new carpet

MUNCIE — The dog show will go on — just not on the carpet.

The Muncie Kennel Club canceled its January four-day dog show, usually held at the Horizon Convention Center, because management would permit it only if the group covered the center’s newly carpeted floor.

“Convention officials wanted us to cover the carpeting with plastic, but the insurance company wouldn’t cover it and the dogs and their owners wouldn’t tolerate it,” said Tim Catterson, the kennel club’s president.

Mr. Catterson said club members were afraid that either they or their dogs would slip and fall if the shows were held on plastic-covered floors.


Mother gets life in duct-tape death

OLATHE — A woman accused of killing her 9-year-old adopted son by wrapping him from head to toe in duct tape was sentenced to life in prison yesterday.

Christy Edgar was accused of punishing Brian Edgar for stealing cookies by binding him like a mummy in duct tape. He was left overnight with only his nose uncovered and suffocated on his own vomit at the family’s home in Overland Park, west of Kansas City.

Moments before she was about to go on trial in August, Edgar unexpectedly pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the December 2002 death, along with two counts of abusing other children in the family.

She entered the pleas against the advice of her attorney, Kevin Moriarty, who told the court yesterday that his client did not understand the consequences of her decision.

Edgar insisted that she was not guilty, making a rambling speech before Judge John Bennett, who refused to toss out her guilty pleas.


Residents fight booking center

BOSTON — Some Bostonians are up in arms over a Homeland Security Department plan to hold foreigners under arrest in a new office building in historic Charlestown, the neighborhood that saw the first major fighting of the American Revolution.

The federal government has signed a 10-year lease with developers in the section of Boston that is the site of the Bunker Hill Monument and the home of the USS Constitution and was the starting point for Paul Revere’s ride.

“I think not only is there an irony, but there’s a tragedy,” said Abhijit Das, a 31-year-old lawyer who lives in a condominium near the building. He and his neighbors have raised $22,000 and hired lawyers and media advisers to fight the project.

They say developers promised the building would be filled with stores and office space — not holding rooms for people awaiting deportation.


Governor’s initiative to protect lakes

LANSING — Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm announced initiatives to protect the state’s water supply and the Great Lakes. Miss Granholm, a Democrat, said the Michigan Water Legacy Act is meant to address major concerns facing the Great Lakes, including invasive species, pollution and wetlands protection.

The Legislature must approve some parts of the proposal. Miss Granholm said she would sign executive orders to implement other parts.


Officials narrow stadium choices

ST. PAUL — Officials chose 10 of 26 sports-stadium proposals for further consideration.

The state wants to replace the 20-year-old Metrodome in Minneapolis, which is used by the Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. Owners of each team want their own stadiums.

Officials will present a final proposal to Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, on Feb. 2.


Body to be exhumed in patient deaths case

TRENTON — The family of a woman once treated by a nurse suspected of killing up to 40 patients has agreed to let authorities exhume her remains to search for evidence.

The body of Helen Dean, a 91-year-old Lopatcong Township resident who died mysteriously in 1993, is to be exhumed today.

Acting county Prosecutor Frank Bucsi would not discuss the matter at length on Tuesday, saying only that the investigation into former nurse Charles Cullen’s suspected actions is ongoing.

Authorities say Cullen, 43, has acknowledged killing as many as 40 patients during his 16-year career as a registered nurse in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He has been charged with the fatal drug overdose of a patient at Somerset Medical Center and the attempted murder of a second patient who later recovered.

Mrs. Dean was recovering from breast-cancer surgery when she was injected with an unknown medication by a male nurse, her family said. She identified Cullen as the nurse before she died 20 hours later on Sept. 1, 1993.


Mayor no fan of Atkins diet

NEW YORK — The high-protein, low-carbohydrate Atkins diet claims 25 million loyal adherents in the United States, but New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has made it crystal clear that he is not one of them.

In what he apparently thought were off-the-record comments on Tuesday, Mr. Bloomberg described the late founder of the diet, Robert Atkins, as “fat” and said his food was inedible.

The mayor was tucking into a plate of chicken and pasta — a no-no combination according to Dr. Atkins — at a Brooklyn firehouse when the subject of Dr. Atkins and his slip-and-fall death in April came up.

“[Dr.] Atkins is dead. I don’t believe that … he dropped dead slipping on a sidewalk. Yeah, right,” Mr. Bloomberg said.


Accused gunman withdraws plea

HAMILTON — A trucker has withdrawn his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity to charges that he killed two men and injured three others in a Nov. 6 shooting at an office of a former employer.

Tom West, 50, who said his former attorney had entered the plea without his permission, withdrew the plea Tuesday and entered a new plea of not guilty in Common Pleas Court.

“He just doesn’t believe he is insane. He has been adamant about that,” said his current attorney, Noah Powers.

Mr. West is to go on trial on July 19 on two counts of aggravated murder and four counts of attempted aggravated murder for the shootings at the West Chester office of Watkins Motor Lines Inc.


Inmate captured in pink underwear

PORTLAND — This inmate might do well to find himself another nickname.

For the second time in a year, Keith “Lucky” Stratton tried to escape from a work crew — only to be collared under humiliating circumstances.

On Tuesday, the Multnomah County jail inmate doing time for auto theft jumped from a truck carrying a prisoner work crew through Portland’s Parkrose neighborhood to Sauvie Island.

In April, the 32-year-old inmate escaped from a community transition program. Police found him hiding under a pile of dirty clothes and blankets in an apartment. They spotted his feet poking out from under the pile.

This time around, it was the jail-issue pink underwear that gave him away. Someone called 911 and reported seeing a man with pink underwear running behind a furniture store.


Lost check was ‘in the mail’

MIFFLINVILLE — The letter accompanying the check for $90.18 asked Dean Little not to cash it until Aug. 29, 1998.

No problem. He just received it Tuesday.

Mr. Little said the old envelope that arrived in his mail caught his eye, and so did the canceled 32-cent stamp, because postage now costs 37 cents — but the kicker was the Reading, Pa., postmark from Aug. 24, 1998.

Mr. Little, a sales manager for the Bloomsburg-area Schwan’s ice-cream business, said the letter was from former customer Derek R. Seibert of Klingerstown, Schuylkill County, with payment enclosed on his account with Schwan’s.

Because the original check was considered lost, the Seiberts wrote the business another one. Before that, Mr. Little remembers calling about the owed money back in 1998 and being told that a check was “in the mail.”

“They weren’t lying,” he said.


Nightclub survivors to get counseling

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island officials announced plans Tuesday to create a program to offer counseling to survivors of a nightclub fire that killed 100 persons nearly a year ago.

The project is designed to provide mental-health and substance-abuse counseling to survivors of the Feb. 20 blaze at the Station in West Warwick, south of Providence.

The effort, organized by the state Department of Mental Health Retardation and Hospitals, will be funded by $495,000 in federal money.


Four puppies fatally shot

SALT LAKE CITY — Investigators are attempting to find the person who fatally shot four puppies, but they might not be able to charge the shooter with a crime.

A sheriff’s deputy patrolling on Tuesday morning saw the bodies of the Labrador retrievers lying in the snow. When Salt Lake County Animal Services employees responded, they found .30-caliber shell casings, rubber gloves and footprints around the puppies, said spokeswoman Temma Martin.

Investigators think the puppies were shot by someone who bred a litter and was unable to sell all of them.

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