- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 28, 2004

ALABAMA

Grandfather dies in fire rescue

SPEAKE — A fire raced through a mobile home in rural Alabama on Tuesday, killing a woman, two of her children and their grandfather.

The grandfather, 60-year-old Eugene Douglas, saved two of his daughter’s children before he died, said Lawrence County Chief Deputy Wayne Huguley.

Mr. Douglas passed Austin Norris, 4, and Andrea Norris, 2, out a window of the burning trailer before dying, the deputy said. Three other relatives escaped through a sliding-glass door.

PENNSYLVANIA

Inmate, 75, finally freed

GRATERFORD — A man who spent four decades in prison for the rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl was freed yesterday after a court battle to force the state to honor a former governor’s clemency order.

Louis Mickens-Thomas, 75, maintained that fraud by a police crime lab led to his conviction in the death of Edith Connor, whose body was found in a Philadelphia alley in 1964.

Gov. Robert Casey commuted his life sentence in 1995, but state officials had refused to free him. A federal appeals court on Jan. 14 ordered his release.

ALASKA

Legislature given ‘no confidence’ vote

JUNEAU — Alaska mayors gave the Republican-controlled Legislature an unprecedented “no confidence” vote for what they see as inaction in fixing the state’s gaping budget deficits.

In the Monday vote, the Alaska Conference of Mayors blamed some of the cities’ fiscal troubles on an unwillingness by lawmakers to make tough decisions needed to balance the state budget.

Property taxes paid by residents and businesses have risen nearly 33 percent in the past six years, schools are underfunded and many rural communities are cutting essential services, the group said.

“Every day we deal with our budgets. We take the heat,” said Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. “That’s what we’re asking for — fill the void. Make the decision.”

COLORADO

5 dead, 6 hurt in one-car crash

ROGGEN — A sport utility vehicle carrying 11 persons veered off a busy highway and crashed Tuesday, killing five of the occupants and injuring the others, officials said.

The 27-year-old driver, Francisco Tomas of Naples, Fla., faces several criminal counts of careless driving in the crash on Interstate 76 about 40 miles northeast of Denver, the State Patrol said.

The U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement was investigating whether the 11, all Guatemalans, were in the country illegally, said Agent Jeff Copp in Denver.

CONNECTICUT

Defibrillator sets patient’s clothes afire

NEW LONDON — A spark from a defibrillator set a woman’s clothing on fire when a paramedic tried to restart her heart in an ambulance.

Brenda Jewett, 47, was pronounced dead at a hospital Monday. An autopsy was scheduled to determine the cause of death. Neither the paramedic nor other members of the ambulance crew were injured by the fire.

“I’ve been in this business 20 years and I’ve never heard of something like this,” said Leonard Guercia Jr., director of the state’s emergency medical services.

FLORIDA

Lawyers at odds on Limbaugh letters

The state Attorney General’s Office yesterday questioned the motives of local prosecutors who released letters from Rush Limbaugh’s attorney, accusing them of hiding facts in the case.

When prosecutors released the letters last week, they cited support from the Attorney General’s Office and the Florida Bar. But both groups have contradicted the prosecutors.

The letters detail discussions between prosecutors and Mr. Limbaugh’s attorney over whether the conservative radio commentator would plead guilty to doctor shopping for prescription painkillers.

ILLINOIS

Chicago to overhaul Hired Truck Program

CHICAGO — The city is reforming a $40-million-a-year trucking program after reports of mob involvement and graft and attempted-extortion charges against the program’s former director.

The Hired Truck Program, which allows several departments to hire private trucking companies on an as-needed basis, will be overhauled by ousting all 165 participating private companies and starting over with strict new standards.

The revamped program, set to begin June 1, caps the number of trucks belonging to a firm that can be used in a day and requires the companies to own their equipment.

The changes were announced a day after the program’s former director, Angelo Torres, appeared in federal court on attempted-extortion charges. He has not entered a plea. Mr. Torres is accused of taking thousands of dollars in bribes to steer city contracts to a trucking company.

IOWA

Teen sought after 2 found slain

JOHNSTON — Authorities began a nationwide search yesterday for a 16-year-old boy considered armed and dangerous after two persons were found fatally shot in his house.

Tyler Pirtle was sought for questioning after the bodies of Sarah Dahlke, 21, and Greg Gaul, 41, were found Tuesday in the boy’s home in this affluent Des Moines suburb.

Miss Dahlke was looking after the boy and house-sitting while Tyler’s father was on vacation. Mr. Gaul’s relation to Miss Dahlke and the teen was not known.

“We have reason to believe that Pirtle may attempt to harm himself and others and is still considered armed and dangerous,” Police Chief Bruce Gaddis said.

LOUISIANA

Car stolen twice in three days

NEW ORLEANS — A Tulane University student’s sport utility vehicle was stolen twice in three days, once while she waited for police to arrive so she could fill out a report.

“I was crying because my car was gone, but eventually I had to laugh because it was all so unbelievable,” said Maggie Ardolino, a senior.

Miss Ardolino and five friends left a restaurant on Jan. 17 and found that her 1998 Jeep Cherokee was gone. She called police to report the theft. Three days later, a Tulane security officer called Miss Ardolino and said her car had been found in the parking lot of a furniture store far from campus.

Miss Ardolino found her Jeep next to a loading dock at the store. The front end was wrecked, the interior had been ransacked and the CD player was gone.

Miss Ardolino and her friends waited three hours for police to show up. They were frightened when they spotted two men walking in their direction, so they drove around the block. When they returned a few minutes later, the Jeep was gone.

MASSACHUSETTS

Strontium drug slows osteoporosis

BOSTON — A drug based on the element strontium slows the development of brittle-bone disease and cuts the risk of spine fractures in half among high-risk patients, researchers said yesterday

The drug, strontium ranelate, appears to have a unique way of slowing the natural process of bone destruction and rejuvenating the process of bone rebuilding. In osteoporosis, the destruction process is faster than the renewal process, which in turn weakens the bones and often leads to breaks.

A study of 1,649 women who showed clear evidence of osteoporosis found that strontium ranelate reduced the risk of spine fractures by 49 percent the first year and by 41 percent over a three-year period.

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week. The principal side effect was an increased risk of diarrhea.

MINNESOTA

State lottery director found dead

MINNEAPOLIS — The longtime director of the Minnesota State Lottery apparently committed suicide Tuesday, a day after meeting with legislative auditors examining the lottery’s operations, officials said.

George R. Andersen, 53, had a wound that appeared to be from a knife, said Cmdr. Scott Malinosky of the Washington County sheriff’s office. He said a note was recovered, but declined to describe it.

Legislative Auditor James Nobles said in a statement that he met with Mr. Andersen on Monday to discuss a report on the lottery due late next month.

“We had a cordial and productive meeting, and when I left I thought George had handled the meeting well and he seemed in good health,” Mr. Nobles said. He declined to discuss the content of the audit or elaborate on the meeting.

MISSISSIPPI

Court rejects appeal in desegregation case

JACKSON — A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a $503 million settlement in a desegregation case stemming from a lawsuit that accused Mississippi of neglecting its historically black universities for decades.

Opponents of the settlement had argued that the money was inadequate to upgrade programs at the schools, and they opposed stiffer admission requirements and a condition that 10 percent of the schools’ enrollment be non-black.

The three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said a federal district court did not abuse its discretion in approving the agreement covering Jackson State, Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State universities.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Witness talks about deadly blaze

COLUMBIA — Fire officials said Tuesday that a man they wanted to question about a fire at a Greenville motel that killed six persons appears to have been only a witness to the blaze.

A Greenville County sheriff’s spokesman said the man, whom he would not identify, did provide some helpful information about the Sunday blaze. The spokesman, Sgt. Shea Smith, declined to elaborate.

The man came forward after deputies released a sketch of him to the news media, Sgt. Smith said. Investigators now are looking for a second man who “may be a potential witness,” Sgt. Smith said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The blaze at the Comfort Inn prompted fire officials statewide to push for installation of sprinkler systems in all South Carolina hotels. The 1988 building was not required to have sprinklers under fire codes then in effect.

SOUTH DAKOTA

Bill gives teens more driving time

PIERRE — Teenagers with restricted driving permits would get an additional two hours of driving time under a bill receiving first-round legislative approval.

Drivers ages 14 through 17 now can drive alone from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Bill sponsors say extending the curfew to 10 p.m. would give teens time to get home after school functions and other activities.

TEXAS

Settlement approved in botched raid

SAN ANTONIO — The federal government will pay $2.15 million to the relatives of a man whose neck was broken in a scuffle during a raid by immigration officers. The man later died of the injuries.

U.S. District Judge Fred Biery approved a settlement deal Tuesday between the family of Serafin Olvera Carrera and the government.

Mr. Carrera was paralyzed March 25, 2001, during a raid at his home involving three agents with the then Immigration and Naturalization Service, now known as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The three former agents were convicted of willfully denying Mr. Carrera medical care after his injury. The officers said they thought Mr. Carrera, 47, had been faking his injuries.

UTAH

Bill lets asthmatics carry meds in school

SALT LAKE CITY — The Senate passed a bill that would allow children who have asthma to carry their inhalers in school.

The state’s school districts have inconsistent policies. Some require students to keep the inhaler locked in a school office to comply with the state’s zero-tolerance drug policy in schools.

The legislation now goes to the House.

WEST VIRGINIA

Muslim woman wants to pray with men

MORGANTOWN — Asra Nomani is fighting for equality at the mosque she attends. She’s trying to change a local rule that women should enter through a side staircase and pray separately from the men. Many mosques allow women and men to pray in the same room.

For the past three months, Miss Nomani has entered from the front door and prayed in the main room. She also filed a discrimination complaint with the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

WISCONSIN

Man, 83, breaks bowling record

GREEN BAY — Fran Lasee is 83, but the numbers are on his side.

Mr. Lasee threw 30 of a possible 36 strikes to become the oldest man in the country to bowl an 800-plus series.

He bowled an 834 in the Aurora BayCare Senior Classic at Willow Creek Lanes last week. Mr. Lasee, who turned 83 on Dec. 18, bowled three games of 279, 290 and 265.

According to the latest American Bowling Congress records, the left-handed bowler beat three 77-years-olds for the record.

Despite his age, the retired stonecutter bowls four times a week and averages more than 200.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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