- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 1, 2004

PENNSYLVANIA

Tourists flock to ‘Rocky’ steps

PHILADELPHIA — Annie Rodriguez climbed the 72nd step of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, thrust her hands skyward and jumped up and down.

The only thing missing was the “Rocky” theme song. Decades after the 1976 debut of the movie “Rocky,” scores of tourists daily still seek out the Art Museum steps to emulate its iconic run.

“Everybody wants to see it. We get calls from all over,” said Shirley Blum of the city’s Independence Visitor Center. “The other day I was on the main floor and a couple from Korea — all they wanted to see was the Rocky steps. It’s very popular.”

GEORGIA

Baby bats delay demolition

OMAHA — Under the Talipahoga Creek bridge, young bats are clinging to their upside-down moms.

The way Georgia highway officials see it, they are still babies, and until they are big enough to fly off on their own, a project to demolish the bridge will just have to wait.

The demolition was to have begun in early June, until someone noticed the colony of 200 free-tailed bats living in two narrow expansion spaces under the bridge. Biologists confirmed that some of them were pregnant, and the state agreed to put off the work until mid-August.

CALIFORNIA

Man collects 1 million pennies

LOS ANGELES — A California man who collected 1 million pennies for a bet is having a hard time cashing in on his $10,000 fortune.

Ron England has amassed 3.6 tons of copper in his garage in the Los Angeles suburb of Granada Hills after making a bet with his brother 30 years ago that he could collect 1 million pennies.

But neither the U.S. Mint, the U.S. Comptroller of Currency, coin collectors nor the local bank is interested in cashing in his stash — at least without a charge.

“I’ve been working seriously for the past two weeks to get rid of these pennies,” Mr. England, 60, told the Los Angeles Daily News.

Mr. England still is waiting for his brother to honor his side of the bet — a meal in Paris.

COLORADO

Religious freedom wins in custody case

DENVER — An appeals court yesterday threw out a judge’s order that barred a woman who left a lesbian relationship from teaching her adopted daughter anything that might be considered “homophobic.”

The Colorado Court of Appeals sent the case back to the lower court to determine whether barring anti-homosexual religious instruction violates the woman’s First Amendment rights.

District Judge John W. Coughlin of Denver earlier granted joint custody of the 9-year-old girl to Elsey McLeod and Cheryl Clark. The women had raised the girl together until Miss Clark left the relationship.

Miss Clark’s attorneys said Judge Coughlin’s “homophobic” instruction, issued as part of the custody order, was so broad it could require Miss Clark to black out parts of the Bible before her daughter reads it.

IDAHO

Man acquitted for stolen kiss

COEUR D’ALENE — Stealing a kiss is not a crime, a jury has decided.

A computer repairman who kissed a customer during a house call was acquitted of battery Wednesday.

Steven Allen Moyer, 40, said he figured the woman was lonely and might want companionship.

Victoria Franich said Mr. Moyer cornered her, grabbed her and kissed her twice — after billing her $20 for the service call.

The jury of five men and one woman took 90 minutes to acquit Mr. Moyer.

ILLINOIS

Mistake foils bank robbery

VERSAILLES — Convicted bank robber Gordon A. Bryant might have had a better shot at his last holdup attempt if he had shown his face, police said.

The 70-year-old put a stocking over his head before he tried to enter the Farmer’s State Bank of Versailles on Tuesday, police said.

The bank had installed a system to buzz in customers after a holdup in February. Employees did not unlock the door because the man was wearing the stocking. Mr. Bryant drove away, but a deputy caught up with him, authorities said.

Mr. Bryant was turned over to the FBI and charged with attempted bank robbery Wednesday. Brown County Sheriff Jerry Kempf said Mr. Bryant had served prison time for bank robbery.

KANSAS

Woman delivers baby herself

WICHITA — A woman delivered her second child herself in a car that didn’t make it to the hospital in time.

Derek and Monica Lichlyter of Augusta knew it was time for the new arrival but figured they had plenty of time as they drove toward the Via Christi Regional Medical Center-St. Joseph Campus in Wichita.

But another contraction came, Mrs. Lichlyter’s water broke and they were out of time, 10 minutes from their destination, the Wichita Eagle said. As Mr. Lichlyter gunned his Chevy Tahoe to 90 mph, his wife delivered the baby and wrapped it in a blanket, not stopping to see whether they had a daughter or a son.

A hospital team met them in the parking lot. A nurse took the baby and made the announcement: “It’s a girl.”

MISSOURI

Ex-officer charged in slaying of student

COLUMBIA — A former police officer was charged with murder yesterday in the slaying of a college student who had threatened to expose their homosexual relationship, authorities said.

Steve A. Rios was being held without bond in the death of Jesse James Valencia, 23, a student at the University of Missouri, Columbia, whose body was found June 5 with his throat cut. The two men reportedly met when Mr. Rios arrested Mr. Valencia this spring for interfering with him and another officer as they answered a police call about a party.

Mr. Rios, 27, was arrested at Fulton State Hospital, a mental hospital where he had been held because of suicide threats. He had been placed on paid leave after telling investigators of his relationship with Mr. Valencia and later resigned from the department.

DNA matching that of Mr. Rios was found under Mr. Valencia’s fingernails, Columbia Police Detective John Short said yesterday.

MASSACHUSETTS

Woman finds toad in salad

HANSON — Dorinda McCann is hopping mad over a toad she found in her salad.

Mrs. McCann, 34, said she found the 2-inch-long toad in a takeout salad bought at a McDonald’s in Hanson on June 16.

Both the restaurant’s owner and the town health department are investigating.

Town health agent Vincent Flaherty said he is waiting to learn the origin of the toad, which is being tested by the California-based company that processes the lettuce used in McDonald’s salads.

NEVADA

Las Vegas monorail to open July 15

LAS VEGAS — The city’s monorail is back on track for a scheduled July 15 opening after nearly six months of costly delays.

The $650 million project was scheduled to launch Jan. 20.

NEW YORK

Paintings for auction found to be stolen

NEW YORK — The federal government has seized two Andrea Appiani paintings that were stolen from an Italian museum in the 1990s and scheduled to be auctioned at Christie’s in New York last month, prosecutors said yesterday.

The paintings known as “Venus and Adonis” and “Hercules and Omphales” had been stolen from the Brancaccio Castle, a public museum in San Gregorio da Sassola in Italy. Prosecutors said the theft is thought to have occurred while renovations were being carried out in the castle between 1994 and 1999.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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