- The Washington Times - Monday, March 15, 2004

ILLINOIS

Pardoned ex-con running for state House

CHICAGO — Aaron Patterson may be the most unusual candidate for the Illinois House on tomorrow’s primary ballot. He was released from death row 14 months ago.

The 39-year-old former gang member is using other gang members to spread the word about his campaign.

“We’re trying to do something to change the whole dynamics of politics,” said Mr. Patterson, who was convicted of killing an elderly Chicago couple in 1986 and served 17 years before being pardoned by Gov. George Ryan.

Mr. Patterson is trying to unseat state Rep. Patricia Bailey, a Chicago Democrat. He is a long-shot candidate and has raised less than $3,000. Mrs. Bailey counts among her supporters such powerful mainstream politicians as House Speaker Michael Madigan, also a Chicago Democrat.

NEW MEXICO

Crews work to cap natural gas well after blowout

CARLSBAD — Crews continued working this weekend to cap a leaking natural gas well after it was punctured during an oil drilling operation.

Fog delayed the effort when workers flared off excess gas from the well, sparking a fireball that reached 200 feet into the sky and was seen five miles away. Officials could not say when the hundreds of residents who were evacuated after the Thursday accident could return home.

The well, located behind a fire station in the southern part of Carlsbad, blew out when an oil drilling crew punctured it. Authorities evacuated about 1,200 people from 426 homes, four motels and several small businesses.

ALASKA

Sea lion pulls fisherman from boat

ANCHORAGE — A 19-year-old fisherman is recovering from an encounter with a sea lion that leapt out of the water, grabbed him as he worked on his grandfather’s docked boat and pulled him into the harbor at King Cove.

“It happened so fast, I forgot what I was doing,” said Ray Dushkin Jr., who was not seriously injured in the abduction.

Mr. Dushkin spent a few moments beneath the water’s surface before the hefty animal let go. Mr. Dushkin’s left buttock sports an inch-and-a-half scrape, but no bite mark, he said. His coveralls were torn through, as were the pants worn beneath them.

About 4:30 p.m. Friday, Ray Dushkin Sr. was standing on the top of the bridge and asked his son to hand him the hatch. The younger Mr. Dushkin was standing two feet from the edge of the boat. Several sea lions were in the area.

“He went over like a rag doll,” the father told the Anchorage Daily News. “The only thing I was thinking is, that sea lion was taking off with my boy, and I’ll never see him again.”

Mr. Dushkin was examined at the local clinic and given antibiotics.

CALIFORNIA

Suspect arrested in shooting deaths

DUARTE — Authorities are holding a 56-year-old man on murder charges in the shooting deaths of his wife, stepson and father-in-law in this Los Angeles suburb.

Murray Matthew Smith, 56, was driving his car when he was arrested several hours after the shootings Saturday evening at his home. Deputies found a weapon in Mr. Smith’s car, the Los Angles County Sheriff’s Department said.

One body was found inside the home and the others were on the porch. Several nearby houses also were struck by gunfire, but deputies did not report any injuries. Two other family members managed to escape the shooting spree. The weapon was reported to be an AK-47 assault rifle.

COLORADO

Judge keeps jurors mum

A federal judge refused to let members of a 1989 special Rocky Flats grand jury tell their story of purported government wrongdoing, the Rocky Mountain News reported yesterday.

Judge Richard Matsch cited a federal rule requiring grand jury proceedings to be secret, but said in his seven-page ruling that it may not be good social policy. Grand jurors have been trying since 1996 to win permission to disclose what they believe was illegal behavior on the part of the government and a contractor.

The judge stated in the ruling that any changes to the rule lie “within the authority and responsibility of the United States Congress.” He added that the Rocky Flats investigation is “ancient history.”

The special grand jury convened in 1989 after 75 FBI agents raided the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant west of Denver. The jury was told to investigate whether environmental crimes had been committed at the now-closed nuclear weapons plant. It met for more than two years.

Eighteen of the 23 jurors petitioned in 1996 for permission to testify before Congress about the purported wrongdoings, the paper wrote. Judge Matsch’s ruling struck down that request.

FLORIDA

Pilot killed by gyroplane blades

PALM COAST — A man learning to fly a gyroplane was killed when the aircraft’s rotary blades broke off and struck him in the head.

Ashley J. Godeaux, 54, of Jacksonville, was in the front seat of the 10-year-old aircraft as it headed down a runway at Flagler County Airport on Friday. Officials said the top blades broke off, striking Mr. Godeaux in the head. The plane traveled off the runway and onto a grassy area.

Mr. Godeaux’s instructor, Bill Ortmayer, a licensed pilot from Palm Coast, was airlifted to Halifax Medical Center, which declined to release information on his condition yesterday.

Gyroplanes are characterized by blades that rotate on top of the body of the aircraft, similar in appearance to a helicopter. Authorities were uncertain why the blades broke off.

GEORGIA

Shopper tries to pay with $1 million bill

ATLANTA — A woman who tried to use a fake $1 million bill to buy $1,675 worth of merchandise at Wal-Mart said it was all just a misunderstanding — she thought the bill was real.

Alice Pike was arrested last week at a Wal-Mart in Georgia. The U.S. Treasury does not make $1 million bills.

“You can’t keep up with the U.S. Treasury,” said Mrs. Pike, speaking from jail.

Mrs. Pike, 35, was arrested last week at the Wal-Mart. The bill was a novelty item that can be bought at gag shops. Mrs. Pike told police she got it from her estranged husband, who is a coin collector.

She said she first tried to buy the merchandise with two Wal-Mart gift cards, but the cashier told her the cards had a total value of $2.32. That was when Mrs. Pike says she pulled out the $1 million bill.

“I wasn’t trying to pass off the bill,” she said. “That’s ridiculous.”

A police report said Mrs. Pike tried to pay for the items with the fake bill and asked for change. Prosecutors must decide whether to prosecute Mrs. Pike on charges of first-degree forgery.

MAINE

Civic leader seeks to ‘out’ legislators

AUGUSTA — The leader of a Christian civic group has been relieved of his duties for a month after asking supporters for information about the sexual orientation of legislators and other political leaders.

The Christian Civic League of Maine said that Executive Director Michael Heath had “crossed a line of ethical behavior into a realm of sinful gossip.”

In a March 5 newsletter posted on the group’s Web site, Mr. Heath asked supporters for “tips, rumors, speculation and facts” about the sexual orientation of legislators and other political leaders, so the league could post the information.

Mr. Heath said such information was of “fundamental importance” in the debate over issues involving sexuality.

MASSACHUSETTS

Man confesses to beheadings

BOSTON — A man charged with killing and beheading a prostitute reportedly has confessed to another beheading in the Boston area, and authorities from as far away as Miami are looking for connections to other killings.

Police say Eugene McCollom, 39, told them he strangled the prostitute on Nov. 11, 2000, after arguing with her over money. He later described beheading and mutilating her body in his room at a YMCA in Lynn, a few miles north of Boston.

Authorities have not been able to identify the woman, whose headless remains were found two days later in the city of Chelsea, near Boston.

Mr. McCollom also has claimed responsibility for the slaying of John “Jackie” Leyden, said a law enforcement source who requested anonymity and an attorney for the man originally charged with the crime.

Mr. Leyden’s beheaded body was found March 19, 2001, in his apartment in the East Boston neighborhood.

MICHIGAN

FBI to investigate tip on Jimmy Hoffa

DETROIT — The FBI will investigate a purported deathbed confession by a former Pennsylvania Teamster official who said he helped dispose of the body of Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa.

The confession, said to have been written by Francis Sheeran before he died Dec. 14 in a nursing home near Philadelphia, says he flew to Pontiac, Mich., the day Mr. Hoffa disappeared in 1975, picked up Mr. Hoffa’s body from his killers and drove it to a trash incinerator in Hamtramck, where it was cremated.

Mr. Sheeran’s daughter, however, says the letter is a fake. “It’s definitely a forgery. It’s not his signature,” Dolores Miller of West Chester, Pa., told the Detroit Free Press.

Mrs. Miller said she believes the document was created by her father’s biographer, John Zeitts of Omaha, Neb., to upstage a book due to be published by another author.

Mr. Zeitts, who says his book still is in the works, said Friday that the confession is genuine. He said Mr. Sheeran sent him the confession in November and he forwarded it to Mr. Hoffa’s daughter.

NEVADA

Schools settle harassment lawsuit

LAS VEGAS — A Nevada school district has agreed to pay $200,000 to settle a sexual-harassment lawsuit filed by the son of radio talk show host Art Bell.

Arthur Bell IV was a sophomore at Pahrump Valley High School in May 1997 when he was sexually assaulted by a substitute teacher. The teacher, Brian Lepley, later was convicted and sentenced to prison.

Paul Anderson, who represents the Nye County School District, said the same settlement was offered a few years ago but was rejected. The case was scheduled for trial later this month in Las Vegas.

The younger Mr. Bell, now 23, identified himself as the plaintiff when he filed an amended lawsuit in May 1999, six months after his parents anonymously filed a suit.

OHIO

Burglary suspect caught napping

RAVENNA — Sleeping on the job could be costly for a burglary suspect.

Eric L. Palmer, 34, of Akron, was arrested in nearby Brimfield Township after he apparently fell asleep on the garage floor of a home that police say he was trying to burglarize.

Police Chief David Blough said Mr. Palmer, supposedly armed with a handgun and two knives, has been charged with aggravated burglary with a gun specification.

Police arrived at about 6 a.m. Friday after a home health care worker called to report a suspicious person in the garage of the home where she worked 10 miles east of Akron.

“We approached him very silently and had the handcuffs on him before he even woke up,” Chief Blough said. Mr. Palmer was held in the Portage County jail on a $100,000 bond.

OKLAHOMA

Inmate says Nichols refused to bomb

McALESTER — A federal death row inmate expected to testify in the murder trial of Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols said co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh told him Nichols helped store ingredients for the explosives, but refused to take part in the bombing.

David Paul Hammer says McVeigh, who was executed in 2001 after being convicted on federal murder charges, tried unsuccessfully to recruit Nichols for the bombing.

“He did not show up to help McVeigh build the bomb,” Hammer told the McAlester News-Capital & Democrat.

Hammer said his information came from conversations with McVeigh while the two were on death row together in federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind.

Hammer’s testimony has been bitterly opposed by prosecutors, who have described him as “one of the least credible sources ever to serve time” in an Oklahoma prison. McVeigh, in a letter to a former defense investigator days before his execution, wrote that he had limited his communications with Hammer.

Hammer said McVeigh told him the bomb, made of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, was made at an Oklahoma City warehouse, not in Nichols’ home state of Kansas as authorities have claimed.

Opening statements are scheduled for March 22.

WASHINGTON

Missing plane spotted in water

HERRON ISLAND — A small plane missing for two weeks was found Saturday evening at the bottom of Puget Sound by a company hired by the families of the two men on board.

Underwater Admiralty Services, based in Kirkland, used sonar to produce an electronic picture of the single-engine Cessna 170, which is intact upside down in 145 feet of water. The tail with the FAA registration number, however, could not be seen and is necessary to confirm a match.

David Verstrate, 65, and his brother-in-law, Harold Bennett, 59, left Feb. 29 for a 68-mile trip from Sequim to Auburn, near the men’s homes. Mr. Verstrate was the pilot.

Family members reported the plane missing on March 1. The state’s Civil Air Patrol conducted an air and ground search.

WISCONSIN

Acting mayor’s finances probed

MILWAUKEE — A secret investigation has been launched into irregularities in the campaign finance reports of acting Mayor Marvin Pratt, a newspaper reported Saturday.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said top court officials, whom it did not name, confirmed the John Doe investigation, which is a rarely used prosecutorial tool to determine whether a crime has been committed, and if so, who did it.

Mr. Pratt faces former U.S. Rep. Tom Barrett in the April 6 mayoral election.

The Journal Sentinel has reported on discrepancies and problems with Mr. Pratt’s campaign finance reports in recent weeks. It found a difference of about $116,000 between what was listed on Mr. Pratt’s campaign finance reports at City Hall and statements from his campaign bank account.

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