- The Washington Times - Friday, November 5, 2004


Prosecutor says man killed girlfriend’s family

LUVERNE — A man methodically killed a couple and four family members because they were trying to keep him away from the couple’s 16-year-old daughter, a prosecutor told jurors on Wednesday.

Defense attorneys in their opening statements at the trial said the evidence won’t support the capital murder case against Westley Devon Harris, 24, the girl’s boyfriend and father of her infant child.

Other family members have said the daughter, Janice Ball, would be the government’s key witness to events surrounding the shooting deaths of her parents, three brothers and grandmother in August 2002 at a Crenshaw County farm where they lived.

District Attorney John Andrews said Miss Ball feared Mr. Harris when he arrived at the farm two days after being chased off and having a domestic-violence complaint filed against him.


Cyclists ride to mark East Coast trail

KEY WEST — Seven cyclists, including a paraplegic who pedaled with her hands, completed a 2,800-mile bike ride on Wednesday on a route that enthusiasts hope will become an East Coast urban trail for hikers and bicyclists.

The trip from Calais, Maine, to Key West lasted 53 days and coursed through 15 states and Washington.

“To travel the entire East Coast by bicycle was an incredible thing,” said Mike Kruimer, of Edison, N.J. He and his wife, Anne, rode on a tandem bicycle fitted with a hand crank so Mrs. Kruimer, a paraplegic, could pedal with her hands.

The trip organizer, East Coast Greenway Alliance, aids local and state efforts to link such non-motorized trails.


Jackson denied new prosecutor

SANTA MARIA — A California judge yesterday rejected a bid by Michael Jackson’s attorneys to remove the district attorney from the pop star’s child-molestation case, saying there was no proof that the prosecutor had acted improperly or overzealously.

Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville ruled during a pretrial hearing in the central California city of Santa Maria that Mr. Jackson’s attorneys had failed to prove a conflict of interest or bias on the part of District Attorney Tom Sneddon.

Defense attorney Thomas Mesereau argued that Mr. Sneddon had become so determined to convict Mr. Jackson that he had “lost his sense of justice” and bore a grudge against the singer that stretched back to 1993.

That year, Mr. Jackson reached an out-of-court settlement with the family of a boy who had accused him of molestation.


Hepatitis B cases drastically reduced

ATLANTA — Cases of hepatitis B among children and teenagers have dropped by almost 90 percent in the past decade, thanks to a vaccination program against the virus, the government said yesterday.

A total of 13,829 youngsters had hepatitis B in the United States between 1990 and 2002, the period of the study. The rate for that group dropped from 3.03 cases per 100,000 persons in 1990 to 0.34 per 100,000 in 2002, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

A government recommendation that all infants get hepatitis B vaccinations was put into place in 1991. The program was expanded in 1995 to 11- and 12-year-olds and in 1999 to all children.

Hepatitis B attacks the liver. It can cause scarring of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure and death.


Oystermen ask court to reconsider ruling

NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana oystermen have asked the state Supreme Court to restore a $1.3 billion judgment awarded to them for a coastal-restoration project that the oystermen say damaged their grounds.

The high court threw out the award last month, saying the oystermen were not legally entitled to the money.

In Wednesday’s filing, the oystermen argued that the high court based that ruling not on evidence that was presented during trial, but on new evidence introduced by attorneys for the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources during the appellate stages. Appellate courts are bound to make judgments on the evidence brought out during trial, attorneys said.

The 130 oystermen, who leased water bottoms in Breton Sound, sued the state after a 1991 freshwater diversion program channeled some Mississippi River water and sediment into the sound, destroying their oyster beds.


Dad kills girl hiding in leaves

METHUEN — A 10-year-old girl was killed when her father parked his truck in a pile of leaves in which she and a friend were hiding, the family said. The other girl was seriously injured.

Family members said construction worker James Gravel, 36, did not know he had run over the girls until he got out and heard his daughter Natalie calling him.

“She said, ‘Daddy, I can’t breathe,’” said Mr. Gravel’s sister, Jennifer Gravel.

Natalie died at a hospital of head and chest injuries. Meredith Reid, 8, was in critical condition yesterday. Police said no charges were planned.


Reno flights resume after equipment repair

RENO — Flights resumed at Reno/Tahoe International Airport Wednesday night after the Federal Aviation Administration repaired balky equipment that had caused numerous delays and cancellations over more than five hours.

All arrivals and departures were halted at about 2:30 p.m. because of a malfunction in equipment used when visibility is poor and pilots are forced to make instrument landings, airport spokeswoman Heidi Berthold said.

More than a dozen flights were canceled or delayed before the equipment was repaired.


F-16 fighter jet strafes school

LITTLE EGG HARBOR — A National Guard F-16 fighter jet on a nighttime training mission strafed an elementary school with 25 rounds of ammunition, authorities said yesterday. No one was injured.

The military is investigating the incident, which damaged Little Egg Harbor Intermediate School shortly after 11 p.m.

Authorities were called when a custodian, who was the only person in the school at the time, heard what sounded like someone running across the roof.

Police Chief Mark Siino said officers noticed punctures in the roof. Ceiling tiles had fallen into classrooms, and the asphalt outside had scratch marks.

The pilot of the single-seat jet was supposed to fire at a target 31/2 miles away from the school, said Col. Brian Webster, commander of the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard.


E. coli outbreak linked to state fair

RALEIGH — At least 24 persons, most of them children, have been infected with E. coli bacteria, and the outbreak might be connected to a petting zoo at last month’s state fair, authorities said.

The number of confirmed cases of E. coli infections rose to 24, and 14 more cases are suspected, officials at the state Department of Health and Human Services said yesterday.

Health officials are awaiting genetic tests on some of the bacteria to determine whether the cases are related. So far, the most common link among victims is that some visited the petting-zoo exhibit. Of the 38 cases being examined, at least 15 have some link to the state fair, officials said.

“If it does turn out to be a petting zoo, there are thousands of people who were exposed, and they are widespread,” said Dr. Jeffrey Engel, state epidemiologist. “People came to visit from other states.”


Woman gives birth, then votes

HARRISBURG — Dr. Andrea Shaer, in labor with her third child, wanted to vote before she went to the delivery room.

But with more than 100 people lined up at the polling station at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Dr. Shaer changed her mind.

Dr. Shaer, a nephrologist, or kidney doctor, gave birth to a son, Jack, and returned to vote Tuesday night 30 minutes before the polls closed, intravenous drip in tow.

“Knowing how close the race is in Pennsylvania and being a mom, with all the issues there, I just had to try” to vote, she said.

Dr. Shaer works at the medical center. She awoke at 5 a.m. Tuesday when her water broke.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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