- The Washington Times - Monday, October 11, 2004

LOUISIANA

Matthew’s rains cause flooding

NEW ORLEANS — Tropical Storm Matthew, the 13th named storm of the 2004 hurricane season, weakened yesterday after moving into southern Louisiana, causing scattered flooding as heavy rain drenched the area.

No injuries were reported.

A tropical storm warning along the Gulf of Mexico from the Alabama-Florida state line westward to Intracoastal City, La., was discontinued when the storm weakened to a tropical depression, the National Hurricane Center said in Miami.

Matthew’s poorly defined center was about 40 miles west of New Orleans yesterday, with sustained winds dropping to 35 mph.

NEW MEXICO

Festival ends with balloon hitting tower

ALBUQUERQUE — A balloon became entangled in a radio tower on the final day of the city’s trademark balloon festival yesterday, forcing the pilot and two young passengers to shimmy most of the way down the nearly 700-foot-tall structure.

Bill Chapel was piloting the Smokey Bear balloon when it blew into the radio tower near a park where the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta was being held.

The hot-air balloon’s canopy got wrapped up around the triangular-shaped tower, leaving its gondola resting against the structure. Mr. Chapel, 69, and passengers Aaron Whitacre, 10, and Troy Wells, 14, then began the long climb down the tower’s ladder.

Workers met the three, secured them with safety gear, and helped them into a truck bucket.

ALASKA

Zoo building elephant treadmill

ANCHORAGE — Maggie needs to lose some weight, and it isn’t easy finding a treadmill to keep up with her 9,000-pound frame.

The Alaska Zoo is building what it believes to be the world’s first elephant treadmill as part of plans to enrich the life of its only elephant.

At 9,120 pounds, Maggie could stand to slim down. Zoo officials are talking to engineers and manufacturers about building Maggie her own exercise equipment.

Designing and building the first elephant treadmill could cost $150,000 to $250,000, zoo director Tex Edwards said.

FLORIDA

Driver convicted of killing bikers

PANAMA CITY — A man who admitted to ramming a stolen pickup truck into six Outlaws motorcycle gang members, killing two, was convicted of premeditated murder.

Jurors recommended a sentence of life in prison without parole Friday for Timothy Pilgreen, 26, rather than the death penalty. The Texarkana, Ark., man was convicted Thursday on charges that also included four counts of attempted murder.

Pilgreen was convicted of killing Donald Dunham, 61, and his wife, Nola S. Zeitler, 47, of the Outlaws’ Bay City, Mich., chapter on Oct. 29 as they were riding on a motorcycle at nearby Panama City Beach after an altercation with the bikers at a fishing pier.

HAWAII

State’s gas prices hit record highs

HONOLULU — Hawaii’s gasoline prices, the highest in the nation, are now a little bit higher.

The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded in the islands hit a record $2.37 Friday, well above the national average, AAA said. Maui motorists paid the most at the pump, an average of $2.649 per gallon.

California had the second-highest gas prices in the nation at $2.28 per gallon.

MICHIGAN

Father charged in day care death

DETROIT — The father of a 3-year-old beaten to death in an attack on her day care center was arrested Saturday, a day after he was named as the suspect in the rampage that also left two women hospitalized with gunshot wounds.

Bernard Kelly, 37, of Detroit, was taken into custody Saturday evening, Detroit Police Officer Jeremy Aguayo said. An arrest warrant for Mr. Kelly listed charges of murder, assault with intent to commit murder and felony firearms possession, the Detroit News reported yesterday.

Police initially reported that 3-year-old Stefanie Belue had been fatally shot, but later said she was fatally beaten in the Sept. 28 attack.

The warrant came after one of the victims named Mr. Kelly as the assailant, Officer Glen Woods said.

MISSISSIPPI

Wal-Mart pulls crane games

JACKSON — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has removed crane games from its Mississippi stores pending an opinion from the state attorney general on whether they are gambling devices.

The games, which cost a quarter each, let players use a toy crane to try to grab a toy locked in a glass box.

MISSOURI

Boy, 11, takes car on excursion

INDEPENDENCE — An 11-year-old boy who told authorities he was upset about being bullied at school took off in the family car on an odyssey that ended more than 200 miles away on the other side of the state.

The boy left his suburban Kansas City home early Tuesday, making his way onto Interstate 35 and driving 92 miles to Bethany. He stopped at a convenience store for some chips and a soft drink, then drove off, ending up 135 miles away in Callao.

Sgt. Michael Johnston of the Macon County Sheriff’s Department said he received a call at about 10:30 a.m. from the Callao postmaster, who reported that a boy was locked out of his car and wanted to talk. The boy told Sgt. Johnston he had driven at speeds of up to 85 mph.

The relieved parents, who had filed a missing-person report in Independence, picked up their son midafternoon Tuesday. He was back in school the next day.

NEVADA

Neglect charges filed against gambling mom

LAS VEGAS — A woman has been charged with child neglect more than 18 months after her two daughters were stabbed during a break-in while she was out gambling.

Tamara Ann Bergeron was charged Friday with 18 counts of child neglect and abuse. Her boyfriend, Robert John Schmidt, also was charged.

Authorities said 11-year-old Brittney Bergeron and 3-year-old Kristyanna Cowan were stabbed by two teenagers who broke into their mobile home when their mother and Mr. Schmidt were out gambling in January 2003.

Kristyanna died in the attack and Brittney was paralyzed.

Police said the teens, who have been arrested, were retaliating after being ripped off during a drug deal with the couple.

OHIO

Worker mows down seedlings

PERRYSBURG — It was a clear-cut error: A state worker mowed down 28,000 young trees that had been planted as part of a $33,000 highway beautification project.

The only thing left were signs that read “Do not mow or spray.”

The oaks, ash, birches, maples and sycamores were planted in 2002 and 2003 at the interchange of Interstate 75 and I-475 near this Toledo suburb. The city, county and state paid for the seedlings, and volunteers spent more than 700 hours planting them.

Joe Rutherford, a spokesman with the Ohio Department of Transportation, said the seedlings, which were no more than 2 feet tall, were cut down last week. He said that many of the seedlings were dead and that someone got the idea it would be OK to mow them down.

OKLAHOMA

Man stages robbery to save marriage

EDMOND — An Oklahoma man desperate to save his marriage by appearing like a hero to his wife ended up in police custody on suspicion of staging a crime in which he hired burglars and foiled their robbery attempt, police said Friday.

Trent Spencer, 27, of Edmond, north of Oklahoma City, was charged last week with the misdemeanor crime of filing a false report, said police spokeswoman Glynda Chu.

Police said Mr. Spencer, a high school teacher, paid two students $100 each to break into his house and try to make off with a stereo.

Police said Mr. Spencer attacked the two in a choreographed fight, even hitting one with a board that he had cut to break in half. The plan was going well until his wife freed herself and called police, police said. Police rushed to the scene and eventually tracked down the fake burglars.

PENNSYLVANIA

Trial ordered for suit claiming sex bias

ERIE — A judge has ordered a trial on a federal lawsuit claiming that a physical agility test that the city of Erie used for police applicants unfairly discriminated against female candidates.

The Justice Department asked U.S. District Judge Sean McLaughlin to award damages to women who failed the test and to order them placed on a preferential hiring list.

On Friday, the judge refused to grant a summary judgment against the city, saying its defense should be heard at trial.

The Justice Department sued in January, claiming that only 13 percent of female candidates have passed the test since it was put into place in 1996, while 71 percent of males tested during the same period succeeded.

TENNESSEE

Spider bite kills 5-year-old boy

NASHVILLE — A 5-year-old boy’s death was the result of a bite by a poisonous, brown recluse spider, the state medical examiner ruled.

Nicholas Robinson was bitten while playing outside his home about 70 miles south of Nashville on July 29.

The child was taken to a doctor, who determined he was suffering from a virus rather than a bite. However, that night the child was rushed to a hospital, where his symptoms included hypersalivation, sweating and neurological problems before he died, according to the medical examiner’s report, completed Thursday.

The bite can cause a rash, swelling and flulike symptoms, and in rare cases kidney failure, seizures and coma.

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