- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 5, 2004

Fishing boat capsizes, survivors sought

BOSTON — The Coast Guard searched the ocean near Martha’s Vineyard yesterday for possible survivors from a capsized commercial fishing boat.

The crew of the fishing vessel Tenacious reported passing the 40- to 60-foot vessel while bound for port Friday evening. Soon after, they saw white smoke on the water, went back to investigate and spotted the overturned hull, Coast Guard officials said.

The crew of a Coast Guard helicopter spotted the hull and a nearby life raft but no people, officials said. Yesterday morning, a cutter and a helicopter were being used to search the area, roughly 4 miles south of the southeastern tip of Martha’s Vineyard. State police divers also were being sent to the scene.

Kidnapper releases hostage, kills self

OXFORD, Ala. — A fugitive ex-convict wanted for rape and murder committed suicide, ending a standoff with police shortly after he released a 14-year-old hostage.

Walter George Honea Jr., 34, of Anniston shot himself late Friday evening as authorities prepared to shoot tear gas into the motel room where he had been negotiating with officers, police said.

Police said Honea kidnapped Jordan Nichole Todaro late Thursday from the convenience store where he fatally shot her mother, Linda Michelle Davis, 34, and stepfather, Joshua Benjamin Davis, 24. The couple and the girl were working at the Anniston Sparkle Mart. The store’s surveillance camera captured the abduction, police said.

W.Va. court to weigh lesbian custody

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether state law recognizes the parental rights of same-sex partners.

Tina Burch is appealing for custody of the 4-year-old son of her lesbian partner, Christina D. Smarr, who died in a 2002 car accident. Within hours of Miss Smarr’s death, Miss Smarr’s brothers-in-law took the child from Miss Burch and handed him over to his grandparents.

A lower court ruled in December that state law does not give a homosexual the right to win legal guardianship of a former partner’s child; Miss Burch appealed. On Thursday, the state high court agreed to hear the case, and voted 3-2 to grant Miss Burch temporary custody.

She is arguing that state law allows for custody to be awarded to a child’s psychological parent. The grandparents say they do not believe Miss Burch was their daughter’s homosexual lover; the lower court judge acknowledged that the couple lived together in a same-sex relationship.

The women raised the boy since Miss Smarr got pregnant using sperm donated by a friend of Miss Burch’s sister

Parachutist killed in jump accident

MONROE TOWNSHIP, N.J. — A parachutist died when his parachute failed to open properly and he fell into the front yard of a private residence, authorities said. The victim, whose name was not released pending notification of family members, was an experienced jumper who had been parachuting for about 10 years, police said.

The plane used in Thursday’s jump was operated by the Freefall Adventures Skydiving School of Williamstown. David Pancake, an instructor at the school, told the Gloucester County Times that parachutes must be deployed at about 2,000 feet to give sufficient time to operate correctly, and that the victim may have lost track of his altitude.

The accident was being investigated by county prosecutors and the Federal Aviation Administration. The last fatality reported from the skydiving school was in 2002, when a 28-year-old Brooklyn man died after his parachute failed to fully open.

Driver gets 6 months for abusing boy

MILWAUKEE — A school bus driver caught on a hidden tape recorder threatening to beat a 9-year-old boy with Down syndrome was sentenced to six months in jail.

Brian Duchow, 29, pleaded guilty in May to one count of child abuse that intentionally caused great harm after a criminal complaint said he admitted slapping the boy and cursing at him on the bus.

Jacob Mutulo’s parents had placed a voice-activated tape recorder in their son’s backpack because of concerns about how the boy was behaving on the bus. On the recording, Duchow can be heard telling the boy to “stop before I beat the living hell out of you,” among other threats.

Jacob’s parents said the boy was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after the abuse was discovered.

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