- The Washington Times - Monday, March 21, 2005

INDIANA

Hellish image adorns surviving turtle

MICHIGANTOWN — A turtle that was the only survivor of a pet-shop fire may have emerged with a hellish memento.

The palm-sized, red-eared slider turtle, named Lucky, was the only animal to survive a fire in October at Dora’s A-Dora-ble Pet Shop in nearby Frankfort.

Owner Bryan Dora now says he sees an image of Satan’s face on the critter’s shell. He can spot lips, eyes, a goatee, shoulders and a pair of pointy horns on Lucky’s back.

The image was not visible before the fire, and Mr. Dora speculates the intense heat might have caused the shell’s color to change. The turtle is healthy and there was no change in its behavior, he said.

WASHINGTON

Fuel-containing barge breaks free

ILWACO — A barge containing as much as 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel broke free from a tugboat and ran aground in an area rich with wildlife and historic landmarks, authorities said.

A tugboat was pulling two barges across the Columbia River in severe weather Saturday night when one ran aground after drifting 3 miles, state ecology and Coast Guard officials said in a statement Sunday.

Two environmental cleanup companies had crews and equipment at the scene by early yesterday but were unable to deploy containment booms because of high wind and waves, said a spokeswoman for the state Ecology Department.

The cause of the accident was under investigation.

ALABAMA

Homeland security funding stripped

MONTGOMERY — Two years after Alabama became the first state in the country to establish a separate homeland security department, the House approved a budget that strips state funding from the agency.

Homeland Security Director Jim Walker said the loss of funding could make it difficult to continue as a separate agency. The agency receives most of its money from federal grants. A relatively small appropriation from the state covers mostly administrative costs.

ARKANSAS

Boys in truck drown in lake

HINDSVILLE — Two boys drowned at the end of a family fishing trip after the pickup truck they were sitting in rolled into a lake, authorities said.

The boys, ages 8 and 3, were with their 5-year-old sister Sunday when one of the children somehow knocked the truck into gear, authorities said. The truck rolled down a hill and plunged into Lake Hindsville. The parents saved the girl.

The victims were not identified.

The parents were admitted to a hospital for observation and counseling.

CALIFORNIA

Man tells police he killed parents

SAN DIEGO — A man bludgeoned his parents to death with a baseball bat, then called 911 to tell police what he had done and waited outside the home for officers to arrive, authorities said.

Michael Brown, 48, a house painter, is suspected of killing his 70-year-old stepfather and 69-year-old mother and critically injuring his 44-year-old brother, police said. All of the victims suffered head injuries.

Mr. Brown was arrested Sunday on suspicion of murder and attempted murder.

Homicide Lt. Kevin Rooney would not say what prompted the attack.

CONNECTICUT

Budget exceeds spending cap

HARTFORD — Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s two-year budget plan exceeds a state spending cap that was enacted in 1991 to curb spending after lawmakers passed a controversial state income tax.

The Republican governor wants to break the cap to help struggling nursing homes. Some Democrats see the proposal as a sign they should rethink the cap, which more than 80 percent of voters approved in 1992.

FLORIDA

Man charged with murdering girl

INVERNESS — A convicted sex offender was formally charged yesterday with capital murder and other crimes in the abduction and death of a 9-year-old Florida girl.

John Evander Couey, 46, also was charged with burglary, kidnapping and sexual battery on a child under the age of 12, officials said. His arraignment is set for today, officials said.

Authorities said he confessed to kidnapping and killing Jessica Marie Lunsford after taking a lie-detector test in Georgia. The girl’s body was found Saturday, more than three weeks after she vanished from her bedroom.

Couey was brought back to Florida and booked Sunday on a probation violation and failure to register his change of address as required of a sex offender. He has been held without bond.

Sheriff’s officials and the girl’s father, Mark Lunsford, have said they will urge prosecutors to seek the death penalty.

GEORGIA

Documentary confirms supersized swine

ALAPAHA — Residents of this south Georgia town breathed a collective sigh of vindication yesterday after a National Geographic documentary confirmed that their legendary super swine Hogzilla was indeed real, and really, really big.

“Our insides were just bubbling,” said Darlene Turner, who hosted a Hogzilla-watching party at her home Sunday night. “At first, I was afraid it might be an embarrassment. But now I wish everybody could see the documentary. It would take the doubt out of people’s minds.”

While a team of National Geographic experts found that the hog caught on a nearby farm last summer was no hoax, they said it didn’t quite live up to the 1,000-pound, 12-foot hype that was trumpeted around the world with a photo of the beast hanging from a backhoe.

The experts, who donned biohazard suits and exhumed the behemoth’s remains, estimated that Hogzilla was probably only 7 to 8 feet long and weighed about 800 pounds. Still, that’s a mighty big hog.

“He was an impressive beast. He was definitely a freak of nature,” said documentary producer Nancy Donnelly, adding that Hogzilla’s tusks — one measuring 17 and 10/16 inches and the other 15 and 13/16 inches — set a Safari Club International North American free-range record.

IOWA

Student auctions self as a prom date

LA PORTE CITY — Stu Hemesath has earned $29.95 — as a prom date.

The high school senior from La Porte City auctioned himself off as a date on the Internet auction site EBay on Thursday. He will accompany Rachel Kay, 17, to her Cedar Falls prom. The two say they have never met.

Stu said the idea just came to him as he was “thinking about proms and stuff.”

He posted pictures of himself and a description to secure some bids — which came from people as far away as Alaska.

Rachel said she e-mailed Stu her phone number so that they could get to know each other before the big day. She said she made her bid in an attempt to make an ex-boyfriend jealous.

KANSAS

Man seeks destruction of his DNA profile

WICHITA — Police hunting for the BTK serial killer kicked down Roger Valadez’s door and went in with guns drawn. They handcuffed the Wichita man, then took a sample of DNA from his mouth with a swab.

That swab proved Mr. Valadez was not the BTK killer. Now he wants it destroyed, and he wants some answers about why police took it in the first place.

The genetic sample, taken on Dec. 1 as police searched and seized items from Mr. Valadez’s home, was one of 1,300 tested during the BTK investigation, making it one of the biggest DNA sweeps ever in the United States. But when authorities arrested Dennis Rader and accused him of 10 BTK slayings, it came as a result of old-fashioned police work.

Police arrested Mr. Rader last month shortly after the BTK killer sent a computer disk to a Wichita television station. Mr. Rader’s pastor said police traced the disk to the church where Mr. Rader was council president.

Mr. Valadez, who was arrested on minor housing violations after the December raid, is asking a court to order his DNA sample destroyed and its profile purged from any database.

KENTUCKY

Co-defendant acquitted in slaying

OWENSBORO — A man was acquitted of murder, rape and arson yesterday in the 2003 slaying of a Western Kentucky University freshman who was attacked and set on fire in her dorm room.

Lucas Goodrum, 23, could have received the death penalty if found guilty of killing 18-year-old Katie Autry, who died of her burns at a hospital three days after being pulled from her smoldering room.

The prosecution relied heavily on the testimony of Mr. Goodrum’s former co-defendant, Stephen Soules. The two were at the same fraternity party as Miss Autry the night of the attack, and prosecutors said they followed her back to her room.

Soules pleaded guilty a year ago to raping and killing Miss Autry, and implicated Mr. Goodrum. Soules escaped the death penalty and received life in prison for his testimony.

LOUISIANA

Sleepwalker causes flight to detour

NEWS ORLEANS — A sleepwalking 16-year-old boy bumped into the cabin door of a jet headed from Chicago to New Orleans, causing the flight to be diverted to Memphis.

No one was injured in the Sunday night incident involving American Airlines Flight 1185.

The unidentified boy apparently has a history of sleepwalking, a spokesman for American Airlines said. He had been traveling for some time when he walked down the aisle and bumped into the locked cockpit door.

The flight crew said they believed someone was trying to get into the cockpit and reported an emergency, landing the aircraft in Memphis, AA spokesman Tim Smith said yesterday. The boy, along with at least one family member, was questioned by local authorities and the FBI.

The boy was allowed to reboard the aircraft and continue to New Orleans on the condition he and an adult companion promised to remain awake.

MASSACHUSETTS

Firefighters use snow to battle blaze

HINSDALE — Firefighters used their wits — and some snow — to battle a fire in a remote cabin.

About a dozen Hinsdale firefighters trekked three-quarters of a mile to the burning, one-story seasonal camp on Bullard’s Crossing Road on Saturday evening.

Since the road was not plowed, firetrucks and other vehicles could not reach the scene, and the firefighters had to carry their equipment — including five-gallon water cans — on their backs to reach the cottage.

They shoveled snow through a bedroom window and pumped water from the cans that usually are used for brush fires to knock down the cabin’s flames. Firefighters were at the scene for more than three hours.

The fire, which Fire Chief Larry Turner labeled suspicious, burned out a room in the cabin.

MICHIGAN

Explosion injures 10 at steel complex

DEARBORN — Spilled molten steel caused a fire and explosion yesterday at a Michigan steel plant, injuring at least 10 persons, officials said.

A transport vehicle that can carry up to 400 tons of molten steel was backing into a building at the sprawling River Rouge industrial complex, when some of its high-temperature cargo sloshed out, said William Hornberger, a spokesman for Severstal, the Russian company that owns the plant.

The molten steel hit two of the vehicle’s 8-foot tires, setting them afire and causing them to explode minutes later while Dearborn firefighters were battling the flames, Mr. Hornberger said. The explosion blew out part of the building’s steel sheet siding and caused electrical damage, he said.

Seven of at least 10 persons who were injured remained hospitalized in good or stable condition late yesterday, officials said. The others were treated for minor injuries and released.

John Brennan of the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration said a compliance officer was at the plant yesterday to investigate the accident. An investigation could take a few weeks, he said.

NEW YORK

Winners lose in newspaper typo

NEW YORK — A glitch in a newspaper contest turned apparent $100,000 winners into losers and led hundreds of angry game-players to protest outside the New York Daily News yesterday.

The “Scratch n’ Match” contest page in the newspaper’s Saturday edition included the number 13 in error in a series of 10 numbers, instead of the number 12 as intended. The “wrong” number triggered a rash of winning scratch-card tickets in a contest that is set up to pay out $222,500 a week in prizes.

People who thought they had won, but hadn’t, lined up outside the newspaper’s Manhattan offices yesterday demanding their money.

The paper published an apology on Sunday and again yesterday, blaming the company that runs the contest, D.L. Blair Inc. of Garden City, N.Y., one of the largest U.S. sweepstakes companies.

Daily News President Les Goodstein said contest players using the number 13 on cards they had thought were winners were eligible to enter a lottery-type contest to divide the available prize money, as spelled out in contest rules in the event of errors.

OKLAHOMA

Legislature nixes Native American Day

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Legislature effectively killed a bill that would set aside the second Monday in October as Native American Day. Oklahoma is home to 39 tribes.

In the 2000 census, 254,810 Oklahomans identified themselves as one-race Indians. Only California has more Indian residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

TEXAS

Jury deliberates in smuggling trial

HOUSTON — Jurors began deliberations yesterday on charges that Tyrone Williams let more than a dozen illegal immigrants die in the back of his unventilated truck because he was greedy.

Mr. Williams is accused of driving and abandoning a trailer at the center of the nation’s deadliest human-smuggling attempt. His attorneys argued that he couldn’t hear the immigrants’ screams for help.

If convicted, Mr. Williams could be executed for his role in the May 2003 smuggling attempt that resulted in the deaths of 19 illegal immigrants. He faces 58 counts of conspiracy and harboring and transporting illegal immigrants.

The jury of five men and seven women got the case late Friday, then got a weekend recess..

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