- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Teen uses patrol car to escape, surrenders

PHOENIX — Authorities in Mesa didn’t have to look far for a missing cruiser. They say its 13-year-old driver called first.

Police said an officer walked out of the Mesa police station Monday night and discovered that his patrol car was missing.

While other officers searched, the boy dialed 911 on a cell phone he found in the car, police said.

He told the operator that he had sneaked out of a detention center and taken the vehicle.

The operator persuaded the teen to go to a nearby restaurant and wait for officers, who arrived and took him into custody.


Blaze near station kills two children

SULPHUR SPRINGS — A fire in a home four houses from a volunteer fire station killed two children, authorities said.

Kayla Gomez Ratledge, 8, and Jacob Hawkins Ratledge, 5, were killed in the blaze, which started in their bedroom about 1 a.m. Tuesday, fire officials said.

Benton County sheriff’s investigator Richard Feast said the fire is thought to be accidental.

The children’s mother, Shanna Ratledge, broke a bedroom window with her hands to try and reach them. A helicopter flew her to Northwest Medical Center in Bentonville, where she underwent surgery for cuts on her arm and was treated for burns.

The children’s stepfather, J.R. Ratledge, also was treated for burns. Their 3-year-old brother, Leo Ratledge, survived, as did another man living with the family.


State scraps system for voter registration

DENVER — Colorado pulled the plug yesterday on its problem-plagued voter registration computer system and will miss a Jan. 1 federal deadline for having it up and running.

Dana Williams, a spokeswoman for Colorado’s secretary of state, said the system had trouble registering voters and other problems. She said a letter was sent to the data-processing company Accenture canceling the $10.5 million contract.

The state has spent $1.5 million on the system, she said.

“When we saw these problems, we decided we were not going to throw good money after bad. We’re going to get this fixed as soon as we can,” Miss Williams said.

Accenture spokesman James McAvoy blamed state officials for delays in the project, and added: “If the state had not canceled the contract, there would have been sufficient time to test and pilot the Accenture system and train elections officials in its use.”


Jury indicts woman carrying teen’s child

GAINESVILLE — A 37-year-old woman who married a 15-year-old boy was indicted Tuesday on charges of child molestation, statutory rape and enticing a child for indecent purposes.

Lisa Lynette Clark, who says she is pregnant with the teenager’s child, was arrested earlier last month after their Nov. 8 wedding. She has been ordered not to come within 100 feet of the boy.

Georgia law allows children of any age to marry — without parental consent — if the bride-to-be is pregnant. The law dates to the early 1960s and was written to prevent out-of-wedlock births.


Old bridge finds new owner

SALMON — When Scott Nelson learned that an aging bridge over the Missouri River was to be tossed on the scrap heap of history, he did the only thing a lifelong preservationist could do: He offered to give it a home.

“I couldn’t sleep at night knowing what might happen to it,” Mr. Nelson said of the 101-year-old, 60-ton, 573-foot, one-lane, steel-truss bridge over the Missouri between Helena and Cascade in north-central Montana.

Montana’s Transportation Department had been seeking a new owner for the bridge since 2003 and was all but resigned to its destruction when Mr. Nelson signaled his interest. They had offered it for nothing to anyone with the space and desire to keep it.

The bridge is slated to be moved to a 108-acre site west of Helena in the coming weeks, just in time for the opening of its $3 million replacement. Mr. Nelson is looking for the $60,000 he needs to re-erect the old bridge on his property.


Druggists disciplined for not filling orders

ST. LOUIS — Walgreen Co. said it has put four Illinois pharmacists in the St. Louis area on unpaid leave for refusing to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception in violation of a state rule.

The four cited religious or moral objections to filling prescriptions for the morning-after pill and “have said they would like to maintain their right to refuse to dispense, and in Illinois that is not an option,” said Walgreens spokeswoman Tiffani Bruce.

A rule imposed by Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich in April requires Illinois pharmacies that sell contraceptives approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to fill prescriptions for emergency birth control. Pharmacies that do not fill prescriptions for any type of contraception are not required to follow the rule.

Ed Martin, an attorney for the pharmacists, on Tuesday called the disciplinary action “pretty disturbing” and said they would consider legal action if Walgreens doesn’t reconsider.


Teen pleads guilty to role in shootings

MINNEAPOLIS — A tribal chairman said his son admitted to using the Internet inappropriately but did not accept responsibility for the shootings on an Indian reservation in March that left 10 dead.

Louis Jourdain, 17, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a charge of threatening interstate communications, according to a docket released by a federal court.

Two other charges — conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States — were dropped.

Jourdain is the son of Floyd Jourdain Jr., tribal chairman of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa. He was a friend of 16-year-old Jeff Weise, who fatally shot nine persons on the northern Minnesota reservation before killing himself.


Fishermen form national organization

GRANTS PASS — Long splintered into small groups, commercial fishermen are putting together a national organization to promote their image and press their interests before Congress.

The Commercial Fishermen of America announced its formation in mid-November in Seattle and hopes to be up and running by spring. The David and Lucille Packard Foundation, which funds marine-conservation programs, provided a $50,000 startup grant.

“Given that politics is just becoming ever more omnipresent and unavoidable, we felt it was high time we got organized to represent the interests of all fishermen at a national level,” said Jeremy Brown, a salmon and albacore troller from Bellingham, Wash., who is serving on the organizing committee.

National issues facing commercial fishermen include reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the primary federal law governing fisheries management. Other issues include health care and workers compensation, pollution and protecting port facilities.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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