- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 13, 2006


Missing for 13 years, daughter to meet dad

The last time Carl Dodd saw his daughter, Marilyn Byrd, was in 1993, when she was 4. Now that the girl’s mother has been arrested on charges of parental kidnapping, he is looking for-ward to reuniting with Marilyn and making up for the lost time.

On Wednesday, Marilyn’s 17th birthday, U.S. marshals found her at the Wilmington, Del., home of her mother, Mary Jane Byrd.

“She didn’t want me to see my daughter at all. She just up and ran,” Mr. Dodd said yesterday, before heading into a courtroom where Miss Byrd was arraigned in one of the nation’s oldest missing-children cases. She was released to a halfway house pending a May 3 preliminary hearing.

Miss Byrd, 35, was taken into custody after deputies questioned both mother and daughter about their identities.

Although Marilyn identified herself as Tamika Thompson, and her mother volunteered a different Social Security number, investigators continued to question them until inconsis-tencies in their stories led both to reveal their true identities.

Miss Byrd said little during her appearance in D.C. Superior Court yesterday afternoon as her public defender tried to gain her release.

“She knew there was a father out there that wasn’t getting to see his child,” Magistrate Judge Michael J. McCarthy said. He declared the prosecutor’s request for a $1,000 bond “illegal,” citing Miss Byrd’s inability to pay.

Mr. Dodd, 40, plans to meet today with family court officials in Wilmington to force compliance with a 1994 court order granting him full custody. Marilyn is now staying with her grandmother in Wilmington.

Mr. Dodd, a Metrorail track maintenance worker, plans to bring his daughter to his home in Fort Washington.

At the time of the disappear-ance, D.C. law classified parent-al kidnapping as a misde-meanor. Mr. Dodd was part of a successful campaign to change the offense to a felony in 2002.

Hearings scheduled on school closings

Public hearings are scheduled for next week on the controversial plan to close or consolidate 30 D.C. schools over the next two years.

The Board of Education wants to get feedback on how Superintendent Clifford B. Janey should identify which schools should be closed or consolidated.

The city has lost 10,000 students over the past five years, leaving parts of some schools empty. Lawmakers are talking about how some school real estate could be better used or sold to fund school modernization.

The first hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Randle Highlands Elementary School in Southeast. The second is scheduled for 11 a.m. on April 22 at Bell Multicultural High School in Northwest.



Tech student among identity-theft arrests

A Virginia Tech student used stolen identities to open credit accounts and sell them online, and much of the criminal activity stemmed from a university library computer, federal officials said.

A federal complaint unsealed in New York accuses Benjamin Wade Pinkston, 24, of Colonial Heights, of opening 44 store credit accounts with stolen information and selling some of them to undercover Secret Service agents.

Mr. Pinkston was arrested March 28 on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud and transferring stolen identities.

His arrest was part of a national undercover effort called Operation Rolling Stone. It targeted several Web sites dedicated to computer hacking, identity theft and fraud. He was one of 21 persons arrested in the past three months.


VRE, city agree to share expenses

Virginia Railway Express (VRE) is a step closer to buying 50 new rail cars after the city of Manassas Park voted to pay a share of the cost.

There had been a disagreement between the city and VRE over who should pay for a longer canopy to cover the platform of the Manassas Park station. But the City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to support the rail car plan after VRE officials promised to work to get the city its canopy.

Manassas Park joins Prince William, Fairfax and Stafford counties and the cities of Manassas and Fredericksburg in devoting funds to improve railway equipment. Together the jurisdictions are paying more than $1.2 million. That money guarantees that VRE will get $35 million in state funds to help pay for the project.

VRE expects to order the new rail cars by the end of this month.


Student’s record toss nets TV appearance

A College of William & Mary senior has a breakfast food to thank for his 15 minutes of fame Monday.

Hawley Smith, captain of the college’s men’s basketball team, will be featured on MTV’s “Call to Greatness,” a show that documents attempts to break strange world records.

Mr. Smith’s appearance is for breaking a U.S. record for black-pudding toss.

Mr. Smith broke the record in August by tossing a 1.5-pound sack of the black pudding, also known as blood sausage, 117 feet from a frying pan.

His effort was 1 foot less than the world record.

The show will be shown Monday at 10:30 p.m.



Hazmat spill closes I-83 for hours

A man was hospitalized and Interstate 83 was closed for hours yesterday afternoon after a hazardous-material spill, state police said.

The driver of a box truck heard a loud noise, and when a fellow driver signaled to him that there was a problem, he pulled over at about 1:30 p.m. on northbound I-83 just north of the York Road overpass, state police spokesman Sgt. Thornnie Rouse said.

The Maryland Department of the Environment said the truck, owned by Ecoflo, a waste-disposal company, was carrying at least 20 drums of trinitro-methane urea. Department spokesman Richard McIntire said another drum contained about three inches of nitric acid, which reacted with the steel drum to cause a small explo-sion, blowing the lid off and producing a rust-colored cloud.

Sgt. Rouse said the 27-year-old driver was taken to York Hospital for observation. He was traveling from Indian Head in Charles County to York, Pa.

Cars were sprayed with the substance, but the spill was contained in the area around the truck, authorities said.

Southbound lanes reopened about 3:30 p.m., but northbound lanes remained closed into the night.


Cremated remains among stolen items

A friend of a distraught woman likens the crime to grave-robbing.

Someone broke into the Summit Avenue apartment of Joyce Rhodes and stole, among other things, an urn containing the cremated remains of her 35-year-old daughter.

Mrs. Rhodes noticed that it was gone from its usual spot on her coffee table April 5. The thief also took keys and a laptop computer containing photographs of her daughter’s four children.

Mrs. Rhodes’ daughter died three years ago from an acci-dental overdose of medication.

The sealed gray-and-white marble urn resembles a vase.


Community colleges continue to grow

The popularity of Maryland community colleges continues to grow, with total enrollment reaching nearly 50 percent of the state’s undergraduates last year.

According to enrollment figures from the Maryland Higher Education Commission, 48 percent of undergraduates in the state were community-college students. The national average is 46 percent.

“Community colleges are becoming more attractive because of their affordability and relevance to the changing job market,” said H. Clay Whitlow, executive director of the Maryland Association of Community Colleges. “Instead of the old paradigm that everybody has to complete high school, now we have to think about everybody having to complete grade 14.”

Mr. Whitlow expects the percentage of students attending community colleges to continue to increase. Officials predict that more than 58,000 new students will enter colleges and universities in the next five years, with the state’s largest-ever graduating class expected in 2009, he said.


Guides help tourists navigate Inner Harbor

City officials have a new plan to make Baltimore’s waterfront more inviting to tourists.

The city already has hired 16 waterfront guides to help visitors find their way. The guides work in and around the Inner Harbor daily from noon to 8 p.m.

The city also has plans to create an extended waterfront area, stretching from Fort McHenry to Canton Crossing.

The new initiative is a joint effort involving the Downtown Partnership, the Partnership for Baltimore’s Waterfront and the city government.

Plans include a request for a formal state-chartered Waterfront Business Improvement District.


Man guilty of assault at gymnastics school

The owner of a gymnastics school was found guilty of assaulting the child of one of the instructors.

Richard Dyott, 58, of St. Michaels, was convicted of second-degree assault Wednes-day by a District Court judge.

Courtnee Lee testified Wednesday that she regularly brought her 5-year-old son to Chesapeake Gymnastics. She said she was teaching a class Jan. 5 when she heard Dyott yelling and saw him holding her son by his hair.

Dyott said he only turned the boy’s head toward him to scold him for throwing an object at another boy.

Sentencing will follow a pre-sentence investigation.

Miss Lee no longer teaches at the school.


Power cord caused fatal house fire

A faulty power cord caused a house fire that killed an elderly Caroline County couple, investigators said.

A neighbor reported the fire before dawn Wednesday on Laurel Grove Road.

The state fire marshal’s office said John and Lelia Kotula were found dead on the second floor. Authorities said a 220-volt power cord from a stove on the first floor ignited items that had been placed on it.

The home is considered a total loss.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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