- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 3, 2006

ARIZONA

Shooting death linked to serial killer

PHOENIX — The death of a woman who was shot while walking has been linked to a serial killer thought responsible for dozens of random shootings across metropolitan Phoenix, police said yesterday.

Mesa police Sgt. Chuck Trapani said the weekend death of Robin Blasnek, 22, was linked to earlier cases because of similarities and limited forensic evidence.

Authorities say the so-called “Serial Shooter” is responsible for three dozen shootings of people and animals. Seventeen persons have been wounded since May 2005, in addition to the six deaths.

Miss Blasnek was walking to her boyfriend’s home in Mesa, a suburb east of Phoenix, about 11:15 p.m. Sunday when she was shot.

FLORIDA

Mother, roommate accused of abuse

ST. PETERSBURG — A woman and her roommate were charged with starving the woman’s 9-year-old daughter, who weighed 42 pounds when she was found, was locked up all day and was forced to wear a filthy diaper, authorities said.

Melissa Samoraj, 27, and Raymond LaFountain, 31, were arrested Wednesday and charged with aggravated child abuse. The girl was so emaciated that her spine and rib cage were showing when state child welfare officials took her June 30, police said.

The girl also had her hands bound behind her, was locked in a bedroom all day and wore a diaper that went unchanged for hours, officials said. She told police it was punishment for bad behavior.

The girl now lives with her grandparents and has gained about 25 pounds in a month.

ALABAMA

Governor given registration task

MONTGOMERY — A federal judge put Gov. Bob Riley in charge of developing an overdue voter registration database, turning aside objections by Democratic Party leaders. The judge said Mr. Riley would replace Democratic Secretary of State Nancy Worley, who has not met a deadline set under the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the Justice Department, which said the voter database project would be nonpartisan.

CALIFORNIA

One dead in stabbing along Sunset Strip

WEST HOLLYWOOD — A stabbing outside a popular nightclub on the Sunset Strip left one man dead and another wounded, authorities said.

The victims were attending a concert Wednesday night at the House of Blues, where a fight broke out and bouncers ejected several people, said Los Angeles Sheriff’s Lt. Joe Hartschorne.

When the concert-goers were on a street near the club, “more fights broke out, during the fights … unfortunately two individuals were stabbed,” Lt. Hartschorne said.

The victims were taken to a hospital, where one man was pronounced dead and the other was in stable condition.

COLORADO

Monster hurricane unlikely this year

DENVER — Hurricane researchers at Colorado State University said yesterday that this year’s hurricane season won’t be as bad earlier predicted and said a monster storm like Katrina is unlikely.

“The probability of another Katrinalike event is very small,” said Phillip Klotzbach, lead forecaster for the hurricane research team.

The researchers reduced the number of likely hurricanes from nine to seven and intense hurricanes from five to three.

There is, however, a considerably higher-than-average probability of at least one intense hurricane making landfall in the United States this year, 73 percent. The average is 52 percent.

Researcher William Gray said Atlantic Ocean surface temperatures are not quite as warm and surface pressure is not quite as low, both factors in the decision to revise the forecast.

“Overall, we think the 2006 Atlantic basin tropical storm season will be somewhat active …,” Mr. Klotzbach said. “This year it looks like the East Coast is more likely to be targeted by Atlantic basin hurricanes than the Gulf Coast.”

Mr. Gray and his team say hurricane activity will continue to be above average for another 15 to 20 years.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami in May predicted 16 named storms in the Atlantic, six of them major hurricanes. Thus far, there have been three named storms.

INDIANA

Car crash stirs bee swarm

OSSIAN — A teenage driver crashed into a hollow tree and stirred up tens of thousands of honey bees, creating a swarm attack that sent her and nine others to the hospital.

“Those bees were mad,” said Volunteer Fire Chief Kent Gilbert, who was stung at least 50 times while trying to pull the 16-year-old driver from the wreckage. “I’ve never seen bees, especially honeybees, attack like that.”

Jacqueline Cossairt’s SUV slammed into the tree Tuesday after she lost control on a gravel road about 10 miles south of Fort Wayne.

By the time rescuers arrived, a black cloud of buzzing insects had engulfed the car, forcing firefighters to wear full safety gear — complete with oxygen tanks and face masks — with temperatures in the 90s.

Safety workers doused the bees with water and foam while they tried to free Miss Cossairt, who was taken to a nearby hospital with broken legs and multiple bee stings. She remained at Lutheran Hospital yesterday.

A neighbor, along with a paramedic and seven firefighters, also were hospitalized for bee stings and heat-related symptoms.

“You can’t really train for that. You don’t really know. You look for downed power lines. You don’t look for a million bees,” said Trooper Bob Brophy.

NEW JERSEY

Landmark verdict overturned

TRENTON — An appeals court yesterday overturned a landmark $105 million verdict against a stadium vendor that sold beer to a drunken fan who later paralyzed a girl in an auto wreck.

Ordering a new trial, the three-judge state appeals panel said the trial court improperly allowed testimony about the “drinking environment” at the 1999 football game at Giants Stadium.

The family claimed that vendors for Philadelphia-based Aramark Corp. continued to sell beer to Daniel Lanzaro during a 1999 New York Giants game even though he was clearly drunk, and that the concessionaire fostered an atmosphere in which intoxicated patrons were able to still buy alcohol.

Hours later, Lanzaro, then 34, caused the wreck that paralyzed then-2-year-old Antonia Verni from the neck down.

“The admission of this evidence cannot be considered harmless. A central theme of plaintiffs’ case was the culture of intoxication at the stadium,” the court wrote in its 65-page ruling.

Last year, a state judge in Hackensack rejected an effort by Aramark to throw out the verdict or reduce the January 2005 judgment by a Bergen County jury.

The jury said Lanzaro and Aramark should pay a total of $135 million in damages. At the time, legal analysts said it was the largest alcohol liability award in the United States in at least the last 25 years.

NEW YORK

Government seeks to bar subpeona

NEW YORK — Government lawyers are fighting a reproductive rights group’s request for copies of White House e-mails and other records about the morning-after contraceptive Plan B.

At a hearing in federal court yesterday, Magistrate Judge Viktor Pohorelsky set an Aug. 11 deadline for the government to file a formal request to quash the Center for Reproductive Rights’ effort to subpoena the records. He scheduled another hearing for Sept. 29.

“It’s a question of whether the areas of inquiry into the White House are appropriate in any fashion,” the judge said.

The rights group said it wants to subpoena any e-mails, letters and records of conversations about the product exchanged by the White House and the Food and Drug Administration.

The group is seeking to determine whether the administration, for political purposes, tried to steer FDA regulators on how to handle a request to allow over-the-counter sales of the pills. The group supports such sales.

Federal lawyers responded earlier this week with a letter to Judge Pohorelsky, saying they would request a protective order “to quash these requests in their entirety” or strictly limit what the group can learn about the White House role.

The morning-after pill is a high dose of the most common ingredient in regular birth control pills. When taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, the two-pill series can lower the risk of pregnancy by up to 89 percent.

WYOMING

911 service loss under investigation

CHEYENNE — The Public Service Commission is investigating the loss of 911 service that left people in most of Wyoming unable to report emergencies for several hours Tuesday.

The outage occurred about 3:30 p.m. after an underground cable was cut, said Michael Dunne, spokesman for Qwest Communications International Inc. Casper, Jackson, Cody and many other communities lost 911 and long-distance services. They were restored quickly in some places and by all the areas affected by midnight Tuesday.

From wire reports and dispatches

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