- The Washington Times - Monday, December 25, 2006



Autistic boy killed in fire set by twin

An autistic 15-year-old boy died after his twin brother, who also is autistic, set a bed on fire with a lighter, relatives and fire officials said.

Jerrell Williamson died at Frederick Memorial Hospital after the fire, which broke out shortly before 11:30 p.m. Saturday at the town house on Sandpiper Court where Jerrell lived with his brother, Joshua; their mother, Carolyn Stone; and an unrelated man, Ray Pulliam.

Joshua, who has a history of lighting fires, started the blaze, said the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

Jerrell became separated from his family as they escaped from the fire, Mr. Pulliam said.

“We were all going down the stairs together. I thought I had both of them together, but when we got out, only Joshua was there,” Mr. Pulliam said.

Investigators said Jerrell probably died of smoke inhalation, but the state medical examiner will determine the official cause of death.

The fire, which caused more than $75,000 in damage, destroyed much of the second floor.

Mr. Pulliam said he had been able to salvage the gifts he bought the boys for Christmas, but while the family was at the hospital thieves broke in and stole video games and memory cards from a PlayStation in the living room.

“What kind of a person would do that?” he said. “It’s just unbelievable that this could happen after a fire, and it’s Christmas.”


Schools adding Chinese classes

Maryland schools are paying more attention to teaching the Chinese language.

China has 1.3 billion people and an emerging economy, which makes it an asset for people to be able to speak Chinese, said state schools Superintendent Nancy A. Grasmick.

So far, only a handful of school systems in the state have Chinese language courses: the city of Baltimore and Baltimore, Cecil, Frederick, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

But there is a movement to add the language across the state and to start teaching it at an earlier age, which specialists say greatly helps achieve proficiency.

About 1,500 students in the state were enrolled in Chinese language courses last year.


Churches rush to switch decor

Unusual timing in the religious calendar forced Catholic churches to switch church decor from Advent to Christmas very quickly this year.

It last happened in 2000 and won’t happen again until 2017.

The Advent season begins four Sundays before Christmas but lasted only about three weeks this year because Dec. 25 fell on a Monday.

Catholic churches were expected to celebrate Advent Mass Saturday morning. Then, they had to change gears and hold the first Christmas services beginning at 4 p.m.

Between those services, churches had to quickly replace the purple or blue decorations of Advent with the more elaborate and festive decorations of Christmas.

Other denominations decided to take care of some of the Christmas preparations ahead of time.

Christ Lutheran Church in Baltimore went ahead and put up evergreens. Poinsettias and other more festive decor were not added until after the final Advent Mass, said Robert M. Brown, the church sexton.

The church also condensed the three sessions it typically holds into one morning service to make room for Christmas services later in the day, he said.


Man fatally shot at nightclub

A man was fatally shot and a woman was wounded early yesterday at a nightclub.

Both were hit by several gunshots about 3 a.m. as Club D Two on Kenilworth Avenue was closing, police said.

The man died at the scene and the woman was taken to a hospital, police said.


Coppin State weighs dropping dean search

Coppin State University is thinking about canceling the search for a dean for its School of Professional Studies.

Instead, university officials are thinking about letting the school be managed by a council of four department chairmen.

Elias Taylor, a search committee member who had the idea, said data indicate the school is administratively top-heavy.

John Hudgins, chairman of the Social Sciences Department, said the money saved by not hiring a dean could be used for student aid or to hire additional instructors.

The dean usually makes about $90,000 a year.

National specialists say the university’s plan might look better on paper than it will in practice.

Michael Bastedo, a higher education scholar at the University of Michigan, said supporters of the change may be underestimating how much coordination is needed to reach decisions.


Man killed in NE shooting

Police yesterday were investigating the shooting death of a man in Northeast on Christmas Eve.

David Watkins, 29, was shot several times in the head and upper body while sitting in a car Sunday night in the 2000 block of Third Street Northeast.

Police said they had no suspects or motive.

Climber on ledge saved by helicopter

It was a scary Christmas Eve for a man stranded on a rock ledge in Rock Creek Park, but a “light from above” — from a police helicopter, actually — helped him get to safety.

U.S. Park Police said the man was atop a 25-foot outcrop near Massachusetts Avenue Northwest but could get only part of the way down by nightfall.

The man called for help on a cell phone after deciding he couldn’t get down by himself.

But the first searchers to arrive were across the creek and could not see the climber.

Police used a helicopter with a search light to spot the man sitting on a narrow ledge about 12 feet above a trail.

One Park Police officer climbed part way, braced himself and used one hand to support the man as he lowered himself. Another helped from below.

The man’s name wasn’t released, and police aren’t sure of the reason for his climb.



Jail chief eyes training to spot illegal aliens

Police and jail employees in Prince William County may ask for federal immigration-law enforcement training, the latest move by one of Virginia’s fastest-growing counties to track illegal aliens.

Col. Charles Land, the superintendent of the Prince William-Manassas regional jail, wants some of his officers to be trained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on how to identify inmates who are illegal aliens and have been involved in violent or serious crimes.

County and Manassas police also have been looking into federal immigration-law training.

Last week, Prince William County police Chief Charlie Deane told county supervisors that it would be more effective to have jail officials undergo federal immigration-law training.

Manassas police Chief John J. Skinner made similar recommendations to the City Council in October.

County supervisors have asked their staff to determine how much money illegal aliens are costing the county.

Supervisors said the federal government should pay for additional costs attributed to illegal aliens for schools, health care, law enforcement and social services.

Critics argue that immigration-law training could make the Hispanic community more fearful, and less trusting, of local police.


Group sells bricks to fund Capitol upgrade

All that stands between the average Virginian and a spot in history is $250.

That’s because the Virginia Capitol Foundation — a private foundation raising money to help repair the Thomas Jefferson-designed State Capitol — is selling inscribed bricks.

Organizers aim to raise $800,000 through sales of the bricks, set to be installed starting in late March.

About 4,000 are available.

Alice Lynch, foundation executive director, called the bricks a highly visible way to raise private money for a public monument.

The bricks will be in the Bank Street sidewalk between the Washington Building, at the southeastern corner of Capitol Square, and the columned entry plaza that has been built near the T-junction of Ninth and Bank streets.

Placement will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

Each of the 4-by-8-inch bricks can accommodate three lines of type and up to 14 characters per line — capital letters highlighted with a black epoxy.

Proposed inscriptions will be vetted for taste, accuracy and punctuation by the Capitol Square Preservation Council, the state agency that oversees the statehouse complex.

“We didn’t want this to become commercial,” Miss Lynch said. “We’ve been respectful of the historic nature of the square and want to maintain the dignity that the Capitol deserves.”

The General Assembly, the Capitol’s primary occupant, returns to the two-century-old building in April, after two sessions in the Patrick Henry Building during the $83 million Capitol restoration.

Inscribed bricks have been a popular fundraising tool in Virginia, turning up at Marymount University, Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Richmond.

The University of Virginia, the College of William & Mary and Virginia Military Institute also have sold them.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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