- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 16, 2006


Girl’s prosthetic leg stolen for 2nd time

TEMPLE CITY — For the second time in recent months, somebody broke into a 16-year-old girl’s home and stole her prosthetic leg, this time one that had been donated after the first crime, authorities said.

The thieves took a $12,000 cosmetic leg as well as a donated $16,000 leg that Melissa Huff, whose right leg was amputated two years ago after she was struck by a car, uses to play softball. Her mother said a camera in the room was untouched.

In the first theft, on Nov. 1, someone cut a hole in a window screen and also took video games and other items, authorities said. Her doctor and two real estate finance companies donated money for a new, shock-absorbent “sports leg” with a flexible foot.

On Tuesday, a thief pried open a screen window in the home, about 12 miles east of Los Angeles. Authorities have no leads.


Man injured boarding Disney World ride

LAKE BUENA VISTA — A 70-year-old man was injured when he was pinned under a ride at Walt Disney World while attempting to board it, authorities said.

The man, whose name was not released, fell off a conveyor belt while getting on Peter Pan’s Flight about 6:40 p.m. Tuesday, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office reported.

He apparently fell into the path of the next vehicle on the conveyor belt.

The man was flown by helicopter to Orlando Regional Medical Center, where his condition was not available.

The ride was stopped immediately and shut down for the rest of the day.


Marriage amendment to go on ballot

BOISE — The Idaho Senate yesterday approved a constitutional marriage amendment for the November ballot.

The 26-9 vote met the required two-thirds vote for approval. Last week, the House passed the measure, which says that only the union of one man and one woman can be valid or recognized in the state.

The vote makes Idaho the sixth state to put a marriage amendment before voters this year. The other states are Alabama, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Virginia.


Guard charged in jail escape

CHICAGO — When a jail guard first explained how six detainees had escaped, authorities said, he described being held at bay with a makeshift knife as inmates set fire to a mattress to lure another guard to the scene.

Later, Darin Gater told investigators he had aided the escape to influence the upcoming sheriff’s election by embarrassing outgoing Cook County Sheriff Michael Sheahan, said a law-enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation.

Mr. Gater, 36, of Chicago, appeared in court yesterday and was ordered held on $500,000 bail on two counts of aggravated battery of a correctional officer, aggravated arson, escape and official misconduct. All six inmates who escaped from the Cook County Jail last weekend have been captured.

Also yesterday, the brother and sister of one of the escaped inmates, Francisco Romero, were charged in the case. Anna Romero and Jose Romero face four counts each of aiding an escapee.


Free transit rides extended to June 30

NEW ORLEANS — Public transit passengers will be able to continue riding Regional Transit Authority buses and streetcars free of charge through June 30.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has been paying for the service since Oct. 2, has extended the free rides beyond the original cutoff date of March 18. The city’s transit authority is operating 30 routes.


Hospital operator plans 150-bed unit

BANGOR — Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems has submitted a letter of intent with the state to build a 150-bed, $150 million hospital in Waterville.

Eastern Maine Healthcare operates Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, the state’s second-largest hospital. Waterville already has three hospitals.


Calcium, vitamin D offer limited benefits

BOSTON — The biggest study ever of calcium and vitamin D supplements for older women showed they offered only limited protection against broken bones, raising questions over what has been an article of faith among doctors and nutritionists.

The supplements seemed to reduce the risk of broken hips in women older than 60 and helped those who took the supplements most regularly. As to preventing bone fractures overall, vitamin D and calcium flunked in these healthy women.

One of the researchers, Dr. Norman Lasser at New Jersey Medical School, said the study is “not as ringing an endorsement of calcium as one might like.”

Even so, many specialists said they would stand behind federal guidelines recommending the supplements, if needed, to meet standard intake of calcium and vitamin D.


Bank robber killed in standoff

DETROIT — A bank robber was found dead of a gunshot wound after police stormed the bank where he was holding several people hostage yesterday, police said.

The man walked into a Comerica Bank branch shortly before 4 p.m. brandishing a shotgun, police said.

A shot was fired inside the bank, and the man soon released three hostages. The building was surrounded by a tactical police team, and an hourlong standoff ensued as police tried to rescue the remaining hostages.

At about 5:20 p.m., the tactical team stormed the building and found the man dead from a gunshot wound to the chest. The six remaining hostages were unharmed, police said.


‘Extreme Makeover’ visits storm-torn city

BILOXI — One man brought the tree branch to which he clung for hours in Hurricane Katrina’s rising floodwaters. A woman dropped off a cross she found in the wreckage of her church. A city council member donated an American flag from the home he lost in the storm.

All of these hurricane artifacts ended up in the hands of Aaron Kramer, a sculptor creating a collage that will adorn a memorial to the storm’s victims being built under the direction of the ABC reality show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

He describes his collage as a “hurricane of debris.” At the center is a clock he plans to set to the time when Katrina hit this resort city Aug. 29.

The show featuring the Biloxi projects is tentatively set to air March 30.


Liaison to aid Indians with law

HELENA — The state Corrections Department plans to hire a liaison between the prison system and Indian reservations to help American Indians charged with crimes better deal with the courts and understand their rights.

American Indians make up 6.5 percent of Montana’s population, but 17 percent of the male inmates and 26 percent of women in state prison are Indians.


Court hears debate on gay ‘marriage’

TRENTON — New Jersey Supreme Court justices questioned attorneys on the issue of same-sex “marriage” yesterday, asking what business the state has barring such unions, but also whether lifting the ban could open the door to legalizing polygamy.

The case involves seven same-sex couples who sued the state, saying it is violating its own constitution by denying them the right to marry.

“How do plaintiffs answer their children’s questions about why they are not married?” asked attorney David Buckell, arguing for the couples. “The only answer is that the state does not think their relationships are worthy.”

Conservative groups filed documents contending that allowing same-sex “marriage” would harm society. The state did not make that argument in defending its ban but said allowing same-sex “marriage” is an issue for legislators, not judges.


Areas at risk of cave-ins closed

PICHER — City workers yesterday finished fencing off a park, the latest chunk of town lost to the threat that it could collapse into the underground mines below.

About 30 percent of Picher and nearby Cardin, including homes, roads, churches and playgrounds, is built above failing mining caverns that could collapse at any time, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers discovered.

Since the warnings were issued, school buses have been rerouted to stay off roads that might be in danger of collapsing, including U.S. 69, the main thoroughfare through town.

At Picher-Cardin School, which has about 350 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, workers have been disassembling basketball goals, swing sets and other equipment at a playground that opened last summer.


Judge grants access for renovation

HARRISBURG — The National Park Service can have access to a building adjoining the home where Abraham Lincoln slept the night before he delivered the Gettysburg Address, a federal judge has ruled.

The Park Service is renovating the now-vacant house in Gettysburg and wants to turn it into a museum, but says it needs to get into the attached building to make structural repairs.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner ruled Tuesday that the historic house could be irreparably harmed if the Park Service doesn’t get access to the adjoining property.

The other property’s owners had denied access to the building, saying they were concerned about damage to their property and about hurting the business of an ice-cream shop that rents the space.


Mormons weigh more than others

OREM — Mormons on average weigh 4.6 pounds more than other Utahans, said a study by a Brigham Young University professor.

The study also found members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were 14 percent more likely to be obese than nonmembers.

The study suggests Mormons may be using excessive eating as a substitute for other prohibited indulgences such as smoking and drinking.


Parents protest move extending school year

BARRE — Parents are protesting a plan by the city school board to extend the school year to make up days lost during a 10-day teachers strike in December.

The parents say extending the school year from June 16 to June 23 jeopardizes plans made long ago.

Some board members were willing to reverse the decision, but the effort fell two votes short.


Mother cleared of accusations

MILWAUKEE — Prosecutors said yesterday they won’t file charges against a woman arrested after police found three of her 11 children hiding in an abandoned house and claiming they were afraid to go home because she beat them.

Deputy District Attorney Bob Donohoo has said after the initial reports were investigated that the facts “do not point to what was first being alleged.”

He confirmed yesterday that no charges would be filed.

The 35-year-old woman called police Jan. 26 to report that three of her children were missing, department spokeswoman Anne E. Schwartz said. She said the children — twin 9-year-old boys and a 6-year-old boy — were found in an abandoned house about three miles from home. The boys had scars and bruises on their backs, buttocks and faces, Miss Schwartz said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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