- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2006



Travel planner indicted on theft charges

The head of a travel business was indicted on theft charges after accepting money for a trip to Chicago to see Oprah Winfrey and not delivering, authorities said yesterday.

Terrance M. Hawkins, 44, of Temple Hills, faced 17 theft counts. Prosecutors said Mr. Hawkins charged $500 per person for a bus trip to Chicago and tickets to see a taping of the talk-show queen’s program. They said he ran a business known both as Royal Travel and Royal Stages Travel Group, and booked the trips from December 2004 to April 2005.

Investigators think there may be as many as 70 victims, many of them elderly women.

If convicted, Mr. Hawkins faces a maximum of 15 years in prison.


Reservist must repay wages while on duty

A reservist from Annapolis who spent a year in Iraq is being told he must pay back Anne Arundel County for wages paid to him while he was on leave from his county job.

George Murray, 41, a mechanic for the county, was told recently in a letter from the county personnel office that he was “erroneously paid” his full salary while he was in Iraq. He’s being billed more than $29,000.

County spokeswoman Rhonda Wardlaw said two other soldiers employed by the county also were paid in error and have repaid the county in full.

Mr. Murray said he thought it was odd that his paychecks continued to be deposited in his bank account while he was deployed. But when he called his office from overseas, he said a receptionist told him the payments were correct — a paid civic leave.


Barn fire kills goats, burns bales of hay

A fire killed 20 goats early yesterday in a barn, state fire officials said.

Flames could be seen for miles after the barn caught fire about 2:30 a.m. at the Brad-Key Farm near the border between Frederick and Carroll counties.

Damage to the building and its contents — including 10,000 bales of hay — was estimated at $100,000.

The owner of the barn suffered a minor burn to his hand while removing a tractor from the barn.



Route 1 lanes shift for bridge work

Lanes on Route 1 will soon be shifted, part of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge construction.

As early as today, both directions of Route 1 south of the Capital Beltway will be moved about 50 feet to the west. In about two weeks, the same lanes north of the Beltway will be moved about 30 feet west.

Workers need the room to build the first half of a new overpass without reducing the number of lanes. When this part of the job is finished next year, traffic will use the new lanes while the rest of the overpass is built.

When the whole job is done, Route 1 will have six lanes over the Beltway, rather than the current four.


Pet-licensing bills queaks out of panel

A bill that barely made it out of a Senate committee yesterday would put veterinarians on the front lines of getting pets licensed.

The measure made it through the Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee. The vote broke down mostly along regional lines, with opponents from rural areas.

The bill would require vets to report unlicensed dogs or cats to local treasurers.The owners would be billed for the license.

The bill is supported by the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association. Vets say it will help track rabies vaccinations.

It also has the blessing of the Virginia Municipal League and the Virginia Association of Counties. Some localities use money from dog and cat licensing fees to pay for their animal-control officers.


Boy, 14, charged in shooting of friend

Police have charged a 14-year-old boy in Sunday’s shoot-ing of his 10-year-old friend.

The boy, who police didn’t identify, was in stable condition at a hospital yesterday.

The shooter, also unidentified, has been charged with reckless handling of a firearm and possession of a firearm under the age of 18. He is being held at the Newport News Secure Detention Center.

Police told the Daily Press that the shooting occurred about 7:30 p.m. in an apartment. They said the victim was visiting relatives and the two were in a bedroom when the older boy was showing off the gun when it discharged. The victim suffered wounds to the face and hand.


Light snow leads to bevy of accidents

Less than an inch of snow triggered more than 100 minor accidents yesterday along a stretch of Interstate 64, prompting Virginia State Police to advise motorists to avoid the highway.

In the Richmond area, state police said they responded to 150 crashes, with 14 resulting in injuries. They also reported one weather-related traffic crash in King George County.

State police called in additional troopers to handle about 115 accidents along a stretch of I-64 from Virginia Beach to Williamsburg, State Police Sgt. D.S. Carr said.

The Presidents Day holiday kept many vehicles off I-64, a major commuter link in the Hampton Roads area and the principal highway between the region and Richmond.

Sgt. Carr said most of the road surfaces were clear but with icy patches, primarily on overpasses, that caused many drivers to spin out of control.

The National Weather Service in Wakefield said a band of snow moved across Virginia, leaving one-half to 1 inch of snow throughout most of the state.

In Southwest Virginia, 3 to 5 inches were reported in some areas.

The majority of the Richmond-area wrecks occurred on Interstates 95, 64 and 295.

“A whole lot of them appeared to be on overpasses and bridges,” State Police Sgt. Kevin Barrick said.

Troopers in the Richmond region normally handle 15 to 25 accidents on a normal day, Sgt. Barrick said.


Missing hikers found on Appalachian Trail

Rescue workers found two hikers on the Appalachian Trail over the weekend and safely escorted them off the trail.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Conley-Sexton with the Roanoke County Fire and Rescue Department said the 20-year-old man and 18-year-old woman were treated at the scene for mild hypothermia Saturday night but were not taken to the hospital.

Mrs. Conley-Sexton said about 30 Roanoke County search-and-rescue workers and a Virginia State Police helicopter helped in the four-hour search west of Catawba.

She said it took rescue workers about two hours to walk the hikers to the end of the trail.


160,000 chickens killed in fire

Workers at Green Valley Poultry Farm began repairs yesterday, a day after a fire swept through a 37,000-square-foot chicken house, killing 160,000 chickens.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents were investigating the fire, which caused more than $2 million in damage.

Rodney Wagner, owner of Dutt & Wagner, the largest egg producer in the state, said it could have been an accidental electrical fire.

“There are four miles of wiring running through the building,” Mr. Wagner said. “It wouldn’t take a rat more than five minutes to chew through two wires and start a fire.”

Mr. Wagner said he didn’t expect the loss of chickens and eggs to create a shortage.


Unclaimed cash, stock totals $12 million

The D.C. government wants to find the owners of more than $12 million in cash and stock.

The money is part of the unclaimed property being held by the Office of Finance and Treasury. In addition to all that cash, there also is more than 250,000 shares of stock. And it only took them nine months to collect it all.

The unclaimed property comes from a variety of sources, including abandoned bank accounts. D.C. officials said 17,000 people and businesses are on their list, which can be searched free of charge on the chief financial officer’s Web site, cfo.dc.gov.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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