- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2006


Storm warning issued for New England

BOSTON — The Massachusetts coast was under a storm warning yesterday as Tropical Storm Beryl swirled northward in the Atlantic Ocean, and parts of Long Island and Connecticut were told to prepare for foul weather.

The tropical storm warning extended from Plymouth south to Woods Hole, including Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, said the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The warning means tropical storm conditions are expected in the next 24 hours. The storm may bring in tides of 1 to 3 feet above normal.

At 2 p.m., Beryl’s maximum sustained winds were near 60 mph with higher gusts, well above the 39 mph threshold for a named storm but below hurricane strength of 74 mph.


House fire kills seven people

CHICKASHA — A fire caused by an electrical problem in a refrigerator swept through a home early yesterday, killing seven family members who were overcome by smoke before they could escape, officials said.

A neighbor reported the fire at 5 a.m. Emergency crews who arrived minutes later found the one-story house in flames, Assistant City Manager Mike Brice said.

The victims were identified as Thomas Raby, 33, Cindy McCurley, 34, and their children: Cicily, 12; Casey, 9; Casandra, 8; Chelsea 7; and Sidney, 1.

Associated Press

Firefighters doused a home in Chickasha, Okla., where seven family members were killed early yesterday in an electrical fire.


Cuban migrants brought to U.S.

MIAMI — Twenty-eight Cuban survivors of a deadly attempt to reach Florida earlier this month have been brought to the United States to help authorities prosecute three men accused of smuggling them, officials said yesterday.

U.S. policy states that if Cuban migrants reach land, they can stay in the country.

The migrants had been held on a Coast Guard cutter since a July 8 sea chase ended with the death of one woman aboard the group’s speedboat. They were brought ashore Wednesday under material witness warrants in the smuggling case, and were to appear yesterday in federal court in Miami, U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta said.


Thief steals dozens of Rs

GREENCASTLE — A consonant-loving thief has police and business owners baffled after dozens of Rs were stolen from signs across the community.

“We’ve lost our Rs. And we want them back,” said Randall Jones, president of Headley Hardware.

The weekend caper targeted gas stations, restaurants, repair shops and medical offices in the city of 10,000 people about 40 miles west of Indianapolis. The thief also nabbed half a dozen letters from a lighted marquee in front of a National Guard post.

“I don’t know if they think it’s a joke, but to me it’s just theft,” said National Guard Sgt. Robert Lamb. “I just think it’s disturbing.”


Homicide toll down after Guard’s arrival

NEW ORLEANS — The homicide toll in New Orleans has been cut in half since the National Guard and state police arrived to help patrol the city a month ago, city police statistics show. At the same time, arrests in some crime-plagued neighborhoods have almost doubled.

Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco sent the Guard and state police into the city after a bloody June weekend that ended with six persons slain.

In the 30 days before the reinforcements arrived, there were 21 killings in the city. In the 30 days since then, there were 11.

The Guard was sent June 20 to patrol largely deserted, flooded areas where looting was still a problem. Hurricane Katrina devastated the city last August.


GOP says Democrats filed suit too late

MANCHESTER — A lawsuit stemming from the jamming of Democratic phone lines in the November 2002 elections was filed after the statute of limitations expired and should be dismissed, Republicans argued in court yesterday.

Lawyers for Republicans said the three-year statute of limitations had expired when state Democrats filed their complaint in late January.

But state Democratic Party Chairwoman Kathy Sullivan testified in Hillsborough County Superior Court that Democrats did not know whom to sue until long after the actual phone-jamming, when information from a federal investigation became public. The hearing resumes today.

The lawsuit, whose defendants include the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, seeks compensation for purported Republican interference with phone systems amid a fiercely contested U.S. Senate race between then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and Republican John E. Sununu. Mr. Sununu won by about 20,000 votes.

The calls tied up phone lines for more than an hour as Democrats and the Manchester firefighters’ union were offering rides to the polls.

Three Republican officials were convicted of crimes related to the scheme.


Settlement reached in police killing

NEW YORK — The family of an unarmed African art trader who was fatally shot in a chance run-in with police during a warehouse raid will receive $3 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit, attorneys said yesterday.

The family’s federal lawsuit said that a police officer violated Ousmane Zongo’s civil rights by fatally shooting him in 2003. Police had targeted the Manhattan storage facility, where Mr. Zongo repaired art and musical instruments, after determining that it was being used in a CD- and DVD-pirating operation. Mr. Zongo was never linked to the pirating.

The lawsuit had sought $150 million in damages for pain, suffering and loss of income for the 43-year-old immigrant’s wife and two small children in the West African nation of Burkina Faso.

Former Officer Bryan Conroy was convicted last year of criminally negligent homicide and sentenced to five years’ probation.


Anti-cohabitation law ruled unconstitutional

RALEIGH — A state judge has ruled that North Carolina’s 201-year-old law barring unmarried couples from living together is unconstitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued last year to overturn the rarely enforced law on behalf of a former sheriff’s dispatcher who says she had to quit her job because she wouldn’t marry her live-in boyfriend.

Deborah Hobbs, 40, says her boss, Sheriff Carson Smith of Pender County, near Wilmington, told her to get married, move out or find another job after he found out she and her boyfriend had been living together for three years. The couple did not want to get married, so Miss Hobbs quit in 2004.

State Superior Court Judge Benjamin Alford issued the ruling late Wednesday, saying the law violated Miss Hobbs’ constitutional right to liberty. He cited the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court case titled Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down a Texas sodomy law.


House fire kills mother, 3 daughters

NILES — A fire early yesterday killed a woman and her three daughters, whose bodies were found in the same room of a house in which the only smoke detector lacked a battery, authorities said.

No one else was in the house at the time, Fire Capt. Randy Ciminero said.

The girls were thought to range in age from preschool to early teens, said spokesman Shane Cartmill of the state fire marshal’s office. The fire’s cause had not been determined.

A preliminary autopsy done by the Trumbull County Coroner’s Office showed the victims died of smoke inhalation, Mr. Cartmill said.


Defense rests in Yates case

HOUSTON — Testimony in the Andrea Yates murder case ended yesterday after a nearly monthlong retrial that included some new witnesses but no appearance by Rusty Yates, her ex-husband and father of the children she is accused of drowning.

State District Judge Belinda Hill set closing arguments for Monday and recessed court until then. The jury will be sequestered during deliberations.

Mrs. Yates, 42, is being retried because an appeals court overturned her 2002 capital murder conviction on the grounds that some erroneous testimony may have influenced jurors. Mrs. Yates, charged in three of her five children’s 2001 deaths, has again pleaded innocent by reason of insanity.


Neighbor held in deadly arson

SEATTLE — A neighbor arrested in the slayings of the family of an Iraq war veteran told police he woke up in the victims’ home after an alcoholic blackout, covered in blood, according to court records.

Prosecutors said they expect to file four counts of aggravated first-degree murder Monday against the neighbor, Conner M. Schierman, 24, who was ordered held on $4 million bail in a hearing yesterday. Investigators had not determined a motive in the slayings of National Guard Sgt. Leonid Milkin’s wife, two sons and sister-in-law.

Police say Mr. Schierman used gasoline to set a fire that gutted the two-story house Monday in this suburb east of Seattle.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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