- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2006



Three-vehicle crash on Beltway injures 10

Ten persons were injured in a three-vehicle crash yesterday morning on the Capital Beltway at Central Avenue, Prince George’s County fire officials said.

The accident occurred on the Outer Loop about 11:30 a.m. and involved a tractor-trailer, a Toyota sedan and a Chevrolet Suburban sport utility vehicle.

The tractor-trailer and the SUV ended up in the median, the sedan in the left lane.

A family of six in the SUV, including four children ages 7 to 10, were taken to hospitals for treatment of minor injuries.

Two of the three persons in the sedan were transported by paramedics with serious injuries. The third person was flown to Prince George’s Hospital Center with serious but not life-threatening injuries.

The 10th injury occurred from flying debris that struck a passenger in a vehicle that was not involved in the accident.

Hazardous-materials crews were called to the scene to contain a 75-gallon spill of diesel fuel from the tractor-trailer’s saddle fuel tanks.

The Beltway was closed for about 45 minutes.


Two guilty of roles in murder-for-hire

Two men were convicted in federal court yesterday for their roles in a murder-for-hire scheme that involved shooting a man 15 times to get back at him for robbing a high-profile drug dealer.

Solothal Thomas, 30, and Edward Countess, 30, were convicted of murder-for-hire and conspiracy to commit a murder-for-hire. They also were convicted of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug crime or violent crime resulting in death. In addition, Countess was convicted of conspiracy to distribute marijuana.

The men face a mandatory life sentence.

The jury found that Thomas, who is known as “Itchy Man,” and Countess murdered Jesse Williams, 33, in Baltimore County on Oct. 2, 2001.

Thomas and Countess ambushed Mr. Williams as he was getting into his car, according to testimony. Prosecutors argued that the killing was a contract murder ordered by Tyree Stewart, a big-time Baltimore drug dealer who had been robbed in 1999.

Thomas, Countess and three other men were paid a total of $10,000 for killing Mr. Williams.

Thomas and Countess argued they were not subject to the jurisdiction of the federal courts and refused to participate in the federal case. For that reason, they were taken out of the courtroom, and the trial went on without them.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake has scheduled sentencing for Oct. 27.

Danta Thomas, 35, and Linwood Smith, 42, were also charged in this case. They have pleaded guilty to charges relating to their participation in the murder.

Stewart, 32, of Joppa, and Corey Smith, 29, have pleaded guilty to ordering a contract killing on behalf of their drug organization.


Inmate not capable of standing trial

An inmate accused of trying to rape an infirmary nurse has been ruled incompetent to stand trial.

Cecil County Circuit Judge O. Robert Lidums ruled Wednesday that Christopher Ryan Ellison, 23, is unable to assist in his own criminal defense and that he lacks the capacity to understand the criminality of his actions.

Assistant State’s Attorney Lisa Hatfield said that at some point, prosecutors may be able to try Ellison, who is charged with attempted second-degree rape, second-degree assault, indecent exposure and second-degree assault of an employee at the Cecil County Detention Center in March 2005.

The case will be postponed pending Ellison’s ability to stand trial, Miss Hatfield told the Cecil Whig.

Ellison was in the jail serving time for an indecent-exposure conviction.


Teen dies in fall from moving car

A Charles County teen died this week after falling off the trunk of a moving car.

The Charles County Sheriff’s Office said Erica Pemberton, 16, of Indian Head, was sitting on the trunk of the car in her driveway Monday. A 16-year old La Plata boy at the wheel pulled out of the driveway. As the car went down Columbia Park Road, Erica fell off and struck her head, authorities said.

She was flown to the University of Maryland’s shock trauma center in Baltimore, where she died Tuesday.

The incident remains under investigation, but authorities said neither speed nor alcohol appear to be factors.


Small dog stolen from mall pet store

Operators at a pet store in the Mall in Columbia are worried about the safety of a puppy stolen from the store on June 28.

The female Pomeranian, worth $1,600, is 10 weeks old and needs medication for hypoglycemia. She was stolen from a back room kennel at Today’s Pet. It is thought the thief got away through a service entrance.

The puppy is orange and white and weighs about two pounds.



Woman gets year in jail for mouse-in-soup scam

A woman who tried to extort money from the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain by putting a dead mouse in a bowl of soup was sentenced to a year in jail.

Carla Patterson, 38, and her son, Ricky Patterson, 22, sought $500,000 from the chain after saying they found the rodent in the vegetable soup Carla Patterson ordered at a Newport News restaurant on Mother’s Day weekend in 2004.

The incident prompted Cracker Barrel to temporarily stop serving vegetable soup at its 539 stores nationwide.

A jury convicted the Pattersons of conspiracy to commit extortion in April.

Carla Patterson wept Wednesday as Newport News Circuit Judge Peter Tench imposed the one-year sentence and fined her $2,500.

Ricky Patterson’s sentencing also was scheduled for Wednesday, but it was postponed until Sept. 14 because an order to transfer him to the Newport News jail from the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail in Williamsburg was not processed in time.

He was sentenced to nine months in jail after pleading guilty to two counts of forgery in an unrelated check-fraud case.


Evacuation trial worked well, city says

The July Fourth test of the District’s emergency evacuation plan was a success, officials said.

Operation Fast Forward resulted in a relatively quick exit for crowds gathered downtown to watch the fireworks.

Additional police officers and traffic-control personnel were assigned to key intersections where bottlenecks developed during the plan’s first test a year ago.

Police also kept Constitution and Independence avenues closed for 30 minutes after the fireworks, allowing pedestrians to leave the Mall without dodging anxious motorists.

The chief traffic engineer for the city’s Department of Transportation gave the overall exercise a grade of A-minus.

Douglas Noble said travel-time information was collected on pedestrians who walked to Metrorail stations from specific Mall locations and from test vehicles moving between points on six evacuation routes.

Express lanes to ease entry at Metro stations

Metro passengers who use the SmarTrip card soon will be in the fast lane through the fare gates.

The Metro Board voted yesterday to test “express lanes” at three stations this fall for users of the microchip-embedded cards that are used to pay for bus and rail fares and parking.

There will be four “express lanes” on the north mezzanine at the Anacostia station and at the New Carrollton and Vienna stations. The remaining fare gates will accept both paper farecards and SmarTrip.

About 80 percent of riders at those stations pay their fares with SmarTrip, Metro officials said. Overall, about 53 percent of Metrorail riders and 18 percent of Metrobus riders use the cards.

The “express lanes” will allow 32 customers per minute to pass through, compared with 22 per minute at the other gates. Some customers had complained that they were impeded by tourists and other passengers who have trouble using farecards.

Also yesterday, the board voted to approve a four-year collective bargaining agreement with train and bus operators, mechanics and other employees belonging to its largest labor union. The deal, which covers almost 7,000 workers, includes a 6 percent wage increase over the next two years.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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