- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 13, 2006

GEORGIA

Conviction upheld in student’s killing

ATLANTA — Georgia’s highest court yesterday upheld the conviction of a man found guilty of murdering an Emory University student whose body has not been found.

Colvin “Butch” Hinton was sentenced to life in prison for the 1994 murder of Shannon Melendi of Miami. Hinton’s attorney argued that the jury should not have been told of his criminal past and should have learned of FBI speculation that Miss Melendi might have been killed by a drug dealer or a boyfriend.

Miss Melendi was last seen leaving the Softball Country Club in DeKalb County. Hinton was spotted leaving the complex minutes later. Miss Melendi had worked as a scorekeeper at a game for which Hinton was an umpire. Her car was found abandoned at a nearby gas station.

Her body has not been found. A DeKalb County jury in September found Hinton guilty of murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison.

LOUISIANA

State to receive charter school grant

BELLE CHASSE — The charter school movement, bolstered after Hurricane Katrina devastated public schools in and around New Orleans, got another boost yesterday when federal officials announced a $23.9 million grant to increase the number of charter schools in the state.

“It’s a way for us to give parents options for their kids and allows us to have good laboratories for innovative education,” Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said as she announced the grant during a visit to a southeastern Louisiana school.

Charter schools receive public money but have greater freedom than most public schools in budgets, hiring and purchasing. They can be opened by nonprofit groups, churches, universities, community centers, parents, groups of teachers and school districts.

The grant is for schools statewide, but most are likely to be in New Orleans, where 25 of 128 public schools have reopened, of which 18 are charter schools. An additional 25 charter schools are expected to open in the city in the coming school year.

MASSACHUSETTS

Whale euthanized on Cape Cod beach

DENNIS — A pregnant pygmy sperm whale was euthanized after washing up in shallow waters off Cape Cod, marine specialists said yesterday.

They were investigating whether the 870-pound animal, which was almost full-term when it came ashore at West Dennis Beach early Sunday, was ill or experiencing pregnancy complications and unable to swim away.

Pygmy sperm whales normally swim in deep water, so to see one near the coast is rare, said Bridget Cabral, a stranding technician with the Cape Cod Stranding Network who participated in a necropsy on the whale.

“They are very deep sea divers. There’s something wrong with it,” she said.

No accurate count of the pygmy sperm whale population is available because of their deep-sea existence, but they are not considered endangered, the American Cetacean Society said.

NEVADA

Courthouse shooting seriously wounds judge

RENO — A family court judge was shot and wounded as he stood near a third-floor courthouse window yesterday, and police sealed off the area and searched nearby parking garages for a sniper.

Judge Chuck Weller was hit in the chest around midday by a shot or shots that came through his office window at the Mills B. Lane Justice Center, authorities said. He was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he was reported in serious condition.

“He is conscious and talking with his family,” police spokesman Steve Frady said.

Police closed off six blocks near the courthouse on the edge of Reno’s downtown casino district. A SWAT team was called in, and officers conducted a floor-by-floor search of the courthouse and the neighboring parking garages.

NEW YORK

Actress’s rapist found guilty on new charges

NEW YORK — An ex-convict who had raped an actress nearly 25 years ago and once threatened to kill two former presidents was found guilty yesterday of raping and robbing two young women in their home in 1996.

The jury convicted Leroy Johnson, 39, on all eight counts. He faces up to 25 years in prison on each of the two rape counts when state Supreme Court Justice Renee White sentences him June 27.

Prosecutors said Johnson forced his way into the two women’s Greenwich Village apartment on Nov. 18, 1996, then raped and robbed them at knifepoint. He was arrested last year after DNA and evidence from the scene was submitted for advanced testing.

Johnson also raped actress Kelly McGillis, who starred in “Top Gun,” in 1982, an attack she has discussed publicly.

In 1992, he was convicted of threatening the lives of former Presidents George Bush and Ronald Reagan.

OHIO

Campus police seek new image with Beetle

CINCINNATI — Police at the University of Cincinnati say it is difficult to be an imposing force when they are driving the cutest car on campus.

Police officers are tooling around in a white Volkswagen Beetle that sports a ladybug cartoon figure on its side, imploring students to “bug” them for information.

Deployed in 2000 to make officers more accessible to students, the car has become a familiar fixture across campus, drawing waves, honks and the occasional smirk from city police officers.

The car projects a friendlier image of the police force, said Mitchel Livingston, vice president of student affairs and services.

TENNESSEE

Wife indicted in minister’s death

SELMER — The wife of a minister fatally shot in his church’s parsonage was indicted yesterday on a charge of premeditated murder.

The indictment for first-degree murder was issued by a McNairy County grand jury against Mary Winkler, 32.

She has been in custody since the day after the March 22 slaying of her husband, Matthew Winkler, 31, a minister at the local Church of Christ.

Mrs. Winkler and the couple’s young daughters were missing and were the subject of an Amber alert before police found them the next night in Orange Beach, Ala.

Authorities say she confessed to the shooting, but they haven’t disclosed a motive.

VERMONT

Veterans collect high school diplomas

MONTPELIER — A new state law is allowing World War II and Korean War veterans who missed their graduations to collect high school diplomas at commencements this spring.

Bernice “Bernie” Davis, 78, who left what is now the Burr and Burton Academy in 1945 to join the Navy, collected his diploma over the weekend alongside 158 teenagers.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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