- The Washington Times - Friday, June 2, 2006

Pastor pleads guilty in teen rape case

NORWICH, N.Y. — A former Baptist pastor who set off a nationwide search in March when he disappeared with a 15-year-old farm girl for a month pleaded guilty yesterday to rape.

A judge dismissed 16 other state charges against Lewis J. Lee, 54, in exchange for the guilty pleas.

Lee, who is married, had been the girl’s pastor at Christian Baptist Church in the central New York town of Sherburne before the two disappeared in mid-March from her family’s dairy farm. The girl left willingly, but the state’s legal age of consent is 17.

The pair set off a nationwide search, traveling as far west as Wyoming before Lee was arrested in April in Hagerstown, Md. The girl was reunited with her family.

Lee faces a total of nine to 28 years in state prison on the seven rape counts. He also faces a five- to 30-year federal term after pleading guilty Wednesday to taking the teenager across state lines to have sex with her.

Sentencing on the federal charges will be Sept. 22. Sentencing in the state case has not been set.

Explosion hurts three at Ohio plant

PANDORA, Ohio — An explosion and fire ripped through a manufacturing plant in northwest Ohio, injuring at least three employees and leading to the evacuation of several hundred homes, authorities said.

The fire was under control by late morning at Pandora Manufacturing, about 50 miles southwest of Toledo.

Homes downwind from the facility were evacuated because of the risk of fumes from a peroxide product that can cause lung problems, Riley Township Fire Chief Bob McCoy said. The injured workers, taken to hospitals in Lima and Toledo, reported having breathing difficulties.

Pandora Manufacturing company makes containers and fills bottles, cans, drums and powder bags for chemical manufacturers.

The fire apparently began along a line containing brake fluid, one of the substances the plant puts in the containers, officials said.

Priest gets five years for looting parish

FREEHOLD, N.J. — A priest who pleaded guilty to looting more than $75,000 from his upscale parish to pay for vacations and fancy cars was sentenced yesterday to five years in state prison.

The sentence followed prosecutors’ recommendation for the Rev. Joseph W. Hughes, 62, who last month admitted embezzling from the Church of the Holy Cross in Rumson, N.J., over seven years. Authorities had originally charged him with taking $2 million.

Hughes, who led the parish for 16 years, has agreed to return the money and pay $120,229 in income taxes.

He was accused of spending parishioners’ donations on Caribbean vacations, BMWs and jewelry. He also bought a $200,000 home for a church carpenter.

Prosecutor’s wife found dead in vehicle

WEST CITY, Ill. — A federal prosecutor’s wife was found slain in a vehicle inside a shed in this southern Illinois community, Franklin County’s prosecutor said yesterday.

The body of Cindy Leggans, 33, whose husband is an assistant U.S. attorney in nearby Benton, was found Thursday in the tiny community of West City, Franklin County State’s Attorney Thomas Dinn said in a written statement.

Mr. Dinn released few other details, including any connections between Mrs. Leggans and a 42-year-old man being sought for questioning.

Patrick Murphy, chief judge of the federal court’s Southern District of Illinois, which includes courts in Benton and East St. Louis, said the slaying was not related to her husband, Tom Leggans, working as a prosecutor.

Two killed in small plane crash

GROTON, Conn. — A Learjet registered to religious broadcaster Pat Robertson crashed in Long Island Sound while flying in heavy fog yesterday, killing both pilots, authorities said. All three passengers escaped without serious injury.

Mr. Robertson was not aboard.

The twin-engine plane went down a half-mile short of the runway at Groton-New London Airport. Authorities said the passengers were able to get out on their own and were pulled from the water and taken to the hospital with injuries that were not thought to be life-threatening.

The plane was registered to Virginia-based Robertson Asset Management. The company is owned by Mr. Robertson and is separate from the Christian Broadcasting Network, spokeswoman Angell Vasko said.

She said Mr. Robertson was not on the plane and rents it out because he uses it infrequently.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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