- The Washington Times - Friday, June 23, 2006

MARYLAND

BALTIMORE

Merrill’s death ruled a suicide

The state medical examiner’s office has ruled the death of publisher Philip Merrill a suicide, a spokeswoman said yesterday.

Mr. Merrill died of a “contact shotgun wound” to the head, according to the autopsy report filed by Dr. Laron Locke, said Shirl Walker, a spokeswoman for the state medical examiner’s office.

Mr. Merrill, 72, disappeared from his sailboat June 10 while on a solo trip. His body was found Monday, ending an extensive search.

His family later said they suspected he had killed himself, saying his spirit had “dimmed” since heart surgery a year ago.

BALTIMORE

Police say girl dies after assault by teen

Police say a 4-year-old girl who was raped and assaulted by her 15-year-old baby sitter has died at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The incident happened Wednesday night in the 2900 block of Goodwood Road in Northeast Baltimore.

Police say Ronald Hinton, 15, was baby-sitting the 4-year-old girl and her 7-year-old brother when the incident occurred.

The baby sitter called 911, saying the girl fell after jumping on a bed, police said. When officers arrived on the scene, they found the girl face down, unconscious and bleeding.

Investigators say the girl was sexually assaulted, beaten with a belt and bitten.

The teenager was charged as an adult with first-degree rape and several counts of sex offense, assault and child abuse.

He was being held without bail and ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation.

REGION

Metro records 200 million trips

Metrorail carried 200 million passengers this fiscal year — a milestone that has transit officials celebratory and wary of the system’s rapid growth.

On Thursday, Metro surpassed the 200 million-trip mark for fiscal 2006, which began July 1. In fiscal 2005, the rail system made more than 195 million passenger trips.

It was the first time in the transit authority’s 30-year history that Metrorail has carried more than 200 million riders in a fiscal year.

Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said the agency typically sees ridership increase as the tourism season blooms, but rising gas costs and a mild winter may have driven the numbers even higher.

“The numbers show how vital Metro is to the region,” Mr. Taubenkibel said, adding that the increasing ridership is straining aging equipment.

Metro recorded seven of its top 10 busiest days in 2006, including a span of four straight days last week. One of the seven days — April 20 — was not associated with any holidays or special events on the Mall.

The subway system carried more than 770,000 riders during each of the seven days.

VIRGINIA

ALEXANDRIA

Lentz gets life in prison

Jay Lentz, the former naval intelligence officer convicted in the death of his ex-wife, was sentenced to life in prison yesterday in U.S. District Court.

Lentz, 46, of Greenfield, Ind., was convicted in March of kidnapping resulting in the death of Doris Lentz, a former congressional aide to one-time Tennessee Sen. James Sasser.

Prosecutors said Mrs. Lentz was lured from her Arlington home to Lentz’ home in Fort Washington in April 1996 under the pretext of seeing their daughter, Julia, then 4. The child was actually with relatives in Indiana.

Lentz wanted to keep his ex-wife from getting money in their divorce case, prosecutors said.

Mrs. Lentz’ body was never found, but her blood-soaked car later turned up in the District.

Lentz maintained his innocence during the sentencing hearing, reading a 40-minute statement denouncing prosecutors as liars. He said he plans to appeal the conviction.

The sentencing wraps up a convoluted case that dragged on for five years.

A jury convicted Lentz in his first trial in 2003. A week later, U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee set aside the verdict, saying the prosecution had not proved that a kidnapping took place.

He also accused prosecutor Steven D. Mellin of planting inadmissible evidence in the jury room.

Some jurors said they were swayed by two diaries containing notes by Mrs. Lentz on threatening phone calls from her ex-husband.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond overruled Judge Lee in 2004 and cleared Mr. Mellin of misconduct charges, but agreed to a new trial because jurors had seen the inadmissible evidence.

RICHMOND

Kaine signs bill to attract teachers

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine yesterday ceremonially signed legislation to help attract and keep highly qualified teachers in Virginia’s public schools.

Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, says while teachers are doing a good job educating students in Virginia, the state has to do more to boost salaries and ensure accountability.

The bill requires the state to conduct a biennial review of the compensation of teachers compared to the salaries of member states in the Southern Regional Education Board.

The measure also requires regular, written performance evaluations of public school teachers at least once every three years. And teachers who receive an unsatisfactory evaluation will be evaluated again the following year.

Teachers also will be subject to a probationary term of service for three years in the same school division before they are issued a continuing contract.

DOSWELL

Riders hurt, stranded on roller coaster

Two riders were injured yesterday when a roller coaster at Paramount’s Kings Dominion stopped just after leaving the platform.

The ride, called Volcano: The Blast Coaster, stopped at about 5:15 p.m. with 15 passengers on board, said a park spokeswoman. Park workers and members of the Hanover County Fire Department needed more than two hours to remove everybody.

The coaster had just pulled away from the station when it rolled back, but not all the way to the platform, leaving the passengers stranded 12 feet above ground.

A 24-year-old man from Utah received a cut above his eye, and a 12-year-old boy from North Carolina complained of a sore leg, the spokeswoman said. They were taken to Richmond-area hospitals, but their conditions were not immediately available.

The park did not identify the injured passengers. The ride will remain closed while park officials investigate for the cause of the malfunction.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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