- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2006


Funeral held for JonBenet’s mother

ROSWELL — Patsy Ramsey, thrust into a national spotlight by the unsolved 1996 slaying of her 6-year-old daughter, was remembered yesterday for her strength after JonBenet’s death and, later, a diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

Mrs. Ramsey often called people who were beginning cancer treatment to offer encouragement, friends said at her funeral held at Roswell United Methodist Church.

Only a few references were made to JonBenet’s death during the eulogies. Mrs. Ramsey died Saturday at 49.

JonBenet was found beaten and strangled in the basement of the family’s home in Boulder, Colo., on Dec. 26, 1996. A grand jury investigation in Boulder ended with no indictments, and no arrests have been made.


School board sued over Jesus picture

CHARLESTON — Two civil-liberties groups sued in federal court Wednesday to remove a picture of Jesus that has hung in a high school for more than 30 years.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the West Virginia American Civil Liberties Union say the painting, “Head of Christ,” sends the message that Bridgeport High School endorses Christianity as its official religion.

A vote by the Harrison County school board on removing the painting ended in a tie this month.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Harold Sklar and Jacqueline McKenzie, whose children attended or will attend the school.


Court upholdsgay foster parents

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas cannot ban homosexuals from becoming foster parents because there is no link between their sexual orientation and a child’s well-being, the state’s high court ruled yesterday.

The court agreed with a lower-court judge that the state’s child welfare board improperly tried to regulate public morality. The ban also violated the separation of powers doctrine, the justices said.

The board instituted the ban in 1999, saying children should be in traditional two-parent homes because they would be more likely to thrive.


Boy dies after ride on roller coaster

LAKE BUENA VISTA — A 12-year-old boy died after riding a roller coaster yesterday at the Disney MGM theme park, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said.

The boy died after he was brought by ambulance to a hospital about 11:30 a.m., a Disney statement said. The cause of death was not known, sheriff’s spokesman Jim Solomons said.

Park officials closed the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster but said a preliminary investigation showed the ride was operating normally.


Green groups sue over Navy drills

HONOLULU — Environmental groups sued the federal government Wednesday to prevent the Navy from using active sonar during drills off Hawaii next month, saying the sound could harm whales and other marine mammals.

The Natural Resources Defense Council asked a federal court in Los Angeles to issue a temporary restraining order unless the Navy takes “effective measures” to protect marine life when it uses high-intensity, midfrequency active sonar to hunt submarines in the drills.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday granted the Navy a permit to use sonar during war games involving more than 40 ships in Hawaiian waters. The exercises are scheduled to start next week and last through late July.


Container blast kills 2 casino workers

WORLEY — A large cargo container used for storage caught fire and caused an explosion yesterday behind the Coeur d’Alene Indian Tribe’s casino, killing two casino workers who were inside the unit, a sheriff’s spokesman said.

Kootenai County sheriff’s spokesman Ben Wolfinger said the victims were employees of the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Bingo Casino, but he did not release their identities.

The exact cause of their deaths was not known.

Police Chief Keith Hutcheson would not comment on what was stored in the container or what caused the fire, but said it did not appear to be arson.


3 get maximum term for Katrina looting

KENNER — Three persons convicted of hauling away liquor, wine and beer from a grocery store after Hurricane Katrina were sentenced Wednesday to 15 years in prison.

The judge said he wanted to send a message that looting would not be tolerated when he gave the maximum sentence to Coralnelle Little, 36, Rhonda McGowen, 42, and Paul C. Pearson, 36, all of Kenner.

A jury convicted the trio May 2 on a portion of the state’s looting law that took effect two weeks before the Aug. 29 storm. The amended law set a three-year minimum sentence, and a maximum of 15 years in prison, for looting during a declared state of emergency.

They were convicted of attempting to leave the grocery with 27 bottles of liquor and wine, six cases of beer and one case of wine coolers, six days after Katrina made landfall.


Hacker puts state data at risk

LINCOLN — A hacker broke into the state’s child-support computer system and may have obtained the names, Social Security numbers and other information of 300,000 people and 9,000 employers, the state treasurer announced yesterday.

The hacker got into a backup computer server Wednesday morning for about 40 minutes and started a virus, which state Treasurer Ron Ross said was removed immediately.

Mr. Ross said the attack appeared to be routed through Australia from Asia. The State Patrol started a computer forensic investigation.


Christian skating called violation

ACCORD — A Hudson Valley roller rink that advertised Christian skating on Sundays was warned by the state that it might be violating anti-discrimination laws, the owner said.

Skate Time 209’s afternoon “Christian skate” program featured contemporary Christian music such as Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel” and was open to anyone, said Len Bernardo, who runs the business with his wife.

“We’ve never denied access to anyone, ever,” Mr. Bernardo said. “We just want to play wholesome music; that’s the bottom line.”

But a complaint about an advertisement for the rink in a local weekly newspaper prompted a letter last week from the state Division of Human Rights. The letter said that by seeking Christian skaters, Skate Time apparently was discouraging non-Christian customers in violation of human rights law, Mr. Bernardo said.


Forgotten infant dies in hot minivan

GRAND FORKS — A 5-month-old girl died after being left all day in a minivan when her mother apparently forgot to take her to a day care center, authorities said.

Police Sgt. Jeff Burgess said the mother drove to the day care about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday after leaving work, and was told she had not dropped off the girl earlier.

“They ran out to her vehicle, and the infant was still in the car seat in the vehicle,” Sgt. Burgess said.

Curt Kreun, the owner of the Wonder Years 2 day care center, said it would have been impossible for passers-by to see the baby in the van, which had tinted windows. The baby’s car seat was in the back seat.

The high temperature in Grand Forks on Wednesday was 78 degrees, the National Weather Service said.


Yates heard cartoons, psychiatrist testifies

HOUSTON — Andrea Yates thought that cartoon characters told her she was a bad mother who fed her children too much candy, a jail psychiatrist testified yesterday.

Melissa R. Ferguson, a psychiatrist who talked with Mrs. Yates the day after her arrest in the bathtub drownings of her five children, said the defendant suffered from a major depressive disorder and was psychotic, picking at her lip until it bled.

She was the first defense witness in the second murder trial for Mrs. Yates, who has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. She is being retried because her 2002 conviction was overturned last year by an appeals court citing erroneous testimony.


$8.6 million pledged to aid dairy farmers

MONTPELIER — Gov. Jim Douglas and legislative leaders pledged more than $8.6 million in cash assistance to dairy farmers strapped by low milk prices, high fuel costs and weather that has ruined many crops.

The money would begin flowing at the end of next month and would amount to $1.07 for every 100 pounds of milk farmers produce.

“We’re taking this extraordinary step because they face the triple threat of low milk prices, high fuel prices and awful weather,” Mr. Douglas, a Republican, said at a special summit he called to address the issue.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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