- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2006


Heavy patrols planned for St. Patrick’s Day

The beer will be green and the fun will be flowing, but local law enforcement is warning St. Patrick’s Day revelers not to drink and drive. Fairfax County is planning to boost patrols in an effort to find and arrest drunk drivers today. Police also will set up a sobriety checkpoint in the county.

Montgomery County police will have saturation patrols in place to look for drunk drivers. Officers plan to be particularly watchful in areas with a high concentration of bars and restaurants.

The Washington Regional Alcohol Program’s St. Patty’s Day Sober Ride will offer free cab rides from 4 p.m. today until 4 a.m. tomorrow. Anyone needing at ride should call 800/200-TAXI.

Metro upgrades on the way

Metro is upgrading its fleet of Metro Access vehicles to reduce the number of late or missed trips. The transit agency’s board has approved plans to equip 77 more vans with Global Positioning Systems (GPS), as well as on-board cameras and radios. That will give Metro 322 fully equipped vans, helping the agency meet peak hour demand for the service by elderly and disabled riders.

Metro has relied on taxis, but they are less dependable than the vans because they lack GPS, making them difficult to track.

The agency will spend about $1 million upgrading the fleet. That will cut reliance on cabs down to just 5 percent.

Potomac River cleanup planned

Officials from throughout the Potomac River region have agreed to work together to clean up the Potomac River.

They have signed on to an action plan they say will help make the river and its tributaries trash free by 2013. The seven-year plan calls for government and nonprofit agencies to work with thousands of volunteers on cleanups and other initiatives. Besides promoting anti-litter campaigns and recycling, the plan sets a one-year timetable for mapping so-called trash hot spots.

That could lead to cleanups at gullies and other locations that hold trash that gets washed into streams and storm sewers during heavy rains. Officials from Maryland, Virginia and the District have also agreed to press for regional enforcement strategies to discourage illegal dumping.

The effort represents an expansion of goals outlined in the Potomac River Watershed Trash Treaty signed by D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and officials from five Maryland and Virginia counties last March.

Metrobus driver is honored

A Metrobus driver was honored yesterday for calmly defusing what could have been a violent attack involving several passengers. Ronald Majors was driving the No. 70 bus last Friday when a passenger alerted him that a man on the bus was threatening someone with a hammer.

Metro’s interim general manager, Dan Tangherlini, said Mr. Majors was able to pull the bus over along Georgia Avenue Northwest, allowing a nearby police officer to board.

The man with the hammer was then handcuffed and taken off. Mr. Tangherlini said Mr. Majors, who has been a Metrobus driver for 26 years, then apologized to passengers for making them late for work.

Mr. Majors said he never felt threatened, and that he prays every day before work in case something happens.



Police raid homes, don’t say why

At least two homes in Prince George’s County were raided yesterday, but none of the law-enforcement agencies involved would say why. Houses in College Park and Bowie were targeted.

In both cases, investigators from various federal agencies, as well as the Fairfax County police, hauled off computer equipment and other electronics including big screen televisions.

“It was crazy,” said Mark Monroe who lives near the College Park home.

He said investigators came out of a wooded area and a church parking lot.

“They grabbed a battering ram, took it to the front door. They banged on the door, nobody answered. They banged some more, then they started ramming the door,” Mr. Monroe said, describing how authorities broke in.

The woman who owns the College Park house said she rented it to a man in his 20s whom she thought was studying at the nearby University of Maryland.

She said she has not seen him since December, and learned through the burglar alarm company that the house was broken into.

In Bowie, a woman was home at the time authorities showed up and let them in.

Sources familiar with the investigation told the Associated Press it’s a federal matter that’s under seal, but involves an investigation originating in Fairfax County.

The Secret Service, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alexandria and Fairfax police all declined comment.


Man charged with dumping dead geese

Howard County Police are charging a Columbia man with dumping about three dozen dead geese near a playground in the King’s Contrivance section of Columbia.

The geese were found in the woods near the 9600 block of Sea Shadow. Police spokeswoman Sherry Llwellyn said 20-year-old Edward Dillon went to the Howard County Police Department’s southern district station last week, to admit to dumping the geese.

He was charged with illegal dumping yesterday.

He could face up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted.


Judge declares mistrial in arson case

A federal judge yesterday declared a mistrial in the arson case against two men accused of setting fires at a Charles County housing development after jurors said they were deadlocked on both defendants.

Jurors deliberated over a period of five days and sent several notes to the judge saying they couldn’t reach a verdict on Michael Everhart, 21, and Roy McCann, 23.

U.S. District Court Judge Roger Titus will meet with attorneys next week to discuss a new trial date.

McCann and Mr. Everhart are among five men accused of setting fire to or trying to torch dozens of homes at Hunters Brooke in Indian Head in December 2004.

Two others pleaded guilty in the case while the ringleader, Patrick Walsh, was convicted last year. Authorities think the men drove from house to house in the development, which was still under construction. They purportedly kicked in doors, spread flammable material and set it on fire.

The fires caused $3.2 million worth of damage and forced many families to delay their plans to move in by months.

No one was injured, but the only family that lived there at the time had to flee the flames.

Walsh was sentenced to 19 years in prison in December. Aaron Speed and Jeremy Parady both pleaded guilty in the case, and Parady testified against Walsh.

Speed, a former security guard at Hunters Brooke, was sentenced to more than eight years in prison, while Parady received a seven-year term.

Mr. Everhart has been free on bond while he awaits trial.

McCann was initially set free, but a federal judge returned him to prison last year after prosecutors claimed he violated the terms of his release, in part by setting fire to a pile of trash.


Roosevelt Bridge undergoing repairs

The Roosevelt Bridge is undergoing some much-needed work.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) announced yesterday there will be off-peak closures on the eastbound lanes over the next four months to repair the bridge deck.

“There will be some delays, but they will be manageable,” DDOT spokesman Bill Rice said. Ramp C from Route 50 in Virginia and Ramp F, south of the George Washington Parkway, will be closed from 9:30 p.m. Fridays to 5 a.m. Mondays.

Additional closures will take place on weekday nights, from 9:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.

The deck is worn out and people are driving over holes that are covered with steel plates, according to Mr .Rice.

The overall repair project is expected to take a year to complete.



School bus drivers calling in sick

More than 100 school bus drivers have been calling in sick on any given day in Prince William County.

That’s more than double the normal average of 40, the Potomac News reported yesterday.

The county has between 40 and 50 substitute drivers, but if necessary they combine some routes.

Officials say the delays are generally 15 minutes or less, but occasionally run longer.

Prince William has more than 670 school bus drivers covering some 2,700 routes.


Driver gets 21 months for police chase

A man who led authorities on a chase while three children were in the car will go to prison.

Randolph Bennett of Woodbridge yesterday pleaded guilty and was immediately sentenced to 21 months behind bars for an incident in August in Spotsylvania.

Authorities say two sheriff’s deputies were checking registrations when Bennett’s Dodge came at them at a high rate of speed.

It crossed the double yellow line to go around a deputy, which started a chase. Bennett abandoned the car in a subdivision and ran, but was quickly caught.

During all of this, three children, ages 2 through 5, were in the car with their mother.


Man convicted of 1996 murders

A man was convicted yesterday on two counts of first-degree murder for killing his wife and another man in 1996 in Virginia Beach. A jury recommended a life prison term for Eddie Makdessi, 42.

The jury deliberated for six hours over two days before concluding that Makdessi killed his wife, Elise, 31, and Quincy Brown, 37.

The woman was stabbed and the man was shot. Makdessi claimed that Mr. Brown was raping his wife, and had already stabbed her, when he shot the man to death.

However, a forensic specialist testified that the killings could not have happened that way. Police initially cleared Makdessi of suspicion.

He collected a $700,000 insurance payout and left the country. He was found in Russia in 2003 and was returned to the United States.


Terminal emptied after security breach

Passengers in Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport’s south terminal were evacuated last night after a security breach. Transportation Security Administration spokesman Darrin Kayser said a passenger got through the security checkpoint with a prohibited item, but could not confirm what the item was.

Security agents were unable to locate the passenger, so everyone was asked to leave the terminal to be rescreened. Continental, Delta and Frontier flights from that terminal were delayed.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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