- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2006

CALIFORNIA

Customs agents find ‘billion-dollar’ bills

LOS ANGELES — The counterfeit money looked good, but there was one problem: There is no such thing as a billion-dollar bill.

Customs agents in California said Tuesday they had found 250 bogus billion-dollar bills while investigating a man charged with currency smuggling.

Tekle Zigetta, 45, pleaded guilty to three federal counts of trying to bring cash, phony bills and a fake $100,000 gold certificate into the United States in January.

Further investigation led agents to a West Hollywood apartment, where they found the stash of yellowing and wrinkled billion-dollar bills with an issue date of 1934 and bearing a picture of President Cleveland.

FLORIDA

Killer of girl sentenced to death

SARASOTA — A former mechanic convicted of raping and murdering 11-year-old Carlie Brucia, whose abduction was caught on a carwash security camera, was sentenced to death yesterday.

The jury that convicted Joseph P. Smith recommended that he be executed, and the judge agreed. Smith, 39, showed no emotion as Judge Andrew Owens read the official sentence.

Last month, Smith tearfully apologized during a hearing, saying, “I take responsibility of my crimes. I don’t understand how this could have happened. … Every day I think about what I did and beg God for forgiveness.”

He said he had taken heroin and cocaine in an attempt to kill himself before he abducted the girl in 2004.

GEORGIA

Fetuses found in storage unit

ATLANTA — A bizarre statement made by the wife of a former Indiana women’s basketball coach led to the discovery of two fetuses kept in plastic containers inside a Georgia storage unit.

It began last week when authorities in Bay County, Fla., received a tip that Sarah Jo Warner Izard, wife of the late coach Jim Izard, had told friends “a story about having stored fetuses in a container in a storage shed in Rome, Georgia,” said a Bay County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman.

After Rome police were notified, they searched a storage unit last Thursday and removed two containers, each holding a human fetus. The fetuses were sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab in Atlanta for further analysis, including DNA testing.

Rome police scheduled a press conference for this morning to discuss the case, including whether they will pursue criminal charges.

HAWAII

Governor assesses flood damage

KILAUEA — Gov. Linda Lingle flew by helicopter over waterlogged Kauai yesterday to assess the damage from days of heavy rain that broke through an 1890s-era plantation dam in the island’s rugged northern hills.

The rush of floodwater Tuesday swept away two homes and covered the only highway along the northern coast. Searchers found one person dead and were looking for at least seven others, some of them children who hadn’t been seen since the deluge.

Rain hampered the search and road-clearing efforts, and officials were worried yesterday that other old earthen dams in the area may have been catastrophically weakened by days of torrential rain, state Sen. Gary L. Hooser said.

One dam in particular was in imminent danger of collapsing, Mr. Hooser said, noting that workers had been trying to drain off the water behind it.

MASSACHUSETTS

Bill exempts provider from gay adoptions

BOSTON — Gov. Mitt Romney proposed legislation yesterday that would allow Catholic Charities to refuse to arrange adoptions for homosexual couples.

The Protecting Religious Freedom Act would exempt the agency from the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

Catholic Charities, the social services arm of the Boston Archdiocese, has been placing children in adoptive homes for a century, but has announced that it will stop doing so because of a state law that allows homosexuals to adopt. The agency said that placing children with homosexual couples would violate the teachings of the church.

The governor has said that same-sex couples have a legitimate interest in adopting children, but that the services Catholic Charities provides are important, too.

MISSISSIPPI

Governor vetoes cigarette tax rise

JACKSON — Gov. Haley Barbour yesterday vetoed the second bill this year that would have reduced the nation’s highest state sales tax on groceries and raised one of the lowest taxes on cigarettes.

Mr. Barbour said the bill “is the latest attempt by the Legislature to change the state revenue stream in the middle of tremendous financial uncertainty in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.”

Not enough research has been done on the effect of such a tax shift, said Mr. Barbour, a Republican and former Washington lobbyist for tobacco companies.

The bill would have cut the sales tax in half for groceries and increased the 18-cents-a-pack cigarette excise tax to 80 cents, then to $1.

NEVADA

Teacher called hero for calming gunman

RENO — A gym teacher is being hailed as a hero for risking her life to persuade a 14-year-old student to drop his gun after he reportedly wounded two eighth-graders.

The teacher at Pine Middle School heard three shots just before 9 a.m. Tuesday and rushed out of a room to find the accused shooter, James Scott Newman, standing outside the school cafeteria.

“She empathized with him, tried to be understanding and de-escalated the situation. She was successful in having him place his gun on the ground, which is pretty amazing,” Reno police Lt. Ron Donnelly told radio station KKOH. After he dropped the gun, the teacher “bearhugged” James until additional staff arrived on scene, Mr. Donnelly said.

James was booked into the Washoe County Jail as an adult on a charge of attempted murder, Mr. Donnelly said.

NEW YORK

2 sides at impasse on Freedom Tower

NEW YORK — State officials walked away from negotiations with the developer of the World Trade Center site after the two sides failed to come to terms over who should control the building of the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower at ground zero.

They also couldn’t agree on how to split billions of dollars in rebuilding money.

The dispute threatens to delay the entire project.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site, wants to take over construction of the tower, saying it fears developer Larry Silverstein could run out of money before finishing the job.

NORTH CAROLINA

Accused assailant expects life in prison

RALEIGH — The University of North Carolina graduate charged with driving a sport utility vehicle into a crowd at his alma mater said in letters to newspapers that he expects to spend his life in prison.

“If Allah wills, I will plead guilty to all 18 charges currently against me, and I expect a life-term in prison,” Mohammed Taheri-azar, 22, wrote in a letter dated Friday to the News & Observer of Raleigh.

In a letter that arrived Tuesday at the Herald-Sun of Durham that responded to a reporter’s questions, he wrote, “I only fear and only respect Allah.”

Both newspapers posted stories on their Web sites (www.newsobserver.com and www.herald-sun.com) about receiving the letters; Durham also posted its letter of questions online.

Mr. Taheri-azar is charged with nine counts of attempted murder and nine counts of assault.

TEXAS

Spring breakers make amends

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Whoever broke Charlotte Papenbrock’s windshield has made her think that spring-break revelers can be rowdy, but also considerate.

Miss Papenbrock, a “winter Texan” from Blue Springs, Mo., was dismayed to find her rear windshield shattered and glass everywhere. She called police to report the crime, but in the end didn’t need uniformed help.

The mysterious perpetrator, presumed to be on spring break, left $200 worth of $20 bills on the car’s back seat, along with a note reading, “Here you go. I’m sorry.” Miss Papenbrock used the money to repair the windshield.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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