- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Sloth bear cub makes public debut

The National Zoo’s 4-month-old sloth bear cub will meet the public today for the first time.

The cub has spent most of its time indoors, but the zoo is now ready to send the cub — who has not been named — outdoors under the watchful eye of his mother, Hana.

Since the cub’s birth in January, zoo staff have monitored the mother and cub via a camera mounted in the den. In the past two weeks, they have let the cub out periodically to become acclimated to the outdoor exhibit at the bottom of the zoo’s Beaver Valley area.

The cub won’t have long to explore his new surroundings, though, because all three of the zoo’s sloth bears are due to move into a new exhibit on Asia Trail, which is scheduled to open in September. They will be the first species that visitors see upon entering the main gates.



Judge sets trial date in inmate’s death

A judge will rule in the next two weeks whether to grant a change of venue for the trial of three former correctional officers charged in the beating death of an inmate.

Dameon Woods, Nathan Colbert and James Hatcher are charged with second-degree murder, assault and conspiracy in the beating death of Raymond Smoot last May. They have pleaded not guilty.

Although Judge John Glynn did not rule on the change-of-venue request yesterday, attorneys for both sides settled on a trial date of Sept. 19. They hope that date will stick even if the venue is changed.

Smoot, 52, died May 14, 2005, after a guard had trouble getting him back into his cell at the state-run Central Booking and Intake Center. The guard called for backup, and a struggle broke out in which 25 to 30 guards were involved, authorities said.

Along with the upcoming trial, a federal civil rights investigation is also under way.


Preservationists eye run-down cemetery

An old African-American cemetery in such disrepair that human bones are above ground has the attention of preserva-tionists who want to restore the little-known cemetery.

L. Hasan Wilson, an employee of the Talbot County Health Department, was told of the cemetery on private land by a potential property buyer. On the plot, a human skull lies exposed, bones poke out of the ground and casket casings are cracked.

Mr. Wilson and another health department worker have started a volunteer group to restore the cemetery, where some headstones date to the 19th century.

The group is called Asbury and Green Chappel Conservation and Preservation Committee — using the archaic spelling of Chappel with two P’s.

Members will need permission for the local state’s attorney to reinter the exposed human remains, the Easton Star Democrat reported.


Public meetings focus on rising gang threat

The specter of organized gangs is the reason for a series of public meetings in Wicomico County this week.

“There are groups that are forming into gangs and are more sophisticated at doing it,” said Davis Ruark, the county state’s attorney. “The time to address it is now.”

Wicomico County will hold public meetings organized around a Department of Justice presentation on gang crime.

“It seems to me to be about time, maybe perhaps a little late” for the forums, Charles Jannace, a local defense lawyer, told the Salisbury Daily Times.


DNA match allows murder trial start

Trial began yesterday for a Cambridge man accused of killing Tyshika Lavonne Askins in her apartment nearly two years ago.

Richard Lavonte Blanks, 38, is charged with first-degree murder and first-degree assault. Prosecutors say DNA evidence recovered from the crime scene and analyzed by FBI and Maryland State Police Crime Lab technicians links Mr. Blanks to the crime.

Police first arrested Miss Askins’ former boyfriend, Alonza Delano Dennis, 26, in fall 2004. The charges against him were dropped in January 2005 when DNA evidence did not match his.

Miss Askins, 22, who worked at a nursing home, died of blows to her head and upper body. Mr. Dennis found her body June 7, 2004.


Man sentenced in captive death case

A Cecil County man convicted in the starvation death of the mother of his children is headed to prison.

John Dougherty, 54, was sentenced yesterday to 10 years in jail, with all but four suspended.

When he is released, he will serve probation for five years.

A jury convicted Dougherty in March of involuntary manslaughter and neglect in last year’s death of Mary Kilrain, 46, whose emaciated body was found in a filthy bedroom in the home she shared with Dougherty and another woman.

Prosecutors said Dougherty locked her in the room for long periods after she suffered a brain aneurysm in 1999.

The case was moved to Queen Anne’s County because of pretrial publicity.

Before he was sentenced, Dougherty — with his and Miss Kilrain’s three daughters, ages 17, 14 and 12, crying in the front row of the courtroom — begged Queen Anne’s County Circuit Judge Thomas G. Ross for leniency, the Cecil Whig reported.

“Give me the chance to give my children the chance to have the life they deserve,” he said.

But the judge said he was disappointed by Dougherty’s pre-sentencing statement.

“The one thing I didn’t hear in any of your comments is any contrition or remorse. You had a basic responsibility that you let go. … You breached your responsibility to Mary Kilrain.”


Second shooting tied to man who killed self

A man who killed himself Sunday after wounding another man in Darlington had fatally shot a man in Pennsylvania hours earlier, police said yesterday.

Jeffrey G. Bennett, 48, shot himself after briefly holding police at bay at a friend’s home in Darlington, said Bob Thomas, a spokesman for the Harford County sheriff.

The first victim, Jeffrey Storm, 53, died shortly after midnight Sunday at his home near Delta, Pa., from a gunshot wound to the head, the York County coroner’s office said.

The second victim, Larry R. Bank, 50, of Darlington, Pa., was shot with a handgun several times at his home Sunday and was in critical condition yesterday, Mr. Thomas said.

“It had been a long-standing dispute between the assailant and Mr. Bank, but at this point we’re not releasing the specific motive for the shooting,” Mr. Thomas said.

The friend and at least one other family member had been inside the home in Darlington where Bennett died, but were able to escape unharmed. Mr. Thomas said Bennett, of Bel Air, confessed to the friend that he had shot the two men.



Powder in envelope prompts evacuation

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection office building was evacuated yesterday after employees found a suspicious white powder leaking from an envelope, authorities said.

Initial tests revealed that dust and crumbs were inside the envelope, CBP spokeswoman Kelly Kundt said last night.

At least nine persons were kept inside the building in a secure area because they had been in the vicinity of the powder, Fairfax County fire department spokesman Dan Schmidt said.

It was not clear where the letter originated.

None of the employees being kept inside the facility were showing physical symptoms associated with anthrax.


Police officer killed by fellow officer

A Norfolk police officer was fatally shot by a fellow officer after responding to a call about a shooting near downtown, authorities said.

Officer Seneca Darden, 25, a four-year veteran of the force, was in plainclothes and armed when he responded to the scene. Another officer who saw him with a handgun in the midst of the disturbance told him to drop the weapon and opened fire, hitting Officer Darden several times.

He died a short time later at Norfolk General Hospital.

Police Chief Bruce Marquis said it was not clear why Officer Darden reported to the scene.

The identity of the officer who fired the fatal shots has not been released, but police said he has been placed on routine administrative leave during the investigation.


Motorcyclists make annual ride to the Mall

A motorcycle ride promoting healing for Vietnam veterans is scheduled to visit Virginia this week.

The “Run for The Wall” event features hundreds of motorcycles on a central leg and a southern leg. The southern leg runs through Virginia.

On Sunday, the group will unite with other riders from all over the U.S. to form a parade from the Pentagon to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the District.

Riders on the southern route will spend tomorrow night in Wytheville, then ride to Roanoke on Thursday, with stops in Montvale and at the D-Day Memorial in Bedford, before heading to the Veterans Medical Center in Salem. On Friday, the group will ride from Roanoke to Alexandria.

Riders on the central route will ride from Lewisburg, W.Va., to Alexandria.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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