- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 5, 2006

CALIFORNIA

Investigators search for E. coli evidence

SAN FRANCISCO — The FBI searched two spinach-packaging companies yesterday for evidence in the nationwide E. coli outbreak that sickened 192 persons.

Agents from the FBI and the Food and Drug Administration used warrants to search the San Juan Bautista plant of Natural Selection Foods LLC and a Growers Express plant in Salinas to determine whether they followed food-safety procedures.

Federal health officials said early in their investigation that deliberate contamination was not suspected.

The searches were the first indication that authorities suspect a crime may have been committed in the outbreak that led to at least one death and prompted the FDA to issue a two-week consumer warning on fresh spinach.

COLORADO

Autopsy reveals police shot school gunman

DENVER — The man who took six girls hostage at a Colorado high school last week was shot four times as the standoff ended — once by his own gun and three times by SWAT officers, according to autopsy results released yesterday by state officials.

Authorities were awaiting more information to determine whether Duane Morrison died from the self-inflicted gunshot wound or the officers’ shots, said Lance Clem, spokesman for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

The 53-year-old drifter had taken six girls hostage at Platte Canyon High School Sept. 27. He released four of them before SWAT officers blasted their way into Room 206, when authorities say he shot 16-year-old Emily Keyes before shooting himself.

Mr. Clem said autopsy results showed that Morrison killed Miss Keyes with a single gunshot to the back of the head. She and the other five girls had been sexually assaulted, Sheriff Fred Wegener has said.

DELAWARE

Father guilty in death of molest suspect

WILMINGTON — A man pleaded guilty yesterday to criminally negligent homicide for beating to death a 77-year-old man he thought had molested his young daughter.

Robert Fontanez Jr., 27, had faced the more serious charge of second-degree murder in the April death of Bismark Vasquez before agreeing to the plea. He faces up to five years in prison at sentencing, expected early next year.

According to police, Fontanez became enraged when his 5-year-old daughter told him that Mr. Vasquez had touched her inappropriately.

MASSACHUSETTS

Jury begins probe of Big Dig collapse

BOSTON — A special grand jury has begun hearing evidence in a criminal investigation into the death of a woman who was crushed by falling ceiling panels in one of Boston’s Big Dig tunnels.

Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly has said his investigation would determine whether anyone who worked on the $14.6 billion highway project should be charged with a crime in the July 10 accident that killed Milena Del Valle, 39.

A spokesman for Mr. Reilly said the grand jury began hearing evidence Tuesday.

Mr. Reilly has subpoenaed thousands of documents from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and several companies involved in the design and construction of the project.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Vandals pay for damaged stop signs

KEENE — These sign vandals have a conscience.

Two weeks ago, when about 100 stop signs in Keene were tagged with anti-war stickers, Public Works Director Kurt Blomquist estimated it cost $110 to clean them.

Tuesday morning, the culprits paid up — sending a letter claiming responsibility and a money order to the city via the Keene Sentinel.

“We are responsible culprits, and we don’t want to cost the city money as we wage peace,” read the letter to the newspaper, which contained no names and was signed: “Respectful culprits.”

OKLAHOMA

Broken bungee cord leaves man dangling

TULSA — A bungee cord on a thrill ride broke, leaving a man dangling 25 feet off the ground for a half-hour until he was rescued by firefighters.

Steve Alan Stone, 48, was not seriously hurt in the incident Monday at the Tulsa State Fair. A ride worker also was helped down by rescuers.

The ride, called the Ejection Seat, consists of a two-seat chair that is suspended from two towers by bungee cords. Passengers are propelled as much as 200 feet high at speeds of about 60 mph.

The malfunction is being investigated by the Oklahoma Department of Labor, which oversees fair-ride safety.

TEXAS

Car smashes into bus; 14 hospitalized

DALLAS — A car running a red light smashed into the back of a bus carrying senior citizens yesterday, knocking the bus on its side, police said. Fourteen persons were hospitalized, and the car’s driver fled the scene.

Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas spokeswoman Jana Pope said three passengers were in critical condition, another passenger was in very serious condition and the rest were listed as stable. The driver of the bus, whose condition was unknown, also was hospitalized.

Police were searching for the driver and a passenger of the white Ford Taurus, both of whom ran off after the car hit the bus in downtown Dallas. Witnesses said the car had run a red light, and that the bus spun around before landing on its side.

WASHINGTON

Woman pleads guilty in ecoterrorism

TACOMA — A woman pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiracy and arson in the 2001 firebombing of the University of Washington’s horticulture center, one of the Northwest’s most notorious acts of ecoterrorism.

Under Jennifer Kolar’s plea agreement, federal prosecutors will ask U.S. District Judge Franklin Burgess to sentence her to five to seven years. Her sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 5.

The fire on May 21, 2001, severely damaged the building. The center had done work on fast-growing hybrid poplars in hopes of limiting the amount of natural forests that timber companies log. The Earth Liberation Front claimed responsibility and issued a statement saying the poplars pose “an ecological nightmare” for the diversity of native forests.

Kolar also pleaded guilty yesterday to an attempted-arson charge for a failed 1998 firebombing that damaged a Colorado gun club that organized a multistate turkey shoot.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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