- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Three sentenced in church burnings

BIRMINGHAM — Two former college students were sentenced yesterday to eight years each in federal prison for a rash of rural church fires that began as a prank during a night of drinking. A third friend, who wasn’t involved in all the fires, was sentenced to seven years.

Dressed in orange jail uniforms with shackles around their feet, each man apologized for the blazes, set during a night of underage drinking and illicit hunting.

“I’m truly sorry for that,” Matthew Cloyd, 21, said quietly. “I’m ready to accept the consequences of my actions.”

Russell Lee DeBusk Jr., who received the lighter sentence, said the three broke into a single church on Feb. 3, 2006, and set plastic plants on fire during a night of cruising the countryside and drinking. Three days later, Cloyd and Benjamin Moseley, 20, set four more fires in a bid to throw agents off the trail.

The minister of Dancy First Baptist Church, the Rev. Walter Hawkins, asked the judge for leniency and said his congregation has forgiven the three.


Third bald eagle hatches on Catalina

AVALON — A bald eagle egg has hatched in the wild on Santa Catalina Island, the third since chemical contamination there wiped out the iconic birds several decades ago, conservation officials said Sunday.

The eaglet emerged from its shell sometime late Friday or early Saturday, Catalina Island Conservancy officials said. Its sex has not been determined. The hatchling’s egg was one of four laid last month on the eastern end of the 76-square-mile island off the coast of the Los Angeles County mainland. Two hatched last week, and the fourth could hatch at any time, officials said.

Their parents are a 15-year-old male and a 14-year-old female, both hatched in captivity.

The last bald eagle egg hatched in the wild on Catalina was in the 1940s, said Ann M. Muscat, president and chief executive officer of the conservancy. Santa Catalina now has 23 bald eagles, including five nesting pairs.


Teen stops carriage, runaway horse

INDIANAPOLIS — A runaway horse pulled a carriage with two out-of-town tourists on a wild ride through downtown streets until a teenager rode to the rescue in a pursuing taxi, leapt out and grabbed the horse’s reins.

The driver of the Yellow Rose Carriage was thrown from her seat when a van crashed into the buggy Sunday afternoon. William Basler, 19, ran after the carriage to try to stop it. A taxi driver saw what was happening, slowed and told Mr. Basler to jump in. The cab chased and passed the carriage, and Mr. Basler jumped out, grabbed the reins and stopped the horse.

Police said carriage driver Kathleen Moriarty, 53, was briefly knocked unconscious but was not seriously hurt. The passengers complained of some pain and were examined at a hospital, said police Sgt. Matthew Mount. The horse was not injured. Police said the van driver, Timothy D. Carlson, 46, of Indianapolis, faces several preliminary charges including felony possession of a controlled substance.


Blueberry growers to pay more for bees

BANGOR — Blueberry growers will pay higher prices for honeybees to pollinate their fields this spring after a nationwide die-off of bees from an unidentified disease.

Maine’s blueberry crop requires about 50,000 beehives for pollination. Spencer Allen of Allen’s Wild Maine Blueberries said prices have gone from about $50 to about $70 per hive.


Woman to sell belongings on EBay

ST. PAUL — Lisa Perry wants a fresh start, so she is selling nearly all of her belongings in one massive auction on EBay.

Miss Perry, 45, said the top bidder in the auction, ending Thursday, will get more than 300 items including snowshoes, a futon, a bed, a Village People album and seashells.

She is keeping a few things: her dog, her cat, photo albums and some clothing. Miss Perry has worked as a lawyer in Montana, a communications professor in Mankato, Minn., and a bookseller in North Carolina. She currently delivers subpoenas and legal documents. In June, she plans to move West, possibly to take up creative writing or holistic healing.

As of Sunday night, the top bid was $100. Miss Perry has a reserve number of $2,000, which means she can back out if the top bid falls short of that. But she said she might lower the reserve.

“I’m at the point I just don’t want it all anymore,” she said.


Attorneys hint at domestic violence

SELMER — Potential jurors were quizzed yesterday about domestic violence issues, suggesting a defense strategy in the murder trial of a preacher’s wife accused of shooting her minister husband.

Although her attorneys have never said directly that Mary Winkler shot her husband, they have indicated their defense would be based on “how and why” the crime happened, rather than what happened, as defense attorney Leslie Ballin told potential jurors yesterday.

Mrs. Winkler, 33, is accused of fatally shooting her 31-year-old husband, Matthew, who was a minister at the Fourth Street Church of Christ in this small western Tennessee town. A day after the March 2006 shooting, she was arrested about 340 miles away with their three young daughters.

Her father, Clark Freeman of Knoxville, has said his daughter might have been physically abused.

Mr. Ballin asked potential jurors whether they had ever visited shelters for battered women. “Can emotional abuse be as damaging as physical abuse?” he asked. “Have you ever wondered why someone would stay in an abusive relationship?”


DNA exonerates man convicted of rape

DALLAS — James Curtis Giles spent 10 years in prison for a gang rape he has long said he did not commit. Yesterday, more than a decade after his release, a prosecutor acknowledged that Mr. Giles’ arrest had been a case of mistaken identity, and a judge recommended that he be exonerated.

If the appeals court formally approves State District Judge Robert Francis’ recommendation as expected, Mr. Giles, 53, will become the 13th Dallas County man to be exonerated since 2001 with the help of DNA evidence.

Mr. Giles, who left the courtroom with a smile, said he doesn’t hold a grudge against the state.

The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office told the court that they had evidence showing Mr. Giles was not guilty in the 1982 gang rape of a Dallas woman.


Mother sentenced in abuse death

EPHRATA — A woman was sentenced yesterday to nearly 27 years in prison for the death of her 2-year-old son, who suffered broken legs, skull fractures, bruises and burns while in her care.

Maribel Gomez was convicted last month of homicide by abuse and first-degree manslaughter in the September 2003 death of young Rafael Gomez. The boy had spent 14 months in foster care but suffered “a constellation of injuries” during his short time in his mother’s care, Grant County Superior Court Judge John Antosz said.

Gomez testified that the boy died after hitting his head while throwing a tantrum over food. Medical specialists called by the prosecution concluded that the boy died of blunt trauma to the head that could not have been caused in such a manner.

Defense attorney Robert A. Moser of Moses Lake has said he would appeal the conviction.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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