- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2007


Billions needed to re-route trains

It would cost more than $4 billion to relocate the rail line that carries hazardous cargo through the District, a federal planning commission said.

The National Capital Planning Commission studied options for rerouting freight traffic around the city after officials voiced concern about a potential disaster.

Commission staffers looked at three options. Two of them would take trains around the city through Prince George’s and Charles counties. The third option involves building a tunnel under the District.

The tunnel would be the most expensive, costing an estimated $5.3 billion.

Maryland Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari said moving the freight traffic to Maryland doesn’t solve the problem, it just relocates it.

Car crashes into storefront

A driver lost control of her car yesterday afternoon and crashed into a vacant storefront at the Waterside Mall in Southwest.

Fire department spokesman Alan Etter said the woman and her two children were evaluated at the scene and didn’t appear to be seriously injured.

The Plymouth Breeze burst through building’s glass windows about 4:30 p.m. and hit several steel beams, Mr. Etter said. It was not clear what caused the woman to lose control of the car.

The building wasn’t in danger of collapsing.

Zoo again hopeful about panda cub

The National Zoo is again turning to artificial insemination in hopes of breeding giant panda Mei Xiang.

The panda was inseminated this week with semen taken from Gao Gao, a giant panda at the San Diego Zoo. Gao Gao’s genes are considered valuable in efforts to diversify the bloodlines of giant pandas in captivity, zoo officials said.

The first procedure was done Wednesday evening, and Mei Xiang was inseminated again early yesterday. It could take six months before they know whether she is pregnant.

National Zoo reproductive scientists said they collected and froze Gao Gao’s semen in March. They used a new technique that improves sperm survival after thawing.

Mei Xiang was successfully artificially inseminated previously. Semen drawn from the National Zoo’s Tian Tian led to the birth of Tai Shan in 2005.

Female pandas can become pregnant only once a year and deliver two cubs at most each time.



Police kill man trying to rob bar

Baltimore police said one person is dead and another is in the hospital after a police-involved shooting at a bar.

A man armed with a shotgun and a man armed with a handgun entered the bar in the 5500 block of Pennington Avenue in South Baltimore at 1:49 a.m. yesterday. After firing a shot into the air, they announced a robbery and pointed their weapons at patrons.

Two officers who had finished their shifts at midnight returned fire with their service weapons.

One of the gunman died at the scene. The other, wounded in a hand and arm, is expected to recover.

The officers have been placed on administrative duty until completion of the investigation.


Bodies of children, father released

The bodies of four slain children and their father were released to a Washington funeral home for shipment to El Salvador for burial, a funeral home worker said yesterday.

The remains of Pedro Rodriguez, 28, and children Elsa, 9; Vanessa, 4; Angel, 3; and Carena, 1, were released to W.H. Bacon Funeral Home on Wednesday by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore, said Sandra Cueva, a secretary at the funeral home. She said that at the family’s request, no other information about the arrangements would be released.

The bodies were found March 26 at the family’s town house in Frederick. An autopsy determined that the three girls had been suffocated, the boy had died from blunt force trauma and the father had hanged himself, Frederick police said.

Authorities still have not found Mr. Rodriguez’s wife Deysi M. Benitez, the children’s mother.

Mr. Rodriguez’s aunt Elba Rodriguez said on Monday that the family planned to send the remains to El Salvador. Both parents and their oldest child were legal immigrants from El Salvador, while the three other children were born in the United States.


Officer suspended after new gun run-in

A Prince George’s police officer who shot two furniture delivery men who came to his home in January — killing one — has had his police powers suspended and his gun confiscated after another gun-related incident at his home.

Cpl. Keith Washington, who was the second in command of the county’s homeland security department, pulled a gun on a man who came to his door by mistake yesterday, police said.

The man is a real estate appraiser who was in the neighborhood and knocked on the door of Cpl. Washington’s Accokeek home. The man said Cpl. Washington came to the door with a gun and told him to leave the property.

Deputy Chief Michael Blow said at a press conference that Cpl. Washington’s police gun was taken away and his police powers suspended for his and the public’s safety.

Cpl. Washington shot Brandon D. Clark, 22, and Robert White, 36, when they delivered furniture to his home. Mr. Clark died the following week without making a statement.

Cpl. Washington was placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of an investigation into the shootings.


Bones near parkway belonged to a deer

The discovery of bones along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway brought investigators from the U.S. Park Police and reduced traffic to a crawl for a brief period yesterday afternoon.

The find turned out to be deer bones, but for a time it attracted a line of police cars and a lot of rubberneckers just north of where Route 450 crosses the parkway.


Car crash victim arrested in assault

State police said they plan to charge a man in the serious assault of his estranged wife at their home.

Richard Cannon, 34, is being held under guard at Washington County Hospital in Hagerstown, where he is under observation.

The victim, Mendin Cannon, 34, was released early yesterday from the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where she was taken after the attack.

Police arrested Mr. Cannon Wednesday afternoon after he crashed Mrs. Cannon’s car into another vehicle in nearby Sandy Hook.

The investigation led to the house, where she was found bleeding from wounds to the upper torso.

Police said a 22-month-old girl in the house was unharmed. She was placed in the care of the Washington County Department of Social Services.


Arizona won’t prosecute Muhammad in killing

Convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad will not be prosecuted for a Tucson, Ariz., slaying in 2002.

Because he is on death row in Virginia, there is little point in trying to convict Muhammad in Arizona, Pima County’s chief criminal deputy attorney, David Berkman, said Wednesday.

Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo were arrested after 10 slayings and three woundings in Virginia, Maryland and the District during three weeks in October 2002. The two roamed the area with a Bushmaster .223-caliber rifle that they fired from the trunk of a car.

Six months ago, Tucson police said Muhammad and Malvo were responsible for the 2002 killing of Jerry Taylor, 60, on a Tucson golf course. Mr. Taylor was killed by a single long-range gunshot as he practiced chip shots.

Capt. Bill Richards, commander of the Tucson Police Department’s violent crimes division, said in October that Malvo spoke to police for two hours after he received a grant of immunity from prosecution.

Malvo, who was sentenced to life in prison in Maryland and Virginia, told police that he hid in the bushes and shot Mr. Taylor as he was retrieving golf balls.

Capt. Richards said Malvo agreed to testify against Muhammad if Pima County developed a solid case to bring charges.

Mr. Berkman said Wednesday that not only would prosecuting Muhammad be pointless because of his being sentenced to death in Virginia, there are discrepancies in Malvo’s statements to Tucson investigators — making a conviction challenging.

Malvo and Muhammad have been linked to shootings in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas and Washington state.



Speedboat capsizes, leaves 1 dead, 1 missing

A high-performance speedboat capsized on Smith Mountain Lake, leaving one person dead and another missing, officials said.

The search continued yesterday for the missing boater, which began Wednesday afternoon after the 33-foot wooden boat overturned with four aboard. No one was wearing a life jacket, authorities said.

Boaters from North Carolina rescued the two who survived and recovered the body of Richard Smith, 64, of Moneta.

The cause of the crash is not known, but the water was choppy on the lake Wednesday, said Julia Dixon, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Division of Game and Inland Fisheries.

The search for the missing boater, identified as David Reynolds of New Hope, has been complicated by the lake’s depth in the area of the boat’s sinking — about 200 feet.

In 2005, two persons were killed on the lake southeast of Roanoke when a speedboat moving at 65 mph struck a cabin cruiser.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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