- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Domestic dispute leads to fatal shooting

PALESTINE — The mother and grandparents of a woman divorcing her husband were fatally shot early yesterday, and the woman’s brother and a sheriff’s deputy were wounded. Authorities were searching for the estranged husband.

State police spokesman Bill Sadler said Gordon Randal Gwathney, 46, was thought to have several guns.

Mr. Gwathney’s wife, Lisa, had moved in with her mother and grandparents about five miles outside Palestine in eastern Arkansas, St. Francis County Sheriff Bobby May said. The shootings occurred in their home, he said.

The sheriff said Mrs. Gwathney, 35, heard shots and was able to run for help. Sylvia Reeves, 51; J.O. Mitchell, 81; and Evelyn Mitchell, 79, were killed, Sheriff May said.

Lisa Gwathney’s brother, Travis Reeves, who lives nearby, was wounded in a gunfight with Mr. Gwathney, Mr. Sadler said. Deputy Terry Jackson was shot in his patrol truck as Mrs. Gwathney fled.

Deputy Jackson was treated for the gunshot wound and cuts from broken glass, Sheriff May said. Mr. Reeves was hospitalized in Memphis, Tenn. No information was available on his condition.


Marine pleads guilty to kidnapping Iraqi

CAMP PENDLETON — A Marine pleaded guilty to conspiracy and kidnapping charges yesterday but denied slaying the Iraqi civilian he and seven other servicemen are accused of killing last April.

Lance Cpl. Robert Pennington, of Mukilteo, Wash., entered the guilty pleas as part of a pretrial agreement in his court-martial, which began yesterday.

The serviceman pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, larceny and housebreaking.

Pennington, 22, and seven others are accused of dragging Hashim Ibrahim Awad from his home in Hamdania in April and shooting him.

Pennington faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, although a sentencing cap could be part of the pretrial agreement.


Author Rushdie begins Emory appointment

ATLANTA — Author Salman Rushdie began a five-year appointment to the Emory University faculty yesterday, one day before the 18th anniversary of the death threat that catapulted him into worldwide fame.

The 59-year-old Mr. Rushdie will hold lectures, teach classes and work with students for several weeks each year at the Atlanta university. He also is donating his literary archive to Emory’s library, a collection that includes manuscripts, journals, letters and photographs from his writing career.

Mr. Rushdie said this will be his only long-term commitment with a U.S. university because he wants to focus on writing more novels. He chose Emory “because they asked me, and nobody else ever had,” he told a group of reporters.

Mr. Rushdie, author of “The Satanic Verses,” was forced into hiding for a decade after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran issued a 1989 fatwa, or opinion on Islamic law, ordering Muslims to kill Mr. Rushdie because the book insulted Islam.


American Indians sue prison

BANGOR — American Indian inmates have sued state prison officials again, saying they’ve been denied access to key religious requirements, such as a sweat lodge, powwows and ceremonial food and music.

The federal lawsuit filed this month said that while Catholic and Protestant inmates can worship privately in the prison chapel, American Indians must conduct some ceremonies outside, in a heavily trafficked area between buildings at the maximum-security prison in Warren.

Because of the lack of privacy, participants say they have been subjected to derogatory comments and unwelcome stares.

Ten inmates and a prisoners group called Sacred Feather, Native American Circle seek a private location to conduct ceremonies and permission for members to buy prayer blankets, tribal attire and other religious items that can be kept in prison cells.


Priest appears in court in sex-assault case

LAS VEGAS — A Roman Catholic priest accused of beating and sexually assaulting a female employee at a southern Nevada parish office last month made his initial court appearance in Las Vegas yesterday.

The Rev. George Chaanine stood shackled, wearing gray-blue jail scrubs, as he was represented by a Clark County public defender during his brief appearance in Las Vegas Justice Court.

Father Chaanine was not asked to enter a plea on charges including attempted murder, sexual assault, kidnapping and battery that could result in a sentence of life in prison if he is convicted.

The 52-year-old priest answered just one question, telling Justice of the Peace Douglas Smith he could not afford to hire a lawyer. The judge set a preliminary hearing for Feb. 27.


Dog saves couple from fire

KENTON — Someone’s getting some extra kibble.

A man in western Ohio said the family dog likely saved him and his fiancee from a weekend fire at their home.

The dog, named Katie Bell, was sleeping near the couple after they went to bed in an upstairs room. She woke them about 4 a.m. Sunday by whining and acting restless, said Greg Weaver.

When Mr. Weaver tried to let the dog out of the bedroom, she tried to stop him by blocking the doorway, Mr. Weaver said. When he did open the door, he was greeted by black smoke.

Kenton Fire Chief Russ Blue said the fire started on the first floor, where an extension cord was plugged into a space heater.


Family gets help after moving van is stolen

OKLAHOMA CITY — Two Oklahomans who moved to Oregon lost all their possessions when their moving van was stolen, but people in their new home — led by an NFL quarterback — are helping the couple recover from their losses.

Nicole Bennett, 29, and Eddy Fagan, 39, moved with their three children last month to Clackamas, Ore. Last week, their moving van — which contained all their possessions — was stolen. It was later found abandoned and empty.

Since their story went public, the family has received numerous offers of help. Miami Dolphins quarterback Joey Harrington visited the family Sunday and brought a laptop computer, a printer, a fax machine, a $3,000 gift certificate from Nike and donations of appliances and furniture.


Meeting turns into slayings, suicide

PHILADELPHIA — An angry investor who killed three persons and himself at a marketing company was upset about losing money in a failed real-estate venture and told his victims to “say your prayers” before he opened fire, police said yesterday.

Vincent Dortch, 44, took an assault rifle and a .40-caliber handgun to the investors meeting he had organized Monday night, authorities said.

Minutes after the meeting started, he told the group, “You have a minute or two to say your prayers,” police Inspector Joseph Fox said. Another man who was shot during the attack was in critical condition yesterday.

Police found a scene of “utter chaos” when they arrived at the offices of Zigzag Net Inc., Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Ross said.

Despite being bound and shot several times, the injured man, Patrick Sweeney of Maple Shade, N.J., had managed to call police. Officers entered the office building behind Dortch and exchanged gunfire with him in a second-floor hallway.

Dortch, who may have been shot, then ducked behind a door and fatally shot himself in the head, Inspector Fox said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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