- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 6, 2007


Freezing cold stalls morning motorists

Below-freezing temperatures inconvenienced nearly 1,500 motorists in the area yesterday, AAA Mid-Atlantic said. Thirty-six percent of the calls were battery-related.

The volume of calls to the auto club’s switchboard yesterday morning was about 50 percent higher than normal. By late morning, AAA had dispatched personnel to 3,500 calls, and 37 percent of the callers had to be towed.

AAA handled 800 calls in Maryland, 525 in Virginia and 125 in the District.

At 32 degrees, a battery is 35 percent weaker, AAA said. Winter weather also wears on a car’s belts and hoses, making the ones that are already worn more likely to break.

AAA recommends allowing vehicles to run for about five minutes in cold weather and keeping fluids at the recommended level.

Power grid operator sets winter record

The operator of the power grid for the Mid-Atlantic and parts of the Midwest said it set an all-time record yesterday morning for winter electricity use.

PJM Interconnection operates the power grid in 13 states and the District. The operator said demand yesterday morning rose above 112,500 megawatts. The previous record for winter use, set in December 2005, was 110,414 megawatts.

The all-time record for summer use is 144,644 megawatts set during a heat wave in August.



Con man’s luxury cars to be auctioned

A fleet of exotic cars once owned by a Chesterfield County man who swindled hundreds of investors out of more than $8 million is now being offered to the public.

The U.S. Marshals Service said it will auction 28 luxury vehicles belonging to James Brown Jr., who pleaded guilty in December to one count each of mail fraud and money laundering. He faces up to 40 years in prison when he is sentenced March 14.

No date for the auction has been set.

Brown, 22, had promised investors double their money every six weeks through his company, Brown Investment Services. He has since admitted the company was a scam.

Authorities said the cars, worth $3 million, were used to convince potential victims that his investments were raking in big money.

Brown also used their money to pay for jewelry, electronics, furniture and clothes.

Authorities think Brown defrauded at least 400 persons.


Two-faced calf found dead in barn

Star, a calf born with two faces in December, lost her battle to survive.

Dairy farmer Kirk Heldreth said he found the calf’s body when he went to the barn Friday morning and presumes she died from complications related to her deformity.

“She was laying there like she was asleep,” he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Mr. Heldreth didn’t expect the calf to live long after her birth Dec. 27, but he and his family grew attached to her as she struggled to live. Despite a malformed mouth with one upper jaw and two lower jaws, Star was able to feed from a bottle.

She had reached 80 pounds, Mr. Heldreth said.

The farmer had been accommodating dozens of visitors daily who came to see the calf, prompting him to name her Star.

Although he didn’t want to put the calf on display while she was alive, the Times-Dispatch said he shipped the body yesterday to a New York taxidermist to prepare it for display in one of the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museums.


Church secretary charged with theft

A church secretary is facing embezzlement charges after police said church officials videotaped her stealing church donations.

Bernadine Brown, 60, is charged with felony embezzlement involving thefts at St. Peter Catholic Church.

Stephanie Cimillo, the parish bookkeeper, said she became suspicious when there was nothing but $1 and $5 bills in the collection plates.

She said she set up a hidden video camera in the church office and taped Miss Brown stuffing money into her purse.

Miss Brown will go before a judge next month.

It is the second embezzlement case in the Catholic Diocese of Richmond recently.

The Rev. Rodney Rodis is accused of stealing as much as $1 million from Louisa County churches.


Judge won’t move sheriff’s trial

A federal judge said the upcoming trial of former Henry County Sheriff H. Franklin Cassell will take place in Roanoke.

U.S. District Judge James Turk yesterday ruled against a defense motion to move the trial to Charlottesville.

Attorney John Lichtenstein said last week that extensive press coverage since October of the department’s drug-dealing scandal has made it impossible to seat an impartial jury.

Mr. Cassell and 12 of his officers are accused of taking part in a scheme to sell drugs seized from criminals.

Judge Turk said in a written opinion that he would reconsider the issue if an impartial jury cannot be seated when the case goes to trial in June.


Missing teens died of carbon monoxide

Two Montgomery County, Md., teenagers who were found dead last week inside a car in Northern Virginia died of carbon-monoxide poisoning, according to preliminary autopsy results released yesterday.

The bodies of Rachel Smith, 16, of Potomac, and Rachel Crites, 18, of Gaithersburg, were found Friday afternoon in the front seats of a Subaru Outback parked along a remote trail in Loudoun County about a half-mile from the West Virginia line.

The teens had been missing since Jan. 29. Police and family members had said they were concerned about the mental states of both girls based on statements they had made.

The case remains under investigation, but police said the deaths appeared to be suicides.



New mayor sets goals in her first address

Mayor Sheila Dixon, in her first State of the City address, said she would create a division of the police department to deal only with juveniles and increase recreation centers’ staff.

Speaking yesterday in Council Chambers, where she served as City Council president before becoming mayor last month when Martin O’Malley became governor, Miss Dixon also vowed to end homelessness over the next 10 years, double the number of trees and reduce litter in neighborhoods and on city property.

Miss Dixon outlined wide-ranging goals that focused on better communication between city departments, creating new positions and task forces, and changing the culture of the city’s police department.

“We must touch the lives of young people before they make the bad choices that will impact their entire lives,” Miss Dixon said in announcing re-establishment of the Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice as a separate division to advise on crime.


Lost note prompts new trial in ‘03 killing

Two men convicted in a May 2003 shooting will get a new trial because of a forgotten note submitted by a juror at the first trial.

The Court of Special Appeals held that defendants Clayton Colkley and Darnell Fields had a right to know about the juror’s question and to be present as the court answered it.

The note included a question about guns used in the shooting and was found in the case file after the trial ended. The judge and the parties did not remember the note, and there is no transcript of any court discussion about it.

The appeals court called it a reversible error and ordered a new trial.

Colkley was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison plus 50 years for killing James Bowens and for conspiracy to murder William Courts. Fields received a 45-year sentence for conspiracy to murder Mr. Courts.


Mother sheep found decapitated near pen

The Frederick County Humane Society offered a $500 reward yesterday in the case of a decapitated sheep.

Brigitte Farrell, executive director of the humane society, encouraged anyone with information to contact authorities.

Farmer June Weedy found the 225-pound ewe dead Saturday morning, the county’s Division of Animal Control said. The animal had been removed from a pen she shared with her 1-week-old lamb and decapitated, animal-control officer Harold Domer said. The head and the sheep’s right rear leg were missing.

Mr. Domer told the Frederick News-Post yesterday that investigators were pursuing a tip received Sunday evening. He declined to comment on the nature of the tip.


Helping homeless a priority in cold

The D.C. Department of Human Services is urging city residents to watch for homeless people as temperatures are expected to plunge below freezing throughout the week, putting those who choose to stay outdoors at risk of hypothermia.

“You have a lot of homeless people who will attempt to sleep outdoors in freezing weather,” said Debra Daniels, an agency spokeswoman. “If they sleep outdoors in freezing weather, they can die.”

Miss Daniels asked residents who see a homeless person outdoors to call the department’s hot line at 800/535-7252 and report their location so a van can take the homeless to a shelter.

Metropolitan Police Department officers who see people staying outdoors will offer to have someone take them to a shelter, a department spokesman said.

Those who choose to stay outside are given hot beverages, food, blankets and other supplies to help stay warm. The District has budgeted about $1.3 million for shelter from hypothermia, which includes money for 1,761 beds for men, 407 for women and 266 for families.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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