- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 18, 2007

CALIFORNIA

Mother ruled insane in bay drownings

SAN FRANCISCO — A mother who tossed her three young sons to their deaths in San Francisco Bay was declared insane yesterday. The judge’s ruling means she will be sent to a mental hospital instead of prison.

The ruling was issued a day after a jury found Lashuan Harris, 24, guilty of second-degree murder, which carries a mandatory sentence of 15 years to life in prison.

Miss Harris will be sent to a mental hospital indefinitely. She can be released if doctors find her legally sane.

The defense argued that Miss Harris was schizophrenic and borderline mentally retarded and that she was convinced she was acting on orders from God when she threw the youngsters, ages 6, 2 and 16 months, into the water in 2005. Judge Ksenia Tsenin agreed with the defense.

INDIANA

Court stays execution of mentally ill killer

INDIANAPOLIS — A convicted murderer who argued that he should be spared from his death sentence because of his mental illness was granted a stay of execution yesterday after the state’s highest court said it wanted to wait for a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a similar case.

Norman Timberlake, 59, was scheduled to die tomorrow by lethal injection for the 1993 slaying of a state trooper.

The Indiana Supreme Court said his case could be affected by the Texas case of Scott Louis Panetti, convicted of killing his estranged wife’s parents in 1992. Panetti’s attorneys have said he has suffered from severe mental illness for 25 years.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Panetti’s case, expected this summer, could change the standard for executing mentally ill patients by offering a new interpretation of the Eighth Amendment, which bans cruel and unusual punishment.

LOUISIANA

Chimp birth a mystery; paternity tests set

SHREVEPORT — A female at a chimpanzee sanctuary has given birth, despite the fact that the facility’s entire male chimp population has had vasectomies.

Now managers at Chimp Haven are planning a paternity test for the seven males who lived in a group with Teresa, a wild-born chimpanzee in her late 40s who had the baby girl last week.

Workers have started collecting hair samples from the chimps for testing. Once they identify the father, it’s back to the operating room for him.

Chimp Haven managers said they knew something was up when Teresa was missing during morning rounds on Jan. 8. Later in the day, she appeared with a newborn chimpanzee in her arms.

“Well, we were all just a little bit surprised when we heard the news,” said Linda Brent, a spokeswoman for Chimp Haven.

The baby chimpanzee was named Tracy, and she and her mother are doing fine, Miss Brent said.

NEW YORK

Agents arrest 117, shut down drug cartel

NEW YORK — U.S. drug agents have arrested 117 persons and shut down a sophisticated narcotics trafficking cartel based in Colombia and operating in the United States.

John P. Gilbride, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s special agent in charge of the New York field office, said the arrests culminated a three-year undercover probe known as Operation Death Merchant, which targeted a Colombia drug cartel headed by Ismael Jimenez-Sanchez.

Mr. Gilbride said the cartel transported at least $7.5 million worth of cocaine and heroin into the eastern United States, including New York and Baltimore. More than 120 pounds of heroin and 380 pounds of cocaine, as well as 12 vehicles, nine weapons and $260,000 in cash, were seized during the probe.

Mr. Jimenez-Sanchez and 26 associates were arrested in Colombia; two persons were arrested in New York; and others were taken into custody in Florida, Michigan, Maryland and the Dominican Republic.

The smuggling ring used couriers who swallowed heroin pellets and carried double-sided suitcases filled with heroin.

PENNSYLVANIA

Health initiative covers uninsured

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania became the fifth U.S. state to seek universal health coverage for its residents yesterday when it introduced a plan to provide medical insurance for about 750,000 residents who currently have none.

Along with other states including Massachusetts and California, Pennsylvania is joining a growing movement among U.S. states to tackle the problem of residents without health care insurance, which according to some estimates number as many as 46 million Americans or about 15 percent of the population.

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell said the plan, called Cover All Pennsylvanians, would provide affordable basic health coverage to small businesses and uninsuredpeople through the private health insurance market at a time when many cannot afford it.

Mr. Rendell, a Democrat, said he hopes to implement the plan by next January.

WASHINGTON

Runaway, 9, sneaks onto two flights

LAKEWOOD — A 9-year-old boy with a history of stealing cars and running away sneaked onto a plane bound for Texas, getting caught after flubbing an airport connection, officials said.

Semaj Booker apparently found a Southwest Airlines boarding card and made it through airport security Tuesday, hopping two separate flights but landing in San Antonio — short of his Dallas destination, police said.

The fourth-grader remained yesterday in juvenile custody in San Antonio. He had been trying to get to his grandfather in Dallas, where he used to live.

WISCONSIN

Parents accused of locking up girl

OSHKOSH — A 13-year-old girl’s father and stepmother were arrested after the teen told police that she had been locked in a room for nearly two years, allowed out only for meals, chores and one-minute timed bathroom breaks, authorities said.

Clint M. Engstrom, 32, and Lynn M. Engstrom, 35, were charged Tuesday with one count each of causing mental harm to a child, a felony.

According to the criminal complaint, the girl had been locked in a small bedroom since February 2005 as punishment for bad behavior, spending 22 hours a day in the room, which had an alarm and deadbolt lock on the door.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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