- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 5, 2007



Officials discuss Metrorail extension

Officials in Fairfax County began talks about plans for extending the Metrorail system into Loudoun County yesterday.

Country officials called the discussion a staff briefing on the 23-mile project. Initial plans call for extension of Metrorail’s Orange Line from the Vienna station to Wiehle Avenue, north of Herndon.

Proponents of a tunnel plan through Tysons Corner could use the meeting to speak out in support of that option. State officials have called for an aboveground option to hold down the costs of the nearly $3 billion project.

Members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors could vote later this month on a special tax district that would raise $400 million for the project.


Hostage situation at restaurant ends

A SWAT team freed 12 employees and two customers inside a McDonald’s thought to be held hostage yesterday by an armed man for nearly three hours, but they never found a gunman, police said.

No one was injured, and police were trying to figure out whether the man somehow got away or whether someone had perpetrated a hoax.

“Anything’s possible,” Hampton police spokeswoman Cpl. Allison Good said. “That’s why they’re still working it, to prove this actually occurred or that maybe it’s a joke. It’s one of those things that we can’t take lightly.”

A man called police at about 2 p.m. from the restaurant to say he was armed but made no demands, Cpl. Good said. She said he made a few other comments, but she declined to elaborate.

Officers arrived at the restaurant as a few customers were leaving, and they saw a man they thought was the caller but were unable to confirm that he was armed, she said.

The customers whom police saw leaving the restaurant were not hostages and may not even have been aware of the situation, she said.

A SWAT team surrounded the building, and police hostage negotiators tried, but failed, to contact the man, Cpl. Good said.

Police also set up a command post near the restaurant, blocked traffic within a half-mile radius and asked people in nearby buildings to remain indoors.

At about 4:40 p.m., SWAT team members went into the restaurant and freed 14 persons, Cpl. Good said. Police were interviewing the people, she said. She had no details from those interviews.

Police continued to try to contact the man. At about 5:30 p.m., the SWAT team went back into the restaurant and found no one.



Black officer numbers don’t meet 1993 goal

The number of black Frederick police officers remains short of a minority hiring goal set nearly 15 years ago, the Frederick Police Department says.

There are 14 blacks among the agency’s 140 sworn officers, or 10 percent of the total, the department reported last week to Frederick County Human Relations Commission.

That is below the goal set by a 1993 settlement of a racial discrimination lawsuit in which the city agreed to hire one black officer for every white officer hired until the share of blacks on the force equals the percentage of blacks in the city’s population — 14.7 percent in 2000, according to the most recent year for which racial census data is available.

A year before the agreement was signed, 3.3 percent of city police officers were black.

Police Chief Kim C. Dine said the department is working to ensure that the force’s racial and ethnic composition reflects the diversity of the city population, including Asians and Hispanics.


Baby girl dies in apartment fire

An 8-month-old girl died yesterday after being found unconscious after a fire in an apartment.

The fire began about 11:30 a.m. on the third floor of the Fountain Park Apartments on Kenilworth Avenue, authorities said.

Prince George’s County fire department spokesman Mark Brady said the blaze was extinguished quickly, but the child was found unconscious in her crib. Evan Turner was taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Investigators said they think the blaze was caused by an electrical short in the baby’s bedroom.

The child’s mother was in the bathroom at the time of the fire.


1 killed, 3 sickened by carbon monoxide

One person is dead and two others were hospitalized after an apparent carbon-monoxide accident in a town house.

Montgomery County fire officials said the victims were overcome by the deadly gas in the 8600 block of Garden Way.

Investigators said a car was found running in the basement garage level at about 4 p.m. Upstairs, one man was dead and a woman was unconscious. Two persons in neighboring town houses also were overcome and taken to be checked out.


Officer accused of rape while on duty

A Salisbury police officer has been accused of raping a woman while he was on duty Memorial Day weekend.

Officer Tracy Ross Sparpaglione, 26, of Laurel, was indicted yesterday. He is charged with breaking into the home of a 19-year-old woman May 26.

Officer Sparpaglione had arrested the woman just the night before during a domestic disturbance, Wicomico County State’s Attorney Davis Ruark said.

Officer Sparpaglione is charged with second-degree rape, burglary and other sex offenses. The rape charge carries a sentence of 30 years.


Owner of 11 ill dogs charged with cruelty

A man accused of keeping 11 dogs in a filthy pen without food and water has been charged with animal cruelty, and the dogs were euthanized after the discovery.

Crisfield police said William Lawrence, 48, also kept the body of a 12th dog in a plastic garbage bag.

Authorities told the Salisbury Daily Times that they were called May 4 to Mr. Lawrence’s home to investigate dogs being kept in a small pen without water. Police said food for the dogs had dried up and contained excrement.

The dogs were taken to a veterinarian, but because of several health problems, all were euthanized.

Mr. Lawrence was arrested Friday and was released on bond. The animal pen has been torn down.


Man dies in leap from bridge into lake

A swimmer’s leap from a bridge into Deep Creek Lake ended in the man’s death, state police said.

Jonathan M. Witter, 20, of Greencastle, Pa., drowned Friday afternoon after jumping with a friend from the U.S. 219 bridge into the lake.

The friend, William R. Gates, 26, also of Greencastle, tried to rescue Mr. Witter before flagging down a Natural Resources Police boat, police said.

Mr. Witter’s body was found about an hour later.


Court doesn’t allow exemption for lodges

A former fashion executive likely will have to tear down six hunting lodges that he was building in Wicomico County after the state’s highest court refused to hear a permit appeal.

Edwin Lewis, a retired Tommy Hilfiger executive, has been embroiled in a legal dispute since 1999 over the hunting lodges south on Phillips Island on the Nanticoke River.

The Maryland Chesapeake Bay Critical Areas Commission urged courts to block the lodges. Chairwoman Margaret McHale called them “an outright and flagrant violation of the law.”

The lodges, which are partially built, are closer to a salt marsh than allowed by law. The state Court of Appeals decided last month not to hear Mr. Lewis’ appeal of a county decision not to allow a permit for the lodges.

Judith Stribling, a Salisbury University biology professor and representative for Friends of the Nanticoke, told the Salisbury Daily Times that Mr. Lewis’ last recourse is a potential federal challenge. But she doubted that would work.

“Our expectation is the next step will be: ‘Sorry Mr. Lewis, those cabins have to come down,’ ” Miss Stribling said.


State could lose third of dairy farms

As many as a third of the state’s dairy farms will disappear by 2015, a University of Maryland researcher says.

Higher milk production per cow, slowing growth in demand, and competition from lower-cost production areas will force more Maryland farmers to quit the business, Howard Leathers, an associate professor of agricultural and resource economics, said at a meeting last month of the Maryland Dairy Industry Oversight and Advisory Council.

“I don’t claim to have all the answers,” he said. “I wanted to lay out a systematic analysis for discussion.”

Mr. Leathers said the state’s 630 licensed dairy farms in 2006 will decline by 15 percent to 35 percent by 2015.

He said per capita demand for milk in Maryland and neighboring states is likely to drop by more than the national average because the number of children younger than 17 in the region is expected to decline by 1 percent, compared to a 3.5 percent increase nationwide.


Illegal alien charged with auto homicide

State police have filed charges against a driver involved in a multivehicle accident May 26 near Fruitland that killed one of his passengers and injured six other persons.

Police said Silas Soto, 22, admitted to investigators that he and his passengers were illegal aliens. He remains hospitalized at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, but his injuries are not considered life-threatening.

Authorities are still checking records to confirm the identity of the man who died and to notify his family.

Mr. Soto is charged with manslaughter by vehicle, automobile homicide while under the influence and homicide by vehicle while impaired.

The three-vehicle accident happened at Route 13 and Hayward Avenue.


Health program runs out of cash

A program that helped chronically ill Baltimore residents find health care services has run out of money and shut down.

The 18-year-old program, called ENABLE-MD, was based at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy and employed seven persons.

Founder and Director Donald Fedder said the program needed $100,000 to finish the year.

ENABLE-MD helped Medicaid patients find regular treatments to avoid costly emergency room visits. About 100 people were enrolled when the program closed Thursday.

Mr. Fedder is trying to find money to revive it.


Police identify biker killed in I-695 crash

A St. Mary’s County man who died Saturday night when he crashed his motorcycle on the Baltimore Beltway has been identified as Jeffrey Jones, 33.

Police said Mr. Jones was trying to pass a car on the driver’s side when he hit the side mirror. He was thrown from his bike, hit a guardrail and died at the scene.

It happened about 8 p.m. on the Inner Loop while Mr. Jones was riding with several other motorcyclists.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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