- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2007



Fiery crash kills 1, closes Interstate 95

A fiery crash yesterday on Interstate 95 left one person dead and closed the interstate for hours, leaving traffic backed up for miles north and south of downtown Richmond.

A tractor-trailer traveling south hurtled over a concrete barrier and into the northbound lane, where it collided with several vehicles and burst into flames, state police said.

The wreckage burned under a downtown underpass, throwing off heat like a blast furnace and scorching the paint off cars, witnesses said.

UPS driver Wallace Panton of Mechanicsville parked 200 feet from the accident and grabbed a fire extinguisher from his truck. He saw one man moving away from the wreckage, his clothes by his ankles and in flames.

Mr. Panton told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he saw a second man “all bloodied up” and wandering from the wreckage.

Three persons suffered serious burns, and six others were treated for minor injuries, state police Sgt. Tom Cunningham said.

I-95’s southbound lanes were reopened shortly after 5 p.m. The northbound lanes remained closed while the wreckage was cleared and the road surface was assessed.


Parents call sentence politically motivated

An Albemarle County woman convicted of serving alcohol to teenagers says she is the victim of overzealous prosecution.

Elisa Robinson and her ex-husband, George Robinson, must report to jail Monday to begin their 27-month sentences for serving alcohol at their son’s 16th-birthday party in 2002.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear their final appeal last month.

The prosecutor offered a 90-day sentence deal, but the judge sentenced them to eight years because he was angry that the party happened a month after one of their son’s classmates died in an alcohol-related accident.

The couple got the shorter sentence on an appeal in circuit court.

Albemarle Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Camblos denies that politics played a role in the case.



Mayor audits school construction projects

Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon started an audit yesterday to investigate reports that city schools’ construction projects were not completed or done correctly.

Miss Dixon appointed city Comptroller Joan Pratt and Inspector General Hilton Green as auditors. They are responsible for measuring all city and state funds used to renovate or construct Baltimore city schools.

The mayor said they will identify those responsible for misusing funds and hold them accountable.

Earlier yesterday, Baltimore City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and City Council member Mary Pat Clarke said a work session is needed to provide support as school officials looked into the reports.


Emergency worker dropped from lawsuit

An ambulance chief has been dropped from a lawsuit that says bitterness between emergency medical workers and volunteer firefighters led to the death of a firefighter and her unborn child.

Jason Tracey, former ambulance chief of Smithsburg Emergency Medical Services Inc., was tape-recorded making jokes and saying “they get what they deserve,” while firefighter Christina Lynn Hess was dying from eclampsia, a life-threatening pregnancy complication.

Washington County Circuit Judge John H. McDowell granted a defense motion that contended Mr. Tracey’s remarks to a dispatcher, while “crude, inconsiderate and offensive,” had no effect on Miss Hess, her baby or the care they received.

The lawsuit filed by Miss Hess’ mother and fiance says medics were slow in responding to the call for help, taking nine minutes to reach her home just three doors away from the ambulance company. They then spent 14 to 19 minutes trying to work on her before taking her to a hospital, where she died, the lawsuit says.

Black graduation rates dropped in 2000

Statistics compiled by the University System of Maryland show a dip in graduation rates for black students enrolled in Maryland’s public universities in 2000.

That follows about 10 years of increases and Chancellor William B. Kirwan says it is too soon to say if the dip is a statistical fluke or the beginning of a trend.

The report showed the percent of black students graduating within six years of enrolling fell at five of eight state colleges. The biggest drop was measured at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore.

The University of Maryland, College Park and Towson University posted graduation-rate increases. Frostburg State University held steady.


Warrant issued for shooting suspect

Hagerstown police obtained a warrant yesterday charging a man with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a Pennsylvania man in a Hagerstown tavern last month.

Stephen L. Urquhart, 26, remains at large, Lt. Michael King said. He said Urquhart’s address was unknown and court records list a Hagerstown address as recently as January and earlier addresses in Dundalk and Towson.

The warrant charges Urquhart with killing Christopher J. Ayala, 23, of Greencastle, Pa. Mr. Ayala was shot inside Zipper’s tavern early in the morning of May 22.

At the time of the shooting, Urquhart faced a July 24 probation-violation hearing in Hagerstown. He has been convicted in Baltimore County for marijuana possession, resisting arrest and failure to obey a reasonable, lawful order.


Driver dies in crash with school bus

An Easton man died at a hospital Tuesday night after rear-ending a Talbot County school bus, state police said.

The accident happened about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday on Route 328 at Gannon Road.

The bus was stopped with its lights flashing and its stop signal activated when it was hit from behind by a sport utility vehicle driven by Leonard Johnson, police said.

Mr. Johnson had to be freed from the vehicle by rescue workers. Police said he went into cardiac arrest as he was being flown to University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. After an emergency landing, he was sent to Easton Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The bus driver and the two students being dropped off at the stop were not hurt. No other students were aboard.


Bond set for officer accused of rape

Bond has been set at $150,000 for a Salisbury police officer who is accused of sexually assaulting a woman while on duty Memorial Day weekend.

Tracy Sparpaglione, 26, of Laurel, Del., was indicted Monday on charges of breaking into the home of a 19-year-old woman May 26.

The state asked at yesterday’s bail hearing that he either be denied bond or that bond be set at no less than $250,000.

Mr. Sparpaglione is charged with second-degree rape, burglary and sex-offense charges. He was fired last week.

No trial date has been set.


PG man, 77, is first heat-related death

State health officials have reported Maryland’s first heat-related death of 2007.

A 77-year-old Prince George’s County man died from heart disease complicated by hyperthermia May 29, the state said.

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said the state’s hot and humid summertime weather can cause heatstroke and heat exhaustion. Those most at risk include elderly people, young children and people who are overweight.


Crash investigation yields suspect’s car

Authorities in Cecil County are reporting a break in the investigation of a hit-and-run accident that killed a pedestrian.

Cecil County Detective Sgt. Steve Seipp said police have found what they think is the car involved in the accident on Doctor Jack Road that killed Bret Carr, 18, in the early morning of May 27.

The car was found parked at a house on the same road.

Sgt. Seipp said investigators seized the car, a computer and several items of clothing from the home, and he said biological evidence was collected from the car’s undercarriage.

Police are waiting for test results before taking the case to county prosecutors.


Highest court denies appeal in murder case

The state’s highest court has denied an appeal filed by a Columbia man convicted of killing his stepson by a jury that included a man who was not a U.S. citizen.

The Maryland Court of Appeals upheld a lower court rulings that Marcus Owens should have challenged the juror’s qualifications during the jury-selection process.

After Owens’ trial in June 2004 in Howard County, a juror told authorities he failed to note on a juror questionnaire that he was a citizen of Nigeria, which could have disqualified him from the jury. The defense said Owens’ right to a trial by a jury of his peers was violated.

Owens was convicted of second-degree murder in the July 2003 slaying of 2-year-old Kevonte Davis.


Mother posts bail for hit-and-run suspect

The woman charged in a hit-and-run accident that injured four children was released from jail on bond.

A Charles County judge granted Jacqueline Simmons, 29, a $50,000 bond, which was posted by her mother.

Prosecutors said Miss Simmons was headed to a methadone clinic in Waldorf when she veered off the roadway and onto a sidewalk into a group of children waiting for a school bus. Three young boys and a 17-year-old were injured.

Miss Simmons is charged with driving while impaired and failure to stop after an injury accident.

At her court hearing, prosecutors revealed that she had previous convictions for driving under the influence and hit-and-run. Her mother told the judge that her daughter is battling a methadone addiction and that her daughter could move in with her until her trial.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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