- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2007


Murder trial begins for rock producer

LOS ANGELES - Jury selection began yesterday in the murder trial of pioneering rock producer Phil Spector, who came to court in Los Angeles sporting a new blond, Beatles-style shag and smiling broadly as he made his way past photographers.

The trial gets under way more than four years after B-movie actress Lana Clarkson was killed at Mr. Spector’s faux castle outside Los Angeles on Feb. 3, 2003. Jurors will be asked to decide whether Mr. Spector, 66, was responsible for the death of Miss Clarkson, 40, who was shot in the face.

Opening statements are still more than a month away.


Search continues for missing Scout

MCGRADY - Search crews climbed across a heavily wooded mountain area in western North Carolina yesterday, looking for a 12-year-old boy who disappeared during a weekend camping trip with his Boy Scout troop.

Michael Auberry vanished in the rugged terrain surrounding the Blue Ridge Parkway on Saturday after lunch with the other Scouts. Searchers found his mess kit within a mile of the campsite, but no new clues had surfaced yesterday, officials said.

Michael was dressed for the weather, with a heavy red coat with an inner fleece coat, and he had gloves and a hat in a pocket, his mother said. The temperature dipped into the 20s overnight but was expected to be in the upper 50s during the day.


Elderly woman shot 5 times

ORLANDO — An 88-year-old woman was shot five times while she slept yesterday morning and was recovering in a hospital, authorities said.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office was investigating why Yuki Harris was targeted.

“We don’t believe this is a random shooting,” Cpl. Susan Soto said.

Witnesses said they saw three men leaving the area after the shooting, according to the sheriff’s report. The woman was shot at about 12:40 a.m., Cpl. Soto said. Deputies found several bullet holes throughout the house.

Mrs. Harris’ 58-year-old daughter, Michi Nogami, who lives in the same house, said she could smell smoke from a shot that entered her room just above her bed, the report said.


Offender got probation before boy vanished

BRUNSWICK — Three days before young Christopher Michael Barrios disappeared, a child molester suspected in the 6-year-old boy’s killing was sentenced to probation instead of prison for violating conditions of Georgia’s sex-offender registry.

The suspect, George David Edenfield, also never served prison time for his 1997 child-molestation conviction after he struck a plea deal with prosecutors, according to a review of court records by the Associated Press.

Still, Christopher’s father and grandmother blamed the court system for not putting Edenfield in prison before he had a chance to harm the boy.

Edenfield, 32, is one of four suspects arrested last week in connection with Christopher’s abduction and slaying. The child’s body was found Thursday stuffed in a trash bag and dumped along a wooded roadside about three miles from his home.

The boy had been missing for a week after neighbors last saw him playing alone in the mobile-home park where he lived with his father.


Eavesdropping bird warned of predators

CHICAGO — When the black-capped chickadee chirps out a warning of predators closing in, not only its closest feathered friends pay attention.

The red-breasted nuthatch, another small native North American songbird, is also listening in and can interpret the finer points of the chickadees’ early-warning system.

“They can figure out how dangerous the predator is from the type of call,” explained Christopher Templeton, co-author of a study released yesterday.

Black-capped chickadees are one of the most common backyard birds in North America, but their vocalizations are among the most complex in the animal kingdom.

While dozens of other birds eavesdrop on the chickadee’s alarm calls, only the nuthatch has figured out how to decode all of the intelligence encoded in the calls, according to researchers at the University of Washington.

When Mr. Templeton played recordings of the chickadees’ mobbing calls over speakers in the woods of Missoula, Mont., nuthatches reacted differently depending on whether the call was coded for a smaller pygmy owl or for a great horned owl, a larger predator.


Jury awards $122,400 for bite from cat

FLUSHING — Jean Toney had warned people Randy the cat had a biting problem. Her brother learned that the hard way — for both of them.

He sued her after the Siamese cat bit his hand, causing his fingers to swell up like “plump hot dogs,” as his attorney put it, and putting him in a hospital for three weeks.

The jury took his side on Friday, awarding $122,400 to the injured sibling, Michael Sabo, 57.

Mr. Sabo’s attorney, Tom Pabst, said the cat leapt into Mr. Sabo’s lap in March 2004 and bit his right hand. An infection from the bite put him in the hospital.

Mr. Sabo tried to get his sister’s Farm Bureau Insurance homeowner’s policy to cover the cost of the bite, but when the request was refused, Mr. Pabst said his client had no choice but to sue.

Mr. Pabst said the insurance company would be expected to pay the jury award for medical bills, lost income and compensation for pain and suffering.


Teen accidentally kills brother with rifle

HOUSTON — A teenager accidentally shot and killed his 9-year-old brother with a rifle their grandfather had left out as protection while police searched for a murder suspect in the area, authorities said.

Few details were released about Saturday’s shooting, but Texas County Coroner Tom Whittaker said no foul play was suspected. The names of the victim and his 13-year-old brother were not released.

The boys and their mother had been staying with the grandfather in the rural community of Roby for the past few months, Mr. Whittaker said.

Authorities continued the search yesterday for Neldon Neal, 60, who was charged with second-degree murder last week in the shooting death of Judy Lewis, 51, in their trailer home near Roby.


Painting of Virgin Mary missing from cathedral

OMAHA — A $100,000 painting of the Virgin Mary is missing from a cathedral, the fifth church in the city to have artwork stolen since last summer.

The painting, 8 feet by 5 feet, was apparently stolen late last week from St. Cecilia Cathedral. The Rev. Michael Gutgsell said there were no signs of forced entry and the church’s alarm system did not go off.


Couple claims half of lottery jackpot

ATLANTIC CITY — A New Jersey couple claimed half of the record $390 million Mega Millions jackpot yesterday and said they are retired — effective immediately.

Elaine and Harold Messner, 56 and 57, respectively, chose the cash option for the prize from the March 6 drawing in the multistate game. They will receive $116,557,083 before the 25 percent federal withholding tax.

“We feel very fortunate and blessed,” Mr. Messner, a general contractor, said in a statement. “This is that early retirement we’ve always dreamed of. Now we can do all those things we said we would do once we retired.”

A truck driver in Georgia had the other winning ticket and claimed it within hours of the drawing.

The Messners’ attorney, Richard King, said the couple would not hold a press conference to discuss their prize.


Bald eagle’s nest found in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA — Wildlife authorities have found the first bald eagle nest in the city in more than 200 years and hope the occupants will produce offspring, state officials said.

The nest “demonstrates the resilience of this species and its apparent growing tolerance to human activity,” said Dan Brauning, a supervisor with the state Game Commission, in a statement Friday.

Officials are not disclosing the nest’s exact location to avoid disturbing it, but it is being closely monitored, the commission said.

The state began a campaign to re-establish the eagle population in 1983, when only three nesting pairs remained in Pennsylvania. Officials said last year that the number was higher than 100.


Court rules against gambling for Catawbas

COLUMBIA — The Catawba Indian Nation’s push to expand its gambling business took a hit yesterday with the South Carolina Supreme Court ruling that a state ban on video poker also applies to its only federally recognized tribe.

The Catawbas argued their 1993 land deal with the state allowed them to use the video-poker machines, which were outlawed statewide in 2000, on their reservation.

The state contends that the land deal means the tribe’s reservation falls under state, not federal, gambling laws. State Attorney General Henry McMaster, who appealed a lower court’s decision in favor of the tribe, said the higher court made “a sound decision.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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