- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 9, 2007



Small alligator found in driveway

A creature under the car of a Stafford County woman gave her, a neighbor and their dogs quite a scare.

It turns out that it was a 31/2-foot-long relative of the American alligator.

Irma Piel said she and a neighbor were alerted to something by their barking dogs. When she got to her driveway she saw the reptile.

Animal control officers caught the animal, initially identified as a caiman, which is native to Central and South America, and took it to the Luray Zoo.

Mark Kilby at the Luray Zoo said the reptile is about 4 years old and could grow to 15 feet.

Miss Piel said she is happy that the reptile is being properly cared for “as long as it’s away from my driveway and my car.”


Boy, 12, charged with food tampering

A 12-year-old student was charged Tuesday night with putting a straight pin in a serving of applesauce in his school’s cafeteria, one of several food-tampering incidents at the school.

The pin, which was found in the applesauce April 24 during lunch at Rachel Carson Middle School, was found by a cafeteria worker. Nobody was hurt.

Two days later, another pin was found pierced through the foil top of a yogurt cup. And Friday a third pin was found in a serving of cranberry sauce.

Police are investigating whether the 12-year-old is responsible for the other two incidents.

The boy has been released to his parents’ custody. School officials would not comment on his status, but policies call for a student to be suspended when facing criminal charges.

The boy, who was not identified, is charged with food adulteration, a felony under Virginia law.

Police said the boy is not responsible for a fourth tampering incident at the school Tuesday, when a boy found a piece of a paper clip in a chicken nugget.


Rockers sickened by salmonella

Health officials have linked salmonella contamination to recent illnesses suffered by numerous people, including members of rock bands My Chemical Romance and Muse.

Officials are looking into the source of the bacteria, said David Trump, director of the Peninsula Health Department.

Members and crew of the two bands got sick after performing April 28 at the College of William & Mary, Mr. Trump said. Members of a private wedding party and a William & Mary a cappella singing group also got sick, he said.

Green Leafe Cafe owner Glenn Gormley confirmed receiving death threats from some My Chemical Romance fans. The band had to cancel several performances after the Williamsburg show because of the illnesses.


Dulles tower evacuated because of fumes

Air-traffic controllers at Washington Dulles International Airport operated out of a backup facility yesterday because of smoke in the main control tower.

The smoke was reported about 10 a.m., and firefighters ordered the tower cleared, airport spokesman Robert Yingling said. He said flights were not affected.

The fumes were coming from a work site at the airport’s main terminal, Mr. Yingling said. The tower was ventilated, and workers exposed to the fumes were evaluated.

Laura Brown, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said the air traffic-controllers were moved to another tower that is normally used to coordinate planes at airport gates.

Both towers have the same capabilities, though the backup tower has fewer work positions, Miss Brown said.


UVa. students charged in theft of mascot

Nine University of Virginia students have been charged with felonies in the disappearance of a fiberglass statue of the Virginia Tech mascot.

Blacksburg police said five students surrendered to be charged yesterday. The others were charged at the police station Monday.

“Farmer Hokie” vanished from in front of the Blacksburg Municipal Building the weekend of March 24. It was later returned, though it is not known by whom.

The statue was broken off its pedestal, leaving only its feet, and is still in the custody of the police department.

The students are charged with destruction of property, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.

More than 70 statues painted by artists have been put on display around town and then sold for a nonprofit economic development organization.

Those charged were identified as Phillip Sukys, 20; Jesse Germanow, 18; Alfred Lucia, 20; Russell Gartman, 19; Brian Grochal, 18; Johan Roos, 19; Jonathan Foster, 20; Ariel Poliner, 20; and Andrew Pearson, 18.



Islamic holidays not on school calendar

The proposed Baltimore County school system calendar for the 2008 school year does not include closings for the two biggest Islamic holidays.

The school system’s calendar committee had recommended unanimously that one Islamic holiday be added. But the calendar submitted Tuesday by the superintendent did not include it.

Muslims have argued for years that it is not fair for the county schools to close on the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur but not for the Islamic observances.

The president of the Baltimore chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Bash Pharoan, said the calendar is discriminatory.

The school board will take public comments on the proposed calendar at a meeting May 22. A vote is expected next month.


Gambling company settles over slots

A Virginia gambling company that operated slot machines at truck stops in Maryland and other states has agreed to pay a $2.5 million criminal settlement.

Truck Stop Games, now known as FA&HU; LLC, pleaded guilty yesterday to money laundering and agreed to surrender corporate assets. Individual officers in the company did not admit guilt.

According to law-enforcement documents, Truck Stop Games was at the center of a multimillion-dollar gambling and money-laundering operation, with 500 video betting machines in 110 locations in 15 states.

Another company, TravelCenters of America, which operates some of the truck stops where Truck Stop Games placed its slots, reached a separate $4.2 million civil settlement with the federal government in January. Court documents show that TravelCenters of America admitted having illegal slot machines at its stops, including several in Maryland.

As part of an investigation by federal and local authorities, detectives in Maryland and Virginia played the illegal slots and were paid for their winnings. Agents raided three Maryland locations and confiscated 41 video gambling machines, including 15 from the Baltimore Travel Plaza, a sprawling truck stop and bus terminal near the Fort McHenry Tunnel.


Man beat woman in ‘a blind rage’

A Baltimore County jury has watched a video recording of defendant John Gaumer describing for police the fatal beating of a woman he had met on the Internet.

Mr. Gaumer is accused of raping and killing Josie Brown, 27, in December 2005. In the recording, Mr. Gaumer tells detectives that he thinks he struck Miss Brown 50 times with his fists and a piece of wood. He said he beat her in “a blind rage.”

On Tuesday, prosecutors also showed jurors a piece of wood that police say had the victim’s blood on it.

Police said Mr. Gaumer met Miss Brown through MySpace.com and the beating happened at the end of their only date. After his arrest nearly six weeks later, Mr. Gaumer led police to Miss Brown’s body in a streambed close to an Interstate 95 ramp near Arbutus.


War veterans get high school diplomas

Five Wicomico County war veterans received high school diplomas this week, pieces of paper they never got because they enlisted in the military early.

Korean War veteran Robert Van Meter, 72, got his diploma Tuesday along with four veterans at a county Board of Education meeting.

Vietnam veterans Glen Naundorf and Danny Foxwell, Korea veteran Donald Duffel and World War II veteran Hollis Truitt also received diplomas. The families and friends of all five were in attendance Tuesday during their graduation ceremony.

A year ago the Board of Education said any Wicomico County veteran up to the Vietnam War who left in their junior or senior year of high school could get a diploma.

“It feels real nice, I’ve been waiting for years,” Mr. Truitt said.


Explosives, guns found Pagan’s home

Police have arrested a 66-year-old Hagerstown man they described as a senior member of the Pagan Motorcycle Club on charges of illegal possession of weapons and explosive devices.

Jay Carl Wagner was arrested by members of a task force made up of federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies, state police said.

Investigators went to a single-family home about 6 a.m. yesterday. Before entering, they deployed a robot to check for booby traps or other hazards and then conducted a thorough sweep, police said.

State police said they found more than 20 firearms, including handguns and rifles, improvised explosive devices and lots of ammunition.

Mr. Wagner is barred from possessing such weaponry under state and federal law because of prior convictions, state police said.

He was scheduled to appear before a Washington County District Court commissioner yesterday evening.


Police cruiser hits filled school bus

A Prince George’s County police officer en route to a shooting yesterday morning crashed into a school bus carrying 26 elementary students to a Bowie Baysox game as a reward for their reading skills.

The officer was pinned inside the patrol car, but her injuries were described as not life-threatening

Eleven of the students from Bradbury Heights Elementary School were taken to hospitals, examined and released. Four adults also were on the bus.

The collision occurred at 9:54 a.m. at Pennsylvania Avenue and Silver Hill Road, about 1.5 miles from a shooting reported minutes earlier in the 4500 block of Suitland Road. Police are investigating that incident as an assault or vandalism.

The injured officer, who joined the force four years ago, was driving with the flashing emergency lights and siren on.


Acquitted officer gets back pay

The Baltimore city police officer acquitted of rape is still collecting a paycheck from the city.

The city Board of Estimates has approved giving Officer Jemini Jones more than $59,000 in back pay.

Officer Jones was suspended without pay in January 2006, after he was accused of raping a female suspect inside the Southwest District precinct. He was acquitted of the rape charge but still faces weapons charges. Officer Jones remains suspended with pay.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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