Jury selection begins in pregnant woman’s slaying
KANSAS CITY — A woman accused of strangling a pregnant woman and cutting the baby from her womb watched in court yesterday as attorneys began selecting a jury for her trial.
Prosecutors said the suspect, Lisa Montgomery, was nine months into a faked pregnancy and so desperate for a baby that she planned the December 2004 killing of Bobbie Jo Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant.
Miss Montgomery, 39, is charged with kidnapping resulting in death. Prosecutors said she strangled Mrs. Stinnett, 23, and used a kitchen knife to cut her baby from her womb.
The baby, Victoria Jo Stinnett, survived.
Jury selection is expected to take three days, with opening arguments starting Thursday. The trial could last up to a month.
Amish mark anniversary of school shooting
NICKEL MINES — Amish families sang hymns, prayed and shared a meal with state troopers and other guests yesterday to mark the first anniversary of a massacre at a one-room schoolhouse.
State Police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller was one of several dozen people to attend the private, noontime gathering at the home of the Ebersol family, whose daughter, Naomi Rose, was one of five girls slain in the shooting.
Five others were wounded when Charlie Roberts, a milk truck driver from a neighboring village who later killed himself, showed up at the school.
Also attending were community members, state troopers and officials from Virginia Tech, where a gunman killed 32 students and faculty members in April, Commissioner Miller said.
Biologists seek end of Rat Island rats
ANCHORAGE — Two centuries after rats first landed on a remote Aleutian island from a shipwreck, wildlife managers in Alaska are plotting how to evict the nonnative rodent from the island that bears their name.
Rat Island, like many other treeless, volcanic islands in the 1,000-mile-long Aleutian chain, is infested with rats that have proved devastating to birds that build nests in the earth or in rocky cliffs.
“They pretty much made the island worthless for a lot of wildlife,” said Art Sowls, a biologist with the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, which sprawls across the Aleutians and other Alaska islands.
Rodents have reigned at Rat Island since the 1780 shipwreck of a Japanese sailing ship, wreaking havoc on millions of seabirds with no natural defenses against land predators.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the Maritime refuge, is drawing up plans to wipe out the rats. A formal proposal is expected in about a month, Mr. Sowls said.
Airport fatality on her way to rehab
PHOENIX — A woman who died after being handcuffed and detained at the Phoenix airport was on her way to an alcohol rehabilitation program in Tucson, her family’s attorney said yesterday.
Carol Anne Gotbaum, 45, became irate Friday when she was late for a flight and a gate crew didn’t let her onto the plane. Officers handcuffed her and took her to a holding room, where she kept screaming, authorities said.
Police spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill said officers checked on her regularly while she was detained. During one of the checks, officers found her unconscious with her hands “pressed against her neck area,” Sgt. Hill said.
Lawyer Michael Manning, who was hired by Mrs. Gotbaum’s family to monitor the police investigation, said it doesn’t seem possible she could have killed herself.
Mr. Manning plans to send a representative to watch the county medical examiner’s autopsy of Mrs. Gotbaum’s body today. He will conduct his own inquiry as to whether police followed proper procedure.
Mrs. Gotbaum, the mother of three, was the daughter-in-law of New York City’s longtime public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum.
2 men held in dragging death
YUBA CITY — After he was beaten, kicked and robbed, a black man was killed when he was run over by a pickup truck and dragged face-down underneath it.
Police had two men in custody and were investigating whether race was a factor in the death.
Investigators said the man was attacked in an alley, then run over at least twice in a pickup early Saturday. He became caught under the truck and was “dragged for a considerable distance” before the men in the vehicle stopped and abandoned the truck, according to police reports.
Aaron Richard Ouelette, 21, and Michael Angelo Sanudo, 20, both of Yuba City, were held yesterday on $1 million bond each, on suspicion of murder, robbery, gang affiliation and parole violation.
Yuba City police described the victim as a black man in his 30s. They did not identify him.
Sutter County District Attorney Carl Adams said he was waiting for investigators’ reports before deciding what charges to file.
Penalties increase for sex predators
ORLANDO — Florida’s sex predator penalties became among the nation’s toughest yesterday as a law took effect tripling maximum sentences to 15 years for soliciting minors for sex and possessing child pornography.
The law also requires offenders to register e-mail and instant message handles with authorities. That information will be shared with social networking sites such as My space.com.
“It’s going to give all of us the tools to be able to make sure that not only do we enforce laws like this, but that Florida becomes known as a place that if you are a child predator or if you are a child pornographer … there’s only one place for you and that’s behind bars,” state Attorney General Bill McCollum said.
Mr. McCollum has made child sex crimes one of his top priorities in his first term, pushing for the legislation and getting money to expand the state’s cyber-crime unit from five to 50 investigators.
The Legislature passed the sex crime bill last session, and Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican, signed it in June.
Nazi suspect faces deportation
LAWRENCEVILLE — Federal authorities have begun deportation proceedings against an 85-year-old suburban Atlanta man who they say served as a Nazi guard and trained and handled attack dogs at the infamous Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps.
The Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security have filed a charging document making the accusations against Paul Henss, a German citizen who lives in Lawrenceville. Authorities said he entered the U.S. in 1955 after hiding his concentration camp service.
Mr. Henss denied doing anything wrong when asked about the accusations yesterday by reporters.
The Justice Department announced the action against Mr. Henss yesterday. The charging document, filed by the Justice Department’s Criminal Division’s Office of Special Investigations and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is dated Sept. 4.
Panic attacks linked to heart risks
CHICAGO — The rapid pulse and shortness of breath of a panic attack can feel like a heart attack, and it may signal heart trouble down the road, a study of more than 3,000 older women suggests.
Women who reported at least one full-blown panic attack during a six-month period were three times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke over the next five years than women who didn’t report a panic attack.
The researchers took into account other risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, inactivity and depression and still found that panic attacks raised risk.
The findings add panic attacks to a list of mental health issues — depression, fear, hostility and anxiety — linked in previous research to heart problems, said study co-author Dr. Jordan Smoller of Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital.
The study, published in yesterday’s Archives of General Psychiatry, wasn’t designed to explain the link, Dr. Smoller said. He speculated that a panic attack may trigger heart rhythm problems or that stress hormones released during an attack may harm the heart.
Nurses strike for better staffing
HAZARD — At least 600 nurses in the Appalachian regions of Kentucky and West Virginia went on strike yesterday, demanding better benefits and safer staffing from the impoverished area’s largest health care provider.
Registered nurses began picketing in shifts just after midnight outside nine Appalachian Regional Healthcare hospitals after several weeks of contract negotiations failed.
The nonprofit company brought in vans of nurses from temporary worker agencies to staff the hospitals as union nurses carrying placards walked lines outside.
In Hazard, about two dozen striking nurses carried signs that read: “Every patient deserves a nurse” and “We demand safe staffing.”
Last week, the company proposed a contract that promised an initial 2 percent pay raise, increasing to 3 percent over four years, with flexible schedules that would allow nurses to choose either 10- or 12-hour shifts.
Nurses said the proposed package reduced holiday pay and increased insurance premiums. They also want additional staffing to offset mandatory overtime.
Sex fugitive called a survivalist
LAS VEGAS — The fugitive accused of raping a little girl on videotape was portrayed yesterday as a dangerous, knife-wielding survivalist who once vowed never to be taken alive and formerly worked as an animal trainer with Las Vegas illusionists Siegfried and Roy.
The FBI and Las Vegas police pressed a nationwide manhunt for Chester Arthur Stiles, 37, who authorities say can be seen molesting a 3-year-old girl in a mysterious video that was recorded four years ago and surfaced last month.
Investigators were interviewing people who know Stiles and pursuing hundreds of “very fruitful” leads yesterday from across the country, said police Capt. Vincent Cannito, head of the department’s youth and family crimes unit.
Authorities were seeking Stiles on an unrelated warrant issued last year charging him with fleeing to avoid prosecution on charges he groped a 6-year-old girl in 2003.
Las Vegas police said Stiles had a string of arrests dating to 1999 on several charges, including assault, battery, resisting a police officer, auto theft, leaving the scene of an accident and contempt of court.
He was convicted in 1999 in Las Vegas of carrying a concealed weapon, and in 2001 of conspiracy to commit grand larceny, court records show. Stiles also pleaded no contest in Houston in 1993 to unlawful carrying of a weapon.
The district attorney said Stiles vowed in the past not to be taken alive by police.
Jeffs victim aims to help girls escape
NEW YORK — The woman who was forced to marry her cousin at 14 by a polygamous sect leader said yesterday that she wants to set up a fund to help girls escape polygamy if she wins her civil lawsuit.
“I would love to create a fund and a way for young girls who want to make different choices, to be able to make that possible for them, because it’s extremely hard to make that step,” Elissa Wall, now 21, told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Last week, Warren Jeffs, 51, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was convicted of two counts of rape by accomplice for using his religious authority to pressure her and her cousin, Allen Steed, then 19, into a “spiritual” marriage.
She has a civil lawsuit pending against the church and Jeffs, using the initials M.J.
Jeffs is scheduled for sentencing Nov. 20. He faces five years to life for each of the two counts.
Arson suspect, 8, released to relative
GREENVILLE — A judge yesterday ordered that a 10-year-old boy accused of deliberately setting a fire that killed five persons — including his mother and sister — be released from a juvenile detention center to the custody of his maternal grandmother.
“He’s also a victim,” Darke County Juvenile Judge Michael McClurg said to a packed hearing room, referring to the deaths of family members.
The boy is charged with five delinquency counts of murder and one delinquency count of aggravated arson in the Sept. 16 duplex apartment fire that killed his mother, his 8-year-old sister and three other children. His attorney said the boy denies the charges.
Although the boy’s name has been widely reported, the judge yesterday said news organizations were barred from reporting the name or publishing images of the boy because the case is a juvenile proceeding.
The Associated Press filed a challenge with the court, arguing that the rule against use of the defendant’s name is an unconstitutional prior restraint on speech.
Officials charged in bribery case
DALLAS — Fourteen persons, including current and former city officials, were charged in a federal indictment unsealed yesterday claiming a bribery and extortion scheme within Dallas City Hall.
The charges claim inside dealings with contractors building federally funded affordable-housing developments in Dallas.
Among the figures named in the 31-count indictment are former Mayor Pro Tem and one-time mayoral candidate Don Hill; state Rep. Terri Hodge, Dallas Democrat; and real-estate developer Brian Potashnik.
A separate indictment announced yesterday accused former City Council member James Fantroy of embezzling $50,000 from Paul Quinn College in Dallas. It wasn’t clear whether the indictments were related.
Trapped woman says she called 911
SEATTLE — There is no record of a woman who spent more than a week trapped in the wreckage of her sport utility vehicle calling 911, despite her recollection of doing so, authorities said yesterday.
Tanya Rider’s husband, Tom, said she woke up in her hospital bed and remembered making a 911 call. But a review of cell-phone records showed no such call, King County sheriff’s spokesman John Urquhart said.
Investigators think Mrs. Rider, 33, ran off the road Sept. 20 while driving home after working an overnight shift at a department store. Search crews tracing her cell-phone signal found her Thursday in her mangled SUV in a ravine off a highway in Renton, southeast of Seattle.
She was taken to a hospital in critical condition suffering from kidney failure, dehydration, a badly injured left leg, a broken collar bone and a deep gash on her forehead. She was upgraded Sunday to serious condition.
From wire dispatches and staff reports