- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 5, 2008

FLORIDA

Federal agent dies in post office shooting

PEMBROKE PINES | A federal agent was fatally shot outside a busy South Florida post office after a fight Tuesday, and dozens of police officers searched the area for the gunman, police said.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent died at Memorial Regional Hospital in suburban Fort Lauderdale less than three hours after the 9 a.m. shooting, police spokesman Sgt. Brian Davis said.

The agent, who wasn’t immediately identified, was shot once by a man during a possible fight in the post office parking lot, said Sgt. Davis. No one else was injured, and it wasn’t clear whether the shooting was related to the agent’s job.

Sgt. Davis said the suspect drove off in a car, and police combed the area for him.

South Florida has recently been the scene of several other fatal shootings of law-enforcement officers, including the still unsolved killing nearly a year ago of Broward County sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Reyka.

UTAH

Farmer builds ‘car fence’ to annoy neighbors

HOOPER | A farmer has erected a backyard fence made of three old cars sticking up in the air to send a message to new neighbors that he can do whatever he wants on his property.

“This is just a fun way for me to say, ‘Hey, boys, I’m still here,’ ” Rhett Davis said. “This is my redneck Stonehenge.”

Mr. Davis came up with the idea after neighbors who recently moved into homes next to his hayfield complained about his farm.

“The people who bought the homes say, ‘Well, we love looking into your yard and seeing the horses and the cattle, but we don’t like the flies, and we don’t like the mosquitoes,’ and when I cut my field to bale it, they say, ‘We don’t like the dust in the air,’ ” he said.

Neighbors declined to comment to the Standard-Examiner of Ogden.

Mr. Davis said neighbors declined his offer to split the cost of a fence between his property and the others. They said it would block their view.

ALABAMA

Man pleads not guilty in frozen body death

MOBILE | A part-time south Alabama evangelist pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a murder charge in the death of his wife, a mother of eight whose body had been stored in a freezer at least three years.

Through his attorney, Anthony Hopkins, 37, also pleaded not guilty to separate charges of sexual abuse, rape, sodomy and incest.

Prosecutors said the teenage victim in that case is a female relative who is pregnant with his baby. Her disclosure of the purported sexual abuse led police to find the body in the freezer on July 28.

Mobile County District Judge Charles McKnight set bond at $750,000 on the murder charge in the death of Arletha Hopkins, 36, and $10,000 on each of the sex charges. It was not immediately known if Mr. Hopkins, father of six of the children, could post bond.

ARKANSAS

Ex-lawmaker’s bid to return blocked

LITTLE ROCK | An ex-legislator who gave up his seat to settle a felony sexual-assault charge but is running for the job again was effectively blocked from returning to the House by his former colleagues Tuesday.

By an 86-1 vote, the House changed its rules to prohibit anyone who has resigned public office as part of a felony plea agreement from becoming a member.

Rep. David Dunn, chairman of the House Rules Committee, said the proposal addresses a problem that was raised by Dwayne Dobbins’ attempt to return to the Legislature, but was not directed solely at him.

The only “no” vote came from Mr. Dobbins’ wife, Rep. Sharon Dobbins, who holds the seat he left three years ago.

Mr. Dobbins, North Little Rock Democrat, resigned from his legislative seat in 2005 and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment in a plea bargain reached after he was arrested on the felony charge. Prosecutors accused Mr. Dobbins of fondling a 17-year-old girl at his home.

He was sentenced to a year’s probation, fined $1,000 and ordered to undergo counseling. While the plea agreement required him to step down, it did not restrict him from seeking elective office in the future.

FLORIDA

‘Junior’ Gotti linked to three killings

TAMPA | A federal judge on Tuesday ordered John A. “Junior” Gotti held without bail after the man who insisted he had retired from a life of crime was arrested on charges linking him to three killings and large-scale cocaine trafficking.

Earlier Tuesday, federal prosecutor Robert O’Neill announced the indictment in Tampa of Gotti, 44, and five other men, saying they were “trying to gain a foothold” in the area.

Gotti, son of the late Gambino family crime boss John Gotti, was arrested at his home on Long Island. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

The conspiracy indictment against Gotti accuses him of being a chief in an arm of the Gambino crime family that operated in Florida, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania since about 1983. That enterprise was involved in everything from murder and kidnapping to witness tampering and money laundering, and had its fingers in legal and illegal businesses and union locals, federal authorities said.

ILLINOIS

Violent storms cause damage

CHICAGO | Severe thunderstorms plowed across the Midwest during the night, ripping roofs from buildings, chasing people to shelter and blacking out thousands of homes and businesses.

One death was blamed on the storms in Indiana late Monday.

By Tuesday afternoon, showers and thunderstorms were scattered from central Illinois into West Virginia.

Late Monday, the storms set off tornado warnings for downtown Chicago. Fans were evacuated from the stands at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, interrupting the Cubs-Astros game, and travelers were evacuated from the upper levels of terminals and planes at O’Hare International Airport.

The National Weather Service said tornadoes touched down in the Chicago suburbs of Bloomingdale and Bowling Brook, where about 24 homes were damaged, and at Griffith, Ind., where roofs were torn off several homes and businesses. More than 4 inches of rain fell in parts of Indiana.

A disaster area was declared in Griffith, said Town Council President Rick Ryfa.

Near Michigan City, Ind., a tree fell on a car and killed the 23-year-old driver, LaPorte County Deputy Coroner John Sullivan said.

Widespread tree and power-line damage was reported in northeastern Illinois.

MASSACHUSETTS

Rockefeller’s attorney denies slaying link

BOSTON | An attorney for the father accused of snatching his 7-year-old daughter from a Boston street said Tuesday the man did not kidnap his own child and has no link to a California slaying.

Clark Rockefeller was arraigned Tuesday in Boston Municipal Court after being flown back from Baltimore, where he was captured Saturday. He is charged with felony parental kidnapping, assault and battery, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

He was ordered held without bail. He didn’t speak to the judge during the hearing, though a court microphone caught him muttering “That’s not me” when a prosecutor mentioned an alias they attributed to him.

Lawyer Stephen Hrones told reporters that Mr. Rockefeller is not guilty of abducting Reigh Boss during a supervised visit on July 27.

Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley said investigators are “stymied” in their attempts to figure out Mr. Rockefeller’s true identity. He has at least a half-dozen aliases and has told authorities he doesn’t remember his history.

There is no indication Mr. Rockefeller is related to the famous family descended from Standard Oil billionaire John D. Rockefeller Sr., family members said.

Mr. Hrones also denied a report in the Boston Globe that Mr. Rockefeller’s fingerprints may be linked to a slaying investigation in California. The Globe, citing two unnamed sources, said his fingerprints were linked to an out-of-state license application under a different name. The Globe said that name is on a list of people wanted in a homicide case in California.

Mr. Conley refused to comment on the fingerprint report.

NEVADA

OJ co-defendant seeks separate trial

LAS VEGAS | O.J. Simpson’s last remaining co-defendant in the armed robbery and kidnapping case is making a final appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court for a separate trial.

Clarence “C.J.” Stewart’s attorney said the armed robbery and kidnapping charges in Las Vegas are all about Simpson, and anybody sitting next to him isn’t going to get a fair trial.

A Supreme Court clerk said that the filing arrived Monday.

Mr. Stewart is facing trial with Simpson beginning Sept. 8. He’s one of five men who accompanied Simpson during a confrontation in September with two sports memorabilia dealers at a casino hotel room.

Another former co-defendant, Charles Ehrlich, pleaded guilty Monday to reduced felony charges and agreed to testify against the Hall of Fame football player.

He’s the fourth former co-defendant to take a plea deal and agree to testify for the prosecution.

PENNSYLVANIA

Groups fear top activist was NRA spy

PHILADELPHIA | A gun-control activist who championed the cause for more than a decade and served on the boards of two anti-violence groups is suspected of working as a paid spy for the National Rifle Association, and now those organizations are expelling her and sweeping their offices for bugs.

The suggestion that Mary Lou McFate was a double agent is contained in a deposition filed as part of a contract dispute involving a security firm. The muckraking magazine Mother Jones, in a story last week, was the first to report on Miss McFate’s purported dual identity.

The NRA refused to comment to the magazine and did not respond to calls Tuesday from the Associated Press. Nor did Miss McFate.

The 62-year-old former flight attendant and sex counselor from Sarasota, Fla., is not new to the world of informants.

She infiltrated an animal rights group in the late 1980s at the request of U.S. Surgical, and befriended an activist who was later convicted in a pipe-bomb attack against the medical-supply business, U.S. Surgical acknowledged in news reports at the time. U.S. Surgical had come under fire for using dogs for research and training.

Miss McFate resurfaced in Pennsylvania and has since spent years as an unpaid board member of CeaseFirePA and an organization called States United to Prevent Gun Violence. She also twice pushed unsuccessfully to join the board of the nation’s largest gun-control group, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Plane company quits towing banners

COLUMBIA | A company whose airplanes have crashed three times in two months in a resort area has quit pulling advertising banners behind its planes, the Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday.

On July 16, a Sky Signs plane crashed near Surfside Beach after the pilot dropped its banner over a golf course. A few weeks earlier, another Sky Signs pilot was able to free himself when his plane crashed in the ocean just off North Myrtle Beach.

Two months before that, a Sky Signs pilot walked away unhurt when his plane crashed in a neighborhood.

Federal authorities are investigating all three crashes in the Myrtle Beach area. None of the pilots was seriously injured.

Sky Signs surrendered its certificate of authorization to tow banners to the FAA on Friday, agency spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said. The Conway-based company gave up its certificate without any prompting from federal officials, she said. Sky Signs’ planes can still fly, but can’t tow banners.

Company officials did not return messages seeking comment.

Since 1995, six planes registered to Sky Signs have crashed in the Myrtle Beach area, resulting in two deaths, according to FAA records.

WASHINGTON

Sea lion slips aboard family boat

FERNDALE | No one wants to be stuck with a large, uninvited visitor. Especially a sea lion that makes itself at home on a family sailboat - twice.

Lynnea Flarry and her family were picnicking Sunday afternoon on Clark Island when her daughter-in-law spotted a sea lion aboard the family’s 31-foot boat. The animal had apparently taken advantage of a ladder on the stern of the boat.

Mrs. Flarry’s son and grandchildren took a dinghy out to the boat to try to coax the animal back into the water.

When they got close, the sea lion hid “behind the lifesaver like a little kid who hides behind a curtain and doesn’t realize his toes are sticking out,” Mrs. Flarry said.

Mrs. Flarry’s granddaughter stayed aboard, taking photo after photo of the sea lion swimming in circles around the boat.

“She was so busy snapping pictures she forgot to bring the ladder up,” Mrs. Flarry said.

The sea lion climbed back onto the boat, and the family returned to evict the animal once again.

Mrs. Flarry said her 5-year-old grandson begged in vain to keep the sea lion as a pet and promised to give up his bathtub if the sea lion could come home with them.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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