- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2008

ARIZONA

Plea deal offered to 8-year-old suspect

PHOENIX | Prosecutors have offered a plea deal to an 8-year-old boy charged with murder in the shooting deaths of his father and another man in their eastern Arizona home, court records show.

Complete details of the offer weren’t spelled out in a court filing posted Saturday on the Apache County Superior Court’s Web site.

But County Attorney Criss Candelaria wrote that he has “tendered a plea offer to the juvenile’s attorneys that would resolve all the charges in the juvenile court, contingent on the results of the mental health evaluations.”

Mr. Candelaria was responding to a defense motion seeking to block him from dropping one of two first-degree murder charges the boy faces in the deaths of his father, Vincent Romero, 29, and Timothy Romans, 39, last month.

Defense attorney Benjamin Brewer argued in a filing Tuesday that prosecutors wanted the charge dismissed so they could refile it when the boy was older and pursue the case in adult court.

Mr. Brewer said Saturday that the deal would resolve the case without it being transferred to adult court, but he declined to provide additional details. Although he is considering the offer, Mr. Brewer said he is not sure of his client’s ability to understand the proceedings. At least two mental health evaluations are yet to be completed.

ILLINOIS

First snow cancels dozens of flights

CHICAGO | Illinois’ first snowstorm of the season canceled dozens of flights at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Sunday, aviation officials said.

They add that low visibility Sunday afternoon is causing flight delays of up to an hour.

National Weather Service officials said the storm could dump up to 8 inches of snow in some northern counties.

A winter storm warning covering all of north-central Illinois was in effect through midday Monday. Central Illinois may see about 5 inches of snow.

Officials warn the storm could make travel hazardous for those returning home from the holidays.

NEW YORK

Holiday season off to a modest start

NEW YORK | Deep discounts on everything from sweaters to TVs drove shoppers out of hibernation for the Thanksgiving weekend, but the buying was tempered and sales for the traditional start of the holiday season appear at best in line with stores’ low expectations.

The sales receipts, however, came at the expense of profits, and merchants are facing a big challenge exciting financially strapped shoppers for the rest of the season that’s expected to be the weakest in decades.

The nation’s retailers, who since mid-September have suffered from the most dramatic falloff in spending in decades amid a ballooning financial crisis, opened their stores as early as midnight on Friday, holding their breath wondering whether shoppers would show up for the pre-dawn specials. But while the crowds did come out, analysts say they were thinner than last year, and according to some accounts, business fell off sharply for the remainder of the weekend.

Shoppers were also focused on bargains and smaller-ticket, practical items like blenders and video games, as they worry about layoffs, tightening credit and shrinking retirement funds.

PENNSYLVANIA

Eau de Penn State smells of flowers

BERWICK | Fans of Penn State can smell like the school for just $60.

A fragrance developer said it has made a perfume and a cologne inspired by Pennsylvania State University’s blue and white colors and its campus vegetation.

Masik Collegiate Fragrances said the perfume for the school in State College, Pa., smells of vanilla, lilac, rose and white patchouli. The cologne smells of blue cypress and cracked pepper.

The company’s president said the 3.4-ounce bottles of fragrance should appeal to Penn State’s countless alumni and football fans.

Masik also has captured the smell of the University of North Carolina, and plans to offer scents for six other universities next year.

TEXAS

Papal artifacts on display

HOUSTON | The only exhibit of Vatican artifacts outside the papal capital is on display in an unlikely spot - the National Museum of Funeral History, an exhibit hall that celebrates coffins, hearses and other ceremonial aspects of death.

The museum is one of Houston’s best-kept secrets, a warehouselike building in a working-class pocket north of Houston, where soft music and hushed words waft from the sound system, the sweet scent of flowers leaves a faint trail in the air and exhibits extol everything from the birth of embalming to the mourning rituals of the Victorian Era.

But now the subdued atmosphere has an ambitious new addition, “Celebrating the Lives and Deaths of the Popes,” billed as the only display of papal artifacts outside the Vatican.

It took the museum two years to secure Vatican permission for the project, plus another year to put the exhibit together, said Genevieve Keeney, the museum director who is also a bereavement counselor and licensed funeral director.

It had an advantage in a board member who had a connection to a Vatican official. And Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, head of the Houston-Galveston Archdiocese, wrote letters on behalf of the museum.

VERMONT

Sex offender to be freed after 3 years

BURLINGTON | A sex offender whose lenient sentence for molesting a child led to a crackdown on punishment for sexual predators in Vermont will likely be released from prison next month, state corrections officials say.

Mark Hulett is due for release Jan. 2, but will remain under the state Corrections Department’s supervision for life and could return to prison if he commits another offense or violates conditions of his release.

Judge Edward Cashman was criticized by lawmakers and Gov. Jim Douglas when he sentenced Hulett, then 34, to 60 days for sexually assaulting the daughter of a family friend many times during a four-year period beginning when she was 6.

Judge Cashman, now retired, said he had wanted a short prison sentence so Hulett could get the sex-offender treatment that the Corrections Department would not provide behind bars. After the department changed its policy, the judge lengthened the sentence to three years.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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