- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 26, 2008

DISTRICT

Construction worker injured in fall

A construction worker was critically injured when scaffolding fell over at a downtown site.

Fire department spokesman Alan Etter said the man was working in a pit at the site near 20th and L streets Northwest about 7 a.m. when the scaffolding he was on was knocked over. The man fell about 25 feet, and the scaffolding fell on top of him, knocking him unconscious, Mr. Etter said.

Co-workers performed CPR on the man until firefighters took over. The worker regained a pulse after several minutes.

Firefighters used a basket to raise the man up to the street.

MARYLAND

Upper Marlboro

Former county officer guilty in shootings

A former Prince George’s County police officer who shot two furniture deliverymen in his home was found guilty yesterday of involuntary manslaughter and other charges.

Former police Cpl. Keith Washington was deputy director of the county’s homeland security department when he shot the two unarmed men in his Accokeek home in January 2007. Brandon Clark, 22, died of his wounds nine days later. His co-worker, Robert White, was seriously injured.

During the trial, Washington testified the two men were beating him and that he fired blindly to get them off. But Mr. White testified the shootings were unprovoked.

Jurors acquitted Washington of second-degree murder. But he was found guilty of other criminal charges, including involuntary manslaughter, first-degree assault and the use of a handgun in the commission of felony.

FEDERALSBURG

Five boys charged in rape of girl, 12

Five Federalsburg boys were charged in the rape of a 12-year-old Preston girl at a baseball field.

The attack happened feb. 9 at the Chambers Park junior league field off reliance avenue. Police began their investigation after receiving a tip that the boys were bragging about the attack days later at Colonel Richardson High School.

The teens range from 14 to 16 years old and face identical rape, attempted rape, assault and sex-offense charges.

Preliminary hearings are scheduled for monday.

OCEAN CITY

Gun charge added in prosecutor case

Ocean City police are seeking a gun charge against Wicomico County State’s Attorney Davis R. Ruark, who was arrested on a drunken-driving charge.

Mr. Ruark was pulled over Friday night on 94th Street after officers saw him speeding and crossing the center line, Ocean City police said. He was taken to police headquarters, where a breath test showed a blood-alcohol concentration greater than 0.08 percent, which is Maryland’s legal threshold for drunken driving.

Officers found a handgun in his vehicle. While Mr. Ruark has a Maryland permit to carry a loaded handgun, state law prohibits a person from transporting a handgun while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

A criminal summons will likely be issued today, the District Court Commissioner’s office said yesterday.

“I am speechless at this one,” Mr. Ruark said in an e-mail yesterday. “Wish I had a clue. I talked with [Ocean City Police Chief Bernadette Dipino] this morning, and she never bothered to mention that another charge was being brought.

“During my conversation, I apologized to her and her officers, and she did not have the courtesy to inform me that another charge was being considered. All in all, I was disappointed in that lack of professional response to me.”

Mr. Ruark was charged friday with driving under the influence, speeding and failure to keep right of center. Police say he was released to “a responsible party.”

Mr. Ruark, a Democrat, has been state’s attorney in Wicomico since 1989. Court records showed no previous run-ins with the law.

FREDERICK

Execution an option in wife’s slaying

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty if a Woodsboro man is convicted in the Oct. 28 slaying of his wife.

Charles Hahn, 57, is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree sex offense and use of a handgun in a crime of violence.

He is accused of shooting Pamela Hahn, 45, in their home as 911 dispatchers listened.

Mr. Hahn’s trial is set to begin March 31.

HAGERSTOWN

‘Dr. Phil’ confession leads to guilty plea

After confessing to being a con artist on Dr. Phil McGraw’s television show, a Hagerstown woman pleaded guilty to felony theft scheme and driving while her license was suspended.

Washington County Circuit Judge Kenneth Long Jr. sentenced Michelle Pheabus, 33, yesterday to 18 months in jail for the scheme charge. He also sentenced her to 90 days in jail for driving while on a suspended license.

Pheabus told Mr. McGraw in a segment that aired last month that she didn’t think she was “jail material.” but she also said she hadthought she could talk her way out of anything and was starting to realize she wouldn’t always be able to.

Pheabus pleaded guilty yesterday to felony theft scheme for forging more than $10,000 in checks. She told the judge she took the checks from a man she dated, and she has called him to apologize.

Several other charges were dropped in exchange for the guilty plea.

GAITHERSBURG

Town house fire forces evacuations

A two-alarm fire at a town house forced at least a dozen persons from their homes yesterday morning.

The fire broke out about 11 a.m. in the Potomac Valley town house development. Montgomery County Fire Department spokesman Pete Piringer said the fire was heavy and eventually caused the second and third floors of the home to collapse.

Two firefighters were injured while battling the blaze. One had first-degree burns, and the other suffered an ankle injury.

Investigators have not determined the cause of the fire.

Damage is estimated at $800,000 for the town house and another $100,000 for the homes on either side.

BALTIMORE

Father heard demons, documents reveal

A man accused of throwing his young son from the Francis Scott Key Bridge told police that demons made him do it, according to court documents.

Stephen Nelson, 37, is charged with first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in the death of 3-year-old turner Jordan Nelson. The boy’s body has not been found.

Court documents say Mr. Nelson called the boy’s mother feb. 3 and told her he was going to kill their child. The call was made from a gas station less than a mile from the bridge. a surveillance-video recording at the station shows Mr. Nelson’s car leaving in the direction of the bridge.

VIRGINIA

ROANOKE

Randolph donations more than double

Donations to Randolph College have increased 123 percent over last year, when gifts were down as the school admitted men for the first time.

Skip Kughn, vice president for institutional advancement, said yesterday that Randolph received $7.6 million in gifts and bequests through the end of January during the fiscal year that began July 1. That compares with gifts of $3.4 million at the same time last year.

Mr. Kughn said donations are the highest the financially ailing school has had in the past 11 years, including a major capital campaign that ended in 2006.

Several gifts came from alumnae who initially said they would no longer support the school once it went coed and changed its named from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, Mr. Kughn said.

“We also have alumnae who have increased their support because it’s important to them that the college be successful,” he said.

The school’s trustees decided to admit men after the school struggled financially in recent years, dipping into its $152 million endowment for operating funds because it was offering large scholarships to attract and retain students.

College officials have sought to boost the endowment by selling four paintings from the school’s art museum estimated to be worth $50 million, but the sale has been blocked during a court challenge. spokeswoman Brenda Edson stressed yesterday that the school still must sell the artwork, despite the increased gifts.

Venison donations set state record

An organization that funnels hunters’ bounty to Virginia food banks says a record amount of venison was donated last year.

The program hunters for the hungry processed and distributed more than 363,000 pounds of deer meat to families and low-income individuals in 2007.

Program director Laura Newell-Furniss attributed the increase in donations to larger deer populations across the state, combined with hunters’ growing awareness of the donation programs.

She said hunters have donated more than 3 million pounds of venison since the program began in 1991.

Hunters deliver deer carcasses to professional meat cutters across Virginia, and hunters for the hungry pays for animals to be cut, wrapped and frozen.

Food banks and other agencies then distribute the meat to needy families.

LYNCHBURG

Woman pleads guilty to theft from bank

A Rustburg woman pleaded guilty in federal court to embezzling $200,000 from Wachovia bank when she was employed as a teller.

U.S. Attorney John L. Brownlee said yesterday that Cynthia Taylor Carpenter pleaded guilty in U.S. District court to one count of embezzlement by a bank employee.

He said carpenter admitted in court that she stole money from a variety of bank customers from January 2003 to February 2006.

She faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

REGION

Report outlines Park Police shortfalls

The number of U.S. Park Police officers has dropped to a 20-year low, adding to concerns about the security of national landmarks, a watchdog group said yesterday.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER, found that the number of sworn officers on the force shrank to 576 at the end of last month, the lowest level since 1987 and a decline of 49 since 2001.

A government report on the Park Police released weeks ago found that inadequate security has left landmarks such as the Washington Monument and the Statue of Liberty vulnerable.

The Park Police recently trained its first group of recruits since September 2006, adding seven officers, PEER said. But even with them, the number of sworn officers has not kept up with attrition.

“We are well beyond the point where the Park Police can be expected to continue doing more with less,” PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch said.

David Barna, a spokesman for the National Park Service, which includes the Park Police, acknowledged that the force is short-handed and that new equipment is needed. Mr. Barna said the Park Police received more than $3 million last year for new gear, with $1 million more to come this year.

By next year, the number of officers is expected to increase to 630, he said.

Several reports in recent years have highlighted the Park Police’s difficulties in juggling anti-terrorism responsibilities with patrols of urban parks and parkways.

A report issued Feb. 4 by the Interior Department’s inspector general accused the Park Police of an “overall lack of commitment to its icon security responsibilities,” citing chronic understaffing along with a lack of coordination and training.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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