- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2008


New Year’s shot kills woman, girl

DENVER — A single bullet ripped through the wall of a house Tuesday, shortly after midnight, killing an 11-year-old girl and a woman attending a New Year’s party inside, investigators said.

A 25-year-old man later was arrested at his home on investigation of two counts of first-degree murder, police spokesman Sonny Jackson said.

Investigators think the weapon was a high-powered rifle, Police Chief Gerry Whitman said.

The victims were at a party with about 10 other people when the bullet pierced the front wall of the house, passed through the head of the woman, who was seated, and struck the girl in the side, Mr. Jackson said.


One dead, dozens hurt in bus crash

VICTORIA — A chartered bus coming from Mexico veered off a highway early yesterday and overturned, killing one passenger and injuring dozens of others, at least six of them critically, authorities said.

The bus had left Monterrey, Mexico, on Tuesday evening and was headed to Houston when it crashed on U.S. Route 59 several hours before dawn, authorities said.

“The investigation is centering on driver fatigue,” said Tom Vinger, spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety. “It looks like he ran off the road, way overcorrected, then tipped over on the passenger side.”

The identity of the man who was killed was not released.

Mr. Vinger said that the driver was not seriously injured and that it was too early to tell whether he could face charges. His name was not released.


Freighter repaired, en route to Japan

ANCHORAGE — A disabled freighter that had drifted with 24 persons aboard in the Bering Sea was repaired and under way again, the Coast Guard said yesterday.

The freighter was about 80 miles northwest of Attu Island in the Aleutian Islands en route to Japan after the crew repaired lube oil pumps in both engines Tuesday night, Coast Guard Petty Officer Tiffany Farrell said.

The Coast Guard in Juneau received a call for assistance from the Thai-flagged Mathawee Naree on Monday night, Lt. Herbert Law said.

The pumps failed on the 554-foot freighter while en route from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Japan, Lt. Law said. It is carrying 28,000 tons of copper concentrate and 760 metric tons of fuel. There were no reports it was leaking fuel or had spilled any of its cargo.

Lt. Law said the freighter and its crew were not in any immediate danger while it was drifting.


Leap with suspect kills police dog

CORONADO — A man being chased by authorities grabbed a police dog and leapt off a bridge, taking the animal with him into the cold San Diego Bay 200 feet below.

The dog died after the fall from the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, but the fugitive survived and was hospitalized with a collapsed lung.

The 27-year-old man will be charged with causing the dog’s death, driving under the influence and evading police, authorities said.

The pursuit began Monday evening after an Oceanside police officer saw the man driving a pickup erratically. The officer, accompanied by a 6-year-old Belgian malinois named Stryker, ordered the driver to stop, but he refused, officials said.

The man led police on a chase on Interstate 5 and onto the bridge, where he stopped and the officer released the dog.


Food worker returns $185,000 check

NORWICH — Reggie Damone just wanted to jot down a phone number when he picked up what he thought was litter on a sidewalk this week. But what he found was an envelope containing a $185,000 check.

Mr. Damone, who receives food stamps and works at McDonald’s, said he didn’t think twice about trying to cash it. Instead, the 47-year-old took a bus Monday from his Jewett City home to a bank and returned the check to the niece of the landlord to whom the check was written.

She thanked Mr. Damone with a $50 bill.

Mr. Damone said that although he knew $185,000 could pay his rent and other bills for a long time, he was never tempted to try to cash it and splurge.

He said he remembered his mother’s words: If you take something, you lose three times that amount — and if you do something good, something good comes back to you.


Zebra recaptured after zoo escape

NORTH FORT MYERS — A zebra named Ann Curry, after the NBC “Today” show anchor who reported on her birth, is back at the Shell Factory Zoo after an hourlong escape on New Year’s Eve.

Zoo officials said she ran off while being transported to North Carolina for breeding. The zebra, 6 months old, was found in a residential area.


Atlanta airport still nation’s busiest

ATLANTA — For the third year in a row, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport retained its title as the nation’s busiest airport in terms of flights, according to preliminary government data released yesterday.

The Atlanta airport logged 994,466 flights last year, up 1.8 percent from 976,447 flights in 2006, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said. Flights include takeoffs and landings.

Its rival, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, was listed second busiest, with 935,000 flights in 2007. That number was down 2.4 percent from the 958,643 flights it orchestrated in 2006, the FAA said.

Atlanta airport officials said Hartsfield-Jackson’s increased flights in 2007 came from growing demand for air travel in the metro Atlanta area and efforts by Delta Air Lines Inc. and Air Tran Airways, which both have large air-travel hubs at Hartsfield-Jackson.

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport was ranked third, with 686,711 flights in 2007, down 2.3 percent from 702,722 flights in 2006, the FAA said.


Priest at parish 63 years dies

KANSAS CITY — A Roman Catholic priest died Christmas Day after leading his parish for 63 years, ending what is thought to be the longest active tenure at a U.S. Catholic Church. He was 98.

Monsignor Heliodore Mejak became a priest in 1935. He celebrated his first Mass at Holy Family Church on Aug. 1, 1944, and never left. The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas thinks Father Mejak was the nation’s oldest active priest.

He celebrated Mass until about a week before his death, despite failing health and eyesight.

Holy Family, a Slovenian parish, drew parishioners who shared Father Mejak’s theological conservatism. He resisted attempts to have laymen serve Holy Communion and said it should be served only from a priest’s hand, not in the hand of the recipient.


City blocks cross on bluff

ST. JOSEPH — A man who wants to build a 30-foot, illuminated cross on property he owns on a bluff facing Lake Michigan is being blocked by the city because of zoning rules.

Ervin Wagner’s cross would stand atop a stone foundation across from his home. He wants to place a camera nearby to provide streaming online video of the view.

“I feel like it’s a kind of sacred ground to me,” said Mr. Wagner, a retired construction worker. “The Lord has been after me to do this for many years.”

John Hodgson, the assistant city manager, said the land is considered part of the property’s front yard, and such accessory structures are prohibited in a residential area. The city also has a 14-foot limit on accessory structures. The religious significance of the cross is not at issue, Mr. Hodgson said.

Mr. Wagner is considering his legal options for fighting the decision.


Lawmakers eye slavery apology

TRENTON — New Jersey could become the first Northern state to apologize for slavery under a measure due for a legislative committee hearing this week.

“This is not too much to ask of the state of New Jersey,” said Assemblyman William D. Payne, the Democrat who sponsored the proposal. “All that is being requested of New Jersey is to say three simple words: ‘We are sorry.’ ”

Legislators in Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia have issued formal apologies for slavery.

According to the proposal, New Jersey had one of the largest slave populations in the Northern Colonies and was the last state in the Northeast to formally abolish slavery, not doing so until 1846. The state didn’t ratify the constitutional amendment prohibiting slavery until January 1866, weeks after it became law, having rejected ratification in 1865.

Mr. Payne’s measure is set for a hearing today by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. It hasn’t received Senate consideration. The legislative session expires Tuesday.


Case dropped in parents’ slayings

HAUPPAUGE — A man who spent 17 years behind bars for killing his parents will not face a second trial after his conviction was overturned by an appeals court, a prosecutor said yesterday.

“It is no longer possible to reasonably assert that the case … would be successful,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota.

He said his office will formally drop the indictment against Martin Tankleff at a Jan. 18 court conference in the 1988 deaths of Arlene and Seymour Tankleff.

Mr. Spota also announced that he will ask Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate claims made by Martin Tankleff and his defense attorneys that Seymour Tankleff’s business associate or others might have been involved in the killings.

Mr. Tankleff, 36, was convicted in 1990 of killing his parents in their Long Island home. He was released after serving 17 years of a 50-year sentence after a New York appeals court found that new evidence uncovered by private investigators suggested the Tankleffs might have been killed in a business dispute.


50 injured when bus crashes

HENDERSON — A Greyhound bus slammed into a tractor-trailer yesterday and plunged down an embankment, injuring about 50 people, officials said.

At least two persons were critically injured and flown to UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, said hospital spokeswoman Stephanie Crayton.

The bus was traveling from Richmond, Va., to Raleigh on U.S. 1 when a tractor-trailer ahead of it made a turn and the bus failed to slow, said Sgt. Steve Green, a spokesman for the North Carolina Highway Patrol.

After hitting the truck, the bus ran off the shoulder and down an embankment, tipping onto its side, Sgt. Green said.

Maria Parham Medical Center in Henderson was treating 49 patients, though none appeared to be critically hurt, hospital spokesman David Ruggles said.

The bus driver was among the injured, while the truck driver was not hurt, Sgt. Green said.


Mom charged in boys’ deaths

MEMPHIS — A mother whose two sons died in a fire while she was out celebrating New Year’s is charged with criminally negligent homicide, police said.

Romello Winters, 4, and Christian Griffen, 7, appeared to have been alone in their apartment for several hours before firefighters responded to a call early New Year’s Day at the two-story wood-frame building.

The blaze was brought under control in about a half-hour, and the boys died later at a hospital. The cause of the fire had not been determined.

Aundria Jones, 29, told police she left the boys alone so she could celebrate New Year’s, police said. She arrived home after police were called.

Her bond was reduced from $100,000 to $50,000 during a hearing yesterday, and she hopes to make bond soon, said her attorney, Karimbumk Jayaraman. A preliminary hearing was set for Jan. 24.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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