- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2008

OHIO

Ex-death row inmate released from jail

OTTAWA — A British citizen who spent two decades on Ohio’s death row was released from jail yesterday after pleading no contest to three charges related to a fire that killed a 2-year-old girl.

Ken Richey, who once came within an hour of being executed, walked free for the first time since he was convicted of setting a northwest Ohio apartment fire that killed the toddler in 1986.

Prosecutors approved the deal after an appeals court overturned Richey’s conviction and death sentence last year. The deal allowed Richey, a dual U.S.-British citizen, to go home to Scotland without admitting that he had anything to do with the fire.

As part of the deal, Richey, 43, agreed to leave the United States within a day, and plans to leave for Scotland today. Prosecutors told him they were worried about threats against Richey, his family and attorney said.

PENNSYLVANIA

New mayor vows to cut homicides

PHILADELPHIA — Taking charge as the city’s new mayor, Democrat Michael Nutter set goals yesterday to lower the homicide rate, boost the number of high school graduates and build a better-educated work force.

Expectations are high for Mr. Nutter, who was sworn in as the city’s 98th mayor.

“This is our city and we are taking it back — every day, every block, every neighborhood, everywhere in Philadelphia,” he said. “I’ve had enough and I’m not playing around about it.”

Citing a significant reduction in New York City’s homicide rate over the past decade, Mr. Nutter said there is no reason that Philadelphia couldn’t reduce its homicide rate by 30 percent to 50 percent within three to five years.

Mr. Nutter, 50, advocates controversial “stop, question and frisk” searches to fight crime in violent neighborhoods.

ALASKA

Officials delay polar-bear decision

ANCHORAGE — Federal officials said yesterday that they will need a few more weeks to decide whether polar bears need protection under the Endangered Species Act because of global warming.

The deadline was tomorrow, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it now hopes to provide a recommendation to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne in time for a decision by him within the next month.

Environmental groups that petitioned to protect polar bears, arguing that warming threatened their habitat, said they would go to court to ensure a timely decision.

Listing polar bears as “threatened” with extinction could trigger limits on development that adversely affects the animals. That listing is a step below “endangered,” the most severe classification under the Endangered Species Act.

COLORADO

6 snowmobilers rescued unhurt

CONEJOS — Six snowmobilers missing in the mountains for 2½ days while a howling blizzard swirled around them were rescued yesterday — hungry and cold but not hurt — after calling 911 from the cozy cabin where they took shelter.

The group, consisting of two couples and two teenagers, huddled around a gas grill and dined on popcorn and chicken bouillon while they waited for the weather to clear.

“We counted 18 blankets. We were cozy,” Shannon Groen, 31, said after rescue crews on snowmobiles brought the group to safety. “God was looking out for us.”

Mrs. Groen and the others were trapped by one in a series of storms that killed at least three persons across the West, unloaded as much as 11 feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada range, flooded hundreds of homes in Nevada and knocked out power to a quarter-million Californians. At least three persons were missing in the snow-covered mountains of California and Colorado.

Mrs. Groen and her husband, Jason, had gone snowmobiling with their daughter Aspen to celebrate her 14th birthday.

The group got lost and ran out of gas Friday night. Mr. Groen, 36, said his cell phone didn’t work in the cabin, and bad weather kept him from leaving to find a place where he could get a signal until yesterday morning.

FLORIDA

Boy, 12, charged in toddler’s death

LAUDERHILL — A 12-year-old boy beat a toddler to death with a baseball bat because she was crying while he was trying to watch TV, authorities said.

The boy, who was not identified, was arrested Saturday on first-degree murder charges, Lauderhill police spokesman Lt. Mike Cochran said.

He was arraigned in juvenile court Sunday and remained in custody, but it was not clear whether he had an attorney or whether anyone else would be charged in the girl’s death.

Lt. Cochran said the boy confessed to authorities that he was home alone Friday baby-sitting a 10-year-old and the 17-month-old girl and became angry when the toddler began to cry. The relationship among the three was not clear.

At some point, an adult called 911. The girl, Shaloh Joseph, was rushed to a hospital where she was pronounced dead of blunt force trauma to the head, Lt. Cochran said.

The case is not the first in Florida where a boy so young has been charged in the death of a child.

Lionel Tate was 12 when he beat and stomped to death a playmate half his age in Florida. Tate was convicted as an adult of first-degree murder, but the conviction was thrown out in 2004, and Tate pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

GEORGIA

Bond denied in hiker kidnap case

BLAIRSVILLE — A judge denied bond yesterday for a man accused of kidnapping a missing hiker, while investigators searched for the woman’s body and looked into whether the disappearances of two other hikers were related.

Gary Michael Hilton, his hands and feet shackled, did not speak during his first appearance in a Union County courtroom. His attorney, Neil Smith, did not enter a plea on Mr. Hilton’s behalf.

Investigators said Mr. Hilton, 61, was the last person seen with 24-year-old Meredith Emerson on the trail before she disappeared on New Year’s Day in the mountains of northern Georgia. Authorities think Miss Emerson is dead.

Mr. Hilton is charged with kidnapping with intent of bodily injury, but more charges could be added, even if Miss Emerson’s body is not found, said Enotah Judicial District Attorney Stan Gunter.

Mr. Hilton was detained Friday. He had tried to use Miss Emerson’s credit card, according to his arrest warrant.

Authorities said they are exploring whether the disappearance of a couple in North Carolina is related to that of Miss Emerson. John and Irene Bryant, both in their 80s, had gone hiking in the western North Carolina mountains in October.

ILLINOIS

Feeling unpopular linked to weight gain

CHICAGO — Where a teenage girl sees herself on her school’s social ladder may sway her future weight, a study of more than 4,000 girls found.

Those who thought they were unpopular gained more weight over a two-year period than girls who saw themselves as more popular. Researchers said the study showed how a girl’s view of her social status has broader health consequences.

The girls in the study were still growing — their average age was 15 — and all of them gained some weight. However, those who rated themselves low in popularity were 69 percent more likely than other girls to increase their body mass index by two units, the equivalent of gaining about 11 excess pounds.

Girls who put themselves on the higher rungs of popularity also gained some excess weight, but less — about 6½ pounds.

Both groups, on average, fell within ranges considered normal. But a gain of two BMI units over two years is more than the typical weight gain for adolescent girls, the researchers said.

INDIANA

Dog saves kids from house fire

PORTAGE — A black Labrador is credited with saving a 13-year-old and his two friends from a house fire.

Christopher Peebles, said his dog, Laney, had never bitten him before — but did so repeatedly on his foot and woke him as smoke spread through the home.

Christopher and his friends, who had spent the night, made it out safely.

The boy’s parents were at work at the time, authorities said.

IOWA

Woman helps inmate escape

RED OAK — A woman who broke out a small-town jail inmate using a sawed-off shotgun early yesterday was captured with the man about eight hours later in nearby Nebraska, officials said.

Jessica Ann Johnson, 24, and Stuart Sellers, 33, both of Red Oak in southwest Iowa, were taken into custody in Omaha, Neb., by U.S. marshals and Omaha police. No shots were fired in the capture, but details weren’t available.

Miss Johnson went to the Montgomery County Jail in Red Oak shortly before 1 a.m. under the pretense of bailing out another inmate, Sheriff Tony Updegrove said.

“Once she was allowed inside the foyer area, she displayed a sawed-off shotgun and ordered the jailer to let her inside the main area and also to open up the B cell where Stuart Sellers was located,” Sheriff Updegrove said.

Miss Johnson and Sellers then locked the jailer inside the cell and walked out through the main entrance, he said. No one was injured and no shots were fired.

The two were arrested Dec. 17 on drug-related charges. Miss Johnson had been released on bond soon after her arrest. Yesterday,, both remained in Omaha pending extradition to Iowa on charges related to the escape.

NEW YORK

Woman dies under horse

ROCHESTER — A woman died of injuries suffered when she fell while trying to pet a police officer’s horse outside a shopping mall.

Authorities hadn’t determined whether Susan Banker’s injuries were caused by striking the ground or being trampled.

Police said they interviewed at least four persons and were given different accounts of what happened.

“It’s inconclusive whether the horse did step on her or not,” Monroe County Sheriff’s Cpl. John Helfer said.

Miss Banker, 51, who walked with a cane, got permission from a member of the Monroe County sheriff’s mounted unit to pet his horse Saturday at a mall in suburban Henrietta, said her sister, Pamela.

She reached out to touch the horse, but it pulled away and she lost her balance and fell under the animal, her sister said.

“It stepped on her several times,” she said yesterday.

PENNSYLVANIA

Anchor fired over cop incident

PHILADELPHIA — A TV station fired a local anchorwoman who has been off the air since she was charged with striking a New York City police officer, only the latest dust-up for the telegenic brunette.

Alycia Lane “has been released from her contract effective immediately,” KYW-TV said yesterday, the day she had been due back on air.

Mrs. Lane, 35, is accused of scuffling with a plainclothes female officer during a traffic dispute last month. A police complaint also said she used a sexual slur. Mrs. Lane has denied the claims.

Mrs. Lane previously found herself the target of critical news coverage, and snickers, after it was reported she had e-mailed bikini shots of herself to a married ESPN sports anchor and she tearfully discussed her divorce on the “Dr. Phil” show.

RHODE ISLAND

Inmates disciplined for fighting contest

CRANSTON — Twenty inmates at a minimum security prison were disciplined for participating in an “ultimate fighting” contest after claiming they were gathering in a dorm room to play chess, authorities said.

The fighting occurred in an area where one correctional officer is assigned to watch 140 inmates.

Officers later noticed inmates with bruises on their heads and knuckles.

TEXAS

Ex-mayor hits, kills man with his car

AUSTIN — A former mayor of Austin struck and killed a pedestrian who walked into the middle of a dark street, police said.

No charges will be filed, police said.

Former Mayor Gus Garcia, who was driving with his son, said he didn’t see the man.

“It was unfortunate,” Mr. Garcia, 73, said in online editions of the Austin American-Statesman yesterday. “The man crossed the street, and I couldn’t see him. He came out of nowhere.”

Investigators don’t think speed, alcohol or drugs were factors in the Sunday evening death, Detective James Mason said.

“It was dark, and the pedestrian was crossing midblock, which you shouldn’t do,” Detective Mason said.

Mr. Garcia was mayor from 2001 to 2003.

UTAH

9 killed, 20 hurt in bus crash

MEXICAN HAT — A chartered bus taking skiers home to Arizona ran off a curvy road and rolled down an embankment in a crash that split open the vehicle’s roof and threw some passengers 100 yards. Nine were killed, and about 20 others injured.

The Arrow Stage Lines bus was southbound on State Route 163 when it failed to negotiate a curve Sunday night, went off the road and rolled over several times down the 41-foot slope, said Trooper Cameron Roden of the Utah Highway Patrol.

Although the road was described as wet from light rain, weather was not the “main factor,” Trooper Roden said. “The main thing we’re looking at is the driver failed to negotiate the turn.”

The highway is known as a challenge for drivers.

The driver suffered minor injuries, said Jim Hook, the fire chief in Bluff. The bus, which was carrying 51 persons, was returning to Phoenix after a ski trip to Telluride, Colo.

Chief Hook said passengers were a mix of families, people in their 20s, and children ages 5 and 6. Two of the dead were students at Deer Valley High School in Glendale, Ariz., said district spokeswoman Diane Drumwright.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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