- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2008


‘Dr. Death’ announces run for Congress

SOUTHFIELD — Assisted-suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian, known as “Doctor Death” for helping more than 100 people end their lives, said yesterday he will run for Congress.

The 79-year-old pathologist announced his bid to run as an Independent less than a year after being released from prison, where he served eight years for second-degree murder.

Kevorkian, who was paroled in 2007, said he will run as an independent for a congressional seat representing the Detroit suburbs. His candidacy will pit Kevorkian against Republican incumbent Rep. Joe Knollenberg and Democrat Gary Peters in Michigan’s 9th District.

As a condition of his parole, Kevorkian vowed not to assist with any suicides.


Child’s message found 21 years later

SEATTLE — Merle Brandell and his black lab Slapsey were beachcombing along the Bering Sea when he spied a plastic bottle along the shore of his tiny Alaskan fishing village.

He walked over and saw an envelope tucked inside. Mr. Brandell found a message from an elementary school student in a suburb of Seattle. About 21 years had passed between the time Emily Hwaung put the message in a soda bottle and Mr. Brandell picked it up.

“This letter is part of our science project to study oceans and learn about people in distant lands,” she wrote. “Please send the date and location of the bottle with your address. Your friend, Emily Hwaung.”

Mr. Brandell, 34, sent the school district a handwritten letter, which eventually ended up on the desk of district spokesman Craig Degginger. After some searching, he discovered Emily Hwaung is now a 30-year-old accountant named Emily Shih and lives in Seattle. She said she was flabbergasted by the news.


More evacuated near meat plant

BOONEVILLE — Authorities fighting a blaze that destroyed a meat plant expanded evacuation orders yesterday because of fears that more fires could erupt in the smoldering debris.

An explosion Sunday destroyed much of the Cargill Meat Solutions plant, which employed about 800 people and produced about 2 million pounds of frozen ground beef patties and steaks per week. No one was hurt, but residents of this west Arkansas town of 4,000 were worried about losing a major economic lifeline.

Emergency crews yesterday cleared homes and businesses within a half-mile of the plant because of worries that an anhydrous ammonia tank might catch fire, the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management said. On Sunday, about 180 people were evacuated.

Plant workers were told to stay away yesterday, and a personnel manager said a decision on rebuilding will be made later.


NASA budget cuts hit Mars program

LOS ANGELES — Scientists plan to put one of the twin Mars rovers to sleep and limit the activities of the other robot to fulfill a NASA order to cut $4 million from the program’s budget, mission team members said yesterday.

The solar-powered rovers Spirit and Opportunity have dazzled scientists and the public with findings of geologic evidence that water once flowed at or near the surface of Mars. Both rovers originally were planned for three-month missions at a cost of $820 million, but are now in their fourth year of exploration. It costs NASA about $20 million annually to keep the rovers running.

Last week’s directive from NASA to cut $4 million means Spirit will be forced into hibernation in the coming weeks, said principal investigator Steve Squyres of Cornell University.

“It’s very demoralizing for the team,” Mr. Squyres said.


‘Barbie bandits’ sent to prison, probation

MARIETTA — The “Barbie bandits” who went on a shopping spree after they were videotaped wearing sunglasses and laughing during an $11,000 bank heist were sentenced yesterday, one to prison and another to probation.

Ashley Miller, 19, will have to serve two years of a 10-year prison sentence and must complete the rest on probation. She pleaded guilty to theft and drug charges.

Heather Johnston, also 19, was sentenced to 10 years’ probation for her role in the February 2007 heist in Acworth, northwest of Atlanta.

The two were caught on tape as they appeared to rob a Bank of America branch in a supermarket. They admitted they plotted with a teller to take the money and later went on a shopping binge that included a stop in a fashionable hair salon.

Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley urged Miller to learn from her crimes.

Benny Allen, who worked at the bank as a teller, was sentenced to 10 years and will have to serve five. Judge Staley said she imposed an additional penalty on Allen because he did not testify truthfully in the trial of Michael Chastang, a co-defendant convicted of his role in plotting the heist. Chastang is to be sentenced today.


Husband suspected in family slaying

IOWA CITY — A woman and her four children were found dead in their home yesterday morning, and police later found a sixth body in a burning, wrecked van owned by the woman’s husband — a former bank executive who was charged with embezzling more than $500,000.

Iowa City police said they were all but certain the body in the van was that of the husband, Steven Sueppel. A lockdown for city schools and an alert for the University of Iowa were lifted after the body was found.

Police Sgt. Troy Kelsay wouldn’t release the names of the victims, but confirmed that they were Sueppel’s wife and children, ages 3, 5, 7 and 10. Police found them in the unlocked house after someone called dispatchers.

Autopsies for the six bodies were scheduled for Thursday.

The family’s van crashed and caught fire on Interstate 80 about nine miles from the home. No other vehicles were involved.


Sex offender must post signs

HUDSON — Under a judge’s order, a man who admitted to molesting a boy posted signs around his house and a decal on his car proclaiming he is a sex offender.

The hand-painted signs reading “A Sex Offender Lives Here” are posted on all four sides of Leroy Schad’s white house in this central Kansas town of about 150 people. His vehicle has a large decal with bold yellow lettering reading “Sex Offender In This Car.”

Schad, 72, originally was charged with four counts of taking indecent liberties with a 9-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy in 2005. He was allowed to plead guilty last March to a lesser charge of aggravated indecent solicitation of a child, and the original charges were dismissed.

District Judge Ron Svaty sentenced him to five years of probation and house arrest, and ordered him to post the signs during his punishment.

Schad is appealing the sign requirement. He was facing about three years behind bars.


Governor signs ban on novelty lighters

AUGUSTA — Six-year-old Shane St. Pierre yesterday stood next to Gov. John Baldacci as he signed legislation that makes Maine the first state to outlaw the sale of cigarette lighters that are particularly attractive to children because they come in the shapes of cartoon characters, toys and animals.

“It’s not often I get to sign a bill that’s the nation’s first,” said Mr. Baldacci, a Democrat whose desk was covered with an array of novelty lighters including a race car, a sandal, a cow, and two bright red items that ironically were in the shapes of a fire hydrant and fire extinguisher.

The legislation was a crusade begun by Shane’s parents after the boy singed his eyebrow and burned part of his face when, while shopping with his mother at a grocery store, picked up a miniature baseball bat and flicked the switch, not knowing that the “bat” was a lighter.

Mr. Baldacci said more than 5,000 household fires are caused each year by children younger than 5, and “anything we can do to prevent children from playing with lighters will serve to save lives and homes.”


Carriage house fire kills mom, 2 girls

FRANKLIN — A fast-spreading fire in a 19th-century carriage house killed two sisters and their mother, who had rushed frantically into the building in an attempt to save them.

Fire officials identified the victims of the fire early Sunday as Beth MacDonald and daughters Molly, 11, and Jenny, 9. The cause was under investigation.

The girls had spent the night in the restored carriage house, just yards from their home, after decorating it for Easter, authorities said.

“The children wanted to camp out,” said State Fire Marshal William Degnan. “It was something exciting for them to do.”

The parents woke before dawn to the smell of smoke. While the father, George MacDonald, called 911, the mother rushed into the building. Mr. MacDonald also tried to enter but was driven back by the flames.


Man declared dead feels ‘pretty good’

OKLAHOMA CITY — Four months after he was declared brain-dead and doctors were about to remove his organs for transplant, Zach Dunlap says he feels “pretty good.”

Mr. Dunlap, 21, was pronounced dead Nov. 19 at United Regional Healthcare System in Wichita Falls, Texas, after he was injured in an all-terrain vehicle accident. His family approved having his organs harvested.

As family members were paying their last respects, he moved his foot and hand. He reacted to a pocketknife scraped across his foot and to pressure applied under a fingernail. After 48 days in the hospital, he was allowed to return to his home in Frederick, where he continues to work on his recovery.

Yesterday, he and his family were in New York for an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show.

“I feel pretty good. but it’s just hard … just ain’t got the patience,” Mr. Dunlap said.

He said he has no recollection of the crash.


Tribe members admit to whaling

SEATTLE — Five members of the Makah Tribe who killed a gray whale during a rogue hunt off Washington state’s northwest coast have agreed to plead guilty to federal charges, their attorney said yesterday.

Defense attorney Jack Fiander said the government agreed not to recommend jail time as part of the deal. Each defendant was expected to plead guilty in U.S. District Court to one misdemeanor count of violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Mr. Fiander said the men insist they were acting within their tribal rights when they harpooned and shot the whale Sept. 8 in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, but they acknowledge the court would have enough evidence to convict them.


Ranchers agree to retire grazing rights

DUBOIS — Ranchers have agreed to retire grazing rights on 35,000 acres of federal land south of Yellowstone National Park to end run-ins between cattle and predators, including wolves.

The National Wildlife Federation and other groups brokered a deal between the Diamond G Ranch near Dubois and the Shoshone National Forest. The Diamond G Ranch will be paid $150,000 to secure grazing elsewhere.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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