- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2008


Children slain; mom arrested at university

LOUISVILLE — A woman killed her two children yesterday, then went to the nearby university she attended and brandished a gun before handing the weapon to a health counselor, police said.

The threat at the University of Louisville ended with no injuries about a half-hour after it began.

Police were asked by school officials to check on the children, and found them dead with gunshot wounds.

Gail Lynn Coontz, 37, is charged with killing Greg Coontz, 14, and Nikki Coontz, 10, said Louisville police Officer Phil Russell. She is in custody at the University of Louisville hospital but is expected to be transferred to jail, Officer Russell said.

The woman also was charged with one count of terroristic threatening for pointing a handgun at an officer, said university police Maj. Kenny Brown.


Girl dies after parents choose prayer over doctors

WESTON — Police are investigating an 11-year-old girl’s death from an undiagnosed, treatable form of diabetes after her parents chose to pray for her rather than take her to a doctor.

An autopsy showed Madeline Neumann died Sunday from diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition that left too little insulin in her body, Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin said.

She probably had been ill for about a month, suffering symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, loss of appetite and weakness, the chief said Wednesday, noting that he expects to complete the investigation by today and forward the results to the district attorney.

The girl’s mother, Leilani Neumann, said the family believes in the Bible and that healing comes from God. She said they do not belong to an organized religion or faith, are not fanatics and have nothing against doctors.


Siegelman freed pending appeal

MONTGOMERY — A federal appeals court approved the release of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman on bond yesterday while he appeals his conviction in a corruption case.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the former governor had raised substantial questions of fact and law in challenging his conviction.

The once-popular Democrat began serving a sentence of more than seven years in June on his conviction on six bribery-related counts and one obstruction count. He has been serving the sentence at a federal prison in Oakdale, La.

Federal prosecutors accused Siegelman of appointing Richard Scrushy, who was chief executive officer of HealthSouth, to a hospital regulatory board in exchange for the arrangement of $500,000 in contributions to Siegelman’s campaign for a statewide lottery.

Scrushy, who was tried along with Siegelman, was convicted on bribery counts and is serving a sentence of nearly seven years. The 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta, has ruled that the multimillionaire Birmingham businessman is a flight risk, but that Siegelman is not.

Siegelman also was convicted of a separate obstruction of justice charge concerning $9,200 he received from a lobbyist to help with the purchase of a motorcycle. His attorneys have said the transaction was legitimate.


Family files claim in death at airport

PHOENIX — The family of a New York woman who died in September in police custody at the Phoenix airport filed a claim Wednesday against the city, the first step in filing a wrongful-death lawsuit.

The city immediately rejected the claim in a letter to attorneys for the family of Carol Anne Gotbaum, who died Sept. 28 in a police holding cell at Sky Harbor International Airport after being arrested for disorderly conduct. She was on her way by herself from New York to enter an alcohol treatment center in Tucson.

The claim, the legally required precursor to a lawsuit, seeks $8 million for Mrs. Gotbaum’s husband, Noah, her three children and her estate. Mrs. Gotbaum’s husband is the son of New York City Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum.

On that day, members of the Phoenix Police Department used excessive and unreasonable force on Carol, as if she was a dangerous criminal, rather than as the sick, intoxicated, and vulnerable person she was, the claim states.

An autopsy report released by the Maricopa County medical examiner’s office concluded that Mrs. Gotbaum accidentally hanged herself on her shackles while in the holding cell. The report said intoxication from alcohol and prescription drugs were contributing factors.


Rats shown capable of learning rules

CHICAGO — Rats can learn rules and apply them to new situations — an ability considered to be a keystone of human thought, according to a study released yesterday.

Toddlers, primates and birds have been known to solve problems by applying rules learned from experience in a new context, but some scientists have argued that other non-primates lack this rudimentary skill.

But in a paper in the journal Science, British researchers at University College London and Oxford University reported that rats also have some capacity for abstract thought.

The researchers exposed the rats to three-part sequences of visual and auditory cues and paired certain sequences with food. The investigators found that the animals were quicker to search their troughs for food during the sequences that they had come to associate with food.

In a second experiment, the researchers trained the rats to expect food using a series of auditory cues that followed an ABA sequence. Then they altered the cues by changing the frequency of the tones, but kept the pattern the same. Even with unfamiliar cues, the rats appeared to anticipate food when the high and low tones followed the established ABA pattern. In other words, the animals seemed to be distinguishing the patterns they were hearing according to the rules they had learned.


Toilet case boyfriend arrested on exposure

NESS CITY — A man whose girlfriend sat on a toilet for so long that the seat adhered to her body has been arrested in a separate case.

Authorities said Kory McFarren was arrested Sunday for suspected lewd and lascivious behavior. He reportedly exposed himself to a neighbor’s teenage daughter and her friends. He spent the night in jail before posting bond.

No charges had been filed by yesterday. Mr. McFarren, 36, could not be reached for comment.

He was charged last week with a misdemeanor count of mistreatment of a dependent adult. That was after his girlfriend was found stuck to the toilet in late February.

The woman, Pam Babcock, 35, remains hospitalized and in pain from medical procedures, family members said Wednesday.

Pat Bollinger, the woman’s aunt, said she calls daily to the hospital to ask how Miss Babcock is doing and asks to talk with her. Miss Babcock has agreed to talk with her only once for about 10 minutes, she said.

Miss Babcock’s relatives said that no family members have been allowed to see her at the hospital, that they know little of her medical condition and that she spends much of her time sleeping in the hospital’s intensive care unit.


Rare Stradivarius up for auction

NEW YORK — A 300-year-old Antonio Stradivari violin said to be sweet and feminine in its sound is expected to fetch more than $1 million when Christie’s puts it up for auction next week.

Known as The Penny, the violin dates from about 1700 and is named after its previous owner, pianist and violinist Barbara Penny. It will be the lead item in Christie’s spring “Fine Musical Instruments” auction next Friday.

The auction also will include a violin made by fellow Italian Giovanni Guadagnini in 1755, known as The Ex-Wollgandt, which is expected to fetch between $300,000 and $400,000, Christie’s said.

The Penny was called one of Stradivari’s more feminine pieces.

This one has an especially good balance between the brightness and the sweetness, said Jesus Reina, a violinist from the Manhattan School of Music who played the precious instrument at a press preview yesterday.

Mr. Stradivari’s instruments are praised for their sound, which projects clearly with rich tones, and are considered easy to play as they are highly responsive to a musician’s touch.


Officials warn of lead in donated venison

BISMARCK — State health officials have told food pantries to throw out donated venison after fragments from lead bullets were found in the meat.

Health officials said tests on at least five samples of venison destined for food pantries had high levels of lead, said Sandi Washek, the Health Department’s lead coordinator. A doctor who conducted his own tests also found lead in 60 percent of 100 samples.

Miss Washek said about 17,000 pounds of venison were donated this year through the Sportsmen Against Hunger program. The 110 pantries that received donations still have 4,000 to 5,000 pounds, she said Wednesday.

We’re asking all the food pantries to throw it out in a landfill and not throw it out on garbage day, so no one will rifle through it, she said.

Health officials said children 6 and younger and pregnant women are at greater risk for lead poisoning, which can cause confusion, learning problems and convulsions, and in severe cases can lead to brain damage and death. Miss Washek said no sickness has been reported from lead-tainted venison.


Judge sentences men to learn English

WILKES-BARRE — A judge known for creative sentencing has ordered three Spanish-speaking men to learn English or go to prison.

The men, who faced prison for criminal conspiracy to commit robbery, can remain on parole if they learn to read and write English, earn their general equivalency diplomas and find full-time jobs, said Luzerne County Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr.

The men, Luis Reyes, Ricardo Dominguez and Rafael Guzman-Mateo, plus a fourth defendant, Kelvin Reyes-Rosario, all needed translators when they pleaded guilty Tuesday.

The four, ranging in age from 17 to 22, were in a group that police said accosted two men on a street in May. The two said they were asked whether they had marijuana, told to empty their pockets, hit on the head, threatened with a gun and told to stay off the block.

Attorneys for the men said they are studying the legality of the ruling and have not decided whether to appeal. One of the attorneys, Ferris Webby, suggested that the ruling was good for his client, Guzman-Mateo.

The judge sentenced the four men to jail terms of four to 24 months. But he gave the three men, who already had served at least four months, immediate parole. Reyes-Rosario remains imprisoned on an unrelated drug charge.


3 dead, 9 hurt in truck accident

PENITAS — A pickup truck crammed with illegal immigrant suspects collided with a sport utility vehicle near the Mexican border yesterday, killing three people and injuring at least nine others.

Police said as many as 25 people could have been in the truck when it crashed before dawn on U.S. Highway 83, the main east-west artery along the border in the Rio Grande Valley.

There were bodies all over the place, said Penitas interim Police Chief David Harris. Nine people were taken to hospitals. Border Patrol spokesman Oscar Saldana said his agency had three illegal immigrant suspects in custody.

The truck’s driver, thought to be injured, fled the scene, Chief Harris said. Information was not available on the condition of the other driver. Department of Public Safety troopers were investigating the cause of the accident.

Some of the survivors told police that they had been hurried into the back of the truck and had not gone far before the accident. I think they had paid a fee to be smuggled across the border, Chief Harris said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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