- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 4, 2008

CALIFORNIA

DNA links bones to aviator Fossett

MADERA | Authorities said they have positively identified some of Steve Fossett’s remains: two large bones found a half-mile from where the adventurer’s plane crashed in California’s Sierra Nevada.

Madera County Sheriff John Anderson said Monday that DNA tests conducted by the state Department of Justice positively identified the bones as the remains of the millionaire aviator who disappeared last year.

Authorities found the bones last week. They also discovered Mr. Fossett’s tennis shoes and Illinois driver’s license, both with animal bite marks on them.

Sheriff Anderson said Mr. Fossett would have died on impact and that it’s not unusual for animals to drag away remains.

Mr. Fossett vanished in September 2007 after taking off from a Nevada ranch owned by hotel magnate Barron Hilton.

CONNECTICUT

Gay marriages to begin Nov. 12

HARTFORD | Gay marriages in Connecticut can start Nov. 12.

Superior Court Judge Jonathan Silbert on Monday scheduled a hearing on that date to enter the final judgment in the case that allows same-sex marriages in the state.

The proceeding is scheduled for 9:15 a.m. Attorneys in the court case said that once the hearing ends, couples can pick up marriage-license forms at town and city clerk’s offices.

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled last month that same-sex couples have the right to wed rather than accept a civil union law. Massachusetts and California already allow gay marriages but a proposed state constitutional amendment on Tuesday’s ballot in California seeks to ban them.

FLORIDA

Venezuelan guilty in cash suitcase case

MIAMI | A federal jury convicted a wealthy Venezuelan Monday of acting as an illegal foreign agent who came to the U.S. to cover up a Latin American political scandal involving a cash-stuffed suitcase smuggled into Argentina.

Jurors deliberated seven days - at one point indicating they were hopelessly deadlocked - before finding Franklin Duran, 41, guilty of foreign-agent and conspiracy charges. He faces up to 15 years in prison.

Sentencing was set for Jan. 12.

Prosecutors said during the eight-week trial that Duran and other South American men came to Miami on orders of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to ensure the silence of a man who carried a suitcase filled with $800,000 into Argentina in 2007. The U.S. said the money was a secret political donation to the campaign of Argentina’s president.

Duran’s attorney Ed Shohat contended his client was entrapped by the FBI and came to Miami only to help a friend and protect business interests.

IDAHO

Child-killer gets 6 life sentences

BOISE | A federal judge in Idaho has sentenced convicted child killer Joseph Duncan to three life prison terms for kidnapping and sexually abusing two children.

Those federal terms imposed Monday are in addition to three more life terms imposed the same day in state court for the murders of the children’s mother, her fiance and the children’s 13-year-old brother.

Duncan, 45, was sentenced to death in August for the 2005 kidnapping, sexual exploitation and murder of 9-year-old Dylan Groene. The convicted pedophile also kidnapped the boy’s younger sister.

ILLINOIS

Ex-Chicago alderman pleads guilty

CHICAGO | A former Chicago politician who led white aldermen in a spectacular feud with the city’s first black mayor 25 years ago pleaded guilty Monday for his role in a real estate kickback scheme just as his trial was about to begin.

Edward R. Vrdolyak, 71, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud “to avoid a lengthy and bitter trial,” said his attorney, Michael Monico.

The former alderman and one-time Cook County Democratic chairman was accused of arranging a kickback for lawyer Stuart Levine in the sale of a piece of property for $15 million.

Prosecutors claimed that Levine made certain that a development company would be the buyer of the property. It says Vrdolyak was to get a $1.5 million fee from the buyer and share it later with Levine.

The charges stem from the same investigation that led to the fraud conviction of political fundraiser Tony Rezko, who helped to bankroll the campaigns of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, and Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate run.

KENTUCKY

No bond for suspect in pastor’s shooting

COVINGTON | A man charged with fatally shooting a minister outside a northern Kentucky church is being held without bond.

Kenton County Circuit Clerk John Middleton said Frederick Davis had an initial court appearance Monday and that the case has been continued until Nov. 12 for a preliminary hearing.

Mr. Davis is charged with murder, assault, criminal mischief and violating a protection order. Police said he killed the Rev. Donald Fairbanks on Saturday morning outside Ninth Street Baptist Church in Covington.

Mr. Davis’ attorney, Dennis Alerding Jr., said his client will plead not guilty. Mr. Fairbanks was pastor of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Cincinnati.

WEST VIRGINIA

Two hurt in mine explosion

FELLOWSVILLE | A state mine-safety official said two coal miners have been injured in what appears to be a gas explosion in northern West Virginia.

Jama Jarrett, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training, said the explosion happened Monday afternoon at the Whitetail Kittanning Mine. The mine is operated by Alpha Natural Resources.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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