Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Bus driver held in fatal crash

WILLIAMS | Police say the driver of a casino-bound charter bus that crashed and killed eight people is in critical condition and faces charges of driving under the influence.

The California Highway Patrol is identifying the driver as Quintin Watts, 52, of Stockton.

Officers say they’re investigating whether prescription or nonprescription drugs, or alcohol, were involved in Sunday’s crash. They said it could be a combination.

Mr. Watts was arrested based on observations a witness made before the crash.

The bus did not have seat belts, the patrol said.

Officers are trying to determine the bus owner, but said based on a preliminary investigation, they’re looking into a company called Cobbs Bus Service.


Mars, Wrigley close $23 billion deal

HARRISBURG | Mars Inc. has closed a $23 billion deal to purchase chewing-gum giant Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., the companies said Monday, making the combined business the world’s largest candy maker.

The deal brings together household names: Wrigley, a landmark in Chicago where the company began in 1891, and Mars, the privately held maker of Snickers and Skittles and M&Ms - the candy-coated chocolates that are the world’s best-selling chocolate candy brand.

At the end of Monday, Wrigley’s stock ceased trading publicly as the owner of one of the world’s most popular chewing-gum brands, Orbit, becomes a subsidiary of Mars.

Its headquarters will remain in Chicago, and it will take over Mars’ sugar candy brands, including Skittles and Starburst, as well as production facilities in Australia, the Czech Republic and Mexico.

The merger combines companies that have worldwide footprints and are powerhouses in separate parts of the confectionery sector, Wrigley in gum and Mars in chocolate candy. Combined, they will bump Britain’s Cadbury PLC from the top candy-making slot.


Fairgoers catch dropped toddler

PORT ORANGE | Authorities say patrons at a central Florida carnival caught a toddler whose mother was forced to drop her when a ride stranded them 30 feet in the air.

Authorities say the “Crazy Bus” ride started to move as passengers were exiting Saturday night at a carnival about six miles south of Daytona Beach.

Sherri Pinkerton had to dangle by one hand while holding her toddler in the other arm. She then dropped the girl, who was caught by fairgoers.

Miss Pinkerton told WKMG-TV that her daughter was clinging to her shirt and she had to pry her fingers off before dropping her.

Firefighters used a ladder to rescue Miss Pinkerton from the ride, which rotates like a small Ferris wheel.

No one was hurt and inspectors are investigating.


Gender case wins in court

ATLANTA | Georgia’s top court has ruled in favor of a transgender politician sued by two political opponents who claimed she misled voters by running as a female.

The Georgia Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling Monday found that the two unsuccessful candidates for Riverdale City Council failed to produce evidence of fraud, misconduct or illegality.

Michelle Bruce landed one of four council seats in 2003 in a campaign to attract more jobs and residents to Riverdale.

But she faced several opponents when she ran for re-election in 2007 and eventually lost her seat.

Georgia Fuller and Stan Harris sued last year, saying Miss Bruce misled voters by identifying herself as a female.

The complaint identified Miss Bruce as “Michael Bruce” and asked a judge to rule the November election results invalid.


Sheriff: 4 bodies found on boat

HAMBURG, Ill. |An investigator in western Illinois said four adults whose bodies were found on a Mississippi River houseboat may have been victims of carbon-monoxide poisoning.

Police said the bodies of two men and two women were found Sunday afternoon on a boat just north of the village of Hamburg.

Mark Wagner of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Conservation Police said the group had been camping and the houseboat was tied to an island.

Autopsies are planned.

Hamburg is about 50 miles northwest of St. Louis.


College freshman dead in frat house

CRAWFORDSVILLE | Police in Indiana say a college freshman was found dead over the weekend in his fraternity house and suspect that alcohol was involved.

Officials say Johnny D. Smith, 18, had pledged to the Delta Tau Delta fraternity at all-male Wabash College. The Tucson, Ariz., native lived at the fraternity house but had not yet been initiated.

Mr. Smith’s mother told the Indianapolis Star that her son was found Sunday morning face down in a pool of vomit.

Jim Russell, the fraternity’s national executive vice president, declined to say whether there was a party at the fraternity the night before Mr. Smith’s death.

An autopsy was pending.

Wabash College is 40 miles northwest of Indianapolis.


University head pleads guilty

GRAND RAPIDS | The president of Davenport University has pleaded guilty to a first-time drunken-driving charge and refusing to take a breath test during his arrest.

Randolph Flechsig, president of the Michigan school, entered the plea Monday. He was not sentenced.

Grand Rapids police arrested him Sept. 21.

A blood sample obtained with a search warrant more than two hours after the arrest showed Mr. Flechsig, 51, had a blood-alcohol content of .09 percent, just above the legal limit of .08 percent.

Mr. Flechsig said he hopes to use his experience to educate students about the perils of drinking and driving.

Davenport University, which has 13,000 students, is based in Grand Rapids, Mich.


Murcer trial begins in ‘Precious’ case

KANSAS CITY | A man went on trial for murder Monday in the death of a 3-year-old girl whose headless body was found in the woods and nicknamed “Precious Doe.”

Special prosecutor Tim Dollar told jurors that the man, Harrell Johnson, 29, was high on drugs when he knocked his girlfriend’s daughter, Erica Green, to the floor after she refused to go to bed.

Mr. Johnson, along with the girls’ mother, did not seek medical help as the girl lay dying for nearly 10 hours.

Mr. Dollar told jurors that the couple refused to get assistance for Erica because they had outstanding warrants against them and didn’t want to go to jail.

Prosecutors contend the couple eventually took the girl’s body out of the house and that Mr. Johnson decapitated her and dumped the body in the woods.

Defense attorney Kenton Hall told jurors that Mr. Johnson didn’t intend for the girl to die and can’t be convicted of murder.


Charges remain for accused killer

FORT BRAGG | A military judge has refused to dismiss charges against a soldier from New York who is accused of killing two Army officers by detonating a bomb in Iraq.

The ruling Monday means the court martial of Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez remains on schedule to start Tuesday with jury selection.

Sgt. Martinez, of Troy, N.Y., is the first soldier from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to be charged in the killing of his commanding officer.

Sgt. Martinez, 41, is charged with premeditated murder in the 2005 deaths of Capt. Phillip Esposito, 30, of Suffern, N.Y., and 1st Lt. Louis Allen, 34, of Milford, Pa.

Prosecutors say there was evidence of bad blood between Sgt. Martinez and Capt. Esposito.

Sgt. Martinez’s attorney has said there is no evidence his client killed the men.


Hundreds gather for demolition

BISMARCK | Pigeons scattered and several hundred people watched Monday when a 450-foot section of a historic Missouri River bridge was blown up to make way for a new span.

The 86-year-old Liberty Memorial Bridge was the first one designed for automobiles, and the first permanent span across the river in North Dakota, state officials said.

The lifespan of the bridge was estimated at 50 years.

It has been replaced by a new $60 million bridge just south measuring 2,369 feet. The new bridge opened for traffic July 31.

Heidi Currie, who grew up in Bismarck, filmed the demolition to show her son, who had to work.

“It’s a little bit sad,” she said. “It was a nice little bridge.”


State’s cash aid on the rise

DAYTON | More Ohioans are receiving economic help from the state.

The Department of Job and Family Services said the number of people receiving cash assistance, formerly known as welfare, was up more than 11 percent in June from a year earlier.

The number of people getting food stamps was up more than 7 percent for the same period.


NRC delays decision on waste import

SALT LAKE CITY | The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is delaying a decision on whether to allow EnergySolutions Inc. to import the largest-ever amount of nuclear waste into the U.S.

The NRC ruled Monday that it will wait until a federal court decides whether an interstate compact can block disposal of the waste in Utah.

The Salt Lake City-based company wants to bring the 20,000 tons of low-level waste from Italy through the ports of Charleston, S.C., or New Orleans for processing in Tennessee.

After processing, about 1,600 tons would be disposed at the company’s dump in the western Utah desert.

The proposal has drawn a record number of public comments - most in opposition to the plan.

Compiled from staff and wire reports

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