- The Washington Times - Monday, April 20, 2009

ARKANSAS

Three children drown in lake

MORRILTON | An Arkansas sheriff says three children drowned after the car they were in went into a lake.

Conway County Sheriff Mike Smith says the children’s mother was driving the car when it went into Brewer Lake near Morrilton just after 3:30 a.m. Sunday. Sheriff Smith says the children were ages 2, 7 and 8.

Arkansas State Police investigators and sheriff’s deputies have questioned the 26-year-old mother. She had not been arrested or charged as of Sunday afternoon and Sheriff Smith says deputies want to verify her account of what happened.



Morrilton is about 35 miles west of Little Rock. A series of strong thunderstorms and fog rolled through the area around the time of the crash.

FLORIDA

Escaped inmates charged with murder

PALATKA | Two escaped jail inmates were charged with murder during an emergency hearing hours after they were captured as part of a days-long manhunt spanning several states, authorities said Sunday.

The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office wanted to send Doni Ray Brown, 23, and Timothy Wayne Fletcher, 25, to an undisclosed facility out of the area immediately after their Saturday arrest. The two made a first appearance late Saturday before Seventh Circuit Judge Edward E. Hedstrom, Lt. Johnny Greenwood said.

The men had been missing since escaping the Putnam County Jail early Wednesday morning. Within hours, authorities say, they had stolen two vehicles and killed Fletcher’s 66-year-old step-grandmother, Helen Googe, who owned one of the cars.

The cellmates escaped by ripping out a sink and toilet combination from the wall with a jack Fletcher apparently stole from a county van during a previous court appearance. They crawled through the hole in the wall, dug under a fence and got through a second barrier.

LOUISIANA

Damages sought from Army Corps

NEW ORLEANS | More than three years after Katrina stirred up the waters and washed out levees along a 75-mile man-made shipping channel dubbed “hurricane highway,” a judge could soon decide whether the Army Corps of Engineers owes residents and businesses damages owing to the massive flooding.

Arguments are set to begin Monday in the trial, which will be heard and decided by a judge, not a jury. And much is at stake: If the five residents and one business in this initial lawsuit are victorious, more than 120,000 other individuals, businesses and government entities could have a better shot at claiming billions of dollars in damages.

The residents argue the corps’ poor maintenance of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, a shipping channel dug in the 1960s as a shortcut between the Gulf of Mexico and New Orleans, led to the wipeout of St. Bernard Parish and the city’s Lower Ninth Ward when Katrina struck in August 2005. They are asking for damages between $300,000 and $400,000 for each individual.

PENNSYLVANIA

NAACP wants cop to resign

ERIE | The head of the NAACP says a western Pennsylvania police officer should resign over an Internet video showing him in a bar, apparently intoxicated, joking about a homicide victim.

Erie patrol Officer James Cousins II, 40, was suspended for the profanity-laced off-duty rant, in which he talks about Rondale Jennings Sr., 31, who died March 28 of a gunshot to the head outside the bar.

On the tape, Officer Cousins says he took a picture because the body was lying below a malt liquor sign that reads “Take it to the head.” He laughs as he recounts seeing the dead man’s leg twitch and the reaction of the victim’s mother as she identifies him.

“I was shocked and disturbed,” Mr. Jennings’ mother, Yvette, told CNN on Sunday. “I was distraught. And it just added a whole lot more pain on top of what I was already feeling.”

Benjamin Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, told CNN the officer should resign.

RHODE ISLAND

Nightclub victims claim bankruptcy

PROVIDENCE | A published report says at least a dozen victims and families of those killed in a 2003 Rhode Island nightclub fire have filed for bankruptcy protection while awaiting their shares of a $176 million settlement.

The Providence Journal reports its review of bankruptcy court records in Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts shows some victims have lost their homes and vehicles or were laid off after they recovered from their injuries and returned to work.

One hundred people died in the fire on Feb. 20, 2003, at the Station nightclub in West Warwick, R.I. It started when pyrotechnics used by the band Great White ignited soundproofing foam.

A federal magistrate judge last month approved a proposal to distribute the $176 million settlement among more than 300 people who sued over the fire. Lawyers have said payments will range from about $20,000 to several million dollars.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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