- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 17, 2009

Santa-slaying victims buried

SAN DIMAS, Calif. | Hundreds of people packed a church Friday for the funeral of nine family members killed by a gunman dressed as Santa Claus during a Christmas Eve party.

No coffins were on display at Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church. Instead, photos of the victims were showcased on easels and their ashes were held in an urn and small boxes at the altar.

“The Ortega family is the closest family I ever met,” family friend Eddie Perry told those at the church. “They were always the ones to get a good time started.”

The nine bodies were found shot and burned after Bruce Pardo burst into the party and started killing people before setting the house on fire, eventually killing himself. He killed his ex-wife Sylvia Pardo, her parents Joseph and Alicia Ortega, and six other family members.

Three arrested in black-church fire

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. | Three white men were arrested Friday in connection with the torching of a predominantly black church hours after Barack Obama won the presidential election.

The Nov. 5 fire destroyed the Macedonia Church of God in Christ, which was under construction, and caused $2 million in damages. Within hours, state fire investigators called it arson.

The suspects, Benjamin Haskell, 23; Michael Jacques, 24; and Thomas Gleason, 21, were expected to be arraigned in federal court in Springfield.

The men were charged with violating a civil rights conspiracy statute that makes it illegal to injure, threaten or intimidate anyone from exercising their civil rights. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the men were being charged with setting the fire.

Mother jailed in Alamo probe

TEXARKANA, Ark. | An Arkansas judge has jailed a second member of evangelist Tony Alamo’s ministry for refusing to say where her three daughters are.

Circuit Judge Joe Griffin in Texarkana said he had no other choice Thursday but to find the mother in contempt of court. A man in a separate case was jailed for the same reason earlier this week.

Judge Griffin is presiding over a hearing to determine the fate of 23 children taken into protective custody amid accusations of physical and sexual abuse by leaders of Mr. Alamo’s ministry. The state is searching for dozens of other children.

Mr. Alamo, 74, faces trial on federal charges of transporting females across state lines for sex. He denies the charges, saying his religion allows marrying girls when they reach puberty.

California to delay paying tax refunds

SACRAMENTO, Calif. | California’s controller said he will begin a 30-day delay on tax refunds and other payments starting Feb. 1 because the state is running out of money.

Controller John Chiang said Friday that he must delay $3.7 billion in payments next month because lawmakers have failed to address California’s growing deficit. With a $41.6 billion shortfall over the next year and a half, the state is on the brink of issuing IOUs.

Mr. Chiang said his office must continue education and debt payments but will defer money for tax refunds, student aid, social services and mental health programs.

A severe drop in revenue has left the state’s main bank account depleted. The state had been relying on borrowing from special funds and Wall Street investors, but those options are no longer available.

Case against Hill aide dropped

NEW YORK | The government has quietly dropped its case against a former congressional aide accused of helping an Iraqi spy agency but later ruled mentally unfit for trial.

But Susan Lindauer said she won’t go away quietly. The Takoma Park, Md., woman vowed to sue, saying she was falsely arrested and prosecuted.

“I am furious. I am going to be filing a civil lawsuit seeking punitive damages,” Ms. Lindauer said Friday. “Nobody should think they did me any favors by denying me a trial.”

Prosecutors said in court papers filed Thursday that prosecuting Ms. Lindauer would no longer be in the interests of justice.

Ms. Lindauer was arrested in 2004 on charges that she conspired to act as a spy for the Iraqi intelligence service, making contact through the Iraqi consulate in New York. A judge made the ruling on her mental fitness last year.

She has worked in the press offices of four Democratic members of Congress and as a journalist for two magazines, two newspapers and a television news company.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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