- The Washington Times - Monday, May 18, 2009


Abducted boy back with family

SAN BERNARDINO | The 3-year-old boy abducted from his family by gunmen almost two weeks ago was back at his home Sunday, apparently not much worse for wear or tear after being found wandering the streets of a Mexican border town alone.

Briant Rodriguez rejoined his family after being hospitalized overnight for a physical and emotional evaluation.

“Physically, he’s in good shape. He was obviously fatigued,” Cindy Beavers, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, told the Associated Press.

“I’m sure there is some trauma from being apart from his family for two weeks,” she added, calling the boy’s safe return “an amazing outcome.”

Authorities said Briant was kidnapped May 3 by two gunmen who burst into his family’s modest home and tied up his mother and four siblings.

A police officer in Mexicali, Mexico, found him wandering the streets late Thursday.

His long, curly hair had been shaved, but authorities said he looked fine otherwise.

Sheriff Rod Hoops said authorities thought they were closing in on at least two men suspected in the abduction when the boy was found.

The kidnappers never demanded a ransom, and authorities said it didn’t appear they knew the family.


Fire guts Mormon church

CAMBRIDGE | A fire began during Sunday morning services at a crowded church here and quickly spread through the decades-old building.

About 300 people were inside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meeting house at the time, but officials say it appears everyone was able to make it outside safely.

Fire officials say the blaze, which was reported just before 11 a.m., started in the building’s attic and quickly reached three alarms.

Witnesses say attendance at the church was larger than usual because the parish was part of a national teleconference with Mormon church leaders in Utah.

The building, which is about 60 years old, was gutted. The roof collapsed, but the steeple remained standing.


Dead boy still not identified

ALBUQUERQUE | Two day after the body of a small boy was found buried in the sand at a city park playground, stymied investigators focused Sunday on trying to find the child’s relatives.

“We are looking for the person who was the primary caretaker of the child, whether it is a parent, a grandparent or guardian. That’s our primary responsibility now,” police spokesman John Walsh said.

There were no other developments, Mr. Walsh said.

A preliminary autopsy on Saturday provided no immediate clues about how the 3- to 5-year-old child died.

“There were no obvious signs or cause of death,” Walsh said.

Mr. Walsh said the preliminary autopsy did determine that the child was either American Indian or Hispanic.

The body was found Friday by a woman who had taken her own children to the city’s Alvarado Park and spotted a tiny shoe sticking out of the sand.

Police had received no reports of missing children in the 24 hours before the discovery. Forensic experts told police that the boy could not have been dead longer than 48 hours.

Medical investigators planned blood and toxicology tests and more advanced pathology techniques to learn more about what happened to the boy.

People have left stuffed animals, toy trucks and flowers at the park as an informal memorial.


Assistant principal 1st NYC flu death

NEW YORK | A school assistant principal who was sick for several days with swine flu Sunday became the city’s first death linked to the virus.

Mitchell Wiener, who had worked at an intermediate school in Queens, died Sunday evening, Flushing Hospital Medical Center spokesman Andrew Rubin said. Mr. Wiener had been sick for nearly a week before his school was closed Thursday. He had been hospitalized and on a ventilator.

The city’s first outbreak of swine flu occurred three weeks ago, when about 700 students and 300 other people associated with a Catholic high school in Queens began falling ill after the return of several students from vacations in Mexico, the epicenter of the outbreak.


State scraps plate design

COLUMBUS | Ohio officials have scrapped a plan to issue standard license plates with a new design in an effort to help drivers save money.

Spokesman Tom Hunter of the Ohio Department of Public Safety says officials decided it was inappropriate to require drivers to pay $2.50 for the new plates during a recession.

The so-called “Beautiful Ohio” plates depict rolling hills, a barn and a windmill with a city skyline in the background.

Mr. Hunter said more than 1 million of the plates have been made, and they eventually will be sold as a more expensive specialty plate.

One resident already has committed to the new design. Ohio first lady Frances Strickland helped design the plates and said she plans to get one when they are released.


Teen forced to change kilt

WEST HAVEN | The principal of a middle school has been asked to apologize for forcing a kilt-wearing student to change his clothes.

Weber School District spokesman Nate Taggart said Craig Jessop has been asked to extend an apology to 14-year-old student Gavin McFarland of Hooper after the school official’s comments Wednesday.

Gavin said he wore the kilt twice in the past two weeks to Rocky Mountain Junior High as a prop for an art project. Mr. Jessop told the boy that the outfit could be misconstrued as cross-dressing.

Mr. Taggart said that the district recognizes the kilt as an expression of the boy’s Scottish heritage and that the kilt was not inappropriate.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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