- The Washington Times - Monday, October 5, 2009

CALIFORNIA

Fires char land in mountains

WRIGHTWOOD | A wind-fanned wildfire that charred about 5.5 square miles of the San Gabriel Mountains continued to rage Sunday as firefighters worked to prevent flames from advancing toward a mountain resort community.

The 3,500-acre Sheep fire, driven by wind gusts of up to 40 mph, destroyed three homes and was 10 percent surrounded.

Between 4,000 to 6,000 residents were ordered to evacuate, said Robin Prince, spokesman for the San Bernardino National Forest.

“The winds are quite a problem,” Mr. Prince said.

CONNECTICUT

Yale lab tech due in court

NEW HAVEN | A former Yale University lab technician is due in court this week on charges that he strangled a graduate student and stuffed her body inside a wall.

Raymond Clark III is due in New Haven Superior Court on Tuesday. He has yet to enter a plea for the slaying of 24-year-old Annie Le of Placerville, Calif.

Le, a pharmacology graduate student, vanished Sept. 8 from a Yale medical lab building. Her body was found five days later, on what was to be her wedding day, in a hidden utility access behind the wall of a basement laboratory. Mr. Clark, also 24, worked as an animal lab technician, cleaning floors and mouse cages in the lab where Le worked. His bond has been set at $3 million.

IDAHO

Trial to begin in girl’s death

BOISE | Sage Aragon, 11, and her older brother, Bear, set out in the snow on Christmas Day, hiking along a frigid, desolate stretch of Idaho highway on their way to their mother’s house.

Sage would never make it, and Bear would eventually turn up alone at a rest area. A jury is expected to convene this week to consider whether their father, Robert Aragon, should be held responsible for her death and the hypothermia that Bear, who was then 12, suffered.

The case garnered national attention, angering parents and prompting outpourings of outrage and support from the community for Mr. Aragon, a 56-year-old single father who was raising Sage and Bear on his own. Mr. Aragon was driving his children to see their mother when his 1988 Buick Century got stuck in a snowdrift and the roads, police say, became impassable in December. The prosecution says Mr. Aragon then left the children to walk the remaining 10 miles to their mother’s alone.

ILLINOIS

Treasure hunt halted as prank

SPRINGFIELD | A woman’s treasure hunt for buried gold coins is over.

Patty Henken’s quest came to a halt after learning the cryptic note pointing her to the supposed location of the stash may have been a hoax from the grave by a prolific prankster. The note was signed by someone calling himself Chauncey Wolcott.

An Iowa woman contacted the State Journal-Register after reading news accounts of the hunt last week. She said Mr. Wolcott’s real name was John “Jay” Slaven and he used to work at the newspaper. She said not only was Mr. Slaven a prankster, he also lived at the property where the dig took place. Ms. Henken, of Mount Sterling, Ill., tore up the now-vacant lot after finding a note in a chair she bought at auction. At the lot, she found only bricks and old bottles.

NEW YORK

Half-ton pumpkin wins competition

CLARENCE | A Pennsylvania man whose 1,040.5-pound pumpkin won the Great Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Clarence, N.Y., says lots of water is the key to his success.

Mike Matto of Bradford, Pa., came out on top of the 27th annual World Pumpkin Confederation competition at the Clarence Fall Festival, defeating his nearest pumpkin rivals by 75 pounds, the Buffalo News said Sunday.

Despite its winning weight, Mr. Matto’s pumpkin fell short of the 1,075-pound pumpkin that earned Clarence resident Karl Haist a Weigh-Off title in 2008. World Pumpkin Confederation founder Ray Waterman said some pumpkins in the annual competition may eventually reach 2,000 pounds.

MISSISSIPPI

Barge crash closes Mississippi river

GREENVILLE | The Coast Guard says it closed 10 miles of the Mississippi River for three hours after a towboat hit a bridge and all six barges broke free from the vessel C.B. Ford.

Petty Officer Casey J. Ranel said the section was reopened Sunday after the barges were recovered. She said no one was hurt and no pollution was reported.

Petty Officer Ranel said she didn’t know whether the crash damaged the Old Greenville Bridge, about halfway between Little Rock, Ark., and Jackson. The accident occurred about 5:20 a.m.

SOUTH DAKOTA

Town finally rid of rotten meat

BRIDGEWATER | Behind the freezer doors at a meat plant mysteriously abandoned by its owner, the 44 tons of bison meat managed to hold its own for months, masked by the brutal chill of two South Dakota winters.

Once the power was cut and spring thaw arrived, nature took over. Fed up with the smell, a crew of 18 city and county workers took matters into their own hands this summer and stormed the plant to haul away the putrid meat.

Three months after the cleanup, the owner still hasn’t paid the $11,151 cleanup bill and owes about $14,085 in unpaid property taxes on top of it.

Owner Ilan Parente closed Bridgewater Quality Meats in 2009 and moved the business to Dawson, Minn., as Noah’s Ark Processors LLC. He left the boxed kosher bison meat behind, apparently to be sold to a pet food company. It stayed frozen until the electricity was cut off in December for lack of payment.

WASHINGTON

Jumbo squid appear off Pacific Northwest

BREMERTON | The Humboldt squid, a voracious predator that can grow to 100 pounds in two years, has captured the attention of researchers along the West Coast.

Thousands of the mysterious creatures appeared suddenly off the Washington coast and Strait of Juan de Fuca this summer. Some researchers say the aggressive animal, which has generally stayed south of California, has the potential to disrupt local ecosystems in more northern areas.

Why the squids arrived here and how long it will stay are just two of the questions researchers would like to answer. Because the squids eat just about anything - including young salmon - fisheries managers are looking for answers that can help them protect vulnerable species.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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