- - Friday, April 2, 2010

CALIFORNIA

31 face charges in meth ring bust

LOS ANGELES — Authorities say 31 people face drug conspiracy charges for helping bring large amounts of methamphetamine into the U.S. from Mexico.

A federal criminal complaint says the Don Chuy drug ring funneled meth into California and Washington using vehicle batteries equipped with hidden compartments.

Authorities have seized about 90 pounds of meth worth more than $5 million as well as 8 kilograms of cocaine.

Ten people were arrested during raids Thursday in California.

The suspected ringleader, Jesus Marquez-Marquez, was believed to be in Mexico and has not yet been arrested.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Levels may mean panda pregnant

Scientists at the National Zoo in Washington have detected rising hormone levels in the zoo’s female giant panda, indicating that she could be pregnant.

The rising levels mean Mei Xiang could either give birth in 40 to 50 days or come to the end of a false pregnancy. She was artificially inseminated in January.

Reproductive biologist Janine Brown says zoo keepers remain “hopeful, but cautious” that Mei Xiang is pregnant. Ms. Brown says the panda’s hormone levels and behavior sometimes indicate she is pregnant when she’s not.

Veterinarians are conducting weekly ultrasound scans to look for a fetus. So far, they haven’t seen any indication of one, but it’s still too early. Panda fetuses don’t start developing until the last weeks of a gestation period.

FLORIDA

Tuskegee Airman Jenkins dies at 85

TALLAHASSEE — A retired university administrator who attended the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama as one of the surviving members of the famed Tuskegee Airmen has died. Willie E. Jenkins was 85.

Retired Florida A&M vice president Eddie Jackson said Mr. Jenkins died Tuesday. Mr. Jenkins served as FAMU’s dean of university relations between 1968 and 1986. He was presented the Congressional Gold Medal by President George W. Bush in 2007.

A parachute rigger for the all-black contingent of 1,000 pilots and 15,000 ground crewmen who trained in Tuskegee, Ala., Mr. Jenkins retired from the Army with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He served as a company commander during the Korean conflict when the military was beginning to embrace integration.

GEORGIA

Suicide-assist group faces arraignment

ATLANTA — Four members of an assisted suicide group face arraignment Thursday in north Georgia on charges they helped a man with cancer kill himself.

A grand jury in Forsyth County indicted the four members of the Final Exit Network last month on charges of offering assistance in the commission of suicide, tampering with evidence and violating the state’s anti-racketeering laws.

Facing charges are: Claire Blehr, former network president Thomas E. Goodwin, former medical director Dr. Lawrence D. Egbert and regional coordinator Nicholas Alec Sheridan.

Authorities say the network has helped dozens of people kill themselves since it was founded in 2004. Some members, including Dr. Egbert, also face charges from authorities in Arizona in connection with a suicide there.

NEW JERSEY

Mystery continues at Giants Stadium

EAST RUTHERFORD — One of New Jersey’s longest-lasting myths is about to be buried in the Meadowlands.

It’s been more than 20 years since a self-described mob hit man claimed that the body of former Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa was entombed beneath Giants Stadium.

The FBI found the story not credible at the time, but the rumor has persisted and fueled years of wisecracks.

Hoffa disappeared in Michigan in 1975, when Giants Stadium was being built.

Now the stadium is about to be demolished, and the story may be buried forever.

The company doing the demolition says the site of the stadium will be covered with 13 feet of concrete and asphalt and turned into a parking lot.

An FBI spokesman says the bureau doesn’t plan to search the site.

NEW MEXICO

Businessman held in body-parts case

ALBUQUERQUE — Police in Albuquerque arrested a businessman on fraud charges in a gruesome case in which body parts that were supposed to be cremated and returned to families turned up in plastic bins in a delivery truck in Kansas.

Albuquerque police have identified two men and a woman whose remains were discovered among six heads and numerous other human body parts in a truck at a Kansas medical waste facility. Bio Care Southwest owner, Paul Montano, 31, was arrested late Wednesday at his office on three counts of fraud and was being held on $100,000 bond.

Sealed plastic bags containing the heads and body parts — apparently dismembered with a chain saw or other coarse cutting instrument — were found last week in 12 large red plastic tubs inside a delivery truck at a Stericycle Inc. facility in Kansas City, Kan. The tubs had shipping labels from The Learning Center, which is affiliated with Bio Care.

NORTH CAROLINA

Student finds Haitian document

DURHAM — A Duke University graduate student has found what historians think is the only surviving printed copy of Haiti’s Declaration of Independence.

The university said Thursday that 26-year-old history student Julia Gaffield discovered the yellowing document in February while combing through papers in Great Britain’s National Archives in London.

Haiti’s revolutionary leaders issued the declaration on Jan. 1, 1804, after they fought to overthrow French colonial rule and slavery, creating the world’s first black republic.

Haiti’s ambassador to the U.S, Raymond Joseph, said in an interview with the Associated Press that if it is the only remaining copy, the discovery would provide a boost to his country at a desperate time.

OREGON

Returning suspects make arrest easy

MEDFORD — The people who witnessed a robbery attempt at an Oregon convenience store didn’t need to describe the muggers. They just needed to point.

The two men accused of trying to rob someone at knifepoint were arrested when they returned to get their car while officers were interviewing witnesses.

Medford police Lt. Bob Hansen said a man leaving the store late Tuesday was accosted by two men. One brandished a knife and demanded money. The would-be robbers fled when the man ran back into the store and called police.

Lt. Hansen said officers were interviewing witnesses in the parking lot when the suspects showed up. Though the men were wearing different clothes, witnesses identified them as the robbers.

The men, 19 and 20 years old, were jailed on charges of attempted first-degree robbery.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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