- - Thursday, April 7, 2011


Man charged in mother-in-law’s slaying

OPELIKA | A man charged with killing his mother-in-law and shooting his wife and her grandmother outside a community college opened fire as his 4-year-old daughter sat with the women in a minivan, riddling the van with gunfire, police said Thursday.

The girl was injured by flying glass, and the two women who were wounded Wednesday afternoon were still being treated for their injuries.

Authorities said Thomas Franklin May III, 34, could face the death penalty if convicted of capital murder in the killing of Brenda Watson, 62, of Opelika. Her daughter, Bethany Lynn May, 36, and mother, Maude Ethell Marshall, 93, were injured in the shooting.

Mr. May also was charged with attempted murder and firing into an occupied vehicle, police said.


Steep tuition hikes debated by college board

TUCSON | Regents for Arizona’s public universities were considering Thursday whether to hike tuition by as much as 22 percent, far above the average for such increases seen nationally last year.

The Arizona Board of Regents discussed the proposed hikes at length Thursday but had taken no action by early afternoon as several board members put forth alternative proposals.

If the board ultimately approves what university presidents are asking for, tuition and fees at the University of Arizona in Tucson could increase by 22 percent to $10,027 for in-state freshman undergraduates in the fall. They’ll jump by 19.5 percent, to $9,716, for in-state undergraduates at Arizona State University in Tempe and by 15 percent, to $8,824, at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.


Judge who struck down Prop 8 says he’s gay

SAN FRANCISCO | The federal judge who struck down California’s gay marriage ban has confirmed that he’s gay.

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker retired in February, several months after his landmark decision that’s being challenged in an appeals court.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Judge Walker told reporters Wednesday that he never considered recusing himself from the case because he thinks his sexual orientation was irrelevant in deciding the constitutionality of Proposition 8. It’s the first time that Judge Walker confirmed longtime rumors that he’s gay.

He said a judge stepping aside because of sexuality, ethnicity, national origin or gender would be “a very slippery slope.”

The former corporate lawyer was appointed to the bench by President George H.W. Bush. Since retiring, he’s returned to private law practice, specializing in mediation and arbitration.


Firm in India halts sales of execution drug to U.S.

ATLANTA | A pharmaceutical company in India says it is no longer going to sell a key lethal injection drug to U.S. prison officials.

It’s the latest firm to stop selling the drug to states in the U.S. amid a severe shortage of the drug sodium thiopental.

Kayem Pharmaceutical posted a statement on its website Thursday, citing its Hindu beliefs in the decision to stop selling the drug.

Nebraska announced in January it had acquired 500 grams from Kayem, which is based in Mumbai. A company salesman said he also sold the drug to South Dakota, but state prison officials couldn’t be reached.

At least seven states have secured sodium thiopental from overseas. The drug is part of a three-drug cocktail that most of the 34 death penalty states use.


$221.7 million jackpot ticket sold in local store

INDIANAPOLIS | Hoosier Lottery officials say a Powerball ticket sold at a convenience store in the southern Indiana city of Clarksville is worth $221.7 million.

The jackpot for the Wednesday night’s drawing initially was estimated at $218 million.

Hoosier Lottery Executive Director Kathryn Densborn said at a news conference Thursday that the winner can take a 30-year annuity worth $221.7 million or a lump sum cash payment of $111.7 million.

A Hoosier Lottery spokeswoman confirmed the ticket was sold at a Circle K store in Clarksville, located across the Ohio River from Louisville, Ky.

The winning ticket matched all six of the Powerball numbers drawn Wednesday night. Those numbers were 10, 18, 41, 55, 56 and the Powerball, 15.


2 chaperones charged with student sex on trip

HACKENSACK | Two Roman Catholic school workers from New Jersey have pleaded not guilty to charges of having sex with female students during a high school’s class trip to Germany.

Artur Sopel, 31, was vice president of operations at Paramus Catholic High School, and Michael Sumulikoski, 27, was a substitute teacher and assistant football coach until they were suspended last month.

Mr. Sumulikoski is accused of have sex with one female student on the February trip.

Mr. Sopel is accused of engaging in sexual activities with two female students in Germany and having sex with another female student in 2010.

Both are charged with sexual assault, child endangerment and hindering apprehension.


Legally incompetent sex offender set free

PROVO | A Utah judge on Thursday ordered a convicted sex offender freed from a state hospital after the man was deemed incompetent for trial and no danger to society.

Prosecutors wanted the judge to order Utah State Hospital to continue treating Lonnie Hyrum Johnson, 38, until he could face 21 counts against him of rape, sodomy and aggravated sexual assault of a child.

But 4th District Court Judge James R. Taylor said during a hearing Thursday he had no legal authority to keep Johnson locked up.

“The constitution prohibits me from holding someone who has not been convicted and who cannot participate in their own defense,” Judge Taylor said.

The case has drawn national media attention, and prosecutor Craig Johnson, who is not related to the accused, has spoken out widely about the need to alter Utah’s civil commitment laws. The resulting publicity has had a crippling effect on the Provo court, which has suffered a deluge of calls and faxes about the case, including some threats directed at Judge Taylor.


Court: Company not liable in plane crash

SEATTLE | An aircraft company is not liable for a 2004 plane crash that killed seven anti-narcotics agents for the Mexican government, the highest court in Washington state ruled Thursday.

The justices split 6-3 in favor of Twin Commander Aircraft LLC, saying federal law bars certain lawsuits stemming from crashes of planes that are more than 18 years old.

The two-propeller, seven-passenger Twin Commander 690C, manufactured in 1981, crashed when its rudder came apart over the central Mexican state of Aguascalientes on May 2, 2004, en route from Ciudad Juarez to Mexico City. On board were two federal pilots, Jesus Arciniega and Marcelino Gonzalez, and agents Juan Galindo, Pablo Lozada, Cesar Maya, Ulises Desposorio and Marinela Elizalde.

They were part of a special operations team with the Mexican attorney general’s office assigned to carry out drug trafficking surveillance flights in the Chihuahua mountains. The five agents were returning to the capital after a two-week assignment in Juarez. The pilots were based in Juarez.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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