- - Thursday, February 17, 2011


Father accused in toxic assault

WEST PALM BEACH | A man accused of dousing his 10-year-old son with a harmful chemical and loading his dead daughter in the back of his exterminator truck was held Thursday on $1 million bond and ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation.

Jorge Barahona, 53, is charged with aggravated child abuse for critical injuries to his son, Victor, and he is expected to face more charges. The boy was found Monday in the truck parked along Interstate 95; his twin sister’s deteriorated body was later found in the enclosed truck bed. The father was discovered near the pickup, lying on the ground, unresponsive and doused in gasoline in what he later told police was an attempt to kill himself.

When Mr. Barahona was told to get ready for the court hearing, he tried to injure his head and became uncooperative, authorities said. Circuit Judge Ted Booras decided he didn’t have to come to the hearing, and the father was later taken to a hospital for observation.


Family maid sues author of ‘The Help’

JACKSON | A black woman who once worked as a maid for a relative of novelist Kathryn Stockett is suing the author of the best-selling book “The Help,” claiming she was the basis for a black servant character who she thought depicted her in a poor light.

The novel is based on relationships between white families and their black maids in the segregated South of the 1960s, and a driving character in the book is a woman named Aibileen.

Now, a real-life woman named Ablene Cooper, who said she worked for Ms. Stockett’s brother, is claiming Ms. Stockett used her name and likeness without permission and with embarrassing results.

The lawsuit was filed Feb. 9 in Hinds County Circuit Court in Jackson, Miss., where Ms. Stockett grew up. It asks for $75,000 in damages, an amount chosen to keep the litigation from ending up in federal jurisdiction, where larger actions are often decided.

Penguin USA Publisher Amy Einhorn said she doesn’t think there’s any basis for the lawsuit.


Cargo handler gets life in JFK plot

NEW YORK | An aging former cargo handler was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday for hatching a plot to make John F. Kennedy International Airport go “up in smoke” by attacking jet fuel supplies with the help of a notorious al Qaeda explosives expert.

Russell Defreitas and another man had been convicted last year of multiple conspiracy counts in a failed scheme that was infiltrated by a government informant.

At trial, jurors heard tapes recorded by the informant in which Defreitas, 67, ranted about wanting to avenge U.S. mistreatment of Muslims across the globe.

The defense had sought a 15-year term for Defreitas, arguing in court papers that he and his cohorts were harmless trash talkers who were “egged on” by the informant. The papers portrayed the defendant as illiterate and delusional.


Onetime neo-Nazi, who killed 3, executed

LUCASVILLE | The state of Ohio on Thursday executed a onetime neo-Nazi who fatally shot two men and a teen more than a quarter century ago on the campus of Cleveland State University in a spree that targeted blacks.

Frank Spisak, who chose to read Bible verses in German for a final statement, was pronounced dead at 10:34 a.m. after an injection of sodium thiopental at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.

Spisak, 59, set the Ohio record for spending the longest time on death row before execution: more than 27 years. He was also the last Ohio inmate to die by sodium thiopental, a scarce drug the state is giving up in favor of a more readily available substitute.

He blamed the 1982 shootings on his hatred of gays, blacks and Jews and on his mental illness related to confusion about his sexual identity. He identified himself as a woman and referred to himself in correspondence as Frances Spisak, a name his attorneys also used.

Spisak read the first seven Bible verses from Chapter 7 of the Book of Revelations from a handwritten yellow paper held over his head by a prison official, speaking in a halting voice and sometimes having trouble reading the verses.

“I can’t read it, it’s too blurry, I can’t read it,” he said at one point.


Music group’s dad pleads to sex abuse

PROVO | The father of The 5 Browns musical group pleaded guilty Thursday to sexually abusing his daughters when they were children.

With scratches on his face from a car crash, Keith Brown, 55, entered his plea to three felony counts in 4th District Court.

Dressed in dark slacks and a gray overcoat, Brown appeared in court with his sister-in-law by his side. His response to the judge who asked for his plea on each charge was a barely audible, “guilty.”

Court records show Utah County prosecutors charged Brown with one first-degree felony count of sodomy on a child and two second-degree felony counts of sexual abuse of a child.

Brown could face a sentence of up to life in prison on the first-degree felony and up to 15 years each on the second-degree felonies.

Brown’s daughters are part of the classical piano group The 5 Browns whose albums have topped the classical music charts and who have appeared on “Oprah” and other shows.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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