- - Thursday, June 30, 2011


Pastor who conducted Reagan’s burial dies

MISSION VIEJO — The Rev. Michael Wenning, who was Ronald and Nancy Reagan’s longtime pastor at Los Angeles’ Bel Air Presbyterian Church and presided over the 40th president’s sunset burial, has died. He was 75.

Mr. Wenning died from leukemia and kidney failure Tuesday at his Mission Viejo home, said his wife, Freda.

The Reagans had attended Bel Air Presbyterian in the Santa Monica Mountains for decades, dating back to when Ronald Reagan was governor of California.

Mr. Wenning, who was pastor of the 2,500-member church from 1995 to 2001, regularly visited Reagan’s home and Century City office when the Alzheimer’s disease-stricken former president stopped appearing in public.

Reagan was 93 when he died June 5, 2004.

It was Mr. Wenning who conducted the nationally televised hilltop burial service for the former president at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. And it was Mr. Wenning who comforted the anguished former first lady.


Gay marriage supporters planning state referendum

LEWISTON — Gay marriage supporters in Maine are laying the groundwork for another referendum on the issue, one day after Rhode Island lawmakers approved civil unions for gay couples.

Gay marriage supporters say many have changed their minds since state voters overturned a same-sex marriage law in 2009. They said Thursday they are filing a written application with election officials to start the process of gathering 57,000 signatures to put the matter on the November 2012 ballot.

Matt McTighe of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders says polls show 53 percent of Maine residents now support gay marriage. In 2009, gay marriage was rejected by the same margin.

Gay marriage supporters hope to build in momentum in Rhode Island and in New York, which earlier this month became the sixth state to allow gay marriage.


Video reviewed of body in pool

FALL RIVER — Police are looking at surveillance video and state officials have ordered an internal investigation as authorities try to determine how a body wound up in a public pool in Massachusetts and how long it was there.

Fall River Mayor William A. Flanagan said Thursday that police are reviewing video from the pool for clues in the death of 36-year-old Marie Joseph. Officials are investigating the possibility that Joseph’s body was at the bottom of the pool for more than two days while other people swam.

A 9-year-old boy whom Joseph was watching has told police she slipped on a water slide Sunday and went under. Her body was discovered Tuesday night.

Gov. Deval Patrick has ordered an investigation of the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Two city health inspectors have been placed on leave.


1 of 4 sex offenders’ addresses unverified

HELENA — Montana officials say the addresses for one out of every four offenders in the state’s sexual and violent offender registry are unverified and possibly unreliable.

In some cases, the offenders are back in jail or dead and the managers of the database were never notified.

But in many instances, an audit reveals, authorities aren’t sure where the offenders are living, casting doubt on the credibility of the registry used by everyone from concerned parents checking out new neighbors to house hunters in search of a safe neighborhood.

The Montana Department of Justice, which tracks 5,000 offenders in the state, says some have simply failed to return the address verification letter required by law.

But it plans to note those who aren’t verified so local police can better track them.


Man stung by scorpion on commercial flight

PORTLAND — An Oregon man got a surprise — and some pain — when he was stung by a scorpion during a commercial flight from Seattle to Anchorage, Alaska.

Jeff Ellis of West Linn told KPTV he was trying to sleep on a red-eye Alaska Airlines flight June 17 when he felt something in his sleeve and tried to brush it away.

He says he felt the crawling again, looked down and saw the culprit. “I picked my hand up and said, ‘Oh, my God. That’s a scorpion.’”

Mr. Ellis said he grabbed the scorpion with a napkin, but not before it stung him on the elbow. He says it caused a burning sensation.

Mr. Ellis was checked by two doctors on board and medics on the ground.

The flight originated in Austin, Texas, where Alaska Airlines officials believe the scorpion got on board. Mr. Ellis said the airline offered him 4,000 frequent-flier miles and two round-trip tickets.


Reputed Pagans leader jailed after drug raid

MOUNT PLEASANT — The reputed national president of the outlaw Pagans Motorcycle Club was jailed after a state police SWAT team raided his Pennsylvania home and allegedly found cocaine and methamphetamine.

Dennis “Rooster” Katona is well-known for his ties to the outlaw biker gang, including playing a role in a bloody 2002 rumble with the Hells Angels in New York that sent him to prison for several years.

State police said little about Wednesday’s drug raid, and a state police spokesman did not immediately return messages left by the Associated Press on Thursday.

Mr. Katona’s Hempfield Township home was raided under a search warrant that remains sealed, according to a criminal complaint obtained by the AP. Troopers found more than 3 ounces of cocaine, nearly 4 ounces of methamphetamine, a digital scale and an “owe sheet,” according to the complaint.

Mr. Katona was arraigned by video from the Westmoreland County prison and was ordered held in jail after he was unable to immediately post $750,000 bail. The district judge’s staff said he appeared without counsel, and online court records do not list an attorney for him.

Authorities have identified Mr. Katona as the national president of the Pagans. The group’s former leader was sentenced to federal prison for racketeering in December.


Wetland restoration could be Gulf model

BAYTOWN — A 20-year-old Texas project to restore the state’s dying wetland environment using material dredged from the Houston Ship Channel could become a model for a broader federally backed effort to fix the Gulf of Mexico’s damaged ecosystem.

A $1 billion fund provided by BP as part of its responsibility to the area after last year’s massive oil spill will partially pay for the restoration efforts. The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force is helping coordinate the projects.

Texas lost 35,000 acres of wetlands after the ship channel was dredged in 1917. Since the 1990s it has reused the soil, creating marshes, bird islands and oyster reefs.

These wetlands and barrier islands are crucial habitat for Gulf wildlife and also provide storm protection to people who live in the coastal area.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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