- - Sunday, July 29, 2012

NEW YORK — A long-serving Air Force chaplain has left the Southern Baptist Convention after the conservative denomination publicly questioned his attendance at a same-sex civil union ceremony at his base in New Jersey.

The chaplain, Col. Timothy Wagoner, is remaining on active duty and has affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which holds more moderate views on homosexuality and some other issues than the Southern Baptists.

“I find very little that is more important and nothing that is more exhilarating than providing for the religious freedoms and spiritual care of all service members and their families — and will joyfully continue to do so,” Col. Wagoner said in an e-mail to the Associated Press.

Col. Wagoner’s exit from the Southern Baptist Convention, which SBC leaders welcomed, is a direct fallout from the repeal a year ago of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prohibited acknowledged gays from serving in the military.

Gay service members are now able to be open about their relationships, and same-sex civil union and marriage ceremonies can take place at military installations if they are legal under state law. New Jersey recognizes civil unions, and thus the June 23 ceremony uniting Tech. Sgt. Erwynn Umali and civilian Will Behrens had legal stature.

Bullied bus monitor: ‘Time to move on’

GREECE — A New York school bus monitor who was shown in a video being relentlessly bullied by a group of boys said she is retiring.

Karen Klein told the Associated Press on Friday that it was a tough decision to leave the job she held for three years, but that it is time to move on.

The 68-year-old suburban Rochester grandmother said she is not quitting because of what happened on the last day of school in June, when four seventh-grade students taunted her with profanity, insults and threats during a school bus run. A 10-minute video of the episode went viral online and spurred an outpouring of more than $700,000 in donations from all over the world.

The Greece Central School District has suspended the students for a year.


Dad shoots 2 children before killing himself

WORCESTER — A man who had recently separated from his wife shot his two children before committing suicide, prosecutors said.

A family member called police Saturday night after finding the bodies of 41-year-old Daryl Benway and his 7-year-old daughter, Abigail, in the master bedroom of their two-story Oxford home, said Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early Jr.

Benway’s 9-year-old son, Owen, was found shot in the head in the kitchen and was taken to UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center in serious condition. Owen has been in pediatric intensive care, a spokesman for Mr. Early said Sunday. He said he had no additional information about Owen’s condition, and a hospital spokeswoman would not comment.

Benway’s wife, Kelleen, returned home after the shootings, unaware of what had happened, and found a swarm of police cruisers and television crews, Mr. Early said. She was taken to the children’s hospital, where authorities told her the fates of her children and husband.

Neighbors told the Telegram & Gazette that Benway’s brother Shawn lived on the first floor of the home with his wife and mother. Shawn Benway called 911 to report the shootings, Mr. Early said.

Mr. Early said he couldn’t speculate on a motive. He said the Benways separated weeks ago but were still married.

No restraining orders had been filed against Benway, and he had no criminal record, the district attorney said. He had a gun license that expired in 1999, Mr. Early said.

Explorers find downed German U-Boat

BOSTON — Divers have discovered a World War II-era German submarine nearly 70 years after it sank under U.S. attack in deep waters off Nantucket.

The U-550 was found July 23 by a seven-man group, some of whom have been searching for several years.

It was the second trip in two years to the site by the team of divers, which was organized by New Jersey lawyer Joe Mazraani. He said the group used sonar to locate the wreck in deep water about 70 miles south of Nantucket. The divers photographed the U-550, and Mr. Mazraani said a return trip is planned.

In April 1944, the U-550 torpedoed an Allied gasoline tanker, but was fatally damaged by depth charges from an escort vessel. Forty-four Germans were killed, and 25 aboard the tanker died.


Fairs suffer during Midwestern drought

MILWAUKEE — State and county fairs in the sweltering and drought-stricken Midwest may have smaller livestock and produce this year.

The dozen pigs that Greg Marzahl and his 15-year-old daughter are bringing to the Wisconsin State Fair are about 15 pounds smaller than the normal 275 pounds.

Mr. Marzahl had three grand champion pigs last year. He said the heat this year is affecting the pigs’ virility and appetites.

The Wisconsin fair opens its 11-day run Thursday in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis. State fairs also are set to begin in the next two weeks in Indiana, Iowa and Illinois. Those states also have been hit by unusual heat and drought.

Mr. Marzahl still plans to bring his pigs to the fair, expecting that his competition also will be smaller.


Olympic runner, sonkilled in plane crash

ALBUQUERQUE — A two-time Olympic distance runner, his 15-year-old son and his son’s friend were killed in a fiery plane crash in Sedona, Ariz., his wife said Friday.

Pat Porter was piloting the Beech B-60 when it crashed and burst into flames on takeoff Thursday morning, killing all aboard, including son Connor and his friend Connor Mantsch, said Trish Porter.

A Federal Aviation Administration database showed that the plane was registered to Pat Porter, but the family and authorities declined to confirm the victims’ identities before Mrs. Porter called a press conference. Connor Mantsch, 14, attended Albuquerque Academy with her son.

Mrs. Porter said her 53-year-old husband and the boys had been in Sedona for three days before the plane went down.

Just before the crash, Mrs. Porter said, she and her husband exchanged a series of “humorous text messages.”

“My last text message to him: ‘When are you coming home?’” she said at the press conference, with her daughter, Shannon, 11, beside her.

Mrs. Porter, also a former Olympian, said she found out about the crash Thursday afternoon as she drove back from ice skating training for Shannon.


Troopers charged in speedy caravan escort

TRENTON — Two state troopers charged Friday with records-tampering turned a state highway into a “virtual speedway” when they gave a caravan of luxury cars a high-speed escort, taping over their own license plates to conceal their involvement, the attorney general said.

“No one is above the law,” Attorney General Jeff Chiesa said. “We will not tolerate officers who endanger the public they are sworn to protect.”

Administrative charges also were brought against four other members of the state police in connection with a high-speed escort in 2010, and a fifth trooper for his handling of a ticket issued to the driver of a Lamborghini clocked at 116 mph, also in 2010.

Sgt. 1st Class Nadir Nassry and Trooper Joseph Ventrella sought to conceal their involvement in the March escort, which reached speeds exceeding 100 mph, by using black electrical tape to alter their plates, the attorney general said.

Sgt. Nassry also is accused of instructing other drivers in the caravan of high-performance vehicles to conceal or partly conceal their license plates by using tape or other means.


Judge delays trialfor father of missing girl

WATERLOO — A judge on Friday delayed trials in four drug and domestic abuse cases pending against the father of one of two missing Iowa cousins, saying the two-week search for the girls made it difficult for him to focus on preparing a defense.

Daniel Morrissey could have been ordered to stand trial as early as Tuesday in the cases, which charge him with assaulting his estranged wife and possessing, making and delivering methamphetamine and carry the possibility of decades in prison. Judge Andrea Dryer agreed to Mr. Morrissey’s request for a delay, tentatively scheduling the cases for trial Aug. 28.

Mr. Morrissey is the father of 10-year-old Lyric Cook, who went missing July 13 with her 8-year-old cousin Elizabeth Collins after leaving to ride bikes in Evansdale. He has come under intense scrutiny from law enforcement officials because of his ties to the region’s methamphetamine trade, but authorities have said he is not considered a suspect.

Mr. Morrissey’s mother-in-law, Wylma Cook, said Mr. Morrissey had been giving investigators information about other methamphetamine makers in recent months to shave time off his own potential sentence.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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