Thursday, August 21, 2003


Firefighters rescue driver stranded 3 days

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE — A motorist stranded for three days after his van plunged 200 feet off a mountain highway was discovered by firefighters yesterday when they were dispatched to put out a blaze.

The crew of 80 firefighters battling a 2-acre blaze in the Angeles National Forest found the man trapped in the wreckage of his van, Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Roland Sprewell said.

A helicopter crew rescued the man and took him to a Pasadena hospital. Authorities said he might have set the blaze to save himself. His condition was not immediately known, but Capt. Sprewell said the man did not seem badly hurt.


3 die when crane strikes power line

TELFORD — A crane operator was shocked to death and two co-workers died trying to save him yesterday after the crane struck an overhead power line at a concrete plant.

As electricity coursed through the rig, one of the rescuers began administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation. But the second worker touched the electrified crane, sending a deadly jolt through all three men, authorities said.

Terrified co-workers stood by until the live wire was shut off, said George Strickland, general manager of the JDM Materials plant where the accident took place. While they waited, the electric current set the crane ablaze and left it a smoking ruin.


Newlywed receives kidney from husband

DENVER — The bride and groom were a perfect match — medically speaking.

Less than two weeks after they got married, Svetlana Solodovnik received a kidney from her husband, Vladimir. Both were in good condition after transplant surgery Wednesday at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

Mr. Solodovnik said Tuesday that he didn’t think of it as a wedding present.

“I only thought about her, and that she should live. I want to help her live,” he said.

Mrs. Solodovnik, a 24-year-old Ukrainian immigrant, was diagnosed with kidney failure in March, not long after she and Mr. Solodovnik, a 26-year-old Russian immigrant, got engaged. They were married Aug. 9 in Denver.


Man snags record mahi-mahi

LEWES — A fisherman hooked a mahi-mahi weighing more than 52 pounds, a new state record, nearly 60 miles offshore.

Charles A. Ciociola of Limerick, Pa., snagged the fish Monday during a 32-hour trip aboard the Skipjack out of Lewes Harbor Marina. The fish weighed 52 pounds and 15 ounces and was 64 inches long, according to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

Mr. Ciociola hooked the fish about 15 minutes after the Skipjack stopped at a spot known as the Hot Dog, where a small hill on the ocean floor attracts fish. The area is about 20 fathoms below the surface.


CDC says West Nile has infected 715

ATLANTA — West Nile virus continues to plague the central Plains, with nearly 80 percent of the nation’s cases occurring in four states, federal officials said in their weekly update yesterday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the virus has killed three persons in the past week, bringing the nationwide death toll to 14.

Twenty-nine states have reported a total of 715 infections, with Colorado maintaining the lead with 263 cases and six deaths. South Dakota had 117, Nebraska 99 and Texas 70, according to CDC’s count.

The CDC also said that screening of the nation’s blood supply found that 103 blood donors in nine states carried the virus.


Online auction sells state goods

SPRINGFIELD — The state’s first online auction of surplus state property went so well that officials plan a weekly Web auction.

They unloaded 46 items for more than $40,000 over the Web. About 1,400 persons bid, compared with about 200 in live auctions.

Prices were up, too. A used Ford Taurus that normally sells for $1,000 went for $2,800.


Soldier escapes fire on first night home

GARY — After spending months in the line of fire in Iraq, a soldier was awakened his first night back to find his bedroom in flames.

Hours after being greeted by his family to an emotional homecoming on Aug. 14, Army Pfc. Nick Crawford was jolted out of bed by his girlfriend’s screams of “fire”

Andrea Melendez’s clothes caught fire as she hit Pfc. Crawford, trying to wake him up as the room burned around them.

“She pretty much saved my life,” Pfc. Crawford told the Times of Munster. “Now she’s my hero.”

Disoriented and choking on the thick smoke, Pfc. Crawford broke some windows, hit the floor and crawled to the stairs as his stepfather tried to douse the fire with an extinguisher. He and Miss Melendez bolted from the house just as firefighters pulled up.

The house and nearly all the family’s possessions were destroyed. The family was renting the house and did not have insurance. But everyone survived unharmed.


School bans talk during lunchtime

DES MOINES — Lunch period at Willowbrook Elementary School in Altoona was quiet enough Wednesday that the crunching of potato chips and the slurping of juice through tiny straws could be heard. In the background, classical music played.

The Southeast Polk school district is trying something new this year: silent lunch, according to the Des Moines Register.

Principal Robin Norris said she and her faculty decided they needed to do something to curb the noise level and to encourage children to eat their entire lunch. Three days into the school year, she said it’s working — children are eating more and the staff is not dealing with discipline problems.

But parents and at least one education expert said the solution to the rowdy lunch hour is extreme.

“It doesn’t matter what age they are, it’s not fair to expect them to not socialize during lunch,” said Michele Mohler, whose son Zachary is a first-grader at Willowbrook this year.


Agreement ends museum dispute

NEW ORLEANS — A three-year dispute ended yesterday over ownership of a building that housed a highly valued Confederate museum.

The University of New Orleans (UNO) Foundation said it had bought the Confederate Memorial Hall from Tulane University for $425,000, but the Confederate museum disputed that and sued.

The agreement eventually would give the title of the red-brick building to the Confederate collection. It also would allow construction of a passageway through the Confederate museum building’s basement that would connect two sections of the new Ogden Museum of Southern Art. The UNO Foundation is a financial backer of the Ogden Museum.

The Confederate museum had said that the backers of the Ogden Museum were anti-Confederate and wanted to kick the collection out. Gov. Mike Foster, a Republican, also got involved, saying heads would roll if the museum was given the boot.

Under the deal, the UNO Foundation would hand over ownership of the building after the passageway is built or after 10 years, whichever comes first. The agreement also stipulates that the building continue to be used as a Confederate collection.


Rabies vaccine to be dropped in forests

PORTLAND — Two planes will drop nearly 300,000 doses of raccoon rabies vaccine next week into the fields and forests of northern and eastern Maine in an attempt to keep the disease from spreading into Canada.

The experimental program seeks to lure raccoons with fishmeal bait laced with vaccine. Canada will pay most of the cost.


Father arraigned on murder charges

DETROIT — A father was arraigned on murder, assault and other charges yesterday, accused of shooting his four children, three of them fatally, and setting fire to his home to conceal the crimes.

The surviving girl reportedly told a rescuer, “My daddy killed me.”

A judge entered a not-guilty plea on behalf of Anthony Lamar Bailey, who, police believe, shot the children with a shotgun and set the fire Tuesday night before fleeing on a bicycle. He was arrested Wednesday while walking on a freeway overpass.

Essie Bailey, his wife and the children’s mother, wailed in court when her husband’s face appeared on a video monitor from a holding cell. Family members carried her from the courtroom as the charges were read.

Court records show that Bailey was serving six months probation after pleading guilty in March to domestic violence for punching his wife in the face and stomach and choking her.


Marine shoots self to avoid going overseas

ANOKA — A Marine who had told authorities that he had been shot while trying to help a stranded motorist has now admitted that he shot himself to avoid being shipped overseas.

The Anoka County Sheriff’s Department said Wednesday that Lance Cpl. Adam Welter, 20, acknowledged that the gunshot wound had been self-inflicted. He was treated and released from a hospital Monday.

Mr. Welter was reported to be scheduled to ship out for Hawaii that day. He called an investigator Tuesday to take responsibility, said Capt. Robert Aldrich, a sheriff’s department spokesman.

He told investigators that he was shot in the left shoulder early Monday after stopping to help a pickup truck driver on a remote road near his home. Authorities found no blood, shell casings or other evidence at the scene. Mr. Welter also couldn’t give a detailed description of the assailant or the truck.


Court expands wrongful-death law

JACKSON — The Mississippi Supreme Court, in a decision criticized by one of its members as an assault on the right to abortion, held yesterday that an unborn fetus is a “person” under state law and wrongful-death claims can be filed on its behalf.

The justices upheld a Bolivar County woman’s right to pursue a wrongful-death claim after she said emotional distress and a mistake by her doctors caused her to have a miscarriage. The fetus was 19 weeks old at the time, according to doctors.

Presiding Justice Chuck McRae, in a written dissent, described the decision as an assault on Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that struck down abortion restrictions as infringing a right to privacy.

Presiding Justice Jim Smith, writing for the court, said the ruling yesterday in the lawsuit brought by Tracy Tucker had nothing to do with abortion. He said doctors performing abortions are still protected by Mississippi law.


Archaeologists say they have found Donner site

RENO — Archaeologists believe they have found a site near Truckee, Calif., where the Donner Party camped nearly 150 years ago.

Archaeologists also found a bone fragment bearing ax marks. If the bone is human, it would provide evidence that the group engaged in cannibalism to survive a harsh winter that trapped them in the mountains west of Reno.


Couple who aided abortionist killer freed

NEW YORK — A husband and wife who conspired to help the man who gunned down an abortionist in 1998 were freed yesterday after serving more than two years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Carol Amon, ruling after a two-day hearing, said sentencing guidelines precluded a longer prison term than the two years and five months that Loretta Marra and Dennis Malvasi had served.

But Judge Amon told the couple that they had joined in “the very kind of evil you purport to abhor” and urged them to consider the seriousness of helping a killer.

Marra, 39, and Malvasi, 53, pleaded guilty in April to conspiring to harbor then-fugitive James Kopp in their Brooklyn apartment. Kopp was convicted this year of killing Dr. Barnett Slepian by firing an assault rifle through a window of the doctor’s home in suburban Buffalo.


Ex-lawmaker’s son stabbed, assaulted

NORMAN — The son of former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts, Oklahoma Republican, was beaten and stabbed during an assault earlier this week, police said yesterday.

According to a police report, Jerrell Watts, 24, was treated and released from a local hospital after suffering “blunt-force trauma and a stab wound” when he was assaulted in the early hours of Tuesday near a residence in Norman, about 20 miles south of Oklahoma City.

Police have requested an arrest warrant for two unnamed suspects, a spokesman said, adding that a reason for the assault was not known.


University taps ex-head for interim stint

NASHVILLE — The University of Tennessee’s board called former President Joseph E. Johnson back yesterday for an interim stint to lead an institution that has seen two presidents quit in disgrace in 26 months.

“I’m not sure why I’m doing this in terms of making any sense, but I have great affection for this institution,” said Mr. Johnson, who retired in 1999. “I’ll do the best I can for you.”

Mr. Johnson will be interim president, replacing John Shumaker, who resigned Aug. 8 amid growing scrutiny of his spending, including an audit that uncovered tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer-financed furniture and renovations, and nearly $25,000 in questionable travel.


Mild earthquake felt in Yellowstone

SALT LAKE CITY — A mild earthquake was reported near Yellowstone National Park yesterday, the University of Utah Seismograph Stations said.

The magnitude 4.4 earthquake was felt at the park’s south entrance and at Grant Village, a tourist service area. No injuries or damage was reported, seismologist Jim Pechmann said.

The epicenter at 1:46 a.m. was Huckleberry Mountain, Wyo., eight miles southeast of the south entrance to the park.


Radio station to return after being shut down

BRATTLEBORO — An unlicensed community radio station shut down by the Federal Communications Commission in late June intends to return to the airwaves today on a new frequency.

Members of Radio Free Brattleboro said more than 2,000 signatures collected from area residents justified the return. The FCC declined to comment on the station’s announcement.


Police link gun to all sniper attacks

CHARLESTON — Investigators said yesterday that ballistic tests showed that all three victims in a series of sniper-style slayings at area convenience stores were killed by the same weapon.

Charleston Police Chief Jerry Pauley said the victims, who were shot in the head or neck last week, were killed by a .22-caliber rifle.

“It does positively link the three bullets together. They all three came from the same weapon,” Chief Pauley said at an evening news conference. “Now that we know it came from the same weapon, we’ve got a direction to go in.”

Also yesterday, police released a composite sketch of a suspect — a heavyset white male. Witnesses told police they had seen such a man in a truck the night of two shootings on Aug. 14.

Based on witness accounts, investigators are looking for a dark-color, two-tone Ford F-150 extended cab pickup seen that night.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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