Thursday, March 18, 2004


SUV arson suspect indicted

LOS ANGELES — A physics student faces more than 70 years in prison on charges that he firebombed sport utility vehicles, which he deems gas-guzzlers, prosecutors said yesterday.

A Los Angeles grand jury late Tuesday indicted William Cottrell, 23, for arson, conspiracy and use of a destructive device during a violent crime.

Mr. Cottrell, a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology, was arrested last week and denied bail yesterday when he appeared in a Los Angeles courtroom in connection with firebomb attacks on SUV dealerships around Los Angeles in August.


Army considers deserter’s case

SAVANNAH — A soldier who says he refused to report to duty because he opposes the war in Iraq will be assigned regular duties while commanders decide whether to prosecute him for a five-month absence, a Fort Stewart official said yesterday.

The Army has no immediate plans to charge or arrest Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia when he returns to the post, said Maj. Robert Resnick, chief of military justice at Fort Stewart.

Sgt. Mejia, a 28-year-old Florida National Guardsman, is seeking conscientious-objector status. On Tuesday, a Florida Guard spokesman said Sgt. Mejia has been classified as a deserter, which could earn him up to five years in prison.


Mom faces charges in slaying of her sons

ANCHORAGE — Crisis counselors were on hand at Service High School here yesterday after the arrest of a woman accused of killing her three teenage sons.

Cynthia Lord was charged Tuesday night with fatally shooting her three boys inside their apartment, ending a series of incidents that neighbors said led them to think that she was mentally unstable and off her medication.

Residents of the apartment complex told the Anchorage Daily News that Miss Lord, 42, was a single mom who occasionally pitched loud, angry fits and had said her other grown son was a federal agent who was out to get her.


Inmate pleads guilty in hostage standoff

PHOENIX — One of two inmates who held a pair of prison guards hostage for 15 days pleaded guilty yesterday, admitting that he raped a kitchen worker and a female guard during the standoff.

Steven Coy pleaded guilty to 14 charges — including escape, kidnapping, assault and sexual assault. Prosecutors did not offer Coy anything in exchange for his plea in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Coy and inmate Ricky Wassenaar took two guards hostage Jan. 18 in the tower at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis in Buckeye. The male guard was released on Jan. 24, and the female guard was set free on Feb. 1 — the same day the inmates surrendered.


Special Forces soldier commits suicide

MONUMENT — A Special Forces soldier fatally shot himself during a confrontation with police about three weeks after he returned from Iraq, authorities said.

Chief Warrant Officer William Howell was following his wife around the front yard with a handgun when officers arrived Sunday night in response to a 911 call from the woman. When police officers ordered him to drop his weapon, Mr. Howell shot himself, authorities said.

A police officer also fired, hitting Mr. Howell in the right arm, Monument police Sgt. Richard Tudor said. An autopsy showed that Mr. Howell was killed by his own bullet.

The El Paso County Sheriff’s Department and the Army are investigating Mr. Howell’s death, and the District Attorney’s Office is investigating whether the police officer was justified in shooting Mr. Howell.


Man cooperating against governor

HARTFORD — An antiques dealer who bought a condominium from Gov. John G. Rowland at well above market rates has struck a plea bargain and is cooperating in the federal corruption investigation into the Republican governor’s administration, a source told the Associated Press on yesterday.

Wayne Pratt, one of the top antiques dealers in the country and a regular contributor to the PBS program “Antiques Roadshow,” is expected to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of tax evasion in federal court in Hartford today, according to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Mr. Pratt is the first person with a direct financial link to Mr. Rowland known to be cooperating with investigators. The source said Mr. Pratt has been cooperating since early January.


Busch Gardens error leads to sex line

TAMPA — Busch Gardens might be a lot of fun, but it’s not the “Pleasure Zone.”

The theme park listed the wrong number on marketing fliers sent to former holders of its discount Fun Card last week. Instead of reaching Busch Gardens, callers got a recorded sex line with a woman welcoming them to the “Pleasure Zone.”

Park spokesman Gerard Hoeppner said only a small number of people called to complain, but would not say how many fliers were distributed.

The company is mailing a letter of apology for the error, he said.


Top deadbeat dad in custody

SALEM — Massachusetts’ No. 1 deadbeat dad was in Kansas police custody yesterday on charges of failing to pay child support.

Robert Payne Jr. is accused of not paying $195,855 in child support to his ex-wife, Linda Payne-Violet, since their 1997 divorce, the Boston Herald reported yesterday.

Just days after the Department of Revenue issued its latest Top 10 Most Wanted list last month, Mr. Payne was found living in Carbondale, Kan., and was caught at a Nebraska traffic stop.

Police think he lived there for several years, sharing an apartment with a woman and working for a New Jersey-based commercial-machine-repair company.


City prosecutor limits inmate’s testimony

OKLAHOMA CITY — Prosecutors in Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols’ state murder trial want to block a death row inmate’s testimony that white supremacist bank robbers were involved in the deadly blast.

A motion was filed Tuesday to limit the testimony of David Paul Hammer, who is expected to testify for the defense at Nichols’ trial on 161 counts of murder in the 1995 bombing.

Nichols’ attorneys say that conspirator Timothy McVeigh had substantial help from others in staging the bombing and that Nichols was set up to take the blame.

Nichols, 48, already is serving a life sentence on federal convictions for the deaths of eight law-enforcement officers. The state murder charges cover the 160 other victims and one victim’s fetus.


City staffer charged with racist threats

CINCINNATI — A city radio technician accused of making racist threats on Cincinnati’s fire and police emergency frequencies has been charged with two felonies.

The Cincinnati Enquirer said William Westerkamp delivered an inflammatory 45-minute tirade of white-supremacist statements on a police band on Feb. 22.

Mr. Westerkamp, 32, was suspended without pay but was not charged with a hate crime. A Hamilton County grand jury Tuesday indicted Mr. Westerkamp in connection with disruption of public services and unauthorized use of city property, both felonies.


School stops ‘dirty dancing’

BEND — Administrators at Bend High School sent students home when the dancing became too suggestive at a school event.

The Sadie Hawkins dance was cut off at 10 p.m. after students persisted in “dirty dancing” after repeated warnings from administrators.

Many students said afterward that they didn’t know what made the dance on Saturday any different.

Mary McDermott, a teacher and the school’s activities director, said the school had heard complaints from parents and the community. In the week before the dance, the school warned students that “grinding” would not be permitted.


Tips lead police to man who killed wife

HARRISBURG — A man who walked away from a prison in 1971 while serving time for his wife’s killing has been captured in Texas after an anonymous tip.

Allen D. Marshall Jr., 62, was arrested by federal marshals Monday at his home in Houston, where he was living under his own name.

Deputy Marshal Brad Reiff said yesterday he received a call a little more than two weeks ago from a person who provided a Houston address for Marshall.

Marshall was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the June 12, 1969, beating death of his estranged wife, Barbara Carol Marshall, 22, and was sentenced to a term of five to 10 years.


University settles pregnancy bias suit

ALBUQUERQUE — The University of New Mexico (UNM) has agreed to pay $135,282 to settle accusations that it discriminated against three women because they were pregnant.

The women were formerly employed at UNM’s Health Sciences Center.

The Justice Department said the consent decree, which must be approved by a federal judge, requires UNM to pay the three women, revise its policies against discrimination based on their sex and pregnancy, and provide antidiscrimination training to its managers and supervisors.

The consent decree was filed together with a complaint by the Justice Department charging that UNM violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by refusing to excuse the three pregnant women from physically dangerous aspects of their jobs, such as the restraint of violent psychiatric patients, even though the school offered such accommodations to nonpregnant employees who requested them.


Judge dismisses barbecue lawsuit

CHARLESTON — A judge threw out a lawsuit by an outspoken Confederate flag supporter who sued four grocery-store chains that stopped carrying his barbecue sauce because of his views.

In last week’s ruling, Circuit Judge William Keesley said Maurice Bessinger failed to show the stores violated South Carolina’s unfair trade practices act.

Mr. Bessinger said that he planned to appeal and that he has lost more than $500,000 in business after being dropped by Piggly Wiggly, Bi-Lo, Kroger and Publix.


Pilot appeals FAA suspension

SIOUX FALLS — A Northwest Airlines pilot has been ordered suspended for 45 days for trying to land his jetliner in high wind and an apparent tornado, federal officials said.

Michael Hughes of Collierville, Tenn., “was careless and endangered the lives and property of others” when he tried to land the DC-9 at Sioux Falls airport last June, according to the Federal Aviation Administration suspension order, issued Tuesday.

Mr. Hughes ultimately landed the plane in Omaha, Neb.

He has appealed the suspension and can fly in the meantime. Calls to his union attorney were not returned.


Anti-evolution county seeks law to ban gays

DAYTON — The conservative county known best for its 1925 “Monkey Trial” that convicted a man for teaching evolution has a new target for a new century: homosexuality.

Rhea County commissioners voted unanimously to ask state lawmakers to introduce legislation amending Tennessee’s criminal code so that the county can charge homosexuals with crimes against nature.

County Attorney Gary Fritts also was asked to find the best way to enact a local law banning homosexuals from living in Rhea County. Commissioners asked Mr. Fritts to bring a resolution requesting the ban to next month’s commission meeting for another vote.

There was little discussion before the 8-0 vote, and commissioners didn’t mention that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Texas sodomy laws last year and ruled there is a constitutionally protected right to adults’ private sexual conduct.


First house in Dallas is moving again

DALLAS — The first house in Dallas soon will be looking for a new address because the local government plans to move the historic log cabin to make way for a parking garage, a Dallas County official said yesterday.

The log cabin, built circa 1841 by lawyer and American Indian goods trader John Neely Bryan, has been completely rebuilt, moved and moved again as the city of Dallas grew over the years. Historians do not know how many times the cabin has been moved.

Mr. Bryan originally built his home on the banks of the Trinity River, which runs through Dallas, but urban development and flood control along the river have made it all but impossible to find the exact site.


Ten-year-old wins sneaker contest

MONTPELIER — Daegan Goodman might have had the shortest distance to travel to the rotten sneaker contest, but you couldn’t tell that by smelling his shoes.

The 10-year-old from Montpelier took the crown in the annual event, which had eight other finalists from across the country.

Smell is not the only quality on which the shoes are judged. Appearance, overall condition, heels and soles also count.

The annual contest began in 1975 as a way to help a local sporting goods store sell shoes. In 1988, Odor-Eaters — maker of foot-odor insoles, sprays and powder — assumed sponsorship of the event.

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