Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Smithsonian starts frog rescue project

The Smithsonian Institution is leading an effort to combat the spread of a fungus that is killing frogs and other amphibians at an alarming rate.

The Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project, announced Monday at the National Zoological Park, includes eight zoos and research institutions.

Already, the chytrid fungus threatens to wipe out a third of the approximately 6,000 known amphibian species. Conservationists say 122 amphibian species are thought to have gone extinct in the past 30 years, primarily because of the fungus.

Scientists will focus on a swath of Panama where frogs are still healthy. They’re searching for ways to build frogs’ resistance to the fungus, using the animals’ natural bacteria.



Life in prison for robbery, rape

Travis Shepperson, 21, of Hyattsville, was sentenced Friday to life in prison for robbing and raping a woman at a cell phone store in Landover.

Shepperson walked into a cell phone store in Landover on May 5, 2008, and robbed the employee there of her cell phone and $100. Authorities said Shepperson then forced the employee to have sex with him more than once in the back of the store.

Police arrested Shepperson after tracking the cell phone signal to a parole and probation office in Hyattsville. When officers arrived, Shepperson was using the woman’s cell phone. DNA evidence connected Shepperson to the crimes.


Woman sentenced for standoff role

Rene L. Reynolds, 21, of Moncks Corner, S.C., was sentenced Monday in Washington County Circuit Court to six years in prison for her role in a two-day standoff with police at a Hancock motel in August.

Reynolds pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy to threaten arson. The charge stemmed from her boyfriend’s false statements to police during the incident that he had explosives and would blow up the America’s Best Value Inn.

Circuit Judge Fred C. Wright suspended another four years of the maximum 10-year sentence.

Defense attorney Mary Drawbaugh requested leniency Monday. She characterized Reynolds as a victim of domestic violence perpetrated by her boyfriend, James A. Prevatt III, who Miss Drawbaugh said was the “mastermind” of the episode.

Reynolds declined to address the court. During her plea hearing in January, she acknowledged that she had pretended to be held hostage by Mr. Prevatt, who has not been tried.

Reynolds gave birth to her second child shortly after the incident.


Inmate and guard enter guilty pleas

Fonda Deneen White of Parkville and Jeffrey Fowlkes, both 41, pleaded guilty Monday to extorting money from inmates and their families in 2007. They will be sentenced in August.

Fowlkes was an inmate at the Metropolitan Transition Center (MTC) in Baltimore and White was a correctional officer from 2001 to 2005. The two were indicted on charges of extorting money from inmates’ families Dec. 4.

They called relatives of inmates who owed debts from a gambling and contraband operation Fowlkes controlled inside MTC. According to the indictment, White and Fowlkes asked for payment from inmates’ relatives in exchange for the inmates’ safety.


Sewer line collapse closes busy street

The collapse of a sewer line Monday closed a section of busy East Monument Street near Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore public works officials said. The collapse marked the second time in two weeks that a busy street was closed because of the failure of underground pipes.

Public Works spokesman Kurt Kocher said the collapse caused the roadway to buckle on East Monument Street between Park Avenue and Collington Avenue. Transportation officials said a 15-inch storm drain and 8-inch sewer collapsed, causing a 6- to 8-foot area of the roadway to buckle.

On April 28, a 120-year-old water main broke under East Lombard Street, the main westbound route through downtown and closed the street for days.



Man pleads guilty to Ponzi scheme

A Crozet man pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges stemming from a Ponzi scheme that bilked more than $5 million from investors.

U.S. Attorney Julia C. Dudley said John Mark Donnelly, 52, pleaded guilty Monday to wire fraud, securities fraud, fraud in connection with futures contracts and impeding the administration of federal tax laws.

According to court records, Donnelly marketed a complex trading strategy to investors but rarely traded the money he received. Instead, he distributed the money to other investors.

Donnelly also sent tax forms and fictitious monthly statements to investors. Miss Dudley said many investors paid taxes on investment returns that didn’t exist.

Donnelly faces up to 48 years in prison when sentenced.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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