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Archive for Saturday, August 16, 2003

Briefly

August 16, 2003

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Denver

Court approves use of fake checkpoints

Colorado police can set up fake checkpoints in hopes of sniffing out illegal drugs, an appeals court ruled in a case where camouflage-clad officers spied on fans during a bluegrass festival in 2000.

Thursday's ruling, which reversed an earlier finding, was based on a federal appeals court decision last year in a similar case in Oklahoma.

Police at the Telluride festival had posted signs along the road saying, "Narcotics checkpoint, one mile ahead" and "Narcotics canine ahead." Officers wearing camouflage hid on a hill and watched for any people who turned around or appeared to toss drugs out of their windows after seeing the signs.

Police pulled over Stephen Roth, 60, for littering after they found a marijuana pipe tossed from his window. Two other pipes and mushrooms were found in a search of his car.

The 10th Circuit said that while drug checkpoints were illegal -- because motorists are stopped at random and without reasonable suspicion of committing a crime -- the discovery of the first pipe gave the officers probable cause to stop Roth's vehicle.

West Virginia

One shooter suspected in three store killings

Three people have been shot to death outside convenience stores in and around West Virginia's capital in the past week, and authorities said Friday that a single shooter might be responsible.

Kanawha County Chief Deputy Phil Morris said he was concerned that the Charleston shootings resembled last year's sniper shootings in the Washington, D.C., area. The FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives joined state and local authorities in the hunt for the shooter.

In the West Virginia slayings, two victims were shot in the head and another was hit in the neck, officials said. The shooter was more than 30 yards away from all three, officials said, and they think a rifle was used in the attacks.

All three were gunned down outside convenience stores, including a man killed while talking on a pay phone and a woman killed while pumping gas.

Pennsylvania

Parents face charges in 4-year-old's death

The parents of a 4-year-old quadruplet who died after being found starving at the family's squalid condominium were charged with murder.

At a preliminary hearing Thursday, a prosecutor accused the couple of not feeding the child enough and said they had not taken him to a doctor in more than two years.

James and Tamra Seymore were charged in the June 5 death of their son Shawn. He weighed 25 1/2 pounds, could not talk or chew solid food.

The parents were being held without bail.

Defense lawyer Robert J. Reilley said the couple were overwhelmed by the challenge of feeding the quadruplets and their 14-year-old sister, who also has developmental problems.

A videotape of the couple's home in Towamencin Township, northwest of Philadelphia, showed that it was filthy but stocked with pasta, infant formula and other foods.

Chicago

Top cop retires

Police Supt. Terry Hillard retired Friday after 35 years on the force and more than five years as the city's top cop, taking with him high praise for improving department training, community relations and technology.

He also leaves behind a stubbornly high homicide rate, but he walks away on his own terms -- unlike his predecessor -- with Mayor Richard Daley calling his selection of Hillard "the best decision I made."

Under Hillard, video surveillance cameras were placed in dangerous neighborhoods; an Internet site was created giving residents crime information; and a computerized crime analysis system was put in place.

Hillard, a Tennessee native who served in Vietnam as a Marine, became Chicago's first black chief of detectives in 1995. Daley appointed him superintendent in 1998, the year after Matt Rodriguez stepped down amid allegations of police brutality and corruption.

Washington, D.C.

Bioterrorism expert claims harassment

An attorney for the bioterrorism expert identified as a "person of interest" in the investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks lashed out at the FBI Friday for its round-the-clock surveillance of his client.

The scientist, Steven J. Hatfill, appeared at a traffic court hearing to contest a $5 ticket stemming from an accident involving a federal agent who was tailing him. Hatfill lost the case and will have to pay the fine.

Hatfill declined to comment afterward, but his attorney, Thomas Connolly, said the ticket was the result of the "unrelenting campaign of harassment the FBI has imposed on Steven Hatfill day in and day out."

The Washington FBI office is leading the probe of the October 2001 attacks in which anthrax-laced envelopes were sent to government and media offices. Five people were killed and 17 others sickened.

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