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Archive for Tuesday, December 30, 2003

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December 30, 2003

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Oregon

Crews free hundreds of stranded drivers

Hundreds of drivers stranded by a fast-moving snowstorm in California and Oregon were escorted to safety Monday after spending a long, frigid night in their cars with little food or water.

Crews spent the day clearing roads, pulling cars out of snowbanks and shuttling supplies to the stuck drivers before leading them down the mountain pass in the afternoon.

"It's just been miserable," said tow truck driver Kevin Wyatt, his face smeared with soot after spending the night digging out cars and trucks. "They thought it was a light storm and it just came down super, super fast. After they got stuck we couldn't get up here fast enough. When it snows four inches in two minutes, you can't do nothing."

The National Weather Service said as much as 2 feet of snow had fallen along Interstate 5, which was shut down from Redding, Calif., to Ashland. State police said some drifts were 6 to 7 feet high.

Northbound lanes on Interstate 5 opened Monday evening to vehicles with chains; southbound lanes were expected to be open several hours later under the same conditions.

California

Searchers recover another flood victim

Searchers found the body of a baby Monday in a mountain canyon, raising the confirmed death toll from last week's flash floods to 15, even as a powerful new Pacific storm threatened more floods and mudslides.

The body of 8-month-old Jeremias Monzon was found in the San Bernardino Mountains, below a church camp where his father was caretaker. He was the 13th confirmed fatality from a group of family and friends who were spending Christmas at the camp when the mud rushed down on them.

One boy, Edgar Meza, 12, remains missing in the mudslide, said Chip Patterson, spokesman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

"We're not going to stop looking for him," Patterson said.

Two other people died Christmas Day when water swept through a trailer campground about five miles to the west in Devore.

Miami

Plea deal likely in wrestling death case

Barring a radical change of heart, it appears 16-year-old Lionel Tate will accept prosecutors' offer to plead guilty to murder in exchange for a sentence that will end his confinement next month.

Tate was 12 years old when he beat to death 6-year-old Tiffany Eunick. He had been convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life, but his conviction was overturned by an appeals court earlier this month because of questions about how well Tate understood the legal system.

Before his original trial three years ago, Tate turned down a deal that would have given him three years in juvenile detention followed by house arrest and probation.

That decision -- which is before him once again -- was the key piece of evidence lawyers used to prove Tate was incompetent to make his own decisions in the first place.

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