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Archive for Saturday, May 29, 2004

Briefly

May 29, 2004

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WASHINGTON, D.C.

Social Security officials issue warning of scams

Social Security officials issued a national fraud alert Friday about people posing as agency employees in scams aimed at obtaining personal information.

There have been reports of people calling or visiting victims and fabricating stories in an attempt to get them to release information, including Social Security numbers. The reports first surfaced in the Chicago area. One indicated a scam in North Dakota.

Social Security Commissioner Jo Anne Barnhart said people should be cautious when releasing personal information.

People who believe they have fallen victim to a scam are encouraged to call the inspector general's hot line at (800) 269-0271.

Illinois

Convict in two killings goes free after 17 years

A man who claims he was wrongly convicted of stabbing a newlywed couple to death walked out of prison Friday after 17 years behind bars.

Gordon Randall Steidl, 52, was released from the Danville Correctional Center after prosecutors sent a motion to a judge Thursday asking him to dismiss the case because they couldn't meet a deadline for retrying him.

Prosecutor David Rands said charges still could be refiled.

Steidl became the 18th person since Illinois reinstated the death penalty in 1977 to be freed because of a questionable conviction after serving time on death row.

He was convicted of stabbing Dyke and Karen Rhoads to death and setting their home in Paris ablaze in 1986.

New Jersey

'Crybaby Award' boy honored at assembly

A middle school student who was humiliated when his basketball coach gave him a "Crybaby Award" last month was feted at an assembly Friday with applause from his peers and an apology from the coach.

Ousted Pleasantville Middle School coach James Guillen presented Terrence Philo Jr. with a certificate, trophy and the first-ever Terrence Philo Jr. Award.

"I would like to extend a special apology to the Terrence Philo family," Guillen, 24, told the boy in front of about 250 of his cheering classmates. He blamed his error last month on "my lack of experience as a coach and as a teacher."

Philo, an eighth-grade honor student, played guard on the team, which went 12-3 and won its division championship.

Idaho

Toddler found breathing after pronounced dead

A hospital worker preparing a drowned toddler for a funeral home noticed the boy was breathing -- more than an hour after he was pronounced dead.

Logan Pinto, who is 22 months old, apparently wandered away from his baby sitter Thursday and fell into a canal near his home in Rexburg. He was submerged for nearly 30 minutes before police found him a half-mile downstream, said Rexburg Police Capt. Randy Lewis.

Though emergency workers did everything they could, Lewis said, the boy was pronounced dead. After the boy's mother and stepfather, Debra and Joe Gould, said goodbye, Madison Memorial Hospital nurse Mary Zollinger began to prepare Logan's body for the funeral home.

But she noticed his chest was slightly moving and realized that Logan was alive.

The boy was flown to Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City, where he was listed in critical condition Friday.

Los Angeles

Jury rejects claims that drug caused deaths

A jury rejected claims that the diabetes drug Rezulin contributed to the deaths and illness of three people.

The jury in the wrongful death lawsuit found Thursday that Rezulin could cause liver injury but did not agree with the claim that the drug was "a substantial factor" in the deaths of Lupe Contreras and Manuel Cervantes, and the illness of Leonard Clinkenbeard.

The drug manufacturer had argued that the patients were seriously ill before taking the drug and died of kidney failure.

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