The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 1, 1997 · Page 1
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 1

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Thursday, May 1, 1997
Page 1
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Zapping cancer New laser treatment is painless alternative to radiation / C1 HEALTH the Flood of help Flooded Grand Forks households receive $2,000 apiece /A8 INSIDE • Kentucky Derby: post positions for the 13-horse field set / D1 l: Rhino charges its owner west of Salina / B1 INSIDE Mgh:67 Low: 47 Growing cloudy and stormy today with gusty south winds /B3 WEATHER Salina Journal Classified / C6 Comics_/J34 Deaths'/ A7 Great Plains 7B1 Health/C1 Money/ C3 Sports / D1 " Viewpoints / B2 INDEX Serving Kansas since 1871 THURSDAY MAY 1, 1997 SALINA, KANSAS 50 cents T TRIPLE MURDER CASE White ordered to stand trial in murders Capital murder cases tie up defense lawyers, so trial in 3 killings put off until January By DAVID CLOUSTON The Salina Journal Alan Eugene White will stand trial for the murders of three family members in an east Salina home, a judge ruled Wednesday after considering genetic evidence that is central to the case. DNA results drawn from semen found in one of the victims show that the chances of someone other than White being responsible are 1 in 28 million, Saline County Attorney Julie McKenna told the court. White, 26, a former Salinan who was living at Formoso, showed no reaction as Saline County District Judge Dan Boyer ordered the trial that subjects him to a potential death penalty. But earlier, as he was led into the courtroom with chains on his legs, White's mother, JoEllen, now of Snellville, Ga., began to cry. White is accused of killing Carol Abercrombie, 56, her 5-year-old grandson, Christopher, and her mother, Dolores McKim, 80. Their bodies were found bludgeoned to death at McKim's home at 1721 Glen Ave. WHITE last July 21. White stood silent when asked to give a plea, so the judge entered pleas of not guilty on his behalf. Boyer set Jan. 5 as a tentative date for White's trial. White's two appointed attorneys with the state's death penalty defense unit said they would be unable to 'proceed with a trial before then because of other capital murder cases they are involved with. In defending White, attorneys Benjamin Wood and Jeffrey Moots argued that the DNA analysis by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation should not be considered because they only recently received information about how the testing was done. Boyer said, however, that the law allows the evidence to be submitted at a preliminary hearing without collaborating testimony. Although the DNA report was admitted, the only time it was mentioned in the two-day hearing was in McKenna's closing arguments, where she said White's sperm was found in Carol Abercrombie's body. A forensic pathologist testified Tuesday that Abercrombie was raped. KBI Special Agent Ron Hagen testified that it appeared Abercrombie's body had been intentionally placed in an unnatural position. It appeared her body had been moved and there was a good deal of blood on the front of her nightgown, Hagen said. In response to cross-examination by Wood, Hagen said the pathologist speculated the three victims had been killed by blows from a roofing hammer or a similar tool. White turned over two such hammers to authorities and no incriminating evidence could be deduced from either one, Hagen said. The prosecution says those hammers belonged to acquaintances of White. McKenna said the murderer clearly took precautions to mask .his entry into the home and prevent those inside from getting help. Cables and a phone line were cut, and a light bulb outside the home was unscrewed. See WHITE, Page A7 Photos by TOM OORSEY / The Salina Journal First-graders at Coronado Elementary School listen to their teacher, Bobbl Bengtson, read letters from their pen pals In Kuwait. Bonding with Kuwaiti kids Salina pupils share experiences, hone writing and reading skills with overseas class of pen pals By SHARON MONTAGUE The Salina Journal Shelby George expected her Kuwaiti pen pal to wear colorful, flowing clothes. But when Shelby and her 22 classmates in Bobbie Bengtson's first-grade class at Coronado Elementary received photographs of their pen pals, they learned the Kuwaiti students looked surprisingly like the kids next door. "Their clothes looked like our clothes," said Shelby, the daughter of David and Pam George. "They wore T-shirts and shorts." The students have corresponded since September with first-graders in Kuwait taught by a former Assaria resident, Roger Douglas. Douglas, 31, a graduate of Southeast of Saline High School, is on a two-year leave of absence from his teaching job with the Blue Valley School District and is teaching English and art to first-graders in Kuwait. Eleanor Douglas, Salina, said her son just wanted to experience another culture. His students are experiencing a different cul- Ryun Cossette, 7, reads to his classmates a letter he will send to his pen pal in Kuwait. ture, as well, through the letters from their Kansas counterparts. In the latest packet of letters received, the Coronado students read about a cat that had disrupted classes by jumping through a window. It's an experience they could relate to, as a cat named Muffy that lives near Coronado School often visits classrooms there. They've learned about holidays celebrated by the Kuwaiti students, and they've shared with their pen pals stories about their own holidays. Bengtson videotaped her students singing songs at a Valentine's Day party. Douglas later wrote that his students watched the tape four times the day it arrived and memorized the songs. The students also have been interested in what the Kuwaiti children eat, and learned they share a love for pizza and McDonald's. They also share a love for Batman. In the most recent letter to his pen pal, Ryun Cossette, son of Deanna and Jack Cossette, wrote of losing a tooth, and asked if his pen pal had lost a tooth. Cassidy Soales, daughter of Karen Carter, recently recovered from chicken pox and asked if Kuwaiti children also suffered the illness. Bengtson said her students have learned more than details of life in Kuwait, though. They've learned to write neatly, spell words correctly and write complete sentences, as they're helping to teach their pen pals how to correctly use the English language. The Kuwaiti students have some knowledge of English, but their primary language is Arabic. Bengtson's students also improved their reading, by reading aloud the letters they've received, and they've discovered they have much in common with other children, even though many miles separate them. V TEXAS STANDOFF Secessionist leader breaks off talks in Texas By The Associated Press FORT DAVIS, Texas — The leader of the holed-up Texas secessionists broke" off negotiations just when it seemed a surrender was in sight, a state official said Wednesday as the standoff in the mountains reached its fourth day. "For those of you who are not from Texas, we have a little expression here: 'Sometimes a wheel falls off.' Unfortunately, we've lost a wheel," said Mike Cox, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety. Meanwhile, seven men carrying Republic of Texas membership cards and a variety of weapons were arrested as they apparently headed to Fort Davis to join the armed standoff. And a sheriff said he thought more members of the secessionist group were on their way. An agreement with the Republic of Texas group to end the siege had been drafted Tuesday night, but no final deal was signed, Cox said. As of Wednesday evening, nothing had been heard from Richard McLaren, leader of the group, Cox said. "We don't like that. We don't want OKLAHOMA BOMBING TRIAL Fortier called drug-using, selfish liar Immediately after bombing, she stood by McVeigh; now she recounts how he planned to bomb federal building that," Cox said. "We'll be happy to talk with him some more. He knows how to get in touch with us." McLaren's attorney, Terry O'Rourke, told reporters Wednesday that he hadn't talked to his client since Tuesday night, but he believed the agreement was still intact. He said he had prepared documents that were to be delivered to McLaren's headquarters. By MICHAEL FLEEMAN The Associated Press Oklahoma - ^ omDing TRIAL. DENVER — The woman who testified Timothy McVeigh confided his plans to blow up the Oklahoma City federal building was portrayed Wednesday as a drug-using liar who changed her story to save her own skin and make a buck. In a persistent cross-examination of Lori Fortier, McVeigh attorney Stephen Jones sought not only to discredit one of the government's star witnesses but to suggest she shared blame in the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil. "If your testimony is accurate, all you had to do to prevent the deaths of 168 people was pick up a telephone?" Jones asked. "Yes," Lori Fortier responded. "And you did not do that, did you?" "No," she whispered. On Tuesday, she testified that six months before the bombing, McVeigh divulged plans, to blow up the building to avenge the deadly government siege at Waco, Texas. She said he even used soup cans to diagram how he would stack barrels of explosives in the back of a truck for maximum destruction. In his cross-examination, Jones suggested McVeigh was nothing more than a "Walter Mitty" — someone who merely fantasizes about grand schemes. The 24-year-old wife of one of McVeigh's Army buddies acknowledged in a soft voice that after the bombing she lied to friends, family and the FBI by saying she didn't think McVeigh was involved. Through his questions, Jones suggested that Lori Fortier and her husband, Michael Fortier, changed their stories after they learned co-defendant Terry Nichols was arrested and they feared they could be next. And only after she was promised immunity from prosecution did she start saying McVeigh divulged detailed plans for the bombing. Michael Fortier pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for his testimony and could get up to 23 years in prison. At Jones' request, Lori Fortier read aloud a news release she and her husband issued shortly after McVeigh's arrest, in which she says McVeigh was "crucified" by the media and that there's "no way that he was responsible for this crime." "You were not distancing yourself from Mr. McVeigh, were you?" Jones asked. "No," she said. McVeigh, who could get the death penalty if convicted of murder and conspiracy in the April 19,1995, bombing, stared intently at her, leaning back in his chair with his hands folded in front of him. Much of the attack on Fortier focused on her acknowledged drug use. She said she smoked pot and used methamphetamines, or speed, since she was a teen-ager, with her drug use accelerating in the weeks before the bombing. She admitted taking speed in the days prior to some of the most important dates of her testimony, including the days she says McVeigh revealed his bombing plans in the living room of the Fortiers' Kingman, Ariz., trailer. During a break, Nichols' attorney, Michael Tigar, held a news conference to belittle her testimony. He is not bound by the judge's gag order. "I'm informed that regular usage of methamphetamine doesn't do a great deal for your ability to perceive and remember things," Tigar said. Yet he held up that same testimony as exonerating his client. Lori Fortier had recalled McVeigh's statements that Nichols didn't want to be involved in the bombing.

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