Girder falls onto I-70 near Denver, killing three in crushed SUV

Golden, Colo.

A 40-ton steel girder dropped from a freeway overpass construction site into morning traffic on Saturday, crushing one car and killing three people west of Denver.

The 100-foot-long girder sagged across three lanes of Interstate 70, shearing off the top of an SUV that was carrying a man, a woman and a young girl, said State Patrol Master Trooper Ron Watkins.

All three were killed but no other vehicles were involved in the accident, which occurred shortly after 10 a.m., Watkins said. The site is 10 miles west of downtown Denver.

The cause was not immediately known, but U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez said investigators were looking into the possibility of “criminal tampering.” He did not elaborate.

A caller to radio station KOA described seeing a blue Dodge SUV cut in half.

The girder was put up Tuesday as crews were adding a lane to a bridge carrying Colorado 470 over I-70 .

Schemer skips court to play poker

Toms River, N.J. A man scheduled to be sentenced for masterminding an illegal million-dollar investment scheme went to Las Vegas instead to play poker.

Superior Court Judge James N. Citta issued a bench warrant Friday for the arrest Brian Strahl, 29, of Staten Island, N.Y. Citta called Strahl “a degenerate gambler.”

Strahl was scheduled to be sentenced Friday, but faxed Citta from Las Vegas to say he was playing in the World Series of Poker to win money to make restitution to his victims. The letter said he had made $5,000 so far.

Strahl’s lawyer, Michael Chazen, told the Asbury Park Press of Neptune that his client attempted to return from Las Vegas on Friday, but misplaced his ID and was not allowed on his flight.

In the letter Strahl faxed to Citta, he said he planned to take a train that would arrive on the East Coast on Monday.

Strahl pleaded guilty last year to money laundering and admitted he and a co-defendant solicited investments in a nonexistent company.

Investors were bilked out of $1.8 million.

Trio convicted of paying for votes

Statesville, N.C.

Three men have been convicted on charges they bought votes for the November 2002 election in Caldwell County.

A federal jury determined Friday that Wayne Shatley, Carlos Hood and Ross Banner conspired to pay voters to register and vote with the purpose of securing the elections of Republican candidates. Sisters Anita and Valerie Moore pleaded guilty earlier in the year and testified against the men.

Prosecution witnesses testified they were paid $25 to vote for Sheriff Gary Clark or a straight Republican ticket and $10 to register to vote.

Clark, who won the election, has said the defendants had nothing to do with his campaign.

All three men are free on $25,000 bond. Sentencing could take a few months.

Shatley could receive as many as 20 years in prison. Hood faces up to 10 years and Banner up to 15 years, said Suellen Pierce, spokeswoman for the office of the U.S. Attorney of the Western District of North Carolina.


Finger found beside jaguar exhibit

Albuquerque A finger was found outside the jaguar exhibit at the Rio Grande Zoo a day after a groundskeeper spotted a frequent visitor running out with blood on his pants.

The man ran into a bathroom at the zoo Tuesday, said Director Ray Darnell. The groundskeeper followed the man and asked if he was OK, but the man turned and ran out of the zoo.

The finger found “was pretty dried up. It looks like a Halloween prop,” said Rick Janser, mammal curator.

The man believed to be injured is in his 50s and is known to them as one of about 15 or so people who visit the zoo every day.

He has a New Mexico Zoological Society pass, which enabled zoo officials to call him.

“Are you missing any fingers?” the man was asked.

“Oh no, there’s nothing wrong with me, you have the wrong guy,” the man responded, according to Darnell.

Some people visit the zoo every day and devote themselves to particular animals, Darnell and Janser said.

“About two weeks ago we found some food in the cat exhibits that we didn’t give. We increased watching but never saw anyone going over the rail,” Darnell said.

The man who said he didn’t lose his fingers was seemingly entranced with the cats and particularly with Manchas, the jaguar, Janser said.

“He’d be seen talking to him, sitting in front of his exhibit” every day for nearly two years – except this Wednesday and Thursday, Janser said.

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