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Nation in brief: Motorist killed in parking garage

Fri., Dec. 7, 2007, midnight

A portion of parking deck at a busy shopping mall collapsed Thursday, and a motorist who may have triggered the accident by crashing into the structure died, police said.

The woman’s car crashed into the edge of the top level of the parking deck at SouthPark Mall, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police spokeswoman Julie Hill said. A small portion of the three-tier deck then collapsed, and the driver’s car fell through the opening.

The woman was pronounced dead at the scene. A police report identified her as Shirley Sutton Hawkins, 64; it did not say how she died.

Two cars under the collapsed concrete were destroyed, but authorities said there were no other injuries.

“I think it’s miraculous, quite honest,” Hill said.

Officials are investigating the cause.

Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Faulty gauges delay launch

NASA called off Thursday’s launch of space shuttle Atlantis after a pair of fuel gauges in its big external tank failed to work properly, a recurring problem ever since the Columbia disaster.

Shuttle managers said the next launch attempt would be no earlier than Saturday.

Preliminary indications were that the problem might be with an open circuit rather than the gauges themselves – perhaps a spliced line or bad connector – which would be easier to fix.

Mission managers met well into the evening, debating how best to proceed with the countdown. They decided to forgo a launch attempt today to give engineers more time to figure out what was wrong and resolve the trouble.

Quantico, Va.

Navy chaplain admits sex crimes

A Navy chaplain was sentenced to two years of confinement Thursday for exposing a fellow officer to HIV, forcing a midshipman to have oral sex and urging lower-ranking officers who sought his guidance to photograph him while he was naked.

Lt. Cmdr. John Thomas Matthew Lee, who had been stationed at the U.S. Naval Academy and Marine Corps Base Quantico, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, forcible sodomy, conduct unbecoming of an officer and misuse of government computers. He was sentenced to 12 years of confinement, all but two of which were suspended.

“I would like to apologize for all the harm I have done,” Lee, a 42-year-old Catholic priest, said at his court-martial in Quantico.

The prosecutor, Marine Corps Maj. Derek Brostek, said investigators discovered misconduct involving four victims over the past four years.

“His selfishness is so strong he was willing to destroy the lives of others to make himself happy,” Brostek said.

David Sheldon, one of Lee’s attorneys, said his client is grateful for the short sentence – he likely will serve 18 months – but is also remorseful.

“I think he recognizes that his breach of confidence as a chaplain is absolutely terrible and unforgivable,” Sheldon said


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