In brief: Officers, crew leave stuck minesweeper
MANILA, Philippines – All 79 officers and crew of a U.S. Navy minesweeper stuck on a coral reef in the central Philippines have left the ship two days after efforts to free the vessel failed, the Navy said Saturday.
The ship ran aground Thursday while in transit through the Tubbataha National Marine Park, a coral sanctuary in the Sulu Sea, 400 miles southwest of Manila. There were no injuries or oil leaks, and Philippine authorities were trying to evaluate damage to the protected coral reef, designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet earlier on Friday said 72 of the crew of the USS Guardian were transferred for safety reasons to a military support vessel and a naval survey ship. The Navy said in a statement hours later that all 79 crew members had left the stricken ship and that other ships “remain on scene and essential Guardian sailors will continue conducting survey operations onboard the ship as needed until she is recovered.”
U.S. Navy ships have stepped up visits to Philippine ports as a result of a redeployment of U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific region.
Ex-minister admits sex with minors
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A former Gastonia pastor pleaded guilty on Friday to charges he had sex with two minors while in Haiti on a church mission.
Larry Michael Bollinger, 67, was indicted last May. He was accused of traveling to Haiti to engage in illicit sexual conduct with two minors. The girls were 11 and 12 years old, authorities have said.
Bollinger initially pleaded not guilty to the charges last May. But on Friday, he changed that plea.
He will be sentenced at a later date. Each of the sex charges is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
A Lutheran minister for 33 years, Bollinger was pastor at Christ’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Stanley when he and his wife left for Haiti to work with the Lazarus Project in 2004. A mostly Lutheran ministry, the Lazarus Project runs a vocational school and medical clinic in Haiti.
Stepmom guilty of dehydration death
DALLAS – A Dallas woman was convicted Friday in the dehydration death of her 10-year-old stepson who was denied water for days during record-high temperatures in north Texas.
Jurors deliberated more than two hours before finding Tina Marie Alberson, 44, guilty of reckless injury to a child, a second-degree felony, in the July 2011 death of Jonathan James. Alberson faces up to life in prison because of a previous felony conviction.
Testimony in the punishment phase of her trial began Friday afternoon, but jurors went home after deliberating for about an hour without reaching a decision about her sentence. The jury will resume deliberations Tuesday.
The boy’s fraternal twin brother, now 12, testified that Jonathan repeatedly asked for water and even pretended to use the bathroom in order to sneak a drink from the faucet before their stepmother ordered him out. Joseph James told jurors he was concerned for his brother’s health but was too afraid of Alberson to do anything.
The boy’s father, Michael Ray James, 43, is set for trial next month.
Marine base water contaminated in ’53
RALEIGH, N.C. – Many more Marines and their relatives could be eligible for compensation for illnesses because a federal agency determined that the water at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune was contaminated four years earlier than thought.
In a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs, a federal disease agency says computer modeling shows that drinking water in the residential Hadnot Point area was unsafe for human consumption as far back as 1953. President Barack Obama signed a law last year granting health care and screening to Marines and their dependents on base between 1957 and 1987.
Health officials believe as many as 1 million people may have been exposed to tainted water.