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Wednesday, August 12, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Compiled from wire reports The Spokesman-Review

Wiring at pot operation caused fatal blaze

Philadelphia A house blaze that killed two firefighters started in a tangle of wires and lamps that were installed to grow marijuana in a basement closet, authorities said.

The man who police say was responsible for the drug operation was charged with third-degree murder.

Fire Capt. John Taylor, 53, and firefighter Rey Rubio, 42, died Friday when they became trapped in the basement of the row house by quick-moving flames.

Officials said the two were trying to find the source of the fire when Taylor triggered a distress button on his radio. But rescuers could not get to them in time.

Officials said the fire started in the wiring set up to run the lamps and fans used to nurture the plants, and spread quickly because the hot lights had dried out the wood in the closet.

Daniel Brough, 35, also faces charges of marijuana possession, involuntary manslaughter and causing a catastrophe.

Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham called Brough “reckless,” “foolish” and “greedy.”

Taylor, a 32-year veteran of the department, and Rubio, who had been fighting fires for 12 years, appeared to have died of smoke inhalation, officials said.

Man high on coke dies after bizarre rampage

Lowell, Mass. A man apparently on a cocaine binge died after he stripped naked, ran through a restaurant stabbing himself with a pen and tried to electrocute himself during a violent struggle with police.

“Apparently, there was a witness, a girlfriend, who has indicated to us that he took cocaine intravenously, and this may have created this bizarre behavior,” said police Deputy Superintendent Kenneth Lavallee.

Richard Wheeler, 33, of Lowell, went into the DoubleTree Hotel early Friday, grabbed a pen from the front desk and ran into the restaurant, said Verdell Ekberg, spokesman for DoubleTree’s parent company, Procaccianti Group of Providence.

“He was hurting himself, stabbing himself with the pen,” Ekberg told the Sun of Lowell. He said Wheeler was not a hotel guest.

When police arrived, Wheeler – who had stripped naked – attacked the officers.

During a struggle in the restaurant kitchen, Wheeler tried to grab the officers’ guns, threw a coffee carafe at an officer and urged police to shoot him. He also tried to stick his fingers in electrical sockets, police said.

“They attempted to restrain him as best they could,” Lavallee said. “They were able to do that, but it was after some time and a protracted struggle with this gentleman.”

He was taken, screaming and thrashing, to Saints Memorial Medical Center, where he later died.

An autopsy report was awaiting toxicology test results, but the death did not appear to be a homicide, said Melissa Sherman, spokeswoman for District Attorney Martha Coakley.

Three officers were injured, Lavallee said.

Mom allegedly killed tot, then collected benefits

New York A woman killed her 1-year-old son and dumped his body in the trash in 2000, then collected welfare benefits for him for years, authorities charged Friday.

Diatra Hester-Bey, 33, was ordered held without bail on charges of second-degree murder in the infant’s death at a homeless shelter four and a half years ago.

Hester-Bey held her son, Devon Rivers, “with his face down in the pillow until he stopped breathing,” a criminal complaint said. She allegedly told investigators she was frustrated by the child’s constant crying.

By her own account, the suspect wrapped the boy’s body in a blanket, put him in a stroller and went by subway to a trash bin in another neighborhood, prosecutors said. A body was never recovered.

The mother was arrested Thursday after police responded to reports of a dispute at her Brooklyn home. While questioning her and her boyfriend, the boyfriend claimed she had killed the youngest of her six children.

The woman first denied the allegation, saying that the child lived with his biological father. Investigators contacted the man, who said he hadn’t seen his son in a long time, prosecutors said.

Half-ton boulder crashes into house, killing boy

Appalachia, Va. A half-ton boulder crashed into a house, killing a 3-year-old boy as he slept in his bedroom, and state mining officials are trying to find out how it became dislodged.

The boulder rolled through the wall of Jeremy Kyle Davidson’s bedroom in the Jefferson National Forest early Friday, sheriff’s officials said.

The big rock then barreled into Jeremy’s brother’s bedroom, but he was not hurt.

Mining company A&G Coal Corp. is building a road near a strip mine nearby, but the state Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy ruled out the possibility the boulder came loose during blasting.

Officials evacuated two other homes in the area until loose rocks and other debris could be removed.

The boy’s death remained under investigation.

Woman sent to prison for theft from public TV

Chicago A former employee was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison for stealing more than $500,000 from public broadcasting station WTTW-TV.

Fe Corizon Cruz-Fabunan, 52, agreed to use funds from a retirement account to pay back $370,000, said Tom Stanton, spokesman for the state attorney’s office.

WTTW officials said an accountant found “loose ends” in records that pointed to a theft. The station then hired the accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers to expand the probe to see whether more money was missing.

In July, Cruz-Fabunan admitted to one count of theft of more than $100,000. Prosecutors dropped additional charges of theft and forgery in a plea agreement.

Cruz-Fabunan worked as an accounts-payable manager at the public television station for about three decades. Investigators said she stole the money between July 1999 and January 2003.

Boxes of guns seized from black marketers

Miami Boxes of guns fell from the false ceiling of a storage unit, crashed into a toilet and ruptured a water pipe, leading authorities to uncover an alleged plot to sell the weapons to arm opposing sides in Colombia’s civil war.

Five defendants from Miami-Dade County pleaded innocent Thursday to charges of firearms sales and exports to Venezuela, where prosecutors say the weapons were to be sold to left-wing Colombian rebels and right-wing paramilitary groups. A sixth defendant, from Homestead, is a fugitive.

Investigators confiscated 55 firearms, including 20 automatic guns, 19 rifles and nine handguns, from the storage unit. They also seized more than 206,000 rounds of ammunition.

Authorities say the motive of the alleged conspiracy was profits, not politics. “They were essentially preparing to arm an army,” U.S. Attorney Marcos Jimenez said.

The alleged conspiracy was discovered June 12, when tenants using a garage-bay storage space noticed water leaking into their units from a neighboring space. They broke in and found the damaged toilet and the guns.

Authorities said they discovered more weapons caches in warehouses, shipping containers and a Homestead home, and set up a phony arms shipment last month.

Champion eater downs 38 lobsters for victory

Kennebunk, Maine America’s top speed-eater wolfed down 38 lobsters in 12 minutes Saturday to win the World Lobster Eating Contest.

Sonya Thomas, of Alexandria, Va., won $500 and a trophy belt for her efforts, consuming 9.76 pounds of lobster meat.

Each contestant had a partner cracking the shells and pulling out the meat. Eleven competitors ate as many lobsters as they could in a 12-minute period, devouring a total of 300 pounds.

“I have a natural ability because of my stomach capacity,” said Thomas, who weighs a mere 105 pounds. “I could eat more, but something else – not a lobster.”

This year’s competition at the Pilot House Grill & Boatyard was sanctioned by the International Federation of Competitive Eating, which ranked Thomas the country’s top speed-eater.

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