Nation digest 08/06/03

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Maintenance blamed for fatal Amtrak crash

WASHINGTON -- Poor track maintenance caused the fatal crash of the Amtrak Auto Train in Florida last year, federal investigators said Tuesday.

The National Transportation Safety Board unanimously approved a report saying the track's owners, CSX Transportation, did not ensure the track was properly aligned and had adequate supports.

The train was headed north when it derailed near Crescent City, Fla., shortly after 5 p.m. on April 18, 2002. Twenty-one of 40 cars left the track. Four people were killed and 36 seriously injured.

After the wreck, the train's engineer told investigators he had seen a misalignment of the track just ahead and was trying to apply the brakes when the force of the derailment threw him against the wall.

Bunker where rapist held women is destroyed

DEWITT, N.Y. -- The backyard bunker where a serial rapist kept five women and girls as his sex slaves over a 15-year period was demolished Tuesday.

Destruction of the two underground rooms, at the defendant's expense, was part of the plea agreement under which 68-year-old John Jamelske was sentenced last month to 18 years to life in prison.

"The demolition is out of the ordinary, but it's not a typical crime scene," said prosecutor William Fitzpatrick.

At his sentencing, Jamelske admitted keeping five people as sex slaves from 1988 to 2003 in the concrete bunker he built behind his home. His victims were held captive for periods ranging from two months to three years.

Judge rules against Alabama monument

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the chief justice of Alabama's Supreme Court to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state's Judicial Building within 15 days.

The federal judge, who has ruled the 5,300-pound monument violates the constitutional ban on government promotion of religion, lifted a stay he had previously issued while Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore appealed.

Moore, whose stand was rejected by an appeals court, has said he will turn next to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Thompson's order Tuesday said the monument could remain in a private area, such as Moore's chambers.

Half a million dollars stolen, then recovered

CROSS LANES, W.Va. -- More than half a million dollars was stolen early Tuesday from a Powerball winner's vehicle parked outside a strip club, but the money was recovered, a sheriff's deputy said.

Someone broke a window in Jack Whittaker's vehicle around 2:30 a.m. and took a briefcase containing $245,000 in cash and three blank $100,000 cashier's checks, Kanawha County Sheriff's chief deputy Phil Morris said.

The briefcase, cash and checks were later found near a trash bin on the property.

Whittaker claimed a $113 million cash option after winning a record $314.9 million Powerball jackpot on Christmas.

-- From wire reports

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