Branstad Says Fuel-Tax Hike “Could be Considered” This Session

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — With time running out in this legislative session, Gov. Terry Branstad still isn’t ruling out the possibility of increasing the state fuel tax, though lawmakers seem less optimistic.  

Branstad told reporters this week that if the Legislature approves proposed cuts to the commercial property tax, then a fuel tax increase “could be considered.” For years, legislators have debated increasing Iowa’s fuel tax — currently 22 cents per gallon of gasoline, including fees — but they haven’t taken action. The tax has not gone up since 1989. A commission appointed by Branstad in 2011 recommended an increase of 8 to 10 cents to support the state network of bridges and roads, many of which are considered deteriorating or deficient. Continue Reading

Osage Teen Accused of Killing Mom to Go on Trial

CLARION, Iowa (AP) — Jury selection in the trial of a 14-year-old Osage boy accused of fatally shooting his mother is scheduled to begin this week.  

The Mason City Globe Gazette reports jury selection is expected to begin Tuesday in Wright County District Court in Clarion. The trial was moved to Wright County from Mitchell County. A judge granted a change of venue request late last year after the boy’s attorneys cited negative pretrial publicity. Authorities say the boy was 13 when he shot his mother with a rifle in March 2012 at the family’s rural home. Continue Reading

Mother of bomb suspects found deeper spirituality

In photos of her as a younger woman, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva wears a low-cut blouse and has her hair teased like a 1980s rock star. After she arrived in the U.S. from Russia in 2002, she went to beauty school and did facials at a suburban day spa. But in recent years, people noticed a change. She began wearing a hijab and cited conspiracy theories about 9/11 being a plot against Muslims. Now known as the angry and grieving mother of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, Tsarnaeva is drawing increased attention after federal officials say Russian authorities intercepted her phone calls, including one in which she vaguely discussed jihad with her elder son. In another, she was recorded talking to someone in southern Russia who is under FBI investigation in an unrelated case, U.S. officials said. Continue Reading

Michigan mother vanishes during late shift at gas station

Michigan police investigating the mysterious disappearance of a mother who works at a gas station are now calling it an abduction case, while her family is pleading for her return. Jessica Heeringa, 25, vanished Friday night around 11:15 p.m. during her late shift at the ExxonMobil gas station in Muskegon. Her purse, belongings and vehicle were left behind, and police were notified after a customer called 911 and said no employees were at the station, Fox 17 reports. “She’s a good mom. She loves her family…she wouldn’t just leave,” April Dyer, Heeringa’s future sister-in-law, told the station. Continue Reading

Hundreds of cell doors simultaneously unlock at Maryland jail, but no escapees

A computer glitch at a Maryland prison made hundreds of jail cell doors simultaneously unlock – but not a single inmate escaped. In two incidents on Saturday and Tuesday, a computer-controlled system in the Montgomery County Correctional Facility, which allows officers to unlock all cells in case of a fire, malfunctioned, Fox 5 reports. None of the 650 inmates at the jail ran out of their cells and there was no disturbance, authorities said. However, police officers in the region were called to surround the building in case of any emergency. Arthur Wallenstein, the county’s director of corrections, told Fox 5 that all the jail cells were later manually locked within an hour of the Saturday incident, but technicians have not been able to figure out the source of the computer glitch. Continue Reading

Man stabs 4 people at church in Albuquerque

Police say a 24-year-old man stabbed four people at a Catholic church in Albuquerque as a Sunday mass was nearing its end. Police spokesman Robert Gibbs says Lawrence Capener jumped over several pews at St. Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church around noon Sunday and walked up to the choir area where he began his attack. The injuries to the four church-goers weren’t life-threatening. All four were being treated at hospitals. Continue Reading

Driver charged in killing of Orthodox Jewish couple says 'accidents happen'

The hit-and-run ex-con charged with mowing down a young Orthodox Jewish couple in New York last month, killing them and their unborn child, said “accidents happen,” in his first remarks about that death-filled day. Julio Acevedo, 44, told WABC in a jailhouse interview he was deeply sorry, but insisted he was not speeding down a Brooklyn street, as alleged — and that the cabbie ferrying Nachman Glauber and his pregnant wife Raizy Glauber on March 3 ran a stop sign and thus deserves an equal measure of fault in the tragedy. “I can’t bring ’em back; it was an accident,” Julio Acevedo reportedly said, “I apologize deeply.” “I’m made out to be the monster in all this . . Continue Reading

Russia caught bomb suspect on wiretap

Russian authorities secretly recorded a telephone conversation in 2011 in which one of the Boston bombing suspects vaguely discussed jihad with his mother, officials said Saturday, days after the U.S. government finally received details about the call. In another conversation, the mother of now-dead bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was recorded talking to someone in southern Russia who is under FBI investigation in an unrelated case, officials said. The conversations are significant because, had they been revealed earlier, they might have been enough evidence for the FBI to initiate a more thorough investigation of the Tsarnaev family. As it was, Russian authorities told the FBI only that they had concerns that Tamerlan and his mother were religious extremists. With no additional information, the FBI conducted a limited inquiry and closed the case in June 2011. Continue Reading

Fatal stabbing of girl, 9, prompts Northern California manhunt

The Calaveras County Sheriff’s office says early Sunday that authorities are still searching for an intruder who killed a 9-year-old girl at her house. The Sheriff’s office says that the man was considered armed and dangerous, and authorities are warning residents in the Northern California town of Valley Springs to lock their doors. The office on Saturday declined to release details on the slaying. KCRA-TV says the victim’s 12-year-old brother encountered an intruder in his home and saw the man run away. The boy went to check on his sister and found she had been stabbed. Continue Reading