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Altoona Mirror: Thursday, May 10, 2001 - Page 1

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   Altoona Mirror (Newspaper) - May 10, 2001, Altoona, Pennsylvania                                Sports: ADs encouraged after Mid-Penn meeting Life: Westsylvania Arts and Heritage Festival set Dl Altmma Utrror Copyright 2001 THURSDAY, MAY 10, 2001 500 newsstand Two more arrested in Blair murder Custer Speicher BY TIFFANY SHAW Staff Writer HOLLIDAYSBURG State police Wednesday arrested a Somerset County couple who investigators said are the last people involved in the murder of a young Blair County woman this week. Amanda B. Speicher, 20, 637 Kircher Place, Boswell, and Scott A. Custer, 23, 641 Kircher Place, Boswell, were arraigned late Wednesday night by District Justice Elizabeth Doyle. They are charged in connection with the death of Shari Lee Jackson, whose body was found early Sunday morning along Janesville Pike in Snyder Township. Jackson was beaten with a baseball bat then had her throat slit before her body was set on fire several hours later, the Blair County coroner ruled. Speicher is charged with criminal con- spiracy to hinder apprehension or prosecu- tion. She was trying to meet a percentage of bond Wednesday night. Custer is charged with abuse of a corpse, hindering apprehension or prosecution and criminal conspiracy to hinder apprehen- sion. He was committed to Blair County Prison in lieu of bond. On Monday, Kristen Edmundson, 20, of Duncansville and Marie Seilhamer, 19, of Ashville were charged with the murder less than 24 hours after the discovery of Jackson's body. Edmundson later admitted that Speich'er played a part in help jig her cover the body while Custer set it on fire, state police Sgt. Tim Mercer said. Please see A3 OXYCONTIN MISUSE Action against abuse Drug maker tries to stop painkiller problem with plan BY TIFFANY SHAW Staff Writer The manufacturer of a prescription drug popular with local abusers is trying a nationwide program of education and pre- vention to help stop the drug's misuse. OxyContin grabbed local attention several years ago when heroin users discovered ways to use the synthetic morphine drug to gain a similar high. The time-release drug was devel- oped by doctors for pain sufferers with chronic medical problems and is extremely'safe when used properly, according to its maker. While local drug task forces are battling OxyContin abusers, the drug's maker, Purdue Pharma, said it's fighting to stop the problem. Officials from the pharmaceutical company and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration met in March to discuss the abuse and diversion of OxyContin. The company outlined an extensive program of educational ideas and started a 10-point plan io reduce abuse. The drug is being abused in specific areas across the country, investigators said, includ- ing Blair and Cambria counties. Executives from Purdue Pharma sat down last month with members of Attorney General Mike Fisher's staff and talked about the prob- lem in Pennsylvania. Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, has developed a 10-step strategy to stop abuse of the drug: i- Mail educational brochures to more than 400.000 physicians and 60.000 pharmacists on ways to prevent drug diversion; f" Distribute tamper-resistant prescription pads to doctors in Maine, Virginia and Alabama and eventually other states, J- Sponsor more than 300 continuing medical education pro- grams for health-care professionals to teach pain manage- ment, appropriate uses of pain medication and techniques to prevent people from illegally obtaining controlled substances; T. Change packing on products shipped to Mexico and Canada, making it easier for law enforcement to identify illegal reimpor- tation of the drug across the borders; 3. Produce radio ads targeting teen-agers in six states about the dangers of drug abuse; 10, Sponsor education programs for law enforcement fo combat prescription drug abuse; Identify the 100 counties in the United States where abuse ol OxyContin exists; Develop a curriculum to retrain 180 sales people to work with health-care providers to prevent the spread of drug diversion and abuse in those counties; Provide placebos lo law enforcement for "buy and bust" operations in areas of heavy drug abuse; Underwrite a study of state prescription monitoring programs to develop a national program that would prevent drug abusers Irorn "doctor shopping" in an effort to get more prescriptions for drugs. Please see A6 Woman blames daughter's beau for overdose that killed her child Mirror graphic by Tom Worthington Sipes BY PHIL RAY Staff Writer Thelma McConnell lost her daughter, Bobbie Jo, to a fatal dose of OxyContin earlier this year. She thinks her daughter's boyfriend provided the drug and should be charged with murder or manslaughter. Thelma McConnell is learning, however, that the justice system in such cases is not as open and shut as a grieving mother might like it to be. Police and Blair County District Attorney Dave Gorman said their investigation into the death is ongoing, and there are many complex factors involved in deciding what charges, if any, will be filed. The boyfriend, Michael Colbert, 37, called Bobbie Jo's death "a terrible, horrible accident." He said he had nothing to do with her death. Please see A6 B. McConnell Unions, Pa. want workers covered Petition demands that Norfolk Southern compensate car shop workers if the facility closes. BY JAY YOUNG Staff Writer If the federal government doesn't direct Norfolk Southern Corp. to continue to operate and invest in the Hollidaysburg Car Shop, then workers should be offered wages and benefits as if they were dismissed, attorneys for rail unions and the state of Pennsylvania stated in a filing Wednesday. The union seeks to have provisions of the New York Dock imposed on Norfolk Southern, even if the railroad offers jobs to car shop workers 'in other locations. The dock agreement provides up to six years of pay and benefits for rail workers who lose their jobs and are not offered positions elsewhere as a result of mergers. The payment proposal was offered in the latest in a series of filings with the federal Surface Transportation Board in Washington, D.C. The board is considering a request by the Transportation Workers Union and the state'to force Norfolk Southern to keep the car shop open. The railroad has said it will close the facility on or about Sept. 1. The STB is an independent regulato- ry agency with authority over railroads. Norfolk Southern spokesman Rudy Husband, contacted Wednesday evening in Virginia where he is attending the company's annual shareholders meeting, said he couldn't comment on the most recent union response because the company hadn't received a copy of it. If the STB doesn't force Norfolk Southern to con- tinue operating the shop as the union says the rail- road promised to do during the 1998 breakup of Conrail, then the federal government shouldn't allow Norfolk Southern "to walk away from its commitments without consequence and without recompense for the members of the unions and the Altoona communities." Please see A9 Cast votes carefully, election officials say BY ROBERT IGOE StaffWriter HOLLIDAYSBURG With just days left before the special election to fill the vacant 9th Congressional District seat and the spring prima- ry election, Blair County Bureau of Elections officials are reminding voters to mark their ballots care- fully to ensure an accurate count. "The voters need to accept some responsibility when they go to the Elections Director Janice Blair said. "They should read the directions carefully and ask ques- tions if they don't understand some- thing. That's why we're here." Blair County uses the same punch card system that was used in Florida during the hotly contest- ed presidential elections last year, but Blair said the system is not to blame. "Please do not compare what hap- pened in Florida with what hap- pens she said. "We do not have those problems here. Our elec- tions have always run smoothly." Voters simply should run their hands along the back of the ballot when finished to clear any hang- ing chads, but Blair said that when done properly, the ballots should have no problems. Please see AS Smart STARTING FRIDAY It's one of the basic freedoms that our country was founded upon, yet many people don't participate in this rite of democracy or fully understand the j process. It's voting. r Beginning Friday, Mirror Staff Writer Robert Igoe begins a five-part series on Voting 101. He'll touch upon how a person becomes a candidate, how the ballot for an election is developed, what those poll workers do and what happens after you cast your ballot. Look for it beginning Friday and continuing until Election Day in the Mirror. Shooting spree suspect convicted of killing five BY JEFFREY BAIR The Associated Press PITTSBURGH A jury took less than three hours Wednesday to find Richard Baumham- mers guilty of five counts of first-degree murder in a racially motivated shooting spree. Baumhammers a white, 35-year-old nonprac- ticing immigration attorney also was convict- ed of eight counts of ethnic intimidation in the April rampage that killed five and left a man paralyzed. Baumhammers stood and dis- played no emotion as a juror read the verdict in Allegheny County Court. "No comment how. No comment later. No com- ment, said Baumhammers' father, Dr. Andrejs Baumhammers. Baumhammers killed his Jewish neighbor, two Asian men, an Indian man and a black man as he fanned northwest in his black Jeep from his subur- ban Pittsburgh home. Another man of Indian descent was criti- cally wounded. Baumhammers started read- ing racist and anti-immigration Baumhammers literature in 1999 and saw him- self becoming as well-known as Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and Adolf Hitler, pros- ecutor Edward Borkowski said in closing argu- ments earlier Wednesday. Please see AID oeuvDrr Subscription or home delivery questions: 946-7480 or (800) 287-4480 mnut 1 0 I Lottery numbers, A2 WEAIMU Mostly sunny, Forecast, A2 Altnnna iHtrror Call us today...Make money today. Ask for GREAT COMBINATION of Ml HUGH CLASSIFIEDS and HOT-ADS Phone (814) 946-7422 or fax us at (814) 946-7547 QLOCM. Business Hospitals Obituaries Opinion A9 All All AS Comics C4 Classifieds CS-12 Local B4 Scoreboard B5 [jure Movies Night Life Planner Television D3 D4 D2 IN NATION Nurses brought hundreds oi well-worn shoes and lined them alonn the steps of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday to dramatize the growing shortage in their ranks. PAGEC1   

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