National Roundup

Man convicted in wife's killing to be sentenced
SCOTTSBORO, Ala. (AP) - An Alabama preacher's son and convicted felon who lived in a remote, mountainside cabin was set to be sentenced Thursday for the 1997 slaying of his first wife, whose death came a decade before his second wife and stepdaughter disappeared never to be seen again.

Barry Whitton, 46, was due in court before Jackson County Circuit Judge John Graham. He faced a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Charged earlier this year after an 18-year investigation, Whitton was convicted of murder in September in the death of Michelle Whitton. Evidence showed she was killed by a blow to the head. Her body was found in 1998 under sticks and rocks on a craggy hillside in DeKalb County in northeastern Alabama.

Whitton later remarried, and wife Kimberly Whitton and her 11-year-old daughter Haleigh Culwell went missing in 2007. Dozens of officers spent days searching for signs of the two on the property where they lived with Whitton in a rough log home on Sand Mountain.

Investigators at the time said Whitton was a suspect, but no remains were ever found and Whitton wasn't charged in the disappearances.

Investigators did find five firearms during the search of the Whittons' secluded cabin and acreage where they kept goats, milk cows and bulls, however. Having served time for receiving stolen property in 1988 and 1991, Whitton was arrested and pleaded guilty to a charge of a felon possessing firearms.

During a hearing where a judge sentenced Whitton to 10 years on the gun charges, authorities depicted the man as a menace: Authorities said Whitton talked in a secret jailhouse recording about ways to skin and mutilate people and their animals; how to remove hands from arms; how to smash a skull and teeth and scatter the bits along the interstate and how to feed body parts to pigs.

Whitton was still serving his federal sentence when he was charged with Michelle Whitton's slaying in December. Evidence during his two-week trial shed no light on the whereabouts of his second wife and stepdaughter.

Whitton still faces charges of witness intimidation and criminal coercion after allegedly contacting potential witnesses in his murder trial. In July, he was charged with promoting prison contraband amid allegations officers found potential escape tools in his jail cell in Jackson County.

Whitton pleaded not guilty to all those charges.

New York
Aunt: Was 'never comfortable' with suing nephew
NEW YORK (AP) - The New York City woman vilified for suing her 12-year-old nephew over a broken wrist she suffered when he jumped in her arms to greet her four years ago said Thursday she was "never comfortable" with the lawsuit.

Jennifer Connell appeared on NBC's "Today" show along with her nephew, Sean Tarala. She said she wanted her nephew's parents' homeowners insurance to pay her medical bills, but under Connecticut law she could only sue an individual.

"An individual has to be named, and in this case, because Sean and I had this fall together, I was informed that Sean had to be named. I was never comfortable with that," Connell said.

A jury this week rejected Connell's $127,000 suit.

Connell said she broke her wrist when the boy jumped into her arms at his 8th-birthday party at his family's home in Westport, Connecticut, causing her to fall. Her attorneys say she filed suit after her nephew's parents' insurance company offered her $1 over the accident.

Connell said she was shocked by the backlash, which included her vilification on social media as a terrible aunt, the most hated woman in America and an awful human being.

Police arrest man found living in church attic

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) - Police say a man who had been living in the attic of a Virginia church for three years has been arrested.

Arlington County Police say 42-year-old William Barker was arrested Monday and charged with unlawful entry. They say he had been sleeping in a makeshift bed inside the attic at the Saint Ann Roman Catholic Church in Arlington. Authorities say they also found food, water, a guitar and clothing in the room.

Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck says Barker's room was discovered after someone working in maintenance repair heard noises from above in the kitchen area.

Police say Barker told officers that he would use a ladder to sneak up to the attic.

State, feds won't pursue $92M in Exxon Valdez spill

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The state and federal governments have decided not to pursue $92 million in additional damages from Exxon Mobil Corp., citing the recovery of ducks and sea otters in Alaska's Prince William Sound following a devastating oil spill more than two decades ago.

In a court filing made on Wednesday, government attorneys said patches of lingering oil that remain can no longer be considered an impediment to the recovery of sea otters or harlequin ducks or a significant ongoing threat to their now-restored populations in the area affected by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

The filing came ahead of a scheduled status hearing in federal court in Anchorage on Thursday.

Lawsuits brought against Exxon by the governments after the spill led to a $900 million settlement and a consent decree that resolved claims related to natural-resource damages. The decree included a so-called "reopener" clause that allowed for the governments to seek additional funds for restoration projects.

In 2006, near the end of the period in which the clause could be invoked, the governments demanded $92 million from Exxon based on the preliminary cost of implementing a plan to address lingering oil. But they never asked a judge to enforce the claim.

Ultimately, money from the original settlement was used for studies on lingering oil and measures to make it non-toxic, the state Department of Law said.

Wildlife monitoring showed the ducks and otters that appeared vulnerable to lingering oil in 2006 have recovered to pre-spill population levels, and officials concluded the legal requirements for pursuing a claim under the clause were no longer met, the department said in a news release.

The recovery of the otters and ducks, among other reasons, "has negated the claim that the patches of lingering oil in some Spill area beaches amount to a 'substantial loss or substantial decline' in a population, habitat, or species within the meaning of the Reopener," the court filing stated.

More than $200 million in settlement funds remain that could be used to address lingering oil and other restoration work, the filing states.

John Cruden, an assistant attorney general with the U.S. Justice Department, said the reopener clause set a high bar for recovery of additional damages.

Published: Fri, Oct 16, 2015