Region Briefs

August 12, 2009

2 mids report assaults during training assignments

Two female U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen have reported being sexually assaulted while away on summer training assignments. The Navy Criminal Investigative Service is investigating both cases. No charges have been filed. An academy spokesman, Cmdr. Joe Carpenter, said one case involves a sophomore who made the report in June in Norfolk, Va. Carpenter said the accused isn't a midshipman. In the other case, Carpenter said, a junior reported being sexually assaulted in July. Carpenter declined to disclose other details in that case. However, he said the alleged assault didn't occur in Annapolis, home to the academy. Carpenter said that in a third case, civilian authorities in July charged a sailor assigned to the academy with sexual assault involving a civilian.

- Associated Press

DNA evidence clears man of rape charge

A man accused of raping a Charles Village woman at gunpoint, and suspected of committing similar attacks, was excluded as a suspect by DNA evidence, according to the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office, which dropped all charges against Marlow Humbert late last month after receiving an evidence report. Humbert, whose trial was scheduled to begin today, could not be reached, nor could his public defender. The 45-year-old Baltimore man, who was arrested after an intense manhunt, was charged with 11 counts, including rape, assault, armed robbery and using a handgun in a violent crime. His photo was featured on a "wanted" poster distributed throughout the community describing him as armed and dangerous. According to charging documents, Humbert was identified from a photo lineup by the 27-year-old victim, who was followed home by her masked attacker.

- Tricia Bishop

W.Va. chemical plant agrees to curb mercury emissions

A West Virginia chemical plant has agreed to reduce toxic mercury emissions that have been drifting into Western Maryland, state Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler announced Tuesday. PPG Industries Inc. reached a settlement with Maryland that pledges to curb mercury emissions from its chlorine manufacturing facility in Natrium by 87.5 percent from 2004 levels over the next four years, even though there are no regulatory limits now in effect. The company pledged to pay up to $240,000 a year in penalties if it exceeds limits set in the agreement. Mercury can cause brain and nervous system damage and other health problems. Emissions from the plant 72 miles from the Maryland border are carried into the state by prevailing winds. Fish in Western Maryland lakes and reservoirs have unsafe levels of mercury in their tissue, Gansler said. The PPG plant is one of four chlorine manufacturing facilities in the country still using an outdated process that releases mercury into the air. Under the agreement, PPG has said its goal is to replace that with a mercury-free process.

- Timothy B. Wheeler

Historic Bel Air bridge to close, be preserved

A piece of Harford County history will be lost - for the time being, anyway - when the county's department of public works shuts down the Watervale Road bridge today. The steel-frame structure, part of a one-mile stretch that connects North Tollgate Road in Bel Air to Old Fallston Road, is believed to be more than 100 years old. Engineers who recently discovered deterioration in the decking decided it needed to be replaced. Robert Thomas, a spokesman for the county executive, said the bridge was originally built to handle just one lane of traffic, and that increasing traffic flow stemming from population growth in Harford County hastened its demise. "The bridge can't hold heavy vehicles, including fire apparatus," Thomas said. Engineers will replace the span with a one-lane temporary structure that will open in 90 days. Work to replace the temporary bridge with a permanent two-lane span will begin sometime in 2011. Officials said those who use the bridge should consider an alternative route beginning at 10 a.m. The current bridge will be preserved, however, and made available for pedestrian use at an as-yet undisclosed location in the county. "We plan to maintain a historic bridge that can be maintained by the public," Thomas said.

- Jonathan Pitts

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