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National news briefs

Published April 2, 2013 10:04 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Ohioan who killed 6-month-old seeks mercy

Columbus, Ohio • Condemned killer Steven Smith's argument for mercy isn't an easy one. Smith acknowledges he intended to rape his girlfriend's 6-month-old daughter but says he never intended to kill the baby.

The girl, Autumn Carter, died because Smith was too drunk to realize his assault was killing her, Smith's attorneys argued in court filings with the Ohio Parole Board, which heard the case Tuesday. And Ohio law is clear, they say: A death sentence requires an intent to kill the victim.

"The evidence suggests that Autumn's death was a horrible accident," Smith's attorneys, Joseph Wilhelm and Tyson Fleming, said in a written argument prepared for the board. They continued: "Despite the shocking nature of this crime, Steve's death sentence should be commuted because genuine doubts exist whether he even committed a capital offense."

Smith, 46, was never charged with rape, meaning the jury's only choice was to convict or acquit him of aggravated murder, his attorneys say.

However, rape was included in the indictment against Smith as one of the factors making him eligible for the death penalty. Under Ohio law, an aggravated murder committed in the course of another crime — such as burglary, robbery, arson or the killing of a police officer or child — is an element that can make someone eligible for capital punishment.

'Monsignor meth' pleads guilty to charge

Hartford, Conn. • A suspended Roman Catholic priest accused of making more than $300,000 in methamphetamine sales out of his Connecticut apartment and running a sex toy and video shop has pleaded guilty to a federal drug charge.

Kevin Wallin of Waterbury pleaded guilty Tuesday in Hartford to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Wallin is scheduled to be sentenced June 25. The agreed-upon sentence is 11 to 14 years.

Prosecutors say the 61-year-old Wallin had meth mailed to him from California and sold the drugs out of his apartment last year. Authorities say he also owned an adult video and sex toy shop in North Haven.

Wallin resigned as pastor of St. Augustine Parish in Bridgeport in 2011, citing health and personal problems.

Possible human remains found in 9/11 debris

New York • The New York City medical examiner's office says two potential pieces of human remains have been found during the sifting of newly uncovered debris from the World Trade Center site.

The office says the discovery was made Monday.

About 60 truckloads of debris that could contain tiny human bone fragments have been unearthed by construction crews working on the new World Trade Center tower in recent years. That material is being transported to a park.

City officials say investigators will spend 10 weeks attempting to find remains. The city's last such effort ended in 2010.

Some 2,750 people died at the World Trade Center in the Sept. 11 attacks, but remains of only 1,634 people have been identified.

Jane Henson of Muppet fame dies of cancer

Los Angeles • The Jim Henson Co. says Henson's partner in marriage and Muppets has died.

The company says Jane Henson died Tuesday at her Connecticut home following a battle with cancer. She was 78.

She and Jim Henson met in a University of Maryland puppetry class in the mid-1950s, and they became creative and business partners in the development of the Muppets. The Hensons married in 1959 and had five children. The pair separated in 1986, and Jim Henson died in 1990.