Tuesday December 11, 2012

Murder-for-hire suspect to face charges in N.M.

MONTPELIER (AP) -- One of two New Mexico men who authorities say traveled to Vermont to murder two people has waived extradition and will be returned to New Mexico.

Forty-one-year-old Mark Staake is facing a fugitive from justice charge.

Police say Staake and his 23-year-old nephew, Tanner Ruane, were arrested in November at the U.S.-Canadian border in Highgate.

Ruane was initially released but arrested the following day in New York after authorities learned he was wanted for conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.

A New Mexico police affidavit says Dana Martin, a Vermont man serving a life sentence in New Mexico, sent Staake and Ruane to Vermont to kill two men. But police say Martin, who was convicted in the 2000 slaying of a 15-year-old girl in Barre, later notified authorities about the plot.

St. Albans police search for robbers of store

ST. ALBANS (AP) -- Vermont police are searching for a man and woman suspected of robbing a St. Albans convenience store and the female suspect is alleged to have brandished a knife.

St. Albans police say they were called to South Main Grocery just before 9 p.m. Sunday.

Police say the male and female suspects entered the store and placed a note on the counter while the female showed a knife.

The two took money from the cash register.

The female is described as heavy-set, 5-foot-4 to 5-foot 6. The male is described as 5-foot-10 to 6-feet tall with a medium build.

The suspects fled on foot.

Funeral set for Mechanicville Marine killed in Afghanistan

MECHANICVILLE, N.Y. (AP) -- The casket of an upstate New York Marine killed in Afghanistan has been escorted to his hometown by a procession of police cars, fire trucks and motorcycles.

The body of 26-year-old Lance Cpl. Anthony Denier arrived at Albany International Airport late Monday morning. A somber procession escorted his body 15 miles to his hometown, where his funeral will be held Tuesday morning.

Denier will be buried with full military honors at the Gerald Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery.

The Pentagon says Denier died Dec. 2 after getting hit by enemy fire while fighting in Afghanistan's Helmand province.

Hannaford Supermarkets names new president

SCARBOROUGH, Maine (AP) -- The Maine-based Hannaford Supermarkets chain has a new president.

The company announced Monday that Brad Wise is taking over the position. Wise has been with Hannaford since 1985, and most recently was senior vice president of human resources for Delhaize America, Hannaford's Belgium-based parent company.

Wise replaces Beth Newlands Campbell, who is becoming president of the Food Lion supermarket chain, another Delhaize America property based in Salisbury, N.C.

Hannaford Supermarkets, based in Scarborough, operates 181 stores in Maine, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.

4 defendants in UMass rape case in court

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (AP) -- Four teenagers accused of raping a University of Massachusetts student in her Amherst dorm room in October have pleaded not guilty in Hampshire Superior Court.

Justin King, Adam Liccardi and Emmanuel Bile, all 18 and from Pittsfield, and 17-year-old Caleb Womack of Windsor Locks, Conn., were arraigned Monday on aggravated rape charges. They had pleaded not guilty earlier in district court, and had been indicted by a grand jury last week.

The judge continued the same bail and conditions imposed earlier. All four have posted bail. They are to return to court March 19.

None of the defendants is a UMass student.

Authorities say the woman knew the teens, but asked that they not visit. They were signed into the dorm by another student.

The suspects' lawyers have said the sex was consensual.

Open tolling system eyed for Mass. turnpike

BOSTON (AP) -- Motorists would no longer have to stop or even slow down to pay their tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike under a $100 million plan being considered by Gov. Deval Patrick's administration. 

The state hopes to phase out most or all toll booths and replace them by 2015 with a system that automatically tolls drivers as they exit the highway or pass through major interchanges, Patrick and state transportation officials said Monday.

The governor confirmed to reporters that the tolling plan is being assembled but key details are still being worked out and a contract has not yet been awarded. The system would save the state money in the long run and make the state's east-west highway more convenient for drivers, he said.

Most of the more than 400 full- and part-time toll collectors now employed by the state would lose their jobs under the plan, though some could be retrained for other positions within government.

"This isn't about the toll takers, it's about having as modern and efficient a transportation system as possible," Patrick said. "We will make as dignified and as soft a landing for those people as possible."

The Boston Herald first reported the toll plan on Monday.

Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey said the state currently collects about $300 million in tolls each year, but it costs up to $55 million to run the toll collection system. The $100 million he estimates it would cost to implement an all-electronic or "open" tolling system would more than pay for itself in reduced maintenance and personnel costs, he said.

"The bottom line is, technology has overtaken where we are today in our toll collection ... and we need to respond to that," Davey said.

Motorists who use the Massachusetts Turnpike, Boston Harbor tunnels and Tobin Bridge currently have the option of paying cash at toll plazas or joining the E-ZPass system -- formerly known as Fast Lane. E-ZPass customers, equipped with a transponder in their vehicles, pass through designated toll lanes that electronically record their tolls and charge their monthly accounts.

But even drivers that use E-ZPass are required to slow down -- generally to 15 mph -- as they pass through the plazas.

All-electronic or open tolling takes the concept a step further by removing the physical toll booths so drivers can pass through at normal speeds. Most existing systems use overhead sensors to record the transponder signals of passing cars, or tolling cameras that capture images of license plates and send monthly bills to the registered owners of vehicles.

While states like Florida have completely eliminated cash tolls on several highways, including a stretch of the Florida Turnpike, other states have created designated open tolling lanes for I-PASS users while still maintaining an area where motorists can stop and pay in cash.

While it's not yet clear what type of system Massachusetts might use, Patrick said Monday plans do not include raising tolls to pay for it or charging tolls on highways that are currently untolled, such as Interstate 93 from New Hampshire to Boston.

"The first step is to improve what we have today," Davey said.

However, the governor did not completely rule out the possibility of further tolling as part of a proposed overhaul of the state's transportation financing system that the administration is expected to unveil when the Legislature reconvenes next month.