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Nation in brief

Girl missing since '99 reunites with mom

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 28, 2003

RED SPRINGS, N.C. -- A girl who vanished at age 11 and recently turned up in Mexico -- now 15 years old, and with two children -- says she left home with an adult neighbor after becoming pregnant by him and was then kept as a virtual captive.

Before Dana Pevia came home to Raeford, N.C., this week, her family had not seen her since she walked to the school bus just after 6 a.m. on June 4, 1999. They thought she had been kidnapped, possibly killed.

But since coming home Wednesday to a tearful reunion with her mother, Dana has told authorities that she left with her neighbor, Hector Mojarro Frausto, now 22.

She had been involved with Frausto, and before she disappeared she told him she had been getting sick every morning, Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin said Thursday. Frausto, suspecting Dana was pregnant, arranged for them to travel to his family home in Mexico, Peterkin said.

"She went along with the situation and realized it was a problem once she was on a plane to Mexico," Peterkin said after interviewing the girl.

On Wednesday, Wanda Pevia was reunited with her daughter and grandchildren in Raleigh.

Peterkin said Dana told authorities that after a couple of months in Mexico, Frausto abandoned her with his relatives. They abused her and wouldn't allow her to leave, the sheriff said.

After a couple of years, she befriended a local worker who took her away from Frausto's family and brought her to live with his own, Peterkin said. He said Dana tried to reach her mother and grandmother, but they had changed their phone numbers. Ultimately, the new family took her to the consulate's office.

Police confirmed that Frausto is the father of 3-year-old Sandra, Dana's oldest child. They would not say who is the father of 3-month-old Francisco.

Warrants have been issued charging Frausto with kidnapping and statutory rape. Police believe Frausto is in the United States.

'Amber Alert' system clears House

WASHINGTON -- The House joined the Senate Thursday in approving money for a nationwide child kidnapping "Amber Alert" system, but a dispute over the House's addition of other provisions for sex offenses could delay the system's implementation.

The GOP-controlled House pushed through a package of child protection measures by a vote of 410-14, including "Amber" and "Code Adam" alerts designed to quickly stop kidnappers, a ban on computer-simulated child pornography and new punitive measures for sex offenses.

The legislation "not only gets the word out after a kidnapping, but it also takes strong steps to keep them from happening in the first place," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.

President Bush, in a statement, said he would sign the legislation "as quickly as possible."

The legislation would create a national child kidnapping notification network and provide matching grants to states and communities for equipment and training.

But while the Senate has approved the Amber Alert legislation, it has not approved some of the other House measures, meaning a compromise committee will have to be formed.

Once-rejected judge nominee before Senate

WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans on Thursday sent Texas judge Priscilla Owen's nomination for the federal appellate bench to the full Senate for approval less than a year after Democrats killed the nomination in committee.

Owen, a Texas Supreme Court justice, was approved by the GOP-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee on a 10-9 party-line vote. The same committee rejected her nomination on a party-line vote last year when it was controlled by Democrats.

Owen's nomination now goes to the Senate floor, where Democrats have blocked a final vote on another Bush judicial nominee they consider objectionable.

The filibuster of Miguel Estrada's nomination to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia hit its 51st day Thursday. Only one appeals court nominee has been approved since the Estrada filibuster started.

Don't listen for Elmo in New York cabs

After playing recorded seat-belt reminders for each fare since 1996, New York City taxi drivers began unhooking the speakers Wednesday. The city's Taxi and Limousine Commission voted this week to end the public service campaign.

"The tourists, they liked it, but the people who ride every day, they were annoyed by it," driver Joseph Gandy said of the recorded messages, which also reminded fares to get a receipt and take their belongings. "Me, I can do without Elmo, but I liked Chris Rock."

The commission ended the campaign after a survey showed the messages -- recorded by two dozen personalities including Joan Rivers, Judd Hirsch and sex therapist Ruth Westheimer -- had become annoying to most riders.

"We were getting Elmo hate mail," said Matthew Daus, the commission's head.

Also ...

14 SECONDS MAY HOLD CLUE: Salvaged tape from Columbia's data recorder may hold vital information up until a few seconds before the disaster, accident investigators said Thursday. While the 9,400 feet of magnetic tape was being duplicated at Kennedy Space Center this week, a time tag on it confirmed that an imprint exists until 18 seconds past 9 a.m. on Feb. 1, the board said. Temperature and aerodynamic measurements would provide 14 extra seconds of flight data for investigators. Analysis may begin today and could take a week or longer.

NUN MURDER CHARGES: A Georgia man suspected of murdering his father, abducting two nuns and then killing and mutilating one of the women was arrested Thursday after he was spotted at a Norfolk, Va., Burger King. Adrian O'Neill Robinson, 25, was charged with abduction and murder.

SNIPER CASE: Lawyers for Washington sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad, 42, received permission Thursday to hire a psychiatrist and a psychologist to evaluate his mental health.

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