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Washington man confesses, tries to plead guilty to killing two sex offenders

By wire services
Published September 7, 2005

BELLINGHAM, Wash. - A man arrested in the shooting deaths of two convicted child rapists tried to plead guilty Tuesday before he had even been formally charged.

Police say Michael Anthony Mullen might have targeted the men in reaction to a notorious case in Idaho in mid May in which two children were abducted and one was slain.

"Can I have a speedy trial?" Mullen asked a court official, via closed circuit television from jail, during a preliminary hearing Tuesday. "I would like to plead guilty."

Prosecutor Mac Setter said Mullen would be formally charged in the two slayings today. Whatcom County Superior Court Commissioner David Thorn set bail at $1-million and scheduled Mullen's arraignment - when a formal plea may be entered - for Sept. 16.

Police said Mullen, 35, called them on Monday to turn himself in and later confessed to killing Hank Eisses and Victor Vasquez in their apartment on Aug. 27.

Police said they believe Mullen's claim that he killed the Bellingham sex offenders because he knew details only the killer would know: the caliber of the weapon used, and that the victims were each shot once in the head.

Eisses, 49, and Vasquez, 68, were both classified as Level 3 sex offenders, the type considered most likely to re-offend.

Vasquez was convicted in 1991 of molesting several relatives, according to court documents.

Eisses was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison in 1997 for raping a 13-year-old boy. He was released from supervision about two years ago, officials said.

Mosquito-borne illness kills two in Massachusetts

BOSTON - A rare mosquito-borne disease killed a young girl and an elderly man who lived in neighboring towns, health officials said Tuesday as they urged people to protect themselves against the insects.

The two became ill with the dangerous Eastern equine encephalitis virus, within days of a third woman who also lives nearby. She remains hospitalized in serious condition, officials said.

Four New Hampshire residents have also turned up ill with the virus in recent weeks; none have died.

It wasn't clear how or when the disease was contracted by the 5-year-old girl and the 83-year-old man, who lived in the state's southeastern arm, said Dr. Al DeMaria, state director of communicable disease control.

He released few other details and declined to identify the two by name, citing privacy concerns. "Obviously this is a horrendous situation for these families," he said.

MP says she saw sergeant kick prisoner who died

FORT BLISS, Texas - A military police officer testified Tuesday that she saw a fellow sergeant kick a chained detainee in the knees days before the prisoner died in U.S. custody in Afghanistan.

Sgt. Keri Patterson told the military court that Sgt. Christopher W. Greatorex and another officer took turns hitting the detainee, known as Habibullah, as he stood in an isolation cell with his hands chained to the ceiling at Bagram Airfield.

Greatorex, a reservist with the 377th Military Police Company in Ohio, is charged with abusing Habibullah and then lying about it. Habibullah died days later, in December 2002.

According to a 2004 military report, Habibullah died of a pulmonary embolism, likely caused by blood clots formed in his legs from beatings.

Patterson said she was working at the isolation unit when she watched Greatorex and Sgt. Darin Broady. She said Broady also gave Habibullah "a kind of kung-fu kick" to the abdomen as the man shouted "Allah" several times.

Greatorex is one of nine soldiers charged in the abuse cases.

"Deep Impact' study finds comets dirty, fragile

Rather than a dirty snowball darting across the solar system, the comet targeted by a NASA probe on July 4 turns out to be a "snowy dirtball" instead, made mostly of dust, according to the first detailed results from the Deep Impact comet-hunting mission.

Mixed in the dust is a soup of potentially life-spawning organic compounds all wrapped within a ball of space fluff with less consistency than a snowbank, scientists reported Tuesday.

The outer surface "is unbelievably fragile," said Michael A'Hearn, an astronomy professor at the University of Maryland. "The comet is mostly empty, mostly porous."

Until Deep Impact, scientists had ideas but no detailed knowledge of the inside of a comet. The probe that smashed into comet Tempel 1 set off an explosion of ice and dust seen by 80 observatories around the world.

The new data from the mission, published in this week's issue of the journal Science, indicate the probe penetrated into the comet 30 feet or more and blasted out a crater the length of a football field.

Ohio Republican sworn in as newest House member

WASHINGTON - Ohio Republican Jean Schmidt was sworn in as a member of the U.S. House on Tuesday, a month after a special election that became part of the national debate over the war in Iraq.

Schmidt, a 53-year-old former state representative, captured the southwest Ohio seat with a 52-48 percent victory over Paul Hackett, an Iraq War veteran who opposed the invasion of Iraq and criticized President Bush's handling of the insurgency there.

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