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    Around the state

    Compiled from Times wires

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2001


    Lie test backs teen monk's claims he was molested

    MIAMI -- The man who confessed to the murder of a nun at Holy Cross Academy has passed a lie detector test in which he was questioned about being "subjected to sexual acts" by the school's two top clerics, according to a copy of the report obtained by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

    Polygraph expert Warren D. Holmes conducted the examination last week of Mykhaylo Kofel, 18, the Ukrainian monastic student charged with the murder of Sister Michelle Lewis, 39.

    Miami-Dade detectives began investigating Kofel's allegations of molestation the day he was arrested. The state Department of Children and Families and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service also have opened investigations into the southwest Miami-Dade parochial school.

    In his confession to the March 25 murder, Kofel told detectives he was molested by Abbot Gregory F.G. Wendt, Holy Cross' headmaster, and by the Rev. Damian J.A. Gibault, the school's supervising principal, during his nearly five years at the academy.

    Wendt, 56, and Gibault, 44, have denied the allegations through their attorneys and the public relations firm of Wragg & Casas, which declined further comment Wednesday.

    Kofel's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Edith Georgi, commissioned the polygraph examination. In a two-page report, Holmes said it is "the opinion of this examiner that Mr. Kofel did not lie in his verbal responses to the pertinent test questions."

    Teen faces adult murder charge in killing of baby

    FORT LAUDERDALE -- A teenager accused of wrapping her infant son in a plastic bag and throwing his body into a canal will be tried as an adult on a charge of first-degree murder, her attorney said Thursday.

    A grand jury returned the indictment against Amy Lee Weiss, 17, attorney Ellis Rubin said.

    Weiss was arrested April 7. Police say she confessed to giving birth on March 26 in the bathroom of her home.

    A boy found the dead infant inside a backpack while he was fishing in the canal in Tamarac, a suburb of Fort Lauderdale.

    2 admit illegally trading in crocodile hatchlings

    FORT MYERS -- The owner of an alligator farm and tourist attraction in South Florida has pleaded guilty to illegally shipping endangered American crocodile hatchlings across state lines.

    David Thielen, 70, owner of Gatorama in Palmdale, in Glades County west of Lake Okeechobee, pleaded guilty to the felony charge Wednesday in federal court in Fort Myers. His company faces a maximum fine of $500,000.

    Gatorama's general manager, James A. Register, 42, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

    The crocodiles, an endangered species, were shipped to an undercover Indiana wildlife officer in a sting operation in late 1997 and early 1998, according to court records.

    Register violated the Endangered Species Act when he shipped hatchlings without having the necessary permits, prosecutors said. Thielen told U.S. Magistrate Douglas Frazier he did not know it was illegal to ship the crocodiles without permits.

    School bus driver fired for allowing harassment

    DAYTONA BEACH -- A school bus driver was fired for refusing to help an 11-year-old boy as three fellow students smeared him with dog feces and taunted him until he cried.

    Harry Diaz, 54, a bus driver since early December, was dismissed by the Volusia County School Board on Wednesday.

    The incident occurred Feb. 26 on a bus bound for Deltona Middle School. It began, according to the district's investigation, when a sixth-grader stepped in some dog feces and tracked it through the bus as he boarded the vehicle.

    A videotape of the bus ride showed other children teasing the boy about the smell and smearing feces on his clothes and face when he refused to clean up the mess, reported investigator Lisa Hahn.

    A smiling Diaz walked down the aisle after arriving at the school and shook hands with the pupil who wiped feces on the boy's face, Hahn reported.

    The three boys were charged with simple battery and stalking, the latter because of their history of harassing the victim.

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