Dempsey urges patience on defense cuts

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1 (UPI) — U.S. service members need to be patient instead being nervous about proposed defense budget cuts while the process moves along, Gen. Martin Dempsey said.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking aboard a military aircraft while returning from Britain, said the Defense Department is pledged to $450 billion in cuts during the next 10 years, adding the fiscal 2013 defense budget to be submitted in February would answer many of the questions of the U.S. troops, the department Web site reported.

“It shouldn’t be lost on anybody that we were handed this bill — this reduction — about two months ago,” the chairman said. “What we’ve been doing is revising our strategy because you can’t just take cuts and do the same things we’ve been doing.

“I know there’s a lot of anxiety in the force. I’m anxious. But we’ve got to follow the existing process.”

Dempsey said even if the defense department gets all its asks for, the military would still have to examine its strategy, consider threats, make changes and eliminate funding for capabilities no longer needed.

Based on lessons learned from 10 years of war and looking at what type of military will be needed in 2020, Dempsey said counter-terrorism will be a big portion of the budget. Cyber safety issues also would need to be addressed.

“One thing I will assure you of is no one is going to write off the possibility of any particular form of conflict,” the chairman said.

Pediatrician charged with killing adoptee

LEBANON, Tenn., Dec. 1 (UPI) — A Tennessee pediatrician is on trial, charged with killing the 4-year-old girl she and her husband adopted from China.

Dr. Deborah Wen-Yee Mark is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and child abuse, The (Nashville) Tennessean reported.

Kairissa Mark died in 2010, a few months after she arrived in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., and two days after she suffered a severe head injury.

Mark told police in a recorded interview in 2010 that she and her husband had trouble with Kairissa from the moment she arrived in their home. She acknowledged that as she became more frustrated she reacted physically, hitting Kairissa and pinching her.

She said on the night Kairissa was injured she threw the little girl down on a bed and she hit her head on the wall as she fell.

Mark’s lawyers suggested Wednesday that Steven Mark might have been the one that caused the fatal injury, NewsChannel5.com reported. He faces child abuse charges but is not charged with murder.

Mark told police she had never seen her husband hit Kairissa.

Mom’s boyfriend on trial for boy’s death

BELLEVILLE, Ill., Dec. 1 (UPI) — Almost six years after an Illinois boy died, his mother’s boyfriend has gone on trial charged with his murder.

Prosecutors opened their case against Lee Crutchfield, 39, Tuesday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Paramedics summoned on Christmas Day 2005 to the house Crutchfield shared with Starr Lohman and her son, Ryon Smith, found the 6-year-old boy’s battered body.

In the first two days of the trial in St. Clair County Circuit Court, jurors heard two versions of Ryon’s last days.

On Tuesday, prosecutors played a videotape of Crutchfield’s police interrogation in which he denied harming the boy. Lohman testified Wednesday that Crutchfield often shut Ryon in a closet and that he beat him.

Lohman said she had an agreement to plead guilty to aggravated battery of a child with a sentence of 15 to 30 years.

Crutchfield and Lohman gave opposite descriptions of Lohman. Crutchfield, who is black, told police six years ago that the boy, who was white like his mother, would often use racial slurs, while Lohman said she could only remember one and called her son a basically good child.

Dr. Raj Nanduri, a forensic pathologist, said Ryon had 57 injuries. She said the boy had clearly been dead for some time because decomposition had already started.

A police officer who responded to the house broke down on the witness stand Tuesday as he looked at a picture of Ryon’s body, dressed in Spider-Man pajamas.

Group wants non-partisan candidate

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 (UPI) — Americans Elect, a group that hopes to run a centrist ticket in next year’s U.S. presidential race, has obtained minor party status in Colorado.

Secretary of State Scott Gessler announced Tuesday the group’s petition had 12,191 valid signatures, well over the 10,000 needed to qualify, The Denver Post reported.

Americans Elect hopes to get on the ballot in all 50 states and says it has qualified in 10 states so far, The (Nashville) Tennessean reported. Organizers plan to hold an online convention in the spring.

The group says it hopes to provide an alternative to polarized politics. All candidates seeking its presidential nomination would be required to choose a running mate from a different party.

“The ticket that comes out of it can be a Democrat with a Republican, a Republican with an independent, an independent with a Democrat, but not two Rs or two Ds,” Chief Operating Officer Elliot Ackerman said Tuesday at a meeting with the Tennessean editorial board.

Polls suggest a credible third-party candidate would help President Barack Obama win a second term, the report said.

Caretaker agrees to annul marriage

SAN ANTONIO, Nov. 30 (UPI) — A Texas woman who married an 87-year-old man suffering from dementia agreed to a quick annulment in return for a $10,000 payment.

Half of the money goes to Marjorie Messer’s lawyer, the San Antonio Express-News reported. She agreed to drop any claims to Jewell Hall’s assets or estate based on documents he signed after their marriage.

Messer, 58, faces a criminal charge of theft from an elderly person.

Hall hired Messer as his caretaker in February and she married him a month later. Adult Protective Services took over his care in April, and he was transferred to a nursing home.

Messer agreed to the settlement as the case was scheduled to go to trial.

She said after Tuesday’s hearing that her only concern had been Hall’s welfare.

“Just write something nice,” she said. “I’m a good girl. I saved a man’s life.”

Obama stresses Asia role

NEW YORK, Nov. 30 (UPI) — U.S. President Barack Obama, speaking about his recent trip to Asia, said Wednesday people there are “incredibly hungry” for American leadership.

Attending a campaign event at in New York, the president said his meetings with Asia-Pacific leaders indicate U.S. foreign policy is pivoting to the fast-growing region. He said it has become fashionable in the United States to talk about America’s diminished world role but in the Asia-Pacific region “folks are incredibly hungry for American leadership.”

He said the United States is organizing a trade partnership with most of the major economies in the region and “everybody was eager to join because they recognize that America is willing to play by the rules and those rules can benefit everybody and not just some,” a White House transcript indicated.

Obama traveled to the region after hosting the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Honolulu.

While in Australia, he said the United States “is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay,” while assuring greater U.S. military involvement as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down.

“We were able to solidify security arrangements that assure freedom of passage and navigation, and help to underwrite the mutual security of the Asia Pacific region,” the president said Wednesday.

He said it was fascinating “how much people still look to America as a power that is not simply self-interested” but is also interested in the well-being of people outside its borders, and “not only projects military might but also projects values.”

Man wounds woman, 4 children, kills self

BAY CITY, Texas, Nov. 30 (UPI) — A man allegedly killed himself after wounding a woman and four children in Bay City, Texas, police said Wednesday.

Investigators had yet to determine the relationships between the man and the victims, KHOU-TV, Houston, reported.

Bay City police said officers found the victims about 3:18 p.m. in a home.

The children were flown to a Houston hospital for treatment and the woman was in surgery at a Bay City hospital. The man was dead at the scene of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, police said.

The names and ages of those involved had not been released.

Kentucky church bars interracial couples

PIKEVILLE, Ky., Nov. 30 (UPI) — The Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church in eastern Kentucky has banned interracial couples from membership, congregation members say.

Dean Harville, a longtime member and church secretary, told the Lexington Herald-Leader the issue came up after his daughter brought her fiance to a service in June. Stella Harville played the piano while Ticha Chakuni, who is from Zimbabwe, sang.

In November, Melvin Thompson, who had resigned as pastor of the congregation, which typically draws about 40 people to its Sunday service, in August, asked for a vote on interracial couples. Members voted 9-6 Sunday that they could not be members and could not participate in certain ways, although they can attend church.

Other members present did not vote, Harville said.

“It sure ain’t Christian. It ain’t nothing but the old devil working,” Harville said of the motion.

Thompson, a hardware-store owner who stepped down as pastor for health reasons, said the motion was being taken out of context, but offered no further explanation, the newspaper said.

Death sentence meted to ‘Baseline Killer’

PHOENIX, Nov. 30 (UPI) — A jury in Arizona Wednesday sentenced Mark Goudeau, Phoenix’s “Baseline Killer,” to death for a horrific 11-month crime spree that included murder and rape.

Goudeau, 47, was convicted Oct. 31 on 67 felony counts. Before the sentencing phase of his trial, he asked the jury for life in prison instead of a death sentence.

He said he believes he is being judged based on prior crimes.

Goudeau was sent to prison in 1989 for a sexual assault that resembled the Baseline Killer crimes.

“People can change,” he said. “I changed. … I got out of prison and never looked back.”

The Maricopa County Superior Court jury took two days to decide Goudeau should be executed, The Arizona Republic reported.

During the trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Goudeau attacked 33 victims, nine of whom were killed, between August 2005 and June 2006.

32 tons of pot found in U.S.-Mexico tunnel

SAN DIEGO, Nov. 30 (UPI) — A record seizure of more than 32 tons of marijuana was found in a tunnel linking warehouses in Mexico and California, U.S. authorities announced Wednesday.

“This is the largest seizure associated with a tunnel investigation on the California-Mexico border,” Special Agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Diego Derek Benner told The San Diego Union Tribune. The tunnel “is the most elaborate and sophisticated that we’ve ever seen on the California-Mexico border.”

Authorities discovered the tunnel, measuring 625 yards, Tuesday inside a San Diego warehouse. The Mexican side of the tunnel comes above ground at a warehouse near the A.L. Rodriguez International Airport in Tijuana.

“It’s one of the most sophisticated tunnels we’ve ever discovered,” said Lauren Mack, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “It’s got a number of features that were used to facilitate the smuggling.”

Authorities found an elevator, ventilation and an electric rail system to transport the marijuana inside the tunnel. Mexican military authorities said the tunnel measured 1.3 yards wide and 1.5 yards wide and was high enough to allow an adult to stand upright in some spots.