Sniper suspect requested $10 million

FAIRFAX, Va.

Prosecutors said yesterday that 17-year-old sniper suspect John Malvo contacted police four times trying to extort more than $10 million in exchange for stopping the deadly attacks.

As a hearing opened to determine whether Malvo will be tried as an adult and possibly face the death penalty, Fairfax County prosecutor Robert Horan said the teen left two notes and made two phone calls seeking the money.

“All of this was an attempt to intimidate the government to pay in excess of $10 million for these defendants and this defendant in particular to stop the shooting,” Horan said.

Malvo and John Muhammad, 42, have been accused of shooting 18 people, killing 13 and wounding five in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Muhammad, who could also face the death penalty if convicted in the gas station slaying of Dean Meyers, is scheduled to go on trial in October in neighboring Prince William County.

Normally a preliminary hearing is a brief affair, but Horan said the complexity of the case requires him to present an unusual number of witnesses.

Supreme Court hears HMO debate

WASHINGTON

The Supreme Court wrangled yesterday over whether states can push HMOs to enroll more doctors, giving patients broader choices in their own health care.

About half the states have laws requiring managed care or insurance companies to accept health care providers – physicians, pharmacists or specialists like nurse practitioners. The providers agree to the insurer’s reimbursement rates and contract terms.

The HMO industry says forcing health plan expansions raises insurance costs for everyone and adds to the already escalating price of health care.

The justices, some of whom have battled their own health problems, seemed energized in yesterday’s debate over doctor options. They talked about pregnant women forced to see a different in-network physician because of a health plan change and the limited choices of people who want to see a chiropractor rather than a doctor.

“It is really important to patients to choose a doctor because of the personal relationship,” said Justice David Souter, who at 63 is the second-youngest member of the Court. The oldest, Justice John Paul Stevens, is 82.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who returned to the bench this week after missing a month of arguments because of leg surgery, seemed skeptical of some of the arguments made by the HMO lawyer.

Man shoots family, commits suicide

BOSTON

A man shot his 11-year-old daughter, wife and mother-in-law to death in their home and then took his own life, police said yesterday.

As Pedro Barbosa prepared to turn the gun on himself, his 12-year-old son, Justin, asked why he was doing it, authorities said. According to the son, the father replied: “I had to do it. I can’t go to jail.”

Authorities were trying to determine what led the 38-year-old security guard to kill his daughter, Karina, his wife, 43-year-old Laurinda Gomes, and her mother, 66-year-old Maria Gomes, late Monday in the family’s home in Brockton. Justin was unharmed.

“It is hard to put into words what would make a right-thinking individual murder his family and 11-year-old daughter,” said Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz.

Picketing GE worker killed by police car

LOUISVILLE, Ky.

A picketing worker was struck and killed by a police car yesterday as thousands of General Electric Co. employees across the country began a two-day strike to protest higher health insurance costs.

Union leaders said about 20,000 members of the International Union of Electronic Workers/Communications Workers of America and the Electrical Workers union took part in the walkout at 48 locations in 23 states. The affected plants manufacture everything from consumer appliances to jet engines.

A few hours into the strike, Kjeston “Michelle” Rodgers, 40, was hit outside a GE plant in Louisville as the eight-year employee walked with a picket sign before daybreak. The car was from the police department in nearby Hollow Creek, officials said.

“The lady was out here doing something she believed in,” said Dave Riddle, who was picketing at the same plant.

Low supply prompts appeal for donations

WASHINGTON

The nation’s blood banks issued an urgent appeal for blood donations yesterday, saying much of the country has less than a two-day supply on hand.

Some hospitals are postponing elective surgeries because blood supplies are so low, with less than a single day’s supply in certain areas. Banks try to keep a five- to seven-day supply on hand.

In an unusual appeal, the nation’s two main blood suppliers – the American Red Cross and America’s Blood Centers – joined yesterday to urge prompt donations. The Red Cross said that during the past two weeks, its blood supplies have dropped by nearly half, while more than 60 percent of America’s Blood Centers’ banks report supplies of two days or less.

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