OBITUARY: Diane Hamilton; Spirited secretary at The News

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

Page 12B

Diane Hamilton, a feisty and funny secretary in the newsroom of The Dallas Morning News, died Christmas morning at Baylor Medical Center at Waxahachie.

She was 52 and had faced a yearlong battle with cervical cancer.

“Diane was a bigger-than-life personality whose presence always filled a room,” said Bob Mong, editor of The News.

Ms. Hamilton was born in Lansing, Mich., and raised in the Detroit suburbs. She moved to Los Angeles after high school, working in the insurance industry before heading to Texas in 1998.

Her fiancé, Tim Whittemore, met her in Los Angeles and was immediately attracted to two things: “Her long dancer’s legs and her sense of humor. She knew how to laugh and how to make other people laugh.” A close third, he said, was her sharp mind.

In Dallas, she began work at The News as an executive secretary, working with many of the newspaper’s top editors. She supported their work and that of journalists around the newsroom. Among her responsibilities was the annual assembly of award entries for journalism competitions such as the Pulitzer Prize.

“I can’t tell you how many times she knew the answer to a question or knew how to get things done when no one else seemed to,” said Walt Stallings, the paper’s senior deputy managing editor.

Ms. Hamilton, tall and lean, was a dancer and an athlete. Her cancer diagnosis in February made it harder for her to play golf or dance the cha-cha, two favorite pursuits. But it did not dim her lively spirit.

Ms. Hamilton and Mr. Whittemore lived together for a decade. They decided to marry two weeks ago, after she had received discouraging news from doctors: The cancer had spread to her spine and she only had a few months left.

They had planned to wed yesterday morning at the Ellis County Courthouse. “We got the license, but we didn’t have time for the ceremony,” Mr. Whittemore said.

Ms. Hamilton is survived by five of her seven brothers – Dan Hamilton of Cleveland, David of Northville, Mich., Patrick of Fort Wayne, Ind., and Ray and Doug, both of Farmington Hills, Mich.

There will be no funeral, but a private gathering will be held Friday. Memorials may be made to the American Cancer Society.

Cotton Bowl ‘ratty,’ but fans want to stay; Fair atmosphere, accessibility, tradition make up for blemishes

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

Page 2B

Oklahoma fan Ed Marburger has been coming to Texas-OU games for 29 years. And the idea of doing it anywhere other than the Cotton Bowl seems as wrong to him as crimson and cream on Sixth Street.

“You’d lose all the festivities and the atmosphere,” the Oklahoma City resident said. “It wouldn’t be the same.”

The football rivals have played at Fair Park since 1929 and have agreed to stay there through 2010. But it’s unclear where the Red River Rivalry will call home after that.

Dallas? Arlington? Austin and Norman?

The new Dallas Cowboys stadium in Arlington is set to open in three years and promises to be the modern, plush facility the city-owned Cotton Bowl decidedly is not. The older stadium’s other major tenant, the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic on New Year’s Day, is considering making the move.

And others have pushed for the 106-year-old rivalry to become a home-and-home series.

But for many fans Saturday, taking the game out of its unique environment amid the State Fair of Texas would make it seem like less of an event.

“I don’t think anything in Arlington could be as big a deal as this,” said Annie Schuler, who was finishing off a mustard-topped corny dog as she entered the stadium before kickoff. “I don’t want to go out to the suburbs.”

Several cited the stadium’s 50-yard-line split between teams. “There’s something about having all the opposing fans here,” Mr. Marburger said. “In Norman, we’d have 80,000 of our fans and 5,000 of theirs.”

But don’t confuse the Marburgers’ enthusiasm for blind affection. “The bathrooms,” raised his wife, Joan. “They don’t work.”

The Cotton Bowl has seen some recent renovations, such as the new video scoreboard that made its Texas-OU debut Saturday. More substantial improvements are on the ballot Nov. 7, when Dallas voters will consider a bond issue that includes about $30 million for work on the facility.

If approved, the renovations will raise seating capacity to over 92,000 and improve restrooms, concession stands and the stadium’s sound system. In addition, a Dallas Area Rapid Transit train line to the stadium is scheduled to open in 2009.

City leaders say they’re optimistic that a renovated Cotton Bowl can attract other college football games during the fair, featuring major state and regional powers. But on Saturday, the focus was on keeping Texas-OU in town.

“No way, they can’t move it,” UT junior Danny Thomason said. “It’s ratty, but it’s tradition.”

Lobbyists bring unwanted attention to law firm; Locke Liddell hire says focus on past ties is guilt by association

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

Page 1A

Lobbyists are hired for their connections. But as Washington sorts through a growing lobbying scandal, the past connections of two lobbyists hired last fall by Locke Liddell & Sapp are bringing unwanted attention to the powerful Dallas law firm.

The two men, Roy Coffee and David DiStefano, have been connected to a foreign company’s attempt to work around U.S. sanctions against Iran and sell airplane parts to that nation – an attempt that centered on U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, an Ohio Republican accused in lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s recent plea agreement of accepting bribes.

The two lobbyists were hired in 2003 by a pair of businessmen with résumés out of a James Bond movie. One, a Syrian gambler nicknamed “The Fat Man,” made his fortune in Middle East arms deals. The other, a felon, was banned from East Coast racetracks in the 1980s for his connections to organized crime and has a Tennessee rap sheet for trying to defraud Elvis Presley.

Mr. Coffee and Mr. DiStefano have not been charged with any crimes, and there is no public evidence to indicate either is a direct target of the ongoing investigation.

Their activities generating scrutiny predate their joining the Dallas firm.

Locke Liddell spokeswoman Julie Gilbert said the firm still has confidence in the two lobbyists. “Our firm feels very comfortable about their reputation, credibility and ethical standing,” she said.

Mr. Coffee and Mr. DiStefano started work in Locke Liddell’s new Washington office in October, at a time when the firm – one of the biggest in Texas – wanted to expand its national footprint. One of its former partners, Harriet Miers, had just been nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Bush.

On its Web site, the firm promotes its lobbyists’ connections in the federal government, promising “a unique team with a vast number of political contacts at every level of government and the inside knowledge on how public processes operate. This adds up to success for our clients.”

According to news reports, documents about the attempted Iran sale have been subpoenaed as part of a spinoff from the Justice Department’s Abramoff investigation. Mr. DiStefano was Mr. Ney’s chief of staff from 1994 to 1998.

Mr. Coffee – son and grandson of the former University Park mayors of the same name and a longtime associate of President Bush – said he and Mr. DiStefano have done nothing wrong, despite questions from reporters.

“They love the salaciousness of a Syrian-born person and a guy with a criminal record,” he said. “It’s almost a guilt-by-association story.”

That story begins in early 2003, when Mr. Coffee and Mr. DiStefano were hired as lobbyists by a little-known company named FN Aviation.

FN Aviation was registered to an address in Larnaca, a city on the island nation of Cyprus. It was led by Nigel Winfield, a 68-year-old British man who has had a series of problems with the law.

Prison time

He served a federal prison term in the 1980s for conspiring to evade $7.4 million in taxes while living the high life selling jets and owning racehorses. In 1982, he was sentenced to six months for his role in trying to defraud Elvis Presley out of $330,000 through a complicated leasing scheme on a private jet.

In the late 1960s, he pleaded guilty on eight occasions to larceny, fraud and forgery charges in Massachusetts. And in 1981, he was banned from running his horses at a series of racetracks in part because of his connections to organized-crime figures in New Jersey and Rhode Island.

Mr. Coffee said he and Mr. DiStefano had no idea about Mr. Winfield’s past when FN hired them. “It’s not my normal mode of operation to ask whether someone is a felon,” he said. “I never thought that someone who was very presentable, who had an ongoing company you could look up on the Internet, that I should be worried about somebody’s background.”

‘The Fat Man’

Mr. Winfield’s business partner in the venture was Fouad al-Zayat, a Syrian-born man who made millions in the 1980s working on Middle Eastern defense deals.

In 2002, a London court froze Mr. al-Zayat’s assets – including a Boeing 727 and a Rolls Royce – after the Ritz Casino charged that he had tried to buy about $3 million worth of gambling chips with seven checks that bounced.

That came after he lost about $17 million over more than 150 visits to the casino between 1999 and 2001.

Mr. al-Zayat is nicknamed “The Fat Man” in British gambling circles, according to news reports at the time of the court action, which called him “Britain’s biggest gambler.” The court also seized his bank accounts in Switzerland, the Isle of Man and Cyprus.

FN Aviation hired Mr. Coffee and Mr. DiStefano as lobbyists to “monitor trade legislation,” according to mandatory lobbying disclosure filings. Mr. Coffee was paid about $220,000 by FN in 2003, according to those filings. Mr. DiStefano was paid about $20,000.

Mr. Coffee said the two men arranged for FN officials to meet with Mr. Ney. In February 2003, Mr. Ney flew to London on a three-day trip paid for by the company. He reported on House disclosure forms that the trip was valued at $2,707 and concerned “trade and international business matters.”

There, he met with Mr. Winfield and Mr. al-Zayat, who said they wanted to sell airplane parts to Iran but were prevented by U.S. sanctions against the country. They were seeking a special government permit that could allow them to get around the sanctions.

Special permits

Mr. Coffee said he would not discuss the details of his work for FN Aviation. But the Jan. 23 issue of Newsweek reports that, after Mr. Ney’s trip, the congressman personally lobbied then-Secretary of State Colin Powell to allow the exception to sanctions.

The special permits were in the end not approved, Newsweek reports, because FN Aviation’s proposed deal with Iran fell through. Mr. Coffee said the company dissolved a few months later. Mr. Ney’s spokesman, Brian Walsh, did not return a call from The News, but he told the Los Angeles Times that Mr. Ney “did not lobby” for FN Aviation.

According to his personal finance disclosure filing, Mr. Ney returned to London sometime later in 2003 and gambled at the Ambassador’s Club, a private casino at which Mr. al-Zayat was a member. He reported winning $34,000. Mr. Walsh, his spokesman, has said that Mr. Ney won that sum by playing two hands of a three-card game of chance, with an initial bet of $100.

Mr. Ney is one of the key figures in the widening Abramoff scandal. Under pressure from GOP leadership, he agreed last week to temporarily resign his chairmanship of the House administration committee while he is investigated on corruption charges. He has denied any wrongdoing.

In Mr. Abramoff’s plea agreement, Mr. Ney is referred to as “Representative No. 1.” As part of his guilty plea, Mr. Abramoff admitted bribing Mr. Ney and members of his staff with a series of gifts, including expense-paid trips to Scotland and the Northern Marianas, in exchange for various favors.

Ties to Texas

Mr. Coffee was deputy campaign manager for George W. Bush’s first run for governor in 1994. After the election, he was Texas’ director of state-federal relations until 1998. He then joined the Washington lobbying firm O’Connor & Hannan.

He was known for close connections to the Bush family. In 2000, the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call said some lobbyists called him “Bush’s ‘eyes and ears’ on K Street.”

It’s not unusual for powerful law firms to offer lobbying services. Locke Liddell’s lobbying business represents a wide range of clients, including a number of firms in the telecommunications, energy and health care industries.

Ms. Gilbert, the firm’s director of strategic communications, said Locke Liddell’s October announcement of a new Washington office was not timed to coincide with Ms. Miers’ nomination to the Supreme Court.

Mr. Coffee and Mr. DiStefano joined the firm in October after a lengthy search process, Ms. Gilbert said.

“We had been doing a search and they came highly recommended,” she said. “We felt they each had strong backgrounds and exceptional credentials and matched what we wanted. They have capabilities in all branches of the government.”

But Alex Knott, a lobbying analyst for the government watchdog group Center for Public Integrity, said that lobbying firms hire former Capitol Hill staffers like Mr. DiStefano to gain access to their connections.

“Why else would you hire somebody with a revolving-door connection to Bob Ney unless you planned on using that pre-existing relationship?” he said. “The people with revolving-door connections deliver. That’s why they’re hired in the first place.”

Mr. Coffee said he is confident Mr. Ney’s difficulties will not taint him or Mr. DiStefano.

“Everything was filed ethically and legally, and there was no problem,” he said. “I know we have done nothing wrong.”

Hundreds mourn fallen FW officer; Kid who played cops and robbers became dedicated policeman

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

Page 1B

FORT WORTH – Hank Nava used to serve on the Fort Worth Police Department’s honor guard, the men and women who stand at perfect attention at the funerals of their fellow officers.

“He always knew death was a possibility,” said his former partner on the force, Mike Montgomery. “We used to talk about it. We’ve been at hundreds of these ceremonies. And now it’s him.”

Hundreds of mourners took their turns walking slowly in front of Officer Nava’s coffin Sunday afternoon.

He died Thursday, two days after being shot in the head while investigating an identity-theft operation in a mobile home in northwest Fort Worth.

Some mourners were close friends and family. Many were fellow officers. But others were just regular North Texans who’d never heard of Hank Nava until it was too late.

“I’m not kidding, he was the finest officer you could imagine,” said Officer G.V. Ramirez, who joined the Fort Worth force in part to model herself on her friend of seven years. “He was so dedicated and loyal. The epitome of a neighborhood officer.”

The man accused of shooting Officer Nava with a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun, Stephen Lance Heard, is being held in the Tarrant County Jail in lieu of $2 million bail. He is expected to be charged with capital murder of a police officer, a charge that can carry the death penalty.

Mr. Montgomery, Officer Nava’s former partner, said he had 15 voice mail messages on his phone within a half-hour of Officer Nava’s shooting. They’d both served on the honor guard. “You had to be asked to be on it,” he said. “You had to show you could carry yourself and show professionalism.”

At the viewing, his coffin was flanked at all times by two members of the honor guard, dressed in shiny-toed black spats, white leather stirrups and police-blue visors pulled low over their eyes.

Officer Nava lay in an open coffin, under a marble panel that quoted the closing words of the Declaration of Independence: “We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

He was flanked by two photographs of himself on the job. On the left, he stood proudly in front of his patrol car, his aviator sunglasses topping a broad smile. On the right was Officer Nava in a more formal setting: standing straight at attention, looking stern, his hair trimmed to a military-style buzz cut.

Cathy Madrigal grew up across the street from Officer Nava in Round Rock, and she remembered him playing cops and robbers outside as a kid. He’d come back several times a year, making the rounds around the neighborhood, visiting family and friends. “I still don’t believe this has happened,” she said. “It’s a shock.”

Officer Ramirez has been on the police force for less than a year. But she said her friend’s death would inspire her to be a better officer. “I’m a rookie, so this hits close to home,” she said. “We talked about working together someday. And I won’t get that chance.”

Services, which are open to the public, will be held at Birchman Baptist Church, 9100 N. Normandale St., at 1 p.m. today. Burial will follow at Greenwood Cemetery, 3100 White Settlement Road.

Officer Nava is survived by his wife, Teresa, and two children, Kayleigh, 9, and Justin, 4.

Refusing to forget Vietnam; Local immigrants give thanks for lives here, feel for hardship there

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

Page 1B

Tom Ha left Vietnam 30 years ago today.

He was a 24-year-old medical student on the island of Phu Quoc, tending to refugees who had fled the advancing North Vietnamese Army. It was on the radio that he first heard the news: Saigon had fallen.

Having worked alongside Americans at an aid agency, he knew his life would be at risk under a communist regime. So after a few confused hours, he found himself silent on a dock with hundreds of his countrymen – looking out to the Gulf of Thailand and hoping for an American ship to arrive.

“We were sitting quietly, like ghosts,” he said. “We were there all night. No one left. We had no choice.”

In the morning, his ship came in; he was on his way to a new life.

“We have everything here,” said Mr. Ha, now an insurance agent in Euless. “We have freedom, we have democracy, we have jobs. But back there, people are still living in fear.”

For many Americans, the war in Vietnam has become a fuzzy, distant memory. But for those who fled the country 30 years ago, it never ended.

“All across Vietnam there is starvation and loss of basic human rights,” said Andy Nguyen, who like Mr. Ha finds an Americanized name easier to use than his birth name, Nguyen Xuan Hung. “We are committed to finish what we have started and bring freedom to the country.”

On Saturday night, several hundred Vietnamese-Americans gathered in Arlington to commemorate the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. Some had memories of the war fresh in their minds. Others were their grandchildren, speaking with Texas accents.

There are more than 50,000 residents of Vietnamese origin in North Texas, with the greatest concentrations in Richardson and Arlington.

Many left in the aftermath of Saigon’s fall. Others slipped out years after.

Mr. Nguyen came to the United States at age 14. His father and five siblings all crowded onto a fishing boat and drifted 10 days before landing on a Malaysian beach on Palm Sunday, 1981.

His family had tried escaping just after the fall of Saigon, but the boat they were on ran out of oil before they could reach international waters. His father was president of a local bank, he said, so his family was a target for communists.

“I will never forget seeing the communist soldier point an AK-47 at my father’s head and say he would kill him if he wouldn’t tell them where the bank’s gold was kept,” Mr. Nguyen said. “It was hell.”

His father ended up being dragged to re-education camp. The family survived by catching clams and selling jungle firewood at the local flea market.

Mr. Nguyen – who now owns a computer networking business – is one of many Vietnamese-Americans who take an active role in advocating change in their homeland. Vietnam is still officially a communist state, although trade and political relations with the U.S. have improved recently.

“I will not return there until there is freedom and democracy in Vietnam,” said Mr. Nguyen, president of the Vietnamese American Community of Greater Tarrant County. “In another five years, I hope we can see some positive changes.”

Vietnamese communities across America planned commemorations for today, including a protest outside the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington.

Vietnam is a different place than it was 30 years ago. Some immigrants to America now return home for visits. The communist government has made a few moves toward economic liberalization.

Phu Quoc, where Mr. Ha once treated refugees, is now a resort. Its Web site calls it a “tropical leisure paradise … genuinely unspoiled by time … like Vietnam used to be ten years ago.”

But for Mr. Ha, a decade back in time isn’t quite far enough.

“It’s painful to see 80 million people oppressed for so long,” he said, crying.

Fans ensure slain rocker will always be with them

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

Page 2B

ARLINGTON – Jimmy Fisher was a 13-year-old kid when he heard Pantera’s buzz saw roar for the first time.

“It was chaotic but soothing,” he said Saturday night, scanning the walls of an Arlington tattoo parlor for interesting designs. “I got hooked for life.”

So when former Pantera guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott was shot dead on an Ohio stage Wednesday night, Jimmy knew he had to mark the passing with needles and flesh.

“Dimebag Darrell is the reason I picked up an electric guitar,” he said. “I can’t even tell you what a friendly, nice guy he was.”

The strip-mall tattoo parlor, Only Forever Tattoo, offered a special Saturday night for fans like Jimmy: A small Dimebag or Pantera tattoo, normally $50, could be had for a dime. He was first in line.

He’d heard about the shooting only hours after it happened, via a friend’s phone call. “I started crying, dude,” he said. “I didn’t know how to take it. It put me in a state of shock.”

Jimmy wanted a circular “CFH” on his right calf. Pantera’s 1990 album “Cowboys From Hell” was the band’s debut on the national stage, and the initials have been a symbol of the band ever since.

The tattoo parlor’s 10-cent special could have bought him a silver dollar-size “CFH,” but Jimmy ponied up $50 for a version about 4 inches across. “I don’t do small tattoos,” said the man, whose opposite shin features a pink skull engulfed in green flames.

Rob Clark, the tattoo artist, shaved a swath of Jimmy’s leg hair and dipped his needle into a dime-sized thimble of black ink. “He was a cool guy, nice guy,” Rob remembered of Dimebag, a former customer. “Always bought me drinks.”

Jimmy remembered going to a party at the guitarist’s house when he was 16. He didn’t think his friends would believe he’d really been there, so he sneaked into his hero’s bathroom and smuggled out a copy of Entertainment Weekly with Darrell Abbott’s name on the mailing label. “I’ve still got it,” he said. “Now I’ve got to get a glass case to put it in.”

Jimmy, 24, is assembling his own band now. He won’t bother coming up with a name until he can find a bass player. But he said a Pantera cover will definitely figure into their set list.

When the earth moves, UTD listens

Page 1B

Did the earth move for you? Now you can get confirmation.

Geoscientists at the University of Texas at Dallas have installed a seismograph that will measure the magnitude of any earthshaking events in the area.

North Texas is pretty stable, so the device is more likely to pick up shimmies in hot spots like Mexico.

If there’s a big quake, it’ll be depicted on the seismograph’s monitor in the Founders Hall lobby.

Joshua Benton

UNT, families grieve for 4 killed in crash

By Jason Trahan and Joshua Benton
Staff Writers
and Matthew Zabel
Denton Record-Chronicle

Page 1A

They were the kind of kids who sang in the church choir. They flew to Central America to help children struggling with cerebral palsy. For fun, they went rock climbing and played computer games. They dreamed of being veterinarians and journalists.

Four University of North Texas students were killed Thursday afternoon when their car crashed into a tractor-trailer in East Texas, officials said. They were seven hours into a long drive back from the New Orleans Bowl game.

Witnesses said the students’ car swerved across the median of Interstate 20 in Gregg County, near Longview, and slammed into the truck head-on. A trooper said driver fatigue may have been a factor in the crash.

Benjamin Lee, 20, of Garland was the driver. Rebecca Faires, 18, of Decatur was in the passenger seat. Stephanie Kehr, 19, of Garland and Evan Belsley, 20, of Richardson were in the back. All four were pronounced dead at the scene; state troopers said they probably died instantly.

The four were returning from watching UNT’s football team lose to Memphis, 27-17, on Tuesday night. Troopers found Mardi Gras beads strewn in and around the car.

“They had their school IDs on them,” said Trooper Kendall Belt, investigating the crash for the Texas Department of Public Safety. “When we saw that it was college kids, it was just unbelievable. I’m just sad for all the families.

“I’ve been doing this three years, and this is the worst one I’ve investigated.”

Troopers said they haven’t determined what caused Mr. Lee to swerve. Witnesses said they saw nothing unusual in the moments before the accident – no speeding or horseplay, no blown tires or objects in the road.

“The only other thing is it could have been fatigue,” Trooper Belt said.

He said the four had been on the road for about seven hours, driving down unchanging, often-featureless stretches of Interstates 49 and 20.

Mr. Lee was westbound on I-20 about 5 p.m. when the car veered into the grassy median. Witnesses said the vehicle corrected course and re-entered the westbound lanes before veering into the grassy median a second time and crossing into oncoming traffic. The car collided head on with a truck pulling a flatbed trailer.

A Longview man driving the truck was not injured, officials said. A forklift that the truck was carrying toppled onto the road, resting in both eastbound lanes.

Mr. Lee’s body was sent to the Dallas County medical examiner’s office for an autopsy and toxicology tests. Trooper Belt said there was no sign of alcohol in the car.


Friends and family remembered the four as good-hearted youths.

“She was a wonderful, sweet girl,” said Stephanie’s grandmother, Fern Kehr. She said Stephanie loved animals, especially horses, and planned to become a veterinarian.

On Tuesday nights, she sang in the Denton Wesley Foundation choir. In May, she went on a church mission trip to Costa Rica, where she worked with children with cerebral palsy.

“When I think of her, I think of a smile – very quiet, just a joyful kind of presence,” said Cammy Gaston, director of the Denton Wesley Foundation.

“Stephanie was perhaps one of the most caring, genuine people I know,” said James Sicks, a UNT graduate student who also served on the Costa Rica mission. “She had impeccable integrity.”

She loved playing cards or Trivial Pursuit with her family, her grandmother said, and performed ballet as a child.

Ms. Faires was Ms. Kehr’s roommate. Becca, as Ms. Faires’ friends called her, was an avid rock climber; she worked part time at the Student Recreation Center’s climbing wall.

Her younger brother Vincent said Becca was a vibrant, active girl who loved music, particularly Christian rock.

Her Methodist faith was important to her, said Vincent, 16. “She was great to hang out with,” he said.

Ms. Faires graduated from Decatur High School a year early and would have been an 18-year-old junior at UNT next term.

At the Wesley Foundation, on Maple Street in Denton, about 20 friends gathered Friday to remember the students. Ms. Gaston led a prayer.

“They were beacons that showed us the way, and they will be missed,” said friend Steven Mendoza.

Mr. Lee and Mr. Belsley had been roommates during the 2002-03 school year. They lived apart during the fall term, but they had planned to share a room in Clark Hall in January.

They led active collegiate lives, busy with intramural sports and other residence hall activities. Mr. Lee was treasurer of Clark’s residence hall association. Both loved UNT football, often driving to away games and painting their faces in UNT green.

Mr. Lee was a “serious, motivated student” who was starting to understand his abilities, said George Getschow, who taught him in a beginning journalism class.

“He told me early on he didn’t think much of himself as a writer,” Mr. Getschow said. “But as the course went on, his self-confidence grew.”

He worked hard in class, Mr. Getschow said, and would have been a great reporter.

“He was smitten with journalism; I was expecting great things from him,” he said.

Mr. Belsley was into computers. “He knew everything about them. He was a whiz,” said his brother Ben, 17. When Evan went off to college, he and his brother stayed close.

“We were into the same stuff,” Ben said. “We played Internet games together. Even though he was in Denton and I am in Richardson, we talked a lot. We got closer as we got older. It’s like losing a friend and a brother.”

Faith, friends and family are helping the Belsleys cope with the loss, Ben said.

“A lot of my friends are Christian, and most of them are here,” he said. “He knew God. I know he’s in a better place.”

Memorials, counseling

Most of UNT’s students have left campus for the holiday break. Bonita Jacobs, the university’s vice president for student development, said memorials and grief counseling will be delayed until classes begin next month.

The residents of Clark Hall are a close-knit family, said resident assistant Brian Washam. Losing Ben and Evan will have an impact.

“When school starts back up, I know they’ll miss having them hanging out at the front desk to talk to or to play pool with,” Mr. Washam said. “It will be strange not having them there.”

Staff writer Tanya Eiserer contributed to this report.

Scene on the street: some panic and some pluck

From Staff and Wire Reports

Page 1A

NEW YORK – For the city’s residents, Thursday’s blackout brought back memories of an even darker day.

“It feels like September 11 all over again,” said Staten Island’s Giovanna Leonardo, 26, who stood in an enormous line waiting for a bus Thursday afternoon. “It’s that ‘what’s going on?’ feeling.”

What was going on was plenty of nothing: no power, no air conditioning, no traffic lights, no subways after the power went pffft at 4:11 p.m. on a steamy August day.

The Brooklyn Bridge, a main escape route from Manhattan, was again packed with Brooklynites trudging back home.

Lower Manhattan was flooded with Wall Street workers fleeing their buildings and searching for a way home. People lined up 10 and 20 deep for a few precious minutes at a pay phone. Bridges and tunnels leading into New York City were again shut down.

Thursday night, thousands of people milled outside Grand Central Station, unable to find shelter or any way out of the city. The streets near Times Square were packed as police continued to direct traffic, their flashlights reduced to glow-sticks as the batteries grew weak. Radio reports said benches in Central Park were at a premium.

Even New Yorkers who have long taken pride in their ability to adapt to anything were shaken.

Pauline Palmer, 33, a supervisor for a pension fund, said that in some ways, the blackout was worse than 9-11.

“People we dying – that was worse,” she said. “But at least you could get out of Manhattan.”

At the Port Authority bus terminal, waves of confused commuters were met by a small contingent of harried police officers trying, vainly, to push everyone back out.

“Where are we supposed to go?” one man shouted angrily, his buttoned-down shirt drenched with sweat. “There are a hundred thousand people out there on the street.”

“What do you want from me?” an officer shouted back, leaning into the man’s reddened face. “I didn’t cause this blackout. Now turn around and get out of the building.”

One middle-aged woman collapsed and stopped breathing after walking down many flights of stairs inside the darkened Met Life Building. The paramedics tried desperately to call for an ambulance. There were none to be found amid the sudden chaos. She lay there for more than half an hour, her body growing cold, in a dimly lit corner of Cafe Centro. The paramedics never gave up. Yet by the time an ambulance could be flagged down, it was too late.

The woman, whose identity was not disclosed pending notification of her family, was pronounced dead at St. Clare’s Hospital in Manhattan.

Of those who could make it out, some went to bars and found pleasure in the fellowship, the booze and the cigarette smoke, nevermind the city’s new smoking ban.

“Everyone who was working left their job and went to a bar,” said Dallas native Linda Rodriguez, a Columbia graduate student who spent the evening night near an open fire hydrant as neighbors danced in the spray. “It’s absolutely like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s a huge party.”

Like the city’s residents, the free market adapted quickly. Stores inflated prices on deodorant and toothbrushes, and lines were up to a block long wherever a street vendor could be found selling anything from warm water to hot dogs.

But some grocery stores, seeing their inventory melting, started hawking ice creams at half price.

The only lights on Broadway came from cars, casting thousands of New Yorkers in silhouette as they tramped home, and oddly, from cellphones that pedestrians used as flashlights.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as the sun set, promised things would look brighter by sunrise.

“Tomorrow, we’ll be back up to business as usual,” the mayor said. Shortly after 9 p.m., power was already returning in part of the Bronx.

Even the delis were forced to adapt. Near midtown Manhattan, several moved their suddenly unrefrigerated food from the deli case to ice-filled buckets.

“Half price on everything,” one sign read. Other deli workers simply gave away their slowly spoiling goods.

Within two hours, police and firefighters had searched the city’s major high-rise buildings and were fairly sure no one was trapped. Within a few hours, the city’s subways were evacuated.

“Y2K finally happened, people!” cried a young man walking up Broadway, stutter-stepping through the crowd. On Sixth Avenue, a man, walking down a center traffic lane, said to his friend, “This is like in those movies, man, when a bomb drops or something and you have to live off the land.”

In Times Square, all the neon lights were dark.

Calm appeared to prevail, though so did bewilderment and tension. There were no reports of panic or looting.

Mr. Bloomberg quickly assured New Yorkers that terrorism was not involved – the first thought that occurred to Manhattan hair stylist Renato Vasconcelos.

“This is just too weird,” he said.

Manhattan streets were flooded with pedestrians, most of whom had no idea how they might get home to Brooklyn or Queens, New Jersey or Connecticut. The north-south avenues in Manhattan held more traffic and were better lit than the crosstown canyons, where skyscrapers blocked ambient light.

“Westchester for $,” read a sign held by one woman standing near Gov. George Pataki’s East Side office, headed for the suburbs.

“I don’t know how I am going to get home,” said Marjorie Mitchell, 26, a bank worker in Lower Manhattan who lives in suburban White Plains. “The trains are dead. My cell is dead. This is absolutely frightening.”

A man who managed to get a cellphone signal worried aloud into the phone about the potential for melting ice and rotting meat. Another man on lower Broadway complained to a police officer about a vendor immediately boosting the price of bottled water from $1 to $2.

Perhaps that was a bargain. Another vendor wanted $5 for “ice-cold water” – and the bottles were hot. On 125th Street near Lenox Avenue, a young man walked around offering “flashlights – $25; batteries – $10.”

In Lower Manhattan, people wandered the streets in a scene reminiscent of the World Trade Center attacks. At some intersections, pedestrians stood directing traffic. In residential areas, neighbors fetched candles and hung out on sidewalks, in a sort of “get to know your neighbor” night.

Many businesses were forced to shut down early, their cash registers and lights rendered impotent by the massive outage.

Power went out in all five boroughs as well as the suburbs in the worst outage to strike the nation’s largest city since 1977, when electricity disappeared for 25 hours.

Buses were packed past capacity, and with good reason: They were among the only places in the city where the air conditioning was still blowing. At some stops, two people would get off and 20 would struggle to get on.

Staff writers Todd J. Gillman and Dorothy Griffith in New York and Joshua Benton in Dallas contributed to this report.

Parker County escapees captured; Inmates found at house in Tarrant after daylong search

By Joshua Benton and Reese Dunklin
Staff Writers

Page 1B

WEATHERFORD – In the end, freedom was fleeting.

The three inmates who spent weeks planning their escape from the Parker County Jail – they crawled through an air duct in their cell out to the roof, where they jumped and ran away – were surrounded 15 hours later on Saturday at an associate’s house in remote Tarrant County.

After a brief standoff with police, the three men surrendered, were taken into custody and were returned to the very place they’d tried so hard to flee.

“They will be well supervised,” Sheriff Jay Brown said Saturday night from the county jail in Weatherford.

Police planned to file escape charges against Wesley Eugene Hilton, 41; Michael Ray West, 35; and James Douglas Holden, 37.

Authorities also detained four people in connection with the escape and charged them with hindering apprehension.

Three of them – Albert Lewis, 58; James Mort, 35; and Clara Towler, 26 – were taken to the Parker County jail. Bail had not been set.

The fourth – Gene Malone, who police said owned the home where the inmates hid out – was taken to Tarrant County, where he faces additional charges.

Sheriff Brown said police were investigating how the inmates escaped and whether they had other help.

The escape – at least the fourth in Parker County since 1994 – renewed concerns about security and guard staffing at the Parker County Jail.

Sheriff had sought help

Sheriff Brown said he had approached Parker County commissioners in recent years after taking office in the late 1990s and asked for approval for a 10-foot fence topped with razor wire for the jail’s perimeter.

But commissioners didn’t approve his proposal. If inmates can make it outside the jail’s walls, the sheriff said, “they’re scot-free.”

“I tried so hard to get that fence,” he said. “I might be able to get it now. … This just proves the point I’ve been trying to make for seven years.”

The jail has about one guard for every 40 inmates, just under the state’s mandated ratio of 1-to-48. Sheriff’s officials said their efforts to hire more guards have also been rejected.

“We do need more help down here,” said Investigator Anne Hollis, a department spokeswoman. “We can’t keep working on the manpower we have.”

County officials said that the sheriff’s fence proposal wasn’t made at a time when money could be allocated, and they insisted that the jail has an adequate numbers of guards.

“I don’t think that he should throw it in the lap of the commissioners,” said Commissioner Jim Webster.

The escape happened about 3 a.m. Saturday when the inmates worked loose bars over an air duct in their cell. Sheriff Brown said that once the men were in the air duct, they were apparently able to tear it apart at the seam and get onto the roof.

From there, the three apparently took off their jail clothes, jumped 15 feet to the ground and fled wearing only their boxer shorts to a home about a mile away, where police say they were assisted by Mr. Lewis, Mr. Mort and Ms. Towler. Jail guards discovered the three missing about 3:45 a.m.

Several questioned

Sheriff’s deputies questioned visitors to the inmates or anyone who might have spoken to them by telephone. Sheriff Brown said he believed that phone conversations were taped and that investigators would review those tapes.

The daylong manhunt took a key turn about 4 p.m. when Parker County Sheriff’s Department deputies spotted a red Chevrolet pickup believed to have been used by the three inmates outside the home on Nine Mile Bridge Road, Sheriff Jay Brown said.

Sheriff’s deputies, along with state officers, swarmed the home in the 7500 block of Nine Mile Bridge Road, a presumed “safe house,” Sheriff Brown said.

When deputies arrived, Mr. Malone, the homeowner, quickly came out and surrendered. Mr. Holden followed suit about a minute later, officials said.

But Mr. Hilton and Mr. West barricaded themselves inside the two-story home, possibly in the attic. Officials waited for more than an hour and, around 5:30 p.m., fired tear gas inside, eventually driving the two outside. They gave up as well. No one was injured in the standoff.

The inmates had apparently been plotting the escape for a while, officials said. Police said the men had outside help, but Mr. Holden denied that to investigators.

Other inmates knew

Three other inmates who shared the cell with the escapees told investigators that they knew about the breakout plans but feared retaliation if they told jail officials, authorities said. The inmates who stayed behind said the escapees had been working on the bars for about six weeks.

Mr. Hilton and Mr. West hadn’t been in the Parker County Jail long.

Mr. Hilton was arrested in April in the 1999 slaying of Tarrant County car salesman Robert Pounds. Mr. Pounds’ body was found in the driveway of his home, which is in the same neighborhood as Nine Mile Bridge Road. Mr. Hilton has several other criminal charges in his past.

Mr. West was moved to the Parker County Jail in April and was serving a 50-year sentence on burglary charges. Last year, he escaped from the Hood County Jail for five days and had attempted to escape from a state prison facility in 1991.

Mr. Holden was in the Parker County Jail because authorities had revoked his parole after an assault charge, said Larry Fitzgerald, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

When sheriff’s deputies returned the men to the jail, they were taken near reporters gathered there. Sheriff Brown quipped to Mr. Hilton, “You’ve earned a little more time today.”

Staff writer Jamie Jordan contributed to this report.