NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A man was convicted Thursday of murdering a woman and her two daughters in a gruesome 2007 home invasion in which family members were tied up, molested, doused in gas and left to die in a fire. He now faces a possible death sentence.
Joshua Komisarjevsky stood and faced jurors as they declared him guilty of all 17 charges he faced, including capital felony killing, kidnapping and sexual assault.
The New Haven Superior Court jury deliberated for about eight hours over two days before delivering a verdict and will decide later whether Komisarjevsky, 31, should be executed or sentenced to life in prison. The penalty phase will conclude the second and final trial in a case that unsettled suburb dwellers across the country and bolstered efforts to retain the death penalty in Connecticut.
Komisarjevsky’s co-defendant, Steven Hayes, was sentenced to death last year after he was convicted of raping and strangling Jennifer Hawke-Petit and killing her daughters, 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley, who died of smoke inhalation.
Police: Driver flipped license plate to avoid toll
NEW YORK — A Virginia truck driver used a device that could have come from a James Bond movie to try to get out of paying the $65 toll to cross the George Washington Bridge into New York City, police say.
Nelson Vaquiz of Beaverdam, Va., was arrested on charges of using a cable in his truck cab to flip up his front license plate while going through a gateless toll lane on Interstate 95 without a toll transponder, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said Thursday. Vaquiz had also bent up his rear plate so it couldn’t be read by cameras, police said.
Some drivers zip through the gateless express lanes while obscuring their license plates so the Port Authority cannot track them down and bill them. Toll cheats cost the Port Authority $14 million in 2009 and 2010.
BlackBerrys back to life after three-day outage
NEW YORK — BlackBerrys across the world buzzed back to life Thursday, leaving customers outraged and threatening to cost the granddaddy of all smartphones more business when it’s already struggling to keep up in a crowded marketplace.
The three-day blackout interrupted email and Internet services for tens of millions of frustrated users and inflicted more damage on an already tarnished brand.
BlackBerrys in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa had been without email or chat messages since Monday. In the U.S. and Canada, the outage was shorter, starting Wednesday. But many, perhaps most, of the world’s 70 million BlackBerry users were affected.
Ancient art supplies found in South African cave
WASHINGTON — Researchers in South Africa have discovered what may have been the world’s earliest artist’s studio.
A 100,000-year-old workshop used to mix and store the reddish pigment ochre has been discovered in Blombos Cave on the rugged southern coast near Cape Town. At the same site, scientists have found some of the earliest sharp stone tools, as well as evidence of fishing.
The latest find is reported in Friday’s edition of the journal Science. It includes grinding bowls and shells for storage. Researchers believe that pieces of ochre found at the site were rubbed on rock to make a fine red powder, and that was mixed with crushed bone, charcoal, stone chips and a liquid. The mixture was put into abalone shells and stirred with a bone.
French prosecutor drops Strauss-Kahn case
PARIS — The Paris prosecutor’s office on Thursday dropped its investigation into a writer’s claim that Dominique Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her, though it said the former IMF chief admitted to behavior that could qualify as sexual assault.
In a dramatic legal twist for the high-profile Strauss-Kahn, the prosecutor said it couldn’t put Strauss-Kahn on trial for the lesser sexual assault charge because the incident occurred too long ago. The statute of limitations on that charge is three years; on attempted rape it’s 10 years.
During questioning into the French case, Strauss-Kahn admitted to what prosecutors described in a statement as sexual assault against writer Tristane Banon, during a 2003 interview for a book she was writing.
Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer, Henri Leclerc, told The Associated Press that the ex-IMF chief admitted that he tried to kiss Banon without her consent and she refused.
The announcement marked a victory for Strauss-Kahn but revived questions about his behavior toward women. The suave economist saw his reputation and French presidential ambitions dashed when he was jailed in New York on charges he tried to rape a hotel maid earlier this year. Prosecutors later dropped that case, too.
Obama Far Outpaces GOP Rivals in 3rd-Quarter Fundraising
WASHINGTON — Despite his political troubles, President Obama has surged far ahead of his Republican rivals in raising money for the 2012 election, bringing in more than $150 million for his campaign and the Democratic Party from nearly 1 million donors, according to new figures released Thursday.
The Obama campaign said it raised $43 million from July through September, plus another $27 million for the Democratic National Committee, which can accept much larger donations. That brings the campaign’s total to more than $90 million, plus $65 million more for the DNC, since Obama formally launched his reelection bid.
The numbers put Obama comfortably ahead of his leading GOP rivals, who together appear unlikely to match his total for the third quarter.
Aides to Texas Gov. Rick Perry have said he will report raising $17 million through September, while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is expected to come in at around $13 million. Pizza magnate Herman Cain, who has vaulted to the front of recent polls, has raised relatively little money.