Teen Found Responsible for Crash

Schoenfeld Showed 'Gross Negligence' While Driving, Judge Says

It was a year ago that a Takoma Park teenager who was driving friends home from summer school sped and swerved on East West Highway before losing control of his car and spinning into oncoming traffic. Two passengers and the driver of a pickup truck died in the crash.

Michael Schoenfeld, 17, pleaded "not involved," the juvenile court equivalent of not guilty, in the deaths. But a Montgomery County judge disagreed last week, finding him "involved" in three counts of vehicular manslaughter and one count of reckless driving. Schoenfeld showed "gross negligence," the judge said, by driving at least 68 mph--more than twice the 30 mph limit--and by intentionally zigzagging on the curvy road.

Schoenfeld, who cried during parts of his trial, could be ordered into a juvenile facility until he is 21. But lawyers said judges in such cases usually impose extensive community service and driver's license restrictions.

"Those losses are with us," Schoenfeld's attorney, David Driscoll, told the judge. "They sadden everyone affected by it. The weight of it for many is unbearably heavy. Michael bears his own cross for this."

Woodbridge Woman Dies in Beating

Female Defendants Are Growing Trend, Prosecutor Says

Natalie Giles Davis reportedly yelled at a group of teenagers whose car was blocking her aunt's car as they drove to church in Woodbridge. The 25-year-old mother of two paid for the affront with her life.

One teenage girl allegedly pounded Davis's head into the sidewalk time and again. A second is said to have kicked her in the head as she lay on the ground. Davis died two days later. The teenagers have been charged in Davis's death.

It was grisly evidence of a disturbing trend: Violence involving girls is rising at an alarming rate. The FBI says the number of female juveniles arrested in violent crimes doubled from 1988 to 1997.

"I can remember a day when you could have 100 indictments go through the grand jury and not a single defendant was a woman," said Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. "But over the last 15 to 20 years, that's changed unbelievably. . . . The $64,000 question is, 'What is going on out there that's causing that?' "

District Preparing for Y2K

Emergency Plans to Be in Effect

When it comes to fixing the Year 2000 computer glitch, the District got off to a late start. And that was a very costly mistake.

Maryland and Virginia began working on the problem years ago, and officials in those states say their government computer systems are now virtually Y2K-proof. But the District didn't begin its effort in earnest until last summer, and it's still racing to catch up.

Earlier this year, federal officials granted the city $61.8 million in emergency funds to fix its computers. It wasn't enough. Last week, D.C. officials asked for $75 million more.

While saying that the city's Y2K effort has made great strides in recent months, Chief Technology Officer Suzanne J. Peck acknowledged that "there may be things that suffer an interruption" come Jan. 1.

So the District is relying on man, rather than machine, to fill any gaps. Over the New Year's weekend, every officer in the 3,600-person police force will work 12-hour shifts. The city's 150 school crossing guards will learn how to handle traffic if lights go out. And leave time will be restricted for 1,800 firefighters and emergency medical workers.

Officials in the District said the emergency plans will be implemented automatically, even if nothing goes wrong, but they add that they don't anticipate having to rely on the measures.

"Our intent is not to alarm people, but put people at ease that things are under control," said Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D).

Violent Death Spurs Action

Neighbors Criticize Officials' Reaction

Sadness and anger lingered as the District coped with a recent spasm of violence that claimed the life of a Southeast grandmother who was shot in the back as she tried to shield children from a neighborhood gun fight.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams and federal officials promised to work together to combat crime. "You can't really accomplish things in today's environment if you're acting alone," said Ramsey Johnson, special counsel to the U.S. attorney. "You need to act in partnership."

But the mayor came under fire from several activists who accused him of being all talk and little action.

"Everybody comes out of the woodwork at a time like this," the Rev. Bernard Taylor, pastor of Open Door Baptist Church, said at the funeral of shooting victim Helen Foster-El. "They want to act like they're with you, but they're not really with you, because when you really need them, they are nowhere to be found."

Foster-El was remembered as a woman who put children first. "Helen Foster-El was no victim," Taylor said. "She understood somebody needed to do something."

Montgomery Schools Chief

Weast Won Acclaim for Work in N.C.

It looks as if a school administrator in North Carolina is on his way to the head of the class in Montgomery County.

In a unanimous vote, the county Board of Education picked Jerry Weast as superintendent of Maryland's second-largest school system. Contract details still have to be worked out, and the state school superintendent has to approve the appointment, but hopes are already high.

"He's going to take us to the next level with new approaches," said board member Stephen N. Abrams (At Large). "We're talking world class--national model."

Weast, 51, superintendent of schools in Guilford County, where Greensboro is, has won national recognition for raising test scores, making teachers more accountable and putting more resources in lower-performing schools.

Across the Region

Fish Kill in Md.; Fighting Trash in Va.

* The drought is being blamed for a fish kill that may be one of the worst in a decade. More than 200,000 fish died last week in Maryland waterways, and the Department of Natural Resources said the toll could climb to 1 million if dry conditions persist through July. Most of the dead fish were minnows, but eel, perch, largemouth bass and catfish also fell victim to a lack of oxygen in the water caused by the spread of algae.

* The District man charged with second-degree murder in the death of a rollerblading American University student is a fugitive no more. Police arrested Shane S. DeLeon, who had walked away from a halfway house a week earlier, as he waited to board a bus to Ocean City, Md. This time, DeLeon, 45, is far less likely to break free--he's being held without bond in jail.

* Arlington police say a 17-year-old girl won't face charges for leaving her newborn daughter in a church bathroom. A spokesman wouldn't comment on whether police believe that she left the infant while she went to look for a priest and then panicked when a woman found the baby. Police didn't hear from the teenager until they contacted her five days later. The girl hopes to keep the baby, who is now in foster care. She said she gave birth by herself after doing research at the library and on the Internet.

* Virginia's war on trash is getting dirty. First, lawmakers tried to limit the garbage that comes into the state and is dumped at landfills. Then a federal judge blocked enforcement of the state's new laws, saying interstate commerce is protected in the Constitution. Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) is vowing to fight all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary, for the new limits.

* As you enter the final half of the final year of the 1900s, here's yet another thing to keep in mind: There are hundreds of new laws to pay attention to in Maryland and Virginia. If you're a smoker, you'll pay more for cigarettes in Maryland after the state raised the tax on each pack by 30 cents. If you're a 16-year-old in Maryland or an older new driver, it will take longer to get an unrestricted license. In Virginia, a new "Patient's Bill of Rights" will allow easier access to medical specialists.

CAPTION: Lynne Waymon, whose only child, 16-year-old Matthew, was killed in the accident, speaks with reporters after the trial.

CAPTION: Michael Schoenfeld and his parents leave the courthouse after the verdict.

CAPTION: Two teenage girls are charged with killing Natalie Giles Davis.