MARYLAND

'2000' License Plate Nets $3,250

A seafood dealer on Kent Island has ponied up $3,250 for the right to display Maryland's only "2000" license plate celebrating the turn of the century.

He posted the high bid during an online auction on eBay to raise money for the Maryland Commission for Celebration 2000. So far, David Wehrs isn't talking about why he wanted the plate or what he'll do with it.

The special tag bears the commission's logo, the words "Marking the Millennium" and the number 2000.

The commission, which sponsors arts, educational, historic preservation and human service programs celebrating the millennium, is also raising money through the sale of similar millennium tags. They cost $50 and are the same as the $3,250 version without the number 2000.

So far, executive director Louise Hayman said, the group has sold a few hundred of the plates, which can be ordered through the commission at 1-410-260-6352. "They're selling really well," she said. "There has never been a plate quite like this, so we weren't sure what to expect."

Gag Dynamite Leads to Bomb Scare

Phony sticks of dynamite found in a Crofton town house triggered a bomb scare yesterday that forced the evacuation of the surrounding neighborhood for several hours.

Movers taking furniture from the house in the 1600 block of Forest Hill Court, which its owners had forfeited, found the sticks and notified police about noon. While technicians analyzed the object, the state fire marshal's bomb squad evacuated about 60 nearby residents from their homes.

Officials determined the object to be a gag novelty device, with no explosive capability. No charges will be filed against the owner of the object because he made no threats or warnings. Residents were allowed back to their homes about 3 p.m.

Court Leaves Child With Foster Parents

A boy who was tortured in one of Montgomery County's most gruesome child abuse cases will stay with foster parents instead of his paternal grandmother, who had sought custody of him, according to a ruling by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

Margaret Adams, whose son Alan Lee Holmes is serving an eight-year prison sentence for child abuse, had argued that a Montgomery County judge erred in granting custody of her grandson, now 8, to foster parents.

Holmes's girlfriend, Alba Ingrid Scarpelli, was convicted of repeatedly tying the child, then 5, to his bed with a cat leash, taping his mouth shut and force-feeding him hot peppers and whiskey. Scarpelli was released from the Montgomery County jail system in June 1998 after serving 14 months.

The appeals court ruled yesterday that Montgomery District Court Judge Joanne Wills acted properly and in the child's best interest by noting that the boy had been abused before while in his grandmother's care.

No Foul Play Suspected in Man's Death

The body of a homeless man who may have been dead for up to four days was found yesterday next to an auto-repair shop in Capitol Heights, Prince George's County police said.

Investigators said they did not suspect foul play in the death of Lawrence R. Mason, 48, whose body was discovered about 12:15 p.m. between a parked car and a property fence at Al's Auto Clinic in the 6100 block of Central Avenue.

Police said Mason, who was well known in the neighborhood, apparently had a history of seizures and other medical problems. An autopsy was to be performed.

THE DISTRICT

Commuter Bus Strikes, Kills Pedestrian

A bus struck and killed a 49-year-old homeless man near Union Station yesterday morning, shortly after dropping off commuters from Loudoun County, D.C. police said.

The man, identified as William Norris, was walking east on E Street and onto a North Capitol Street crosswalk at 7:40 a.m. when he was struck, said Officer Kenneth A. Bryson, a police spokesman.

The Loudoun County Yellow Motor Coach commuter bus also was traveling east on E Street and was turning north onto North Capitol when it hit Norris, Bryson said.

Since January, Yellow Transportation Inc. has run Yellow Motor Coach commuter buses under contract to Loudoun County, according to Ray Ambrose, general manager of the Annapolis Junction office of the company.

He declined to release the name of the driver or information about the driver's record while the company double-checked its records.

The accident was under investigation.

Lanes to Be Closed for Road Work

The Monroe Street Bridge over railroad tracks between Eighth and Ninth streets NE will be resurfaced with concrete starting tomorrow. The work will be finished in mid-October. While the resurfacing is underway, the number of open lanes on the bridge will be reduced from two in each direction to one in each direction.

Traffic on the Southeast Freeway will be shifted to the right in each direction from 7:30 p.m. today until 6:30 a.m. tomorrow while work is done on the median. While new concrete barriers are installed, the left lane in each direction will be closed. Motorists should drive cautiously through the work zone.

VIRGINIA

Neighborhood Retrieves Pilfered Sign

The welcome sign that was pilfered from the idyllic Pleasant Valley neighborhood in Fairfax County last month, after residents spent a year raising $1,900 to erect it, has been recovered.

The 8-by-3 1/2-foot sign was found over the weekend, badly scratched and dented, on the banks of the community's creek.

It was stolen Aug. 14, six days after it was erected. Its recovery came hours after the community of 500 families held a "Bring Back Our Sign" bake sale that raised $687 for a replacement.

Pam Cave, a neighborhood activist who helped organize the bake sale, said recovery of the sign does not end the search for its abductor. A reward of $1,000 remains in effect.

"We're going to solve this crime and identify the thief and/or thieves involved," Cave said.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

"Stay indoors and watch television in air-conditioned living rooms in the evening."

-- Duane J. Gubler, director of the division of vector-borne infectious diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on one defense against mosquito infestations. -- Page A1