MARYLAND

Youngest Sniper Victim Returns to School

Iran Brown, the youngest victim of the Washington area sniper shootings, returned to classes at his Bowie middle school yesterday.

The 13-year-old arrived at Benjamin Tasker Middle School on a school bus and, with no fanfare, used the same campus entrance that he had been walking toward when he was shot Oct. 7.

He mixed in so easily with his classmates that he slipped by the principal and three security officers before they could greet him.

"I'm happy to have him back," said Leon Anderson, one of his eighth-grade teachers. "Some kids are a joy to have in the classroom. Iran is one of those. He listens, he's focused, he's on task."

Iran's chief surgeon, Martin Eichelberger, said the teenager returned to school earlier than anticipated. He still cannot carry heavy objects, though, and Eichelberger asked the school to let Iran keep one set of books at school and another set at home.

"I think he's definitely much better than I would expect," Eichelberger said.

Washington County Weighs Transfer Tax

Washington County commissioners, facing increased development pressure, are considering asking state lawmakers for approval to impose a transfer tax on real estate transactions.

Proponents say a 1 percent tax could generate $1.2 million a year for school construction, urban redevelopment and agricultural and historic preservation.

Gregory Snook, the president of the commissioners, said he thinks the county's legislative delegation would support a transfer tax, an excise tax or impact fees. Commissioner John Munson objected to any new taxes. "The answer is to quit this crazy spending," he said.

THE DISTRICT

Brentwood Fumigation Called Smooth

U.S. Postal Service officials said yesterday that the weekend's fumigation of the quarantined Brentwood Road NE postal plant went smoothly.

By Sunday, the pumping of anthrax-killing chlorine dioxide gas, the process of transforming it into wastewater and the dehumidifying of the plant were completed, officials said. Crews were expected to enter the facility yesterday and begin collecting thousands of samples that will determine whether the fumigation killed anthrax spores inside.

An independent committee of specialists is to review the results and decide whether the fumigation worked or further cleanup is necessary.

Six minor leaks of the gas occurred on the roof over the weekend, but none posed a threat to the public, and all were below federal standards for exposure to the substance, officials said.

Construction Workers Injured in NW

A 24-year-old construction worker was in critical condition at Washington Hospital Center yesterday after a floor joist collapsed under him at a rowhouse under construction in the 1300 block of Park Road NW.

D.C. fire department spokesman Alan Etter said the injured man and another worker, age 22, were not buried by the collapse but probably were hurt by falling objects. The accident occurred about 9:30 a.m. Authorities did not release the workers' names.

The other worker was treated at the hospital center and released.

Mural to Be Unveiled at Housing Site

Student artists from the Maya Angelou Public Charter School today will unveil a mural they painted at 13th and U streets NW, the site of a future limited-equity cooperative that is to provide homes to 12 low-earning households.

The mural's theme is gentrification. It was painted at the site of Temperance Row, a former housing complex demolished in 1953 because it was deemed a slum property.

The Manna Community Development Corp. will build the townhouses, which will be surrounded by much pricier renovations and new construction in the trendy U Street corridor. The 24-by-10-foot mural, which will be unveiled at 1:30 p.m., will remain at the site until construction on the new homes begins in 2004.

VIRGINIA

Colleges Give Warning About Cutbacks

The state's public colleges will have 1,470 fewer faculty members and offer about 2,800 fewer courses next year because of budget cuts, making it more difficult for Virginians to get a degree, presidents of the state's public colleges and universities said yesterday.

In a grimly worded "Communication to All Virginians," the presidents warned that access to higher education "is gravely threatened" because faculty losses are forcing state-supported colleges to take fewer students next year. More than 500 of the lost positions are full-time professors; the rest are part-time faculty.

Although the number of instructors is shrinking, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia predicts that demand for public higher education will increase by at least 32,000 students in the next eight years, the presidents said.

"The opportunities for Virginians to go to college are limited to a degree not seen in almost 40 years," they said.

The statement was signed by the chief executives of all 15 public four-year colleges and all 23 community colleges in Virginia. It was sent to top state officials and legislators by the Council of Presidents and the Virginia Business Higher Education Council, a nonprofit group that lobbies for more money for colleges.

Victim of Fatal Crash Was Retired Judge

Fairfax County police yesterday identified the man killed in a single-car accident Sunday in the Fairfax Station area as Thomas Jefferson Rothrock, a retired county judge.

Rothrock, 69, was driving a 1997 Chrysler minivan east on Clifton Road about 3:30 p.m. when the vehicle veered onto the shoulder and struck a tree, police said.

Police said Rothrock died at the scene. His wife, Anita Rothrock, 69, was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where she was listed in critical condition yesterday.

Rothrock was a Fairfax County General District Court judge from 1980 to 1994. He continued to fill in after his retirement.

"God didn't bring me through this to leave me hanging. Why would he leave me now? I'm ecstatic."

-- Dontee B. Stokes, after a Baltimore jury acquitted him of attempted murder and assault in the shooting of a Catholic priest, who Stokes said molested him. -- Page A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Nancy Trejos, Manny Fernandez, David A. Fahrenthold, Debbi Wilgoren and Maria Glod and the Associated Press.