VIRGINIA

Smoke Apparently Kills Arlington Woman

A 77-year-old Arlington woman was found dead inside the front door of her home yesterday morning after a basement fire filled the house with smoke, police and fire officials said.

Police officers responding to a 9:45 a.m. emergency call hang-up in the 2600 block of Robert Walker Place found the woman, whom authorities later identified as Hazel Runyon, lying between her front door and the basement steps, apparently suffering from smoke inhalation. The officers pulled Runyon from the burning house and tried to revive her, a police spokesman said.

Officers got to the home nearly 30 minutes after the emergency call, police said. Operators had been trying to call the number back but couldn't get an answer, and the first available officer arrived at the scene at 10:13 a.m.

Arlington Fire Capt. George Williams said firefighters were able to put out the fire in about 15 minutes. Investigators believe the fire started in the basement but have yet to determine a cause.

Virginia Reports New Case of SARS

Health officials say they have another suspected case of SARS in Virginia. The patient is a woman who lives in the Hanover Health District southeast of Richmond.

State officials learned of the case Wednesday. Virginia now has six suspected cases of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. The state Health Department released no other details. SARS has killed more than 170 people and sickened 3,000 worldwide.

Hunter's Death Under Investigation

Authorities in Rockbridge County are seeking information to help them determine who shot a Maryland turkey hunter in the back last weekend.

David Stack, 44, of Nanjemoy died of a single rifle shot last Saturday. It's the first hunting fatality in 13 years in which the person responsible is unknown.

Stack was hunting with his family in the Saville Hill section of Rockbridge County. When he didn't return to camp, family members called authorities. Stack's body was found Sunday morning after state police used a helicopter with a heat sensor to scour the area.

Unlike deer hunters, who wear bright orange, turkey hunters are usually dressed in camouflage. A conservation group is offering a $1,000 reward for information on Stack's death.

MARYLAND

Campaign Workers Fight Charges

Attorneys for three former campaign employees accused of hiring poll workers to hand out literature supporting Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) on Election Day argued yesterday in a Prince George's County courtroom that the state law under which they were charged violates their right to free speech.

In a pretrial hearing in Circuit Court, attorneys for the three former employees -- Shirley R. Brookins, Steven Martin and Rashida Hogg -- sought to have the charges dismissed.

They argued that distributing campaign materials is protected political speech and that a Maryland election law prohibiting the doling out of "walking-around money" to poll workers who advocate for a candidate is unconstitutional. A branch of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a brief in favor of the defendants.

State prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli argued that the statute is needed to prevent the appearance of vote-buying .

Brookins, head of a temporary-worker agency in the District, allegedly hired homeless people to urge voters to support Ehrlich on Nov. 5. Students at Bowie State University have told investigators that Martin and Hogg recruited them to work at the polls.

Circuit Court Judge Richard H. Sothoron Jr. is expected to rule on the motion by the end of April.

Brookins's trial is scheduled to start May 5. Martin and Hogg are to go on trial later that month.

Duncan Expands Political Team

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan has added two consultants to his political team, signaling his continued interest in a run for governor in 2006.

Duncan (D) hired Kate Sheckells, 31, to be his political director and brought in the Washington firm of Harrison Hickman to handle his polling operation.

Sheckells most recently worked as a political operative on the gubernatorial campaign of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D), serving as a liaison between the campaign and various community groups. Hickman served as a pollster for Democrat Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign and last year surveyed in Maryland for Townsend and other Democrats.

Researcher Faulted in Subject's Death

The Food and Drug Administration has ruled that a researcher at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine violated federal regulations during an experiment that caused the death of a research volunteer.

Ellen Roche died in June 2001 after inhaling a chemical in a test designed to demonstrate how the lungs of healthy people protect against asthma attacks.

The FDA sent a warning letter to Alkis Togias listing the violations and asking him to restrict his research. Togias was cited for failing to apply to the FDA before using the chemical, failing to get the approval of a university oversight board before changing aspects of the experiment and failing to properly warn volunteers about the risks.

The school said Togias is negotiating with the FDA over terms of a settlement, and his research has been restarted. The federal government briefly shut down human experiments at Hopkins after Roche's death.

State to Review Storm Preparations

As the anniversary of a tornado that killed five people in Southern Maryland nears, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich (R) plans to convene a conference at the State Emergency Operations Center in Reisterstown to review the state's ability to handle severe storms.

"We are taking aggressive actions to ensure that Marylanders are better prepared to meet the challenges of severe storms and other emergency situations," Ehrlich said in a prepared statement.

The conference Thursday will provide a centerpiece to the observance of "Severe Storm Awareness Week," which Ehrlich declared yesterday. The tornado April 28 marched across the three Southern Maryland counties, destroying much of downtown La Plata.

"I have no power to lose you again. I'm too tired from all these years of separation."

-- Kamela Salem Mohsen to her husband, Ali Shaker, an Iraqi exile living in Northern Virginia, who must decide whether to once again leave her to pursue a cause in his native country. Shaker is part of a group prepared to rebuild Iraq's legal system. -- Page B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Josh White, Nancy Trejos and Matthew Mosk and the Associated Press.