VCU Names Government School for Wilder

Virginia Commonwealth University has decided to name its new School of Government and Public Affairs in honor of former Virginia governor L. Douglas Wilder.

The school's Board of Visitors approved the honor Friday. The L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs will offer programs in criminal justice, economics, nonprofit management, political science, public administration and urban studies and planning.

Wilder, the nation's first popularly elected black governor, has been a distinguished professor at VCU for 10 years.

Woman Rescued From Fairfax House Fire

A woman was taken by helicopter to Washington Hospital Center yesterday after she was rescued from a burning house in the 1100 block of Custis Street in Fairfax County, officials said.

Lt. Mark Stone of the Fairfax fire department said two neighbors called about the fire about 11:45 a.m. and appeared to play a role in rescuing the woman. He did not have further details.

He said the woman, whom he described as elderly, did not appear to have life-threatening injuries but was taken to the hospital for observation. Three firefighters required treatment for minor injuries and were taken to Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, Stone said. The cause of the fire had yet to be determined. Officials estimated damage at $150,000, Stone said.

Two Die in Head-On Crash in Loudoun

Two women were killed yesterday when the cars they were driving collided on Route 15 in Loudoun County, police said. The accident occurred about 10:25 a.m. nearly a half-mile south of Harmony Church Road.

Jessica Coon, 20, of Manassas was driving a Kia Sephia north on Route 15 when she swerved into the southbound lane and drove head-on into a Chevy Lumina driven by Jean Fargo, 78, of Lansdowne, Virginia State Police Trooper Thomas Dunlap said.

Both died on impact, Dunlap said. There were no passengers. Fargo wore a seat belt; Coon did not, Dunlap said. Air bags in both cars deployed, he said.

Dunlap said that there were no hazards in the roadway and that it was unclear what caused the Kia to swerve across the road into the Chevy. Witnesses told police that traffic was moving at about the speed limit, 55 mph, at the time of the crash.

Chihuahua Stolen From Alexandria Shelter

An 8-month-old Chihuahua that recently had abdominal surgery and needs follow-up veterinary care was stolen from an Alexandria animal shelter Thursday, Alexandria police said.

Police said they are investigating the theft of Jemma, a spayed female who was taken from a fenced run area at the Vola Lawson Animal Shelter on Eisenhower Avenue between noon and 6 p.m.

Jemma, whose adoption had been arranged, is black and tan, with short hair and weighs about seven pounds. She has stitches on her belly and a shaved spot on her front leg, police said. Anyone with information is asked to contact Alexandria police at 703-838-4444 or the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria at 703-838-4774.

VRE Names Top Official

Virginia Railway Express has named Dale Zehner as chief operating officer. Zehner has been in that job temporarily since October, when Pete Sklannik Jr. resigned after an investigation found what railroad directors said was $17,000 worth of "questionable and inappropriate spending" in his three years on the job.

Before assuming the top spot, Zehner, 58, of Fairfax Station was manager of budget and finance for the railroad.

VRE connects Northern Virginia with Washington on two commuter lines that originate in Manassas and Fredericksburg. Over the past three years, VRE ridership has grown by 18 percent a year, or five times the national average. Designed to carry 10,000 passengers a day, the railroad is expected to reach 21,000 passengers by the end of the decade.

To meet that demand, Zehner says, VRE needs to buy more rail cars and locomotives, lengthen platforms, expand parking and make other investments. It has a $191 million request pending in Congress.

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Harpers Ferry Expansion Passes Senate

The U.S. Senate has approved plans to expand Harpers Ferry National Historic Park by more than 1,200 acres to include Civil War battle sites threatened by development.

Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) said that expanding the borders at Harpers Ferry protects one of West Virginia's historic jewels.

Harpers Ferry, at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, is the site of a former federal armory that was captured by abolitionist John Brown and his followers in 1859. The site became part of the national park system in 1944.


Man Killed by Train in Gaithersburg

Police are investigating the death of a 50-year-old man who was lying on the rail tracks in Gaithersburg early yesterday and was struck by a freight train. Deforest R. Doing, of no fixed address, was killed, but investigators had not determined whether it was a homicide, suicide or accident.

The train's operator sounded the horn but was not able to stop before hitting the man, police said. The incident occurred near East Diamond Avenue, under the Route 355 overpass.

Man Fatally Stabbed in District Heights

A 45-year-old Southeast Washington man was killed early yesterday after a domestic argument in Prince George's County, police said. Donald K. Denny, of the 1300 block of S Street SE, was found suffering from stab wounds in a District Heights apartment shortly after 4 a.m., when police responded to a call in the 1900 block of Rochelle Avenue.

Police arrested Lavon I. Jackson, 50, of no fixed address, in the killing.

Bowie Man Dies in Crash

A 65-year-old man died Saturday night when his car struck a pine tree in Bowie, Prince George's County police said yesterday. Joseph Kelly, of the 2800 block of Belair Drive in Bowie, was killed instantly after his 1997 Toyota Camry hit a mailbox, sped forward several blocks, then crashed into a tree near Belair and Kembridge drives just before 8 p.m., police said.

"We mix folks who are still bouncing off the walls in with the little old lady in the corner. This is a bad mix."

-- Howard M. Cullum, a former state mental health commissioner, on the wide variety of patients thrown together in assisted living. -- Page A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Donna St. George and Lyndsey Layton and the Associated Press.