THE REGION

Search Committee for Zoo Director Job

The Smithsonian Institution has formed a 10-member committee to help in the search for a National Zoo director to replace Lucy H. Spelman, who will step down at the end of the year.

Chairman David L. Evans, the Smithsonian's undersecretary for science, said the panel is conducting a nationwide search for someone "with a range of experiences in managing complex organizations [and] with a strong background in science and animal care who can build on the momentum for renewing the National Zoo."

The committee, which met for the first time Monday, also consists of Sheila Burke, deputy Smithsonian secretary; Thomas LaRock, executive director of Friends of the National Zoo; William Xanten, a longtime zoo employee and the zoo's general curator; Franchon Smithson, chairman of the zoo's advisory board; Russell Greenberg, director of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center; Alan Kelly, professor of pathology at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine; Scott Miller, acting associate director of science at the National Zoo; Jackie Ogden, director of animal programs at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida; and George Rabb, past director of Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.

School Meal Program Expanded

The U.S. Food and Nutrition Service recently announced an increase in the income limits for families applying for free and reduced-price meals for the next school year.

A family of four making between $24,505 and $34,873 will be charged 40 cents for school lunches and 30 cents for breakfasts. If a family of four makes $24,505 or less, students can apply for free breakfasts and lunches. The federal income guidelines are determined by the national poverty level and change slightly each year.

Nearly 68 percent of students in the District are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. The rate is about 33 percent of students in Virginia and about 31 percent in Maryland.

MARYLAND

State Court Won't Stay Oken Execution

Maryland's highest court refused yesterday to stay the execution of Steven Oken, moving the 42-year-old Baltimore County man significantly closer to death by lethal injection next week.

The Court of Appeals ruled that procedures for execution do not violate state law or constitute an unconstitutional "cruel or unusual punishment," as defense attorney Fred Bennett contended.

The only avenues left to Oken, who is scheduled to die between Monday and Friday, are quick appeals to federal court on the same issues and his standing request to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) that his sentence be commuted to life in prison. Bennett said he is prepared to file motions this morning in federal and state courts.

Oken was convicted in 1991 of the sexual assault and murder of Dawn Marie Garvin, a 20-year-old college student and newlywed.

VIRGINIA

Judge Orders Muhammad to Fairfax

A Fairfax County judge has ordered convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad moved from state prison to Northern Virginia to face trial in Fairfax, and he set June 22 for Muhammad to be arraigned on two charges of capital murder.

Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. said yesterday that Circuit Court Judge Jonathan C. Thacher signed an order Friday instructing that Muhammad be moved from death row at Sussex I prison in Waverly, Va., to the Fairfax jail.

The transfer probably will be done quietly for security reasons. Muhammad, 43, is on death row for the killing of Dean H. Meyers in Prince William County in October 2002, one of 10 sniper killings that month. Fairfax is prosecuting him for the slaying of Linda G. Franklin in the Seven Corners area. His accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, 19, was convicted in that killing in December and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Animal Shelter Worker Admits Stealing

A civilian employee at the Fairfax County animal shelter pleaded guilty yesterday to embezzling $400 from the shelter from donations made by citizens to the shelter. He was given a two-year suspended sentence and ordered to pay back the $400.

Steven Bouldin, 44, worked for the Fairfax County police as a dispatcher for 22 years, then transferred to the Animal Control Division two years ago.

Prosecutors said he accepted checks for $300 and $100 last year, then later stole $400 in cash donations and replaced the cash with the two checks. An audit later uncovered the discrepancy. Bouldin resigned from the department, and he said the episode was "something I will regret for the rest of my life."

THE DISTRICT

Probe Into Mailing on Slot Initiative

The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics called yesterday for an independent investigation into irregularities surrounding publication of a special supplement to the June 4 D.C. Register, the official legal bulletin of the District government.

The supplement -- containing the text of a proposed initiative to be placed on the Nov. 2 ballot -- was paid for, printed and mailed by a private interest: backers of a plan to bring slot machine gambling to the nation's capital.

The elections board called yesterday for the inspector general or the city auditor to determine whether any law was violated.

Regardless of possible irregularities, the board's general counsel, Kenneth J. McGhie, recommended last night that the board allow slots backers to proceed with their efforts to get a gambling measure on the ballot.

Mother Faces Jail Time in Cruelty Plea

The woman charged earlier this year with leaving her children alone in a filthy Southeast Washington apartment with almost no edible food pleaded guilty yesterday to attempted second-degree cruelty to children, a misdemeanor.

Colleen Hooks, 30, faces up to 180 days in jail when she is sentenced Aug. 10 by Judge Maurice Ross, who ordered her held until then.

Hooks, who has tested positive for illegal drugs, told police that she spent the family's monthly public assistance payment on "personal needs" instead of paying rent and buying food. The filthy house, she told police, was the fault of the children. Four of them were home when police came to the apartment; the youngest was 3 months old; the oldest, 7.

"I'm representing 17 of us in our family. I just felt he was such a great guy -- this was the least I could do for him."

-- Steven Kruse, 40, of Ogden, Iowa, a grocery warehouse employee

who was waiting outside the Capitol to pay his respects

to former president Ronald Reagan. -- Page A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Karlyn Barker, Ylan Q. Mui, Susan Levine, Tom Jackman, Lori Montgomery and Henri Cauvin and the Associated Press.