MARYLAND

Two Held in Bethesda Killing

Two D.C. residents arrested in connection with the killing of Bijan Manuel Nassirdaftari of Bethesda on Sunday are being held without bond in Montgomery County.

Edward R. Thomas, 20, and Ardele J. Monkkonen, 18, both of the 1700 block of Harvard Street NW, were arrested Tuesday in the District. Both were transferred yesterday to Montgomery County and charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery.

A third suspect in the case, Michael J. Manaugh, 18, of Baileys Court in Silver Spring, was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder and armed robbery. He also is being held without bond.

Police say the three tried to rob Nassirdaftari when he tried to buy a pound of marijuana from them. After a struggle, Thomas chased Nassirdaftari, shot him in the head and took his money, investigators say.

Pr. George's School Funds Released

The Maryland State Department of Education lifted its hold on $40 million withheld from Prince George's County public schools after that system turned in an overdue audit this week, a department spokesman said.

Spokesman Bill Reinhard said this week that the state aid would flow shortly to Prince George's, helping it avert potential budget troubles before the new school year begins Aug. 22. The fiscal 2004 audit, due Sept. 30, was delivered to the state agency in Baltimore on Monday.

S.Md. Democrats Line Up Behind Cardin

Southern Maryland's Democratic leaders rallied behind U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin yesterday in his bid to succeed retiring Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D) in 2006. House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer lined up dozens of past and present state representatives, county commissioners and mayors from the fastest-growing region of the state to support his longtime colleague.

Among those endorsing Cardin were state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (Calvert), Sen. Thomas M. Middleton (Charles), Charles State's Attorney Leonard C. Collins Jr. and former state senator C. Bernard Fowler (Calvert). The backing by party stalwarts and elected officials sought to further define Cardin, a Baltimore congressman, as the establishment choice more than a year before the Democratic primary.

Former Maryland congressman and NAACP leader Kweisi Mfume, also of Baltimore, is the other major candidate seeking the Democratic nomination.

VIRGINIA

Man Charged in Abduction Dies

One of three men charged in the abduction of an Alexandria lawyer last year died Wednesday of natural causes in a Williamsburg hospital, officials said yesterday.

Frederick A. Baruday, 74, had been in custody since his arrest Dec. 7, when he was charged with abduction and using a firearm in connection with the kidnapping of Kenneth E. Labowitz.

According to prosecutors, Baruday and two other men -- David M. Kluttz and Aubrey "Mike" Berryman -- abducted Labowitz in a plot to force him to drop a lawsuit. Berryman was sentenced to 24 years in prison. Kluttz is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 23.

A judge ruled that Baruday was not competent to stand trial. He had been undergoing treatment at Eastern State Hospital.

Fairfax City Man Charged With Rape

A 35-year-old Fairfax City man who is a registered sex offender was arrested and charged yesterday in connection with an alleged sexual assault on a teenage girl, city police said.

They said Lloyd J. Wilson of the 11100 block of Little Brook Lane was charged with rape in connection with an incident that occurred yesterday at his home. A Virginia State Police flier said Wilson was convicted of sexual battery in Texas in 1992.

THE REGION

Zoo Is Pledged Elephant Research Funds

The National Zoo has received a pledge of $180,000 from a circus executive to support its continuing research on elephant herpes, a virus that killed a young elephant at the zoo. Kenneth Feld, chief executive of Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, made the pledge last month.

Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus, or EEHV, causes extensive bleeding in an elephant's heart but is not infectious to humans. The zoo's 16-month-old elephant, Kumari, died in 1995 after contracting the virus. Since then, the zoo has set up a laboratory that studies the virus and tests blood samples from captive elephants in North America that show symptoms of the disease. Some have been saved by early detection and treatment.

Ringling Bros. has been sued by animal-rights activists for allegedly violating the Endangered Species Act by mistreating elephants. Jane Garrison, an exotic-animal specialist with the Humane Society of the United States, called Feld's grant a public relations effort to divert attention from the lawsuit.

The grant was reported yesterday by the Wall Street Journal. Feld Entertainment, based in Great Falls, has denied mistreating elephants. Darin Johnson, a circus spokesman, said yesterday that the conservation center was established long before the lawsuit. "Ringling Bros. and the National Zoo have made the conservation of Asian elephants a priority," he said.

THE DISTRICT

Md. Firm Again in Talks on Stadium Name

A Bethesda-based investment firm is again in negotiations with the District to purchase the naming rights to Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, according to sources close to the talks.

ProFunds Advisors was on the verge of signing a three-year, $5 million deal for the naming rights in the spring, but the talks broke down over whether the firm would have to pay for an extra year at RFK if the new stadium was not ready.

Mark H. Tuohey, chairman of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, called the negotiations "productive discussions" but would not comment further.

The deal includes allowing ProFunds to keep its name on the stadium for all or part of the 2008 season if the Nationals' new stadium along the Anacostia River is not ready, according to sources.

Telephone messages left with a ProFunds spokesman were not returned yesterday.

"It's a little bizarre when you think about it, that life or death can ride on an IQ point or two."

-- John Blume, a Cornell University law professor, on the case of Daryl Atkins, who faces execution for murder in Virginia unless a York County jury decides that he is retarded. -- A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Leef Smith, Nick Anderson, Ann E. Marimow, Thomas Heath, Fulvio Cativo, Jonathan Abel, Martin Weil and Karlyn Barker.