Central Park Sprayed for Mosquitoes

NEW YORK--Manhattan's Central Park was sprayed with insecticide yesterday in New York City's battle to kill mosquitoes after a rare outbreak of St. Louis encephalitis that claimed three lives.

Health officials were investigating whether a 79-year-old woman who died Saturday in the borough of Queens was a fourth victim of the brain-swelling viral infection named after the city where it first appeared in 1933.

The number of confirmed cases of St. Louis encephalitis (SLE) in the first recorded outbreak of the disease in New York City increased to 11 with the addition of two new cases in the Bronx yesterday. Sixty-five cases are still under investigation.

"All New Yorkers should take precautions against mosquito bites," Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani told a news conference, urging residents "to be calm and cooperative as we continue our surveillance for this virus and do whatever is necessary."

The outbreak, traced to birds that carried the virus from southern regions and transmitted it to the local mosquito population, became apparent to city health officials Sept 2.

Health workers used trucks to spray the insecticide, malathion, over the 843 acres of Central Park during a seven-hour period starting late Sunday night.

Large areas of Staten Island and Queens were also sprayed Sunday night. Aerial spraying began last week in residential areas and intensified over the weekend to cover the city's five boroughs.

Officials said insecticide would be sprayed last night by truck in areas of Manhattan south of Central Park, including Times Square, Greenwich Village and Wall Street.

Suspect Called Dragging Death a 'Rush'

BRYAN, Tex.--A white supremacist charged with dragging a black man to his death was so proud of his participation in the gruesome act that he bragged in a jailhouse letter that it was a "rush" and "I'm still licking my lips for more," a prosecutor said as the man's murder trial began.

"I'm the . . . hero of the day," Lawrence Russell Brewer wrote to another inmate while being held at the Jasper County Jail in the June 1998 slaying.

Brewer, 32, is one of three white men who were charged with killing James Byrd Jr., 49, by dragging him behind a pickup truck. One of the men has already been convicted and sentenced to death.

"Well, I did it," Brewer wrote in the July 1998 letter, which was intercepted by a deputy. "And no longer am I a virgin. It was a rush and I'm still licking my lips for more."

"He sees himself as a hero, a star, that he's really accomplished," Jasper District Attorney Guy James Gray said in his opening statement.

Defense attorney Doug Barlow, who declined to make an opening statement, said Brewer was writing about sex and not a slaying.

Brewer and John William King and Shawn Allen Berry, both 24, are accused of abducting Byrd, 49, chaining him and dragging him to pieces.

King, the first to go to trial, was sentenced to death in February. Berry is awaiting trial.