Arsonists Are Sought In California Wildfires

SACRAMENTO, Calif.--A handful of arsonists on the loose in Northern California are suspected of causing several of the wildfires that have scorched the region in recent weeks, state fire officials said yesterday.

"We figure we have four or five serial arsonists working the north state," said David LeMay, fire prevention chief at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

One blaze of suspicious origin has burned 40,000 acres in parts of Napa, Lake and Yolo counties. The fire kicked off in a remote canyon already hit by more than 15 suspected arson fires since the start of summer.

Authorities are seeking information from the public about the three-county fire and a blaze in Shasta County, where flames hopscotched across 26,000 acres in the hills east of Redding last weekend, destroying 128 homes and forcing the evacuation of 2,000 residents.

The so-called Jones Canyon fire started near an isolated campground at the southern edge of Lake Shasta and appears to be of human origin.

While fire bugs may have started some of the blazes, dry weather and high winds played a big role in turning them into infernos.

Boy, 11, Pleads Guilty In Rape of Girl, 8

ST. PAUL, Minn.--An 11-year-old boy has pleaded guilty to participating in the gang rape of an 8-year-old girl in an abandoned house.

The boy pleaded guilty Monday in juvenile court to second-degree criminal sexual conduct. He could be sent to a juvenile institution until he turns 19.

Two other boys, ages 10 and 13, have also been charged and are awaiting competency hearings next month.

Authorities say seven boys were involved in the September attack, four younger than 10, including the girl's 9-year-old brother. He is accused of luring the girl into the house, raping her and encouraging the others to participate. Under Minnesota law, those four are too young to be held legally responsible for criminal acts.

Meanwhile, in Golden, Colo., an 11-year-old Swiss American boy was ordered to stand trial in state court on charges of sexually molesting his 5-year-old sister.

The boy holds dual Swiss and U.S. citizenship and his case has become a cause celebre in Switzerland, where his father has denied the allegations and claimed the youth has been unfairly held in jail since August. His family left the United States and Swiss authorities have said the legal system has treated the boy with a severity disproportionate to the charges.

Iowa Bear Rabies Scare Ends After New Diagnosis

DES MOINES--Additional testing has shown no sign that a black bear cub that died suddenly had rabies, an initial diagnosis that prompted scores of people to undergo vaccination shots.

As many as 400 people were considered at risk because of their contact with the animal.

The bear died Aug. 27 at the Wild Midwest Petting Zoo in northwest Iowa.