Lenny Batters Virgin Islands

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands--Howling winds and torrential rains battered the U.S. Virgin Islands yesterday as mighty Hurricane Lenny barreled through the northeastern Caribbean with winds near 135 mph.

Forecasters said that the 55,000 residents of St. Croix, an island south of St. John, were most likely to sustain a direct hit from Lenny's pounding surf and fierce winds.

Hurricane warnings were posted for most islands along the northeastern edge of the Caribbean Sea, including Puerto Rico, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Dutch St. Maarten, French St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, St. Eustatius, Saba, Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, Antigua and Barbuda.

Dragging Death Case Goes to Jury

JASPER, Tex.--The jury in the case against the third man arrested in the dragging death of a black man began deliberating yesterday after a prosecutor ridiculed Shawn Allen Berry's claim that he was just a horrified bystander.

Berry, 24, could get the death penalty if convicted in the murder and kidnapping.

Byrd, 49, was chained by the ankles and dragged to pieces last year.

It was one of the nation's ghastliest racial crimes in decades.

Two friends of Berry's, avowed racists Lawrence Russell Brewer and John William King, were convicted and sentenced to die in separate trials earlier this year.

Pastor's Child Abuse Charge Tossed

BOSTON--The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court dismissed a child abuse charge against a minister who spanked his son, ruling that child welfare officials provided inadequate evidence.

Donald Cobble, a minister from Woburn, said he spanked his 12-year-old son once or twice a month with the end of a leather belt to instill discipline.

The Department of Social Services filed an abuse finding against Cobble but offered to drop the charge if he agreed to stop spanking. He refused.

The high court ordered the department's finding vacated.

Teen Injured in Accidental Shooting

DICKINSON, Tex.--A 15-year-old was critically wounded at his school when a handgun accidentally discharged while a student was showing it off before classes, police said. Two students at Dickinson High School southeast of Houston were being questioned about the shooting, in which the boy was hit in the face, police said.

The injured boy was in critical condition at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, said spokeswoman Alicia Simmons.