Would-Be Migrants Sent Home

MIAMI BEACH--A day after a boat packed with more than 400 Haitians, Dominicans and Chinese ran aground about a mile off the Florida coast, the Coast Guard began shipping the would-be migrants home, officials said last night.

Four of the 411 passengers, three of them pregnant women, were brought to shore for medical reasons and are expected to be returned later, said Mike Gilhooly, a spokesman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. "Any migrant who expresses fear of persecution will be screened by INS" on the return trip, he said.

Of the 411 passengers, 16 are Dominican, two are Chinese and the rest are Haitian, Coast Guard officials said.

"I'm very disappointed that INS once more has decided to continue its racist policy vis-a-vis the Haitians and failed once more to give them the right to a fair and due process," said Marleine Bastien, president of Haitian Women of Miami.

But INS spokesman Russ Bergeron said the United States does not treat Haitian migrants any differently than migrants from other nations. Anyone intercepted at sea can be repatriated. The only difference is that, under a 1966 law, Cubans who reach shore may seek residency one year after being paroled from detention.

The likely repatriation of the passengers prompted a second day of protests by about 400 people at the Coast Guard station here.

* UNION CITY, Tenn.--The presence of a stabbing victim's stolen car outside a motel led to the arrest of Steven Ray Thacker, 29, of Chouteau, Okla., who police said is the prime suspect in the late December death of Laci Dawn Hill, 25, in Bixby, Okla.; the stabbing death of Forrest Boyd, 24, of Polk County, Mo., Saturday; and the killing of a tow truck driver in Dyersburg, Tenn., early yesterday. Thacker, who was targeted after a surveillance video showed him using Hill's credit cards, was charged with vehicle theft and with being a fugitive from justice.

* CONCORD, N.H.--A state prison inmate quaking at the prospect of seeing in 2000 sewed his eyes and lips shut with dental floss, officials said. Guards found the inmate, who was serving time for cocaine possession, covered in baby powder and clutching a Bible Friday night. "The inmate told corrections officers he was in fear of the new year," said Mark Wefers, a prison official.

* SAN FRANCISCO--A man wielding a meat cleaver attacked at least six pedestrians as he ran down a busy city street Saturday before police tackled him and a homeless man grabbed the cleaver. Ying Tan, 49, was booked for investigation of six counts of attempted murder, seven counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of assault on a police officer.

* FORT WORTH--Five teenage boys in the cab of a pickup truck died when the driver lost control trying to merge onto Interstate 30 and hit another truck head-on. The driver of the other truck was hospitalized in serious condition.

* DENVER--An apparently healthy newborn girl was found abandoned in the diaper section of a grocery store, her umbilical cord still attached, Denver police said. Doctors estimated the girl was born sometime on New Year's Day or early yesterday, two to 24 hours before she was found. Investigators were trying to find her parents but had no leads.

* LOMPOC, Calif.--A 2-week-old infant riding with his parents in a car was likely killed by a cow's hoof when the vehicle collided with the wandering animal and it rolled over the hood, officials said. Jarrett Garife Jr., who was in a car seat, died from internal injuries after the accident Tuesday on Highway 1.

CAPTION: Tony Jo Joseph, center, is among protesters in Miami Beach who rallied against the repatriation of migrants detained after their boat ran aground.