Man Who Jumped From Plane

Was Under Investigation

HOUSTON -- A man who apparently jumped to his death from a small plane at 9,000 feet was under investigation on suspicion of stealing NASA technology, authorities say.

Officials continued to search a 20-square-mile area for Russell Edward Filler's body yesterday after he went out the door of the single-engine plane Sunday.

Waller County Sheriff's Department Lt. John Kremmer said the plunge appeared to be intentional. He said Filler, 47, apparently had no parachute.

Federal authorities last week had contacted Filler, an engineer for a NASA space station contractor, after they traced a NASA-owned laptop computer to his home. The computer, which did not contain sensitive data, disappeared Oct. 25.

* NEW YORK -- A man was convicted of murder and could get the death penalty in the slayings of five Wendy's employees who were herded into a restaurant freezer and shot execution-style during a holdup. The jury will begin hearing evidence today on whether John Taylor, 38, should die by injection. Seven people were shot in the holdup in Queens; two survived. Prosecutors said Taylor plotted the murders and shot two victims.

* WORCESTER, Mass. -- A man was sentenced to 25 to 30 years in prison for drugging and raping his young daughter's friends during sleepovers. "I've never heard a set of facts as heinous as this," Superior Court Judge John S. McCann said a day earlier, after accepting Peter M. Gagnon's guilty plea. Gagnon, 49, drugged six unsuspecting girls, ages 10 to 14, with alcohol and over-the-counter sleep medications when they stayed overnight, prosecutor Joseph J. Reilly III said. He then sexually molested the girls while they were "near comatose" or "in very deep sleep" and videotaped the sexual assaults, the prosecutor said.

* GREENSBORO, N.C. -- A regional leader in the nation's largest Confederate heritage organization says he has been stripped of his post because he does not embrace the far-right politics of other members. Charles Hawks was removed last weekend as head of one of three regional divisions of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Ron Wilson of Easley, S.C., commander in chief of the organization, said Hawks lost his position for breaching confidentiality of a meeting. Hawks countered that he is being "purged" from the organization.

* YACOLT, Wash. -- A man who was showing off for friends by kissing his new rattlesnake was bitten on the lip and nearly died. Matt George, 21, was hospitalized in critical condition after the incident Sunday. By yesterday, his condition had been upgraded to serious. George was showing friends the snake he had caught on a recent trip to Arizona. Holding the two-foot snake behind the head, he kissed it. After the second kiss, the snake bit him under his mustache.

* ORIENT POINT, N.Y. -- A 65-foot truck broke through three sets of chains, rolled off a ferry, and plunged into the Long Island Sound, killing one person. The truck fell off the boat a little less than a mile from the dock at Orient Point near the end of a trip from New London, Conn., said Coast Guard spokesman Steve Sapp. Michael Zuber, 53, was pulled from the water and pronounced dead at a hospital.

-- From News Services