S. Calif. Claims Against Priests

Could Exceed $1.5 Billion

LOS ANGELES -- Damages claimed by hundreds of people who say they were sexually abused by Roman Catholic priests could exceed $1.5 billion in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, far more than any other diocese has paid to date, newly released documents say.

That total is based on a request -- by the lead lawyer for plaintiffs -- that insurers put aside at least $3.1 million per individual claimant to resolve child-molestation cases involving the dioceses of Los Angeles and Orange. There are more than 500 child-molestation claims naming Los Angeles area priests and 60 more alleging abuse by priests from the Diocese of Orange.

Attorney Raymond P. Boucher said the amount is justified based on jury verdicts and settlements of other clergy sexual-abuse lawsuits across the United States. He says it is consistent with a Los Angeles judge's secret valuation of the local claims after a closed, two-day evidentiary hearing this year.

At least 20 insurance companies are involved, covering church liability since 1950, according to court records. Boucher has told state officials that the companies' reserves were "woefully inadequate" to cover all the pending claims, as is required by state law.

Woman Charged in Death

Of Daughter Who Disappeared

SANTA ANA, Calif. -- A woman who said she left her 3-year-old daughter behind with relatives after moving from California 35 years ago has been accused in the girl's death.

Donna Pulsifer Kent Prentice, 57, and her boyfriend at the time, Michael Kent, 62, were charged with murder.

Richard Pulsifer Jr., 41, said his mother never answered his questions about his sister Michelle's whereabouts. But he recalled the night Michelle burst into his room at the family's home and crawled under the covers, pleading with him to "please hide me."

"She sounded real scared," he said. "And then my mom came into the room and got her." He added: "I never saw her again."

No one filed a missing person's report on the girl, and investigators do not know how she died or what happened to her body. A private investigator who took on the case in 2001 turned over his files to the district attorney's office last year.

* ALBANY, N.Y. -- The collapse of a school roof constructed with a steel support beam common to older school buildings has raised concerns among experts about potential problems nationwide. A U-shaped joist often used in schools built through the early 1970s was blamed for the Aug. 1 roof collapse in an empty classroom at Taft Elementary School in Washingtonville, 54 miles north of New York City. State education officials issued a "structural advisory" to New York schools urging thorough inspections, after determining that a leaky roof allowed rainwater to collect for years in the joist, which rusted and crumbled.

* PHOENIX -- Two Phoenix police officers were killed and a third wounded Saturday night during a shootout at an apartment complex, authorities said. The man believed to have shot the officers was found dead after a two-hour standoff with police.

-- From News Services