Marine Quits, Citing

Risks of Return to Iraq

WILMINGTON, N.C. -- A lieutenant once charged with murder in the deaths of two Iraqis said he is leaving the Marine Corps because he believes he would be a target if he returned to the battlefield.

Second Lt. Ilario Pantano said Friday that insurgents would seek him out to "capitalize on the publicity surrounding me." Such scrutiny would hurt his fellow Marines and interfere with their work, he said.

Pantano, a former Wall Street trader who returned to the Marines after Sept. 11, 2001, was charged with murder after riddling two Iraqis with bullets and hanging a warning sign on their corpses. Pantano said he acted in self-defense.

A Marine general decided not to bring Pantano to trial, following the advice of an officer who presided over the military equivalent of a grand jury hearing.

Pantano resigned his commission Wednesday, his wife said, but he is still reporting for duty at Camp Lejeune until it is accepted.

* CHICAGO -- Relatives Saturday reburied Emmett Till, the black teenager lynched in Mississippi 50 years ago, after an autopsy that might yield clues to an unsolved murder that helped spark the U.S. civil rights movement. Simeon Wright, a cousin of Till who was there when the youth was dragged from his bed for allegedly whistling at and talking to a white woman, said the FBI had not discussed the autopsy. The federal statute of limitations has expired, but new information could lead to state charges.

* HOUSTON -- Advocates for the separation of church and state protested the plan of Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) to hold a bill-signing ceremony on the grounds of a conservative evangelical church. One bill restricts abortion; a second calls for a ban on same-sex marriage. The event is scheduled for Sunday at a Christian school run by Calvary Cathedral International, one of the largest churches in Fort Worth.

* ADELANTO, Calif. -- Fire destroyed a mosque at an Islamic cemetery, and investigators said it could have been arson or a hate crime. The fire early Friday at the United Islamic Youth Organization mosque was considered suspicious because the 1,500-square-foot building did not have electricity or gas service.

* WESTMINSTER, Calif. -- A North Carolina woman was charged with killing Vietnamese American fortuneteller Ha Jade Smith, 52, and her daughter Anita Nhi Vo, 23. The victims' hands and faces were covered with white paint. Tanya Jaime Nelson, 41, of Roanoke Rapids, N.C., allegedly assumed the identities of the two women after the April 21 killings, spending more than $3,000 on clothing and plane tickets, authorities said. Nelson was charged with fraud, burglary, conspiracy and murder, police said. Phillipe Zamora, 50, also of Roanoke Rapids, is in custody pending his extradition to California to face identical charges, authorities said.

* PHOENIX -- An inmate who took two prison guards hostage in one of the nation's longest prison standoffs was sentenced Friday to 16 consecutive life sentences. Ricky Wassenaar, 42, was convicted last month on 19 charges including kidnapping, sexual assault and aggravated assault for his role in last year's 15-day hostage standoff at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis.

* DENVER -- An Air Force Academy cadet was given a written reprimand Friday for committing an indecent act, a day after being acquitted in the alleged rape of a fellow cadet during a field trip last year. Senior Benjamin Kuster of Iowa was accused of sexually assaulting the woman, now an Air Force second lieutenant, after a night of heavy drinking in a New Mexico motel room in May 2004. A military jury found Kuster not guilty of rape but convicted him of committing an indecent act for having consensual sex with his girlfriend in a room where other cadets were asleep.

-- From News Services