national briefs

Murder suspect's photos may indicate more deaths

The Associated Press

TORRANCE, Calif. Photos found in the home of a photographer charged with killing model Linda Sobek raise the possibility the man was involved in other deaths, the Daily Breeze reported yesterday.

Sobek apparently died of asphyxiation, contradicting photographer Charles Rathbun's claim that he accidentally struck her with a vehicle, the newspaper said. However, officials said yesterday that conclusion was premature.

Sobek's body was found Saturday in a shallow grave in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Rathbun was charged with murder yesterday, said Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. He faced arraignment later in the day and prosecutors recommended bail be set at $1 million.

Among the dozens of photos of women found in the professional photographer's home, some appeared to portray death, the newspaper said. There were no images of blood or weapons in the photos, it said.

Police are trying to contact the women in the photos to make sure they are unhurt, the newspaper quoted an unidentified source as saying.

''We may be looking at a serial killer,'' the source told the paper.

Policemen charged with murder

The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH Two white policemen were charged with murder yesterday in the death of a black businessman who suffocated during a scuffle that Jesse Jackson had branded a lynching. A third white officer was charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Two more officers, both white, escaped charges, and one of them will testify for the prosecution in the Oct. 12 death of Jonny Gammage, 31, a cousin of Pittsburgh Steelers football player Ray Seals.

Seals said he was satisfied with the charges and called for calm. But the victim's mother said all five of the police officers were ''mad with rage and evil'' and should go to prison.

Prosecutors did not follow a recommendation by a coroner's jury that all five be charged with homicide.

''I have a duty to file only those charges which I believe can be substantiated by admissible evidence at trial,'' said District Attorney Robert Colville.

Gammage, who managed his cousin's clothing and charity interests, died after a low-speed chase by police that led from suburban Brentwood into Pittsburgh. Two autopsies indicated that Gammage suffocated because of pressure on his chest and neck; the officers said they had to fight to subdue him.

Two released early from prison

The Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. A man and a woman who served four years for a 1990 strangling were released from prison yesterday, three weeks after the ''Happy Face Killer'' was convicted of the crime.

''There's no longer any doubt that these two individuals are innocent. The evidence is compelling,'' Circuit Judge Paul Lipscomb said.

Laverne Pavlinac, 62, and her former boyfriend, John Sosnovske, 42, went free two months after Keith Hunter Jesperson confessed to the strangling of Taunja Bennett. He was convicted of the murder Nov. 2.

Jesperson was nicknamed the Happy Face Killer for the smiley faces he drew on letters claiming responsibility for eight murders.

''I'm happy to be with my family and my grandchildren,'' Pavlinac said after her release. ''I'm real, real sorry that this whole thing happened.''

Pavlinac had told police she helped her boyfriend kill Bennett and dispose of her body. But at her trial, Pavlinac recanted, saying that she had lied in an attempt to escape her abusive relationship with Sosnovske.

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