Nation roundup for April 8
Dad says diplomat had passion for foreign affairs
CHICAGO (AP) — Anne Smedinghoff had a quiet ambition and displayed a love of global affairs from an early age, joining the U.S. Foreign Service straight out of college and volunteering for missions in perilous locations worldwide.
So when the 25-year-old suburban Chicago woman was killed Saturday in southern Afghanistan — the first American diplomat to die on the job since last year’s attack in Benghazi, Libya — her family took solace in the fact that she died doing something she loved.
“It was a great adventure for her … She loved it,” her father, Tom Smedinghoff, told The Associated Press on Sunday. “She was tailor-made for this job.”
Anne Smedinghoff grew up in River Forest, Ill. — an upscale suburb about 10 miles west of Chicago — the daughter of an attorney and the second of four children. She attended the highly selective Fenwick High School, followed by Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in international studies and became a key organizer of the university’s annual Foreign Affairs Symposium in 2008. The event draws high-profile speakers from around the world.
Those who knew Smedinghoff described her as a positive, hard-working and dependable young woman.
While a student in Baltimore, she worked part time for Sam Hopkins, an attorney near campus. He described her as ambitious “but in a wonderfully quiet, modest way.”
Her first assignment for the foreign service was in Caracas, Venezuela, and she volunteered for the Afghanistan assignment after that. Her father said family members would tease her about signing up for a less dangerous location, maybe London or Paris.
“She said, ‘What would I do in London or Paris? It would be so boring,’” her father recalled. In her free time, she would travel as much as possible, her father said.
Smedinghoff was an up-and-coming employee of the State Department who garnered praise from the highest ranks. She was to finish her Afghanistan assignment as a press officer in July. Already fluent in Spanish, she was gearing up to learn Arabic, first for a year in the U.S. and then in Cairo, before a two-year assignment in Algeria.
Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday at a news conference in Turkey that Smedinghoff was “vivacious, smart” and “capable.” Smedinghoff had assisted Kerry during a visit to Afghanistan two weeks ago.
He also described Smedinghoff as “a selfless, idealistic woman who woke up yesterday morning and set out to bring textbooks to school children, to bring them knowledge.”
Her father said they knew the assignments were dangerous, though she spent most of her time at the U.S. Embassy compound. Trips outside were in heavily armored convoys — as was Saturday’s trip that killed five Americans, including Smedinghoff. The U.S. Department of Defense did not release the names of the others who died: three soldiers and one employee.
“It’s like a nightmare, you think will go away and it’s not,” he said. “We keep saying to ourselves, we’re just so proud of her, we take consolation in the fact that she was doing what she loved.”
Friends remembered her Sunday for her charity work too.
Smedinghoff participated in a 2009 cross-country bike ride for The 4K for Cancer — part of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults — according to the group. She served on the group’s board of directors after the ride from Baltimore to San Francisco.
“She was an incredible young woman. She was always optimistic,” said Ryan Hanley, a founder of the group. “She always had a smile on her face and incredible devotion to serving others.”
Johns Hopkins officials mourned her death in a letter on Sunday to students, faculty and alumni. Smedinghoff graduated in 2009. In the letter, University President Ronald J. Daniels praised her work on the symposium, her involvement in her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, and her involvement outside campus too.
“Her selfless action for others was nothing new,” he wrote.
Funeral arrangements for Smedinghoff are pending.
Fashion designer Lilly Pulitzer dies at 81
MIAMI (AP) — Lilly Pulitzer hosted parties in her bare feet and wasn’t afraid to get a little messy — just as long as she looked good and had fun, too.
In the late 1950s, the Palm Beach socialite had time to spare and a wealthy husband who owned citrus groves, so she opened an orange juice stand just off the island’s main shopping street. Pulitzer needed to hide all the juice stains on her clothes, though. Instead of just putting on an apron, she asked her seamstress to make some sleeveless dresses in colorful fruit prints, and a fashion staple was born.
Pulitzer died at her home Sunday, according to Quattlebaum Funeral and Cremation Services. She was 81.
Pulitzer’s tropical print dresses became a sensation in the 1960s when then-first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who attended boarding school with Pulitzer, wore one of the sleeveless shifts in a Life magazine photo spread.
The colorful revolution came as fashion shed its reliance on neutrals, and Pulitzer’s stuff was almost the housewife version of the more youthful mod look that was migrating from London.
To this day, the Lilly Pulitzer dress remains a popular, if not a necessary, addition to any woman’s closet.
“I designed collections around whatever struck my fancy … fruits, vegetables, politics, or peacocks! I entered in with no business sense. It was a total change of life for me, but it made people happy,” Pulitzer, who married into the famous newspaper family, told The Associated Press in March 2009.
Pulitzer’s dresses hung behind her juice stand and soon outsold her drinks. A boutique featuring the company’s dresses — developed with the help of partner Laura Robbins, a former fashion editor — soon replaced the juice stand.
“Today we celebrate all that Lilly meant to us and come together as Lilly lovers to honor a true original who has brought together generations through her bright and happy mark on the world,” James B. Bradbeer Jr. and Scott A. Beaumont, who bought the Lilly Pulitzer brand in 1992, said in a statement.
The signature Lilly palette features tongue-in-cheek jungle and floral prints in blues, pinks, light greens, yellow and orange — the colors of a Florida vacation.
The line of dresses that bore her name was later expanded to swimsuits, country club attire, children’s clothing, a home collection and a limited selection of menswear.
“Style isn’t just about what you wear, it’s about how you live,” Pulitzer said in 2004.
“We focus on the best, fun and happy things, and people want that. Being happy never goes out of style,” she said.
In 1966, The Washington Post reported that the dresses were “so popular that at the Southampton Lilly shop on Job’s Lane they are proudly put in clear plastic bags tied gaily with ribbons so that all the world may see the Lilly of your choice. It’s like carrying your own racing colors or flying a yacht flag for identification.”
But changing taste brought trouble. Pulitzer closed her original company in the mid-1980s after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The label was revived about a decade later after being acquired by Pennsylvania-based Sugartown Worldwide Inc.; Pulitzer was only marginally involved in the new business but continued reviewing new prints from Florida.
“When Lilly started the business back in the ’60s, she targeted a young customer because she was young,” Bradbeer told the AP in 2003. “What we have done is target the daughter and granddaughter of that original customer.”
Pulitzer herself retired from day-to-day operations in 1993, although she remained a consultant and a muse for the brand.
Sugartown Worldwide was bought by Atlanta-based Oxford Industries in 2010. Sales of the Lilly Pulitzer brand were strong in the earnings period that ended Feb. 2. The brand’s revenue increased 26 percent to $29.1 million, according to Oxford Industries’ earnings report. The company said last week it planned to add four to six new stores each year for its Lily Pulitzer brand.
Pulitzer was born Lilly McKim on Nov. 10, 1931, to a wealthy family in Roslyn, N.Y.
In 1952, she married Pete Pulitzer, the grandson of newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, whose bequest to Columbia University established the Pulitzer Prize.
Pulitzer had three children in quick succession. After the third was born, she had a nervous breakdown and ended up in a mental hospital that catered to upscale clientele in New York. A doctor there told her that she needed to find a job.
“The doctor there said, ‘You’re not happy because you’re not doing anything,’ and I said, ‘I don’t know how to do anything.’ I’d always had everything done for me, always had my nanny and my mummy making up my mind. The doctor said, ‘You’ve got to go out and find something to do,’” Pulitzer told The New Yorker in 2000.
Pulitzer gave the same prescription to her friends. If one of them needed something to do, Pulitzer would open a store in her town.
The Pulitzers divorced in 1969. Pulitzer’s second husband, Enrique Rousseau, died in 1993.
“I don’t know how to explain what it was like to run my business, the joy of every day,” she told Vanity Fair magazine in a story in 2003. “I got a kick every time I went into the shipping department. … I loved seeing (the dresses) going out the door. I loved them selling in the shop. I liked them on the body. Everything. There’s no explaining the fun I had.”
Gang member arrested in corrections killing probe
DENVER (AP) — A white supremacist prison gang member was arrested and another was still being sought for questioning Friday in the death of Colorado’s prisons chief as authorities investigated whether the gang had any ties to the killing.
James Lohr, who has the words “Hard” and “Luck” tattooed where his eyebrows would be, was taken into custody early Friday in Colorado Springs. He was wanted for questioning in the slaying of Department of Corrections Director Tom Clements.
Authorities believe Lohr was in contact with gang associate Evan Ebel days before the killings of Clements and pizza delivery man Nate Leon. Police said they believe Ebel killed Leon and Clements less than a week before he died in a Texas shootout, but the motive is unclear.
Clements was shot to death March 19 in Monument, just north of Colorado Springs. Leon was killed two days earlier. His body was found in the Denver suburb of Golden.
Colorado Springs police arrested Lohr after a short foot chase that started when officers tried to stop the car he was driving, according to a statement. Lohr was booked on felony evading charges and also was held on three outstanding arrest warrants unrelated to the Clements case. He is scheduled to appear in court Monday.
Investigators said surveillance video from a business showed a firearm being thrown from Lohr’s vehicle before his arrest. The gun was turned over to authorities by someone who received it from a man who later spotted it and picked it up, sheriff’s officials said Friday night.
Authorities issued an alert Wednesday asking other law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for Lohr and Thomas Guolee, both of Colorado Springs, who were identified as 211 Crew members. Ebel was a member of the same gang.
Lohr, 47, and Guolee, 31, are not being called suspects in Clements’ death, but their names surfaced during the investigation, El Paso County sheriff’s spokesman Jeff Kramer said. Both were wanted on warrants unrelated to the Clements investigation.
Kramer has said it was possible that one or both of the men were headed to Nevada or Texas.
Guolee’s mother, Deborah Eck, told The Denver Post that Guolee called her husband a week and a half ago to ask for a ride to the police station so he could turn himself in for what she believed was a parole violation. But she said they never heard back from him.
Police came to her house Wednesday looking for Guolee.
“One cop said if he would have turned himself in for violation of probation, he probably wouldn’t be in the situation he was now,” Eck told the newspaper.
Lohr has been wanted in Las Animas County in southeastern Colorado. He was arrested for violating a protection order in Trinidad on Dec. 1, 2012, after police found that he’d been drinking with friends at a tattoo shop. According to court documents, drinking was a violation of a protective order against him, and he was arrested. Lohr then failed to appear in court in that case Feb. 20, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Lohr has a shaved head in his booking photo. In addition to the words on his eyebrows, he has a shamrock — a tattoo favored by some 211 Crew members — near his right eye.
Lohr has a criminal record going back to 1992. In 1996, after he pleaded guilty to burglarizing a home, court records show he was ordered to have no contact with his estranged wife after she told police he repeatedly broke into her home and stole items to pawn.
In 2006, Lohr was charged with burglary with a weapon and assault causing serious bodily injury. Court records show those charged were dismissed because of a lack of evidence.
Court records show Guolee was arrested in 2001 after a member of the Crips gang told Colorado Springs police he was jumped by Guolee and another gang member because they believed he was a member of a rival gang. The witness told police Guolee and the other gang member punched and kicked him in the face and left him bleeding.
In 2007, Guolee was charged with assault and intimidating a witness while in the El Paso County jail after an inmate said he was assaulted by three men, including Guolee, because they thought he was going to testify against a suspect in another case. Authorities said the man was beaten so badly he could have been permanently disfigured.
The complete court records were not immediately available, so the outcome of some of those cases was unclear. Authorities also have not released the subject of Guolee’s warrant.
On Thursday, Gov. John Hickenlooper announced a sweeping review of Colorado’s prison and parole operations, as more evidence piled up showing how Ebel slipped through the cracks in the criminal justice system to become a suspect in Clements’ death.
Ebel was released from prison four years early due to a clerical error and violated his parole terms five days before the prisons chief was killed.
Officials said the state will audit inmates’ legal cases to ensure they are serving the correct amount of time. They’ll ask the National Institute of Corrections to review the state’s parole system, which is struggling under large caseloads.
Colorado lawmakers also are considering spending nearly $500,000 to hire more parole officers because of what happened with Ebel.
Ebel was killed in a shootout with Texas authorities March 21. Investigators have said the gun he used in the shootout also was used to kill Clements when the prisons chief answered the front door of his home.
Ebel has been the only suspect named in Clements’ death. Investigators have said they’re looking into the gang he joined in prison and whether it was connected to the attack, among other possible motives.
Mom: ‘BUCKWILD’ star a Christian, now in heaven
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — For all his on-camera carousing and cussing, “BUCKWILD” reality TV star Shain Gandee was a publicly proclaimed and baptized Christian, and his mother told hundreds of mourners Sunday that she will see him again.
“I know where Shain is,” Loretta Gandee told the family, friends and fans crammed into the Charleston Municipal Auditorium. “He said about a month ago, ‘I know when I die I’m going to heaven.’”
Dressed in a hot-pink “Gandee Candy” T-shirt and jeans, she spoke only a few words but bellowed out an unaccompanied hymn, her voice echoing through the auditorium in prayer for their reunion.
Gandee, his 48-year-old uncle, David Gandee, and 27-year-old friend Donald Robert Myers were found dead April 1 in a sport utility vehicle that was partially submerged in a deep mud pit near Sissonville. They had last been seen leaving a bar at 3 a.m.
Autopsies determined all three died of carbon monoxide poisoning, possibly caused by the tailpipe being submerged in mud. That could have allowed the invisible gas to fill the vehicle’s cabin.
Shain Gandee, nicknamed “Gandee Candy” by fans, was a breakout star of the show that followed the antics of young friends enjoying their wild country lifestyle. Season one was filmed last year, mostly around Sissonville and Charleston.
The Rev. Randy Campbell told the many young people in the crowd he understands that life bombards them with difficult choices. But he urged them to follow Shain Gandee’s lead and embrace their faith now, while they are energetic and engaged.
“This life will hand you a lot of things and call it pleasure, but there is nothing that brings greater joy to a person’s heart than serving the Lord,” Campbell said. “You may think at this point, you’re having fun, but those days will pass.”
When they do, he said, God is all that matters.
Cameras were not allowed at the funeral or private family burial in Thaxton Cemetery.
As hundreds filed past the two closed coffins on the auditorium stage, a slideshow of family photos showed the simple life that Shain Gandee lived long before TV cameras started following him.
Set to country music were snapshots of him as a uniformed pee wee football player, as a teenager in a tuxedo for prom, then graduating from high school in a black gown and mortarboard.
In other images, he kissed a bride and held babies. In several, he wore hunting camouflage, displaying a slain buck by its antlers and lining up a batch of gray squirrels on a bench.
Gandee favored four-wheelers, pickups and SUVs over cellphones and computers, and “mudding,” or off-road driving, was one of his favorite pastimes.
It was no coincidence some mourners arrived in mud-splattered trucks.
Dreama and Charlie Frampton, who live a few doors down, said Gandee had been playing in the mud since he was 5.
“If it wasn’t a four-wheel drive truck,” Dreama said, “it was a four-wheeler or a dirt bike.”
“He was dedicated to the sport,” Charlie added. “That’s all you can do out in the country.”
Gandee’s family asked mourners to wear camouflage or the neon-colored Gandee Candy T-shirts to the service because Shain didn’t like to dress up.
Ricky Sater, 23, said his friend would have loved the sea of camo and T-shirts that filled the auditorium.
“He probably would walk in there going, ‘BUCKWILD!’” he said.
Sater has known Shain since middle school and last saw him a week ago, when he came over to borrow a pin for a trailer hitch.
“He said, ‘See ya, Rick!’ and I said, ‘See ya, drunk!” recalled Sater, who got the terrible news days later in a phone call.
“My sister told me about it, and it being April Fool’s, I thought she was joking. But she wasn’t,” he said, swallowing hard. “I try to keep my emotions balled up, but I started breaking down about six hours later.”
Shooting was underway on season two at the time of Gandee’s death, but MTV spokesman Jake Urbanski said film crews were not with him over Easter weekend and hadn’t filmed him since earlier that week.
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