The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, October 21, 1997, Page 2, Image 2

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Trial might use DNA
■ The genetic evidence
could help convict the man
of two Nebraska rapes.
OMAHA (AP) — Prosecutors
want to use DNA evidence from sex
ual assaults at other Midwest cam
puses against a traveling comedian
charged with raping a teacher at the
University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Vinson Champ, a former “Star
Search” contestant, is a suspect in
sexual assaults at six Midwest col
leges, including the one in a UNO
classroom in March. Champ, 35, is
charged with raping a woman at St.
Ambrose University in Davenport,
Iowa. No charges have been filed in
the other attacks.
Champ was in jail in Omaha on
$1 million bond while awaiting his
trial, which might not start until next
At a pre-trial hearing Monday,
Deputy Douglas County Attorney
Leigh Ann Retelsdorf said she hoped
to use evidence from the other attacks
against Champ in his Omaha trial.
Retelsdorf told Douglas County
District Judge Lawrence Corrigan
that she was still gathering the evi
dence. Another pre-trial hearing is
scheduled Nov. 5 to see how much her
case had progressed.
“I am turning over the DNA mate
rial as fast as I get it, which is not very
fast,” Retelsdorf told Corrigan.
Hearings on the admissibility of
the evidence may not begin until
December, Corrigan said.
Defense attorney James Martin
Davis of Omaha said he would
attempt to limit the DNA evidence, as
it will be a central part of the prosecu
tion’s case.
“The case ... involves allegations
not only of what happened here, but
also what happened in the other juris
dictions,” Davis said.
DNA also is being used to tie
Champ to a Feb. 6 rape of a 27-year
old woman at Union College in
Lincoln, according to an affidavit
filed in Lancaster County Court.
After the Union College rape,
several similar attacks occurred at
other colleges in Omaha, Iowa,
Illinois and Wisconsin. Champ
became a suspect in the attacks when
he was arrested in Pasadena, Calif.,
for an attempted rape similar to the
assaults in the Midwest.
The judge also will hear argu
ments Nov. 7 on whether Champ can
afford to pay for his own experts to
examine any DNA evidence the pros
ecution may introduce.
“You’re not going to find any
defendant capable of raising $15,000
to $20,000, especially when he’s
locked up and unable to work,” Davis
said. “He’s going to be defenseless if
he can’t run his own tests.”
Prosecutors in Iowa said they
wanted Champ to face charges there
first because Nebraska was taking
too long to try the case, but Nebraska
prosecutors insisted he stand trial
here initially.
Warrant issued for curator
KEARNEY (AP) — The former
curator of the Museum of Nebraska
Art was accused Monday of embez
zling more than $ 100,000 in museum
3 A warrant was issued for the
| arrest of John McKirahan, 52, of
| Kearney.
Buffalo County Attorney Richard
? Anderson said no arrangements had
% been made for McKirahan to surren
| der, and the investigating officers
1 were actively trying late Monday
| afternoon to serve the warrant.
“I don’t intend to make any
a deals,” Anderson said.
McKirahan was not home, said a
woman who answered McKirahan’s
telephone and identified herself as
his mother-in-law. He did not return
a message seeking comment.
Anderson said McKirahan
allegedly deferred funds in excess of
$100,000 from the museum between
February 1992 and October 1997
into an account about which others
did not know. He said a co-worker
discovered the account and notified
the museum board and auditors.
McKirahan left the museum
director’s post Oct. 2. At the time, he
said he resigned for personal reasons
that were unrelated to work.
Anderson said Monday the museum
board knew about the alleged embez
zlement and had moved to dismiss
McKirahan. : /u' -
“That was the precipitating fac
tor,” Anderson said. “The board fired
him, despite what he said.”
McKirahan was replaced on an
interim basis by Gary Zaruba, an art
professor at the University of
Nebraska at Kearney who was the
museum’s first director when it was
created 11 years ago. Zaruba will
serve as the interim director until a
national search can be conducted to
find a permanent replacement.
McKirahan had been director of
the museum since January 1989. As
museum director, he was an employ
ee of the University of Nebraska at
Kearney, which operates the museum
with the Nebraska Art Collection
The museum has a general col
lection of more than 800 works by
325 artists.
The Nebraska State Patrol con
tinues to investigate the money
involved in the alleged embezzle
ment, said Anderson, who said the
amount diverted was more than
Anderson said the museum
employee learned of the account
after raising a question about a trans
action involving the account.
“It wasn’t a Swiss bank account,”
said Anderson, who would not be
more specific about how the account
was discovered. “It was a local
Kearney account but it was an
account no one knew about.”
McKirahan was charged with one
count of theft by unlawful-taking is a Class III felony
that carries a maximum penalty of 20
years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
Court vote denies
vcdidity of abortion law
Supreme Court, in a rare near-unani
mous vote on an abortion question,
refused Monday to give judges more
power over young girls’ decisions to
end pregnancies.
The court’s 8-1 vote left in shreds
a Louisiana parental-consent law
found by lower courts to unduly inter
fere with some girls’ abortion rights.
Only Justice Antonin Scalia, one
of the court’s most fervent opponents
of any constitutional right to abor
tion, voted to review the state’s
appeal and consider reviving the law.
Louisiana Attorney General
Richard Ieyoub had argued that the
case “cuts to the core of this nation’s
ability to protect the welfare of chil
Janet Benshoof of the Center for
Reproductive Law and Policy
applauded the court’s action.
“Louisiana’s passion over making a
political statement on abortion far
exceeds its ability to draft a law that
will withstand constitutional scruti
ny,” she said. “But this is not the end
of any story. It’s the end of one
The court’s action was not a rul
ing and therefore set no national
precedent. It continued, however, the
court’s five-year record of denying
full review to any case dealing direct
ly with abortion rights.
The court in 1992 barred states
from banning most abortions, voting
5-4 to uphold the core of its 1973
decision in Roe vs. Wade that said
women have a constitutional right to
end their pregnancies.
Since then, the justices only have
granted full review to disputes
involving protests outside abortion
Most states have laws requiring
unmarried girls under 18 to get the
permission of one parent before hav
ing an abortion, and the nation’s high
est court has upheld such laws.
But those past rulings have
required a judicial bypass - letting
judges act without parental consent
to permit abortions for girls deemed
mature enough to decide on their own
or when telling a parent would not be
in a girl’s best interests.
Before 1995, Louisiana’s
parental-consent law said judges
“shall” authorize abortions without
telling a parent in those cases in
which a girl’s maturity or best inter
ests are argued and proved in her
The 1995 law said judges “may”
authorize abortions in such circum