Tampa police on Wednesday had not located two women who failed to appear in court to testify against a man charged with raping and sexually mutilating them in October, officials said. Hillsborough County Judge Claudia Isom issued arrest warrants for both women after they failed to appear Tuesday afternoon, six days before the case was scheduled for trial. The women are refusing to talk to John Fernandez, a public defender representing the suspect, 54-year-old George Edward Wright. One of the woman met with Fernandez on Jan. 4 but walked out after eight minutes. She told prosecutors she found Fernandez "abrasive," said Cynthia Heir, the assistant state attorney who is prosecuting the case. Wright, who was charged twice in Dade County with sexual battery before charges were dropped, could go free if the women do not testify.
SYMPOSIUM TO ADDRESS CULTURAL VALUES. A continuing conflict between European values and those of other indigenous cultures remains at the heart of many world problems. At least that's the opinion of the organizers of a national symposium in Tampa this week. They want to explore how folk and indigenous wisdom might be applied to solving those problems, from ecological degradation to the decay of kin and community relations. Much of the symposium, sponsored by the University of South Florida and the Florida Humanities Council at the Omni Westshore Hotel on Kennedy Boulevard, will rely on the academic discourse of anthropology, comparing cultural notions of property, traditional art, knowledge systems and the like. But there also will be workshops and panels for the layperson interested in applying folkways to community work. Bernice Johnson Reagon, a curator at the Smithsonian Institution, perhaps best known as the founder of the black female singing group Sweet Honey in the Rock, will be the first keynote speaker, at 7:30 p.m. today. David Maybury-Lewis, a Harvard anthropology professor and author of the PBS documentary Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World, will speak at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Both talks are free and public , as is a full day of folk performances, craft demonstrations and ethnic foods at the Museum of African-American Art on Saturday. Native American leader Alfonso Ortiz, an anthropology professor at the University of New Mexico, will speak at the museum at 1 p.m. For information on the symposium itself, which requires advance registration and a fee, call 974-5731.