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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Ayla Reynolds Missing: Cops Accuse Baby Alma’s Dad Of Withholding Information

Ayla Reynolds

State Police blasted a New England television station claiming that officials believe a missing Maine toddler is dead on the same day that they told reporters the girl’s father is witholding information.

Boston’s WCVB published the update on 2-year-old Ayla Reynolds — originally titled “Police Believe Missing Maine Toddler Dead” — early Monday evening, only to have Stephen McCausland, public information officer with the Maine State Police, release a statement hours later calling the report “unattributed, irresponsible and inaccurate,” according to the Bangor Daily News.

The story, filed by journalist Michele McPhee, contains details regarding Reynolds’ father, Justin DiPietro, allegedly avoiding a police interview. It also outlines developments in the investigation, including an unattributed source claiming that officers believe the girl to be dead.

“That is why I issued a release,” McCausland told the newspaper. “I’ve never spoken those words and I’m not going to repeat them. I’m not going to pick apart something that is unattributed, irresponsible and inaccurate.”

Maine Police also stated Monday that they believe DiPietro, as well as two other adults allegedly present the night Reynolds vanished, have not been cooperative, the Associated Press reports.

DiPietro reported his daughter missing on Dec. 17, explaining that he had put her to bed only to find her gone the next morning. McCausland, however, says that police are increasingly skeptical that the girl was abducted.

“We’ve followed every conceivable piece of evidence that would follow their version of events, and we have found not one piece of evidence that supports an abduction,” he told the AP.

At approximately 10:40 p.m. on Monday, WCVB updated the story, which now has the headline, “Hope Fades For Missing Maine Toddler.”

McPhee did not return the Huffington Post’s request for comment by press time.

 

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Newborn Found In Freezer In Florida Home Of Jessica Smallwood: Cops

A Florida mom is under heavy scrutiny after cops say they found a dead baby in her freezer.

Jessica Smallwood, 27, of Punta Gorda hasn’t yet been charged with a crime — but police have set up a several-block perimeter around her home. They’re searching for clues for why the mother of three other children allegedly hid a newborn’s corpse in the freezer, according to NBC-2.

Cops responded to the home at 8 p.m. on Sunday after Smallwood called for an ambulance because she was bleeding profusely, the station reported. She was taken to the hospital, treated for her apparent injuries, and released, according to media outlets.

Hospital staff contacted police when Smallwood allegedly told a suspicious story, and an ensuing investigation led them to the freezer on Monday.The Sarasota Herald-Tribune says.

That’s when they found the body of the yet-unidentified child. The cause of death wasn’t immediately available.

WINK News reported that Smallwood’s three other children, all under 10 years old, were immediately taken from her and Kevin Garcia, the father of at least two of her kids. Those children were placed in Smallwood’s parent’s care.

Cops are deeming the death suspicious, but haven’t made any arrests in the case.

Now officers are patrolling Smallwood’s home and casing the block with cadaver dogs, though police won’t say if they’ve found anything else.

The couple has had run-ins with the state Department of Children and Families before, according to NBC-2. The agency wouldn’t give details on those incidents, but officials said they did not involve physical abuse.

 

Gregory Scott Hopkins, Pennsylvania Councilman, Arrested For Strangling Catherine Walsh In 1979

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – A borough councilman in Western Pennsylvania was in jail on Monday, charged with strangling a lover whose body, bound with rope, was found in her bed more than 30 years ago.

Tenacious detectives, who held onto physical evidence collected in the 1979 murder of Catherine Walsh, were credited with cracking the decades old cold case by using DNA matching, a forensic tool not even introduced when the killing occurred.

Gregory Scott Hopkins, 65, known to fellow Bridgewater Borough council members as simply Scott Hopkins, was arrested on Sunday night and charged with Walsh’s killing in nearby Monaca.

“We intend to fight this,” Hopkin’s attorney James Ross told Reuters on Monday.

A probable cause affidavit filed with a Beaver County court said Hopkins told police in 1979 that he had been involved in a sexual relationship with Walsh, 23, but that he had not had sexual contact with her for about a month before her death.

Police who found Walsh’s strangled body in her bed, her hands bound with rope, held onto crime scene evidence including the rope, a bandana, her nightgown and bedsheets.

In October 2010, with DNA matching emerging as a successful forensic tool, police submitted the evidence for DNA testing.

“The purpose of resubmitting the items was to have them examined using methods and technology that were not available to investigators at the time (the) homicide took place,” the affidavit said.

Bodily fluids on the sheets, the rope and nightgown led to the arrest, police said.

Police did not immediately disclose how they obtained a DNA sample from the councilman.

Hopkins was held without bond in the Beaver County Jail, pending a court hearing on February 6.

 

David Allen Canterbury Jailed For Attacking Police With Light Sabers

PORTLAND, Ore. — An Oregon judge is using his force to order a 45-day jail sentence and mental health evaluation for a would-be Jedi who attacked toy store customers with light sabers last December.

David Allen Canterbury told Judge Kenneth Walker that he is already seeking mental health treatment. Canterbury also apologized to his victims.

Portland police say Canterbury had a Star Wars light saber in each hand as he swung at three customers last Dec. 14 at a Toys R Us store. He carried the light sabers outside the store and swung at police.

Officers eventually wrestled him to the ground.

Canterbury has been banned from the toy store.

 

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Indiana Lawmakers Advance Drug Testing For Welfare Applicants And Themselves

Welfare Drug TestThe Indiana House of Representatives approved a bill Tuesday that would drug test people who apply for welfare, along with members of the Indiana General Assembly.

“I feel it is imperative that your tax dollars go to those who are truly trying to better themselves. We must provide incentives for people to bring themselves out of poverty and to do the right thing,” said Rep. Jud McMillin (R-Brookville), the bill’s sponsor, in a statement. “I am excited to help our state become a national leader on this important issue.”

McMillin initially proposed a pilot program for drug testing only welfare applicants, but last week state Rep. Ryan Dvorak (D-South Bend) amended the bill to include drug and alcohol testing for lawmakers. It’s a legislative counterattack employed by Democrats in several of the 30-plus states where Republicans are pushing drug tests for the poor and jobless.

Indiana is the first state where lawmaker drug testing has actually advanced, though the measure’s fate in the state senate is uncertain. McMillin told HuffPost that he has senate sponsors who he expects to pick up the bill and help it move forward.

McMillin withdrew his bill on Friday, saying Dvorak’s amendment likely violated the Constitution. On Monday, he came back with a new version of the legislation that softened the lawmaker drug testing provision. Instead of blanket testing for every member of the General Assembly, the new version of the bill lets lawmakers opt in to a system of random screening similar to the one for families seeking cash assistance. (If they don’t consent, they lose their parking spaces and other perks.)

Though House Republicans said the testing provisions mirror each other, the bill has different standards for “reasonable suspicion” for a lawmaker and a welfare applicant. The latter can be reasonably suspected of drug use if he or she has been convicted of a crime, charged with a drug offense, or “failed to attend a scheduled meeting or complete online requirements regarding [welfare] assistance.”

The bill gives leaders in the General Assembly leeway to form “reasonable suspicion” that a lawmaker is using illegal drugs, but while it mentions convictions and drug charges, it does not specifically say whether lawmakers who miss scheduled votes or hearings will be considered suspicious.

McMillan said he favored making missed votes cause for reasonable suspicion, but that the broader measure might not have passed if it included the stricter language.

“Many people felt it was too much,” he said in an interview.

He added that his new bill is tougher than Dvorak’s proposal because it would make lawmakers’ drug test results public.

In Indiana in 2011, 18,602 families had received welfare cash assistance as of December, 33 percent fewer than the previous year, according to the latest report by the state government. An eligible family of four must have dependent children, can’t earn more than $712.25 per month, or possess assets worth more than $1,000. The maximum monthly benefit for a family of four is $346.

Dvorak said opt-out provisions for both welfare applicants and lawmakers make the bill toothless, and that Republicans are only pursuing it to send a political message about getting tough on poor people receiving government benefits.

“It’s a bill that does nothing with a hard line message,” he said. “I just think it’s a complete joke.”

 

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Police seek public’s help in solving 2 slayings

LA HABRA – Police are asking for the public’s help in solving the killings of two friends in front of a home last week.

Nick Burresch, 24, and Phillip Reinig, 30, were fatally shot outside a single-story home in the 500 block of South Clifton Street, near Lambert Road, about 7:15 p.m. Thursday, La Habra police Sgt. Mel Ruiz said.

Article Tab: clifton-street-fatally-ha
A small memorial was left at the intersection of South Clifton Street and East Olive Avenue in La Habra the morning after two men were fatally shot. Nick Burresch, 24, and Phillip Reinig, 30, were fatally shot outside of a home in the 500 block of S. Clifton Street, near Lambert Road, about 7:15 p.m. on Thursday, La Habra police Sgt. Mel Ruiz said.
BRUCE CHAMBERS, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Officers responded to reports of shots fired and found Burresch and Reinig suffering from gunshot wounds, Ruiz said.

The men were taken to UCI Medical Center in Orange and died a short time later, Orange County coroner’s office officials said.

Burresch’s longtime friend, Fred Naranjo, said he was in shock after finding out his friend was killed.

“He was just hanging out outside in front of his house minding his own business when I guess two people walked up and shot him,” Naranjo said. “I don’t know how and why that happened.”

Authorities have not identified a suspect or suspects in the shootings or motives for the attack.

“All avenues are being explored, including the possibility of this being gang related,” said Cindy Knapp, a La Habra police spokeswoman.

According to court records, Burresch and Reinig have had some run-ins with the law.

On Nov. 1 2008, he was arrested on suspicion of felony possession of a controlled substance, misdemeanor driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and being under the influence of a controlled substance.

Eight days later, he was arrested on suspicion of felony possession of a controlled substance. The following month, he pleaded guilty to all charges.

On Jan. 5, 2012, Burresch was arrested on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of a controlled substance. He was scheduled to appear in court next week, records show.

Reinig, who police say was Burresch’s friend, also had several brushes with the law.

In 2009, he pleaded guilty to four counts of felony burglary. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail and three years probation, records show.

The following year, he pleaded guilty to burglary, grand theft and making or being in possession of fictitious instruments, all felonies.

In 2011, he pleaded guilty to two counts of being under the influence of a controlled substance and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, all misdemeanors.

Anyone with information about the shootings is urged to call La Habra investigators at 562-905-9750.

 

Toymakers sentenced in peso-laundering scheme

Two owners of a toy company were sentenced Tuesday for their role in helping to launder millions of dollars from drug trafficking.

According to prosecutors, owners of the toy manufacturing company used the business as part of what is known as the “Black Market Peso Exchange” – a system of laundering drug money in the U.S. for Colombian pesos through legitimate business accounts.

During a four-year period, investigators tracked more than $8 million in cash deposits to the toy manufacturing business, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, all of which were made in deposits under $10,000 in order to avoid financial reporting requirements.

Meichun Cheng Huang, a 58-year-old resident of Irvine, and Ling Yu, 53, of Arcadia, were both sentenced in federal court Tuesday.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Huang worked as vice president in charge of sales for Angel Toy Company. He was sentenced to 37 months in prison.

His sister, Yu, worked as president of ATC and was also sentenced to 37 months.

According to court documents, the two admitted to making cash deposits to the company’s account that were under $10,000 in order to not raise suspicions.

Investigators began looking into the toy company in 2008, after law enforcement officials learned through various sources that ATC was involved in laundering money for drug traffickers. As part of the scheme, cash was deposited into the company’s accounts. The money is then returned when the goods are exported and sold to generate “clean money,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Authorities said the company received cash deposits at its Los Angeles offices, as well as directly into its accounts.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, and the California Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement investigated the case.

The company was ordered to pay a $200,000 fine, and the defendants were ordered to forfeit $1 million to the government.

 

Jury deadlocks on Craigslist rape case

Article Tab: delgado-fullerton-michaelSANTA ANA – Jurors have indicated they are hopelessly deadlocked and cannot reach verdicts on charges against a 27-year-old Fullerton man accused of raping a woman who answered her Craigslist ad seeking housekeeping work, the defendant’s attorney says.

The jurors will return to court this afternoon, and the judge will decide whether to declare a mistrial or order further deliberations in the case of Michael Delgado.

 

Parents angry they weren’t told of teacher allegations sooner

Miramonte principal Martin Sandoval speaks to the media

Parents at Miramonte Elementary School in South L.A. said they were stunned by allegations that a longtime teacher was arrested on charges that he abused at least 23 children.

Kimberly Kirklin, 32, has six children, including three daughters who are still students at Miramonte. She said she quizzed each of them immediately after learning of the arrest of former teacher Mark Berndt on the early morning television news Tuesday, and felt secure that they had never been subjected to any lewd activity.

Berndt, 61, was arrested Monday after a yearlong investigation and charged with committing lewd acts on 23 children. Authorities say at least 10 more children seen in photos seized by detectives have not been identified. Berndt is accused of blindfolding the children, tying them up and in some cases placing cockroaches on their faces and spoon-feeding them a white substances believed to be his semen.

AUDIO: Principal’s message to parents

Kirklin said her daughters refused to go to school Tuesday — and she said she could not blame them and would not force them to go. She said she would attempt to enroll her children in another school.

“She refuses to go to school,” Kirklin said of one daughter, as she embraced the child on a Florence-Firestone street near the school. “I’m not going to force her.”

Kirklin was among those who argued that parents should have been notified earlier; school officials have said they took immediate steps to remove the teacher from the classroom and begin working with both law enforcement investigators and victims’ families.

FULL COVERAGE: Mark Berndt

“It’s devastating,” Kirklin said. “I’m angry. It’s horrible. These are our babies.”Heidy Morales, who had come to pick up her preschool-age son and also has a daughter in kindergarten at the school, said she hadn’t heard anything about the accusations until Tuesday.

“This is my first time hearing of that,” she said. “It’s scary. I don’t know what to say.”

DOCUMENT: Felony complaint against Mark Berndt

The school should have told parents about the teacher when they learned about the photos, she said.

“I would have taken my daughter away from this school.”

Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy said the school district was notified of the allegations on Jan. 7, 2011, and Berndt was removed from the classroom the same day. He was terminated by the district at the next school board  meeting.

Deasy offered a swift condemnation Tuesday of the former teacher, who is in jail on $2.3-million bail and could not be reached for comment.

“I find it disgusting, I find it reprehensible,” Deasy said. “I hope this man spends the rest of his life in prison.”

It is “despicable,” Deasy said, “when you are entrusted with the lives of our youth, and you violate that.”

RELATED:

Teacher charged with lewd acts allegedly told kids it was ‘game’

Photo store discovered teacher’s disturbing images, officials say

Deasy: Teacher accused of abuse removed from class immediately

 

LAKE ELSINORE: Student arrested, accused of brandishing box cutter

An 18-year-old student at Lakeside High School in Lake Elsinore was arrested on suspicion of assault and other charges after deputies say he threatened a fellow student on campus with a box cutter.
The assault, which had occurred earlier in the day, was reported about 1 p.m. Monday to the school resource officer assigned to the 32893 Riverside Drive campus, a Riverside County Sheriff’s Department news release said.
The deputy learned that Ricardo Espinoza, while at the campus, had threatened great bodily injury to another student, the release said. Espinoza had demanded the student apologize to a girl, the release said.
No one was injured, sheriff’s officials said.
Espinoza was booked into the Southwest Detention Center on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, possession of a knife on school grounds and terrorist threats, jail records show. His bail was set at $25,000.
Authorities ask that anyone with information call the sheriff’s Lake Elsinore Station at 951-245-3300.

 
 
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