Monday, December 28, 2009
But 16 years after the mutilations and killings of three 8-year-old Cub Scouts, including her son, she has more doubts than ever.
Tear-stricken and angry, Pamela Hobbs sat though the original trial of the three accused teens -- Damien Echols, 18; Jessie Misskelley Jr., 17, and Jason Baldwin; 16.
They were convicted of murdering her son, Stevie Branch, and two other neighborhood boys, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers. The second-graders' bodies were found bruised and mutilated in a West Memphis, Arkansas ditch; their arms and legs were bound by shoe laces.
The killers became dubbed the West Memphis 3.
When interviewed by media and documentary crews after the trial, Hobbs believed justice had been served. Misskelley and Baldwin had life sentences. Echols was on death row.
But recent developments -- including new eyewitness statements and DNA evidence from the defense -- have uprooted her faith in those prosecutions. Once a staunch believer that the teens were guilty, now she says the teens accused of killing her son in the West Memphis 3 deserve a new trial.
"I wanted to believe in our justice system," said Hobbs, now 45. She moved to Blytheville, Arkansas, shortly after the 1993 trial. "But time heals all wounds, and you start looking at things differently."
Her public change of heart has been supported by new evidence presented by the defense over the past few years. In 2007, DNA and forensic evidence tests revealed no physical evidence at the crime scene that linked the three teens to murders. The evidence was presented to the state.
Furthermore, DNA that might belong to two other men was found in the knot used to tie Christopher.
One of the men is Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of Stevie, the defense says. In 1993, such advanced DNA testing had not been available, attorneys said.
The defense continues to argue the results of the DNA evidence. In September, the Arkansas Supreme Court received an appeal from Echols, requesting a new trial after the lower courts denied his request to submit new DNA evidence. This month, an Arkansas Law Review article stated Echols should be granted a new trial based on the 2007 DNA evidence.
The Arkansas Supreme Court will likely hear oral arguments for a new trial for Echols in February, say officials representing him.
Three eye witnesses, who resided next to one of the victims, filed affidavits in October with the Arkansas Supreme Court. The witnesses said they saw the second-graders with Terry Hobbs the night before the bodies were found by police.
The statement from the witnesses contradicted Hobbs' statements to police and in court that he never saw his stepson, Stevie, on the day of the murder.
"They [authorities] never really did any investigation," said Dennis Riordan, Echols' defense attorney out of San Francisco, California. "They never interviewed Hobbs. The fact that the witnesses saw him, and they realized for the first time, it was very significant."
Pamela Hobbs was divorced from Terry Hobbs in 2004 because of marital problems stemming from the pain that followed her son's death, she said. She declined to comment on whether she thought her ex-husband saw the 8-year-old boys.
Hobbs has adamantly rejected the defense's allegations that he saw his stepson that day. Hobbs, 51, who still lives in West Memphis, said the defense is attempting to make him the target because Echols is on death row. There is no execution date set.
He raises the question many skeptics of the three men's innocence have echoed: Why would the eyewitness evidence surface 16 years later? Why didn't the witnesses come forward sooner?
To this day, Terry Hobbs says he believes the rightful killers are in prison.
The State's Attorneys Office and prosecutors won't comment about the defense's claims. Mike Walden, prosecuting attorney for Craighead County, where the original trial took place, said the affidavits are weak.
"I think most people will tell you these affidavits are insufficient to justify filing charges against someone else," Walden said about the three new eyewitnesses presented by the defense. "They don't contain enough evidence to enable a prosecuting attorney to make a charging position."
Critics of the defense attorneys say there has been too much finger-pointing over the past 16 years. The defense "can't get their story straight," said Tracy Ripple, who started a Web site criticizing supporters of the West Memphis 3.
West Memphis Police Department declined to comment. An officer said they were told by the state's Attorney General's office not to comment on the West Memphis 3 case.
During the original trial in 1993, prosecutors argued the three teens were part of a satanic cult when they murdered the three children. They said punctures and cut marks on the victims were argued to be to be part of a sadistic ritual. After the trial, some forensic examiners argued those marks were animal bite marks.
The prosecution relied on the confession of Misskelley, a 17-year-old with learning disabilities and an IQ of 70. He confessed after an untaped, three-hour interrogation by police without his parents or an attorney present. Misskelley later recanted his confession.
The teens, now men serving time in the Arkansas penitentiary system, have maintained their innocence. They have tried appealing, arguing that they weren't adequately represented in the original trial. Echols remains on death row, and no execution date has been set.
Pamela Hobbs hasn't been the only parent of the victims to shift to the side of the West Memphis 3 supporters.
Mark Byers, the father of Christopher, lives in Millington, Tennessee. He said he began to think the three men might be innocent, particularly after the 2007 DNA tests results were released. His wife, Melissa, passed away in 1996.
After the murders, Byers announced to the media fervently that he believed the West Memphis 3 were guilty. But by 2005, he began to question the original trial. He said parts of Misskelley's confession did not match up with actual crime. For example, the confession talks about committing the crime in the woods, but medical examiners found few traces of blood in the woods.
"The worst part about it is the three real victims that deserve justice, the three 8-year-old children have not been given justice," Byers said. "They got a hack job for a police investigation. It was a rush to find someone who they said did this."
Todd and Diana Moore, parents of Michael, say the West Memphis 3 are guilty. Todd Moore, now divorced from Diana Moore, says he can't believe the eyewitness affidavits because they are based on memories from 16 years ago. His ex-wife declined to comment.
"They [witnesses] may have seen something," said Moore, who now lives in Marion, Arkansas. "But May 5, 1993, wasn't the day."
The murders of the three boys remain etched into the community even years after the trial ended. The case inspired two HBO documentaries, "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills" and "Paradise Lost 2."
As years passed, the West Memphis 3 continued to live in the media spotlight. The case gained notoriety among celebrities such as the Dixie Chicks and actress Winona Ryder, who have publicly said the three men should have a new trial.
Over the years, the parents of the three boys have watched the headlines return. Some hope for a new trial for the three men, who have languished behind bars for their young adult years behind bars. And other parents pray the men will stay locked up for good.
"I want someone to put a stop to this," said Terry Hobbs. He fondly recalls the memories with his stepson-- the two of them swimming in the backyard pool.
"I'm tired of this stuff. No one understands or cares what this does to us as parents over and over again."
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
(CNN) -- Syed Jafry was preparing for his plane to land in Detroit, Michigan, after a long flight from Amsterdam, Netherlands, when he heard a noise that startled him.
"There was a little bit of light, a little bit of -- kind of flamish light and there was fire," Jafry told CNN. "And people began to panic."
For a couple of seconds on Northwest Flight 253, nobody knew what was going on, he said.
That pop, officials say, came from a Nigerian man who ignited a small explosive device as the flight descended into the Detroit, Michigan, area. The White House described the incident as an attempted terrorist attack. The suspect was eventually subdued by passengers and crew.
As the commotion began, passengers didn't know what to think.
Jafry said he thought the man looked to be in his 20s.
Passenger Elias Fawaz told WDIV that the detonation sounded "like a balloon being popped" and said he could smell smoke.
That's when he saw a struggle in the cabin.
"We heard, 'What are you doing?' 'What are you doing?' " Fawaz told WDIV.
Within seconds a young man on the flight took matters into his own hands, according to Jafry and other passengers who spoke to CNN affiliate WXYZ-TV.
A man, sitting three or four rows behind Jafry jumped over a group of seats, tackled the suspect and put him in a headlock.
"He handled him pretty good, I think," Jafry said.
Jafry said other passengers and crew members then helped subdue the man and put out flames after the suspect's pants appeared to catch fire.
"Everybody was rushing towards that area and tried to get water," Jafry said, adding that people rushed the man with blankets and a fire extinguisher.
"They put out the fire, brought him up front where they stripped him down to make sure that he had nothing else," passenger Melinda Dennis told CNN affiliate WDIV.
Other passengers told WXYZ the injured suspect was put in the first row of first class.
"He appeared to be more stunned and surprised with the whole act," Jafry said of the suspect after he was subdued.
Passengers, including Jafry, said they could see the suspect was burned on different parts of his body, but he didn't seem to say much or act as if he were in pain.
Jafry said soon after the suspect was moved to the front of the plane, the crew and pilot told passengers the incident was under control.
"And we were on the ground, I think between 10 to 20 minutes after the incident," Jafry said.
Jafry and other passengers were screened again and questioned for about four to five hours before finally being able to meet their friends and family, or reach connecting flights.
Friday, December 25, 2009
(CNN) -- Actor Charlie Sheen was arrested early Friday and charged with several offenses with a domestic violence component, Aspen, Colorado, police said.
Sheen, 44, is being held without bond in the Pitkin County Jail pending a court appearance. A date for that appearance has not been set.
The actor was charged with second degree assault and menacing, both felonies, and criminal mischief, a misdemeanor, police said. Additionally, Colorado law mandates a protective order between someone arrested for domestic violence and the victim.
Sheen's spokesman, Stan Rosenfield, cautioned against jumping to conclusions.
"Do not be misled by appearance," he said. "Appearance and reality can be as different as night and day."
Police said the alleged victim, whom they did not identify, did not require a trip to a hospital.
Sheen has been married to sometime actress and real estate investor Brooke Allen since May after a nearly two-year engagement. The couple has twin sons born in March. Allen is his third wife.
Sheen, whose real name is Carlos Irwin Estevez, is the son of actor Martin Sheen. He has two brothers and a sister -- Emilio, Ramon and Renee Estevez -- who are also actors. He stars in the popular television comedy "Two and a Half Men" with Jon Cryer.
(CNN) -- A Salvation Army major was shot dead in front of his three children on Christmas Eve in North Little Rock, Arkansas, authorities said.
Maj. Philip Wise, 40, was gunned down Thursday. He was found lying by the back entrance of a Salvation Army facility, said police spokesman Sgt. Terry Kuykendall.
Wise apparently dropped two bell ringers off at home and returned to the Salvation Army building with his three children, ages 4, 6 and 8. Two men carrying handguns approached them and demanded money before shooting Wise, Kuykendall said.
The suspects fled on foot.
Police received a 911 call at 4:17 p.m. Pulaski County Coroner Garland Camper said Wise's wife, Cindy, made the call from inside the building.
"My heart goes out for the family, losing their dad, and I guess having to witness it during this time of year," Camper told CNN affiliate KARK. "It's definitely going to be hard on the kids."
Wise had been active in the Salvation Army for 16 years and was assigned to the Baring Cross neighborhood of North Little Rock for the past three years.
Area Commander Maj. Harvey Johnson said the Salvation Army will hold a news conference on Christmas Day.
"We would hope that whoever the perpetrators are would step forward," he said.
The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. It is perhaps best known for its donation centers and bell ringers who collect money for the needy during the holiday season.
(CNN) -- A passenger on an international flight bound for the United States Friday ignited a small explosive device shortly before landing in a move the White House called an attempted terrorist attack, a senior administration official said.
Another passenger on the Northwest flight from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit, Michigan, quickly helped subdue and isolate the young male suspect with the aid of the cabin crew, passenger Syed Jafry said.
The suspect was placed in custody and is being treated for second- and third-degree burns on his thighs suffered in the explosion, according to federal law enforcement and airline security sources.
The sources said the suspect flew into Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam on a KLM flight from Lagos, Nigeria, and is not believed to be on any watch list.
The suspect, identified as a Nigerian national, claimed to have extremist ties and said the explosive device "was acquired in Yemen along with instructions as to when it should be used," said a federal security bulletin obtained by CNN.
The FBI is investigating, bureau spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said.
The remains of the device used are being sent to an FBI explosives lab in Quantico, Virginia, for analysis, the sources said.
Rep. Pete King, R-New York and ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, identified the suspect as Abdul Mudallad. CNN has not been able to confirm the name from law enforcement or government officials, and some media outlets have reported the name as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
President Obama, who is spending the holidays in his home state of Hawaii, was briefed on the incident during a secure phone call with aides, and instructed in a subsequent discussion with security advisers "that all appropriate measures be taken to increase security for air travel," said White House spokesman Bill Burton. The president made no changes to his schedule, Burton said.
The Department of Homeland Security issued a statement Friday saying that air passengers "may notice additional screening measures put into place to ensure the safety of the traveling public on domestic and international flights."
Passengers described the brief moments of panic on board as screams erupted and flight attendants ran for fire extinguishers.
Jafry, who was sitting in seat 16G, said the plane was just beginning to descend when passengers heard a pop.
"Everybody got a little bit startled," he said. "After a few seconds or so ... there was ... kind of a flamish light and there was fire" and people around the immediate area began to panic.
One woman told CNN affiliate WDIV that a man threw a blanket over the suspect's legs to help put out the small fire.
"It was terrifying," Richelle Keepman said. "I think we all thought we weren't going to land, we weren't going to make it."
Passenger Elias Fawaz told WDIV that the explosion sounded "like a balloon being popped" and said he could smell smoke.
Jafry said the incident was under control within minutes, crediting the crew and nearby passengers for the rapid response.
One person was taken to the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, hospital spokeswoman Tracy Justice said.
"All passengers have deplaned and out of an abundance of caution, the plane was moved to a remote area," where the plane and baggage were rescreened, the Transportation Security Administration said in a statement. Passengers were interviewed by law enforcement authorities before being allowed to leave the airport. No other suspicious materials were found on the plane or in luggage, the law enforcement and airline security sources said.
No other suspicious materials were found on the plane or in luggage, the law enforcement and airline security sources said. The suspect had only carry-on luggage.
Another passenger on the Northwest flight transferred from the same KLM flight in Amsterdam but officials found no connection between the two, the sources said.
The plane, an Airbus 330, landed shortly before 1 p.m. It was carrying 278 passengers.
Delta is the parent company of Northwest.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Craig Lynch, 28, escaped Hollesley Bay open prison near Suffolk, eastern England, back in September, but has continued to update his Facebook status regularly -- describing everything from his meals to who his next girlfriend will be.
"mmm i just had a 12lb venison steak. Roasted veg and chips, bangin meal. I feel stuffed but still got room for the j.d's . Hope you enjoyed the meal babe's. We'll have to eat here again" Lynch wrote on his wall.
In another posting from earlier this week Lynch wrote "Is thinkin, which lucky girl will be my first of 2010!!."
Police are trying to use clues left by Lynch on his Facebook to track down where the convicted burglar may be hiding.
Lynch was sentenced to a seven-year prison term for aggravated burglary and was serving his sentence in an open prison before his escape, according to a police spokeswoman.
"We have spoken to Facebook and we are trying to trace him from the information we have, but it's one of those things that we're also asking for help from members of the public," Suffolk police spokesperson Anne-Marie Breach told CNN.
"Obviously we're taking what he's saying on Facebook with a pinch of salt because he's now aware that people may be reading what he's writing."
News that Lynch's Facebook was being updated broke yesterday and since then, he has written several times of his life on-the-run.
"The hotel staff haven't even clocked which was the only thing I've been paranoid about all day!" he wrote.
Lynch's most recent posting read "well what can i say fellow friends. The run is nearly over. Sorry some of you had to find out like this. I know some of you might take offence that i never told you personally. But you know me. I Trust No One. Its the only way to be."
It happened on the Eastex Freeway near Lee Road around 11pm. Investigators say a woman with her 17-year-old daughter and her 10-year-old son were traveling along the Eastex Freeway when their Scion had a flat tire. They pulled over around the Lee Road exit. That's when a man pulled over to help the family.
The woman and her two children were standing in front of their car. According to authorities, a Jeep drifted off the road and into the right shoulder of the freeway, smashing into the car. The driver of the Jeep, says authorities, admitted to drinking alcohol.
The man who was changing the tire died. So did the 17-year-old girl. The 10-year-old boy was thrown over the rail and into the bayou under the freeway. Remarkably, the boy survived.
"He fell approximately 15 to 20 feet down to the ground," said Sgt. S. Wolverton with the Harris County Sheriff's Office. "Miraculously, he is OK and was able to crawl back up. He was transported. He did have injuries, but they were minor injuries."
The mother was taken to Memorial Hermann for treatment with serious injuries. The names of the victims have not been released.
The alleged drunk driver was taken into custody. The wreck took about three hours to clear.
Passers-by found the teenager lying at the end of Christ Church's circular driveway at Sagamore Road near Prescott Avenue at 11:45 a.m.
The girl sustained injuries to her head and arm, and the Bronxville Police Department is investigating the possibility of if the victim fell or was hit by a vehicle.
"We're not ruling out foul play at this point," stated Bronxville Police Sgt. Tony DeLeo.
According to DeLeo and church caretaker Noel Desmond, the girl was carrying a package or envelope and appeared to be walking to the local post office on Pondfield Road.
Desmond said someone else at the scene found the return address on the package and ran to the nearby address to alert the girl's parents.
The post office is across the street from Bronxville High School, where the teenager was a student.
It is unclear why the girl was running the errand at the time of her death. According to the school's calendar of events, early dismissal for the high school was at 1:30 p.m on Wednesday.
The school began its Christmas vacation on Thursday and classes resume on January 4, 2010.
The victim's name was not immediately released.
The investigation is ongoing and the Bronxville Police Department urges anyone with information to call (914) 337-0500.
The family is hoping to have a larger memorial early in the new year to share memories of Murphy but nothing is confirmed yet, spokesman Alex Ben Block said.
Murphy was pronounced dead Sunday morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.
Authorities said the 32-year-old appeared to have died Sunday of natural causes, and there was no sign of foul play or trauma.
The funeral, which is private and invitation only, will include Christian and Jewish clergy, Block said.
Murphy is survived by her husband, British screenwriter Simon Monjack, whom she married in 2007.
The often bubbly, free-spirited actress appeared in such films as "Clueless," "8 Mile," "Don't Say a Word" and "Girl, Interrupted." She also lent her voice to animated works, including the movie "Happy Feet" -- in which she also sang -- and a regular role on the animated TV series "King of the Hill."
Murphy was best known for her work in a string of romantic comedies earlier this decade, including playing lead roles in "Uptown Girls" alongside fellow Georgia native Dakota Fanning, and "Little Black Book" with Holly Hunter and Kathy Bates. But her movie roles had declined in recent years.
Last month, Murphy was reportedly fired from "The Caller," a movie she was working on in Puerto Rico.
Her representative issued a statement to news outlets disputing the report, saying, "She was not, nor has she ever been fired from any job big or small. ... [Due] to creative differences Ms. Murphy and the production mutually parted ways," according to People magazine.
Murphy was the subject of tabloid gossip after she transformed from a pudgy brunette in 1995's "Clueless" to a petite, lithe blonde who graced the cover of such magazines as Cosmopolitan in 2005. She frequently denied rumors of an eating disorder and plastic surgery.
Her love life also was fodder for gossip sites as she broke two engagements in 2004 and 2006, then married Monjack after four months of dating.
(PEOPLE.com) -- One of Hollywood's most enduring relationships has ended -- Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins have broken up after more than two decades together, PEOPLE has learned.
"Actress Susan Sarandon and her partner of 23 years, actor Tim Robbins have announced that they separated over the summer," her rep Teal Cannaday told PEOPLE in a statement. "No further comments will be made."
The couple met on the set of "Bull Durham," and they have two sons together, Jack, 20, and Miles, 17.
Sarandon, 63, was previously married to Chris Sarandon, whom she met in college. The actress also dated director Franco Amurri in the mid '80s. The two had a daughter, Eva Amurri, in 1985. (Amurri is also an actress; she most recently appeared in Showtime's "Californication.")
Sarandon and Robbins, 51, were admired for their long relationship in the face of the pressures of show business, their much-discussed age difference -- he's 12 years younger -- and that they never married.
"I won't marry because I am too afraid of taking him for granted or him taking me for granted -- maybe it will be a good excuse for a party when I am 80," Sarandon has said in the past.
Both famous liberal activists, they have never been too political at home with their children.
"I've never tried to force [politics] on them," the actress told Psychologies magazine in its January issue, but adds that the election of President Barack Obama "got them excited."
The family all attended the inauguration in January, though Sarandon insists "our dinner table conversations are rarely political."
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
The victim, identified only as a 39-year-old Hispanic male from Washington Heights, was so badly dismembered that crews were still cleaning up the Central Park West and 110th St. station hours after the accident on the B line.
Witnesses said they saw the victim agitated and shouting at someone on his cell phone about 7:40 p.m.
Police said he dropped his music player on the tracks during the heated conversation. "It was an accident," said a police source. "He went on the tracks for his MP3 player, picked it up, and stood up just in time for the train to hit him head on and drag him. He just wasn't quick enough," the source said.
The victim's name was withheld until his next of kin were notified. Uptown trains bypassed the station for more than two hours.
Cynthia Rennix wants to know why the two off-duty emergency medical technicians walked away from her daughter and allowed her to die.
"I think it was unfair and unjust and very heartless," Rennix said.
Dead is 25-year-old Eutisha Rennix, who was six months pregnant. She was a cashier at a bakery in downtown Brooklyn, near the fire department's headquarters.
The victim's family said Eutisha Rennix suffered shortness of breath and collapsed with two off-duty EMTs in the store buying breakfast.
"After she collapsed they asked for help. They were told, call it in … because they were on a break. They got their bagels and coffee and left," Cynthia Rennix said.
Records show the first 911 call resulted in an ambulance from Long Island College Hospital dispatched at 9:13 a.m. and arriving at 9:24. But with Eutisha Rennix's condition worsening a fire department ambulance was also dispatched at 9:22, arriving at 9:28. At an area hospital she was declared dead at 10:17. Her baby was delivered, but died two hours later.
A source close to the investigation said the two EMTs were Jason Green and Melissa Jackson, who are dispatchers but were trained as EMTs. The EMTs have since been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.
Union spokesman Bob Unger said this about the conduct:
"We never condone activity by our members that could harm the public. If these members are found to have violated department protocols, the FDNY has a process to deal with that."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's reaction was swift.
"There's no excuse whatsoever," he said. "Just normal human beings. Drop your coffee and go help somebody if they're dying. Come on."
A source within the union said, "If the charges are true, why should we go out on a limb to defend these two and hurt our own good reputation?"
Eutisha Rennix and her baby were buried on Friday. The family is considering legal action against the two EMTs.
Sick, sick world...
"A Pakistani court has ordered that two men have their ears and noses cut off, as punishment for doing the same to a woman who refused to marry one of them...
Sentence was passed on Monday under a rarely invoked Islamic law dating from the 1980s. In the past similar sentences have been revoked on appeal."
Richard Heene was sentenced to 90 days in jail, including 60 days of work release that will let him pursue his job as a construction contractor while serving his time. His wife, Mayumi, was sentenced to 20 days in jail.
Richard Heene choked back tears as he said he was sorry, especially to the rescue workers who chased down false reports that his 6-year-old son had floated away in a balloon on Oct. 15. It was a stunt designed to generate attention for a reality TV show.
"I do want to reiterate that I'm very, very sorry. And I want to apologize to all the rescue workers out there, and the people that got involved in the community. That's it," said Richard Heene, whose wife did not speak at the hearing.
Larimer County District Judge Stephen Schapanski then ordered Heene to begin a 30-day jail term on Jan. 11, delaying the start of the sentence for two weeks so he can spend the holidays with his family. Schapanski allowed Heene to serve the remaining 60 days of his jail term under work release, meaning he can work during the day but spend his nights in jail.
The Heenes' probation will be revoked if they are found to be profiting from any book, TV, movie or other deals related to the stunt.
"This, in simple terms, was an elaborate hoax that was devised by Mr. and Mrs. Heene," the judge said.
The Heenes pleaded guilty to charges that they carried out the balloon hoax, with deals that called for up to 90 days in jail for the husband and 60 days for his wife.
Schapanski ordered Mayumi Heene to serve 20 days in jail after her husband completes his sentence. Her time served is flexible — she can report to jail on 10 weekends, for example — so the children are cared for, the judge said.
Prosecutors asked for the maximum sentence for the husband, saying that a message needs to be sent to promoters who attempt to carry out hoaxes to generate publicity. Chief Deputy District Attorney Andrew Lewis also asked for full restitution to reimburse authorities for the cost of investigating the hoax — an amount that could exceed $50,000.
"People around the world were watching this unfold," he said. "Mr. Heene wasted a lot of manpower and a lot of money in wanting to get himself some publicity."
He added, "Jay Leno said it best when he said, 'This is copycat game.' And people will copycat this event. (The Heenes) need to go to jail so people don't do that."
He portrayed the Heenes as growing increasingly desperate as their pitches for a reality TV show kept getting turned down by networks — and the family fell deeper into a financial hole. Lewis said the Heenes set in motion the balloon hoax in early October as a way to jumpstart the effort and get some attention.
They chose Oct. 15 because the weather was cooperating and the kids were home for school with parent-teacher conferences, allowing the Heenes to report that 6-year-old Falcon had floated away, Lewis said.
Once the parents were brought in for questioning, Richard Heene feigned sleep during the lie-detector test, claiming it was some sort of diabetic episode, Lewis said.
David Lane, Richard Heene's attorney, pleaded for leniency with the judge and said that the couple "have learned a lesson they will never forget for the rest of their lives." He also said that if someone has to go to jail, let it be Richard Heene and not his wife.
"That is his plea. That would be something of a Christmas miracle if that can occur," he said.
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Tuesday, December 22, 2009
"I am a bit thinner now than what I would like to be," Murphy, 32, admitted to Fox News' Pop Tarts at an event just 2 ½ weeks before her untimely death Sunday.
The rail-thin actress, for years dogged by eating disorder and drug use rumors that she denied, was quick to credit her workout routine.
"I was a ballerina for a long time," the saucer-eyed starlet said. "I still take ballet lessons now - what it does to your body is incredible."
Despite her emaciated appearance, Murphy was upbeat and making plans for the future.
"As far as having a New Year's resolution, I'd love to have a child next year," she told Access Hollywood at the same clothing store event on Dec. 3.
"I've been very blessed to have a really great loving husband," she said. "I spend more time with my family than anyone else in the world."
Two days before the store event, Murphy appeared at the Los Angeles premiere for her indie flick "Across the Hall."
In an interview with Maximo TV, the star seemed sweet but a bit dazed and lost track of the reporter's questions. She said she couldn't explain her character's cheating ways because she was nothing like the character in real life.
The Los Angeles coroner's office is investigating the "Clueless" star's death and is expected to perform an autopsy today or tomorrow.
The screen siren and singer was in full cardiac arrest and could not be revived after her beloved mother - who told paramedics the actress was diabetic - found her unconscious in the shower, TMZ reported.
Five paramedics who arrived after the 8 a.m. 911 call feverishly administered CPR as Monjack wandered around in his pajama bottoms, a witness told RadarOnline.
Murphy was pronounced dead at 10:04 a.m. at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Murphy had been suffering from flulike symptoms for days and was throwing up profusely in the hours before she died, TMZ said.
"There were a lot ... a lot of prescriptions in the house," a source said.
The troubled starlet rose to fame in 1995 as the sidekick Tai in "Clueless," who went from awkward wallflower to snotty hottie.
She has appeared in more than 25 movies since then, including 1997's "Bongwater," "Girl, Interrupted" in 1999, "8Mile" and "Sin City."
Murphy, whose gravelly voice rocked the animated film "Happy Feet," even broke into the dance club world with the hit single "Faster Kill Pussycat."
Murphy lived in Edison, N.J., before moving to California when she was 13 and landing her first television role in "Blossom."
She underwent a transformation from a too-pudgy-for-Hollywood brunette to a bone-thin blond - with cleavage ample enough to land her in Maxim's 100 hottest women in 2006.
Speculation over her weight loss haunted her for years, but she dismissed reports that her weight was connected to drug use or an eating disorder.
"I have never tried (cocaine) in my entire life," she told Jane magazine.
Friends openly worried that she had become addicted to the prescription painkiller Vicodin after undergoing plastic surgery.
"Brittany has been living life on the edge," one source told Britain's Daily Mail.
She was set to play a small role in Sylvester Stallone's upcoming film "The Expendables," due out in August. Earlier this month, she abruptly left the Puerto Rico set of "The Caller."
Twitter was abuzz with tributes from stars, like old squeeze Ashton Kutcher, her co-star in 2003's "Just Married."
"See you on the other side kid," Kutcher tweeted.
Screenwriter and director Kevin Smith referred to the actress' oft-quoted line in "Clueless": "G'night,Ms. Murphy; hope you're rollin' with the homies someplace nice."
In a statement, her family called Murphy's death a "terrible tragedy. She was ... a shining star."
Murphy, who died Sunday morning after suffering cardiac arrest in her Los Angeles home, had drafted a will before she married Monjack in 2007, reports TMZ.com.
The will leaves Murphy's entire estate to her mother, Sharon Murphy, according to TMZ.com.
It was not immediately clear of the will had ever been amended to include her husband.
Just one day after the actress' shocking death, Monjack told Access Hollywood, "My world was destroyed."
He said Sunday was just "a regular day," and though Murphy had seen a doctor about laryngitis, Monjack attributed her sickness to exhaustion from filming two movies this year.
According to TMZ, notes written by an investigator from the L.A. County Coroner's office state that Murphy had a history of hypoglycemia and was hospitalized in April 2009 for low blood sugar while working on a film in Oregon.
The actress had also been complaining of shortness of breath and severe abdominal pain" for seven to 10 days before she died.
The actress is said to have gone into the bathroom at around 7:30 a.m. and shut the door.
"[Her mother] Sharon went into the bathroom because she had been in there a long time," Monjack said. "Her mom screamed for me and I ran. Then called 911."
According to the notes, Murphy's mother called 911 and Monjack "attempted to revive the decedent by placing her in the shower and running the water.
"The decedent remained unresponsive and purged her stomach contents prior to the arrival of the paramedics."
Sadly, the actress was "without signs of life" by the time paramedics arrived.
The L.A. County Coroner's office, however, has discovered a surprising amount of prescription medications in Murphy's home.
Some were reportedly prescribed to Murphy, and others to Monjack and her mother, Sharon.
Among them were Topamax (an anti-seizure med that also prevents migraines), Methylprednisolone (anti-inflammatory), Fluoxetine (depression med), Klonopin (anxiety med), Carbamazepinean (treats Diabetic symptoms, as well as bipolar med) Ativan (anxiety med), Vicoprofen (pain reliever), Propranolol (for hypertension, used to prevent heart attacks), Biaxin (antibiotic), Hydrocodone (pain med) and miscellaneous vitamins.
Many of the bottles were reportedly found empty.
Experts: Nothing 'natural' about Brittany Murphy's death
(USA Today) Brittany Murphy died Sunday morning after suffering "cardiac arrest," but the question is: What caused the cardiac arrest?
ABC News spoke to several experts who say the death could be related to an undetected heart condition, type-2 diabetes, rumored thyroid problems or eating disorder-related issues, but said it's unlikely there was anything "natural" about it.
Chief Coroner Ed Winter confirmed to ABC News that several legal prescription medications were recovered from her apartment, but it will be four to six weeks before lab results are back and an official cause of death can be determined.
How many more celebrities can die before the year is over? This is nuts!
Friday, December 18, 2009
George Lenard, of the Chicago suburb of Joliet, has practiced law for more than two decades.
Peterson attorney Joel Brodsky says Lenard has been consulting with the defense team for months and brings experience.
Peterson is being held on 20 million bail in Will County on charges that he killed his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004.
Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, has been missing since October 2007.
Peterson has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
A judge today continued the case because one of Sheri Coleman's family's attorneys is recovering from heart surgery, and the other is in court in Chicago today.
Ministry attorney Michael King claims the family's attorneys are trying to delay the decision, because they don't have any evidence that the ministry could have prevented the murders of Sheri and her two sons.
The family contends the Ministry should have known the alleged murderer, Chris Coleman, was having an affair with a woman in Florida and had sent threats from his office computer. Coleman worked in security at the Ministry.
The judge will set the next hearing date in early February.
San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Linda Lofthus set a trial date of Oct. 18 after a 30-minute hearing Friday at which the 28-year-old Huckaby was present.
The judge also set Feb. 16 as the day she will consider a defense motion to suppress evidence. She did not set a date to hear a separate defense request to dismiss a grand jury's indictment.
Lofthus has sealed pretrial motions and issued a gag order in the case, so details of prosecutors' case against Huckaby still are unknown to the public.
Prosecutors had been pushing to begin the trial quickly over worries that the memories of some young witnesses will fade. But San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Thomas Testa did not object Friday to the trial date.
Huckaby is charged with murdering Sandra, a playmate of her daughter's who was a neighbor in the Orchard Estates Mobile Home Park in Tracy. Sandra disappeared March 27.
Days later, farm workers found Sandra's body in a black suitcase that had been dumped in a rural drainage pond a couple of miles north of Tracy. Huckaby also is accused of drugging a 7-year-old girl and a 37-year-old man.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
On Friday, attorneys hashed out plans for evidence sharing and other procedural issues but revealed few details. Testa said the defense motion to suppress evidence required him to subpoena authorities in Los Angeles. In an unrelated discussion, he mentioned he had handed over a disc of handwriting analysis to the defense.
San Francisco attorney Michael Burt, who is assisting Huckaby's lawyer, San Joaquin County Deputy Public Defender Sam Behar, requested instructions that were given to the grand jury that indicted Huckaby. Burt, a star death penalty defense attorney who led or assisted in the defenses of Lyle Menendez, Charles Ng, Richard Ramirez and Cary Stayner, said part of the defense's basis for asking that the indictment be tossed is that they believe the jurors were not instructed correctly, but he did not elaborate.
The October trial date could change if there are delays in the months before. That could happen if the defense successfully moves the case out of San Joaquin County.
Behar missed Friday's hearing because of illness.
Caylee was 2 years old when she was reported missing in July 2008. Anthony has pleaded not guilty.
Orange County Circuit Judge Stan Strickland said the state was not acting in bad faith or depriving Anthony of her constitutional rights by seeking the death penalty.
Strickland said in his ruling that he did have the power to remove the death penalty option but only if the state was acting in bad faith. The state had argued that judges cannot restrict prosecutors' discretion when it comes to choosing whether to pursue the death penalty.
Anthony's defense team had argued that the state was acting in bad faith and seeking the death penalty so it could get a jury that is more conviction prone.
In a court hearing last week, prosecutor Jeff Ashton went into great detail about a hypothetical argument he could make to a jury about how Caylee was killed to support the death penalty, if Anthony is found guilty.
The graphic detail caused Anthony to cry openly in court and forced her parents to exit the courtroom.
As of now, Anthony's murder trial is scheduled to begin in the summer.
Stay with ClickOrlando.com and watch Local 6 News for more on this story.
(AOL News)-- The baby didn't look right.
On the way to bed, Linda Kaiser checked on her 1-year-old twins and found a parent's nightmare.
Her little girl Cheyenne had pulled the cord off a window shade and strangled herself.
That June night seven years ago marked the start of one mom's child-safety crusade -- a campaign that culminated Tuesday with the national recall of millions of shades and blinds similar to the one that killed Cheyenne.
Kaiser, of Elgin, Ill., was a dental assistant who stayed home to care for her twins and their older sister. Today, she runs the national grassroots advocacy organization she founded after Cheyenne's death, Parents for Window Blind Safety.
"This isn't just about my kid," she said. "It's about other kids who died."
The national recall, issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the industry-supported Window Covering Safety Council, includes products from some of the largest retailers in the country: Walmart, Pottery Barn, West Elm, Big Lots and J.C. Penney, The Wall Street Journal reported.
"This recall involves millions of Roman and roll-up blinds. About 5 million Roman shades and about 3 million roll-up blinds are sold each year," the federal commission noted in a news release.
Kaiser has worked tirelessly on three fronts: spreading the word about potential window shade dangers, offering support to other parents who have suffered similar tragedies and educating the public.
For her, and parents like her who have lost a child in similar accidents, the fight isn't over. In some ways, the attention the recall brought is just the beginning.
Many parents know to tie up the pull cords used to raise and lower shades. But the cords that run along the back of the shades are easy to pull away from the fabric -- an adult can do so with a pinkie finger, Kaiser said. Since 1991, the federal agency has received reports of more than 200 children dying from window shade pull cords, five of them in the past three years from the exposed backing cords.
That's how Cheyenne died too.
Kaiser thought she had followed every safety precaution in her home. She and her husband had installed child-proof outlet covers and safely stored medications, and she had tied up the shades' pull cords. In honor of Cheyenne, Kaiser's friends created a memorial Web site. Two other parents, searching for answers in their own children's deaths, found the memorial and contacted Kaiser.
They both had children who strangled on cords within two weeks of Cheyenne's death.
"I thought, 'We can't just sit here and do nothing,'" Kaiser said.
Kaiser admits she sometimes wanted to give up. She wrote the CPSC often, with no response. She would tell others her cautionary tale, and people would look her in the eye and tell her she was a negligent mother.
"This is not about parental supervision," Kaiser said. "I don't think people understand how fast this can happen, and how fast a child can die."
As an example, the parents' group posted a public service announcement on YouTube that features a frightening home video. A mom, filming several children in what looks like her home, pans the camera and sees her 3-year-old beside a window with a cord around his neck. As she speaks to emergency workers, her son, freed from the cord, starts crying.
This week's recall was too late to save 3-year-old Brandyn, who died Sept. 11. But his father, Navy Chief Petty Officer Phillip Coppedge, credits Kaiser and her organization with supporting him and his family through their grief. He is married and has three other children, ages 21, 15 and 10.
Many mornings Brandyn would sit by the window and wave at the big kids heading to a nearby school. But he never messed with the blinds, his dad said.
In September, Brandyn's oldest brother was babysitting. He went to the bathroom, and when he returned, the boy had gotten tangled in the shade.
All the shades are gone from the house now, and Coppedge and his wife brace for a rough winter season -- Christmas without Brandyn, and then what would have been the boy's fourth birthday in January.
The family still plans on buying the toys they wanted to give to Brandyn; they'll just give them to Toys for Tots instead.
Coppedge has warned everyone he knows about the shade dangers.
"I have been in my own way taking a stance," he said. He's also working to develop a program with the Navy's Fleet and Family Support Center to speak with new parents about the shades.
Kaiser, too, plans to keep pushing. The recall doesn't include all the shades that have injured or killed children. She's not stopping until it does.
"We're not done yet," she said.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
Buttering You Up: To get their way, manipulators will often make you feel good so that they can then ask you to do something that they want. The person may first compliment you or tell you what a wonderful job you did on something.
Guilt: This doesn’t only pertain to Catholics and Jewish Mothers; guilt trips have been a successful manipulation tactic for centuries. The saddest part of this strategy is that the victims of this tactic succumb to the manipulators’ demands because they feel they HAVE to, not because they WANT to. In personal relationships, this sets up a co-dependency that is extremely unhealthy.
Broken Record: Probably the most obvious of formats is the broken record tactic. If a person asks you enough or pushes their agenda enough…constantly repeating the question or request over and over again…in slightly different ways, the victim will inevitably give in and give them what they want. Oye!
Selective Memory: This one gets me the most. You swear you have a conversation about a plan and everyone is on the same page, and then one day, the manipulator pretends to remember the conversation completely differently, if at all.
Keep your eyes open for these behaviors and continue to stand your ground to ensure that you aren’t a victim of manipulation. Have you seen any other types of manipulative behavior?