Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boy, 12, Shoots and Kills Friend Inside Saratoga County Home

WILTON -- A 12-year-old accidentally shot and killed his friend, also 12, inside a Wilton home on Wednesday, according to the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff James Bowen said the boy was handling his father's handgun when it went off, shooting the other boy, identified as Nicholas Naumkin, in the head.

Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy said the boys believed the gun was not loaded.

Naumkin was rushed to Albany Medical Center where he died late Wednesday night.

Both were students at the Maple Avenue Middle School in the Saratoga Springs City School District. Principal Stuart Byrne is putting together the school's crisis team.

It’s unclear whether the shooter will return to school.

“Nothing we do will bring this family their son back, but we owe it to them to thoroughly investigate this case and that is what Sheriff Bowen and I intend to do,” Murphy said in a media release. “He and I and our staff will be working over the holiday weekend in order to make sure that every aspect of this case is examined and that we come to a conclusion on how to proceed as quickly and efficiently as possible."

Murphy said the boy and his parents are cooperating with the Sheriff's Department.

In a phone conversation with CBS 6, Naumkin's mother said her son was "amazing," a gentle and polite boy who had many friends and was always interested in talking with other people.

Mrs. Naumkin said Nicholas was creative and artistic, and wanted to be an actor like his father Yuri, who was famous in Moscow in the late 1970s before he emigrated to Brooklyn.

Nicholas was born in Brooklyn, but the family decided to move up to Saratoga Springs four and a half years ago because they loved visiting the town: "It was beautiful and safe," said Mrs. Naumkin. "We wanted to get away from all that in Brooklyn," she said, referring to guns and shootings.

Nicholas had just gone to his first school dance earlier this month, said his mother. And he was constantly there for his 7-year-old mildly autistic brother. "He was always there for him," she said. "He would read books to him."

Mrs. Naumkin said she had not yet spoken to the parents of the other boy and that she did not think she would be able to for some time. "My heart goes out to them because they're suffering, too," she said, but she was angry the gun was not properly secured and stored away.

Family members were arriving from across the country to support the Naumkins. Mrs. Naumkin said they still have not notified their families in Russia of Nicholas's death.

"I don't know what to say," Mrs. Naumkin said tearfully. "I'm just numb."

Singer Teena Marie Dies

There are reports that R&B singer Teena Marie died on Dec. 26, 2010.

There were several messages on Twitter reporting the Teena Maria death and some media outlets have confirmed the death of the Motown star.

R&B legend Ronald Isley tweeted:
"Sorry guys, yes Teena Marie has passed away.."
WDAS, a classic R&B and soul station in Philadelphia, is also reporting that Teena Marie is dead:
"We regret to inform you that Music Legend Teena Marie has died at the age of 54."

WDAS has also reported on air that Teena Marie passed away on Dec. 26.

V103 Chicago has also reported that Teena Marie died.
For what it's worth, the Teena Marie wikipedia page has her date of death as Dec. 26, 2010

However, The death of Teena Marie has yet to be confirmed on the singer's official website. There are other reports on Twitter that the Teena Marie is not dead and there are no mainstream reports on the death of the soul legend.

Born Mary Christine Brockert, Teena Marie was known as a protege of late funk artist Rick James, whom she had met while working as a singer, songwriter, and producer at Motown Records. She was also known as one of the first Caucasian performers to make a name in R&B.
Among her big hits were "Square Biz," "Behind the Groove" and "I Need Your Loving." While most of her big hits came in the late 70s and early 90s, Teena Marie continued recording and performing well into the 21st century.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Texas Officer Killed in Funeral Procession Crash

KILLEEN, Texas -- A Waynesburg native working as a police officer in Texas was killed Monday when his motorcycle collided with another vehicle while escorting a funeral procession.

Killeen police said Harker Heights Police Officer Andrew Rameas was behind the procession when a Ford Expedition turned in front of his motorcycle in the 1300 block of Stan Schlueter Loop at 12:30 p.m.

Rameas motorcycle then collided with the passenger’s side of the SUV, police said.

Rameas, 33, was pronounced dead at Scott and White Memorial Hospital at 1:12 p.m., police said.

A 9-year-old girl inside the SUV was treated for non-life threatening injuries, police said.

The 39-year-old driver of the vehicle and two 7-year-old passengers were not injured, police said.

Rameas is expected to be flown back to Waynesburg for burial.

Visitation and funeral arrangements have not yet been released.

Cold Spring Road Murder-Suicide

[click picture or here for article published online *top right corner*]

December 25th, 1960: Lawrence Moser of 244 Cold Spring Road kills his two daughters, throws acid in his wife and her friends's faces, runs out of the house and kills himself.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Norwalk Teacher Sentenced for Having Sex with Student

STAMFORD -- The Brien McMahon High School art director who pleaded guilty to having sex with a student will spend one year in prison and will then be on probation for 20 years, a judge announced at Friday's sentencing.

John Tate, 54, of Edgewood Avenue, Stamford, was led away in handcuffs Friday morning after Stamford Superior Court Judge Richard Comerford handed down the agreed-upon jail of eight years, suspended after a year served, on charges of second-degree sexual assault and tampering with a witness. During the Norwalk Police Department investigation, the girl told police she and Tate had intercourse 20 times, including in a classroom and at a cemetery, the two-page arrest warrant affidavit states.

In addition to his prison sentence, Tate must register as a sex offender and will serve 20 years on probation.

"This was devastating for all the families involved," defense attorney Mark Sherman said. "John has accepted responsibility and wants to start serving his time."

Victim Slams '40-Year-Old Virgin' Actor Who Repeatedly Stabbed Her

(CNN) -- A California woman stabbed repeatedly by her then-boyfriend, a comedic Hollywood actor, on Friday described his courtroom antics explaining his violence as "very surreal and bizarre" -- and, above all, insincere.

"In his testimony, he stated that it was the knife that did it, and he stated this repeatedly," Kendra Beebe told HLN's Jane Velez-Mitchell. "In fact it wasn't the knife that stabbed me 23 times. It was Shelley Malil."

One day earlier, San Diego, California, County Superior Court Judge Harry Elias sentenced Malil to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Five years ago, the actor was cracking up audiences as an electronics store clerk in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." But in August 2008, he was arrested in North County, California and charged with stabbing Beebe.

Earlier this fall, a California jury found him guilty of premeditated attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon. He was found not guilty of burglary.

Malil received near the maximum sentence for his convictions. But his former girlfriend said that, while she was pleased with the jury's verdict, she still doesn't think the punishment was severe enough.

"I feel like I did get justice in our system. But is the system fair and just? I don't think so," Beebe said.

Beebe survived the attack, despite having her chin severely cut, two collapsed lungs and losing about half the blood in her body, her attorney Gloria Allred told HLN on Friday.

In September, she testified that she'd initially thought that Malil was going to hug her when he approached her in her home, as her young children slept upstairs, that summer night. But instead, he began cutting her repeatedly with a knife -- a fact that Malil did not deny.

"I saw this flashing silver, and he goes bang, bang, bang," Beebe said in court.

The Indian-born actor -- who, according to the Internet Movie Database, has appeared in at least 54 movies and television projects, from Budweiser commercials, to guest appearances on "Scrubs" and "Reba," to his break-out performance as Steve Carell's co-worker Haziz in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" -- testified that he stabbed his girlfriend by mistake, thinking he was defending her.

On Thursday, he apologized in court.

"For what I did to Kendra, I don't even have the words to express my remorse or my feeling sorry. Kendra Beebe did not deserve anything that happened to her," Malil said.

Malil's 19-year-old niece, Anjali Varghese, testified at the sentencing hearing that her uncle's "crime was not a result of any kind of ingrained malice, because that's not his nature."

Yet Beebe said that the actor's testimony left her unconvinced, feeling "so frustrated and angry."

"It was horrible," she said. "He sure lied and lied and lied on the stand."

Greenwich Man Charged in Gas Station Shooting

STAMFORD -- A 22-year-old Greenwich man was charged with attempted murder Wednesday afternoon in the November 2009 near-fatal shooting of an Old Greenwich gas station attendant and will face felony murder charges Thursday for a deadly robbery in Norwalk that occurred a month before.

Alain LeConte, 22, of Bertolf Road, Greenwich, was arraigned Wednesday in state Superior Court in Stamford on attempted murder and felony robbery charges, nearly a year after an attendant at the Mobil on the Run gas station on East Putnam Avenue was shot in the head and survived.

LeConte is expected to be formally charged with the brutal murder of Norwalk gas station clerk Jose Joaquin Morales on Thursday.

Norwalk police Chief Harry Rilling said LeConte, and another man, Mustafa Jacobs will be charged in the Norwalk robbery homicide on Thursday at state Superior Court in Norwalk.

Morales, 32, was behind the cash register of Miracle Shell on West Avenue, next to the northbound entrance of Interstate 95, at 2:15 a.m. on Oct. 10, 2009 when two men, police have identified as LeConte and Jacobs entered the convenience store and demanded money. Security video shows Morales complied with the demand and was on the ground when he was shot in the head by one of the masked robbers. A few days later, Morales was taken off life support and died at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Jacobs is also facing felony murder and first-degree robbery charges for his role in the Morales murder.

Two other men, Taran Nelson, 23, of Waterbury and David Wash, 37, of Bridgeport are facing robbery and conspiracy charges for their role in the Greenwich shooting. Wash was also arraigned Wednesday and is being held on $500,000 bond.

Police are also looking to charge a fifth suspect who they have not yet identified in the incidents.

The Mobil on the Run shooting occurred just after 1 a.m. on Nov. 21, 2009 when a man, now identified as LeConte, entered the store wearing a mask and a hooded sweatshirt and demanded cash. The 37-year-old clerk complied with the request, but the suspect still shot him in what police have described as an unprovoked attack.

LeConte, who is already incarcerated after being charged in a Stamford bodega robbery, was held on $1 million bond. In the Stamford robbery, police caught LeConte while he was committing the act. Police said he held a gun to a the head of a female clerk at the Adams Avenue store.

LeConte appeared in court Wednesday wearing a bright orange prison-issue jumpsuit and scanned the gallery for friends and relatives before his arraignment began. Attorney Mark Phillips, who is representing him currently for the Stamford robbery was again appointed special public defender for LeConte, who is due back in court Jan. 5.

The arrests of LeConte and the the three other alleged conspirators after Greenwich and Norwalk detectives teamed up.

Greenwich Police began to focus on LeConte soon after he was arrested by Stamford Police on Dec. 12, 2009, while committing a robbery at a bodega, Chief David Ridberg said in a 1 p.m. press conference at police headquarters.

Because LeConte was held in custody after that robbery, it gave Greenwich Police time to develop their case, Ridberg said.

In that case, Stamford Police were tipped off about the robbery and arrested LeConte and accomplice David Hackney of Bridgeport as they walked out of Adams Grocery at 20 Adams Ave.

LeConte had pointed a revolver at the face of the cashier who handed over less than $250 to the robbers who had pulled pantyhose over their faces as a disguise.

Greenwich Police worked hard to solve the Mobil shooting, said the department's detective division head.

"It was an extremely violent crime," Capt. Mark Marino, head of the Greenwich Police Department's detective division said. "When you have a case of that severity you were going to put the resources into solving it."

Police declined to say whether a weapon was recovered.

Norwalk police Detective James O'Leary said authorities put the two cases together because it was the first execution-style robbery in the area in years.

Police wouldn't go into specifics of the case because the warrants are sealed due to court orders. Marino said police believe Wash and Nelson were in the area when LeConte is alleged to have shot the clerk.

Greenwich Police stopped and arrested Wash as he was driving northbound on Interstate 95 near Exit 4 Tuesday afternoon. Police "had been in communication" with Wash prior to the arrest Marino said, but he declined to say when or how that communication was done. He offered no resistance when he was arrested, police said. A male passenger was in Wash's vehicle but he had nothing to do with the case and was released, Marino said.

Nelson turned himself in to Greenwich Police Wednesday morning. He was released on a promise to appear in state Superior Court in Stamford on Dec. 22.

Detective Pasquale Iorfino, of the Greenwich Police Department, attributed the "successful outcome" of the case to his partner, lead investigator Detective David Wilson, and the work of neighboring police agencies.

"After a year-long investigation by Detective Dave Wilson, we are happy to see that justice is done and a man like this won't be walking the streets for a very long time," said Iorfino, as he walked out of the courtroom.

Wilson,said he spoke with the the former Mobil employee's wife Wednesday morning to inform her of the arrests.

"She was ecstatic," he said during the press conference. "She was very happy that these guys were arrested today."

The man had been shot in the back of the head during the armed robbery and although police didn't release details of his condition, they said it was a serious wound.

"Let's just say the Good Lord saved that man," Iorfino said.

The Norwalk store clerk was not as fortunate and the Morales family continues to grieve, said their attorney Alex Martinez.

Norwalk police met regularly with the Morales family updating them on the progress of the investigation and Martinez said they can now begin the process of healing now that suspects are behind bars.

"Now that the family has been notified that there appears to be some closure, as far as identifying the responsible person, that is extremely gratifying," Martinez said. "It is a beginning of the healing. It is a start. You could tell there was a weight coming off their shoulders when I told them that an arrest was imminent."

Pastor Charged with Over 100 Counts of Child Porn

It's pretty sad I'm at the point that hearing about pastors and priests involved in child sexual ceases to surprise me.

CLEVELAND — Rev. Dr. Mark Griggs, pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Olmsted Falls, has been charged with trading in child pornography.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason announced that Griggs, 48, faces 112 counts that include downloading, trading and possessing child pornography.

Griggs is one of 27 adults, along with three juveniles, charged in a six month investigation called "Operation Lake Effect." The investigation has been conducted by the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force.

Prosecutors charge that Griggs downloaded and saved images of children being sexually abused onto his computer. They say Griggs traded child porn images from both his home and church computers.

"Shocking...always," Mason says of a pastor being indicted on such charges.

But Griggs', attorney, Jay Milano, says his client will fight the charges.

"Reverend Griggs is going to plead and he's going to defend himself," says Milano. "He's not a child pornographer."

Milano says Rev. Griggs was on "Limewire" -- an internet file-sharing program.

"If you're downloading files from Limewire, you don't have any control of what's coming into your computer," Milano says.

Prosecutor Mason rejects the notion that Griggs made innocent mistakes.
"The amount of downloading and file sharing he has is significant," Mason says.

The church's website talks about Griggs' "commitment and love of children."

In a statement released Thursday, the Presbytery of the Western Reserve said the following about Griggs' arrest: "We do not have much information about this situation yet but the Presbytery takes allegations of misconduct very seriously and will cooperate with authorities in their investigation."

All of these cases are in Cuyahoga County, indicating how pervasive child porn can be. 34 other cases have been sent to other jurisdictions.

Prosecutor Mason says the investigation shows the need for parents to monitor what their children do online. And he also says that predators should be aware that, if they continue trading in child porn, they may well be caught.

An initial court date for Griggs and the other defendants has not been set yet.

Two Juveniles Rob and Rape 80 Year old Woman

RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Two male juveniles are arrested after authorities say they broke into an 80-year-old woman's home, stole some property, and raped her.

It happened in the Trenholm Acres Subdivision around 9:00pm Tuesday night. "We really think they were just up to no good that day, and then it just got out of hand," says Richland County Deputy Monique Mack.

Deputies say the 14 and 15-year-olds broke into the woman's home and demanded money. "She gave them whatever they wanted," says Mack, "She was being very cooperative."

They say one of the teens was armed with a shotgun. The teens proceeded to vandalize the inside of the home and took some electronics, jewelry, and money before sexually assaulting the woman in a bedroom. They then fled on foot.

Sheriff Leon Lott says, "The acts committed in this incident were both vicious and were carried out with malicious intent." He claims he's never seen anything more devastating.

Deputies say the woman is out of the hospital. They say she's still recovering but is surrounded by family.

She was able to give a detailed description of the suspects, and deputies began questioning neighbors Wednesday morning about unusual activity. "At which time we had neighbors saying, 'Yeah, we saw two juveniles walking through. They looked like they were looking in and out of homes and saw some suspicious activity.'," says Mack. The sheriff's office says several individuals were able to identify the teens, who happened to live nearby.

Deputy Mack says your watchful eye can always help in cases like this. "We're in the holiday season," says Mack, "We're going to have students out for the next two weeks. If you see them doing something they shouldn't be doing, then give us a call. We'd rather go and address them than anyone else becoming a victim."

Both young men attend the Richland Two School District, but district officials aren't releasing what grade the boys are in. One of them was eventually located in the subdivision while the other was found at school. Both are in custody and being charged first-degree burglary, criminal sexual assault, kidnapping, and armed robbery. Sheriff Lott says right now the teens will be charged as juveniles, but investigators are working with the solicitor's office to decide if the teens should be charged as adults.

'Person of Interest' in Beverly Hills Case Died on Hollywood's Dark Side

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- Aspiring and retiring actors, struggling producers, hopeful musicians, low-income and disabled people fill the aging Hollywood apartment building where a "person of interest" in the Beverly Hills shooting death of celebrity publicist Ronni Chasen killed himself Wednesday.

The Harvey Apartments, a four-story former hotel, draws a diverse group because of its cheap rent, no deposit requirement, proximity to major film studios and a reputation for being roach-free, residents said.

"There's a lot of screaming goes on and hollering and the kind of ruckus you wouldn't find in the traditional apartment complex," said Eddie Burke, who moved in just two weeks ago.

Burke, who was the Tea Party candidate in Alaska's lieutenant governor's race this year, found the Harvey Apartments on the internet while looking for a place to stay while his son trains at a Hollywood gym to be a pro boxer.

If he had known about the neighborhood, he would not have rented here, Burke said.

"It's rough," he said. "The people here are diverse. It's really different from back home in Alaska."

But for $600 a month and with no deposit required, it was a tempting deal.

It also became a profitable arrangement for Burke, who made several thousand dollars Thursday selling a blurry photo of the lobby he took with his cell phone while investigators were still there.

The Santa Monica Boulevard location is just a block from Hollywood Forever cemetery, the final resting place for Rudolph Valentino, Cecil B. DeMille and many other show business icons.

Three blocks away is Paramount Studios, where major movies and television shows are produced.

While the iconic Hollywood sign is visible from the sidewalk, the neighborhood is better known for the darker side of Hollywood where tour buses don't go.

Musician Tommy Zazen moved in three months ago, leaving a $2,500 a month apartment in Venice Beach.

"I've been around the block," Zazen said. He moved to Los Angeles from Chicago nine years ago to pursue his recording career.

He has played his guitar with the Smashing Pumpkins and Red Hot Chili Peppers, he said, but lately his day job as a handy man has paid his bills.

He likes the Harvey Apartment management for keeping the building clean and roach-free, but Wednesday's shooting left him "a little bit scared."

"Time for me to pack my bags," Zazen said.

He did not know many of his neighbors or the man who killed himself in the lobby, he said.

"I'm a hermit," he said. "I stay to myself, in my apartment listening to music, writing my songs."

Terri Gilpin, who claims to be a cousin to "Frasier" actress Peri Gilpin, said she moved into Harvey Apartments because "the rent's pretty cheap and reasonable."

She does make it a point to know her neighbors, who she said include "retired actors and a few producers who are trying to get back on their feet."

Journalists covering the shooting have also gotten to know the residents. Dozens of them were stranded in a strip mall parking lot for several hours as police closed their apartment building for five hours after the shooting.

One man told reporters that the building had a problem with drug users and dealers who come back even after being evicted.

"They make keys to the lock so they can come in and out," he said.

He said the man who shot himself was "really moody all the time" and had been recently evicted, said the man, who was in a wheelchair. He then explained how he knew this.

"I found all this out," he said. "I'm the son of a war hero, my dad was in the CIA, for Air America, in Saigon, for 10 years and I'm, like, kind of smart."

The Harvey Apartments is the kind of place that could keep a journalist covering a mysterious murder busy chasing down stories.

Police: Vermont Man Killed in Gun Prank

(CNN) -- A 24-year-old Vermont man was fatally shot by a friend who used a gun in a prank, police said.

The alleged shooter apparently tried to prank his sleeping friend by waking him up with the loud sound of an air rifle, police said.

However, police said, the man mistakenly used a real rifle in the prank.

Nicholas Bell, 23, was charged with manslaughter after the incident Thursday, Manchester police said.

"The accused fired the weapon, which was a loaded .22 cal rifle hitting the [victim] in the chest," a police statement said. "The victim died at the scene."

The victim was identified as 24-year-old Jeffrey Charbonneau.

Both men were guests at the Manchester home where the shooting occurred, police said.

Bell was jailed and bail was set at $250,000.

Illinois Man Dies in Crash; Wife Leaves Car, Vanishes

(CNN) -- An Illinois woman walked away from a car crash that killed her husband, authorities believe, but they have found no trace of her other than footprints in the snow leading to a road.

A search was in its third day Tuesday for Tanya Shannon, 40, of Ransom, Illinois, according to the LaSalle County, Illinois, Sheriff's Office.

Ground operations began at 9 a.m. with air operations starting at noon, Sheriff Tom Templeton said. "They're looking," he told CNN sister network HLN. "They're expanding their search area just a little."

Shannon was last seen along with her husband Dale Shannon, 41, at a Christmas party Saturday night in Streator, about 17 miles west of Ransom, relatives told CNN affiliate WGN and the Chicago Tribune.

"They were dancing together, really cutting up a rug," Dale Shannon's sister Donna Baker, who was at the party, told the Tribune. She said the couple -- married 20 years with four daughters ages 4 to 15 -- left the party arm in arm.

Her brother was sober, she told the newspaper, and was driving his wife's car.

About 1:45 a.m. Sunday, a deputy on patrol in a rural area of Brookfield Township found a one-car traffic accident, the sheriff's office said in a statement. "The deputy found a male occupant of the vehicle in the driver's seat deceased," the statement said. "Evidence at the scene indicated that a second person was also in the vehicle at the time of the accident. Further investigation revealed that the second person was possibly the wife of the deceased driver."

The car slid backwards into a pole, Templeton said, with enough force to break the backs of both the front seats. A relative told the Tribune Dale Shannon's back was broken.

Footprints were reportedly found leading from the car to a nearby road. But there, Tanya Shannon's trail ends.

"There's nothing for us to believe there's any issues other than exactly what happened, a traffic accident that claimed her husband's life, that she was at least able for a period of time to walk away from and move up to the roadway," the sheriff said. "And once she was on the roadway, that's where we lost track of her."

He said he couldn't speculate on whether or how badly Tanya Shannon was injured in the crash. "She was at least able to get up to the road," he said. Police have her cell phone, he said.

Police have not ruled out the possibility that Tanya Shannon was picked up by someone. But "if she was able to walk and able to move, how come she hasn't contacted any of her family?" Templeton told WGN.

Tanya Shannon was last seen wearing a red dress -- described by the Tribune as a ball gown -- and a gray fleece hooded jacket, police said. The dress should have made her easy to spot in the rural, snowy landscape.

"We were told from the family she was an extremely loving mother," Templeton told the Tribune. For her to just leave with no warning "would be incredibly out of character," Templeton said.

"To be out in the elements as they were that night, dressed only as she was, it's very doubtful that you can survive terribly long."

The crash site was remote, Templeton told the newspaper. A nuclear power plant lies to the north, but the area is surrounded by farmland.

"It's crazy," Baker told WGN. "We're holding on to every ounce of hope we have, just to hope for (a) safe return. ... It's been like a nightmare you can't wake up from. If anybody has anything, seen anything, please, please contact us, because these four girls need something."

Search and rescue operations have so far involved dogs and aircraft from the Illinois State Police, along with more than 50 searchers, according to WGN and the sheriff's office.

Tanya Shannon is described as being 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighing 125 pounds, with shoulder-length strawberry-blond hair and green eyes, according to the sheriff's statement. She also wears glasses.

It's very mysterious what might have happened to Tanya," Baker told the Tribune. "We checked the area hospitals and nothing, so we don't know if someone picked her up and took her somewhere. We just don't know."

Templeton said he's never seen a case like this in his 12 years as sheriff. "Anything that's even remotely close has been gone over several times," he told the newspaper.

Anyone with information regarding Tanya Shannon's whereabouts is asked to contact the LaSalle County Sheriff's Office.

Ransom is about 70 miles northeast of Peoria, Illinois.


Update: Tanya Shannon's Husband Was Drunk In Crash That Led To Her Disappearance
Huffington Post- As police and volunteers in rural Illinois wait out a bout of winter weather in the search for Tanya Shannon, new information has been released about the crash that led to her disappearance.

Two weeks ago, Tanya and her husband Dale attended a Saturday night holiday party in Streator, Ill., dancing and enjoying themselves. They left arm-in-arm, and Dale got behind the wheel to drive them home to nearby Ransom, about 15 miles away.

At 1:45 a.m. that night, a deputy found their car slammed against a utility pole on the Grand Ridge Mazon Blacktop. Dale's neck broke almost immediately, killing him. But Tanya disappeared virtually without a trace, leaving behind only a single slipper and a few footsteps leading into the snowy plain.

Now, the LaSalle County Coroner's Office is suggesting a possible cause for the crash: Dale Shannon had a blood-alcohol content of .266, more than three times the legal limit of .08, according to an Associated Press report.

Meanwhile, forecasts continue to predict high temperatures well below freezing in the area, with the weather possibly warming up late next week. The search for Tanya will wait for warmer weather, as authorities hope that a snowmelt will reveal some more of the snow-covered field surrounding the crash site.

Officials speculate that she may have fallen into a ditch, and her body may be covered by the snow, but they are not ruling out the possibility that she is alive.

Father Being Charged in Deaths of Alabama Children

(CNN) -- Police believe they found the skeletal remains of a 3-year-old Alabama boy and were charging his father with two counts of murder as they prepared to search for the man's missing young daughter, also believed dead, authorities said Wednesday.

Authorities are working to verify the remains found Wednesday near Vancleave, Mississippi, belong to Jonathan Chase DeBlase. Police believe he was killed by his father, John Joseph DeBlase, 27, and the father's girlfriend.

Jonathan had not been seen since June, police in Mobile, Alabama, said. Investigators believe he was slain around that time. His sister, 4-year-old Natalie, was last seen in March, when authorities believe she was killed. Earlier, police had reversed the order of the last sightings of the children, but they clarified that timeline Wednesday.

Police, who did not know the children were missing until November 19, contend that the elder DeBlase allowed the girlfriend, Heather Keaton, to abuse the children by restraining them with tape, putting socks in their mouths and confining them.

The boy's skeletal remains were found about 12 miles north of Vancleave, after the boy's father -- who is in police custody in Alabama -- gave authorities information on where the body might be buried, said Jackson County, Mississippi, Sheriff Mike Byrd.

"It was the father who gave us the general area," Byrd told HLN. "He wasn't real sure exactly where he was. ... He claimed he had taken a lot of sleeping pills and didn't quite remember exactly where he was."

Based on that information, the sheriff's office cordoned off a five-mile stretch along a highway and dispatched eight 10-man teams to locate the remains. The body was found about 10:30 a.m., Byrd said.

"We're very certain" the remains are that of the missing boy, Byrd said. "We're just thankful that we found this little boy. Nothing's left but just the skeletal remains."

The body of Natalie DeBlase has not been found, Byrd said, but he indicated authorities believe it near Citronelle, Alabama, about 50 miles north of Mobile.

A spokesman for Mobile Police told HLN that prosecutors are signing two murder warrants against John DeBlase.

Authorities will decide in the next few days whether to charge Keaton in the deaths, Officer Christopher Levy said.

Police believe both children died in Mobile, Levy said.

Levy was not sure when the search for Natalie near Citronelle will begin in earnest.

"This is a one-step-at-a-time, one-day-at-a-time operation," Levy said. "We've had some success with it today. We're going to evaluate our results, then begin the next step."

Levy said he was relieved at the new findings, but said the investigation had taken a toll.

"I have kids that are of similar age and it makes me think about them while I'm out here," Levy told HLN.

Investigators believe that after Jonathan's death, John DeBlase, Keaton and Natalie continued to live in the Peach Place Apartments in Mobile for months, Levy said Monday. They didn't leave until the summer, after Natalie was last seen in June.

"It's really terrible, as if nobody really cared," Levy said of the time that transpired between the sightings and launch of the search. "That's what we can't seem to understand at this point."

Both DeBlase and Keaton are now in custody, and blaming each other for the siblings' deaths.

The investigation kicked off November 18, when Keaton told Louisville, Kentucky, police that she needed protection from DeBlase, who she claimed was holding her against her will.

According to the domestic violence petition, signed "Heather L. Leavell-Keaton," she said, "I feel he may have murdered his children, because he said they were non-responsive. He would not let me check on them." She said DeBlase had told her "choices were made ... and he had to do what he had to do."

Keaton was arrested last week, charged with two counts of willful abuse and neglect of a child.

Three days later, Randall Melville -- who for two days had been hosting DeBlase, his longtime friend -- called Santa Rosa County, Florida, police after hearing news reports about the children's disappearance, according to a report from the county sheriff's department.

When Melville asked DeBlase about it, the children's father yelled, "I didn't do it" and left the home, the report said. Police eventually tracked down DeBlase, who again asserted his innocence before his arrest Friday.

He had been charged with two counts of aggravated child abuse and two counts of abuse of a corpse -- the latter because, Levy said, of his "disposing of the bodies in the woods."

DeBlase had a first appearance on the abuse charges Wednesday and a judge entered a not guilty plea, said Jim Sears, who was assigned to represent the father at the Mobile proceedings.

Sears described his client as being very upset about developments. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for January 4.

On Monday, Mobile County District Judge Charles McKnight set bail for DeBlase at $206,000 -- $100,000 each for the child abuse charges and $3,000 for each count of corpse abuse, according to CNN affiliate WALA.

According to a police complaint, DeBlase between March 1 and November 19 allowed Keaton to tape Natalie's hands and feet, put a sock in her mouth and place her in a suitcase that was put in a closet for 14 hours. He also allowed Keaton to tape Jonathan's hands to the side of his legs, tape a broom handle to his back, place a sock in his mouth and then make the child stand in a corner all night when the couple went to bed.

DeBlase and Keaton had one infant daughter together, according to Keaton's account in the Kentucky police report. Police said one reason Keaton claimed she needed protection from DeBlase was that she feared for the safety of the infant, who was with her in Kentucky.

Levy said the two slain children's biological mother lives in Mobile, but she did not have custody "because, at the time, she didn't have a place to live."

Object Shot Out of Sky Above Israeli Nuclear Plant, Military Says

Jerusalem (CNN) -- The Israeli Air Force shot down an unidentified flying object over the Dimona nuclear plant in the Negev Desert Thursday, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The object appeared in a designated no-fly zone, the air force was scrambled and the object was shot down, the IDF said.

The object could have been a party balloon, the IDF said, but forces have not yet found the debris to determine what it was.

There have been unconfirmed media reports that it was a motor-driven object. The air force reacted according to procedure when the object was spotted, the IDF said.

The Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported that last October "IDF warplanes intercepted an Israeli ultralight aircraft that accidentally flew into the area and forced it to land at an airstrip in southern Israel."

It also reported that "an Israeli surface-to-air missile downed a crippled Israeli fighter-bomber that strayed into the restricted zone" during the Six Day War in 1967. The craft's pilot was killed.

Brittany Smith Found Alive

(CNN) -- A missing Virginia girl and her alleged abductor were panhandling outside a San Francisco supermarket when someone nearby spotted them on Friday and alerted law enforcement, police said.

Brittany Mae Smith, 12 -- for whom police have been searching since Monday -- was found Friday afternoon, as was 32-year-old Jeffrey Scott Easley.

Easley is a "very good suspect" in the murder of Tina Smith -- his girlfriend and Brittany's mother -- who was found dead at her Salem, Virginia, home last Monday, Roanoke County, Virginia, Police Chief Ray Lavinder said Saturday.

Easley and Brittany Smith left Virginia early last Saturday or late on Friday, December 3 -- the same day that the girl's mother was killed, according to Lavinder.

A surveillance video from December 3 shows the pair shopping for a blue domed tent at a Walmart in Salem, Virginia.

A similar tent was found within walking distance of the Safeway store in northern California, where a witness saw Easley and Brittany Smith on Friday. The tipster recognized the pair after watching broadcast report's about the case on HLN's "Nancy Grace."

Lavinder said Saturday that he believes the girl and her alleged abductor were asking for money and holding up a cardboard sign when they were spotted.

Police were called, and the two were found shortly thereafter outside the store, more than 2,300 miles from where the girl was reported missing four days earlier, Lavinder said Friday. Police in San Francisco contacted their counterparts in Virginia with the news.

San Francisco Police Officer Albie Esparza said Brittany was turned over to California's Child Protective Services division after she was found. She has no visible injuries, has been in touch with family members and should return soon to Virginia, according to Lavinder. Easley did not resist arrest, he added.

"It's a fantastic sense of relief, and I know in my heart that it's due to information that you folks put out," Lavinder said Friday, thanking the media. "It's a party atmosphere, believe me."

Authorities found Easley's car relatively early in the manhunt. Lavinder said Saturday that authorities had located a silver 2005 Dodge Neon four-door sedan with Virginia tags that belonged to Tina Smith in a parking lot adjacent to San Francisco International Airport.

He said he believed the two had driven across country together, but he did not know when they arrived in California.

Police issued an Amber Alert for Brittany on Monday after finding the body of Tina Smith, 41, after her co-workers called to express concern that she hadn't shown up for work. Authorities in Florida and Alabama followed suit in subsequent days and notices went out to law enforcement nationwide .

Until Friday, Lavinder said the last known sighting of Easley and Brittany Smith was in December in the Salem, Virginia, Walmart.

The chief said Saturday that four Roanoke County detectives were heading to San Francisco, to help bring back Brittany Smith and to deal with Easley. Lavinder said he hoped "to get information back from them in the next 24 hours," though the earliest Easley could be extradited to Virginia is Monday, when California courts are back in session.

He could head east relatively soon if he waived extradition, or the process could be delayed for weeks if he contested the return.

Prior to his arrest, Easley was wanted for credit card theft, credit card fraud and abduction. Lavinder said that, "we are concentrating most of our efforts ... on the homicide investigation."

The chief has said Easley met Tina Smith online this summer, then moved into the family home in October. Authorities said they do not know if the girl went willingly with Easley.

Back east, the girl's great aunt told HLN's Nancy Grace on Friday night that Brittany already had talked to her father, and that there was widespread relief and joy from Salem to South Boston, Virginia, where many relatives live.

"Everybody here is just elated," said Lois Choquette, who is the late Tina Smith's aunt. "It's been a terrible thing, but we are just so thankful."

Relatives Plead for Safe Return of Virginia Girl, 12

(CNN) -- Tearful relatives sent messages of love and concern Wednesday night to a 12-year-old girl who authorities believe was abducted by the boyfriend of her dead mother.

Virginia police said earlier that someone may be helping Jeffrey Scott Easley, 32, subject of a felony abduction warrant in the case of Brittany Mae Smith.

Police are "still actively searching" for Brittany, and believe she and the suspect may be camping in the region, Roanoke County Police Chief Ray Lavinder told reporters. More than 375 tips have come in.

"I prayed for you everyday since I found out you were gone and will continue to pray until you are found and returned to us," Brittany's cousin, Kim Stephenson, said at an evening press conference.

Brittany is believed to be with Easley, who met the girl's mother on the internet, authorities said. They do not know if Brittany went with Easley willingly. The pair may be seeking refuge in another state, the chief said.

"As to what relationship Jeff Easley and Brittany may have between them is irrelevant," Lavinder said. "With a child, consent is irrelevant in the eyes of the law. She is a victim."

Authorities provided images of two tattoos, including a red star, Easley is believed to have.

Authorities also showed an image of a blue dome tent they believe Easley purchased December 3 at a local Walmart.

Easley and Brittany are believed to have bought several other items at a Salem, Virginia, Walmart before they disappeared.

Lavinder said the key is finding a silver 2005 Dodge Neon four-door sedan with Virginia tag XKF-2365 that belonged to the girl's dead mother.

"For someone just to drop off the face of the earth -- I think that someone has to be providing them some money or some other support for them to remain unlocated," Lavinder said Wednesday.

Authorities launched a search for the seventh-grader Monday after officers found the body of Brittany's mother, Tina Smith, 41, inside the family's Salem home. Tina Smith's co-workers contacted police after the woman failed to show up for work Monday morning.

Smith's death is being investigated as a homicide, Roanoke County spokeswoman Teresa Hall told HLN Wednesday. She would not provide details of an autopsy.

Lavinder asked Easley to safely return Brittany so that she could attend Tina Smith's funeral.

"I thinks it's important that she be able to say goodbye to her mother," he said.

Police are examining social media sites that may have been used by Easley and Tina Smith.

A friend of Brittany Smith told the Roanoke Times that the missing girl called her several weeks ago.

Brittany was afraid her mother's live-in boyfriend "would come over and take her away and hurt her mom," Rebecca Kilian, 13, told the Times on Tuesday.

Kilian told the Times that Brittany asked her to stay on the phone until her mom got home.

Virginia State Police are working with North Carolina, Alabama, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio and Florida to issue alerts in their states for the missing vehicle and Easley and Brittany Smith, authorities said.

Police are "confident" that the girl is with Easley, Lavinder said. He described Easley as a "friend of the family" who "developed a relationship" with her. Easley moved in with Smith and her daughter in October, the chief said.

After finding Tina Smith's body, police soon got information that Brittany Smith's whereabouts were unknown, leading them to issue the statewide alert.

"We found out pretty quickly that (Brittany) had not shown up for school. Nobody seemed to know where she was," said Roanoke County Police Lt. Chuck Mason Monday, according to CNN affiliate WSET of Lynchburg, Virginia, adding that police were concerned her disappearance "has something to do with the homicide."

Easley, a 265-pound white male, is 5 feet, 11 inches tall, has brown hair and hazel eyes, the Amber Alert says. Brittany Smith is 5 feet tall, weighs 100 pounds, and has straight brown hair and brown eyes.

Hall said authorities don't yet have a specific search area, as they are uncertain which direction Easley might be heading or how far he might have gotten. They have asked anyone with information to call 911 or Roanoke County police at 540-777-8641.

Remains Found on Long Island Aren't Those of Missing Woman

New York (CNN) -- Searching for clues to the disappearance of a missing woman, authorities made a grisly discovery: the bodies of four women in various stages of decomposition, stuffed into bushes along an isolated strip of waterfront property on Long Island.

But the remains of Shannon Gilbert, the woman they sought, weren't there, the Suffolk County (New York) Medical Examiner's Office said Thursday.

Gilbert, 24, of Jersey City, New Jersey, was last seen alive on May 1, CNN affiliate WABC reported.

Suffolk County Detective Lt. Gerard Pelkofsky told WABC that Gilbert worked as a prostitute and had last arranged to meet a client on Fire Island about a mile from Oak Beach, where the bodies were found, he said.

"Common sense tells us it's not a coincidence," Pelkofsky said.

A Long Island resident -- who lives a few miles from where the bodies were found -- said a young woman who "looked like she was partying all night" came to his door at about 5 a.m. on May 1.

"She was screaming 'Help me, help me!' and said somebody was chasing her," said Gustav Coletti, who lives in the town of Oak Beach.

He described the woman as a "young, light-brown-haired person in her early 20s."

Coletti said he called 911 after opening his front door to the woman, prompting her to flee into the weeds along an embankment near his house.

Moments later, Coletti said, an Asian man driving a dark-colored sport utility vehicle pulled up alongside his home, looking for the woman.

"Things got out of hand at a party and I'm just looking for her," Coletti quoted the man as saying.

When Coletti informed him that he had called the police, the man said that he "should not have done that" and drove off in the direction of where girl had fled, Coletti said.

Authorities were searching in the area on Saturday when they found the first body, and three more were found Monday, Suffolk County police said.

All were discovered on a quarter-mile stretch of Oak Beach, "which indicates they were dumped there by the same person or persons," Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said. "It's too coincidental that there were four bodies in the same location."

Investigators broadened the search Thursday, but no additional remains were found, according to Suffolk County Police.

Dormer said police could be dealing with a serial killer but have not been able to sufficiently link the bodies to make that determination.

Federal agents have joined police in their Investigation, according to Dormer.

"I held a meeting between members of my staff and the FBI's New York office today concerning the discovery of four bodies in Gilgo Beach during the past several days," Dormer said Wednesday. "The FBI has offered all available resources in support of our investigation."

The FBI was not immediately available for comment.

Authorities say investigators will continue to search the surrounding area Friday.

Amanda Knox: Court Has Made 'Huge Mistake'

Perugia, Italy (CNN) -- Former American student Amanda Knox gave an emotional plea Saturday while appealing her conviction in the murder of her British roommate in Italy.

Knox spoke for about 15 minutes and broke down in tears. She said that she and her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, are innocent and unjustly accused.

"I've been condemned for the crime I did not commit," Knox said.

Knox also added that court has made "a huge mistake."

"I don't know how to face the time ahead," she said.

Knox was sentenced last year to 26 years in prison for the killing of Meredith Kercher at the villa they shared in Perugia, the central Italian town where both were students.

Kercher, 21, was found in November 2007, semi-naked with her throat slashed. Knox and Sollecito were both found guilty of the murder.

Sollecito is serving a 25-year sentence.

A third person, Rudy Guede, a drifter originally from the Ivory Coast, was tried separately and is serving a 16-year prison sentence.

Knox's appeal hearing started in November, but lasted only 15 minutes before the judge adjourned it until Saturday because one of the lawyers was not present.

Knox's family said in April that she is innocent and that no forensic evidence puts her at the crime scene.

"Meredith was Amanda's friend," the family said. "They liked each other and spent time together when not in school. Amanda would not hurt Meredith."

The family said the appeal would detail "a lot of conjecture in these motivations, a number of discrepancies as well as a number of inconsistencies and contradictions; as well as conclusions not supported by evidence."

Jurors said they believed Knox played a role in the killing but that the death was not premeditated, according to a report released in April by the judges in the case.

L.A. Police Seek Public Help With Women's Photos in Grim Sleeper Case

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Los Angeles authorities expanded their investigation into the Grim Sleeper serial killer case Thursday by asking for the public's help in identifying women in 180 photographs whose images were found in the suspect's home this summer.

Police are trying to determine if there are additional killings among the more than 100 women depicted in the photos.

Last July, 57-year-old Lonnie David Franklin Jr. was arrested and charged with 10 murders and one attempted murder dating back to 1985, and Los Angeles police spent hundreds of hours sifting through thousands of photographs, Polaroids and videotape found in Franklin's house.

The bodies of victims, many working as prostitutes, were all found in close proximity to each other in a neighborhood formerly known as South Central Los Angeles.

Franklin, a mechanic who once worked for the LAPD, was arrested in July after police say they matched his DNA with DNA left on some of the victims. Police were led to Franklin after his 28-year-old son got arrested and gave a DNA swab, authorities said.

Authorities said they narrowed down the confiscated images down to 180 photographs, some of them duplicates of the same women.

At a media conference attended by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief Charlie Beck, authorities said they had difficulty determining whether some of the women were alive or dead in the photos.

"We cannot tell," Beck said. "Obviously, as all of you can see, some of them are animated and some are not. It's impossible to tell by the photographs.

Robbery Homicide Detective Dennis Kilcoyne said police have a responsibility to try to determine the whereabouts of the women.

"These are clearly photos of women that Mr. Franklin had contact with," said Kilcoyne. "We have a responsibility to identify these women. They may be alive and well, but we need to be certain."

"If there's nothing we glean from this, we are able to fill in the timeline of Mr. Franklin's life, and that's one of our goals as well," Kilcoyne said.

He declined to talk about the context in which the women's images appeared.

"The lifestyle or the situation that these women are in would defeat our plea with the public," Kilcoyne said.

Police are not sure where the women in the images resided, because Franklin's movements throughout his life are not yet ascertained, authorities said.

"His travel habits are unknown to us," Kilcoyne said. "We believe he spent the majority of his life right here in the city of Los Angeles."

Helmet-Wearing Gunman Robs Bellagio Casino of $1.5 Million in Chips

(CNN) -- Police say they're trying to find a helmet-wearing gunman who robbed one of Las Vegas' most recognizable casinos of $1.5 million in casino chips Tuesday morning -- and may also have robbed a different casino last week.

With a helmet and visor hiding his face, the man rode to Bellagio casino on a motorcycle, walked inside and pulled a gun at a craps table where several people were gambling at about 3:50 a.m., said Lt. Clint Nichols of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

The gunman told everyone not to move, and then took the casino's supply of chips "that were ... [in] the box they keep on the craps table," Nichols said.

The man then ran back outside to the motorcycle, which he rode away, Nichols said. No injuries were reported.

The man might be the same person who robbed the Suncoast Hotel & Casino on Thursday morning, police said. In that robbery, a man wearing a motorcycle helmet robbed the cage area of a poker tournament room of less than $20,000 in cash at about 12:30 a.m., Nichols said.

The Suncoast casino is about a 20-minute drive northwest of the Bellagio, the Las Vegas Strip facility that is renowned in part for a huge fountain that shoots water 240 feet into the air, choreographed to music.

Police released surveillance images of both robberies, as well as surveillance video of the suspect running through the Bellagio. The Bellagio images show a man wearing a black helmet with white stripes, a black down jacket, black pants and gloves, police said. The man is white, about 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet tall and weighs about 220 pounds, according to police.

The Suncoast images show the robber wearing a silver helmet and dark clothes.

Nichols said he believes the chips taken in the Bellagio robbery range in value from $100 to $25,000. The higher-value chips should be hard to convert, he said.

"The industry has some safeguards in place that make that ... extremely difficult," Nichols told reporters at a news conference Tuesday.

Nichols said the department has recorded 10 casino robberies this year. Nine were reported last year.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Las Vegas Police Department at 702-828-3591, or you can place an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers of Nevada at 702-385-5555.

When Liver Donations Go Wrong

(CNN) -- When Ryan Arnold died after donating a piece of his liver to his brother, Chad, his friends and family mourned the loss of a hero who risked his life to save his brother.

The death affected someone else, too -- someone who'd never met the Arnolds. Her name is Laura Fritz, and when she learned about Ryan's death in August in an online television news piece, she was "devastated."

"It hit really close to home," she told CNN. "Because I knew that could have been me."

Four living liver donors have died in the United States since 1999, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, including Arnold and another patient who died earlier this year at the Lahey Clinic in Massachusetts. About 38% of liver donors have some kind of complication, according to the Adult-to-Adult Living Donor Liver Transplantation Cohort Study, a project to disseminate information about living donor liver transplants. Some experts think some of these deaths and complications could have been prevented if there was a change the way hospitals exchanged information about complications with organ donations.

Like Ryan Arnold, Laura was young and feeling great when she gave away part of her liver. Both had surgery at the University of Colorado Medical Center, one of the world's most respected transplant centers.

In Laura's case, it was her mother, Jane Fritz, who had a debilitating liver disease and needed a transplant. Laura was 26 and her mother 59 when Laura had 60% of her liver surgically removed and given to her mother on September 30, 2009, less than a year before Ryan Arnold had the same surgery.

At first, everything seemed fine. The surgery went well, and both were discharged from the hospital without complications.

When Laura Fritz got home, everything changed.

"I realized I wasn't doing as well as I was supposed to be doing," she remembered. "I wasn't eating anything. I wasn't keeping anything down, fluids or anything."

Jane Fritz took her daughter back to the hospital, where doctors admitted her and diagnosed a small bowel obstruction, which meant a section of her intestines was blocked. After three days of treatment in the hospital, she was able to eat and move her bowels, and she was discharged.

Back at her home in Denver once more, Laura again started to feel ill, and three days later, she went back to the hospital.

"I was really pale. My lips were turning blue, and they couldn't find a blood pressure on me," she said. "My body was just shutting down. ... No one at the hospital said I was going into organ failure, but my mom's a nurse, and she put two and two together."

Laura was rushed to surgery. Afterward, the doctors told her parents that Laura had a hole in her intestines, a medical emergency because if the hole isn't repaired in time, bacteria inside the intestines leak out and cause deadly infections.

Laura fought for her life in the intensive care unit, and she spent the next 36 days in the hospital.

"There was a time when the doctors came to [my mother] and my father and said if this infection doesn't clear up within 24 hours, I'm not going to make it," she said. "They went to the chapel and prayed."

Laura recovered completely, and she hopes doctors learn from her complication and from Ryan Arnold's death, which happened about 10 months apart.

She added that she'd donate to her mother again in a heartbeat.

"It was a terrible, terrible situation, but what came out of it is my mom is alive, and I'm alive," she said.

Surgeon: "A devastating feeling"

Laura Fritz and Ryan Arnold had the same surgeon: Dr. Igal Kam, chief of the division of transplant surgery at the University of Colorado.

In the past 22 years, the University of Colorado Hospital has performed 142 living liver surgeries, and Kam says he's been the surgeon for nearly all of them. Out of those 142 surgeries, there's been one death -- Ryan Arnold's -- and three major complications, including Laura's.

He says Arnold's death and Fritz's complications are unrelated. Ryan Arnold was fine after surgery, and he was up and walking around just two days later.

"I checked on him personally at 8 o'clock on the third evening after his surgery, and everyone said he was doing great," Kam said.

Then at midnight, he said, he received a call saying Arnold needed to be resuscitated.

"By that time, he was already dead," Kam said. "He went to sleep and never woke up."

After Arnold's death, the University of Colorado issued a statement saying it was conducting a "thorough review" of his case.

Kam said Laura Fritz's complication was ultimately caused by a pre-existing condition that was impossible to detect before the surgery.

In her case, he said, one loop of her intestines "kinked on itself" and stuck to another loop of her intestines, and this adhesion caused swelling, which caused the hole in her intestines.

Sometimes in abdominal surgery, a surgical instrument can poke a hole in the intestines, but that wasn't the case with Fritz, Kam said. He said the hole was in a section of the intestines far from her surgical site. Plus, he said, the pathologist who looked at the adhesion after it was removed reported that it was chronic and existed before the surgery.

Kam says he gets a "devastating feeling" whenever there's a major complication or death of a living liver donor.

"I don't wish anybody, good friends or enemies, to have this type of feeling," he said. "It's hard to live with."

He said Arnold's death hit him especially hard.

"I've lived with it every day, every minute of my life, since then," he said.

After Arnold's death, the University of Colorado stopped doing liver transplants that involved living donors, but it expects to start up again in the next few weeks with new procedures for monitoring patients after the surgery, Kam said. Velvet Kelm, a spokeswoman for Ryan Arnold's widow, Shannon Arnold, declined comment when asked if they planned legal action.

When a donor has a complication, the hospital is expected to do its own investigation and report to the United Network for Organ Sharing, or UNOS, which oversees transplants for the federal government.

"This isn't acceptable," says Dr. Lloyd Ratner, director of renal and pancreatic transplant surgery at Columbia University.

"Never in a million years would we say to BP, 'Oh, you had an oil spill in the Gulf, why don't you do your own investigation and just tell us about it?' " he said. "That would be just crazy. It's not acceptable in other industries to do that, so why is it acceptable in ours?"

In an article published recently in the American Journal of Transplantation, Ratner said that a national living donor death task force should be established to systematically review organ donor deaths, and that these findings should be disseminated to all hospitals that perform live donor transplants.

He says that right now, the lessons a hospital learns from the death of a donor are not disseminated to other hospitals, and that surgeons tend to learn from one another based on "serendipity."

For example, in 2006, he and colleagues from another hospital were having lunch when they started discussing patients who'd died, or had severe complications, when a certain type of surgical clip was used. He said the clip would fall off the stump of a renal artery after the kidney had been removed from the donor.

They published their observations in a medical journal, and the major manufacturer of the clips alerted hospitals to stop using them for kidney donors.

"We found a suboptimal surgical technique, but it never would have happened if we hadn't just gotten interested in this and started to talk about it," he said. "There should be a system for reporting these problems and learning from each other."

UNOS told CNN that its Operations and Safety Committee recently advocated a process similar to the one that Ratner suggested in his article, but it might not be adopted.

"While promising, we must weigh procedural and legal issues in determining whether and how to develop such a system," according to a statement from UNOS.

Transplant centers are required to inform UNOS when they've had a death or major complication, but UNOS doesn't share that information with the public, which means patients can't look up a hospital's transplant safety record.

Donna Luebke, a registered nurse who donated a kidney to her sister and once served on the board of UNOS, says the organization ought to share that information with the public.

Donors can make a fully informed decision only "if all the data is out there, and we don't have that data," she said.

In a statement to CNN, UNOS emphasized that serious complications and deaths are rare, and that "through data collection and the input of many who have personal experience with living donation, we will do our utmost to minimize risks for future potential donors."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Arson Not Ruled Out in Fatal Wilton Fire

I know this is news from last year, but it's worth publishing now. Star Inc. is an agency similiar to the one I work for (and close by), and it's very unfortunate that this had happened, this feels so close to home..

The Hour- The Wilton fire marshal called in state police detectives to investigate the fire that trapped and killed two mentally handicapped residents of a condominium at 11 Village Walk Saturday at around 7:55 a.m., State Police spokesman Lt. Paul Vance said Sunday.

The detectives would investigate the possibility of arson and help Wilton Fire Marshal David Kohn determine the origin of the blaze, Vance said.

As of Sunday evening, Wilton fire and police were not commenting on the cause of the fire or identifying the two victims.

However, The Hour has identified Cynthia Timmins and her male roommate as having been the two victims found dead or unconscious in the burning building.

One of the two had passed out in a stairway outside of apartment 11 but died at Norwalk Hospital a short time later. The other was pronounced dead at the scene after being located near the bedroom doorway, according to Kohn.

Timmins' had no relation to the male victim other than that the two were roommates. Both were clients of STAR, a Norwalk organization devoted to bettering the lives of people with developmental disabilities, according to neighbors and co-workers.

Through a STAR-run job placement program, Timmins worked in the produce department at the Village Market, 108 Old Ridgefield Road, for the past eight years. Peter Keating, owner of the market, said he grew up with Timmins and eagerly accepted her as an employee when the job placement program was still being piloted because of their ... (pay article, rest here)


UPDATE: Two perish in early-morning condominium fire

WILTON -- The two people who died in a condominium fire on Saturday were known as a "loving couple who brought joy to everyone they encountered."

Cynthia Timmins, 54, and Dana Conley, 57, an engaged, mentally-challenged couple who lived at 11 Village Walk, died of smoke inhalation after being trapped in Saturday's blaze at their condominium complex, officials said.

"The loss of life at this fire has been a shock to the Wilton community," said Fire Chief Paul Milositz in a statement. "Our sincerest sympathies go out to the families of both Cynthia and Dana."

Timmins and Conley were clients of STAR Inc., a Norwalk organization devoted to bettering the lives of people with developmental disabilities.

"The STAR family is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of our dear friends," said executive director Katie Banzhaf in a statement. "They lived a life rich in friendships and opportunity."

STAR released a story on Thursday recounting the couple's life together. It said the two had been friends for years before becoming a couple, and became engaged on Valentine's Day this year.

The story said Conley had obtained a ring for Timmins but it was being sized and hadn't returned before the fire.

"Cynthia did not get to wear her ring in this life, but she will take it with her on the new adventure that the two have embarked upon together," the story read.

The fire department has no updates on what caused the fire, which began at the complex around 8 a.m. on Saturday morning, but officials believe it began between the kitchen and dining area.

The department has not ruled out arson as a possible cause, and Wilton Fire Marshal David Kohn called in state police detectives last weekend to investigate.

"We'll be sorting through all this information and communicating with other investigators and see what we can turn up in the next day or so, hopefully," he said Thursday.

He said it could possibly be the first multiple-death fire in Wilton and the only fatal fire in Wilton in more than 15 years.

One resident, who lived downstairs from Timmins and Conley, was rescued by a firefighter who carried her out of the burning building, according to her son, Dennis D'Amato.

D'Amato said his mother, 86-year-old Marion D'Amato, was not harmed but her unit would be uninhabitable for some time.

Kohn said residents of the two adjoining units to No. 11 are not permitted back inside yet because of the smoke and water damage to their condominiums.

Timmins worked in the produce department at the Village Market for the past eight years through a STAR-run job placement program.

Peter Keating, owner of the market, said he grew up with Timmins and eagerly accepted her as an employee when the job placement program was still being piloted because of their long-time friendship.

After his family moved to Wilton in 1969, the two shared bus rides to the Wilton Junior High School, Keating said, and knowing her was a blessing to him during some painful and difficult adolescent years.

"We sat next to each other on the bus. They would make fun of her. They would make fun of me, too," Keating said. "But she didn't change very much over the years. She was always very open and trusting and thought only the best of people . . . She had struggles that the rest of us have, and she had her special struggles."

Dana Conley was employed by the Schulhof Animal Hospital through the STAR program for more than 20 years and most recently worked for the City of Norwalk.

Kristin Hawkins, who worked with Conley at the animal hospital, said she was devastated when she heard he had died.

"He was amazing," she said. "Every morning he would come up and say, what'd you have for dinner last night?"

Hawkins said asking detailed questions about dinner was his trademark and how he started every day.

"He was super friendly and always cheerful," she said.

Hawkins also said he was a very dedicated worker and whenever someone asked him to do something "he was always there."

A memorial service will be held on March 7 at 2 p.m. at St. Paul's on the Green in Norwalk.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Where's the Beef?

This doosey from the Greenwich Time police blotter made me laugh:

"Jeffrey Richard Stewart, 55, of 104 Round Hill Road, was arrested and charged Sunday with shoplifting a $34.55 steak from Whole Foods Market on East Putnam Avenue. He posted $250 cash bond and is scheduled to appear in state Superior Court in Stamford on Dec. 20."

LOL the guy lives on Round Hill Road.. His mansion is probably worth 5 million dollars easily and he's stealing a 30 dollar steak- that's rich!

Greenwich Man Dies From Injuries Suffered in Fairfield Bus Crash

Greenwich, CT- A former Greenwich man, who as a Navy pilot survived being shot down during the Vietnam War's Tet offensive, died over the weekend from injuries suffered in a Fairfield bus accident last week, police said Monday.

The man, who was in the accident Friday and died Sunday, according to his ex-wife, was identified as Francis Defreitas, 68. His ex-wife Gail, a Darien resident, said he formerly lived in Greenwich but had moved to Westport.

Around 2:30 p.m. Friday, Defreitas was standing in a Coastal Link Milford Transit District bus that was traveling in Fairfield, according to Fairfield police spokeswoman Sgt. Susan Lussier. He was thrown backward when the bus was cut off by a dark red Volkswagen that pulled over from the Post Road's left lane to the right, turning right onto Reef Road.

Defreitas suffered serious head injuries and was taken to St. Vincent's Medical Center in Bridgeport, Lussier said.

"It was just a freak accident," Gail Defreitas said. "It must have been his stop because he was standing."

Police are searching for the driver of the Volkswagen, which is described as having a tan convertible top.

Even though Francis and Gail Defreitas were divorced, the couple kept in touch.

"He was a very upbeat; he saw the positive in everything," she said. "There was no negative in his world. If there was, he didn't talk about it."

The couple were originally from Hudson, Mass. Francis Defreitas joined the Navy and became a pilot, flying C-131 "Samaritan" transport planes, she said. He flew on missions in which leaflets were distributed and propaganda broadcast against the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong, she said.

During one mission, he was shot down but landed safely, she said. He also flew non-combat missions during his time in the Navy, including flying scientists into the eye of a hurricane and near volcanoes after they erupted, she said.

In civilian life, he threw himself into the computer industry, especially software sales, she said.

"Anything about computers he liked," she said. Among the companies he worked for was Xerox, she said.

Francis Defreitas rode buses because poor sight in one eye prevented him from driving, Gail Defreitas said.

An athletic person who never smoke or drank, he agreed to become an organ donor, Gail Defreitas said.

"They kept him on life support until Sunday. He donated two kidneys and a liver, and he saved three lives. He would have been happy about that," Gail Defreitas said.

The bus was slowing down on its approach to the bus stop just east of Reef Road, Lussier said. Witnesses said they believe the driver of the Volkswagen pulled into the driveway leading to the parking garage behind Borders bookstore.

"We are actively attempting to locate and talk to the operator of the VW or anyone who may have witnessed this incident," Lussier said.

Gail Defreitas said the couple were married for 20 years, but divorced in 1987. After the divorce, Francis Defreitas moved to Greenwich, where he worked at the time in computer software sales, she said.

Theyhave four children, all boys. The family was going to discuss funeral arrangements Monday evening, she said.

Mayor Bill Finch Laughs off Family Guy's Shot at Bridgeport

BRIDGEPORT -- When it comes to Bridgeport's appeal, Mayor Bill Finch says the last person people should trust is an animated talking baby named Stewie.

Sunday night's episode of Family Guy -- a two-hour Christmas special titled Road to the North Pole -- includes a shot at Bridgeport, which the show depicts as a worldwide leader in "wild dogs and gas stations without pumps" among other claims to infamy.

But Finch said Monday he's laughing off the criticism -- and using the spotlight as an opportunity to promote the city.

"First, we have to remember it's humor," Finch said. "I don't think anything in America is beyond Family Guy trying to make fun of it. It is by the way by Stewie, who we don't particularly like if you're a fan of Family Guy. ... He comes across as a smarty-pants and a know-it-all, so consider the source."

In the episode, Brian (a talking dog) and Stewie are outside the gates of what they believe to be Santa's Workshop.

The large doors swing open and the two are left standing at the foot of towering factories and black smoke billowing out of smokestacks.

As the duo looks on at the gloomy cityscape in front of them, Stewie remarks, "This can't be Santa's Workshop. This looks like Bridgeport, Connecticut!"

Brian retorts, "Oh boy, here come the letters."

The next scene shows a supposed Bridgeport resident (with, for whatever reason, a Boston accent), who speaks out loud as he writes, with a variety of curses and other angry exclamations mixed in, "I'll have you know that Bridgeport is among the world leaders in abandoned buildings, shattered glass, boarded-up windows, wild dogs and gas stations without pumps."

The Family Guy episode now joins the growing genre of the snarky urban putdown: A city or small town is insulted by late-night TV host/cartoon show/newspaper columnist, provoking a mostly feigned spasm of outrage from civic boosters and shrugs from most of the citizenry too busy to give a hoot. Harrisburg, Pa., Bayonne, N.J., Dubuque, Iowa, Youngstown, Ohio. Flint, Mich. The list goes on and on.

Finch was a good sport and figured the episode offered an opportunity to talk about the city's positive side.

"Bridgeport is much different than that," he said. "The image of Bridgeport has changed over the many years that I've lived here. It's a wonderful place to live. We've got great sources of entertainment in the city at the arena, the ballpark and the zoo and the discovery museum."

The image of Bridgeport as a decaying city filled with black smoke and old factories is one the city is trying to shake.

The Family Guy portrayal is a sharp contrast to the recent "Surprise, It's Bridgeport," ad campaign launched by Finch. The ads feature bright colors, the waterfront, the city's restaurants and nightlife and athletic events, culminating with Finch delivering the tagline while fly-fishing in the Pequonnock River.

Finch said the Family Guy letter-writer's Boston accent made the show's portrayal less credible, especially given Fairfield County's allegiance to the Yankees.

"You know, we're solidly Yankee fans down here, I think that's pretty clear," he said. "If it had a Bronx accent I think people would have been happy with it, but the fact that it had a Boston accent was particularly irritating, especially to the Yankee fans down here. It certainly made the segment less credible, and it still got you guys down here reporting about how wonderful Bridgeport is."

Former Food Network Chef Sentenced in Murder Plot

Los Angeles (CNN) -- The former host of the Food Network's "Calorie Commando" was sentenced Monday to nine years in a California prison after pleading no contest to soliciting two homeless men to kill his wife, Los Angeles Superior Court spokeswoman Elizabeth Martinez said.

Juan-Carlos Cruz's wife was also in court during the sentencing, Martinez said.

Fertility issues were at the center of the murder-for-hire plot, according to sources close to the couple.

Authorities alleged that Cruz offered the two homeless men $500 to kill his wife, Shiara Davila-Morales of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said.

Police in Santa Monica, California, set up a sting and videotaped Cruz arranging the murder with the two men, Davila-Morales said. Cruz even drove one of them to his apartment and showed him how to get into the secure building, she said.

Superior Court Judge H. Chester Horn Jr. ordered Cruz to pay $1,870 in restitution, Martinez said.

Cruz was also ordered to serve half of the nine years before he is eligible to be paroled, Martinez said.

No victim impact statement was ordered, the spokeswoman said.

Cruz's plea agreement called for the nine-year sentence, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said in late October after the plea was announced.

One count of attempted murder was dropped as part of the plea settlement, the prosecutor said at the time.

Two sources close to the couple, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said their 20-year struggle to have a child overwhelmed them.

After spending a lot of money on unsuccessful fertility treatments, Cruz's wife, Jennifer Campbell, was "very depressed and talked about suicide," one source said.

The sources suggested that she may have wanted to end her life but that as a devout Roman Catholic, she believed suicide was a sin.

The failure to have a successful pregnancy was a "pretty overwhelming thing in their lives," the second source said.

The source closest to Campbell said she still loves her husband despite his arrest. The source would not comment on whether she was aware of the alleged planning before his arrest.

The source closest to Cruz, 48, said he was "nothing but a loving and devoted husband."

CNN was unable to talk Cruz or Campbell directly.

The criminal complaint accused Cruz of trying to hire David Carrington and David Walters -- homeless men who go by the street names Little Dave and Big Dave -- to murder Campbell. It was not immediately clear who was Little Dave and who was Big Dave.

The plan fell apart when one of the men informed Santa Monica police, Sgt. Jay Trisler said.

Little Dave told the celebrity news and gossip website TMZ that he was approached first by Cruz, who asked him to kill his wife for cash, and he told his friend Big Dave.

Big Dave said he told a Santa Monica police officer about the plot after he was arrested for loitering.

"We're very fortunate that we have a relationship and rapport with some of the homeless and that they were able to give us information," Trisler said.

Santa Monica police began their undercover investigation of Cruz on May 7, Trisler said. Cruz was arrested later that month at a dog park in the Cheviot Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, he said.

Big Dave and Little Dave got a place to stay while the investigation was under way. Santa Monica police put them in a hotel room to keep them out of sight, Big Dave said.

"They gave us two pizzas, a 12-pack of beer and a bottle of San Jose (tequila)," he said. "I love them."

Cruz, a Los Angeles resident, was an overweight pastry chef at the Hotel Bel Air until he changed his focus to promote low-calorie recipes.

He wrote "The Juan-Carlos Cruz Calorie Countdown Cookbook: A 5-Week Eating Strategy for Sustainable Weight Loss," published in 2007.

The Food Network issued a short statement in October saying Cruz "has not been under contract or associated with Food Network for a number of years."

Minister Held On Gun Charge In Son's Death

This was very sad, I remember the house they lived on being on Old Orchard Road..

Sept. 6 1996 — A Greenwich, Conn., minister pleaded not guilty today to a firearms charge stemming from the accidental shooting death of his 13-year-old son.

The Rev. Kevin Thomas Greene, pastor of Greenwich Baptist Church, was charged last week with criminally negligent storage of a firearm. His son, Kevin Thomas Greene Jr., was fatally shot in the chest by his younger brother on Aug. 22 during a game of ''army,'' the police said. They said the boys were home alone when their father's shotgun went off. Their parents were out celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary.

Mr. Greene did not speak during his brief arraignment in State Superior Court in Stamford. He was accompanied by his wife, Diana, also a minister at Greenwich Baptist, and about 40 friends and parishioners.

Mr. Greene's lawyer, Michael Sherman of Stamford, criticized the police for charging Mr. Greene in the case, noting the family's ordeal and the fact that forensic tests on the shotgun are still incomplete.