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Monday
Oct142019

Exclusive: Jayme Closs feeling 'stronger every day' one year after kidnapping

Jennifer Smith(NEW YORK) -- One year after Jayme Closs was kidnapped as a 13-year-old and held for months by a man who murdered her parents, the teenager says she's feeling "stronger every day."

"I really want to thank everyone for all the kindness and concern that people all over the country have shown me," Closs said in an exclusive statement to ABC News. "I am very happy to be home and getting back to the activities that I enjoy. I love hanging out with all of my friends, and I feel stronger every day!”

Jake Patterson pleaded guilty earlier this year to killing Closs' parents on Oct. 15, 2018, and then kidnapping the teen from the family's rural Barron, Wisconsin, home.

 Closs was held captive at 21-year-old Patterson's home for 88 days until she escaped in January.

"Jayme continues to work very hard on her emotional well-being," the teen's aunt, Jen Smith, and their family attorney, Chris Gramstrup, said in a statement. "She is moving forward and courageously reclaiming her life."

 The 14-year-old has taken day trips to hiking trails with her friends and her aunts, and has enjoyed celebrating weddings and birthdays with her family, the statement said.
(MORE: 'Bye, Jayme': Man who abducted 13-year-old Jayme Closs and killed her parents pleads guilty)

"She has also been able to spend a good deal of time with her friends, just hanging out and being a typical teenager," said Smith and Gramstrup. "Jayme's incredible spirit and strength continue to inspire everyone around her."

In May Patterson was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Patterson confessed to investigators that he targeted Closs after seeing her board a school bus, according to a criminal complaint.

 After Patterson fled with the girl to his home, he created a space for her under his bed. When he would leave the house, he would put barbells and free weights around the bed so she couldn't escape, according to the complaint.

"Jayme has had a very busy summer enjoying time with her family and friends. She has celebrated family weddings and birthdays, including her own. Jayme has enjoyed many day trips hiking the trails of Wisconsin’s State Parks with her aunts and girl friends. She has also been able to spend a good deal of time with her friends, just hanging out and being a typical teenager," said a statement from the family. "Jayme continues to work very hard on her emotional well-being. She is moving forward and courageously reclaiming her life. Jayme’s incredible spirit and strength continue to inspire everyone around her. She is truly “#JaymeStrong.”

Jayme says: “I really want to thank everyone for all the kindness and concern that people all over the country have shown me. I am very happy to be home and getting back to the activities that I enjoy. I love hanging out with all of my friends, and I feel stronger every day!”

Closs said she escaped because "I was smarter."

"I watched his routine and I took back my freedom," Closs said through a statement read at sentencing on her behalf. "I will always have my freedom and he will not. Jake Patterson can never take my courage. He thought he could control me, but he couldn’t."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Oct132019

3-year-old Alabama girl vanishes while attending birthday party, police fear kidnapping

Alabama Law Enforcement Agency(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) -- An Amber Alert has been issued for an Alabama toddler girl who vanished while attending a birthday party over the weekend, authorities said Sunday. Investigators fear she may have been kidnapped.

Three-year-old Kamille “Cupcake” McKinney, was playing with other children at an outdoor birthday party at around 8:30 p.m. Saturday when she suddenly disappeared, said Birmingham Police Department officers.

Investigators said she may have been abducted by a man and woman driving a dark-colored SUV, possibly a Toyota with a brown or discolored bumper. Police said they detained a person of interest for questing in the case late Sunday evening.

"I want her back bad, and I’d do anything to have my baby back," Dominique McKinney, Kamille's father, told Birmingham ABC affiliate WBMA-TV. "And it’s going to get deeper than this, the city is already locked down so y’all need to bring my baby back."

Birmingham police released photos of the suspect at a convenience store on Sunday evening.

Birmingham Police Department

The Amber Alert issued by state authorities on Saturday said the toddler is considered to be in "extreme danger."

"We still have hot leads right now and we're following up on those as we speak," Birmingham Police Department Deputy Chief Scott Praytor told reporters Sunday. "We want to find Kamille as quick as possible and we want to get her back to her family and that's our priority."

The department is working to acquire video and photos from the scene to help with the investigation, he said, urging anyone with footage from the birthday party to turn it over immediately.

"Of all the resources that we have at our disposal, there's nothing more important than the community," Praytor said. "We've had cases that have been broken by people that didn't think they saw anything until they came forward and told us what they knew."

"They didn't know it was a valuable piece of the puzzle. So you may think you don't know anything about it, but you may have the piece that we're looking for. We want all information," he added.

Kamille, who is black, was described as about 3 feet tall weighing 60 pounds with brown eyes and black hair. Investigators said anyone with information should contact Birmingham police or Crime Stoppers immediately.

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Sunday
Oct132019

Texas cop never ID'd himself as police before fatally shooting Atatiana Jefferson in her own home: Official

iStock(FORT WORTH, Texas) -- A white police officer responding to a call early Saturday for a welfare check at a home in Fort Worth, Texas, fired a shot into a bedroom window, striking and killing a 28-year-old black woman who a neighbor said was not a threat.

Relatives of the woman who was fatally shot identified her as Atatiana Jefferson, and said she worked as a human resources officer for a Fort Worth company and that she lived in the home with an 8-year-old nephew, Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA reported.

During a news conference on Sunday afternoon, Fort Worth Police Lt. Brandon O'Neil said the officer who opened fire on Jefferson never identified himself as a police officer.

"What the officer observed and why he did not announce 'police' will be addressed as the investigation continues," O'Neil said.

The NAACP released a statement on Twitter calling the fatal shooting of Jefferson "UNACCEPTABLE!"

"The acts of yet another 'trained' police officer have resulted in the death of #AtatianaJefferson Gun downed in her own home," the NAACP wrote. "If we are not safe to call the police, if we are not safe in our homes, where can we find peace? We demand answers. We demand justice."

James Smith, a neighbor, said the shooting unfolded after he called the non-emergency police number to report seeing the lights on and the front door open at Jefferson's home. He said police arrived at the home around 2:30 a.m. without activating their lights and sirens.

"I called my police department for a welfare check," Smith told WFAA. "No domestic violence, no arguing, nothing that they should have been concerned about as far as them coming with guns drawn to my neighbor’s house."

Hearing the gunshot shocked him, he said.

"I don’t know what went on in that house, but I know she wasn’t a threat," Smith said. "I'm still kind of broken and shocked. They tell me I shouldn't feel bad. But I feel bad cause had I not called the police department, she would probably still be alive today."

Civil rights attorney Lee Merritt said Jefferson's "understandably heartbroken" relatives told him that Jefferson and her nephew were playing video games when they heard noises outside.

"She went to investigate at the window. An officer was on the other side who shouted commands and before she had a moment to respond, he shot her to death," said Merritt, who also represents the family of Botham Jean, a 26-year-old black man shot to death in September 2018 by white former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, who mistook Jean's apartment for her own and wrongly suspected he was an intruder.

The Fort Worth Police Department did not release the name of the officer.

O'Neil said police received a call at 2:25 a.m. to respond to the home on East Allen Avenue. He said two officers arrived at the house at 2:29 am. and parked near Jefferson's home, but not in front of the residence. He said the officers walked around the back of the house, and that one of the officers observed a person through the rear window of the home and opened fire.

Body-camera footage released by the department shows the officer approaching a rear window of the home with his gun drawn. The officer sees the woman through the window, shouts, "Put your hands up, show me your hands," and fires one shot.

The video seems to confirm the officer never identified himself as police before he opened fire.

The front door appears open in the body-camera footage, but a screen door looks to be closed in front of it. The officer doesn't appear to knock.

"Perceiving a threat, the officer drew his duty weapon and fired one shot striking the person inside the residence," a statement from the police department reads.

Responding officers entered the home, located the shooting victim and began providing emergency care.

Jefferson died at the scene.

"An 8-year-old male, Ms. Jefferson's nephew, was inside the room during this time," O'Neil said.

O'Neil declined to answer questions from reporters, saying Police Chief Ed Kraus is scheduled to hold a news conference about the shooting on Monday.

He said the officer who shot Jefferson is scheduled to be interviewed on Monday by the department's Major Case Unit investigators.

A firearm was recovered from the woman's home, but police did not say where the gun was found in the house. The investigation is ongoing.

The officer, who's been with the department since April 2018, has been placed on administrative leave.

Merritt set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for Jefferson's funeral. As of Sunday afternoon, more than $81,000 had been raised.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price released a statement saying the Police Chief Ed Kraus and his command staff "are acting with immediacy and transparency to conduct a complete and thorough investigation."

She said the case will be turned over to the Tarrant County District Attorney Law Enforcement Incident Team to investigate the incident further.

"Writing a statement like this is tragic and something that should never be necessary," Price said in her statement. "A young woman has lost her life, leaving her family in unbelievable grief. All of Fort Worth must surround Atatiana Jefferson's family with prayers, love and support."

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Sunday
Oct132019

1 person injured after false panic over shooting at mall, police say

iStock(BOCA RATON, Fla.) -- One person was injured after shoppers fled during a false alarm over a suspected shooting at the Town Center Mall in Boca Raton, Florida, according to police.

The male victim suffered a non-life threatening "trauma wound" and was transported to the Del Ray Medical Center after first responders arrived, Boca Raton Police Chief Dan Alexander told reporters at a news conference Sunday afternoon. Police saw the trauma injury, but they said they now believe it was caused by the person running into a door.

There is no evidence of any gunfire, Alexander said. He said they are "getting to the bottom" of what caused the panic.

Police responded to the mall just after 3 p.m.after receiving reports of shots fired inside the building, Alexander said. The victim was found inside the food court, where the entirety of the incident likely occurred, he added.

There was no additional gunfire heard after the initial reports, Alexander said.

Others inside the mall suffered minor injuries they received from tripping and falling, according to the chief. Thousands of people were inside the mall as SWAT teams worked to clear the area.

A weapon has not been recovered, Alexander said.

Police are asking anyone with information to call in with tips.

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Sunday
Oct132019

New Orleans mayor vows 'relentless' investigation in deadly Hard Rock Hotel collapse

Twitter/@ABC(NEW ORLEANS) -- Crews were feverishly working on Sunday to stabilize the Hard Rock Hotel in downtown New Orleans a day after the building partially collapsed, killing two construction workers, leaving a third trapped in the rubble and injuring 30 others, officials said.

One body has been recovered from the scene, according to New Orleans mayor LaToya Cantrell.

New Orleans Fire Chief Tim McConnell said at a news conference near the disaster site on Sunday that search-and-rescue crews were poised to reenter the building.

"Search and rescue continues to be our top priority at this time," McConnell said.

He said the search of the building that had been under construction was halted overnight after conditions were deemed too dangerous to allow first responders to enter.

McConnell said a large crane was also damaged in the collapse and remained in a precarious position.

He said a massive crane weighing 110 tons was trucked into the city overnight from Baton Rouge and will be used to help stabilize the building once it's assembled.

Hazardous conditions, according to the chief, prevented search teams from recovering the bodies of the two construction workers killed when the upper floors of the building suddenly gave way and pancaked on one another. He said the identities of the dead construction workers and the one who remains missing have yet to be confirmed.

"This is not something you take lightly," McConnell said of the search efforts. "Safety is the No. 1 thing. The last thing you want to do as you're trying to rescue someone is lose someone else."

Dr. Emily Nichols, director of Emergency Medical Services in New Orleans, said of the 30 people treated for injuries, only one remained hospitalized on Sunday.

Mayor Cantrell said she visited the injured worker late Saturday night at University Medical Center New Orleans. She said the worker, who is in stable condition, suffered a fractured femur and underwent surgery.

"He is in the best of spirits that he can be in," Cantrell said. "He told me that it could have been worse. He said it happened very fast. He heard noise, looked around and moved very, very quickly."

Cantrell said the investigation into the collapse will get underway once everyone believed to have been inside the building at the time of the collapse is accounted for.

"After search and rescue, it will shift into a full-investigative mode and we will be relentless in those efforts moving forward," Cantrell said.

She identified Citadel Builders, based in Metairie, Louisiana, as the general contractor on the Hard Rock Hotel construction project. The 18-story, 350-room hotel near the city's French Quarter and Theater District was scheduled to open in 2020.

Brian Trascher, a spokesman for Citadel Builders, told ABC News on Sunday that the company is working closely with the city to stabilize the building.

"Our team is pretty much part of the incident command. We're working nonstop. There's no fusing, no arguing, no pointing fingers right now," Trascher said.

Trasher said the cause of the collapse remains under investigation.

According to preliminary information, all permits had been obtained to complete the building and that everything was "up to code," Cantrell said.

Trascher said the big problem on Sunday afternoon was how to secure the damaged crane that was listing from the side of the collapsed building. A top engineer for the company who operates the crane was flying in from Germany to assist local officials, he added.

The collapse happened around 9:12 a.m. local time at Canal and North Rampart Streets, McConnell said.

Trasher said more than 110 construction workers were on site when the collapse happened.

In a statement to ABC News, Citadel Builders said that it "remains committed to the safety and well being of all first responders and SAR teams working in and around our construction site in New Orleans.

While the process may not always move at the desired pace, rest assured that our team continues to work closely with Mayor Cantrell and Chief McConnell's personnel on the scene."

"Multiple internal and external investigations are in progress, but we are still in the infancy stages as we have not yet had access to the building. This situation is being handled much like a plane crash, in that rescue/recovery are the primary functions, followed by the search for physical and technical indicators that may provide clues to the cause," the statement continued.

Citadel Builders has flown in the chief engineer for Morrow Cranes, the crane owner, as well as the head engineer of the manufacturer from Munich, Germany, to aid in the recovery effort, according to the statement.

Officials said it appeared the collapse initially affected the sixth to eighth floors before damage spread throughout a large portion of the building.

Dramatic video of the incident showed parts of the building crashing into the street as debris billowed into the air.

Cantrell said that 10 surrounding buildings, including condominiums, were evacuated and that electricity and gas to those buildings remained turned off on Sunday. Nearby streets were closed to vehicles, according to NOLA Ready, the city's emergency preparedness center.

The mayor said debris from the collapse caused extensive damage to the roof of the historic Saenger Theater across the street, forcing the remaining performances of the musical "Wicked" to be canceled.

Hard Rock International said in a statement the company had "no involvement in the construction of the project" but extended its "deepest sympathies to victims of this tragic accident and to their loved ones and friends."

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Sunday
Oct132019

10-year-old girl dies after falling off carnival ride in New Jersey, police say

Facebook/Deerfield Harvest Football(DEERFIELD, N.J.) -- A 10-year-old girl has died after she fell off a carnival ride in New Jersey, according to police.

The girl was on a ride called "Extreme" at the Deerfield Township Harvest Festival Saturday around 6 p.m. in south New Jersey when she fell off the ride, according to a news release from the New Jersey State Police.

Witnesses told ABC Philadelphia station WPVI that the girl was motionless after the fall and that her family members were distraught. '

She was then airlifted to Cooper University Health Care in Camden, New Jersey, where she was pronounced dead, police said.

Additional details about the ride or how the girl fell were not released.

In a statement, Skelly's Amusements Inc., the company that provided the rides to the festival, said it would not be open at the festival on Sunday, although it had been given permission to operate the other rides by the state.

"We don’t have it in our heart," the statement read.

The company will be issuing refunds for the rides at the ticket booth, and the entertainment portion of the festival will continue as scheduled, according to the statement.

A spokesman for the festival could not immediately provide comment to ABC News, pending an official statement. The festival was founded in 1979, according to its Facebook page.

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Sunday
Oct132019

Woman's arm, foot severed by private plane propeller at Key West airport, authorities say

iStock(KEY WEST, Fla.) -- A propeller on a private plane severed a Florida woman's arm and foot, according to authorities.

The woman, a resident of Naples, was struck by the propeller at the Key West International Airport Saturday around 8:45 p.m., according to a news release by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.

The pilot and female passenger were preparing to taxi in the private plane when it "would not move or was having some other unknown mechanical issue," authorities said.

The pilot then exited the plane while it was still running to see if the blocks placed by the airplane tires when stationary on the tarmac were still in place. The passenger was struck by the propeller after she exited and walked to the front of the aircraft.

The victim was first taken to the Lower Keys Medical Center on Stock Island and later flown in stable condition to the Jackson Memorial Ryder Trauma Center in Miami, authorities said, adding that her condition on Sunday was not known.

It is also not clear what caused the plane to not move.

Additional information was not immediately available. The victim's identity was not released.

Florida Highway Patrol is conducting the investigation.

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Sunday
Oct132019

Car slams into group of people enjoying autumn hayride, at least 11 injured

iStock(LITTLE ROCK, Ill.) -- At least 11 people have been hurt, one of them critically, after a car slammed into people enjoying an autumn hayride on Saturday afternoon about 55 miles west of Chicago.

Authorities say that the accident occurred at around 5:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon in Little Rock Township, Illinois, when a car containing two people crashed into the back of a hayride wagon causing the car to flip upside down onto its roof.

All of the 11 victims are adults, 3 of which were hurt seriously. Those involved in the accident were taken to four area hospitals, according to ABC’s Chicago station WLS-TV.

Rush Copley Medical Center received three patients. They said one is in critical condition.

The driver and the passenger of the car that hit the hayride were both treated at the scene.

Police are currently looking into the circumstances of the accident and what caused it. The investigation is ongoing.

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Saturday
Oct122019

'Not qualified': State senator wants judge who jailed man for missing jury duty off the bench 

iStock(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- "Not qualified to make a fair and impartial decision," is how Florida State Senator Bobby Powell described the judge who sentenced a 21-year-old man to 10 days in jail for missing jury duty.

"The thought that a judge would sentence a young man who had no previous history or incident with law enforcement to jail time, I was outraged," Powell, who has filed a formal complaint against Judge Kasternakes, told ABC News. "I know him, I know this young man for many, many years. When I saw his picture on the front page of the local paper, I was very much not only hurt and disappointed but heartbroken. I'm at a loss for words about how I felt."

"We've all made mistakes. You would think, 'OK, if I go to court, the judge sees me in court,' what's the worst thing you think could happen? When Deandre went back to court he had on his work uniform, we thought the judge would see he is working and see he is a good young man," Powell said.

Deandre Somerville, who said he overslept the day he was required to be a juror, served all 10 days behind bars. He was also ordered to be put on probation for a year, complete 150 hours of community service, pay a $223 fine and write a letter of apology to the court. After the sentencing prompted outcry and disbelief from the public and criminal justice experts, Kasternakes vacated the ruling and declared Somerville "totally rehabilitated."

The senator said that while he has for now, only filed a complaint with the Judicial Qualifications Commission, he said there is an opportunity for him to file for the judge's impeachment with the legislature, something he said he is "strongly considering."

Powell filed his complaint against the judge with the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission, the Sun-Sentinel reported, and the senator confirmed to ABC News. While he is unsure what the commission will do in response to the complaint, he said he knows what he wants the outcome to be.

"What I would like to see is Judge Kasternakes removed from the bench," Powell said, adding that he has received complaints about the judge from others who did not want to be publicly named. "He has indicated to me through this decision that he is not qualified to make a fair and impartial decision."

But Powell said the process should be fair -- and "not the way [the judge] treated Somerville," he said.

Other politicians have also voiced criticism, including Congresswoman Lois Frankel of Florida, who called the punishment "severe and unfair" on Twitter.

A call left at Judge Kesternakes' office by ABC News for his response has not been returned.

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Saturday
Oct122019

'Serial Stowaway' arrested again at Chicago airport trying to sneak past security

iStock(CHICAGO) -- A woman known to police for trying to evade capture by airport security was arrested again at Chicago O'Hare airport, police said.

Marilyn Hartman, known to authorities as the "Serial Stowaway," was charged Saturday with a felony count of criminal trespass to a registered area at an airport, a spokesman for Chicago police told ABC News.

Hartman had not yet made it through security when she was arrested, but allegedly she was trying to move TSA lane dividers to sneak by.

She had been on probation for a 2018 incident in which she sneaked onto a London-bound flight from O'Hare, according to ABC Chicago station WLS-TV.

Online records show she was sentenced to a minimum of 18 months in that case, but it's unclear how long she actually served.

When she was released, a Cook County judge warned her three times to stay away from airports, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

A police spokesman told ABC News that Hartman is infamous among police for trying to sneak through airport security.

Hartman is due in court Sunday. She could not immediately be reached be ABC News for comment, and it's unclear whether she's retained an attorney.

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