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Wednesday
Sep262018

Father of missing boy Maddox Ritch 'started panicking' after he got out of sight

Gastonia Police Department(GASTONIA, N.C.) -- Ian Ritch says he and his son often go for walks in North Carolina's Rankin Lake Park like they did Saturday. Maddox, 6, will regularly run ahead of his father, then slow down and wait for him to catch up.

But on Saturday, the boy, who has autism and is nonverbal, got too far ahead of Ian and hasn't been seen since. Ian says he "started panicking" when his 6-year-old son did not slow down and disappeared from view.

"We were walking on a track around the lake and he decided to take off from me. ... I didn’t think nothing of it and he got a little too far away from me," Ian Ritch told Good Morning America in an exclusive interview Wednesday. "As soon as I got to the point where I couldn’t see him anymore, I started panicking. I couldn’t see him anywhere."

Hundreds of officials from the FBI, Gastonia Police Department, Gastonia Fire Department and other agencies have scoured the park around the clock since he was reported missing Saturday. Tips have flooded the tip line set up to assist in finding the young boy, and authorities continue to interview the hundreds of people who were in the park on a beautiful early fall day.

"After the first day I thought they would have found him," Ian told GMA.

"I feel like I should’ve caught him, not let him get too far," Ian said. "That’s what upsets me."

Ian said he continues to be eaten by guilt over letting his son get out of his sight.

"It's hard to sleep. I feel guilty because I can go to a house and lay down on the bed," Ian said, "and he's out there in the woods sleeping on the ground and that’s very upsetting."

Maddox's mother, Carrie, spoke during an emotional news conference Tuesday afternoon, begging for any tips that might help bring her son home.

"Maddox is my whole world and my reason for living," Carrie Ritch said during the press conference.

The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to the discovery of Maddox. Thousands of acres have been searched by foot, ATVs and boat.

Maddox has blond hair and blue eyes, weighs 45 pounds and is 4 feet tall, police said. He was wearing black shorts, closed-toe sandals and an orange T-shirt that reads "I am the Man" at the time he went missing, according to police.

"It's been nearly 75 agonizing hours since 6-year-old Maddox Ritch disappeared," Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton said Tuesday. "We do not want another hour to pass without finding this child and bringing him home. All the help has been humbling."

Ian did not attend the press conference Tuesday with officials saying he was taking part in the search effort.

"I'm going to do all I can do to make sure he gets back home," Ian said. "I'll be out there searching, waiting, hoping, praying, everything I can do to get him home."

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Tuesday
Sep252018

Bill Cosby sentenced to 3 to 10 years in state prison with no bail during appeals

Mark Makela/Getty Images(NORRISTOWN, Pa.) -- Bill Cosby was sentenced Tuesday to three to 10 years in state prison by a Pennsylvania judge who had designated the comedian a "sexually violent predator."

Judge Steven O'Neill sentenced Cosby in a Norristown, Pennsylvania, courtroom, and then denied bail during pending appeals, capping a two-day hearing attended by about a dozen women who accused Cosby of sexual assault, including Andrea Constand, whom he was convicted of assaulting in his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.

He ordered that Cosby be taken into custody immediately. Cosby, who had removed his pinstriped suit jacket, was escorted out of the courtroom by guards with his hands cuffed in front of him. He held his cane in his right hand.

"It's been a long journey to get here and today justice was served. It has been a long time coming, but it arrived when a convicted felon named William H. Cosby Jr. left the courtroom in handcuffs headed off to state prison for his crimes," Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said with Constand standing at his side at a press conference following the sentencing.

Judge O'Neill rejected a request from defense attorneys to allow Cosby to be released on bail pending appeals.

Montgomery County Correctional Facility

O'Neill ordered Cosby to serve the sentence in "total confinement" for "no less than 3 years and no more than 10 years."

"Mr. Cosby, you were convicted of a very serious crime," O'Neill said, adding "that you penetrated Andrea Constand's genitals with your hands without her permission."

No remorse

O'Neill called Cosby's crime a "planned predation."

The judge noted that Cosby has never shown any remorse and has not sought any kind of psychological counseling.

O'Neill told Constand that her victim impact statement presented to the judge in writing and partly giving in court Monday was a major factor in helping him decide Cosby's sentence.

"I put a high degree of weight on the impact of the victim and her family," O'Neill said.

In a written statement to O'Neill, which was released Tuesday, Constand wrote, "Bill Cosby took my beautiful, healthy young spirit and crushed it. He robbed me of my health and vitality, my open nature, and my trust in myself and others."

Before sentencing Cosby, O'Neill asked defense attorney Joseph Green whether Cosby wanted to make a statement before he is sentenced. Cosby declined.

"This has been a long journey for justice for all of the accusers, particularly for Andrea Constand and her family," said attorney Gloria Allred, who represents 33 women who have accused Cosby of sexual abuse. "This is an important day. Judgment day has come."

Chelan Lasha, who says Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in 1986 in a Las Vegas hotel room when she was 17, said she had hoped for a harsher sentence for Cosby.

"But I'm very happy to know that Mr. Cosby will do time in prison, that he's touchable like he touched us," Lasha said after the sentencing hearing.

From VIP to SVP


Earlier Tuesday, Judge O'Neill designated Cosby a "sexually violent predator."

Cosby appeared alert, cooperative and engaged as he answered a series of questions from prosecutor M. Stuart Ryan designed to determine whether he fully comprehended the implications and consequences of the "sexually violent predator" designation.

Pennsylvania state law defines a person with such a designation has "a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes the person likely to engage in predatory sexually violent offenses." The consequences of such a designation are severe and lifelong.

The designation also means that Cosby will be required by law to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life and be subject to the most stringent requirements a sex offender can incur.

At one point, Cosby interrupted Ryan with a question: "If I went from the city to another city ... even if it's just overnight, do I have to get in touch with the state police?"

Ryan suggested Cosby seek the counsel of his attorneys.

Cosby's lawyers had pleaded with O'Neill Monday not to send the entertainer they described as an 81-year-old, infirmed blind man to prison but rather place him under house arrest.

Steele asked O'Neill to incarcerate Cosby with a maximum sentence of 10 years.

Cosby was convicted in April of drugging and molesting Constand, a former director of operations of women's basketball at Cosby's alma mater Temple University who once considered the comedian a mentor. The assault occurred in 2004 at Cosby's suburban Philadelphia home.

Constand told O'Neill Monday she wanted "justice as the court sees fit."

"Racist and sexist trial"

After Cosby's was taken to a Montgomery County jail for processing before he is transferred to state prison, his spokesman Andrew Wyatt blasted the trial and conviction as "the most racist and sexist trial in the history of the United States."

He said Cosby "is doing great" and "knows that God is watching over him."

"They persecuted Jesus and look what happened," Wyatt said. "I'm not saying Mr. Cosby is Jesus, but we know what this country has done to black men for centuries."

Cosby's wife of 54 years, Camille Cosby, did not attend Tuesday's hearing, but released a statement, saying, "We have now learned that Bill Cosby was denied his right to a fair trial..."

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Tuesday
Sep252018

'This is a very important day. Judgment day has come': Gloria Allred reacts to Bill Cosby's sentencing

WPVI-TV(NORRISTOWN, Pa.) -- Women's rights activist and attorney Gloria Allred lauded the sentencing of Bill Cosby, saying it "has been a long journey to justice for all of the accusers."

Cosby was sentenced on Tuesday to three to 10 years in a state prison by a judge who described him as a "sexually violent predator." The comedian once known as "America's Dad" was led out of the Norriston, Pennsylvania, courtroom in handcuffs shortly thereafter.

Outside the courthouse, Allred, who represented some of Cosby's accusers, said she's "glad the judgment day has finally come for Mr. Cosby."

"This is a very important day," she said. "Judgment day has come."

She also accused Cosby of showing no remorse, as did Judge Steven O'Neill during the sentencing hearing.

Allred said she was "very proud" of the victims who came forward and cooperated with the investigation, despite the statute of limitations' running out.

Chelan Lasha, who accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting her in a Las Vegas hotel room in 1986, when she was 17, said she'd hoped for a harsher sentence.

"But I'm very happy to know that Mr. Cosby will do time in prison -- that he's touchable like he touched us," Lasha said.

Cosby's wife, Camille Cosby, wrote in a statement that he was "denied his right to a fair trial" and accused Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele of using falsified evidence against him.

Camille Cosby alleged that a tape-recording Steele played during the trial was doctored, adding that the mother of Andrea Constand, the victim Cosby was convicted of drugging and raping, "surreptitiously and illegally made the recording" in 2005 without his knowledge or consent.

A forensics expert who analyzed the recording told Cosby's defense team that it was "not a true representation of the original content or conversation," according to Camille Cosby's statement.

In April, Cosby was convicted of drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, the former director of operations of women's basketball at Temple University, Cosby's alma mater. Cosby assaulted Constand, who once considered him a mentor, at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.

O'Neill ordered Cosby to serve in "total confinement" for "no less than three years and no more than 10 years." The two-day hearing was attended by a dozen women who had accused Cosby of sexual assault.

"Today, justice was served," Steele told reporters on Tuesday. "It's been a long time coming, but it arrived when a convicted felon named William H. Cosby left the courtroom in handcuffs."

Steel said that Cosby has "been able to hide his true self" for decades. "Finally, Bill Cosby has been unmasked, and we've seen the real man as he's heading off to prison."

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Tuesday
Sep252018

7-year-old girl swinging on hammock dies after tree crashes down on her

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A young girl in Virginia was killed while swinging on a hammock after a tree the hammock was tied to fell on her, authorities said.

"It was a tragic accident," Kraig Troxell of the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office told ABC News.

The tree that collapsed on 7-year-old Sabina Henderson was already rotting in its trunk, but it was likely a combination of that and the wet ground caused by rain from Hurricane Florence that uprooted the tree, Troxell added. The accident happened on Saturday evening during a family gathering.

Both Sabina and another child, an 8-year-old boy who was also swinging on the hammock, were rushed to the hospital. The boy had only suffered minor injuries and was released soon after. Henderson died later that night.

The young girl's father, Ben Henderson, described her as a smart, witty girl who loved to tell jokes.

"She was a powerful personality that lit up the room and was a memorable force for all those that met her," Henderson said in a statement.

"She was amazingly kind and thoughtful to her friends and family," he added. "Sabina was genuinely and completely loved by all that knew her. Her loss tore a giant hole in our lives that will never be mended. We will never recover from this we will only survive."

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Tuesday
Sep252018

Slain DC jogger Wendy Martinez will be laid to rest in wedding dress

Metropolitan Police Department(WASHINGTON) -- Friends and family are set to gather at a funeral service in Florida Tuesday for Wendy Martinez, one week after she was brutally stabbed to death while jogging in Washington, D.C. in an apparent "random" attack.

Martinez, 35, had just gotten engaged and her grieving mother, Cora Martinez, told reporters last week that her daughter will be buried in the wedding dress she had picked out for a ceremony in Colombia, where her fiancé, Danny Hincapie, is from.

"We all commented how beautiful the dress was, how it was so Wendy, it was her style," her friend since high school, Luz Hainey, told ABC affiliate WPBF.

"I have to stay strong in my faith and remember that she’s in a better place," Hainey added. "That truly is what we’re holding onto for right now."

Martinez, 35, was stabbed seven times in the face, neck and back while jogging in the Logan Circle neighborhood, according to court documents. Authorities said she stumbled into a restaurant after the attack where customers tried to save her life.

At Tuesday's funeral in Royal Palm Beach, Florida, mourners are expected to wear bright colors to celebrate her life, her passion and her selflessness, friends said, according to WPBF.

The victim's mom told reporters she was so proud of her daughter for running into the restaurant for help.

"Our girl had the energy to fight," she said.

A suspect, 23-year-old Anthony Crawford, was arrested last week and charged with murder. He made an initial appearance on Sept. 20 and returns to court on Oct. 11.



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Tuesday
Sep252018

1-year-old left in shopping cart at Target parking lot, mom arrested: Police

Google Maps (EASTON, Mass.) -- A mother has been arrested for allegedly leaving her 1-year-old son in a shopping cart at a Target parking lot this weekend, police said.

A customer at an Easton, Massachusetts, Target reported that a baby was in the parking lot alone around 1 p.m. on Saturday, the Easton Police Department said.

When police arrived, they said the 17-month-old boy didn't appear to be hurt, but was evaluated by the fire department and then taken to a hospital to be checked.

The department received a call around 2 p.m. from a man who said he was with the boy's mother and she claimed the baby had been left behind accidentally, police said.

The mother, 27-year-old Taylor Perdue, told detectives that she and three friends went back to her car after they left Target and she "believed that one of her friends had secured her son in his rear-facing car seat," police said in a statement Monday.

Perdue said her friends left in a separate car and she then drove to Plymouth, about 33 miles from the Target. She "realized that her son was not in the car seat" when she arrived, police said.

Perdue, of Acton, Maine, was charged with abandonment and endangerment of a child, police said.

The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families launched an investigation and, in coordination with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, returned custody of the child to Perdue later that evening, police said.

It is not clear when Perdue will appear in court or if she is represented by an attorney at this time.

A manager at the Easton Target store declined to comment on the incident.

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Tuesday
Sep252018

Divers, helicopters, drones and parents' voices used in search for missing 6-year-old

FBI Charlotte(GASTONIA, N.C.) -- As the FBI and local authorities desperately search for a 6-year-old boy who went missing in a North Carolina park, investigators are using divers, helicopters, drones and the boy's parents' voices to try to find him.

Maddox Ritch, 6, who has autism and does not talk, went missing Saturday while at the Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia with his family, police said.

Maddox has blond hair and blue eyes, weighs 45 pounds and is 4 feet tall, police said. He was wearing black shorts, closed-toe sandals and an orange T-shirt that reads "I am the Man" at the time he went missing, according to police.

On Monday, authorities checked dozens of dumpsters and went to businesses near the park asking for surveillance video while police dogs re-searched areas, the Gastonia Police Department said.

Crews searched the park's lake using sonar and divers Monday.

Helicopters and drones have also been used in the search, police said.

Authorities have also recorded messages from Maddox's parents and are playing those messages in the woods of the park in the hopes that their voices will persuade him to come out if he's there, FBI Special Agent Jason Kaplan said Monday.

Former FBI agent and ABC News contributor Brad Garrett said that the idea of broadcasting Maddox's parents' familiar voices makes perfect sense.

Children with special needs "tend to be extremely close to their parents," Garrett told ABC News. "If you have a kid that can't really communicate but his parents talk to him every day ... I completely understand why they would do it."

Garrett said the FBI likely recorded the phrases Maddox's parents use with him most often.

But as authorities turned to the media for help this week to spread the word about Maddox's disappearance, the boy's family shared their thoughts in a statement.

"I want to thank everyone for showing up to search for Maddox and also thank everyone for their prayers. We are trying to help the police in any way possible. They are still asking the public to just wait and let the professionals handle the search," Maddox's father said in a statement Monday to WCCB in Charlotte.

At a news conference Monday, authorities said Maddox's mother and father have asked for privacy, and their names have not been released.

Police urge anyone who was at Rankin Lake Park on Saturday to call the tip line at 704-869-1075.

"We have spoken to many people who were there, but we want to make sure we talk to them all," Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton said in the statement released by police Monday. "No piece of information is too small. Something you may think is insignificant could be helpful to our case."

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Tuesday
Sep252018

Tropical depression could form off coast of Carolinas, bring more rain

ABC News (NEW YORK) -- Thousands of people continue to be forced to evacuate in the Carolinas due to rising rivers after Hurricane Florence -- and more rain is on the way Tuesday.

A tropical wave off the Carolina coast could become a tropical depression late Tuesday and brush the Carolinas with some heavy rain through Wednesday.

The National Hurricane Center is watching a low pressure off the North Carolina coast and saying it could become a tropical depression.

Even if it does not become a tropical depression, the storm system will bring heavy rain, dangerous surf and rip currents to the Carolinas.

After that a cold front will bring more heavy rain to the area.

Flood watches and warnings have been issued Tuesday morning from Midwest into the Southeast.

Severe storms are also threatening the Midwest and Northeast over the next two days.

A reported tornado produced damage in central Tennessee, east of Nashville, on Monday and more severe weather is expected.

A cold front will move into the Great Lakes and the Midwest on Tuesday with damaging winds, hail and a few tornadoes. Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland and Cincinnati are all in the path of these damaging storms later Tuesday.

Damaging storms move into the Northeast, from Washington, D.C., to New York City and into Boston on Wednesday. Damaging winds, hail and an isolated tornado are all possible Wednesday afternoon and evening.

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Tuesday
Sep252018

Shooter in Florida 'stand your ground' killing of Markeis McGlockton released on bond

iStock/Thinkstock(TAMPA, Fla.) -- The white man who invoked Florida's "stand your ground" self-defense law in the fatal shooting of Markeis McGlockton, an African-American father of three, during a confrontation over a handicap parking space has been released on bond.

Michael Drejka was released from jail on Monday after posting $100,000 bond, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office told ABC affiliate station WTSP-TV in Tampa.

Drejka, 48, was arrested and charged with manslaughter in the July 19 shooting of McGlockton outside a convenience store in Clearwater, Florida.

McGlockton, 28, was shot after he came out of a Circle A store and saw Drejka berating his girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, about parking in a handicap zone. Surveillance video showed McGlockton shoving Drejka to the ground and Drejka, who had a legal concealed weapons permit, pulling a handgun and shooting McGlockton.

In a jailhouse interview earlier this month, Drejka told WTSP that he felt his life was in danger after McGlockton "tackled" him to the ground.

"I followed the law the way I felt the law was supposed to be followed," Drejka said. "I cleared every hurdle that that law had put in front of me."



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Tuesday
Sep252018

Houston's oldest rookie cop: At 54, she's catching bad guys and making history

ABC News (HOUSTON) -- Officer assist. Suspects on the ground,” said the call from dispatch that came into Wendy Caldwell’s police car.

The car’s sirens went on, and Caldwell was off racing through the streets of Houston, Texas.

“He needs assistance,” Caldwell explained in an interview for the ABC News special “The Real Rookies.” “Sometimes the most difficult, dangerous part of it is actually getting to the call. So you’re going to go around, through, weave, make your way through to get there as safely as possible.”

It’s a typical day for Caldwell, who’s a rookie police officer with the Houston Police Department. It’s also a job she had 25 years ago: Caldwell, who is 54 years old, is Houston’s oldest rookie cop

On July 21, 1993, Caldwell, then 29, graduated from the police academy in the top 10 of her class and joined the mounted patrol division.

“For me, it was the best job on the planet. Where else can you get to be a police officer and ride a horse in the same day? It was perfect for me,” said Caldwell.

“She was somebody that was there, would have your back, take care of you if the situation dictated and knew her job, knew what she needed to do,” said Scott Berry, who was Caldwell’s partner on the job at the time.

But three years into the department, Caldwell got pregnant and had her first child. She realized staying at home to raise her two children was more important to her at the time.

“It was an extremely hard decision for me. I wanted to do both, but I realized that my children were more important,” Caldwell said. “That time that I got to spend with them was absolutely golden for me. I'll never be able to replace that, so that's something, those memories that I have with my kids, I'll have forever.”

However, by late 2015 to 2016, Caldwell was 52 years old, and her marriage of almost 20 years started to fall apart. She decided she had to figure out how to support herself.

“I was holding a résumé that pretty much said ‘stay-at-home mom,’” said Caldwell. “So I knew that I had to do. It wasn’t going to be easy, but I knew that I had to do it.”

Caldwell talked to a friend of hers who is a recruiting sergeant to see if she could return to the police force.

“He said, ‘You’re eligible, but — you’d have to do the whole six and a half months (of police] academy again because we don’t have any lateral transfer classes, and you’ve been gone more than five years. Would you be willing to do that?’” she recalled. “I said, ‘Okay, let’s do this.’”

“I think for most people, the six and a half months they spend in the police academy are the longest 10 years of their life. It’s grueling. It’s never-ending. It’s very difficult. It’s very stressful, mentally and physically,” said Michael Barton, Caldwell’s fellow cadet.

“We want everyone held to the same standards, and when they announced a 52-year-old female is joining your police academy class, it’s like, ‘What is she doing here?’ It raises an eyebrow,’” said fellow cadet Robert Dougherty.

Caldwell said the experience was an “all your eggs in one basket kind of thing for me.” She still had her strength, shooting abilities and driving skills, but there was the mental aspect of it that was tough for her.

“Starting over, putting myself in that position again to wear that cadet uniform again, knowing that I had already earned this, that was hard. It was a mental game for me big time,” she said.

Fellow cadets, who sometimes called her “grandma” or “nana,” said Caldwell was inspirational, but also a motivation not to fall behind, especially when it came to physical training.

“I mean, if a 52-year-old woman is going to beat you, and you’re 25 years old, then that’s pretty embarrassing, quite frankly,” said Barton.

Still, the course took its toll on Caldwell.

“I remember one weekend, I was literally laying in the bed, crying, thinking, ‘I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t know if I’m going to make this,’” Caldwell said.

At one point in the course, Caldwell’s leg was broken during redman training, an exercise designed to put cadets in a scenario where it feels like they’re fighting for their lives, Caldwell explained.

“The thought that crossed my mind was, ‘I’m done. This is it. This is going to end it. I’m not going to be able to graduate. This is the biggest bone in your body. How are you going to come back from that?’” she said. “I had no idea, but my thought process was, ‘I’m done.’”

But by the end of the training, Caldwell was allowed to graduate.

“I knew I still had a ways to go. I still needed to complete my physical recuperation, but the fact that I had made it, and earned this badge and uniform again, it was a big deal. It was a really big deal,” she said.

Caldwell graduated number 17 out of 67 and joined the Central Patrol Division for her permanent assignment.

“I realize, that at 54 years of age, I'm not as fast as I used to be, my reaction times are probably a little bit slower, although I'm wiser in the aspect of I can see it coming before it gets there, so I guess it's kind of a trade-off in that respect,” she said.

“It was a difficult road to get here, but it was well worth the rewards.”

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