SEARCH

Friday
Aug172018

Motive a mystery in Colorado man's alleged killing of pregnant wife and 2 young daughters

ABC News(FREDERICK, Col.) -- Earlier this week, a Colorado father pleaded for help to find his missing wife and two daughters, saying his children “light up my life.”

“I just want them back,” Chris Watts told ABC Denver affiliate KMGH-TV. His wife, Shanann, and daughters Celeste, 3 and Bella, 4 were reported missing Monday by a concerned family friend.

Just days later, the case took a chilling turn, with Chris Watts taken into custody and booked on murder charges.

Authorities have not commented on a possible motive in the case that has shocked the small town of Frederick.

Here's some of what we know -- and still don't know -- about the case.

A mysterious missing persons case

Chris Watts, 33, had initially told reporters that his wife, who was 15 weeks pregnant, disappeared without a trace, leaving her purse and keys at home.

"When I came home and then walked in the house, nothing. Vanished. Nothing was here," Chris Watts told KMGH-TV Tuesday. "My kids are my life ... I mean, those smiles light up my life."

'He fooled us'

After Shanann Watts, 34, and the girls were reported missing, family friends Nick and Amanda Thayer came to Chris Watts' side.

The Thayers helped their friend think through ideas on how to find his missing wife and daughters. Chris Watts even spent Tuesday night at the Thayers' home.

"We feel so stupid ... trusting him to stay the night in the same house as our daughter," Nick Thayer told ABC News on Thursday, overcome with emotion. "I'll never let that go."

He said it didn't cross his and his wife's minds to ask Watts if he was involved.

Watts was a "hands-on dad," Nick Thayer said. "And that's why we were there with him because all the times we were with him it was nothing but love" toward his family.

"He fooled us. And I'm so sorry. We just thought we were doing the right thing by being a good friend," Nick Thayer said. "We were duped."

"In the 48 to 72 hours we were with him ... he was his normal self," Amanda Thayer added. "He never once cried."

"He and Shanann were always hugging, kissing and smiling. They were just a picture of 'in love,'" she said.

Now, with the accusations that Watts killed his family, Amanda Thayer said: "I want to know why."

"It doesn't make sense," her husband said.

Bodies recovered

Police on Friday positively identified the bodies asShanann Watts, Bella and Celeste have been recovered near each other, officials said while declining to say the location.

Shanann Watts' body was found in a shallow grave near an oil tank, according to court documents filed in Weld County. The property she was found on is where Chris Watts worked, according to ABC affiliate KMGH-TV in Denver.

The daughters' bodies were found inside mostly full oil and gas tanks, according to a motion filed Friday by Chris Watts' defense requesting that DNA swabs be taken from girls' bodies. The bodies had been submerged in oil for four days, the document states.

Forensic scientist Richard Eikelenboom advised that even though the bodies had been in the tanks for several days, DNA would still be present, according to the court documents. The motion requests that the hands and nails of the mother should also be sampled, the document shows.

"It does not seem clear that the coroner, pathologist, or anyone working on behalf of the prosecution team in autopsy plan to take swabs of the necks of the two decedent children," the document states.

The autopsies were expected to take place Friday, according to the motion.

The causes of death were not immediately clear, but a recommendation from Eikelenboom stated, "I have a lot of experience taking samples from dead bodies getting good results after strangulation. The hands of the children should be sampled as well."

Prosecutors said in court Thursday they believe the victims were killed in the family’s home, KMGH-TV reported.

A husband in custody

Chris Watts has been booked on three counts each of first-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence.

He has not yet been formally charged and is set to return to court on Tuesday.

"The suspect is presumed innocent until otherwise proven guilty in the court of law," Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke said at a news conference Thursday.

Authorities have declined to comment on a potential motive.

"Our role now is to do everything we can to determine exactly what occurred and assist in filing the thorough case," Colorado Bureau of Investigation director John Camper added on Thursday.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Aug172018

14-year-old girl stabbed at high school assembly on 1st day of school

iStock/Thinkstock(OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.) -- A 14-year-old girl was allegedly stabbed by a fellow student at a high school assembly in Oklahoma, according to local officials.

The victim was stabbed repeatedly in the upper back, head, arm and wrist on Thursday while she was in the auditorium on the first day of school at Luther High School in Luther, near Oklahoma City, according to the Luther Fire Department.

"The Luther High School Staff did a great job with assisting the victim and keeping her calm," the fire department said.

The girl, whose identity was not released, was taken to a hospital, where she is stable, Sgt. Tony Walker of the Luther Police Department told ABC News on Friday.

The unidentified suspect, a 14-year-old boy who is in ninth-grade, was immediately taken into custody and is being held at a juvenile facility, Walker said.

The motive is unknown, Walker said.

Luther Public Schools wrote on Facebook, "There was an incident at the High School Assembly this morning at the Auditorium. The situation is under control, all students are safe."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Aug172018

Teen who survived lightning strike waiting for 'powers' to kick in

ABC News(PHOENIX) -- A 13-year-old Arizona boy who miraculously survived being struck by lightning says he's now waiting for his "powers" to kick in.

Josiah Wiedman was walking home through a park in Phoenix with a friend when he said a jolt of lightning launched him in the air.

"As we were walking, I got struck ... sending me 9 feet into the air, making me bounce on my head and then flip over to my back," the boy told ABC News. "All I remember is just a little bit of heat -- but barely."

The majority of what he said he remembers from the incident is from what others have told him.

"I really don't remember what happened, but I [have] people telling me what happened," he said. "I was skateboarding and [it happened] just like that."

His mom, Krista Wiedman, told ABC News that two girls who know Josiah ran to their home and "were weeping at the front door" when they told her what happened. The concerned mother immediately called his dad and rushed to the park.

"My son was unresponsive with a medical team surrounding him. At that time, all I could do was drop to my knees and begin to pray," she said.

His father, William Wiedman, hailed a bystander who performed CPR until paramedics arrived on the scene for his son's survival.

"It amazes me that a lot of people stepped in," the father said. "For Cory [Cieszynsky] to be inside his house and to hear this and investigate and run outside and run to my son's aid, he's an angel and I can't thank him enough."

Cieszynsky even checked in on Josiah at the hospital, William Wiedman said.

But after the heroic rescue, William Wiedman wasn't sure his son would make it.

"The first initial report said that Josiah was not going to survive," he said.

Doctors placed Josiah, who suffered a fractured skull and concussion, into a drug-induced coma for three days. The teen shocked everyone with a speedy recovery.

"I couldn't believe it," Krista Wiedman said. "My son should've been dead on the spot."

Javier Tapia, who was with Josiah, was also struck but had only minor injuries and was not taken to the hospital.

Josiah said the experience has give him a new lease on life.

"I'm going to try to live my life a bit more because I know it can end at any time," Josiah said.

Krista called her son her "Superman," but the teen said he's just waiting for those superhero powers to kick in.

"I haven't felt my powers yet but I will soon," he said.

 

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Aug172018

Father charged with murder in alleged fatal beating of man

Maricopa County Sheriff(PHOENIX) -- When Melvin Harris' 16-year-old daughter told him a strange man followed her into the bathroom of an Arizona convenience store and tried to force his way into her stall, his fatherly instinct kicked in and he took matters into his own hands, his fiancée told ABC News on Thursday.

When Harris' frightened daughter told him what happened inside the QuikTrip convenience store in Phoenix he confronted the man, Leon Armstrong, 26, and ended up beating him in a gravel area outside the store, police said.

The encounter left Armstrong dead and Harris in jail on a second-degree murder charge.

"I don't feel like he did anything wrong. He was doing what any father would do," Harris' fiancée, Diana Jackson, told ABC News. "I don't think his intentions were for the man to die. Not at all."

The incident unfolded around 11 p.m. on Aug. 2, after Harris picked his daughter and her friends up from work.

"She wanted to get a fountain drink and she wanted to use the restroom," Jackson said of the couple's daughter.

Harris told Phoenix police that Armstrong approached his car as he waited outside the QuikTrip and panhandled change from him, then went inside the store, according to court records.

Moments later, Harris' daughter came out of the store and told him a man followed her into the restroom, according to the court papers.

"Melvin went into the business and told a security guard he needed to handle the situation, or he would do it himself," according to the court document. "Security told him they would handle the situation."

Harris went back to his car and started to drive away, but then saw Armstrong and confronted him, court documents showed.

"According to witnesses, Melvin approached the victim and punched him in the face causing the victim to fall. Witnesses described the victim as snoring and moaning while on the ground," the court records say. "Melvin then, while standing over the victim, struck the victim in the face several more time and also kicked and stopped [sic] on him."

He then got into his car and drove away, the records said.

Police obtained a detailed description of Harris' car from video surveillance footage and tracked down the man at his home, which is near the convenience store, and detained him for questioning.

"During the interview, he admitted to punching the victim in the face but said it was only because the victim swung at him first, striking him near the neck and shoulder area," according to court records. "After hitting the victim, the victim fell to the ground and curled up into a ball. Melvin denied recalling any further strikes to the victim while he was down on the ground."

Harris was initially arrested on suspicion of felony aggravated assault. The charges were upped to second-degree murder after Armstrong died on Aug. 7.

Police said Armstrong suffered swelling to the brain and a nasal fracture in the confrontation with Harris.

"I understand you want to defend your daughter; I totally get that. I have kids myself. But the way [Harris] went about it was totally wrong," Armstrong's sister, Ashley Armstrong, told ABC affiliate station KNXV-TV in Phoenix.

Armstrong suffered from drug addiction and mental illness, and had been living on the streets of Phoenix, his step-grandmother, Marie Armstrong, told KNXV.

"We did not know where Leon was for days," Marie Armstrong said, adding that the family learned he was in the hospital from police.

"He didn't just get kicked in the head once, twice, maybe three times," she said. "His brain was so beat up that he could not breathe.

She said she does not believe that Armstrong was out to harm Harris' daughter.

"I really seriously in my heart believe that he was confused in the bathroom," Marie Armstrong said.

But Jackson said her daughter was terrified by the incident and believes that Harris was trying to attack her.

"She feels guilty," Jackson told ABC News. "That's what she kept saying. She wishes she had never told [Harris] to take her to that store."

She described Harris as an "awesome" father and "really a family man," who has seven other children and two grandchildren.

"I just think murder shouldn't be an option as a charge," Jackson said.

Harris has not entered a plea. He is expected in court for arraignment on Friday, court records showed.

Harris' court appointed attorney has not commented on the case.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Aug172018

'Ambushed' police officer in Phoenix shooting is now stable, alert

iStock/Thinkstock(PHOENIX) -- A Phoenix police officer who was critically injured in a shooting is now stable and alert, ABC affiliate KNXV-TV in Phoenix reported Friday.

The officer was attempting a traffic stop and was getting out of his police car Thursday night when the suspect opened fire, Phoenix police said.

The officer returned fire and stopped the threat, police said.

"In my opinion, I believed he was ambushed," Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said at the hospital Thursday night.

Though the wounded officer was hospitalized in critical condition, by Friday he was stable, alert and breathing, police told KNXV-TV.

The suspect was listed in critical condition on Thursday, police said, though it was unclear if he was struck by gunfire.

His condition on Friday was not immediately clear.

The officer has been on the force for about a year, police said.

"Thank you for your continued support of our injured officer and our department," the Phoenix police wrote on Twitter Friday. "The support from our law enforcement partners and our community has been amazing and humbling."

"We don't know what’s going to happen when you put on the uniform," a police spokesperson said Thursday night. "You come to work, and you hope for the best."

Police have not identified the officer or the suspect.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Aug172018

Stranger offers kindness to young boy in wheelchair and brings family closer

Jamie Sumner(BEAVER CREEK, Colo.) -- A worker at the skating rink at Beaver Creek, Colorado, made the day of a little boy and a vacation for a family.

And he did it by "not treating Charlie special."

Charlie Sumner has cerebral palsy and was a "medically complex" infant, his mom Jamie Sumner told "Good Morning America." He had a trach and the family couldn't leave the house much.

"It was isolating," said his mom, the author of "Unbound," a book about motherhood and special needs.

Today, Charlie -- now 6 -- uses a wheelchair to get around. The family had attempted the Beaver Creek vacation once before with Charlie and his younger brother and sister, but it "was a disaster," Sumner told "GMA."

This vacation though, was the "best family vacation ever," for the Sumners from Nashville, Tennessee, in part because of the help of perfect stranger.

"Charlie hiked with us in a hiking backpack, we took the train in Leadville, made sure he got to do everything," his mom said. "But the ice skating, that was the one thing I could not think of a way to make work."

His younger brother and sister, now 4, had been "begging" to go ice skating, Sumner said. Her husband, Jody, plays in an ice hockey league, so he wanted to skate too.

At first, it was a situation all too familiar to the family: together, but separate.

"When we go to the park, I'll take Charlie on a walk in his wheelchair on the path while Jody climbs on the monkey bars with the twins," Sumner said.

Charlie and his mom watched the rest of the family from the side. The ice rink worker, whom the family knows only as Richard, was helping Jody with the twins on the ice.

But Charlie wanted to skate too. "Charlie kept pointing to ice," Sumner said.

"Richard came over and said 'want to take him out on the ice?' I wasn't prepared, I didn't think it was an option," Sumner said.

While many people often comment on Charlie being "cute," Sumner explained, they "very rarely offer to be hands on."

"This guy just did it," she said. "He did not treat Charlie special. He treated him like everyone else, just the way he did with his brother and sister."

Sumner attached grippers to her shoes and out on the ice they went. Jody took over, using all his hockey training to give Charlie the fun he deserved.

"Charlie loved it," she said. "He loves to go fast, which he did, he loves to spin around, which he did."

And now, simply because a stranger treated a child with a disability like any other child, the family has a new activity they can do together.

They won't be waiting until next year's trip to Beaver Creek for it either.

"We're going to do it at the indoor rink here," Sumner said. "It's going to be family night."Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Aug172018

Midwest tornadoes reported as severe weather heads to Northeast

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- There were 75 damaging storm reports on Thursday, with tornadoes reported in Illinois, Kansas and Iowa.

Radar estimates showed more than 5 inches of rain fell just south of Tulsa, Oklahoma, over just a few hours, flooding streets and stalling cars.

Strong winds -- with gusts of 60 to 70 mph -- damaged parts of Kansas and Alabama, where a tent collapsed and injured a dozen folks. Trees were uprooted throughout the Plains and Midwest.

The storm system responsible for that is moving east this morning, nearing the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes.

Strong to severe storms are expected later this afternoon throughout the Northeast, from Pennsylvania all the way to Vermont. Damaging wind, hail and isolated tornadoes are all possible.

By Saturday, the cold front likely will make its way to the coast, continuing the threat of heavy rain and storms from Washington up to Boston.

Flash flooding is possible is several regions over the next 48 hours, with more than 3 inches possible locally.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Aug162018

Investigators find bodies believed to be 2 young daughters of father arrested for murder

ABC News(DENVER) -- Colorado investigators believe they have found the bodies of two young girls whose father is accused of killing them, officials said.

Chris Watts was taken into custody Wednesday in connection with the killing of his pregnant wife, Shanann Watts, and two young daughters, Celeste, 3, and Bella, 4, were reported missing Monday by a family friend, according to police in Frederick, about 35 miles north of Denver.

A body believed to be Shanann Watts has been recovered, officials said Thursday.

Evidence technicians from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the Frederick Police Department located two more bodies Thursday "in close proximity" to the body that investigators "strongly believe" is Shanann Watts', the Town of Frederick announced in a statement.

Authorities have a "strong reason to believe" that the two bodies found are Celeste and Bella, officials added.

Chris Watts, 33, was booked on three counts each of first-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence. He is being held without bond and is set to return to court on Tuesday, reported ABC Denver affiliate KMGH-TV. Watts did not enter a plea

The father initially spoke out to the media when his family went missing.

Prosecutors said in court they believe the victims were killed in the family’s home, KMGH-TV reported.

"I'm pissed, raged, miserable," Shanann Watts' brother, Frankie Rzucek, told ABC News.

"I just want to know why," he wrote on Facebook. "My precious family my one and only sibling, my sister Shanann, 2 adorable nieces Bella and Celeste and her soon to be found out unborn son Niko."

"May Satan have mercy on his soul," Rzucek wrote.

Family friends who stood by the husband said they were shocked to hear of his arrest.

Chris Watts had initially told reporters that his wife, 34, disappeared without a trace, leaving her purse and keys at home.

"When I came home and then walked in the house, nothing. Vanished. Nothing was here," he told KMGH-TV Tuesday. "My kids are my life. ... I mean, those smiles light up my life."

Friends who spoke with Chris Watts after his family's disappearance said the only thing missing in the house was his daughter's treasured baby blanket.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Aug162018

Community sends couple whose car accidentally started the Carr Fire in California messages of sympathy

iStock/Thinkstock(REDDING, Calif.) -- Instead of anger and hate, the couple who accidentally started the deadly Carr Fire in Redding, California, has been getting flooded with messages of love and support from the very community devastated by the fire.

When Rachel Pilli heard that it was a couple whose trailer’s flat tire caused the fire igniting sparks she thought about how awful they must be feeling and started to pray for them.

While at church this past Sunday, Pilli overheard a firefighter she knew talking about the same couple, who happened to be his mother’s neighbors, so she asked him to bring them a card from her.

But when she got home that night she thought her friends might be interested in doing the same, so she posted her idea in a private Facebook group, comprised of mostly mothers.

“I personally know someone whose mom is a neighbor to the man whose trailer accident led to #CarrFire," she wrote. "Many of us have been praying for this man (81 yr old). I learned that his wife is blaming herself for the #CarrFire, because she asked him to take the trailer in the first place. She has been crying day and night on her couch."

She went on to write: “Do you think we can love on them and break off the shame/guilt that the enemy is trying to cover her in? Would you like to send her a card? If so, please drop it to me."

When Pilli saw the overwhelming response she received, she was in tears.

“I was crying reading the comments, the comments were just filled with compassion and grace,” Pilli told ABC News.

Her friend, Hope Seth, who's the founder of a Facebook page called “Carr Fire Stories,” re-posted the request asking for positive messages, and within a few days hundreds of comments poured in.

Seth, a mother of four kids, said she created to page to “collect, preserve and share our communities’ experiences from the fire,” and she wanted to use that platform to help garner comfort and support for the couple.

The post received over 600 comments, almost all of them sending the same message: It was an accident, and it wasn’t your fault.

People from all over the country showed their support and empathy, from those who have lived through other fires, to those who faced similar troubles with their RVs -- even those who lost everything in the Carr Fire.

“I live in Redding and my family was affected by the fire in varying degrees," one resident wrote. "I want you to know that I have not heard anyone blame you and we certainly do not.”

Another resident who lost their home also wrote a sweet comment.

“We would in no way blame those folks," the resident wrote. "No one could have ever guessed it, no blame here, not at all.”

Seth printed out the comments and brought them along with a bouquet of flowers donated by her friend to Care Net Pregnancy Center where Pilli serves as the executive director.

“We had over 650 cards, printed messages and packages in less than 48 hours and more are still coming,” Pilli said.

The mail went out for delivery Wednesday and they're hoping the couple will receive it by next week.

The Carr Fire started on July 23 and has burned more than 200,000 acres causing 7 deaths, including 3 firefighters, according to the National Park Service.

Officials have not yet released the names of the couple.

Though it has become one of the most destructive fires in California history, so many stories of kindness and courage similar to this one emerged from the tragedy, Seth said.

“It’s been beautiful to see hope and stories of heroes that other people don’t see,” Seth added.

In the wake of the fire, there have been heroes like the firefighters who left handwritten notes at residents’ homes and took care of their gardens and animals, Seth recalled.

Pilli, too, is in awe of their community’s reactions.

“It really demonstrates the compassion and kindness of our communities," Pilli said.

"This fire has forced us to look into each other’s eyes," Pilli added, "and discover the human kindness in us."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Aug162018

'He fooled us': Friends of man who allegedly killed pregnant wife, daughters speak out after shocking arrest

Weld County Sheriff(DENVER) -- After Chris Watts' pregnant wife and two young daughters were reported missing in their Colorado town Monday, his friends, Nick and Amanda Thayer, rushed to his side.

Watts even spent Tuesday night at the Thayers' home -- before Watts was arrested on Wednesday, accused of killing his wife, Shanann Watts, and the couple's daughters, Celeste, 3, and Bella, 4.

"We feel so stupid... trusting him to stay the night in the same house as our daughter," Nick Thayer told ABC News on Thursday, overcome with emotion. "I'll never let that go."

"In the 48-to-72 hours we were with him ... he was his normal self," Amanda Thayer added. "He never once cried."

Chris Watts had initially told reporters that his wife, 34, disappeared without a trace, leaving her purse and keys at home.

"When I came home and then walked in the house, nothing. Vanished. Nothing was here," Chris Watts told ABC Denver affiliate KMGH-TV Tuesday. "My kids are my life. ... I mean, those smiles light up my life."

Nick Thayer said he and his wife spent Tuesday at the Watts' home, helping their friend through ideas on how to find his missing wife and daughters. Nick Thayer said it didn't cross their minds to ask Watts if he was involved.

"He fooled us. And I'm so sorry. We just thought we were doing the right thing by being a good friend," Nick Thayer said. "We were duped."

"It doesn't make sense. And that's why we were there with him because all the times we were with him it was nothing but love," he said, adding that Watts was a "hands-on dad."

"He and Shanann were always hugging, kissing and smiling. They were just a picture of in love," added Amanda Thayer. "I want to know why."

"She was an amazing person," Amanda Thayer said of Shanann Watts. "She uplifted everyone around her. She listened to your thoughts, your concerns, your life. And never judged you. She gave you great advice."

A body believed to be Shanann Watts has been recovered, officials said Thursday.

Authorities have a "strong reason to believe" they know where the girls' bodies are and recovery efforts are underway, officials added.

Chris Watts, 33, has been booked on three counts each of first-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence.

"The suspect is presumed innocent until otherwise proven guilty in the court of law," Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke said at a news conference Thursday.

Authorities have declined to comment on a potential motive.

"Our role now is to do everything we can to determine exactly what occurred and assist in filing the thorough case," added Colorado Bureau of Investigation director John Camper.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.







ABC News Radio