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Wednesday
Aug172011

Exclusive: Aruba Suspect Took Out $1.5 Million Insurance Policy

Courtesy of Richard Forester(ORANJESTAD, Aruba) -- Authorities in Aruba are investigating an insurance policy taken out by Gary Giordano before his trip to Aruba as a possible motive in the disappearance of missing Maryland woman Robyn Gardner.

The investigation into the $1.5 million accidental death policy on Gardner -- which names Giordano as a beneficiary -- has been confirmed exclusively with ABC News by a police source in Aruba, as has the fact that he purchased the pricier one-year policy over the cheaper, more commonly purchased five-year policy.

Gardner, 35, has been missing for two weeks, since reportedly snorkeling with Giordano off of an isolated beach on Aug. 2.  The two traveled together from Maryland to Aruba on July 31.  She is now presumed to be dead by Aruba police.

The FBI is also investigating the American Express accidental death policy and has agents in Aruba to question Giordano -- a man whom court documents show is trailed by a history of domestic violence.

Giordano, 50, was ordered this week to remain in an Aruban jail for another 16 days while police investigate what they say are "serious inconsistencies" in his story.  Investigators have found apparent gaps in time between when witnesses saw the pair on the beach and the timeline Giordano gave when he reported Gardner missing.

Though he has not been charged with a crime, Giordano remains the only suspect in the case.

Surveillance video from local businesses place Giordano and Gardner at the Rum Reef Bar & Grill in the Baby Beach area of the island before Gardner went missing, a police source in Aruba told ABC News.  Restaurant staff said that Gardner seemed woozy while the two ate; Giordano later told police they'd been drinking vodka at the Marriott before dining, and that she'd taken sleeping pills earlier in the day, the police source said.

Video also shows Giordano in his rental car parked in the back of the bar and restaurant.  The Toyota Rav-4 had tinted windows, so no one else in the vehicle can be identified.  Giordano parked the car in the back parking lot twice; he told police that he wanted to park in the shade, the police source told ABC News.

The car was cleaned once Giordano returned the car to the Star rental at Aruba's airport, so police were unable to investigate the vehicle, according to police in Aruba.  The rental agents said that they didn't notice anything unusual when it was cleaned.

Investigators have also said that they had trouble identifying Giordano in surveillance video because he frequently changed his toupees.

At approximately 6:02 p.m., after Gardner went missing, the police source said that Giordano is also seen in surveillance video, tapping on closed shutters of the bar -- seemingly making his presence known.  At approximately 6:20 p.m. he headed to the back kitchen of the bar and told someone to call police.

Authorities said that that they found blood on a rock behind the dive shop at the Rum Reef Bar & Grill, which is the last place the two were seen together.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug172011

Body of Missing 3-Year-Old Breeann Rodriguez Found

Comstock/Thinkstock(DUNKIN COUNTY, Mo.) -- Authorities have found the body of missing 3-year-old Breeann Rodriguez in Dunklin County, Mo. after an exhaustive search that began when the young girl went missing Aug. 6.

The young girl's body was found in a drainage ditch at 9 p.m., according to Dunklin County Prosecuting Attorney Stephen Sokoloff.

Shawn Morgan, a 43-year-old steel factory worker and father of three, was quietly arrested around 11 p.m. Friday.  Sokoloff said that in addition to first-degree murder, Morgan was charged with armed criminal action and tampering with physical evidence.

Two small bicycle training wheels were found Thursday in an area of "heavy brush" located approximately two miles southeast of Breeann's home which the FBI said may have come from the tot's bicycle.

The girl's father, Edgar Rodriguez, identified the wheels as belonging to his daughter because he had adjusted the wheels for his daughter, the FBI said.

The little girl was last seen riding her bike with her 5-year-old brother. Her brother ran inside to get a drink, and when he returned his sister had disappeared.

Senath, where the Rodriguezes live, is a tiny hamlet in the southeast corner of Missouri state with a population of less than 1,600 people and an extremely low crime rate.

"I got a child missing and it ain't supposed to happen," Senath Police Department Chief Omar Karnes said earlier this week.

Billboards with Breeann's picture went up in Missouri and Arkansas with an announcement of a $45,000 reward -- $25,000 from the FBI and $20,000 from the Senath Marshal's Office -- for the arrest and prosecution of whoever is responsible.

One of the many early leads in the case included the investigation of two vans that were seen in the area before Breeann's disappearance. The driver of one of the vehicles had been brought in for questioning by Senath police but has since been released, and the sheriff said Saturday officials are no longer interested in the vans.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug172011

Casey Anthony's Parents to Tell Their Story to Dr. Phil

Hand Out/ABC News(LOS ANGELES) -- George and Cindy Anthony, the parents of acquitted murder defendant Casey Anthony and grandparents of murder victim Caylee Anthony, will tell their story to Dr. Phil McGraw in an interview to air on his show's season premiere Sept. 12.

"We appreciate the way in which Dr. Phil has helped others, and we trust him enough to completely open our hearts in telling our story," George Anthony said in a written statement released by Paramount Television on behalf of the Dr. Phil show.  "He is a professional that understands the uniqueness of our family situation.  There's no one better to do this interview than Dr. Phil.  We knew he would ask the difficult questions, and we were right."

Both George and Cindy Anthony were key witnesses at their daughter Casey Anthony's trial, at which Casey Anthony, 25, was acquitted on July 5, 2011 of charges she killed her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, but convicted of charges she lied to authorities about the case.

During the trial, defense attorneys accused George Anthony and other members of the Anthony family of abusing Casey Anthony, accusations that were denied.

In the Paramount release, Dr. Phil expressed sympathy for the Anthonys' "ordeal."  But he added that "nothing is off limits" during the interview.

"Cindy and George have suffered a horrific loss with the untimely death of their granddaughter Caylee, and they have since endured an unprecedented public attack on their family," Dr. Phil said.  "Have these attacks been warranted, or not?  I looked them straight in the eye and asked some very tough questions.  Despite living under a 'media microscope' for years, THEIR story has never really been told and there's so much more to it than we've heard in the media."

Cindy Anthony offered her own reasons for breaking her silence about the trial and its verdict.

"We knew that we'd want to speak at some point, and we figured there was no better place than with Dr. Phil," she said in the written statement.  "We are hoping that by doing this interview, we will be able to help other people who may be experiencing struggles of their own.  We certainly don't want anyone to experience what we have these last three years."

Paramount emphasized that the Anthonys did not seek payment for the interview, but they asked for an unspecified donation to "Caylee's Fund," a separate charity that will honor their granddaughter, argue for missing and abused children and grandparents' rights.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug172011

Texas Rangers to Honor Dead Baseball Fan with Statue

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images(ARLINGTON, Texas) -- One of saddest sports stories of the summer occurred at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas last month when a 39-year-old man fell over the railing to his death while trying to catch a baseball tossed by Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton.

What made the accident even more tragic was that Shannon Stone was attending the game with his six-year-old son, Cooper, who watched his father fall 20 feet onto a cement embankment.

This week, the Rangers organization announced it has commissioned the building of a statue to honor Shannon Stone that will be placed outside the stadium.

Entitled "Rangers Fans," the statue will feature the Brownwood, Texas firefighter and his son.

CEO and club president Nolan Ryan -- a Hall of Fame pitcher who played for Texas -- said, "I want for people to remember Shannon and Cooper.  And I want our fans to know that they represent what we are all about, about family entertainment and making memories."

In addition, there have been charities set up to take care of the financial needs of Stone's widow and her son.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug162011

Defense Secretary Panetta Warns Against Deeper Pentagon Cuts

DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey, U.S. Air Force(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned again Tuesday that deeper cuts in the defense budget could affect national security and prove devastating to the military, leaving a hollow force unprepared to deal with global threats.  
 
Speaking at the National Defense University alongside Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a discussion on the recent debt ceiling agreement prompted Panetta to reiterate that a choice does not have to be made between national security and fiscal responsibility.  “I want the country to know that we can get this done, but we have to do it in a way that protects our national defense and protects our national security," said Panetta.
 
Panetta said both he and Clinton recognize how important it is that  “as we go through these budget tests that we're going to go through, that the country recognize how important it is that we maintain our national security and that we be strong."
 
The debt ceiling agreement reached earlier this month calls for the Defense Department to make $350 billion in spending cuts over the next decade, which is in the ballpark for spending cuts the Pentagon had anticipated earlier this year.  What concerns Panetta the most is the potential of an automatic $500 billion cut specifically targeting Pentagon spending that would go into place if Congress cannot agree on further mandated reductions.  
 
“This kind of massive cut across the board which would literally double the number of cuts that we're confronting," he said. "That would have devastating effects on our national defense. It would have devastating effects on, certainly, the State Department."
 
A one-time director of the Office of Management and Budget, Panetta said he spoke from experience when he said that a serious review of the nation’s budget spending must include a look at mandatory entitlement spending and taxes.  “If you're serious about dealing with budget deficits, you can't just keep going back to the discretionary part of the budget," he said.    
 
He warned that an across-the-board cut would break faith with troops and their families and “literally undercut our ability to put together the kind of strong national defense we have today."
 
Panetta was asked about news reports that the Pentagon is considering a change in the military’s current retirement package, in which service members who have served 20 years in uniform receive an annual pension worth half their pay.
 
The  Defense Business Board, a DOD advisory panel, has recommended doing away with the current system in favor of a 401k retirement plan that would be collected at the typical retirement age.
 
Panetta stressed that no decisions had been made with regard to retirement payouts, but said, “it's the kind of thing you have to consider, in terms of retirement reforms in the broad form."
 
He said such reforms had to be done “in a way that doesn't break faith...with our troops and with their families” that would include grandfathering the benefits of those already serving in uniform.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug162011

MLK Memorial Still $6 Million Shy of Reaching Goal, But Will Go as Planned

A master stone carver stands next to a panel where he has carved the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. in stone in Washington, D.C. The King Memorial is scheduled to be unveiled in late August. (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Thousands of visitors will descend upon the National Mall in Washington, D.C. later this month to witness the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial -- a moment that has been 25 years in the making.

Event organizers have had to overcome a number of obstacles such as public criticism, and now one more stands in their way -- a $6 million hurdle.

"It's been an uphill battle all the way, but we are confident that we'll reach our goal," said Harry Johnson, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc.

The four-acre site, complete with a 28-foot high granite statue of King, stretches from the Tidal Basin to Independence Avenue, and sits between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials. It also comes with a $120 million price tag. So far, organizers have raised $114 million through private and public donations.

To reach its financial goal, the foundation has employed a number of grassroots strategies, such as children raising donations at school-based events.

Johnson says the foundation has raised $1.4 million in donations from churches and synagogues from all over the country. He added that people who believe in King's message have been donating $5 or $10 through the foundation's website, text messages and mail-in donation forms.

"The event is going to happen," Johnson said. "I'm positive. We like to think about the positive."

Aside from finances, the memorial drew criticism after the foundation asked Chinese artist Lei Yixin to design and construct the site. USA Today reported that the organizer's decision to choose an artist from outside of the U.S. and from a communist country was a point of contention for dissenters.

"Dr. King would have wanted us to pick the person who would do the best job regardless of the color," Johnson said. "He said it in his speeches that we should not judge a person by skin but the content of his character."

The memorial features numerous design elements, including a Stone of Hope, a Mountain of Despair and an inscription wall. Stone of Hope and Mountain of Despair are plays on a line from King's famous "I Have a Dream Speech," during which he said, "We shall hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope."

The 14 quotes adorning the inscription wall come from some of King's most famous speeches. Johnson said the four central tenets of King -- love, hope, justice and democracy -- were the deciding factors on which quotes made the wall, and the positive quotes will ensure the "living memorial will live on to eternity."

"This will mean something to all people in general regardless of their color," he said. "No gender or race is mentioned in the quotes."

The commemorative site will be the first on the National Mall to honor a person who was not a president or a soldier. This will also be the first time a person of color will be honored with a statue at the D.C. site.

The unveiling event scheduled for Aug. 28 will coincide with the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington and King's "I Have a Dream" speech. The event is expected to feature musical performances by a number of entertainers, including singer Smokey Robinson.

Some Interesting Facts About the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial:

The address of the memorial is 1964 Independence Avenue. 1964 is the year President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law.

King's memorial statue is located near the cherry trees on the National Mall, which coincidentally bloom each year around the week King was assassinated.

The Aug. 28 dedication is exactly three years to the day of President Barack Obama's acceptance of the Democratic nomination. The White House announced on Aug. 4 that the president will speak at the unveiling. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell is also scheduled to attend.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug162011

BART Protests: Can City-Run Agencies Censor Your Cellphone Usage?

(SAN FRANCISCODavid Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images) -- San Francisco's BART -- the Bay Area Rapid Transit system -- has clashed with demonstrators again over a First Amendment issue: whether it can legally cut off cellphone service on subway platforms.

When protesters and hacking group Anonymous organized demonstrations by smartphone, urging people to gather at subway stops over the police shooting of a homeless man, BART responded by turning off cellular service to four underground San Francisco train stations.  The transit agency said the outage lasted for three hours and only affected subway platforms where paying customers got on and off trains.

Monday night, when demonstrators crowded around stations again, BART closed the stations but did not shut down cell transmissions. That was not the end of the issue, though. In an email to ABC News Tuesday, BART spokesman James K. Allison said, "This, however, does not preclude the future use of this tactic should it be deemed necessary to protect our customers from the potential of dangerous conditions."

Legal scholars said the transit system's decision to shut off cellular service raises tremendous First Amendment issues that may not be addressed adequately by existing laws -- a question of how cellphone service should be regarded. Is it a means of free speech, like a printing press or a bullhorn? Or, in a subway station, is it a convenience provided by BART -- a service it has a right to cut off?

The Federal Communications Commission said it was investigating BART's right to cut off cellular service. The ACLU of Northern California held off on filing suit against BART but sent an angry letter to the FCC, calling BART the "first known government agency in the United States to block cell service in order to disrupt a political protest."

"I think it's very dangerous territory," said Gene Policinski, executive director of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University. "The right to protest is as American as apple pie."

"At sporting events, it's not uncommon to limit the number of people allowed on a train platform," he said. "But in this case, do they meet the very high test of imminent danger in a specific area?"

In a statement Monday, BART management said, "BART accommodates expressive activities that are constitutionally protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Liberty of Speech Clause of the California Constitution (expressive activity), and has made available certain areas of its property for expressive activity." But it said there are limits.

"Paid areas of BART stations are reserved for ticketed passengers who are boarding, exiting or waiting for BART cars and trains, or for authorized BART personnel. No person shall conduct or participate in assemblies or demonstrations or engage in other expressive activities in the paid areas of BART stations, including BART cars and trains and BART station platforms."

A BART official, asking not to be quoted by name, said the shutoff was intentionally limited, and someone with an urgent call to make could simply walk up to street level.

But there was disagreement within BART itself. By cutting off demonstrators' ability to send a text message starting a protest, did it violate the rights of bystanders who might be using their cellphones simply to call family or friends?

"I'm just shocked that they didn't think about the implications of this," said Lynette Sweet, who serves on BART's board of directors. "We really don't have the right to be this type of censor. In my opinion, we've let the actions of a few people affect everybody. And that's not fair."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug162011

Facebook Mystery: Man Killed After Ex-Girlfriend Posts Ominous Message

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- A Philadelphia man whose ex-girlfriend allegedly used Facebook to put out a $1,000 contract on him has been shot and killed, although the woman and a man who answered her post are both in jail.

Corey White was shot once in the chest Monday evening after reportedly having an argument with at least one suspect later seen fleeing in a brown vehicle, Philadelphia police spokewoman Tanya Little said.

ABC News affiliate WPVI reported the car had been stolen from the 69th Street Transportation Center during the day and later found on fire in Yeadon, Pa.

Earlier this year White's ex-girlfriend, 20-year-old London Eley, who is also the mother of his child, posted on Facebook, "I will pay somebody a stack to kill my baby father." Police said a "stack" refers to $1,000.

Timothy Bynum allegedly responded, "Say no more...what he look like...where he be at...need that stack 1st," according to police.

Eley's attorney told ABCNews.com it was either White or one of his relatives who saw the post on Facebook and called police.

Both Eley, 20, of Philadelphia, and Bynum, 18, of Darby, Pa., have been in custody since mid-June in Philadelphia County jail. Eley is being held on solicitation to commit murder and terroristic threat charges. Bynum was arrested on four charges, including attempted murder.

On Monday -- just hours before the shooting -- a judge reduced bail for Eley from $50,000 to $35,000 and Bynum's bail was reduced from $75,000 to $50,000, although both remain in jail.

Gerald Stein, Eley's attorney, told ABCNews.com that his client had nothing to do with White's death.

"I know where my client is and therefore I know where she wasn't," said Stein, explaining Eley and Bynum were in jail when the shooting occurred.

"I recognize there is a coincidence in timing between the hearing yesterday and the death of Mr. White, but at this time that's all it is. And I don't think premature conclusions are warranted for my client or the codefendant," Stein said.

Philadelphia police are investigating the shooting. "There is no motive at this time," said Little, the department's spokeswoman.

Police do not yet know if the Facebook message and the killing are linked.

Stein dismissed Eley's Facebook remark, saying she was venting online after arguing with White and that her message was "the product of momentary anger."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug162011

Seven 'Lost' Dr. Seuss Stories to Be Published

Gene Lester/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- If you'd like to read a book in a nook, a new book with a new hook that uses cool words like zook, then take a seat and put up your feet, because a new Dr. Seuss treat is coming. How neat!

Seven lost stories by the beloved children's author will hit bookshelves on Sept. 27.

The tales, full of whimsical new characters such as a gluttonous duck named McKluck as well as Dr. Seuss' signature rhyming style, will be bundled together in a book called The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories.

"The stories are complete and satisfying. They are not at all second-class citizens," Cathy Goldsmith, vice president and associate publishing director of Random House/Golden Books Young Readers Group, told Publishers Weekly.

The Bippolo Seed will feature Dr. Seuss' original illustrations, but enlarged and with added color.

The stories were first published in Redbook in 1950 and 1951 during a period when the author frequently wrote short stories for magazines.

"These were not stories that were found in a drawer after his death," Dr. Seuss afficionado Charles Cohen told Publisher's Weekly. "Ted Geisel felt very strongly about them."

Cohen discovered the stories while researching some of Dr. Seuss' early work. He purchased the magazines on eBay for a few dollars apiece. Random House told Publisher's Weekly that Cohen first pitched them the idea of turning Dr. Seuss' magazine stories into a hardcover book 11 or 12 years ago.

During that time, however, several Seuss milestones got in the way. Cohen helped the publisher celebrate the author's 100th birthday, known as the "Seussentennial". He also penned introductions to several of Dr. Seuss' books that were celebrating their 50th anniversaries.

Random House and Cohen did not respond to ABC News’ requests for comment.

Theodor Seuss Geisel died in 1991, leaving behind a legacy of 44 children's books, which he wrote and illustrated. Dr. Seuss' books have been translated into 15 languages and have sold more than 200 million copies.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug162011

Missing in Aruba: Last Person to See Robyn Gardner Helping Cops

Courtesy of Richard Forester(ORANJESTAD, Aruba) -- The last person to see Robyn Gardner and Gary Giordano together was the owner of a dive shop on Aruba who noticed their car far out on a rocky point of the island which he thought was an unlikely place to be snorkeling.

Gardner, 35, has been missing since and is presumed by Aruba police to be dead.

Giordano, 50, was ordered this week to remain in an Aruban jail for another 16 days while police investigate what they say are apparent gaps in time between when witnesses saw the pair on the beach and the timeline Giordano gave when he reported Gardner missing.

The owner of the dive shop at the Rum Reef Bar & Grill, who wished to remain anonymous, said that he saw the pair that afternoon that Gardner vanished. He said he noticed the woman's shoulder tattoos --- a leopard print pattern -- but saw no unusual behavior.

He later saw Giordano's rental car at the tip of a rocky path leading out to the ocean, and said he thought at the time how unusual it was to see people snorkeling at that spot.

Stein has said that there were apparent gaps in time between when witnesses saw the pair on the beach and the timeline Giordano gave when he reported Gardner missing.

Prior to a court hearing on Monday, Stein said prosecutors would focus on Giordano's troubling history with women, including two restraining orders taken out against him and allegations of domestic violence.

Giordano emerged from a judicial hearing Monday with a shirt draped over his head as he headed to jail for at least another 16 days.

Gardner's family applauded the judge's ruling.

"We are confident in the decision made by the Aruban authorities to keep Gary Giordano in custody," the family said in a statement released through a spokesman.

"We are still hoping to find out what has happened to our daughter, as we have not given up hope that she may still be alive...We just want to find our daughter, and we continue to ask the public for any tips they may have in helping our Robyn come home," the statement said.

Aruba police will now have more than two weeks to mount a case against Giordano, based on evidence collected from witnesses, surveillance video, personal cellphones and laptops, and other information collected by police and the FBI, which is helping with the investigation.

Federal agents searched Giordano's Maryland home over the weekend, seizing cellphones and laptops. The home was known to have been equipped with surveillance cameras and signs warning visitors that video and audio of their visits would be recorded, according to neighbors.

In recent days, police searched an abandoned phosphate mine not far from where Giordano says Gardner was swept out to sea, but found only a pink shirt and black sandals that don't belong to the missing woman.

Still, investigators have not said they have a motive, a weapon, or a body to help prove their case.

Police asking members of the public that may have information about Gardner's disappearance to call 011-297-582-0695 and leave their tip and contact information. The Natalee Holloway Resource Center, which is also helping with the case, has set up an American tip line at 407-237-2295.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio