Marine Battalion Returns Home After Bloody Afghan Deployment

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(PENDLETON, Calif.) -- The Marines of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines have begun to come home to Camp Pendleton after an intense eight month tour in Afghanistan that top Pentagon officials say will rank their battles among the legends of Marine lore.

Referred to as the 3-5, the 950-man Marine battalion experienced some of the highest casualty rates ever experienced by an American combat unit in the war in Afghanistan with 25 dead and 140 wounded. The casualties included more than a dozen amputees.

One of the fatalities was 2nd Lt. Robert Kelly, the son of Lt. Gen. John Kelly, who is the personal military aide to Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The general was the highest ranking officer to lose a child in Afghanistan.

There were happy reunions at Camp Pendleton Monday night as the first wave of 250 Marines returned home from a tour that garnered them praise for their heroism after a long tough fight.

The unit began its bloody tour in October when it took over control of Sangin district from British forces that had also taken significant casualties during their deployments in what had long been a Taliban stronghold.

The Marines were given the tough task of pushing out beyond the town center to broaden the security zone for local residents. They faced heavy combat almost instantly and the unit's increasingly high casualty rates last fall raised concern among top Pentagon officials. By January, Marine commanders were praising the 3-5 Marines for their heroism and battlefield successes that had pushed Taliban forces out of the district.

As the unit's losses mounted during their deployment, military medical personnel said they were surprised by the unit's mental health resiliency and said they didn't find higher combat stress levels.

In an effort to reduce the effects of possible Post Traumatic Stress back home, more mental health professionals have been brought to Camp Pendleton to help the unit and their families. Furthermore, the unit has been ordered to be kept as intact as possible for three months so that the Marines can decompress together. While an Army combat battalion saw 27 fatalities during a 15-month tour, no other unit has faced such high casualty rates in a tour that was half that length.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Mom Found Guilty of Attempted Murder in Autistic Son's Death

Comstock/Thinkstock(LAWRENCE, Mass.) -- A Lawrence, Mass. Superior Court jury found Kristen A. LaBrie guilty of attempted murder Tuesday for withholding chemotherapy medications from her autistic son, who died of leukemia in 2009.

Prosecutors in the case argued that LaBrie committed murder by withholding potentially lifesaving medications for her nine-year-old son, Jeremy Fraser. The defense admitted that LaBrie knowingly withheld her son's medications, but said she did so only because of their painful side effects.

LaBrie, 37, had earlier been charged with child endangerment. A grand jury returned the more serious indictment Friday.

LaBrie faces up to 40 years in prison.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Long Island Serial Killer: Victims' Families Find Comfort in One Another

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Each time investigators discover another set of bones on a stretch of New York beaches believed to be the dumping ground for a serial killer, the families of the killer's victims are struck by fresh grief and reach out to each other for solace.

"Every time they find more, it's like it starts the whole tragedy all over again.  It's like we find out it's our own child that they found over again," said Lorraine Ela, the mother of murder victim Megan Waterman.

That ritual was carried out again Monday when investigators discovered a skull and another set of remains near the Long Island beach, bringing the total number of possible victims to 10.

Ela's 22-year-old daughter disappeared last June and her body was discovered in December.  As the investigation continues, Ela said that she sends Facebook messages to other victims' relatives daily and has developed a strong bond with them.

"They're like family.  We're like one big family," she said.

As a sign of solidarity, several of the relatives have used the photos of the four victims identified so far -- Megan Waterman, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Amanda Costello and Melissa Barthelemy -- as their profile pictures on Facebook.

All of the families will gather in June when Ela has organized a memorial for the victims on the same Long Island beaches that investigators are now scouring for more bodies and clues.  The memorial will be held on the day her daughter disappeared, June 11.  Her daughter left behind a four-year-old daughter.

"I wanted to go where they found my daughter to pay my respects and say my final goodbye to her.  Part of me doesn't feel closure until I can go down there and say my goodbye down there.  I owe that to my daughter and all the other women," Ela said.

Suffolk County police, who are being assisted by Nassau County cops as well as state police and the FBI, have been tight lipped about the investigation.  ABC News has learned that at least one of the victims died by "homicidal asphyxiation," which could mean strangulation or being smothered.

Investigators also are not clear whether one killer is responsible for all of the bodies being found or whether the area is a burial ground for a serial killer and that other murders have been dumped there as well.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


NASA to Announce Homes for Retired Space Shuttles

ABC News(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- Marking the 30th anniversary of the first space shuttle launch, NASA will hold a ceremony Tuesday to announce where three retired space shuttles will go to rest once the program ends later this year.

Over 20 museums and science centers across the U.S. are vying for the remaining space shuttles -- Discovery, Endeavour and Atlantis.  The chosen hosts will have to shell out about $28 million to prepare, deliver and set up a space shuttle for exhibit.

The announcement comes exactly 30 years after space shuttle Columbia first took orbit on April 12, 1981.  Columbia and Challenger -- two of the five space shuttles that took orbit -- were lost in flight.

In all, the orbiters will have a flown a total of 135 missions once the program comes to an end later this year.  Two more missions remain.

Tuesday also marks the 50th anniversary of the first human to be rocketed into space -- Russian Yuri Gagarin.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Two Planes Collide on Tarmac at JFK Airport

WABC-TV(NEW YORK) -- A superjumbo jet collided with another plane while trying to take off from John F. Kennedy International Airport Monday night, leaving both planes grounded with damage.

According to ABC News affiliate WABC-TV in New York, the wing of an Air France Airbus A380 clipped the tail of Comair Flight 6293 just after 8 p.m. while it was taxiing for departure.  The Comair plane had just landed in New York from Boston and was waiting on the tarmac to let the passengers off.

Both planes were damaged in the collision but none of the passengers were harmed.

The planes are currently being inspected.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Santa Monica Synagogue Blast Suspect Arrested in Cleveland

Federal Bureau of Investigation(CLEVELAND) -- The man suspected of using a never-before-seen launcher to fire a projectile at a Santa Monica, Calif., synagogue was arrested Monday night in Cleveland, Ohio by the FBI.

Ron Hirsch, who was the subject of a nationwide manhunt, boarded a bus the same day he hurled 300 pounds of pipe and concrete into the roof of a building adjacent to the Chabad House and less than a block from the Santa Monica synagogue, police said.

Investigators confirmed that a man known as J. Fisher, a known alias used by Hirsch, purchased the bus ticket. He was originally scheduled to arrive in New York on Sunday, but surveillance video shows him getting off the bus in Denver, Colo., investigators said.

Hirsch, who is believed to have family in New York, is a transient known in Los Angeles for towing a trailer full of possessions behind a bicycle, police sources said.

The projectile appears to have been fired from an alley, bounced off the center's wall and crashed through the roof. The bang shattered windows, punctured a hole in the synagogue and sent the 300-pound metal pipe into a neighbor's house where a young boy was sleeping. The incident took place shortly before prayer services at the Chabad House Thursday morning and triggered the evacuation of about 100 people from a four-block radius.

Hirsch is also known as Israel Fisher, according to information released by police. He constructed the projectile device using elements including concrete, explosive powder, dry ice and what appears to be an expansion joint sealant, or other expanding plastic or foam.

The oddly constructed mechanical launcher appears to have been highly effective at hurling its material, although it did not seriously damage the Chabad House, which appears to have been its target.

Law enforcement officials say Hirsch attempted to stay at a Jewish center in Cleveland, where a rabbi recognized him and notified authorities.

An investigation is underway.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Iowa Tornado Destroys Town, but Residents All Survive

Ablestock/Thinkstock (MAPLETON, Iowa) -- When a fierce tornado barreled through Mapleton, Iowa, it leveled more than 100 homes, but because of an early warning given residents, not one person was killed and there was only one injury, the town sheriff said Monday.

The storm that roared through Mapleton on Saturday night was the kind that usually leaves a tragic legacy of death along with the destruction -- most of the buildings in the town of 1,200 were destroyed.

"It's just a war zone, a war zone," Mapleton resident Sandy Davis told ABC News.

Today, the devastation caused by the storm leaves this small American town almost unrecognizable. Sixty percent of the town has been destroyed, but it could have been much worse.

Mapleton Sheriff Jeff Pratt saw the approaching storm clouds and called it in. He and his deputies, along with trained storm spotters, began tracking the storm across the countryside and notified communities in its path to blow their warning sirens earlier than usual. That gave people the time to scramble into basements or seek other shelter.

"There were going to be people hurt, a lot of people hurt, so we called for all the help we could get," Pratt told ABC News Monday.

Authorities said the 15 minutes of warning -- five or 10 minutes more than usual -- given to residents were crucial in preventing any deaths or serious injuries as a tornado barreled through the town.

Jennifer Goslar said that when she heard the sirens, she grabbed her son and ran into the cellar.

"We just said the Lord's Prayer over and over and over," Goslar said. "My husband could hear the ripping of the wood and stuff and he said, 'Oh, our stuff is gone,' and I said, 'It doesn't matter, who cares?'"

The sheriff said those precious extra few minutes may have made all the difference.

"We don't have any fatalities, so I think it made a huge difference," he said. "We stacked 15 ambulances here, [planning for] the worst and we only used two."

Even though so many homes were completely leveled by the powerful storm, ABC News was told there is no need for emergency shelters in town. Neighbors have all been taking care of each other, making sure no one is left in the cold, which is a show of strength after tragedy.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Virginia Lacrosse Murder Trial Holds Preliminary Hearing

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- When University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely was questioned by police about the bludgeoning death of his ex-girlfriend, a detective told him bluntly, "She's dead, you killed her George, you killed her."

The police interview was read in court Monday during a preliminary hearing in the Charlottesville, Va., general district court. The hearing is to demonstrate there is probable cause a crime was committed in the May 3, 2010 death of Yeardley Love, Huguely's on-again, off-again girlfriend. Both were members of the school's nationally ranked lacrosse teams.

During Monday's hearing, Huguely, 23, was present by video conference as his lawyer Fran Lawrence told the court that his client did not intend to kill Love. Lawrence read from a detective's report in which he said during his interview with Huguely, "She's dead, you killed her George, you killed her," according to ABC News affiliate WTBD.

According to the detective's report, Huguely replied in disbelief, "I never did anything that could do that to her."

Defense attorneys for Huguely have argued that Love's death was caused by drugs and not by a brutal beating.

The 22-year-old Love was found face down and bloodied in her Charlottesville, Va., apartment. Her death came days after she told Huguely she was breaking off their relationship. Love's family issued a statement before Monday's hearing.

"We have faith in the justice system and trust that the truth will prevail," the family said. "We miss Yeardley so very much and will work tirelessly to make her proud of us. It is truly devastating to wake up each day and realize she is no longer here."

The Loves' statement continues: "Her bright, bright future was stolen from us all. Yeardley's contagious smile, kind spirit and gentle touch have left this world but we know heaven now has an angel like no other. We will never be able to sufficiently thank everyone for their outpouring of love, support and prayers. They have given us the strength to continue and we are eternally grateful to each and every one of them. "

Huguely's attorney has argued that Love's murder was a tragic accident, and Huguely at the time waived his Miranda rights and told authorities exactly what had happened the night she was killed.

Huguely confessed to police, according to search warrants in the case, that in the early morning hours on a Monday, he kicked in the door to Love's bedroom and shook her violently, repeatedly banging her head against the wall.

Love's body was found later Monday after an early morning 911 call, face down on her pillow in a pool of blood. Her face was covered in scrapes and bruises, according to the warrant, and her right eye was swollen shut.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Cops: Long Island Bodies May Be from More than One Killer

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The heavily thicketed ground that borders a highway along a stretch of New York beaches where as many as 10 bodies have been found is now being examined as the disposal site for a serial killer and a possible dumping ground for other killers.

More bones were found Monday along the Long Island beaches and have been sent to the medical examiner's office to determine whether they are from one or two people. One of the remains is just a skull.

Authorities involved in the painstaking probe along the popular stretch of public beach now involves more than 125 state, federal and local investigators from two neighboring counties.

Investigators have said they believe that a serial killer was responsible for the murders, and Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said Monday that police are looking for "the animal that has obviously taken the lives of a number of people."

But probers now say that they cannot rule out the likelihood that more than one killer will be linked to the bodies, which total seven sets of adult human remains, a toddler's remains and the bones found Monday that may be from one or two people.

"Now the question is connectivity," one law enforcement supervisor told ABC News. "Geographically it is secluded and makes a perfect dumping ground."

According to authorities, any differences in the method of murder, disposal, burial, and any DNA evidence will be among the elements of a rigorous forensic examination. The probe will include the assistance of state police and FBI agents including evidence collection experts, behavior science investigators and profiling gurus.

According to multiple sources familiar with the investigation, a number of persons are under investigation in connection with the first eight corpses, and those include persons of interest with a law enforcement or emergency service background and familiarity with the beach. All of those who were described to ABC News were local suspects. They were under examination for any role in the killing of some or all of the victims.

The corpses were strewn along a several-mile stretch that includes state-run and county beaches. The stretch begins about 45 minutes from Manhattan and includes the popular Jones Beach State Park.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Hunt for Long Island Serial Killer Turns Up More Bones

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Investigators hunting for a serial killing "animal" found two more sets of bones on New York beaches Monday, raising the number of possible victims to 10.

The medical examiner on Long Island, however, is trying to determine whether one set of bones is human or animal. One of the remains was just a skull, police said.

Police sources also revealed to ABC News that one of the bodies is that of a toddler about 18 months old. It was not clear if the child was connected to the serial killer's murderous spree.

Investigative sources told ABC News that there are multiple persons of interest who may be linked to the bodies on the Long Island beaches and to missing prostitute Shannan Gilbert, whose body has not been found. Among those persons of interest are several who have links to law enforcement and have knowledge of or regular access to the beaches, sources to ABC News.

"We want to bring to justice this animal that has obviously taken the lives of a number of people," Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said.

The latest discovery was about five miles from where eight other bodies were located, and about 1.5 miles east from the popular Jones Beach.

A team of 50 people broadened their search from Long Island's Suffolk County to Nassau County on Monday. They have been joined by New York State Park Police and the FBI, including the FBI's behavioral analysis team.

The fear of a serial killer first spread in December of last year when four bodies were discovered near Gilgo Beach in Suffolk County. The four victims were all identified as prostitutes who advertised their services on Craigslist.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio