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Thursday
Sep192019

'It could be anybody': Family awaits answers in desperate search for missing 5-year-old girl

Bridgeton Police Department(BRIDGETON, N.J.) -- An Amber Alert remains in effect in New Jersey for 5-year-old Dulce Maria Alavez amid a statewide manhunt for an unidentified individual who police say was seen leading the little girl into a red van.

Dulce was last seen Monday afternoon in the area of City Park in Bridgeton, N.J.

Dulce's mother reported to authorities that she saw her daughter playing on the swings with her 3-year-old brother, about 30 yards away, while she remained in her car with an 8-year-old relative. The mother said the toddler returned to her car without his sister and she was unable to find her, according to a press release from the Bridgetown Police Department.

Local, state and federal authorities have been searching for the little girl ever since. FBI Newark on Thursday urged the public to "not spread rumors on social media" with respect to the investigation or Dulce's disappearance.

"Information is being released through official channels. Don't be responsible for distracting the focus of everyone's efforts," the FBI tweeted. A spokeswoman for the agency said the tweet was not in response to any specific rumors, but a general reminder.

Dulce's mother, Noema Alavez Perez, said her daughter "would never run off" or "walk by herself."

"All of us are missing her a lot," Perez told reporters Wednesday.

The New Jersey State Police issued the Amber Alert for Dulce early Wednesday after investigators interviewed people who were in the area at the time she vanished. Based on those interviews, detectives believe Dulce was taken by a light-skinned, possibly Hispanic man wearing a black shirt and red pants with orange sneakers.

The unidentified man is described as being around 5-foot-6 to 5-foot-8 and having a thin build, acne and no facial hair. He was last seen leading Dulce from the Bridgeton City Park playground into a red van with tinted windows and a sliding door on Monday at approximately 4:20 p.m. local time, according to the New Jersey State Police.

"It could be anybody. We don't know if it's a family member, strangers," Dulce's aunt, Nayiber Alavez, told reporters Wednesday. "But the only thing we're asking is for her to come back home safely."

Bridgeton Police Chief Michael Gaimari said investigators haven't ruled anything out and that the individual responsible for Dulce's disappearance could be a stranger or a known person. Detectives have been in constant contact with the little girl's mother and will conduct follow-up interviews with more family members.

"We don't have any solid suspects, we are investigating all the possibilities," Gaimari told reporters Wednesday. "We have video surveillance that we've gathered from all of this area as much as we could obtain."

Surveillance footage shows Dulce with her mother and little brother buying ice cream at a nearby store before they headed to the park on Monday afternoon. She's seen wearing a yellow shirt, black-and-white checkered pants with a flower design, and white sandals. Her long dark hair was pulled back in a pony tail at the time.

Dulce is Hispanic and roughly 3 feet, 5 inches tall, police said.

Anyone with information on her whereabouts is urged to call the New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit at 1-609-882-2000 ext. 2554, the Bridgeton Police Department at 1-856-451-0033, or to immediately dial 911.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Sep192019

'Worst flooding I've ever seen': Torrential rain wreaks havoc in Texas communities

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Dangerous flash flooding is wreaking havoc in Texas with the remnants of Tropical Storm Imelda dumping massive amounts of rain overnight and into the morning.

The torrential rain prompted a full ground stop at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Thursday morning. The airport later reopened but officials warned of flooded roadways and delayed flights.

More than 33 inches of rain has fallen in the town of Hamshire, Texas, since Tuesday -- and over 25 inches of that rainfall was overnight.

In the small town of Winnie, Texas, the conditions are "horrible," with rapidly rising floodwaters making roads impassable, Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne told ABC News as the rain pounded down Thursday.

"This is the worst flooding I’ve ever seen," Hawthorne said.

Some of the same houses flooded during Hurricane Harvey two years ago are now taking on water again, said Hawthorne.

The water has "run out of places to go," the sheriff said.

Some homes have four to five feet of water inside, Hawthorne said, and dump trucks and airboats were being used to get people to safety. The sheriff believed about 45 people still needed to be rescued as of Thursday morning.

The local hospital stayed open but about one dozen patients were evacuated, he added.

"Until it quits raining, it's gonna be a nightmare," the sheriff said.

In Beaumont -- between Houston and Lake Charles, La. -- over 250 high-water rescue requests were called into 911, the local police department said Thursday morning.

"Please shelter in place and seek high ground," the Beaumont police tweeted. "DO NOT drive."

Rainfall rates up to 5 inches per hour were reported overnight near Beaumont, Texas, dumping the worst flooding since Hurricane Harvey.

The threat isn't over. What's left of Tropical Storm Imelda is still sitting over eastern Texas and western Louisiana, bringing more rain Thursday morning.

The remains of Imelda will then slowly track north on Thursday spreading rain into northeastern Texas, northern Louisiana and southern Arkansas and Oklahoma.

As much as 10 inches of additional rain is expected in eastern Texas and more flash flooding is expected in the next 24 hours.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Sep192019

Is the dictionary sexist? Petition calls for Oxford English Dictionary to remove sexist terms for women

bernie_photo/iStock(LONDON) -- A petition that now has nearly 30,000 signatures and counting on Change.org was started by a simple online search.

Maria Beatrice Giovanardi, a London-based communications and marketing expert, typed the word “woman” into a search engine earlier this summer while looking up information on women’s earnings.

She said she was bombarded with results for synonymous of woman that included words like bitch, piece, bit, mare, baggage, wench, petticoat, frail and biddy.

“I was like, 'What’s going on? Why are these the synonyms?'” Giovanardi, 28, told Good Morning America. “I don’t see myself like this as a woman.

“My girlfriends don’t speak like this so it’s a man’s point of view,” she recalled thinking.

Giovanardi learned the information about the word "woman" she saw online came from content produced by Oxford University Press, a department of the University of Oxford in the U.K. that also produces the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

As Giovanardi looked further into it, she saw more examples of what she described as sexist language, including using sentences like these as examples alongside the definition of women: "‘One of his sophisticated London women;" "Don't be daft, woman!": and "he wondered whether Billy had his woman with him."

"If you look up 'man' you see sentences of what men can be doing as individuals, while with women you see sentences of women as an oppressed group, not as individuals," she said. "Their goal is to portray language but this has a very judgmental bias."

Giovanardi took action by starting the Change.org petition titled, "Change Oxford Dictionary’s Sexist Definition of ‘Woman.'"

Since June, the petition has drawn 29,926 signatures and counting.

"One of our goals was to have as many signatures as the Oxford student body, which is around 24,000 students, so we achieved that goal," she said. "But the more pressure the better so we hope to get more and more."

The petition has already caught the attention of the Oxford University Press, which dedicated a blog post to responding to the petition.

The post specifies that the content around women called out by the petition comes from the Oxford Thesaurus of English and the Oxford Dictionary of English, which "aim to cover contemporary English usage and are accessible online in a variety of formats."

"These texts are based on the methodologies of descriptive, corpus-based lexicography, meaning that editors analyse large quantities of evidence from real-life use to determine the meanings of words," the post explains in part. "If there is evidence of an offensive or derogatory word or meaning being widely used in English, it will not be excluded from the dictionary solely on the grounds that it is offensive or derogatory."

Oxford University Press also told GMA in a statement Thursday: "Our dictionaries strive to reflect, rather than dictate, how language is used. This is achieved by using an evidence-based approach, drawing on vast collections of written English from books, magazines, journals, and other digital sources."

"Our editors analyse these collections to determine how real people use English in their daily lives," the statement read. "In cases where words or senses are considered offensive, they are clearly labelled as such."

Giovanardi's petition definitely started a conversation, which is what she told GMA was one of her goals.

One woman, who identifies herself as a feminist and a linguist, took to Twitter to explain why she didn't sign the petition.

"Lobbying dictionaries to make their definitions fit your political preferences is misguided," she wrote.

 

 

Giovanardi said she plans to keep up the "pressure" with her petition because, for her, Oxford University's reply was not enough.

"Our point is that sexism against someone is not acceptable and it is not okay to have definitions like these about women," she said. "We also want them to remove the sentences that denote women being the property of men, and there’s a lot of them,and make it more inclusive."

And even people who may not sign the petition should walk away from the debate asking themselves questions, according to Giovanardi.

"I hope people ask themselves if are we doing enough to patrol sexism and see how widespread it is and ask if we are we taking it seriously enough," she said. "Because it’s very embedded in every part of society."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Sep192019

Gilroy Garlic Festival will come back next year in spite of deadly shooting in July

albertc111/iStock(GILROY, Calif.) -- The deadly shooting at a California garlic festival is not going to stop the tradition from continuing next year.

The organizer of the Gilroy Garlic Festival announced that they are planning to hold the festival again in 2020 in spite of the July 2019 shooting that left three dead and more than a dozen injured.

"There's still a process of healing and grieving and that's going to go on a long time, and it's different for everyone. But the outpouring of support and feedback from people who want to be here next year, want us to be here next year is undeniable and we want to honor that," festival executive director Brian Bowe told ABC affiliate KSBW on Tuesday.

The festival's website also reiterated their mission to bring the 42nd year of the event back to the community next year.

"The Gilroy Garlic Festival has always brought our local community together and we are united in honoring those whose lives were lost and forever changed by the tragedy on July 28, 2019," the statement on the website reads.

"We are deeply grateful for the ongoing support of our volunteers, vendors, and visitors as we look forward to Gilroy Garlic Festival 42 in July 2020. With your help, we can continue our mission of providing vital funding support for over 140 local charities and non-profit organizations -- while celebrating all that is good in our community," the statement continued.

The three people who were killed in the July shooting were identified as Trevor Irby, 25, Keyla Salazar, 13, and Stephen Romero, 6.

The alleged gunman was fatally shot by officers who arrived on scene.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Sep192019

Mother of woman missing for 13 years says she's thankful for discovery of remains

MicroStockHub/iStock(COLUMBIA, Mo.) -- The mother of a Missouri woman who has been missing for more than a decade says she's sure that human remains found by police in a landfill Wednesday are that of her daughter.

Authorities announced Wednesday that they had found remains that were consistent with those of Megan Shultz, who disappeared from her Columbia, Missouri, home in 2006.

Columbia Police Chief Geoff Jones, whose department has been pursuing the case for 13 years, said at a news conference Wednesday that "the remains and evidence located with the remains are consistent with what we expected to find when looking for Megan."

Jones said that DNA testing to prove a match would take some time -- but Shultz' mother Debra told Missouri TV station KOMU-TV 8 that she's confident the remains are her daughter's.

"She was dressed exactly the way that I described her and I understand that the body is somewhat intact," Debra Shultz said.

Megan Shultz's disappearance confounded investigators for more than a decade after her husband, Keith Comfort, told authorities that the 24-year-old walked out of their apartment after an argument at around 1 a.m. on Aug. 5, 2006, and never returned.

Police did not consider Comfort a suspect in her disappearance, and he subsequently moved to Wisconsin to raise the couple's young daughter.

In the ensuing 13 years, police followed tips from people who said they had spotted Shultz as far east as Kansas City, but none of them panned out.

The break in the case came last month when, police say, 13 years to the day after reporting Shultz missing, Comfort, now 37, walked into the police station in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and confessed to killing his wife.

According to court documents, Comfort said that he and Shultz had argued, and that he had forced her to the ground and strangled her. After he realized she wasn’t breathing, he put her body in a garbage bag and "threw her into the ... dumpster" of their apartment complex, according to KOMU 8.

Armed with that knowledge, Columbia police began a painstaking search of the city landfill to try to recover Shultz' remains. The dig covered a 14-acre area as officers worked to identify items that were disposed of around the time Shultz went missing, according to Columbia ABC affiliate KMIZ-TV.

"We talked the first day of the landfill, and most of us have children," Chief Jones said at Wednesday's press conference. "And none of us, including the city manager, were comfortable with that being the resting place of a child. Somebody's child was there."

On Wednesday, police informed Debra Shultz of their discovery.

"I'm still in shock. It's like 'Oh my God, my baby will get to come home," Shultz said.

Comfort is being held in custody on a $1 million bond, according to KMIZ.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Sep192019

Teen arrested in stabbing of boy attacked and filmed by dozens as he bled to death

WABC-TV(NEW YORK) -- A fight over a girl involving at least 50 teenagers left a 16-year-old dead after he allegedly was stabbed in the chest by an 18-year-old as many teens, rather than help the stabbing victim, filmed his demise.

The fight broke out at around 3:45 p.m. Monday afternoon outside of a bagel shop in Oceanside, New York, close to where the victim, Khaseen Morris, went to high school.

An anonymous witness to the fight who spoke to New York ABC station WABC-TV said Morris was ambushed by the group.

"There was a bunch of people sitting by the Chinese restaurant ... about 15 kids, and then, all of a sudden, while I was on the phone speaking, eight -- seven or eight kids came from the north and targeted certain people that I believe they were looking for," the witness said.

Tyler Flach, 18, of Lido Beach, was arrested late Wednesday and charged with murder, according to WABC. He pleaded not guilty at an arraignment on Thursday afternoon and was ordered held without bail.

Morris was stabbed in the chest in and later died in hospital. Police said they believe he was targeted.

"There's got to be about 50, 60, 70 kids here," Detective Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick, commander of the Nassau County Police Homicide Division, told members of the media at a press conference on Tuesday morning. "We have a handful of kids that have come forward who have identified people involved in this."

"I don't think anybody here is naive to who is involved in this incident. I think all the players are known to each other," said Det. Lt. Fitzpatrick.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of Morris' death is the fact that people filmed him dying rather than trying to help him.

"He was a person that would help anyone, and no one helped him," Keyanna Morris, Khaseen's sister, told WABC-TV. "He told my mom this is the first time in so long that he's been so happy because he finally found a school where he could be himself with nobody judging him.”

Meanwhile, Phyllis Harrington, the superintendent overseeing Oceanside High School, issued a video statement condemning the "senseless act of violence", imploring parents to monitor their children's social media activity, and saying that the community would get through this tragedy together.

"The kindness and generosity that you model for your children are what makes our community special," Harrington said. "It's those very values that will bind us together and get us through and keep us strong because we are anchored together by purpose, passion and people."

Students at Oceanside High School have been grieving since throughout the week.

"Students are crying in the hallway," said Victoria Lizama, a student at the high school. She said many had been quiet this week, not talking to each other.

Fitzpatrick said police still were looking for additional witnesses to come forward.

Said Fitzpatrick: "Kids stood here and didn't help Khaseen -- they'd rather video this event. ... They videoed his death instead of helping. So anyone who has video, come forward. Do the right thing for Khaseen."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Sep192019

One killed, seven injured after tour bus crashes off California highway

kali9/iStock(SHANDON, Calif.) -- At least one person was killed and seven others injured when a tour bus crashed off a California roadway late Wednesday night, authorities said.

The deadly crash occurred not long after the bus departed from a concert venue in the city of Paso Robles, where country and gospel singer Josh Turner performed Wednesday night. The eight people on board the ill-fated bus were part of Turner's road crew, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), which sent crews to the scene.

Turner and his band were traveling on different buses and were not injured in the incident, Cal Fire said.

The bus veered hundreds of feet off the highway and down a deep embankment near the small town of Shandon, according to the San Luis Obipso Sheriff's Department.

It's unclear where the bus was headed or how it crashed.

In addition to the one fatality, five people sustained "moderate" injuries" while two others suffered "major" injuries, Cal Fire said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Sep192019

'It could be anybody': Family awaits answers in search for missing 5-year-old girl

New Jersey State Police(BRIDGETON, N.J.) -- An Amber Alert remains in effect in New Jersey for 5-year-old Dulce Maria Alavez amid a statewide manhunt for an unidentified individual who police say was seen leading the little girl into a red van.

Ducle was last seen Monday afternoon in the area of City Park in Bridgeton, New Jersey.

Dulce's mother reported to authorities that she saw her daughter playing on the swings with her 3-year-old brother, about 30 yards away, while she remained in her car with an 8-year-old relative. The mother said the toddler returned to her car without his sister and she was unable to find her, according to a press release from the Bridgetown Police Department.

Local, state and federal authorities have been searching for the little girl ever since.

Dulce's mother, Noema Alavez Perez, said her daughter "would never run off" or "walk by herself."

"All of us are missing her a lot," Perez told reporters Wednesday.

The New Jersey State Police issued the Amber Alert for Dulce early Wednesday after investigators interviewed people who were in the area at the time she vanished. Based on those interviews, detectives believe Dulce was taken by a light-skinned, possibly Hispanic man wearing a black shirt and red pants with orange sneakers.

The unidentified man is described as being around 5-foot-6 to 5-foot-8 and having a thin build, acne and no facial hair. He was last seen leading Dulce from the Bridgeton City Park playground into a red van with tinted windows and a sliding door on Monday at approximately 4:20 p.m. local time, according to the New Jersey State Police.

"It could be anybody. We don't know if it's a family member, strangers," Dulce's aunt, Nayiber Alavez, told reporters Wednesday. "But the only thing we're asking is for her to come back home safely."

Bridgeton Police Chief Michael Gaimari said investigators haven't ruled anything out and that the individual responsible for Ducle's disappearance could be a stranger or a known person. Detectives have been in constant contact with the little girl's mother and will conduct follow-up interviews with more family members.

"We don't have any solid suspects, we are investigating all the possibilities," Gaimari told reporters Wednesday. "We have video surveillance that we've gathered from all of this area as much as we could obtain."

Surveillance footage shows Dulce with her mother and little brother buying ice cream at a nearby store before they headed to the park on Monday afternoon. She's seen wearing a yellow shirt, black-and-white checkered pants with a flower design, and white sandals. Her long dark hair was pulled back in a pony tail at the time.

Dulce is Hispanic and roughly 3 feet, 5 inches tall, police said.

Anyone with information on her whereabouts is urged to call the New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit at 1-609-882-2000 ext. 2554, the Bridgeton Police Department at 1-856-451-0033, or to immediately dial 911.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Sep192019

Couple recounts drama of crash-landing hot-air balloon after losing pilot

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Tom and Shawna Stenton, of Louisville, Kentucky, were planning to enjoy a relaxing sightseeing tour of Las Vegas last week -- but the day turned into a nightmare when their hot-air balloon crash-landed in the desert, ejecting the pilot and leaving them to fend for themselves.

"It felt like a car crash. It did not feel like a hard landing ... it felt like a bad car crash," Shawna Stenton told ABC News' Good Morning America in an interview airing Thursday. "We're just fortunate we made it out alive. That's what I keep going back to every time I start to panic. My heart starts pounding and I think, 'You're alive and that's all that matters.' And then that calms me."

Sitting side-by-side in wheelchairs, the Stentons said they're still recovering from the Sept. 12 hot-air balloon crash that injured several others and left one passenger in critical condition.

Several passengers and the pilot were thrown from the gondola and others were dragged for more than a half mile, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

"When we popped up, it was, 'Where is everybody? Where's the pilot?' And then panic. 'Where's the pilot?'" Shawna Stenton said.

Thankfully, her husband was able to think quickly as the balloon drifted back into the air after hitting the ground and bouncing around for what seemed like forever, the couple said.

"Tom's a hero. He won't tell people, but I mean, he landed that balloon. We ended up on the ground and I don't know where we would have been," Shawna Stenton said.

Tom Stenton said he's still not sure of how he manged to pull it off, but he said he's glad that he paid attention to the pilot as he operated the balloon.

"There was a red rope that opens up the canopy at the top of the balloon and lets the hot air out. And you have, like, 15 seconds from when you pull that till it starts to actually drop. So I just jerked it," he said. "We got a little bit closer to the ground and I jerked it again, and that's when we just made contact."

Shawna Stenton sustained a broken ankle and femur in the crash, as well as a punctured lung. Her husband has multiple broken bones in his right hand and blood clots in his legs.

The FAA is still investigating the cause of the crash.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Sep192019

Washington Monument reopens after three years of repairs

Joecho-16/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- After three years of repairs, the Washington monument will reopen to the public on Thursday.

The monument closed in 2016 after an elevator cable snapped, but the years of repairs covered far more than that broken wire.

"We were going to do a renovation on the overall elevator system," said Brian Hill, a public information officer for the National Park Service. "But then while we were doing it, then we also had the security facility that needed to be upgraded and updated."

To enter the monument, visitors will go through two vault-like doors and a security checkpoint.

The monument will reopen to the public at noon on Thursday, with first lady Melania Trump expected to appear during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

This is not the first time the monument has been closed for repairs in recent years. It closed in 1998 for restoration and in 2011 because of earthquake damage.

"We're frankly excited to get the monument back open to the public," Hill said. "We have missed having our public visiting us."

Washington's tallest structure stands 555 feet, 5 1/8 inches above the mall and was originally completed in 1884. It took 40 years to construct, with a delay for the Civil War.

When the obelisk was first completed, it was the tallest building in the world.

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