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Saturday
Apr202019

Missing Ohio teen found dead, buried in shallow grave on farm, police say

Carroll County Sheriff's Office(CARROLLTON, Ohio) -- The body of a missing boy from rural Ohio was found buried in a shallow grave on a farm Friday morning, bringing a sad end to a desperate search for the 14-year-old who disappeared on April 13.

Jonathon Minard was found dead, buried in the grave on a farm in Washington Township just after 10 a.m., according to the Carroll County Sheriff's Office. The body was found not far from where the boy went missing a week earlier in Carrollton, Ohio.

An autopsy will be performed by the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner, with results not expected for a few weeks.

Authorities announced on Wednesday, two days before the discovery of the body, that they were questioning a person of interest in the case and said they were refusing to take a polygraph test. Carroll County Sheriff Dale Williams would not answer Friday whether the person was still in custody or still considered a person of interest.

No one has been arrested in the teen's death and the investigation is ongoing, the sheriff's office said.

"Jonathon’s discovery is just the first step in gathering evidence to answer many unanswered questions that we have that have led us to this moment," Carroll County Prosecuting Attorney Steve Barnett told Cleveland ABC affiliate WEWS. "Investigations like this take time, and this case is no exception."

Minard had been doing work on a farm in New Harrisburg, Ohio, on Friday before being taken to a family friend's home in Carrollton. He spent the night there, authorities said, before he complained of a toothache, was left alone at the residence and had disappeared when the family friend returned.

The boy wasn't reported missing until April 14, the sheriff said.

Family and friends spent Tuesday combing the area, a rural region about an hour south of Akron, for signs of the missing boy, but nothing turned up.

"I have met with the family and as you might imagine this is an unimaginable grief -- epic levels that can't be put into words," Mandal Haas, the Carroll County coroner, said at a Friday press conference.

Even prior to the discovery of the teen's body, Minard's aunt, Jo Hepner, said his parents were "devastated."

"His mom is ready to have a breakdown, his dad is too and they feel helpless because they can't do anything," Hepner told WEWS.

Authorities would provide few details at a press conference Friday, preferring to wait until after the investigation was complete.

"The Carroll County Sheriff’s Office will continue to gather evidence until the investigation is complete," it said in a statement. "We ask that the public and media respect the Minard family’s space and privacy at this time."

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Saturday
Apr202019

Delphi murders investigation heading in 'new direction,' update planned for next week

iStock/Thinkstock(DEPLHI, Indiana) -- One of the nation's most recent infamous unsolved murder investigations is heading in a "new direction."

Indiana State Police said in a statement Friday that new information in their inquest into the murder of two teenage girls in Delphi, Indiana, in February 2017 will be shared at a press conference on Monday.

The update will be held "to share information with the media and public about the new direction of the Delphi homicide investigation."

Police shared no further information into what the new evidence might be, or why they were changing directions in the investigation.

Friends Abigail Williams, 13, and Liberty German, 14, both middle schoolers, vanished on a hiking trail near Delphi on Feb. 13, 2017. Their bodies were found one day later about a mile from where they were last known to be on the trail.

Authorities have not released information about how the girls died.

The murders have also been called the "Snapchat murders" -- named as such due to a photo shared by German of Williams walking on an old railroad bridge during their hike on the day they disappeared.

"We're all frustrated," Abby's mother, Anna Williams, told ABC News in February, just before the second anniversary of the children's deaths. "It might still feel like we're in the same place, but I think of how many tips we've gone through, how many are still out there, still coming in, and I still have hope that we are on the right track."

Authorities released a grainy photo of a man they believe could be a suspect in the girls' killings and an audio recording found on Libby's phone with a man saying "down the hill" in the days following the murders. Police later released a composite sketch of the man they believe to be in the photo.

No definitive match for the suspect has ever been found, despite thousands of tips and over $200,000 in reward money being offered.

Just before the one-year anniversary of the teens' murders, a sheriff's office in Bledsoe County, Tennessee, wrote on Facebook that the "FBI has extended the search" for Abby and Libby's killer or killers into southeastern Tennessee. The report was almost immediately shot down by the Indiana State Police, saying the search was still "nation wide." Bledsoe County authorities blamed the post on a "misunderstanding."

Police arrested an Indiana man in September 2017 that authorities initially said could be related to the Delphi killings. Daniel Nations, 31, was taken into custody in Colorado after threatening people near a hiking trail with a hatchet, police said.

Indiana State Police nonetheless downplayed the arrest at the time, simply saying they were treating it like any other possible tip. In a press conference on the one-year anniversary of the killings, state police conceded, despite their interviewing Nations, he was not someone "they care a whole lot about" in relation to the crime.

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Saturday
Apr202019

2 teen girls are facing a raft of felony charges in alleged plot to kidnap and kill 9 people

WFTS(TAMPA, Fla.) -- A pair of 14-year-old Florida middle school girls are facing felony charges for conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder after being arrested this week in what authorities described as a plot to kidnap and kill 9 people.

Court records reviewed by ABC News Tampa affiliate WFTS indicate that a teacher told police she observed the girls acting “hysterical” while searching for a folder at school, and heard one say that “I’m just going to tell them it’s a prank if they call me or if they find it.”

ABC News is withholding the identity of the girls due to their age.

The teacher located the folder, which allegedly contained eight handwritten notes detailing the kidnapping and murder plot, and notified authorities, according to WFTS. The letters outlined plans to obtain guns and discussed the transportation and disposal of bodies. One contained plans about what the two youngsters would wear during the kidnappings and murders.

The folder was labeled “Private info,” “Do not open” and “Project 11/9,” according to the TV station.

The teenagers were taken into custody and each face nine counts of criminal attempt to conspire capital felony (premeditated homicide), and three counts of criminal attempt to conspire third-degree felony (kidnapping), WFTS reported.

Officials said they are treating the plot seriously.

"It doesn’t matter if they thought it was a joke,” Highlands County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) spokesman Scott Dressel told WFTS. “It's not a joke. There's no joking about something like this. You don’t make a joke about killing people. It's not a joke.”

Highlands County Schools Deputy Superintendent Andrew Lethbridge said in a statement to WFTS that the school’s safety protocols were effective.

“We would like to remind students (and everyone) that we are all held accountable for the information that we communicate,” he said in the statement.

“The [district] takes threats very seriously and we work closely with the HCSO to investigate them. We have stressed the concept that if staff or students hear or see something that concerns them, to please share that information with someone that can do something about it. In this situation, we witnessed this concept in action. This enables us to be proactive and respond to situations prior to an incident taking place."

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Friday
Apr192019

Social media influencer convicted for violent plot to hijack website name

iStock/xijian(NEW YORK) --  A social media influencer from Iowa is facing 20 years in prison for planning a violent home invasion to hijack an internet domain name for his company.

Rossi Lorathio Adams II, 26, was convicted of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by force, threats and violence on Thursday, according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney's Office Northern District of Iowa.

According to the statement, Adams founded the social media company “State Snaps” and at one point had more than a million followers on his social media sites. These sites mostly contained images and videos of young adults engaged in crude behavior, drunkenness and nudity. Adams’ followers often used the slogan: “Do It For State!”

When Adams tried to purchase an internet domain named after the slogan — "doitforstate.com" — he discovered that it belonged to a Cedar Rapids resident who had registered it on GoDaddy.com, the statement said. When the owner rejected Adams repeated offers to buy the domain between 2015 and 2017, Adams became aggressive, in one instance threatening one of the domain owner’s friends with “gun emojis” after the friend used the domain to promote concerts, according to the statement.

When that didn’t convince the domain owner to sell the website, Adams enlisted his cousin, Sherman Hopkins, Jr., to help. On June 21, 2017, Adams and Hopkins drove to the domain owner's home. Adams then gave his cousin a note containing instructions for the domain owner to transfer the domain name to Adams' GoDaddy account, the statement said. Hopkins, a convicted felon who lived in a homeless shelter at the time, then broke into the home and forced the domain owner at gunpoint to transfer ownership of the domain to Adams.

Hopkins then pistol whipped the victim in the head multiple times, according to the statement. The victim managed to gain control of the gun, but during the struggle, he was shot in the leg. The victim shot Hopkins multiple times in the chest before calling the police, the statement said.

Hopkins was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in June 2018.

Adams was taken into custody by the United States Marshal after the verdict was returned and will remain in custody pending sentencing. In addition to a possible 20 years in prison, Adams faces a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release following any imprisonment.

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Friday
Apr192019

Dramatic video shows officers pulling victims out of burning car before it's engulfed in flames

iStock/Fedorovekb(CAMDEN, N.J.) --  Police in Camden, New Jersey, have released new body camera video from a dramatic rescue of passengers inside two burning cars on the interstate.

Just moments after the 2:30 a.m. April 7 accident on I-676, four police officers are seen struggling to rescue two drivers and two passengers trapped inside.

"Come here. Give me your hand!" an officer is heard shouting in the video.

The car and SUV were quickly engulfed in flames. Officer Vincent Russomano even caught fire himself.

Those officers were honored by Camden police for their heroism by being named “Officers of the Week.”

Officer Joseph Mair was first on the scene, after hearing the call while on patrol nearby. He was joined by Russomano and Officers Vaughn Edwards and Brian McCline.

Four good Samaritans helped in the blaze. All four passengers were saved, though two victims were badly burned.

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Friday
Apr192019

8-year-old girl killed after storm causes tree to crash through her Florida home

iStock/aijohn784(WOODVILLE, Fla.) -- An 8-year-old girl in Florida was killed after a morning storm caused a tree to crash through her house, fatally injuring her and another child in the home, police said.

Officers responded to a 911 call from the home just after 8 a.m. Friday, the Leon County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.

A storm, which had struck the area Friday morning, caused the tree to go through the Woodville home where the 8-year-old and a 12-year-old boy were inside.

Both children were transported to the hospital with injuries, police said.

The 8-year-old was pronounced dead at the hospital, according to officials.

The 12-year-old, who is now with family members, suffered non-life threatening injuries, police said.

The deceased child's identity has not been released.

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Friday
Apr192019

5-year-old victim in Mall of America incident 'showing real signs of recovery,' family says

BanksPhotos/iStock(MINNEAPOLIS) -- The family of a 5-year-old boy who was thrown from the third-floor balcony at the Mall of America released a hopeful update on Friday, saying that despite "a long road ahead," the boy is "showing real signs of recovery."

"We have good news to share with you on this Good Friday," the family said in a statement. "Our miracle child is showing real signs of recovery. New test results have been positive, though he remains in intensive care with a long road ahead. Our faith in God and our savior Jesus is strong, and we are gaining more reason for optimism day by day. We continue to appeal for privacy as we focus on our son, and thank you for respecting our wishes. Just know that we absolutely feel your overwhelming love, prayers and support, for they seem to be working. Thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts."

The incident occurred on Friday, April 12, when Emmanuel Aranda, 24, grabbed the child and tossed him down nearly 40 feet, leaving the boy with life-threatening injuries, including multiple broken bones and severe head trauma, according to charging documents.

Aranda ran away from the scene, but police apprehended him at a nearby light rail station in Bloomington, about 10 miles south of Minneapolis. Officers said he appeared "calm" as he was arrested and never questioned why he was taken into custody.

Aranda told investigators he was "looking for someone to kill, but it did not 'work out,'" according to a probable cause document released Monday. He said he came up with a plan to "kill someone at the mall" on Thursday and indicated that he was angry because women at the mall had rejected him.

"He said he planned to kill an adult, because they usually stand near the balcony, but he chose the victim instead," the document said. "[He] indicated he had been coming to the mall for several years and had made efforts to talk to women in the mall, but had been rejected, and the rejection caused him to lash out and be aggressive."

 Investigators said he repeatedly acknowledged he'd come to the mall with intentions to kill and signaled that he was "aware that what he was doing was wrong," according to the charging documents.

Aranda was previously banned from the mall for throwing water in a woman's face and destroying property. Police said he also had a warrant for his arrest in Illinois on assault charges.

Police said surveillance video from the scene showed Aranda entering the third floor of the mall and looking over the balcony several times before he approached the 5-year-old victim and his mother.

The victim's mother said she noticed the suspect getting "very close to them" and asked if she and her son should move, the documents said. Aranda remained silent as he lifted the boy up over the balcony, "without warning," and threw him down to the first floor, according to the charging documents.

Aranda didn't appear to know the victim, said police.

Aranda was being held on felony charges of premeditated murder, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Aranda made a brief court appearance on Tuesday where bail was set at $2 million. His next court appearance was set for May 14.

The 5-year-old was described on a crowdfunding page as a "full of energy" child who enjoys playing hockey with his brother and sister.

A statement from the Mall of America last week said, "This was a senseless act and words cannot truly express our profound shock and sadness. Our immediate and only concern is for the well being of the family and the child, as well as for any individuals who may have witnessed the incident."

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Friday
Apr192019

How woman who lost mother-in-law in Pittsburgh synagogue shooting aims to fight anti-Semitism during Passover

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images(PITTSBURGH) -- As the Jewish holiday of Passover begins Friday night, families and friends will gather at Seder -- an orderly, annual dinner where they eat, drink, sing and re-tell the story of the enslaved Jews' escape from Egypt.

For 12 years, Marnie Fienberg hosted her family's Seder with her mother-in-law, Joyce Fienberg.

But that tradition has ended.

Joyce Fienberg, a 75-year-old grandmother of six and former researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, was among the 11 worshipers shot dead at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue on Oct. 27, 2018.

"My mother-in-law was one of the kindest humans I've ever met," Marnie Fienberg told ABC News in October. "If you knew her for five minutes, if you knew her for 20 years, you felt exactly the same way."

 The Anti-Defamation League has called the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre the worst anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history.

In the wake of her grief, Marnie Fienberg was desperate to put her energy into a positive, grassroots way to fight anti-Semitism in her mother-in-law's honor.

And Friday night, her plans will come to fruition.

Marnie Fienberg founded "2 for Seder," an initiative that encourages Jews to invite two non-Jewish friends to a Seder dinner.

Now 910 Seders across North America are set to participate this weekend, she told ABC News on Friday.

"Whenever I go to someone's house or I go into a new situation, it's always nicest when I bring a friend or I bring my spouse," she said of the "plus-one"-style invite. "You're going to be coming into a family situation and I want the guests to be as comfortable as possible."

Marnie Fienberg on her website calls "2 for Seder" a "small step toward fighting anti-Semitism by addressing the 'mystery' of being Jewish, the 'Other' in a society filled with many wonderful and diverse cultures from across the world."

"I want to make sure in this country we have a positive dialogue going on about the different religions, the different races, the different lifestyles that we have," she said.

Anti-Semitic threats and acts had been on a decline in the U.S. until three or four years ago, according to John Cohen, a former acting undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and current ABC News contributor.

Of the 1,749 victims of anti-religious hate crimes in 2017, 58.1 percent were victims of crimes motivated by the perpetrators' anti-Jewish bias, according to statistics from the FBI.

 An open and welcoming Seder initiative couldn't be more fitting as a way to honor the woman who was just as meticulous a host as she was a researcher, said Marnie Fienberg.

"If you were coming to her home [Joyce] would do anything to make you feel completely and utterly comfortable," Marnie Fienberg said. "That didn't matter if it was an allergy you had, or if you had a religious restriction, or if you were coming from another culture... she would research it, make sure she was making you comfortable...and she made it all look effortless, even though she would spend hours and hours and hours prepping."

After Passover ends, Marnie Fienberg said she plans to invest her time in other grassroots initiatives.

"We just have such a positive response. And I think there's a lot of energy out here and people want to put that positive dialogue out into the discussion, and I want to help facilitate that," she said. "So this is, I hope, just the beginning."

As for Fienberg's Seder this weekend, she said, "Joyce's presence will absolutely be with us."

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Friday
Apr192019

Clearing the air on the origins of 420, the unofficial national marijuana holiday

iStock/Tunatura(NEW YORK) -- The origins of the so-called pot holiday "420" are — fittingly — fuzzy.

Some people will say that the holiday's name traces back to a police code. Others, meanwhile, believe that something happened on April 20 many years ago. The near-universal consensus, however, is that "420" is a reference to the time of day.

Weed lore dictates that in the early 1970s, a group of teens attending San Rafael High School, about 19 miles north of San Francisco, would as a code word of sorts to indicate a smoke session after school.

The group of teens, who reportedly dubbed themselves "the Waldos," would whisper "420 Louis" to one another in the halls as a way to spread word that they'd be meeting at 4:20 p.m. near the school's statue of Louis Pasteur.

"Back then, we spent every day of our lives worrying about getting busted. Going to buy was a really secret thing," Waldo member Steve Capper told The San Francisco Chronicle.

While it started as something of an inside joke, "420" has stuck. It is still used to this day as a code among people who are marijuana friendly.

Dan Skye, a longtime editor at High Times magazine, told ABC News in 2011 that while the number's relationship to marijuana began in San Rafael, it's gone well past that.

"It's basically just a celebration of cannabis. It's mushroomed into our unofficial national holiday," Skye said at the time.

Now that marijuana has been legalized in a number of states and decriminalized in many others, the secretive — and sometimes paranoid — allure of a huddled smoke may be fading. According to a 2018 Gallup poll, 66% of Americans now support marijuana legalization, an increase from 60% in 2016 and 31% in 2000.

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Friday
Apr192019

School daze: Contractor misspells crosswalk

WPLG-TV(DORAL, Fla.) --  One Florida contractor might be in need of a little more E-D-U-C-A-T-I-O-N.

A motorist in Doral spotted a spelling error at a crosswalk Thursday and took a photo.

The word "SCHOOL" was spelled "SCOHOL."

When the city officials were notified of the error, they took quick action.

"This SCHOOL zone striping was handled by the developer's contractor. They have been notified and are working expeditiously to correct. Thank you to all who brought this very important matter to our attention," the city posted on its Twitter page.

The error was fixed on Thursday night, according to ABC affiliate WPLG-TV.

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