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Monday
Apr252011

Three Children Killed in Hudson River Plunge Are Buried as Families Feud

George Doyle/Thinkstock(SPRING VALLEY, N.Y.) -- The three youngest children of LaShanda Armstrong, the New York woman who drove a minivan into the Hudson River with herself and her four children inside, were laid to rest Monday as emotions boiled over between her relatives and their father's family.

Police helped funeral staff keep the families separated as mourners attended Monday's service in Spring Valley, N.Y., for Landen Pierre, 5; Lance Pierre, 2; and Lainaina Pierre, nearly 1. The boys were dressed in dark suits; Lainaina was dressed in white.

The three were killed when Armstrong, 25, drove her minivan off a boat ramp April 12 in Newburgh, N.Y., minutes after arguing with her boyfriend and their father, Jean Pierre. La'Shaun Armstrong, 10, the eldest of Armstrong's children and a son from a previous relationship, survived by escaping through a window.

A joint service for Armstrong and the three children had been planned, but last week Pierre said he would hold a separate service for the children. They were not buried in the same cemetery as Armstrong, relatives told WABC-TV Monday.

One family member said Armstrong's relatives were angry about that decision. "We're all still dealing with everything and coping with it," the relative said.

At Monday's service, the Armstrongs were forced to wait outside. They stood on one side of the lawn in front of the Alphonso E. Brown Funeral Home as Pierre and his family and friends were escorted into the building. Armstrong's mother was allowed to view the children, but then returned outside to be with family.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Monday
Apr252011

Gabrielle Giffords Begins to Learn Details of Deadly January Day

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images (file)(HOUSTON) -- Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has reportedly started to learn the details of the deadly shooting in January that left her among the 13 injured victims. Giffords has reacted by saying "so many people" and "no, no, no," according to the Arizona Republic, but is still unaware that staffer Gabe Zimmerman, federal Judge John Roll and Christina-Taylor Green, 9, died in the shooting, along with three others.

Giffords has been undergoing rehabilitation for a gunshot wound to her head at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston. Doctors said the Democratic congresswoman from Tucson can stand on her own and is trying to improve her walking, the Arizona Republic said.

"Her left side is perfect. She can do whatever you can do," Pia Carusone, her chief of staff, told the newspaper.

Giffords' hair is short, a thin scar on her forehead is healing and fading, and her face is swollen but otherwise the same as before, Carusone said. Giffords still struggles with words and speaks in mostly phrases such as "love you," "awesome" and "I miss Tucson," the Arizona Republic reported Sunday.

Meanwhile, she is scheduled to visit Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Friday to watch her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, lift off, her Houston medical team said Monday. Kelly will command the last mission of the space shuttle Endeavour.

Giffords, 40, is scheduled to leave the hospital Wednesday and be in a secluded viewing area for Friday's launch. Giffords will have company with her, including her family, her husband's family, her staff and President Obama, with the first lady and their daughters. This will not be a public appearance for Giffords, her staffers say, although they might release a photo after the launch.

Kelly's mission, STS 134, is the second to last space shuttle flight for NASA, and will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the space station. AMS will detect particles to prove or disprove the Big Bang Theory of the formation of the universe.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr252011

Tot Shoots Mom, Police Probe Dad's Role

The Miramar Police Department responded to an apartment due to a 911 call stating that a toddler had shot his mother, Julia Bennett, shown in this undated photo, April 20, 2011. (Courtesy Miramar Police Department)(MIRAMAR, Fla.) -- A toddler blamed for shooting his mother in the face keeps asking for his mom, while police are asking whether a two-year-old boy was really capable of holding and firing the gun.

The boy's father, Troy Bailey Jr., may be charged for negligence for leaving his gun out where the boy allegedly picked it up and fired it. A gunshot struck his mother, Julia Bennett, 33, in the face, killing her instantly last Wednesday.

"This is not a clear cut case," said Tania Rues, spokeswoman for the Police Department in Miramar, Fla. "There is a still a lot of work we need to do to determine if this was an accident or not."

Bailey has a license to carry a concealed weapon. He told police he briefly left the gun unattended on a table while visiting Bennett's home. Bailey, who was not married to Bennett, told police he watched as the boy picked up his pistol and shot the woman. The boy's name was not released by police.

Police said there was more to the investigation that simply determining if the child could and did pick up the gun and pull the trigger. The gun was a Glock 9mm, which weighs three pounds when loaded and takes 4.5 to 5.5 pounds of pressure to pull the trigger.

Even if it is determined that the boy pulled the trigger, the father could still be charged with negligence, Rues said.

Police said there had been no previous reports of violence at the home.

The boy was initially taken into custody by the Department of Children and Families, but following a hearing Friday was put in the custody of a maternal aunt.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr252011

White House Easter Egg Roll: Obama Welcomes Kids, Easter Bunny

Pool Photo(WASHINGTON) -- Showing off an around-the-back layup on the basketball court and a tennis shot hit under one leg, President Obama demonstrated his sports skills while opening the day-long Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday.

“I hope all of you had a wonderful Easter. I hope everybody is having a great time here. Welcome to the White House,”  Obama said with the first family -- and Easter Bunny -- from the Truman Balcony.

The event will bring more than 30,000 people from all 50 states to the South Lawn of the White House to participate in yoga, obstacle courses, tennis, basketball, dancing, playing sports and, of course, the classic egg roll.

Hard-boiled and dyed eggs -- 14,500 of them -- were to be used between the egg roll and the egg hunt. With a whistle in hand, the president counted down kids lined up to roll their eggs across the law with large wooden spoons, blowing the whistle to start them off.

A small girl in a frilly dress trailing behind the rest got some help by the president – who coached her as she slowly rolled her egg across the finish line.  He gave a high-five to the winner but quickly declared afterwards that “everybody’s a winner.”

This is the 133rd year of the Easter Egg Roll, a White House tradition dating back to 1878 and President Rutherford B. Hayes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr252011

McDonald's Beating Caught on Tape: Was It a Hate Crime?

Comstock/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) -- Prosecutors may file hate-crime charges against a woman and a juvenile over the beating of a transgender woman at a Baltimore-area McDonald's.

Since the April 18 incident, a video of the attack has gone viral on the Internet. It shows the pair attacking a transgender woman apparently because she went to use the ladies room.

At one point, the two attackers grabbed the victim, Chrissy Lee Polis, by the hair and dragged her across the restaurant. The video was shot by a McDonald's employee who can be heard laughing. Eventually, the video shows a customer who steps in and then an employee to stop the attack.

Polis, who is epileptic, appears to be having a seizure at one point. Workers point as she struggles on the floor, while another warns her attackers to run away. "Y'all need to get out of here, the police are coming!" an employee is heard on the video saying.

Police arrested both alleged attackers. Teonna Monae Brown, 18, is behind bars and charged with felony assault. Her alleged accomplice, who is not being identified because she is 14 years old, also faces assault charges. Both could be charged with a hate crime.

While the employee may have laughed as he shot these images, McDonald's didn't find it funny. They fired him and issued a statement saying, "there's no room for violence under the golden arches, and we strongly condemn this brutal assault. First and foremost, our thoughts are with Chrissy as she recovers. The crew member who videotaped the assault is no longer employed. Our franchisee is also closely examining the behavior of the other employees."

Polis says she is afraid to leave her house, but is grateful to the customer who came to her rescue.

"I do want to thank her in person face to face," Polis said. "I do want to thank her because I feel like that's the right thing she did, they would have kept on continuing hurting me even more."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr252011

Tornado Destruction: St. Louis Residents Clean Up After Storm

Whitney Curtis/Getty Images(ST. LOUIS) -- People in the St. Louis area are recovering in the wake of a monster tornado -- the worst in nearly a half century -- that damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes and ripped through the major airport over the weekend.

New damage totals show some 2,700 buildings around St. Louis damaged, and 100 homes destroyed, including Marcy Baker's house.

She was spending Easter weekend in Dallas with her family when she got a call that her house had been hit. She drove home 12 hours to find her house destroyed.

"I have a 15-month-old, I'm pregnant. It's devastating," Baker said.

At a nearby Catholic church, the 40-foot steeple toppled during the tornado that struck in the middle of Good Friday services.

Power was knocked out to as many as 47,000 customers after the tornado. On Sunday, some 26,000 customers remained without power and officials said many could remain in the dark until Monday. No one was killed and a handful of injuries were reported.

At Lambert Airport, surveillance video captured the exact moment a 135-mile-an-hour tornado struck, ripping off the roof and sending metal flying. Officials are fixing hundreds of panes of broken glass. It could take months and millions of dollars to fully complete the clean up.

Flights were getting back to normal after the airport reopened Saturday. Airport director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge says the continuing repairs to the airport shouldn't impact travelers.

"The majority of the windows are boarded up, still doing just a little bit of work on that but the airport itself is structurally sound," she said.

Yet despite all this, victims are counting their blessings. There were no reported deaths as a result of the tornado.

"It's a miracle out of all the devastation. There were absolutely no fatalities, and very few injuries," said Terry Hayes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr252011

Police Investigate Maine Woman's Disappearance As a Crime

Thinkstock/Getty Images(CONWAY, N.H.) -- Police are searching for clues in the mysterious disappearance of Krista Dittmeyer, the Maine mother who left her car running with her baby girl inside.

Police believe Dittmeyer, a 20-year-old single mother, is the victim of a crime.

Police found Dittmeyer's black Nissan Sentra's hazard lights flashing with its door open near a fitness center in Conway, N.H., on Saturday morning. In the backseat of the car was 14-month-old Aliyah.

Aliyah is in good condition and is in the care of family members.

"She would never ever, ever leave her in a car by herself, ever. We know that she would do whatever it takes to be here with her daughter," said Kathy Pratt, a family friend.

According to Conway police, officers responded to the report of an unattended car at around 6:30 a.m. The fitness center shares a parking lot with the Cranmore Mountain recreational center.

"We're actively investigating the case and exhausting all resources to do so...Anytime an adult is separated from a child for this length of time and is out of contact from friends and family, it gives us concern. We're particularly concerned in this case," said Conway Police Lt. Christopher Perley.

It's unclear why Dittmeyer was in New Hampshire. She lives in Portland, Maine, and is originally from Bridgton, Maine. Her family last spoke to her Friday night. Dittmeyer's mother said that everything sounded normal when she talked to her daughter.

Kayla Dittmeyer, the missing woman's sister, flew from Colorado to Maine to help search for her sister.

"Please let us know you're safe. We need you. Your daughter needs you," said Kayla Dittmeyer, sister of the missing woman.

Krista Dittmeyer is described as five-foor-two and weighing 117 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr252011

Crews Recover Idaho Miner's Body

Simon Baker-Pool/Getty Images (File)(MULLAN, Idaho) -- Search crews on Sunday found the dead body of a miner who got trapped in an Idaho mine which collapsed on April 15.

The Hecla Mining Company (HCM) issued a news release saying that the body of Larry Marek was recovered on Sunday afternoon by crews. The company says the next step is to conduct an in-depth investigation into how and why the tragic incident occurred.

Earlier Sunday, company officials said they believed Marek was killed in the incident as he was “under the fall of ground” when the mine collapsed. Marek became trapped when part of the Lucky Friday mine in northern Idaho collapsed on April 15.

In a statement posted on the company’s website, HCM said, “Words cannot express the deep sorrow we feel at the tragic loss of our friend, colleague and 30-year veteran of the mining industry. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, loved ones and friends.”

Marek was employed with HCM for more than 12 years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr252011

States Get Creative with Official Symbols

Photos[dot]com/Jupiterimages(NEW YORK) -- States seem to be getting increasingly creative with their official symbols.

New York legislators last week introduced a bill that would make the rescue dog the state's official dog. But those in the know say states have considered even quirkier symbols in the past.

Benjamin F. Shearer, who co-authored State Names, Seals, Flags and Symbols with his wife Barbara S. Shearer, said the practice of designating official state symbols really took off in the 1920s and 1930s.

"Garden clubs wanted to have state flowers, and they would suggest state flowers and a lot of these minor symbols used for citizenship purposes," he said. For example, "They'd let school children vote on whether they wanted the robin or the bluejay to be the state bird."

More recently, however, the motivation for adopting state symbols has shifted. "Lots of states were adopting the symbols as ads for the state," he said.

For example, to highlight its bounty of tomatoes, Ohio made tomato juice its official state beverage in 1965.

In some cases, state designations promote tourism, he said.

Hawaii likes to tell its visitors that if they snorkel in the islands they might encounter the humuhumunukunukuapua`a, the state's official fish known for its long name and prominence in the region's coral reefs. Travelers to New Hampshire quickly learn that the state's official sport is skiing.

Some states adopt official symbols for protective reasons, Shearer said, for example, to protect fossils or precious gems.

Symbols may show how the state's residents have a good time. Several states, like Oklahoma and Utah, for example, have an official folk dance (for both states, it's the square dance).

"I think these were all meant to say something about what resource a state has or what sports they have," Shearer said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr252011

Police Make 'Significant' Find in Hunt for Missing Tennessee Woman

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation(PARSONS, Tenn.) -- Volunteers searching for Holly Bobo, the Tennessee woman who was apparently snatched from her home and led into the woods by a camouflage-wearing stranger, have found a "significant" item, the Decatur County sheriff said.

Officials said they could not disclose what it was that was recovered because doing so would jeopardize the integrity of the investigation.

However, the discovery has fueled their search in Northern Decatur County and was based on a telephone tip, the sheriff said.

Investigators believe Bobo's abductor lives in or near the 20-year-old college student's town of Parsons, Tenn.  They have asked Bobo's neighbors to report any unusual activity or a break in peoples' routines they might have noticed in recent days.

"The person responsible for Holly's disappearance lives in the area," said Mark Gwyn, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. "Because of the terrain, you have to know where you're going, entrances and exits. We feel the person is in the community.”

Police have collected several pieces of evidence in the woods near Bobo's home, but Gwyn said it could be days before those objects could be analyzed and positively linked to Bobo.

In the meantime, the only evidence police have found and made public is Bobo's lunch purse and some blood.

Gwyn said it is possible Bobo's abductor led the woman to a vehicle parked left on a road accessible through the woods, and drove away.

He said investigators still believe Bobo is in the state, but the FBI would get involved if there was evidence to suggest otherwise.

More than a thousand people have volunteered to help search the dense woods for any sign of Holly Bobo. The reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever abducted her is up to $80,000, including $50,000 from the state.

Investigators have not ruled anyone out as a suspect in Bobo's disappearance and are in the midst of analyzing key evidence, although police had earlier said that Bobo's brother -- the last person to see her -- and boyfriend are not suspects.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio