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Friday
Aug032012

Cal Ripken Jr. Seeks Help in Finding Mom’s Abductor

MIKE THEILER/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. says his mother feels violated and has not been able to return to her home since being abducted at gunpoint there earlier this month.

“She’s not back in her home yet, so I guess that gives you some indication of how she’s feeling,” Ripken said Friday on ABC's Good Morning America.  ”Her sense of security is violated.”

“She’s a tough woman, but it’s a very traumatic ordeal,” he said.

Vi Ripken, 74, was abducted at gunpoint from her home northeast of Baltimore the morning of July 24.  Police say the suspect, who remains at large, approached her and used a handgun to force her into her 1998 Lincoln Town Car.

Around 8:30 p.m. that day, the Aberdeen, Md., police received a phone call from the Baltimore County Police about a suspicious vehicle parked on private property.  By the time officers arrived, the vehicle was gone but using the license plate number provided in the call, the car was tracked to Mrs. Ripken, Lt. Fred Budnick told ABC News.

“We didn’t even know that mom was missing until a 911 call came in that identified her car,” Cal Ripken said Friday.  “She was doing her normal day’s activities.  She got up very early and was met in her garage at gunpoint and tied up and put in her car.  She was driven around for about 23 hours.”

At around 6:15 a.m., the next morning, Vi Ripken was “located unharmed in her vehicle in close proximity to her residence,” police said.

“Who knows what actually happened in the car for that period of time,” Cal Ripken said.  “Mom tries to articulate it, but really it was just her trying to stay calm and her trying to hope and believe that she was going to be returned.”

Ripken, a baseball icon who played shortstop and third base for the Baltimore Orioles for 21 years, said his family and police have not been able to determine if there was a motive behind the abduction, possibly linked to his famous name.

“All indications are there was no real reference to mom or the name,” he said.  “It could be anything and that’s the bizarre nature of this case is that it could be a random act or it could be one that was much deeper than that.”

Police on Tuesday released a surveillance video that shows the suspect at a nearby store during the time Vi Ripken was missing.

The surveillance video, from a store in Anne Arundel, Md., shows a man wearing dark pants, a white shirt, and a red and black baseball cap.  The man fits the police department’s description of the suspect being white, tall, thin and in his 30s or 40s.

Investigators have released a composite sketch of the suspect.  The investigation is ongoing, and police are offering a $2,000 reward for any tips that lead to a conviction.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug032012

Farmer Crushes 7 Police Cars With Tractor

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEWPORT, Vt.) -- Police in Vermont in hot pursuit of a suspect were without wheels when their quarry, an irate farmer with a tractor, allegedly crushed nearly half the department’s fleet of vehicles.

Orleans County police say 34-year-old Roger Pion, of Newport, Vt., drove a red tractor over seven vehicles in the parking lot of the county’s Sheriff’s Department Thursday afternoon, flattening their quest to apprehend the suspect.

Police inside the department’s office were unaware of the destruction happening outside until they received a 911 call and heard a horn blaring outside, Chief Deputy Philip Brooks told the Burlington Free Press.

Left with no cars, Brooks had to run to a nearby service station where another car was being worked on to try to catch Pion.

“We had nothing to pursue him with,” Brooks told the paper. “It’s more than half our fleet. We have 11 cars.”

Pion was caught by authorities from the rural city’s police department about one mile from the Sheriff’s office and arrested on 11 charges.  He is being held at the Northern State Correctional Center in Newport on $15,000 bail.

He is expected in court today to face seven counts of felony unlawful mischief, one misdemeanor count of unlawful mischief on suspicion of damaging the cars, one charge of leaving the scene of an accident, one count of grossly negligent operation and aggravated assault on Newport City police after he allegedly tried to back the tractor into a city cruiser while being pursued.

Police say that Pion had been arrested last month by Newport city police for charges of resisting arrest and possession of marijuana.

Pion was issued a citation in those cases and ordered to appear in Superior Court next Tuesday.  He was also held overnight in jail the night of that arrest at the request of the Vermont Probation and Parole Office, according to police.

No one was hurt in the incident but police estimated damage to the vehicles as high as $250,000.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug032012

Secret Service Investigating Threat Against Obama

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Image(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Secret Service is investigating a mentally unstable Florida man who made multiple verbal threats Tuesday against Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, both of whom were visiting the state at the time, law enforcement officials tell ABC News.

Federal agents and deputies from the Orange County Sherriff’s Office descended on the suspect’s apartment complex yesterday afternoon, four miles from where Obama was holding a campaign rally at Rollins College in Winter Park.

"They were all over the place with guns drawn, looking for someone," Stanley Saunders, a resident of the apartment complex, told local ABC affiliate WFTV.

The man was quickly taken into custody inside his home and removed on a gurney, WFTV reported from the scene.

The threat, called into a local Veterans Affairs office earlier in the day, was deemed sufficiently legitimate to warrant a swift response, particularly since Obama had not yet left the area, officials said. But he did not attempt to attend the event or get close to either president.    

A Secret Service spokesman familiar with the case described the man as mentally unstable and said that he has been hospitalized.  

“During the interview with the subject it was determined he was in need of assistance and his state met the criteria of the Baker Act statute,” Orange County Sherriff’s department spokesman Jeff Williamson told ABC News.

“Deputies transported the subject to the location for the evaluation and turned the case over to the U.S. Secret Service,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug032012

Missile Defense Porn: Watching the Wrong Bombshells

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A top official at the government agency charged with protecting America from incoming nuclear missiles recently had to order his employees to keep their eyes on the sky and off pornographic websites they had accessed on secure computers.

As first reported by Bloomberg News, Missile Defense Agency Executive Director John James Jr. wrote in a July 27 memo that employees and contractors had potentially put the security of the MDA network at risk by visiting unauthorized websites and watching, and sharing, sexually explicit content.

“These actions are not only unprofessional, they reflect time taken away from designated duties, are in clear violation of federal and DoD [Department of Defense] regulations, consume network resources and can compromise the security of the network though the introduction of malware or malicious code,” he wrote. Those found in violation could potentially lose their security clearance, be suspended or dismissed from service at the MDA, the memo said, according to Bloomberg.

MDA spokesperson Rick Lehner told ABC News the agency-wide memo “reflects standard policy used by both government agencies and private industry” and said that of the 8,000-odd employees of the MDA, “less than a half-dozen” were involved in the alleged misconduct.

“Employees should not access inappropriate Internet sites for pornography, gambling, video games and unauthorized music and video sites, to name a few. If they do, there are consequences, including possible loss of security clearances and termination,” he said.

Though pornography websites have a reputation for hosting malware that can potentially infect visitors’ computers, Lehner said that at no time was the MDA network compromised.

“MDA has a highly-advanced monitoring system to detect intrusions, access to inappropriate websites, viruses and malware downloads, and it worked as designed,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug032012

Megabus Crash in Illinois: At Least One Dead, Dozens Injured

ABC(LITCHFIELD, Ill.) -- At least one person was killed after a double-decker Megabus crashed Thursday on a highway between Chicago and St. Louis, the bus company said.  More than 30 others were hospitalized.

Illinois State Police said the dead passenger was a woman who had been seated in the front upper section of the bus, above the driver.

Authorities told ABC News that they believed the cause of the wreck was a blown tire.

The bus, which had 64 passengers listed on its manifest, according to the state police, slammed into a concrete bridge support on Interstate 55 Thursday afternoon near the town of Litchfield, Ill.  The company said it was headed to St. Louis and then Kansas City.

Thirty ambulances, five helicopters and seven fire departments were sent to the scene, the state police said.

A spokesperson for St. Francis Hospital in Litchfield told ABC News that it had received 21 patients.

Three other passengers were taken to Staunton Hospital and another three to Hillsboro Hospital.  In addition, some passengers were taken to Memorial Hospital in Springfield.

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The bus, according to a Megabus spokesperson, was traveling along a route between Chicago, St. Louis, Columbia and Kansas City.  Litchfield, the site of the wreck, was about 55 miles north of St. Louis.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was monitoring the situation, but had yet to make a decision on whether to launch a full investigation.

In a statement, Megabus said: "Safety remains our number one priority.  The throughts and prayers of our entire staff go out to the passengers involved.  Megabus.com will continue to provide more details as they become available."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug032012

Colorado Shooting: Schools in Aurora Getting Ready to Counsel Kids

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(AURORA, Colo.) -- When kids return to school from summer vacation in Aurora, Colo., next Thursday, they can expect something quite different from their usual first day of class.

School officials are mindful of the trauma many youngsters are likely still experiencing following the July 20 mass shooting at a movie theater that left 12 people dead and 58 wounded.

As it happened, 50 teens from Gateway High School were at the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Returns when everything suddenly turned tragic.

In an effort to help worried parents, the district plans to bolster security at Aurora schools and have more counselors on hand to speak with youngsters who might be having a hard time dealing with their emotions.

In addition, a special crisis management committee has been organized that will answer concerns of students, staff and parents.

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent John Barry stressed, "The message here is you're not alone, you have assistance. We will come out stronger in the end."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug032012

New Law in North Carolina Bans Latest Science on Sea-Level Rise

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(RALEIGH, N.C.) -- A new law in North Carolina will ban the state from basing coastal policies on the latest scientific predictions of how much the sea level will rise, prompting environmentalists to accuse the state of disrespecting climate science.

The law has put the state in the spotlight for what critics have called nearsightedness and climate change denial, but its proponents said the state needed to put a moratorium on predictions of sea level rise until scientific techniques improve.

The law was drafted in response to an estimate by the state's Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) that the sea level will rise by 39 inches in the next century, prompting fears of costlier home insurance and accusations of anti-development alarmism among residents and developers in the state's coastal Outer Banks region.

Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue had until Thursday to act on the bill known as House Bill 819, but she decided to let it become law by doing nothing.

The bill's passage in June triggered nationwide scorn by those who argued that the state was deliberately blinding itself to the effects of climate change.  In a segment on the Colbert Report, comedian Stephen Colbert mocked North Carolina lawmakers' efforts as an attempt to outlaw science.

"If your science gives you a result you don't like, pass a law saying the result is illegal.  Problem solved," he joked.

The law, which began as a routine regulation on development permits but quickly grew controversial after the sea-level provision was added, restricts all sea-level predictions used to guide state policies for the next four years to those based on "historical data."

Tom Thompson, president of NC-20, a coastal development group and a key supporter of the law, said the science used to make the 39-inch prediction was flawed, and added that the CRC failed to consider the economic consequences of preparing the coast for a one-meter rise in sea level, under which up to 2,000 square miles would be threatened.

A projection map showing land along the coast underwater would place the permits of many planned development projects in jeopardy.  Numerous new flood zone areas would have to be drawn, new waste treatment plants would have to be built, and roads would have to be elevated.  The endeavor would cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars, Thompson said.

"I don't want to say they're being dishonest, but they're pulling data out of their hip pocket that ain't working," he said of the commission panel that issued the prediction, the middle in a range of three predictions.

Thompson, who denies global warming, said the prediction was based on measurements at a point on the North Carolina coast that is unrepresentative of the rest of the coast.

But the costs Thompson decries as wasteful are to the law's opponents a necessary pill the state must swallow if it is going to face up to the challenge of protecting the coast from the effects of climate change.

State Rep. Deborah Ross, a forceful critic of the bill, compared it to burying one's "head in the sand."

"I go to the doctor every year.  If I'm not fine, I'd rather know now than in four years," said Ross, a Democrat who represents inland Greensboro, N.C., but owns property on the coast.  "This is like going to the doctor and saying you're not going to get a test on a problem."

Its supporters counter that the law does not force the state to close its eyes to reality, but rather to base policy on more than a single model that produced what they believe are extreme results.

Republican State Rep. Pat McElraft, who drafted the law, called the law a "breather" that allows the state to "step back" and continue studying sea-level rise for the next several years with the goal of achieving a more accurate prediction model.

"Most of the environmental side say we're ignoring science, but the bill actually asks for more science," she said.  "We're not ignoring science, we're asking for the best science possible, the best extrapolation possible, looking at the historical data also.  We just need to make sure that we're getting the proper answers."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug032012

WATCH: California Jewelry Store Owner Fires Back at Armed Robbers

AbleStock/Thinkstock(GARDEN COVE, Calif.) -- Five masked men poured into a jewelry store in a strip mall in Garden Grove, Calif., Wednesday expecting to carry out a simple smash and grab robbery.  But within less than a minute, they discovered they were no match for the store’s owner, a gray-haired woman whose finger seems quite comfortable on the trigger.

Surveillance video, featured on ABC News affiliate KABC-TV, shows a white SUV backing into a handicap parking spot directly in front of the store.  Almost as soon as the car is parked, five men, two armed with handguns, poured into the store for what they thought would be a simple get in, get out robbery.

Once they were inside, two of the suspects can be seen ordering a customer and employees to the ground, while the other suspects open sacks and demand money.

The store owner was in the back of the store when the robbery started and saw what was happening through a small opening in a wall that separates the rooms.  She then fired two rounds from a handgun at the suspects.

“The store owner feared for the safety of her employees and customers, so she had a right to defend herself,” said Garden Grove Police Lt. Jeff Nightengale.

The suspects can be seen stumbling and running into each other as they all try to get out of the door at once, scrambling to evade the gun-toting store owner.  They piled into their getaway car and drove away, but not before one of the suspects shot a round into the store’s ceiling.

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Although she did have the right to defend herself and her store, police say, they would encourage business owners not to take the law into their own hands.

“Our official recommendation is that business owners should not take the law upon themselves,” said Nightengale.  “It is difficult because when you start shooting guns those rounds can end up anywhere.  We would rather have the crime happen and have good witnesses rather than putting someone’s safety in jeopardy.”

Police say that they have none of the suspects’ identities, but they did say that they have a piece of evidence that has DNA on it which is currently being examined.

The only thing that was stolen during the whole ordeal was the customer’s cellphone. No one was injured.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug032012

Drew Peterson Threatened to Kill Wife, Sister Claims

Giovanni Rufino/NBC NewsWire(CHICAGO) -- Drew Peterson told his third wife Kathleen Savio he would kill her six months before she was found dead in a bathtub, Savio's sister testified in Peterson's murder trial today.

Anna Doman said on the stand today that her younger sister, Kathleen, had talked to her about threats Peterson made in which he warned Savio he would kill her, according to ABC News affiliate WLS. When asked whether Doman ever told anyone about Savio's statements, she said that she had not.

"No one would listen," she said. "No one would listen. I tried."

Peterson, 58, was arrested for the murder of Savio, his third wife, in 2007, after investigators exhumed her body and reexamined it as part of the investigation into the disappearance of Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson. A new forensic report ruled that Savio's death was a homicide, not an accident as originally thought.

Doman, the prosecution's third witness, said today that on the night Peterson found Savio dead in the bathtub, he called Doman and said, "Kitty is dead. She drowned in the tub," and told Doman not to bother coming over to the house. Doman and other family members went anyway.

The next day, Doman searched Savio's house for a briefcase with important documents, a will, and a life insurance policy that Savio had told her about before her death. She admitted that she did not turn over some of the documents to police until 2008 after Stacy Peterson disappeared.

While she was searching, Peterson banged on the door and entered the home, grabbing papers and clothing from the master bedroom and around the house, Doman said.

Peterson also took $100 out of Savio's purse and said, "This belongs to the boys," referring to their two sons, Doman testified.

According to Doman, Peterson told her that he didn't want the kids to see the blood.

Doman said she asked Peterson, "Why is there blood if she drowned?" and said Peterson didn't respond.

The testimony by Doman was a central piece of the prosecution's case against Peterson. Ahead of the trial, Judge Edward Burmila had not ruled whether he would allow Doman to testify about the hearsay statements Savio said to her.

Burmila is also expected to decide whether to allow hearsay from Stacy Peterson, in the form of statements she made to her minister about Peterson coming home to their house with women's clothing around the time of Savio's death.

Stacy Peterson has never been found.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug022012

Activists Demand Open Hearing on Air Force Sexual Assaults

U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Ken Wright(WASHINGTON) -- Survivors of sexual assault in the military delivered a petition with more than 10,000 signatures to Congress Thursday demanding an open hearing on the sexual abuse scandal at Lackland Air Force base just minutes before the House Armed Services Committee began a closed-door briefing on Lackland.

More than 30 female trainees say they were raped or sexually assaulted by their instructors at Lackland, the Air Force recruiting center in San Antonio, Texas. Twelve different instructors are under investigation for their conduct, including Staff Sgt. Luis Walker, who was convicted of rape and sexual assault and sentenced to 20 years in prison on July 20.

Thursday morning, the House Armed Services Committee held a closed door briefing with Air Force Secretary Michael Donley about the ongoing investigations into the sexual assaults at Lackland Air Force Base. Right before it started, the sexual assault survivors, including the whistleblower who exposed the Navy's Tailhook scandal in 1991, delivered their petition demanding an open hearing to the office of Committee Chairman Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R.-Calif.

One of the victims, Air Force veteran Jennifer Norris, said she had been scared to speak up because she was afraid she would "lose her career." "And eventually I did," said Norris. "I was labeled a troublemaker. In a sense I was fired for being raped."

Tailhook whistleblower Paula Coughlin-Puopolo started the online petition demanding an open hearing last month. Coughlin-Puopolo was a Navy lieutenant in 1991 when she says she was forced to run a gauntlet and assaulted at the Tailhook conference, a meeting of a naval aviators group at the Las Vegas Hilton. According to a Defense Department report, three women and seven men alleged they had been harassed or assaulted during the conference.

Coughlin-Puopolo said Thursday she had joined other assault victims with hopes of discovering the "scope of the problem."

"With these signatures and the support of all of the military it's a possibility that we can actually discover the scope of the problem, turn the lights on to a culture the military does not want to see the problem; and that's why this petition is very specific to asking for an open door hearing," said Coughlin-Puopolo.

In addition to the 10,000-plus signatures, 78 members of Congress have also called on Rep. McKeon to open a Lackland hearing. That Thursday's proceedings were closed came as a surprise to at least one member of the House. "It's a closed briefing?" asked Rep. Allen West, R.-Fla., who was trying to bring two guests. "I did not know that."

According to a press release from Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy group for survivors of sexual assault in the military, last year there were an estimated 19,000 military rapes and sexual assaults, but only 3,200 victims reported the attacks and out of those only 191 cases resulted in court martial conviction.

In a statement by the Armed Services Committee, Rep. McKeon and Ranking Member Rep. Adam Smith, D.-Wash., stated they understood the concerns the closed briefing had generated, but are "committed to making sure that sexual offenders are prosecuted and victim's rights are protected."

"In sensitive cases such as these, open hearings can jeopardize ongoing prosecutions and investigations. This is another step in our long-standing oversight of this issue. It is by no means the final step," the statement read.

Meanwhile, on the Senate side of the Hill, Sen. John Cornyn, R.-Texas, has removed the "hold" he had on the nomination of Gen. Mark Welsh to be Chief of Staff of the Air Force after meeting with him Thursday.

Cornyn had previously blocked Gen. Welsh, saying his hold would "remain until I feel the Air Force is adequately addressing the unacceptable situation at Lackland and taking corrective steps to reform their training program to prevent this from happening again."

Following Thursday's meeting, Sen. Cornyn said, "It's clear Gen. Welsh shares my grave concerns over the situation at Lackland. Gen. Welsh demonstrated a genuine resolve to improve Air Force-wide policies to prevent a recurrence of the grossly unacceptable conduct that took place at Lackland."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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