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Monday
Aug082011

Sisterhood of SEAL Wives Rush to Support Widows

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(VIRGINIA BEACH, Va.) -- The wives of Navy SEALs are rallying around one another, sharing support for the widows of the 22 SEALs who died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

They also share the trepidation for those waiting to hear which husbands will be deployed to replace those who have fallen.

While the SEALs are known for their courage and toughness, their wives, mothers and fiances are displaying some of that same grit.

"He was a fabulous son to his parents and a great big brother, and to me, the love of my life," Kimberly Vaughn, wife of slain SEAL Aaron Vaughn, told ABC News through tears.

Aaron Vaughn — a 30-year-old father of two with a newborn daughter he had been with for just two weeks before heading back overseas — had volunteered to return to combat, his wife said.

Kimberly Vaughn, a former NFL cheerleader, met her husband when she was performing with United Service Organizations Inc.

When the doorbell rang on Saturday, and she saw the men in uniform, she says she fell to her knees.

"The energy, everything just drops out of you. I just remember saying, 'No, no,'" she said. "His last words to me were 'I love you, I'll talk to you later.' And one day in heaven we will."

The wives and mothers of Navy SEAL operating base Dam Neck, an air station near Virginia Beach, began their grim vigil when news broke that the Taliban had shot down a helicopter rushing to the aid U.S. soldiers. The crash claimed the lives of 30 U.S. troops, 22 of them Navy SEALs.

The possibility of catastrophic news comes with the territory when women say "I do" and marry a SEAL. They cope with that as best they can.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug082011

Fugitive Siblings 'Committed to One Another' on Dangerous Mission

Jupiterimages/Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Text messages and tweets by three fugitive siblings who shot at a police officer and robbed a bank reveal a dangerous mindset and a firm bond between the siblings, investigators said Monday.

"We've certainly seen their mindset when they shot at a law enforcement officer outside of Tampa Bay, Fla., and when they fired inside that bank in Valdosta, Ga. But these additional texts and tweets have given us additional insight," FBI Special Agent Stephen Emmett told Good Morning America Monday. "We are concerned and feel that they are going to continue and cause problems to say the least for law enforcement."

Ryan Dougherty, 21; his sister Lee Grace E. Dougherty, 29; and half-brother Dylan Dougherty Stanley, 26, have been on the lam since Aug. 2 when they shot at a police officer attempting to pull their white Subaru Impreza over for speeding. A few hours later, they robbed a bank in Georgia.

While on the run, they've sent a text message to their mother that read, "There's a time for all of us to die." Investigators said that previous tweets also reveal details about the siblings' bond. Investigators won't discuss the content of those tweets.

The three siblings, dubbed the Dougherty Gang, were allegedly driving as fast as 100 mph on Aug. 2 when a Zephyrhills, Fla., police officer attempted to pull them over. They fired 20 shots at the officer and escaped when one of the bullets hit the police car's tire. The officer was not injured.

A few hours later that same day, about 200 miles North in Valdosta, Ga., the Dougherty gang allegedly robbed a bank while wearing masks and firing rounds from an AK-47 at the ceiling. They escaped with an undisclosed amount of money, police said.

"It's very unusual to have siblings like this so well armed, so committed to whatever mission that they think they're on and to have demonstrated such propensity for violence," Emmett said. "The problem that we feel we're facing is that they're committed to each other as siblings, so that's going to create additional issues for any law enforcement that is confronting them."

Police have found an elaborate bunker, constructed out of two 40-foot storage containers, under an abandoned house where the trio reportedly once lived.

The siblings share a lengthy criminal history that includes 20 felonies among them. The charges range from drug possession to battery and burglary. Ryan Dougherty's latest crime may have sent he and his siblings on their current spree.

Ryan Dougherty had recently been put on court probation and was forced to register as a sex offender after sending explicit text messages to an 11-year-old girl. He feared that his conviction would keep him from seeing his unborn baby.

Barbara Bell, the mother of the fugitive siblings, has publicly appealed to her children to turn themselves into authorities.

"Only mom knows what good people you are inside," Bell told ABC Affiliate WFTS. "Please prove me right and everybody wrong by doing the right thing now and turning yourselves in."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug082011

Update: Police Identify Gunman in Ohio Neighborhood Shooting Spree

Jupiterimages/Comstock/Thinkstock(COPLEY, Ohio) -- The gunman responsible for fatally shooting seven people Sunday in an Ohio neighborhood was identified by authorities at a news conference Monday afternoon.

Copley Police identify the shooter as 51-year-old Michael E. Hance. After fatally shooting seven people, he was shot and killed by officers.

The motive behind the killing remains unclear, though reports indicate that a domestic dispute between Hance and his girlfriend, Rebecca K. Dieter, 49, may have sparked the violence.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug082011

Police Release Elizabeth Smart Kidnapper Interrogation Tapes

George Frey/Getty Images(SALT LAKE CITY) -- Brian David Mitchell told detectives who interviewed him shortly after his arrest that he had been commanded by God to kidnap Elizabeth Smart in 2002, and that she had "a glorious experience" with him.

The interview is shown in a video newly released by the Utah District Federal Court, in which a Salt Lake City police detective and an FBI agent question Mitchell sitting around a table in an interview room.

The video was released in response to a motion filed by attorneys for The Salt Lake Tribune and KUTV.

Mitchell, with his wild gray beard, spouts Biblical references and expounds his belief in his calling from God as the investigators try to pin him down on details about the abduction of Smart and the nine months he and Wanda Barzee held her captive.

The two-hour interview was conducted in 2003 by Salt Lake City Police Detective Cordon Parks and FBI Special Agent Jeffrey Ross hours after Mitchell was arrested in Sandy, Utah.

Smart was taken at knifepoint from her bed in the middle of the night on June 5, 2002, while her sister slept.

During Mitchell's trial last year, she told the court that Mitchell held a knife to her throat, took her to an encampment near Salt Lake City, pronounced her his wife, and raped her repeatedly.  Smart also testified that he forced her to view pornography, drink alcohol and watch him and Barzee engage in sexual activity.

After a nine-month search that attracted extensive national coverage, Smart was rescued in 2003 when she was walking in a suburb of Salt Lake City with Mitchell and Barzee.

Barzee, 65, was sentenced in May 2010 to 15 years after she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit kidnapping.

A District court judge allowed the early interrogation tapes to be released after Mitchell, a homeless street preacher, was convicted in December of kidnapping and transportation of a minor across state lines to engage in sexual activity.

This May, with the help of Smart's emotionally grueling testimony, Mitchell was sentenced to life in prison.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug082011

Fugitive Siblings Still on the Run; Mom Urges Them to Surrender

FBI Atlanta Field Office(TAMPA, Fla.) -- The mother of three fugitive siblings who allegedly engaged in a shootout with a Florida police officer during a high-speed chase, then robbed a bank in Georgia, is urging her children to turn themselves in.

Barbara Bell of Palatka, Florida told ABC News affiliate WFTS-TV in Tampa that she's worried for their safety and with every passing moment feels that the chances of a peaceful ending are quickly fading.

"Only mom knows what good people you are inside" said Bell.  "Please prove me right and everybody wrong by doing the right thing now and turning yourselves in."

Officials say the trio appear to have communication with their mother, sending her a text saying: "There's a time for all of us to die."

Law enforcement experts said it seems unlikely the trio will follow their mother's wishes.

"It's going to be a violent ending unless you catch them by surprise," former FBI agent and ABC News contributor Brad Garrett said.

The hunt for the three siblings began Tuesday when an officer attempted to pull over the siblings for speeding along state road 54, in Zephryllis, just north of Tampa, police said.

Ryan Dougherty, 21, his sister Lee Grace E. Dougherty, 29, and half-brother Dylan Dougherty Stanley, 26, were allegedly driving as fast as 100 mph in a 2006 Subaru Impreza with New York State tags.

A high-speed chase ensued, during which the three allegedly sprayed the police car with at least 20 shots, finally escaping when a bullet hit a tire of the officer's car.

The officer was not injured but police said they found 20 "high caliber" shell casings along the route.

A few hours later that same day, about 200 miles North in Valdosta, Georgia, the Dougherty clan allegedly robbed a bank wearing masks and armed with AK-47s, firing shots at the ceiling.  They escaped with an undisclosed amount of money, police said.

All three of the siblings have troubled pasts, with 20 felonies among them.  Ryan Dougherty just registered as a sex offender last week, after being convicted of sending explicit texts to an 11-year-old girl.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Aug072011

Dallas on Track to Beat 1980 Heat Record

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(DALLAS) -- Dallas is enduring its 37th day of sweltering heat, and if the forecast continues as predicted, the city is on track to break the 1980 record of 42 days above 100 degrees.

Heat advisories and excessive heat warnings remain in effect for a large part of the South-Central U.S., including Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and into Mississippi as well as western parts of Kentucky and Tennessee. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Aug072011

Thousands of Verizon Workers on Strike over Labor Contract

PRNewsFoto/Pierce Promotions(NEW YORK) -- Forty-five thousand Verizon Communications Inc. employees from Massachusetts to Washington D.C. went on strike Sunday after their union and the company failed to reach an agreement on a new labor contract.

Health care coverage, pensions and work rules were the main issues stake, according to the telecommunications giant.

According to Verizon, wireless customers will remain unaffected by the walkout and managers will fill in for absent workers.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Aug072011

Detroit Police Have Made an Arrest in Killing of 5-Year-Old Girl

Thinkstock/Getty Images(DETROIT) -- Police made an arrest in the killing of a Detroit girl who was reported missing by her mother on Sunday, hours after her strangled, beaten and burned body was found in an abandoned house that had been set ablaze.

Mariha Smith, 5, disappeared from her home early Sunday morning, the same day that emergency responders and investigators found the body of a little girl, burned beyond recognition, inside an abandoned home about a mile from the Smith residence, ABC affiliate WXYZ-TV in Detroit reported. DNA test results eventually revealed the body was indeed that of Mariha Smith.

The Detroit Police Department said the case was being investigated as a homicide and urged the public to come forward with any information on the arson. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced a $2,500 reward for any information related to the death of the girl.

Investigators issued a blurry piece of surveillance video Thursday showing a man buying a small amount of gas. Police called him a person of interest and said he was believed to be connected to the case.

On Friday, the same day funeral services were held for the 5-year-old, police took a man into custody, calling him a person of interest.

ABCNews.com's calls to the Detroit police were not immediately returned.

Dominique Poole, the child's aunt, told ABCNews.com she thought her sister's boyfriend, Darnell Cheatham was acting suspicious the day the 5-year-old vanished.

"I knew it had to be someone that was at the house that did it," Poole said.

Another one of the child's aunts and her boyfriend were already questioned by police earlier in the investigation, according to Poole. Several relatives had expressed anger with the two, Quanita Smith and Darnell Cheatham, because they claim they were not being truthful with police and allegedly failed a lie detector test administered by police.

"Everyone knows they failed the lie detector test and I hope Police bring justice and keep him in jail," Poole said.

Poole said the man in custody is Cheatham, but the Detroit Police Department has not confirmed this.

Several hundred people, including Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee, attended funeral services for Mariha.

"I'm here today because I want to pay honor to an angel, Mariha, who left too soon," Godbee said. "Detroit, we failed miserably. This is our fault."

No charges have been formally filed and according to WXYZ prosecutors have not yet set an arraignment for the man in custody.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Aug062011

‘Kill Team’ Soldier Gets Three Years in Prison

Creatas/Thinkstock(CAPE CORAL, Fla.) -- Adam Winfield, the Army specialist who warned his parents that soldiers in his unit were executing innocent Afghan civilians, pled guilty Friday to reduced charges and was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in one of the murders.

Winfield, 23, of Cape Coral, Fla., had been charged with premeditated murder, which carried a sentence of life in prison without parole.

Winfield agreed to a plea deal with military prosecutors at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, and is expected to testify against Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, who is charged with planning and executing three Afghan civilians between January and May 2010.

At Friday's hearing, Winfield told the court he has failed to stop Gibbs and another soldier, Cpl. Jeremy Morlock, from killing a detained Afghan.

"It is my duty as an American soldier ... to protect any detainee ... that is in the custody of U.S. personnel," Winfield said. "It was my job to do that, sir, and I failed to do it."

Prosecutors allege that the Ft. Lewis-based Stryker brigade set up scenarios to kill unarmed Afghans, and then planted weapons to make the killings appear justified. Winfield had been charged with premeditated murder, but said he never fired his weapon at the victim. In his plea agreement, prosecutors accepted his defense.

Winfield contended that he had not shot the Afghan victim but had also not stopped his fellow soldiers from murdering an Afghan man just outside his home in southern Afghanistan.

"Had I done my duty ... to defend that man, then it would not have happened. He wouldn't be dead," Winfield said Friday.

Winfield is one of five Lewis-McChord soldiers accused in the three killings, and the second to accept a plea deal. Morlock pled to three counts of premeditated murder in March and was sentenced to 24 years in prison. In 2010, ABC News published video of Morlock describing the "kill team"'s alleged actions. This spring photos of the men posing with corpses surfaced in the media.

Prosecutors allege that Winfield, Gibbs, Morlock, Spc. Michael S. Wagnon II, and Pfc. Andrew H. Holmes participated in one or more of the murders and staged them to make unarmed Afghans appear to be armed insurgents.

Winfield was the first to come forward about the alleged sport killings. He told his parents while deployed that members of his unit had planned and executed the killings for sport. He was charged with murder for his part in the third and final death in May of last year.

Military prosecutors are hoping Winfield's testimony in exchange for the plea agreement will help convict Gibbs, who is charged in all three Afghan deaths and believed to be the ringleader of the group.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Aug062011

NATO Crash: 31 Americans Killed, Including 25 Navy Seals

In this photograph taken on July 29, 2011 a US military Chinook helicopter lands at Forward Operating Base in Arghandab district southern Afghanistan. ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images(KABUL) -- A helicopter crash in Afghanistan killed 31 Americans, including as many as 25 Navy SEALs in one of the worst single-day losses of life since the war began, a senior military official told ABC News early Saturday morning.

A total of 38 people were on board the Chinook helicopter when it crashed overnight in the eastern Afghan province of Wardak.

Initial reports indicated up to 25 Navy SEALs were on the aircraft at the time.

It was also carrying seven Afghan Special Forces troops, one interpreter, five member helicopter crew and one dog.

Troops were apparently involved in a raid at the time.

Although the Taliban have claimed to have shot the helicopter down, the cause of the crash is still under investigation.

"A NATO helicopter crashed last night in Wardak province," Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in the statement. "President Karzai expressed his deep condolences because of this incident and expressed his sympathy to Barack Obama."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio