ABC News Exclusive: Cat Haven Employee Recounts Deadly Lion Attack 

A male lion (pictured here) killed a person at the Sierra Cat Haven in Dunlap, CA on March 6. ABC News(DUNLAP, Calif.) -- An employee at a big cat California sanctuary where a volunteer intern was fatally attacked last week called the attack an unfortunate mistake, saying that nobody was to blame.

Employee Meg Pauls was performing her regular cat feedings and enclosure cleanings with intern Dianna Hanson right before the 24-year-old Hanson was attacked and killed last week.

Hanson was two months into an internship at the Cat Haven in Dunlap, a small town in Fresno County near King's Canyon National Park, when she was killed.

Each woman had taken a separate enclosure trail, but when Pauls got to the end of her trail, she didn't see Hanson or her golf cart where they should have been.

"I came around the corner and saw her behind a bush on the ground, and I called to her, and Cous Cous [the lion] was near her and I called to her and it looked as if she was unconscious," Pauls said. "I stopped my cart and ran up there to find out why she wasn't where she should be at that point."

When Pauls got to Cous Cous' enclosure, she found a door within the enclosure was open when it should have been closed. It is still unclear what exactly caused the attack.

"She was in the main enclosure under some bushes in an opening," Pauls said. "I could see her lying down there, and I was calling to her. There was no response."

Pauls couldn't secure the lion and get to Hanson, so she kept Cous Cous next to her while she called 911. Less than 30 minutes after Hanson entered the cage, Cous Cous was shot by a Fresno County sheriff's deputy who had responded to the call, authorities said.

Dale Anderson, Cat Haven's founder, said that at this point nothing on the enclosure appears to have been broken or malfunctioning. Everything was in place and operating without violation for 15 years.

The enclosure has four separate areas inside, three for the cat and one for a person. Anderson believes the lion was in the food area inside his enclosure, but the door to keep him away from Hanson had been left open.

Anderson also shot down reports that Hanson had been on her cell phone at the time of the attack. She had a walkie-talkie on her but did not use it for assistance at the time of the attack.

"How and why he [Cous Cous] did that is kind of a mystery," Anderson said. "He came out of the cage and saw somebody. Did he run in to her? Did he hit her? We don't know. When you say attacked, it sounds gruesome, but it sounds like he just knocked her down and broke her neck."

Anderson started raising Cous Cous when he was 8-weeks-old. Anytime you are dealing with a 500-pound cat, he said, there is risk of an accident.

"Dianna and I had dinner the night before and were talking about cat philosophy. Cats mean a lot to us," he said. "When you do that kind of stuff, there's an inherent risk and we accept that because we love it. Worst case scenario, there's a death involved, and that's what happened here. Again, the risk that's involved is less than what's involved satisfaction wise."

Hanson's family members knew their daughter loved Cat Haven, and they don't want anything to happen to the sanctuary as a result of their daughter's death, Anderson said.

"We've been telling stories about Dianna," Pauls said. "She still makes us laugh. She was an incredible person. Cous Cous is not to blame. He wasn't doing anything to cause that. That's not at all what I think. He was just being a cat. He was just being a lion."

Pauls said she never questioned her training or the way the cat enclosures are set up. She has never feared the animals and feels safe at her job. Anderson said Hanson's death was an unfortunate accident and didn't want people to think any less of her.

"We've all ran a red light or a stop sign, but sometimes it's a fatal incident," he said. "It wasn't anything about her work. She had an accident. She left a door open.

"Nobody's to blame in this. It was a terrible accident and we lost two good friends."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Three Believed Dead in Small Florida Plane Crash

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.) -- The pilot of a small plane that crashed into a parking lot near Fort Lauderdale airport Friday may have been trying to save lives when it started having some kind of mechanical difficulty shortly after takeoff.

The Piper Cheyenne 2 twin-engine turboprop reportedly was departing Executive Airport after 4 p.m. for a local flight when it banked to the right and crashed into parked vehicles.

"It appears as though the plane did try to circle back and land at the airport. Unfortunately, ultimately it was unsuccessful and ended up crashing in a parking lot," Shannon Vezina, spokesperson for the city of Fort Lauderdale, said Friday. She added that the plane's pilot did not attempt to make any distress calls.

"The damage could have been worse had they not attempted to land in the parking lot," she added Friday.
All three people on board are believed to be dead, but there were no injuries on the ground.

Firefighters rushed to the scene and were seen climbing through the wreckage.  Witnesses described the fire that spread from the crash as "horrific." Flames engulfed the cars surrounding the wrecked aircraft.

"One plane went down so quickly and the explosion and the fire immediately proceeding," one witness said. "It was pretty horrific."

There are about 1,500 general aviation crashes every year, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, killing nearly 475 pilots and passengers.

Earlier this week, the board held a meeting on improving general aviation safety, saying it remained on the NTSB’s most-wanted list.

Deborah Hersman, the board’s chairwoman, said that general aviation pilots were “airlines of one.”


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Arizona to Appeal Overturned Death Sentence

Comstock/Thinkstock(PHOENIX) -- After a three-judge panel threw out the conviction of an Arizona mother who spent 22 years on death row for the killing of her 4-year-old son, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said he plans to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"If the court takes the appeal, I will argue it personally, as I have done in two previous cases over the past five months," he said in a prepared statement.

"After dressing him up and telling him he was going to the mall to see Santa Claus, [Debra Jean] Milke was convicted of sending her young son off to be shot, execution style, in a desert wash. This is a horrible crime. The Ninth Circuit's decision needs to be reversed, and justice for Christopher needs to be served," Horne said in the statement.

A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that Milke's murder conviction would not stand after the panel determined it was based on the testimony of a detective who had an undisclosed history of misconduct.

"Milke's conviction was based largely on the testimony of police Det. [Armando] Saldate [Jr.], who allegedly obtained her confession," the court wrote in its decision. "The panel held that the state remained unconstitutionally silent instead of disclosing information about Det. Saldate's history of misconduct and accompanying court orders and disciplinary action."

According to the court ruling, Saldate Jr.'s previous transgressions included lying to internal affairs investigators, lying under oath and violating suspects' rights.

The court of appeals' ruling mandated that Arizona authorities must provide Milke's attorneys with the detective's personnel files, which previously were not disclosed. Once they do, the prosecution then has 30 days to decide whether or not they'll retry Milke.

If they do not retry Milke, "she would walk free," Milke's attorney Michael Kimerer told ABC News.

Meanwhile, there may be sanctions for Saldate, as well as his superiors, Kimerer said.

Saldate did not immediately respond to ABC News' requests for comment.

Despite the ruling, Milke, 48, has not been removed from death row, as a result of Department of Corrections' policy, Kimerer said.

Milke is in a state of shock, he said.

"She's been sitting there every day for almost 20 months anticipating this opinion," he said of his client, who he has represented since 2000.

"You sit there almost 23 years on death row with the specter of death hanging over your head and suddenly it's gone, and she needs to adjust how to react to it all."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


NJ High School Students Could Be Charged for Child Pornography

Goodshoot RF/Thinkstock(RIDGEWOOD, N.J.) -- In the wake of a sexting scandal that broke out on the campus of a New Jersey high school, police and prosecutors have urged Ridgewood High School students to remove illicit photos and other sexually explicit materials from their electronic devices.

The Ridgewood High School administration said it first caught wind of students exchanging sexually revealing  photos of themselves late last week. When school officials launched a preliminary investigation, they found  ”images of real or simulated sexual acts and photos of naked or semi-naked persons,” said school superintendant Daniel Fishbein. Photos, taken outside the school’s campus, were being circulated through the smart phone apps, Snapchat and Instagram.

New Jersey Statute 2C:24-4, Endangering the Welfare of Children, "does not differentiate on the age of the actors, but does differentiate on the age of people portrayed in,” Chief John Ward of the Ridgewood County Police Department told ABC News.

This means that students who possess or transmit sexually revealing or explicit images could be charged with possession of child pornography.

“We think they don’t understand at this point,” said Ward. “Our main goal on this whole thing is to stop it in its tracks and educate these people so they don’t make a decision that could affect the rest of their lives.

Ridgewood police have launched an amnesty period for possessing illicit material.

“We are giving the students until 7 a.m. Monday to remove any and all illicit photos on all of their devices. We are really trying to stop this before it moves any further, and give parents the opportunity to talk to their kids,” said Ward.


Letters were sent home to the parents of students in grades six through 12, explaining what occurred and the possible consequences for students who do not remove the sexually revealing material.

“I think parents are appreciative that we have brought this to their attention.  We got the information out, and we are really concerned with the health and safety of their kids,” said Fishbein.

ABC News reached out to the Ridgewood Home and School Board president, who declined to comment  on the issue.

“At this point, we are just moving forward and hoping that the notoriety this has gotten will go beyond just Ridgewood and will get parents talking to their kids. Hopefully, this incident will have some positive results, by having parents speaking to their kids,” said Ward. “Once it’s out there, it’s out there, and you don’t know what kind of damage it will cause immediately and in the future.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Titanic Violin Authenticated as Genuine

Henry Aldridge and Son(NEW YORK) -- A battery of forensics tests has determined that a violin found in a British man's attic is the instrument that was used by the bandmaster of the Titanic to play, according to lore, "Nearer My God to Thee" during the ship's last moments.

Already offers to buy the ruined violin are pouring in.

Craig Sopin, 55, a lawyer from Philadelphia, owner of one of the world's largest collections of Titanic memorabilia and a leading Titanic expert, estimates the value of the violin to "exceed six figures, maybe seven figures."

"I think certainly it's the most iconic piece that's come from the ship," Sopin told ABC News. "Not only is it something that people would have seen and someone important would have touched, but it's an important part of the Titanic's story."

Bandmaster Wallace Hartley, 34, from Colne, Lancashire, died in the 1912 Titanic disaster and his playing amid the desperation of the doomed ship has become one of the central stories of the catastrophe.

How the violin survived the wreck is not known for certain. The auction house Henry Aldrige and Son of Wiltshire, England, which has researched the instrument's history, noted that several newspapers from May 1912 reported that Hartley was found with the instrument in a leather case strapped to his body.

In 2006, the son of an amateur musician discovered the violin in a leather case with the initials "W. H. H." while looking through his mother's things in the attic. His mother had been given the violin by her former violin instructor.

The violin's owner, who is remaining anonymous, took the violin, along with jewelry from Hartley, to Aldrige and Son to inquire about its authenticity. The auction house has extensive experience with Titanic memorabilia.

"We looked at the items and decided that they certainly merited additional attention," Andrew Aldrige, head of Titanic and transport memorabilia for the auction house, told ABC News.

The auctioneers brought the violin to the government's Forensic Science Service. After several years of tests, the service concluded that the corrosion deposits on it were compatible with immersion in sea water. Specialists used the corrosion deposits on items from other Titanic victims as a benchmark for comparison.

"And then we decided we need a jewelry expert," Aldrige said.

One of the unique attributes of this violin is an engraved silver plate, which states, "For Wallace on the occasion of our engagement from Maria." Historical research suggests that Maria Robinson gave a violin to Hartley in 1910 when the two became engaged.

Through analysis, a silver expert was able to confirm that the silver plate and its engraving style was contemporary to 1910.

The final vital piece of proof is the historical train of evidence linking the violin to its owner on the Titanic.

A July 1912 entry from Maria Robinson's diary included a telegram draft to a man in Nova Scotia thanking him for the return of the violin. After Robinson's death in 1939, her sister gave the violin to Bridlington Salvation Army and told its leader, a Major Renwick, about the instrument's association with the Titanic.

From Renwick the violin made its way to a violin teacher who gave it to the current owner's mother. "It's been in the same family for over 70 years," Aldrige said.

The auction house has declared the violin to be authentic and Sopin, who says he is usually suspicious of Titanic claims, believes it is Hartley's violin and not a fraud.

"How could they fake the fact that is clearly of the appropriate age? You would have to have some many people involved in this conspiracy," he told ABC News.

Aldrige said the owner is interested in selling the violin, but would like as many people to be able to see it first. The violin will go on public display at the Belfast City Hall over Easter, less than a mile from where Titanic was built. Further negotiations are being made for additional exhibitions around the world.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Teen's Body Recovered from Foam Filled River

ABC News(SIOUX FALLS, S.D.) -- Rescuers have recovered the body of a teenage girl who jumped into a frigid, foam filled South Dakota river to save her little brother who had fallen in.

The girl, Madison Wallace, 16, was one of two people who vanished in the thick foam on the river as they tried to rescue her 6-year-old brother Garrett Wallace.

Sioux Falls Fire Chief Jim Sideras said rescuers found Madison Wallace's body in water that was anywhere from 5 to 10 feet deep.

After rescuers removed her from the river, her family took the body to a local hospital, he said.

A dive team is still searching the icy and foam covered waters for Lyle Eagletail, 28, a bystander who leaped into the water after the young boy and teenage girl.

Garrett Wallace fell into the Big Sioux River around 6 p.m. Thursday, Sideras said. His sister and Eagletail went after him in rescue attempts.

The boy was found alive sometime later, ABC News affiliate KSFY-TV reported. It's unclear how the boy escaped the turbulent river.

The force of the water had churned up a thick blanket of foam over the river and all three disappeared into the foam. The foam is six feet deep in areas.

The 6-year-old suffered no injuries, but was taken to the hospital as a formality, he said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Iditarod Dog Found 7 Days after Disappearing from Team

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The 53-year-old winner of the 41st Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race made history this week as the oldest winner of the grueling endurance race, but an Iditarod dog lost for seven days may have had the most amazing journey at this year’s race.

May, a strawberry blond female, got loose last Thursday from the team of Newton Marshall, the Jamaican musher leading her sled in the 1,000-mile race across Alaska.

When Marshall stopped mid-race Thursday to help a fellow musher repair her sled, the lines of the two sleds became entangled, and May was separated from the team, according to a post on Marshall’s fan Facebook page.

As the search for May, a veteran Iditarod dog, got under way, it also played out on social media, with the team behind her owner, veteran Iditarod musher Jim Lanier, also competing in this year’s race, posting sightings and frequent updates to his own Facebook page.

Lanier’s wife, Anna Bondarenko, flew to Alaska to “be the familiar face to call May in from the cold,” according to a post on Facebook.  She relied on help from local residents to search for May, borrowing snow machines and crisscrossing the state by plane as new sightings of May came in.

May was seen running along the Iditarod trail numerous times but was always missed by those who spotted her, and by Anna who was “always a day behind her, due to weather issues flying between checkpoints,” read a Facebook post.

On Thursday, with hope running slim, the couple got the good news that May had been found by three snowmachiners on a trail.

“We had just pulled over on the side of the trail … and about 100 yards away a dog was trotting down the trail,” one of the snowmachiners, Kaitlin Koch, 22, told the Anchorage Daily News.  “It was coming at a pretty slow pace, and we were waiting to see if someone on a four-wheeler or snowmachine was with her.”

Describing the dog as alone, skinny and with blood on her paws, Koch said she got off her sled and approached May, who welcomed the help.

“She came right up to me,” Koch said.  “She sat in my lap the entire trip back to Big Lake.”

The trio had doubts that the missing Iditarod dog they had heard about could be this one, so far away from the race’s end, but they called Iditarod headquarters to report her just in case.  One hour later, one of Lanier’s friends arrived to take the dog home, reports the Daily News.

“It’s an incredible journey,” said the friend, Stan Smith, to the Daily News, also noting the dog had eaten canned salmon and kibble stew as part of his recovery.

A Facebook post from Lanier, who could not be reached today by, estimates that May traveled over 150 miles before being found while Smith, himself an Iditarod veteran, told the Daily News he thought May likely traveled 300 to 400 miles.

Based on the sightings of May reported along the course, Smith, who also could not be reached today, believes the dog was trying to find her way back to the start of the race but missed a crucial turn along the way.

“She was absolutely running home,” he told the Daily News.  “She traveled several times from Rohn to Nikolai, all the way up the Dalzell Gorge, up the Alaska Range to the other side, through Rainy Pass, across Shell Lake; she was spotted multiple times in Skwentna.  So many reports of seeing her. They were all heading south.”

While May’s musher, Newton Marshall, the improbable dog sled racer from Jamaica, was forced to drop out of the race in Nikolai after May became lost, her owner went on to finish the race.

Lanier crossed the finish line of his 16th Iditarod on Thursday — the same day May was found — in 35th place.  The race took him 10 days, 10 hours, 21 minutes  and eight  seconds to complete, according to his Facebook page.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Man Sentenced in NYC Terrorism Plot

Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A man from Queens who pleaded guilty to plotting to blow up synagogues in Manhattan has been sentenced to 10 years behind bars, in the Manhattan District Attorney's first conviction of a terror defendant.

Ahmed Ferhani, in court Friday wearing an orange jumpsuit, pleaded guilty to 10 charges, including conspiracy as a crime of terrorism and criminal possession of a weapon as a crime of terrorism. A grand jury declined to indict Ferhani on a top level terror charge.

"The defendant unequivocally admitted his guilt to intimidate the Jewish population of New York City," said Assistant District Attorney Gary Alperin as Ferhani's attorney gently rubbed his client's back in comfort.

Judge Michael Obus imposed a sentence of 10 years, less than the 14 years the district attorney's office requested or the 25 he would have faced if convicted of all charges after a trial.

After serving his sentence, Ferhani, who was born in Algeria, is likely to be deported.

Ferhani was caught in an undercover sting talking about his hatred of Jews based on what he believed to be their mistreatment of Muslims in the world.

Ferhani made the following statement at the time of his guilty plea:

"In October of 2010, I met a fellow Muslim named 'Ilter,' who I now know to be an undercover detective. Between the date that I first met 'Ilter' and until my arrest on May 11, 2011, I repeatedly discussed with him my anger towards Jews based on what I believed and perceived to be their mistreatment of Muslims throughout the world.

"I agreed with 'Ilter' and Mohamed Mamdouh to develop a plan to attack and damage a synagogue in New York County or elsewhere in New York City using explosives. By targeting a synagogue, which I knew to be a Jewish house of worship, in this manner, I intended to create chaos and send a message of intimidation and coercion to the Jewish population of New York City, warning them to stop mistreating Muslims. In the weeks that followed our initial conversations, we repeatedly discussed how the plan could best be executed and considered expanding the scope of the plan.

"In furtherance of the plan, between April, 2011, and May, 2011, I further agreed with 'Ilter' and Mohamed Mamdouh to purchase and possess three loaded firearms and a grenade. On May 11, 2011, I travelled from Queens into Manhattan with 'Ilter' and Mohamed Mamdouh to purchase these weapons from a man who was previously introduced to me as a weapons dealer, but whom I now know to be another undercover detective. In the minutes before my arrest, I was inside a car that was parked near the corner of West 58th Street and Twelfth Avenue in New York County.

"While there, I took possession of a grenade, which I believed at the time to be a live explosive substance, a Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistol, two loaded Beretta/Browning semi-automatic pistols, and corresponding ammunition for all three pistols. I intended to use the grenade and Smith & Wesson pistol, and to sell the two Beretta/Browning pistols, all in furtherance of the plan to attack a synagogue for the purpose of intimidating and coercing the Jewish population of New York City."

A co-defendant, Mohamed Mamdouh, is expected in court March 29.

Federal prosecutors declined Ferhani's case, which became the Manhattan District Attorney's first conviction under a state terrorism statute passed after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Steubenville Accuser: 'They Were Taking Advantage of Me'

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(STEUBENVILLE, Ohio) -- A 16-year-old West Virginia girl allegedly raped by two high school football players emailed one of her accused attackers the day after a long night of partying to ask why he "would let that happen" and why "would you take my clothes off in front of everyone?"

That email was one of more than 100 electronic messages police recovered from the mobile phones of 16 different teenagers who attended a party with the alleged victim and the two Steubenville, Ohio, students accused of sexually assaulting her.

Prosecutors accuse Trent Mays, 17, and Ma'lik Richmond, 16, of using their fingers to vaginally penetrate the girl at an alcohol-fueled party in Steubenville on the night of Aug. 11, as other teenagers watched.  Mays is also accused of later sending text messages that included photographs of the girl with her clothing removed and charged with distributing nude images of a minor.

Three of those teenage eyewitnesses are expected to appear in court Friday, the third day of testimony in a case that has drawn international attention.

Two of the boys slated to testify on Friday are believed to have photographed the incident, but no charges have been brought against them.  Their testimony could be critical because the alleged victim says she remembers nothing of the incident.

Friday's testimony follows a dramatic day in court on Thursday, in which a forensic computer expert for the state introduced many of the often graphic messages sent from the alleged victim and the defendants in the hours after the party.

Most of the messages were between Mays and friends, in which the football player gives differing accounts of what took place at the party and how much sexual contact he had with the alleged victim.

In one instance, he claims to have had sex with the alleged victim, in other incidences he says the girl masturbated him and in others he says he digitally penetrated the girl.

In a series of texts between the alleged victim and friends, she pleads for information about what took place.

"Swear to God I don't remember doing anything with them," she texted a friend.  "Wait I think I was drugged.  I have no memory from after I left" the party, she texted one boy.

"I wasn't being a slut.  They were taking advantage of me," she wrote.

Defense attorneys say a toxicology report performed a day later showed no signs of drugs.

After learning about some of the alleged incidents at the party, the girl emails Mays.

"Why the f--- would you let that happen.  Seriously, you have no f---ing respect.  People are telling me so much s--t, why the f--- would you take my clothes off in front of everyone.  You shouldn't have let that happen," she wrote.

If convicted, Mays and Richmond could serve prison time until they turn 21.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Carnival to Fly Dream Passengers Home; Another Cruise Ship Falters

Amy Sussman/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Passengers on board the Carnival Dream, stalled at the dock in St. Maarten with a mechanical problem, will be flown home rather than completing the remainder of their cruise back to Florida.

"Since it is unclear when the Carnival Dream will be departing St. Maarten, it only makes sense that we fly guests home and we are in the process of arranging both charter and commercial flights for guests to be flown to Orlando or their final destinations," Carnival spokesperson Vance Gulliksen said in an email to ABC News.

The ship suffered from a malfunction to its backup generator on Wednesday during regularly scheduled testing, Carnival said.  The cruise line, which is still repairing the Carnival Triumph after a fire in its generator room stranded thousands of passengers at sea last month, disputed reports of widespread power outages and overflowing toilets on the Dream.

Gulliksen said only one public restroom was taken offline for toilet overflow and there was "a total of one request for cleaning of a guest cabin bathroom.  Aside from that there have been no reports of issues on board with overflowing toilets or sewage."

"All guests are safe and comfortable," the cruise line said in a statement Thursday.  "There were periodic interruptions to elevators and restroom services for a few hours last night.  However, all hotel systems are functioning normally and have been functional since approximately 12:30 a.m."

The 130,000-ton Carnival Dream, which was on a seven-day cruise and is based in Port Canaveral, Fla, remains docked in the Caribbean island where it made a scheduled port call on Wednesday.  The ship, launched in 2009, is among the largest in the Carnival fleet.

Guests on board will receive a refund equivalent to three days of the voyage and 50 percent off a future cruise.  The next cruise, scheduled for March 16, is cancelled.  Guests scheduled to sail on this cruise will receive a full refund and 25 percent off a future seven-day cruise.  Guests who re-book will have their current rate protected on the future sailing.  Non-refundable transportation related expenses will be reimbursed.

Meanwhile, in a related development, Carnival revealed late Thursday that its cruise ship Legend is also having mechanical problems and will skip its visit to Grand Cayman on Friday and head straight to its homeport of Tampa, Fla., with the planned arrival this Sunday.

One of the Legend's Azipod units that affects sailing speed is not working properly, although the boat's safety systems and hotel services are all functioning normally.

Grand Cayman was supposed to have been the last stop for Legend during a seven-day Caribbean cruise that began in Tampa.

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