Family, Players and Students Mourn Joe Paterno’s Death

Patrick Smith/Getty Images(STATE COLLEGE, Pa.) -- A candlelight vigil was held outside of Penn State's administration building Sunday night to honor the university's former head football coach Joe Paterno, who passed away that morning at the age of 85.

In a statement, Paterno's family announced Sunday morning that he had died at a hospital in State College, Pa., of complications from lung cancer.  Minutes after the announcement, people began to gather at the bronze statue of Paterno on the Penn State campus.


“What we lost today is really really hard to replace.  In fact, won’t be replaced, it’s just a sad day,” said former Penn State linebacker Matt Millen. “Guys like coach Paterno rarely rarely come around and they touch many many lives on many different levels, and it’s not just about football, it is way beyond that.”

Paterno’s son Scott tweeted: “My family wants to express our heartfelt thanks to the hospital staff and doctors. They were amazing and caring -- Thanks isn’t enough. We would also like to thank all of the tens of thousands of people who have been praying -- your kindness continues to sustain us. Finally, to Penn Staters, past and present, know that Dad loves you all and has always loved being part of your family.”

Paterno’s son Jay also shared similar sentiments on Twitter: “Our family thanks Penn Staters, students & all people for prayers & support for my Dad. He felt your support in his fight.”

The Penn State Board of Trustees and University President Rodney Erickson released a statement saying the university plans to honor Paterno, “for his many contributions and to remember his remarkable life and legacy.”

Paterno, the winningest coach in Division 1 football, was fired in November in the wake of the child abuse case involving his former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.  Upon hearing the news, students rallied on campus for the man they affectionately called "Joe Pa," and Paterno thanked his supporters.

“It’s hard for me to tell you how much this means to me,” he said.  “I’ve lived through this place, I lived for people like you guys and girls.”

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Former Penn State Coach Joe Paterno Dies at Age of 85

Justin K. Allen/Getty Images(STATE COLLEGE, Pa.) -- Joe Paterno, former Penn State football coach, passed away Sunday at the age of 85.

The health of Joe Paterno, whose glittering career as Penn State’s football coach was tainted by a child sex abuse scandal, took a turn for the worse on Saturday. His wife, Suzanne Paterno, summoned close friends and longtime staff members Saturday afternoon to the State College hospital where Paterno had been undergoing treatments since last weekend, a source told the Citizen’s Voice newspaper of Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Paterno wanted to see them and say a final goodbye, the coach’s wife told one of the staff members, the source said.

Paterno family’s spokesman Dan McGinn released a statement saying: “Over the last few days Joe Paterno has experienced further health complications. His doctors have now characterized his status as serious.  His family will have no comment on the situation and asks that their privacy be respected during this difficult time.”

Paterno coached the Nittany Lions for 46 years and in 2011 became the winningest coach in Division 1 football. But before the season was over, he was abruptly dismissed as the sex scandal involving former assistant Jerry Sandusky suggested that top school officials had ignored signs of Sandusky's alleged predatory behavior.

Shortly after his dismissal, Paterno was diagnosed with lung cancer and broke his hip. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments weakened him, robbing him of his hair and his once-booming voice.

In a recent interview with the Washington Post, he appeared frail, wearing a wig and speaking in a whisper.  He canceled public appearances following the interview because of his failing health, according to family members.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Girl Who Outsmarted Alleged Kidnapper: 'I Got my Fight From Daddy'

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) -- A 9-year-old girl is getting credit for her quick thinking and for speaking up after managing to escape from her alleged kidnapper last week.

Calysta Cordova was reported missing Thursday afternoon by her mother when she didn't come home from school. Authorities believed she was abducted on her walk home and issued an Amber Alert.

"My baby girl always walks through my door at 3:21 p.m. I noticed something was wrong, when she was nine minutes late...I called everyone, I panicked," said Steven Ryno, Calysta's stepfather.

"We must find her, that was the main thing that was kicking through our head. It is getting late, it is getting dark, it is getting cold, and I know my baby is hungry," said Ryno, recounting the incident.

Calysta was found safe Friday at the Circle K convenience store in Colorado Springs, according to ABC News' Denver affiliate KMGH. Colorado Springs police spokeswoman Barbara Miller told KMGH that authorities believe Calysta was in a car with 29-year-old suspect Jose Garcia when the car broke down.

A passerby picked them up and drove them to the Circle K convenience store, police said. There, Calysta ran into the store and asked for a phone, saying she wanted to call her uncle. Instead, she called 911.

When asked how she found the strength to do what she did, Calysta said in an exclusive interview with "Good Morning America," that she "got my fight from Daddy."

Calysta said her father taught her "to stand up for myself."

"She had two black eyes, bruises on her cheek," witness Efrin Villapondo told KMGH. "She was in bad shape. The bruise on her face was enormous."

When Garcia entered the store, Calysta defiantly refused to go anywhere with him, yelling, "I'm not going anywhere with you. I'm waiting for my mom," according to police.

"She looked at me, pointed into my eyes and just said, 'I ain't going nowhere. I'm waiting right here for my momma. I looked at the guy, he looked at me, into my eyes, spun around and just high-tailed it out of there," said Efrin Villapando, a witness.

Garcia took off on foot before police arrived. Calysta was transported to Memorial Hospital to be treated for her injuries.

Garcia was found at a bus stop in downtown Colorado Springs, about 7.5 miles south of the convenience store where they had been dropped off.

KMGH was on-scene when Calysta's mother Stephanie Cordova discovered her daughter had been found safe. As the family shrieked and cried with joy, Cordova took a moment to thank all the family's supporters.

"Thank God. Thank you for everybody who watched, who kept an eye out for my daughter and brought her home," Cordova said, crying. "Thank you for your kindness, for putting yourselves in our shoes and bringing my daughter home."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Teacher Who Assigned Math Homework With Slavery Questions Resigns

Hemera Technologies/ThinkStock(ATLANTA, Ga.) -- The third-grade teacher in Gwinnett County, Ga., who assigned math homework that asked questions about slavery and beatings, has resigned and apologized for the incident.

Luis Rivera, who taught at Beaver Ridge Elementary School since 2008, wrote a letter to school officials saying he “cannot apologize enough.”

Rivera resigned during the course of an investigation into the incident.

On Wednesday, district spokeswoman Sloan Roach released a statement regarding the resignation saying, “The principal will move forward immediately to fill the vacancy created by this resignation. As this is a personnel matter, the district will not elaborate further.”

Rivera assigned math homework that included the question, “Each tree had 56 oranges. If eight slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?”

Another math problem read, “If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in one week?”

Another question asked how many baskets of cotton Frederick filled.

Christopher Braxton told ABC News affiliate WSB-TV in Atlanta that he couldn’t believe the assignment his 8-year-old son brought home from of Beaver Ridge Elementary school in Norcross.

“It kind of blew me away,” Braxton said. “Do you see what I see? Do you really see what I see? He’s not answering this question.”

“I was furious,” Braxton said.

“This outrages me because it just lets me know that there’s still racists,” said Stephanie Jones, whose child is a student at the school.

“Something like that shouldn’t be imbedded into a kid of the third, fourth, fifth, any grade,” parent Terrance Barnett told WSB-TV. “I’m having to explain to my 8-year-old why slavery or slaves or beatings are in a math problem. That hurts.”

“In this one, the teachers were trying to do a cross-curricular activity,” Roach said.

Roach said the teachers were attempting to incorporate social studies into math problems.

“We understand that there are concerns about these questions, and we agree that these questions were not appropriate,”
she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Search Resumes for Four Missing Hikers After Blizzard in Washington

Purestock/Getty Images(SEATTLE) -- The search for two pairs of hikers missing for nearly a week in Washington’s Mount Rainier National Park resumed today after freezing rain and heavy snow kept crews inside Friday.

National Parks spokeswoman Patti Wold says conditions are rough, but searchers are optimistic that the four will be found alive.

“Visibility is poor. There are winds up to 50 miles an hour, but the folks we have searching are some of the best of the best, and the most physically able to do this search under those conditions,” said Wold.

“We know that they are still very likely alive, as long as they have been cautious in how they’ve conducted themselves up there,” she said. “We’re still optimistic. We are trying to make sure that we keep our searchers safe out there and that’s our number one priority.”

Mark Vucich, 37, of San Diego, and Michelle Trojanowski, 30, of Atlanta, were supposed to return Sunday from a camping trip on the Muir Snowfield, about 10,000 feet up, but have not been heard from in days.

The pair’s car was found in a parking lot about halfway up the mountain, according to Wold.

Mount Rainier is about 70 miles southeast of Seattle, which was battered by snow and ice on Wednesday.  Mount Rainier was hit with snow over the weekend and temperatures continued to hover well below freezing.

A team of 10 Park Service staff set out Thursday to travel the same route Vucich and Trojanowski would have taken, Wold said.

On Tuesday, the team was only able to conduct a limited search after conditions of zero visibility and 100 mph winds hampered their efforts.

“The weather still isn’t good up there,” Wold said. ”We are doing what we can.”

Meanwhile, two other climbers, an unidentified couple from Springfield, Ore., are also missing after failing to return Monday from a summit attempt on the Disappointment Cleaver route.

Park officials said they believe both pairs of climbers chose to ride out the storm and wait for conditions to clear before returning.  All four are thought to be well-equipped with tents, sleeping bags and other cold weather gear.

Wold says park officials are not sure of the experience level of the two campers and two climbers who are missing, but remain optimistic that they will be found alive.

“The more experienced they are, the better, the more likely they would actually be to understand how to ration their food and supplies,” said Wold.

Vucich’s uncle told the U-T San Diego his nephew is an experienced hiker, but said the family is worried.

“We hope he is hunkered down,” Jack Anthony said. “It’s not a good situation.”

The missing hikers’ families and park officials are hoping their story ends in a fashion similar to that of Yong Chun Kim, the 66-year-old snowshoer who was found alive on Mount Rainier after a two-day search.

Rescuers found Kim, of Tacoma, Wash., alive and well Monday afternoon after he fell down a steep slope Saturday while snowshoeing and became separated from his group.  Kim told park officials he burned dollar bills from his wallet to create warmth and stay alive.

National Park Service officials had to rescue Kim using a special Sno-Cat vehicle because the snowy and windy conditions prevented a helicopter rescue.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Elderly Man Admits to Accidentally Starting Reno Brush Fire

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(RENO, Nev.) -- An elderly man has come forward and admitted to accidentally starting a blaze that burned nearly 3,200 acres and forced the evacuation of 10,000 people in Reno, Nev., officials said Saturday.

Reno Fire Chief Michael Hernandez said the man, who has yet to be identified, came forward Friday on his own and confessed to improperly discarding fireplace ashes outside of his home in the north end of the Washoe Valley, about 20 miles south of town.

The blaze, which started Thursday, was fueled by wind gusts of up to 82 mph and what officials are calling the state's driest winter in 120 years, destroyed 29 homes.

"He has given statements to our investigators as well as law enforcement officers," Hernandez said. "He is extremely remorseful."

Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley said the case will be forwarded to the district attorney's office next week for consideration. The man could face arson charges that would include repayment of the cost of fighting the fire, which now stands at $690,000, but is estimated to reach totals in the millions.

"The DA will have to give this case a lot of deliberation. The fact that he came forward and admitted it plays a role, but so does the massive damage and loss of life. It's a balancing act," Haley said.

Hernandez estimated the fire to be 65 percent contained Friday night, thanks to calmer winds, but more than 300 firefighters and 125 support staff, including law enforcement and members of the Nevada National Guard, were still fighting the fire and checking for hot spots.

Of those evacuated, 2,000 people are still unable to return to their homes.

Highway 395 between Reno and Carson City, closed near the area where the brush fire began, was reopened late Friday night, but, according to Nevada State police, many other roads are still closed.

"The number one thing for us is public safety," Trooper Michael Edgell said. "We've got dozens of power poles that have been burned, that are draped across the landscape, that are borderline dripping onto the highway."

The forecast for rain and snow Saturday presented a new challenge to fire crews, with flooding possible in the burned areas.

Officials said the fire was almost identical to one that ripped through the area in mid-November that destroyed 30 homes and burned 2,000 acres. Fire crews were aided in controlling that blaze by snowfall.

Hernandez said crews were able to prevent the fire from spreading any further, containing it to about six square miles, but officials said it is shocking to see the amount of damage.

"You take so many things for granted," Edgell said. "You get used to your scenery and when you drive through here, and you actually see what the fire has done that it's just amazing to me that the fire can do so much damage."

The evacuation center set up at Damonte Ranch High School was closed and evacuees unable to find a place to stay were provided hotel rooms by the Red Cross. One hundred people in the Reno area remain without power.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Winter Storm Brings Second Major Snowfall of Year to Northeast

Comstock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- The second major winter storm of the season rolled into the Northeast today causing some dangerous driving conditions and headaches for many airport travelers.

The storm, is dumping up to 6 inches of snow in Chicago earlier in the week, is expected to bring 3 to 6 inches in New York City and the surrounding area, with 4 inches expected in Philadelphia, and up to 7 inches in parts of Massachusetts, according to forecasters.

More than 1,500 snow plows were out in New York City this morning, according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said Saturday that the city was faring well during its first major snowfall of the year.

"The snow storm does not, at the moment anyway, seem to be as severe as we predicted," Bloomberg said.

Officials said crews in Pennsylvania and New Jersey began salting the roads around midnight and started to plow shortly after.

Many airports in the region are experiencing delays and flight cancellations, the worst of those at New York's LaGuardia and Philadelphia International according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

FlightAware.com reports nearly 800 flights across the country have been cancelled.

By mid-morning, much of the snow throughout the region turned to sleet, and forecasters said, with a slight warm-up expected in the afternoon, refreezing of the roads tonight could cause some major problems for drivers.

Officials in Seattle said they are now dealing with flooding after the snow and ice brought by the storm began melting.

Parts of the Northeast saw their first significant snowfall in October, cutting off power to more than 3 million homes and businesses throughout New England.

The worst of those outages in Connecticut where some were without power for more than a week.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Protesters Throw Bricks and Bibles at Police in San Francisco

JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Occupy San Francisco’s “Day of Action” turned violent Friday night when protesters occupied an abandoned hotel and began throwing objects at police officers from the roof, police said.

“Once they gained access [to the hotel], some of them made it to the top of the roof and they then began to throw bibles down at the officers,” San Francisco Police Department spokesman Carlos Manfredi said.

“One of officers was struck with a brick to the chest and one of our lieutenants was struck in the hand with an object and may have damaged or even broken his hand,” he said.

Protesters began the day Friday by targeting San Francisco’s financial institutions like the Federal Reserve, Fannie Mae, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, the SEC, Citibank, Chase, and Bechtel.

“The banks are not being responsible and we are tired of being foreclosed, getting in so much debt; it’s just time to change the system,” protester Wendy Kaufmyn told ABC News station KGO-TV in San Francisco.

Protesters began chaining themselves to the entrances of Wells Fargo Bank’s corporate headquarters in downtown San Francisco.

Police in riot gear were called in, and 18 protesters were arrested. That did not stop others from trying to block a nearby Bank of America branch.

Among the protesters was Scott Olsen, the Iraq War veteran who was injured during an Occupy Oakland protest in October, when he was struck in the head by a blunt object other protesters said was a tear gas canister shot by police.

Across the country, protesters also rallied at courthouses Friday to challenge a 2010 Supreme Court decision that largely removed limits on union and corporate spending in support of political campaigns.

Protesters descended on the U. S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C. as part of the nationwide effort that Occupy Wall Street has dubbed “Occupy the Courts.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Video of Missing Florida Mom Emerges

ABC News Radio(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Police have released never-before-seen footage of missing mother Michelle Parker picking up food at the drive-through of a fast food chain hours before she was last seen in Orlando, Fla.

Parker has been missing since Nov. 17, the day an episode of The People's Court aired that exposed the tumultuous relationship between her and ex-fiance Dale Smith Jr., the father of her two children.

Police released the video on Parker's 34th birthday to keep the case in the public eye. One of the 750 tips received so far led police to the video.

The video shows Parker going through a KFC drive through in Casselberry, Fla. three hours before she dropped off her 3-year-old twins at Smith Jr.'s home, the last place she was seen.

Police say the video did not give them any new information.

"It's nothing new as far as what she was wearing, the vehicle. That was put out immediately," said Sgt. Vince Ogburn of the Orlando Police Department, according to ABC News affiliate WFTV.

Parker's family celebrated her birthday at a restaurant.

"We've gone through Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and we had a goal she'd be with us, and she's not," said Gayle Parker, Michelle Parker's stepmother.

In late November, a judge ruled that Smith Jr. should get custody of twins that he had with Parker.

Parker's parents said they were "disappointed" with child custody ruling and worried about the 3-year-old twins being in an "unfamiliar environment" since they have spent their whole lives living with Parker in her parents' home.

The children had been taken away from Smith after police said he was the prime suspect in Parker's disappearance.

But despite the battle over the children, Parker's mother Yvonne Stewart hugged Smith outside the courtroom, even though he is the only suspect in her daughter's disappearance.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mother Exonerated of Son's Death 25 Years Later

Comstock/Thinkstock(DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C.) -- The cold case death of a young boy has been solved after 25 years, exonerating his mother who had long been considered a suspect.

Nicholas Loris, 6, was found strangled to death 150 yards from his Davidson County, N.C., home on Feb. 21, 1987.

The Forsyth County Sheriff's Department credited new technology with helping them to clear Elizabeth Watkins' name and determine that her son's cause of death was a dog attack.

"Not only has she been exonerated but the weight from the last 25 years has been lifted from her shoulders," Watkins' attorney, David Freedman, told ABCNews.com. "It means everything to her."

Spending the past 25 years as a suspect cost Watkins a relationship with her older son, who went to live with his father after she became a suspect, as well as the burden of search warrants, DNA tests and always wondering what really happened to Nicholas.

In partnership with the F.B.I., investigators were able to use new technology to blow up photographs and determine that the claw and scratch marks on the boy's body came from a number of medium-sized dogs. Nicholas died from strangulation after the dogs pulled his clothing tightly around his neck.

"Once [investigators] were able to see the wounds up close, they were able to see they were consistent with a dog attack," Freedman said.

Bill Schatzman, Forsyth County Sheriff, announced at a press conference Thursday that Watkins had been exonerated and the case was officially closed.

Before the news broke, Freedman said law enforcement sat down with Watkins' estranged son, who was not named, and shared the evidence with him.

"They did it to end any question in his mind about whether she was involved," Freedman said.

Since being exonerated, Watkins and her son have been reunited and are reconnecting.

"Her focus now," Freedman said, "is moving forward."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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