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Tuesday
Apr242012

Missing Tucson Girl's Family Will 'Never Give Up Finding Her

ABC News(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- Relatives of Isabel Mercedes Celis, a 6-year-old girl who went missing from her Tucson, Ariz., bedroom over the weekend, say they will "never give up" in their efforts to track her down.

"We appreciate everyone's interest in finding our daughter, Isabel, and thank all the volunteers who have come out to search for her," the family said in a statement read by the Tucson Police Department.

"We are cooperating fully with authorities and are focused only on her safe return," the statement said.  "We appreciate all your energy and efforts and continue to need the community's help.  Please call the TPD if you have any information.  We love Isabel and will never give up finding her.  Thank you for all your support."

Tucson police searched the homes of a number of residences on Monday close to where Celis disappeared, including one home on the same street as the girl's house.

The search entered day three on Monday with investigators combing a nearby landfill, canvassing the neighborhood interviewing residents, and examining evidence that FBI search dogs "hit" in the Celis family home.

Celis was reported missing by her father around 8 a.m. Saturday after Celis' mother left for work and her father went to wake her up.  The child was not in her room, and a bedroom window was opened with the screen removed, Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor said.

The little girl was last seen around 11 p.m. Friday, when she was put to bed, he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr242012

Rahm Emanuel Welcomes Nobel Peace Prize Winners to Chicago

ABC News(CHICAGO) -- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel welcomed Nobel Peace Prize winners including former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Jimmy Carter to Chicago Monday for the start of the 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates.

This is the first time the summit has been held in North America.

“I’m proud that we’re having it here in Chicago, because Chicago has more Nobel Laureates than any other city in America,” Emanuel said in an interview with ABC News.  Twenty-one Nobel Peace Prize winners are expected to participate in the three-day event.

The mayor started the day with Gorbachev and actor-activist Sean Penn, the unlikely trio talking with public high school students at Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center.  Nobel Laureates spread throughout Chicago Public Schools to tell their stories and bring home the “Speak Up, Speak Out for Freedom and Rights,” theme of the summit.

“We had 14 schools just this morning with Nobel Laureates or organizations all participating in social studies classes about the world, about peace, about social injustice, about making a difference,” said Emanuel.  “And we’re going to have a curriculum that stays with the school when this summit wraps up on Wednesday.  It will be here for future generations.”

At Von Steuben, Gorbachev was introduced by a high school senior who immigrated with her family from Yemen.

“She’s going to Northwestern on a four-year scholarship.  That tells you something about Chicago -- that tells you something about America,” Emanuel said.  “And I want the kids of that school to have the opportunity to meet these individuals who’ve made a difference in the world, the world they’re living in right now.”

For Mayor Emanuel, the message he hopes students take from their conversations with Nobel Peace Prize winners and peace activists is that “an individual speaking up on behalf of injustice, or peace, can make a difference.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr242012

Soldiers More Apt to Get into Car Accidents at Home After Deployments

Creatas/Thinkstock(SAN ANTONIO, Texas) -- Overseas duty appears to affect the driving behavior of returning military personnel, making these motorists more careless on the roads, according to a survey by a major insurer of the armed forces and their families.

The USAA survey reveals that war veterans have gotten into 13 percent more accidents at which they’re at fault during their first six months back home compared to the six months prior to their deployment.

By and large, U.S. Army and Marine members who learned to drive aggressively in Iraq and Afghanistan to avoid roadside bombs known as improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were more prone to drive similarly once they returned to the states, experiencing higher accidents rates of 23 percent and 12.5 percent, respectively.

In contrast, the traffic accident rates of Navy members only rose three percent while accidents went up two percent for Air Force vets.

USAA also discovered that higher accident rates were directly related to a higher number of deployments.  Service members with three or more overseas tours were involved in 36 percent more accidents.  That number shrunk to 27 percent for two deployments and fell to 12 percent when a soldier was deployed only once.

Meanwhile, soldiers 22-years-old or younger were more prone to get into car accidents than those 29 or older.  Also, the higher the rank of the soldier, the lower the incidence of mishaps on the road.

USAA made its findings based on 158,000 members covering 171,000 deployments from February 2007 until February 2010.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr242012

NY Woman Fired After Donating Kidney to Help Her Boss

Keith Brofsky/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A New York woman said she was fired after she donated a kidney to help save the life of her boss.

Debbie Stevens, a 47-year-old divorced mother of two, filed a formal complaint with the New York State Human Rights Commission last Friday, claiming her boss used her for her organ then fired her "after the woman got what she wanted." 

Stevens' boss, 61-year-old Jackie Brucia, is one of the West Islip controllers for Atlantic Automotive Group, a billion-dollar dealership operator.  Brucia hired Stevens in January 2009 as an assistant.

"She just started treating me horribly, viciously, inhumanly after the surgery," Stevens told ABC News.  "It was almost like she hired me just to get my kidney."

Stevens left the company in June 2010 to move to Florida.  She returned to New York in September to visit her daughter, and decided to stop in at the dealership, according to the complaint.  It was during this visit that Brucia told Stevens of her need for a kidney transplant.

"She said she had a possible donor, a friend or something," Stevens said.  "But I told her if anything happened that I'd be willing to donate my kidney.  She kind of jokingly replied, 'You never know, I may have to take you up on that one day.'"

A few months later, Stevens moved back to Long Island and asked Brucia if she had any job openings.  Brucia hired her within weeks.

Then, in January 2011, Stevens said her boss called her into her office and asked if she was serious about donating her kidney.

"I said, 'Yeah, sure.  This isn't a joking matter,'" Stevens said.  "I did not do it for job security.  I didn't do it to get a raise.  I did it because it's who I am.  I didn't want her to die."

When tests revealed that Stevens was not the best match, doctors agreed to let her give her kidney to someone in Missouri, which gave Brucia a higher place on the organ donor list.

Stevens underwent surgery on Aug. 10, 2011.  She said doctors hit a nerve in her leg, causing her discomfort and digestive problems.  She returned to work four weeks later, and said that's when the problems began.

"I don't have words strong enough or large enough to describe her treatment of me," Stevens said.  "Screaming at me about things I never did, carrying on to the point where she wouldn't even let me leave my desk.  It was constant, constant screaming."

Stevens said she was demoted and moved to a car dealership 50 miles from her home.  She said the mental stress got even worse, with her supervisor calling her an "actress."

After consulting a psychiatrist for her mental stress, Stevens hired attorneys who sent a letter to Atlantic Automotive Group.  She was fired within a week.

When reached by ABC News, AAG referred all calls about the case to Jackie Brucia, Stevens' supervisor, who could not be reached for comment, at either the car dealership or her home.  It is not known whether Brucia has legal representation at this time.

Stevens' attorney, civil rights lawyer Lenard Leeds, said he planned to file a discrimination lawsuit against AAG, and would likely seek millions of dollars in compensation.

"Our ultimate goal is to bring this before federal court," Leeds said.  "We're alleging they discriminated against her for her disability and they retaliated against her when she complained about the harassment."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr242012

Virginia Woman Wins $1 Million Lottery Twice in the Same Day

Virginia Lottery(RICHMOND, Va.) -- Winning the lottery once in a lifetime is pretty lucky.  Winning the lottery twice in the same day?  Virginia Fike is one of the few people that can describe that feeling.

The Berryville, Va., resident had two tickets that matched five of the six Powerball numbers in an April 7 drawing, making each ticket worth $1 million.

"I'm in shock!" Fike said in a news release from the Virginia Lottery.

In early April, Fike stopped at an Olde Stone Truck Stop in Virginia with her numbers ready and purchased two tickets.

"I picked numbers based on my parents' anniversary and their ages at that time, divided by the year they were married," Fike said in the release.  "I just love the jackpot games and I play when I can afford it."

The jackpot that week was at $80 million.  In order to win the jackpot, the ticket holder has to match the five numbers and the sixth Powerball number.

After the drawing, it was announced that no one had won the jackpot, but 14 people nationwide had matched five of the numbers and were entitled to $1 million prizes each.  Two of the winning tickets were in Virginia.

Fike was in the hospital keeping her mother company.

"I saw a scroll on TV about there being two $1 million winners.  I looked at my mom and said 'Wouldn't it be funny if it was us?'" she said.

When she stopped by a convenience store, Fike had the clerk check her tickets and she discovered that she had won both of Virginia's $1 million prizes.

Per Virginia state lottery rules, winners split the jackpot, regardless of how many there are, but non-jackpot prizes from matching part of the winning sequence are not split and can be won multiple times.

"It's not that uncommon for people to buy tickets in games with the same number, but this is the biggest prize we've ever had in Virginia of two tickets in the same drawing," Virginia Lottery spokesman John Hagerty told ABC News.

Fike was presented with a check for $2 million last Friday at the truck stop where she purchased the ticket.  Winners in Virginia are required to come forward and be identified. 

She will receive $1.4 million after taxes.  The store also received a $20,000 bonus for selling the two winning tickets.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr232012

Sanford Police Chief Resigns; George Zimmerman Back in Hiding

Mario Tama/Getty Images(SANFORD, Fla.) -- Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee offered his resignation Monday, but the city council refused to accept it. Lee temporarily withdrew as chief last month in the wake of the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Martin's family released a statement seeming to object to the city council's action.

"Sanford residents deserve quality leadership in law enforcement who will handle investigations fairly for all people," the family said. "If Chief Bill Lee recognized that his resignation would help start the healing process in Sanford, city leadership should have accepted it in an effort to move the city forward."

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George Zimmerman, wearing a bulletproof vest, walked out of a Florida jail shortly after midnight Monday and slipped back into hiding, where his lawyer says he will likely stay until his trial next year.

Zimmerman was able to leave jail after posting $150,000 bond as he awaits trial on a second-degree murder charge in Trayvon Martin's killing.

He left the John E. Polk Correctional Facility at the Seminole County Sheriff's Office accompanied by a man ABC News identified as his bail bondsman.

Zimmerman was fitted with an electronic monitoring device prior to release, according to a statement from the sheriff's office. The GPS device, which can give immediate identification of an offender's whereabouts anywhere in the U.S., suggests that the defense's request that he be allowed to wait out the trial out of Florida may have been granted.

The terms of his release require him to report his whereabouts every three days, according to court documents.

Out of concern for his safety, Zimmerman attorney Mark O'Mara says that he will waive Zimmerman's appearance at his arraignment May 8. When asked if Zimmerman will be seen in public again anytime soon, O'Mara said, "I don't think so," and added that Zimmerman may not be seen in public until he testifies.

Zimmerman stunned a Florida court Friday by taking the stand and apologizing to the parents of Trayvon Martin, who were sitting in the courtroom during Zimmerman's bond hearing.

"I am sorry for the loss of your son. I did not know how old he was. I thought he was a little bit younger than I am. I did not know if he was armed or not," Zimmerman said, addressing Martin's family directly.

Zimmerman told police the night he shot and killed Martin that he acted in self-defense after Martin punched him and pounced on him. Zimmerman told police that Martin then bashed his head into the concrete sidewalk during the altercation that took place in the tidy middle-class development of the Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford, Fla.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr232012

Secret Service Scandal: Soldier Is Latest Military Member Under Investigation

Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The 12th military service member under investigation for links to the the prostitution scandal in Colombia is an Army soldier working for the White House Communications Agency (WHCA), Defense Department officials confirm to ABC News.

The agency is staffed by military members who provide technical and communications support at the White House as well as on domestic and international presidential trips.

“A military service member attached to the White House Communications Agency is under investigation related to the incident in Cartagena,” a Defense official said. “The individual has been relieved of his duties pending the outcome of the investigation. The White House Communications Agency provides information services to the executive branch, Secret Service and others as directed, but it reports to the Defense Information Systems Agency.”

The Secret Service is investigating 12 of its agents and officers regarding allegations of misconduct with prostitutes in Colombia before President Obama’s arrival in Cartagena for the Summit of the Americas two weekends ago. Six Secret Service members have resigned or been asked to step down from their posts.

The military service members now under investigation for their activities in Colombia include seven Army soldiers, two Marines, two Navy sailors and an Air Force airman.

White House spokesman Jay Carney confirmed earlier Monday that a WHCA employee was now under investigation.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday that several service members under investigation have had their security clearances suspended while the investigation’s underway.  Several officials said the soldier working for WHCA is assumed to be one of the ones referred to by Panetta.

Panetta made the comments while en route to Colombia for a previously scheduled trip to meet with defense officials there.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr232012

Steven Powell Challenges Child Porn Evidence

Kevin Horan/Stone(SEATTLE) -- The father-in-law of missing Utah mom Susan Cox Powell could be released from jail this week if a Washington judge throws out his charges of voyeurism and child pornography.

Steven Powell, 67, was arrested in 2011 after police found thousands of images of naked young girls and women, including his daughter-in-law, while searching the home he shared with his son, Josh Powell.

The police were searching the home for clues in the case of Susan Powell's 2009 disappearance, in which Josh Powell was the only person of interest. Investigators told the judge who signed the search warrant that they were seeking handwritten journals Susan Powell kept while alive.

During the search, police seized dozens of video tapes, VHS tapes and CDs belonging to Steven Powell, leading to Steven Powell's arrest and the removal of Josh Powell's two sons from his custody because they shared a home with Steven Powell.

Josh Powell later killed himself and the two boys in a fiery explosion after being asked to undergo a "psychosexual" evaluation in order to regain custody of the children.

Monday, standing just a few feet away from Susan Cox Powell's parents, Steven Powell and his attorney Mark Quigley asked Judge Ronald Culpepper to rule that there was no probable cause for authorities to search the Powell home and no legal reason to seize the disks that contained the alleged child porn images. If the judge agrees, Powell could be released from jail this week.

"Their investigation was stale. The police were getting frustrated, and they needed a reason to enter the Powell residence for another search," Quigley said Monday.

The prosecution, however, told Culpepper that the search of the Powell home was done lawfully and was important to the investigation.

Police obtained the search warrant after seeing Steven Powell on national television "bragging" about having seven journals that Susan Cox Powell kept while she was alive, prosecutor Grant Blinn said Monday. Steven Powell said that journals were integral to the investigation, but refused to turn them over to police, Blinn said.

Police were left with only one choice: to search the Powell home to obtain the journals.

"The only reason we're here today at all is because Mr. Powell went on national television bragging that he had the journals and would not hand them over, but were important to investigation and is now fighting the search warrant to get the journals," Blinn said.

Powell has pleaded not guilty to the charges. The investigation, by the Pierce County Sheriff's Department, determined that two of the young girls Powell is said to have covertly taped lived next door, and that his bedroom window faced the side of the victims' residence and the line of sight matches the camera angle seen in the videos.

"In a majority of the images the photographer focuses on the intimate parts of females," the document said.

The judge could rule as early as Tuesday on the legality of the search, and Powell could be released from jail shortly after.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr232012

Search for Missing Tucson Girl Isabel Celis Checks Nearby Homes

ABC News(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- Tucson police searched a number of residences Monday close to where 6-year-old Isabel Mercedes Celis has disappeared, including one home on the same street as the girl's house.

The search for the missing girl entered day three Monday with investigators combing a nearby landfill, canvassing the neighborhood, interviewing residents, and examining evidence that FBI search dogs "hit" in the Celis family home.

Celis was reported missing by her father around 8 a.m. Saturday after Celis' mother had left for work and her father went to wake her up. The child was not in her room, and a bedroom window was opened with the screen removed, Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor said.

The little girl was last seen around 11 p.m. Friday, when she was put to bed, he said.

Villasenor would not say which residences were searched Monday, after police obtained warrants for the case, but did acknowledge that more than 15 registered sex offenders live within a three-mile radius of the family's home, including at least one who lives in the immediate vicinity.

Detectives have interviewed all of the offenders, he said.

The search for Celis intensified after two FBI search dogs hit upon something in the Celis family home overnight. Villasenor noted that there was a cadaver dog and a scent dog used in the search.

"We have information we obtained from the dogs that has necessitated more follow-up investigation," Villasenor said Monday.

Police evacuated the Celis family from their home Monday following the dog search, Villasenor said. They are treating the house as a crime scene.

Police have not ruled out the parents of the missing child as suspects.

Investigators also continued to search a nearby landfill Monday where garbage was taken after being picked up at the Celis' home on Saturday, Villasenor said. Having police turn to a landfill for evidence of the girl was a grim turn in the investigation.

Celis' uncle, Justin Mastromarino, told ABC News that the girl's mother is devastated over the disappearance of her "sweet little girl."

"They're very upset right now, mother is beside herself. We're just trying to let police do their thing and get as much info as possible," said Mastromarino.

Mastromarino said her family is a loving one.

More than 250 people helped search the area around the Celis' Tucson neighborhood this weekend, including canvassing neighbors to ask about any possible leads.

Celis' family told ABC News on Sunday that they have no doubt she was kidnapped by a stranger.

"You don't think anything like that would actually really happen to you. And all of sudden, you wake up one morning and you're in that scenario. Everything goes through your mind, you're angry, you're upset, you're frustrated, you're confused," Mastromarino said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr232012

‘Suspicious’ Washington State House Fire Kills Two Women

Joseph Devenney/Getty Images(SEATTLE) -- A “very suspicious” house fire near North Bend, Wash., that killed two women on Sunday is being investigated as a homicide, according to officials.

The King County Sheriff’s Office is looking for 41-year-old Peter Keller, the male resident of the home, as a person of interest in the case. A car missing from the scene was found hours later at the North Bend library.

While police have not released the identities of the victims, neighbors told ABC News that a man and woman lived in the home along with their teenage daughter.

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The fatal blaze was reported early Sunday morning by a neighbor. Firefighters found the two women unconscious in the home. Although responders attempted to revive the victims with CPR, they were unresponsive.

Firefighting officials became suspicious about the cause of the fire after finding seven gas canisters on the scene, which led to the deployment of a bomb detection robot.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio