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HEAR THIS HOUR'S UPDATE

Entries in Christmas (35)

Monday
Dec242012

Snow Storm Threatens Post-Christmas Travel

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A huge storm that dumped heavy snow and rain on the West Coast is expected to move east and could spoil travel plans for people looking to return home the day after Christmas, which is considered one of the busiest travel days.

The storm is forecast to move east over the next few days and drop snow in Oklahoma starting Monday before finishing up in the Northeast sometime Wednesday.

The Midwest will be covered with snow by Wednesday, likely causing delays at major airports in cities including Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis and Chicago just in time for post-Christmas travel, when millions of Americans will be on the move.

Snow could arrive in the Northeast by Thursday, dropping 1-3 inches over parts of New England.

In Syracuse, N.Y., plows are working overtime, dealing with two consecutive days of snow this weekend during the city's first snowstorm of the season.  As the city continues to dig out, all eyes are watching the storm roll in from the west.

Torrential rain and heavy winds have also caused trouble for California's Bay Area over the weekend, which has seen severe flooding, power outages and delays for those planning to fly out for the holidays.

More than 400 flights were canceled on Sunday at San Francisco International Airport.  Travelers had to deal with more than 200 cancellations on Saturday.

So far this month, San Francisco has gotten almost five inches of rain -- almost twice as much as the area gets for the entire month of December.

Severe snow and rain are not the only issues facing Americans looking to get home before the New Year.  Several states in the Gulf of Mexico, all the way from Houston to Raleigh, N.C., are bracing for possible tornadoes starting on Monday and lasting until Wednesday.

The biggest chance for tornadoes will be Tuesday from Houston to New Orleans to Birmingham, Ala., and Atlanta.

AAA predicts 93.3 million people will travel more than 50 miles this holiday season, from Saturday, Dec. 22, through New Year's Day.  That's a 1.6 percent increase from last year.  

Christmas is the third-busiest holiday for travelers, after Memorial Day and Thanksgiving.  AAA is urging drivers to leave earlier or later to dodge bad weather.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb132012

Dad Eyes Suit in Christmas Fire That Killed Daughters

John Moore/Getty Images(STAMFORD, Conn.) -- The father of three young daughters who were killed in a Christmas Eve fire in Connecticut has signaled his intention to sue over their deaths.

Matthew Badger filed papers last week that would name him as administrator of his daughters’ estates, allowing him to potentially file a wrongful death claim in their names.

Badger’s lawyer, Richard Emery, told ABC News that the filing was “routine” when “someone dies without a will.” By becoming an administrator for his daughters’ estates, Emery said that Badger hopes to create a foundation “in a quest to preserve and enhance the memory of these girls.”

Emery said, however, they were still looking into the incident and “how that place became a firetrap and who was responsible for it.”

While Badger has no intention of filing suit against Madonna Badger, his ex-wife and the mother of his daughters, Emery said that that Badger hadn’t made any further decisions about filing a wrongful death suit.

The three girls were spending Christmas with their mother, their maternal grandparents, and their mother’s boyfriend, Michael Borcina. Borcina was a contractor who was renovating the house.

Borcina took embers from the fireplace because the girls’ feared Santa Clause would get burned. He put the ashes in a bucket in a trash enclosure next to the house, and they somehow ignited the $1.7 million Victorian home in Stamford, Conn.  According to officials, there appeared to be no working fire detectors within the home.

The blaze killed Badger’s three daughters and Madonna Badger’s parents.

“Every level of what could have gone wrong, went wrong,” said Emery. “That needs to be examined carefully.”

In addition to investigating Borcina’s involvement in the fire, Emery said he was very concerned about the Stamford Buildings Department’s decision to demolish the still-smoldering house the day after the fire.

“That certainly is a grave concern for my client,” said Emery. “It seems outrageous and beyond any reasonable protocol to tear down the house within 24 hours of a fire.”

Emery said that since the house was demolished so quickly both insurance investigators and police investigators did not have the time to inspect the building thoroughly.

While Emery said that Badger is focusing on creating a foundation in honor of his daughters, he will still be investigating the different factors surrounding the accident.

“There’s much more than just fire alarms,” said Emery.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jan262012

Mom Who Lost Kids, Parents in Christmas Fire Attempted Suicide: Report

John Moore/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Madonna Badger, the New York woman who lost her three daughters and parents in a tragic Connecticut Christmas fire, attempted suicide last week.

Badger, 47, was reportedly hospitalized after hurting herself in an attempt to kill herself, the New York Daily News reported.

"She is okay...She is out [of the hospital] and somewhere safe," a relative told the paper. "It's just terrible -- nobody could really hold up well under the circumstances."

One person close to Badger would not confirm the report, saying that the matter was very personal and difficult to discuss due to the circumstances, but also declined to deny the report.

The Stamford, Conn., fire in the early hours of Dec. 25 claimed the lives of Badger's parents Lomer and Pauline Johnson, and her three daughters Lily, 10, and 7-year-old twins Grace and Sarah. Badger and her friend Michael Borcina were the only survivors.

The fire was started by fireplace embers that had been cleared out of the fireplace and put in either a mud room attached to the house or a trash enclosure next to it, fire officials said. The embers were reportedly removed because the girls were afraid they would burn Santa Claus as he came down the chimney.

Though firefighters, Badger, Borcina and the grandparents all tried to save the little girls, they were unable to make it through walls of fire that kept pushing them back.

Badger is a well-known fashion advertising executive in New York who has worked on Calvin Klein campaigns. The fire happened at her $1.7 million Victorian home in Stamford that was being renovated by her boyfriend Borcina.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec272011

Connecticut Christmas Fire: Fireplace Embers Caused Blaze

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(STAMFORD, Conn.) -- The Christmas morning fire at a Connecticut home that killed three girls and their grandparents was started by fireplace embers that had been cleared out of the fireplace and put in either a mud room attached to the house or a trash enclosure next to the mud room, fire officials said Tuesday.

It is unclear whether there were smoke alarms in the house, which was in the middle of an extensive renovation.

The fire began sometime after 3 a.m. while the occupants of the house were asleep.

"The fire entered the house quickly and spread through the first floor and up," Stamford Chief Fire Marshal Barry Callahan told reporters at a news conference.

The fire quickly engulfed the home and neighbors called 911 at 4:52 a.m. to report the fire. The fire department responded within six minutes, but was unable to rescue the five people trapped in the house.

Lomer Johnson, his wife Pauline Johnson and their three granddaughters, Lily, 10, and 7-year-old twins Grace and Sarah, were killed in the fire. The couple's daughter Madonna Badger, the mother of the girls, survived along with her friend and contractor Michael Borcina.

<<LISTEN TO 911 CALLS >>

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec272011

Man Dressed as Santa Blamed for Christmas Day Massacre

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(GRAPEVINE, Texas) -- A Santa-suited gunman who killed six people on Christmas morning was the estranged husband of one of the victims and the father of two teenagers who died in the massacre.

Aziz Yazdanpanah, 56, showed up to his estranged wife's apartment on Christmas morning dressed like St. Nick and opened fire shortly after the family had unwrapped presents.

Yazdanpanah then killed himself.

The six victims were identified by ABC affiliate WFAA as: Nasrin Rahmaty, 55, who was Yazdanpanah's wife; Nona Yazdanpanah, 19, his daughter; Ali Yazdanpanah, 15, his son; Zohreh Rahmaty, 58, his sister-in-law; Hossein Zarei, 59, his brother-in-law; and Sahra Zarei, 22, his niece.

The medical examiner's office has still not released the names of the victims.

Zarei owned a popular Dallas, Texas, ranch and was well known in the Iranian-American community, according to WFAA. On Christmas Eve, the family hosted a party at the ranch. The gunman was not invited.

"The appearance we got leading up to this was it was just a normal Christmas gathering," Sgt. Roger Eberling of the Grapevine Police Department told ABC News.

Eberling said it was unclear whether AzizYazdanpanah was invited to the apartment, but said it appeared he did not force his way inside.

Around 11:16 a.m., Eberling said a female victim sent a text message to a friend indicating the family had just exchanged gifts and that the gunman was there dressed as Santa Claus.

Minutes later, police received a 911 call, which initially sounded like silence, Eberling said.  After listening to the call again, Eberling said police could hear someone in a raspy voice saying "help me." He said the caller sounded out of breath and the call went dead after 15 to 20 seconds.

Police arrived within minutes where they found the bodies of all six victims and the gunman. Two handguns were found among the wrapping paper and Christmas tree.

Nasrin Rahmaty had been separated from her husband since March, according to ABC affiliate WFAA. Rahmaty and her two children moved into the Grapevine, Texas, apartment where they were murdered, while Yazdanpanah reportedly remained in the family's Colleyville, Texas, home, which had been foreclosed on last year, WFAA reported.

Yazdanpanah had been having financial troubles after his real estate business slowed down and had reportedly filed for bankruptcy.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec272011

Connecticut Christmas Fire: Man Died Trying to Save Granddaughter

Lomer Johnson, dressed as Santa Claus. ABC NewsUPDATE: The Christmas morning fire at a Connecticut home that killed three girls and their grandparents was started by fireplace embers that had been cleared out of the fireplace and put in either a mud room attached to the house or a trash enclosure next to the mud room, fire officials said Tuesday. It is unclear whether there were smoke alarms in the house, which was in the middle of an extensive renovation.

(STAMFORD, Conn.) -- The grandfather who died in a Connecticut Christmas fire that claimed the lives of five people tried desperately to rescue one of his granddaughters as the house was being engulfed by flames.

The grandfather, Lomer Johnson, made it out a third floor window and onto the roof before being overcome by fumes.

"The grandfather was found just outside the structure on a small roof covered in debris and inside the window we found one of the children," Stamford Fire Chief Antonio Conte told ABC’s Good Morning America. "It appears that the grandfather has one of the children with him, tried to exit the structure but was overcome and passed away. And the little one passed away just inside the window."

Johnson was one of five who died in the blaze. His wife Pauline and their three granddaughters, Lily, 10, and 7-year-old twins Grace and Sarah, were also killed.

The only survivors were the girls' mother, Madonna Badger, and her friend, Michael Borcina, a contractor who had been working on the home. They were able to escape from the first floor of the five-bedroom home. Badger and Borcina were hospitalized with burn injuries.

The three-alarm fire started at about 5 a.m. on Christmas.

Though reports have said the fire was started by the embers of yule logs, Conte said that the official cause of the fire has not yet been handed down from the fire marshal's office.

The $1.7 million Victorian home was torn down Monday after the fire department deemed the destroyed structure unsafe.

Lomer had recently fulfilled a life-long dream of playing Santa at Saks Fifth Avenue, at the urging of his oldest granddaughter. A few years ago, he retired as a safety and security director and he and his wife moved to the area to be closer to their daughter and grandchildren.

Badger was a fashion consultant and advertising executive, who created the Mark Wahlberg Calvin Klein underwear ads. Badger climbed onto the roof, desperately trying to break a bedroom window, but the flames had spread too quickly, Stamford Police Sgt. Paul Guzda told ABC News.

Relatives said Badger had been recently divorced and moved from New York City to the affluent suburb of Stamford and renovated the home for her family.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec262011

Happy Returns: Shoppers Hunt for Best Deals

Tim Boyle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The day and week after Christmas is one of the busiest times for gift card redemption, said a spokeswoman for Walmart. Stores are often also inundated with gift returns.

"If people return something, there's a 70 percent chance they will buy something else," said Britt Beemer, retail analyst and chairman of America's Research Group.

Deals will be different in-store and online, so research is key. A spokeswoman for Walmart said its website and stores would offer 50 percent discounts but on different items. Many Walmart stores will open at 5 a.m. Monday, and the store will have a clearance on select toys, home products, some apparel and seasonal merchandise, the Walmart rep said.

Most retailers offer deep discounts on Christmas decorations, even fake Christmas trees, which shoppers can easily stow away in the basement or garage for next year.

Apparel deals will be aplenty for those who are in stores returning gifts. Last year, American Eagle, Aeropostale, New York & Company, Polo Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic factory stores, Express and Old Navy offered in-store deals the day after Christmas. The Gap offered an extra 50 percent off sale items in-store until noon, according dealnews.com.

Jennifer Black, retail expert and president of independent research firm Jennifer Black and Associates, recommends that shoppers save receipts in case items are discounted further. Some retailers offer price adjustments.

Black said apparel retailer Talbots is likely to offer a 40 percent discount, because it had been struggling with holiday sales.

Last year, department stores offered a plethora of online coupons. Macy's, Nike, Ann Taylor Loft, JCPenney, Best Buy, Walmart, Tory Burch, Timberland and Kiehl's are examples, said Sakraida. Macy's had a coupon of $10 off a purchase of $25 or more.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Dec252011

Seven Found Dead in Dallas-Area Apartment

Thinkstock/Getty Images(DALLAS) -- Seven people were found dead Christmas Day in a Dallas-area apartment of apparent gunshot wounds, police said.

The Dallas Morning News reports that the victims were found when officers responded to a 911 call near State Highways 121 and 360.

Four females and three males are reportedly among the dead.

Police believe the shooter is among the dead, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Dec252011

Dad Locked in Custody Battle Gets Christmas Miracle

Courtesy of Dr. Moises Garcia(MILWAUKEE) -- It was a very Merry Christmas for one Wisconsin man, whose four year battle to regain custody of his daughter from his wife, who had taken her to Japan, ended when he returned to the United States with the 9-year-old girl.

Moises Garcia, whose story was part of an ABC News series on fathers engaged in international custody battles, returned Friday with his daughter Karina.

“She’s nervous in the beginning. She told me she was overwhelmed from the, so many people around. But now, with me and my sister, she is actually sleeping. So she’s doing OK,” the Fox Point doctor told ABC News affiliate WISN-TV in Milwaukee as he was coming home from the airport in Chicago.

Garcia’s case was unusual among fathers who have fought their ex-wives in Japanese courts, because Japan made the rare move of recognizing U.S. court orders that granted him custody of his daughter.

Despite that recognition, he was still granted little access to Karina. He visited Japan numerous times each year, but was often only allowed to see his daughter for short, court-monitored visits in a room with a two-way mirror.

The break in Garcia’s case came eight months ago, when Garcia’s wife, Emiko Inoue, was arrested in Hawaii on charges of abducting her child.

In November she pleaded guilty to lesser charges, as long as she returned Karina to Garcia. She was ordered to remain in jail until the little girl was back in her father’s home.

Patrick Braden of California, the founder of Global Frontier, a group that advocates for father’s in custody battles over children who have been taken to Japan, told WISN that Garcia’s case is a landmark.

“This is the first time a Japanese citizen who kidnapped an American child from the United States soil in violation of previously established jurisdiction and laws has been held accountable for the criminal act here in a US court,” Braden said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Dec252011

Michelle Obama Helps Kids Track Santa

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(KAILUA, Hawaii) -- First lady Michelle Obama continued her tradition of answering calls from children who are curious about Santa’s whereabouts on Christmas Eve, as part of the annual NORAD Tracks Santa Program through the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

Each year, more than 1,200 volunteers answer hundreds of thousands of phone calls and emails from those trying to track Old Saint Nick.

The first lady took her calls from the family’s vacation rental in Kailua, Hawaii.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio