Entries in Christmas Day (5)


Christmas Day Tragedy: Father Speaks of Grief, Launches Fund

Matthew Badger(NEW YORK) -- The father of Lily, Sarah and Grace Badger, the three girls who died last year in a Christmas Day fire in their Connecticut home, has spoken publicly for the first time of his grief, his daughters and his glimmers of something positive coming from their deaths by drawing attention to a new fund he has launched in their memory.

The nation awoke to the news on Dec. 25 that three young girls had been killed along with their grandparents in their Stamford home. Investigators say hot fireplace embers -- cleaned out of the fireplace because the girls worried about Santa, and discarded in the back of the house -- sparked the blaze.

"There probably has not been a worse Christmas Day in the city of Stamford," Stamford Mayor Michael Pavia said.

The girls' mother, advertising executive Madonna Badger, and her boyfriend, Michael Borcina, the contractor on the house, were the only survivors. Madonna Badger is said still to be in deep isolated mourning.

Matthew Badger, the father of the three girls, has decided to turn the grief from his loss into something positive, and has launched the Lily, Sarah Grace Fund, which will offer money to elementary school teachers who incorporate the use of art -- a passion his daughters shared -- into their teaching. He hopes to draw attention to what will become a living monument to his girls.

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[ Click here to learn more about the Lily, Sarah Grace Fund. ]

Speaking publicly for the first time since their deaths, Badger recalled his last days with 9-year-old Lily and 7-year-old twins Sarah and Gracie, and discussed his feelings at the time of the tragedy.

"I was with them for an entire week in my apartment," Badger said, smiling when he thinks back. "It was dancing. We had our own Christmas tree and that photograph was when we had opened our presents they were all very happy."

Badger said he often studies a snapshot from that final day with Lily, Sarah and Gracie, a day meant to be just one of so many more. He said that after the fire, he struggled to understand why this could happen to his girls.

"It was very difficult to see … Why did this happen? I mean, it doesn't make any sense. And I'd just seen them the day before," Badger told ABC News. "The experience … of memories about their lives has been one of … tears. And every time I open up my computer and look at pictures of them, I am moved."

In the interview with ABC's Claire Shipman for Good Morning America, Badger discussed how he has channeled his grief and memories of his girls into something tangible for others.

"It's really hard," he said. "People treat their grief in different ways. Either they head straight into the wind [or] some people hide behind a rock.

"I had a very hard time making sense of what life was," he continued. "The instinct of a father for me was that I needed to love my children … and that love I channeled into the creation of the Lily Sarah Grace Fund. I need to try and make them have made a mark on the planet, and not have just died in vain."

Badger said he was especially inspired by New York public school teacher Amie Schindel, who sent his daughter, Gracie, skipping to school each day. Schindel told ABC News of her fond memories of the girl.

"I remember having her like it was yesterday. She just kind of shined," Schindel said.

Badger enlisted the help of kindred spirit Charles Best, whose innovative program,, allows people to give money directly to schools.

"Many of the teacher requests are about incorporating art into science, or into math, or into English, and really making art a part of everybody's education," Best says.

Badger hopes that through the fund he is able to help others, but also keep his daughters' memory alive.

"Ultimately, [my] healing will be when [I] walk into a classroom in the fall, and see one of those classes that is being funded by this monument that I've created for my children", he said.

"And if we are able to do that, than Lily, Sarah and Grace have done it. They've done it. It's beautiful. It's absolutely beautiful."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'Underwear Bomber' to Be Sentenced, Could Get Life

U.S. Marshals Service via Getty Images(DETROIT) -- Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man who tried to detonate a bomb hidden in his underwear while aboard a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day 2009, may be put behind bars for life when he is sentenced on Thursday.

The 25-year-old so-called "underwear bomber" pled guilty late last year to all the charges against him, saying he did it "to avenge the killing of my Muslim brothers and sisters."

The charges included attempted murder, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, willfully attempting to destroy an aircraft, placing a destructive device in proximity to an aircraft, and conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism.

Had it not been for a technical problem with the bomb, prosecutors say Abdulmutallab would have killed all 289 people aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253.  They are asking for the maximum life sentence.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Police Release Audio of 911 Call in Christmas Day Massacre

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(GRAPEVINE, Texas) -- Police released audio Wednesday evening from a 911 call they believe was placed by the gunman who allegedly killed seven people, including himself, in Grapevine, Texas, when he entered a house dressed as Santa Claus Christmas morning.

Authorities believe Aziz Yazdanpanah, 56, made the call from his estranged wife's apartment after killing her and two of his children, along with three other relatives.  He later took his own life.

In the recording, the caller can be heard whispering to the 911 operator "Help. Help," and later saying "I'm shooting people."

Police said special equipment had to be used to decipher what the caller was saying.

"The newly discovered audio was not heard on the original audio software over many playbacks, and was not heard/understood by the dispatcher who took the call on Sunday," Grapevine police spokesman Lt. Todd Dearing said in a statement.

Meanwhile, a candlelight vigil was held in Grapevine Wednesday night to remember the victims of the shooting.

Listen to the 911 call below, posted by ABC News affiliate WFAA-TV:

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Underwear Bomber Trial to Begin in Detroit

U.S. Marshals Service via Getty Images(DETROIT) -- The trial for underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab gets underway Tuesday in Detroit, where the 24-year-old Nigerian national faces charges for attempting to bomb Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009 with 290 people on board.

The attempted attack left an indelible mark, exposing aviation security gaps and missed signals by U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism agencies in the post 9/11 era.  The attempted bombing has resulted in more robust and sometimes controversial passenger screenings and a ramping up of terrorist watch list efforts.

Abdulmutallab faces charges of attempted murder, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, willfully attempting to destroy an aircraft, placing a destructive device in proximity to an aircraft, and conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism.

It is expected at trial that the jury of nine women and three men will hear how Abdulmutallab transformed from a young man living in Nigeria to a hard-core radical who traveled to Yemen and sought out members of al Qaeda to undertake terrorist attacks against the United States.

The trial is also expected to yield new information about Abdulmutallab and his connections with the recently killed cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed Sept. 30 in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen.  Al-Awlaki has been at the center of numerous U.S. terrorism cases over the past two years with terrorism suspects either visiting his website or communicating with the cleric via e-mail.

According to statements Abdulmutallab allegedly provided to FBI agents after the attempted bombing, Abdulmutallab stated that he was inspired to undertake attacks after visiting al-Awlaki’s websites.

The trial will recount the terrifying moments aboard the plane as Abdulmutallab tried to detonate the device which was allegedly crafted by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s master bomb maker Ibrahim Hassan Asiri.

Judge Nancy Edmunds has allowed the prosecutors to show the jury a video showing the destructive force a replica of Abdulmutallab’s underwear bomb could have had on the aircraft’s aluminum skin.  The government intends to call an explosives expert who will address why the device failed to detonate despite allegedly having almost 200 grams of the high-explosives Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP) and Pentaerythritol Tetranitrate (PETN).

The jury will hear from passengers that were aboard the aircraft who heard loud popping noises then smoke and fire coming from Abdulmutallab’s lap as the intended bomb smoldered and burned Abdulmutallab.  The flight attendants and passengers extinguished the flames and restrained Abdulmutallab who was detained and taken to a hospital for his burns.

Abdulmutallab, who has acted as his own attorney after he fired his initial team of defense counsel, will be able to question government expert witnesses and possibly the FBI agents who first took statements from him that he was a member of al Qaeda.

It is unclear how the accused al Qaeda member will act during the trial.  At times he has refused to rise before Judge Edmunds, he asked the judge if he could wear a traditional Yemeni dagger, a jambiya, in the courtroom during proceedings (the request was denied), and he has shouted outbursts that al-Awlaki is still alive.

Because of his unpredictable nature Abdulmutallab will also be represented by Anthony Chambers, a Detroit defense attorney who has acted as stand-by counsel to ensure Abdulmutallab receives a fair trial.

The trial is expected to last 3 to 4 weeks.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


'Underwear Bomber' in Court Thursday; DOJ Files New Indictment

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DETROIT) -- The Justice Department has filed a superseding indictment against underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab for the attempted bombing of Northwest flight 253 on Christmas Day last year. The new charges include a conspiracy charge to commit an act of terrorism transcending a national boundary, and an additional explosives charge for possession of his explosive device.
According to Justice Department officials, the superseding indictment was filed to clarify the original charges, which were filed on January 6, 2010, and to prepare the case for trial.

The original charges filed against Abdulmutallab still stand and include the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, attempted murder, the willful attempt to destroy and wreck an aircraft within the jurisdiction of the U.S., willfully placing a destructive device on an aircraft, and two counts of possession of a firearm/destructive in furtherance of a crime of violence. The new charges also carry the maximum penalty of life in prison.
Abdulmutallab is due to appear Thursday morning before Judge Nancy Edmunds at the U.S. District Court in Detroit for an arraignment on the superseding indictment. During one of his last court appearances, Abdulmutallab fired his defense lawyers. He currently has standby lawyers if the judge determines he needs them. In September, he expressed his interest in pleading guilty but was uncertain how the procedure worked.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio