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Tuesday
Oct162012

Las Vegas Firefighter Accused in Murder-for-Hire Plot

ABC News(LAS VEGAS) -- Prosecutors in Las Vegas are seeking an indictment against a Las Vegas City firefighter and West Point graduate who they say paid a homeless man to beat his wife to death in her home in late September.

When police found Shauna Tiaffay, a Las Vegas cocktail waitress and mother, brutally murdered in her own home on Sept. 29, it seemed like a random crime.  But today, prosecutors are saying her husband, George Tiaffay, was the mastermind behind the gruesome attack.  They have accused George Tiaffay of offering Noel Stevens, a homeless man, $20,000 to beat his bride to death.

"I felt that the minute I heard that the way that she had died, that he [George Tiaffay] had something to do with it," Shauna Tiaffay's friend, Claudia Carrillo, told ABC News.

Carrillo and Stephanie Vargas, two of Shauna's best friends, are now breaking their silence, saying that they believe George Tiaffay was a verbally abusive husband.

"He was known for being controlling with her and I think this is a case of him trying to control her," Carrillo said.

Vargas agrees that George Tiaffay was very possessive of Shauna.

"[He was] one of those -- if I can't have her, nobody else can," Vargas said.

Police say the evidence speaks for itself, and that the details of the alleged murder plot read like a crime novel.

Investigators say George Tiaffay was in constant contact with Stevens, calling him 86 times in September.  The two even exchanged phone calls in the moments before police believe Shauna was murdered.

Police also say they obtained surveillance video of the two men walking out of a hardware store together after purchasing a hammer, gloves and knife.

On Monday, Stevens' attorney refused to comment.  But George Tiaffay's lawyer issued a statement on behalf of his family.

"George did not commit the crimes he is charged with," he said in the statement.  "While all marriages have their ups and downs, George and Shauna were both committed to each other, and especially their daughter."

But Shauna's friends are still not convinced that George had nothing to with her death.

"To become a fireman and help people, how is it that you want to save lives but you take a life?" Carrillo said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb292012

Body Believed to Be Missing Florida Firefighter

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A body believed to be missing Florida firefighter Jerry Perdomo was recovered from a wooded area in Maine on Wednesday, one day after a suspect in his death was arrested.

"The State Medical Examiner's Office has just arrived at the scene and additional information will be released this afternoon," a statement released by the Maine Department of Public Safety said.

A news conference is expected to be held by police.

Daniel Porter, 24, and his girlfriend, Cheyanne Nowak, are believed to be the last people who saw Perdomo, a husband and father of two who went missing 13 days ago shortly after he traveled in a rental car up the East Coast to visit a friend.

Maine State Police, assisted by Bangor Police, arrested Porter Tuesday at a home in Jackson, Maine, that was rented by Porter's father, according to a news release by the Maine Department of Public Safety.

Police had been testing evidence removed Saturday from the house in Jackson, believed to be the last place Perdomo was seen, according to the Department of Public Safety.

A friend of Perdomo's told Orlando, Fla., ABC affiliate WFTV that Perdomo went to Bangor, Maine, to sell prescription pills, and that he'd mentioned someone named "Daniel" previously.

Perdomo's family told WFTV that the firefighter had never used or sold drugs.

His wife, Tonya, acknowledged that her husband, whose rental car was found abandoned in a Walmart parking lot Feb. 16, made the 1,600-mile trip from Florida to Maine to visit another woman.

WESH-TV interviewed a woman, only identified as Lisa, who said she was the friend Perdomo was visiting. The woman said Perdomo stepped out the evening he disappeared to visit another friend, and said he would return shortly to take her to dinner, but never came back.

Porter and Nowak, 23, reportedly left town after Perdomo's disappearance. The couple bought a used car and abandoned the one they had been driving at the dealership, saying they had to leave town quickly because of an emergency.

Police tracked the couple down at Porter's mother's house in Connecticut Friday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb292012

Missing Florida Firefighter: Suspect Charged with Murder

Comstock/Thinkstock(JACKSON, Maine) -- The man identified as a person interest in the disappearance of Florida firefighter Jerry Perdomo was arrested and charged with murder on Tuesday, Maine State Police said.

Daniel Porter, 24, and his girlfriend, Cheyanne Nowak, are believed to be the last people who saw Perdomo, a husband and father of two who went missing 13 days ago shortly after he traveled in a rental car up the East Coast to visit a friend.

Maine State Police, assisted by Bangor Police, arrested Porter on Tuesday at a home in Jackson, Maine, that was rented by Porter's father, according to a news release by the Maine Department of Public Safety.

Police had been testing evidence removed Saturday from the house, believed to be the last place Perdomo was seen, according to the Department of Public Safety.

"The work being done at the lab will hopefully give us some of the answers to our questions," Christopher Coleman of the Maine State Police said.  "At this point, we remain hopeful, but as days go on, we have to be realistic.  We do suspect foul play was involved."

A friend of Perdomo's told Orlando, Fla., ABC affiliate WFTV that Perdomo went to Bangor, Maine, to sell prescription pills, and that he'd mentioned someone named "Daniel" previously.

Perdomo's family told WFTV the firefighter has never used or sold drugs.  His wife, Tonya Perdomo, is pleading for her husband's safe return.

"I love him.  He is my only love, he is my only love," she said at a news conference Monday.  "I just want to talk to him.  I just feel like I need to talk to him. I do."

Tonya Perdomo acknowledged that her husband, whose rental car was found abandoned in a Walmart parking lot on Feb. 16, made the 1,600-mile trip from Florida to Maine to visit another woman.

"I knew that he had a friend, but he has female friends.  I can't comment on the extent of their relationship because I don't know," she said.  "My understanding is that he was going to help someone.  It would not have been unusual for him to go and help someone because that's what he always did."

WESH-TV interviewed a woman, only identified as Lisa, who said she was the friend Perdomo was visiting.  The woman said Perdomo stepped out the evening he disappeared to visit another friend, and said he would return shortly to take her to dinner, but never came back.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb282012

Missing Florida Firefighter: Person of Interest Named

Comstock/Thinkstock(JACKSON, Maine) -- Police in Maine who say they suspect foul play in the disappearance of Florida firefighter Jerry Perdomo have named Daniel Porter a person of interest.

Porter, 24, and his girlfriend, Cheyanne Nowak, are believed to be the last people who saw Perdomo, a husband and father of two who went missing 12 days ago shortly after he traveled in a rental car up the East Coast to visit a friend.

Police are now testing evidence removed Saturday from the Jackson, Maine house where Porter's father lives, and is believed to be the last place Perdomo was seen, according to the Maine Department of Public Safety.

"The work being done at the lab will hopefully give us some of the answers to our questions," Christopher Coleman of the Maine state police said.  "At this point we remain hopeful, but as days go on, we have to be realistic.  We do suspect foul play was involved."

A friend of Perdomo's told ABC news affiliate WFTV in Orlando, Fla. that Perdomo went to Bangor, Maine to sell prescription pills, and that he'd mentioned someone named "Daniel" previously.

Perdomo's family told WFTV that he has never used or sold drugs.  His wife, Tonya Perdomo, is pleading for her husband's safe return.

"I love him.  He is my only love, he is my only love," she said in a news conference Monday.  "I just want to talk to him, I just feel like I need to talk to him.  I do."

Tonya Perdomo acknowledged that her husband, whose rental car was found abandoned in a Walmart parking lot on Feb. 16, made the 1,600 mile trek from Florida to Maine to visit another woman.

"I knew that he had a friend, but he has female friends.  I can't comment on the extent of their relationship because I don't know," she said.  "My understanding is that he was going to help someone.  It would not have been unusual for him to go and help someone because that's what he always did."

WESH-TV interviewed a woman who was only identified as Lisa, who said she was the friend Perdomo was visiting.  The woman said Perdomo stepped out the evening he disappeared to visit another friend, and had said he would return shortly to take her to dinner, but never came back.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb272012

Police Suspect Foul Play in Case of Missing Florida Firefighter

Comstock/Thinkstock(BANGOR, Maine) -- Foul play is suspected in the case of a Florida firefighter who vanished 11 days ago after driving 1,600 miles from Florida to visit a friend, state police say.

Jerry Perdomo, a 31-year-old husband and father of two, rented a car and made the trek from central Florida to visit a friend in Bangor, Maine.  He hasn’t been seen since Feb. 16.

Police searched a home in Jackson, Maine, this weekend, according to Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.  The home is believed to be the last place Perdomo was seen.  Evidence gathered from inside the house will be taken to the state police crime lab in Augusta for analysis.

The home is owned by the father of Daniel Porter, who police believe had contact with Perdomo prior to his disappearance.

WESH-TV interviewed a woman who was identified as Lisa, who said she was the friend Perdomo was visiting.  The woman said Perdomo stepped out the evening he disappeared to visit a friend and said he would return shortly to take her to dinner.  He never did.

The next day, Perdomo’s rental car was found abandoned in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

Police tracked down and questioned Porter, 24, and Cheyanne Nowak, 23, at Porter’s mother’s house in Connecticut on Friday.  The couple had left their car, bought a used one and left Maine, leaving their families perplexed.

Nowak also posted a cryptic message on her Facebook page: “I’m sorry for your loss. I’m sorry your friend is missing. It is a terrible thing. I am so sorry about this. But I can do nothing further. Night.”

The couple has now returned to Maine, according to McCausland.

State police have impounded three vehicles in connection with the disappearance: Perdomo’s rental car, a car left behind at an Oakland car dealer by the couple after another vehicle had been purchased there, and a vehicle owned by Porter, according to McCausland.

Police also searched a dumpster near the Wal-Mart where Perdomo’s car was found, McCausland said.

Meanwhile, Perdomo’s fellow Florida firefighters aren’t giving up.  Two arrived in Maine to try to find their missing friend and colleague.

“We’re going to go out there and walk and pound the pavement.  The fire department has offered to do anything that we need to, to make sure this a productive effort,” said Lt. Dave Williams, vice president of the Seminole County Professional Firefighters in Florida.

The firefighters are canvassing the woods in the area where Perdomo disappeared, looking for clues.  They join Perdomo’s sister and father, who came up to Maine from New York.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Feb252012

Mystery of Florida Firefighter’s Disappearance Deepens

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The disappearance of a Florida firefighter 1,600 miles from home and the perplexing behavior of a couple he reportedly had contact with has baffled investigators, who have found no signs of foul play.

Jerry Perdomo, 31, rented a car and made the trek from Central Florida to visit a friend in Bangor, Maine. He hasn’t been seen since Feb. 16.

WESH-TV interviewed a woman who was identified as Lisa, who purported to be the friend Perdomo was visiting. The woman said Perdomo stepped out the evening he disappeared to visit a friend and said he would return shortly to take her to dinner.

He never did.

The next day, the married father’s rental car was found abandoned in a Walmart parking lot with no signs of foul play.

“This case is a mystery because it has a lot of moving parts that at least we cannot connect at this point,” said Brad Garrett, an ABC News contributor and former FBI special agent.  “We don’t know if something has happened to this firefighter.  We don’t know if he’s just disappeared on his own.”

Police tracked down and questioned Daniel Porter, 24, and Cheyanne Nowak, 23, at Porter’s mother’s house in Connecticut on Friday. The Maine couple may have had some form of contact with Perdomo prior to his disappearance, police said.

Nowak and Porter exhibited peculiar behavior. After Perdomo was reported missing, the couple reportedly bought a used car and abandoned the one they were driving, telling an employee at the car lot that they had to leave town because of an emergency.

Nowak posted a cryptic message on her Facebook page: “I’m sorry for your loss. I’m sorry your friend is missing. It is a terrible thing. I am so sorry about this. But I can do nothing further. Night.”

Two of Perdomo’s firefighter friends are now traveling to Maine to assist in the search, NECN reported.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec202011

NY Firefighter Stable After Being Engulfed in Flames

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A New York City firefighter is in serious but stable condition Tuesday after being engulfed in flames while battling a fire in a Brooklyn townhome Monday morning.

Robert Wiedmann, 38, of Rescue Company 2 was battling the blaze in a room on the brownstone’s third floor when a fireball sent flames from the back bedroom, surrounding him in fire.

A cellphone video captured the dramatic moment when Wiedmann, with his head and back burning, began waving frantically for help and leaning out the room’s window.

To escape, Wiedmann leapt down onto an aerial ladder, where another firefighter was waiting to pat down his body and extinguish the flames eating through his protective gear, the video shows.  Both men then moved slowly down the ladder as another firefighter on the ground showered them with water.

Neighbors watched in horror and then awe, as Weidmann paused to let the steam rise from his body and then moved himself towards safety.

New York Fire Department officials said the harrowing events began as a routine response around 9 a.m. Monday to a fire on the top floor of a brownstone owned by a New York City school teacher and her family.  The family was away when the fire began, but Weidmann and his four fellow firefighters did not know that as they searched the home.

As Weidmann remained trapped by the fireball, a second firefighter fled down a stairwell towards safety.

Wiedmann’s injuries included burns over 45 percent of his body, authorities said. The second firefighter was seriously injured and remains in critical condition. Three other firefighters were treated for minor injuries.

Fire officials said the blaze was fairly routine but turned worse when firefighters couldn’t get water to the house fast enough.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov212011

Retired New York Firefighter Prevails in 9/11 Flag Flap

John Foxx/Thinkstock(CORAL SPRINGS, Fla.) -- A retired New York City cop and firefighter who helped pull people from the wreckage after the World Trade Center collapsed on 9/11 will now be allowed to fly a commemorative flag in front of his home, ending a one-week battle with his homeowner's association.

"I am really shocked," said Richard Wentz, who seemed nearly speechless after hearing the news Monday afternoon from ABC News.

He was initially warned by his Florida homeowner's association to remove flag or be fined. Wentz's Coral Springs, Fla., neighborhood allows homes to display one flag, but Wentz has two: an American flag and a flag with the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died during the worst terrorist attack in American history.

"It's not even about me. It's about the people who died that day and their families," said Wentz, 47. "They need to be remembered, not just one day of the year."

Wentz was prepared to pay a fine that could have been as much as $1,000. But on Monday ABC News received a call from Bill Sugarman, president of Benchmark Property Management, the company that manages Wentz's subdivision. He said Benchmark asked the homeowner's association to review their policies.

"They have concluded it's not their obligation to enforce the 'one flag' rule. Therefore, Mr. Wentz will be permitted to fly his flag," Sugarman said. "It's really not their duty to encourage that restriction."

As a result, he said, "They won't be taking any enforcement action."

Wentz, a veteran of both the New York police and fire departments, retired after 20 years and moved to Florida in 2005. On 9/11, he told ABC News, he lost 43 friends and he says he wants the flag to keep memories of the fallen alive.

"I fly it not just for my friends who were killed that day, but for the families, and the voices who can't speak anymore," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep272011

Medal of Honor Recipient Dakota Meyer Turns Down Special Treatment for FDNY Job

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Despite his opposition to the title, Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer has been called a hero by many, but he sure doesn't want to be treated as one.

The former Marine sergeant has denied a judge's deadline extension that would allow him to apply for his dream job -- to become a New York City firefighter.  Meyer missed the original deadline nearly two weeks ago because he was in Washington, D.C., receiving the prestigious award from President Obama.

The 23-year-old declined the judge's offer because he did not want to be a special exception.

Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor on Sept. 15, becoming the first living Marine to receive it for heroism in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  He received the nation’s highest military award for repeatedly rushing into heavy enemy fire in an attempt to rescue four missing U.S. servicemembers pinned down in an intense hours-long ambush in eastern Afghanistan on Sept. 8, 2009.

He insists he is not a hero, but rather, was only doing "what Marines do."

"I’m the furthest thing from a hero,” Meyer said on ABC's World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer.  “If this is what it feels like to be a hero you can have it.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep072011

Rare Interview: Firefighter of Iconic 9/11 Photo Speaks to ABC News

2001 The Record (Bergen Co. NJ)/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A New York firefighter who helped two others raise a U.S. flag at Ground Zero in what would become one of 9/11's most iconic images said in a rare interview that the trio never intended to draw attention.

"We stood there and looked at it for a second and went about our ways," William "Billy" Eisengrein told ABC News.

Eisengrein and the two other firefighters had no idea they were being photographed, but the picture of them hoisting the flag above the rubble quickly became well-known around the world.

Now, after years of silence, Eisengrein spoke about 9/11, and the "moment of time with three guys" that still remains a symbol of America's strength and resilience.

"From the moment the picture was published, it has lived a life of its own," said Thomas E. Franklin, who took the picture of the firemen for The Record, a daily New Jersey newspaper.

Today, Eisengrein is 47 years old and still a firefighter.  His arms are covered in tattoos: on his right, a clearly visible image of the Twin Towers, inked in 2002.

The FDNY veteran, now in his 26th year, clearly remembers the morning of 9/11.  It was bright and sunny in New York City, and the sky was blue.  Six men on their shift at Brooklyn Rescue Company 2, where Eisengrein has worked for 17 years, arrived at ground zero first and went to the North Tower.  They all died, along with many more.

He heard the news about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center while he was at his girlfriend's home, watching TV.  And then the second plane came.  That's when Eisengrein hopped on his motorcycle and headed to the Brooklyn firehouse, reasoning his bike would be the best way to navigate traffic.

When he arrived at Ground Zero, at about 10:45 a.m., one of the most eerie parts, he said, was the "absolute silence" accompanying the dust and papers strewn throughout the downtown area.  Around 5 p.m., after spending the entire day searching the pile, all emergency responders were told to leave, out of fear building 7 was going to come down.

Eisengrein was sitting on the front bumper of his rig when he noticed two other firefighters carrying a flag.  One of them was his good friend, Daniel "Danny" McWilliams, now an FDNY lieutenant in Brooklyn in his 21st year with the department.  The other person was someone Eisengrein didn't know at the time, but would soon be linked with for the rest of his life: George Johnson, who is now in his 20th year with the FDNY and a battalion chief in Brooklyn.

As the story goes, McWilliams, who had grown up with Eisengrein on Staten Island, found the flag on a 130-foot yacht in the Hudson named "Star of America," owned by Shirley Dreifus of the Majestic Star Co. in New York.  As soon as Eisengrein saw McWilliams, he said, "I knew he was going to put the flag somewhere."

He hollered out, "Do you need help?" then joined them in looking for a place to hang it.  A couple minutes later, they discovered a construction trailer on the northwest corner of Liberty and West, with a big flagpole leaning against it.

"So we put a piece of tin on the ground up to the trailer and hiked up that, and raised it," Eisengrein said.

At the time, he says, his thought process was simply, "This country got attacked, there's all this devastation, thousands of people died; let's do something good right now."

The whole thing took no more than five minutes, just long enough to be captured by The Record photographer Franklin.

Initially, the newspaper ran the photo without identifying the firemen -- Franklin hadn't tried to interview them afterward.  But after releasing the photo to The Associated Press the morning of Sept. 12, 2001, the picture started getting more attention.  The Record decided to find the firefighters, who said they were unaware they had been photographed.

"To this day I still receive phone calls, emails and letters from people telling me what the picture means to them," Franklin said.  "For whatever reason, people connect with this picture, even 10 years later."

The picture has been featured on postage stamps, posters and even Christmas ornaments.  The image has also been molded into a 40-foot-high, bronze-and-steel sculpture unveiled in 2007 at the National Emergency Training Center, north of Washington, D.C.

As for the original photo, a Queens pharmaceutical executive bought the picture, signed by Franklin, in 2002.  Stewart Rahr, president of KinRay, paid $89,625 for the image at a Christie's auction and hung the photograph in the lobby of his company's headquarters.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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