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Entries in Houston (40)

Wednesday
Jan022013

Police Seek Man Charged with Stalking Houston TV Reporter

KPRC(HOUSTON) -- Authorities are in pursuit of a man accused of stalking a Houston local television news anchor and traffic reporter, who now "is in fear of her life," the Houston Chronicle reported.

Investigators, according to the paper, said Christopher Marcus Olson, 38, has been hounding KPRC-TV's Jennifer Reyna since Sept. 14, despite a no-contact order issued by a state district judge in May 2007 after Olson twice crashed his car through the front door of the local news station.

Police have recorded five separate incidents since September in which Olson has followed Reyna from work, waited in an adjacent parking lot for her to arrive at work, and contacted her by phone, bypassing the screening technology she has in place.

KPRC-TV's senior executive producer, Rick McFarland, told ABC News that he was unable to comment on the case.  He also said Reyna had chosen not to comment.

Olson was arrested and charged with felony criminal mischief following the second station crash in May 2007.  He was also arrested in February 2010 for ignoring the no-contact order, and was released on bond in March 2011, the Houston Chronicle reported.

An arrest warrant for Olson was filed on Dec. 27 with the Harris County District Clerk.  His bond was set at $80,000, according to the Harris County District Clerk's Office.

Anyone with information about Olson is asked to contact the Houston police at 713-308-3280.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec122012

Houston, Philadelphia Kids Accidently Shoot Themselves at Home

George Doyle/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- A 4-year-old boy in Houston accidently shot himself in the head, and a 5-year-old girl in Philadelphia shot herself in the foot after both children got a hold of their parents' guns Tuesday night while playing at home.

The unidentified 4-year-old boy climbed onto a tall furniture chest and found a hidden handgun around 11:40 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Houston Police Department.

The gun accidentally discharged when the child was turning it toward himself, hitting him in the head, police said.

The parents, who were in another room, heard the gunshot and found the child lying on his bed.  He was transported to Memorial Hermann Hospital where authorities said he remains in critical condition.

In Philadelphia, the 5-year-old girl is recovering after she shot herself in the foot with her father's gun around 11 p.m. Tuesday.

Police said the girl's father works in security.  His gun was in a holster when the girl found it and pulled the trigger.

No charges have been filed in either case.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Oct072012

‘Black Magic’ Rape Suspect Arrested

Photodisc/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(HOUSTON, Texas) -- Police in Texas arrested a man who allegedly lured a teenage girl into his home under the pretense he knew black magic and then sexually assaulted her.

Mario Munoz-Verudes, 60, was booked into the Harris County Jail on Saturday on rape charges.

The alleged sexual assault happened on Sept. 23. Investigators said Munoz-Verdures invited a 17-year-old church member into his home, claiming he could rid her of bad spirits.

“[He] proclaimed himself to be a religious man, attended church regularly, supposedly, and was able to do some witchcraft or some spells,” Detective Ron McGullion with the Tomball Police Department told ABC News’ Houston station KTRK-TV.

He then allegedly raped the teen and “threatened to put a curse on her if she told anyone,” according to court records obtained by the Houston Chronicle.

Police caught up with the suspect, who had been missing, on Saturday, after he allegedly got into an altercation with the victim’s father.

Munoz-Verudes is being held on $60,000 bail.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct032012

Alleged Houston Killer Used Past Tense in "Dr. Phil" Interview

ABC | Houston Police Dept.(HOUSTON) -- Mark Castellano, the Houston computer technician who has been charged with killing his ex-girlfriend, Michelle Warner, referred to her in the past tense during an interview with TV talk-show host Phil McGraw two days before allegedly confessing to police investigating her death.

In an exclusive interview to be aired on the Dr. Phil show Thursday, McGraw spoke with Castellano, 37, in Texas days after police say he snapped Warner's neck in the apartment the two shared while their 3-year-old son, Cayden, was in the next room.

Dr. Phil show spokeswoman Stacey Luchs released a statement Monday confirming the taping of the interview with Castellano in Texas last week.

"Mr. Castellano sat down for an interview with Dr. Phil in Texas just before his confession to law enforcement, late last week," she said in a statement.  "Dr. Phil also conducted an interview with Ms. Warner's family for this show, which is currently scheduled to air on Thursday."

Luchs did not say whether Castellano confessed to the crime in the interview with McGraw.  However, a later news release by the Dr. Phil show noted, "Castellano at times referred to her in the past-tense and even showed Dr. Phil her car, which is the very place he now claims to have kept her body for two days."

Det. Fil Waters of the Houston Police Department said Castellano shared the same information when taping the interview for the show that he had been sharing with investigators.

"I thought he was kidding, but it was the real deal," Waters said.  "He talks to Dr. Phil, provides Dr. Phil, as I understand it, with the same information he's been providing everyone else."

Castellano was charged in court late Monday with killing Warner and only spoke once, requesting a court appointed attorney, ABC News' Houston affiliate KTRK-TV reported.  He is being held on $150,000 bond.

It's unclear whether he has been assigned an attorney.

A missing persons report was filed by the family of Warner after they hadn't heard from her for several days.  The 31-year-old's family told police that Warner disappeared after she and Castellano, with whom she was living but was no longer romantically involved, got into an argument on Sept. 22.  He then left Houston with their son to drive eight hours to see relatives in Odessa, Texas, according to Houston police.

Castellano remained in contact with investigators in Houston, and agreed to fly back from Odessa to meet with them Sunday.  It was then that he admitted to his role in Warner's death, police said.

Castellano told police he choked Warner and heard her neck snap, and then stuffed her body in a closet with a plastic bag around her head.

Det. Waters said Cayden had walked around the corner and saw Warner's feet hanging off of a bed.  Castellano said that he told the boy that "mommy's asleep."

"We had an argument," Waters said Castellano told them.  "Couldn't take it anymore.  I grabbed her around the throat, pushed her on to the bed, and I hear her neck snap."

Castellano told the Houston police that he then drove back to the Midland-Odessa area where he attempted to bury her body in an oilfield.

After he told investigators where Warner's body could be found in Midland, FBI agents working with the Odessa police recovered her body and Castellano was arrested.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct012012

Body of Missing Houston Mother Found

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- Police have found the body of a 31-year-old Houston mother after her ex-boyfriend gave a statement implicating himself in her death, according to police.

The body of Michelle Warner, 31, was found Sunday more than 500 miles away in Odessa, Texas, according to ABC News affiliate KTRK-TV. Mark Castellano gave police information Sunday that led to the discovery of Warner's body. Warner and Castellano have a 3-year-old son named Cayden.

Police said murder charges are pending and the investigation is ongoing, according to KTRK.

Warner was last seen the night of Sept. 22 at her apartment complex in Houston where she lived with Castellano and Cayden. She disappeared the same night Castellano took the boy more than eight hours away to be with relatives. After Warner went missing, Castellano told authorities that he and Cayden headed to Odessa after the argument and Warner stormed out of their apartment, which he rented, officials said.

Stefanie Helton, who has been Warner's best friend for more than 20 years, said the relationship between Warner, who had been working as a paralegal, and Castellano has "never been a good situation." Helton said the couple were "barely dating at the time" Warner became pregnant in 2008, and that Castellano had "psychotic spells."

"He had episodes, he tried suicide ...," she said. "He's done other crazy things. Nothing extra-violent; he'd push her up against the wall, that type of thing. He's threatened her."

Helton said that a family member of Warner's told her that Castellano said that they'd gotten into argument Sept. 22, and that he got mad and threw a pet cat against a wall. The family member told Helton that Castellano said Warner then became irate and hit him, before leaving the apartment.

Helton said bleach stains leading from the bedroom, through the living room and out front door were found in the apartment, although Officer Danny Do of the Houston Police Department said that could not be verified.

When police visited the apartment, Do said, they did notice that Warner's computer's central processing unit was missing.

Officer Do said Castellano told police that he had taken the CPU of the computer so he could get some information from it.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug312012

Houston Texans Fan Dies After Falling from Escalator at Stadium

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images(HOUSTON) -- A fan who was attending a preseason game at the Houston Texans' Reliant Stadium died after toppling off of an escalator while trying to slide down its handrails.

The death of 25-year-old Jonathan Kelly, a Texans fan at the game with friends, was accidental, though an investigation is ongoing, police said Friday.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Kelly was trying to slide down the side of the escalator when he fell more than 60 feet to his death. He was riding the escalator from the sixth level of the stadium, the highest level for fan seating, according to the report.

Witnesses told ABC News station KTRK that emergency services were unable to revive the man.

"I saw the aftermath. I was outside taking a cigarette and we saw them loading him up on the stretcher, sticking him in the car. There were about 15 HPD officers and EMTs near him," said fan Jared Bellr.

Officials at the stadium Friday said that they are reviewing safety procedures as part of the investigation into Kelly's death. Another fan died at the stadium during summer 2011, trying to catch a ball thrown to him in the stands by a player on the field.

"I don't know that anything changes," Houston Texans President Jamie Rootes said Friday, according to KTRK. "But certainly when you have something like this, we'll certainly be reinforcing those messages to our fans as we approach opening day."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug082012

Houston Massage Therapist Indicted for Alleged Sexual Assault

Montgomery County Sheriff's Office(HOUSTON) -- After two Texas women accused him of sexual assault, Cody Wayne Lewis, a massage therapist at a popular spa chain, has been indicted.

The company, Massage Envy, now says that the spa he worked for did not follow a policy that could have prevented the second incident.

Lewis, 40, was an employee of a Massage Envy franchise in Magnolia, Texas when Kellie Armstrong -- a mother of two -- accused him of sexual assault in May 2011.

"He had started massaging the inner part of my thigh. Most massage therapists don't do that," Armstrong told ABC's Houston affiliate KTRK. "But then he crossed that line."

Armstrong filed a police report and complained to the store manager, but Lewis was never indicted.

Almost a year later, in January 2012, Lewis was accused by a second woman, this time at a Massage Envy franchise in nearby Spring, Texas. Lewis was arrested and indicted in July.

Armstrong told KTRK that the second incident could have been avoided.

"It happened to another woman," Armstrong said. "This did not have to happen and so it's just relief he's been caught, but at the same time anger that he was allowed to and that he was at another Massage Envy."

A spokesman for the Arizona-based Massage Envy said that the Texas franchise did not correctly implement a companywide policy of internally documenting sexual assault incidents like Armstrong's.

"As a franchise company, Massage Envy has a national policy for its independently owned franchise clinics to document such incidents to protect its members, guests and other franchise owners," Paula Stapley, a spokesperson for Massage Envy Franchising, LLC, told ABC News in a statement. "In this situation, the policy was not implemented correctly."

"We have a zero tolerance policy on inappropriate behavior and are fully cooperating with authorities," she said.

Armstrong has filed suit against Lewis and the Massage Envy franchise in Magnolia, Texas for damages, according to court documents.

Lewis's lawyer, Douglas Atkinson, told KTRK that it is "unfortunate" that "when there's a civil lawsuit of this nature that there's going to be a financial motivation for an individual."

Massage Envy employees also must pass a background check, but because Lewis was never charged in the first case, he passed and was later hired by a second franchise.

Lewis is expected in court again on Aug. 16.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Aug042012

Houston’s Shooting-Survival Video a YouTube Success

Houston Office of Public Safety/ABC News(HOUSTON) -- Houston’s six-minute PSA video created to show the public what to do in the event of a shooting has had more than 260,000 views on YouTube since it was posted July 23.

Completed shortly before the theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., last month, the video was released earlier than planned in light of the tragedy, Houston mayoral spokeswoman Janice Evans-Davis said.

Since its release by the Office of Public Safety, the video has garnered widespread attention. “Corporations and other cities have contacted us wanting it,” Evans-Davis said. “A lot of people are saying it’s a useful tool.”

The video shows a man opening fire in an office building as employees, unsure of what to do, attempt to hide, flee and save others.

“Run. Hide. Fight” is the video’s mantra, describing the order in which one should respond in a shooting.

“Look at your options,” Evans-Davis said. “If you can get out of there, get out of there. If that’s not going to work, move to your second option: hide. As a last resort, fight."

“Just like ‘Stop, drop, roll,’ we hope that ‘Run. Hide. Fight’ will stick in people’s head.”

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul092012

Blind Passenger Causes Emergency Landing, 12-Hour Flight Delay

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(HOUSTON) -- An unruly passenger aboard a Spirit Airlines red eye flight from Los Angeles to Ft. Lauderdale over the weekend forced the pilot to make an emergency landing in Texas, which then led to an over 12-hour layover for approximately 100 on board.

Spirit Airlines Airbus A319 from Los Angeles Xavier departed on time at 9:58 p.m. PT Saturday, with a scheduled landing at Hollywood International (FLL) at 6 a.m. Sunday.  However midway through the flight, a disruptive passenger forced the pilot to make an emergency landing at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport, where the roughly 100 passengers would remain for most of the next day, ABC News affiliate KTRK reported.

The unruly passenger, an 81-year-old man who is blind, was kicking and screaming, those on board told ABC News' Ft. Lauderdale affiliate Local 10 News.

Passengers were reportedly kept in the plane on the tarmac for several hours before being allowed into the terminal.  The airline then told the waylaid passengers that they would now be shuttled by bus five hours north to Dallas, because Spirit does not operate a flight between Houston and Ft. Lauderdale.

Passengers then became irate, yelling and screaming at airline staff.

"It was terrible.  It was unreal.  It was painful," passenger Theresa Shaviano told Local 10.

Spirit Airlines eventually decided to fly the passengers in a different plane, and the flight arrived in South Florida about 8 p.m. Sunday -- 12 full hours after the scheduled arrival time.

The airline said time constraints with the crew prevented the original plane from taking off from Houston.

"We understand that this has been an inconvenience for our customers, but the safety of our customers is always the top priority.  All customers are being given full refunds for this inconvenience," the airline said in a statement.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun282012

'Speed Trap' Warning Lands Texas Woman in Jail

ABC News(HOUSTON) -- A Houston woman's attempt to save drivers from a speeding ticket landed her something worse: 12 hours in jail.

As she rode her bicycle home from a grocery store last week near downtown Houston, Natalie Plummer noticed police officers pulling over speeders. After she parked her bike and turned one of her grocery bags into a makeshift sign warning drivers about the "speed trap" ahead, an officer drove up and arrested her.

"I was completely abiding by the law," Plummer told ABC's affiliate KRTK. "I was simply warning citizens of a situation ahead."

But Houston police saw it differently, and arrested Plummer for standing in the street where a sidewalk was present, a misdemeanor charge.

Houston police spokeswoman Jodi Silva said that officers found Plummer standing in the street, waving her arms as she held the sign.

But Plummer denied ever leaving the sidewalk on West Dallas Street, alleging that the arresting officer invented a reason to detain her.

"He couldn't take me to jail for holding up this sign or he would have. So all he could do was make up something fake about it," Plummer told KRTK. The officer searched Plummer's backpack, she said, and threatened to arrest her for obstructing justice, a felony charge.

Michael Dirden, Houston's executive assistant police chief, said in a statement that if Plummer believes the police acted inappropriately, she should file a complaint with the department's internal affairs division.

After being held in jail for 12 hours, Plummer was released on bond, and will soon appear in court to face her misdemeanor charge.

While Plummer's method of alerting drivers to police activity might have been unprecedented, state laws covering such warnings are decades old. Their most common form, flashing headlights, is legal in some states but illegal in others.  

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio