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HEAR THIS HOUR'S UPDATE

Friday
Oct242014

Remains of Missing UVA Student Hannah Graham Identified

Charlottesville Police Department(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- The remains of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, who vanished last month, have been positively identified, police said Friday.

The remains were found in a field on Oct. 18 about 10 miles from Charlottesville, Virginia, where the UVA sophomore was last seen.

Surveillance footage recorded Graham walking around the downtown area shortly after 1 a.m. Sept. 13 with a man named Jesse Matthew.

Matthew, 32, was named the suspect in the case a week after she vanished and he was arrested days later in Galveston, Texas. He was charged with abduction with intent to defile, although now that the remains have been identified as Graham's, the charges will likely be increased.

"The focus of the investigation now is to determine what charges will be brought and the appropriate time to make those charges," Lunsford said in a statement.

Police asked that anyone who saw suspicious activity around Old Lynchburg Road, where the remains were found, around the time of Graham's disappearance to call police.

Graham's parents, John and Sue Graham, said in a statement, "We are devastated by the loss of our beautiful daughter, Hannah... Put simply, Hannah lit up our lives, the lives of our family and the lives of her friends and others who knew her."

"We would like to draw attention to the fact that, although the waiting has ended for us, there are other families both in Virginia and beyond who have not been as fortunate in that their loved ones are still missing. Please continue to hold these families in your thoughts and prayers," the parents said.

"Hannah showed great promise as a student and as a young woman," University of Virginia president Teresa Sullivan said in an email sent to all students and faculty Friday afternoon. "She brought immense energy and delight to her learning at the University, and she was a source of friendship and joy for so many people here at the University and abroad, particularly her friends on the ski team."

Matthew was indicted last week for a 2005 sex assault on a woman in Fairfax City, Virginia. The victim in that case, a 26-year-old woman, survived the assault and has not been publicly identified.

Police have said they found a forensic link between Graham's case and the abduction and murder of Morgan Harrington, a Virginia Tech student who vanished from a concert in Charlottesville in 2009. Her body was found months later.

In 2010, police said they had a forensic link between the Harrington murder and the 2005 sex assault in Fairfax City.

Several other police jurisdictions have opened cases on missing women to see if there is any link to Matthew.

Matthew’s hearing has been pushed back and he has not entered a plea in the Graham or Fairfax case. His lawyer has declined to discuss any possible links to other cases.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct242014

Donations Pour in to Buy Eric Frein Lookalike a Car

The Tully Family(CANADENSIS, Pa.) -- Thousands of dollars have been raised for a Pennsylvania man who said he's continually accosted by cops as he walks to work through the woods where police are searching for suspected cop killer Eric Frein.

Supporters who heard about James Tully's plight raised nearly $14,000 online to buy him a car. Tully said he walks five miles from his home in Canadensis to his job at a metal manufacturing factory, and his path crosses right through the manhunt area in the Pocono Mountains.

He told ABC News affiliate WNEP that he's been stopped by police at least 20 times, and was once even ambushed at gunpoint by authorities who thought he was the suspect.

Since neighbor Dawn DeBiase launched the GoFundMe campaign this week, hundreds of sympathetic people have donated.

"If everyone was willing to walk 10 miles to make a dollar, the world would be a different place," one supporter wrote.

"I am retired now but I can remember times when I had no car to get to work and I found people willing to help me," said another donor. "Just like all these great people helping you. Good luck to you."

DeBiase posted a message from Tully's mother on the fundraising page Thursday night.

"I don't know if James is aware of the present total as he is at work right now," she wrote, according to DeBiase's update. "But I am blown away. I don't have the words to thank each of you for your kindness to my son. To say thank you seems so inadequate, but I don't know what else I could say. Many thanks to everyone who donated and posted encouraging messages. Thank you especially, Dawn for organizing this."

Police have been searching for Frein for six weeks, since he allegedly opened fire at the Blooming Grove police barracks on Sept. 12, killing one state trooper and injuring another, before escaping into the woods.

Frein, a self-trained survivalist, has been spotted several times, but evaded police capture.

Tully has started wearing his employer ID on a lanyard around his neck, and wearing a reflective vest on his walks so police immediately know he is not the suspect.

Pennsylvania State Police declined to make an official comment, but said that if Tully feels he was mistreated, he should file a complaint.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct242014

National Park Service Investigating Vandalism Reports in at Least 10 Parks

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The National Park Service has launched an investigation following reports of vandalism in at least 10 parks in Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon and Utah, officials said Friday.

“On Tuesday we received a phone call from a reporter who directed us to a web blog called www.modernhiker.com claiming that a person has self-identified as serially vandalizing National Parks in the west,” Jeffrey Oslon, a National Park Services spokesman told ABC News.

“We have verified the images of the vandalized sites and we are trying to locate them, confirm that they exist so we can repair them,” he added.

A statement issued by the National Park Service lists the areas affected as Yosemite National Park, California; Death Valley National Park, California; Crater Lake National Park, Oregon; Zion National Park and Canyonlands National Park, both in Utah.

“We are awaiting confirmation in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona; Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park and Joshua Tree National Park, both in California; Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado; Bryce National Park, Utah,” the statement said.

Vandalism, as described in the Code of Federal Regulations, 36 CFR 2.31(a)(3): Destroying, injuring, defacing, or damaging property or real property.

“Vandalism is a class A misdemeanor and since this act happened on federal land it makes the Federal Class A misdemeanor. It is a penalty of $5,000 and one year in prison,” said Olson.

“National parks exist to preserve and protect our nation’s natural, cultural and historic heritage for both current and future generations. Vandalism is a violation of the law and it also damages and sometimes destroys often irreplaceable treasures that belong to all Americans,” the National Park Service said in a statement.

ABC News tried to access the Instagram and Tumblr accounts where the pictures and comments allegedly have been posted but it appears they were taken down. However, many of the pictures appeared on Modern Hiker’s blog in a story they published called “Art in the Parks.”

“There are forums for artistic expression in national parks because national parks inspire artistic creativity. These images are outside that forum and outside the law,” said Olson.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct242014

Intruder Shot by Golfer's Wife May Have Been Her Ex-Lover: Police

Thinkstock(TAMPA, Fla.) -- The wife of a semi-pro golfer shot an intruder in an August home invasion -- but a police report released this week revealed that the wife and intruder were allegedly having an affair, with authorities declining to bring criminal charges in the case.

Mishay Simpson, 28, the wife of golfer Rhett Simpson, was home alone with the couple’s daughter on Aug. 19 when their home alarm system went off, police said.

Simpson told investigators that someone came upstairs and opened the door, according to the police report.

She saw someone standing in the doorway. "He began to back up, facing her, and she pulled the trigger," the report states.

The man was identified as Andrew Noll, 23, an acquaintance of Simpson's. He took a photo seconds after being shot.

"When she opened the door, we looked right at each other for a few seconds," Noll told investigators. "I turned around, and she shot me."

One week before the shooting, she filed a request for a restraining order, telling police that Noll had been stalking her.

But Noll's story is much different.

“I had the codes and the keys to her house,” he said. “I didn't open the bedroom door. She did, and she shot me from behind.”

The nature of their relationship remains in question. He claims -- in a sworn statement -- that they were having an affair, but had recently broken it off.

On the night of the shooting, Simpson reportedly texted him. But Simpson told police that the two have never been involved sexually.

Simpson and her attorney declined to comment when reached by ABC News.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct242014

Hatchet-Wielding Man Who Attacked Cops 'Just an Angry Guy'

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A hatchet-wielding man who attacked two police officers in New York City before he was shot to death was likely “just an angry guy” and was not connected to any terrorist organizations, a police source told ABC News.

The attack happened at 2 p.m. Thursday, at the intersection of Jamaica Avenue and 162nd Street in the city’s borough of Queens.

Surveillance video released by police shows the man -- later identified as Zale Thompson, 32 -- wearing a heavy green jacket, raising the 18 ½ inch hatchet, prepared to strike as he walked down the sidewalk. The man was unprovoked and did not speak before swinging his hatchet, police said.

Officer Kenneth Healey, 25, is listed in critical but stable condition at Jamaica Hospital with a head wound following the attack, police said. Officer Joseph Meeker, 24, is listed in stable condition with an arm injury.

Additionally, a 29-year-old woman located nearby was accidentally struck by a bullet in her lower back and is recovering from surgery, police said.

Police initially wondered if the attack was terrorism-related, but according to the police source, authorities haven’t been able to connect Thompson to any terrorist organization.

“The initial impression is that he’s just an angry guy who’s ranting about the American government and American oppression of foreign people,” the source said.

Police executed several search warrants and found other axes and hunting knives, the source said.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct242014

Red Hot Lava Flow Edging Toward Hawaiian Town

iStock/Thinkstock(PAHOA, Hawaii) -- A lava flow threatening homes and a town on the Big Island of Hawaii has gained speed in recent days, advancing more than five football fields in just the last 48 hours.

Hawaii civil defense authorities and scientists are closely monitoring the lava’s progress, which is steadily encroaching on the small town of Pahoa and several Big Island subdivisions. The flow is now less than a mile from Pahoa, Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira said Thursday.

Oliveira said changes in topography may help slow or change the path of the red-hot lava flow, which emerged from the Kilauea volcano East Rift Zone on June 27 and has traveled roughly 11 miles since then.

Authorities now say they are preparing for the inevitable. About 10,000 residents on the island could be affected, Oliveira said. When the lava gets too close -- and Oliveira says he doesn’t yet know when that is -- the plan is to give residents three to five days warning before they need to evacuate.

“We’d like to allow people adequate time to make whatever plans they need to make on a comfortable timeline,” Oliveira said.

Authorities said the lava traveled 425 yards from Wednesday morning to Thursday morning. The lava devoured another 130 acres of terrain by Thursday afternoon, officials said.

Emergency roads are already being constructed in case the lava cuts off people living in the lower Puna area. Power company officials began efforts Thursday to protect electrical transmission lines.

Big Island residents are used to living with one of the world’s most active, and sometimes destructive, volcanos. Since the current eruption began in 1983, unstoppable lava flows have added 500 new acres to the island and destroyed at least 181 homes, a visitor center, a church and a community center, according the National Park Service.

Oliveira says past efforts to slow or divert lava flows simply don’t work, and can create more problems.

“Any redirecting of the flow would likely push it into another subdivision in another area, basically putting new properties at risk that would not have been at risk before,” Oliveira told ABC News.

“If we divert it, we are going to push it into someone else’s backyard,” he said.


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Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct242014

Retracing the Steps of Craig Spencer, Doctor Who Tested Positive for Ebola

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Officials are retracing the steps of a doctor who tested positive for Ebola on Thursday, with the doctor in isolation at a New York City hospital and three others under quarantine, city and state officials said.

Dr. Craig Allen Spencer, 33, was placed in isolation at Bellevue Hospital on Thursday after reporting a 100.3 fever and gastrointestinal symptoms. He had been treating Ebola patients in Guinea -- one of the West African countries battling an outbreak of the deadly virus -- for Doctors Without Borders, officials said. Spencer left Guinea on Oct. 14 and traveled through Brussels, Belgium, and arrived at JFK Airport on Oct. 17.

Spencer had contact with four people -- his fiancée, two friends and an Uber driver, according to New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. His fiancée, identified by a family friend as Morgan Dixon, is under quarantine at Bellevue Hospital while his two friends are quarantined at home, Bassett said. None of the people under quarantine are showing Ebola symptoms. The Uber driver isn't considered to be at risk for contracting the virus.

Health officials say Spencer took the A, L and 1 subway trains on Wednesday. He also went for a jog and visited The Gutter, a bowling alley in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. The Gutter was closed Thursday "out of an abundance of caution," Bassett said.

The New York City Health Department will check the bowling alley on Friday, Bassett said.

Spencer's apartment was sealed off after it was cleared. Since he tested positive, a team will decontaminate his apartment in the Harlem section of New York, officials said.

Neighbors were saddened to learn about Spencer's diagnosis.

"I really hope the odds are in his favor in regards to his recovery," neighbor John Roston said.

The chances of the average New Yorker contracting Ebola, which is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, are slim -- "close to nil" that the subway rides would pose a risk, Bassett said.

Still, the news rankled some New Yorkers.

"Oh my gosh!" said Charles Kerr, 60, as his friends gathered on a Harlem sidewalk murmured. "This changes the situation. The guy must be coughing, sitting against people. Now you've got to think."

Kerr said he wasn't afraid, but he wants a stricter approach to anyone coming from the Ebola-affected countries.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, speaking at a Thursday press conference, expressed their confidence in the staff at Bellevue Hospital to treat Spencer.

"There is no reason for New Yorkers to be alarmed," de Blasio said. "We've been preparing for months for the threat posed by Ebola. We have clear and strong protocols, which are being scrumptiously followed and were followed in this instance."

Earlier this week, a team with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that Bellevue’s hospital staff had proper protocols and was prepared to treat Ebola patients, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said.

Cuomo said he had spoken with Ron Klain, who was appointed by President Obama as his "Ebola czar." A CDC team was also en route to New York, said Frieden.

New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center described Spencer as a "dedicated humanitarian...who went to an area of medical crisis to help a desperately underserved population."

Spencer is the fourth patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian national, tested positive for the virus at the end of September in Dallas, where he infected two nurses who cared for him: Nina Pham and Amber Vinson.

Duncan died on Oct. 8, shortly before the nurses tested positive for the virus.

Vinson has been declared virus-free, her family announced Wednesday. Pham's condition has been upgraded from "fair" to "good."

Health officials decided to test the New York City patient for Ebola because of the patient's work, symptoms and travel history, according to a statement from Bellevue Hospital. Bellevue is the designated hospital for the diagnosis and treatment of Ebola patients in New York City.



Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct242014

US Taking a Tougher Stance Against Animal Cruelty

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- People who hate animal cruelty should be happy about an important change in federal law that will go into effect next year.

Beginning in 2015, the FBI will consider animal cruelty as a crime against society, falling into the same category as homicide, kidnapping, burglary and arson. Animal cruelty crimes will also be included in the Uniform Crime Report -- National Incident Based Reporting System.

The change should help law enforcement authorities get a better handle on understanding the motivation behind these crimes as well as stopping future ones from occurring.

Animal cruelty crimes will be reported to the UCR under the following classifications: simple/gross neglect; intentional abuse and torture; organized abuse; and animal sexual abuse.

Besides protecting animals from some unspeakable acts, the FBI also believes that the new system will help prevent violent crimes against humans since studies have shown that people who commit heinous acts such as serial killing often abused, hurt and killed animals during their adolescence.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct232014

Murder Suspect Back in Custody After Accidental Release

DPSCS(BALTIMORE) -- A murder suspect who was mistakenly released from a Baltimore detention center is back in custody, authorities said.

Baltimore police captured Rodriguez Purnell about 6 p.m. He was accidentally allowed to walk free from the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center on Friday, police said.

Purnell, 30, has been in and out of jail for drugs and robbery over the years. He was recently incarcerated on a first-degree murder charge, accused of fatally shooting T.J. Rheubottom, 27, last year.

Purnell was in custody waiting to be retried for Rheubottom’s murder after his first trial ended in a hung jury, but after corrections officers confused his current case with the old charges, they let him go. Authorities didn’t realize the mistake until two days later when the victim’s family said they called the jail after Purnell was spotted hanging out in the neighborhood.

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Corrections said in a statement Wednesday that it placed an employee on paid administrative leave for mistakenly releasing Purnell.

“Preliminary results indicate a lapse in release procedures that would otherwise have identified the pending charges at the time of release,” the statement said.

Rheubottom’s mother, Jackie Davis, was stunned by Purnell’s release and worried for the safety of her family and witnesses in the murder case.

“This should have never happened,” Davis told ABC News.

The incident remains under investigation.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct232014

Jodi Arias Trial Hit With Another Juror Issue

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The Jodi Arias trial ended early on Thursday because of a "juror issue," the latest incident in the four-day-old trial involving jurors.

The jury is not expected to return to court until Monday. The court did not make clear what the issue was.

But so far, the panel has already lost two alternates.

The judge ordered a group of 19 jurors to sit through what is expected to be a two-month trial that will determine whether Arias should be condemned to death for the 2008 murder of her boyfriend Travis Alexander. Arias, 34, was convicted last year of killing Alexander with a gunshot, 27 stab wounds and by slitting his throat. But the jury was split on whether Arias should be executed, requiring a second jury for the sentencing phase of the trial.

The plan to have seven alternate jurors for the sentencing phase was whittled to six on the first day when one juror didn't show up because of a family emergency.

On Wednesday, a second juror was dismissed because of improper contact with a member of the media that the juror mistook for ABC News legal analyst Nancy Grace, and for not wearing her juror badge.

If a third juror gets booted, the trial will be left with four alternates as the lengthy trial is just beginning.

The trial promises to be an ordeal with lots of grisly testimony and photos about the wounds, as well as raunchy photos, texts and phone message between Arias and Alexander. On the first day of the trial prosecutor Juan Martinez showed the jury a photo of Alexander's gaping neck wound.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio