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Wednesday
Oct222014

Three American Girls En Route to Syria Tracked Down by FBI

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The FBI has tracked down three American teenage girls in Germany as they were en route to Syria to join militant groups, a law enforcement official told ABC News Tuesday.

The girls, who are from the Denver area, were trying "to fulfill what they believe is some vision that has been put out on a slick media campaign" by radical groups in Syria, including ISIS, the official said.

This is part of a worrisome trend of "disaffected youth" who are being radicalized, the official said, pointing to the wider phenomenon of foreign fighters converging on the conflict in the region. While these girls were 15 or 16 years old, there are other cases of high-school-age kids trying to get to Syria that haven’t been made public, the official said.

The girls were persuaded to travel overseas and were in contact with someone in Germany, the official said, noting that someone close to them notified authorities.

They were turned around and sent back to the United States, the official said, noting that because they are minors, it's not clear whether they will be charged with anything or be "arrested."

According to a federal law enforcement source briefed on the case, two of the girls are sisters, ages 15 and 17, and the third girl is 16 years old.

The sisters are believed to be of Somali nationality, and the third girl is believed to be Sudanese, though the citizenship and immigration status of all three girls is unclear.


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Wednesday
Oct222014

Wireless Store Robbed of $100K Worth of Phones and Computers

Apple(GARDEN GROVE, Calif.) -- In what could be described as the modern day equivalent of a jewelry store heist, thieves in Garden Grove, California, broke into a wireless store early Tuesday morning and made off with what cops say was about a $100,000 worth of phones and computers.

The robbers apparently knew what they were looking for because Oztec Wireless said that around 100 Apple iPhone6s were taken along with 20 iPads and a bunch of laptops.

A surveillance video spotted three hooded men, assumed to be in their 20s, breaking into the store and then using bolt cutters to shatter glass cases containing their ill-gotten gain.

Store owner Vu Bui first learned what happened when he was awakened by security company ADT and then viewed the video of the heist on his phone.

By the time he arrived, the crooks were long gone but left a trail of electronics around the back of the store that led to their escape route.


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Tuesday
Oct212014

Dallas Ebola Nurse Nina Pham Upgraded to Good Condition

The Pham Family(BETHESDA, Md.) -- Nina Pham, the first nurse who contracted Ebola while treating Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, was upgraded from fair condition to good condition on Tuesday.

Pham was transferred to the National Institute of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda on Oct. 16. Prior to departing the Dallas hosital, Pham had been listed in good condition, but was downgraded upon arrival in Maryland. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH's Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, declined to say why she was listed in fair condition following the trip, but said she had endured a long trip from Dallas.

According to an NIH statement, Pham "has expressed her gratitude for everyone's concerns and well wishes."


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Tuesday
Oct212014

Coach Suspensions Continued in NJ High School Football Hazing Scandal

ABC News(SAYREVILLE, N.J.) -- The Board of Education at the New Jersey high school embroiled in a football hazing scandal continued the suspension of the team's coaches with pay during an emotional meeting Tuesday night.

Among the teachers suspended at Sayreville War Memorial High School were five with tenure, including head football coach George Najjar. The board said it would continue its investigation of the incidents, which allegedly involved older members of the team brutalizing freshmen players.

Seven football players at the school accused in the hazing scandal face a variety of criminal charges as investigators try to determine the depths of the alleged abuse. Three students face sex-crime charges, and others face charges including aggravated sexual assault to conspiracy and criminal restraint.

The players were charged after four victims were allegedly held against their will in four separate incidents, while the defendants improperly touched them in a sexual manner, police said.

The seven suspects have all been suspended from school, with the football season canceled indefinitely amid the hazing investigation. There have been no official statements on any involvement by the coaches in the hazing.

Authorities with the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office have not announced whether they intend to charge any of them as adults.


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Tuesday
Oct212014

Times Square Bus Driver Goes From Suspect to Hero

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- No charges will be filed against a New York bus driver who was arrested after he smashed into a lamp post in Times Square this summer, after an investigation into the crash determined that the driver was actually a hero.

William Dalambert was at the wheel of a Gray Line bus in August when the bus slammed into a lamp post, knocking it down. Several people were injured. Dalambert was arrested and police initially said he had failed a sobriety test.

A full drug and alcohol screen test was performed later, which cleared Dalambert of being impaired.

"As part of the two-month-long investigation, prosecutors interviewed numerous eyewitnesses, including the only witness on the bus, a tour guide riding with Dalambert at the time of the crash," a statement from the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said.

"After obtaining phone records, video, and running tests on an identical bus, we have concluded that a mechanical failure caused the bus to lurch forward, at which time the driver steered the bus away from a crowded sidewalk, thereby averting serious injury to those on the sidewalk," the statement said.

The DA's office said Dalambert "voluntarily submitted to sobriety and toxicology tests, which came back negative."


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Tuesday
Oct212014

Jodi Arias Death Penalty Trial Begins with Shocking Photo

ABC News(PHOENIX) -- The death penalty phase of Jodi Arias' murder trial started Tuesday with both sides promising it would be just as lurid and grisly as last year's murder trial.

The prosecution began its case with a shocking photo. Prosecutor Juan Martinez showed a photo of Arias' ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander's throat slit within minutes of starting to make his case, saying, "This is how much she loved him."

And Martinez ended his opening statement by telling the jury, "The only just punishment in this case is death."

Arias' defense attorney Kirk Nurmi argued that she shouldn't be put to death because she has been diagnosed with both post traumatic stress disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder, calling her a "troubled, mentally ill young woman."

The Maricopa County Superior Court in Arizona was filled with supporters on either side, including Alexander's siblings on one side of the room and Arias' parents and brother on the other.

Arias, now 34, was found guilty of murder last year by a jury that rejected her argument that she shot Alexander, stabbed him numerous times and slit his throat in self defense. But the first jury was unable to agree on whether Arias should be condemned to death.

The current jury of 12 women and six men -- which includes six alternates -- will be asked to decide whether Arias is executed.

"It is up to you to write the final chapter of this story," said Nurmi, a state-appointed defense attorney who represented Arias throughout the nearly six-month trial last year.

Nurmi dedicated much of his nearly 45-minute opening statement issuing warnings to the jury, warning that there will be graphic evidence including autopsy photos, sexually explicit photos, and transcriptions of the X-rated text messages that Arias exchanged with Alexander in the months before his June 2008 murder.

Nurmi stressed how Arias had no prior criminal history, suffered alleged physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her parents, and then allegedly experienced more emotional and physical abuse from Alexander, a Mormon motivational speaker.

The lawyer characterized her relationship with Alexander as "one of lust, passion, forbidden sex."

The original trial included a flood of explicit descriptions about their sexual encounters. The murder trial was live-streamed, but the current judge has allowed a camera to be in the courtroom. However, the judge ordered that no footage of the proceedings can be released after the sentence is handed down.

Much of the evidence brought up in the original trial is expected to be raised once more, largely by the prosecution who will try to convince the jury that her actions before Alexander's death indicate the killing was premeditated rather than a crime committed in the heat of the moment.

Martinez started this effort Tuesday, telling the jury about how she bought gas out of state to allegedly avoid a credit card trail at gas stations close to Alexander's house.

He also showed photos of the crime scene retrieved from Arias' camera that police found in Alexander's laundry machine.

The court estimates that the sentencing trial could take two months.


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Tuesday
Oct212014

Creepy Clown Sightings Spread Across Nation

KOAT(NEW YORK) -- Days after several reports of spooky clowns alarming residents in California, pranksters in similar costumes are popping up in other states.

Sgt. Tom Weger of the Fishers Police Department in Indiana thinks his town is dealing with a copycat.

"We have had over the past week three calls of a suspicious person dressed in a creepy clown outfit," Weger told ABC News Tuesday. "We believe it's just one individual dressing up as a clown and kind of creeping people out a bit."

Police looked for the clown but never found him, he added.

"As of right now, he hasn't broken any law," Weger said.

The reports come after similar sightings this month in Bakersfield, California, and the launch of social media accounts using the name "Wasco Clown," showing a scary clown posing at different locations in Bakersfield and nearby cities.

Fishers, Indiana, isn't alone in the new sightings, days before Halloween. Residents of Albuquerque, New Mexico, were recently spooked when a scary clown posed for a photo in front of a local restaurant and posted it on social media. But the clown, Tickles, told ABC News affiliate KOAT-TV in Albuquerque that he didn't mean any harm by the scary photo.

"I haven't gotten any phone calls, but we've had several news outlets here in Albuquerque report on it," Albuquerque Police Department spokesman Tanner Tixier said of the spooky clown. "It has not become a police matter yet."

And clowns have also reportedly appeared in Jacksonville, Florida, popping up on security footage.

The World Clown Association says such spooky sightings are giving clowns a bad rap.

"People dressed as horror clowns are not 'real clowns,'" World Clown Association President-elect Randy Christensen said. "They are taking something innocent and wholesome and perverting it to create fear in their audience."

Clowns, he added, should promote "positive, family-friendly" enjoyment.


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Tuesday
Oct212014

DHS Places Restrictions on Passengers Entering US from West Africa

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- All U.S.-bound travelers coming from West African countries where there have been Ebola outbreaks will have to fly into one of five American airports, the Department of Homeland Security announced on Tuesday.

Specifically, beginning on Wednesday, any passengers arriving in the United States who started their travel in Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea will be required to fly into JFK International Airport in New York, Newark International Airport in New Jersey, Dulles International Airport outside Washington, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta or O’Hare Internal Airport in Chicago.

All five hubs had already established “enhanced screening and additional resources” for extra screening of passengers believed to have come from Ebola-stricken areas, according to DHS.

“We are continually evaluating whether additional restrictions or added screening and precautionary measures are necessary to protect the American people and will act accordingly,” DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement.

The five airports where certain passengers will now be required to arrive in the United States account for about 94 percent of travelers flying into the country from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to Johnson.

Johnson said his department is “working closely” with airlines to implement the new travel restrictions and minimize “travel disruption,” but he said any passengers who need to rebook their travel should contact the airlines directly.

A top lawmaker from New York, Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer, called the move "a good and effective step towards tightening the net and further protecting our citizens," saying in a statement that it “provides an added layer of protection against Ebola entering our country."

The new restrictions come one day after Johnson spoke with Customs and Border Protection officers serving at the five airports.

“I reminded our CBP officers to be vigilant in their efforts, and encouraged them to set a calm example for an American public nervous about Ebola,” Johnson said.


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Tuesday
Oct212014

After $175M Verdict, Feds to Examine Widely-Used Guardrails

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The federal agency that a court found was misled and defrauded by a leading guardrail company is taking a hard look at whether the company’s guardrails -- some of the most widely-used on America’s roads -- should continue to protect American drivers.

“The Federal Highway Administration [FHWA] will evaluate the findings of the Trinity case and consider whether it affects the continued eligibility of the ET-Plus guardrail end terminal,” Department of Transportation spokesperson Brian Farber told ABC News in an email late Monday evening. “Separately, the FHWA continues to review the Trinity guardrail end terminal service record.”

The announcement came hours after a Texas jury ordered Texas-based Trinity Industries, the guardrail maker, to pay $175 million in damages after it was shown to have modified a component of the guardrails -- the end terminal -- back in 2005 without telling the U.S. government or any state transportation departments until years later.

Josh Harman, a competitor of Trinity’s, filed suit against the company for fraud, but also alleged that the modified end terminal made the guardrails more dangerous for motorists.

The modified guardrail end terminal, called the ET-Plus system, was the subject of an ABC News’ 20/20 investigation last month.

Harman and accident victims told ABC News that when the modified guardrail is struck from the front, rather than absorb the impact as designed, the altered guardrail end terminal can malfunction and the guardrail itself “locks up,” spearing through the car and its occupants. They linked the new guardrail to severed limbs and deaths in accidents.

In an internal company email obtained by ABC News, a Trinity official estimated that making one of the modifications -- reducing a piece of metal from five inches to four -- would save the company $2 per guardrail end terminal, or $50,000 per year.

Trinity maintained that the changes were made to improve the end terminal and only “inadvertently omitted” documentation about the change in papers to the government back in 2005. For ABC News’ original report, Trinity said it has a “high degree of confidence in the performance and integrity” of the ET-Plus system and noted that after the FHWA learned of the change in 2012, it still repeatedly approved the end terminal for use.

After the verdict Monday, Harman’s attorneys said they were “pleased” that the jury “after hearing evidence for just four days and deliberating for just three hours… saw the plain truth that the FHWA has clearly been defrauded and that fraud has exacted the ultimate toll in claiming lives of those unnecessarily endangered by Trinity’s secretly-modified guardrail end terminals.”

In its announcement late Monday, the DOT also urged “all states to immediately share any crash information involving the Trinity ET-Plus guardrail end terminal.”

“To be clear, our number-one priority is safety and we will take a data-driven approach to ensure safety on our highways,” the DOT said.

In recent months four states -- Virginia, Massachusetts, Missouri and Nevada -- have said they are suspending the installation of the ET-Plus system as they investigate further.

Trinity said it is working with the states and will appeal Monday’s decision, saying it “will not withstand legal scrutiny.”


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Tuesday
Oct212014

A Look at Where Manhunt Subject Eric Frein Has Been Spotted

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation(CANADENSIS, Pa.) — Accused cop killer Eric Frein, the subject of a massive manhunt lasting for more than five weeks, has recently been spotted twice near his old high school, police said.

Schools in the Pocono Mountain School District in eastern Pennsylvania are closed Tuesday because of increased police presence in the area. A police officer spotted a man believed to be Frein on Monday outside the Swiftwater Post Office, but lost contact with the man in the woods. He was wearing green, the officer said.

Police searched the area but didn't find the suspect, who's accused of ambushing two state troopers at the Blooming Grove police barracks Sept. 12, before fleeing into the woods.

The post office is less than a mile from Pocono Mountain East High School, where there was another sighting Friday.  A woman out for a walk near the school said she spotted a man armed with a rifle and with mud caked on his face.

"He had actually turned towards me and that's where you could tell the mud on his face. You could tell the height he was based on the truck he was standing next to," she told ABC affiliate WPVI in Philadelphia.

"You could clearly tell it was a gun, a rifle with a scope attached to it. It looked as though he was looking for something or looking which way to go. He avoided making eye contact. I had the light shining on his upper half and his face was kind of confusing. This guy was not startled by me."

Police had been focused for weeks on a few square miles near Frein's family home in Canadensis, near the borders of Pike and Monroe counties. Since the new sightings, they have shifted their general search area about five or six miles southwest.

Blood droplets found on the porch of a home near Cresco were tested but did not come from Frein, police also said Monday.


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