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Tuesday
Oct112011

Gov. Brown Scuttles California's Open-Carry Handgun Law

David De Lossy/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- California Gov. Jerry Brown further brandished his credentials as an enemy of conservatives by signing a law Monday that bans the carrying of unloaded handguns in public.

The new legislation makes the practice a misdemeanor offense while also likely to rile the National Rifle Association and gun rights advocates.

Opponents of the open-carry of handguns, which include many California law enforcement officials, have argued that displaying unloaded firearms in public puts others at risk.

Those exempt from the new prohibition include cops, people licensed to carry loaded guns and dealers selling unloaded firearms at gun shows.

Brown, a left-of-center Democrat, has shown his liberal stripes lately by also signing the California Dream Act, which makes undocumented aliens eligible for in-state tuition at colleges.  Those against the Dream Act say it sanctions illegal immigration and have vowed to put the matter on the ballot to get voters to overturn it.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct112011

Notre Dame Says Goodbye to Sheepskin Diplomas

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SOUTH BEND, Indiana) -- No longer will graduates from Notre Dame University be able to earn a sheepskin.

That's because the South Bend, Indiana school, famous for its football team and fight song, will no longer be issuing sheepskin diplomas.

It seems that a growing number of students each year have requested a paper diploma, citing animal rights concerns.  So beginning in January, Notre Dame will end its longstanding tradition of handing out sheepskin diplomas and switch to all paper certificates instead.

The university's decision isn't all that magnanimous.  It turns out that Herff Jones Co., which makes the diplomas, has decided to stop producing the sheepskin variety.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct102011

Steve Jobs Died of Respiratory Arrest Amid Pancreatic Tumor

Mike Ehrmann/WireImage(PALO ALTO, Calif.) -- As Apple announced a private employee celebration of Steve Jobs‘ life, California health officials disclosed what killed the tech legend.

“The immediate cause of death is respiratory arrest, and that’s brought on by a pancreatic tumor,” said Amy Cornell, a health information officer for Santa Clara County Public Health Department, citing Jobs’ death certificate.

Jobs, 56, died at his home in Palo Alto, Calif., at 3 p.m. on Oct. 5 after suffering from a metastatic pancreas neuroendocrine tumor, Cornell said. His occupation is listed on the death certificate as “entrepreneur” in the high-tech business, with 36 years in the occupation.

He is buried at Alta Mesa Memorial Park in Palo Alto, Cornell said, after a funeral held on Oct. 7.

The death certificate came out the same day Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that a “celebration” of Jobs’ life would take place at 10 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 19 on the Apple corporate campus in Cupertino, Calif. It will be a private celebration for employees with no media present, according to Apple.

“Like many of you, I have experienced the saddest days of my lifetime and shed many tears during the past week,” Cook wrote in a letter to employees. “But I’ve found some comfort in the extraordinary number of tributes and condolences from people all over the world who were touched by Steve and his genius. And I’ve found comfort in both telling and listening to stories about Steve.

“Although many of our hearts are still heavy, we are planning a celebration of his life for Apple employees to take time to remember the incredible things Steve achieved in his life and the many ways he made our world a better place,” Cook added.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct102011

Alleged Killer Couple Linked to Fourth Murder

Oregon State Police Handout(EUREKA, Calif.) -- The white supremacist couple accused of three grisly murders is now being linked to a fourth killing, that of a black man in Eureka, Calif., as part of a spree that police now say may have been sparked by anger over alleged sexual assaults by the father of the male suspect.

David Joseph "Joey" Pedersen, 31, of Everett, Wash., and Holly Grigsby, 24, of Portland, Ore., who have both been identified as having white supremacist affiliations, were arrested last week for the murder of Pederson's parents, whom Grigsby said they killed because of his alleged sexual molestation of Pederson's sister and cousin.

Police from Washington, Oregon, and California met Monday to piece together evidence from the multi-state crime spree, including testimony from Grigsby, who police say admitted to the planning and execution of at least two of the murders.

Pedersen, who sports a white supremacist tattoo across his neck that reads "SWP" -- for Supreme White Power -- and has been in and out of prison since he was 16, allegedly plotted to kill his father, David Jones "Red" Pederson, while Red drove him and Grigsby to the train station, according to what Grigsby told investigators.

"Holly said the plan was to kill Red as he drove them to the Everett Transit Station to catch a bus. Joey was to sit behind Red and shoot him from behind while Holly took control of the vehicle, bringing it safely to a stop. The suspects allegedly made good on this plan," Everett police Sgt. Robert Goetz said in a statement.

Police noted that the sexual assault allegations against the elder Pedersen had not been substantiated.

Grigbsy, who has also been in prison twice and had a history of heroin and methamphetamine addiction, told police that she and Pedersen followed the plan to kill Red and then returned to the Pederson home to kill Red's wife. Grigsby told police they wanted to kill Joey's stepmother for her knowledge of the molestation and her failure to do anything about it. Grigsby also told police how she killed Leslie using two knives, according to Goetz.

The couple then left in the Jeep with the deceased Red still inside and fled to Oregon, he said. They used the Pedersens' credit cards to pay for food and other necessities along the way, he said.

In Oregon, the couple came across 19-year-old Cody Myers, who was attending a jazz festival in Newport by himself. Police said that the couple met Myers in Newport, where the jazz festival was located, and then proceeded with him to a second location, near Toledo, Ore. There, they allegedly killed Myers, and then transported the body to where it was eventually found by police, near Pioneer Mountain.

Oregon police could not yet identify a motive for the killing or a timeline for how and when the three individuals met.

Following their alleged third murder, the couple fled again, this time in Myers' vehicle, police said. Between Oct. 1 and Oct. 5, they allegedly killed a fourth man, Reginald Alan Clark, 53, of Eureka, Calif.

Police were alerted to a suspicious vehicle by a friend of Clark's, who said Clark hadn't been seen in a few days. Police entered the vehicle and found Clark, deceased, beneath a pile of clothes, according to the police statement. It was later determined that Clark had been shot. Police have not yet determined a motive, and would not say whether the murder was considered a hate crime.

On Oct. 5, California highway patrols saw Myers' vehicle and recognized it, pulled the car over, and arrested Pedersen and Grigsby without incident. They are being held in California on $1 million bail and are awaiting extradition to Oregon and Washington, police said Monday.

On Oct. 8, police found Red's vehicle, containing his body, in a steep embankment near a mountain in Oregon. Police are unsure of the timeline of events as to when the couple ditched the vehicle there.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct102011

Former Miss Iceland Got Cool $2 Million for Whitey Bulger Tip

Anna Bjornsdottir plays with her cat, Mosa, outside of her home in Reykjavik, Iceland. Bill Greene/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(BOSTON) -- A cat and an Icelandic "canary" brought down the FBI's most wanted fugitive James "Whitey" Bulger.

The tip that led the FBI to the former Boston mobster wanted for 19 murders came from former Miss Iceland Anna Bjornsdottir. The 1974 Miss Universe contender collected a cool $2 million reward for her phone call last June.

The Nordic beauty was a former neighbor of Bulger's and his longtime girlfriend and fellow fugitive Catherine Greig who were living under the names Charlie and Carol Gasko, according to the Boston Globe.

The arrest came just days after a fresh publicity campaign mounted by the FBI saturated the airwaves with a 30-second ad aimed at women watching daytime television. The ad showed pictures of Greig and Bulger taken from the 1990's and mentioned her love of plastic surgery and manicures.

"We were trying to reach a different audience to produce new leads in the case. ... We believed that locating Greig would lead us to Bulger. And that's exactly what happened," Richard Teahan, a special agent in the Boston FBI office said.

Immediately after Bulger's arrest, the FBI would only say that an anonymous tip led to the couple's apprehension. Within a few days of Bulger's capture, "law enforcement sources" disclosed that the phone call came from Iceland, a location that led many to question the authenticity of the FBI's claim.

Bjornsdottir and her husband Halldor Gudmundsoon lived for months at a time in an apartment close to the Princess Eugenia complex in Santa Monica, Calif., where Bulger and Greig had spent the past 13 years living a double life.

Catherine Greig, who was known to her neighbors as Carol Gasko, was taking care of an abandoned cat in the neighborhood. The kindness Greig showed to the stray was noticed by Bjornsdottir who also loved cats. She and her husband Halldor Gudmundson had even published a book about a stray cat they adopted named Mosa.

Although the "Gaskos" normally kept to themselves, according to the Globe, Bjornsdottir recognized Catherine Greig immediately after watching a news story on the FBI ad campaign. She picked up the phone and Bulger and Greig were arrested after a 48-hour stakeout.

Bjornsdottir and her husband lived part time in California and their native Iceland. She used to live fulltime in California after achieving some fame competing in the 1974 Miss Universe pageant as Miss Iceland. She was voted Miss Congeniality by her fellow contestants.

Anna Bjornsdottir did not respond to ABC News' attempts to reach her Monday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct102011

Arrests in Ohio Amish Beard- and Hair-Cut Attacks

Richard Ellis/Getty Images(STEUBENVILLE, Ohio) -- Three men from a renegade Amish sect accused in a series of beard- and hair-cutting attacks that terrorized the Amish community remained in police custody Monday, while Ohio police said they expected to make more arrests.

The Jefferson County Police Department identified the men in custody as Johnny Mullet, 38, Lester Mullet, 26, and Levi Miller, 53.

The attackers are believed to be from a group of people who were once Amish, but have now gathered together near Bergholz, Ohio, in Jefferson County, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The group consists of about 18 families, most of whom are related.

Sheriff Fred Abdulla of the Jefferson County Police Department told the Post-Gazette that the attacks seemed to be tied to criticism of the group's leader, Bishop Sam Mullet, received four years ago when 300 other bishops questioned his leadership abilities.

"They brought him on the carpet and he told them to go to hell. He thumbed his nose at them," Abdulla said.

Although police said at least five families had been victimized by the group, they were only able to take action after two of the men who were attacked agreed to press charges, which is not a common practice in the Amish community.

"[The Amish] are loath to press charges because it conflicts with their religious beliefs about nonviolence and not using force [or the force of law] in their daily life," Donald Kraybill, a professor at Elizabethtown College and an expert on Amish life, told ABC News.

The attacks carry tremendous symbolism and show the attackers' degradation of the Amish faith, where men grow their beards after marriage and women do not cut their hair in order to adhere to Biblical teachings.

Myron Miller, one of the men pressing charges, was attacked last Wednesday night at his Mechanicstown, Ohio, home. Miller's 15-year-old daughter answered the door after a group of four to six men knocked. They asked for her father, who is the bishop for the Mechanicstown Amish church, the Post-Gazette reported.

When Miller appeared at the door, according to the newspaper account, a man grabbed him by his beard and forced him out the front door.

The attackers then cut out a chunk of the bishop's beard with scissors, according to the account. Miller struggled to get away, and the attackers were unable to cut off his entire beard. The leader of the attackers ordered the group to flee.

The three men are being held on charges of kidnapping and burglary.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct102011

Citizen Superhero 'Phoenix Jones' Arrested in Seattle

ABC News(SEATTLE) -- Seattle's masked superhero crime fighter dubbed "Phoenix Jones" is now fighting an assault charge for allegedly spraying pepper spray on people who he claims were fighting. Seattle police claim the people were dancing.

Phoenix Jones, who has been unmasked by police as Benjamin Francis, was arrested about 2:30 a.m. Sunday while still wearing his black and gold superhero costume, a bullet-proof vest and carrying two cans of pepper spray. Jones is a member of the "Rain City Superhero Movement," a group of self-proclaimed superheroes who say they patrol the streets to fight crime.

He was charged with assaulting two people who police said were "dancing and having a good time" as they walked to their car.

"In this particular case, he perceived that this group was fighting and when we contacted them, they said they weren't fighting," said Det. Mark Jamieson, a Seattle Police Department public information officer. "Unfortunately, he used force. He committed a crime, an assault against these individuals. That's against the law."

The police report quoted a woman who was sprayed, saying the four victims "began dancing and frolicking with each other. Suddenly she observed a person running full sprint towards her group."

The person sprayed all four victims with pepper spray, the report stated.

Francis, who was being filmed by a journalist at the time, told police he "ran into the crowd to break up the fight."

"He saw two white males fighting, but could not explain why four people, including women, had been sprayed," the police report said.

In a video taken by a journalist who was with Jones when he was arrested and posted on Jones' Facebook page shows Jones rushing towards commotion and a crowd in a road beneath an underpass in downtown Seattle. It is unclear from the video whether the group is fighting or just messing around, as police said.

The police report said that Francis "has had a history of injecting himself in these incidents. Recently there has (sic) been increased reports of citizens being pepper sprayed by [Francis] and his group."

Earlier that night several other nightclub patrons told police they had also been pepper sprayed by Phoenix Jones, but left the area before police arrived.

Peter Tangen, a photographer and spokesman for Phoenix Jones, questioned how police can say the group was dancing and joking around when Jones was on-scene as an eyewitness and police were not when the situation occurred.

"The first thing Phoenix did was to scream out to call 911," Tangen said. "He's been doing this four or five nights a week this entire year and he has never been charged with a crime. To assert that he ran into a bunch of people dancing and pepper sprayed them is entirely inconsistent with what he has done consistently this entire year."

Jones, the husband and father of two, told Good Morning America in January, "I'm definitely not going to let my fellow citizens be assaulted and not do anything." He continued, "It's a pretty simple message. Citizens need to be more accountable. Calling 911 is a great start, but it's not the end all to end all," Jones said. "Criminals feel free to just run wild in my city, and I'm not going to stand for it."

Jones isn't the only one who feels this way. He is just one of many citizen superheroes around the country with similar groups in Orlando, New York, and Salt Lake City, among other places.

Over the years, the citizen superheroes have grown more organized, with websites popping up to help them organize themselves such as Superheroes Anonymous and Real Life Superheroes. On these websites, participants can do everything from share their crime-fighting stories to learn about patenting their looks and names.

The Salt Lake City group, called the Black Monday Society, is made up of nine members that go out to patrol downtown Salt Lake City a few times a month. They meet up at the Salt Lake City Library and fan out from there, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

While the group does break up fights, they also deliver meals to the homeless and balance their superhero lives with families and day jobs.

A spokesman for the Salt Lake City Police Department said that they have chosen not to comment on the citizen vigilantes, but other police departments, like the Seattle Police Department, are more vocal about their concerns with the groups.

"We applaud their civic-mindedness and that they want to be involved. That's all great. The problem and the concern that we have is that somebody is going to get hurt," Jamieson said. "They don't have the training. They don't have the authority."

Jamieson hopes the incident will be a "wake-up call" for Phoenix Jones and other like him that there is a line between being a helpful citizen and risking further harm. He concedes that Jones' crime fighting efforts are not illegal and he has the right to do so, but hopes they will refrain from inserting themselves unnecessarily into volatile situation.

"At the end of the day, so you break up a fight, then what are you going to do?" Jamieson said. "You still have to call the police if you want somebody arrested."

Jones is scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday and has a team of attorneys representing him, according to Tangen, who was vague about Jones' future as a superhero.

"He is a man who cares deeply about others, wearing a costume expressly to get out a consistent message: Call 911. Look out for your fellow man. Don't let injustice walk away and don't let people be victimized," Tangen said. "Whatever his future is, it will absolutely contain his way of trying to make the world a better place."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct102011

Skydiving Celebration Turns Into Horror for Woman, 75

Ablestock/Thinkstock(MESQUITE, Nev.) -- A veteran skydiving instructor and his 75-year-old student, who was jumping for her first time, plunged to their deaths in Mesquite, Nev., on Sunday.

Instructor James Fonnesbeck was pronounced dead at the scene, while Claudette Porter, 75, was taken to Mesa View Regional Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Brad Jessey, the owner of Skydive Mesquite, where the pair was jumping, told ABC News that Fonnesbeck was a seasoned professional who had completed 11,000 jumps and had appeared as a skydiving Elvis Presley in the 1992 movie Honeymoon in Vegas.

Jessey, who watched Fonnesbeck and Porter make the jump, said he could tell something was wrong immediately. “I called 911 right away,” he said. “He was a really, really good skydiver. I don’t understand what happened.”

Other witnesses at the scene said it appeared the duo had suffered an equipment malfunction, Mesquite Police said.

According to the United States Parachute Association, there has been one fatality for every 141,509 skydives over the past five years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct102011

Woman to Be Charged with Stealing Fetus, Killing Mother

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(MILWAUKEE) -- A Milwaukee mother of three who allegedly faked a pregnancy is expected to be charged Monday with the murder of a pregnant woman and stealing her fetus. She is also expected be charged with the male fetus' death, authorities said.

The victim of the gruesome attack was identified as Maritza Ramirez-Cruz, 23, the mother of three children, who was just days away from giving birth.

The Milwaukee district attorney's homicide unit is reviewing the case.

"We are anticipating criminal charges to be filed at some point later today," Kent Lovern, deputy district attorney, told ABCNews.com Monday.

The suspect, who has not been identified by police, called 911 Thursday to claim that she had given birth, but that her baby boy wasn't breathing.

"During the ensuing investigations, detectives determined that the 33-year-old suspect was not in fact the birth mother of the baby," Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said at a news conference.

The baby died, and according to ABC News affiliate WISN, the suspect -- who neighbors say had claimed to be pregnant -- even fooled her boyfriend into believing the child was his.

Last week he wrote on his Facebook page, "My child was born yesterday and he died an hour after birth. He would have been so cute. My woman is shattered, she doesn't stop crying."

The suspect is the mother of three other children, neighbors said.

On Friday, police found the body of the Ramirez-Cruz in the suspect's basement.

"Evidence at the scene indicated that she had been fatally injured there and that the baby had been removed from her womb by force," said Flynn. It's unclear why Ramirez-Cruz was at the suspect's house.

Neighbors who lived near the suspect told WISN they were shocked.

Jacqueline Bonilla told WISN, "There's no way, shape or form somebody should hurt somebody else and take somebody's baby just to have one for themselves."

Neighbor Nicole Soto, interviewed while holding her 1-year-old son, had thought the suspect was pregnant.

"She was rubbing her belly all the time. She was telling everyone she was, she was getting bigger," Soto said. Keila Perez, who shares a backyard with the suspect, told the station, "It's horrible I can't even -- I can't think of it I just can't see her doing anything like that."

"She's the godmother of my daughter, she has three beautiful kids that she raised by herself and she's been basically married for four years," said Perez. "To me she's a good woman, she's never been in no problems."

Police don't believe Ramirez-Cruz knew the suspect, who likely acted alone.

The rare crime generated headlines a few years ago when a pregnant woman—also 23-years-old— was murdered in Worcester, Mass. Her baby was later found alive in a New Hampshire hospital.

In this case, however, Christian Mercado, the husband of Ramirez-Cruz, must now plan two funerals.

His stepmother, Darla Guiterrez, spoke to NBC affiliate WTMJ on his behalf because Mercado does not speak English.

"He wants everybody to remember that she was a good person. She never did anything bad to anybody and she would help anybody out if they needed help," Guiterrez said, adding that the family did not know the suspect.

"We still can't believe it. We know it's true but we can't believe it and the whole family is taking it real hard," Guiterrez said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct102011

Columbus Day: Five Things You Didn’t Know

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As Monday’s Columbus Day celebrations are underway, marking Columbus’ 1492 arrival in the New World, here are some little-known facts about the explorer celebrated by Italian-Americans across the U.S.

1. When the Columbus Day Holiday Began

In the U.S., it’s sometimes reported that the national holiday began in 1971, but that’s actually the date when Congress changed Columbus Day to the second Monday of October. In reality, Columbus Day became a national holiday much earlier, in 1937. At that time, President Franklin Roosevelt declared the holiday would take place on Oct. 12 (the date Columbus first landed in the Bahamas). But the first known Columbus Day celebration in the U.S. took place in New York City in 1792, long before it became a national holiday.

2. Columbus’ Journal Was Intended for an Audience


When historians examine primary sources from Columbus’ voyages, they aren’t reading private diaries. They’re evaluating correspondence intended for the explorer’s sponsors, those he refers to as the “Most Christian, High, Excellent, and Powerful Princes, King and Queen of Spain.” In that sense, it’s entirely possible that these journals were embellished, with some facts manipulated in Columbus’ favor.

3. Columbus’ Bones Are Still Shrouded in Mystery


It’s still unclear where Columbus’ bones were finally laid to rest.

When Columbus died in 1506, his remains were taken to a family mausoleum in Seville, Spain. But nearly 40 years later his son requested that the remains be placed in the Cathedral of Santo Domingo in the capital of the Dominican Republic, where he intended to be buried. In the late 1700s the bones were moved to Cuba, and 100 years later they were returned to Seville. But in 1877, bones marked as those of Columbus were found by cathedral workers in the Dominican Republic. Those bones have since been interred in the Columbus Lighthouse in Santo Domingo.

In 2006, the year of the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ death, a forensic team found DNA from bones buried in a cathedral in Seville matched the DNA from Columbus’ brother, Diego. But at the time, the director of the Columbus Lighthouse insisted Columbus’ remains had never left the Dominican Republic.

4. Pope Rejected Bid for Columbus’ Sainthood


In 1882, the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men’s fraternity, supported Italian Americans who rallied for Columbus to be recognized as a saint because they said he had brought Christianity to the Indians. Pope Leo XIII, however, rejected that request because Columbus had an illegitimate son with Beatriz Enríquez de Harana, his mistress.

5. Columbus Brought Citrus to the New World


The history books note Columbus forcibly scored a lot of loot from the islands he visited, making off with gold, parrots, spices, and human captives from Haiti, an island he later named Hispaniola. The “riches” pleased his Spanish sponsors, King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I, who were funding the voyage. During the process, Columbus also carried European items to the New World. In 1493, the year of Columbus’s second voyage, he brought citrus fruit seeds to the West Indies and the trees ended up in the West Indies, Mexico and Florida.

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