Tornadoes Tear Through Mass. Leaving Four Dead, Dozens Injured

Springfield Falcons(SPRINGFIELD, Mass.) -- Multiple tornadoes slammed western and central Massachusetts Wednesday, leaving a path of destruction that destroyed buildings, flipped vehicles and left at least four people dead and an unknown number injured.

At least three tornadoes struck the city of Springfield, Mass., alone, with a fourth unconfirmed twister possibly touching down in the city, Mayor Dominic J. Sarno said. Many of those storms also blasted the areas surrounding the city of more than 150,000 residents which is situated 90 miles west of Boston.

According to the National Weather Service, there were seven reports of tornadoes touching down in Massachusetts Wednesday.

The twisters hit as unstable weather threatened the entire Northeast, bringing tornado watches to Philadelphia, New York and Boston. Golf Ball size hail was reported from New York to Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire, while thunderstorms produced wind gusts from 60 to 70 miles per hour across New England.

The situation in Massachusetts was so bad that Gov. Deval Patrick declared a statewide state of emergency, calling up 1,000 members of the National Guard.

Two of the four fatalities in Massachusetts occurred in West Springfield, and there was one each in Springfield and Brimfield, a state official said, correcting earlier official statements.

Peter Judge, from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) told ABC News that as of early Thursday morning there were about 50,000 without power.

"There is some very serious damage -- we're aware of city blocks that aren't there anymore, homes that have lost roofs," Judge said.

"It was obviously an incredible surprise...we'd been monitoring the weather all day and by early afternoon nobody was overly concerned...but by late afternoon some storm clouds started to appear," he added.

Wednesday's tornadoes were the worst outbreak in the state since 1953, when 94 people were killed by a tornado in central Massachusetts. The state's last lethal tornado was in 1995.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


White House Slams Report that Says War on Drugs 'Has Failed'

Doug Menuez/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House is slamming a report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy that says the long running war on drugs has been a failure.

In the report, the commission stated, "The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.  Fifty years after the initiation of the U.N. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the U.S. government’s war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed."

The commission also recommended that certain controlled substances should be legalized.

However, the White House says legalizing drugs like marijuana remains a non-starter for the Obama administration.

The Office of National Drug Policy says the war is succeeding because overall drug use in the U.S. is about half what in was in the late 70s. The president's approach, the office says, focuses on drug addiction as a disease, providing treatment and on efforts to prevent drug abuse.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


'Balloon Boy' Family Auctioning ‘Balloon’ to Aid Japan

Sankei via Getty Images(FORT COLLINS, Colo.) -- Richard and Mayumi Heene, the parents behind 2009's infamous "Balloon Boy" news story, have put the balloon on the auction block and are asking $1 million for it.

On the family's website, Richard Heene says the money will go to charity to help earthquake and tsunami recovery efforts in Japan. "We will receive nothing," Heene says in a posted video.

In the nearly five-minute YouTube video, Heene appears with his wife, Mayumi, and the "experimental flying saucer." He explains that he designed the balloon so that people could travel 50-100 feet off the ground to and from work at 35 mph.

"All you people out there who have casinos and hotels, maybe you're a collector, and you want to attract people to your place of business, you could perhaps bid on this and use it as a tax writeoff and then folks will come in to see the experimental craft," he says.

"This is your chance to own a piece of documented media history while benefiting those in need," the website says.

In October 2009, the Heenes of Fort Collins, Colo., allowed authorities to believe that their 6-year-old son, Falcon, had floated away in a homemade helium balloon. Millions of people stayed glued to their TVs watching live footage of the balloon floating in the air.

Soon after the balloon landed with no one aboard, Falcon was found hiding in the rafters of the family garage.

After the little boy said during an interview that the family had hatched the balloon plan "for a show," celebration turned into an investigation of Richard and Mayumi Heene.

They were both eventually arrested. Under a plea deal, the two were sentenced to jail time and probation. They were also prohibited from making any money off the story until 2013.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


South Dakota Residents Urged to Evacuate Amid Pending Flooding

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(PIERRE, S.D.) -- The governor of South Dakota is urging residents in three cities to leave their homes as flood waters from the Missouri River approach the state.

Although the evacuations are not mandatory, Gov. Dennis Daugaard wants people living in Pierre, Fort Pierre and Dakota Dunes to get out of the area by Thursday night.

"I ask that all residents in flood-threatened areas evacuate their homes by 8 p.m. on Thursday night," Gov. Daugaard said in a statement Wednesday, referring to residents in Pierre and Fort Pierre. "The Corps will begin to increase water levels on Friday morning, and releases will increase by 50 percent by June 5."

In a separate statement also issued on Wednesday, the governor said, "We hope that levees will protect Dakota Dunes from flooding, but residents should assume the worst.  Every homeowner should take individual action to secure their property and we recommend that they be ready to be out of Dakota Dunes by Thursday evening."

Police officers relayed the governor's request to residents Wednesday night, going door to door in the affected areas.

Despite the warning, some residents, like Jayme Deis in Pierre, are refusing to leave their homes.

"We're gonna stay here through Sunday and if it looks like we're gonna get into trouble then we'll pack up and leave," Deis said.  "We have everything ready to go so we can be out of here in four hours."

"I think the levees gonna hold fine. They're doing a really good job building it," he added.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Couple Who Kidnapped Jaycee Dugard Being Sentenced

El Dorado County Sheriff via Getty ImagesUPDATE: The judge on Thursday sentenced Phillip Garrido, 60, to the maximum sentence of 431 years to life in prison, according to ABC News affiliate KABC-TV. His wife, Nancy, was sentenced to 36 years to life.

(PLACERVILLE, Calif.) -- The California couple who kidnapped then-11-year-old Jaycee Dugard from her home in 1991 and held her captive for 18 years will be sentenced Thursday in a California courtroom.

Phillip and Nancy Garrido pled guilty to various kidnapping and sexual assault charges on April 28.  They were arrested in August 2009, when Dugard, then 29 and living under an assumed name, accompanied Philip Garrido to a meeting with his parole officer.

Garrido had been called in to meet with his parole officer after acting suspiciously on the campus of the University of California-Berkeley.  Dugard brought along to the meeting two young children that Garrido had fathered with her.  Under questioning, she broke, dropping the façade Garrido had forced her to use for 18 years and admitted she had been kidnapped.

Investigators later uncovered a secret encampment guarded by a six-foot fence in the Garridos' backyard in which Dugard was kept captive.

Both Phillip and Nancy Garrido could be sentenced to life in prison.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


DOT to Hold Campaign Promoting Teen Driver Safety

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Teenage drivers are disproportionately involved in fatal crashes with large trucks, according to the Department of Transportation.

Although the inexperienced drivers make up just six percent of motorists, they account for 19 percent of fatalities.  That's why the transportation agency will hold a "Teens and Trucks" campaign Thursday to educate young drivers about the hazards of the road and how to steer clear of a truck's "No Zones."

"It's about teaching our least experienced and already our highest risk drivers the importance of steering clear of truck's 'No Zones,'" DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne Ferro says.

"The 'No Zone' are the blind spots around a truck, and steering clear of a truck's 'No Zones,' making sure that the truck driver has you in his sites is a sure way to avoid any sort of crash," she explains.

During the demonstration, teens will be staged around a truck's "No Zones" and will be seated in the truck's driver's seat "so that they can see just what those blind spots really are, how extensive they are, and generally, its a sobering message for teens who participate in these events," says Ferro.

The campaign comes just as summer is approaching, a time when it is especially deadly for this age group on the road.

"Between graduation season, start of the summer, this is among the most deadly period for teens on our nation's highways.  In fact, in the summer months, teens are at double the risk for crashes on our roadways," Ferro says.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Missouri Accounts for All of Joplin's Missing Persons

Julie Denesha/Getty Images(JOPLIN, Mo.) -- Ten days after a monstrous tornado tore through the city of Joplin, Missouri, state officials now say that their grim task of trying to find unaccounted-for residents is over.

According to the Missouri Department of Public Safety, all those reported as missing have either been found or confirmed as dead.

Initially, there were reports of as many as 1,300 missing persons after the twister that struck Joplin on May 22, prompting Gov. Jay Nixon to order both the Department of Public Safety and Missouri State Highway Patrol Troopers to conduct a search for unaccounted-for individuals.

Eventually, that figure was reduced to 268 missing persons, with 144 people found alive and 128 confirmed as deceased, and their next of kin notified of their passing.

Gov. Nixon praised the state agencies involved in the search for their "outstanding professionalism and dedication in carrying out the vital mission of locating every individual who was unaccounted for after the storm."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Plane Carrying MLB Team Makes Emergency Landing in Los Angeles

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- A charter flight carrying the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim was forced to make an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport Wednesday night.

The baseball team was returning from a three-game road trip in Kansas City and were on their way to John Wayne Airport in California's Orange County when hydraulic issues forced the plane to reroute.  The Boeing 737 with 51 people on board landed safely at LAX.  No injures were reported.

Angels pitcher Rich Thompson tweeted upon landing, "Glad to be on the ground safe, pilot did a he'll of a job bringing the bird down!"

Victor Rojas, the team's TV announcer, also took to Twitter, posting, "Believe it had something to do w hydraulic system & the possibility of having issues coming to a landing. Great job by crew."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Taped Conversation Shows Casey Anthony Building Elaborate Lie

Orange County Government, Florida(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- The prosecution in Casey Anthony's murder trial put the Florida woman's ability to create elaborate lies on full display Wednesday, playing a taped conversation of Anthony calmly describing to police the nanny who she claimed kidnapped two-year-old Caylee.

A stone-faced Anthony listened in court to the audio tape from July 16, 2008, the same day she would be arrested in the disappearance of her daughter, Caylee.  On the tape, Anthony is being questioned about her written statement regarding Caylee's disappearance.

Anthony tells Yuri Melich, a detective in the missing children's unit, that she's telling the truth about Caylee being kidnapped by nanny Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez and defends why she didn't contact the police during the month when only she knew Caylee was missing.

"I think part of me was naive enough to think I could handle this myself, which obviously I couldn't and I was scared that something would happen to her if I would have notified the authorities…the fear of the unknown, fear of the potential of Caylee getting hurt, of me not seeing my daughter again," Anthony said on the tape.

She said she was also scared to tell her parents, George and Cindy Anthony.

When asked about the nanny, Anthony appeared to build the lie as she went along, giving the fictional nanny three different addresses where she had lived, a mom named Gloria, and roots in New York City.  Anthony said that her one-time boyfriend, Jeffrey Hopkins, introduced her to the nanny when she was pregnant with Caylee.

Both Hopkins and Fernandez-Gonzalez are fictional characters, her lawyer has conceded.  Cindy Anthony, Casey Anthony's mom, testified Tuesday that she learned they were "imaginary people" after Caylee's disappearance.

Anthony used her lie of working at Universal Studios to explain why she didn't have phone numbers for the babysitter, Hopkins or for another fictional person, a supposed co-worker named Juliette Lewis.  She told police that a phone that her job had provided for her wasn't working and it held some of the phone numbers they needed.

On the tape, she calmly describes the day Caylee disappeared.

"I got off of work, left Universal, driving back to pick up Caylee like a normal day.  I show up to the apartment, knock on the door and no one answers.  So I call Zenaida's cell phone and it's out of service…so I sit down on the steps and wait for a little bit to see if maybe it's just a fluke, maybe something happenened," said Anthony in the taped conversation.

"After about 7 o'clock …I was getting pretty upset, pretty frantic...I didn't really want to come home, I wasn't sure what I would say about not knowing where Caylee was," Anthony said.

All of this would prove to be lies that Casey Anthony's own defense team has acknowledged.  They opened the murder trial last week by claiming Caylee accidentally drowned in the family pool on June 16, 2008.

The prosecution claims Casey Anthony killed her daughter.  If convicted of first-degree murder, the 25-year-old Florida woman could face the death penalty.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Porn at the SEC: Agency Watchdog Investigates More Employees

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission still has a porn problem.

A new report from the SEC's inspector general David Kotz details how three employees and a contractor were caught checking out porn at work, the latest string of incidents uncovered by the agency's watchdog. Kotz only launches investigations after the SEC's security system flags employees for repeated attempts to access porn websites, but as he outlines in his new semi-annual report to Congress, he recently conducted probes into four workers.

In October of last year, Kotz looked into a staff accountant at the agency's Washington headquarters who used his work computer to try to access porn "hundreds of times." The employee successfully managed to get to "numerous sexually explicit photographs from his SEC computer, including graphic depictions of sexual acts," Kotz found, noting that much of the porn activity occurred during work hours. The employee initially did not deny that he had used his work computer to access the material, but later declined to testify as part of the inspector general's investigation. The probe culminated in Kotz recommending disciplinary action against the employee, including removal from his job. As of the end of March, SEC management had proposed that the employee be removed. 

But the staff accountant wasn't the only one at the SEC looking for porn on the clock.

Two other SEC employees and one contractor for the agency also were the subjects of investigations by Kotz's office. One of the employees -- an attorney who works at the agency's headquarters -- tried to access porn repeatedly during a two-month period. He was rebuffed by the agency's security system hundreds of times, but in "many instances" he was successful in getting to the sexually explicit images. The attorney later resigned.

Another attorney at headquarters was also on the prowl for porn at work. He used his work computer to access "inappropriate images of partially or fully nude women," according to Kotz -- a total of at least 70 images. The employee refused to testify as part of the investigation. As of the end of March, SEC management had recommended that he be removed from his post.

The contractor, meanwhile, used his SEC computer to check out numerous sexually explicit images, "including graphic depictions of sexual acts," Kotz found. When confronted by the IG's office, the contractor admitted to accessing the porn and had his contract with the SEC terminated by agency management.

It's not the first time Kotz has uncovered a slew of SEC employees spending their work hours looking at porn. Back in April of last year, Kotz released a report outlining how employees were checking out pornographic websites at the same time as the financial crisis was unfolding -- and when Bernie Madoff was swindling investors out of tens of billions of dollars.

The 2010 report, conducted at the request of Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, found 31 serious porn offenders at the SEC during a two-and-a-half-year period. While that was only a tiny fraction of the SEC's 3,500 employees, 17 of the alleged porn offenders were senior officers at the agency, making up to $222,000 a year. One senior attorney spent up to eight hours per day accessing porn, even filling boxes in his office with CDs and DVDs that contained porn that he had downloaded. Another employee -- an accountant -- tried to access porn sites a staggering 16,000 times in one month.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio