Death for Petit Family Murderer Steven Hayes?

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- The ex-con found guilty in the deaths of a Connecticut mother and her two daughters is now looking toward the penalty phase, which prosecutors hope will end in a death sentence.

Steven Hayes was found guilty Tuesday on 16 of the 17 counts he faced for his role in the 2007 home invasion that left Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, dead. He was convicted of six capital crimes, including murder and kidnapping, which make him eligible for the death penalty.

A jury will begin hearing arguments in the penalty phase on Oct. 18.  Connecticut has only executed one person, serial killer Michael Ross in 2005, in the last 40 years.

If sentenced to die, Hayes will join 10 others on Connecticut's death row.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Wife of American Allegedly Killed By Pirates Defends Herself

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- As she held a memorial service for her husband, who was allegedly shot to death by pirates on the Mexican side of Texas' Falcon Lake, Tiffany Hartley addressed skeptics on both sides of the border who doubt her story.

"It's hard just to hear it," she told ABC News. "But I can see it from their point of view. I can understand why they might think that, but it's not true....I would never even think about hurting my husband.  I loved him."

Hundreds of mourners gathered in a south Texas church late Tuesday night to remember David Michael Hartley, the man who is missing and believed to be dead.

Hartley said she and her husband came under attack from Mexican pirates as the couple rode Jet Skis on the Mexican side of Falcon Lake, but Mexican authorities have said there is no evidence of a crime as described by Tiffany Hartley.

Hartley told police the pirates shot her husband in the head. The 30-year-old man's body has not been recovered.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


First Civilian Trial for Gitmo Detainee Begins

Photo Courtesy - John Moore/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Opening arguments are expected Wednesday in New York in the first civilian trial of a Guantanamo Bay detainee.  Ahmed Ghailani is the only Guantanamo inmate to have been transferred into the civilian court system.  If the trial ends with a conviction and heavy sentence, it could help the Obama administration's case for closing Guantanamo and bringing five alleged Sept. 11 plotters to New York to face trial, including 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Ghailani is not linked to the Sept. 11 attacks, but is charged with playing a key role in the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.  However, since his profile is similar to those involved in the 9/11 attacks, his case has been viewed as a test for civilian prosecutions of terror suspects.

Until recently, Ghailani spent years imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay without legal protection, which could complicate the trial.  Fordham Law School's Jim Cohen says, "There's secret evidence for lots of different reasons and it's not clear how much secret evidence there will be in this case."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


NOAA Opens Areas in Gulf of Mexico to Fishing

Photo Courtesy -- -- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reopened 2, 927 square miles of Gulf waters off eastern Louisiana Tuesday for commercial and recreational fishing. 

The reopening was announced after consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and under a reopening protocol agreed to by NOAA, the FDA and the Gulf states.

“Today’s reopening is great news for fishermen and the seafood industry in Louisiana,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. “We look forward to reopening more federal waters, as this provides greater access to commercial and recreational activities, and continues to build consumer confidence in Gulf seafood.”

NOAA says the total area reopened Tuesday is about 1 percent of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico and 11 percent of the current closed area.  NOAA added that "No oil or sheen has been documented in the area since July 31.  At its closest point, the area to be reopened is about 40 miles south of the Deepwater Horizon BP wellhead."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Obama: Community Colleges Are the 'Unsung Heroes'

Photo Courtesy -- The White House(WASHINGTON) -- Calling community colleges the “unsung heroes” of the nation’s education system, President Obama convened the first White House Summit on Community Colleges Tuesday, led by 17-year community college professor Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden.

“They may not get the credit they deserve, they may not get the same resources as other schools, but they provide a gateway to millions of Americans to good jobs and a better life,” the president said of the nation’s community colleges from the East Room summit, “These are places where young people can continue their education without taking on a lot of debt.  These are places where workers can gain new skills to move up in their careers.”

The president has set the goal that by 2020 America will once again lead the world in producing college graduates. Tuesday he said that community colleges play an important part of that goal, hoping to produce an additional 5 million degrees and certificates in the next 10 years.

The president added that he is asking his economic advisory board to reach out to employers across the country to come up with new ways for businesses and community colleges to work together emphasizing its importance in reaching that reaching the 2020 goal.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Rosa's Law to End Term 'Mentally Retarded'

Photo Courtesy -- American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilaties

(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama on Tuesday signed legislation, called Rosa's Law, requiring the federal government to use the term “intellectual disability” instead of “mental retardation” and “individual with an intellectual disability” instead of “mentally retarded” in health, education, and labor policy.

Rosa’s Law is named for Rosa Marcellino, a young Maryland girl with an intellectual disability whose brother Nick convinced his state legislature to change the official phrase to "individual with an intellectual disability."

"We're not allowed to use the words at my house, it would be just like saying a curse word," said Nick in testimony to Maryland legislators. "We're also not allowed to use other words that are hurtful to minorities or people who are different."

The change will be not be immediate, but instead will be made gradually over the next several years.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Amber Alert and Sharp-Eyed Citizen Help Save Missing Girl in California

Photo Courtesy --, Calif.) -- Thanks to an Amber Alert and a quick-thinking citizen, an 8-year-old California girl was rescued Tuesday.

Elisa Cardenas was playing with friends outside her house in Fresno, Calif. early Monday evening, when police say Gregorio Gonzales tried to lure the girls into a pickup truck.

The children ran, but Gonzales allegedly grabbed Elisa and sped away.  Her mother chased after the truck, but it was too late.

A statewide Amber Alert was issued, and more than 100 officers immediately went on the hunt, searching for the truck, which was captured on surveillance video at a nearby intersection.

Then, early Tuesday morning, a man named Victor Perez spotted the truck.  He jumped into his car and began following it.  When he saw Elisa's head in the window, he acted boldly.

"I was yelling at him and kept cutting him off," said Perez.  "He was hiding her, pushing her down."

Investigators say Gonzales shoved Elisa out of the truck and onto the street. As Gonzales fled, Perez called the police.

Elisa was taken to a local hospital, where she was reunited with her mother -- shaken and scared, but alive.

"I gotta tell ya, it was a highlight of my career to see Elisa and her mom reunite in that hospital room," said Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer.

A few hours later, police arrested Gonzales, a 24-year-old known gang member who was already on felony probation.  Authorities say Gonzales had also exposed himself to two other young girls earlier that day.

Gonzales allegedly held Elisa for 11 hours.  He is being charged with kidnapping and sexual assault.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Tennessee Family's Home Burns to the Ground as Firefighters Stand and Watch

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(SOUTH FULTON, Tenn.) -- A Tennessee family's failure to pay a $75 fee stopped firefighters from responding immediately last week as a home burned to the ground.

When firefighters did finally arrive, they stood watching as flames engulfed Gene Cranick's Obion County home.  They refused to help because Cranick had not paid an annual "pay to spray" subscription fee.

"I just forgot to pay my $75," homeowner Gene Cranick said.  "I did it last year, the year before. ... It slipped my mind."

The city of South Fulton charges that $75 fire protection fee to rural residents who live outside the city limits. When a household has not paid the fee, firefighters are required by law to not respond.

"We have to follow the rules and the ordinances set forth to us, and that's exactly what we do," said Jeff Vowell, South Fulton city manager.

In fact, in Cranick's case, officials said that fire trucks didn't even show up until a neighbor who did pay the subscription fee called 911 to protect his home from the growing fire.

It's infuriating to Cranick, who is now left to clean up the charred remains of decades' worth of family heirlooms and other belongings.

"My neighbor called [the fire department], saying whatever it takes, we want them to put it out, we'll pay $500," said Cranick.  "They told us, 'It's too late.'"

South Fulton has had the "pay to spray" policy in place for more than 20 years, and the fees -- which often cover police services, too -- are fairly common in rural areas.  Without implementing complex tax arrangements to cover cash-strapped city budgets, there are simply few other options.

"If the city starts fighting fires in the homes of people outside the city who don't pay, why would anyone pay?" said Jacqueline Byers with the National Association of Counties.

Still, it was small comfort to the Cranick family.  Gene Cranick's son, Tim Cranick, was reportedly so upset by the fire department's actions that he went to the station and assaulted the fire chief.  The younger Cranick was arrested and released on $5,000 bond, charged with aggravated assault.

"I don't know that there is a good situation when things like this happen," said Vowell.  "It's regrettable. Tough for everyone involved."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Jury Finds Steven Hayes Guilty in Connecticut Triple Murder

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- Steven Hayes has been found guilty in the deadly home invasion that left a woman and her two daughters dead, a Connecticut jury determined Tuesday, making him eligible for the death penalty.

Hayes, 47, is one of two men accused of killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, in July 2007. Joshua Komisarjevsky, Hayes' alleged accomplice, will stand trial next year.

The emotional and, at times, gruesome three-week trial culminated in emotional closing arguments last week, with Hayes' lawyer trying to pin the majority of the blame on Komisarjevsky.

The prosecution described, often in detail, how Hayes and Komisarjevsky broke into the Petit's upscale Cheshire home in July 2007 and held them captive for hours, eventually raping Hawke-Petit and Michaela, pouring gasoline in the bedrooms, and setting the house on fire with the daughters tied to their beds.

Only the father, Dr. William Petit, survived.

Testimony revealed that Hawke-Petit had been strangled to death after she'd been raped, while Hayley and Michaela died of smoke inhalation.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Nebraska Toddler Duct-Taped to Wall by Mom, New Photos Show

Photo Courtesy - Gage County Attorney(BEATRICE, Neb.) -- Photos of a teen mother and her boyfriend duct-taping her two-year-old son to a wall have been made public by Nebraska prosecutors, weeks after they were convicted for the incident in which they took pictures of the toddler for fun.

The child, temporarily removed from his mother's custody, is again living with the mother, an 18-year-old admitted drug user.

Sentenced late last month, Jayla Hamm, who was 17 at the time of the abuse, received 10 days in jail and two years probation. Her boyfriend, Corde Honea, 19, an ex-convict, was sentenced to three to five years for child abuse and received an additional 12 to 24 months on felony possession of stolen firearms.

High on drugs, Hamm held the boy in place while Honea taped his body to the wall of their Beatrice, Neb., home using bright-green duct tape, authorities said. In some of the photographs, the boy, dressed in a red onesie, is seen hunched over, unable to escape, his wrists firmly taped to the wall behind his back and above his shoulders.

State health officials are monitoring the home, said Randall Ritnour, the Gage county attorney. Prosecutors, he said, were investigating a separate case to determine whether she should continue to retain custody.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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