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Monday
Feb142011

'Minutemen' Vigilante Shawna Forde Guilty in Deadly Ariz. Home Invasion

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- Shawna Forde, a border vigilante, was convicted Monday of two counts of murder for orchestrating a home invasion that left a nine-year-old Arizona girl and her father dead.

Prosecutors said Forde planned the home invasion to rob Raul "Junior" Flores, who she thought was a drug dealer, to fund her border watch group. There were rumors that Flores, 29, had a stash of $4,000 in cash in the house.

Flores and his daughter Bresenia were both killed in the May 2009 attack at their Arivaca, Ariz., home. His wife, Gina Gonzalez, was shot three times but survived by playing dead.

In addition to the first-degree murder charges, Forde, 43, founder of Minutemen American Defense, was found guilty of one count of attempted first-degree murder; one count of burglary in the first-degree; one count of aggravated assault, serious physical injury; one count of aggravated assault, deadly weapon/dangerous instrument; one count of armed robbery and one count of aggravated armed robbery.

The Pima County Superior Court jury came back with a verdict after it deliberated for seven hours over two days.

The sentencing phase of the trial begins Tuesday. Forde could face the death penalty.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb142011

Gay Love, Equality Examined in Nationwide Valentine's Day Campaign

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Advocates for same-sex marriage marked Valentine's Day with a nationwide campaign to tout the merits of gay love and urge greater legal protections for it.

From California to Texas to Illinois, activists are organizing trips to courthouses and county clerks' offices to request marriage licenses, despite laws in those states and 42 others that forbid gay couples to wed.

"We're going to ask for our marriage license and get denied," Rex Fender, 22, said outside a San Diego courthouse. She wants to marry her partner of two years, Rudi Redman, 23.

"Our love is just as legitimate as everyone else's, and we want that to be recognized," she said. "On this day of love, we want people to see we're proud about our love."

Organizers from GetEQUAL and Marriage Equality USA, two gay rights groups coordinating the campaign, said 37 events were scheduled to take place in 13 states, with most taking place in California and Texas.

Meanwhile, New York City-based advocacy group Freedom to Marry launched what it called the largest-ever national TV ad campaign aimed at educating the public on gay love and why marriage rights matter to same-sex couples.

"No one should be treated differently for any reason. We're all human," Keith, an African-American man who said he has been married to his wife Antoinette for 31 years, says in the video ad.

The ad was slated to run for the first time on CNN on Monday. The group said it would raise and spend $10 million in the next three years to support same-sex marriage.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Monday
Feb142011

Shooting Locks Down Tennessee College Campus

Photo Courtesy - WireImage/Getty Images(MURFREESBORO, Tenn.) -- Police have arrested the man they believe is responsible for a shooting Monday on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University.

At least one shot was fired at the school’s Business and Aerospace Building around 11:30 a.m. One person was shot in the finger, police told ABC News Nashville affiliate WKRN-TV, but the injuries were not thought to be life-threatening.

The identity of the gunman was not immediately made available by police, but initial reports described him as a black male wearing a tan hat and purple shirt. It is unclear whether the man is a student at the university. The original description of the shooter noted that he was wearing a backpack.

The school was placed on lockdown Monday while authorities combed the campus for the man responsible.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb142011

Cops Say Ga. Dad Killed Two Kids, Stabbed Self in Surprise Twist

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- A gruesome attack that ended in the stabbing deaths of two small children and the critical wounding of a third took a bizarre turn Sunday when the principle witness in the case -- the boys' father -- became the prime suspect, police said.

Gwinett County Police say Elvis Noe-Garcia, the boys' father who called 911 last week to report his children's murder and said he too had been stabbed in the chest, actually committed the crime himself, perhaps in an effort to frame another man.

Now, 48 hours after Noe-Garcia's testimony landed Antonio Cardenas-Rico, 27, in jail, the two men have switched places. Noe-Garcia now sits in a solitary cell in Georgia's Gwinnett County Jail, and Cardenas-Rico is outside -- exonerated.

"I didn't do anything," Cardenas-Rico told ABC News affiliate WSB-TV, moments before his release from jail.

"Why is this happening to me? What I did to deserve this?" Cardenas-Rico asked.

And then, as if to answer his own question, said, "He set me up, so I wouldn't be with her," a possible reference to the boys' mother.

On Friday Noe-Garcia ran from his Lawrenceville, Ga., home, bleeding from wounds in his chest. While on the phone with 911, he ran to the garage of a neighbor and told the man there, "[Cardenas-Rico] killed my children."

At the time of Cardenas-Rico's arrest, police believed he was responsible for killing one-year-old Edward Garcia and his three-year-old brother, Bradley; wounding Bradley's twin, Joshua; and their father.

Police at the time were unsure how Cardenas-Rico knew the family, but believed he may have been the boys' mother's ex-boyfriend.

Now cops believe Noe-Garcia and the boys' mother were separated and the woman was dating Cardenas-Rico.

"Charges against our initial suspect were dropped," said Gwinnett County Police spokesman Cpl. Jake Smith, "and made instead against the father, the man who first called 911 and claimed someone had tried to murder him and his kids."

Cops said they did not yet know why Noe-Garcia allegedly attacked his kids.

Copyright 2011 News Radio

Monday
Feb142011

Retirement Home Hires Male Dance Partners for Women

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BOCA RATON, Fla.) -- A shortage of men in retirement communities across the country prompted one home to hire dance partners for a Valentine's Day dance for the surplus of female residents there.

At St. Andrew Estates in Boca Raton, Fla., older male dancing enthusiasts as well as volunteers from a local college fraternity were brought in to take the ladies for a spin on the dance floor and give them the company for which they have been searching.

"I just enjoy being with the young people," said 86-year-old resident Shirley Fogwell. "The kids who come in here are wonderful kids."

The volunteers, college students from Florida Atlantic University, also said they got a lot out of the experience, even though many aren't expert dancers.

"The older ladies were leading me on the dance floor and teaching me how to dance," said Eric Lampe. "I feel a lot of love right now."

"It means a lot," said T.J. Wilson, another volunteer. "It puts a smile on my face to see them smile."

With so few men in the retirement home, it has become difficult for the women to meet anyone with whom to have a lasting relationship. Valentine's Day can be especially hard on the residents, who are thinking of their deceased loved ones.

"We fell in love in ninth grade and we married when we were 23 years old," said Fogwell, remembering her late husband. "It's just a day of memories really, when you get to be my age you live on memories."

Women outnumber men three-to-one in nursing homes in the United States, mostly because they are living longer and are less likely to live alone. In the chain that includes St. Andrew Estates, 70 percent of the roughly 9,000 residents are female.

The volunteers have made the ladies very happy to celebrate the holiday.

"I am very lucky," said Fogwell. "I am very lucky."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb142011

Data Shows Katrina Victims Have Relocated Several Times Since 2005

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Data released Monday by the United States Census Bureau further details the plight of residents who once lived in or around the city of New Orleans. More than 31,000 people, the data shows, still do not consider themselves to be permanently settled, more than five years after the disaster.

The data was collected from a survey of more than 60,000 people -- many of whom have moved to numerous locations since having to leave greater New Orleans. Nearly 30,000 people have lived in five or more places, the data reports.

About 40 percent of respondents said they had damage to their property that exceeded $15,000. However, a lot of that was paid for by federal flood insurance money. The most recent numbers -- as of 2009 -- show that more than 65,000 residences in the New Orleans area were not habitable.

On the other hand, 30,000 residents said in the survey that they did not get the federal assistance they needed to rehabilitate their homes.

Census data released earlier this month showed that since 2000, when the last census was taken, that the population of New Orleans had dropped 29 percent.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb142011

Blagojevich Says Release of Additional Wiretaps Will Exonerate Him

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich continued efforts this week to try to bolster his claim that federal prosecutors built their corruption case against him by selectively releasing wiretap recordings of his wheeling and dealing, while omitting from the records the tapes that would exonerate him.

In the latest District Court filing submitted Monday, the Blagojevich legal team tried to build a case that he was not trying to "sell" the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. In fact, the former Illinois governor has claimed, he was hard at work trying to broker a political horse trade that would appoint Lisa Madigan, the state's attorney general and daughter of the Illinois House speaker, to the post.

Blagojevich has asked a federal judge to allow him to play previously undisclosed recordings in court because they "establish the evolution of Blagojevich's thought process" and "prove his innocent intent."

Blagojevich was convicted on just one of 24 charges against him last fall, but prosecutors have vowed to retry him, with court dates set for April. But with the initial case came the damaging release of Blagojevich's phone conversations during the turbulent period that followed Obama's presidential win. In one conversation played by the government, Blagojevich could be heard describing the senate seat as a "valuable thing," and, "if I don't get what I want and I'm not satisfied with it, then I'll just take the Senate seat myself."

But in the court filing Monday, Blagojevich's legal team says the ability to play the additional segments of the federal government's recordings would help prove there is a "missing" recording, from a Dec. 8, 2008 call. The request for that tape prompted a separate filing last week, asking for records from a phone call between a Blagojevich aide and Rahm Emanuel, then the White House chief of staff.

The former governor alleges that Emanuel, who is now running for mayor in Chicago, had offered to help broker a deal to give Madigan the seat and secure passage of a legislative package for Blagojevich. While campaigning last week, Emanuel downplayed the court filing, noting that an internal look into the matter by the administration found "nothing inappropriate or any deal making."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb142011

Man Charged with Killing Four in Stabbing Spree Appears in Court

Photo Courtesy - New York Police Dept./WABC-TV New York(NEW YORK) -- The New York man accused of going on a 28-hour stabbing spree that killed four people and left four others badly injured was back in a Brooklyn courtroom Monday to be assigned a new attorney.

On Sunday, Maksim Gelman, 23, was arraigned on charges of murder and assault for the fatal stabbing of four people and the assault of four others.  When being led from the police precinct to the courthouse, Gelman showed no remorse, saying that he had been "set up."

Gelman began his bloody rampage Friday morning after arguing with his mother over his use of her Lexus.  When his stepfather, Aleksandr Kuznetsov, intervened in the argument, Gelman allegedly stabbed him to death in his family's Brooklyn apartment, police said.

Gelman then went to the home of a female acquaintance, Yelena Bulchenko, where he stabbed her mother to death, police said.  He allegedly hid in the home, waiting for Bulchenko to return to find her mother's dead body.  When Bulchenko called 911, he chased her out of her home, stabbing her 11 times, police said.

Gelman's spree continued.  He rear-ended a car and then slashed the chest of the driver three times, police said.  Gelman took the man's car and ran over a pedestrian, 62-year-old pedestrian Stephen Tanenbaum, police said.  Tenenbaum died from his injuries.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, Gelman allegedly stabbed a livery cab driver and attacked a couple driving a Nissan.  He stabbed the driver in his hands, hijacking the car, police said.

Gelman boarded a downtown bound subway train when a woman recognized him and alerted authorities.  He had crack cocaine with him at the time of his arrest, police said.

"What's so horrendous and bizarre, we have no reason that we can give you as to why he did this," New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said at a press conference over the weekend.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb142011

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Mouthing Songs, Holding Conversations

Photo Courtesy - Giffords [dot] House [dot] gov(HOUSTON) -- Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords continues to make progress in her recovery from a gunshot wound to the head, with the latest reports saying she is now mouthing the lyrics to songs and holding simple conversations.

The New York Times first reported Sunday that Giffords has been mouthing the words to "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "Happy Birthday."  She was also able to hold a phone conversation Sunday with her brother-in-law, astronaut Scott Kelly, who is aboard the International Space Station, telling him, "Hi, I'm good."

Despite her progress, neurological surgeon Dr. Geoffrey Manley says a complete recovery of speech is still up to question.

"This doesn't mean that her speech will be perfect.  We don't yet know, but the earlier that one has return of function the more likely you are to see long term recovery in the future," Manley said.

In other signs of progress, the congresswoman's mother said Giffords is now doing squats and repetitive motions to strengthen her muscles and has even beaten one of her nurses at a game of tic-tac-toe.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Feb132011

Did Bank Hostage-Taker Teen Commit Suicide by Cop?

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(CARY, N.C.) -- A North Carolina teen who was killed by police when he came out of a bank where he had held seven people hostage was holding something to the head of one of those hostages, but it was not a gun, officials said Sunday.

The revelation added to the mystery about what was going through the 19-year-old Cary, N.C., man's mind when he went to the bank Thursday, setting off a two-hour standoff with police.

Devon Mitchell had told hostages inside the bank and a police hostage negotiator that he had a gun during the standoff at a Wachovia branch in the town, Cary Police Chief Pat Bazemore said at a news conference Sunday. But Mitchell had also told a teller to call 911 when he went into the bank, and he apparently did not demand any money.

Police shot Mitchell when he came out of the bank holding something concealed in a red hat to the head of a hostage, Bazemore said.

"We were left with no other choice than to do exactly what we did," she said.

The police chief said Sunday she did not know what the young man was actually holding when a police sniper shot and killed him.

"Despite what the original 911 call reported, despite what he said to the hostages, despite what he told our hostage negotiator, despite what we all thought we saw when he came out of the bank with something pointing at one of the hostages heads, we now know there was not a gun," Bazemore said.

The police chief said their investigation indicated that Mitchell wanted police to kill him, so-called "suicide by cop."

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