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Wednesday
Mar232011

Missing Connecticut Girl Isabella Oleschuk Found Alive

Orange Police/WTNH New Haven, Conn.(ORANGE, Conn.) -- Isabella Oleschuk, the 13-year-old girl missing since Sunday, was found alive Wednesday morning with a friend. Church bells in the Connecticut town rang out to celebrate the news.

"I'm thrilled to announce to you that she has been found and that she is safe," Orange Police Chief Robert Gagne said at a press conference. "I have just gotten word of this so I don't have any detail. She did leave home. She was with a friend and she is OK."

Police and a medical crew were in route to check on the health of the girl and church bells in the town peeled to in the wake of the joyful news.

"Our prayers have been answered," Annette Rubelman, a friend of the family, said through tears of joy. "We haven't been able to do anything."

Connecticut police and the FBI knocked down doors, combed the woods with dogs and searched by air for the missing seventh grader.

"I'm so relieved. I know she will be showered with love when she walks in the door. If she had any doubt people cared about her, she won't after this," said Beth Rafferty, the leader of Isabella's youth group.

No one knows how or why Isabella went missing, but in the midst of their desperate search, police explored the possibility that the girl ran away to escape bullies.

Local reporter Kathleen Schurman went to police after parents and kids contacted her saying that Bella as she was known was relentlessly made fun of for her quirks by classmates at Amity Regional Middle School.

"She had told several kids at school that she was going to run away because the bullying was so terrible and she was sure her parents were going to make her go back to school and she didn't want to," said Schurman, editor of online news site Bethwood Patch.

Kids told Schurman that schoolmates called her "duck girl" because she like to make quacking noises and animal sounds.

Police issued a silver alert Sunday, which indicates that her disappearance is "mysterious" but not necessarily an abduction. Fliers being handed out throughout the town characterize the seventh-grader as an "endangered runaway."

The Orange, Conn., girl is partially deaf and normally uses a hearing aid. Her hearing aid was left behind, prompting concerns among rescuers that she might not be able to hear people calling her name.

When ABC News reached Isabella's grandfather by phone Tuesday, he said that the family was "anxiously awaiting her safe return."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar232011

American Soldier Charged in Afghan Thrill Kills to Plead Guilty

Photos.com/Thinkstock(FORT LEWIS, Wash.) -- An American soldier accused of being part of a "kill team" that murdered innocent Afghan civilians for fun will plead guilty to murder Wednesday in a military courtroom at Fort Lewis, Washington and then testify against his four co-defendants, according to his attorney.

In a confession taped last year and obtained by ABC News, Jeremy Morlock, a 22-year-old corporal from Wasilla, Alaska, admitted his role in the murders of three unarmed civilians, but told Army investigators that his unit's "crazy" sergeant had hatched the plan.  Earlier this week the German magazine Der Spiegel published a photo of a smiling Morlock posing with the body of one of the alleged victims.

Morlock reached a deal with Army prosecutors last month, said his civilian attorney, Geoffrey Nathan, in which he will plead guilty to three counts of murder, one count of conspiracy to commit assault and battery and one count of illegal drug use.  According to Nathan, the deal will require Morlock to serve 24 years in prison, with parole eligibility after seven years, and to testify against the other defendants at trial.  Morlock had been facing life in prison if convicted of the charges.

Morlock, a member of the Army's 5th Stryker Brigade, is one of five soldiers charged in the deaths of three Afghan civilians that occurred in Southern Afghanistan between January and May 2010.  Prosecutors allege that Morlock, Staff Sgt. Calvin R. Gibbs, Spec. Adam C. Winfield, Spec. Michael S. Wagnon II, Pfc. Andrew H. Holmes and Morlock participated in one or more of the murders and staged them to make unarmed Afghans appear to be armed insurgents.

On the confession tape, shot in May 2010 at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Morlock told investigators that Gibbs planned the killings.

"He just really doesn't have any problems with f---ing killing these people," Morlock said, and then laid out the scenario he said the sergeant used to make it seem the civilians were killed in action.

"And so we identify a guy.  Gibbs makes a comment, like, you know, you guys wanna wax this guy or what?" Morlock told investigators.

The corporal said Gibbs gave orders to open fire on a civilian at the same time Gibbs threw a hand grenade at the victim.

"He pulled out one of his grenades, an American grenade, you know, popped it, throws it, tells me where to go to whack this guy, kill this guy, kill this guy," said Morlock.

Morlock said Sergeant Gibbs carried a Russian grenade to throw next to the body of the dead Afghan, to make it seem he was about to attack the American soldiers.

The corporal said he opened fire as directed, fearful of not following Gibbs' orders.

"It's definitely not the right thing to do," Morlock told the investigators.  "But I mean, when you got a squad leader bringing you into that, that type of real, that mindset, and he believes that you're on board with that, there's definitely no way you wanted him to think otherwise."

The investigator asked Morlock, "Because you felt maybe the next shot might be coming your way?"

"You never know.  Exactly," answered Morlock.  "I mean Gibbs talked about how easy it is, people disappear on the battlefield all the time."

A lawyer for Gibbs declined to comment to ABC News.  Gibbs, Winfield, Wagnon and Holmes are in military custody and face life sentences if convicted. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar232011

Investigators Release Images of Suspected Navy Vets Con Man

Office of the Ohio Attorney General(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- Investigators have released the last known images of suspected con man Bobby Thompson, who authorities say conned donors out of more than $100 million for a fake charity for Navy veterans before vanishing.

The mustachioed man, who authorities say operated under Thompson as an alias while he carried out his alleged eight-year con, was last spotted by security cameras on June 16, 2010, apparently withdrawing money from an ATM in New York City.  Thompson had been fingered three months earlier as the man behind the apparently non-existant Navy Veterans Association in a St. Petersburg Times expose.

The man known as Thompson faces charges in Ohio for identity theft, corruption and money laundering, but just over a year after the story broke, authorities still do not know his real name or whereabouts.  A spokesperson for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, whose office is leading the investigation, told ABC News Tuesday they haven't given up their chase.

The ATM images first appeared on America's Most Wanted and show Thompson sporting jean shorts and construction boots with a hat and sunglasses covering much of his face.

Thompson raised money for the phony charity mostly through phone solicitations, telling potential donors the money was needed to assist needy veterans, according to investigators.

Federal election records show he invested some of the money -- more than $200,000 -- in campaign contributions to top Republican politicians, including former President George W. Bush, U.S. Sen. John McCain, and the incoming Speaker of the House, John Boehner.

In exchange, he received grip-and-grin snapshots with American political leaders -- the sort of photo that may be commonplace on office walls in Washington, D.C., but looked to outsiders like evidence of an important man with heavy-duty connections.

In early August, then Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray announced an arrest warrant for Thompson, who remains a fugitive.

Darryl Rouson, a Florida legislator, initially helped represent the man he thought was Bobby Thompson after he first came under fire.

"He seemed to be a knowledgeable man about politics and community affairs," Rouson told ABC News in November.  "He was engaging, jovial.  I had no reason to suspect he was anything other than who he said he was."

DeWine, a former U.S. Senator, was one of many Republicans who took donations from Thompson.  In November, he said he would pursue the case with the same vigor as his Democratic predecessor, Cordray.

He conceded in an interview with ABC News then that the business of political fundraising is not always as intimate as people believe -- that candidates raise most of their money from people who are, essentially, total strangers.

"Some people who give you money, you just don't know them," DeWine said.  "You don't know who they are.  You're talking about thousands of people, you don't have a clue who they are.  It can be pretty hard to sort all that out.  You've got to try." 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar232011

FDA Bans Milk, Vegetable, Fruits Imported from Japan after Nuclear Plant Crisis

George Doyle/Thinkstock (WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday it will stop all milk products and vegetable and fruit products imported from Japan from entering the U.S. -- a response to public fears about radiation from Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

This announcement comes despite the agency's repeated assurances that radiation found in foods in Japan was small and posed no risk to the U.S. food supply.

Since 9/11, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have implemented blanket radiation screenings for nearly all U.S. imports, including food. The FDA programmed its import tracking systems to flag food shipments from Japan automatically, amid growing contamination concerns after this month's earthquake.

But the agency says it will now stop all shipments of milk products and fruits and vegetables from entering the U.S. It will not allow radiation screening of these products, according to an FDA spokesperson.

In 2010, the U.S. imported $16.5 billion worth of milk, fruits and vegetables, of which a small fraction -- $6.725 million -- came from Japan, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Most of the imported dairy products are processed foods such as casein and cheese. Imported fruits and vegetables include potatoes, frozen vegetables, citrus fruits and melons.

Japan has already placed restrictions on foods, including spinach and milk that were produced in two provinces around the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Food inspectors detected iodine and cesium in the food, two of the more dangerous radioactive byproducts that are feared to have been released from the reactors in Fukushima.

While Japanese officials said none of the produce found to be contaminated in Japan has been shipped out of the country, there might have been some contaminated produce that was not tested and could have slipped through. Many food-safety experts say that consuming food or milk that contains high radiation levels can be as dangerous as exposure to high levels in the air.

High levels of iodine that can be absorbed through the milk can accumulate in the thyroid gland and cause thyroid cancer. High levels of cesium can damage cells and put many people at higher risk of developing other kinds of cancer.

While milk, fruit, and vegetable products seem to be the highest concern for the FDA, experts say there's no need to boycott sushi or other seafood delicacies just yet. Less than four percent of food is imported to the United States from Japan, including processed and snack foods. About two percent of the seafood the United States consumes comes from Japan, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Scallops are the largest seafood import from Japan to the U.S.; in 2010, nearly $64 million worth, 3,300 metric tons, came from there.

The largest perceived danger may be around raw seafood that is used to make sushi. Tuna is the second largest seafood import from Japan, with nearly 350 metric tons and nearly $4 million worth of imports, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But that is about a tenth of scallop imports.

Also, radiation levels become diluted in large bodies of water, so officials said seafood caught from the ocean should have only trace amounts of radiation, if any.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar232011

Elderly Man and His Dog Rescued off Coast of Mexico

ABC News(ENSENADA, Mexico) -- A 77-year-old man and his dog are safe after being stranded several days in high seas off the Mexican coast.

The U.S. Coast Guard rescued the man and dog from a disabled sailboat about 120 miles off the coast of Ensenada in Baja California Monday.

Shortly after 1 p.m., amateur HAM radio operator Rex Weinheimer picked up a mayday call over a HAM maritime network in Stonewall,Texas, near Austin.

"I heard someone calling, but I couldn't make it all out," Weinheimer told ABC News.  "The communications were so horrible that I could not tell the mental state or anything.  The signal would come up then drop out."

After 10 minutes of disrupted communication, he determined one person was aboard the disabled vessel.  Weinheimer said he also gathered that the boat was floating at sea in rough weather with broken sails and lines.

A commercial freighter, about an hour from the sailboat at the time of the call, was the first to make an attempted rescue, but rough seas prevented the freighter from getting close enough to the sailboat.

The HAM operator notified the U.S. Coast Guard, who dispatched a MH-60 Jaywhawk helicopter and a C-130 Hercules plane.

The rescue team battled 12-15 foot swells and high winds to reach the boater.

A Coast Guard swimmer eventually evacuated the man and his dog from the boat.  Both remained "calm considering being hoisted up in a helicopter at hurricane force wind," according to U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Henry Dunphy.  "The dog sat on the man's lap the whole flight back to San Diego."

Dunphy told ABC News the man, who wasn't identified, had no recollection of how many days he had been at sea.  The boat had set sail from Ventura, California.  Because he lacked food and supplies, the man and dog apparently had been at sea for several days, possibly headed to Tahiti, according to the rescue crew.

He was taken to a San Diego hospital for a medical examination.  Dunphy says both the man and his dog were fine.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar232011

Vigil Held for South Carolina Boy Killed in Amusement Park Crash

ABC News(SPARTANBURG, S.C.) -- A candlelight vigil was held in South Carolina Tuesday night to remember Benjamin Easler, the six-year-old boy who was killed in an accident at an amusement park a few days before.

Hundreds attended the memorial service in Spartanburg, including Rodney Morrison, one of the 18 people injured in the crash.

"I was only on the floor for like a minute or something," said Morrison, describing the accident.  "And I stood up and looked around and I saw people all over the place on the floor and stuff.  It was crazy."

On Saturday, Easler, Morrison and 26 other passengers -- ranging in age from three to 54 -- were aboard a children's train ride at Cleveland Park in Spartanburg when the train derailed and crashed.  Matt Conrad, the driver of the "Sparky" ride, later told police he had been driving too fast at the time of the accident.

Easler, who was visiting the amusement park with a group from Corinth Baptist Church, where his father is a pastor, was the only person killed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar222011

Ga. Police Shooting Latest in Deadly String Nationwide

Comstock/Thinkstock(ATHENS, Ga.) -- A police officer was killed and another wounded in a shootout with an armed carjacker Tuesday afternoon near Athens, Ga., the latest in a string of police shootings nationwide since the beginning of the year.

The shooting took place at 1:30 p.m. and officers are still looking for a suspect, according to the Athens-Clarke Police Department.

The wounded officer was transported to a local hospital, as uniformed police began a house-by-house search for the suspected gunman, identified only as a 33-year-old man.

Five nearby schools were placed on lockdown as a result.

The Georgia shooting occurred just minutes after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder met with chiefs of police to discuss the historic number of police shootings in the past three months.

Last year "really marked the deadliest year for law enforcement in nearly two decades and that is obviously very worrisome," Holder said before his meeting with police chiefs from more than 25 cities and representatives from several federal law enforcement agencies.

"This year we are unfortunately on track to exceed the number we saw last year," Holder said. "These numbers are simply unacceptable. Our law enforcement officers put themselves in harm's way every day."

Twenty-three officers and federal agents have been gunned down this year compared to 15 officers killed by guns at the same time last year. A total of 49 officers have been killed so far this year, including five federal agents, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

Those figures do not include Tuesday's shooting in Athens.

A total of 162 officers were killed in 2010, 61 of whom died from gunshots.

On Sunday, Craig Birkholz, a 28-year-old police officer was shot and killed in a shootout with a suspected gunman in the shooter's Fond du Lac, Wisc., home.

Two other officers were also wounded in that shooting.

Earlier this month, a U.S. marshal was killed and two St. Louis police officers wounded following a standoff with a suspect they were attempting to arrest.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Tuesday
Mar222011

Motor City Blues: Detroit Loses 25 Percent of its Population

Comstock/Thinkstock(DETROIT) -- With trouble brewing in the auto industry and more people moving to the suburbs, the Motor City experienced a staggering loss in its population, shrinking by one quarter in a decade.  While New Orleans lost 29 percent of its people due to a natural disaster, Detroit experienced a 25-percent population decrease in part because of a disaster of another sort -- economic strife.

2010 Census data released Tuesday shows Detroit shed more than 237,000 people over a 10-year period. When you do the math, the shrinking of Detroit amounts to a loss of 65 people each day for a decade.

The Motor City’s population peaked at 1.8 million in 1950, making it the fifth largest city in the nation in that year.

The state of Michigan was the only state to lose population in the 2010 Census.  The state’s population shrank by .6 percent, or just nearly 55,000 people.

But while the state decreased in population, Michigan did experience the nationwide trend of an influx in Hispanic population.  The number of Hispanics in the state increased by over 34 percent, adding 112,000 people, while the white and African-American populations dropped by 194,000 and 236,000 people, respectively.

And not only did Michigan experience a loss in its population size, but it also lost one congressional seat in the reapportionment process.  With such a significant decrease in its population, the Motor City might be singing the blues again come redistricting decision time.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar222011

Partially Deaf 12-Year-Old Girl Missing in Connecticut

Orange Police/WTNH New Haven, Conn.(ORANGE, Conn.) -- Connecticut police and the FBI are knocking on doors, combing the woods with dogs and searching by air for missing 12-year-old Isabella Oleschuk.

The Orange, Conn., girl was last seen Saturday night at her parents' home. Isabella is partially deaf and normally uses a hearing aid. Her hearing aid was left behind, prompting concerns among rescuers that she might not be able to hear people calling her name.

When ABC News reached Isabella's grandfather by phone, he said that the family is "anxiously awaiting her safe return."

Isabella's parents reported her missing early Sunday morning.

Police have issued a Silver Alert, which indicates that her disappearance is "mysterious" but not necessarily an abduction. Fliers being handed out throughout the town characterize the seventh-grader as an "endangered runaway."

Police have enlisted the help of the FBI, fire department and even police cadets to assemble a team of 100 that has fanned throughout the town of less than 14,000 people.

Isabella is described as five-feet, four-inches tall, 120 pounds with blue eyes and shoulder-length blond hair. She was last seen wearing a light blue jacket, brown-felt hooded cap and black rain boots. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar222011

US Military Intervention in Libya Costing Taxpayers Millions

U.S. Navy photo by Interior Communications Electrician Fireman Roderick Eubanks/Released(WASHINGTON) -- Three days after an international military coalition intervened in Libya, the cost to U.S. taxpayers reached the hundreds of millions of dollars and continues to climb.

U.S. ships and submarines in the Mediterranean have unleashed at least $225 million in Tomahawk cruise missiles from their arsenals. U.S. warplanes have dropped dozens of bombs with price-tags of tens of thousands of dollars apiece. And operation of the war craft, guzzling ever-expensive fuel to maintain their positions off the Libyan coast and in the skies above, could reach millions of dollars a week, experts say.

"Each sortie, even if it drops no munitions, is very pricey," said Winslow Wheeler with the Center for Defense Information. "These airplanes cost us tens of thousands of dollars to operate per hour, and the fancier you get in terms of planes, the costs get truly astounding."

The 3 B2 stealth bombers that flew from Missouri to Libya and back on Sunday, for example, each cost an estimated $80,000 per hour to operate, Wheeler said.

That means their 25-hour flight had a price tag of $6 million, and the 45 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) they dropped added at least $1 million more.

So far the Pentagon has financed the mission to take out Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's air defenses and disrupt his attacks on opposition forces using resources in its existing budget, which accounts for unanticipated military actions. And the White House has not been forced to ask Congress for additional funds for the campaign.

But experts say the administration may have to submit an emergency supplemental budget request for Libya later this year, assuming U.S. involvement in the international military operation does not end swiftly.

The cost of operating the no-fly zone over Libya alone could cost the U.S. an estimated $30 million to $100 million a week, a study by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments found. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio