College Student Vanishes While Home on Break

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(LIVERPOOL, N.Y.) -- Authorities in upstate New York are searching for a college student who went missing Friday after returning home from Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa. for Thanksgiving break.

Jenni-Lyn Watson, 20, was last seen at her family's home in Liverpool, N.Y., near Syracuse, on Nov. 19.

Onondaga County Sheriff deputies, firefighters and U.S. Marshals are using information obtained from her cell phone records to search a large wooded area in the northern suburbs of Syracuse.

"This is an area that has shown up on her cell phone records," Onondaga County Undersheriff Warren Darby told ABC News Syracuse affiliate WSYR. "We wanted to make sure her phone wasn't left here and if it was, we wanted to recover it because it may have some more information."

According to a neighbor interviewed by the Post-Standard, Watson was last seen at home Friday morning with her parents and 17-year-old sister. When they returned home Friday afternoon, Watson was gone, along with her cell phone. Watson's purse, wallet, and house keys were still at home.

Authorities are urging people to call if they have information but not to look for Watson on their own, saying it would interfere with the investigation.

Jenni-Lyn's mother, Jackie Watson, delivered the same message in a written statement: "Thank you for all of the offers of help and assistance. It is greatly appreciated. At this time, we ask that you respect the advice of the Sheriff's Department and do not go near the designated search area. Professionals are covering that part of the search. However, what you can do is check any property you own, to include buildings, basements, sheds, or places that you do not normally spend time in."


Homeland Security Recommends Replacing Color-Coded Warnings

Photo Courtesy - Department of Homeland Security(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of Homeland Security is recommending that the current color-coded system used to warn Americans of imminent threats and attacks be replaced, ABC News has learned.

The government agency wants President Obama to scrap the Homeland Security Advisory System, "a color-coded terrorism risk advisory scale," in favor of warnings that are more specific.  The agency would instead put out warnings with clearer language so Americans could understand what kind of threat exists.

The color-coded scale was implented in 2002.  The current overall threat level is yellow, or "elevated," marking a significant risk of terrorist attacks.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


President Obama Pardons National Thanksgiving Turkey "Apple"

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- On Wednesday, President Obama pardoned "Apple," the National Thanksgiving Turkey, in the nation's 63rd anniversary of the tradition.  Joined by his daughters Sasha and Malia in the Rose Garden, the president reflected on the yearly tradition and wished American familed a safe and healthy holiday.

"Apple" was spared from landing on the president's Thanksgiving table by National Turkey Federation Chairman Yubert Envia.  Envia said he picked the turkey because he was the most beautiful bird in the flock and was "a little more well behaved than the rest of the flock."

"Apple," along with his alternate "Cider," who was also pardoned, will now live at George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens.  There, visitors can visit the National Thanksgiving Turkey as he is displayed during "Christmas at Mount Vernon" through Jan. 6.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Feds Launch Crackdown On Unsafe Rental Cars

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- As the busiest travel holiday of the year gets underway, U.S. safety officials have launched an investigation to determine how quickly rental car companies repair vehicles that have been recalled for safety issues.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has sent letters to GM, Chrysler, and Ford, asking for details on the recall repair status of almost 3 million cars that are among the vehicles most commonly rented.

The NHTSA says the crackdown was prompted by "incidents involving allegations of personal injury and death" allegedly caused by safety defects on rental vehicles, including a 2004 case documented in an ABC News report in which two sisters died in a PT Cruiser rented from Enterprise that had been subject to a safety recall.

No federal law requires that rental companies fix recalled cars before handing the keys to consumers, and as the ABC News report documented, not all firms have policies in place to ensure that vehicles under safety recall are repaired before they're rented.

Executives from Enterprise, the country's largest car rental company, admitted that recalled cars were sometimes rented without being fixed during testimony for a lawsuit filed by the parents of Raechel and Jacquie Houck, sisters who died when their rented Chrysler PT Cruiser caught fire and hit a truck on a California highway.

"When demand called, we rented out recalled vehicles, it happened, I won't lie," said Mark Matias, a former Enterprise area manager in San Francisco, in an affidavit filed for the case in 2008.  "If all you have are recalled vehicles on the lot, you rent them out. It was a given. The whole company did it. Enterprise's corporate offices look the other way regarding this fact."

Other Enterprise executives testified that there was no companywide policy requiring cars under recall to be held back from rental.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Amanda Knox Appears in Court for Start of Appeals Trial

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(PERUGIA, Italy) -- Amanda Knox, the American college student convicted of murdering her roommate Italy, made a brief appearance in an Italian court Wednesday for the start of her appeals trial.

Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison -- 24 years for the murder of her British roommate and two years for slander -- but the prosecution thought that wasn't enough, so attorneys filed an appeal seeking a longer sentence.  They want Knox to serve a sentence of at least 30 years.

For the appeals trial, Knox's attorney wants a new witness to be allowed to testify and a forensics expert to review all of the forensics testimony in the first trial.  Knox's defense team says the judge did not interpret it correctly.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


String of Church Robberies in Oregon and San Francisco

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SPRINGFIELD, Ore.) -- A string of church burglaries in suburban Oregon and another in San Francisco has prompted tightened security around houses of worship, including ramped-up patrols and high-tech surveillance equipment.

The extra measures resulted in the arrest of a suspect in six church robberies in Springfield, Ore., a town neighboring Eugene.

Ryan Schroder, 28, of Springfield was held without bail in Lane County Jail on six felony charges of burglary. Schroder was accused of robbing cash boxes at five churches, including one he struck twice, in a three-week crime spree, said Springfield Police Sgt. David Lewis.

His arrest this week came just days after he finished his "post-prison supervision" following 18 months behind bars for two church robberies in 2004, Lewis said.

But Springfield is not the only community plagued by church robberies. In mid-October, police in San Francisco reported that six Bay Area churches had been robbed over a two-month period. One of those churches, St. Francis Episcopal Church, was hit five times.

After the string of robberies, St. Francis Episcopal decided to fight back, spending $20,000 on high-tech surveillance cameras along with motion detection lights. The church also installed a formidable front gate controlled by a coded combination lock.

So far, the added measures have brought an end to the rash of burglaries.

"I think it's the sign of our times, of the desperation that people feel and also people knowing that a church is vulnerable and many of us don't have security systems," St. Francis Episcopal's Rev. Mark Ruyak told ABC News affiliate KGO-TV in San Francisco.

Six churches in total were hit between August and September in the southwest part of San Francisco, and police said they don't think the break-ins are connected to one another.

As in Springfield, the SFPD has urged people who live near these churches to report anything they think that may look suspicious.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 


Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano Thanks TSA Employees; Pistole Says Planned Protests Could Have 'Negative Effect'

Photo Courtesy - PRNewsFoto | Transportation Security Administration(WASHINGTON) -- As the controversy over the Transportation Security Administration's enhanced screening continues, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano sent a message to all TSA employees to personally thank them for their work during the holiday rush.

The message obtained by ABC News that was sent Tuesday afternoon to employees stated, "The threats we face in the aviation sector are real and evolving, and we are meeting them with a strong and dynamic response. Serving on the front lines, you ensure safe and efficient travel for the millions of people who rely on our aviation system every day."

Following the increased public scrutiny the TSA has received in recent days, even getting the attention of a Saturday Night Live skit, Napolitano bucks up the TSA officers and employees, writing in her note, "Time and again, the men and women of TSA have demonstrated poise and professionalism. Travelers and the public realize that your job is difficult and demanding. This holiday season, I am confident you will again demonstrate your commitment to ensuring the safety of the traveling public to everyone who passes through an airport security checkpoint."

In an interview with ABC News, TSA Administrator John Pistole urged the public to build in some more time to their schedule to accommodate security. The TSA chief also expressed his concern about  possible protests, saying, "If I was a traveler I would have significant concerns about it because it’s unpredictable. So I would make sure I get to the airport on time, that I don’t miss my flight," Pistole said. "Our security checkpoints are fully staffed and we’re ready for the normal rush, but if people do opt out in significant numbers it will have a negative effect."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


California Man Had Bomb Factory in His Home, Say Prosecutors

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SAN DIEGO) -- George Djura Jakubec, a 54-year-old unemployed software engineer, pleaded not guilty to two bank robbery charges, 12 felony counts of possessing destructive devices and 14 counts of possessing ingredients to make destructive devices. He faces up to 40 years in prison.

Prosecutors say that eight pounds of the homemade explosive HMTD was found after a gardener was seriously injured in an explosion on Jakubec's property near Escondido last week. Federal and local officials also say they found nine detonators and 13 unfilled homemade grenades with attached shrapnel.

San Diego County Deputy D.A. Terri Perez called the discovery a "bomb factory" and said it was "the largest quantity of these types of homemade explosives at one place in the United States."

"He had the makings of a bomb lab," said Perez. "He had precursors to making these explosives. He had detonators, he had grenades and so essentially he could make these destructive devices, and had completed several of them."

Federal authorities said the HMTD discovered had the explosive power of several of the devices used in the London subway bombing of 2005, which killed 52 people. Explosives experts found the HMTD in jars, and buried them in the ground on Friday to detonate them, closing the southbound lanes of Interstate 15 for about three hours for motorists' safety.

Authorities also allege they found PETN, the powder explosive used in the recent cargo bombing plot, by the failed "shoe bomber" in 2001 and allegedly by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in the unsuccessful attempt to bring down Northwest flight 253 with an underwear bomb last Christmas.

Authorities also say they discovered dye packs and wigs on the property. According to Deputy D.A. Perez, Jakubec robbed banks in San Diego County on June 25 and July 17, and got away with a "substantial amount" of money. San Diego police reported a robbery at a Bank of America in the Sorrento Valley on June 25 that was first believed to be the work of the so-called "Geezer Bandit."

The suspect, who wore a Halloween-style old man mask, handed a teller a demand note and escaped with cash, according to San Diego police. On July 17, another local Bank of America branch was robbed by a gray-haired, clean shaven man about 5'8", wearing a floppy straw hat and sunglasses, police said.

Jakubec's wife Marina, from whom he had recently separated, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that her Serbian-born husband had lost his job three years ago and she believes he had become unbalanced. "I am afraid for my husband's mental state," she said. "He's not well."

She told the paper that Jakubec had allegedly purchased chemicals and electronics with money she had earned, but she did not know what it was for.

According to court records, Jakubec was on probation after pleading guilty to shoplifting at an electronics store last year.

The gardener who stepped on the explosive material, 49-year-old Mario Garcia, suffered injuries to his left eye, left arm and chest.

Jakubec's court-appointed public defender did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


FCC May Allow You to Send Text Messages to 911

Photo Courtesy - ABC News (WASHINGTON) -- Several U.S. government agencies have for some time been considering how to plan and implement the next generation of 911. The plan has been to incorporate SMS text messaging, images and even video into emergency requests to get "the right information to the right people at the right time."

Now, several outlets are reporting that the FCC is pushing for more technology for 911 -- technology that would lead to better, faster responses from emergency workers. In fact, the FCC even says 911 could be automatically notified of possible or likely emergencies by sensors, from OnStar to home alarms and many more.

The "Next Gen 911" project, which, according to, is actually under the auspices of the Department of Transportation, "draws on the expertise of public safety experts to identify and prioritize digital data, potentially available to first responders...which could best improve their safety and performance," according to the Transportation Safety Advancement Group, the organization that is tasked with carrying out these changes.

While texting 911 when an emergency arises seems like a grand idea (and the next logical step for 911), it may be a while before this marriage between emergency response and technology is a reality. Look for a white paper from the TSAG in February 2011 -- this paper will present the recommendations of first responders regarding the kind of information they would want and need from a more digitally oriented 911 service.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Suspicious Device at Calif. Mall Was School Project, Not Explosive

File Photo. Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) – A suspicious device found at a mall in Sacramento has turned out to be a school project, according to the Sacramento Bee.

A bomb squad was called to Arden Fair Mall Monday after a store employee saw the device inside of a truck parked outside.

The owner of the device, which was described as having wires and hoses attached to boxes and bottles, turned out to be a mall store employee who said the object was a school project, not an explosive.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio