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Sunday
Feb172019

Brothers charged with murder of missing 16-year-old Aranda Briones from Southern California

Moreno Valley Police Department(LOS ANGELES) -- Two brothers have been charged in connection with murder of a 16-year-old girl who went missing in Southern California last month.

Owen Shover, 18, and Gary Shover, 21, were charged on Friday in relation to the murder of Aranda Briones, of Moreno Valley, who has not been seen since Jan. 13, according to the Riverside County Sheriff's Office. Briones' last known location was at a community park in Moreno Valley, where friends said she had been dropped off that evening. Her family reported her missing the next day.

The brothers were taken into custody on Tuesday, with Owen Shover charged with murder and his brother charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Briones' body has yet to be found.

According to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office, Briones and Owen Shover were childhood friends who had recently reconnected.

The sheriff’s office said the Shovers were suspects early in the investigation and that Briones’ family had pointed them in their direction.

“She did have a bad choice of friends, I'll be honest, you know everybody does,” Briones’ uncle, Matthew Horstkotte, told Los Angeles ABC station KABC last month. “Everybody makes mistakes, but you know one thing I want? I just want her home safe.”

Owen Shover, who was the person last seen with Briones, told sheriffs that he dropped her off at a park on Jan. 13 and had not seen her since.

“We destroyed the timeline of events that he gave us,” Riverside County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Vasquez said, “and replaced it with what we knew to be true based on video surveillance footage.”

The sheriff’s office expanded the investigation and began to cooperate with the FBI and the homicide unit on Jan. 20.

On Feb. 11, authorities served a search warrant at the home of Owen and Gary Shover in Hesperia, California, about 40 minutes from Moreno Valley, and arrested the brothers. The sheriff’s office said evidence was collected at their residence, but did not specify what was found.

The investigation is still active and the sheriff’s office is still seeking the public’s help to locate Briones.

“We still don’t have a body,” said Vasquez. “We still don’t know where she is.”

The brothers are being held without bail and will make their next court appearance on March 1.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Feb172019

Houston police embroiled in scandal after 'lies' found in no-knock warrant that led to fatal raid on alleged drug house

KTRK(HOUSTON) -- Less than 48 hours after President Donald Trump called him up on a stage to express pride in the Houston Police Department, Chief Art Acevedo struggled to explain a scandal in which one of his narcotics agents allegedly lied to get a no-knock warrant for a drug-house raid that left a married couple dead and four officers shot.

"What a job you've done. I'm proud of you," Trump told Acevedo while giving the keynote address on Wednesday at the Major Cities Chiefs Association and Major County Sheriffs of America joint conference in Washington, D.C.

"I like these people," Trump said of the Houston Police Department delegation on hand. "I feel very safe with these people."

During a news conference in Houston on Friday, Acevedo noted the dramatic contrast between Trump's praise for his department and an investigation into the troubling actions of one veteran narcotics officer.

"Here we are less than 48 hours later talking about one person," said Acevedo, who asked the public not to paint the 5,200 members of his department "in a broad brush" over the actions of a single officer.

That officer, identified in court papers as Gerald Goines, 54, was one of the four drug-team members shot in January when they raided a house where Goines claimed a confidential informant had made two purchases of black tar heroin.

But an affidavit filed in Harris County District Court on Thursday by Houston internal affairs detectives investigating the raid indicates the confidential informant Goines said conducted the drug buys on his instruction claims he never even went to the house.

"Regardless of whether we had reason or probable cause to engage in an investigation or even get a search warrant, what that affidavit will show you is that, thus far, it appears that there are some material untruths or lies in that affidavit, and that's a problem," Acevedo said.

Killed in the Jan. 28 raid were homeowners Dennis Tuttle, 59, and his 58-year-old wife, Rhogena Nicholas.

Armed with a search warrant, nine narcotics detectives backed up by at least six patrol officers surrounded the home on Harding Street just before 5 p.m.

After Goines, the lead investigator on the case, broke open the front door, a 33-year-old officer armed with a shotgun entered the residence and was immediately attacked by a pit bull, Acevedo said a day after the raid.

He said that the officer being attacked shot and killed the dog.

One of the suspects, Tuttle, charged from the back of the house firing a .357-caliber Magnum revolver at the officer, hitting him in the shoulder, Acevedo said.

He said Nicholas was shot and killed when she tried to grab the wounded officer's shotgun and that Tuttle was killed by police after shooting three other officers, including Goines, who suffered a bullet wound to the neck and remains in a hospital.

Police recovered two shotguns and three rifles from the residence and seized marijuana and a white powder they believe to be either cocaine or the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, Acevedo said at the time. But officers did not seize any black tar heroin, he said.

In his application for a search warrant, Goines claimed he was outside the house and "observed the confidential informant" go into the house, make the heroin buy and came out and handed him the drugs, according to the internal affairs affidavit.

Goines gave investigators the name of the informant he said made the drug deal, according to the affidavit. But when the informant denied he had bought drugs from the house on the instruction of Goines, investigators confronted Goines, who then gave them another informant's name.

Internal affairs detectives interviewed all of the confidential informants Goines worked with "and all denied making a buy for Goines from the residence located at 7815 Harding Street, and ever purchasing narcotics from Rhogena Nicholas or Dennis Tuttle."

On Friday, Acevedo said he has ordered a full audit of drug investigations by his narcotics unit and a review of other cases Goines has been in charge of.

He said Goines, who has been with the department for 34 years and was previously shot twice in the line of duty, has been relieved of his duties and will likely face serious criminal charges.

"We know that there's already a crime that's been committed," Acevedo said. "It's a serious crime when we prepare a document to go into somebody's home, into the sanctity that is somebody's home, it has to be truthful, it has to be honest, it has to be factual. We know already there's a crime that's been committed. There's high probability there will be a criminal charge."

Acevedo said detectives were first alerted to the alleged drug-dealing at the Harding Street house in a 911 call from a mother concerned her daughter had been involved in drugs at the residence. Police launched an investigation about two weeks before the fatal January raid.

"We weren't there willy nilly," Acevedo said.

As part of the investigation into the drug raid, a second undercover officer was also relieved of his duties, but Acevedo said investigators do not believe he was aware that Goines allegedly concocted information to obtain the no-knock warrant.

"When we're done, I guarantee you we will leave no stone unturned and the truth will come out," Acevedo said.

He added that there are "a lot of angry cops" because of Goines' alleged behavior.

"When you violate that oath of office, you make ... their jobs difficult," he said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Feb172019

Jussie Smollett 'angered and devastated' at suggestions he was involved in his attack

ABC News(CHICAGO) -- The two brothers who were interrogated by police investigating the alleged attack on Jussie Smollett purchased the rope that was found around the "Empire" actor's neck, sources told ABC News Saturday.

Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo agreed to cooperate with authorities after detectives confronted them with evidence that they bought the rope -- allegedly used in an attack that Smollett described to police as laced with racial and homophobic slurs -- at a local hardware store, sources said.

Detectives have now shifted the investigation to determining whether Smollett made up the entire story, sources said.

Yet in a late night statement from his attorneys on Saturday, Smollett hit back at the suggestion that the incident was a hoax, and expressed incredulity that the brothers could have been involved.

“As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with," began a statement from Smollett attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson. "He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying."

“One of these purported suspects was Jussie’s personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video," the statement continued. "It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity."

The statement went on to say that Smollett would continue to cooperate with authorities.

After initially considered persons of interest, the brothers were detained and become potential suspects, police said. When they were threatened with to be charged with battery and hate crimes, they agreed to work with detectives, the sources said.

The dramatic shift in the probe is the latest in the fast-changing story that started with Smollett reporting to police that he was attacked in the early morning hours of Jan. 29.

By Saturday evening, however, Chicago police said they were "eager to speak to Jussie Smollett" after the interrogation of the Osundairo brothers.

"We have been in touch with Smollett's attorneys," said Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told ABC News.

Guglielmi said the department contacted the actor's lawyers Friday night.

"We made our intentions clear," he said.

A spokesperson for Fox, which broadcasts "Empire," declined comment on Saturday night.

Early Saturday, after the brothers were released, police said they had new information that “could change the story entirely.”

Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, confirmed by police as those seen in surveillance images from the night of the alleged incident, were arrested on Wednesday night and interviewed by detectives in the following days.

Based on the video evidence that police discovered, it did not indicate anyone else was there at the scene of the alleged incident, police say.

But on Saturday, after their release the night before, police said they were no long potential suspects and again persons of interest, saying that they may still have information that is helpful to the investigation.

Smollett told police that on Jan. 29 he was walking outside when he was attacked by two men. The attackers shouted racist and homophobic slurs before hitting him, pouring “an unknown chemical substance” on him — possibly bleach — and wrapping a rope around his neck, he told detectives.

Police confirmed phone records show that during the attack, Smollett was on the phone with Brandon Moore, his music manager. Both claim that the alleged attackers yelled "MAGA country."

While police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said on Saturday that he could not speak on what the new information was, he said that the break from detectives has “shifted the trajectory” of the investigation. Though he did not say whether Smollett spoke to the men that night — one of them had previously appeared on “Empire” — he said it will also be central to the investigation whether they spoke to or saw Smollett.

Police raided the home of the brothers Wednesday night to search for possible evidence and retrieved shoes, electronic devices, bleach and a red hat, among other items, according to photos of an inventory log confirmed to ABC News. The inventory log, first reported by a local CBS station, also contained a description for an item saying "Script-Empire."

It’s unclear whether forensic results have come back on any of the seized items on the inventory log.

Police confirmed that the two men, who are U.S. citizens of Nigerian descent, are brothers. They also said that the two “have a relationship with [Jussie].”

On Friday, as interviews with the two men continued, Guglielmi said that “the alleged victim is being cooperative at this time and continues to be treated as a victim, not a suspect.”

He also said that there was “no evidence to say that this is a hoax.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Feb162019

Timeline of the alleged Jussie Smollett attack investigation

ABC News(CHICAGO) -- When news broke of the alleged racist attack on a star from one of the most popular shows on television, it riveted everyone, drawing the nation into a heated discussion about race, politics and celebrity. But as the investigation continued, growing skepticism about Smollett's story added enormous pressure on Chicago investigators to get to the bottom of what really happened that night. Here is a timeline of the Jussie Smollett case as it unfolded over the past several weeks.

Jan. 22: Smollett reports to police receiving a threatening letter sent to the Fox studio where ‘Empire’ is filmed, containing threatening language and laced with a powdery substance investigators believe was likely crushed-up Tylenol.

Jan. 29: Smollett is allegedly attacked at 2 a.m. near his apartment in Chicago. Two masked assailants poured ‘an unknown chemical substance’ on him, possibly bleach, and wrapped a rope around his neck, he told police. In a follow-up interview with police, Smollett alleges that the attackers yelled “MAGA country,” a reference to President Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan.

Jan. 30: Chicago police announce in a tweet that they are seeking two “persons of interest” who were captured on surveillance video near the scene and around the time of the alleged attack.

Jan. 31: Smollett's family releases and emotional statement describing the alleged attack as a hate crime. "In the early hours of Tuesday morning, our beloved son and brother, Jussie, was the victim of a violent and unprovoked attack. We want to be clear, this was a racial and homophobic hate crime," the family wrote in the statement to ABC News. "Jussie has told the police everything from the very beginning. His story has never changed, and we are hopeful they will find these men and bring them to justice."

Feb. 1: Smollett releases a new statement thanking his fans and reiterating that his account of the alleged attack has remained consistent. "I am working with authorities and have been 100% factual and consistent on every level," he said in the statement. "Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served.”

Feb. 2: Smollett makes his first appearance on stage since the alleged attack, performing at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, California. "Regardless of what anyone else says, I will only stand for love," Jussie Smollett said, tearing up before beginning his set. "We hope that you all stand with us."

Feb. 4: Chicago police release the initial incident report about the alleged attack on Smollett. The report reveals that Smollett was apparently reluctant to report the attack, and that when police arrived at his home to interview him, he was still wearing the rope around his neck. The report states that a 60-year-old friend of Smollett called the police on his behalf and said the actor "did not want to report offense however he believed it to be in the best interest to."

Smollett said the attack happened at around 2 a.m. as he was leaving a Subway restaurant. He told police that two attackers gained his attention by yelling racial and homophobic slurs and began to beat him "about the face with their hands," the report said. "The primary aggressor was wearing a black mask concealing any facial features and both offenders were dressed in black," according to the report. "The victim does not remember any other distinguishing features of the offenders, or in which direction they fled," it added.
Ten days passed without any developments in the investigation into the alleged attack, prompting growing skepticism about Smollett's account on social media.

Feb. 13: Unbeknownst to the public, Chicago police investigators had been "tracking the two 'persons of interest' and were aware of who they were "for awhile," a law enforcement source subsequently told ABC News. Investigators learned that these two individuals were returning to Chicago on Feb. 13 from Nigeria and moved in. The pair were detained at the airport, placed under arrest and taken in for questioning.

Feb. 14: In an exclusive interview with "Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts, Smollett said he was heartbroken when he found out that people questioned the details of his story. He defended himself against skeptics who pointed out that it wasn't until a follow-up interview with the police that he mentioned that the assailants were wearing red "MAGA" hats.

"For me, the main thing was the idea that I somehow switched up my story, you know? And that somehow maybe I added a little extra trinket, you know, of the MAGA thing," Smollett said. "I didn't need to add anything like that. They called me a f----, they called me a n----. There's no which way you cut it. I don't need some MAGA hat as the cherry on top of some racist sundae."

The same day, Smollett is re-interviewed by Chicago police investigators. By evening, police sources confirm that they obtained search warrants and raided the homes of the two individuals, recovering bleach, shoes, electronics and other items.

Feb. 15: Chicago police announce that they have identified and are questioning the two "persons of interest" captured on a surveillance video.

By midday, a CPD spokesman tells ABC News that the two 'persons of interest' are, in fact, under arrest, and acknowledge that the pair has "a relationship with" Smollett. In an unusual move for an ongoing investigation, police officials who had originally described the two as 'persons of interest' begin describing the two men as "potential suspects." But by late that evening, investigators changed course, and announced that the two men have been released without charges.

Feb. 16: Chicago police identify the two men they arrested and later releases as brothers -- Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo -- both U.S. citizens of Nigerian descent.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Feb162019

Panic unfolds at Orlando Airport after man attempts to breach security, travelers yell 'gun'

iStock/Bogdan Khmelnytskyi(ORLANDO) -- Chaos erupted at Orlando International Airport Saturday after a man tried to breach a security checkpoint and travelers yelled out that the suspect had a gun, police said.

The man, Ryan Scott Mills, 38, was unarmed, Orlando Police said in a statement, adding that there was no gun involved in the incident and that “no shots were ever fired.”

Mills was attempting to cross the airport’s west checkpoint around noon on Saturday when he was stopped by TSA agents, who called police for assistance, authorities said. When police attempted to arrest him, he reached into his pocket, and that’s when “unknown persons in the screening area yelled that he had a gun,” police said.

“The commotion caused a panic and persons in the screening area fled,” the police statement said. “Some of them ran past the checkpoints, which caused TSA to immediately suspend screening operations. Several travelers were injured due to the panic (pushing from the crowd) but all were minor in nature.”

Video from the incident shows people becoming increasingly panicked as they ran away from the screening area. With alarms blaring, children can be seen crying and rope barriers are strewn across the floors.

The person who took the video can be heard saying that the suspect had “a grenade or something in his hand” as he runs through the hallways of the airport.

Caroline Fennell, senior director of public affairs at the airport, said in a statement that the incident happened during one of the busiest times for security screening at the airport but that operations have resumed.

Orlando International Airport also tweeted that the checkpoint was “fully operational” but “delays continue.” Passengers scheduled for flights Saturday afternoon should check for status updates, according to the tweet.

Mills was taken into involuntary protective custody and he will be charged with disorderly conduct and resisting officer without violence, according to the police statement.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Feb162019

Aurora shooting suspect opened fire during termination meeting: Police

ABC News(AURORA, Illinois) -- A "disgruntled" worker of an Illinois factory opened fire after being called into a meeting to terminate his employment, killing five co-workers and wounding five police officers before he was shot dead in a gunfight, officials said Saturday.

Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman said the suspect, Gary Martin, 45, committed Friday's massacre at the sprawling Henry Pratt Company in Aurora with a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun he should have never been able to possess because of 1995 felony conviction.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Feb162019

Former US Cardinal Theodore McCarrick defrocked by Vatican over sex abuse claims

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Pope Francis officially defrocked the disgraced former cardinal of Washington, D.C., Theodore McCarrick on Friday, following a secret Vatican tribunal into allegations that he molested a 16-year-old boy decades ago.

"On 11 January 2019, the Congress of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Theodore Edgar McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, DC, Guilty of the Following Delicacies while a cleric: solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, with the aggravating factor of the use of power," a statement from the Vatican on Saturday said. "The Congress imposed on him the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state.

"On 13 February 2019, the Ordinary Session (Feria IV) of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith considered the recourse and presented against this decision," the Vatican's statement continued. "Having examined the arguments in the recourse, the Ordinary Session confirmed the decree of the Congress. This decision was sent to Theodore McCarrick on 15 February 2019. The Holy Father has recognized the definitive nature of this decision, made in accord with law, rendering it a res iudicata (ie, admitting of no further recourse)."

McCarrick, 88, resigned from the College of Cardinals last summer at the pope's insistence, but only after an accusation that he molested a 16-year-old altar boy while serving at the Archdiocese of New York was found credible by the church. A July 2018 report from The New York Times alleged that McCarrick coerced seminarians into sexual relationships.

By announcing the sanctions against McCarrick, the church had hoped to send a strong message ahead of next week’s unprecedented global summit on the protection of minors.

But it’s unlikely that many critics will be satisfied.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó and others say church leaders have known for years about allegations that McCarrick was a well-known abuser of seminarians and priests, but chose to turn a blind eye. In a bombshell open letter last August, Viganó even called on Pope Francis to resign.

“Laicization,” the term the church uses for revoking a priest’s ordination, is considered the most severe penalty possible under the circumstances. McCarrick was already the first cardinal in a century to forfeit his red hat. Pope Francis demoted McCarrick last summer after investigators for the Archdiocese of New York determined the charges against him were credible.

McCarrick is reported to be living a life of penance and seclusion at the St. Fidelis Friary in Victoria, Kansas. The friary is one block away from an elementary school, a decision some survivors of sexual abuse have called “reckless.”

The Bishop of Kansas City Gerald Vincke told the Kansas City Star the disgraced ex-cardinal posed no threat to the school.

“McCarrick is not allowed to make any public appearances or visit the school or do any ministry,” he said.

Next week, Pope Francis convenes a worldwide summit to address the issue of protecting minors from sexual abuse. New waves of the scandal have called attention to the church’s failure to be fully transparent or to police bishops accused of covering up past abuses.

Law enforcement agencies in the U.S. have recently adopted a more aggressive stance on the issue after last summer when a grand jury in Pennsylvania disclosed the names of more than 300 alleged predator priests going back decades.

The scandal prompted the resignation of McCarrick’s successor in Washington, D.C., Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who was Bishop of Pittsburgh during some of the period covered in the grand jury report.

Now, other jurisdictions are following suit. Lawmakers in New York recently voted to extend the statute of limitations for child victims in civil and criminal cases despite objections from church officials. In Texas, law enforcement recently raided the office of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops who will represent the U.S. at next week’s Vatican summit.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Feb162019

Federal authorities seize massive 221-pound shipment of cocaine at Southern California port

Customs and Border Protection(LOS ANGELES) -- Federal authorities seized two massive shipments of cocaine at the same California port of entry in late January. The total for the two shipments was 221 pounds -- the largest at that port in 25 years, according to officials.

The busts, which were announced on Friday, were both found aboard ships at Port Hueneme in Ventura County, about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles, coming from Central and South America. The first shipment, which was 204.2 pounds, was seized on Jan. 22 on a cargo ship from Ecuador.

Six days later, the same authorities found a seven-bundle, 17.5-pound shipment of cocaine on a ship from Guatemala.

Both deliveries were concealed beneath the floorboards of the ships.

Customs and Border Protection, Home Security Investigations and Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized the drugs in a joint operation.

"CBP plays a critical role in the effort to keep dangerous drugs from illegally entering the country. Specifically, by leveraging a comprehensive, multi-layered, intelligence driven, and threat-based approach to enhance the security of our seaports, we can diminish the effectiveness of transnational criminal organizations drug operations," Carlos C. Martel, CBP director of Field Operations in Los Angeles, said in a statement.

The seizures came just days after a joint drug bust between Australian and U.S. authorities on Jan. 11 resulted in a record 1.7 tons of methamphetamine being found at Los Angeles/Long Beach seaport.

The location of the bust announced Friday is only about 90 minutes northwest of Long Beach seaport.

That shipment included a record 3,810 pounds of meth, 55.9 pounds of cocaine and 11.5 pounds of heroin. Australian officials said the total street value of the haul was $1.29 billion.

Officials said the seizure announced Friday was the largest bust at Port Hueneme "in the last quarter century."

No one has been arrested in the drug bust, according to CBP, but an investigation into the shipment is ongoing.

CBP seizes an average of 5,863 pounds of narcotics every day, according to government statistics.

CBP's Office of Field Operations, which monitors 328 ports of entry, seized 62,331 pounds of cocaine for fiscal year 2017, the last year for which full statistics are available. Another 9,346 pounds of cocaine were seized by the U.S. Border Patrol.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Feb162019

2 arrested men are released without charges in alleged attack on 'Empire' star Jussie Smollett: Police

Chicago Police Department(CHICAGO) -- Two men arrested by Chicago police police earlier this week in the alleged racial attack on "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett were released on Friday night.

Police clarified that the two men were placed under arrest Wednesday night after police met them at the airport.

But in a statement issued Friday night, Chicago Police Department officials said that "due to new evidence as a result of today's interrogations, the individuals questions by police in the Empire case have now been released without charg[es], and detectives have additional investigative work to complete."

The two are no longer being classified as suspects.

The release of the two men followed hours after police told ABC News they were classifying them as potential suspects.

They also shut down any reports that there was evidence to classify the alleged attack as a hoax.

"While we haven't found any video documenting the alleged attack, there is also no evidence to say that this is a hoax," police added. "The alleged victim is being cooperative at this time and continues to be treated as a victim, not a suspect."

Chicago PD had confirmed Thursday that they identified and were questioning the two "persons of interest" in the alleged racial attack. One of them has previously appeared on "Empire," according to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation.

Police say they were tracking the two suspects and were aware of who they were "for a while," and that investigators learned that the two individuals were returning to Chicago on Wednesday from Nigeria.

The two suspects are U.S. citizens of Nigerian descent, they added.

Detectives also questioned Smollett Thursday, the official said.

Attorney Gloria Schmidt, who is representing the two persons of interest, told Chicago CBS station WBBM that her clients were detained at O'Hare Airport Wednesday evening and were unaware of the attack on Smollett.

"When they first learned what happened to him, they were horrified," Schmidt said. "This is someone that they know, this is someone that they work with, so they don't want to see somebody go through that. ... They really don’t understand how [police] even got information that linked them to this horrific crime, but they’re not guilty of it."

Late last month, Smollett, who portrays a gay musician on Fox's "Empire," told police he was brutally attacked in what authorities are calling a suspected hate crime.

He said the attackers put a noose around his neck, poured an unknown substance, likely bleach, on him and used their hands, feet and teeth as weapons in the assault, according to police. Smollett said the attackers also yelled "This is MAGA country" during the attack.

He was subsequently hospitalized and released, local authorities said.
Jussie Smollett heartbroken over criticism after attack: 'You don't even want to see the truth'

In his first interview since police say he was attacked last month, the singer and actor said on "Good Morning America" that he was heartbroken when he found out that people questioned the details of his story.

"I have to acknowledge the lies, and the hate. And it feels like if I had said it was a Muslim, or a Mexican, or someone black, I feel like the doubters would have supported me much more. A lot more," Smollett, 36, told ABC News' Robin Roberts. "And that says a lot about the place that we are in our country right now."

Prior to the police identifying and interviewing the two persons of interest, Smollett said he believes the two men in the photo released by police in the days after the attack are the perpetrators.

"I don't have any doubt in my mind that that's them," Smollett said. "Never did."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Feb152019

Possible motive for missing Colorado mom's murder surfaces for the first time in wrongful death lawsuit

Woodland Park Police Department(DENVER) -- Missing Colorado mom Kelsey Berreth’s parents —- who are suing son-in-law Patrick Frazee for the wrongful death of their daughter —- allege in new court documents that Frazee murdered his fiancée because she refused to give him full custody of their one-year-old daughter Kaylee.

“Upon information and belief, Frazee had motive to kill Kelsey in that he wanted full custody of [Kaylee Berreth] and/or Kelsey to leave [Kaylee Berreth] with him and Kelsey would not agree,” the parents' attorney, Angela Jones, wrote in an amended civil complaint filed Friday in federal court on behalf of plaintiffs Cheryl and Darrell Berreth.

The lawsuit claims Frazee told Cheryl Berreth a series of lies “knowing that Kelsey was dead because he had killed her, or caused her to be killed, on November 22, 2018.”

On December 2, the plaintiffs claim, Cheryl Berreth called Frazee and asked him if everything was “okay”.

Frazee allegedly told Cheryl that he and Kelsey had broken up on Thanksgiving Day and agreed to split custody of their daughter. That same day, Kelsey left Kaylee with Frazee while she “figured out what she was going to do”," according to the phone call documented in the amended complaint.

Kelsey also allegedly asked Frazee "for her things back, so he gave Kelsey her keys and her gun," according to the complaint.

According to Cheryl, Frazee told her that he and Kelsey had plans for November 25, three days after she was last seen shopping at a local supermarket in Woodland Park, Colorado.

"When he later sent a text and she didn’t respond, he figured she had put her phone on do-not-disturb so that she could study, which is something he said that she often did when she was studying or [Kaylee] was napping," the court documents detail.

Frazee allegedly also told Cheryl that despite the relationship starting off well, it eventually turned sour. He had "had enough and wasn’t going to deal with things anymore," because Kelsey was always criticizing him or "putting him down" in front of the baby.

In explaining one possible reason for her disappearance, Frazee allegedly suggested to Cheryl that Kelsey may have disappeared with a friend or co-worker because "Kelsey didn’t always return home directly after she got off of work and that she had gone out to dinner with some co-workers," according to the court documents.

Frazee allegedly also told Cheryl that despite the relationship starting off well, it eventually turned sour. He had "had enough and wasn’t going to deal with things anymore," because Kelsey was always criticizing him or "putting him down" in front of the baby.

In explaining one possible reason for her disappearance, Frazee allegedly suggested to Cheryl that Kelsey may have disappeared with a friend or co-worker because "Kelsey didn’t always return home directly after she got off of work and that she had gone out to dinner with some co-workers," according to the court documents.

On December 3, "Frazee called Cheryl-Lee Berreth and told her he hadn’t been able to access Kelsey’s phone records online. He stated that she had set up the online access when she was working in Grand Junction and he didn’t know the answers to the access questions like ‘where did you meet your spouse?’"

Frazee also stated that he thought that Kelsey may have opened her own phone plan and changed her phone number. He told Cheryl-Lee Berreth: ‘I love your daughter.’ He said that Woodland Park is a safe place and the Berreths didn’t need to worry about foul play," according to the documents.

The documents also allege that Frazee encouraged false reports about Kelsey, including that the couple were not engaged, that Kelsey was not Kaylee's primary caregiver, that Kelsey had gone to rehab, that she had run off before, that she had abandoned the baby in Frazee's care and that she "had 'issues' that would warrant Frazee “getting full custody."

Kelsey Berreth was last seen in public Thanksgiving Day. Police arrested Frazee December 21. Even though her body has not been found, Frazee has been charged with her murder. He has not entered a plea.

On February 8, Idaho nurse Krystal Lee Kenney pleaded guilty to helping Frazee dispose of Berreth’s cell phone. She is cooperating with the investigation and is required to testify against Frazee as part of her plea deal with prosecutors.

Cheryl and Darryl's newly amended complaint even go as far as to venture a guess as to how Frazee may have allegedly murdered their daughter.

"Frazee had an opportunity to kill Kelsey or have Kelsey killed in that he had her keys and, because he had her gun, she was vulnerable to an attack," the documents stated.

Calls to the attorneys representing Patrick Frazee in the civil lawsuit have not been returned.

Last month, a judge granted temporary custody of Kaylee to Berreth's parents, Cheryl and Darrell Berreth. The couple also has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Frazee.

Frazee is due back in court Feb. 19.

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