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Ex-firefighter, girlfriend charged in Va. arsons
Wed, 04/03/2013 - 13:02, - 0 Comments

April 3, 2013 Associated Press

ACCOMAC, Va.  — A former volunteer firefighter and his girlfriend are responsible for all but a handful of the 77 arsons set on Virginia's Eastern Shore over the past five months, state police said Tuesday.

Charles R. Smith III, who went by the alias Charles Applegate when he served as captain of the Tasley Volunteer Fire Department several years ago, and his girlfriend, Tonya S. Bundick, were arrested early Tuesday, shortly after an abandoned residence was set ablaze.

The pair has been charged in only one fire, but Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said they are believed to be responsible for most of the blazes set since November. She said more charges should be filed soon.

"We now have a very complex prosecution ahead of us due to the sheer numbers of arsons these two people are responsible for setting," Geller said.

All of the fires were set in or near abandoned or unoccupied commercial and residential buildings, and no injuries were reported.

Man held for 42 years in deadly Arizona hotel fire set to be released
Tue, 04/02/2013 - 09:50, - 0 Comments

April 2, 2013 MSNBC

An Arizona man who has maintained for 42 years that he had nothing to do with a horrific hotel fire that killed more than two dozen people is set to be freed from prison Tuesday.

Louis Cuen Taylor was just 16 years old when he was sentenced to multiple consecutive life sentences for a fire that ripped through the Pioneer Hotel, a Tucson landmark that went up in flames in December 1970 while employees of an aircraft company were there for a Christmas party. 

Taylor, who is black, claims police pinned the crime on him and an all-white jury gave him an unfair trial. A 2002 examination of his case by CBS' "60 Minutes" found evidence that he had been railroaded and led volunteer legal group The Arizona Justice Project to take on his case.

On Tuesday, Taylor is expected to be released as part of a deal with prosecutors in which he will be forced to plead no contest in the case. 

The blaze killed 29 people: Some jumped to their deaths, others were trapped in their rooms because fire truck ladders weren't long enough to reach upper floors, but most victims died from carbon-monoxide poisoning inside the hotel.

Judge throws out key evidence against twice-convicted murderer Woodworth
Mon, 04/01/2013 - 17:58, - 0 Comments

In a scathing order, a Platte County judge on Monday threw out key evidence against a rural Missouri man who has spent 20 years maintaining his innocence in a 1990 murder.

Circuit Judge Owens Lee Hull Jr. excoriated law enforcement’s handling of critical bullet and revolver evidence that state prosecutors have used to twice convict Mark Woodworth of murdering Cathy Robertson and wounding her husband, Lyndel, in November 1990 outside Chillicothe.

“(T)he court finds that there has been an egregious, flagrant, cavalier disregard of evidentiary procedures,” Hull wrote in his 10-page order.

Elsewhere in the order, Hull described law enforcement’s lack of documentation as “odious.”

Woodworth was remodeling the basement of his parents’ home near Chillicothe when his lawyer called with the news. “I feel great,” he said. “It’s a great victory.”

Woodworth was 16 at the time of the shootings. After a long investigation, he was charged in 1993 with murder and assault. A jury convicted him two years later.

Texas district attorney, wife found dead at home
Sun, 03/31/2013 - 01:54, - 0 Comments

March 31, 2013 Associated Press

KAUFMAN, Texas — A Texas prosecutor and his wife were found killed in their house two months after one of his assistants was gunned down near their office, authorities said.

Investigators found the bodies of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, on Saturday, said Kaufman County sheriff's Lt. Justin Lewis. Police, FBI agents, Texas Rangers and deputies were part of the investigation.

Assistant district attorney Mark Hasse was shot to death in a parking lot a block from his office on Jan. 31.

Lewis declined to say how the couple died or whether authorities believe their deaths are linked to Hasse's. He wouldn't provide further details.

Kaufman Police Chief Chris Aulbaugh told The Dallas Morning News that the McLellands had been shot in their home and that although investigators didn't know if their deaths and Hasse's were related, they couldn't discount it.

Suspects In Hadiya Pendleton Murder Plead Not Guilty
Thu, 03/28/2013 - 11:41, - 0 Comments

March 28, 2013 CBS

CHICAGO – The two men charged with murder in the shooting death of 15-year-old honor student Hadiya Pendleton pleaded innocent on Thursday.

CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports both 18-year-old Michael Ward and 20-year-old Kenneth Williams pleaded not guilty to all charges during their arraignment at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building.

Both men are charged with one count of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder, and two counts of aggravated battery with a firearm. They are being held without bond.

Michael Ward and Kenneth Williams, suspects in murder of Hadiya Pendleton

Michael Ward, left, and Kenneth Williams are charged in the death of Hadiya Pendleton. (Chicago Police Department)

Police and prosecutors have said Ward shot and killed Hadiya – and wounded two other people – when he fired several shots at a group of students seeking shelter from the rain under a canopy at a Kenwood neighborhood park in January. Williams allegedly was driving the getaway car, and provided the gun used in the shooting. Authorities said Ward and Williams mistook the group for rival gang members.

Prosecutors have said Ward and Williams were out for revenge, after a rival gang killed a friend of Ward’s. Williams also had been wounded by a rival gang member last summer.

How Police Identified Severed Head After 24-Year Mystery
Thu, 03/28/2013 - 11:12, - 0 Comments

March 28, 2013 ABC News

A severed head found on a golf course 24 years ago has been identified using DNA evidence and may be linked to a serial killer, New Jersey police said today.

The head of 25-year-old Heidi Balch, who worked as a prostitute around Manhattan in 1988, was found on a Hopewell Township, N.J., golf course, in 1989, but was only identified this month after collaboration between the New Jersey State Police and the Hopewell Township Police Department.

"It was shocking," said Hopewell Township Police Chief George Meyer, who was one of the detectives called to the scene after the head was found near the seventh hole.

"Periodically, over the years, detectives would pick up the case and make efforts at identifying her," he said. "I kind of thought, 'No, she is never going to be identified.'"

A break came when detectives realized the dumped head matched a story from serial killer Joel Rifkin, who claimed to have dismembered and dumped a victim named Susie around New Jersey, State Police Det. Sgt. Stephen Urbanski told ABCNews.com. Rifkin was never convicted for the alleged crime, but is serving 200 years in prison for other murders.

Florida officials push for answers at boys' school graveyard
Wed, 03/27/2013 - 21:36, - 0 Comments

March 27, 2013 Reuters

MARIANNA, Florida - Florida officials said on Wednesday they will seek federal money for a forensic investigation into unmarked graves on the grounds of a shuttered state reform school for boys that has been the target of numerous allegations of abuse and mysterious deaths of children.

Dozens of unmarked graves have been uncovered at the Dozier School in the Florida Panhandle city of Marianna and investigators are trying to determine the circumstances surrounding the deaths, which experts say probably occurred between 1914 and 1952.

"We really don't know exactly how many, or who they are," said Erin Kimmerle, a forensic anthropologist at the University of South Florida with a scroll-like map of spots where her ground-piercing radar spotted signs of human remains.

The Dozier School was legend among adolescents for about 100 years in Florida, as the state's major reform school, until it was closed in 2011.

Several years ago, former students told horror stories of sexual abuse and frequent beatings in a mausoleum-like building dubbed the "White House" where nine barren cubicles held boys accused of rules infractions.

Some died under unknown circumstances, according to relatives.

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