Review Category : National News

Four Notre Dame Football Players Accused of Academic Violations

iStock/Thinkstock(SOUTH BEND, Ind.) — The Notre Dame football program is trying to recover a fumble by their own players.

The Fighting Irish has suspended four players suspected of committing serious academic violations.

According to ABC’s Ron Claiborne, suspensions would not just effect the four players but the entire football program, which just two years ago went undefeated in the regular season and to the national championship game.

Notre Dame now says it will voluntarily forfeit all of the games it won with the four players on the field if ultimately they are found to have cheated.

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‘Coercion Tactics’ Used to Lure Amish Girls, Police Say

iStock/Thinkstock(OSWEGATCHIE, N.Y.) — Investigators are looking for more information about the two people who have been arrested for allegedly kidnapping two Amish girls in Northern New York.

Stephen Howells, 39, and his girlfriend Nicole Vaise, 25, allegedly kidnapped the girls from their family farm on Wednesday while they were selling vegetables.

The girls were apparently released 30 miles away from their home.

On Saturday, Saint Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells said investigators are looking for “anything and everything about the backgrounds of the two individuals, where they’ve been over the years, what else have they done, who else have they been involved in there lives with, and we’ll go from there.”

Investigators believe “coercion tactics” were used to lure the children into the car and the sheriff said the motive of the kidnapping “was to victimize children.”

Wells also said the girls played a big role in bringing the two suspects to justice.

“We need to give credit to the girls here. Things that they saw. Things they remember, were very influential in getting us to this point so quickly,” Wells said.

The alleged kidnappers are being held without bond. They have not yet entered any plea. If convicted, they could face 25 years to life.

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Arrests Made in Kidnapping of New York Amish Girls

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(HERMON, N.Y.) — Police have arrested two people in connection with the kidnapping of a pair of Amish girls from their family’s roadside vegetable stand in northern New York.

Stephen Howells II, 29, and Nicole Vaisey, 25, each face two counts of first-degree kidnapping. That charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 25 years to life.

The girls showed up on the doorstep of Jeff and Pam Stinson barefoot, cold, wet and hungry Thursday night, the couple told ABC News on Friday.

The Stinsons opened their door to the two girls, Delila Miller, 6, and Fannie Miller, 12, who asked the couple to drive them back home. The Stinsons said they recognized the girls because they had bought produce from them before and were aware of news reports about their abduction.

According to police, the sisters were abducted Wednesday night in Oswegatchie, New York, a rural town located near the Canadian border, when they went out to sell vegetables to a car at the stand. They were then dropped off later near the Stinson’s house, authorities said.

Authorities held a news conference Friday about the abduction but refused to give details about the incident other than to say that they are still investigating and the Miller girls appeared to be healthy.

When the girls arrived on their doorstep, the Stinsons fed them watermelon and grape juice and the girls were so hungry they couldn’t stop eating the watermelon.

“They ate that watermelon in 30 seconds. It was fast,” said Jeff Stinson.

Jeff Stinson knew exactly where the two girls lived because he had bought corn from the elder girl before at their vegetable stand.

At one point on the return home, the girls ducked in the back seat because they saw the kidnapper’s red car pulled over by the side of the road, the Stinsons said.

An Amber Alert had been issued Wednesday night after a witness reported seeing a vehicle pull up to the stand, the girls go out to wait on them, and then the driver of the car put something in the backseat. When the car drove away, the witness told police the children were gone.

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Florida College Student Found Guilty in ‘Love Triangle’ Murder

ABC News(GAINESVILLE, Fla.) — A Florida jury found a college student guilty of killing his friend out of what prosecutors said was jealousy over an ex-girlfriend.

Jurors found Pedro Bravo guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Christian Aguilar. They deliberated for just shy of four hours.

Bravo, 20, was accused of killing Aguilar, 18, after taking him for a drive one night in September 2012 to discuss Aguilar’s relationship with Bravo’s ex-girlfriend, Erika Friman. Bravo and Aguilar had been friends, but Bravo was “crushed” to learn that Aguilar and Friman were dating.

Prosecutors alleged Bravo poisoned and beat Aguilar, then hid his body. Surveillance footage showed Bravo buying a shovel, duct tape, bandages and over-the-counter sleep aids the night before Aguilar went missing.

Bravo claimed that he and Aguilar only got in a physical fight that night.

Friman testified that she arranged for Bravo and Aguilar to meet after Bravo threatened suicide, and that she hid her relationship with Aguilar from Bravo.

“I lied to him because he was at a very sensitive point in his life, I supposed,” she said in court. “I didn’t want to throw him over the edge and say, ‘By the way, I’m dating a mutual friend of ours.’”

In police interrogation tapes played in court, Bravo admitted to police that he met Aguilar on the night of his death.

“He got out of the car and I fought him and after that, I remember going in the car and I remember seeing him in my rearview mirror while I was driving away,” Bravo said during the interrogation.

Prosecutors agree that Bravo drove away, but they allege that he did so with Aguilar’s body in the back of his SUV, later stashing it in a remote field.

Aguilar’s body was found 22 days later in a forest.

Prosecutors also revealed a photograph in court of the belt they said Bravo used to kill Aguilar. Authorities also focused on a sketch pad they said Bravo filled with hate-filled messages.

“No one will stop me,” he wrote in one passage, prosecutors allege. “I will get out of Miami and into Gainesville by January 2013 and I will get her back.”

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Lost in the Wilderness: One Man’s Five-Day Fight for Survival

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — For one California man, what began as a day fishing trip quickly turned into a five-day fight for survival.

Mike Vilhauer, 58, went fishing Aug. 6 at Lower Sunset Lake in Alpine County when he noticed he wasn’t catching any fish. Deciding he needed more bait, Vilhauer, butterfly net in hand, left on what he thought would be a short trip to find some grasshoppers.

“I was just zigzagging up and down the mountain,” Vilhauer told ABC News. “I didn’t see anyone for quite a while.”

After a few hours, Vilhauer said it began to get late, and he decided he should probably head back to the fishing site. “That’s when the fun began,” he said.

Vilhauer began to make his way towards what he thought was the fishing site. But with darkness upon him at about 8 p.m., he decided to make shelter under a pine tree, covering himself with pine needles and willow branches in an attempt to stay warm. Vilhauer attempted to call 911, but a weak signal thwarted his efforts.

Vilhauer continued his search for the help on Thursday. Weak from his lack of food and water, he adapted what he called his “survivor man routine,” drinking water out of puddles, regardless of what else was in the puddle.

“I thought ‘I’m going to keep walking, I’m going to get back to my wife,’” said Vilhauer, who lives in West Sacramento.

After trying to find a way back the whole day, Vilhauer came across a stream and began to follow it before the sun began to set. Setting up a camp of tree bark and needles, he slept for another night in the open wilderness.

He was crushed to find on Friday morning that the stream came to a dead end. “At this point I’m thinking ‘Man, this is looking bad,’” Vilhauer said.

Vilhauer continued to wander in circles on Friday, unsure of where he was or where to go next. Exhausted and hungry, he set up camp under a large rock.

“I hadn’t slept at all,” said Villhauer, “It was cold and I just tried to keep moving around. It rained every night.”

Saturday morning brought no relief.

“I hadn’t eaten since Wednesday morning,” said Villhauer, “I was so weak, I could only do so much before getting too exhausted and having to lie down.”

Grounding himself underneath the rock, Villhauer tried to build up his strength. He decided he would try to climb up the side of the ridge, only to find out that every time he thought he had reached the top, there ended up just being another peak ahead.

Suddenly, Villhauer could hear helicopters in the distance. One flew overhead, but kept going, leaving Villhauer “disheartened.”

“It was a rollercoaster of emotions,” said Villhauer, “I thought, ‘You know what? I’m done. This is it.’”

“I was thinking about my family and my wife and all of the stupid things I’d done to get myself into that position,” said Villhauer.

“And then, after 10 to 15 minutes I decided ‘No. Hell no. I’m not going to give up, I’m going to get down to that stream and I’m going to sit there and wait until somebody finds me,’” he added.

Villhauer made his way back down the stream, drinking out of puddles along the way, and made his way back to the rock.

He picked up a piece of driftwood and began writing his last words to his wife.

“I put all of these thoughts down, I had to continue on another piece of drift wood,” Villhauer said.

He then used cypress needles to spell out “HELP”, saying “I figured if I don’t make it, at least I gave it my best shot.”

Sunday morning, Villhauer had just had his first meal in five days – a dandelion – when he heard the helicopters again.

“I got excited, I started waving around my blue shirt on a stick,” said Villhauer as the helicopter kept repeatedly flying over and then leaving.

“It was a big rush, and then the letdown. A big rush, and the letdown,” described Villhauer, who assumed that the choppers were operating on a grid system, so once they deemed the area clear they would not be returning.

“I figured, if they hadn’t seen me yet, I was in here for the long haul.”

The choppers returned and began circling Villhauer, when he suddenly heard a bark from behind him. It was a search dog leading one of the rescue teams that had been looking for Villhauer since Friday.

After five days in the wilderness, he had been saved.

Villhauer was given a tiny meal, then transported in a chopper to a base where he met some of rescue teams.

“I was shocked at how many people were yelling and screaming and crying and hugging,” Villhauer said, who soon came to realize that his disappearance had culminated in the largest rescue search of the year.

Villhauer was reunited with his wife and family on Sunday night, staying in a hotel for the night and heading back home on Monday morning, when he was able to see a doctor. He suffered no serious injuries during his ordeal, just a few scrapes and bruises, though he did lose his wedding band somewhere along the way.

Villhauer is happy to be back at home, and has nothing but gratitude for those the search teams, many volunteers, who helped him to get home.

“I appreciate all of those efforts,” said Villhauer, “I couldn’t say enough about those folks.”

Despite getting lost for five days, Villhauer is more than ready to plan another fishing trip, though he’ll likely bring a friend next time.

“I plan to go back,” Villhauer said, “I’m going to go up there and buy a whole lot of rounds of beer.”

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Fed Warning over Drones Flying Near Wildfires

iStock/Thinkstock(BOISE, Idaho) — Federal wildfire authorities issued a new warning Friday against the use of remote-controlled drones they say could interfere with firefighting aircraft and put firefighter lives at risk.

This year, there have been at least three instances of an unmanned drone flying in restricted airspace near a wildfire, the National Interagency Fire Center said Friday.

In July, a private drone was banned from flying over the Sand Fire in Northern California after authorities said it put fire crews in danger.

“Unauthorized UAS [Unmanned Aircraft System] flights could cause serious injury or death to firefighters on the ground. They could also have midair collisions with airtankers, helicopters, and other aircraft engaged in wildfire suppression missions,” said NIFC, a federal firefighting organization made up of eight agencies including the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service.

Unauthorized drone flights, the agency says, “could lead fire managers to suspend aerial wildfire suppression efforts.”

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Michael Brown’s Family Calls Police Report an Attempt to ‘Assassinate the Character of Their Son’

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(FERGUSON, Mo.) — The family of Michael Brown, the teenager shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson on Saturday, released a statement in response to a police report made public on Friday, alleging that the report was “intended to assassinate the character of their son.”

In the statement, released through the family’s attorneys, the family says it is “beyond outraged” at the manner in which the report was released.

“There is nothing based on the facts that have been placed before us that can justify the execution style murder of their child by this police officer as he held his hands up, which is the universal sign of surrender,” the statement reads.

Criticizing the delay in releasing the name of the officer and information pertaining to a robbery in which Brown was allegedly a suspect, the family notes the “distrust for the local law enforcement agencies” that the community feels.

“It is no way transparent to release the still photographs alleged to be Michael Brown and refuse to release the photographs of the officer that executed him,” the statement says.

The family also pointedly stated that the police “attempting to blame the victim” won’t “divert [their] attention,” calling the incident the “brutal execution of an unarmed teenager.”

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Michael Brown’s Family Calls Police Report an Attempt to ‘Assassinate the Character of Their Son’

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(FERGUSON, Mo.) — The family of Michael Brown, the teenager shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson on Saturday, released a statement in response to a police report made public on Friday, alleging that the report was “intended to assassinate the character of their son.”

In the statement, released through the family’s attorneys, the family says it is “beyond outraged” at the manner in which the report was released.

“There is nothing based on the facts that have been placed before us that can justify the execution style murder of their child by this police officer as he held his hands up, which is the universal sign of surrender,” the statement reads.

Criticizing the delay in releasing the name of the officer and information pertaining to a robbery in which Brown was allegedly a suspect, the family notes the “distrust for the local law enforcement agencies” that the community feels.

“It is no way transparent to release the still photographs alleged to be Michael Brown and refuse to release the photographs of the officer that executed him,” the statement says.

The family also pointedly stated that the police “attempting to blame the victim” won’t “divert [their] attention,” calling the incident the “brutal execution of an unarmed teenager.”

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Ferguson Police Detail Moments Before Michael Brown Was Shot

Ferguson Police Department(FERGUSON, Mo.) — Police reports detailing the moments before a police officer shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown claim that Brown stole $48.99 worth of cigars from a convenience store and manhandled a store employee who tried to stop him.

The description of the alleged theft was included in a packet of police reports distributed by the Ferguson Police Department Friday when they identified Officer Darren Wilson as the cop who shot Brown. The packet of information gave a detailed description of the alleged theft and the suspect, but it included no details of Brown’s confrontation with Wilson.

Anthony Rothert, the legal director for the Missouri branch of the ACLU, had sued Tuesday for the release of the incident report describing Brown’s shooting.

“I think it’s fair to say that releasing some records, but not releasing others when they’re equally public record seems to be an intentional effort to distract the public,” Rothert told ABC News. “They’re hiding it for whatever reason…That leaves the public to imagine why that’s being hidden.”

“They’ve given us the wrong incident report,” Rothert said.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon appeared to be surprised by the release of the robbery report.

“New facts are out…those are not the full picture of everything,” Nixon said. “They’re pieces of information.”

Among the 19 pages of reports in the police packet released Friday was a report written by the police officer who responded to the 911 call regarding the store robbery. That officer watched a store surveillance video of the theft. He also responded to a report of Wilson’s fatal confrontation with Brown.

“It is worth mentioning that this incident (the store robbery) is related to another incident,” the officer wrote. “In that incident Brown was fatally wounded…I responded to that scene and observed Brown. After viewing Brown and reviewing the video, I was able to confirm that Brown is the primary suspect in this incident.”

Below is a moment by moment description of what happened on Aug. 9 according to reports by the Ferguson police department and statements made on Friday by Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson:

11:48 a.m. — Wilson was on a “sick call” where an ambulance had been summoned. Details of the sick call were not released.

11:51 a.m. — Police receive a 911 call from a convenience store on W. Florissant Avenue that reported “stealing in progress.”

The officer’s report said that the suspect identified throughout the report as Brown ordered several boxes of Swisher Sweet cigars. As the boxes were stacked on the counter, the suspect handed one of the boxes to his friend identified as Dorian Johnson. When the store employee asked to be paid, the suspect “reached across the counter and grabbed numerous packs of Swisher Sweets and turned to leave the store,” the report states.

The employee came out from behind the counter and tried to lock the door and stop the suspect from leaving. The suspect “grabbed REDACTED by the shirt and forcefully pushed him back in to a display rack,” the officer’s report states. The suspect left the store, but returned “and advances on REDACTED. Brown towers over REDACTED appearing to intimidate him,” the officer wrote.

During the confrontation between the suspect and the store employee, Johnson put back on the counter the box of cigars that he had been holding.

11:52 a.m. — A police dispatcher gave a description of the robbery suspect over the radio. The suspect is described as wearing a white T-shirt, long khaki shorts, yellow socks, flip-flop type shoes and a red Cardinals baseball cap. Wilson left the sick call after hearing the report of the robbery.

11:54 a.m. — A police officer arrived at the store, but the suspects were gone. The officer is told the suspects walked north on W. Florissant Avenue, but the officer did not see them.

12:01 p.m. — Officer Wilson encountered Brown. In previous statements, Chief Jackson said Wilson was pushed back into his car and that he and Brown struggled before Wilson fired at Brown.

12:04 p.m. — A second officer arrived “at the scene of the shooting,” Jackson said.

12:05 p.m. — A police supervisor arrived on the scene.

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Kidnapped Amish Girls Showed Up Cold, Hungry on Stranger’s Doorstep

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The two Amish girls who were abducted from their family’s roadside vegetable stand showed up days later on the doorstep of Jeff and Pam Stinson barefoot, cold, wet and hungry Thursday night, the Stinson’s family friend told ABC News Friday.

The Stinsons opened their door to the two girls, Delila Miller, 6, and Fannie Miller, 12, who asked the couple to drive them back home. The Stinsons said they recognized the girls because they had bought produce from them before and were aware of news reports about their abduction.

According to police, the sisters were abducted Wednesday night in Oswegatchie, New York, a rural town located near the Canadian border, when they went out to sell vegetables to a car at the stand. They were then dropped off later near the Stinson’s house, authorities said.

Police are still searching for a suspect or suspects. Authorities held a news conference Friday about the abduction but refused to give details about the incident other than to say that they are still investigating and the Miller girls appeared to be healthy.

When the girls arrived on their doorstep, the Stinsons fed them watermelon and grape juice and the girls were so hungry they couldn’t stop eating the watermelon, the Stinson’s family friend said.

Jeff Stinson knew exactly where the two girls lived because he had bought corn from the elder girl before at their vegetable stand.

At one point on the return home, the girls ducked in the back seat because they saw the kidnapper’s red car pulled over by the side of the road, the friend said.

An Amber Alert had been issued Wednesday night after a witness reported seeing a vehicle pull up to the stand, the girls go out to wait on them, and then the driver of the car put something in the backseat. When the car drove away, the witness told police the children were gone.

The sisters were dropped off in the town of Richville, about 36 miles from where they were abducted, District Attorney Mary Rain said. The girls walked to the closest home and the man who opened the door, Jeff Stinson, immediately knew who the girls were because of news reports.

“The girls walked up to a stranger’s house, thank goodness they had enough courage to do that, knocked on the door, and that person took them home,” Rain said.

The two young girls have been reunited with their family. They “seem to be healthy,” but were “cold and wet,” Rain told ABC News, adding that they are being interviewed by authorities.

Rain said the sisters were still wearing Amish attire when they were found. She also said that more than one person may have been involved in the girls’ abduction.

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