Review Category : National News

Eight Dead, Including Suspect, in Suspected Murder-Suicide in Florida

John Roman/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BELL, Fla.) — Police are investigating an apparent murder-suicide that took place in the small Florida town of Bell, authorities said Thursday night.

Eight people are reported dead in the shooting. Gilchrist County Sheriff Robert Schultz said at a Thursday night press conference that the suspect is believed to have killed his daughter and his six grandchildren in his home before calling 911, and then committing suicide. He also noted that law enforcement had previously been called to the home.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is the lead agency investigating the shooting, according to spokeswoman Samantha Andrews.

Bell has a population of about 350 people and is located some 30 miles west of Gainesville.

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‘Person of Interest’ Sought in Disappearance of UVA Student

Charlottesville Police Department(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) — A reward totaling $50,000 has been offered for information about missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham and police said they are looking for a man with a slight beer belly who was reportedly seen with the sophomore on the night she vanished.

The Charlottesville Police Department said the person being sought “is a person of interest” in Graham’s disappearance.

The description of the person of interest emerged after surveillance videos showed a man following Graham early Saturday morning. The man told police that he was following Graham because she appeared “physically distressed” and he was trying to help her.

The man also told police that he stopped following Graham when he she met a second man that she seemed to know and put his arm around her, according to police.

The videos and the description of the “person of interest” are the latest clues in the search for the missing sophomore, who has not been heard from since she texted friends just before 1:20 a.m. Saturday.

The new videos show Graham, 18, walking past an outdoor mall area at 1:06 a.m. and a man in light colored shorts following her. At one point, he ducks into a corner and watches her. A second camera shows the same man following Graham a few minutes later, according to police.

The man called into the police tip line hours before the surveillance footage that showed him following Graham was released. He went to the police station at 10:15 p.m. Wednesday.

“Anyone who saw her is a person of interest,” Capt. Gary Pleasants told ABC News. “He saw her and said he was following her, so that’s interesting. But right now we’re seeing him as a cooperative witness.”

Pleasants said there are no suspects or persons of interest in the case yet because “at this moment we still don’t know that there is any” criminal activity that took place. Graham’s mother said on Wednesday that she feared “foul play” was responsible for her daughter’s disappearance.

The man in the video is still in contact with investigators, police said.

“He told police that he was following Ms. Graham as she looked to be somewhat physically distressed and he wanted to make sure she got safely to wherever she was going,” police said in a statement.

Investigators are searching for the second man who the witness alleges spoke to Graham and stopped her as she was walking. The second man is not seen in any of the surveillance footage.

“Soon after [the witness] was following her, he said that a black male came up to her and put his arm around her, stopping her,” the police release states. “Ms. Graham and this black male started speaking and it appeared to the witness that the black male was either known to Ms. Graham or was trying to help her.”

The witness said that when he walked away, Graham and the other man were still talking.

Charlottesville police have called for area businesses to hand over any surveillance footage they have from the night when Graham disappeared in hopes that it could lead to more clues. Pleasants told ABC they received over 80 new tips from the public since releasing four clips of security videos Wednesday.

Graham’s parents, who are British but live in Alexandria, Virginia, have been in Charlottesville during the investigation and the University of Virginia plans to hold a candlelight vigil Thursday night.

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Missing UVA Student’s Case Similar to 2009 Murder, Mom Says

Courtesy Harrington Family(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) — The mother of a University of Virginia student who was abducted and slain in 2009 sees eerie similarities between her daughter’s death and the current disappearance of Hannah Graham.

Gil Harrington knows the agony that Graham’s parents are enduring. Her daughter, Morgan, disappeared from a Metallica concert in Charlottesville in 2009. Her body wasn’t found until months later and the murder remains unsolved.

What is also upsetting are the similarities to her daughter’s death.

“Hannah was seen for some of the time fairly close to where Morgan’s shirt was found maybe three weeks after her abduction,” she told ABC News.

She said there are other “coincidences” between the two students.

“College town, same town, same kind of look of a girl, same time of year,” she said. “Is this a pattern?”

Harrington said it would be “too speculative,” but she wondered whether the time of year is a trigger for a “predator” in the Charlottesville area “to go out and hurt somebody.”

“We know there’s one predator who killed Morgan,” she said. Harrington said the 2005 abduction and rape of a woman in Fairfax, Virginia, has been linked by DNA to her daughter’s killer.

Gil and Dan Harrington have helped create an organization called Help Save the Next Girl. It offers advice and tracks the disappearance and unsolved murders of girls. The group’s site lists five girls, including her daughter and Graham, from the Charlottesville area who have disappeared or have been killed since 2009. It also lists the cases of seven other Virginia women who disappeared or were killed in unsolved murders.

“Obviously they are not all connected, but it doesn’t seem normal. There’s either some connection of a serial predator or a crime spree gone crazy,” she said.

Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo conceded earlier this week there are similarities between the death of Morgan Harrington and Graham’s disappearance.

“Both of them occurred within the proximity of the University of Virginia. Both of them are young girls,” the chief said.

Charlottesville Police Capt. Gary Pleasants on Thursday would not make any connection to the deaths or disappearance of the other women.

“We said all along there is no criminal activity yet. At this moment we still don’t know that there is any (criminal activity)…because we don’t know what happened yet,” Pleasants said.

Gil Harrington said she and her husband Dan are praying for Graham’s family.

“Our hearts go out to them,” she said.

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Outrage over Guardrail Crashes Tied to Lost Limbs, Deaths

Law Enforcement Officials(NEW YORK) — Faced with widespread news reports of lost limbs and painful deaths tied to highway guardrails that have pierced vehicles, federal officials are backing a nationwide study of whether guardrails are as safe in reality as they appear to be in crash tests.

“We are supporting a national cooperative highway research program to look into the performance of guard rail terminals,” Federal Highway Administration official Nicholas Artimovich told ABC News.

The research will be done by a conglomerate of public and private highway engineers and experts, he said.

At issue, the federal official said, is whether the guardrail heads, or end terminals, can absorb the impact of a head-on crash of up to 62 miles per hour “in the real world” as they are designed to.

The federal move comes as a new study finds that a re-designed version of a widely used guardrail end terminal “placed motorists at a higher level of risk of both serious injury and fatality” than the original version.

The study, conducted by the University of Alabama Birmingham, examined serious and fatal accidents in Missouri and Ohio and was sponsored by the state of Missouri and The Safety Institute, a non-profit advocacy organization.

“This is an important first step in understanding the actual field performance of this product,” said Sean Kane, president of the board of directors of The Safety Institute, who in a different role also consults with some of the lawyers now suing the company that makes the guardrail.

“We are seeing on-road failures that shouldn’t be happening,” said Kane. “I have real concern about leaving them on the highways.”

A spokesman for the state of Missouri said it asked for the study “upon learning of concerns with the effectiveness” of the re-designed end terminal called the ET-Plus.

Missouri officials have not received the final report and the spokesperson said, “We are unable to state what our course of action, if any, will be.”

A spokesperson for Trinity Industries said the company had not seen the study and had no immediate comment.

Trinity is facing a series of lawsuits over accidents in which motorists were killed or lost legs when their vehicles crashed into guardrails.

It’s current guardrail end terminal, called the ET Plus, has passed safety crash tests and met federal standards, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

But officials say even crash-tested guardrails can be involved in fatal accidents.

“We’re interested in looking at how these devices perform in the real word after they pass crash testing,” said Artimovich.

In the lawsuits, victims allege slight modifications to the original design, including reducing one piece of metal from five inches to four inches, made them roadside hazards.

Trinity says its product meets all safety standards and it has “full confidence” in its performance. It says the slight changes had no effect on the end terminals’ performance.

The original design is credited with saving hundreds of lives since it was introduced in 1999.

Its inventor, Dean Sicking, told ABC News the changes made by Trinity in 2005 were without his knowledge.

“I was not involved in that change and never really understood why they did it,” Sicking told ABC News.

Internal company e-mails obtained by ABC News show that Trinity engineers calculated that shaving off an inch on a key piece of metal would save about $2 for each end terminal.

“That’s $50,000 a year and $250,000 a year by using the 4” channel,” the memo reads.

Trinity denies any of its changes were made to boost profits.

Tune in to ABC News 20/20 Friday for the full investigation.

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King Fire Threatens Thousands of Northern California Homes

iStock/Thinkstock(POLLOCK PINES, Calif.) — The raging King Fire in Pollock Pines, California, more than doubled its coverage overnight, burning about 71,000 acres. The fire continues to burn in steep terrain in the South Fork of the American River and Silver Creek canyons.

More than 3,730 personnel are assigned to combat the northern California blaze, which is now just 5 percent contained, according to CAL Fire officials.

Some residences south of Highway 50 were under mandatory closure, but Thursday, the advisory had been changed to voluntary status. Evacuation orders are still in effect for a large part of the region, with authorities advising evacuees to take shelter at locations in the towns of Camino and Georgetown, California.

No homes have been damaged or destroyed, but more than 2,000 are threatened.

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Adrian Peterson’s Mom Says Son Adores His Children

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images(MINNEAPOLIS) — Adrian Peterson’s family is coming out in support of the embattled NFL player.

Peterson has been charged with reckless and negligent injury after allegedly using a thin branch to strike his 4-year-old son at his Texas home last May.

Peterson’s half-brother, 20-year-old Jaylon Brown, told ABC News that Adrian “loves his kids.”

“He never harmed them intentionally,” said Brown. “He is the type of guy to teach his kids right from wrong. God knows. God has the last say at the end of the day in all of this. Only God can judge.”

Peterson’s mom, Bonita Jackson, told the Houston Chronicle that her son is a loving father who adores his kids.

“I don’t care what anybody says, most of us disciplined our kids a little more than we meant sometimes, but we were only trying to prepare them for the real world,” said Jackson.

“When you whip those you love, it’s not about abuse, it’s about love. You want to make them understand that they did wrong,” she added.

The 50-year-old Jackson said both she and Peterson’s father, Nelson Peterson, were “big disciplinarians” while raising their children. She admits she used her hand, switches and belts to spank all six of her children on occasion, but adds not to the point of injury.

Bonita Jackson told the newspaper her son is now receiving counseling to learn alternative discipline methods, such as having a child stand in the corner for five minutes.

In Minnesota on Wednesday, Vikings co-owner Zygi Wilf said the team did the right thing by putting running back Adrian Peterson on the exemption list Tuesday. Wilf and the rest of the Vikings organization believes they made a mistake reactivating Peterson earlier in the week while the legal process involving charges of child abuse against the running back proceeded.

The National Football League Players Association said Peterson cooperated during the process and will still get paid during the time he is away from the field.

Meanwhile, a Nike spokesperson said Wednesday the company was suspending its endorsement contract with Peterson.

ESPN reports Peterson jerseys are no longer available on the NFL’s official site, NFLShop.com or on Nike.com or at any Nike retail outlet.

Peterson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, said in a statement that his client “wants to continue his work in the NFL and contribute to his team and community.”

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Vikings Admit Making a ‘Mistake’ with Peterson; Player’s Mom Says Son Adores His Children

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images(MINNEAPOLIS) — In Minnesota on Wednesday, Vikings co-owner Zygi Wilf said the team did the right thing by putting running back Adrian Peterson on the exemption list Tuesday.

Wilf and the rest of the Vikings organization believes they made a mistake reactivating Peterson earlier in the week while the legal process involving charges of child abuse against the running back proceeded.

Peterson has been charged with reckless and negligent injury after allegedly using a thin branch to strike his 4-year-old son at his Texas home last May.

“We made a mistake and we need to get this right,” Wilf said Wednesday. “It is important to always listen to our fans, the community and our sponsors.”

The National Football League Players Association said Peterson cooperated during the process and will still get paid during the time he is away from the field.

Peterson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, said in a statement that his client “wants to continue his work in the NFL and contribute to his team and community.”

Hardin said that “in order to do so, [Peterson] is prepared to resolve this matter in the appropriate legal forum rather than the court of public opinion.”

Hardin’s statement continued, “Ultimately, it will be up to a judge and jury to decide this case, which is the way it should be. Ours is the greatest legal system in the world, and Adrian is confident that a just result will emerge once all the facts are presented.”

Peterson’s half-brother, 20-year-old Jaylon Brown, told ABC News that Adrian “loves his kids.”

“He never harmed them intentionally,” said Brown. “He is the type of guy to teach his kids right from wrong. God knows. God has the last say at the end of the day in all of this. Only God can judge.”

Peterson’s mom, Bonita Jackson, told the Houston Chronicle that her son is a loving father who adores his kids.

“I don’t care what anybody says, most of us disciplined our kids a little more than we meant sometimes, but we were only trying to prepare them for the real world,” said Jackson.

“When you whip those you love, it’s not about abuse, it’s about love. You want to make them understand that they did wrong,” she added.

The 50-year-old Jackson said both she and Peterson’s father, Nelson Peterson, were “big disciplinarians” while raising their children.

She admits she used her hand, switches and belts to spank all six of her children on occasion, but adds not to the point of injury.

Bonita Jackson told the newspaper her son is now receiving counseling to learn alternative discipline methods, such as having a child stand in the corner for five minutes.

Meanwhile, a Nike spokesperson said Wednesday the company was suspending its endorsement contract with Peterson.

“Nike in no way condones child abuse or domestic violence of any kind and has shared our concerns with the NFL,” said company spokesman KeJuan Wilkins, in a statement provided to ESPN.com. “We have suspended our contract with Adrian Peterson.”

ESPN reports Peterson jerseys are no longer available on the NFL’s official site, NFLShop.com or on Nike.com or at any Nike retail outlet.
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Missing University of Virginia Student Seen on Video

Charlottesville Police(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) — Surveillance videos of the last time missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham was seen were released on Wednesday and they appear to show the sophomore running at one point and retracing her steps as if she was uncertain of which way to go.

Charlottesville police also said that there is a legitimate reason to consider Graham’s case as similar to that of at least one other girl who has disappeared in the area in the past five years.

“Both of them occurred within the proximity of the University of Virginia. Both of them are young girls,” Chief Timothy Longo said in reference to the 2009 case of Morgan Harrington.

Graham’s parents said Wednesday in a statement that they suspected “foul play” in their daughter’s disappearance after going out Friday night.

Longo said police were publicizing the surveillance videos in the hope that they would spur more clues to Graham’s whereabouts.

Pounding the podium at one point and raising his voice, Longo said, “If you know something, pick up the phone.”

He also said, “I hope we are able to find Hannah and bring her home safely.”

Investigators have seized surveillance footage from a number of businesses and said the videos helped track Graham’s movements on the night she disappeared. One video was from outside McGrady’s Irish Pub. Graham is seen going past the pub’s sidewalk patio section. Two minutes later she walks back into the frame, crosses in front of the restaurant without going inside and then walks back out of the camera’s view in the direction she first came from.

About 10 minutes later at 12:55 a.m., she appears on the surveillance footage of a nearby Shell Station and looks as if she is running, but no one is seen behind her on the video.

Longo would not detail all of the texts that she sent to friends, but said she was in communication with them and it appeared as if “there was discussion among the friends about where they would meet up at a later time.”

“One of the entries suggested to me that she wasn’t familiar with where she was, but I didn’t get the sense that there was fear,” he said.

Police have previously said that Graham was intoxicated and the chief said Wednesday, “You can draw your own conclusion if the video depicts disorientation.”

Longo said he was aware of two more videos that appear to show Graham that night, but police have not yet seen them.

Wednesday’s press conference gave the most insight so far into the timeline of the search for Graham, an 18 year old sophomore. Longo said that it took friends and relatives more than a day to “compare notes” and realize that something was awry.

Graham’s mother, Susan Graham, called her son at some point on Sunday to see if he had heard from his sister and when he said no, he started reaching out to his sister’s friends to see if they had any word.

“He began investigating as well and by 5 or 6 (p.m.) they contacted (police),” Longo said.

Graham lived in an off-campus building with three roommates but police said that they did not become concerned until Sunday afternoon since they all have separate bedrooms and would not have necessarily known when she came and went.

“Her bed was made like it always is,” Det. Sgt. Jim Mooney said at the press conference.

Longo said that the Charlottesville police are leading the investigation and the FBI is involved.

They have also called on residents, specifically those who have large plots of land, to do personal searches of their land to see if there is anything that could possible help direct the police search. Longo said that they used a bloodhound Sunday night during their search of the Charlottesville blocks near where she was last seen but that did not “yield favorable results.” They have also interviewed an estimated 50 individuals but are hoping for many more calls from the public.

“I cannot imagine a more horrifying set of circumstances for a mom or a dad,” Longo said.

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Missing University of Virginia Student Seen on Video

Charlottesville Police(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) — Surveillance videos of the last time missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham was seen were released on Wednesday and they appear to show the sophomore running at one point and retracing her steps as if she was uncertain of which way to go.

Charlottesville police also said that there is a legitimate reason to consider Graham’s case as similar to that of at least one other girl who has disappeared in the area in the past five years.

“Both of them occurred within the proximity of the University of Virginia. Both of them are young girls,” Chief Timothy Longo said in reference to the 2009 case of Morgan Harrington.

Graham’s parents said Wednesday in a statement that they suspected “foul play” in their daughter’s disappearance after going out Friday night.

Longo said police were publicizing the surveillance videos in the hope that they would spur more clues to Graham’s whereabouts.

Pounding the podium at one point and raising his voice, Longo said, “If you know something, pick up the phone.”

He also said, “I hope we are able to find Hannah and bring her home safely.”

Investigators have seized surveillance footage from a number of businesses and said the videos helped track Graham’s movements on the night she disappeared. One video was from outside McGrady’s Irish Pub. Graham is seen going past the pub’s sidewalk patio section. Two minutes later she walks back into the frame, crosses in front of the restaurant without going inside and then walks back out of the camera’s view in the direction she first came from.

About 10 minutes later at 12:55 a.m., she appears on the surveillance footage of a nearby Shell Station and looks as if she is running, but no one is seen behind her on the video.

Longo would not detail all of the texts that she sent to friends, but said she was in communication with them and it appeared as if “there was discussion among the friends about where they would meet up at a later time.”

“One of the entries suggested to me that she wasn’t familiar with where she was, but I didn’t get the sense that there was fear,” he said.

Police have previously said that Graham was intoxicated and the chief said Wednesday, “You can draw your own conclusion if the video depicts disorientation.”

Longo said he was aware of two more videos that appear to show Graham that night, but police have not yet seen them.

Wednesday’s press conference gave the most insight so far into the timeline of the search for Graham, an 18 year old sophomore. Longo said that it took friends and relatives more than a day to “compare notes” and realize that something was awry.

Graham’s mother, Susan Graham, called her son at some point on Sunday to see if he had heard from his sister and when he said no, he started reaching out to his sister’s friends to see if they had any word.

“He began investigating as well and by 5 or 6 (p.m.) they contacted (police),” Longo said.

Graham lived in an off-campus building with three roommates but police said that they did not become concerned until Sunday afternoon since they all have separate bedrooms and would not have necessarily known when she came and went.

“Her bed was made like it always is,” Det. Sgt. Jim Mooney said at the press conference.

Longo said that the Charlottesville police are leading the investigation and the FBI is involved.

They have also called on residents, specifically those who have large plots of land, to do personal searches of their land to see if there is anything that could possible help direct the police search. Longo said that they used a bloodhound Sunday night during their search of the Charlottesville blocks near where she was last seen but that did not “yield favorable results.” They have also interviewed an estimated 50 individuals but are hoping for many more calls from the public.

“I cannot imagine a more horrifying set of circumstances for a mom or a dad,” Longo said.

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Tropical Moisture from Odile Will Bring Historic Rain to Southwest

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Odile has been downgraded to a Tropical Depression as it continues its track into Southeastern Arizona — and flash flood warnings are now in effect for California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

Some places, including Tucson, Arizona, could see 4 to 6 inches of rain over the next two days, with the heaviest falling Wednesday and Thursday.

The wettest September on record for Tucson is 5.6 inches.

The highest two-day rain total for Tucson was 4.17 inches back in October 1983. This was from the devastating floods brought by Tropical Storm Octave. Known as “The Flood of 1983,” it killed 13 people, injured hundreds and left many homes, businesses, buildings and bridges heavily damaged or destroyed.

Now, eyes are beginning to turn to Tropical Storm Polo, the next named storm in the Eastern Pacific, which is following in Odile’s footsteps.

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