Review Category : National News

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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Accused Pennsylvania Cop Shooter Played Soldiers in War Films

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation(CANADENSIS, Pa.) — The suspect in the shooting of two Pennsylvania state troopers has spent years reenacting military history and has shaved the sides of his head into a bizarre Mohawk as “part of the mental preparation” for his alleged attack, police said Wednesday.

Eric Matthew Frein, 31, is charged with killing one trooper and wounding a second last Friday.

There is a massive manhunt underway for him. He is considered dangerous, possibly armed with a rifle and an AK-47. Schools in the district were closed Wednesday because of the search.

Lt. Col. George Bivens said Wednesday that Frein “belongs to a military simulation unit” that focused on Eastern European armies. “He has his head shaved on the sides with long hair on top,” wider than a Mohawk.

Bivens said the hairstyle is “completely different from what he had worn for years… Investigators believe it was part of his mental preparation” for the alleged assault.

The officer also had a message for Frein during the news conference: “If you are listening to this broadcast… while cowering in some cool, damp hiding place, I want you to know know we are coming for you.”

Jeremiah Hornbaker, who’s known Frein through the film industry for nearly a decade, told ABC News that Frein was frequently hired as a military and weapons expert in films. Frein played the part of a German soldier in the 2007 short film, Lustig, according to its IMDb page.

Hornbaker said he was shocked to hear that Frein is wanted after allegedly opening fire at the State Police Barracks in eastern Pennsylvania last Friday. Frein worked mostly as a “background guy” who helped ensure historical accuracy of the films, he said.

“I’m still kind of dumbfounded by it,” Hornbaker said. “He was kind of a jokey guy, he liked to have fun.”

Hornbaker, 36, said Frein also helped out in the prop department and occasionally acted in films. He’s an expert on guns, the military and history, he said.

Frein’s father, a retired Army major, told police his son was a skilled shooter who “doesn’t miss.” Frein’s father said there is a .308 rifle and an AK-47 assault rifle missing from his home.

Hornbaker, who is also from Pennsylvania, said Frein’s love for guns isn’t out of the ordinary in the state.

“That’s the nature of our business,” he said. “I have a large gun collection as well… That’s why I hired him — his knowledge of the weaponry and firearms.”

“He was always an upbeat guy and enjoyed his work,” Hornbaker said. “Clients always respected him for the information he brought. I got good reports on him.”

Bivens said Frein bounced between odd jobs and never stayed in one position for long. He belonged to a group of military simulation enthusiasts obsessed with Eastern Europe during the Cold War.

“For many of these people, that’s as far as they would take it,” he said. “They make or obtain uniforms and study the history of that period, and I would liken it to almost a re-enactment.”

He also said Frein had traveled to Europe in the “past few years.”

Police warned residents to be alert during the dragnet for Frein. Bivens recommended people lock their doors and keep outside lights on, and be on the lookout for opened shed doors.

“More likely than not, he remains somewhere in this general area,” Bivens said.

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Detroit Police Officer Faces New Trial in Girl’s 2010 Shooting Death

iStock/Thinkstock(DETROIT) — A Detroit police officer is preparing to stand trial for the second time in the shooting death of a 7-year-old girl, an incident videotaped by a reality TV crew.

Joseph Weekley is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the May 2010 shooting of Aiyana Stanley-Jones. The incident was videotaped for the A&E reality show The First 48, with Detroit police serving a warrant to a murder suspect.

The first trial last year ended in a hung jury. Weekley maintained it was all a tragic accident and he has pleaded not guilty, just as he did in his 2013 trial.

Aiyana was sleeping on the couch. Weekley has testified that the girl’s grandmother, Mertilla Jones, hit his submachine gun, coming down on it with her arm, causing him to accidentally fire.

Aiyana was shot in the head.

Weekley’s supervisor, Lt. Donald Johnson, told jurors in 2013 that Weekley was devastated following the shooting.

“He was just throwing up and crying and shaking, and just sporadic, ‘Why did she hit my gun?’” Johnson said.

Jones insisted that she never went for Weekley’s gun.

“They messed up, and they know they done messed up,” she said.

Geoffrey Fieger, the family’s attorney, said police mishandled the situation and were performing for the TV cameras when Aiyana was killed.

“They knew they were being photographed for a TV show. So, they like to show all their cowboys-and-Indians, tough-guy military look,” Fieger said.

ABC News Chief Legal Affairs Anchor Dan Abrams said he was surprised that the jury in the first trial could not agree on a lesser misdemeanor charge against Weekley — careless discharge of a firearm causing death.

“The fact that the jurors couldn’t compromise shows you how difficult a case this is,” Abrams said. “There must have been fierce divisions on that jury.”

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Manhunt for Accused Pennsylvania Cop Shooter Closes Schools

PennDOT(CANADENSIS, Pa.) — Schools in one northeastern Pennsylvania district are closed Wednesday morning as authorities search for a sharpshooting survivalist suspected in a deadly ambush against state police troopers.

Eric Matthew Frein, 31, is accused of firing at police during a shift change at the Blooming Grove barracks in Pike County Sept. 12.

Corporal Bryon Dickson, 38, died in the attack, while Trooper Alex Douglass, 31, is recovering following surgery.

Due to the manhunt, the Pocono Mountain School District — which consists of 10 schools — are closed Wednesday because of safety concerns for students and staff.

Authorities received a break in the case Monday, when a man walking his dog in a wooded area noticed a green Jeep partially submerged in a pond and alerted police. Police searched the vehicle and found two spent .308 cartridges, camouflage face paint, a black hooded sweatshirt, two empty rifle cases, and information concerning foreign embassies.

The vehicle was registered to E. Michael Frein, the suspect’s father, who is a retired Army major. The father told police that he trained his son to shoot and added that his son “doesn’t miss.”

He also told police that he was missing two weapons, a .308 rifle with a scope and an AK-47.

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Vikings Place Peterson on Exempt List

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The Minnesota Vikings have announced that Adrian Peterson has been placed on the NFL’s Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list and will not play this Sunday.

The decision comes after the team announced earlier this week that it was reinstating him while the legal process involving charges of child abuse against the running back proceeded.

The Vikings now say Peterson will not be allowed to participate in any team activities until his legal matters are behind him.

The Vikings issued the following statement:

“This has been an ongoing and deliberate process since last Friday’s news. In conversations with the NFL over the last two days, the Vikings advised the League of the team’s decision to revisit the situation regarding Adrian Peterson. In response, the League informed the team of the option to place Adrian on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list, which will require that Adrian remain away from all team activities while allowing him to take care of his personal situation until the legal proceedings are resolved. After giving the situation additional thought, we have decided this is the appropriate course of action for the organization and for Adrian.”

The statement continues: “We are always focused on trying to make the right decision as an organization. We embrace our role – and the responsibilities that go with it – as a leader in the community, as a business partner and as an organization that can build bridges with our fans and positively impact this great region. We appreciate and value the input we have received from our fans, our partners and the community.

While we were trying to make a balanced decision yesterday, after further reflection we have concluded that this resolution is best for the Vikings and for Adrian. We want to be clear: we have a strong stance regarding the protection and welfare of children, and we want to be sure we get this right. At the same time we want to express our support for Adrian and acknowledge his seven-plus years of outstanding commitment to this organization and this community. Adrian emphasized his desire to avoid further distraction to his teammates and coaches while focusing on his current situation; this resolution accomplishes these objectives as well.

We will support Adrian during this legal and personal process, but we firmly believe and realize this is the right decision. We hope that all of our fans can respect the process that we have gone through to reach this final decision.”

The statement is signed by team owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf.

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Former Suspect in Aspen Philanthropist’s Murder Denies Helping Husband Kill Her

Vladek/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ASPEN, Colo.) — The wife of the man who murdered prominent Aspen, Colorado, resident Nancy Pfister says she is innocent and didn’t help her husband kill Pfister, despite once being a suspect herself.

“I had absolutely nothing to do with this,” Nancy Styler, 62, told ABC News’ 20/20.

Styler’s husband, Dr. William F. Styler III, known as Trey, is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence after pleading guilty on June 20 to second-degree murder for bludgeoning Pfister to death inside the Buttermilk Ski Area heiress’ home, which the couple was renting.

Pfister, 57, a philanthropist with a party girl reputation, was found dead inside a walk-in closet in her mountain chalet on Feb. 26 by her friend, Kathy Carpenter, who was also suspected in her murder. After Trey Styler’s confession, the first-degree murder charges against Carpenter, 56, and Styler’s wife were dropped.

Prosecutors have said that if new evidence comes to light they can re-file charges against Carpenter at any time. As part of a deal, Nancy Styler can never be charged for Pfister’s murder.

After her husband confessed to killing Pfister, Styler said she was shocked that he could be capable of such a crime.

“The jail part was a day at the beach compared to learning that the person that you’ve been with for 32 years committed such an awful crime,” she said.

According to prosecutors, Trey Styler, 66, a former anesthesiologist from Denver, and his wife had intense disagreements with Pfister over whether he and his wife had been paying the $4,000 monthly rental fee on her Buttermilk home. Nancy Styler said the couple did not have a lease because Pfister “didn’t want one.”

Pfister had been renting her home to the Stylers while on an extended trip in Australia, prosecutors said. At one point, Styler said Pfister told her if she helped her pack for a month-long trip to Australia, she wouldn’t charge them rent. After she left, Styler said she and her husband moved in, but then they received word that Pfister was cutting her trip short and wanted them out immediately.

“It was like…’How are we going to do this in four days?'” recalled Nancy Styler.

She and her husband moved to a nearby motel in Basalt, Colorado, with a festering grudge against Pfister.

Four days after she returned home from Australia, on Feb. 26, Pfister’s body was discovered wrapped in white and black trash bags and the sheets from her bed.

The Stylers were arrested on March 3 and charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Trey Styler admitted to hitting Pfister in the head with a hammer while she slept and hiding her body in a closet, prosecutors said.

“He said, ‘I looked at her peacefully while our life was being torn apart,’ and he said, ‘I lost it,’” Nancy Styler said.

Nancy Styler said her husband told her how he was able to kill Pfister, including how he wrapped a cord around her body to be able to drag her to the closet.

“And he had left the bag — the murder weapon, the papers, her pearls, her pills — he had left that all in a bag, and that the bag was in the trunk of my car. And I was driving around with the murder weapon for three days,” said Nancy Styler.

Although he confessed to being the sole killer, the now wheelchair-bound Trey Styler appeared to be physically incapable of killing Pfister and covering up the crime on his own. Nancy Styler said her husband was diagnosed with a progressive neurological disease in late 1999 that made it difficult for him to walk.

“We’re thinking, you know, ‘How could he physically do that?’” Agent Lisa Miller told 20/20 of Trey Styler’s confession. “We took a break, and I asked Mr. Styler if he wanted to stand up. And he informed me he couldn’t stand up. He didn’t have the strength to.”

Police wondered during their investigation if Carpenter or Styler had a role in helping him with the murder.

“If he had come to me and said, ‘I’ve just done something horrible,’ I would’ve called the police right away,” Nancy Styler said.

Nancy Styler said she still loves her husband, whom she visits behind bars, and that people are wrong for thinking she helped kill Pfister.

“Why can’t people believe this? Why do they have to involve me in this?” Nancy Styler asked. “I say, ‘Go back and look at things in your mind and think about how this could happen, and don’t judge people unless you know the story.’”

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Family of Missing University of Virginia Student Pleads for Help

Charlottesville Police(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) — The family of missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham pleaded for help Tuesday in finding their daughter, whose disappearance this weekend has left them “heartbroken.”

The 18-year-old sophomore was last heard from after 1 a.m. Saturday when she texted friends saying she was on her way to a party but never showed up.

“Those of us who know and love Hannah know that she would not disappear without contacting family or friends,” the student’s family said in a statement released by the university.

“We urge anyone with any information, however insignificant it may seem, to call a newly dedicated tip line at 434-295-3851 at the Charlottesville Police Department,” the family said.

They described Graham as being “highly responsible and organized” and said “all summer she was looking forward to the start of the new school year.”

“She embraces life with energy and enthusiasm and has enriched the lives of many. Her empathy is evident in her daily interactions with us and her friends,” the statement from John, Susan and James Graham stated.

“The kindness and support of so many — her friends at U.Va., particularly her friends on the Ski Team, her friends from high school, our neighbors, and the larger community — mean so much to us at this difficult time,” the statement concluded.

Charlottesville Police Lt. Ronnie Roberts told ABC News that they received 60 tips from the public Tuesday morning, hours after they released surveillance footage of Hannah Graham. Roberts said the new information “may shift the particular area we were searching yesterday to a different area.”

Police had been combing a wooded area with the help of a bloodhound, Police Capt. Gary Pleasants said. Police declined to describe the new area under consideration.

Graham’s apartment is off campus and, according to police, she and other students were drinking heavily that night and were “fairly well intoxicated.”

Graham was seen at a pizza restaurant before she and a classmate headed to another party, authorities said. They left at 12:15 a.m., with Graham appearing to be walking home alone, according to police.

Police released surveillance images Monday showing Graham in her apartment hallway at about 9:30 p.m. Friday, hours before she disappeared.

Pleasants said authorities are using all available means to figure out what happened to Graham.

“We are checking her cellphone records, computer, bank accounts, everything we can possibly do,” he said.

University President Theresa A. Sullivan said that the campus community is “united in our deep concern” for the sophomore and is calling on the campus’ 21,000 students for help. “We are hopeful someone will come forward soon with information,” she said in a statement.

Graham’s parents, who are British but live in northern Virginia, have gone to campus to help authorities in the search.

Katie Schrieber, a friend of Graham’s, said the teen was especially kind to strangers.

“Hannah was really good at making friends,” Schreiber said. “She’s always one of the first people to talk to you. And she’s so friendly, so outgoing.”

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Grand Jury to Decide on Tony Stewart Case

Geoff Burke/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — NASCAR star Tony Stewart may face criminal charges in a fatal accident that killed a Sprint car driver.

After a review of evidence, prosecutors in Ontario County, New York said it would be best for a grand jury to decide whether Stewart should be charged in last month’s accident that killed Kevin Ward on a dirt track in Canandaigua. Ward had climbed out of his car and onto the track to confront Stewart.

Stewart said he respects the decision to send his case to a grand jury and, in a statement Tuesday, pledged his “full cooperation.”

It’s not immediately clear when the grand jury would convene or whether Stewart will testify.

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Texas Police Officer Blocks Speeding Car with Kids Inside

iStock/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) — A Texas police officer who drove his police cruiser directly into the path of a car speeding close to 100 mph the wrong way down a highway is being hailed as a hero for saving lives.

Dash cam video shows the moment Shenandoah, Texas, Police Sgt. Gary Sharpen swerved his police cruiser directly into the path of the speeding vehicle Friday night.

The driver of the vehicle, who was allegedly intoxicated, slammed on his brakes just feet before Sharpen’s stopped car, the video showed.

“Knowing this guy was as reckless and as dangerous as he was, he needed to be stopped one way or another,” Sharpen told ABC News affiliate KTRK.

“If I’m put in that position again, I think I’ll do the same,” he said.

The driver, later identified by police as Jose Luis Alejo-Zavalija, 25, continued on his high-speed chase with police after being stopped by Sharpen, officials said.

Alejo-Zavalija made a U-turn and drove through gas stations and parking lots until he finally stopped several minutes later, according to authorities.

When police arrested the suspect, they discovered he was driving with a 4-year-old and an 18-month-old child in the car, they said.

Authorities charged Alejo-Zavalija with a total of five felonies, including DUI, evading arrest and child endangerment.

He was being held on $125,000 bond, a Shenandoah Police Department spokesman told ABC News Tuesday.

Alejo-Zavalija has not yet retained an attorney, according to the Montgomery County District Clerk.

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