Review Category : National News

Former Sailor Cleared of Murder After 33 Years Speaks Out

iStock/Thinkstock(NEWPORT NEWS, Va.) — A former U.S. sailor who has spent 33 years in prison was released Friday after new DNA evidence showed he was wrongfully convicted of murder and rape and says that he regrets that his parents are alive “to enjoy the day” he walked free.

Keith Allen Harward, 60, was found guilty for both the 1982 murder of a Newport News, Virginia, man and the rape of his wife. Key to his conviction was testimony by two experts who implicated Harward due to similarities between his teeth and bite marks that were found on the woman’s legs.

“I’ve got to start my life over,” Harward said shortly after his release at 1 p.m. outside the prison he had once called home. “I’m not the criminal… I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Harward spoke at length about his conviction, blaming the prosecutor’s office in Newport News for putting him behind bars.

He thanked the justice system and the team of lawyers for helping appeal his case, calling them “heroes.”

The worst part of his story, Harward said as he choked back tears, was missing his parents and that they didn’t live “to enjoy the day” where he walked free.

He commented on how much has changed since he was put behind bars more than three decades ago and the challenges that will pose for him.

“It’s a new world… cell phones… computers… internet,” he said, adding he still has a cassette player he kept with him while in jail.

But he also had more immediate concerns on his mind.

No longer sentenced to eating prison food, Harward said he is placing a priority on finding “fried oysters” to dine on.

The Virginia State Court decided to issue Harward’s release after the state’s attorney general, Mark Herring, said new evidence shows he is not guilty of the crimes that have kept him in prison for decades.

“This case has resulted in unspeakable loss for so many people,” said Olga Akselrod, a lawyer with the Innocence Project who helped in set Harward free. “The 33 years that Mr. Harward lost cannot be returned to him. Those are years people are building careers, and families.”

Harward’s petition to be declared innocent was based on DNA found at the scene that his lawyers submitted to the court they contended showed that he could not have committed the rape and murder.

Instead, the DNA profile matched Jerry Crotty, who had previously died in an Ohio prison in 2006, where he was detained for a 2002 conviction for abduction, according to the court’s writ of innocence.

Crotty and Harward were in the Navy together at the time of the murder and rape, according to The Innocence Project, a group well-known for handling cases in which post-conviction DNA testing helps provide proof of innocence.

This is the fifth writ of actual innocence granted by Virginia’s top court based on new biological evidence.

“In light of this new evidence, the Commonwealth agrees that the writ should issue expeditiously, and Harward’s convictions from the Circuit Court for the City of Newport News … should be vacated,” the attorney general briefing stated in support of the court’s efforts. “No rational trier of fact would have found proof of Harward’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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Former Sailor Declared Innocent of Murder, Rape After Spending 33 Years in Prison

iStock/Thinkstock(NEWPORT NEWS, Va.) — A former U.S. sailor who has spent 33 years in prison will be released as early as Friday after new DNA evidence showed he was wrongfully convicted of murder and rape.

Keith Allen Harward, 60, was found guilty for the 1982 brutal murder of a Newport News, Virginia, man and the rape of the man’s wife. Key to his conviction was testimony by two experts who implicated Harward due to similarities between his teeth and bite marks that were found on the rape victim’s legs.

The Virginia State Court decided to issue Harward’s release after the state’s attorney general, Mark Herring, said new evidence shows he is innocent of the crimes that have kept him in prison for decades.

“It’s just heartbreaking to think that more than half of his life was spent behind bars when he didn’t belong there,” Herring said in a press release. “It’s great to know that Mr. Harward will soon be reunited with his family.”

Harward’s petition to be declared innocent was based on the doubt of the bite-mark comparison and DNA found at the scene that his lawyers submitted to the court showing that he could not have committed the rape and murder.

Instead, the DNA profile matched Jerry Crotty, who had previously died in an Ohio prison in 2006, where he was detained for a 2002 conviction for abduction, according to the court’s writ of innocence.

Crotty and Harward were in the Navy together at the time of the murder and rape, according to The Innocence Project, a non-profit legal clinic well-known for handling cases in which post-conviction DNA testing helps provide proof of innocence.

This is the fifth writ of actual innocence granted by Virginia’s top court based on new biological evidence.

“In light of this new evidence, the Commonwealth agrees that the writ should issue expeditiously, and Harward’s convictions from the Circuit Court for the City of Newport News … should be vacated,” the court’s writ of innocence reads. “No rational trier of fact would have found proof of Harward’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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Two Men Dead in Shooting at Texas Air Force Base

iStock/Thinkstock(SAN ANTONIO) — Two men are dead, including a squadron commander, after an active shooting was reported at the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, a defense official told ABC News.

Joint Base San Antonio, which includes Lackland Air Force Base, described it as a “a real world active shooter situation” and said the base was placed on lockdown Friday morning. The base later said in a statement the incident was “contained” and that an investigation is underway.

Officials said at a press conference at 11 a.m. local time that two weapons were found at the scene. The incident does not appear to be an act of terrorism, an FBI spokesman said at the press conference.

Our deputies are inside Lackland AFB clearing buildings now pic.twitter.com/BGwowOBXYF

— Bexar County Sheriff (@BexarCoSheriff) April 8, 2016

The base said the names of the two victims were not being released pending notification of next of kin.

The Bexar County sheriff said earlier Friday the incident appeared “to be murder-suicide.”

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17-Year-Old in Custody in Connection with Slaying of UTexas Austin Student

iStock/Thinkstock(AUSTIN, Texas) — A 17-year-old is in custody in connection with the slaying of Haruka Weiser, a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin, Austin police said Friday.

Meechaiel Criner is being held at a local jail on a murder charge, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said Friday morning. Acevedo said the charge will be filed formally later Friday afternoon.

Acevedo said that the investigation remains active.

Weiser, 18, a first-year theater and dance major, was last seen leaving a university drama building Sunday night. Her body was discovered in a campus creek Tuesday.

University President Gregory L. Fenves described the deadly attack as “unthinkable brutality.”

Authorities had released surveillance video of a man considered to be a person of interest. Police pleaded with the public to help identify him.

Acevedo told ABC News earlier that Weiser’s death marks the first homicide at the school since the UT Tower massacre in the summer of 1966, in which a man opened fire from the top of the campus tower, killing 16 and wounding many others.

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Two Dead After Active Shooter Reported at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas

iStock/Thinkstock(SAN ANTONIO) — Two people are dead after an active shooter was reported at the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office said.

Joint Base San Antonio, which includes Lackland Air Force Base, said it’s “a real world active shooter situation” and that the base is on lockdown.

The FBI, the Air Force and local authorities are responding to the scene.

Our deputies are inside Lackland AFB clearing buildings now pic.twitter.com/BGwowOBXYF

— Bexar County Sheriff (@BexarCoSheriff) April 8, 2016

This story is developing. Check back for more updates.

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Suspect in Custody in Connection with Slaying of UT Austin Student

iStock/Thinkstock(AUSTIN, Texas) — A suspect is now in custody in connection with the slaying of a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin, Austin police said Friday.

Haruka Weiser, 18, a first-year theater and dance major, was last seen leaving a university drama building Sunday night. Her body was discovered in a campus creek Tuesday.

The Austin Police Department said Weiser was a victim of assault. University President Gregory L. Fenves described the attack as “unthinkable brutality.”

Police released surveillance video showing a man on campus with a backpack and bicycle that night who was considered to be a person of interest.

“We’re pretty confident that the man you see in the video, who appears to be in his early 20s, late teens, is definitely somebody that’s very much of interest to us,” Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told ABC News. “We’re very confident … that this is the person that when we bring him in, that it will be the person responsible for this act.”

He added: “We’re very hopeful that the public, people around Austin, people around UT saw him and will be able to come forward and give some information on him.”

Acevedo said it is unclear if Weiser and the person of interest knew each other.

“Unfortunately, you think about these young people coming to college — there’s 50,000 folks there. There’s a lot of questions that we need to answer,” Acevedo said. “But we owe it to the Weiser family, the University of Texas, the student population and the community of Austin to bring closure to this case and bring that [possible] suspect to justice.”

Acevedo said that UT Austin is a very safe campus and that Austin is one of the safest cities in the nation.

“We have one of the lowest violent crime rates in this nation, But having said that, it’s still a big city,” he said. “As safe as it is, things do happen so situational awareness is really important at night.”

Acevedo said Weiser’s death marks the first homicide there since the UT Tower massacre in the summer of 1966, in which a man opened fire from the top of the campus tower, killing 16 and wounding many others.

Thursday evening, hundreds gathered on UT Austin’s East Mall to mourn the slain freshman. A moment of silence started the vigil, followed by speeches from students, administrators and faculty members.

Grief counselors were also on hand as organizers distributed black ribbons and note cards for writing messages.

I am devastated to learn that our student Haruka Weiser has been identified as the victim of the homicide. https://t.co/47BasRH3vb

— Greg Fenves (@gregfenves) April 7, 2016

Weiser’s family hopes this incident will help prevent another loss of life.

“As we struggle to understand why she was killed, if her death can somehow make it safer for a young woman to walk home,” her family said in a statement. “If it will prevent another assault or murder, then at least we could find some meaning behind an otherwise senseless and tragic death.”

Austin Police Department Assistant Chief Troy Gay described the campus as “active” at the time the person of interest was seen on campus, with cyclists and students appearing near him.

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Cops Ask Public to Help ID Person of Interest in Death of UT Austin Student

iStock/Thinkstock(AUSTIN, Texas) — A massive manhunt is underway at the University of Texas at Austin to find the person responsible for the death of a freshman student, and police are asking for the community’s help.

Haruka Weiser, 18, a first-year theater and dance major, was last seen leaving a university drama building Sunday night. Her body was discovered in a campus creek Tuesday.

The Austin Police Department said Weiser was a victim of assault. University President Gregory L. Fenves described the attack as “unthinkable brutality.”

Police have released surveillance video showing a man on campus with a backpack and bicycle that night who’s considered to be a person of interest.

“We’re pretty confident that the man you see in the video, who appears to be in his early 20s, late teens, is definitely somebody that’s very much of interest to us,” Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told ABC News. “We’re very confident … that this is the person that when we bring him in, that it will be the person responsible for this act.”

He added: “We’re very hopeful that the public, people around Austin, people around UT saw him and will be able to come forward and give some information on him.”

Acevedo said it is unclear if Weiser and the person of interest knew each other.

“Unfortunately, you think about these young people coming to college — there’s 50,000 folks there. There’s a lot of questions that we need to answer,” Acevedo said. “But we owe it to the Weiser family, the University of Texas, the student population and the community of Austin to bring closure to this case and bring that [possible] suspect to justice.”

While the person of interest remains at large, Acevedo said that UT Austin is a very safe campus and that Austin is one of the safest cities in the nation.

“We have one of the lowest violent crime rates in this nation, But having said that, it’s still a big city,” he said. “As safe as it is, things do happen so situational awareness is really important at night.”

Acevedo said Weiser’s death marks the first homicide there since the UT Tower massacre in the summer of 1966, in which a man opened fire from the top of the campus tower, killing 16 and wounding many others.

Thursday evening, hundreds gathered on UT Austin’s East Mall to mourn the slain freshman. A moment of silence started the vigil, followed by speeches from students, administrators and faculty members.

Grief counselors were also on hand as organizers distributed black ribbons and note cards for writing messages.

I am devastated to learn that our student Haruka Weiser has been identified as the victim of the homicide. https://t.co/47BasRH3vb

— Greg Fenves (@gregfenves) April 7, 2016

Weiser’s family hopes this incident will help prevent another loss of life.

“As we struggle to understand why she was killed, if her death can somehow make it safer for a young woman to walk home,” her family said in a statement. “If it will prevent another assault or murder, then at least we could find some meaning behind an otherwise senseless and tragic death.”

Austin Police Department Assistant Chief Troy Gay described the campus as “active” at the time the person of interest was seen on campus, with cyclists and students appearing near him. Police are offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

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Manhunt Continues as University of Texas Mourns Slain Student

iStock/Thinkstock(AUSTIN, Texas) — A massive manhunt is underway to find the suspect involved in the death of a freshman student — all while a campus tries to come to grips with loosing one of their own.

Haruka Weiser, 18, a freshmen and dance student, was last seen leaving a university drama building Sunday night. Her body was discovered in a campus creek Tuesday.

Hundreds gathered Thursday evening on UT’s East Mall to pay their respects. A moment of silence started the vigil followed by speeches from students, administrators and faculty members.

Tonight, we’re darkening the Tower to honor the life of beloved student Haruka Weiser: https://t.co/tIzHGwdnaX pic.twitter.com/0qrOHUXQ5x

— UT Austin (@UTAustin) April 7, 2016

Grief counselors were also on hand as organizers distributed black ribbons and note cards for writing messages.

According to the Austin Police Department, Weiser was a victim of assault and endured what university president Gregory L. Fenves described as “unthinkable brutality.”

Weiser was last seen Sunday night leaving the drama building between 9:30 and 9:45 p.m., Austin Police Department Chief Troy Gay said in a press conference Thursday.

In the press conference, Gay played surveillance video of a person of interest. He first was seen on surveillance wearing a backpack and walking a red bicycle around 10 p.m. and then later after 11 p.m. Police believe he was in the area near the drama building for at least a couple of hours.

Gay described the campus as “active” at the time the suspect was seen on campus, with cyclists and students appearing near the suspect. He hopes one of those people will come forward. Police are offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

“The police department will not rest” until the suspect is arrested,” Gay said.

I am devastated to learn that our student Haruka Weiser has been identified as the victim of the homicide. https://t.co/47BasRH3vb

— Greg Fenves (@gregfenves) April 7, 2016

As the investigation continues — a community grieves. Wiser’s family hopes this incident will help prevent another loss of life.

“As we struggle to understand why she was killed, if her death can somehow make it safer for a young woman to walk home,” her family said in a statement. “If it will prevent another assault or murder, then at least we could find some meaning behind an otherwise senseless and tragic death.”

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Firefighters Rescue Baby Bear from Wildfire, Name It ‘Smokey Junior’

Lake County Fire Department(LAKE COUNTY, Fla.) — Leave it to a group of firefighters to find an orphaned cub in the midst of brush fire, and in a nod to the iconic firefighting bear “Smokey,” name the adorable animal “Smokey Junior.”

That’s exactly what happened in Central Florida Thursday evening, when firefighters rescued the baby bear.

Fire crews from Lake County — located in Central Florida near Orlando — were battling a brush fire that had burned through more than 250 acres when they stumbled upon “Smokey Junior” wondering alone.

The rescued bear weighed in at roughly 15-20 lbs. Firefighters nicknamed the foundling “SJ” — short for “Smokey Junior.”

Officials said the baby bear had slight burns on its paws and face from the fire. The mother hasn’t been found.

Florida Fish and Wildlife officers will evaluate the cub’s health and will hopefully be able to release it back into the wild.

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Pennsylvania Trooper Shoots Robbery Suspect Who Pointed Shotgun at Him at Walmart

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(SHREWSBURY TOWNSHIP, Pa.) — A Pennsylvania state trooper shot an armed robber in a Walmart in Shrewsbury Township Thursday after the suspect aimed his shotgun at the officer, police said.

According to Pennsylvania State Police, the suspect went to the pharmacy, located inside the Walmart around 8 p.m, and robbed the store — taking prescription drugs — and attempted to leave.

A trooper, Rob Hicks, who was on-duty and in the immediate area, responded to the call, police said. Hicks confronted the suspect inside the doorway of the store and the suspect then raised his shotgun at the trooper, police said.

Hicks managed to push the gun away and a shot hit the wall, police said.

The trooper then was able to shoot the suspect in the chest, according to police.

The suspect was transported to York Hospital, police said. His condition and identity was unknown.

Hicks was not injured.

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