Review Category : National News

‘Affluenza’ Teen’s Mom Charged with Hindering Apprehension, Money Laundering

Jalisco State Prosecutor | Tarrant County Sheriff(FORT WORTH, Texas) — Tonya Couch, the mother of “affluenza” teen Ethan Couch, has been indicted by a grand jury in Texas on charges of hindering apprehension of a known felon and money laundering, court documents show.

“The defendant did harbor or conceal Ethan Couch, or provide or aid Ethan Couch with the means of avoiding arrest or effecting escape by financing and transporting Ethan Couch in his flight from the jurisdiction of the court and the state of Texas,” the indictment stated.

Tonya Couch was also charged with money laundering for allegedly withdrawing “$30,000 or more but less than $150,000,” which authorities believe was intended to further the commission of criminal activity, namely hindering Ethan’s apprehension, according to the indictment.

The search for Ethan began in December after he missed one of his monthly check-ins, a condition of his probation related to a 2013 case. He and his mother fled to Mexico on Dec. 11 and were later detained by Mexican authorities. Tonya Couch was brought back to the U.S. in early January and released from Tarrant County Jail on $75,000 bond. Ethan was transferred to the U.S. later that month.

Ethan was ordered by a Texas judge to stay in jail for nearly two years after he appeared in adult court last month. He was initially put on probation in 2013 after killing four people while driving drunk at the age of 16.

The term “affluenza” was coined during his sentencing hearing when a psychologist hired by the defense testified that the teen’s irresponsible behavior was a product of his affluent upbringing.

Tonya Couch’s lawyers, Stephanie Pattern and Steve Gordon, did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

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Knife Found Blocks from Where Houston Boy Was Fatally Stabbed: Police

KTRK-TV(HOUSTON) — More than a week after an 11-year-old boy was stabbed to death in Houston, police say they have obtained a knife found “a number of blocks” away from where Josue Flores’ body was discovered.

Police, however, are cautious to call this a break in the case.

“We will take it into our property room and do some tests to see if there was a possible link” to Josue’s slaying, Houston Police Department spokesperson John Cannon told ABC News Thursday. “It could be involved in this incident, or any other incident. It’s just a found piece of property.”

Cannon confirmed the knife was spotted on Wednesday in a storm sewer drain by a female passerby.

Police said the Marshall Middle School student was fatally stabbed around 4:45 p.m. on May 17 near the city’s Northside neighborhood, where Josue lived and went to school. He’d reportedly stayed late at school that day to attend a science club party.

Authorities released a resident’s home-security surveillance footage Tuesday showing Josue’s journey home from school moments before he was brutally killed. The incident, which allegedly occurred two blocks away from where he was filmed, was out of range of the surveillance camera.

According to police, witnesses said they “heard loud screaming” and saw the sixth-grader struggling with someone who eventually ran off.

His attacker is described as a black male, 25 to 30 years old, about 6 feet tall and weighing 180 to 200 pounds. Police said he had short hair and was wearing a black shirt, black pants and had a green jacket over his shoulders at the time of the attack.

Investigators are still awaiting results on DNA evidence.

“I wake up believing it’s just a horrible dream, that I’ll wake up and be able to see my brother again, talk to him about this,” Juan Flores, Josue’s brother, told ABC News Houston station KTRK. “When the burial is over it’s something I have to accept, that it’s reality.”

Josue’s funeral was held Tuesday.

“This is a monstrous crime — and I say that not just as district attorney but as a mother,” Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said Monday at a news conference. “There is a monster who is out among us. You may know who he is…your conscience needs to be your guide.”

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Coast Guard Searching for Downed Military Planes off NC Coast

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The Coast Guard is searching for two downed aircraft off the coast of North Carolina, the Coast Guard told ABC News.

The incident involved to A/A-18 Super Hornets, according to the Navy, and the matter is under investigation.

All four aviators ejected safely, and have been pulled from the water, a Navy official told ABC News.

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Meet Akash, the Scripps National Spelling Bee’s Youngest Contestant

Mark Bowen/Scripps National Spelling Bee(NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.) — Akash Vukoti of San Angelo, Texas, may be the youngest contestant — and the first first-grader — ever to reach the Scripps National Spelling Bee, but he was in it to win it.

“I knew all the words they gave, not just to me but to every speller,” Akash said Wednesday after his first appearance on the big stage. “My goal actually is to get to the finals.”

This year, the 6-year-old joined 284 other children to compete in the national spelling bee for a trophy and $40,000 in cash, among other prizes. Akash would strike out later Wednesday when he misspelled the word “bacteriolytic.” A tweet from the National Spelling bee Twitter account confirmed the misspelling.

#speller238 Akash Vukoti spelled the word ‘bacteriolytic’ incorrectly #spellingbee

— NationalSpellingBee (@ScrippsBee) May 25, 2016

Earlier Wednesday, Akash walked on the stage, adjusted the microphone and correctly spelled “inviscate.”

At the age of 2, he’d already participated in his first spelling bee. He said he practiced daily with his parents and teachers.

“It takes lots of studying time to win up your bee,” Akash told ABC News. “I prepare with a dictionary.”

Akash said that when he wasn’t prepping for spelling bees, he enjoys playing in the park and swimming in pools.

And thanks to his appearances on the Steve Harvey Show, as well as Harvey’s talent show, Little Big Shots, thanks to his spelling skills, he’s changed his mind on what he wants to be when he grows up.

He said he’s opted not be an astronaut and wants to be an actor instead.

The Spelling Bee finals air Thursday.

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One Dead, Three Injured After Shooting at NYC Venue Where T.I. Scheduled to Perform

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Four people were shot — one fatally — at New York City’s Webster Hall Wednesday night, prior to rapper T.I. taking the stage, NYPD have confirmed.

The gunfire erupted at 10:15 p.m. inside Irving Plaza, located just east of Manhattan’s Union Square. T.I. was inside the venue but he was not performing. There were two performers on the stage at the time of the shooting, NYPD Chief of Manhattan Detectives William Aubry said at a press conference Thursday night.

Aubry said three males and one female were shot. One of the males was pronounced dead at Beth Israel Hospital. Two of those shot were transported to Bellevue Hospital, while the other was transported to NYU Medical Center.

It was unclear how many people were inside Irving Plaza at the time.

Aubry said NYPD have no description of the suspects, and no one in custody, although police are recovering ballistic evidence.

There were security guards at the venue, and metal detectors at the entrance.

Irving Plaza could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Suspect in Arizona Highway Shootings Identified and Charged

Arizona Department of Public Safety(PHOENIX) — A man who allegedly shot at passing cars while driving the wrong way on a highway — leaving a trail of havoc, including a vehicle that caught fire — was arrested and charged Wednesday, according to police.

The suspect was identified as 36-year-old James David Walker of San Tan Valley in Phoenix, according to Department of Public Safety Public Information Officer Damon Cecil. He was booked into a downtown Phoenix jail on charges of aggravated assault, attempted homicide, armed robbery, theft of means of transportation and possession of dangerous drugs, police said. Additional charges are pending.

Multiple police agencies, including DPS and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, responded to reports of someone shooting at passing cars on Highway 87 near Gilbert, Arizona, Tuesday night.

A total of six cars — with 13 people inside — were hit, including a trooper whose vehicle was shot several times. One person was “grazed” by a bullet to the head, but refused medical treatment.

A second person was shot in the leg and drove to a casino for help. That person’s injury is considered to be non-life-threatening. The remaining people were not injured.

Cecil said one of the cars that was shot caught fire because of the gunfire.

The suspect then drove to a convenience store and allegedly carjacked a vehicle. He then fled north on State Route 87.

“This was an active-shooter situation,” Cecil said.

The Mesa Police Department air unit found vehicle the suspect had allegedly stolen and then abandoned in the desert near milepost 201, Cecil said. The suspect was found roughly a quarter-mile away in the fetal position.

Authorities said the suspect was alive when he was captured, but not responsive and not listening to commands. A K-9 was released and bit the suspect, who was eventually taken into custody.

He suffered a minor injury and was taken to a hospital for treatment, officials said.

No officers or troopers were injured.

Cecil said “multiple rifles,” including a semi-automatic AR-15, were found by the suspect’s vehicle, along with ammunition and body armor.

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Study Looks at Veterans Most at Risk for Suicide Attempts

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Suicide remains a substantial problem among veterans with rising rates in the past decade and higher rates than the general population, according to researchers.

A new study, published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry, looks at a large group of veterans and active service members to help determine timing and other factors that put them at higher risk and ways to help combat the problem.

“Deployment context is important in identifying SA [suicide attempt] risk among Army-enlisted soldiers,” the authors wrote in the study. “A life/career history perspective can assist in identifying high-risk segments of a population based on factors such as timing, environmental context and individual characteristics.”

Researchers from several institutions including the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, Harvard Medical School, and the University of California-San Diego examined data from 163,178 enlisted soldiers. Of those, 9,650 had attempted suicide during the study period between 2004 to 2009.

The authors found some surprising results including the fact that enlisted soldiers, who had never been deployed, accounted for 61.1 percent of the enlisted soldiers who attempted suicide.

Among these soldiers, the risk for suicide attempt was highest when they reached their second month of service. Those who were deployed were at highest risk six months into deployment. For those who had previously deployed and returned home, five months after getting back home was their highest risk time.

The most likely soldiers to attempt suicide were women, who had received a mental health diagnosis in the past month. Those who screen positive for depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), were also at high risk for a suicide attempt if they had been deployed previously.

Dr. David Rudd, a clinical psychologist focused on veteran issues and the President of the University of Memphis, told ABC News said the findings showed how soldiers often show signs of distress early into their service.

“Individuals who have difficulty have it early in their service,” said Rudd. “It speaks to significant vulnerability when they come into service.”

Rudd said the fact that suicides rates are at high levels even in people who have not seen combat suggests that officials should focus on improving screening measures before service to identify people unable to cope with the stressors of a military job.

“It raises a tougher question,” Rudd said. “Are they really suited for military experience? We need better screening, the question is how do you do it effectively for numbers that large. Clearly self report screening is not doing that effectively.”

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States Sue Obama Administration Over Transgender Bathroom Directive

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Eleven states have filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration challenging the government’s directive that allows transgender individuals to use the bathroom that matches their gender identities.

Texas, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Arizona, Maine, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah and Georgia, along with one Texas and one Arizona school district, have signed the 32-page lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in a federal court in Dallas, names the Department of Education, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Education Secretary John King, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and other top U.S. officials as defendants. It accuses the Obama administration of violating federal law and the U.S. Constitution.

It also accuses the Obama administration of transforming “workplaces and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over commonsense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights.”

On May 13, the Department of Justice and Department of Education released a letter arguing that schools that receive public funding are expected to comply with Title IX, which prohibits “sex discrimination in educational programs and activities operated by recipients of Federal financial assistance.”

The lawsuit addresses the letter, claiming it foists a “new version of federal law on more than 100,000 elementary and secondary schools that receive federal funding.”

“The new rules, regulations, guidance and interpretations described herein go so far beyond any reasonable reading of the relevant Congressional text such that the new rules, regulations, guidance and interpretations functionally exercise lawmaking power reserved only to Congress,” the lawsuit states.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott confirmed via Twitter Wednesday that his state will challenge the White House’s directive.

“Texas will sue to stop Obama’s transgender directive to schools,” the tweet read.

The directive from the U.S. Justice and Education Departments is part of an escalation in legal actions taken after the Justice Department and North Carolina sued one another over a state law that requires transgender people to use the public bathroom that corresponds to the sex on their birth certificate.

Proponents of Obama’s directive view it as an important step in protecting the civil rights of transgender people, while detractors allege that it harms women and children.

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Formerly Homeless Girl Graduates College While Caring for Brothers

Courtesy Bianca Jeannot(NEW YORK) — Many people talk about beating the odds, but one awe-inspiring young woman from the Bronx has truly proven what it really means to come out on top with the weight of the world on one’s shoulders.

The road toward graduating cum laude on Tuesday with a bachelor’s degree in English and a certificate in forensic science was an arduous one for Bianca Jeannot, 22, and not just because of the academic challenges. The College of New Rochelle graduate says she held down four jobs while also helping take care of her two older brothers.

Paul Santons, 34, was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney disease some 11 years ago and is currently on dialysis, while Michael Jeannot, 26, has Down syndrome and requires supervision. The siblings and their mother bounced around homeless shelters and family homes before settling in a government-funded apartment. When their mother died in 2012, Bianca became the family’s primary breadwinner at just 18.

So how did she do it?

“I don’t know,” Bianca told ABC News. “I can only seek to go forward. I never had the luxury to stop moving.

“It’s not much of a burden,” she added. “It’s a weight that I’m willing to carry and I’ve learned to adjust.”

Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts gave the commencement address at the graduation ceremony for the 900 graduates, making mention of Bianca’s inspiring journey from tragedy to triumph.

“She hugged me,” a beaming Bianca said. “She told me I was so inspirational.”

“Although we’ve suffered, and although we’ve gone through a lot, it’s made me who I am, and I wouldn’t change it for the world,” she continued. “If I can do it, it means that it’s meant for me.”

On campus, no one knew much about Bianca’s life unless she spoke about it because she never missed a beat, according to Professor Daniel Smith.

“She is one of the most energetic, creative, vibrant, intelligent students I’ve ever had….” Smith told ABC-owned station WABC. “She is going to have a really bright and wonderful future.”

Bianca found time, somehow, to be involved in student government and several other organizations. She was the founder and president of an anime club that won two awards from the student association for presenting the best events on campus. Bianca also wrote for various campus publications and was the editor-in-chief of a literary and arts magazine called Phoenix.

All of this, she did while maintaining a 3.8 GPA that won her several scholarships, including one that allowed her to study abroad in Europe for three weeks.

Bianca loves animals and hopes to pursue a career in animal welfare.

“I couldn’t have done it without the support of my friends and family, and my partner, Amanda,” Bianca said.

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Mysterious Letter Revives Interest in Man’s 40-Year Disappearance KENT, Maine) — Nearly 40 years after Bernard Ross disappeared from his Maine home, his parents received a mysterious letter about him, renewing police interest in his missing person’s case.

The letter about Bernard Ross Jr., who was 18 when he disappeared in 1977 after leaving the family’s home in Fort Kent, arrived at the parents’ home “a couple of months ago,” according to The Portland Press Herald.

The police brought the story to the public hoping that press attention might coax the author of the correspondence to contact police.

The letter to Ross’ parents referenced a report about Ross published in a paper called The Kennebec Journal.

Maine State Police Lt. Troy Gardner said authorities are not releasing the contents of the letter, and that the family is going through a wide range of emotions after being in touch with police throughout the years.

As for whether the letter is authentic, Gardner told ABC News Wednesday, “That’s the question. We don’t know if it’s a hoax. If it is a hoax, it’s just a terrible thing to do to a family.”

A page detailing information about Ross on “The Charley Project,” an independently run non-profit website devoted to locating missing persons, says he was last seen on Realty Road in Ashland, Maine.

He was “despondent at the time of his disappearance,” the project says.

Meaghan Good, who runs The Charley Project website as a volunteer, told ABC News that the details in her report were cobbled together from a confluence of sources, including The Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a private nonprofit, tips found on Websleuths, a web-forum devoted to amateur crime solving, and old newspaper clippings from the Daily Bangor News, a paper focused on rural Maine.

She claimed her site has helped families locate missing people in the past, including a man who disappeared from New Mexico in 2004.

ABC News has been unable to reach the parents.

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