Review Category : National News

El Faro Voyage Data Recorder Located, NTSB Says

National Transportation Safety Board(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) — The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has located the voyage data recorder belonging to the El Faro, the cargo ship that sank during Hurricane Joaquin, the agency announced Tuesday.

The 790-foot ship and its 33-member crew perished off the coast of the Bahamas after the vessel lost propulsion in the path of what would become a category 4 storm last October. Following a harrowing six day search in difficult weather, rescue workers gave up hope of finding any survivors.

Three months later, investigators discovered the ship’s hull 15,000-feet below the water’s surface, buried in about 30-feet of sediment at the bottom of the Atlantic. They found the navigation bridge, shorn off from the hull, nearly half a mile away – but failed to locate the mast and black box, or VDR.

In a subsequent search, the NTSB says investigators using more sophisticated sonar and remotely-operated vehicles found the mast and identified the VDR, thought to contain vital clues about the ship’s final moments, including audio from 12 hours before the ship sank.

The “next step” will be to “determine how the VDR can be retrieved,” according to the NTSB.

“Finding an object about the size of a basketball almost three miles under the surface of the sea is a remarkable achievement,” NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said in a statement.

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Trio Capsized off Coast of Cuba, Rescued by Cruise Ship Were Fugitives

Disney Cruise Line(NEW YORK) — In addition to providing family entertainment and vacation packages, the Walt Disney Company also occasionally aids U.S. authorities in capturing fugitives on the run in international waters.

Three individuals were found on Thursday clinging to a capsized boat about 40 miles north of Varadero, Cuba, by the Disney Fantasy cruise ship, federal authorities said.

The three were rescued by the Disney cruise liner and turned over to the U.S. Coast Guard, who discovered upon fingerprint analysis that two of the individuals had outstanding arrest warrants in New Orleans, according to U.S. Marshal Amos Rojas Jr. of the Southern District of Florida.

Luis Rivera-Garcia, 26, Juliet Estrada-Perez, 23, and Enrique Gonzalez-Torres, 23, were wanted for violating their supervised release on federal credit card fraud charges in Louisiana, according the U.S. Marshals Service. The three are Cuban nationals who had been living in the United States, authorities said.

“I think it was evident from the law enforcement standpoint that they were fleeing the U.S. to avoid federal and state charges,” Barry Golden, senior inspector with the U.S. Marshals Service, told ABC News Tuesday. “Cuba is somewhat a safe place for fugitives to hide.”

The three had multiple arrests between them for credit card fraud. Most recently, Estrada-Perez and Rivera-Garcia were arrested in Fort Myers, Florida, on April 18, and reportedly had been in possession of 28 fraudulent credit cards at the time, the U.S. Marshals Service said.

Disney Cruise Line officials declined to comment on the incident.

The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of ABC News.

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Georgia College Student Missing Since Uber Ride Last Friday

Family Handout(ATLANTA) — A 21-year-old college student in Georgia has been reported missing since last Friday and her family is desperate to find her.

Georgia State University student Monique Priester was last seen on April 22 at a family member’s home, Priester’s mother Jacquelin VanLoo-Al Kush told the Gwinnett County Police Department. She left after a verbal confrontation with a family member, the mother added.

VanLoo-Al Kush told police she last spoke to her daughter on the phone later that day — at about 6:30 p.m. — and that Priester told her she was taking an Uber with a few other people to a college campus.

According to police, Priester’s phone has since been turned off.

“I’m panicked,” VanLoo-Al Kush told ABC affiliate WSB-TV in Atlanta. “I’m hoping that she’s safe.”

VanLoo-Al Kush told WSB-TV there was an ATM withdrawal in Nashville, Tennessee on her daughter’s account. Police declined to comment.

Police told ABC News that a missing persons report was in the process of being filed.

An Uber spokesperson told ABC News Tuesday: “We are working directly with local law enforcement to provide any assistance or information that could help them locate Ms. Priester and get her safely home.”

VanLoo-Al Kush told ABC News her daughter is “extremely bright, articulate, and has lots of friends.”

VanLoo-Al Kush described Priester as 5′ 1″ and 165 pounds with black hair, brown eyes, a pierced nose and a tattoo on her left forearm. She also said her daughter suffers from depression and anxiety, WSB-TV reported.

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One Murdered Ohio Family Member Was Shot Nine Times

iStock/Thinkstock(PEEBLES, Ohio) — One of the eight relatives all killed “execution style” in rural Ohio suffered nine gunshot wounds, according to the local coroners’ offices.

Two victims suffered five gunshot wounds; one was shot four times; and the others were shot once, twice or three times, the Pike County Coroner and Hamilton County Coroner said on Tuesday. Officials did not identify which of the victims was shot nine times.

Seven of the eight victims in Friday’s shooting spree were found in three homes along the same road in Peebles, a small village about 70 miles east of Cincinnati. The eighth victim was found in nearby Piketon. Some of the victims appeared to have been killed in their sleep, officials said.

Three children — a 4-day-old baby, a 6-month-old baby and a 3-year-old — were found unharmed at the crime scenes, said Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine told ABC News on Sunday that authorities still did not have a suspect description or motive in the killings.

More than 300 tips have been received since Friday, all of which are being investigated, the Ohio Attorney General’s office said on Tuesday.

The victims were all members of the Rhoden family, identified as: Hannah Gilley, 20; Christopher Rhoden, Sr., 40; Christopher Rhoden, Jr., 16; Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20; Dana Rhoden, 37; Gary Rhoden, 38; Hanna Rhoden, 19; and Kenneth Rhoden, 44.

Evidence consistent with cockfighting was found at one of the crime scenes, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s office, adding another dimension of mystery to this unsolved murder case.

DeWine “observed roosters in small cages, one to a cage — a set-up he’s seen previously associated with cock fighting,” Eve Mueller, spokeswoman for DeWine’s office, told ABC News Tuesday. She did not specify which crime scene.

“Whether or not that was actually happening here, he doesn’t know — but what he saw was consistent with cock fighting,” Mueller said.

While Mueller said the attorney general’s office cannot “comment specifically if that is part of the investigation,” she added, “we are looking at every possible angle.”

DeWine has also said marijuana growing operations were found at three of the four crime scenes but authorities did not provide further details.

The Ohio Attorney General’s office has also confirmed that a Facebook threat was made against the youngest victim — 16-year-old Chris Rhoden. Authorities say they are pursuing the Facebook threat along with other leads.

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Evidence Consistent with Cockfighting Found at Scene of Ohio Killing

iStock/Thinkstock(PEEBLES, Ohio) — Evidence consistent with cockfighting was found at one of the scenes where eight relatives were shot dead in “execution type” killings, an official said, adding another dimension of mystery to this unsolved murder case.

At one of the Pike County, Ohio, crime scenes, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine “observed roosters in small cages, one to a cage — a set-up he’s seen previously associated with cock fighting,” Eve Mueller, spokeswoman for DeWine’s office, told ABC News Tuesday. She did not specify which crime scene.

“Whether or not that was actually happening here, he doesn’t know — but what he saw was consistent with cock fighting,” Mueller said.

While Mueller said the attorney general’s office cannot “comment specifically if that is part of the investigation,” she added, “we are looking at every possible angle.”

DeWine has also said marijuana growing operations were found at three of the four crime scenes but authorities did not provide further details.

Seven of the eight victims in Friday’s shooting spree were found in three homes along the same road in Peebles, a small village about 70 miles east of Cincinnati. The eighth victim was found in nearby Piketon. Some of the victims appeared to have been killed in their sleep, officials said.

Three children — a 4-day-old baby, a 6-month-old baby and a 3-year-old — were found unharmed at the crime scenes, said Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader.

DeWine told ABC News on Sunday that authorities still did not have a suspect description or motive in the killings.

The victims were all members of the Rhoden family, identified as: Hannah Gilley, 20; Christopher Rhoden, Sr., 40; Christopher Rhoden, Jr., 16; Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20; Dana Rhoden, 37; Gary Rhoden, 38; Hanna Rhoden, 19; and Kenneth Rhoden, 44.

The Ohio Attorney General’s office has also confirmed that a Facebook threat was made against the youngest victim — 16-year-old Chris Rhoden. Authorities say they are pursuing the Facebook threat along with other leads.

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Dramatic Rescue of California Teen Stuck Under 6,000-Pound Truck

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) — Dramatic surveillance footage captured the moment 17-year-old Cameron King was rescued from underneath his 6,000-pound truck.

King said he had been working on his truck when the unimaginable happened: the jack holding up the vehicle tipped over, causing the truck to collapse on top of him.

“I was supporting as much as I could with my neck and my shoulders,” King told ABC News. “I was raised fight or flight. When this happened I thought, ‘What’s the best thing I could do?’ First thing, yell and call for help.”

Fortunately, UPS driver Brian Phillips was making deliveries in the area and heard King’s screams.

Phillips jumped into action without hesitation, lifted the weight of the truck, freeing King from underneath.

“He popped out and was standing up,” Phillips recalled. “I couldn’t believe he was OK.”

The California teen sustained only minor injuries. His parents were extremely grateful that Phillips was there to assist.

“We are so blessed and it’s a miracle when you see that video and you see his truck go down,” said Kimberly King.

Cameron was reunited with his hero to thank him for saving his life.

Phillips joked: “Remember the first thing you asked when you got from under the truck? Is my truck OK? Well, it’s OK!”

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DC’s Famous Eaglets Now Have Names

American Eagle Foundation(WASHINGTON) — After more than a month, the eaglets born in the nation’s capital finally have names.

The pair will be called “Liberty” and “Freedom” — monikers befitting the two youngest members of the “First Family” of eagles.

Until Tuesday, the eaglet duo were called “DC2” and “DC3.” The public was invited to submit name suggestions using the hashtag #namethenestling. Thousands of submissions were narrowed down to five, which were put to a vote last week.

The winners were announced at a press conference Tuesday. Representatives from the National Arboretum, the American Eagle Foundation and a number of other organizations were joined by a live eagle named Challenger to share the exciting news. All seemed pleased with the public’s interest in the eaglets’ growth. There was, however, a small hurdle in the naming process.

“It’s a bit complicated because we don’t know if they’re male or female,” Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.

Liberty and Freedom were born to “Mr. President” and “The First Lady” in late March at the National Arboretum. Thanks to the DC Eaglecam, the eaglets were celebrities even before their birth. More than 35 million visitors have tuned in to get an “eagle-eye view” of the nest.

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Bear Caught After Roaming Los Angeles College Campus

KABC(LOS ANGELES) — A 125-pound bear led authorities on a nearly two-hour chase through Los Angeles neighborhoods and a college campus before being caught and tranquilized.

The bear was first spotted by students on the campus of Los Angeles Mission College late Monday in the Sylmar neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Large bear roaming around a #Sylmar neighborhood has been tranquilized. Live report @abc7 11 p.m. pic.twitter.com/hN9RjNrVws

— Michelle Tuzee (@abc7michelle) April 26, 2016

Police officers, firefighters and animal control officers chased after the bear, who climbed fences, scaled walls and hid behind cars to elude capture. The pursuit earned the bear its own Twitter handle, @SylmarBear.

I think EVERY station in L.A. is up covering this bear on the loose in my backyard! pic.twitter.com/Su8PeTwDEq

— Michael J. Arvizu (@thedjmichaelj) April 26, 2016

The bear ended up in a nearby neighborhood, where it roamed from house to house. The chase ended in front of a home, where the bear was tranquilized.

Officials said the bear appeared to be around a year old and was healthy, according to Los Angeles ABC station KABC-TV.

The bear received a medical checkup before being released back into the wild, KABC reported.

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Adnan Syed of ‘Serial’: What We Know So Far as Retrial Decision Looms

iStock/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) — The world is anxiously awaiting for a judge to decide whether Adnan Syed of “Serial” fame will get a new trial.

Syed was convicted in 2000 for the murder of his former high school girlfriend Hae Min Lee, but the “Serial” investigation raised doubts over the quality of Syed’s defense team and its apparent failure to call a potential alibi witness to testify, as well as the key pieces of evidence used against him, mainly cellphone tower evidence that was unreliable.

Earlier this year, Syed was allowed to enter in new evidence during a second post-conviction hearing.

Here’s a recap of what we know so far.

The Crime

Syed, now 35, is serving a life sentence plus 30 years after being convicted of killing his high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in 1999. Syed and Lee were both students at Baltimore’s Woodlawn High School. Lee went missing in January 1999 and was found weeks later, strangled to death and buried in a six-inch grave in Leakin Park, a few miles from the school.

The Conviction

Prosecutors obtained a conviction against Syed in large part based on two key things. First, the testimony of Jay Wilds, a cooperating witness and drug dealer who told multiple inconsistent versions of events and later admitted publicly that he made up parts of his trial testimony against Syed. Second, cellphone tower evidence, a nascent technology at the time, that was used to corroborate Wilds’ story that placed Syed where Lee’s body was eventually found.

AT&T, the telephone company responsible for the cellular network, had explicitly written to the State of Maryland that the information was not considered reliable information for location, but it was used anyway.

Challenging the Conviction

Syed’s case has taken a convoluted route through the Maryland courts. His first trial in 1999 ended in a mistrial after a juror overheard the trial judge refer to his lawyer as a liar. He was convicted after the second trial on June 26, 2000. Syed appealed to the Court of Special Appeals, but his conviction was affirmed.

He then filed a post-conviction petition in 2010, and hearings were conducted at the Circuit Court in 2012. The original post-conviction petition centered on an alibi witness, Asia McClain. Syed presented evidence that McClain remembered being with Syed in a public library at the time when, according to the State of Maryland, the murder took place.

Syed also established that this information was conveyed to his then-lawyer Cristina Gutierrez (proven by references to McClain found in Gutierrez’s notes). Finally, Syed established that McClain was willing to testify at Syed’s trial, but that nobody from the defense team ever contacted her for her testimony.

But, on December 2013, the Circuit Court denied the post-conviction petition.

Enter: ‘Serial’

It was a trial that garnered mostly local interest, but it wasn’t until the 2014 podcast “Serial” was released that Syed gained international fame. The podcast blew open the prosecution’s 1999 case against Syed, with narrator and producer Sarah Koenig raising questions about shoddy police work, unreliable evidence, and ineffective counsel.

A Glimmer of Hope

Syed filed an “Application for Leave to Appeal,” which the Court of Special Appeals granted in February 2015. The case was remanded to the Circuit Court so that Syed could file a motion to re-open post-conviction proceedings. Dogged efforts from Syed’s lawyers, family and friends resulted in a second post-conviction hearing in February this year. Syed presented his new evidence during his re-opened post-conviction proceedings.

A retired Baltimore City circuit court judge listened to five days of testimony, including from alibi witness Asia McClain Chapman. Chapman had offered her side of the story years before when Syed was initially arrested, but his then-lawyers never paid heed. Syed’s lawyers called that grounds for ineffective counsel and demanded a new trial.

In March, Syed also filed a post-hearing motion to supplement the post-conviction record with two letters that were sent to the court. One letter was sent by the State; the other was sent by University of Maryland Law School professor Michael Millemann.

A ‘Big Piece of the Puzzle’

McClain Chapman said she previously wrote to Syed twice to say that she was with him that afternoon and that she was willing to speak up if needed.

The first question Syed’s lawyer C. Justin Brown asked her on the stand:

“Were you with Adnan Syed on January 13, 1999, at Woodlawn High School after school?”

Her answer? “Yes.”

In an interview with ABC News, McClain Chapman says she has a personal message for Syed. “I would just personally apologize that I didn’t come forward in 2010.”

Brown described McClain as a “big piece of the puzzle.”

In Memory of Hae Min Lee

Family members of Hae Min Lee are convinced Syed is her killer.

“The events of this past week have reopened wounds few can imagine,” the family said in a statement released by the Maryland Attorney General’s office during Syed’s post-conviction proceedings. “It remains hard to see so many run to defend someone who committed a horrible crime, who destroyed our family, who refuses to accept responsibility, when so few are willing to speak up for Hae. She stood up for what was right, regardless of popular opinion.”

In Syed’s Words

“I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to present new evidence before the court. I’m incredibly grateful for the love of my family and friends who stood by me all this time,” Syed said in a statement his lawyers read after his post-conviction hearing.

What Happens Now?

We wait. Retired Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Martin P. Welch will issue a written decision in the coming days, weeks or months. He will decide whether Syed will get a new trial.

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‘Individual A’ Sues Dennis Hastert Over Hush Money

Scott Olson/Getty Images(CHICAGO) — The recipient of the “hush” money at the heart of the case against Dennis Hastert is suing him for the remainder of the money Hastert agreed to pay him to keep quiet about alleged sexual abuse by the former House speaker.

Identified only as “Individual A” in the government’s case against Hastert for illegally structuring bank withdrawals used to pay for his silence, the alleged victim of Hastert’s abuse is called James Doe in the civil lawsuit filed in Kendall County, Illinois. The complaint contains details of how and when Hastert’s alleged sexual abuse of the then 14-year-old occurred and of the agreement he made with Hastert to keep quiet about that abuse.

James Doe was not even in high school when Hastert, beloved coach of Yorkville High School’s wrestling team, took him along to a wrestling camp and molested him in a motel room, according to the complaint.

Doe alleges the incident led to “severe panic attacks which lead to periods of unemployment, career changes, bouts of depression, hospitalization and long-term psychiatric treatment.”

The complaint also reveals that what prompted him to confront Hastert in 2008 was that he “was made aware for the first time that Hastert had abused someone else, too.”

Hastert verbally agreed to compensate James Doe $3.5 million for “harm caused by Hastert’s sexual abuse of the Plaintiff.”

Hastert had paid out $1.7 million of this money before the government filed charges against him, charges based on the suspicious way in which he withdrew that money.

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