Review Category : National News

Hudson River Kayak Mystery: Fiancee Indicted, Body Identified

ABC News(NEW YORK) — A body found in New York’s Hudson River over the weekend has been identified as 46-year-old Vincent Viafore, the man who disappeared after kayaking with his fiancee last month, and indictments against the fiancee for second-degree murder and manslaughter have been handed up, Orange County, New York, District Attorney David Hoovler said on Tuesday.

New York State Police said on Saturday that a body was pulled from the river near West Point and was taken to the Orange County Medical Examiner for an autopsy and identification. Police did not identify the body at the time.

The attorney for the fiancee, Angelika Graswald, 35, has also confirmed that the remains were identified as Viafore.

The attorney said in a statement: “The members of Ms. Graswald’s defense team, like everybody involved in this case, are relieved that Mr. Viafore has been recovered and identified. It is our sincere hope that the recovery and identification of Mr. Viafore helps bring some consolation to his family and loved ones.”

Viafore’s family has declined to comment to ABC News.

Viafore disappeared last month while he was kayaking with Graswald, authorities said.

About two weeks after the incident, prosecutors charged Graswald with second-degree murder.

New York State Police initially said rough water and strong winds caused Viafore’s kayak to overturn.

Graswald, a Latvian national, called 911, according to police, who initially said that she tried to help him. While trying to help her fiance, she fell out of her kayak, police said, but was later found by a boater and rescued. Police noted at the time of the incident that Graswald was treated for hypothermia at a local hospital and released.

Then, prosecutors said last month that Graswald admitted to investigators that she tampered with Viafore’s kayak so that it would take on water.

Prosecutors said Graswald also told police that she watched Viafore struggle in the Hudson’s icy waters for several minutes before he went under.

Prosecutors said Graswald admitted to New York State Police it “felt good knowing that he was going to die,” and implied that “this was her only way out.”

After charging Graswald with second-degree murder, prosecutors said her motive was two life insurance policies that could benefit her for a total of about $250,000. Graswald even “talked about what she could possibly do with the money,” prosecutors said.

Graswald’s lawyer has said he plans to challenge the alleged confessions.

“We’re going to find out whether they indeed happened, whether they were voluntary or forced,” Graswald’s attorney, Richard Portale, said of the alleged confessions reported by prosecutors. “And it’s all going to come out.”

Graswald has not yet entered a plea. Her bail has been set at $3 million.

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‘Free Range Parents’ Cleared of One Child Neglect Charge

ABC News(ROCKVILLE, Md.) — The Maryland parents who were charged with child neglect over their “free range parenting” style have been cleared of a second of three charges against them.

Child Protective Services of Montgomery County, Maryland, changed the ruling on a Dec. 20 incident from “unsubstantiated neglect” to having charges “ruled out,” the attorney for Alexander and Danielle Meitiv told ABC News Tuesday.

“This ruling confirms that we never exposed our children to a ‘substantial risk of harm,'” Danielle Meitiv said in a news release.

The couple has faced three charges from CPS since 2014, each based on an instance where their 6-year-old and 10-year-old children were found walking home by themselves from parks. State law dictates that children under the age of 8 must be in the care of a person at least 13.

CPS did not disclose a reason for the ruling, the Meitivs’ attorney said, and the agency did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The charge that was most recently dismissed stemmed from an instance when the children were detained by authorities after they were spotted walking unaccompanied by an adult during the mile-long trip back to their home from the park in December.

The Meitivs already faced an accusation relating to a similar incident in October 2014, their attorney Matthew Dowd said, for which they previously obtained a favorable ruling. They still face a charge for a third incident in April of this year.

“We are working to ensure that this abuse by CPS does not happen again in the future,” Dowd said, telling ABC News the family is concerned about the children being held by CPS for several hours, as they were in December.

Danielle Meitiv echoed his concerns.

“We fear that our family and other Maryland families will be subject to further investigations and frightening police detentions simply because our and their children have been taught how to walk safely in their neighborhood, including to and from school and local parks,” she said in the statement.

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‘Free Range Parents’ Cleared of One Child Neglect Charge

ABC News(ROCKVILLE, Md.) — The Maryland parents who were charged with child neglect over their “free range parenting” style have been cleared of a second of three charges against them.

Child Protective Services of Montgomery County, Maryland, changed the ruling on a Dec. 20 incident from “unsubstantiated neglect” to having charges “ruled out,” the attorney for Alexander and Danielle Meitiv told ABC News Tuesday.

“This ruling confirms that we never exposed our children to a ‘substantial risk of harm,'” Danielle Meitiv said in a news release.

The couple has faced three charges from CPS since 2014, each based on an instance where their 6-year-old and 10-year-old children were found walking home by themselves from parks. State law dictates that children under the age of 8 must be in the care of a person at least 13.

CPS did not disclose a reason for the ruling, the Meitivs’ attorney said, and the agency did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The charge that was most recently dismissed stemmed from an instance when the children were detained by authorities after they were spotted walking unaccompanied by an adult during the mile-long trip back to their home from the park in December.

The Meitivs already faced an accusation relating to a similar incident in October 2014, their attorney Matthew Dowd said, for which they previously obtained a favorable ruling. They still face a charge for a third incident in April of this year.

“We are working to ensure that this abuse by CPS does not happen again in the future,” Dowd said, telling ABC News the family is concerned about the children being held by CPS for several hours, as they were in December.

Danielle Meitiv echoed his concerns.

“We fear that our family and other Maryland families will be subject to further investigations and frightening police detentions simply because our and their children have been taught how to walk safely in their neighborhood, including to and from school and local parks,” she said in the statement.

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Shooting at ND Walmart Kills Two, Including Gunman

Fuse/Thinkstock(GRAND FORKS, N.D.) — Two people were killed, including the gunman, and one person was injured in a shooting at a Walmart early Tuesday morning, police confirmed.

Grand Forks police officers were dispatched to the scene a little after 1:04 a.m. following a report of gunshots.

After arriving, they found multiple people hurt inside the store and were immediately transported to Altru Hospital for treatment.

The Grand Forks Police Department told ABC News they will not release the names of the victims or the shooter until families are notified.

Andy Legg told ABC News affiliate WDAY-TV he heard “popping sounds” going off in the store before he and a group of customers were taken to another section in the store.

When he and the group later left the building, he said they passed an employee covered in blood. It “didn’t look good,” Legg said.

While there’s no motive yet on why the shooter opened fire, authorities are calling this an ongoing investigation but they do not believe the public is at risk at this time.

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Shooting at ND Walmart Kills Two, Including Gunman

Fuse/Thinkstock(GRAND FORKS, N.D.) — Two people were killed, including the gunman, and one person was injured in a shooting at a Walmart early Tuesday morning, police confirmed.

Grand Forks police officers were dispatched to the scene a little after 1:04 a.m. following a report of gunshots.

After arriving, they found multiple people hurt inside the store and were immediately transported to Altru Hospital for treatment.

The Grand Forks Police Department told ABC News they will not release the names of the victims or the shooter until families are notified.

Andy Legg told ABC News affiliate WDAY-TV he heard “popping sounds” going off in the store before he and a group of customers were taken to another section in the store.

When he and the group later left the building, he said they passed an employee covered in blood. It “didn’t look good,” Legg said.

While there’s no motive yet on why the shooter opened fire, authorities are calling this an ongoing investigation but they do not believe the public is at risk at this time.

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Colorado Theater Shooting Trial: Holmes’ Notebook Takes Center Stage

Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office(CENTENNIAL, Colo.) — One of the most mysterious pieces of evidence in the Aurora, Colorado, theater shooting case will be further revealed when the trial of James Holmes enters its fifth week.

The now-infamous notebook with the words “James Holmes” and “My Life” written on the front cover, has been a huge controversy in the case since the beginning.

There have been intense arguments in the past three years as to whether the notebook should be admitted into evidence. It is a Pandora’s Box written by the gunman in the weeks before the shooting. His thoughts will be interpreted by both sides, but first presented by the prosecution.

Holmes, 27, mailed it to his psychiatrist on July 19, 2012, just hours before he booby-trapped his apartment and then entered a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises dressed head to toe in ballistic gear on a mission to kill as many people as he could to increase what he referred to in the notebook as his “human capitol.”

He faces 166 charges, including numerous counts of murder, attempted murder and possession of explosives, in the July 20, 2012, attack, in which 12 people were killed and 70 injured. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Holmes’ attorneys say he cataloged his thoughts in the notebook — which looks like a typical college student project, plastic-covered with colorful separators — in the weeks before the shooting.

During opening statements, the court heard what was inside for the first time as Holmes’ lawyer, public defender Dan King, waved it in the air and read his client’s writings: “We are all one unity, as such there is no difference between life and death or space time. …Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why does the value of a person even matter?”

“This notebook,” said King,”is a whole lot of crazy.”

But prosecutors presented the contents of the notebook differently.

“It was a philosophical discourse,” Arapaho County District Attorney George Brauchler said to the 24-person jury.

Pages of the notebook were shown on screens in the courtroom that day. One monitor is over the jurors’ heads, one is just to the left of where the defendant and his attorneys sit, and a third is displayed behind Judge Carlos Samour Jr.

In the notebook, Holmes’ scribbled out “his longstanding hatred of mankind,” and asked questions about the meaning of life and death, Brauchler said. Holmes then supported these theories with drawings and diagrams of the actions he would take — actions which “would make him feel better,” the prosecutor said.

Prosecutors say the missive was intended for his family: Goober, Bobbo and Chrissy, pet names for his mother Arlene, father Robert and younger sister Chris.

Holmes mailed the notebook from a post office near the Century 16 theater on a Thursday, but it arrived at the University of Colorado Medical School mail room on the weekend and sat there until the next Monday. His psychiatrist, Lynne Fenton, never saw it.

The defendant’s writings will be interpreted by both sides as they battle out whether he was sane or insane the night he opened fire with a shotgun, a semi-assault rifle and a Glock handgun into a theater full of excited Batman fans.

It is unclear how this crucial evidence from Holmes’ mind will be presented to the court. Will the jury receive a copy of the notebook to read for themselves? Will it be displayed page by page on the courtroom TV screens? Or will it be read aloud like a grim storybook?

The district attorney hinted Thursday before the Memorial Day break that his case, which is nearing the halfway point, will take a turn starting this week. The court has yet to hear from state psychiatrists who evaluated the defendant in nearly 48 hours of taped interviews.

The defense says it will take about a month to put on its case, but, explained King, there have been some duplicate witnesses, so it may not take as long as that.

Legal observers say three months of being subjected to grueling testimony and then a possible month of sentencing will be hard on the 19-woman and five-man jury. Some of the evidence has been tedious, including hours of plotting out bullet impacts in dozens of theater seats.

Last week, Samour admonished one juror for seemingly falling asleep.

But no one was sleeping as court wound down Thursday, as the Arapahoe County Coroner described the autopsies of half of the 12 gunshot victims, including those of 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan. The jury passed around Kleenex, dabbed their eyes, and quietly walked out of the room for a much-needed holiday break.

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Drivers Stranded, Homes Damaged by Houston-Area Flash Flooding

File photo. (iStock/Thinkstock)(HOUSTON) — Flash flooding in Houston has left roads blocked, drivers stranded and homes destroyed, according to officials.

Roadways in the Houston area are blocked, drivers are stranded and homes have been destroyed due to flash flooding, according to officials.

Between 6 and 10 inches of rain had fallen in the region by early Tuesday, with additional rain possible.

As a result of the rainfall and flooded roadways, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency for the Texas counties of Harris and Fort Bend. Residents are urged not to travel unless they are fleeing a flooded area. That emergency was set to expire at 2:45 a.m. local time.

The high water shut down the Katy Freeway eastbound and westbound at the 610 West loop.

Hundreds of homes are currently impacted by the flooding, Harris County Emergency management said.

The White Oak Bayou in Houston is rapidly rising and spilling over highways. It is currently at major flood stage and is expected to rise to more than 40 feet, according to the National Weather Service. The last time the bayou crested to this level was during Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Those conditions caused some fans at Houston’s Toyota Center to remain in their seats following Monday’s Western Conference Finals basketball game between the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors.

Fans and players were asked not to leave the arena following the Rockets’ 128-115 Game 4 victory.

The flash flooding follows a series of deadly, powerful storms across the southern Great Plains. Earlier Monday, a tornado ripped through Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, a city on the U.S.-Mexico border, killing at least 13 people.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott added 24 counties Monday to the list of those where he has declared a state of emergency, and he said with more rain in the forecast, he could add additional counties.

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Manhunt Continues Following New Orleans Police Officer’s Shooting Death

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW ORLEANS) — A manhunt continues in New Orleans after a police officer was found shot dead in his marked patrol car Sunday.

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office identified the victim Monday as James Bennett, Jr., 45.

Bennett, a Housing Authority of New Orleans Police Officer since 2013, had previously worked in the sheriff’s office Reserve Division — a volunteer unit that supplements regular officers.

The shooting was reported at 7 a.m. Sunday, the New Orleans Police Department said in a news release. The victim’s car rolled forward and struck a curb after the shooting.

“The death of this HANO police officer is an unspeakable tragedy, and a vile and cowardly act,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement following the officer’s death. “Tragedies that involve our men and women in uniform affect our entire city and touch every member of our law enforcement community. We are deeply saddened by this loss, and our hearts and prayers are with the officer’s friends and family and with the entire HANO family during this very difficult time.”

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Report: Cleveland Reaches Settlement with DOJ over ‘Excessive Force’

Ricky Rhodes/Getty Images(CLEVELAND) — The city of Cleveland has reached a settlement with the Justice Department over charges of police brutality, according to The New York Times.

The news comes as hundreds took to the streets to protest a judge’s decision not to convict a white police officer in the 2012 fatal shootings of an unarmed black couple. On Saturday, Officer Michael Brelo was cleared in the killing of Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30, as they sat in their car.

“It’s a tragedy because no one is being held accountable,” Michelle Russell, Timothy Russell’s sister, said Saturday.

The settlement, the details of which were unknown, could be announced Tuesday, according to The Times. In December, Attorney General Eric Holder said there was reasonable cause to believe that the Cleveland Division of Police engaged in a pattern of excessive force.

After an investigation of nearly 600 “troubling, high-profile use of force incidents” between 2010 and 2013, “we determined that there is reasonable cause to believe that the Cleveland division of public police engages in a pattern and practice of using excessive force,” Holder said in December.

ABC News’ calls to city officials, including the mayor’s office and the police department, were not returned.

Prosecutors said Brelo, 31, was one of 13 officers who fired 137 times into the couple’s car in the November 2012 shooting. The 22-mile, high-speed chase through Cleveland began when an officer tried pulling over Timony Russell for a turn signal violation. His car backfired while speeding away, causing officers to think someone in the car had fired a gun.

At the end of the chase, Brelo stood on the car’s hood when it was stopped and shot 15 times into the windshield, said prosecutors. Brelo told the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation that he thought he and his partner were being shot at. Russell and Williams were each shot more than 20 times.

No gun was ever found in the car. Brelo was the only officer charged criminally because prosecutors said he had intended to kill the couple, alleging that he’d reloaded during the shooting barrage and that it was his final salvo that killed the couple. On Saturday, the judge ruled that Brelo’s use of deadly force was constitutionally reasonable based on how the events unfolded.

Protests, mostly peaceful, quickly followed the acquittal. Cleveland police made 71 arrests during Saturday’s demonstrations, Chief Calvin Williams said during a news conference Sunday. Of those arrests, the majority were arraigned on misdemeanor charges and released from jail. Three who were wanted on unrelated felony charges are still being held.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich praised the people of Cleveland, calling its residents a “model” in their response to the judge’s ruling.

Community leaders said on Sunday, however, that they were growing anxious as they awaited the results into the police shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. The youth was fatally shot by police officers on Nov. 22 while he was holding a toy gun in a Cleveland playground. Earlier this month, the sheriff leading the investigation said that “the majority of our work is complete.”

“Obviously, there are concerns,” said the Rev. Jawanza Colvin of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church. “A simmering pot is only a few degrees from boiling. … What I’m concerned about is what we do in between the Brelo case and the Tamir Rice investigation. We need to be focused on reforms.”

There is no word yet on when the Tamir Rice decision will be announced.

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Fighter Jets Scramble Following at Least Six Reports of Threats to Passenger Planes, Officials Say

Officials search an Air France plane after it lands at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City on May 25, 2015. WABC-TV(NEW YORK) — At least six flights were impacted by threats at airports in New York, New Jersey and Boston on Monday, according to airlines and law enforcement.

JFK Airport:

An Air France plane was escorted to JFK Airport in New York City Monday morning after an anonymous threat was made against the flight, law enforcement officials told ABC News.

The FBI said the plane has since been checked and cleared with “no incidents or hazards reported on board the flight by either the passengers or its crew.”

Authorities said that the decision to have the plane escorted by two fighter jets was done “out of an abundance of caution” after the Maryland State Police McHenry Barrack, in Garrett County, received an anonymous call of a “chemical weapons threat” aboard Air France Flight 22, which was en route from Paris to the New York City airport.

The tip was called in at 6:45 a.m. on an untraceable line and the caller did not identify himself, a senior federal official told ABC News. Two F-15 planes were scrambled and followed the plane into U.S. airspace, but they flew in a way so that the passengers and crew would not be able to see the military planes, sources said.

The Airbus A-330 has since landed and was taken between two runways and locked down while the threat is investigated. A police dispatch that was sent out after the jets were scrambled noted that the area where the plane was taken is generally known as the “hijack site” because it is the area used in such scenarios. During an initial investigation, nothing dangerous has been found on board, the federal official told ABC News.

A Saudi Airlines flight from Saudi Arabia was also escorted to a remote area at JFK. It was cleared and passengers were brought back to the terminal, officials said.

For an American Airlines flight from Birmingham, England, to JFK, the pilot was initially instructed to taxi to a remote area, but the threat was determined not credible and the plane was cleared to go to the terminal.

Newark Airport:

Two flights to Newark, New Jersey, were also affected — a Delta Air Lines flight from London and a United Airlines flight from Madrid, authorities said.

Logan Airport:

A threat also turned up negative for a Delta flight from Paris to Logan Airport in Boston, authorities said.

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