Review Category : National News

Family Friend Shocked Teen with ‘Potential, Morals’ Turned Murderer

iStock/Thinkstock(STAR CITY, W. Va.) — A close family friend of Rachel Shoaf, one of two teens now in prison for stabbing 16-year-old Skylar Neese to death, said that she is still reeling from the fact that a young girl she helped raise, whom she described as having a lot of promise, is a convicted murderer.

“There was never any sign. Not a mean kid, not a bully, didn’t torture animals, and it’s been a long two years trying to come to grips,” Kelly Kerns told ABC News’ 20/20. “With all of the potential and morals, I don’t even get where this came from.

“This is just so bizarre,” she continued. “I don’t care how you look at it. How you spin it. We’re normal people.”

Kerns said she is an aunt-like figure for Shoaf, who she said she has loved like a daughter for the past 18 years. Since first holding her moments after she was born, Kerns said she has played an active role in Shoaf’s life.

“I’m not kidding, she was the only baby I was ever going to have,” Kerns said.

She described the now 18-year-old as an adventurous, happy child who was blossoming into a young woman full of promise and potential.

“She loved life and there was no reason for her not to,” she said. “People around her loved her.”

But that future came to a screeching halt in early 2013, when then-16-year-old Shoaf admitted her role in a horrific crime that shook the close-knit Morgantown, West Virginia, community to its core. For six agonizing months, residents were shocked over the mysterious disappearance of another sociable teen, Skylar Neese.

Neese, Shoaf and a third girl, Sheila Eddy, were all students at University High in Morgantown. The trio was inseparable. Kerns fondly recalled the excitement surrounding Shoaf’s 15th birthday when she had the opportunity to meet her two new best friends, Neese and Eddy.

“They were two, adorable little girls smiling up at me,” Kerns said.

But Kerns said she began noticing some changes in Shoaf’s behavior, including sneaking out, smoking marijuana and skipping class. At the time, Kerns said she thought they were just typical teenage antics, and despite her worrisome behavior, Kerns said Shoaf kept her grades up, stayed involved in the school theater program and continued to take singing, piano and acting lessons.

By the summer of 2012, however, Kerns said she and Shoaf spent less “quality time” together. But on the morning of July 6, 2012, she said the teen made a last-minute decision to spend the day on her boat with her and Shoaf’s mother, Patricia. The young redhead grew up spending her summers on Kerns’ boat, learning how to watertube and swim.

While on the boat, Kerns said Patricia Shoaf mentioned that her daughter’s friend, Skylar Neese, had been missing, but Kerns said she didn’t note anything strange in Rachel Shoaf’s demeanor.

“I mean she was texting all the time. But you see so much of that it didn’t really faze us,” she said.

The next day, Shoaf left for a scheduled away trip to a church camp.

Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months and Neese still has not been found. As her disappearance continued to consume the Morgantown area, Shoaf returned from camp and school was back in session.

As a substitute teacher, Kerns said she started hearing countless rumors about what happened to Neese, who was caught on surveillance video climbing out of her bedroom window after midnight July 6, 2012, never to be seen again.

The most alarming rumor, by far, Kerns said, was that Shoaf and Eddy were with Neese the night of her disappearance. Even more unnerving for Kerns was the realization that she had spent the day with Shoaf on her boat hours after Neese vanished.

“The story starts unraveling, and we find out they were together,” she said. “It just keeps evolving from searches of the house, of the schools. The girls ended up having to be homeschooled because of all the talk. And the FBI, you know, searched their lockers and took computers. …We knew the girls knew something.”

But nothing could prepare Kerns for what came next. Shortly after Christmas 2012, Shoaf suffered an apparent nervous breakdown and was briefly hospitalized. After her release, Shoaf confessed to police that she and Eddy were responsible for Neese’s disappearance, had brutally stabbed her to death and left her body in the woods in Pennsylvania.

She also led authorities to the murder scene, located across state lines in Brave, Pennsylvania and recounted how she and Eddy meticulously planned to kill their best friend.

Both were charged as adults. Shoaf pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years on Feb. 26, 2014, with the possibility of parole in 10 years. Eddy pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for her role in Neese’s death and was sentenced to life in prison on Jan. 24, 2014, with the possibility of parole in 15 years.

Although Kerns said her relationship with Shoaf and her mother has been strained since the sentencing, she hopes to remain a part of their lives.

“I still love this child,” Kerns said. “You can’t stop loving a child,” Kerns said.

She said she has twice visited Shoaf since her incarceration but the two have never spoken of the murder. Shoaf lives lodged in a juvenile facility but will be transferred to an adult facility near the end of the month.

“I’m absolutely freaking out about her going to an adult prison,” Kerns said. “I’m scared to death for her, but I understand Skylar was scared, too.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Dethroned Miss Delaware Amanda Longacre Files $3 Million Lawsuit

iStock/Thinkstock(DOVER, Del.) — The Delaware beauty queen who lost her pageant crown because she was deemed too old to compete reportedly has filed a $3 million lawsuit against state pageant officials and the Miss America organization.

Amanda Longacre was stripped of the Miss Delaware title last month after officials with the national Miss America organization discovered she would turn 25 in October, a violation of the contract pageant officials say Longacre signed prior to the June 14 Miss Delaware pageant stipulating she would not turn 25 before Dec. 31, 2014.

In a lawsuit filed this week in Delaware, Longacre is seeking to be reinstated as Miss Delaware and to be allowed to compete in the Miss America pageant in September, local media reported.

Longacre, who had been pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania prior to her win, was also seeking $500,000 in damages for herself, claiming she lost potential career enhancements, spent over $4,500 on expenses like makeup and coaching and cut her work hours in order to make pageant appearances, the Delaware News Journal reported.

She was also reportedly seeking $2.5 million for other contestants who she claimed were recruited to compete in pageants in order to boost participation and then disqualified for being too old, the newspaper added.

ABC News was not immediately able to reach Longacre or her attorney, Mark Billion, for comment.

A new Miss Delaware, Brittany Lewis, also 24 and the original first runner-up to Longacre, was crowned June 26, just days after Longacre was told she was disqualified.

Officials with the national Miss America organization confirmed to ABC News that they plan to fight Longacre’s lawsuit but will still give her the full $9,000 in scholarship money they pledged to her after she was disqualified.

“Although we are disappointed to learn of the legal actions, we will plan to defend our position on the basis that this case has no merit,” a Miss America spokeswoman told ABC News by email. “We also plan to provide the previously committed scholarship to Ms. Longacre as scholarship is core to our mission and we respect Ms. Longacre’s pursuit of her education.”

Miss America officials last month blamed the error on state pageant officials who, they said, missed the age discrepancy in Longacre’s submitted paperwork.

“When the contract arrived in the national office and her birth date arrived we realized a mistake had been made on behalf of the Delaware pageant,” Miss American Chairman and CEO Sam Haskell told ABC News. “I don’t know how they missed it and I don’t know how she missed it.”

Miss Delaware Executive Director Debi Wilson also did not reply to ABC News’ request for comment.

According to the Delaware News Journal, Longacre’s lawsuit claimed that after she was dethroned, Wilson, “offered to make it up to her by hosting a wine and cheese pajama party.”

“I’m being treated as if I did something morally and ethically wrong,” Longacre told the paper. “I’m just really heartbroken.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Dethroned Miss Delaware Amanda Longacre Files $3 Million Lawsuit

iStock/Thinkstock(DOVER, Del.) — The Delaware beauty queen who lost her pageant crown because she was deemed too old to compete reportedly has filed a $3 million lawsuit against state pageant officials and the Miss America organization.

Amanda Longacre was stripped of the Miss Delaware title last month after officials with the national Miss America organization discovered she would turn 25 in October, a violation of the contract pageant officials say Longacre signed prior to the June 14 Miss Delaware pageant stipulating she would not turn 25 before Dec. 31, 2014.

In a lawsuit filed this week in Delaware, Longacre is seeking to be reinstated as Miss Delaware and to be allowed to compete in the Miss America pageant in September, local media reported.

Longacre, who had been pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania prior to her win, was also seeking $500,000 in damages for herself, claiming she lost potential career enhancements, spent over $4,500 on expenses like makeup and coaching and cut her work hours in order to make pageant appearances, the Delaware News Journal reported.

She was also reportedly seeking $2.5 million for other contestants who she claimed were recruited to compete in pageants in order to boost participation and then disqualified for being too old, the newspaper added.

ABC News was not immediately able to reach Longacre or her attorney, Mark Billion, for comment.

A new Miss Delaware, Brittany Lewis, also 24 and the original first runner-up to Longacre, was crowned June 26, just days after Longacre was told she was disqualified.

Officials with the national Miss America organization confirmed to ABC News that they plan to fight Longacre’s lawsuit but will still give her the full $9,000 in scholarship money they pledged to her after she was disqualified.

“Although we are disappointed to learn of the legal actions, we will plan to defend our position on the basis that this case has no merit,” a Miss America spokeswoman told ABC News by email. “We also plan to provide the previously committed scholarship to Ms. Longacre as scholarship is core to our mission and we respect Ms. Longacre’s pursuit of her education.”

Miss America officials last month blamed the error on state pageant officials who, they said, missed the age discrepancy in Longacre’s submitted paperwork.

“When the contract arrived in the national office and her birth date arrived we realized a mistake had been made on behalf of the Delaware pageant,” Miss American Chairman and CEO Sam Haskell told ABC News. “I don’t know how they missed it and I don’t know how she missed it.”

Miss Delaware Executive Director Debi Wilson also did not reply to ABC News’ request for comment.

According to the Delaware News Journal, Longacre’s lawsuit claimed that after she was dethroned, Wilson, “offered to make it up to her by hosting a wine and cheese pajama party.”

“I’m being treated as if I did something morally and ethically wrong,” Longacre told the paper. “I’m just really heartbroken.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Family Friend Shocked Teen with ‘Potential, Morals’ Turned Murderer

iStock/Thinkstock(STAR CITY, W. Va.) — A close family friend of Rachel Shoaf, one of two teens now in prison for stabbing 16-year-old Skylar Neese to death, said that she is still reeling from the fact that a young girl she helped raise, whom she described as having a lot of promise, is a convicted murderer.

“There was never any sign. Not a mean kid, not a bully, didn’t torture animals, and it’s been a long two years trying to come to grips,” Kelly Kerns told ABC News’ 20/20. “With all of the potential and morals, I don’t even get where this came from.

“This is just so bizarre,” she continued. “I don’t care how you look at it. How you spin it. We’re normal people.”

Kerns said she is an aunt-like figure for Shoaf, who she said she has loved like a daughter for the past 18 years. Since first holding her moments after she was born, Kerns said she has played an active role in Shoaf’s life.

“I’m not kidding, she was the only baby I was ever going to have,” Kerns said.

She described the now 18-year-old as an adventurous, happy child who was blossoming into a young woman full of promise and potential.

“She loved life and there was no reason for her not to,” she said. “People around her loved her.”

But that future came to a screeching halt in early 2013, when then-16-year-old Shoaf admitted her role in a horrific crime that shook the close-knit Morgantown, West Virginia, community to its core. For six agonizing months, residents were shocked over the mysterious disappearance of another sociable teen, Skylar Neese.

Neese, Shoaf and a third girl, Sheila Eddy, were all students at University High in Morgantown. The trio was inseparable. Kerns fondly recalled the excitement surrounding Shoaf’s 15th birthday when she had the opportunity to meet her two new best friends, Neese and Eddy.

“They were two, adorable little girls smiling up at me,” Kerns said.

But Kerns said she began noticing some changes in Shoaf’s behavior, including sneaking out, smoking marijuana and skipping class. At the time, Kerns said she thought they were just typical teenage antics, and despite her worrisome behavior, Kerns said Shoaf kept her grades up, stayed involved in the school theater program and continued to take singing, piano and acting lessons.

By the summer of 2012, however, Kerns said she and Shoaf spent less “quality time” together. But on the morning of July 6, 2012, she said the teen made a last-minute decision to spend the day on her boat with her and Shoaf’s mother, Patricia. The young redhead grew up spending her summers on Kerns’ boat, learning how to watertube and swim.

While on the boat, Kerns said Patricia Shoaf mentioned that her daughter’s friend, Skylar Neese, had been missing, but Kerns said she didn’t note anything strange in Rachel Shoaf’s demeanor.

“I mean she was texting all the time. But you see so much of that it didn’t really faze us,” she said.

The next day, Shoaf left for a scheduled away trip to a church camp.

Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months and Neese still has not been found. As her disappearance continued to consume the Morgantown area, Shoaf returned from camp and school was back in session.

As a substitute teacher, Kerns said she started hearing countless rumors about what happened to Neese, who was caught on surveillance video climbing out of her bedroom window after midnight July 6, 2012, never to be seen again.

The most alarming rumor, by far, Kerns said, was that Shoaf and Eddy were with Neese the night of her disappearance. Even more unnerving for Kerns was the realization that she had spent the day with Shoaf on her boat hours after Neese vanished.

“The story starts unraveling, and we find out they were together,” she said. “It just keeps evolving from searches of the house, of the schools. The girls ended up having to be homeschooled because of all the talk. And the FBI, you know, searched their lockers and took computers. …We knew the girls knew something.”

But nothing could prepare Kerns for what came next. Shortly after Christmas 2012, Shoaf suffered an apparent nervous breakdown and was briefly hospitalized. After her release, Shoaf confessed to police that she and Eddy were responsible for Neese’s disappearance, had brutally stabbed her to death and left her body in the woods in Pennsylvania.

She also led authorities to the murder scene, located across state lines in Brave, Pennsylvania and recounted how she and Eddy meticulously planned to kill their best friend.

Both were charged as adults. Shoaf pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years on Feb. 26, 2014, with the possibility of parole in 10 years. Eddy pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for her role in Neese’s death and was sentenced to life in prison on Jan. 24, 2014, with the possibility of parole in 15 years.

Although Kerns said her relationship with Shoaf and her mother has been strained since the sentencing, she hopes to remain a part of their lives.

“I still love this child,” Kerns said. “You can’t stop loving a child,” Kerns said.

She said she has twice visited Shoaf since her incarceration but the two have never spoken of the murder. Shoaf lives lodged in a juvenile facility but will be transferred to an adult facility near the end of the month.

“I’m absolutely freaking out about her going to an adult prison,” Kerns said. “I’m scared to death for her, but I understand Skylar was scared, too.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

FedEx Indicted in Prescription Drug Delivery Investigation

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) — Delivery company FedEx faces charges for its role in distributing controlled substances and prescription drugs, officials announced Thursday.

A federal grand jury in San Francisco, California indicted the company for its involvement with illegal Internet pharmacies. Such groups, beginning in 1998, don’t require a prescription before filling orders for drugs and instead provided products based on an online questionnaire.

The practices violated federal and state laws on the distribution of controlled substances, according to U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag.

As early as 2004, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Food and Drug Administration, and members of Congress reportedly informed FedEx that illegal pharmacies were using its shipping services, according to an indictment. The company subsequently established a policy requiring all online pharmacy shippers to be approved by the Credit Department, and also created a related sales policy.

Officials allege, however, that FedEx knew it was “delivering drugs to dealers and addicts.” Couriers in Kentucky, Tennnessee, and Virginia expressed safety concerns to senior management, including claims that trucks were stopped on the road by online pharmacy customers demanding pills, or that delivery addresses were parking lots or vacant homes.

In response, the company created a procedure where such packages were held for pickup at specific stations rather than dropped off. Still, the company knew of the dealings and continued its affiliations.

“The advent of Internet pharmacies allowed the cheap and easy distribution of massive amounts of illegal prescription drugs to every corner of the United States, while allowing perpetrators to conceal their identities through the anonymity the Internet provides,” Haag said. “This indictment highlights the importance of holding corporations that knowingly enable illegal activity responsible for their role in aiding criminal behavior.”

In response to Thursday’s indictment, FedEx Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications Patrick Fitzgerald said the privacy of its customers is at risk based on the charges.

“FedEx is innocent of the charges brought today by the Department of Justice,” Fitzgerald said. “We will plead not guilty. We will defend against this attack on the integrity and good name of FedEx and its employees.”

Company representatives are scheduled to appear in court on July 29.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Emotional Warning From Father of Woman Killed in GM Car

General Motors(WASHINGTON) — Lara Gass, 27, was headed to work in March when her 2004 Saturn Ion rear-ended a tractor-trailer on a Virginia highway. Her airbag failed to deploy.

The third-year law student at Washington and Lee University was driving a car that was recalled due to a faulty ignition switch, which can shut off car power and airbags without warning.

In February, General Motors recalled more than 2.6 million vehicles due to the problem. At least 13 people have died due to reasons linked to the problem.

Jay Gass said he received the recall notice in the mail one month before his daughter’s death. In an emotional interview with ABC News, Jay Gass said, “GM is relying on a piece of paper through the United States Postal Service to make it to an address that they have on file for that car and maybe not even the driver of that car.”

“I tried to get the car fixed, but I couldn’t. They didn’t have the parts,” he said.

After his daughter was killed, Gass received another letter from the automaker saying they now had the parts.

Jay Gass and his wife Gerri were among the families of victims of the GM crashes who were on Capitol Hill Thursday to hear GM CEO Mary Barra testify before Congress for the fourth time.

On Wednesday, Barra declined to meet with victims’ families while she was in D.C., but Jay Gass still had some questions for her.

“I would ask her what her definition of leadership is because I have about nine criteria of leadership and one of them is integrity and we know that GM at this point has zero integrity,” he said.

Gass said he believes no one is safe while these cars are still on the road. “These cars on the road next to you. These cars are coming at you in the other lane. They are like Scud missiles. They could stop at any moment,” he warned.

Disappointed with GM’s handling of the recall, Gass has resorted to warning drivers of recalled vehicles when he sees them at the gas pump.

From the moment he heard about his daughter’s death, he and his family decided to celebrate their daughter’s life, albeit too short, Gass said Wednesday, ahead of the congressional hearing.

Choking back tears, Gass said, “Parents’ job is to protect their children. GM is not allowing me to protect my child.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Feds Add Agents to Combat Gun Violence in Chicago

Alex Wong/Getty Images(CHICAGO) — Following a spike in gun violence in the Windy City, the Department of Justice will send seven additional agents to Chicago in an effort to curb crime, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday.

Representatives from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will join 45 agents currently in the city.

“The Department of Justice will continue to do everything in its power to help the city of Chicago combat gun violence,” Holder said. “These new agents are a sign of the federal government’s ongoing commitment to helping local leaders ensure Chicago’s streets are safe.”

The decision comes after the Attorney General’s recent visit, where he attended a roundtable discussion with Mayor Rahm Emanuel to address youth crime rates.

The addition of agents is the latest step from law enforcement to beef up the fight against illegal gun trafficking, preceded by the opening of Chicago’s Crime Gun Intelligence Center and joint efforts from Illinois State Police and ATF. Gun crime is the primary root of area homicides, according to officials, with 60 percent of weapons recovered in violent crimes originally sold in other states and trafficked in the city.

Currently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has 120 agents in the Chicago, with 20 focusing on gang violence.

“ATF’s commitment to targeting traffickers and trigger pullers in Chicago is bolstered by these additional resources,” said ATF Director B. Todd Jones. “These resources, combined with ATF’s Crime Gun Intelligence Center, will strengthen and build on our outstanding partnership with the Chicago Police Department and other local, state and regional law enforcement to bring safety and justice back to the community.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Three Dead After California Bank Robbery Turns into Gun Battle

iStock/Thinkstock(STOCKTON, Calif.) — Robbers fleeing a California bank took three women hostage and led police on a chase that reached speeds of 100 mph, ending when three people were shot dead, including one of the hostages, authorities said.

During the 45-minute chase, two of the hostages were tossed out of the moving car, authorities said.

The violence erupted in Stockton, a city in the northern part of the state. Authorities say three robbers at Bank of the West made off with money and the three female hostages.

Police say the suspects stole a bank employee’s SUV and fired AK-47-type assault weapons at pursuing police. At least 14 cars and many homes were struck by stray bullets, Police Chief Eric Jones told a news conference late Wednesday.

The chase ended in a bloody shootout that left the SUV riddled with bullet holes. All of the alleged bank robbers were shot, two of them dead.

The surviving suspect was identified by police as Jaime Ramos, 19. He was charged with homicide, kidnapping, robbery, and attempted murder charges. Police did not identify the two dead suspects, but said they were 30 and 27 and were “documented gang members.”

One hostage, identified by her family as Misty Holt-Singh, also died in the car, with police saying she appears to have been used by the suspects as a human shield during the shootout.

The women who were thrown from the car both have bullet wounds and are hospitalized, police said.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Rental Car or Marijuana Dumping Ground?

iStock/Thinkstock(DENVER) — Denver International Airport rental cars appear to be increasingly used as a marijuana dumping ground for travelers. People who want to avoid illegally bringing pot into the airport simply leave it in the car or offer it to the car rental agencies, one Avis Rent A Car airport agent said Thursday.

“We see quite a few cases,” the 18-year Avis employee in Denver, declining to give her name, told ABC News. “We basically don’t touch it. Usually, the manager will take it and flush it down the toilet.

“We are a drug-free environment. We don’t take it or give it back; we just flush it.”

Recreational marijuana use by adults 21 and older has been legal in Colorado since late 2012. Possession of up to 1 ounce is OK, but it’s illegal to take any amount out of the state.

So some customers offer their leftovers to the rental agents.

“I have had customers come up to the counter and give it to us, asking ‘Do you want it?’” the Avis rental agent said, adding that she immediately declines and offers to help the customer dispose of it.

Denver International spokesman Heath Montgomery said the facility’s formal policy is that “marijuana is not allowed on airport property.”

The airport has seen sixteen cases this year of individuals trying to get marijuana through security to take with them, which Montgomery cites as infinitesimally small when compared to the 25 million passengers to date who have passed through.

“No one has been cited,” Montgomery said. “We usually just have them toss it in the trash.”
Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →