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FSU Professor Was Talking on Cell Phone When Shooting Happened

July 28th, 2014 - Seattle Times

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- A Florida State University criminal law professor was pulling into his driveway and talking on his cell phone when he was fatally shot, ABC News has learned exclusively.

Professor Dan Markel, 41, was shot July 18, dying hours later.

The killer was waiting for Markel outside his home in Tallahassee’s Betton Hills section, a source told ABC News, and followed Markel into the garage, shooting him in the side of the head through the window of his car.

The bullet entered just beneath Markel’s jawline.

Markel was alive when cops arrived, with the keys in the ignition of his car, before being pronounced dead at the hospital hours later, police said. Markel was apparently on the phone at the time of the shooting, remarking to the person on the phone that someone was in the driveway, ABC News has learned.

A police report has revealed more information about the shooting, specifying that a neighbor, apparently different from the person on the phone, heard a single gunshot. That neighbor called 911 and reported seeing a silver Toyota Prius drive away from the scene. Police later released a grainy surveillance image of that car.

Tamara Demko, a longtime friend of Markel’s, was stunned by the shooting.

“I cannot imagine a person wanting to hurt him. I don’t think any of his friends can,” Demko said.

Two days before he died, Markel posted a blog to his website, PrawfsBlawg.blogs.com, about the death penalty, the same website on which he received threatening comments in 2012 after a writer alleged he had censored anonymous comments.

Reggie Garcia, a friend of Markel’s, wondered whether Markel’s blog and other law endeavors could have motivated the attack.

“Is it possible his scholarship and literature created some enemies? It’s as possible as any of the other scenarios,” Garcia said.

Markel left behind two young sons and an ex-wife, Wendi Jill Adelson, also an FSU professor. Their divorce was acrimonious, punctuated by dozens of court dockets, hearings and a protracted custody battle over their two boys. Markel described the day Adelson left him as his “Pearl Harbor,” friends told ABC News. Markel told friends that, without warning, Adelson had packed up the house and the children and left while he was away on a business trip.

Police spent hours questioning Adelson, and questioned many others who knew him well, but have named no suspects.

The new details reveal why police have classified Markel as the shooter’s intended target, ABC News Chief Legal Affairs Anchor Dan Abrams said.

“Now we know why the authorities were so quick to say they believed this was a targeted killing and the neighbors don’t need to worry,” Abrams said.

The fact that a Prius was possibly being driven by the shooter was also notable, Abrams said.

“A Prius isn’t a typical hit-man vehicle," he said. "[Was it] the person who wants to protect the environment and kill someone?”



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One Dead, 13 Injured in Rare Southern California Lightning Storm

July 28th, 2014 - Seattle Times

iStock/Thinkstock(VENICE BEACH, Calif.) -- A rare lightning storm struck packed Venice Beach, Calif., Sunday, killing a 20-year-old man and injuring up to 12 others, one critically, after the same storm had struck a person on Catalina Island.

Firefighters said a bolt of lightning hit the water and the electrical current then traveled, hitting swimmers and surfers.

"The fire department assessed a total of 13 patients, and transported a total of eight patients," Los Angeles Fire Department spokeswoman Katherine Main said.

Five others were injured, but did not require hospitalization, she said.

Main said it appears to have been just one powerful lightning strike that hit the shoreline.

"Everyone that had a medical complaint was either in or near the water," Main said.

The man who died was swimming and went missing in the water after the lightning strike, according to ABC station KABC-TV in Los Angeles. After lifeguards found him in full cardiac arrest, emergency personnel performed CPR and transported him in critical condition to Marina Del Rey Hospital, where he died.

The other person who was critically injured was a surfer, officials said.

Thunderstorms are very uncommon in the Los Angeles area, and people on the beach were shocked by what they experienced. Some said it felt like they got hit over the head with a board and then they were tingling all over.

"It sounded like a sonic boom. It literally shook the buildings," Stuart Archer, who was playing volleyball on the beach, told ABC News. "Shook us on the courts."

He said it was like somebody punched him in the head, his muscles locked up, and he fell. "I looked up and everybody else was falling over," he added.

Many people who were on the beach said they were knocked down, and lifeguards ran to get victims out of the water.

"Out of nowhere, we heard like a thunderstorm," witness Jason Alas told KABC-TV. "It was like really, really loud."

Before hitting Venice Beach, the thunderstorm moved over Catalina Island where a golfer was injured by lightning.

According to the National Weather Service, before Sunday there had already been 15 lightning strike deaths nationwide this year, including six in Florida.

This was the first death attributed to lightning in California this year.


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Judge Lifts DC Ban on Guns in Public

July 28th, 2014 - Seattle Times

Image Source/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A ruling that would allow registered gun owners to carry firearms in public has thrown Washington, D.C. for a loop.

On Saturday, Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr. ruled that a "total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home is unconstitutional."

The judge said he would stop enforcement of the ban until D.C. came up with a "constitutionally valid licensing."

However, ABC News legal analyst Royal Oakes explains, "This won't be the last word on the subject. The District of Columbia will likely appeal the order, and ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court may be called on to clarify when and how lawmakers are allowed to impose restrictions on the right of citizens guaranteed by the Second Amendment to carry guns."

Attorney Alan Gura, representing the group challenging the ban, says the ruling should be in effect immediately and will lead to less crime on the streets as people will be able to defend themselves.

However, Ted Gest, a spokesman for the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, says the AG is asking Judge Scullin to stay his ruling pending appeal.


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Two US Marshals, Detective Shot in New York City

July 28th, 2014 - Seattle Times

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  Two U.S. Marshals and an NYPD detective were shot Monday while serving a warrant in New York City, authorities said.

The suspect, who was also shot, was a violent sex offender. He is now dead, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said.

His name has not been released.

The incident happened in the West Village neighborhood of Manhattan.

The law enforcement officers have non-life-threatening injuries and were taken to Bellevue Hospital, authorities said.


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Homes, Campgrounds Evacuated Near Yosemite Wildfire

July 28th, 2014 - Seattle Times

iStock/Thinkstock(EL PORTAL, Calif.) -- Firefighters in northern California are battling large wildfires, attempting to extinguish a blaze near Yosemite National Park that quadrupled in size over the weekend.

The fire entered park grounds on Monday, according to park spokesperson Scott Gediman, though it represents a small percentage of the fire and flames don't yet pose a threat to any of the major tourist areas.

At least 100 homes and two campgrounds were evacuated over the weekend, and more than 700 firefighters are working to suppress the flames. Crews face difficult challenges in rough terrain, steep cliff sides, and extreme heat.

2014 marks the driest year on record for Yosemite, following three back-to-back years of extreme drought. The conditions bring up to triple-digit temperatures with the wildfire, and experts forecast similar conditions throughout the week.

Officials are also implementing helicopter water drops to pinpoint locations in steep terrain.

The fire began in the community of El Portal around 3 p.m. Saturday, according to park representatives. As of 9:45 p.m. Sunday, the fire had burned 2,100 acres. Since July 14, Yosemite Park has experienced more than 3,000 lightning strikes and at least 21 fire starts.

Still, the park remains open, including Yosemite Valley and Half Dome. While tourists are frequenting the area, they face possible road closures that could lead to delays.


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Girl Who Vanished for Nine Months Is Weak, Malnourished

July 28th, 2014 - Seattle Times

Police are seeking information regarding the identity of the man depicted in this sketch, as described by Abigail Hernandez. (New Hampshire Department of Justice)(CONWAY, N.H.) -- The family of a teenage girl who disappeared nine months ago before reappearing at her New Hampshire home last week is severely malnourished and not eating solid foods.

"Right now, Abby is resting, extremely tired and in deteriorated health, and has lost a lot of weight. She is working to build her strength back and we hope soon she will be back on solid foods," the family said in a statement.

Fifteen-year-old Abigail Hernandez has reportedly met with investigators every day since she walked back into her Conway, New Hampshire, home on July 20.

Police have released a sketch of the suspect who they believe drove away with her when she was walking home from school on Oct. 9.

"Abigail described the man as having darkish skin, dark brown eyes, black stubble facial hair, and a large build, who was slightly overweight and slightly taller than she was (5-foot-4")," the New Hampshire Attorney General's office said last week.

She reportedly told investigators that the man was driving a navy blue pickup truck.

They have refrained from releasing any further details about the case because the investigation is ongoing, but they have maintained throughout that they believe one or more individuals were responsible for kidnapping and detaining her for nearly a year.

"We have said from the beginning and we continue to believe that this was a 14-year-old girl who went missing in October," Associate Attorney General Jane Young told ABC News. "She was gone for nine months. She didn't have the means to orchestrate and facilitate this on her own."

Abby has been visited by friends since returning home, some of whom have spoken out about her progress.

"Abby is very thin and weak. We continue to work towards getting her to eat," her friend Amanda Smith said on the family's website. "Abby has shown incredible courage thru [sic] this. She is beyond grateful to be home and is just relaxing, resting, trying to get her health back."


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Former WWE Champion Thwarts Home Invader with Wrestling Move

July 27th, 2014 - Seattle Times

Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images(PHOENIX) --  A former WWE champion used his ring skills to foil an attempted robbery in his Arizona home.

Bryan Danielson, better known by his stage known Daniel Bryan, and his wife, fellow-wrestler Brie Bella, were pulling up to their home early this week when they saw two burglars try to escape their home with stolen items.

Danielson, a four-time world champion, chased the two burglars and managed to use his signature wrestling move to catch one, according to ABC affiliate KNXV-TV in Phoenix.

"I took him down and put him in a rear naked choke," Danielson said. "I didn't want to hurt him, I just wanted to make sure he was subdued."

Danielson caught Cesar Sosa, 22, who was booked and charged with burglary, allegedly trying to steal from the couple's home with an unidentified accomplice, according to police.

Danielson, his wife, and their dog, a bulldog named Josie, are doing just fine, the former wrestler said.

"I was very angry, Brie was very angry," Danielson said. "They're actually lucky I got them instead of Brie, because she probably would have been a little more violent."


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Alleged Pennsylvania Hospital Shooter Richard Plotts Arraigned in Bed

July 27th, 2014 - Seattle Times

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- A Pennsylvania psychiatric patient has been arraigned on charges including murder and attempted murder for allegedly shooting his caseworker in the head in a hospital office and then engaging in a gun battle with a doctor who tried to subdue him.

The patient, Richard Plotts, 49, was arraigned late Saturday night in his bed at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where he is being treated for his wounds and is under police guard, a spokeswoman for the Delaware County district attorney's office said.

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan told ABC station WPVI-TV in Philadelphia that police seized two guns and a computer from Plotts' home in Clifton Heights this weekend.

Plotts is accused of opening fire inside the wellness center of Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby Borough just after 2 p.m. Thursday.

Police told WPVI that they believe Plotts went to his appointment intending to kill his psychiatrist, Dr. Lee Silverman. They said Plotts was angry because the hospital posted a sign declaring the building a "gun-free zone."

Plotts was inside Silverman's office for a scheduled appointment Thursday when he suddenly pulled a gun out of his waistband and shot his caseworker, Theresa Hunt, in the head at point-blank range, police said. Hunt was killed instantly.

Silverman dove to the floor, pulled a semi-automatic pistol out his pocket and had a furious close range gun battle with Plotts, who police said fired at least 10 rounds. The doctor, who was using a chair for protection, aimed his gun at Plotts and fired until it was empty, Whelan said Friday.

The doctor, who was grazed in the head and wounded in the thumb while covering his face, was able to get out of the office, unaware that he had struck Plotts three times.

According to Whelan, caseworker John D'Alonzo heard the shooting and called 911. He then climbed through a window into Silverman's office because the door was locked and "engaged in a wrestling match with Mr. Plotts," getting him on the ground. Whelan called D'Alonzo's actions "nothing short of heroic." Dr. Jeffrey Dekret helped D'Alonzo wrestle the gun away from Plotts and hold him for police, Whelan said.

Whelan said that D'Alonzo "believed Plotts was trying to reload." The prosecutor said Plotts had another 39 bullets.

"If it wasn't for the heroic actions" of Silverman and Dalonzo, "we believe he (Plotts) was going to reload that revolver and continue to fire," Whelan said.

The prosecutor said that had the doctor not had a gun and fired back, "he would probably not be alive today."

Plotts had a history of violence with arrests for simple assault and a federal bank robbery as well as illegal firearms possession.

Plotts did not have a license for the gun that he used. It was not clear whether he had a lawyer.


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California Wildfires Spread, Force Evacuations

July 27th, 2014 - Seattle Times

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(YOSEMITE, Calif.) -- A fire near Yosemite National Park has burned over 2,000 acres of land, more than four times as much land as it had on Saturday.

Officials called in planes and helicopters and about 400 personnel to help battle the flames. Park spokeswoman Ashley Mayer told ABC News that there have been some evacuations, but officials were not certain whether any structures were lost in the fire.

No injuries have been reported in the fire.

The Sand Fire in northern California also continued to spread over the weekend with more than 3,800 acres burning on Sunday. Officials say that fire is 35 percent contained, but 10 homes have been destroyed and more than 500 are still at risk. Mandatory evacuations for the area remain in place.


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Reward Offered in Carjacking that Killed Three Children

July 27th, 2014 - Seattle Times

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) --  Philadelphia police are offering a $110,000 reward to anyone who can help them find two men suspected of carjacking an SUV and killing three children and injuring three adults when they crashed it.

Siblings Thomas Reed, 10, Keiearra Williams, 15, and Terrence Williams, 7, were selling fruit outside their church Friday when they were hit and killed by a white Toyota 4Runner SUV that blew a tire while making a turn at a high speed.

The children's mother was also hit in the crash and taken to a hospital in critical condition. Another woman who was hit by the SUV was also injured, and the SUV's owner, who was in the vehicle when it crashed, was also injured.

"Taking innocent people's lives. That's my son, you took him away from me. Turn yourself in, dog. Whoever y'all is, turn yourself in," the father of Thomas Reed told ABC's Philadelphia affiliate WPVI.

The SUV crashed into the fruit stand and then crashed into a nearby grove of trees, where two suspects got out of the vehicle and fled on foot, police said.

They are still at large and police on Sunday announced the reward to anyone who can help track them down.

The two suspects are described as one Hispanic male wearing a white shirt and one black male wearing a white shirt, according to WPVI.

"We have a tragedy here. We will use all the resources at our disposal to find the people responsible," Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey told WPVI.

"I've been in the homicide unit for six years and this is one of the saddest cases that I've come across," Capt. James Clark of the Philadelphia Police added. "You have three innocent children who had the rest of their lives in front of them who were taken in this fashion. It is very sad and very tragic."

An estimated 40,000 carjackings occur every year in the United States, particularly in hot spots like Northern New Jersey where proximity to ports like Newark that ship luxury vehicles overseas entice carjackers.

"The crime of carjacking has reached epidemic levels," New Jersey Acting Attorney General John Hoffman told ABC News.


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Small Plane Lands on Florida Beach, One Dead

July 27th, 2014 - Seattle Times

Photo Credit: Zack Arceneaux(VENICE, Fla.) -- A small plane in distress landed on a Florida beach on Sunday afternoon, killing one man and injuring one of his children.

According to the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, the plane had contacted the Venice Airport noting that it was in distress and would not be able to return to the airport. The pilot is believed to have made an attempt to land on the beach.

Preliminary information from the Federal Aviation Administration indicated that the man and his daughter were struck by the plane as the pilot attempted to land.

The man was pronounced dead and his daughter was taken to All Children's Hospital. The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office said that she was believed to be in critical condition.


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NM Authorities Say Girl, 7, Was Not Kidnapped

July 26th, 2014 - Seattle Times

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MORIARTY, N.M.) -- Authorities in New Mexico say that a girl who called authorities repeatedly on Friday was not kidnapped, and that she was acting out a scenario out of a movie she had watched.

On Friday, the Torrance County Sheriff's Office said that the girl, 7, had called approximately 40 times, saying that she was being held against her will in a vehicle. Deputies located the semi-truck and questioned the driver, who they later determined was the girl's uncle.

Sheriff Heath White said that the man had adopted the girl, who is believed to have learning disabilities. The girl, White said, had recently watched a film in which a character was being held hostage inside a car, a scenario that she mimicked on Friday.


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Teen Arrested for Making Threats of Violence Ahead of US Open of Surfing

July 26th, 2014 - Seattle Times

Purestock/Thinkstock(HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif.) -- A teenager was arrested on Saturday after he allegedly made threats of violence in advance of the U.S. Open of Surfing.

The U.S. Open of Surfing is the world's largest surf event, with officials telling ABC's Los Angeles affiliate KABC-TV that they expect about 500,000 people to attend the nine-day event. Lt. Mitch O'Brien of the Huntington Beach Police Department said that a search warrant was served and the 16-year-old was placed under arrest.

Last year's event was marred by looting and fighting. O'Brien warned attendees that security is going to crack down on bad behavior this year. "If you want to come down and watch surfing, we're going to welcome you. If you want to come down here and try to repeat last year, we're going to identify you as quick as we can and send you home."

KABC said a shotgun and a handgun were found at the teenager's home.


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Family Forgives Montana Man Accused of Plotting a Hit on Own Mother

July 26th, 2014 - Seattle Times

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BILLINGS, Mont.) -- The family of Matthew Campbell, a Montana man who is in prison after allegedly plotting to hire a hit man to kill his mother, says they have forgiven him.

“He wants to move on and put everything past him and we do too,” his sister Nikki Campbell told Nightline Prime.

Campbell, of Billings, Montana, was just 19 years old when he was arrested in 2010 after being accused of hiring a hit man and plotting the murder of his mother, Dana Campbell. He pleaded guilty to using a cellphone with intent to commit murder for hire. He was sentenced to five years in federal prison, but is set to be released next month.

Dana Campbell learned from an FBI agent in 2010 that she was the target for the hit man her son allegedly hired.

"He asked to speak to me out in private and he said, 'I hate to be the one to inform you, but we've been notified that there's been a contract put out on your life,'" Campbell said of the conversation with the FBI agent at the time. "It sounds insane."

According an FBI agent, Matthew Campbell had offered to pay $5,000 upfront for killing his mother and another $5,000 after the job was done.

“The fact that he was only thinking of himself and what he could get out of it made me question everything I ever knew about him,” Nikki Campbell said. “Was I next? Was my sister next?”

Nikki said she thought their family had an unbreakable bond. She said they enjoyed family trips together and bickered the way brothers and sister do.

“We picked on each other and pick on my little sister a lot but we knew that we had each other,” she said.

But the bond frayed, she said, when Matthew started to get into trouble.

“He didn’t want to live at home with my parents any more it was a tough living situation and he decided to run away basically,” Nikki Campbell said. “We didn’t know where he was and he got himself in a little bit of trouble with some cars and what not.”

Matthew Campbell ended up in a halfway house in Helena, Montana, where Campbell said he had conversations with some of his fellow inmates about whom they could kill for money. According to court documents, Campbell wanted his mother killed so he could collect insurance money and a recent inheritance that she had received, as well as other household items.

But one of the inmates informed the authorities about Matthew’s plan.

“That other person went to the Department of Corrections and basically told on my brother and said, ‘Matthew Campbell wants to hire someone to kill his mother,’” Nikki Campbell said.

That ultimately lead Matthew Campbell to meet unknowingly with an undercover FBI agent, according to court documents. Then the undercover agent approached Campbell and told him was a hit man. Nikki said Matthew had written her a letter saying he was afraid of the man and felt pressured to go through with the plot.

“If he tried to back out of this that the guy would come after him just because now my brother has a name of a contract killer,” Nikki said.

That’s how Matthew Campbell’s plan was exposed.

The family now believes Matthew never really intended to kill his mother and are waiting for him to come home from prison.

Nikki shared a recent email she received from her brother, saying, “Hey I need an address from you so I can send you this [birthday] card and how is the shoe hunting coming?”

“My birthday is coming up and he is still going to be in prison when my birthday is here and he is still going to send me a card. It’s the first time I’ve gotten a card from him since he’s been gone,” she said. “It’s touching, I guess… I think we are going to flourish probably into the best relationships we’ve ever had.”


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Over 100 Million Could Face Severe Weather This Weekend

July 26th, 2014 - Seattle Times

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Severe storms are threatening the midwestern United States this weekend with over 100 million Americans at risk of facing severe weather.

Parts of Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Iowa are under a severe weather outlook for Saturday evening, the National Weather Service says. The storms could bring hazardous hail, strong winds and potential tornadoes.

The system is also thought to threaten parts of Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania on Sunday, with areas as far north as Boston and as far south as Nashville being at risk of thunderstorms.

A powerful tornado touched down near an airpark in Edgewater, Florida on Saturday. David Sharp of the National Weather Service says the storm brought winds that touched 100 to 105 mph. No injuries were reported immediately. ABC's Orlando affiliate WFTV said no injuries were reported.


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Investigators Solve Mystery of Porcelain Dolls Left on Doorsteps

July 25th, 2014 - Seattle Times

Orange County Sheriff's Department(SAN CLEMENTE, Calif.) -- Investigators in California say they've solved a strange case involving porcelain dolls being left on the doorsteps of girls they hold an eerie resemblance to.

At least eight families received the dolls in the Talega community of San Clemente, with all of the girls targeted around 10 years old.

Families began filing police reports about the dolls as early as June 16. Initially, police didn’t have a crime to investigate. But as the mystery grew – and as the families learned of the other dolls – authorities began examining the dolls and meeting with the impacted families, trying to find patterns.

According to a press release issued late Thursday by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, the investigation focused on a woman who attends church with many of the families who found the dolls.

“Investigators made contact with the female adult who admitted to placing the porcelain dolls on the porch of the various residences in the community. Investigators have concluded that her motivation was out of goodwill and that she intended it as a kind gesture,” the press release states.

“There will be no further investigation of this case.”


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Mom Who Left Kids in Car for Job Interview Glad for 'Second Chance'

July 25th, 2014 - Seattle Times

Scottsdale Police Department(PHOENIX) -- The Arizona mom arrested after leaving her kids in a hot car while she went on a job interview said she's "extremely grateful" for a second chance, a week after reaching a deal with prosecutors that would drop criminal charges against her.

"Not many people get the opportunity that I have, so I'm grateful," Shanesha Taylor, 35, told ABC News Friday.

The mom left her two young sons, 2 years and 6 months old, alone in her SUV with the fan on and the windows rolled down in March during her interview in Scottsdale for a job Taylor says the family desperately needed. Taylor told police she was homeless at the time and hadn't been able to find a babysitter for the boys.

Taylor couldn't say if she would do it again.

"That's a difficult decision because I was basically choosing between caring for my children or providing for my children. That's something people face every day," she said.

Taylor didn't get the job she was seeking, but her plight prompted an outpouring of support and financial donations from strangers.

Taylor and her attorney Benjamin Taylor (the two are not related) reached an agreement with Maricopa County Bill Montgomery's office last Friday that will allow her to avoid prosecution if she meets several conditions.

"She will take 26 weeks of parenting classes and set up a trust fund for her children," Benjamin Taylor said. "That's the main agreement. Once everything is completed, which it will be, then they will officially dismiss the case."

The attorney's office confirmed that those conditions are part of the deal, but elaborated that Shanesha Taylor must take a minimum of 26 weeks of parenting classes. It could be up to 52 weeks, they said, determined by a judge based on a report from the adult probation department.

The next hurdle is getting her kids back, who are under supervision of Child Protective Services, according to her attorney, who is working pro bono. They have a court date in late August.

Taylor currently has weekend visitation rights to see her three children, the two sons and a 9-year-old daughter who was in school on the day of her arrest. She remembers that day as a nightmare.

"It was a good moment when I walked out of the interview and once I saw the police, and the scene, it was devastating," Taylor said. "My mind went from, I had just secured what I needed to to take care of my family, to, oh my gosh, what's going to happen to my family?"

Bystanders had reported seeing the kids left in the car, police said.

One witness said the youngest boy was crying and sweating. Temperatures in the SUV had exceeded 100 degrees.

Taylor said she thought they would be OK, and had no other choice.

"It was a moment of trying to do the right thing," she said. "I previously scheduled care that didn't come through, so I had to make a spur of the moment decision. I had to make a decision based out of desperation."

Her story -- and her tearful mugshot -- garnered sympathy from supporters who raised more than $114,000 for Taylor's family. Taylor said she's using the money to rent a house in Phoenix and start a trust funds for her kids, per the attorney's deal.

Her sons are too young to grasp why their mom is gone, but her 9-year-old daughter understands, Taylor said.

"It's a difficult balance trying to explain to her that sometimes people do things wrong, and sometimes they have to go to jail," she said. "But at the same time, she knows my intentions and how I am as a mother. She knows I do my best."

Taylor hopes her case sheds light on other parents who struggle to find work and provide for their kids.

"Parents have to make decisions: Do I keep this job, or do I get rid of this job because I can't afford daycare?" she said. "People are struggling."

Soon Taylor will begin looking for work again -- perhaps something in finance or administration -- but she's also interested in starting a nonprofit for parents like her.

"People need that one place they can go to receive help," she said. "Right now, they don't know where to go."

But for now, Taylor is just grateful to avoid being tried on felony abuse charges.

"I was given a second chance and my children were given a future," she said.


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Foster Dad Arrested in Toddler's Hot Car Death

July 25th, 2014 - Seattle Times

Photodisc/Thinkstock(WICHITA, Kan.) -- A foster parent was arrested Friday in the death of a 10-month-old girl who had been left for hours in a hot car, according to Wichita, Kansas police.

Police officers got a call reporting a baby left on the backseat inside a car just before 7 p.m. on Thursday.

“We arrived on scene just a little before 7 p.m. on Thursday night,” Wichita Police Department spokesperson Lt. Dan East told ABC News. “The girl was unconscious and unresponsive.”

“She was sitting in the back seat of the car,” East said.

The child was pronounced dead minutes after paramedics arrived on the scene, according to a police report by the Wichita Police Department.

The foster child was in the care of two men, who were questioned by police on Thursday night.

“To our knowledge, the two men have four foster children,” East said. “One 5-year-old and one 7-year-old have been taken from the home and put in protective custody.”

“The 29-year-old dad picked up the girl from the babysitter and left her in the car,” he said.

“The two men were watching TV when the foster dad saw something that reminded him of the girl, and he ran outside and got the child out," East added. "They appeared really upset when we arrived on scene."

Shortly before 1 a.m. Friday, police officers arrested the 29-year-old, Seth Jackson, for aggravated child endangerment. The second man, 26, was not arrested.


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Man Who Killed Neighbor over Tree-Trimming Feud Has No Regrets

July 25th, 2014 - Seattle Times

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(ENCINITAS, Calif.) -- From inside the California jail where he is awaiting sentencing, Michael Vilkin said that given the chance, he would not change anything about the day he killed his neighbor John Upton.

“I’m not a kind of person who, if you spit in my face, I will not…just turn around and leave,” Vilkin, 62, told ABC News’ 20/20. “And Upton was, figuratively speaking, spitting in my face the whole year.”

A jury found him guilty of murder in the first-degree and assault with a deadly weapon last month. He faces 25 years to life in prison for the first-degree murder charge.

Vilkin and Upton, 56, had been arguing for over a year about Vilkin’s landscaping efforts on his property in Encinitas, California. The focus of their dispute was a narrow strip of land on Vilkin’s property in front of Upton’s rental home, where Vilkin was attempting to clear Brazilian pepper-trees.

“I wanted to clear the land from the wood and to build a house there,” Vilkin said.

On March 28, 2013, the neighbors’ dispute took a fatal turn. Vilkin shot Upton while he was outside on Vilkin's driveway, first in his midsection and then in his head.

Upton, a documentary filmmaker and philanthropist, was profiled on ABC News’ 20/20 in 1993 for his mission to rescue hundreds of deformed Romanian orphans. But while friends and family saw him as a hero, Vilkin said he was afraid of Upton.

“No, he did not [raise a hand at me]. But I was afraid of him, really afraid because he was roaring at me, he was yelling at me,” Vilkin said. “He acted like a gangster, like a tough guy, like a Mafioso. I believe that he was a Mafioso.”

Vilkin told police he believed Upton was carrying a gun and shot him in self-defense, but police found no evidence of a second gun at the scene.

“I was shooting. I did not aim. It was very close,” Vilkin said. “I expected to act in self-defense.”

Having already spent 18 months in jail, Vilkin said he will appeal the jury’s decision, saying his lawyer was incompetent.

“I’m always hopeful,” Vilkin said, “unless I see a pistol in your hand. Then I will shoot you in one second.”

 
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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FAA Investigating Drone Incident at Seattleā€™s Space Needle

July 25th, 2014 - Seattle Times

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) -- The Federal Aviation Administration told ABC News on Friday that it is looking into reports that a drone recently hovered above the observation deck of Seattle’s famous Space Needle.

While curious tourists waved, the mysterious flying object gave security quite a scare.

Authorities said a man launched the drone out of his hotel room window on Tuesday.

“There was no malcontent or malice,” said Drew Fowler of the Seattle Police Department. “He wasn’t trying to do anything wrong. He was just trying to capture some interesting footage.”

While recreational drone usage is legal in Washington state, the incident was the latest raising questions about whether it’s safe to fly drones above crowded cities.

Last year, a drone buzzed over the busy streets of New York, flying past iconic landmarks like the Chrysler building and then crash-landed, nearly hitting pedestrians during the height of rush hour.

And there have been close calls with planes. A drone last year came within 200 feet of a jumbo jet.

Drones have been exploding in popularity but the rules for how and where they can be used have not caught up. The FAA said it is working on new safety guidelines but it could take two years for them to take effect.

 


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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