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Man ‘Essentially’ Confesses to Murdering Arizona Couple: Sheriff

Friday, July 3rd, 2015 by

Posted in National News

Pinal County Sheriff(PHOENIX) — A man has “essentially” confessed to murdering an Arizona couple who were missing for over a week, and the suspect claims he and the victims were involved in recreational methamphetamine use, law enforcement officials said on Thursday.

Jose Valenzuela “essentially” confessed on Wednesday to killing Michael Careccia, 44, and Tina Careccia, 42, an official from the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office said at a news conference Thursday in Florence, Arizona.

The couple went missing on June 22, according to ABC News affiliate KNXV-TV in Phoenix.

Valenzuela told authorities “all this information about killing both Mike and Tina” near their Phoenix-area home, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said on Thursday. “This is a tragic case where both of these individuals … were murdered.”

Authorities said they have retrieved the murder weapon — a revolver.

In addition to his confession, Valenzuela also directed authorities to the spot where the Careccias were buried, an official from the sheriff’s office told ABC News Thursday. The bodies have been recovered and positively identified as the husband and wife, the official said.

“One of our investigators had talked with him, got further information to determine that the decedents were buried on that property, very close to the house, within feet of the residence. He had a weapon on him at the time,” Babeu said.

Valenzuela borrowed a hoe to bury his victims, Babeu said.

“He built not a makeshift grave, an actual 6-foot grave. And he put these victims in that grave and buried them,” Babeu said.

Valenzuela was taken into custody without incident, the sheriff’s office said. He is facing two charges of murder.

Valenzuela had an initial court appearance Thursday morning and was given a $2 million cash bond, officials said. The sheriff’s office said it is unknown if Valenzuela has retained a lawyer yet.

But the case is still evolving, the sheriff’s office said, in part because Valenzuela claimed Mike and Tina Careccia were involved in recreational methamphetamine use.

Valenzuela said he had a “two-year relationship or friendship with Mike and Tina,” sheriff’s office officials said, noting that Valenzuela said he brought the Careccias meth on Father’s Day, June 21, and attended a party at their home.

Later that evening, they went to Valenzuela’s house and “something happened, a fight,” that led to the killing, Babeu said.

While the sheriff’s office would not confirm Thursday if authorities believe the victims were involved in drug use, the sheriff said officials do believe there was drug use involved, at least by Valenzuela, “by his own admission and some other information that we have.”

The sheriff would not say if drugs were found at Valenzuela’s house.

A full autopsy is pending, officials said.

ABC News’ attempts to reach members of the Careccia family were not immediately successful.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Song of The Day

Florida Doctor Found Killed in Her Home, Police Say

Friday, July 3rd, 2015 by

Posted in National News

iStock/Thinkstock(BONITA SPRINGS, Fla.) — Sheriff’s investigators in Bonita Springs, Florida, are searching for clues after deputies found Teresa Sievers, a local doctor and mother of two, dead in her home, a crime that authorities are calling a homicide.

After a family vacation last week, Sievers, 46, returned to Florida alone, calling her husband to let him know she’d arrived safely, according to reports. When she didn’t show up for work Monday morning, worried colleagues called the police, who discovered her body at home, authorities said.

Sievers — known for a practice focusing on integrated health using a mix of western and eastern medicine, Restorative Health and Healing Center in Estero, Florida — was a passionate advocate for holistic health care and hormone therapy, according to those who knew her.

“I remember the first time that I went to see her she spent more than an hour with me,” LaDonna Roye, a former patient, told ABC News affiliate WZVN-TV in Fort Myers, Florida.

Sievers was a popular fixture in her community, with one friend even nicknaming her Mother Teresa.

“She had a quality like Mother Teresa,” said Lenka Spiska, a medical professional who said she was Sievers’ best friend and colleague. “She had nothing more to offer than love.”

Authorities say they are actively pursuing leads in this ongoing investigation and have reminded neighbors to lock their doors.

“Everybody in the neighborhood wants to know why, how, when,” Kimberly Torres, a neighbor, told WZVN. “You know: Who found her? Who called 911?”

While the community and police search for answers, Sievers’ mourning family, including 8- and 11-year-old daughters, hopes to carry on her life’s mission.

“We have to be strong because she was strong,” said Sievers’ sister, Annie Tottenham Lisa. “She cared about everybody. She wanted people to get healthy.”

Authorities are asking anyone who may have information on Sievers’ death to call the Lee County Sheriff’s Office at (239) 477-1000.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Law Enforcement Ramps Up Security for July 4th Weekend

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015 by

Posted in National News

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Law enforcement agencies around the country say they are pulling out all the stops to make sure that this year’s Independence Day celebrations are not disrupted by a terror attack. The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have issued a bulletin to authorities nationwide, warning that ISIS sympathizers may try to stage attacks and police are responding by beefing up security measures.

“Our nation is under threat, our law enforcement, our military are under threat, so we take the threat seriously,” U.S. Park Police Chief Robert MacLean says. However, no specific threats have been made.

An ABC News analysis shows that this year alone 40 people with suspected ties to ISIS have been arrested in the U.S. There have been seven arrests in just the last two weeks, including a group of ISIS believers who allegedly had plans to plant a bomb on the George Washington Bridge between New York and New Jersey.

ABC News has checked with police departments in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston and Atlanta and were told that all plan to have full deployments on July 4th. In New York, a sophisticated command center is up and running, with surveillance cameras and police patrols closely monitoring all five boroughs, as well as the waterways and airspace.

“We have a very robust, overlapping, concentric rings of security that we adopt on July 4th,” MacLean told ABC News Correspondent Pierre Thomas of preparations for the National Mall.

MacLean said the security at the nine access points to the Mall will be seen and unseen and will focus on protecting law enforcement as well as the crowds. The reason is increasing concern about attacks on military, police and law enforcement itself, MacLean said. ISIS has taken to social media to urge its followers to assault police officers and others in authority.

“We tell our officers on a day-to-day basis to be aware of your surroundings. You as law enforcement are targets, our nation is a target,” MacLean said.

And the threats are not just here on U.S. soil. The American airbase at Lakenheath, England has cancelled its July 4th celebration amid reports of worrisome social media chatter revealing specific events and locations.

The base Commander saying he was taking no chances with the safety of his troops.

MacLean and other law enforcement leaders are asking the public to become their eyes and ears this weekend. On the National Mall, visitors can use a two-way text messaging system called Nixle to stay in touch with the police.

“We are able to message to the visiting public and now they are able to message back to us,” MacLean said. Mall visitors can text July4dc to 888777 and receive updates on developments and the weather. And, if need be, they can text the Park Police “if there is any type of critical incident law enforcement should be responding to,” MacLean said.

Finally, MacLean said, trust your gut. “We use the sixth sense of law enforcement as a great tool for us.

If you believe something is wrong…don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed to reach out to a member of law enforcement that is in the area to let them know.”

ABC US News | World News

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Nugget of Knowldege

Man Recovering Day After ‘Frightening and Painful’ Shark Attack in North Carolina

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015 by

Posted in National News

A man was taken to the hospital after he was attacked by a shark, July 1,2015, off the coast of Okracoke Island, N.C. (@Jasongreer/Twitter)(OCRACOKE ISLAND, N.C.) — A 68-year-old man bitten by a shark off the coast of Ocracoke Island, North Carolina, on Wednesday has been upgraded from fair to good condition today after surviving what he described as a “frightening and painful” attack.

The victim, identified by the hospital as Andrew Costello, was bitten on his left side in his lower leg and hip and on both his hands, Hyde County EMS Director Justin Gibbs told ABC News.

Costello was taken to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, North Carolina, in fair condition Wednesday, the hospital said. On Thursday, he was upgraded to good condition, the hospital said.

Costello called the attack “frightening and painful” in a statement on Thursday, adding that he feels “very fortunate to have survived.”

Costello will need several operations, Dr. Eric Toschlog, Chief of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery at Vidant Medical Center, said in a statement Thursday.

“We are optimistic that he will make a full recovery,” Toschlog said.

Costello “had been swimming in about 25-30 feet offshore in about waist-deep water” at the time of the attack, the National Park Service said in a statement. “There were no other swimmers injured.”

This was the seventh shark attack off the North Carolina coast since June.

ABC US News | World News

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Fire at Mt. Zion AME Church in South Carolina Attributed to ‘Natural’ Causes

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015 by

Posted in National News

A fire broke out at the Mt. Zion AME Church in Greeleyville, South Carolina, June 30, 2015.(Clarendon County Fire Department)(GREELEYVILLE, S.C.) — The cause of a recent fire that burned down Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greeleyville, South Carolina has been classified as stemming from “natural” causes according to the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The finding comes amid a period of heightened alert about a series of recent church fires across the south and fears that they may be cases of arson. Two of those cases have been found to linked to natural causes and no links have yet been found between them.

It also comes in the wake of a racially motivated massacre in Charleston, SC that left 9 dead.

“Based upon the scene examination, the fire debris analysis, witness statements and a lightning strike report, the cause of the fire was best classified as natural,” SLED told ABC News Thursday in a statement. “Investigators observed no indicator of criminal intent. The investigation is complete.”

Mt. Zion AME Church was totally destroyed after the fire gutted the house of worship Tuesday night, local officials said. Only the walls of the church were left standing, they added.

The predominantly black church in South Carolina has a history of being targeted and was burned to the ground by the KKK in 1995. President Clinton spoke at the dedication of the newly rebuilt church the next year.

Preliminary investigations into a series of five church fires in the south indicate that two of the fires were started by natural causes and one was the result of an electrical fire, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“If in fact there is evidence to support hate crime charges in any one of these cases, the FBI, in coordination with the ATF and local authorities, will work closely with the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to bring those forward,” Justice Department spokesperson Melanie Newman told ABC News in a statement.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Pet of the Week

Escaped Prisoner Richard Matt Aimed Shotgun at Agent Who Found and Killed Him

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015 by

Posted in National News

New York State Police(DANNEMORA, N.Y.) — New York prison escapee Richard Matt aimed a 20-gauge shotgun at the border patrol SWAT team agent who found him after a nearly three-week manhunt and then killed him, according to a statement from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB).

Earlier, state police said only that Matt refused to surrender and that he did not fire on the agents.

Matt and fellow prisoner David Sweat, led more than 1,000 law enforcement officers on a search that lasted 20 days after the two convicted murderers escaped from maximum security prison Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York on June 6.

A team of border patrol agents and state police was responding to a report of gunshots on June 26 near Malone, New York when one of the agents, whose identity hasn’t been released, came upon Matt and ordered to him to put his hands up, the CPB said.

Matt didn’t listen to the agent’s verbal commands and then aimed “what was determined to be a 20-gauge shotgun” at the agent, the CPB said. After that, the agent “discharged his service-issued M-4, striking the individual, who died at the scene.”

Matt appeared to be acting intoxicated at the time he was shot and killed, an official brief on the matter previously told ABC News.

Sweat was later found in the area of Constable, New York, about 1.5 miles south of the Canadian border, where he was shot and wounded by a state cop this past Sunday. Sweat was last reported recovering at Albany Medical Center.

Investigators have been interviewing Sweat to better understand how the men escaped June 6 from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, and how they were able to avoid capture for so long.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Plane Makes Emergency Landing in Ohio Due to Bomb Threat

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015 by

Posted in National News

Angel Di Bilio/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Travelers got a midair scare Thursday on one of the busiest travel days of the year, after an unruly passenger’s bomb threat forced a plane to make an emergency landing, a government official told ABC News.

The United Express flight, carrying 53 on board, was headed to Washington D.C. from St. Louis, Missouri, around 11 a.m. when the passenger reportedly claimed to have a bomb.

The flight was diverted to the Port Columbus International Airport in Ohio, where the aircraft was placed in an isolated area, according to airport spokesman David Whitaker.

By noon, passengers were put on buses after their bags were pulled off the plane and thoroughly checked. The Columbus Division of Fire and Bomb Squad as well as the FBI took part in the investigation.

With the holiday weekend drawing near – and authorities concerned about a potential terror attack — fliers said they definitely saw an uptick in security.

“There seem to be a lot more canine units out,” said Rachel Stephenson, who was not on the United Express flight, “and a lot more people on the ground.”

The passenger who made the threat was questioned by law enforcement and then released. No further details about the passenger were released. Authorities did not say what about the passenger’s remarks had made the flight crew decide to request an emergency landing.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Crusin In Cruces

Mansion Murder Suspect’s Lawyer Fired, Says Daron Wint ‘Never Intended’ Harm

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015 by

Posted in National News

aijohn784/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The D.C. mansion murder case took another strange turn on Thursday as accused killer Daron Wint dismissed his defense attorney, who then told reporters that Wint “never intended or wanted anybody … to be harmed.”

Attorney Sean Hanover said that a disagreement over defense strategy lead to Wint dropping him as his lawyer. The lawyer was dismissed from the case after a brief courtroom conference Thursday, prior to a scheduled preliminary hearing in the case.

Wint is charged in the murder of Savvas Savopoulos, who authorities said was killed along with his wife Amy, son Phillip and family housekeeper Veralica Figueroa on May 14. Police say the four were held captive overnight at the Savopoulos home, and murdered after a $40,000 ransom payment was made. The home was then set on fire.

Investigators said in court documents they believe more than one person was involved in the murders. Wint is charged with the murder of Savvas, but no one else has been charged in the case.

At an impromptu news conference after Thursday’s hearing, Hanover revealed his theory that Wint had been “set up” as the fall guy by alleged co-conspirators in the case. He would not comment on who he believed the other co-conspirators to be.

Hanover was asked if Wint had ever expressed any sympathy for the victims.

Wint “was heartbroken like everybody else at their death. And I can assure you he never intended or wanted anybody — them or anyone else–to be harmed,” Hanover said.

When reporters asked if that statement was an admission that Wint did, in fact, have something to do with the murders, Hanover said, “he has never intended anyone any harm.”

Judge Rhonda Reid Winston appointed Wint attorneys from the Public Defender Service, and rescheduled the preliminary hearing for July 20.

“Justice will be served, and I am confident that the Public Defender Service will bring out the truth in this matter,” Hanover said.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Georgia Teens Ransack a Walmart Caught on Video

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015 by

Posted in National News

Police are still looking for teens involved in vandalizing a Walmart in Macon, Georgia, around 2 a.m. on June 28, 2015.(Bibb County Sheriff’s Office) (MACON, Ga.) — Police are looking for about 50 teens that allegedly trashed a Walmart in Georgia.

The Bibb County Sheriff’s office released surveillance footage of the group ransacking the store in Macon, Georgia, just before 2 a.m. on Sunday morning.

The group of 40 to 50 teens went down the store’s main aisle, pulling merchandise off the shelves, before turning around and running out, Bibb County Sheriff’s office Lt. Sean DeFoe told ABC News on Thursday.

“Out of all my years of law enforcement, I’ve never seen anything happen like this,” he added.

As the video above shows, the teens ransacked the store, then scattered and fled from the parking lot in multiple cars.

Police identified and arrested 17-year-old Kharron Nathan Green after he went back into the store to get his cellphone that he had apparently dropped during the incident.

DeFoe said Green was arrested on charges of second-degree criminal damage to property and inciting a riot since he allegedly appeared to be the group’s leader.

“According to the report, [Green] threw up a gang sign at the camera and then ran into the store,” DeFoe said.

Green told his parents the group was at a party before they decided to go to the Walmart and “cause as much damage as they could,” according to DeFoe.

Police said the store manager told them that the estimated damage was more than $2,000.

A Walmart spokesperson declined to comment on the estimated amount of damage, but said they’re working with police on their ongoing investigation.

“Some of the teens looked older than 17 and some looked younger, but each of them that we identify will be charged appropriately,” DeFoe said.

ABC US News | World News

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Double Your Dollars

GoFundMe Page Asked for Money to Cover Dylann Roof’s Sister’s Wedding After Charleston Shooting

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015 by

Posted in National News

A screen grab made on July 2, 2015 shows the GoFundMe page created by a person claiming to be Amber Roof that was taken down from the site later on the same day. (GoFundMe)(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — A GoFundMe page administered by someone claiming to be Amber Roof asked for donations to fund a “dream honeymoon” and pay off her wedding that was canceled after Dylann Roof allegedly killed nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, last month.

Dylann Roof has a sister named Amber, 27. Amber Roof did not immediately respond to ABC News’ calls and a message sent via the GoFundMe page for additional comment.

According to the page, which was taken down this afternoon, the administrator said Amber Roof was supposed to marry fiance Michael Tyo June 24, but they canceled four days before the wedding after Dylann Roof allegedly shot the parishioners attending a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church.

Roof, 21, is being held without bail in the Charleston County jail and faces nine counts of murder.

“Our wedding day was suppose to be the most important and special day of our lives,” the page administrator wrote on GoFundMe. “Our day was the exact opposite. Our wedding day was full of sorrow, pain, and shame, tainted by the actions of one man.”

The campaign organizer added that they canceled their wedding “to protect our family and mourn the lives of those lost” but that she started the GoFundMe account for a “create new memories and a new start with our family.”

“Money raised will be used to cover lost wedding costs, to pay bills, and to send us on our dream honeymoon,” the administrator wrote on GoFundMe. “10% of all funds raised will be donated to Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.”

The administrator raised $1,604 of their total goal of $5,000 as of 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, according to the GoFundMe page, which was first set up last Saturday.

The administrator posted an update Wednesday, saying, “We are so grateful for all of your contributions. We love you all so much. Thank you for helping us reach our goal of our dream honeymoon!”

Campaign organizers can still access funds that have already been committed even after they remove their page from the site, according to GoFundMe.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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