Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(DAYTON, Iowa) -- As the search for Kathlynn Shepard, 15, entered its third day Wednesday, new details emerged about the man accused of kidnapping her and a younger girl from a school bus stop before he killed himself in his truck in a secluded area.Police have identified Michael Klunder, a registered sex offender from Stratford, Iowa, as the sole suspect in the girls' abduction. He was found dead on Monday evening, four hours after he allegedly kidnapped Kathlynn and her 12-year-old companion as the two got off a school bus around 4 p.m. Monday, Lt. Robert Hanson of the Iowa Department of Public Safety told ABC News.
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Klunder had spent years in and out of prison, including time served for a 1991 conviction on charges that he kidnapped and assaulted a woman, and kidnapped two 3-year-olds. The children were later found alive.Klunder allegedly drove the girls around in his truck for hours on Monday, crisscrossing large swaths of the rural areas near the town of Dayton, police said.Around 5:30 p.m. Monday, just as authorities were about to issue an Amber Alert, police learned that the 12-year-old had escaped from the parked truck and hid out in the woods, and then made her way to a nearby house and called for help, Hanson said.That girl, who has not been identified, was taken to a hospital and later discharged.Around 8 p.m. police located Klunder's pickup truck and found him dead inside.There were, however, no signs of Kathlynn.Hundreds of police officers and volunteers have been scouring a network of rural roads and trails in the search for 15-year-old. Police have deployed aircraft and dogs as part of the effort.Police are treating the search for Kathlynn as a rescue, but as the days pass the chances of finding her alive dwindle, police said.Kathlynn is described as 5 feet 6 inches tall, and weighing 160 pounds. She was last seen wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and a Vikings cap.The kidnapping comes less than a year after two young cousins were abducted less than 90 miles from Dayton. Lyric Cook, 10, and Elizabeth Collins, 8, went missing while riding their bikes in July. Their bodies were found by hunters last December in the Seven Bridges Wildlife Area of northeastern Iowa.Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Photodisc/Thinkstock(KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa.) -- The King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania kicked out three sisters last Sunday for wearing matching hats with a message: F*** Cancer. Over one of the letters was a strategically placed pink breast cancer ribbon.The ladies, who spoke to the ABC News affiliate WPVI, said they were honoring their mother, who died last Tuesday of breast cancer and had battled the disease for four years.“The logo, the saying, is the only expression that I feel is strong enough to defeat the word, defeat the disease,” Zakia Clark told WPVI.
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The sisters were shopping for funeral dresses when a security guard approached them and asked them to leave.“I said, ‘I’m not leaving. I spend money here and I’m not going to leave,’” Zakia told WPVI.“He said, ‘You know what? Shut your mouth. That was your cue to stop shopping.’ So I removed my hat,” she said.The incident was caught on camera and the women were kicked out.The King of Prussia Mall told ABC News in a statement they were sorry for the misunderstanding.“King of Prussia Mall extends [its] sincere condolences to Zakia Clark, her sisters and other family members. Sunday’s situation was a very unfortunate misunderstanding between our mall security personnel who are responsible for upholding the safety and integrity of the mall’s public spaces and this family at their time of loss. We have spoken with Zakia and believe we have resolved this misunderstanding as she graciously accepted our expression of sorrow for their loss and regret for the situation.”When questioned on why the women were singled out for their attire, when stores inside the mall such as Urban Outfitters sell shirts that have the same expletives and are not censored, a mall spokesperson told ABC News that they “work with our retailers to avoid having any controversial material from being displayed directly in store front windows to help provide a pleasant and family-friendly shopping environment for our customers.”The sisters told WPVI that their mother’s funeral was set for Wednesday.Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Sixteen-year-old twins Kiera and Kayla Wilmot with their mother, Marie, in Bartow, Fla. (Credit: Marie Wilmot)(LAKELAND, Fla.) -- Kiera Wilmot is going to space camp.In late April, the 16-year-old central Florida honor student was accused of igniting a chemical explosion on school grounds, leading to her arrest and suspension from school, but authorities dropped criminal charges last week.The nightmarish ordeal was shocking for her single mother, Marie Wilmot, who always encouraged Kiera and her twin sister, Kayla, to follow their passions."The initial phone call was terrifying," Marie told ABC News. "Time will help I hope, it was devastating for me as a mother."While school officials debate whether Kiera will return to Bartow High School, the Wilmot family received an unexpected surprise.The explosion struck a chord with 18-year NASA veteran Homer Hickam, a former lead astronaut training manager for Spacelab, and later for the International Space Station.In the late 1950s, Hickam had a brush with law enforcement for allegedly starting a forest fire. State police came to his high school and led him and his friends away in handcuffs, but his high school physics professor and school principal came to the rescue, clearing him of wrongdoing.Back then, schools did not have zero-tolerance rules. Kids could make their mistakes without the threat of a criminal record, or serving time in jail."I couldn't let this go without doing something," Hickam said. "I'm not a lawyer, but I could give her something that would encourage her. I've worked closely with the U.S. Space Academy, and so I purchased a scholarship for her."Learning of her twin sister, Hickam raised enough money so Kiera and Kayla could attend space camp together. Hickam runs several scholarships for kids with potential, and hopes to create an ongoing Space Academy scholarship. The twins will attend in July.The five-night program immerses students in science, technology, and math education, while giving them hands-on training, learning about the mental, emotional and physical demands astronauts, engineers and technologists face, according to its website."I'm really excited about going," Kiera said. "Especially the zero gravity tank, I've always wanted to do that."The United States Advanced Space Academy is a college-accredited program offered through the University of Alabama-Huntsville, and students receive one hour of freshman level general science credit upon completion."You're not just sitting in a classroom hearing about it, you're on the floor, in spacecraft simulators, experiencing zero gravity," Hickam said. "They run through real space missions, like voyages to the moon or Mars, where they are given problems they must solve."Now an author, Hickam's works include his famous memoir Rocket Boys, later adapted into the film October Sky, starring Jake Gyllenhaal.Eager to move forward, the twins couldn't be happier with the opportunity, which could serve as a prelude to college, and eventual careers. They both credit their eighth-grade robotics teacher with sparking their interest in science, technology and math courses."I like to program and build robots, it's challenging and you have to build them a certain way," Kiera said. "I'd like to be careful with the science I do, always remember to follow directions, and be aware of peer pressure."Their mother, Marie, will be joining the girls in Huntsville, taking the time to relax and reflect while her daughters explore the many facets of the program.At a press conference on Wednesday afternoon at the Vision Center of Word Alive Ministries in Lakeland, Fla., the Wilmot family and their attorney, Larry D. Hardaway, took questions from the media and remained hopeful that Kiera will be reinstated at Bartow High School."The way people have reached out, I wasn't expecting this kind of response," Marie said. "It is a blessing."Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post(DENVER) -- Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has indefinitely delayed the execution of convicted killer Nathan Dunlap, saying that he had doubts about the death penalty, much to the dismay of victims' families and a furious district attorney.The killing of four employees in a Chuck E. Cheese's in 1993 was a massacre that scarred the people of Aurora, Colo., long before shooter James Holmes opened fire in a crowded movie theater on July 20, 2012. Holmes killed 12 and wounded dozens more.Dunlap, 38, is one of three men on the state's death row. He was sentenced to death in 1996, but the victims' families say they have been waiting for justice to be carried out for nearly 20 years.The governor granted a reprieve to Dunlap, which means that he will not be executed as long as Hickenlooper is in office. The reprieve stays in effect until Hickenlooper or the next governor lifts it.Hickenlooper also could have granted clemency, which would have changed Dunlap's sentence to life without parole.Dunlap had been scheduled to be executed in August. It would have been the state's first execution since 1997."If the state of Colorado is going to undertake the responsibility of executing a human being, the system must operate flawlessly," Hickenlooper wrote in his executive order. "Colorado's system for capital punishment is not flawless."Hickenlooper cited a number of reasons for his decision, including a lack of statistical evidence that the death penalty deters crime, moral arguments and the state's not being equipped with the drugs needed for execution."There's going to be one person in this system who will go to bed with a smile on his face tonight, and that's Nathan Dunlap," Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler told reporters on the steps of the Colorado state capitol. "And he's got one person to thank for that smile, and that's Governor John Hickenlooper.""He's made himself Nathan Dunlap's guardian angel," an aggravated Brauchler said.The district attorney emphasized that a jury had found Dunlap guilty and sentenced him."To be 20 years and 20 miles removed from one of the most heinous acts of violence in the history of this state and hear, 'Just not sure,' does not feel like an act of courage," Brauchler said. "It is certainly not leadership."Hickenlooper recently met with families of victims."The majority of the families really did feel that they would get closure from an execution. There were some that expressed gratitude and even some form of relief, [but] I think the majority were disappointed," Hickenlooper said at a news conference.One of the families he met with was that of 19-year-old Sylvia Crowell, who was killed during the Dec. 14, 1993, shooting. Sylvia was closing the salad bar at closing time when Dunlap, also 19 at the time, came up behind her and shot her in the head. He had recently been fired from the restaurant.Sylvia's parents, Bob and Marjorie Crowell, who live in Aurora, say they have been waiting 20 years for justice.A "very disappointed" Bob Crowell said that he doesn't think there will ever totally be closure in the case, but he believed that the execution could have demonstrated to other criminals that "they will pay the price with their lives if they perform an act like that in the state of Colorado.""This whole scenario of having to make us wait...it's like having a knife stuck in your back every time somebody says or does something," Crowell told ABC News. "Today was the trump of all of that when the governor refused to carry out the execution, or refused to let it happen."Dunlap went on to kill Ben Grant, 17, as he cleaned nearby and Colleen O'Connor, 17, who was cleaning the rowdy restaurant's quiet room for adults when Dunlap approached her. She begged for her life, but he showed no mercy. Dunlap also killed the restaurant's 50-year-old manager, Margaret Kohlberg.He also shot Bobby Stephens in the jaw. Stephens, 20 at the time, was the sole survivor. Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General Eric Holder has disclosed in a letter to Congress that four Americans were killed by U.S. drones in the course of the government's attacks on terrorists."Since 2009, the United States, in the conduct of U.S. counterterrorism operations against al Qaida and its associated forces outside of areas of active hostilities, has specifically targeted and killed one U.S. citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi," Holder wrote."The United States is further aware of three other U.S. citizens who have been killed in such U.S. counterterrorism operations over that same time period: Samir Khan, 'Abd al-Rahman Anwar al-Aulaki and Jude Mohammed. These individuals were not specifically targeted by the United States," Holder wrote.Holder sent the letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., as well as to leaders of both parties in both houses of Congress, and the chairmen and ranking members of intelligence, foreign affairs and armed services committees. In the letter, Holder detailed U.S. policy on drone strikes against Americans.The names of the Americans killed by drones had previously been classified information.Samir Kahn was the publisher of Inspire magazine, which Anwar al-Awlaki edited. Abdul Rahman al Awlaki was Awlaki's son. Both were thought to be killed in the same drone attack as Awlaki.Jude Kenan Mohammed was on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List and was believed to be plotting a car bombing on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.The decision to target Anwar al-Awlaki was "subjected to an exceptionally rigorous interagency review" and approved by Holder and other Justice Department lawyers, Holder wrote.Holder's letter, released in advance of a speech by the president, represents the administration's most specific statement of policy on drone strikes against Americans. Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Geoff Legler/Oklahoma National Guard via Getty Images(MOORE, Okla.) -- Six adults remain unaccounted for after the devastating tornado that tore through Moore, Okla., Monday, killing 24 people and destroying as many as 13,000 homes, officials said Wednesday. Authorities are working to determine whether the missing adults are buried in the rubble or simply "walked off," Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management Director Albert Ashwood told reporters. Of the 24 confirmed deaths, 23 people have been identified. Ten of the victims were children, according to a report issued Wednesday by the state Medical Examiner's Office. Most of the dead children were killed at the Plaza Towers Elementary School, which was leveled in Monday's E-F5 tornado. Their ages ranged from 4 to 9. Six children were killed by suffocation after being trapped under the rubble and two died from massive injuries, the medical examiner said. The storm's youngest victims were two infants, 4-month-old Case Futrell and 7-month-old Sydnee Vargyas. Both babies died after receiving head injuries, although it's unclear where they were during the tornado. As many as 13,000 homes were destroyed or damaged, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said at a news conference Wednesday. He estimated the cost of damages to be between $1.5 billion and $2 billion.
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iStockphoto/Thinkstock(PHOENIX) -- The jury in the Jodi Arias murder trial cannot agree on whether to sentence Arias to death or life in prison. The jury, which began deliberating at 6 p.m. ET on Tuesday, sent a note to Judge Sherry Stephens shortly before 3 p.m. ET Wednesday saying they could not come to an agreement. They are tasked with deciding whether Arias will get the death penalty or a sentence of life in prison. The same jury convicted Arias, 32, earlier this month of first-degree murder for killing her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in a bloody attack in 2008.
Prosecutor Juan Martinez has argued that the cruelty of the murder warrants the death penalty. Arias and her attorneys begged the jury on Tuesday to spare her life and sentence her to prison rather than death. If the jury cannot agree on a sentence for Arias, new jurors will be selected and the penalty phase will begin again. If a second jury cannot decide unanimously on a penalty, Arias would be sentenced to either life in prison without parole, or life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years. The jury currently deliberating has been listening to testimony in the case since the beginning of January. Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Dena Clark(MOORE, Okla.) -- Dena Clark wasn't supposed to be at the Tinker Federal Credit Union in Moore, Okla., when the tornado hit Monday. Her worried mother knew a storm was coming and was on the phone with Clark telling her to go home. But living in Oklahoma, Clark had seen so many tornadoes come and go with minimal effect that she decided to stop at the bank because she had a lot of cash in her car from a weekend garage sale at her home. Clark, 23, was in the middle of a transaction with a bank employee when tornado sirens started going off. "We're actually going into the vault," the teller told Clark. "Me too?" she asked. "Yes," the woman replied. For the next few minutes, the bank employees and their customers all moved into the bank's vault, a small room filled with deposit boxes and encased in two feet of concrete. The bank manager and a police officer monitored the situation by watching TV and looking out the window. At least one passerby came into the bank seeking shelter. Clark was texting her husband about whether she should stay or go. At first he told her she could probably head out, but that text was quickly followed by another one: "Tornado on the ground. Stay." Soon enough, the lights flickered, the TV went off and the power was out. "Eventually, everyone was in the vault and the bank doors were closed," Clark said. "We had our flashlight and there's several people in there ranging from a 10-year-old boy on his iPad to these elderly people that just happened to be at the bank." There were 14 employees and eight other people in the vault. There was one problem: They couldn't get the vault door closed all the way from the inside. Someone took off a belt and looped it through an opening meant to let in oxygen so that they could tug the vault door closed as much as possible, she said. When it still wouldn't close all the way, the branch manager, the police officer and another employee held the door shut "just in case." "After our ears started popping, I just remember hearing the windows blow out," Clark said. "I could hear the glass hit the ground. It was still relatively calm for a little bit after that but you could hear things.""They say [a tornado] sounds like a freight train coming, and I agree with that. But it also just sounds like swirling," she said. "We could hear things moving above us, rotating above us. Things started to hit the bank vault." The bank manager, she said, was shouting, "Don't let go! Don't let go!" Another bank employee prayed in Spanish, crying out to God to protect them. Clark recalled getting emotional for the first time, she said, at the memory. "You see movies. I could just picture in my mind the bank vault door ripping away from us and not knowing what was going to happen," Clark said. "I don't know how they kept that bank door shut. I don't know how long we were actually inside the tornado. It felt like forever." Debris started flying through the cracks of the door and glass cut the feet of people who were wearing sandals. Clark said it became difficult to breathe because of all the dust and debris. "As soon as the tornado passed, we were all kind of wondering, 'Is there a building out there?'" she said. When they believed the twister had passed and tried to open the door, they found that they couldn't and began to smell gas. "We started smelling gas and I was thinking to myself, we survived a tornado and now we're going to explode," Clark said. The few people with cellphone service who had been calling and texting loved ones then called 911 to say that they were trapped in the bank vault and could smell gas. Before authorities could arrive, people passing by heard them shouting and came to help. "They started to dig us out and they pulled back some of the rubble just enough for us to open the door and get out," Clark said. "We made it out of the vault and it was just a sense of relief and people were hysterically crying and hyperventilating." What she saw shocked her. "It was unbelievable," she said. "I know it was a miracle. Nothing in the bank was standing except for where we were." Clark's cellphone battery was running low, but she managed to text her husband, call her mother and snap a photo of the vault before the phone died. "I believe I found my car. It's what looks like my car. It was standing vertically against some rubble," Clark said. "It's not a big deal. It can be replaced. Lives can't." Bank officials expressed a similar sentiment. "Thank you all for your support as we and many of our members found ourselves in the path of yesterday's storm," the bank posted on its Facebook page. "Sadly, our Moore branch was lost. Fortunately, all employees of that branch emerged unscathed, having ridden out the storm in the safety of the vault." Hours after the tornado, Clark was reunited with her family and found that her house was relatively unscathed. Clark said she feels "so lucky and so blessed" to have survived the disaster. "I wasn't supposed to be at the bank," an emotional Clark said. "It was so clearly orchestrated by God."Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Orange County Sheriff's Dept(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- The man shot dead by an FBI agent in Orlando, Fla., early Wednesday was "about to sign a statement" admitting to a role, along with Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, in an unsolved triple murder in Massachusetts in 2011, two people with direct knowledge of the case told ABC News. Ibragim Todashev "just went crazy," and pulled a knife during his interview with the FBI, said state and federal law enforcement officials briefed on the latest twist in the investigation of the Boston Marathon bombing. One official said an FBI agent was stabbed several times, although his injuries were described by the FBI as "non-life-threatening." FBI agents and Massachusetts state police began to question Todashev after his name and phone number were recovered from the phone of the dead bombing suspect. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police days after he and his younger brother Dzhokhar allegedly planted two bombs near the finish line at the Boston Marathon April 15, killing three and injuring more than 260 others. Dzhokhar was later captured and is in custody. Todashev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev both fought mixed martial arts in the name of Boston's Wai Kru gym, where one of the 2011 triple murder victims, Brendan Mess, also trained, according to law enforcement officials. According to officials, Todashev was initially being questioned about any role in the marathon bombing when it emerged he had connections to the gruesome murder. There is no indication Todashev was tied to the bombing, sources familiar with the case said. In the wake of the bombing, detectives developed DNA evidence linking both Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother Dzhokhar to the triple murder scene. The three men who were killed had their throats slit and their bodies were left with cash and marijuana placed on top of them. The murder took place on September 11, 2011, the ten year anniversary of the al Qaeda terror attacks on New York and Washington. Also killed with Mess were Raffael Teken and Eric Weissman. According to a recent Florida police report, Todashev was arrested May 4 and booked with aggravated battery for allegedly fighting with a father and son over a parking space in a mall parking lot in Kissimmee, Fla. Todashev had told police he fought in self-defense as the son "came at him swinging" after Todashev pushed the father. Neither father nor son wanted to press charges in relation to the altercation, the report said. The report lists Todashev's place of birth as Russia.Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(OKLAHOMA CITY) -- Investigators with the Oklahoma Attorney General's office have already uncovered evidence of businesses taking advantage of the recent tornado's devastation by price-gouging in the weather-ravaged region, including a grocery store accused of charging consumers $40 for a case of water. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt told ABC News that 30 investigators from his office started aggressively combing the region for fraud just hours after the tornado tore through it -- and immediately found businesses violating the law. "This is something we were putting in place and starting in motion as soon as we knew the threat existed," Pruitt said. "We're going to places where we think potential harm could occur." Using a law known as the Emergency Price Stabilization Act, consumer protection investigators are teaming with local law enforcement to catch fraud as it happens. The law was passed after a tornado leveled the same region in 1999 and prohibits price increases of more than 10 percent on goods and services such as water and hotel rooms for 30 days after a disaster. It extends to 180 days for construction-related complaints. In addition to the $40 cases of bottled water, Pruitt said his team uncovered a hotel in the area that was allegedly overcharging in violation of the law. "We're looking at everything from work gloves to water to storage units, hotels and car rentals. And long term, we'll be dealing with home construction and repair," he said. Despite repeated warnings to be on the lookout for scam artists after a disaster, Pruitt said many Oklahomans are still unaware that they can be ripped off. "They would never anticipate or expect or guess that someone would take advantage of them right now, but this situation is what criminals prey upon," he said. Pruitt says his investigators are fielding tips from citizens and law enforcement and are operating not only in the area that was directly hit, but surrounding areas where displaced homeowners may end up. "We pray there is some good that comes out of this, that (criminals) are discouraged when they know someone is there to enforce the law," Pruitt said. "And our citizens should know that they're safe from that." The Attorney General's office has set up a hotline to report fraud, which can be reached at (405) 521-2029. Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
ABC News(PHOENIX) -- Hours after Jodi Arias asked a jury to spare her life for killing her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, the convicted killer maintained in a jail house interview with ABC News that it would have been "meaningless" to apologize to Alexander's family in court because no one would believe her. Arias, 32, was convicted of first-degree murder for the June 2008 stabbing and shooting death of Alexander. Arias has been branded a liar by the prosecution because she initially denied killing Alexander, then claimed two years later that she killed him in self-defense. "I think in a sense, the words, 'I'm sorry,' just seemed meaningless, especially since nobody believes what I'm saying anyway," said Arias, who in court tearfully told the family that she never meant to cause them so much pain, but she did not apologize. Asked why she didn't apologize to the family in court, Arias replied: "I did apologize to them." Reminded that she did not use the words "I'm sorry," Arias said, "Well, then I'm sorry I didn't say that. Because certainly I am sorry. I think in a sense, I-- the-- the words, 'I'm sorry,' just seemed meaningless, especially since nobody believes what I'm saying anyway. " She went on to say that, "I think people believe that because I lied, that everything that comes out of my mouth is a lie. Which is unfortunate, because, if that were the case, then that would be true for everyone. Because I don't know somebody that's never lied." The same jury that convicted Arias will now weigh whether she'll get the death penalty. "I feel a little betrayed by them," Arias said of the jury. "I don't dislike them. I just was really hoping that they would see things for what they are. And I don't feel that they did." If the jury opts for a life sentence, the judge will have the option of determining whether she spends the rest of her days behind bars or is eligible for release after 25 years. "All I know is that, if I were given freedom again, I would handle it very, very responsibly," Arias said. "If you're not abusing me and attacking me and threatening to kill my life, there's no reason to fear." Following her first-degree murder conviction, she gave an interview to a TV station and said she preferred the death penalty. Arias walked back that comment in her allocution statement to the jury on Tuesday, as she tried to convince them to send her to prison so she would have an opportunity to contribute to society. "I think that if I stood before the jury asked them to sentence me to death, then it's kind of like asking for assisted suicide," Arias said. Arias said that receiving the death penalty would only bring more pain to her family and especially Alexander's family. "I'm hoping that they'll be able to move on and not think about me, if that's even possible. I want them to be able to put it behind them and get peace and get closure," she said. "I get a death verdict, this will drag on and on and on." Asked if she would sentence herself to death for killing Alexander, she said no because she doesn't believe in "capital punishment." Arias said it will take time to understand the jury's decision if they sentence her to death. "I will have a rudimentary understanding of why. And I think that understanding would grow with time," Arias said. While Arias repeated many of her claims from previous interviews and testimony on the witness stand, she shed new light on the behind-the-scenes aspect of the trial. Arias said her lawyers would not allow her to call on witnesses who could have bolstered her claims that she was a victim of domestic violence at the hands of Alexander. "My attorneys made decisions not to call certain individuals that I feel would have helped me. And I'm not blaming them," Arias said. "There have been a lot of things I don't agree with that my defense attorneys have done or that they've advised me to do. But for the most part, I take their advice." Arias' case has drawn many connections to the Casey Anthony murder trial. Anthony was acquitted in 2011 of murder in the death of her daughter, Caylee Anthony; much like Arias, she initially told elaborate lies and then claimed at trial that she was a victim. Many in America expressed outrage, feeling the jury made the wrong decision letting Anthony walk free. Arias said the attention around the Anthony case may have influenced her first-degree murder conviction. "I think some, yes. All? No. But I don't think that may be in the minds of some people," Arias said. If Arias is sent to death row, she will be transferred to Arizona's state prison complex at Perryville. "I try not to think about it. But if I'm confronted with that reality, then I will deal with it," she said. Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images(CLEVELAND) -- The three Cleveland women rescued from the kidnappings that kept them in captivity for over a decade say they are "happy and safe" as they continue to recover from the harrowing ordeal. The attorneys for Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight released a letter on behalf of their clients thanking the public for their encouragement, as well as for respecting their requests for privacy. "The outpouring of public support has been nothing short of remarkable," the letter stated. "To have complete strangers offer loving support in the form of money, goods and services, reaching out to help like a family member, is appreciated in ways that are impossible to put into words. Amanda, Gina and Michelle, who have asked for nothing, are frankly overwhelmed by it all." The women escaped from Ariel Castro's home on May 6. A charity established to help the women in the aftermath of the kidnappings has raised more than $650,000. Donations will directly benefit Berry, her daughter, DeJesus and Knight. The letter in full reads:
Amanda, Gina & Michelle Offer Thanks to Community We are the attorneys who have come together to help Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. These three brave women have asked us to give this message to everyone who has expressed concern and support. Amanda, Gina and Michelle want you to know they are doing well. They are happy and safe and continue to heal, a process that requires time and privacy. Since we first spoke publicly on their behalf, it has been wonderful to see that their plea for privacy has been answered and respected. The media has disappeared from their front lawns and their neighborhoods are no longer experiencing traffic jams from news vehicles and curious onlookers. You have no idea how much this means to them and has helped in their recovery process. Their first public message included a simple, heartfelt thanks to well-wishers and supporters for "everything you are doing." That "everything" now includes perhaps the greatest gift of all – the space and time to reconnect with their families and recover and rebuild their lives. And so they say again, "Thank you. Thank you so much!" We continue to receive numerous generous offers to support Amanda, Gina and Michelle and their families. The outpouring of public support has been nothing short of remarkable. To have complete strangers offer loving support in the form of money, goods and services, reaching out to help like a family member, is appreciated in ways that are impossible to put into words. Amanda, Gina and Michelle, who have asked for nothing, are frankly overwhelmed by it all. You have touched their hearts in ways they will never forget. So again, they collectively say "Thank you. Thank you so much!" We understand some people may be confused about the best way to help. We are in direct, private and ongoing conversations with Amanda, Gina and Michelle about many matters, including your generosity. While they appreciate the generous offers of goods and services, for now, they are trying to assess what they need today and for years to come. That's why donations to the Cleveland Courage Funds are so welcome. We are confident the Cleveland Courage Funds are the legitimate, appropriate and most effective vehicles for this effort. In fact, donations to the Cleveland Courage Funds are already being distributed to the four survivors consistent with the concepts behind the trusts that are being set up. And as soon as the trusts are in place, one-hundred percent of all donations to the Cleveland Courage Funds will go into those trusts. Cleveland is known for its generosity. Amanda, Gina, Michelle and Amanda's daughter are indeed grateful for that generosity, as are we. Kathy Joseph, Heather Kimmel, Henry Hilow, and James Wooley are attorneys representing the survivors on a pro bono basis.
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Brett Deering/Getty Images(MOORE, Okla.) -- There are reinforced tornado shelters in more than 100 schools across Oklahoma, excluding the two that were devastated by a Tornado earlier this week in Moore, Okla., an emergency-management official said.As authorities search the rubble in Moore for possible survivors and bodies, among the unanswered questions is how everyone at Briarwood Elementary School survived while several students died at Plaza Towers Elementary School. Both schools were destroyed when an EF-5 twister with winds of at least 200 mph killed 24 people on Monday and injured hundreds more.Some people believe those at Briarwood were more fortunate because of the school's construction.Each grade at Briarwood is organized into four pods with a few classrooms in each pod. An opening to the outside runs through the center of the pods. Teachers said that when the walls and ceilings collapsed, they crawled through that open area and children were passed over the rubble.Plaza Towers Elementary is more of a traditional school building with a long line of classrooms, all under one single roof. When the school collapsed, the roof and walls piled on top of one another, making it difficult for people to crawl to an outside space.Both schools had practiced tornado drills but neither had a safe room, which could have potentially saved lives. "You have limited amount of funds that are based on disasters we've had in the past that are used for mitigation measures and when you have limited number of funds, then you set priorities on what schools that you do want to ask for," Oklahoma Director of Emergency Management Albert Ashwood said.More than 100 schools across Oklahoma have safe rooms and the state hopes to increase those numbers, Ashwood said."We're going to be looking at trying to up that number and try to get more safe rooms across schools across the state, the entire state," he said.Metal safe rooms can be built above ground or underground and undergo rigorous tests to make sure they can sustain winds up to 250 mph. Researchers have conducted test on safe rooms to show they can withstand being hit by a car.Moore has been trying to get federal money to subsidize residents who want to buy safe rooms. The city expressed its frustration in February on the city website, saying, "We've found that the FEMA requirements and their interpretations seem to be a constantly moving target, more so with the new wrinkles.""If you don't have disasters, you don't have additional money for mitigation for safe rooms, but without disasters there's not a set funding source just for safe rooms," Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Craig Fugate said.Alabama is the only state that requires all new schools to have safe rooms for students.Many homes in the Midwest, known as Tornado Alley, don't have basements because of loose clay soil or flooding conditions. An indoor safe room might be the best option for families and schools."There are above-ground and below -round storm shelters that offer near absolute occupant protection from the worst-case tornado," said Ernst Kiesling, professor of civil engineering at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.Meanwhile, authorities have searched each damaged home at least once, and the goal is to conduct three searches of each location just to be sure. Moore Fire Chief Gary Bird said he was "98 percent sure" there were no more bodies or survivors in the rubble.Classes at Moore public schools have been canceled for the remainder of the school year but graduations will continue as planned.Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano will travel to Oklahoma later Wednesday to meet with state and local officials and ensure that first responders are receiving the assistance they need.
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FBI(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- An Orlando, Fla., man being questioned by the FBI about his relationship with the accused Boston bombers was shot and killed Tuesday night by a federal agent who felt threatened, a law enforcement official told ABC News."There was some sort of aggressive movement that led the FBI agent to believe he was under threat and he opened fire," the law enforcement official said.The dead suspect "was somebody who they were asking about his relationship with the Boston bombing subjects," the law enforcement official said. A man claiming to be a friend of the suspect told ABC News' Orlando affiliate WFTV that the suspect's name was Ibragim Todashev.The man killed by the FBI may have lived at one time in Boston, the law enforcement official said, adding that Tuesday night's shooting came as a surprise during a cooperative interview with the man.In a statement, the FBI confirmed a shooting had taken place in the large Florida city and said, "the agent encountered the suspect while conducting official duties.""The suspect is deceased. We do not have any further details at this time. We expect to have more information later this morning," the FBI said.Brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev stand accused of setting off a pair of bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, killing three and injuring more than 260 others. Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police days later, while Dzhokhar was injured and later captured.
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Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As the Boy Scouts of America prepares to vote Thursday on a proposal that would change its long-standing policy of excluding gay boys from Scout units, the executive director of Scouts for Equality, a gay rights advocacy group, is hopeful that the proposal will pass -- but says this is just the first step.“This is a good step in the right direction, we want youth protection throughout the entire program, and it looks we'll be able to see that on the 23rd,” executive director Zach Wahls tells ABC News. “But after that, we have to make sure that we are telling Scouts that when you turn 18 you are still welcome in the program.”The proposal up for vote will not change the BSA's policy of banning gay adult leaders. To Wahls, changing that policy is not just political, it's personal.“As the straight Eagle Scout son of a lesbian couple, I know exactly how important lifting the ban on adults is," he says. "I got to see first-hand when I was growing up in Iowa, the impact that great, wise, loving parents could have in the lives of my Scouters.”In addition to advocating for policy changes, Wahls says a big focus of his organization’s mission is to increase understanding around LGBT issues, one conversation at a time."What we are seeing is the effect of people having conversations and moving past fear," Wahls says. "When we talk about homophobia, literally the fear around this, is people can have person-to-person conversations...and understand that there isn't anything to be afraid of."
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ABC News(PHOENIX) -- Jodi Arias could become the third woman on Arizona's death row if she is sentenced to death on Wednesday for murdering her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander.If condemned to death row, she would likely face a long sentence, since Arizona has not executed a woman since 1930. But that long sentence would be marked by extreme isolation.The jury that convicted Arias earlier this month is set to continue their deliberations on Wednesday over whether to give Arias life in prison or the death penalty. They began deliberating at 6 p.m. ET on Tuesday.Arias and her attorneys begged the jury to spare her life on Tuesday during Arias' allocution statement and the closing arguments, telling the jury that Arias would spend her life behind bars helping others and contributing to society.But prosecutor Juan Martinez told the jury death is the only just punishment for the June 4, 2008 murder, in which Arias killed Alexander with 27 stab wounds, a slashed throat and a gunshot to the head.Life on Arizona's death row would mean no contact with other inmates -- including her death row neighbors. Her chance to talk to others would be few. She would be allowed only two 10-minute phone calls per week.Arias would be permitted visits, but there would be no physical contact with those visitors. And her family is in California, which could make frequent visits difficult.Her life at Arizona's state prison complex at Perryville, outside of Phoenix, would be largely confined to a 12 feet by 7 feet cell which is outfitted with a toilet, sink, bed and mattress, according to the Arizona Department of Corrections. How she could furnish her cell is strictly limited: just two appliances, hygiene items, two books and writing materials.Arias, 32, would be allowed outside of her cell to exercise for only two hours on three days a week, plus three showers per week, according to the department. For the rest of her life, Arias would eat all her meals in that cell.If the jury condemns her, Arias will join on death row Wendi Andriano, 43, who murdered her husband, and Shawna Forde, 46, who was convicted of killing a man and his daughter in an act of vigilante crime with a group of protesters angry over immigration.
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Benjamin Krain/Getty Images(MOORE, Okla.) -- As the terrified tornado-whipped students of Briarwood Elementary School in Moore, Okla., cowered on their hands and knees with backpacks over their heads, tearfully pleading for their parents, they asked their teacher, "Is this really happening?"Sheri Bittle, a first-grade teacher at Briarwood, Tuesday recounted the horror of Monday's twister that she said sounded like a train that kept barreling by as it ravaged her school."You could just feel the pressure just building like you were in an airplane, just the pressurization of the cabin and your ears popping and the debris starts flying and the roof falling in," Bittle told ABC News. "And everything in your classroom falling in on you."The tornado tore a 12-mile path of destruction that killed 24 people, including nine children, and destroyed Plaza Towers Elementary School and Briarwood Elementary School in Moore. For many families, Monday ended in tears of joy after families were reunited. Others were left to wait, hoping for good news while fearing the worst."I actually saw the tornado coming straight toward us," Briarwood first-grade teacher Cindy Lowe told ABC News. "I knew there was no turning back then. It was coming. It wasn't something that I was watching on TV. This was really going to happen."Teachers followed procedure, Bittle said, moving students to interior walls and the innermost area of the school. The children got down on their hands and knees, putting their hands over their heads."They were covering their heads with their backpacks," Bittle said. "There was so much debris falling. A roof beam fell on me and another teacher."Bittle, who escaped major injury, lay on top of her children as the building collapsed around them, and said all the teachers would have done the same. A teacher in the next room had a table leg impale her own leg."I was praying," Bittle said. "I yelled it over and over for the Lord to just cover us and save us and to keep us safe. And He did. My entire class was safe and well and got delivered to their parents. The teachers at Plaza Tower didn't have that blessing."Seven of the nine children killed in the tornado were students at Plaza Towers Elementary School, officials said."I can't imagine," Bittle said through tears, "not being able to give those kids back to their parents that brought them to me that morning."Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan confirmed to ABC News affiliate KOCO-TV Tuesday that a number of children at Plaza Towers Elementary School remain unaccounted for."It's just a very graphic situation for even those of us who've come obviously well after the storm has passed," he said."I know there's a number of dead children from that school," Oklahoma City Police spokesman Sgt. Gary Knight said.The walls of Plaza Towers Elementary School were "pancaked," Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb told ABC News.The storm tore off Plaza Towers' roof, knocked down walls and turned the playground into a mass of twisted plastic and metal. Rescue workers passed the survivors down a human chain to the triage center in the parking lot after the tornado passed directly over the school. Briarwood Elementary School received a "direct hit" from the twister and was also destroyed, with its roof and walls blown off."Safety is our main priority and the decisions we make are always with safety in mind," Susan Pierce, superintendent of Moore Schools, said at a news conference Tuesday. "We are in the process of learning as much as we can about what has happened and we are reviewing our emergency procedures today."The two schools were not funded for safe rooms, according to state Director of Emergency Management Albert Ashwood."You have a limited amount of funds that are based on disasters you've had in the past that are used for mitigation measures and when you have limited number of funds, you set priorities for what schools you do want to ask for," Ashwood said at the news conference.He said Briarwood and Plaza Towers were not being left out, but, rather, had not been brought forward yet for safe rooms."We're going to be looking to try and up that number and try and get more safe rooms in schools across the state, the entire state," Ashwood said.Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
A website created to support Florida high school teen Kaitlyn Hunt is shown in this May 21, 2013 photo. (Lawrence Lai/ABC News)(SEBASTIAN, Fla.) -- A Florida high school senior was expelled from school and is facing felony charges for a sexual relationship she allegedly had with a fellow girls' basketball teammate who is three years younger.Kaitlyn Hunt, a cheerleader and basketball player at Sebastian River High School, is facing two counts of felony lewd and lascivious conduct on a child ages 12 to 14 for her alleged relationship with a freshman classmate.She has denied the charges, which were filed earlier this year in Indian River County.The girls were 18 and 14 when they became sexually involved, according to an arrest affidavit by the county Sheriff's Department. The girls' basketball coach at the high school found out about the relationship, told the younger girl's mother, who also works as a coach, and kicked Hunt off the team, according to Hunt's family.
The younger girl's parents then contacted police, according to the Hunt family.The police set up a phone sting operation in which the 14-year-old called Hunt and asked her details about their relationship, according to the affidavit. Police then arrested Hunt in February, based on the details the girls discussed on the phone, according to the document. She was charged and spent 24 hours in jail before posting bond.
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The Sheriff's Department did not return calls for comment. The Florida State Attorney for the 19th Judicial District Office, which oversees Indian River County, has also not responded to a request for comment.Hunt's family says the 14-year-old student's parents are angry that their daughter was in a same-sex relationship, and decided to go to police, according to Andrew Gay, Hunt's uncle and the family spokesman."Our understanding from the other family is the reason they initially pursued this case is because they're unhappy with their daughter being in a same-sex relationship," he said. "It would appear to be the case if Kate were a male this wouldn't be happening."The freshman's parents also twice asked a judge to provide a court order banning Hunt from attending Sebastian River, but the petition was denied, Gay said. The school board then expelled Hunt from the school, and she has been attending an alternative high school, he added.The Indian River School District declined to comment on the case except to say that it followed the district's student code of conduct in dealing with the situation.The case has sparked outrage in the Indian River community and online, where petitions and a "Free Kate" Facebook page have gained more than 20,000 followers, which has fueled the recent interest."Our family's perspective on this is that Kaitlyn made a poor choice, but this is something that could have been dealt with between families," Gay said. "But they refused to talk. They've been very aggressive. I understand feeling like you need to protect your child, but I don't understand ruining another child's life."He said the 14-year-old has told police she was in the relationship voluntarily, but the girl's parents are pursuing the action. The younger student's identity has not been released by police or the Hunt family.Gay said the family understands that the significant age difference between the girls led to the legal problems, but said it points to a wider, national problem of seniors in high school facing jail time for becoming involved with freshmen."Just because you turn eighteen doesn't mean you're the wisest person on earth," he said. "This happens all the time with males. It's a national tragedy that seniors in high school are going to jail for dating freshmen. If they shouldn't be intermingling with one another, then they shouldn't be in the same school."Hunt has pleaded not guilty to the charges, but has been offered a plea deal by the prosecutor's office that she must decide whether to accept by Friday, according to Gay.The prosecutor's office offered Hunt the chance to avoid jail time if she pleads guilty to felony child abuse, he said."She's hanging in there, but it's been rough," Gay said. "She's spent three years doing medical training in high school and had plans to start college and a nursing program."A felony convict can't become a nurse, so that would ruin her plan for her entire life."Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Brett Deering/Getty Images(MOORE, Okla.) -- For the residents of Moore, Okla., the damage wrought by Monday's E-F5 tornado was all too familiar.A storm, following a nearly identical path, struck the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore on May 3, 1999, resulting in one of the costliest tornadoes in U.S. history, leveling nearly everything in its path and killing 36 people.The 1999 storm, churning at more than 300 miles per hour, was an E-F5 monster, leaving a path of destruction 41 miles wide and some of the fastest wind speeds for a tornado ever recorded.Damage was estimated at more than $1 billion.Moore City officials estimated the likelihood of another tornado "as strong and violent" as the 1999 storm hitting their city at less than 1 percent, according to the town's website.Wind speeds reached 190 miles per hour on Monday, cutting a swath of destruction 17 miles long, according to the National Weather Service.A recent tornado probability study, published by Weather Decision Technologies, predicted the odds of an E-F4 or stronger tornado hitting a house at one in 10,000.That same study put the odds of that same house getting hit twice at one in 100 trillion.But those statistics offer little consolation to a community that finds itself standing amid the rubble of homes it just finished rebuilding."You should not have to go through this twice in your lifetime," one resident told ABC News amid the debris that had been her home.Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis, who was also mayor during the 1999 twister, said the city had learned from that experience about how to rebuild:"We've already started printing the street signs. It took 61 days to clean up after the 1999 tornado. We had a lot of help then. We've got a lot of help now."Twenty-four people, seven of whom were children, were killed in Monday's twister, according to the Oklahoma medical examiner.Authorities do not know how many people remain missing. Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The Army has suspended the one-star commanding general at Fort Jackson, S.C., for alleged misconduct involving adultery and an unspecified physical altercation.An Army official tells ABC News that the case does not involve sexual assault.Brig. Gen. Bryan T. Roberts was suspended Tuesday as Commanding General, U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson, according to a statement from Army Training and Doctrine Command. The post, located in Columbia, S.C., is the largest of the five facilities the Army uses for basic training of new soldiers.Roberts was suspended by the Commander of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Gen. Robert W. Cone, due to allegations of misconduct that "include adultery and a physical altercation,” which the statement said “are being thoroughly investigated.” Adultery is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. “The information at this time does not indicate this is a matter of sexual assault,” an Army official told ABC News.No details were provided about the alleged physical altercation for which Roberts is being investigated.Brig. Gen. Peggy C. Combs will serve as the interim commander pending the results of the investigation. Coombs was previously the commandant of the Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command is investigating the case and had gathered enough preliminary evidence for Cone to suspend Roberts from his command, Army Training and Doctrine Command spokesman Harvey Perritt said.“[The] Army holds all soldiers regardless of rank or position accountable for their actions,” Perritt said.Investigators are questioning witnesses and gathering evidence in the case, which could last several weeks or months, he said.Roberts has been suspended from command pending the results of the investigation; he could be relieved of command of the post depending on what the investigation concludes. Roberts has been in command of the post since April 2012.Another Army one-star general is currently on trial for adultery at Fort Bragg, N.C. Last year Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair was serving in Afghanistan as a deputy commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division when he was accused of engaging in adultery and sexual assault. Sinclair faces life in prison if convicted on the sexual assault charge.Over the past two weeks, sexual assault in the military became a hot-button issue in Washington after two sexual assault prevention officers found themselves involved in incidents of sexual assault.Two weeks ago the Air Force lieutenant colonel who ran the Air Force’s office of sexual assault and prevention was arrested for allegedly groping a woman, and last week an Army sergeant who served as a sexual assault prevention coordinator at Fort Hood, Texas, was removed from his post while he was investigated for alleged sexual assault.The incidents led Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to order the retraining and rescreening of the 45,000 sexual assault prevention officers and military recruiters.Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
ABC News(PHOENIX) -- "Two wrongs do not make a right," Jodi Arias' defense attorney said Tuesday as she asked the jury to spare Arias the death penalty for killing her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander."While what she did was absolutely horrible, you have convicted her of that," attorney Jennifer Willmott said. "Jodi took Travis away. She took him away from his family and from this world. But two wrongs do not make a right. Jodi can still contribute to this world. Her life still has value and you have a choice."The jury began deliberating Tuesday evening whether Arias should be sentenced to death after Willmott made the closing statement for Arias in the death penalty phase of her murder trial.Earlier this month, Arias, 32, was convicted of murdering Alexander in June 2008.During the penalty phase, the burden was on the defense to prove mitigating factors, or aspects of Arias' life that proved she should be sentenced with leniency.Prosecutor Juan Martinez has argued that the murder was especially cruel and warranted the death penalty, noting that Arias stabbed Alexander, slashed his throat and shot him in the head.On Tuesday, Willmott asked the jury to keep in mind that Arias had no prior criminal record, was only 27 when she killed Alexander and, in all other areas of her life, was a good person.She had stable relationship with ex-boyfriends with whom she remained friends after breakups, she was a good friend, a talented artist and had every intention to spend her life behind bars trying to contribute to society if she were given the chance, Willmott said."People are far better than their worst deed, and Jodi Arias is a far better person than her very worst deed," Willmott said. "There is so much mitigation in this case. There are so many reasons that you can find to be merciful, that you on your own can find to call for life in prison instead of execution."Martinez, in his closing argument, dismissed Willmott's claims about Arias's alleged mitigating factors. He said that the facts mentioned by the defense -- that Arias had artistic talent, was young and had a clean criminal background -- were not enough to mitigate the way she killed Alexander in 2008."Being an artist is a mitigating factor? What does that have to do with the crime?" he asked incredulously. "It shows [the defense's arguments] are not worth considering when you look at the horrific nature of the crime. Nothing they have presented is a mitigating circumstance. Are any of them sufficiently substantial to call for leniency when you take a look at what this individual did?""The only thing you can do, based on the mitigating circumstances, is to return a verdict of death," Martinez said.In her rebuttal, Willmott again went through her arguments and told the jury that it must decide the answer to a single question."The simple question before you is: Do you kill her? That's the question," Willmott said. "She has done something very bad. She has. You have convicted her of that. You have told her she is guilty of first degree murder for that. But the question is now: Do you kill her?"Before closing arguments began, Arias was also given her last opportunity to speak directly to the jury.Arias clicked through a photo slideshow, quoted Dickens and used props as she begged them to spare her life for her family's sake.Dressed in all black and wearing glasses, Arias told the jury that, though she previously told reporters and others that she would prefer the death penalty, she no longer felt that way."I have made statements that I would prefer death, but I lacked perspective," Arias told the jurors."To me, life in prison was the most unappealing outcome I could think of," she said. "I thought I'd rather die.""But as I stand here now, I can't ask you to sentence me to death because of them," she added, pointing in the direction of her family."Either way, I'm going to spend the rest of my life in prison," she said. "It will either be shortened or not. If it is shortened, the people that will be hurt the most will be my family. Please don't do that to them. I've already hurt them so much, and I want everyone's pain to stop."She also referred to the family members of Alexander, who spoke last week to the jury during victim impact statements."I never meant to cause them so much pain," she said, pointing to Alexander's family.Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Lui Kit Wong-Pool/Getty Images(SALT LAKE CITY) -- Questions still surround the 2009 disappearance of Utah mother Susan Powell ever since the suicides of her husband, Josh Powell, and brother-in-law, Michael Powell, who authorities believe were "directly involved in her disappearance."Although the brothers were considered persons of interest in her disappearance, there was never enough evidence to charge either one of them, said West Valley City Deputy Police Chief Mike Powell. The evidence against them was "circumstantial," he told ABC News.Despite the scarcity of information to go on -- no crime scene, no body -- police said they were still working leads to find out what happened to Susan Powell."It's paramount that people understand that it's not a closed case," the deputy police chief told ABC News. "This is still an open investigation, and we will continue to pursue any information provided to us actively and with just as much vigor."Some hope lies in Steven Powell, Susan Powell's father-in-law, who police believe might know something about her disappearance. Convicted on charges of voyeurism and child pornography, Steven Powell is currently in custody at Monroe Corrections Center in Monroe, Wash.While Steven Powell was not directly involved in Susan's disappearance, the deputy police chief said, "we firmly believe that Steven knows something.""Susan is still missing," he said. "If Steven Powell has any information or indication that he knows where or what may have happened, that would be important for us to have.""Whether or not we're able to obtain that, therein lies the difficulty," he told ABC News.Susan Powell, 28, was last seen in December 2009 at the Utah home she shared with her husband and their two young sons. Her husband told authorities that he had taken an impromptu midnight camping trip with the boys -- in the midst of a winter storm -- the night his wife vanished.Josh Powell, 36, said that he returned home to find his wife gone and continued to state that his wife had left on her own.Susan Powell's disappearance triggered a massive investigation that focused on her husband, who killed himself and his two sons in a fiery explosion at his home in Graham, Wash., in February 2012.Authorities then turned their attention to her husband's brother, Michael Powell, 30, when they learned he had been made the heir to his brother's estate, which included the life insurance policies on Josh, his sons, and Susan that Josh had taken out.Deputy Police Chief Powell said that while authorities looked at Michael Powell when Susan Powell was first reported missing, "there wasn't anything that jumped out initially" about him.It wasn't until the summer of 2011, nearly two and a half years after Susan Powell had disappeared, that police learned that Michael Powell had a car in a salvage yard in Pendleton, Ore. He had allegedly driven from Utah to Oregon in July, but the car broke down outside the city, where it was towed and left in the yard. "We began to look at Michael Powell much more closely at that point," the deputy police chief said.Police brought cadaver dogs to the place where Michael Powell's car had been impounded. While the car had not been crushed, according to the deputy police chief, only the frame and the structure of the vehicle remained."The dogs did indicate the odor of human decomposition [in the car]," said Deputy Police Chief Powell. "We were able to extract a minimal amount of DNA from the trunk of that vehicle."While investigators could not obtain "a full profile" from the sample, they concluded the DNA did not match the profile of Susan Powell. Still, it made authorities interested in her husband's brother.As the investigation progressed, Powell said police found a significant amount of communication between Josh and Michael Powell that had been encrypted via the Internet.In February, a year after his brother killed himself and his sons, Michael Powell committed suicide by jumping from a Minneapolis parking garage."We looked into him as completely and thoroughly as we possibly could," Deputy Police Chief Powell said. "I can tell you that he was involved in some capacity in the disappearance of Susan. There is a high probability that he had a direct involvement." Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
ABC News(PHOENIX) -- In her final words to jurors Tuesday before they decide her punishment for murder, Jodi Arias clicked through a photo slideshow, quoted Dickens and used props as she begged them to spare her life for her family's sake. Arias, 32, was convicted earlier this month of murdering her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in 2008. The prosecution has argued that the murder was particularly cruel and warrants the death penalty, noting that Arias stabbed Alexander, slashed his throat, and shot him in the head. Arias' attorneys presented no witnesses to testify on her behalf this week in the "mitigating phase" of the trial, in which they asked the jury to sentence her with leniency. The jury will begin deliberating Tuesday whether to sentence Arias to life in prison or the death penalty. Dressed in all black and wearing glasses, Arias told the jury that, though she previously said to reporters and others that she would prefer the death penalty, she no longer felt that way. "I have made statements that I would prefer death, but I lacked perspective," Arias told the jurors. "To me, life in prison was the most unappealing outcome I could think of," she said. "I thought I'd rather die. "But as I stand here now, I can't ask you to sentence me to death because of them," she added, pointing in the direction of her family. "Either way, I'm going to spend rest of my life in prison," she said. "It will either be shortened or not. If it is shortened, the people that will be hurt the most will be my family. Please don't do that to them. I've already hurt them so much, and I want everyone's pain to stop." Arias used most of her allocution statement to try to show the jury details of her life before the murder, clicking through a slideshow of photos from her childhood, family life and relationships with ex-boyfriends. "When I was little, my mom took a lot of pictures of me. I was the first child," she said. "Here I am with Bobby, in our dirty little house," she added. "We didn't have power or heat. In the winter we could see our breath. My parents didn't support this relationship. I'm reminded of that Charles Dickens quote, 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.'"
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Arias attempted to convince the jury to send her to prison so she would have an opportunity to contribute to society. She said that since she has been under arrest, she has come up with ways to be useful in jail, such as donating her hair to Locks of Love and coming up with a plan for recycling at the local jail. "If I'm allowed to live in prison, I will continue to donate for the rest of my life," Arias said, noting that she has donated her hair three times to the charity. "If I get permission, I could start a recycling program for the huge loads of waste taken to the landfill," she added. "It could create new jobs and have a far-reaching impact on the planet." Arias showed the jury her artwork, including paintings of Elvis and her niece, as part of her slideshow, and held up a t-shirt with the word "survivor" on it that she designed and is selling, noting that profits of the sale of the t-shirt are going to domestic violence victims. "I'm supporting this cause because it's very, very important to me. Some people do not believe I'm a victim of domestic abuse but that's OK," she said. "I've never been to prison but I think I could find other ways to contribute there." Arias said that if she were sentenced to life in prison, she hoped to start a book club and help teach fellow inmates how to read. "You've heard before I'm an artist. I'll never create another oil painting, but these are some of my paintings," she said. Clicking through to the next slide, she added, "My family and I have a lot of memories. We won't be creating any more of these together." She also referred to the family members of Alexander, who spoke last week to the jury during victim impact statements. "I never meant to cause them so much pain," she said, pointing to Alexander's family. The same jury that convicted Arias will decide her punishment.Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Limited rail service resumes Tuesday afternoon between New York and Bridgeport, Conn., after two trains derailed last week.Limited Amtrak and Metro-North commuter rail service resumes between New York and New Haven and full service is expected to resume Wednesday.One of two tracks damaged when the trains sideswiped one another and derailed four days ago has been rebuilt and subjected to rigorous testing.
Passengers should still expect delays as trains will run slower on the new sections of the track.Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
TSANEW YORK) -- A New York man was arrested Tuesday at John F. Kennedy International Airport after a loaded gun was found in his luggage.It's the second time in four days a passenger at JFK has been spotted with a loaded gun in his carry-on.The passenger was flying to Hawaii when his .22 caliber handgun was confiscated.It followed a San Francisco-bound passenger on Saturday caught with a .40 caliber gun and two magazines each loaded with three rounds of ammunition.Firearms are only allowed in checked baggage and only if they're properly declared.Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A veteran New York City detective was arrested Tuesday for alleged computer hacking.Detective Edwin Vargas, who has been with the New York Police Department for 20 years, is alleged to have improperly used a federal database to snoop on an ex-girlfriend and fellow police officers.Prosecutors say he also hired computer hackers to find information about them.Between March 2011 and October 2012 court records say Vargas paid a hacking service thousands of dollars to obtain usernames and passwords for dozens of personal accounts of current and former NYPD staff.It all may have stemmed from a dispute with the ex-girlfriend, who is also an officer.Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
ABC News/Stockphoto/Thinkstock(MOORE, Okla.) -- The students at Briarwood Elementary School in Moore, Okla., were just preparing to go home for the day Monday when the tornado that killed at least 24 people in their town made what authorities call a “direct hit” on their school.“We had already prepared our backpacks and they had their bear binders and homework folders in their backpacks,” first-grade teacher Sheri Bittle said Tuesday on ABC’s Good Morning America. “I had them take their backpacks and put them over their heads.”In another first-grade classroom at the school, which had its roof and walls blown off in the storm, teacher Cindy Lowe laid her body on top of her students to protect them.“I actually saw the tornado coming and knew how serious it was,” Lowe said on GMA. "[I was] just laying my body on top of as many kids as I could to help out.”Both Lowe and Bittle said a main focus of their heroic actions as the tornado blew over was to calm their students, who, living in a tornado zone, had been through countless tornado drills before.“We practiced tornado drills and things like this and I had to tell them this is not a drill and we need to be safe,” said Lowe. “I was just trying to calm the children down.”Moore, a community of 41,000 people about 10 miles south of Oklahoma City, saw homes wiped away and businesses left in ruins after the tornado whipped through with wind speeds of up to 200 mph. The medical examiner’s office’s current death toll of 24 includes seven children, some of whom were from Plaza Towers Elementary School, the other elementary school directly in the tornado’s path.Bittle said the trauma for Briarwood’s students and their parents alike continued long after the tornado had passed as frantic parents, blocked by debris and recovery efforts, tried to reach their children.“I had a student that stayed with me until 8 p.m. last night because his parents could not get to the location there by the school where we were at,” she said. “Parents walked for miles just to get to their children. They were out of breath and crying but so happy to see them and just know that they were safe.”“It was just heartbreaking to see the tears of joy, how happy they were that their child was safe and that they could finally get to them,” Bittle said of the reunions.Moore resident Andrew Wheeler credits a Briarwood teacher with keeping his son safe as the tornado wreaked havoc on the building as students were preparing for their final days in school before summer vacation.“The teacher held their heads, and bricks and everything were falling all over the kids. She got her arm injured. One of the other boys on her other side got a big gash in his head, but he’s OK,” Wheeler said.
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iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MOORE, Okla.) -- First responders are in a race against time in the search for any survivors of a devastating tornado that ripped through Moore, Okla., while the medical examiner's office has revised the death toll from 51 to 24, including nine children. Oklahoma medical examiner spokeswoman Amy Elliot said Tuesday morning that she believes some victims were counted twice in the early chaos of the storm. The original death toll included 20 children. Two elementary schools were in the path of Monday's tornado, which the National Weather Service gave a preliminary rating of at least EF-4, meaning churning wind speeds of up to 200 mph. Oklahoma City police spokesman Sgt. Gary Knight said seven of the young victims were from Plaza Towers Elementary School. Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis and National Guard members told ABC News the search-and-rescue operation at the school is now a body-recovery effort. "The walls were just pancaked, absolutely flattened and the students were just grouped together," Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb told ABC News. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin tweeted late Monday night that she visited with search crews at the elementary school. "Appreciate their hard work and tireless dedication," she tweeted. Fallin has also deployed 80 National Guard members to help with search-and-rescue efforts throughout the city. Authorities said Briarwood Elementary School in Moore received a "direct hit" from the storm and was also destroyed, with its roof and walls blown off. A total of 242 patients, including 58 children, were treated at hospitals. Many patients have been treated and discharged while others have been transferred among hospitals. Kelly Wells, spokeswoman for Norman Regional Health System, which oversees three hospitals in Oklahoma, said lacerations, broken bones, head and neck injuries were the most common. Moore Medical Center, the only hospital in Moore, sustained major damage and was evacuating all its patients to other hospitals. Betsy Randolph of the State Highway Patrol asked people not involved in search-and-rescue operations to stay off the roads so first responders can do their job. President Obama signed a disaster declaration in Oklahoma and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by severe storms and tornadoes. The first tornado warning went out around 2:40 p.m. local time and just 16 minutes later a tornado tore a 12-mile gash in Oklahoma from Newcastle to Oklahoma City. Frantic groups of rescuers could be seen digging through debris within minutes after the tornado blew by. Moore, a community of 41,000 people about 10 miles south of Oklahoma City, saw homes wiped off their foundations and cars tossed like toys on top of nearby buildings. Block after block lay in ruins, reduced to smoking piles of wood and brick. The weather service estimated that the tornado was at least a half-mile wide and says it could have been on the ground for as long as 40 minutes. As Moore continues to sift through rubble for survivors, millions across the Midwest are once again under the threat of tornadoes. People in northeast Texas all the way to southwest Arkansas have a 10 percent chance of seeing a twister later Tuesday. Millions of people from San Antonio, Texas, all the way to Michigan could see damaging hail and even a chance of isolated tornadoes. More than 50 tornadoes ravaged the Midwest this weekend, killing a 79-year-old man in Shawnee, Okla. Monday's devastation in Oklahoma came almost exactly two years after an enormous twister ripped through the city of Joplin, Mo., killing 158 people and injuring hundreds more. Moore was the site of one of the most destructive tornadoes in U.S. history. An EF-5 tornado ripped through the Oklahoma City-area May 3, 1999, killing 42 people.
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iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MOORE, Okla.) -- First responders are in a race against time in the search for any survivors of a devastating tornado that ripped through Moore, Okla., while the medical examiner's office has revised the death toll from 51 to 24, including seven children.
Two elementary schools were in the path of Monday's tornado, which the National Weather Service gave a preliminary rating of at least EF-4, meaning churning wind speeds of up to 200 mph.
Oklahoma City police spokesman Sgt. Gary Knight said some of the victims were from Plaza Towers Elementary School.
Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis and National Guard members told ABC News the search-and-rescue operation at the school is now a body-recovery effort."The walls were just pancaked, absolutely flattened and the students were just grouped together," Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb told ABC News.Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin tweeted late Monday night that she visited with search crews at the elementary school. "Appreciate their hard work and tireless dedication," she tweeted.Fallin has also deployed 80 National Guard members to help with search-and-rescue efforts throughout the city.Authorities said Briarwood Elementary School in Moore received a "direct hit" from the storm and was also destroyed, with its roof and walls blown off.A total of 242 patients, including 58 children, were treated at hospitals. Many patients have been treated and discharged while others have been transferred among hospitals.Kelly Wells, spokeswoman for Norman Regional Health System, which oversees three hospitals in Oklahoma, said lacerations, broken bones, head and neck injuries were the most common.Moore Medical Center, the only hospital in Moore, sustained major damage and was evacuating all its patients to other hospitals.Betsy Randolph of the State Highway Patrol asked people not involved in search-and-rescue operations to stay off the roads so first responders can do their job."We do still have rescue, search-and-rescue crews throughout this city. Some of the heavily hit areas, they are still searching for people. We still have people that are trapped," she said.President Obama signed a disaster declaration in Oklahoma and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by severe storms and tornadoes.The first tornado warning went out around 2:40 p.m. local time and just 16 minutes later, a tornado tore a 12-mile gash in Oklahoma from Newcastle to Oklahoma City. Frantic groups of rescuers could be seen digging through debris within minutes after the tornado blew by.Moore, a community of 41,000 people about 10 miles south of Oklahoma City, saw homes wiped off their foundations and cars tossed like toys on top of nearby buildings. Block after block lay in ruins, reduced to smoking piles of wood and brick.The weather service estimated that the tornado was at least a half-mile wide and says it could have been on the ground for as long as 40 minutes.As Moore continues to sift through rubble for survivors, millions across the Midwest are once again under the threat of tornadoes. People in northeast Texas all the way to southwest Arkansas have a 10 percent chance of seeing a twister later Tuesday.Millions of people from San Antonio, Texas, all the way to Michigan, meanwhile, could see damaging hail and even a chance of isolated tornadoes.Monday's devastation in Oklahoma came almost exactly two years after an enormous twister ripped through the city of Joplin, Mo., killing 158 people and injuring hundreds more.Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr said his community remembers the assistance it received in 2011 and believes it has an obligation to lend a hand in Moore.Moore was the site of one of the most destructive tornadoes in U.S. history previously. An EF-5 tornado ripped through the Oklahoma City-area on May 3, 1999, killing 42 people.
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iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MOORE, Okla.) -- At least seven of the 20 children killed in the devastating tornado that tore through Moore, Okla., were from Plaza Towers Elementary School, officials said.The school was destroyed by Monday's tornado, which tore a 12-mile path of destruction that left at least 51 people dead.The deadly twister touched down just as students were about to be released for their last week of school before summer vacation. Many of the students hunkered down in closets, classrooms and bathrooms, clinging to their classmates and teachers.Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan confirmed to ABC News affiliate KOCO-TV on Tuesday that a number of children at Plaza Towers Elementary School remain unaccounted for."It's just a very graphic situation for even those of us who've come obviously well after the storm has passed," he said.The walls of Plaza Towers Elementary School were "pancaked," Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb told ABC News.Moore officials and National Guard members told ABC News the search-and-rescue operation at the school is now a body-recovery effort."I know there's a number of dead children from that school," Oklahoma City Police spokesman Sgt. Gary Knight said. "I know the number is around seven."Briarwood Elementary School, also in Moore, received a "direct hit" from the twister and was also destroyed, with its roof and walls blown off.One sixth-grade boy from Briarwood named Brady said he and other students took cover in a bathroom."I was in my classroom building and we were told to get in our tornado precaution system. Then they moved us to the boys and girls bathroom," he said. "Cinderblocks and everything collapsed on them but they were underneath so that kind of saved them a little bit, but I mean they were trapped in there."Josiah Parker, 8, escaped Briarwood unharmed but couldn't find his parents in the immediate aftermath of the tornado."If our school is crushed, my house is like directly behind the pond and so I think it might be crushed, too. If my mom and dad are still alive, they're probably going to take us to a hotel," Josiah said.Josiah's parents survived and the family was able to reunite.Students remained at Briarwood despite the tornado warnings because there were safe areas where they could be protected.Moore resident Andrew Wheeler credits a Briarwood teacher with keeping his son safe as the tornado wrecked havoc on the building."The teacher held their heads, and bricks and everything were falling all over the kids," he said. "She got her arm injured. One of the other boys on her other side got a big gash in his head, but he's OK."Wheeler's son, Gabriel, says his teacher stood with the class the entire time and told them to act as they did in practice drills."The roof came off and then I felt something and it was just raining clay on me and all that," Gabriel said. Monday's twister was the latest in a group of violent storms that swept through the Midwest, starting on Sunday, leaving dozens of people dead.
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iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MOORE, Okla.) -- First responders are in a race against time in the search for any survivors of a devastating tornado that ripped through Moore, Okla., killing at least 51 people and destroying homes and businesses in a 12-mile path, officials said.Spokeswoman Amy Elliott of the Oklahoma City Medical Examiner's office said she believes at least 91 people are dead. Elliott said an additional 40 bodies are being moved to the medical examiner's office, but she was unable to say how many of those bodies were children.Two elementary schools were in the path of Monday's tornado, which the National Weather Service gave a preliminary rating of at least EF-4, meaning churning wind speeds of up to 200 mph. The Oklahoma chief medical examiner said at least 20 children were confirmed dead. Oklahoma City police spokesman Sgt. Gary Knight said at least seven of them were from Plaza Towers Elementary School.Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis and National Guard members told ABC News the search-and-rescue operation at the school is now a recovery effort."The walls were just pancaked, absolutely flattened and the students were just grouped together," Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb told ABC News.Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin tweeted late Monday night that she visited with search crews at the elementary school. "Appreciate their hard work and tireless dedication," she tweeted.Fallin has also deployed 80 National Guard members to help with search-and-rescue efforts throughout the city.Authorities said Briarwood Elementary School in Moore received a "direct hit" from the storm and was also destroyed, with its roof and walls blown off.A total of 242 patients, including 58 children, were treated at hospitals. Many patients have been treated and discharged while others have been transferred among hospitals.Kelly Wells, spokeswoman for Norman Regional Health System, which oversees three hospitals in Oklahoma, said lacerations, broken bones, head and neck injuries were the most common.Moore Medical Center, the only hospital in Moore, sustained major damage and was evacuating all its patients to other hospitals.Betsy Randolph of the State Highway Patrol asked people not involved in search-and-rescue operations to stay off the roads so first responders can do their job."We do still have rescue, search-and-rescue crews throughout this city. Some of the heavily hit areas, they are still searching for people. We still have people that are trapped," she said.President Obama signed a disaster declaration in Oklahoma and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by severe storms and tornadoes.The first tornado warning went out around 2:40 p.m. local time and just 16 minutes later, a tornado tore a 12-mile gash in Oklahoma from Newcastle to Oklahoma City. Frantic groups of rescuers could be seen digging through debris within minutes after the tornado blew by.Moore, a community of 41,000 people about 10 miles south of Oklahoma City, saw homes wiped off their foundations and cars tossed like toys on top of nearby buildings. Block after block lay in ruins, reduced to smoking piles of wood and brick.The weather service estimated that the tornado was at least a half-mile wide and says it could have been on the ground for as long as 40 minutes.As Moore continues to sift through rubble for survivors, millions across the Midwest are once again under the threat of tornadoes. People in northeast Texas all the way to southwest Arkansas have a 10 percent chance of seeing a twister later Tuesday.Millions of people from San Antonio, Texas, all the way to Michigan, meanwhile, could see damaging hail and even a chance of isolated tornadoes.Monday's devastation in Oklahoma came almost exactly two years after an enormous twister ripped through the city of Joplin, Mo., killing 158 people and injuring hundreds more.Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr said his community remembers the assistance it received in 2011 and believes it has an obligation to lend a hand in Moore.Moore was the site of one of the most destructive tornadoes in U.S. history previously. An EF-5 tornado ripped through the Oklahoma City-area on May 3, 1999, killing 42 people.
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iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- After a fierce battle near the Everglades, a Florida man bagged a record 18-foot, 8-inch python, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC).Jason Leon, an amateur python collector, said he was driving in the northwestern part of Miami-Dade County -- where the invasive species are known to seek the warm asphalt of the Everglades’ levies at night -- when he came upon a three-foot section of snake. He began to tug, he told the FFWCC.“Jason Leon’s nighttime sighting and capture of a Burmese python of more than 18 feet in length is a notable accomplishment that set a Florida record. The [commission] is grateful to him both for safely removing such a large Burmese python and for reporting its capture,” said Kristen Sommers, exotic species coordination section leader for the FFWCC.But it wasn’t easy. As soon as Leon seized the animal near its head, it began coiling itself around him, he said. He then knew it was huge, according to the commission, longer than a Chevy Suburban SUV.
Leon said that as the animal began constricting, he had to use a knife to slice the python’s 7-inch-long head off.The previous record python caught was more than 17 feet long, but weighed 164 pounds and was found with eggs inside, according to the FFWC, which measured the snake.It is estimated that between 10,000 and 100,000 pythons infest the Everglades. Many of them were said to have been let loose during Hurricane Andrew in 1991, when the storm flattened a python hatchery, apparently flinging pythons like Frisbees into the Everglades. It is also believed many pet pythons were released.
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Oklahoma County Sheriff(OKLAHOMA CITY) -- At least 7 of the 24 people killed by a devastating monster tornado that ripped through Moore, Okla., were children, the Oklahoma Chief Medical Examiner said Tuesday morning, as searchers continued to pick through the rubble of schools, homes and businesses leveled by the storm.Officials said they expect the total number of deaths to rise as first responders continue to look for survivors. Two elementary schools were in the path of the tornado, but the medical examiner did not specify what school the deceased students attended.Desperate parents stood around what was left of the Plaza Towers Elementary School, many of them sobbing, as rescuers worked to help pull out school children and faculty."I know there's a number of dead children from that school," Oklahoma City Police spokesman Sgt. Gary Knight said. "I know the number is around seven."
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Authorities said Briarwood Elementary School in Moore, Okla., received a "direct hit" from the storm and was also destroyed, with its roof and walls blown off.
Children were still in school because in anticipation of the severe weather Monday afternoon, schools in the Moore area did not release their students at the end of the day, according to Oklahoma Emergency Management officials.Entire neighborhoods have been wiped out, cars were tossed around like toys and were found on top of buildings.
Oklahoma Tornado: How to Help
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said at a news conference Monday night that downed powerlines and massive traffic jams have made emergency responses difficult, and cautioned those not involved in search and rescue operations to stay away from disaster areas."Our prayers and thoughts are with Oklahoma families hit hard," Fallin said at a news conference on Monday. "Our hearts are just broken for the parents wondering about the state of their children."
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One sixth grade boy named Brady, who goes to Briarwood, told ABC affiliate KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City that he and other students took cover in a bathroom.
"Cinderblocks and everything collapsed on them but they were underneath so that kind of saved them a little bit, but I mean they were trapped in there," he said.David Barnes, the director of Oklahoma Emergency Management in Oklahoma County, told ABC News that a single twister tore through homes from Newcastle to Moore, a path of 12 miles. The damage was "widespread" and people's homes were completely destroyed, all the way to their foundations, he said.
LIVE UPDATES: Tornado Damage in Oklahoma
The National Weather Service said the preliminary rating of the Newcastle-Moore tornado was at least EF-4, meaning wind speeds of up to 200 mph."It is absolutely devastating, this is horrific," Oklahoma Lt. Gov Todd Lamb said. "We're going to have fatalities. ... We're going to have significant injuries. ... We just don't know what those numbers are. Schools have been hit, a hospital has been hit, businesses have been flattened, neighborhoods have been wiped away -- we don't have the numbers in yet but it is going to be significant and it is going to be horrific."Moore resident Melissa Newton said the hail from the tornado was "about the size of golfballs."The National Weather Service issued a rare tornado emergency for the Oklahoma City metropolitan area at 3:01 p.m., warning that significant damage and fatalities were likely.At least 105 people have been admitted to area hospitals as more people emerged from the rubble. Moore Medical Center, the only hospital in Moore, sustained major damage and was evacuating all of its patients to other hospitals.The Oklahoma University Medical Center in downtown Oklahoma City had received 85 patients, 65 of which were children. Integris Southwest Medical Center in downtown Oklahoma City, said it received 33 patients, including three children.First responders were reportedly having trouble reaching Moore, which has a population of about 56,300 people, because people were stuck in their cars on the highway."We've got so many people that are all on the interstate that we can not get our emergency responders to the scene because we've got so many people tied up in traffic on I-35," said Betsy Randolph of the State Highway Patrol. This twister was the latest in a group of violent storms that swept through the Midwest, starting Sunday, that has now left dozens of people dead.On Sunday, a tornado ripped through Shawnee, Okla., killing a 79-year-old man near a mobile home park that was reduced to rubble, according to Pottawatomie County Sheriff Mike Booth.Twisters, hail and high winds also struck Iowa and Kansas as part of a devastating, northeastward-moving storm system that stretched from Texas to Minnesota. Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma were ravaged by 50 tornadoes this weekend.Moore was the site of one of the most destructive tornadoes in U.S. history. On May 3, 1999, an EF-5 tornado ripped through the Oklahoma City area, killing 42 people. Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio