<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - National & International News]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/national-international http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.com en-us Wed, 17 Sep 2014 20:56:12 -0500 Wed, 17 Sep 2014 20:56:12 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Video Could Help Find U.Va. Student]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 20:42:51 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/hannah+graham+new1.jpg

Another surveillance video showing missing University of Virginia nursing student Hannah Elizabeth Graham also shows a man following her, NBC29 reported.

NBC29 reported police will release two more surveillance videos of Hannah Graham Wednesday night, but warned the quality of the videos isn't very good.

At 1:06 a.m. Saturday, a camera at Sal's Restaurant on the downtown mall recorded a man walking in front of Graham, stopping and then then walked behind her, according to NBC29. At 1:08 a.m., a camera at Tuel Jewelers, also on the mall, recorded Graham walking with another woman while the same man followed her.

Police have tracked most of the teen's movements through surveillance cameras in the area. 

Wednesday afternoon, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo and lead investigator Detective Sgt. Jim Mooney discussed the chronology beginning Friday night and showed two surveillance videos of the 18-year-old by herself.

She was last seen wearing black pants and a gold crop top with black mesh cutouts, according to surveillance photos taken Friday at her apartment around 9:30 p.m.

Police said she met friends for dinner at The Corner, a strip of bars, restaurants and night spots near the university. She left by herself about 11 p.m.

She was spotted outside McGrady's Irish Pub, then walking east along Preston Avenue in Charlottesville at 12:46 a.m. Saturday. 

Investigators say the Fairfax County teen appeared intoxicated but was not injured.

About 10 minutes later, surveillance video shows her outside a Shell gas station on Preston Avenue, NBC29 reported. She broke into a run, but police said no one was behind her on the tape.

By 1 a.m., Graham made it to the downtown mall in Charlottesville where the latest surveillance video was found.

Her friends last heard from her around that time, when she sent a text indicating she was lost.

Longo choked up as he spoke about talking to Graham's parents, John and Susan Graham, earlier in the day. He read a statement from them.

"Hannah is beyond precious to us, and we are devastated by her disappearance,'' the statement read. "It is totally out of character for us not to have heard from her, and we fear foul play."

But police lack substantial evidence of foul play at this point, Longo said.

"Those of us who know and love Hannah know that she would not disappear without contacting family or friends," Graham's family said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. "She is highly responsible and organized. She embraces life with energy and enthusiasm and has enriched the lives of many. Her empathy is evident in her daily interactions with us and her friends."

Stephen Rice, the band director at her alma mater, West Potomac High School, which she graduated from last year, agreed. "Hannah is not the kind of kid that would just go on a road trip and disappear," he said. "She was always very diligent with everything she did, and always did everything exactly by the book."

The FBI has confirmed that it is involved in the search, saying only that it is providing investigative resources to local police. Albemarle County's search and rescue teams also lent a hand to Charlottesville Police Tuesday in their search for Hannah.

"We're mostly giving them some extra eyes and feet on the ground to actually cover more area quicker. In these searches, time is of the essence in trying to find someone," said Bobby Shiflett with Albemarle County Sheriff's Office. 

Graham, who is originally from England, is 5-feet-11-inches tall with blue eyes, light brown hair and freckles, according to university officials. Her and her family moved to the U.S. when she was 5 years old.

Police said Graham's friends reported her missing Sunday after realizing nobody had seen or heard from her since early Saturday morning.

University President Teresa A. Sullivan issued a statement saying the community is "united in our deep concern'' for the Fairfax County second-year student.

Graham's parents left their Northern Virginia home to go to Charlottesville to help look for her earlier t his week, and a "Help Find Hannah Graham"' page has been established on Facebook.

"I just want her home safe. I'm scared for her," said Karen Blunk, who lives next door to Graham's parents. "Just from the standpoint of, you hear horrible things."

In October 2009, Morgan Harrington, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student, went missing after leaving the University of Virginia's John Paul Jones Arena while attending a rock concert. Her remains were found three months later in a rural area. No arrests have been made.

"It's hearbreaking to know that another young woman is missing and that another family is going through the anguish of the missing period," Harrington's mother said.

At least two other young women, both 19 years old, have also disappeared in the area in recent years. Samantha Ann Clarke vanished after leaving her Orange County townhouse in September 2010. DaShad Laquinn Smith disappeared in Charlottesville in November 2012. Neither have been found.

Anyone with information regarding Graham's whereabouts is asked to call a 24/7 tipline at 434-295-3851.

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<![CDATA["Played Out": Final Moments as Latest Atlantic City Casino Folds]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 12:41:30 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/blackjack+final+hand.JPG

The last blackjack hand dealt before the Trump Plaza casino closed its doors in Atlantic City Tuesday morning was a 21, for the house.

That luck came too late for the casino, which shut for good just before 6 a.m.

The floor was mostly empty, the chandeliers lighting vacant gaming tables and workers clustered together. Only a handful of players were left, loyal customers and determined gamblers to the end.

Ruth Hardrick’s last shift had ended at 4 a.m. but she returned a few hours later for the final moments. For 26 years, the casino had been her second home, she said.

“You see it coming but you never think it’s going to get to this point because you always try to stay optimistic that it would come out of the slump somewhat,” said Hardrick, who lives nearby in Mays Landing, New Jersey. “I had a good run here.”

The two men playing blackjack left as security guards escorted people from the building at 5:59 a.m.

Ruth Modrell set her alarm for 4:30 a.m. to play the slot machines one last time.

“This is a great place,” said Modrell of Bridgewater, New Jersey. “I feel like I’m a favorite daughter in the family and so does everybody else. The people here are just wonderful. You can’t win but that’s true at all casinos.”

The retired communications engineer had been visiting Trump Plaza for about 10 years, and on this final night, she was trying her hand at one or two more slot machines before heading out.

With no drinks to serve, 30-year-old Marilyn Solis was gathering up empty ash trays as the minutes ticked down. This was her second casino closing, she said. She had worked at the Sands Casino Hotel before it shut in 2006.

“I never thought it was going to happen again,” she said.

She has been filling out applications for another job, but was not optimistic.

“It’s been very hard,” she said. “You have to know somebody now to get in.”

At the front of the casino, 60-year-old Rich Everett complained that the owners had not even tried to make the casino successful. He hopes to work for himself instead by buying a limousine to take customers between the casinos, he said.

“They didn’t promote the place at all,” he said.

Soon after the doors closed, workers could be seen inside the lobby pulling up the fake plants.

The day before Linda Winsett stopped in to say goodbye to the workers she'd come to know over her decades playing the slot machines.

 “I know everyone here,” said Winsett, who was visiting Monday with her husband, Jon, a retired Wildwood, New Jersey, police officer. “They’ve always been good to me. Sad. Everyone’s out of work.”

Winsett had known the casino was failing. It had become run-down, and there were fewer employees on the casino floor. Its imminent closure was no surprise to her. “I could see it coming,” she said.

When the Trump Plaza shuttered its doors early Tuesday morning, it became Atlantic City's fourth casino to close this year, following the Atlantic Club in January and Showboat and Revel over the Labor Day weekend. Trump Entertainment Resorts is threatening to shut down a fifth, Trump Taj Mahal, if it cannot cut costs there.

On Tuesday, Donald Trump hinted that he might jump back in the game.

In August, Trump sued Trump Entertainment Resorts, formed after his casino empire emerged from a  bankruptcy and in which he retains a stake. In the lawsuit, Trump demanded that his name be removed from the Trump Plaza and the Trump Taj Mahal casinos because the company had allowed them to fall into disrepair.

Still, the march of casino closures comes as New Jersey casinos' revenue lags, and as state leaders scramble to turn the tide. New Jersey casinos' August revenue was down $3.65 million compared with last year, state gambling figures out Friday show. Last week, Gov. Chris Christie held a special summit to help the troubled casino resort community, and issued a directive to let casinos begin sports betting.

“The whole industry is played out,” said Linda Winsett's husband Jon, 59, who does not gamble. “If you put six McDonald’s on one intersection, not all six are going to do good.”

"I'm going to pick up the pieces"

At mid-day Monday, a smattering of gamblers dotted the Trump Plaza's cavernous casino floor, most of them at the slots. As the day wore on, visitors streamed up the escalators to games whose dazzling names — "Dozens of Diamonds," "Invaders from the Planet Moolah" — belied the casino's future.

That future was on casino employees' minds Monday, as nearly 1,000 workers prepared to lose their jobs. Some said they said they would apply for unemployment benefits or maybe return to college, and a dealer was overheard discussing competition from casinos in neighboring states.

Theresa Volpe, 56, a cocktail server who has worked at Trump Plaza for 26 years, is looking for a job in one of the other casinos, and hopes the city can rebound to thrive again. She lives just outside Atlantic City in Northfield with her disabled sister and her mother, who is recovering from a fall. Both rely on her, but Volpe said she wasn't worried.

"I’m going to pick up the pieces," she said. "I’ll be good. We’ll work it out."

The closing of Trump Plaza has also left uncertain the future of its boardwalk restaurant, EVO. Waiter Elgun Alakbarov, 25, is applying for jobs at other restaurants, but he may leave Atlantic City instead.

"It’s time to do something different. But I'm young," he acknowledged. “People who have a family — it’s hard."

The union representing casino employees, Unite Here Local 54, will host a resource center in Boardwalk Hall from Wednesday through Friday where union and non-union workers can learn about unemployment benefits, health care, rent assistance and other resources, said Donna DeCaprio, the secretary treasurer. "It's kind of one-stop shopping," she said.

"There's already enough poverty"

On a sparklingly sunny Monday on the Atlantic City boardwalk, Janice and Malcolm Blalock had their photograph taken in front of the casinos. Retired government workers from Clayton, North Carolina, they were on a motorcycle trip and were on their way to Philadelphia.

“It’s a little bit sad,” Malcolm Blalock said of the casino closures. His wife, who described herself as a small gambler, said the casino closures reflect the ongoing struggles of a still-rebounding economy.

The pair was only briefly stopping in Atlantic City en route to Philadelphia.

Derek Ljongquist, 31, and Jennifer Cote, 33, stopped at the Starbucks in the Trump Plaza, but they had no plans to stay, either. The couple from Naugatuck, Connecticut – he a computer technician, she a health-care administrative assistant – was headed for a swim and then shopping at the Tanger outlet mall, during a visit for Cote’s birthday.
And though not gamblers, they thought the Atlantic City casinos paled in comparison with their home state's Mohegan Sun casino, though they called the Trump Plaza's closure "a shame."

“It's a shame, because there are a lot of jobs to be lost,” Cote said. “There’s already enough poverty in the city.”

"The whole vibe is different"

Like many others, longtime Trump Plaza patrons Ed Heron Jr., 68, and his wife, Marge, 67, had come to their old haunt Monday to say goodbye to longtime employees.

“This used to be our place,” Ed said. “We used to be here at least two or three times a month."

The retired couple, who live in Philadelphia, recalled steak dinners they had eaten and performances they'd seen by Cher and Diana Ross there. But what was once a fabulous casino now looked desolate, Marge said, and the couple blamed its owners for its failure.

“Ten years ago, the place was hopping,” Ed remembered.

That wasn't the case Monday, another worker at the Trump Plaza's restaurant EVO conceded. Andrea Gant, 29, is moving to Boca Raton, Florida, to waitress in another of the owner’s restaurants for the winter. "It’s hard to get a job here in the winter," she said.

It wasn't just during the winter that business had lagged, though, she said. With fewer patrons to serve, she could tell the casinos were suffering.

"You can feel it," she said. "The whole vibe is different."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[HS Queen Shares Crown After Prank]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 20:22:33 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/vlcsnap-0000118.jpg

Two friends at a North Texas high school vowed to make up for their classmates' cruel prank by awarding the Grand Prairie High School homecoming crown to one of their best friends.

Lillian Skinner, 17, is described by friends as "just an amazing girl" and "one of the nicest people I've ever met."

"She's so sweet," said 17-year-old Anahi Alvarez, a senior at the North Texas school. "We need people in this world like Lilly."

"My mom tells me, and I remember to tell my friends, 'Look inside [to see what] counts. Not the outside. Look inside your heart,'" Skinner told NBC 5 about her life motto. "If you judge people's skin, that's bad. But look inside their heart, to who they are."

But Skinner's sweet and innocent nature also made her the target of a recent prank in which some unnamed girls told her she had been nominated for the homecoming court alongside her longtime best friends, Alvarez and Naomi Martinez, also a GPHS senior.

After learning of the prank, Alvarez and Martinez, who have been friends with Skinner since 7th grade choir, hatched a plan to pass their crown to Skinner should either of them be named homecoming queen.

"We promised each other and we were like, 'No matter what, no backing down. If one of us wins we're giving Lillian the crown,'" Martinez said.

On Friday night, in front of thousands of friends, family members and fans at the Gopher-Warrior Bowl, that is exactly what happened.

Principal Lorimer Arendse, now in his fourth week at the helm of Grand Prairie High School, was let in on the plan shortly before halftime and the planned announcement of the homecoming winners.

"In all my time in school, this is probably the greatest moment I've ever experienced as a principal," said Arendse, who has five years of prior experience in school administration.

It was Arendse's job to escort Skinner onto the field, under the guise of helping to take pictures of the homecoming court's procession. So Skinner had front row seats for when her friend, Anahi Alvarez, was named 2014 homecoming queen.

"When she won the queen, I took a picture and she told me to come over. And I said, 'It's OK. It's OK. It's your crown,' you know? My name is not on the list,'" Skinner said.

Slowly it dawned on Skinner what was really happening, according to the others in attendance.

"That's when it was just, the moment itself took over," Arendse said, still smiling four days after the fact.

"Seeing the look on her face and the way she reacted toward it, it was priceless," said Martinez. "I knew it was the right decision."

Skinner did not know what to think as Alvarez placed the crown on her head.

"I was like, 'Wow, really? Like, wow! Like, is this a dream or something?'" Skinner said Tuesday, pinching her arm as she did.

As for the girl who got the most votes Friday, she said she would gladly do it all again.

"Well, for me, I want to say, and I always say, Lilly won. I just ran in her place, in her position," Alvarez said. "When they ask me, 'Were you homecoming queen?' I say, 'No, Lilly is homecoming queen.'"



Photo Credit: Anahi Alvarez]]>
<![CDATA[Drag Queens Will "Mobilize" if FB Doesn't Change Policy]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 19:38:55 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/drag-city-hall.jpg

Some Bay Area drag queens say they are "disappointed" with the lack of progress made at Wednesday's meeting with Facebook over concerns raised about the social networking site's "real names" policy.

Speaking to reporters outside San Francisco City Hall, the group said they would boycott Facebook if they could, but the site is "tough to leave."

The meeting came after the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and their supporters vowed to protest messages some users received saying that their account had been "temporarily suspended" because "it looks like you're not using your real name." 

Facebook's stance is that the "real names" policy is designed to "keep the community safe."

But "Lil Miss Hot Mess," who recently had to reluctantly identify herself as Harris David on her Facebook page, said that policy was backfiring.

"Their policy is to provide a safe environment, but we feel that by requiring people to use their legal names it makes people more unsafe by opening them up to attacks." she said.

Lil Miss Hot Mess said that as one of the most important public forums today, Facebook's policy is an issue that affects the transgender and LGBT community, social workers, teachers, victims of domestic violence and people who want anonymity for any number of reasons.

“Facebook is discriminating by basically not allowing a large part of the community access to a public forum because of this policy,” she said.

"Heklina," a 47-year-old drag queen from San Francisco, said that Wednesday's one-hour meeting didn't result in any decisions, but that the group hopes to keep meeting with Facebook until there is a resolution.

"Facebook's 'real names' policy is unsafe and unfair to performers," she said. "Facebook knows we are mobilized and ready to protest this policy. There are people who work at Facebook who oppose this policy. Facebook has their heart in the right place but their policy is misguided."

Heklina said she got one of those messages last week, after registering on her original Facebook account as "Heklina Heklina." Then she changed her name to "Heklina Grygelko," but was again kicked off Facebook until she registered with her birth name of Steven Heklina Grygelko — a name she doesn't identify with.

Heklina said she doesn't perform under that name and doesn't want to start a new fan page, because all of her followers now use her personal one, which is more interactive than a fan page.

Facebook's "real name" policy stipulates that "people use their real identities" and "provide their real names, so you always know who you're connecting with." Nicknames can be used if they're a variation of your real name, and an alternative can be listed on an account by adding an "alternate name" to your profile. "Pretending to be anything or anyone isn't allowed," the rules state.

Facebook spokesman Andrew Souvall confirmed that Facebook employees, and not an algorithm, began emailing users recently to verify names that didn't appear to be legitimate, and that some users were blocked recently. "We pulled some down last week," Souvall said, adding that the reason is to hold users accountable for their actions, namely nameless bullying in cyberspace.

The unusual gathering — between the social media giant and a group that bills itself as a "leading-edge Order of queer nuns" that aims to protect and promote human rights for "those on the edges" — was organized by San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, who last week called on Facebook to meet with the drag queens. One of them started a Change.org petition with more than 18,000 signatures from New York to Georgia. The movement is growing on Twitter with supporters using the hashtag #MyNameIs.

Heklina said Compose would reach out to Facebook to set up more meetings in the future. "Next time we hope to meet with people who can directly influence the policy," she said.

Souvall told NBC Bay Area Wednesday morning, ahead of the discussion at Menlo Park headquarters, that the company is "open to talking with them." "We'll see from there. We're open to hearing their suggestions," he said.

Still, Souvall stopped short of saying Facebook would changes its longstanding rule that people must register with their legal names to open an account.

Souvall didn't comment on whether Facebook would follow Google Plus' move in July, when it ended its "real name" policy. In a blog post, the company said by forcing users to use their real names, "it also excluded a number of people who wanted to be part of it." The company added that it hoped the change would make Google Plus a more "welcoming and inclusive" place.

Facebook's policy on famous people, such as Lady Gaga, allows for "real name" exceptions because the company feels the world knows them by that name.

NBC Bay Area's Bob Redell and Scott Budman contributed to this report.



Photo Credit: Scott Budman]]>
<![CDATA[9th Circuit Appeals Court American Flag T-Shirt Case]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 17:48:27 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/LIVEOAK3.JPG

A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Wednesday refused to reconsider a ruling that found a Morgan Hill high school had the power to tell students to turn their American-flag clothing inside out during a holiday important to many Latinos, who comprise roughly 40 percent of the student body.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals let stand its February ruling in favor of Live Oak High School Principal Nick Boden and Vice Principal Miguel Rodriguez, who argued that they asked a group of boys to change or conceal their red-white-and-blue clothes out of concern about violence that might break out on Cinco de Mayo in 2010. Both Boden and Rodriguez are no longer at the school.

Morgan Hill Unified School District Supt. Steve Betando said in a statement the “judgment in favor of the school confirms that there is a delicate balance that must be achieved in protecting students’ First Amendment rights within the operational and safety needs of schools.”

The ruling means the students' parents, John and Dianna Dariano, Kurt and Julie Ann Fagerstrom, and Kendall and Joy Jones, can now appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if they choose. None of the parents could be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday.

But William J. Becker Jr., the parents' lawyer, who is the president and CEO of Freedom X, a group that protects "conservative and religious freedom of expression," vowed to appeal the decision.

"Freedom X will not allow the politically correct judiciary (to) insult our flag," he wrote on his website, citing Colossians 3:17 in his online comments. "Americans have fought and died to protect that flag, and now we are told to conceal it so we don’t offend Mexican aliens, some of whom entered this country illegally. The liberal judges on the court were forced to do rhetorical backflips to come to this outrageous decision.”

Becker Jr. writes he is an "unapologetic warrior for Christ," who also used to report and anchor in the 1970s and '80s for the Las Vegas NBC affliate and well as the Las Vegas Sun.

The original three-judge panel did weigh the Free Speech argument the parents and students had presented. But Presiding District Judge James Ware wrote the court ultimately concluded that there were "minimal restrictions" asked of the students, and that the administrators' request was made out of legitimate safety concerns. "We affirm the district court’s holding that the policy is not unconstitutionally vague and does not violate the students’ right to due process," Waring wrote.

The judges noted that the high school documented at least 30 fights on campus during a six-year span between gangs and "between Caucasian and Hispanic" students, court documents state. One of those fights occurred a year before the day in question, when mostly white students hung an American flag on campus, chanted "USA," and cussed at Mexican students, the judges noted.

“The Court recognized that the protection of student safety must be an administrator’s primary responsibility,” Betando said.

The families had been backed by 20 Republican congressmen, and asked the 9th Circuit to rehear the case with a special 11-judge panel, according to the Mercury News. Three 9th Circuit judges dissented, saying they disagreed with both the court's ruling in the case and its decision to not grant a new hearing. The 9th Circuit decision, the Mercury News reported, relied heavily on the U.S. Supreme Court's 1969 precedent on when schools can cite safety concerns to justify taking action that might violate student free speech rights.

The case at the time drew national attention where many of of the boys were asked for interviews on conservative talk shows and Fox News. And the interest in the story, still hasn't died down completely. This May, a small group of Tea Party patriots picketed in front of the high school with American flags, who were arguing in support of the "restoration of American values and ideas."

As a preemptive strike, the school released a three-minute video asking students to be proud of their heritage without "beating on other people's opinions."



Photo Credit: Bob Redell]]>
<![CDATA[Police Defend Actress Detainment]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 13:28:11 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/actress+daniele+watts+detained+lapd.jpg

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck is defending the actions of officers who briefly detained and questioned an actress who had a part in the film "Django Unchained" following reports that she was "involved in a lewd act" in a parked car.

Daniele Watts wrote on her Facebook page that she was “humiliated” and forced into handcuffs by two LAPD officers for publicly showing affection to her significant other, Brian James Lucas. Her post, which went viral along with video and photos of the incident, suggested that she was racially profiled.

"Daniele Watts was stopped for kissing while black," activist Najee Ali said.

But Beck said the officers did what they were supposed to do – respond to a report of indecent exposure.

"The officers made no selection, the officers were directed to that location because a citizen observed what they believed to be a crime and called the police department,” Beck said.

Watts told NBC News Sunday that she and her partner were kissing inside their car at the CBS lot when they were approached by a man in a suit who asked them to leave because "employees were distracted." The couple stopped after a few minutes and police arrived shortly after, Watts said.

An audio recording of the incident reveals that Sgt. Jim Parker told Watts that someone called police, and that gave him the right to be there and identify her.

The dispatch call described a black female, wearing a white shirt and floral shorts, “involved in a lewd act” in a vehicle with the door open. Police approached Watts because she matched the description. 

When asked for identification, Watts refused and walked away. She was then detained.

"The decision to detain, investigate further, and then release, is well within the bounds of a policing and the authority of police in the state of California,” Beck said.

Watts has formally filed a personnel complaint.



Photo Credit: Facebook]]>
<![CDATA[NY Dog Turns Up in Florida]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 10:36:38 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/nika+dog+missing+found.jpg More than two years after a New York man's dog disappeared from its home, it mysteriously turned up in Florida. Brynn Gingras reports.]]> <![CDATA[Connery, Beckham Join Scottish Independence Debate]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 17:58:58 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/seanconnery_1.jpg

Celebrities are having their say in an attempt to sway Scottish voters who go to the polls Thursday to decide whether Scotland will continue its 307-year-old union with the United Kingdom or become an independent country.

Paul McCartney, Patrick Stewart, Judi Dench, Sting and David Beckham are in favor of Scotland remaining within the union, which also includes England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Former 007 Sean Connery, Gerard Butler, members of the band Franz Ferdinand and "Trainspotting" author Irvine Welsh are among those who believe Scotland should chart its own course as an independent nation.

In a show of bold-faced names in the lead-up to Thursday's historic vote, more than 200 celebrities (the majority of English nationality) signed a letter titled "Dear Voters of Scotland" in which they state how much they value their bonds of citizenship with the Scottish people, and to express hope that those bonds will be renewed. The letter forms part of the "Let’s Stay Together Campaign," a U.K.-wide drive to give "a voice to everyone who doesn't have a vote in the decision to break up Britain."

Other entertainment and sporting luminaries joining McCartney, Dench, Sting, Beckham and Stewart on the list supporting "Stay Together" include Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Daley, Simon Cowell, Mick Jagger, Michael Douglas and Bobby Charlton.

As early as February, David Bowie weighed in on the debate when he was awarded Best British Male at the Brit music awards. In his absence at the ceremony in London, Bowie had Kate Moss read a statement saying, "Scotland, stay with us."

"Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling, who was born in England and has a Scottish husband, has been especially active on Twitter and her website.

Pope Francis and President Obama are also in favor of continuing unity.

In the opposing corner are actor Butler, author Welsh and Connery. The latter, long a vocal Scottish nationalist, wrote: "As a Scot and as someone with a lifelong love for both Scotland and the arts, I believe the opportunity of independence is too good to miss." Connery, 84, now resides in the Bahamas and is ineligible to vote in the referendum.

Actor and comedian Russell Brand took to Twitter to show his support for Scotland independence:

Veteran British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood expressed her solidarity with the Scots during her Red Label fashion show at London Fashion week on Sunday and said she is “very unpatriotic about England because it is completely ruined.” The designer added a "Yes" button of support to all the ensembles she sent down the catwalk.

 

 


 

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<![CDATA[WATCH: Bear Swims in Backyard Pool ]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 15:24:51 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/web_bear_pool_2_noaudio_1200x675_329672259605.jpg A bear takes a dip Sunday Sept. 14, 2014 in Sierra Madre.]]> <![CDATA[Wildfire Devastates Calif. Town]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 19:49:41 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/catholicchurch.JPG

A fast-moving wildfire ripping through the small Northern California town of Weed has destroyed more than 150 homes, churches and structures, injured three and charred 375 acres, Cal Fire crews said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the devastating Boles Fire along Siskiyou County's Boles Creek was 25 percent contained. Cal Fire officials said any information as to the cause of the fire could be worth a $10,000 reward.

Evacuation orders were still in place, and residents were asked to temporarily find shelter at the Mt. Shasta Armory. Highway 97 also remained closed.

Mary Niblock was one of the nearly 3,000 people forced to flee. Despite the major loss, she was thankful to the almost 970 fire personnel were battling the fire, which was reported on Monday. Firefighters received a standing ovation Tuesday night during a community meeting.

"There aren't enough brownies in the world," she told NBC Bay Area. "You can't thank them enough. They saved the town."

Much of the town, however, suffered major damage. That includes many homes, a Catholic Church and the Grace Community Evangelical Presbyterian Church, and part of the elementary and high schools. Their scorched remains were reduced to gray ash and rubble. Burned out vans, cars, stoves and other residential belongings were littered throughout residential neighborhoods.

Much of the challenge to fighting the fire was due to the weather, including gusting winds and low humidity. Winds gusting at up to 40 mph were pushing the flames toward the city of Weed, which sits at the base of Mount Shasta, halfway between San Francisco and Portland.

The city is known for its funny jokes about "weed" and more historically, as a lumber town.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

 Anyone with information should contact 1-800-468-4408.



Photo Credit: Jodi Hernandez]]>
<![CDATA[NY Man Charged in ISIS Plot: FBI]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 08:13:57 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/mufid-elfgeeh.jpg

A Rochester-area man has been charged on terror-related counts after the FBI said he allegedly tried to buy guns to support the terror group ISIS and talked about wanting to kill American soldiers in the U.S.

Investigators said Mufid Elfgeeh also allegedly boasted that he wanted to kill Shiite Muslim residents in his city and find others who would travel to join ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria.

Elfgeeh was first arrested in May, and the firearms charges were made public in June. The recruitment charges were contained in a grand jury indictment handed up Tuesday.

The Justice Department said in addition to posting tweets with photographs and captions like "fighting the American invasion," they said he tried to buy two handguns and silencers to carry out an attack. But the FBI had been watching him for months and said it was unlikely that he could have carried out his alleged plans.

Officials said they arrested Elfgeeh after he allegedly began seeking financial help to carry out an attack. In a sting, they said he tried to buy the weapons from undercover agents.

Elfgeeh came on the radar after an informant who was paid $21,000 for information tipped them off. A second undercover agent was paid $4,000 for his assistance as well, officials said.

Federal officials said they have Elfgeeh on tape boasting that he hoped to kill 10 to 15 soldiers or former soldiers before releasing a video claiming responsibility.

In one online posting, Elfgeeh allegedly said,”Every Iraqi Sunni jihadist is defined as a terrorist in international society; what they don’t know is that the State of Iraq and Sham (ISIL) will one day rule the world with the will of Allah.”

“We will remain aggressive in identifying and disrupting those who seek to provide support to ISIL and other terrorist groups that are bent on inflicting harm upon Americans,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.

Elfgeeh, 30, is a naturalized American citizen of Yemeni descent. In addition to allegedly contacting the informants for help buying guns, they say he also sent $600 to a Yemeni man to help him get to Syria to join ISIS fighters there.

Elfgeeh is currently being held behind bars without bail. Phone calls and emails to his attorney, with a Rochester public defender's office, were not returned Tuesday evening. 

Follow Jonathan Dienst on Twitter @jonathan4NY

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<![CDATA[Continental Recalls 8,070 Motorcycle Tires]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 08:56:26 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/161616958.jpg

Continental Tire the Americas, LLC is recalling several types of Continental motorcycle front wheel tires.

The recall is due to a possible separation between the tread, belt and carcass, which could result in a loss of tire inflation pressure, increasing the risk of a motorcycle crash.

The affected tires include: ContiAttack SM, ContiSportAttack, ContiSportAttack2, ContiRaceAttack Comp. Soft, ContiRaceAttack Comp. Medium, ContiRaceAttack Comp. Endurance, and ContiRoadAttack 2 GTW motorcycle tires, in sizes 120/70ZR17 and 120/70R17.

The recall covers about 8,070 tires sold in the U.S. and Canada between 2007 and 2014, Continental said. It's part of a worldwide program affecting 170,000 tires.

Continental has not received any reports of accidents or injuries, but the safety recall is to avoid any potential risk to road-users, the company said on its website.

Continental said it willy notify owners and dealers will replace the recalled tries with new ones free of charge.

For more information on the recall, visit Continental’s website or call 1-800-847-3349.



Photo Credit: Fast Bikes Magazine]]>
<![CDATA[Sunbathing Woman Run Over by Lifeguard Truck]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 23:52:33 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/217*120/venice+beach+surf+lageneric.jpg

A 25-year-old woman sunbathing on Venice Beach was hospitalized after she was run over by a lifeguard truck Monday, the Los Angeles Police Department said.

The woman, identified as Lorae Bermudez, was on the beach with her husband near the 1500 block of Ocean Front Walk around 4:20 p.m, the LAPD said.

The lifeguard specialist driving a Ford Escape was coming back from a rescue. The driver did not see the woman and immediately stopped, according to police.

Because the lifeguard was not en route to an emergency, the vehicle did not have lights or sirens on, according to LA County lifeguard Capt. Steve Moseley.

The county, which is now investigating, will be looking into whether the vehicle was working properly at the time of the incident. Each lifeguard vehicle is equipped with four detectors, which helps lifeguards navigate while driving in the sand, according to Moseley.

Bermudez spoke with NBC4 from the hospital Tuesday and said she is feeling OK, but was advised by her lawyer not to comment further.

She is recovering from lacerations and fractures, according to the LAPD, which handled the initial accident report.

This was not the first time something like this has happened on Southern California beaches.

In May, a woman sunbathing at Venice Beach was injured when she was run over by a county maintenance truck. The accident was the first of its kind for LA County in 25 years.

In 2006, a woman was killed when an Oxnard Police officer, who was patrolling the beach, ran over her with his SUV.

Beachgoers at Venice Beach Tuesday were in disbelief something like this could happen again.

Vivianne Robinson, who runs the "Name On Rice" store on the boardwalk took photos of the huge emergency response following the incident.

"There wasa whole bunch of fire department lifeguards," she said. "I go, 'This doesn't look like the every day accident.'"

"You're laying on the beach trying to get a tan enjoying yourself and the next thing you know you get run over? Pretty scary," said Theresa Gutowski, who was visiting from New Hampshire.

Lifeguards must complete a safe sand driving course before being able to operate vehicles on the sand, according to LA County Fire officials.

Still, some beachgoers feel more needs to be done.

"Either (have) a designated area for them to drive or designated areas for people to be laying out," said Gutowski. "Or having something to protect yourself like a chair or something!"

"That's the last thing you think about when you come to the beach!" said Mary Moreno, visiting from the San Francisco Bay Area. "To have to worry about putting up posts, or flags or umbrella to let people know you're here? You just want to come to the beach to relax!"

NBC4's Jonathan Lloyd and Oleevia Woo contibuted to this report.
 



Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Pickpocket Steals From Woman]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 09:44:22 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/165*120/times+square+pickpocket.JPG Police arrested a thief in the Times Square subway station Tuesday after they watched him pickpocketing a sleeping woman on live video, the NYPD said. Checkey Beckford reports.]]> <![CDATA[Times Square Elmo Cuffed After Asking for Bigger Tip: NYPD]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 07:04:39 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Times-Square-Elmo-Cuffs.jpg

Police say they cuffed a woman dressed as Elmo in Times Square for allegedly demanding a bigger tip from a tourist after posing for a picture Tuesday afternoon.

The 36-year-old woman was charged with aggressive solicitation after the exchange near the New York Marriott Marquis on Broadway, according to the NYPD.

Police say that officers patrolling the area saw the tourist pose for a photo with the woman in the fuzzy red suit.

The tourist tipped the costumed character, but Elmo stepped in front of the person as they tried to leave and allegedly demanded more money. That's when Elmo was arrested.

The NYPD's Midtown South precinct tweeted a photo of the costumed woman in handcuffs after the arrest.

“Just another day in Midtown South,” the precinct said in the tweet. “Elmo arrested in Times Square.”

It's the latest in a string of arrests for costumed characters in Times Square.

On Saturday, men dressed as Batman and Spider-Man were arrested after allegedly fighting with men who were heckling them. Earlier this month, Woody, Minnie Mouse and the Statue of Liberty were all arrested after police said they allegedly asked tourists to pay for pictures.

The arrests come amid calls to regulate the costumed characters in Times Square. One city lawmaker recently proposed licenses for the characters, and police have begun handing out fliers and posting signs in five languages telling visitors that tips are optional.

Last month, many of the buskers who don the costumes held a news conference where they argued they deserved the right to earn a living.



Photo Credit: NYPD / AP File Photo]]>
<![CDATA[Thousands in SoCal Without Power]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 10:06:16 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/lafile-ladwp-power-outage-ladwp-2.jpg

Thousands of Southern Californians were without power Wednesday morning as a scorching heat wave fueled record-breaking energy demand, utility officials said.

As of 10:30 p.m., Southern California Edison crews were dealing with 84 power outages, which affected 7,426 customers, including 3,990 in San Marino, 1,400 in Los Angeles and 777 in Orange County. By Wednesday morning, SoCal Edison reported 1,800 customers without power.

Meanwhile, 3,000 Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customers were also without power Tuesday night, including 2,000 in the Encino area and 1,000 in the LA metro area, utility officials said. Crews were working around the clock to get the power back on. The utility reported about 630 customers without power Wednesday morning.

Updated Article: Outages Continue in Heat Wave

The DWP reported an all-time record energy demand of 6,396 megawatts Tuesday, a day after the record had been set at 6,196 megawatts. The usage taxed power lines and triggered transformer fires.

“This actually started Saturday, the heat, so we’ve been busy all the way through,” said Juan Esparza, LADWP district superintendent. “We have crews coming in working 16 hours and going home and coming back at midnight.”

At mid-day, about 4,000 LADWP customers were without power. That figure is down from 11 p.m. Monday, when about 6,000 customers were without power. Most of those outages were in the Valley Glen, North Hollywood and Sherman Oaks areas.

An LADWP spokesperson said the outages extend from valleys to metro areas. An estimate regarding restoration time was not immediately available.

LADWP has increased its staffing and added more people to handle phones.Call times in the last six days of the heatwave have been between five and 20 minutes.When LADWP switching billing systems a few months ago and some customers were overcharged, wait times were sometimes two to four hours long.

"Use the interactive voice response system, report the outage, it then registers in our system, our crews are dispatched when they’re available to get your power restored," LADWP spokesperson Joe Ramallo said.

An excessive heat warning was in effect for parts of Southern California through 7 p.m. The region was also under a red flag fire weather warning through 9 p.m.

The record high for Sept. 16 in downtown Los Angeles is 103 degrees, set in 1909. Other Sept. 16 record highs include 99 (1966) in Long Beach; 105 (1984) in Burbank; 104 (1951) in Lancaster; and 91 (1958) in Camarillo.

Annette Arreola, Mekahlo Medina and Willian Avila contributed to this report.

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<![CDATA[Metal Sheet Ignited 1,000-Acre Silverado Brush Fire: Authorities]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 10:40:23 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/212*120/firenight.JPG

The four-day-old Silverado Fire, which has burned 1,500 acres, was apparently ignited by the sun reflecting off metal sheeting put up by someone trying to keep rodents out of a vegetable garden, a fire official said.

The fire was started by pyrolytic decomposition. In this case, the metal sheeting around a vegetable garden to keep rodents out reflected the sun for so long it dried out the wooden base and caught fire.

"At some point, when conditions were right, the comibnation of fuel, air, and heat -- we have ignition," said Jim Wilkens, a United States Forest Service spokesman.

The fire broke out Friday about 10:30 a.m. in the 30500 block of Silverado Canyon Road. About 1,059 firefighters, with help from five helicopters making water drops, battled the fire, which blackened nearly 1,000 .

Six firefighters were treated for heat-related injuries.

The fire blackened a remote area on the western flanks of Santiago Peak, south of Corona.

The fire was not a threat to any cross-mountain routes, firefighters said.

Mandatory evacuations ordered for residents east of 30311 Silverado Canyon Road were lifted Sunday evening.

Jonathan Graham is grateful his house was spared.

But he's left wondering if his yard has any hidden fire hazards.

"Makes you double check about piles of trash ... anything that can produce heat," he said.

Firefighters say anything that reflects light can act like a mirror, amplifying the sun's power in the wrong direction.

It's why Jim Fainer said he stops whenever he sees a broken bottle.

"If I'm hiking and I see broken glass, I'll pick it up and put it in my pocket," he said. "Because it can start a fire. And fires move really fast here."

City News Service contributed to this report.

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<![CDATA[Video Could Help Find U.Va. Student]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 10:00:59 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/1486824_711449072258677_4131817656415730404_n.jpg

Police are studying new video that shows a missing University of Virginia nursing student, hoping that the sighting outside a pub in Charlottesville will help them narrow their search for her.

Hannah Elizabeth Graham, 18, from Fairfax County, has been missing since Saturday.

The new video shows her outside McGrady's Irish Pub, then walking east along Preston Avenue in Charlottesville at 12:46 a.m. Saturday. 

"Those of us who know and love Hannah know that she would not disappear without contacting family or friends," Graham's family said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. "She is highly responsible and organized. She embraces life with energy and enthusiasm and has enriched the lives of many. Her empathy is evident in her daily interactions with us and her friends."

Stephen Rice, the band director at her alma mater, West Potomac High School, which she graduated from last year, agreed. "Hannah is not the kind of kid that would just go on a road trip and disappear," he said. "She was always very diligent with everything she did, and always did everything exactly by the book."

Police have started searching in the area of Grady and Preston avenues in Charlottesville. Previously, they had used a bloodhound to search a large area northeast of the university on Monday and found no trace of Graham.

The FBI has confirmed that it is involved in the search, saying only that it is providing investigative resources to local police. Albemarle County's search and rescue teams also lent a hand to Charlottesville Police Tuesday in their search for Hannah.

"We're mostly giving them some extra eyes and feet on the ground to actually cover more area quicker. In these searches, time is of the essence in trying to find someone," said Bobby Shiflett with Albemarle County Sheriff's Office. 

Graham, who is originally from England, is 5 feet 11 inches tall with blue eyes, light brown hair and freckles, according to university officials. She was last seen wearing black pants and a gold crop top with black mesh cutouts, according to surveillance photos taken Friday at her apartment.

Police said Graham's friends reported her missing Sunday after realizing nobody had seen or heard from her since early Saturday morning, when she sent a text message to a friend after leaving a party around 1:20 a.m.

University President Teresa A. Sullivan issued a statement saying the community is "united in our deep concern'' for the Fairfax County second-year student.

Graham's parents have left their home in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County to go to Charlottesville to help look for her, and a "Help Find Hannah Graham"' page has been established on Facebook.

"I just want her home safe. I'm scared for her," said Karen Blunk, who lives next door to Graham's parents. "Just from the standpoint of, you hear horrible things."

In October 2009, Morgan Harrington, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student, went missing after leaving the University of Virginia's John Paul Jones Arena while attending a rock concert. Her remains were found three months later in a rural area. No arrests have been made.

"It's hearbreaking to know that another young woman is missing and that another family is going through the anguish of the missing priod," Harrington's mother said.

At least two other young women, both 19 years old, have also disappeared in the area in recent years. Samantha Ann Clarke vanished after leaving her Orange County townhouse in September 2010. DaShad Laquinn Smith disappeared in Charlottesville in November 2012. Neither have been found.

Anyone with information regarding Graham's whereabouts is asked to call a 24/7 tipline at 434-295-3851.

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<![CDATA[Thousands Lose Power in San Diego]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 03:40:34 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/palm+tree+on+fire.jpg

A surprise storm wreaked havoc on central San Diego, its coastline and downtown on Tuesday afternoon, prompting a Sig alert, leading thousands to lose power and causing extensive damage.

More than 6,000 customers were without power Tuesday afternoon, and State Route 163 was shut down in both directions after a Sig alert was issued just after 6 p.m.

All northbound and southbound lanes of 163 south of Interstate 8 were closed due to downed eucalyptus trees. The Robinson Avenue and Washington Street exits off SR-163 were also shut down, but crews were able to clear them around 9 p.m.

As of 9:30 p.m., three SR-163 lanes remained closed because trees along the side appeared ready to fall over at any moment. California Highway Patrol and CalTrans officials wanted to investigate the vegetation to make sure it is safe before reopening the freeway.

Meanwhile, San Diego Gas & Electric was reporting on its website that 4,683 customers were in the dark in Mission Valley, Kearny Mesa and Tierrasanta. Another 2,552 lost power in the areas of North Park, Hillcrest, Normal Heights, Mission Hills, Old Town and University Heights.

The lights went out for several hundred others in Escondido, Pala, Santee, Carlton Hills, Fallbrook, Rancho San Diego, Spring Valley, Casa De Oro, Mount Helix and La Mesa.

In the North Park area, crews had most electricity restored by 8:30 Tuesday night, according to SDG&E’s website.

In Mission Valley, only 141 people were still without power by 9:30 p.m.

As for the other areas, power was estimated to be back up between 9 p.m. Tuesday to Wednesday at 2 a.m.

The storm caused extensive damage throughout San Diego, as numerous downed trees were reported as well as lightning strikes. In the Pacific Beach area, many spectators on social media captured a palm tree on fire following one lightning strike.

Photographer Kit Corry tweeted these photos:

At Montgomery Field, winds caught up small planes and flipped them over onto the runway. One even went flying unintentionally over a fence and onto two cars.

A downed tree in Serra Mesa sent hundreds of pounds of branches crashing into another two vehicles.

Viewer sent in pictures of uprooted trees, cable lines knocked down and blocked roads across the county.

Inside a bar called Live Wire on El Cajon Boulevard, winds sent a tree shooting through their roof. One branch broke through the main room and decimated a trophy case inside.

Another long branch poked straight down from the roof into the bathroom, just inches from the toilet. Thankfully, no one was there at the time.

San Diego's storm is unrelated to the microburst that hit East County earlier in the afternoon, bringing high winds and heavy rains, said NBC 7's Dagmar Midcap. It was a pop-up thunderstorm brought on by an unstable atmosphere, she said.



Photo Credit: Kit Corry]]>
<![CDATA[Student Found With Gun Claims He Was Bullied]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 23:42:50 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Schmid_Elementary_school.jpg

An elementary school student in Chicago charged with a felony Monday after he was allegedly found with an unloaded gun in his backpack claims he carried the weapon because of bullying.

School security reportedly found the weapon on the 12-year-old at about 11 a.m. during a search of the student's bag at Schmid Elementary School, on the 9700 block of South Greenwood Avenue.

Police said the student was processed at the District 5 police station, charged with unlawful use of a weapon, and turned over to his parents. Officials said the weapon was an unloaded .38 Special with a 2.5 inch barrel. It had a five-shot capacity and a defaced serial number.

Parents were shocked to hear about the incident.

"For a kid to feel he was bullied that much to bring a gun is shocking," parent Tamika Jean said.

"How hard is this fear that you need to resort to a gun other than your fist?" parent Bridgette Villanueva said.

School officials sent a note home to parents informing them about the incident and issued a statement saying an "investigation was initiated immediately following the student's allegations of bullying."

"The school has a big no-bullying policy. They have assemblies about bullying for the kids," Jean said.

Police declined to comment as to whether the claim of bullying would be investigated.
 

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<![CDATA[Dog Found Nearly 3 Years After Disappearance]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 10:36:16 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/nika+dog+missing+found.jpg

More than two years after a New York man's dog disappeared from his home, the pooch mysteriously turned up in Florida. 

Giuseppe DiBella says he was mowing his lawn in Newburgh about two and a half years ago when he suddenly realized his toy fox terrier Nika was missing.

"I was sitting in the backyard, there was no dog to throw the ball," he said. 

DiBella thinks Nika was stolen right from his yard. He posted fliers, and called the local vet practices and animal shelters, all to no avail.

A few days ago, he received an email from an animal shelter in Marion County in Florida, telling him a microchip scanned on a recently found pet turned up his information.

In a follow-up phone call, shelter workers told DiBella that Nika was left on the doorstep of a Florida home. 

"It was shocking," he said. "I never believed a 5-pound dog -- two pounds at the time -- would end up in Florida." 

DiBella hopes to be reunited with Nika in time for Thanksgiving, and Marta -- the dog he bought after Nika disappeared -- will have a new playmate.

"They will get along perfectly," he said. "They are both sweet dogs." 

Follow Brynn Gingras on Twitter @Brynn4NY

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

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<![CDATA[Woman Admits She Stole Grave Statue]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 08:21:30 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/middletown+cemetery+angel+grave.jpg

The woman who was caught on camera stealing an angel statue from a Middletown, Connecticut, grave site over the weekend has turned herself in, police say.

The woman's friends saw her photo in a news report and urged her to confess, according to police. She showed up at police headquarters Tuesday evening and turned over the statue, which depicts an angel holding a puppy.

According to Middletown police Capt. Gary Wallace, the woman was driving through Calvary Cemetery on Bow Lane thinking about her own ailing loved ones on Saturday when she spotted the grave site and pulled over.

"She had an ill friend and another family member that wasn't doing well, and then decided when she saw the statue... that it just reminded her of her ill family," said Wallace. "And when she saw the statue, she just decided to take it."

The statue is now at the police department and will soon be returned to its rightful place alongside the headstone of 19-year-old Brandon Reeve, a Middletown High School graduate who died in a motorcycle crash in 2004.

According to police, the family set up a hidden camera after Reeve's headstone was defaced a couple years ago.

"It was vandalized once before," said James Reeve, Brandon Reeve's father. "The stone was tipped over once. Things were stolen. Somebody had the nerve one time to take one of the bigger statues and then the following week take the second one."

James Reeve said the camera has been in place for more than two years – and on Saturday, it finally came in handy.

"We're just keeping his name and memory alive," James Reeve explained. "I don't know why anyone would want to do this to us."

Video footage shows a woman, who has shoulder-length blonde hair with bangs, driving up the grave site in a white SUV, stopping to pick up the statue and driving off with it, police said.

Although the statue is valued at $100, police said “the sentimental value is priceless.”

James Reeve said this angel watched over his son's grave for nearly 10 years.

Now the family is struggling to make sense of the crime.

"It's sacrilegious to do that to gravestones," James Reeve said. "I don't get it. I really don't understand it. If you've got a problem with me, come see me."

Police said the woman, who has not been charged, is apologetic. Wallace said she didn't realize a camera was rolling.

"She was very surprised, from what I understand, when they talked to her, but she was very remorseful," he said. "She wants the family to know it was a huge mistake and she just wasn't thinking."

Brandon Reeve graduated from Middletown High School in 2002. A scholarship fund has been set up in his honor and golf tournaments are held every summer in his memory.



Photo Credit: Middletown Police Department/NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Search for Long-Missing Md. Sisters]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 20:01:36 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/168*120/lyon+sisters.JPG

Detectives have been searching a Virginia property for the past week in connection with the infamous disappearance of two young Maryland sisters decades ago.

The Lyon sisters -- Sheila, 12, and Katherine, 10 -- vanished March 25, 1975, from a Wheaton shopping center.

Montgomery County, Maryland, authorities have been searching a property located in Bedford County, Virginia, between Lynchburg and Roanoke since last week. It was once owned by the family of Lloyd Lee Welch, Jr., who is also known as Michael Welch. 

In February, Welch, 57, was named a person of interest in the Lyon sisters' disappearance. During a news conference Wednesday, police announced Welch's family members are also being investigated in connection with the Lyon girls' disappearance. They've zeroed in on Taylor Mountain, where they are looking to recover evidence "that will hold those that harmed those girls responsible in a court of law."

Detectives have not found any remains, sources said, though neighbors in the area think police are searching for remains at a nearby cemetery. 

The Bedford County Sheriff's Office confirmed that officers were assisting Montgomery County Police "with a homicide investigation."

They've said they're "very confident" they're close to finding out exactly what happened to the sisters.

The Bedford Sheriff's office also said cold case investigators had traveled to the area last week to meet with Bedford County authorities and Virginia State Police.

The Lyon sisters' case is etched into the memories of several generations of Washington-area families. It shattered a sense of safety in the D.C. suburbs and made parents afraid to let their children out of their sight.

On March 25, 1975, the Lyon sisters had a planned a day at a local shopping center. They were on spreak break, and wanted to get some pizza for lunch and see the Easter decorations at Wheaton Plaza, now known as Westfield Wheaton mall.

With less than $4, they left their home in Kensington, Maryland and walked the half-mile or so to Wheaton Plaza.

There, a friend saw the girls outside the Orange Bowl restaurant with an older man who had a tape recorder and a briefcase, according to news and missing persons reports.

The girls were later spotted walking home, but by their 4 p.m. curfew, they hadn't arrived. By 7 p.m. that night, police had been called.

Later, a composite sketch was distributed of the man who seen talking to them. Tips flowed in, but to no avail.

Sheila and Katherine were never seen again.

In February, police identified a person of interest in connection with their disappearance. Lloyd Lee Welch Jr., aka Michael Welch, is a convicted sex offender who has been in prison in Delaware since 1997 on a rape conviction. Welch was noticed paying attention to the sisters the afternoon they vanished, investigators said.

"Even though so much time has passed, we have not forgotten that those young girls deserve justice, and their family deserves closure," said Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger in February.

Lloyd+Lee+Welch+Jr.

Welch is originally from the D.C. area. Between the 1970s and the mid-1990s, he traveled extensively through the United States while working for a carnival company with his girlfriend Helen Craver, police said.

Welch was charged with raping juveniles in Virginia and South Carolina. He was also arrested in a burglary not far from Wheaton Plaza. He was known to hitchhike throughout the D.C. area.

Many people who grew up in the area remember the disappearance of the sisters, and how deeply it shook their sense of safety.

"It was just stunning. It could have been anybody's kids," said Charleen Merkel earlier this year while shopping at Westfield Wheaton.

"It brings back a lot of memories of being scared growing up," said another shopper, who did not give her name.

In an era when children frequently walked to school and elsewhere alone, parents started keeping their children inside.

"The Community Just Held Its Breath"

In 2005, 30 years after the girls' disappearance, police spoke about the frustration of never being able to solve a case that struck such an emotional chord for the community and for themselves.

The Lyon sisters' older brother, Jay, became a police officer.

"It's a hit-home case," Philip C. Raum, a longtime law enforcement officer in Montgomery County who headed the police's Major Crimes Unit for four years, told Montgomery County's Gazette newspaper in an article on the 30th anniversary of the disappearance.

The girls' father, John Lyon was a popular radio personality on WMAL in Bethesda and performer. 

Radio personality Chris Core had just started working with him at WMAL when the girls disappeared.

"It's in that group of moments where the community just held its breath," Core told the Gazette in 2005.

"Partly because John was a well-known celebrity and partly because here are two innocent little girls going to the mall and disappear off the face of the earth, never to be heard from again."

Baltimore author Laura Lippman wrote a 2007 novel, "What the Dead Know," after being inspired by the Lyon case.

"The story... happened when I was a teenager, not much older than the girls who disappeared (the Lyon sisters) and living in a similarly 'safe' suburb," Lippman wrote in a chat on GoodReads.com. "It resonated very deeply with me."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago



Photo Credit: FBI]]>
<![CDATA[Man Pickpockets Woman on NYC Subway]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 12:43:03 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/165*120/times+square+pickpocket.JPG

Police arrested a thief in the Times Square subway station Tuesday after they watched him pickpocketing a sleeping woman on live video, the NYPD said.

The thief apparently saw the woman sleeping on a bench on the subway platform just after 12:30 a.m.  and went to sit behind her, according to police.

Video shows a man slowly and deliberately reaching into the woman's pocket and pulling out a cellphone.

An officer monitoring the department's closed-circuit camera system at the subway station saw the theft in progress and alerted a patrol officer nearby.

That officer arrived on the scene and arrested the suspect, identified as Juvian Rodriguez.

Police said Rodriguez has 38 prior arrests on charges including grand larceny, assault and drugs. He was on parole for grand larceny at the time of his arrest, police said.

It wasn't immediately clear if he had an attorney.

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<![CDATA[Freak SoCal Downpour Wreaks Havoc]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 20:40:00 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/215*120/elsinoretrack.JPG

Driving rain and wind socked the Inland Empire Tuesday afternoon, flooding streets, school buildings, a school track and a general aviation airport and causing havoc for drivers.

It rained up to 30 minutes in neighborhood Canyon Lake, just east of Lake Elsinore.

The rain flooded roadways in minutes.

Some roads were nearly covered in water, making driving conditions extremely dangerous.

At Elsinore High School in Wildomar, about 20 classrooms suffered water damage. Crews were working late into the night Tuesday to remove water, but the school has implemented a contingency plan and reassigned classrooms for Wednesday.

Heavy winds also caused damage. An outhouse was blown apart and exploded onto the track at Elsinore High School.

Wind knocked down power lines and trees.

Karen Fisher was getting gas for her generator because her power was out.

"It was hot, really hot out," Fisher said. "All of a sudden, it came in like crazy. It just started raining ... like little droplets. And it looks like everything is flooding right now."

A large limb knocked out power for several hours in the area. 

"It looked like a tornado," said Crystal Thibeault. "The winds got really, really strong. We had our trash cans that blew all the way across the parking lot. It's zero visibility. It was really crazy."

Gadi Schwartz contributed to this report.

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<![CDATA[Baby Born to Boston Marathon Couple]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 16:33:33 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/baby44.jpg

A Dallas couple who wed just after running the Boston Marathon last year, soon after a pair of bombs tore through its finish line, are celebrating the birth of a baby girl Tuesday.

Robert and Kelli Watling welcomed their daughter Alexandra Copley Watling, whose middle name commemorates Copley Square — the site of the Boston Marathon finish line, and of the 2013 twin bombings.

Alexandra was born at 10:26 a.m. Tuesday, weighing in at 5 pounds, 6 ounces.

The Watlings are a couple with a deep love of running, and a tradition of linking their milestones to marathons.

Their love story began with a first date at a 5K, progressed to a proposal after the Chicago Marathon and culminated in a wedding after the finish of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, just after the bombs exploded.

Their Boston Common nuptials had just begun last year when the bombs exploded, but with the support of their families, they went ahead with the wedding anyway amid the confusion.

"At that time, we still weren't sure who did this or why," Kelli told NECN earlier this year. "If it was a terrorist act, we certainly weren't going to let them derail our plans."

The couple raced the Boston Marathon again this past year knowing their daughter was on her way, in a triumphant move Robert said at the time marked "a perfect ending for us."



Photo Credit: Courtesy]]>
<![CDATA[AC Tries to Reinvent Itself ]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 12:08:11 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/trump+plaza1.jpg

The Trump Plaza in Atlantic City shut down for good early Tuesday morning, the latest casino to fail as this once high-flying resort city faces fierce competition from gambling elsewhere.

When the doors closed at 5:59 a.m., the tally of jobs lost this year rose to about 8,000, a quarter of the casino workforce, according to figures filed by the city's casinos. Hundreds of former employees have been filing for unemployment benefits, health care, heat assistance and food stamps. More may be lining up for help soon. Trump Entertainment Resorts is in bankruptcy and is threatening to close the Trump Taj Mahal Casino in November if it does not get concessions on labor costs.

With Atlantic City’s gambling revenue plummeting from $5.2 billion in 2006 to $2.86 billion last year, according to the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the suffering shore resort is scrambling to reinvent itself. Only eight of its 12 casinos will remain and competition in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, Delaware and elsewhere continues to grow. Officials are searching for ways the city can appeal anew to visitors and stop hemorrhaging jobs and revenue.

“It’s really a repositioning of the city itself,” said Mark Giannantonio, the president of Resorts Casino Hotel, which turned itself around after adding a Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville entertainment complex. “It’s more right-sized for the market in gaming and it’s an opportunity for us to continue to go after this non-gaming element, which in turn helps gaming.”

Officials are hoping a mix of convention space, entertainment venues, shops, a college campus, plus the casinos will transform the city from a gambling hub into a resort with a variety of attractions. Atlantic City’s non-gambling revenue is growing but at half the rate its gambling revenue is dropping.

LURING CONVENTIONS, CORPORATE MEETINGS

One place to look as a model: Sin City. The Las Vegas Strip managed to curb its reliance on casinos. A little more than one third of its revenue comes from gambling, compared to 72 percent in Atlantic City. But experts caution the change will not be easy.

For example, there is already a glut of convention space across the country, said Heywood Sanders, a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio and the author of “Convention Center Follies.”

Demand in 2013 was only slightly above where it was in 2000, he said. Meanwhile, the amount of exhibit hall space has increased by 37 percent. Major convention cities across the country have seen their business remain flat or fall. At the biggest convention center in the country, McCormick Place in Chicago, business dropped from 1.55 million attendees in 2003 to 868,000 last year.

“What we see in major events around the country is that fewer people are going,” Sanders said. “And that’s partly because employers are less willing to send lots of people out of town to a convention and trade show for an extended period.”

The president of the Atlantic City Alliance, Elizabeth Cartmell, said that the city would compete not only for conventions but also for smaller meetings of 50 to 500 people, where the glut of space is not as severe. Only 2 percent of smaller meetings originating in the Northeast comes to Atlantic City compared to 15 percent that goes to Las Vegas, she said.

MIAMI AS A MODEL

The alliance, funded with a $30 million a year assessment on the casinos, is promoting the city as a year-round seaside resort through beachside concerts, wine tastings, fishing tournaments and pro volleyball competitions. Lady Gaga and Lady Antebellum performed this summer, a series of long-distance triathlons added Atlantic City as one of its locations and the Miss America contest has returned from Las Vegas.

An 86,000-square foot Bass Pro Shop is under construction and is expected to bring almost 300 full- and part-time jobs.

The alliance is looking at Miami as a model, Cartmell said. Atlantic City offers an exciting nightlife but also the chance to relax on the beach and visit a spa, she said.

“We’re an interesting mix of a little bit of urban grit and variety, but at the same time we’re beachfront,” she said. “We call it the thrill and the chill.”

Giannantonio, the Resorts Casino Hotel president, has said that five years ago his property would have been the first casino to close. That changed with a new owner, Morris Bailey, a partnership with the Mohican Sun casinos and the new Margaritaville restaurant and LandShark Bar & Grill, Atlantic City’s first beach restaurant.

“You’re sitting right on the beach, feet from the ocean, thinking you could be anywhere in the country,” he said.

To bring people back into the city, Mayor Donald Guardian has proposed giving away land and tax breaks to new homeowners who build within two years and commit to staying for 10. The five years of tax abatements would begin at 100 percent and decrease 20 percent each year after. Both programs are still in the planning stages, and details are being worked out.

Even during the boon years, much of the riches from gambling did not find their way past the glittering lights of the resorts. Twenty-five percent of the city’s population of 39,500 lives below the poverty, according to Census figures. The figure is even higher for those under 18: 37 percent.

The city ranks second in New Jersey for violent crimes trailing only Camden, FBI data from 2012 shows. Family income is about $30,000. The unemployment rate stands at 13 percent.

A NEED FOR NEW HOMEOWNERS

Michael Busler, a professor of finance at Stockton College, said the mayor’s plan was not enough. He said the city would have to offer a bigger incentive and he suggested 10 years of tax breaks as Philadelphia has done.

The value of Atlantic City’s real estate has shrunk from $20 billion when the casinos were thriving to about $8 billion, Busler said. At the same time, property taxes have gone up 22 percent last year and 29 percent this year. The city’s $262 million budget has to be cut to between $175 million and $180 million, he said.

Atlantic City was first developed as an oceanside resort in the 19th century. When gambling was legalized in 1976, the casinos turned away from the beachfront. Their design was meant to keep people inside – and gambling.

“Now we can’t do that anymore,” Busler said. “Now we’re going to emphasize we have a beautiful beach.”

Atlantic City has to find ways to rebuild that will help the city itself grow, said Bryant Simon, a professor of history at Temple University and the author of “Boardwalk of Dreams: Atlantic City and the Fate of Urban America.”

Even while the casinos thrived, the city withered and for years lacked even a supermarket.

“Let’s not do that again,” he said. “Let’s have fresh produce. Let’s have year-round jobs.”

The city could try high-speed rail service to Philadelphia, so residents could work there, he said. It could open a satellite campus of the nearby Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and have a core of students studying casinos and urban redevelopment. Or it could add to the city’s medical complex. The city needs to make sure it is creating decent paying jobs, not just low wage, tourism jobs, he said.

“We shouldn’t be stunned that a city has to reinvent itself,” he said. “Cities are always places of creative destruction and renewal and resorts probably in particular because they cater to people’s desires and their desires change.”

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Meningitis Kills Georgetown Student]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 07:40:59 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/0916-jaime.jpg

A Georgetown University student died Tuesday after apparently battling a bout of meningitis, school officials say. 

Andrea Jaime, a sophomore at the School of Nursing and Health Studies, passed away at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. 

Several days ago, Jaime tweeted she had a fever of 105 degrees.

According to a letter shared by university officials, students and teachers at the school do not need to take additional action. Tests are underway to confirm the 19-year-old's cause of death.

"This is difficult news for the many members of the Georgetown community who know Andrea," officials said in a letter sent to students Tuesday. "Georgetown officials have been in touch with Andrea’s family and will continue to provide support and assistance to them. Please join us in remembering Andrea’s family and friends in your thoughts and prayers during this time."

Jaime, who is originally from Bogota, Columbia, graduated from Coral Gables Senior High School in Miami, Florida, according to the school's newspaper.

"I know she was in a sorority, she was a really nice girl. I don't know her personally, but everyone's going to remember her," one student said.

Students gathered with heavy hearts Tuesday night for a prayer service in Jaime's honor.

"It's just sad," another student added. "Being a college student you don't expect someone to pass away like that. It's surreal."

If you are a student at Georgetown and concerned about your health, you're asked to call the student health center at 202-687-2200 or 202-44-7243.



Photo Credit: Facebook]]>
<![CDATA[Ship "Graveyard" Off Golden Gate]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 08:43:00 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/launching+rov2.jpg

A pair of maritime detectives has embarked on an unprecedented two-year mission to uncover possibly hundreds of shipwrecks at the bottom of the sea near the Golden Gate Bridge and the Gulf of the Farallones.

The sleuths are looking for shipwrecks buried in the dark waters of the Pacific Ocean so that they can learn about the past, teach scientists about what can be preserved in marine conditions and infuse a sense of wonder when unearthing stories about people who lived and worked on the sea, and who sometimes lost their lives.

Two days into their trek, they’ve discovered three shipwrecks and an “unidentified target.”

"These are really true time capsules telling us about a time and period of the people, as well as the ships themselves," said Bob Schwemmer, the West Coast coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Marine Sanctuaries.

The NOAA team invited NBC Bay Area as the only television station aboard Sept. 12 when they set off from Sausalito looking for a Clipper ship built in 1855 called the "Noonday." An Associated Press reporter was also invited.

Lead Maritime Archaeologist and Chief Scientist James Delgado didn't conclusively see the “Noonday” wreck the team had been hoping to discover because it was buried in too much mud. But he and Schwemmer did locate and document three other finds that were lost at sea more than 100 years ago.

"You never know exactly what you'll find, especially after a century or more after a ship is lost," Delgado said. "You also find that in some cases, you don't find exactly what you were looking for — you find something else."

Delgado says their mission to find the "graveyard of ships" off the California coast is the "first systematic investigation" of its kind in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and the waters by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The work comes out of NOAA’s operating budget, and is part of the ongoing work of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

"The Gulf of the Farallones is well known for its sharks, its seabirds, its whales," Delgado said. "It’s less known for its shipwrecks and there are more than 300 of them here."

Delgado, who now lives in Washington, D.C., and is the director of maritime heritage for NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, is originally from San Jose. He was once the chief scientist for the first full mapping of the Titanic site.

Delgado began focusing on the waters of the Golden Gate and the Gulf of the Farallones because he estimates there are about 300 ships that sank at sea clustered within a few miles from the iconic San Francisco Bay Area bridge. He’s been working on mapping out all these wrecks since the 1980s.

What propels Delgado forward is his sense of history, and what can be learned from the discoveries lost at sea. 

"The wrecks represent nearly two centuries of activity, tragedies, and unique and compelling human stories," he said.

Plus, there is the sheer scientific boon.

"The wrecks are also laboratories in which we can learn more about what happens when we humans place things in the sea," he said,"in terms of environmental changes, impacts to marine life, and how some wrecks become artificial reefs and habitat."

When Delgado and Schwemmer set out last week, their sonar detected the boat they’ve been looking for: A Clipper ship called “Noonday,” which launched from Boston and was approaching the San Francisco harbor in 1863, when it hit a rock and started to fill with water before going down to the bottom of the Pacific. While the scientists found the wreck, they couldn’t see it because it was completely buried in too much mud.

“We were still stoked,” Delgado said.

What they were able to see was the “SS Selja,” a century-old steamship whose wreck off the Point Reyes Coast in 1910 led to years of legal action that ended in the United States Supreme Court. The case is still cited as a key ruling on a key principle: the rules of the road, where both “masters” were held accountable for their actions.

"What we saw on the bottom for the first time in 104 years since the accident was how fast and violent the end of the Selja was," Delgado said. "It was shattered, broken and twisted."

Delgado also said the crew found a second wreck in 187 feet of water off the Farallone Islands that is not mentioned in the history books. It seems to be steam tugboat, which looks similar to the 1907-built, National Historic Landmark tugboat Hercules at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park at San Francisco's Hyde Street Pier. He and Schwemmer also found a second mystery wreck, which he described as an “unidentified target.”

The finds are downright “exciting,” Delgado said, along with the fact that their scientists on board have also noted nine species of rockfish, wolf eels, a large octopus and a ling cod.

“It’s not about finding a specific wreck,” Delgado said. “It’s all about finding out exactly what lays down there.”

NBC Bay Area's Joe Rosato Jr. contributed to this report.



Photo Credit: Joe Rosato Jr.]]>
<![CDATA[One Year Ago: 12 Killed in "Carnage" at D.C. Navy Yard]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 20:12:12 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/2014-09-16_1107.jpg

Bertillia Lavern has told the story of finding her co-worker shot in the temple, strapping him into an evacuation chair and undertaking the terrifying job of pulling him out of a building under attack.

A Park Police officer, who had been on the job only three years, has shared the story of blocking out what a spokesman called "absolute carnage" in an office to conduct a cubicle-to-cubicle search to find, and eliminate, a gunman.

The doctors at MedStar Washington Hospital Center didn't have to tell their stories. The emotions of a year ago were clear on their faces in photographs taken during the long wait for "multiple gunshot victims" coming to them in a fleet of ambulances.

One year ago Tuesday, 12 people were killed and eight people were injured in a mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. For anyone in the Washington, D.C., area, or anyone with ties to the Navy — or, frankly, for anyone who heard the story — the news came like a gut punch: Hell had broken out inside a secure military facility.

Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old civilian contractor, had entered Building 197 at the Washington Navy Yard and shot at victims indiscriminately, killing a dozen people before police killed him. 

  •  

Tuesday, the focus is on remembering the lives of the 12 victims and on supporting their families.

The day began with an invitation-only ceremony at the Washington Navy Yard, gathering officials and family members to remember those lost.

"...[I]n 22 minutes, our worlds turned upside down," said Rear Adm. Margaret Grun-Kibben, chief of chaplains.

Navy Sec. Ray Mabus said the pain of the losses will never completely fade.

"Even in our sleep, pain which we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own depair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God," he said. "One year. We know now that while the pain has receded, it will never completely leave."

Other speakers included Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert and Vice Adm. William Hilarides, who is commander of Naval Sea Systems Command, or NAVSEA, which was headquartered in Building 197.

Hilarides read the names of the victims as a bell rung 12 times, for each of those killed: "Mike Arnold. Marty Bodrog. Arthur Daniels. Sylvia Frasier. Kathy Gaarde. J. J. Johnson. Frank Kohler. Mary Knight. Kisan Pandit. Ken Proctor. Gerry Read. Mike Ridgell."

At 6 p.m., city and federal officials joined Hilarides for a community event at Canal Park in southeast D.C. to commemorate the anniversary with prayers, readings and meditation.

  •  

Family members commemorate in more personal ways, too. Judy Johnson, wife of John "J.J." Johnson, who died in the shooting, planned to skip the ceremonies to spend time with her family and toast her late husband, with whom she used to have a martini after work.

"My husband was the most beautiful human being that I have ever had the honor of having in my life," Judy Johnson said. "He just loved his Lord, he loved everybody, loved his country, loved his job.

"He loved me with all his heart and soul," Judy said. "He was the light of my life. He was my best friend, my partner, he was my soul mate."

Johnson told News4 how difficult this year has been, how she struggled to sleep, to eat or to leave her home.

During some of the toughest times, she sought solace in a personal letter from Vice President Joe Biden, who suffered his own loss in 1972, when his wife and young daughter were killed in a car accident.

"The time will come when J.J.’s memory brings a smile to your lips, before a tear to your eye," the letter reads. "My prayer for you is that day will come sooner, rather than later. But I assure you that it will come."

  •  

The victims of the shooting ranged in age from 46 to 73. Several were veterans. One was a former state trooper working as a security guard.

Sylvia Frasier was a computer systems manager who also held a night job at Walmart because she loved interacting with people. Arthur Daniels installed office furniture for federal buildings, and was in Building 197 on a job.

Vishnu Pandit, who everyone knew as Kisan, was born in Bombay but was proud of his civilian career with the Navy. He was the man whom Bertillia Lavern brought out of the building.

They are among the victims honored Tuesday. They are:

Michael Arnold, 59, of Lorton, Virginia, an avid pilot who was building a light airplane in his garage in his spare time;

Martin Bodrog, 54, of Annandale, Virginia, a Naval Academy graduate who could be counted on to shovel an elderly neighbor’s walk;

Arthur Daniels, 51, of Washington, D.C.;

Sylvia Frasier, 53, of Waldorf, Maryland;

Kathleen Nark Gaarde, 63, a wife and animal lover from Woodbridge, Virginia;

John Roger "J.J." Johnson, 73, of Derwood, Maryland;

Mary Francis Knight, 51, a civilian contractor from Reston, Virginia;

Frank Kohler, 50, of Tall Timbers, Maryland, a Rotarian who served as "King Oyster" for the Lexington Park, Maryland Rotary Club;

Vishnu "Kisan" Pandit, 61, of North Potomac, Maryland;

Kenneth Bernard Proctor, 46, of Waldorf, Maryland, a utilities foreman who was in building 197 just to get breakfast;

Gerald L. Read, 58, of Alexandria, Virginia, who saved a co-worker’s life before losing his own; and

Richard Michael Ridgell, 52, of Westminster, Md., the former Maryland state trooper who called himself on Twitter "just a dad who loves his girls."

  •  

The reasons for Alexis' rampage died with him. But investigators have said there are "multiple indicators" that Alexis had delusions, including the belief that he was being controlled or influenced by extremely low frequency electromagnetic waves, which are used in submarine communications.

Alexis had etched the words "End to the Torment!" onto the barrel of his Remington 870 shotgun, and "My ELF weapon!" onto its receiver, along with "Better off this way!"

Inside a backpack in the fourth-floor bathroom were what investigators described as "electronic media," including a document that stated, "Ultra low frequency attack is what I’ve been subject to for the last 3 months, and to be perfectly honest that is what has driven me to this."

Investigators know that, at about 8:08 a.m., Alexis went into Building 197 using a valid building pass. He went into a bathroom on the 4th floor and, at about 8:15 a.m., emerged with a Remington 870 shotgun with a sawed-off barrel and stock. Later he armed himself with a handgun as well.

Alexis shot his first victim at 8:16 a.m., and for more than an hour, he shot indiscriminately at people inside the building. At 9:25 a.m., police found and killed Alexis.

The lockdown at the Navy Yard lasted hours longer, and Building 197 has been closed ever since.

  •  

In the year since the shooting, the Navy has begun to transform Building 197. There are plans for a "Remembrance Area." A new entrance was created.

Workers are expected to return for the first time in February. The building will be renamed after Joshua Humphreys, who designed the Navy's first six frigates.

There’s also been investigations into some problems communicating that rescuers experienced that day, and that some victims’ family members experienced as they waited for news of their loved ones.

Douglass Gaarde, Kathy’s husband, waited about 12 hours for news; he spent much of that time in the parking lot of Nationals Park, where military officials were bussing Building 197 employees.

"Every bus that came, she wasn't on it," Gaarde said. "The anxiety just started exploding. I was just walking up and down. I was just pacing. I don’t know how many times."

Meanwhile, the security contractor who did the background investigation into Alexis (and into NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden) is losing its massive contract with the federal Office of Personnel Management.

But those continuing reverberations of the mass shooting — the second-deadliest mass shooting at a U.S. military facility and one of the deadliest single events in the nation's capital — will take a back seat Tuesday, to memories of those lost.

"I know he’s here," Judy Johnson said of her husband.

"And I know he loved me, with all his heart and soul. A lot of people never have in their life what I had."

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<![CDATA[Boater Gets 2 Years in Crash That Killed Bride, Best Man]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 19:12:27 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/jojo+john+sentence.jpg

A New Yorker was sentenced Tuesday to two years behind bars for crashing a powerboat into a barge, killing a bride-to-be and her fiance's best man.

Jojo John's 19-foot Stingray crashed into a barge that was moored in the Hudson River as part of the construction of a new Tappan Zee Bridge in July 2013. He pleaded guilty in June to vehicular manslaughter and admitted that he was drunk at the time.

Two of his 30-year-old friends, Lindsey Stewart, of Piermont, and Mark Lennon, of Pearl River, were killed. Stewart was to have been married two weeks later. The groom-to-be, Brian Bond, was injured, as was John.

John tearfully apologized to their families and said he thinks of the victims every day.

"There are days when I question why God took two people and not me," John told the court. "I find myself crying a lot because of how my heart feels about them not being here. ... I'm standing here heartbroken."

Lennon's brother, Mark, said both families are suffering "incomprehensible heartache."

But he said he was not there "to speak ill of Jojo John. ... He is facing a life sentence of his own."

Prosecutors said the 36-year-old John had nearly twice the legal level of alcohol in his system when the boat crashed. They quoted him as telling first responders, "I've been drinking all day," or words to that effect.

John's lawyer, David Narain, insisted that the crash was caused not by intoxication but by a lack of lighting on the barge. The Coast Guard and the state Thruway Authority, which is building the bridge, said the barge was properly lighted.

Stewart's and Lennon's families have sued several companies involved in the construction, citing poor lighting. But they also sued John, as co-owner of the boat, and said he was careless and negligent. Others who were in the boat also have sued.

John's civil lawyer, James Mercante, said Monday that the end of the criminal case means civil lawyers will get access to the boat and other evidence. A court conference in the lawsuits, which have been consolidated, is scheduled for Oct. 27. 



Photo Credit: AP/NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA["Not a Child Abuser": Adrian Peterson Apologizes]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 15:10:55 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_adrian_peterson1.jpg

Adrian Peterson is coming back to the Minnesota Vikings two days after he was charged with child abuse for using a wooden switch to spank his 4-year-old son, and the star running back said Monday he is not a child abuser and wants "everyone to understand how sorry I feel about the hurt I have brought to my child."

Peterson, considered one of the best running backs in the NFL, was benched for Sunday's 30-7 home loss to the New England Patriots. He had not commented publicly since news broke on Friday that he had lashed the boy with the switch earlier this summer, causing an unspecified injuries.

"I am not a perfect son. I am not a perfect husband. I am not a perfect parent, but I am, without a doubt, not a child abuser," Peterson said in a nearly 500-word statement issued through his agency and posted to his Twitter feed. "I am someone that disciplined his child and did not intend to cause him any injury.

"No one can understand the hurt that I feel for my son and for the harm I caused him. My goal is always to teach my son right from wrong and that's what I tried to do that day."

Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf said they had decided to bring back Peterson for practices and Sunday's game at New Orleans "after significant thought, discussion and consideration." The Wilfs said they want to let the legal process play out before making any more definitive decisions on Peterson's future with the only NFL team he has ever played for.

"To be clear, we take very seriously any matter that involves the welfare of a child," the Wilfs said. "At this time, however, we believe this is a matter of due process and we should allow the legal system to proceed so we can come to the most effective conclusions and then determine the appropriate course of action. This is a difficult path to navigate, and our focus is on doing the right thing."

Peterson faces an initial court appearance in Conroe, Texas, on Wednesday on a charge of reckless or negligent injury to a child, which carries penalties of up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine. His attorney, Rusty Hardin, said he will try to delay the arraignment until next week after Hardin returns from a vacation out of the country.

Corporal punishment is legal in Texas and non-deadly force against a child by a parent or guardian is permissible. But the punishment is abusive if it causes injury. A blow that leaves a bruise, welt or swelling, or requires medical attention, could be judged abusive. The guidelines also say use of an instrument "is cause for concern."

Hardin said Peterson used a switch because that was the way he was brought up by his parents in Palestine, Texas, and the NFL star agreed.

"I have to live with the fact that when I disciplined my son the way I was disciplined as a child, I caused an injury that I never intended or thought would happen," Peterson said. "I know that many people disagree with the way I disciplined my child. I also understand after meeting with a psychologist that there are other alternative ways of disciplining a child that may be more appropriate."

The Vikings decided not to play Peterson against the Patriots, moving swiftly after a week in which the NFL came under heavy scrutiny for its handling of a domestic violence case involving former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.

The Vikings clearly see Peterson's case as different from the 2011 case involving former cornerback Chris Cook, who was accused of choking his girlfriend. Cook was initially suspended by the team before being reinstated with pay. But the Vikings barred him from all team activities, including games, while the legal process unfolded.

Cook wound up missing 10 games and was eventually acquitted. He never faced discipline from the NFL and played two more seasons with the Vikings before signing with the 49ers.

The NFL is looking into Peterson's case, and if convicted he could face a minimum six-game suspension under the league's new tougher domestic abuse policy that was implemented after Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted he botched Rice's initial punishment.

The Vikings' decision to reinstate Peterson comes on the same day the NFL announced that three experts in domestic violence will serve as senior advisers to the league. Goodell sent a memo to teams Monday announcing that Lisa Friel, Jane Randel and Rita Smith will "help lead and shape the NFL's policies and programs relating to domestic violence and sexual assault."

"I accept the fact that people feel very strongly about this issue and what they think about my conduct," Peterson said. "Regardless of what others think, however, I love my son very much and I will continue to try to become a better father and person."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago



Photo Credit: EFE]]>