The Trial Diaries

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Mom on teen’s 9-month absence: She isn’t pregnant

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NORTH CONWAY, N.H. — The mother of a 15-year-old New Hampshire girl reunited with her family nine months after she vanished says rumors that she was pregnant aren’t true.

Investigators have been trying to find out how and why Abigail Hernandez of North Conway disappeared and who may have helped conceal her. She returned home July 20.

Zenya Hernandez tells NBC’s “Today” that many people think her daughter was pregnant, but she was not. She also says she believes Abby did not run away and didn’t know the man believed to have driven off with her. Police released a sketch of him based on Abby’s description.

Abby issued a statement thanking people who searched for her and that she believes their hopes and prayers “played a major role in my release.”

Source: AP

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Trial in salmonella outbreak set to begin in Ga.

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ALBANY, Ga. — The trial for three people charged in a deadly salmonella outbreak traced to a southwest Georgia peanut plant five years ago is set to begin.

Jury selection starts Monday in federal court in Albany in the trial of former Peanut Company of America owner Stewart Parnell; his brother and food broker, Michael Parnell; and the peanut plant’s quality control manager, Mary Wilkerson.

The Parnell brothers and Wilkerson were indicted last year on 76 criminal counts that accused them of shipping tainted peanuts to industrial food customers and covering up lab tests that showed some batches of nuts tested positive for salmonella. Stewart Parnell and Wilkerson were also charged with obstruction of justice.

Georgia plant manager Samuel Lightsey was also charged and pleaded guilty in May to seven criminal counts.

Source: AP

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3 days on, no arrests in hunt for carjack killers

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PHILADELPHIA — The hunt for two Philadelphia carjackers who rammed a stolen SUV into a family, killing three children, entered its third day Sunday as officials offered a $110,000 reward for information leading to their capture.

Investigators said they are working hard to apprehend the suspects, who fled on foot after crashing the vehicle Friday at an intersection in North Philadelphia where Keisha Williams, 34, and her three children, aged 7 to 15, were selling fruit for a church fundraiser.

Late Sunday, Homicide Capt. James Clark said two men were being interviewed by detectives concerning the crash, The Philadelphia Inquirer (http://bit.ly/1ux8gcs) reported. Clark declined to identify the men.

Williams remained hospitalized, along with a 65-year-old woman who was helping the family at the fruit stand and the 45-year-old woman who had been carjacked at gunpoint.

Williams’ 10-year-old son died at the scene. His older sister and younger brother were pronounced dead at hospitals.

“There are no words to describe how I feel right now, but we do need to find these two guys,” said police Commissioner Charles Ramsey.

Investigators said the two assailants forced the SUV’s owner, a real-estate agent, into the back seat about a mile from where the crash occurred. Investigators believe the carjackers may have blown a tire turning a corner at high speed causing the SUV to crash into a stand of trees.

The reward money was posted by the city and the Fraternal Order of Police.

Source: AP

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Father, stepmother of found boy due in court

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DETROIT— The father and stepmother of a 12-year-old Detroit boy who was found in his basement after an 11-day disappearance are due back in court.

A pretrial hearing is scheduled Monday morning in Wayne County juvenile court for Charlie Bothuell IV and Monique Dillard-Bothuell.

The state wants to terminate the couple’s rights to two other children and the father’s rights to Charlie Bothuell V. The boy is living with his biological mother. The younger children — ages 4 years and 11 months — have been placed with relatives.

Police found Charlie Bothuell V in the basement of his father’s condo on June 25.

The state has said in a court filing that the boy was abused and forced to complete intense physical workouts. No criminal charges have been filed.

Source: AP

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Police investigate deaths of family of 5 in Maine

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SACO, Maine (AP) — Neighbors struggled to make sense of the shooting deaths of a family of five in which the father was known to many throughout their apartment complex as a friendly maintenance worker.

Three children ranging from 4 to 12 were among the victims discovered Sunday in their home along with a long-barreled gun believed to have been used in their deaths. A detective said murder-suicide was one of the scenarios being investigated.

“I still don’t want to believe it,” said Heather Nason, who used to babysit the three children. “I love those children like they were my own.”

Investigators said it appeared no one outside the family was responsible for the shootings. They planned to release the identities on Monday.

The grisly discovery was made after a family friend contacted an apartment complex worker to express concerns about the family’s well-being, investigators said. The worker entered the apartment and discovered one body, then immediately called police.

Police said the bodies were found in three bedrooms. Police described the firearm found in the apartment as a long gun. Shell casings also were recovered.

Neighbors described the father as well known in the apartment complex along the Saco River because he was one of the maintenance workers.

They described a friendly family with a 4-year-old girl and boys aged 7 and 12 who were part of a group of neighborhood kids who constantly rode their bikes or played tag and other games in a community that residents described as safe. The parents were in their 30s.

“The kids were great. They were just happy kids, and it’s just a huge shock,” said Nason, who with her husband Dellas placed flowers outside the apartment on Sunday. As for the parents, “they’d take the shirt off their back for you,” she said.

Police believe the shootings happened at about 11:30 p.m. Saturday, based on reports from neighbors about loud noises coming from the apartment.

The neighbors didn’t contact police.

State and local police, along with the medical examiner, were at the scene Sunday night. Officials said autopsies were scheduled for Monday.

The droves of children who usually circle the complex were all inside Sunday evening, replaced by concerned adults watching the police.

Down the street, Vin Savage watched with a stunned look on his face. “This is a tragedy,” he said. “It’s mind-boggling.”

Source: DAVID SHARP of Associated Press

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State, defense rest in Laurence Lovette’s second murder trial

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DURHAM, N.C. — The state rested its case late Friday afternoon in Laurence Lovette’s murder trial. The judge also denied a defense request for dismissal of robbery and murder charges. Then, the defense announced it will produce no evidence, according to WTVD-TV.

Earlier, a Chapel Hill Police Department investigator testified that the key witness in the Laurence Lovette murder trial knew details about the Abhijit Mahato and Eve Carson murders that the public did not know.

The testimony came as prosecutors worked to establish the credibility of Shanita Love – who defense attorneys say is not believable.

Lovette is on trial in the Jan. 2008 murder of Mahato – a Duke University graduate student. He and Demario Atwater are already serving life sentences for the March, 2008 murder of UNC student body president Eve Carson.

Love is Atwater’s former girlfriend, and has already testified she heard Lovette admit to robbing and then killing Mahato.

Lovette’s defense maintains Love’s story changed under police pressure and the promise she wouldn’t be charged for helping to get rid of the weapons used in the Carson case.

But on the witness stand Friday, Investigator Celisa Lehew told the jury that Love knew undisclosed details about the Carson case, lending to her credibility.

“She told us that Demario Atwater told her that Eve had been studying,” Lehew told the jury. “She told me Eve had been in the back seat when ATM surveillance video had been taken.”

Lehew said Love knew Carson’s account had a remaining balance of $9,000 and that she had not been sexually assaulted during the kidnapping and robbery.

She told the jury that Love also knew the fatal head wound was at the hands of her then-boyfriend. Lehew’s testimony also supports Love’s claims that she was along for the ride when the weapons in the Carson case were destroyed and hidden.

“She stated that she was present when the .25-caliber weapon was broken apart into three pieces and discarded in three different locations in Durham,” Lehew added.

Love’s information also led investigators to the 12-gauge shotgun – called “Baby Guage” by Lovette and Atwater – that was used to shoot Carson in the head – killing her.

Lehew’s testimony drew objections from the defense which has fought hard to keep the Eve Carson case out of Lovette’s second murder trial. Mahato was robbed and murder more than two months before Carson was kidnapped, robbed and murdered.

Prosecutors have tried to show glaring similarities in both cases – including that both victims were driven to ATMs to clean out their bank accounts before they were murdered.

Lehew said Love told her that Mahato was taken back to his apartment where Lovette allegedly put a pillow over his face and shot him between the eyes with a 9mm handgun.

The judge has signed a writ to bring the man originally charged in the Mahato murder to court.

After months of legal wrangling, the charges against Stephen Oates were dismissed. Oates and his attorneys had always claimed it was a case of mistaken identity.

Love testified that neither she nor Lovette knew Oates, but Lovette was relieved when Oates was arrested. Love told the jury Lovette assumed he’d never be fingered in the shooting death of the Duke grad student.

Love’s testimony backed up by the lead investigator in the Eve Carson murder case could convince the Durham County District Attorney to pursue charges against another witness. Earlier this week, Phillip Maybrey, the brother of Atwater, said he lied to police when he said he was at the Anderson Street apartments where Mahato was found dead in Jan. 2008.

Assistant District Attorney Jim Dornfriend told ABC11 the DA’s Office is seriously considering criminal charges against Maybrey connection with the Mahato case. Similarly to Lovette’s case, any prosecution of Maybrey would rely heavily on the testimony of Love. Love has testified that Lovette told her Maybrey accompanied him on the robbery and murder of Mahato.

Despite more than an hour under defense cross, Lehew denied Love received perks in exchange for her story or that she was pressured to tell investigators what they wanted to hear.

The jury will return Monday for closing arguments.

Source: MyFox8.com

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Man seeks video of 1995 Oklahoma City bombing

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OKLAHOMA CITY— One man’s quest to explain his brother’s mysterious jail cell death 19 years ago has rekindled long-dormant questions about whether others were involved in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

What some consider a far-flung conspiracy theory will be at the forefront during a trial set to begin Monday in Salt Lake City. The Freedom of Information Act lawsuit was brought by Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue against the FBI. He says the agency won’t release security camera videos that show a second person was with Timothy McVeigh when he parked a truck outside the Oklahoma City federal building and detonated a bomb, killing 168 people. The government claims McVeigh was alone.

Unsatisfied by the FBI’s previous explanations, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups has ordered the agency to explain why it can’t find videos from the bombing that are mentioned in evidence logs, citing the public importance of the tapes.

Trentadue believes the presence of a second suspect in the truck explains why his brother, Kenneth Trentadue, was flown to Oklahoma several months after the bombing, where he died in a federal holding cell in what was labeled a suicide. His brother bore a striking resemblance to the police sketch that officials sent out after the bombing based on witness descriptions of the enigmatic suspect “John Doe No. 2,” who was the same height, build and complexion. The suspect was never identified.

“I did not start out to solve the Oklahoma City bombing, I started out for justice for my brother’s murder,” Jesse Trentadue said. “But along the way, every path I took, every lead I got, took me to the bombing.”

The FBI says it can’t find anything to suggest the videos exist, and says it would be “unreasonably burdensome” to do a search that would take a single staff person more than 18 months to conduct.

Jesse Trentadue’s belief that the tapes exists stems from a Secret Service document written shortly after the bombing that describes security video footage of the attack that shows suspects — in plural — exiting the truck three minutes before it went off.

A Secret Service agent testified in 2004 that the log does, in fact, exist but that the government knows of no videotape. The log that the information was pulled from contained reports that were never verified, said Stacy A. Bauerschmidt, then-assistant to the special agent in charge of the agency’s intelligence division.

Several investigators and prosecutors who worked the case told The Associated Press in 2004 they had never seen video footage like that described in the Secret Service log.

The FBI has released 30 video recordings to Trentadue from downtown Oklahoma City, but those recordings don’t show the explosion or McVeigh’s arrival in a rental truck.

If he wins at trial, Trentadue hopes to be able to search for the tapes himself rather than having to accept the FBI’s answer that they don’t exist.

Kathy Sanders and Jannie Coverdale, who both lost grandchildren in the bombing, are grateful for Trentadue’s pursuit of the case. Sanders said she’s been waiting 19 years to see the tapes.

“It is worth pursuing,” Coverdale said. “I know there was somebody else. I have never stopped asking questions.”

But former Oklahoma Rep. Susan Winchester, whose sister, Dr. Margaret “Peggy” Clark, was killed in the bombing, said she is satisfied that officials have identified everyone responsible for the bombing.

“I was very comfortable with the decisions that came out of the federal and state trials,” Winchester said. “I have reached that point in my life where I can continue.”

Jesse Trentadue’s mission began four months after the bombing when his brother died at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons’ Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City. Kenneth Trentadue, 44, a convicted bank robber and construction worker, was brought there after being picked up for probation violations while coming back to the U.S. at the Mexican border, Jesse Trentadue said.

His death was officially labeled a suicide. But his body had 41 wounds and bruises that his brother believes were the result of a beating. In 2008, a federal judge awarded the family $1.1 million in damages for extreme emotional distress in the government’s handling of the death, but the amount was reduced to $900,000 after an appeal.

Jesse Trentadue’s best guess about the motive is that his brother died in an interrogation gone wrong by investigators demanding information Kenneth Trentadue didn’t have.

Jesse Trentadue filed the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in 2008.

Going toe-to-toe with the federal government has come at a personal price for Jesse Trentadue, 67, who says he’s lost time with his children and wife that he can’t recover.

But he has no regrets, fueled by his love for his brother. Just three years apart, the two shared a bed, hunted coons together and played on the same sports teams growing up in a coal camp in West Virginia.

Their paths diverged as adults — Jesse becoming an attorney while Kenneth fell into drugs and crime — but the brotherly bond never broke. Before his death, Kenneth Trentadue had overcome his heroin addiction and had a newborn baby at home in San Diego, Jesse Trentadue said. The brothers spoke by phone from jail the night before his death, with the two discussing how he would soon be out.

“What I learned growing up in the coal fields is that you fight even when you know you can’t win,” he said. “Because you have to make a stand on some things. Justice for my brother is certainly one of them.”

Source: TIM TALLEY of Associated Press

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