Archive for April 23, 2012
Just how easy is it to disappear? I have done stories about Etan Patz, a little boy who disappeared in 1979 in Manhattan…6-years-old…never found. Another 6-year old, Isabel Mercedes, disappeared from her bedroom in Tuscon, Arizona. 18-year old Andrew Compton, presumed dead based on the confessions of a man, has never been found after leaving his dorm at Sullivan College in Louisville in the fall of 2010. Several boys disappeared from the streets of Houston in the 1970′s and were not found until Elmer Wayne Henley led police to burial grounds near Pasadena, Texas and High Island.
The Indianapolis Star is revisiting the story of Lauren Spierer who disappeared from the streets of Bloomington, Indiana, a Midwest college town, last summer. The mother of missing college student Lauren Spierer paused for a moment, tears welling up in her eyes as she gave a different answer to a question she’s been asked numerous times since last June — do you believe your daughter is alive? “I don’t,” she said softly. Charlene Spierer revealed her change of perspective in the first interview she and her husband, Robert, have given in months, returning to Bloomington as the one-year anniversary of their daughter’s disappearance nears.
Spierer, a sophomore at Indiana University, hasn’t been seen or heard from since June 3, when she went out partying with friends. “We’re trying to be realistic,” Robert Spierer said. “We know that if she had the chance to reach out to us, she would have done it.” The Spierers sat down with The Indianapolis Star and the The Journal News (in Westchester County, N.Y., the Spierers’ hometown newspaper) for the first of several interviews this week to try and sustain interest in the case — despite a lack of any visible progress in the investigation. “It’s very frustrating to be talking about the exact same things we were talking about the first 30 days after her disappearance,” Robert Spierer said. They are still pushing forward with their effort to find their daughter, take her home and bring justice to whoever was responsible.
Some of the people the 20-year-old hung out with that night remain persons of interest in the criminal investigation, and the young woman’s parents continue to question their truthfulness — even after their private investigator interviewed a couple of them. In his toughest comments yet about the persons of interest, Robert Spierer implored the parents of each of them to “take their sons to the police station and allow for the law enforcement to (perform) polygraphs.” “I feel if she never met Corey Rossman, she’d be alive today,” he said of one of the students she was with that night. “His claim of memory loss is laughable.” “He’s a perfect example of someone who only cares about self-preservation, without any thought for another human being,” he added.
The parents, who met earlier today with Bloomington police, would particularly like to hear from Rossman. “Unfortunately, Corey continues to refuse to talk to us, talk to police,” Robert Spierer said. “It’s continuously frustrating that we can’t have a face-to-face with him.” Her parents are well aware that their daughter was not in a clear state of mind that night; she left her shoes and cell phone at Kilroy’s Bar, and was later seen stumbling out of an elevator in her apartment. For the first time, the Edgemont couple raised a possibility that she was drugged. “We felt somebody could have slipped something into her drink at Kilroy’s,” Robert Spierer said, but offered no proof to support the allegation.
After leaving Kilroy’s, Lauren Spierer returned to her off-campus apartment building with Rossman. They left after he was confronted by several people in the hallway. Rossman said he was punched so hard he lost memory of the night, though video surveillance shows he helped her out of her building after she stumbled into the lobby. The two went up the street to his apartment. She then visited Rossman’s neighbor, Jay Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum, who was the last person to report seeing her, is another person of interest. Earlier that night, he hosted a party that Spierer and Rossman attended. He later joined them at Kilroy’s, according to her parents. When she showed up at Rosenbaum’s place again later, he said, he tried to get her to sleep over on his couch, but let her leave after she showed she could walk.
The Spierers met with Rosenbaum in the fall, and also had a private detective interview him. But they came away with the same impression they had beforehand — that Rosenbaum is withholding information. Robert Spierer said the young man seemed to be rehashing a “story line.” “If he (Rosenbaum) was really worried about Lauren, he should have walked her home,” Spierer said. He added, “I don’t think anyone who saw her in the last hour-and-a-half did anything to help her,” prompting his wife to reply, “If they had, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation.” The parents arrived in a college town that has essentially returned to normal. In the weeks after her disappearance, police held daily news conferences as hundreds of volunteers scoured the region for evidence, plastering “Find Lauren” signs on every street corner.
In recent months, the only significant attention to the case came from false alarms, the latest in March when a body found in Illinois turned out not to be the missing student. Nearly all of the persons of interest, including Rosenbaum and Rossman, will be graduating in the spring. “I initially felt we were up against the clock, but I don’t feel there’s a deadline on a person’s conscience,” Robert Spierer said. “I’m less concerned about them leaving Bloomington than I was initially.”
If Barack Obama thinks that kicking George W. Bush is going to ignite the electorate and propel him to a second term…he is mistaken. I have probably never been more in the center in a presidential race in my life but I am this one. Like a lot folks who make up the American “center” I am tired of excuses…tired of the blame game. I simply don’t want to hear anymore…ever again…about Obama “inheriting” this “mess” from Bush. Been there, done that. It’s way past time to own this economy and tell us…we the people…exactly how you intend to fix it.
In an America where too many people still worry about losing their homes, an America where one of those people might turn out to be Barack Obama, the current President needs to stop talking about his predecessor now, just because George W. Bushis one more thing the upcoming campaign can’t be about, the way it can’t be about Colombian hookers or dogs. It can’t be about those things, or class warfare, or a war on women that doesn’t exist, can’t be about Hilary Rosen, whoever the hell she is, yammering on about Ann Romney as if she, Rosen, is somehow better.
And the upcoming campaign, Obama vs. Romney, sure can’t be about the previous administration, because then the whole thing really does start to sound dumber than Rick Perry. Somebody needs to explain that to the current President, and soon. He may have gotten himself elected running on George W. Bush’s record. Now he has to make sure he doesn’t get unelected running on his own. Nobody wants to hear any longer about the tough times Obama inherited, just the tough times they are facing right now. What people in this country really want to believe, more than anything, is this: That there are better days ahead in America.
People in this country want desperately to believe that somehow our children can have the same possibilities that their parents had. Except not nearly enough Americans believe that right now, and haven’t for much too long. One of these men, either Obama or Romney, is going to win a close election in November — and it is going to be a close election, don’t worry about that, three points either way — because he is able to convince voters that somehow he can work with Congress, somehow make a better government and a better America, make young Americans less afraid of their own futures, especially all the kids who are afraid to even leave college these days.
Sidetracking people with who eats dog, a fake war on women, gay marriage and politics of division won’t cut it in 2012. As I have suggested, the race is the President’s to lose. The American people like Barack Obama but we want to hear solutions and real, solid ideas, not blame and finger pointing. Mr. President, you had the Congress for two years…TWO YEARS…what do you have to show for it? Tell us and tell us WHY we should re-elect you.
Is the U.S. economy really that bad? The answer might be in some new immigration numbers. The number of Mexican immigrants living illegally in the U.S. has dropped significantly for the first time in decades, a dramatic shift as many illegal workers, already in the U.S. and seeing few job opportunities, return to Mexico. An analysis of census data from the U.S. and Mexican governments details the movement to and from Mexico, a nation accounting for nearly 60 percent of the illegal immigrants in the U.S. It comes amid renewed debate over U.S. immigration policy as the Supreme Courthears arguments this week on Arizona’s tough immigration law.
Roughly 6.1 million unauthorized Mexican immigrants were living in the U.S. last year, down from a peak of nearly 7 million in 2007, according to the Pew Hispanic Centerstudy released Monday. It was the biggest sustained drop in modern history, believed to be surpassed in scale only by losses in the Mexican-born U.S. population during the Great Depression. Much of the drop in illegal immigrants is due to the persistently weak U.S. economy, which has shrunk construction and service-sector jobs attractive to Mexican workers following the housing bust. But increased deportations, heightened U.S. patrols and violence along the border also have played a role, as well as demographic changes, such as Mexico’s declining birth rate.
In all, the Mexican-born population in the U.S. last year — legal and illegal — fell to 12 million, marking an end to an immigration boom dating back to the 1970s, when foreign-born residents from Mexico stood at 760,000. The 2007 peak was 12.6 million. Christian Ballesteros, who has been at a shelter for immigrants in Matamoros, Mexico, across the border from Brownsville, Texas, pointed to stiffer U.S. penalties for repeat offenders as well as brutal criminal groups that control the Mexican side of the border as reasons for the immigration decline. Ballesteros, who has been deported four times, was recently caught after hopping the border fence near Nogales, Ariz. “The Mexican cartels are taking over, are actually being like the border patrols on this side,” Ballesteros said. “They threaten them, ‘if you don’t pay, what we’re going to do is we’re going to cut your head off.’ That’s the worst, the worst, the worst part,” Ballesteros said.
After his last apprehension by U.S. authorities, Ballesteros was sent to a detention facility in Las Vegas for 2½ months. He fears it could be six months if he’s caught again. “You can lose money, but if you lose time there’s no way you can recover that time,” Ballesteros said, noting that many immigrants have families to support. Jeffrey Passel, a senior demographer at Pew who co-wrote the analysis, said Mexican immigration may never return to its height during the mid-decade housing and construction boom, even with the U.S. economy recovering. He cited longer-term factors such as a shrinking Mexican work force. He noted that government data now show a clear shift among Mexican workers already in the U.S. who are returning home. He said that data is a sign that many immigrants are giving up on life in the U.S., feeling squeezed by increasing enforcement and limited opportunities that they don’t see improving anytime soon.
About 1.4 million Mexicans left the U.S. between 2005 and 2010, double the number who did so a decade earlier. In the meantime, the number of Mexicans who entered the U.S. sharply fell to about 1.4 million, putting net migration from Mexico at a standstill. More recent data suggest that most of the movement is now heading back to Mexico, accounting for the drop in the illegal immigrant population. During the same period, the population of authorized Mexican immigrants edged higher, from 5.6 million to 5.8 million. Among the Mexican immigrants who leave the U.S., an estimated 5 to 35 percent are deported while the rest opt to go back voluntarily, often taking U.S.-born children with them. Those who were in the U.S. illegally and returned to Mexico also are increasingly saying they will not try to come back — about 20 percent, compared to 7 percent in 2005.
The Pew estimates come amid heightened attention on immigration in an election year where the fast-growing Hispanic population, now making up roughly 16 percent of the U.S. population, could play a key role. Arizona’s law, being challenged by the Obama administration in the Supreme Court, seeks to expand the authority of state police to ask about the immigration status of anybody they stop on the rationale that federal enforcement has largely failed. Since Arizona’s law passed in 2010, five other states — Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah — have passed similar measures.
Steve A. Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington group that advocates tighter immigration policies, said the latest numbers show that immigration policies do make a difference. “The bottom line is that immigration is not the weather. It is something that … can be changed,” he said. “The economy is worse but enforcement is also higher, making it more difficult for immigrants to get jobs in states like Arizona. They are now making new calculations and changing their views.”
—Illegal Mexican immigrants who have stayed in the U.S. for longer periods of time are now more likely to be sent back by authorities than before. About 27 percent of immigrants sent back had resided in the U.S. for a year or more, up from 6 percent in 2005.
—Despite an increase in Border Patrolagents, apprehensions of illegal immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border have dropped sharply — from 1 million in 2005 to 286,000 in 2011, a sign that fewer illegal immigrants are trying to enter.
—About 30 percent of all current U.S. immigrants are Mexican born, by far the most from any single country; that’s down from its peak of 32 percent in 2004-2009. The next largest share comes from China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan), accounting for 5 percent of the nation’s 40 million foreign-born residents.
—A typical Mexican woman is projected to have an average of 2.4 children in her lifetime, compared with 7.3 children in 1960.
—By region, Mexican-born immigrants in the U.S. are mostly likely found in the West (51 percent) and South (33 percent). About 58 percent now live in California and Texas, down from 63 percent in 2000 as immigrants spread out over the past decade in search of jobs in other states.
HANOI, Vietnam — (DMN) – Vietnam and the United States on Monday began their annual naval exchange near a former U.S. army base in Danang city amid mounting tensions over competing sovereignty claims in the South China Sea. With salvage and disaster training as well as a performance from the military band, the schedule of events seems harmless enough. However, some observers say the activities are an intrinsic part of a delicate diplomatic balancing act over contested territory in the South China Sea.
This year’s event is larger than in 2011, with 1,400 personnel and three ships, including a guided missile destroyer, said Lieutenant Commander Mike Morley who attended the opening ceremony. “This was coordinated about a year ago so this is a long planned event which is going to be taking place this week,” Morley said. The exchange overlaps with war games involving the United States and the Philippines that began last week. The exercises come during a naval standoff between the Philippines and China near the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.
Beijing insists the entire 3.5 million-square-kilometer sea is part of its territory. The Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei and Vietnam also claim portions of the waterway. The latest spat began on April 10 when two Chinese navy ships blocked the mouth of the shoal as Philippine navy personnel prepared to arrest the crews of eight Chinese fishing boats on suspicion of poaching. But Morley insisted there is no connection between the timing of the naval exercises with Vietnam and the Philippines. “The two are completely unrelated,” he said. “There are two completely different groups organizing each event.”
Beijing called the timing of last year’s activities in Danang “inappropriate,” but this time around China has remained mute — about both the Vietnamese and the Philippine drills. However, some observers say background events are also playing a part. For example, just last week Vietnam charged blogger Nguyen Van Hai — a well-known critic of China — for publishing anti-state propaganda. The move is part of Vietnam’s careful diplomatic balancing act with China, said Professor Carl Thayer from the University of New South Wales. On one hand, Vietnam holds naval activities with the United States and, on the other, it continues a dialogue with China.
As part of this, said Thayer, both countries agreed to control public opinion following rare public demonstrations against China last year. “In Vietnam’s case, they ended the demonstrations that were occurring in public and cracked down on the bloggers.” In another turn of events, on Saturday China released 21 Vietnamese fishermen who were detained on March 4 while fishing near the Paracel Islands, an archipelago controlled by China but also claimed by Vietnam.
The release was a good move by China, said Thayer. “By doing that it helps China divide the Philippines from Vietnam. The Philippines has been the most vocal and Vietnam has profited from it because, like an athlete on a bike race, it can sail behind the Philippines and get a lift higher with forward momentum without having to lose as much energy.” Not everyone agrees these incidents are relevant to the naval activities. Dr. Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asia Studies in Singapore, said the release of the fishermen is part of the inevitable cycle of confrontations surrounding the South China Sea. “Part of it is to do with the weather,” Storey said. “The monsoon season is over now. When the monsoon season ends, fishing ships and survey vessels they put out to sea and these kinds of incidents start all over again.”
China may have coordinated its first ever-war games with Russia to coincide with the-U.S.-Philippines drill, said Storey. China is the second largest defense spender in the world, with expenditures many times higher than all the ASEAN countries together. He said the naval exercises are intended to show China is a military power to be reckoned with. “The military balance of power is shifting in China’s favor, and before long, China will have a range of capabilities that will enable it to bring coercive pressure on the other claimants, should it so wish to.” Analysts say that is why Vietnam moving quickly to improve military relations with its one-time adversary, the United States. U.S. Navy officer Morley said the exercises in Vietnam have played an important part in beefing up bilateral ties, which have been improving steadily since relations were normalized in 1995. Morley said he expects the events of coming years to just keep getting bigger.
San Francisco, California this afternoon.
There is a story out of the United Kingdom that is fascinating in that it reads like a James Bond script. MI6 spy Gareth Williams was found dead in his London flat two summers ago. His body was found in a locked bag in a bath. Williams, 31, had been a “scrupulous risk-assessor” and only let “vetted” people into his home, his sister has told an inquest. The BBC is reporting that the body of Gareth Williams, 31, originally from Anglesey, was found padlocked in a bag in a bath in his Pimlico flat in August 2010. Ceri Subbe said only family had keys to her brother’s flat and that he would not have let in a potential killer.
The inquest is expected to examine whether anyone else was involved. Ms Subbe said her brother had never told her he had been followed or felt threatened. “I cannot think as to why anybody would want to harm him,” she told the inquest. In a statement read to the court, Ms Subbe said MI6 had been “dragging their feet” over her brother’s request to return to government communications surveillance agency GCHQ’s headquarters in Gloucestershire. The mathematics prodigy had worked as a cipher and codes expert for GCHQ since 2001.
He had been working for MI6 in London on what had been meant to be a three-year secondment, but “as time went by his enthusiasm began to fade”, Ms Subbe said. “He disliked office culture, post-work drinks, flash car competitions and the rat race. He even spoke of friction in the office,” the statement said. Giving evidence at Westminster Coroner’s Court, Ms Subbe added: “The job was not quite what he expected. He encountered more red tape than he was comfortable with.” Mr Williams had asked to return to GCHQ in April 2010 and MI6 had agreed he could leave on 1 September 2010.
Police believe Mr Williams died in the early hours of Tuesday 16 August. The inquest was told that he failed to show up to a meeting that day and Ms Subbe had spoken to one of his colleagues. “He is very conscientious. The person I spoke to agreed, and said Gareth was like a Swiss clock – very punctual, very efficient, and it was very unlike him not to attend a meeting,” she said. Ms Subbe told the inquest he had seemed upbeat the last time she spoke to him. She said it was “not particularly” surprising that £20,000 of women’s clothes had been found in her brother’s flat and that they could possibly have been gifts.
The police officer who discovered the bag in the bath, PC John Gallagher, told the inquest he was let into the locked flat by a letting agent after reports that Mr Williams was missing. He said that, once inside, his attention was drawn to a woman’s wig hanging on the corner of a chair. When he got to the bathroom, there was a bathrobe on the floor outside the closed door, he added. When he opened it, he noticed the bag in the bath but only became aware of the “particular smell” of a body when he tried to lift it. “I noticed that the side nearest the door had a round bulge,” he said. “I noticed there was a padlock with the two zips joined together. “At this point I am realising it is something serious and my concern was to not damage anything in a crime scene.”
He said he could only see red fluid seeping out after he lifted the bag up “by six or seven inches”. He called for back-up and Det Sgt Paul Colgan arrived who cut open the holdall to reveal the body inside. The inquest has been adjourned until Tuesday. Opening proceedings earlier, coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox said evidence into Mr Williams’s death would be heard in public but that some sensitive information would be withheld because of a “real risk of harm” to national security. Summaries or “gists” of any withheld evidence would be revealed in court and there would be “a full, fair and fearless inquest into this highly controversial death”, she said.
The inquest will hear from Mr Williams’s colleagues from MI6 and the GCHQ, toxicology experts and bag experts. Most of the 37 witnesses will give evidence in person, but some officers will be able to testify anonymously and behind screens. Broadcasters and newspaper have applied for photographs, video and documents referred to in open court to be supplied to the media. But a lawyer for the Met Police, Vincent Williams, said there was a “live complex ongoing investigation” into the death and charges were still a “real possibility”. Dr Wilcox suggested that the lawyers agree a compromise outside court.
A lawyer for Mr Williams’s family said they opposed the release of video footage showing an attempted reconstruction of how he may have climbed into the bath. A post-mortem examination and further toxicology tests – which found no trace of drugs, alcohol or poison – and the police investigation have all failed to establish a cause of death. Police originally found it would have been impossible for Mr Williams to have locked himself inside the holdall his naked body was found in. But they have been unable to establish whether he died at the hands of a third party. Dr Wilcox told a pre-inquest hearing in March that whether the code-breaker was able to lock himself in the bag would be “at the very heart” of the inquest. Lawyer Anthony O’Toole told the pre-inquest hearing that Mr Williams’s family believed a third party was present at his death or later destroyed evidence. “The impression of the family is that the unknown third party was a member of some agency specialising in the dark arts of the secret services – or evidence has been removed post-mortem by experts in the dark arts,” he said.
Profile: MI6 spy Gareth Williams
The inquest into the death of MI6 employee Gareth Williams, whose body was found in a padlocked sports bag in his central London flat in August 2010, is under way. But what is known about the 31-year-old code-breaker – described by his family as “a very private person”? Mr Williams, originally from Holyhead, north Wales, worked as a communications officer at government listening post GCHQ, in Cheltenham, but was on a three-year secondment to MI6 in London. Police officers went to his MI6-owned top-floor flat at 36 Alderney Street – in a part of Pimlico described by a neighbour as “a very mixed area of bankers and politicians” – on Monday 23 August.
They went there after colleagues contacted the police earlier that day saying they had not seen Mr Williams for at least 10 days. They found his naked body, which had been padlocked inside a zipped-up large red North Face sports holdall, in the empty bath of an ensuite bathroom of the master bedroom. Police, who have repeatedly said the death remains “suspicious and unexplained”, now believe he died in the early hours of Tuesday 16 August. Mr Williams, a keen cyclist who often took part in road races and time trials, was brought up on the island of Anglesey and attended Bodedern High School.
A talented pupil, he graduated from Bangor University with a first class degree in maths aged 17 after beginning his university studies while at secondary school. His maths teacher at Bodedern, Geraint Williams, has praised Gareth as an “exceptional” pupil who was “the best logician” he had met. “If you explained something once to Gareth he remembered it, you didn’t have to explain it again,” he said. “It didn’t surprise me at all that he was very interested in codes and ciphers and it didn’t really surprise me that he was recruited by GCHQ. “He was definitely going to go into something like that, with his brain.”
Mr Williams went on to study for a postgraduate certificate in mathematics at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, in 2000, but dropped out a year later before taking up the job at GCHQ in Cheltenham. In the days after his death, his family described Mr Williams in a statement as a generous, loving son, brother, and friend” whose loss has devastated us. They remembered their son, who was “a great athlete” who “loved cycling and music”, as “a very private person”. He often returned home to Anglesey to mother Ellen and father Ian, who works at the Wylfa Nuclear Power Station.
Keith Thompson, of Holyhead Cycling Club – joined by Mr Williams at the age of 17 – said he had last seen the “lovely young man” at a club meeting on Boxing Day. “We were club mates but Gareth wasn’t the sort to go to the pub after a race, so he didn’t have any close friends in the group,” he said. And a cyclist at Cambridge University’s bicycle club, meanwhile, described Mr Williams as “a shy chap” with a “peculiarly memorable laugh and smile”. Mr Williams’ uncle, Anglesey councillor William Hughes, meanwhile, said his “very talented” nephew “would never talk about his work and the family knew not to ask really”. And a neighbour in Pimlico said he and others had never seen Mr Willams adding: “It’s not like you’d tell your neighbours if you were a spy.”
In late December 2010, police revealed some “embarrassing, hurtful and distressing” details about Mr Williams which they said was necessary in the search for evidence. They said he owned £15,000-worth of unworn women’s designer clothing, which were kept in six boxes at his flat, and that he had visited a drag cabaret in east London four days before his death and had tickets to two more. Police also said he occasionally spent between 30 minutes and an hour on bondage sites. They also said a witness had reported seeing him in a gay bar but that they did not know for certain he was gay. However, in April 2011 Mr Williams’ close friend Sian Lloyd-Jones questioned suggestions his death was linked to his private life and called on police to broaden their inquiry. She told the police “did wrong” by releasing information about women’s clothing “but didn’t reveal that there was £10,000 of mountaineering equipment as well”.
Ms Lloyd-Jones said he was not gay and the women’s clothes were too small for him and may have been intended for her or her sister. Mr Williams returned to his flat – half a mile away from MI6 headquarters on the banks of the River Thames – on Wednesday 11 August 2010 after a fly-drive holiday to the west coast of the US. Police say he had been shopping in London’s West End and Knightsbridge areas a number of times since then. CCTV images captured on Saturday 14 August showed him entering Holland Park tube station at about 1500 BST. On Sunday 15 August, he went to Harrods after visiting a cash machine and, at about 1430 BST, CCTV images showed him in Hans Crescent, heading towards Sloane Street, near the Dolce & Gabbana store. A post-mortem examination and toxicology tests – which found no trace of drugs, alcohol or poison – and the police investigation have all failed to establish a cause of death. Police believe that Mr Williams, whose family believe may have been killed by an agent “specialising in the dark arts of the secret services”, was helped into the bag.
The BBC contributed to this report.
Indiana’s U.S. Senate Republican primary battle between incumbent Richard Lugar and State Treasurer Richard Mourdock is too close to call. No. It really is. A lot of folks are watching this race as a test of the Tea Parties strength in normally “red” Indiana which went “blue” in 2008 for Barack Obama. There is little doubt Indiana will go red in the general election this November but just how far the state swings to the right could play into the success or demise of Obama this fall.
Just who is watching this race? The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Taken together, their stories offer a trove of quotes that reveal something about the personalities of Lugar and Mourdock. Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s campaign released a new radio ad Monday, hammering six-term incumbent Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana and adding to the thickening tension between the two candidates in the final two weeks of the primary race. The 60-second spot directly takes on recent Lugar attacks ads that target Mourdock as a tax fraud, highlighting the ads as “misleading,” “an exaggeration” and ” straining the facts.”
“Have you seen those attack ads from Dick Lugar against Richard Mourdock?” the ad’s narrator says. “Dick Lugar is so desperate to stay in Washington that he’s resorting to false negative attacks.” In a scathing commercial last week, Lugar’s campaign pointed to an error on Mourdock’s recent tax returns claiming thousands of dollars in extra homestead deductions-a mistake Mourdock said he had attempted to fix years ago but said his paperwork had been lost by the state, resulting in a delay. The Marion County Auditor’s Office has since taken responsibility for not removing the error when requested by Mourdock.
Mourdock, the state’s treasurer, has the support of major tea party and other conservative groups-both state and national-hoping to unseat Lugar, the longest serving Republican in the Senate. In Mourdock’s radio ad released Monday, the campaign bashed Lugar for living outside the state since he first became senator in 1976, repeating a major rallying cry for critics of the veteran senator. “During those 36 years in Washington, Dick Lugar lost touch with Hoosier conservative values and became Obama’s favorite Republican,” the narrator says. Lugar, who lives in Northern Virginia, beat back challenges of his residency after the Indiana Election Division ruled in favor of Lugar’s situation. A loophole in the state’s election law allows individuals to maintain residency as long as they’re serving in the state’s capacity.
The Mourdock radio ad Monday also criticized Lugar for confirming President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court picks of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. The National Rifle Association has criticized Lugar’s votes for the two nominees, as well. Responding to the commercial, Lugar’s campaign described the spot in a statement as a “negative, deceptive ad to distract Hoosiers from the growing list of questions plaguing (Mourdock’s) campaign.” Team Lugar specifically addressed the Supreme Court attacks, saying the senator “proudly led conservatives in the confirmation fights” for Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. “Senator Dick Lugar has factual rebuttals and answers to all the questions raised, while Richard Mourdock appears unable to answer the growing list of troubling questions facing his campaign,” the statement read.
While Mourdock represents the first major threat ever to Lugar’s re-election, some in the GOP establishment have rushed to Lugar’s side, including Indiana’s popular governor Mitch Daniels, who appeared in ad released Sunday for the senator. Recent polls indicate the two candidates in a dead heat. While Indiana doesn’t hold its primary until May 8, early voting has been underway across the state since March 24. Much of Lugar’s hopes in Indiana may center on Marion County (Indianapolis) where Lugar served as Mayor from 1968-1976.
At today’s mostly pro forma Marion County Election Board meeting — the purpose was an hours-long public test of all voting equipment and ballot configurations at the Eastside election service warehouse — Clerk Beth White discussed early voting turnout so far. Through Friday, the end of the second week of early voting, 609 voters cast early ballots in person, while another 2,921 submitted absentee mail-in ballot applications. Both of those fall short of the same point preceding the 2008 presidential primary, which featured a hotly contested race between Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. In that year, 902 voters had cast early ballots in person, while 5,029 had requested absentee mail-in ballots.
Surveillance video captured Houston Police officers kicking and beating a burglary suspect.
HOUSTON, Texas — (DMN) – It’s a case that stunned the nation. Houston police officers caught on surveillance video kicking and beating a teenage burglary suspect who was not fighting back. The first of four former Houston police officers accused of brutally beating teen burglary suspect Chad Holley will go on trial today.
Surveillance video from a nearby business shows Holley on the run from Houston Police officers. Holley gives up, rolls onto his stomach and puts his hands behind his head. The video shows the officers continue to punch and kick him. Holley was found guilty of burglary, but the video of his arrest raised tensions in the city of Houston. Experts say it will be hard to find people who haven’t seen the tape or heard about the arrest so, potential jurors will probably be asked a different question.
On the tape, it appears Andrew Blomberg is the first officer to begin beating the teen who was 15 years old at the time. The incident happened in March of 2010 and you can see the officers pounce on Holley after he’d already been handcuffed. He’s then repeatedly kicked in the head, punched and even stomped on the back of the leg. And before he’s taken to a patrol car, he’s hit one more time. Blomberg lost his job over the incident. He faces multiple charges and the possibility of jail.
Experts say it will be hard to find people who haven’t seen the tape or heard about the arrest so, potential jurors will probably be asked a different question. “The question is if you heard of it or seen it, can you divorce yourself from what you thought about it,” said Gerald Treece, KHOU-TV Legal Analyst. That’s a concern of well-known defense attorney Dick DeGuerin. He’s representing Blomberg. DeGuerin says that there’s another side to the story that he hopes the jury will be open to hearing. Gerald Treece explained. “Maybe this young man is threatening them, maybe all sorts of things are happening that we can’t see,” said Treece. “That’s the problem with video tape. That we can see and can’t hear.”
The four officers involved are charged with official oppression. “Oppression means abuse of the badge,” said Treece. “Being a government bully; going further than you have a right to go.” Justified or not? There are a lot of opinions. This jury will have to make their decision based on what they hear in court.
TUSCON, Arizona — (DMN) – The family of a 6-year-old girl who disappeared from her bedroom was being kept away from their home in Tucson after an FBI dog search early Monday turned up information that required a follow-up, investigators said. Police Chief Roberto Villasenor would not reveal what was found at the home of first-grader Isabel Mercedes Celis. Police says her family last saw her in her room at 11 p.m. Friday and she was discovered missing at 8 a.m. Saturday. The dogs began searching at the home around midnight, said police Sgt. Marco Borboa. “We have deployed the dogs and they’re working at the residence,” he said Monday. Investigators found “suspicious circumstances around a possible entry point” at the home, Sgt. Maria Hawke said. She wouldn’t comment on whether the entry point was a bedroom window or a door. Family friend Mary Littlehorn said she heard from others close to the family that a window screen in the girl’s bedroom had been knocked down.
Officers kept the block where Isabel lives cordoned off for a second day Sunday, after scores of police and officers from several agencies failed to locate the girl. More than 150 law enforcement officers were involved in the effort, which included a three-mile radius around the home in temperatures that reached the high-90s, police Lt. Fabian Pacheco said late Sunday. Villasenor said officers had served at least two search warrants. The girl’s parents, identified by friends as Becky and Sergio Celis, were helpful in the search for their youngest child, he said. Villasenor said police had classified the case as a “suspicious disappearance/possible abduction.” “We’re not ruling anything out of the investigation at this point because we really need to keep our mind open about all the information that’s been brought to us,” Villasenor said. “The family has been cooperating with us.”
Littlehorn, who joined other family friends at a police command post, said authorities separated the parents Saturday as they questioned them. She said it was difficult for them knowing their daughter was missing. “She hasn’t been allowed to help look for her daughter,” Littlehorn said of Becky Celis. Littlehorn has worked with Becky Celis as a registered nurse in the pediatrics unit at Tucson Medical Center for five years. She said Isabel, whose nickname is Isa, loved to play baseball and dance; the girl was supposed to play in a baseball game Saturday. “She’s just the sweetest, she is feisty, she’s full of life and spirit,” Littlehorn said.
She said Sergio Celis is a dental hygienist, and that there was no way anyone in the family is involved in the disappearance. “We all feel this is somebody who’s been watching `Isa’ for some amount of time to know where her bedroom is,” Littlehorn said. Celis’ uncle, Justin Mastromarino, says the girl’s parents are distraught. “Everything goes through your mind,” he said. “You’re angry. You’re upset. You’re frustrated. You’re confused.” Investigators were looking into various scenarios, including the possibility that Isabel wandered out of the home she shares with her parents and two brothers. Hawke said Sunday that the wandering off theory was becoming less likely as time passed.
The family fears Isabel may have been abducted in the same manner as Elizabeth Smart. Smart was 14 when she was snatched from her bedroom in the middle of the night. Smart was found alive nine months later. In 1993, 12-year-old Polly Klaas was abducted at knife point during a slumber party in her house. She was later found dead. In addition to the highly trained dogs, authorities said they have started checking on the whereabouts of sex offenders in the area as part of standard procedure.
The disappearance has rattled the neighborhood, where volunteers have posted fliers that included a photo of Isabel — described as about 4-feet-tall with brown hair and hazel eyes — holding up a school achievement award. More than 200 people attended a Sunday evening vigil in an empty parking lot near the family home. Ron Redondo, whose 14-year-old daughter goes to school with Isabel’s older brother, said he wants his kids to not take safety for granted. “We don’t know who’s out there right now. We don’t know if this was a random act or somebody’s out there looking for kids.”
Erin Cowan, who has worked with Isabel’s mom at Tucson Medical Center, brought her 7-year-old daughter. She said it has been on her mind that her daughter is close in age to Isabel. “I put two-by-fours in their windows this morning,” said Cowan, who also has a 12-year-old son. “I guess you can’t be too careful, sadly.” At St. Joseph Parish, the Celises and their two sons attended an early Mass Sunday morning, and deacon Leon Mazza described the parents as “very upset.” “We didn’t ask for any information. We just let them know if they need help, come see us,” Mazza said.
Parish priest Miguel Mariano said the family regularly attends Mass and said he asked the parents if they needed any help from the congregation. “And then they said, `No, Father, just prayers,”‘ Mariano said. The Catholic church and its school are down the street from the family’s home, and Mariano said in his sermon that he hoped whoever has Isabel has a change of heart. “I feel, in the name of the community, we feel we are violated,” he said later.
NEW YORK, New York — (DMN) – The massive basement dig in search of missing SoHo boy Etan Patz ended with no human remains or blood found below a neighborhood building targeted by investigators, law enforcement sources said today. FBI agents, assisted by NYPD cops, had been blasting through cement below 127B Prince St. since Thursday morning, but indefinitely suspended their excavation last night with little to show. The walls had no trace of blood, according to field tests conducted at the site, law enforcement sources told The Post. And it appeared that no human bones were in the cement, sources said.
Strands of hair were discovered but they don’t appear to match the blond locks of six-year Etan, who left his building at 113 Prince St. the morning of May 25, 1979, and hasn’t been seen since. Investigators haven’t totally given up home in finding clues in the basement and have sent blocks of cement to an FBI lab in Quantico, Va., for further analysis. The source cautioned that “it’s way, way too early” to know yet if the hair is human or who it belonged to. The bones could be from food, the source said.
In 1979, the basement was the domain of Othniel Miller, a now-75-year-old handyman who did odd jobs around the Patz neighborhood. Police interviewed Miller during the initial search for Etan after noticing freshly poured concrete on the basement floor, but they never dug it up. Miller’s lawyer, Michael Farkas, yesterday said his client has been falsely maligned and accused — and likened the release of “unconfirmed information” to Florida’s Trayvon Martin shooting case. “Mr. Miller decries these efforts to sully his good reputation and destroy his family,’’ Farkas said. “He has absolutely no responsibility for the terrible tragedy that befell young Etan Patz, and he grieves for Etan’s fate, as all New Yorkers have for decades.”
Meanwhile, a retired NYPD detective who worked the Patz case in the 1990s said he’s not optimistic about the basement search. “Are they going to find something? I give it a 10 percent chance,” he said. “But I will never say that they are going in the wrong direction. As a detective, you always trace any lead you get.” The retired cold-case cop said the search for Etan had led probers to several locations — first to a home in Vermont where pedophiles lived and then to a private house in Westchester County where, a jailhouse snitch told cops, the child was murdered. The snitch then told cops that the child was buried on a large tract of private land upstate.
Police had been tipped off to the informant by true-crime writer Maury Terry, who had been talking with another snitch and was told by that source about the possible new Etan angle. New York cops grilled the informant for hours, the detective recalled. By the time cops found the house more than a decade after Patz had disappeared, it had changed owners. No charges were ever filed. “We didn’t have enough probable cause, and we didn’t have corroboration of [all the snitch’s] statements,” he said. Another person questioned in the case is Jesse Snell, who had worked with Miller and was seen in the SoHo building the day Etan disappeared, NBC reported.
The New York Post contributed to this report.