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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Family files $145 million lawsuit in Taser-related death

Right: Legal team of Gray/Thomas family

The family of the late Jarrel Gray has filed a $145 million lawsuit against Frederick County, Sheriff Chuck Jenkins and Corp. Rudy Torres for the Taser-related death of the 20-year-old in November.

Ted Williams, the attorney who represents the Gray family, announced today that he filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt a day earlier on behalf of Gray's parents, Jeffrey Gray and Tanya Thomas.

The case seeks damages for seven counts, including wrongful death, police brutality⁄excessive force, deprivation of civil rights, and negligent training and supervision.
‘‘From everything we've been able to see ... there has been a cover-up from the beginning,” Williams said, standing in front of the Asbury United Methodist Church in Frederick.

Greg Lattimer, Williams' co-counsel, said the family did not name Taser International, the manufacturer of the less-lethal device, because it was not on the scene that night nor responsible for how the Taser was used.

‘‘We have named the people we believe are directly responsible for the death of young Mr. Gray,” he said. ‘‘What [Torres] did was unconscionable. ... [Taser International] didn't tell the man to use it wrongfully and on a helpless individual.”

On May 9, a Frederick County grand jury found Torres justified in his actions, following the presentation of an investigation by the Frederick Police Department into the circumstances surrounding Gray's death.

Included in that presentation was an autopsy from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore, which could not determine the manner of Gray's death.

The medical examiner said the cause of Gray's death was a combination of the method of restraint, in this case the Taser, alcohol intoxication, and Gray's anatomical unique makeup.

Jenkins (R) has said that an internal investigation by his office's internal affairs division also found Torres justified in his use of force on the night of Nov. 18, 2007.

Early that morning, Torres, a 13-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office, responded to a call of a fight on Gresham Court East in Frederick.

According to the Sheriff's Office, Torres ordered the men who were fighting to stop, and when Gray did not comply, Torres fired a pair of five-second jolts of electricity from his X26 Taser.

Gray was taken to Frederick Memorial Hospital, where he died nearly two hours later.

Torres is scheduled to return to active duty in the near future, Jenkins recently told The Gazette, after being on administrative leave since the incident. Jenkins did not immediately return a phone call this morning for comment and to see if Torres has returned to active duty.

During a nearly hour-long press conference, Williams challenged Jenkins' account, from his claims Torres was alone on the scene at the time the Taser was used to how Gray acted toward the deputy.

He also questioned the information presented to the grand jury by Frederick County State's Attorney Charlie Smith, asking why he did not subpoena witnesses to testify rather than rely on their interviews with police.

Smith has previously said that that those interviews were enough, and that members of the grand jury could have requested additional witnesses if they felt it was necessary.

One of the men with Gray that night, 22-year-old Charles Kahiga of Frederick, said Torres exited his vehicle with the Taser in hand, and that three or four other police cars were on the scene.

‘‘Nobody was fighting. We were standing around talking,” Kahiga said. ‘‘...'Get on the ground' was the only thing [Torres] said before he used the Taser. ... The second time [he used the device] Jarrel was unconscious.”

Kahiga said that Gray did not address Torres, and did not make actions that would threaten the deputy.

Jenkins has previously said that Gray walked away from Torres with his hands in his pants' pockets while cursing at him. Gray then turned toward Torres with his hands in his pants' pockets, causing Torres to feel threatened and fire his Taser.

‘‘For the future, we want the police to think twice before they wrongfully murder someone's child and turn around and cover it up,” Jeffrey Gray said.

Gray's mother, Tanya Thomas, said Torres could have brought Jarrel home and knocked on the door to talk to her about the incident, something he had done a year and a half prior to Nov. 18 regarding an alleged punch Jarrel threw at a young woman.

At that time, Thomas said, Torres talked to her and her son for an hour, calling Jarrel a ‘‘good kid” and advising him that hanging out with the wrong crowd was not for him.

‘‘Then he [Torres] was the one to take my son,” Thomas said, indicating she thought Torres was making a point by subduing the young man with his Taser that night.

Williams said he has requested copies of the investigations by Frederick Police and the Sheriff's Office, and that more information will come to light at trial.

‘‘No investigation can bring Jarrel Gray back,” Williams said. ‘‘All we can do ... is get to the truth of what happened here.”

Man Tased After Allegedly Refusing To Listen To Officer

Reported by: Jennifer Von Reuter
Saturday, May 31, 2008

GARRETT COUNTY, MD - An Oakland man was tased by a Garrett County sheriff's deputy after they say he refused to listen to the officer.

The incident happened around 10 a.m. Saturday on Sand Flat Road. Deputies were called there because of reports of gun shots being fired.

Deputies said Clifford Elliott refused to cooperate with the officer and was tased. Elliott was treated at Garrett County Memorial Hospital and released.

He is now being held at the Garrett County Detention Center.

Body found in pond ID'd as missing woman

Hurst Laiana
May 31, 2008

Sumner County, Kansas authorities confirmed Friday that a woman whose body was found Monday in a pond near Belle Plaine was Rhonda Matt, 48, who was reported missing two days earlier from a nearby mobile home park.

The Sumner County Sheriff's Office said dental records confirmed the identity, but the manner of death remains under investigation.

Investigators said it could take two weeks to complete toxicology reports that may be required to determine a cause of death.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Headless body found burned along I-70 in Missouri

The Kansas City Star

Authorities in Lafayette County, Mo., have confirmed today that a man’s body had been found northeast of Concordia, Mo.

The county sheriff’s department said it had received a call about 9 a.m. Wednesday after an area resident out repairing a fence found the body near Davis Road.

Investigators say the nude body, partially burned, belonged to a white or mixed-race male about 6 feet tall and weighing about 200 pounds. The hands and head had been cut off.

An autopsy is being performed this morning at the Jackson County medical examiner’s office, but investigators said there were no identifying tattoos, broken bones or other irregularities to help in identifying the body.

Also working with the sheriff’s department are the Lafayette County Crime Scene Team, the Missouri Highway Patrol’s CRASH Unit and the Missouri Search & Rescue K9 cadaver team.
No other details were immediately available.

Caregiver faces trial in death of child

The Wichita Eagle

Right: Jessica Cummings.

When day care provider Jessica Cummings put 13-month-old Kailee Hundley into a car seat March 25, she fastened the top harness but not the bottom one.

Then she left the girl unattended in a day care home bathroom and did not check on her for about 2 ½ hours, a Wichita police detective testified Thursday.

During that time, Kailee slid down in the seat and choked on the straps, said Detective Wendy Hummell, the only witness at Cummings' preliminary hearing.

After listening to Hummell, District Judge Joseph Bribiesca found sufficient evidence for Cummings to stand trial on a charge of involuntary manslaughter, a felony.

Bribiesca called Kailee's death a "terrible tragedy" and said it will be up to a jury to decide whether Cummings is criminally liable. He scheduled her trial for Aug. 18.

The judge said by Cummings' "own admission" to Hummell, she didn't properly buckle the girl into the car seat before she left her.

When Cummings did check on the girl, it was too late.

Bribiesca also cited an autopsy report that said Kailee died from accidental strangulation.
After the hearing, Kailee's paternal aunt, Teressa Hays, said, "We held our breath as the judge read his decision." The family is glad the case is going to trial, Hays said.

"We want someone to be held accountable," she said. Cummings' defense attorney, John Stang, entered a not-guilty plea.

Stang argued that Cummings followed some of the safety warnings on the car seat. She secured the top harness, he noted. He also said that Cummings did not intentionally endanger the child.
In a recent interview, Stang called the death an "awful accident" and said Cummings "feels awful about what happened."

In Thursday's hearing, Hummell said the car seat had multiple, visible warnings on its labels. One said "strangulation hazard." Another said "never leave child unattended."

During an interview, Cummings told the homicide detective that Kailee had been crying loudly.
Cummings didn't want Kailee to disturb other children at her day care home. So Cummings moved her to another part of the house, to a bathroom off the kitchen, and left the door partly open, Hummell said.

A forensic examination determined that with the bottom harness unfastened, the top strap slipped to Kailee's neck, choking her, Hummell said.

During the hearing, prosecutor Shannon Wilson asked Hummell what Cummings said when Hummell asked why she left the bottom strap unsecured. That "it was snug enough," Hummell replied.

Cummings heard Kailee crying for two to three minutes after placing her in the car seat, then "assumed she had gone to sleep," Hummell said.

When Cummings checked on the girl, she found her "looking blue in the face," her head slumped over -- with the straps around her neck, Hummell testified.

Cummings told the detective she immediately pulled the girl out of the seat, began CPR and called 911.

As Kailee's relatives and family friends listened to Hummell's description, some of them cried softly. Cummings often looked down, sometimes writing on a pad.

Hummell said another safety label on the car seat said it was designed for children up to 20 pounds. Kailee weighed 23 pounds at the autopsy.

The car seat had been used by Cummings' daughter, Hummell said.

During the autopsy, a forensic pathologist placed Kailee's body in the car seat and found that even though she exceeded the weight limit, she would have fit into the seat if it had been properly fastened. Had the bottom strap been secured, she would have been prevented from sliding down, Hummell said. The neck injuries appeared to have been caused by the upper harness.

At one point during the hours that Cummings did not check on Kailee, Cummings had been outside with other children, Hummell said.

Two days after Kailee's death, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment issued an emergency order suspending Cummings' day care license. Because of the order, Cummings can't operate a day care home.

In a separate case, Kailee's mother, Katie Robertson, has been charged with murder in the Feb. 27 death of her 2-year-old stepdaughter, Daytona Robertson.

Did this poor kid have chance at all?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Body found in Belle Plaine pond

The Wichita Eagle

A woman's body has been found in a pond near Belle Plaine, and investigators are treating it as a suspicious death, the Sumner County sheriff said Tuesday.
A property owner found the body in a pond Monday afternoon.
Investigators are trying to determine the cause of death and whether the body is that of a woman reported missing Saturday from a mobile home park that also is near Belle Plaine, Sheriff Gerald Gilkey said.
The missing woman is in her 40s.
The body, which was found about 2 ½ miles northeast of Belle Plaine, will undergo an autopsy at the Sedgwick County Regional Forensic Science Center, Gilkey said.
"We're investigating it as a suspicious death," he said.
Asked why, he said, "Just because you don't find a person in a pond every day."
The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is assisting the Sheriff's Department.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Storm spawns at least 8 tornadoes in northern Oklahoma

Tornadoes destroyed a pig farm near Lacey and heavily damaged a home in southern Garfield County, officials said. Not to make light of the situation, but this will be the stinkiest, dirtiest clean-up job ever in the world. Good god, a tornado hit a pig farm...poor pigs.

At least eight tornadoes have touched down in Kingfisher, Garfield and Noble Counties, the National Weather Service confirmed.

A “large, violent, multiple-vortex tornado” was reported about 4:40 p.m. by spotters two miles southeast of Douglas, the National Weather Service said.

That storm severely damaged a home on Bison Road a mile east of State Highway 74.
Jerry Taylor, 55, lives alone in the stone house. He said he was sitting on a hill next to his house watching the storms when he saw the tornado coming and decided to take shelter.

“I just watched it coming at me through the window, and that’s when I could see that all hell was about to break loose, so I jumped in my closet,” Taylor said. The house was heavily damaged. A shed and stable were destroyed. Taylor said two of his five horses were missing.

An office trailer that was unoccupied was also thrown into the middle of the road at State Highway 74 and Bison Road, officials said. Power lines and trees were also down in the area.
Other tornadoes touched down near Lacey, Bison, Douglas and Orlando.

Daryl Williams, a forecaster with the National Weather Service, said it’s difficult to tell exactly how many tornadoes touched down because many touched the ground only briefly before quickly disappaiting.

“It’s really sketchy right now, somewhere in the area of eight or more,” Williams said. “It’s going to take some investigation by the local emergency managers and it will be a day or two until we get some real numbers.”

One of two tornadoes near Lacey destroyed several buildings at Seaboard Foods Farm No. 62, a pig farm.

John Hardaway, production manager with Seaboard Foods, said the six of the farm’s eight barns were completely destroyed and the other two were heavily damaged.

Many smaller buildings and sheds, including a water storage building, were also destroyed.
Several employees were at the farm when the tornado hit, Hennessey Fire Chief Bert Gritz said.
“There were some employees that got in the office and they were hunkered down in the showers,” Gritz said. “It blew some windows out, but they are all OK.”

The farm houses 3,900 sows and their piglets, most of which escaped unharmed, Hardaway said. The barns fell down around them, but the animals were kept in crates that generally withstood the storm.

“The crates actually protected them somewhat,” Hardaway said. “The majority will actually be fine.” There were some pig carcasses in the area.

Hardaway said the company’s first priority is to remove debris. Construction crews were already on the site a couple of hours after the storm hit. Over the next couple of days workers will bring in water and shade until they can move the animals to another farm.

Gritz and Ooten said no injuries were reported from the storm.

Friday, May 23, 2008

FLDS custody case resumes in San Angelo, Texas

In San Antonio, child welfare officials agree to reunite parents with their children under state supervision
By Brooke Adams

The Salt Lake Tribune

Photographs submitted into evidence in a Texas court hearing Friday showing FLDS leader Warren Jeffs with a young girl. The photos are dated July 27, 2006. The Salt Lake Tribune blurred the girl's face. (Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune)

Posted: 4:51 PM- SAN ANGELO, Texas - Polygamous sect member Louisa Bradshaw today spent two hours on the witness stand in a custody case involving her newborn baby, giving halting answers when she was questioned by a state attorney.

The state is seeking to gain custody of Bradshaw's infant, who was born a week ago. Her toddlers, ages 2 and 3, are now under state supervision.

Earlier today, state child welfare authorities in San Antonio agreed to reunite 12 children with their parents until the Texas Supreme Court rules on an overarching appeal involving the state's seizure of more than 450 children from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' ranch in Eldorado last month, The Associated Press reported.

Texas Child Protective Services agreed to allow the parents to live with their children in the San Antonio area under state supervision. It was unclear how many families were involved.

In the San Angelo case, state attorney Ellen Griffith asked Bradshaw how long she had been at the ranch, who lives in the building where she lives, and whether she had seen any inappropriate relationship there.

Bradshaw often simply responded, "I don't know."

At one point, Griffith showed Bradshaw photographs of imprisoned FLDS President Warren S. Jeffs with young females. The attorney said the state believes one of them was 13, adding that one photo showed Jeffs kissing her "as a husband would a wife."

Asked if the kiss was inappropriate, Bradshaw said it was.

Griffith would not divulge the origin of the photos, and said bishop's records seized at the ranch during a raid that began April 3 indicated the female was 13.

In other questioning, Randal Stout - a guardian ad litem for Bradshaw's infant - asked her whether the living conditions on the YFZ Ranch were appropriate, who had provided medical care during her pregnancy and whether she had failed to act in the presence of underage marriage.

"I don't know," Bradshaw replied. She did offer that she would never allow her daughters - she has two other children, ages 2 and 3 - to marry at age 14, and that she would abide by Texas laws that set the age of marriage at 16.

The hearing resumed late this afternoon.

Polygamist community faces rare genetic disorder

June 14, 2007
By Jason Szep

Colorado City, Arizona -- In a dusty neighborhood under sheer sandstone cliffs studded with juniper on the Arizona-Utah border, a rare genetic disorder is spreading through polygamous families on a wave of inbreeding.

The twin border communities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, have the world's highest known prevalence of fumarase deficiency, an enzyme irregularity that causes severe mental retardation brought on by cousin marriage, doctors say.

"Arizona has about half the world's population of known fumarase deficiency patients," said Dr. Theodore Tarby, a pediatric neurologist who has treated many of the children at Arizona clinics under contracts with the state.

"It exists in a certain percentage of the broader population but once you get a tendency to inbreed you're inbreeding people who have the gene there, so you markedly increase the risk of developing the condition," he said.

The community of about 10,000 people, who shun outsiders and are taught to avoid newspapers, television and the Internet, is home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), a sect that broke from the mainstream Mormon church 72 years ago over polygamy.

The group, who wear conservative 19th-century clothing, is led by Warren Jeffs, who was arrested in August and charged as an accomplice to rape for using his authority to order a 14-year-old girl against her wishes to marry and have sex with her 19-year-old cousin.

Doctors in the area declined requests for interviews and families refuse to talk to reporters. But former FLDS members, independent doctors and authorities say the disorder appears to have struck at least 20 children in the past 15 years.

"The disease itself is very rare in the rest of the world," said Dr. Vinodh Narayanan of Arizona's St. Joseph's Hospital & Medical Center and Barrow Neurological Institute. Doctors worldwide had only studied about 10 cases just a decade ago.

"Once you get people within in the same community marrying, then the chances grow of having two people carrying the exact same mutation."

'Closed door'

Local historian Benjamin Bistline said 75 to 80 percent of people in the area are blood relatives of two men -- John Y. Barlow and Joseph Smith Jessop -- who founded the sect on the remote desert plateau in the early 1930s.

"There aren't any new people coming in. It's a closed door and that gene just keeps getting passed around," said Bruce Wisan, a court-appointed accountant overseeing a trust of the sect's assets.

Dr. Leslie Biesecker, chief of the Genetic Disease Research Branch at the National Institutes of Health, said the bad gene could have been introduced after the original founding families settled there. "Any person who joined that community could have brought that mutation with them," he said.

Tarby, who has recently retired, said he first observed the problem when an FLDS couple came to a Phoenix clinic about 15 years ago with a 10-year-old boy suffering from a degenerative condition. He sent a urine sample to a lab in Colorado for analysis and was stunned by the diagnosis.

Since then, increasing numbers of children in the community have been stricken with the disease, which causes unusual facial features, frequent epileptic seizures, episodes of coma and possibly early death.

In the disorder, brain cells fail to receive enough fuel to grow, multiply and function properly because of a missing enzyme needed to generate energy from food, causing severe mental retardation and muscle control problems.

Tarby met with about 150 FLDS members in November, explaining that the disorder was not caused by tainted drinking water as rumored but by cousin marriage.

But even with that knowledge, it is still hard for people to leave the sect, said Brenda Jensen, 55, who fled the FLDS several years ago and now works for the Utah-based HOPE Organization, which helps women leave.

"If they are willing to marry their cousin, or unwilling but do it anyway, or even in a relationship that is closer than that, it can be very hard for them," Jensen said. And local habits, are deeply ingrained, authorities say.

"They will tell you if that's what God wants for you than that's what you will get," said Gary Engels, an investigator assigned to Colorado City by the Mohave County attorney's office. "They don't think too much about marrying cousins and things like that."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Slain woman a past victim of sex assault

Police still investigating possible link to other sex crimes against elderly.
By Jon Ruhlen -

The Hutchinson News -

The 85-year-old resident of a Buhler retirement community who was slain over the weekend was the victim of a burglary and sexual battery in late March. Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder said investigators are operating under the assumption Pearl Arthaud's death and the March 21 crime are connected "because we want to err on the side of caution, but I can't say that it is."

A report on the earlier incident didn't indicate whether there was forced entry into the independent-living apartment on the Sunshine Meadows Retirement Community campus where Arthaud lived, but it did state the assailant was believed to be under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Schroeder, acting as spokesman for a special task force that includes the Reno County Sheriff's Department, Kansas Bureau of Investigation and police departments in Hutchinson, South Hutchinson and Buhler, spent nearly the entire day meeting with detectives involved in the case.

"The task force is working as hard as they can humanly work," Schroeder said. "Suffice it to say the investigation is making great progress."A KBI forensics team scoured the apartment Tuesday. Schroeder said in press release that the KBI "has given high priority to the forensic examination of multiple pieces of potential physical evidence."

A family member last saw Arthaud about 10:30 p.m. Saturday night. A relative who arrived to take her to church found her body at 9:42 a.m. Sunday.

Because of the similarity of some aspects of the crimes with previous sexual assaults in Hutchinson and South Hutchinson, Schroeder said he suggested police form a task force to investigate the homicide.

Officials confirmed they're investigating possible connections between the homicide, the March 30 sexual assault of a 90-year-old woman at Mennonite Manor in South Hutchinson and an April 6 sexual assault on a 62-year-old woman in a Hutchinson residence.

"It became obvious that we had multiple things that may or may not be tied together," Schroeder said.

Preliminary autopsy results don't indicate whether Arthaud was sexually assaulted the night she was killed. Schroeder said investigators are waiting on lab results to make that determination.

A police report of the homicide indicates there was no forced entry. The South Hutchinson case also does not indicate forced entry, although the Hutchinson attack does.

The March 21 attack occurred around 6 a.m., the March 30 one between 9:15 and 9:30 p.m., and the April 6 attack around 5 a.m., police reports indicate.

It is not clear if any of the attacks involved theft. Police have said the suspect is a white male but have not provided additional information. Schroeder said police have talked to witnesses as well as the victims but there's "nothing consistent enough for me to put out to the public."

Investigators ruled the death a homicide after getting the preliminary autopsy results Monday night. Schroeder won't comment on the cause of death in order to avoid "jeopardizing the integrity of the investigation."

Schroeder said he isn't aware of other suspicious activity or threatening calls to Sunshine Meadows residents.

Murder of 85-year-old has community on alert

Right: Pearl Arthaud

Beuhler Kansas
May 20, 2008

Police stall connecting the dots between the dots of three elderly women.

BUHLER, Kansas, May 20, 2008 – The murder of an elderly Reno County woman has authorities wondering if a serial attacker is on the loose.

A task force is now investigating whether several recent attacks are the work of one person.
Sunday morning, family members went to pick up 85-year-old Pearl Arthaud from her independent living residence at the Sunshine Meadows Retirement Community. But a joyous outing to church turned into a day of horror.

"Went to the door and it was unlocked, and they went in and found her dead in her bedroom,” said Keith Pankratz with Sunshine Meadows Retirement Community.

Although authorities are not releasing an official cause of death, autopsy results reveal Arthaud was assaulted.

"Everybody is just shocked about it; they can't believe it,” said Sunshine resident Archie Smith.
The homicide in Buhler has authorities looking at several other cases throughout Reno County in which elderly women were attacked. Those cases include two incidents in both Hutchinson and south Hutchinson that occurred within just the last couple of months.

Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder won’t say what the similarities are between the cases, but he says there are enough similarities to warrant the formation of a multi-agency task force that includes the KBI.

"We certainly want to catch this guy, if we can establish these cases are connected, we want to find this person before anybody else gets hurt,” Schroeder said.

After learning of the other attacks in the county, the management at Sunshine Meadows warned independent residents to be on heightened alert.

Texas seizure of polygamist-sect kids thrown out


Associated Press Writer

SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) -- A Texas appeals court said Thursday that the state had no right to take more than 400 children from a polygamist sect's ranch, a ruling that could unravel one of the biggest child-custody cases in U.S. history.

The Third Court of Appeals in Austin ruled that the state offered "legally and factually insufficient" grounds for the "extreme" measure of removing all children from the ranch, from babies to teenagers.

The state never provided evidence that the children were in any immediate danger, the only grounds in Texas law for taking children from their parents without court approval, the appeals court said.

It also failed to show evidence that more than five of the teenage girls were being sexually abused, and never alleged any sexual or physical abuse against the other children, the court said.

It was not immediately clear whether the children scattered across foster facilities statewide might soon be reunited with parents. The ruling gave Texas District Judge Barbara Walther 10 days to vacate her custody order, and the state could appeal.

FLDS spokesman Rod Parker said sect members feel validated, having argued from the beginning that they were being persecuted for their beliefs.

"They're very thrilled. They're looking forward to seeing the children returned," he said.
The appellate decision technically applies only to 38 of the roughly 200 parents who challenged the seizure. But their lawyer, Julie Balovich of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, said she expected attorneys for all the other parents to seek to join the ruling.

"It's a great day for Texas justice. This was the right decision," said Balovich, who was joined by several smiling mothers who nonetheless declined to comment at a news conference outside the courthouse here.

Every child at the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado was taken into state custody more than six weeks ago, after Child Protective Services officials argued that members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints pushed underage girls into marriage and sex and groomed boys to become adult perpetrators. Only a few dozen of the roughly 440 children seized are teenage girls; half were under five.

The appeals court said the state was wrong to consider the entire ranch as an individual household and that the state couldn't take all the children from a community on the notion that some parents in the community might be abusers.

"The existence of the FLDS belief system as described by the department's witnesses, by itself, does not put children of FLDS parents in physical danger," the court said in its ruling.

The court said that although five girls had become pregnant at age 15 or 16, the state gave no evidence about the circumstances of the pregnancies. It noted that minors as young as 16 can wed in Texas with parental consent, and even younger children can marry if a court approves it.
Balovich said the appeals court "has stood up for the legal rights of these families and given these mothers hope that their families will be brought back together."

CPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins said department attorneys had just received the ruling and would make any decision about an appeal later. "We are trying to assess the impact that this may have on our case," he said.

Even before Thursday's ruling, the state's allegations of teenage girls being pushed into sex appeared to be deflating. Of the 31 sect members CPS once said were underage mothers, 15 have been reclassified as adults - one was 27 years old - and an attorney for a 14-year-old girl said in court that she had no children and was not pregnant, as officials previously asserted.

Five judges in San Angelo, about 40 miles north of Eldorado, have been hearing CPS's plans for the parents seeking to regain custody. Those hearings, which began Monday, were suspended after the appellate ruling Thursday.

The custody case has been chaotic from the beginning. The hearing in which Walther ruled that the children should all enter state custody ran two days.

Hundreds of lawyers crammed into a courtroom and nearby auditorium, queuing up to voice objections or ask questions on behalf of the mothers who were there in their trademark prairie dresses and braided hair.

CPS has struggled with even the identities of the children for weeks and scattered them across foster facilities all over the sprawling state, with some siblings separated by as much as 600 miles.

The sect children were removed en masse during a raid that began April 3 after someone called a domestic abuse hot line claiming to be a pregnant abused teenage wife. The girl has not been found and authorities are investigating whether the calls were a hoax.

The FLDS, which teaches that polygamy brings glorification in heaven, is a breakaway of the Mormon church, which renounced polygamy more than a century ago. Members contend they are being persecuted by state officials for their religious beliefs.

Burro jailed in Mexico for biting, kicking people

AP 05/20/2008

TUXTLA GUTIERREZ, Mexico -- A donkey is doing time in southern Mexico for assault and battery. The animal was locked up at a local jail that normally holds people for public drunkenness and other disturbances after it bit and kicked two men near a ranch in Chiapas state, police said Monday.

Officer Sinar Gomez said the donkey will remain behind bars until its owner agrees to pay the men's medical bills.

"Around here, if someone commits a crime they are jailed," Gomez said - "no matter who they are."

The owner, Mauro Gutierrez, told The Associated Press he would try to reach a friendly arrangement to pay the men's bills, estimated at US$420 (euro270).

The victims said the donkey bit Genaro Vazquez, 63, in the chest on Sunday and then kicked 52-year-old Andres Hernandez as he tried to come to the rescue, fracturing his ankle.

"All of a sudden, the animal was on top of us like it was rabid," Hernandez said. Police said it took a half-dozen men to control the enraged burro.

Chiapas police have thrown animals in the slammer before, including a bull that devoured corn crops and destroyed two wooden vending stands in March.

In 2006, a dog was locked up for 12 days after biting someone. His owners were fined US$18.

FLDS shun Texas officials twice at ranch

The polygamous sect was told of an allegation that five children are there, including a boy with Down syndrome


Texas child welfare officials returned to a polygamous sect's ranch twice Wednesday because they had "new information" that children were there but were not allowed on the property. Two Child Protective Service (CPS) workers, accompanied by a Schleicher County Sheriff's deputy, first asked to be let on the YFZ Ranch shortly before noon Wednesday.

The workers told Guy Jessop, who met them at the gate, they were "looking for more children" but he refused to let them enter without a search warrant.

News of the visit reached the Tom Green County Courthouse, where the third day of status hearings for about 450 FLDS children was under way. Several FLDS spokesmen - and media - made a mad dash to the ranch, whose residents are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

CPS officials spoke with FLDS member Willie Jessop after being rebuffed and were told he would allow them on the ranch, according to spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner.

Investigators returned to the ranch at about 6 p.m. but Willie Jessop met them at the gate and turned them away, she said.

Willie Jessop said ranch residents would allow authorities to investigate any legitimate claims of abuse. "If they have an honest complaint, we'll be honest, but we were lied to," he said, noting that authorities have never produced the teenage girl whose allegations of abuse led the state to remove all children from the ranch in April.

Jessop said he does not know whether there are children at the 1,700-acre property, which includes 19 separate residential buildings. If there are, they would have arrived with parents who came to comfort relatives in the wake of the April raid, he said.
Meisner said she did not know what action CPS might pursue next in its effort to search the ranch. Meisner would not comment on the new information the agency has received. She said CPS, which does not conduct criminal investigations, never uses search warrants.

"These attempts are part of our ongoing investigation," she said.

A search warrant was used when Texas Rangers and CPS workers raided the ranch in April. Rod Parker, a sect spokesman, said CPS officials told Willie Jessop that an informant claimed there are five children at the ranch, including a boy who has Down syndrome.

A 5-year-old boy with Down syndrome was among the children previously taken from the ranch, though it is not clear if CPS officials are looking for a different boy with that same condition.

Meisner would not confirm any information about children CPS believes may be at the ranch or say when the agency received the information. The timing of the account was unclear and it could be weeks old, Parker said.

This marks the first time investigators have returned to the ranch since completing a raid and weeklong search that began April 3. CPS said it found evidence of a pattern of abuse - such as sex with underage girls - that justified removal of all the sect's children.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Judge: No guns for Drew Peterson

But his son probably will get them
May 13, 2008
Staff Reporter

Drew Peterson won't be getting back 10 guns authorities seized last year, but his police officer son appears likely to end up with the weapons, Peterson's attorney said today.

A Will County judge signaled during a hearing that he appears ready to order police to relinquish the guns taken during a search of Peterson's Bolingbrook home last fall after the disappearance of Peterson's third wife, Stacy.

"This court is of the opinion the state cannot withhold the firearms indefinitely," said Judge Richard Schoenstedt, who deferred a formal ruling until later this month on the request by Peterson for the release of the guns.

Peterson and his attorney have sought to get the guns back for months. In February, Schoenstedt ordered investigators to return two vehicles, two computers and the guns to Peterson — but authorities blocked the return of the guns by revoking Peterson's firearm owners identification card.

Peterson then sought to have the guns released to his adult son, Stephen, a suburban police officer.

Will County prosecutors have objected to the release, contending the weapons are still being analyzed by police as part of their investigation into Stacy Peterson's Oct. 28 disappearance and the 2004 drowning death of Drew Peterson's third wife, Kathleen Savio.

"There's no compelling need to return these items to a family member of Drew Peterson in the middle of what could be a murder investigation," prosecutor John Connor argued during the hearing.

Peterson's attorney Joel Brodsky, though, said the judge's comments "indicate very strongly" that he plans to order the weapons be released to Peterson's son.

"Based on what the judge said, I'm fairly certain," Brodsky said after the hearing.

He and co-counsel Andrew Abood have argued the weapons —a variety of shotguns and pistols —belong to Peterson and can't be held indefinitely while police investigate Savio's death and Stacy Peterson's disappearance.

"They're valuable property my client legally owns," Brodsky said of the weapons, which he estimated are worth $10,000. "It's time for the weapons to be taken out of the state's hands.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Giant beetles seized at Pennsylvania post office

The Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA - Customs agents seized more than two dozen giant beetles - some the size of a child's hand - from an overseas package after postal workers heard the insects making scratching noises.

The large bugs arrived last week from Taiwan at a post office in Mohnton, about 50 miles northwest of Philadelphia, in a box whose contents were labeled as toys, gifts and jellies, officials said Wednesday.

But the postmaster suspected the package contained live organisms and notified authorities, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. The package was sent to Philadelphia, where it was X-rayed and then opened.

"The specimens were some of the largest of their kind, and some of the largest I've ever seen, averaging five to six inches in diameter," John Plummer, an agency agriculture specialist, said in a statement Wednesday. "They are highly destructive insect pests that can cause extensive damage to fruit and vegetable crops, trees, shrubs and turf grasses."

In all, authorities found 26 Hercules, rhinoceros and Goliath beetles. It is illegal to ship live beetles into the United States without a permit from the Department of Agriculture.

Seven of the beetles were in containers labeled by gender, which means they could have been intended for breeding, customs agency spokesman Steve Sapp said Wednesday.

The sender and recipient have been identified, Sapp said. An investigation is under way, but no decision has been made whether to file charges, he said.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lori Drew Indicted in Missouri MySpace Suicide Case

Right: Megan Meier, 13

LOS ANGELES — A Missouri woman was indicted Thursday for her alleged role in perpetrating a hoax on the online social network MySpace against a 13-year-old neighbor who committed suicide.

Lori Drew of suburban St. Louis, who allegedly helped create a MySpace account in the name of someone who didn't exist to convince Megan Meier she was chatting with a 16-year-old boy named Josh Evans, was charged with conspiracy and fraudulently gaining access to someone else's computer.

Megan hanged herself at home in October 2006, allegedly after receiving a dozen or more cruel messages, including one stating the world would be better off without her.

Salvador Hernandez, assistant agent in charge of the Los Angeles FBI office, called the case heart-rending.

"The Internet is a world unto itself. People must know how far they can go before they must stop. They exploited a young girl's weaknesses," Hernandez said. "Whether the defendant could have foreseen the results, she's responsible for her actions."

Right: The fat bitch, Lori Drew, who thought it would be fun to deceive then devastate a 13-year-old Megan Meier.

Drew was indicted by a federal grand jury on one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization to get information used to inflict emotional distress on the girl. Yes!

Drew has denied creating the account or sending messages to Megan.

Her attorney, Jim Briscoe, did not immediately return messages seeking comment on Thursday.
A man who opened the door at the Drew family home in Dardenne Prairie, Mo., on Thursday said the family had no comment.

Megan's mother, Tina Meier, told The Associated Press she believed media reports and public outrage helped move the case forward for prosecution.

"I'm thrilled that this woman is going to face charges that she has needed to face since the day we found out what was going on, and since the day she decided to be a part of this entire ridiculous stunt," she said.

Megan's father, Ron Meier, 38, said he began to cry "tears of joy" when he heard of the indictment. The parents are now separated, which Tina Meier has said stemmed from the circumstances of their daughter's death.

Tina Meier has acknowledged Megan was too young to have a MySpace account under the Web site's guidelines, but she said she had been able to closely monitor the account. Meier's family has also acknowledged that Megan was also sending mean messages before her death.

Megan was being treated for attention deficit disorder and depression, her family has said. Meier has said Drew knew Megan was on medication.

MySpace issued a statement saying it "does not tolerate cyberbullying" and was cooperating fully with the U.S. attorney.

U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien said this was the first time the federal statute on accessing protected computers has been used in a social-networking case. It has been used in the past to address hacking.

"This was a tragedy that did not have to happen," O'Brien said at a Los Angeles press conference.

Both the girl and MySpace are named as victims in the case, he said.

Rebecca Lonergan, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches law at the University of Southern California, said use of the federal cyber crime statute may be open to challenge.

Lonergan, who used the statute in the past to file charges in computer hacking and trademark theft cases, said the crimes covered by the law involve obtaining information from a computer, not sending messages out to harrass someone.

"Here it is the flow of information away from the computer," she said. "...It's a very creative, aggressive use of the statute. But they may have a legally tough time meeting the elements."
She said, however, that because "a very bad harm was done," the courts may grant some latitude.

MySpace is a subsidiary of Beverly Hills-based Fox Interactive Media Inc., which is owned by News Corp. The indictment noted that MySpace computer servers are located in Los Angeles County.

Due to juvenile privacy rules, the U.S. attorney's office said, the indictment refers to the girl as M.T.M.

FBI agents in St. Louis and Los Angeles investigated the case, Hernandez said.
Each of the four counts carries a maximum possible penalty of five years in prison. Drew will be arraigned in St. Louis and then moved to Los Angeles for trial.

The indictment says MySpace members agree to abide by terms of service that include, among other things, not promoting information they know to be false or misleading; soliciting personal information from anyone under age 18 and not using information gathered from the Web site to "harass, abuse or harm other people."

Drew and others who were not named conspired to violate the service terms from about September 2006 to mid-October that year, according to the indictment. It alleges they registered as a MySpace member under a phony name and used the account to obtain information on the girl.

Drew and her coconspirators "used the information obtained over the MySpace computer system to torment, harass, humiliate, and embarrass the juvenile MySpace member," the indictment charged.

The indictment contends they committed or aided in a dozen "overt acts" that were illegal, including using a photograph of a boy that was posted without his knowledge or permission.
They used "Josh" to flirt with Megan, telling her she was "sexi," the indictment charged.

Around Oct., 7, 2006, Megan was told "Josh" was moving away, prompting the girl to write: "aww sexi josh ur so sweet if u moved back u could see me up close and personal lol."

Several days later, "Josh" urged the girl to call and added: "i love you so much."

But on or about Oct. 16, "Josh" wrote to the girl and told her "in substance, that the world would be a better place without M.T.M. in it," according to the indictment.

The girl hanged herself the same day, and Drew and the others deleted the information in the account, the indictment said.

Last month, an employee of Drew, 19-year-old Ashley Grills, told ABC's "Good Morning America" she created the false MySpace profile but Drew wrote some of the messages to Megan.
Grills said Drew suggested talking to Megan via the Internet to find out what Megan was saying about Drew's daughter, who was a former friend.

Grills also said she wrote the message to Megan about the world being a better place without her. The message was supposed to end the online relationship with "Josh" because Grills felt the joke had gone too far.

"I was trying to get her angry so she would leave him alone and I could get rid of the whole MySpace," Grills told the morning show.

Megan's death was investigated by Missouri authorities, but no state charges were filed because no laws appeared to apply to the case.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Former under-age polygamous bride tells all in book

Elissa Wall launched the case against Warren Jeffs
By Brooke Adams
The Salt Lake Tribune

Months after helping to send Warren S. Jeffs to prison, Elissa Wall is telling her story in a book she hopes will lead women and girls to leave his polygamous sect. Stolen Innocence debuts amid a child custody battle in Texas involving the polygamous lifestyle and marriage practices of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints...

... Wall covers the same ground laid out in her testimony during Jeffs' trial about her failed efforts stop her marriage to Steed and the miserable months and years that followed.

Wall describes Steed as boorish and odd; she was disturbed that he put clear polish on his fingernails and was put off by his constant sexual advances. Wall writes that she and Steed fought often and "he'd slap me or push me up against the wall."

Working at a restaurant in 2003, she met Lamont Barlow, with whom she eventually started an affair that led her to leave her husband and the sect.

Wall writes that she was encouraged by her sister, Rebecca Musser, and a brother - identified as "Kassandra" and "Craig" in the book - and Lamont Barlow's uncle, Jethro Barlow, in 2005 to meet with law enforcement.

"They were working hard to remove Warren from power, and I was viewed as someone who could help them," Wall writes.

But Jeffs' conviction seems to have had little effect on the FLDS, Wall said.

"To my disappointment," she writes, "little has changed in the community, and life continues on much as it did under Warren."

Attorneys for Jeffs and Steed had not yet seen Stolen Innocence but are worried about its effect.
"It is obvious that Ms. Wall has determined that obtaining publicity is more important than Mr. Steed obtaining a fair trial," said Jim Bradshaw, a Salt Lake City attorney who represents Steed.
Michael Piccarreta, an Arizona attorney representing Jeffs, said he sought to have the book delayed until after his client's trial but never got a response.

"She will be the one witness in the courtroom with a financial interest," Piccarreta said, adding that, "It will be difficult if not impossible to get a jury for a fair trial."

Hoole, who also is representing Wall in a multimillion dollar lawsuit against Jeffs and the FLDS church, called those worries nonsense.

The book "doesn't change any of the facts," Hoole said. "Nobody on the jury will have read this book" - meaning that any potential jurors who are familiar with the book will be disqualified from the panel.

Hoole said Wall, now 21, is trying to empower other FLDS girls. "I personally hope that every FLDS girl gets a copy," he said.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Second FLDS mother gives birth while in Texas custody

By Brooke Adams

The Salt Lake Tribune

An FLDS woman whose age is disputed by Texas officials gave birth in Austin around noon today to a son - and hours later her attorney won a ruling preventing authorities from moving her immediately to San Antonio.

Austin State District Judge Orlinda Naranjo granted a temporary restraining order to prevent the Texas Department of Family and Protective services from moving Louisa Jessop and her newborn to San Antonio this evening, according to Rod Parker, an FLDS spokesman and Salt Lake City attorney.

Louisa Bradshaw Jessop maintains she is 22, but the department has her classified as 17. She has two other children, ages 3 and 2, and is in state custody with them after an April 3 raid on her home, the YFZ Ranch in Eldorado.

Texas officials raided the ranch, home to members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, to investigate an abuse claim.

Child welfare officials say they found evidence of a pattern of abuse at the ranch, including sex with underage girls, that justified removal of all children. The birth brings the number of children in custody to 465.

Jessop's husband, Rulan Danial Jessop, 24, filed a habeas corpus petition in Austin last Wednesday that argues his wife is being improperly detained by the state. The couple provided a birth certificate, driver license and other documents as proof of Louisa Jessop's age.

Patricia Matassarin, who represents Louisa Jessop, is scheduled to appear again in court on the matter Thursday. Parker said the plan to move the mother and infant was a "forum shopping maneuver" that would have allowed the state to file custody papers on the baby in San Angelo.

"Why else would they move a 6-hour-old baby halfway across Texas in the middle of the night when they have dozens of FLDS children in shelters in Austin?" Parker said.

Texas DFPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins said the agency would not comment on the issue. The agency filed a similar petition two weeks ago to take custody of another baby born to a woman also deemed to be a minor.

The raid was triggered by a San Angelo shelter that said it had been contacted by a caller claiming to be a 16-year-old abused by her polygamous husband at the ranch. The caller has never been located among the children and the calls are now being investigated as a possible prank by a Colorado woman.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Texas: FLDS mothers in a 'conspiracy of silence,' cannot challenge children's removal

By Brooke Adams

Salt Lake Tribune

May 9, 2008

Until women from a polygamous sect "unequivocally" identify their offspring, they have no standing to contest a judge's decision to remove the children from a West Texas ranch, state officials argue.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services contends in a new court filing that FLDS mothers have engaged in a "conspiracy of silence" that forced the en masse hearings they now want to redo.

The document was filed in response to a petition filed with the Third Court of Appeals in Austin on behalf of 50 women from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The state filing lists 468 children as being in custody, something a spokesman said Friday was a typographical error.

In the mothers' petition, filed by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, the women asked the court to reunite them with their children as they work to comply with any service plan devised by the state.

But Texas DFPS argues their pleadings do not name or identify children as belonging to specific mothers, something the women have "repeatedly declined to do" and which calls into question their right to dispute the state action.

"Neither the courts nor the department should be forced to play guessing games when the safety and well-being of these children are at stake," the document states.

The state also argues that 51st District Judge Barbara Walther did not abuse her discretion simply because she relied on certain facts to determine that children should remain in state custody.

The state argues that during a hearing held April 17-18 no attorneys objected to the format used, which it narrowly interprets to mean use of an overflow auditorium.

Numerous attorneys did object to the "en masse" hearings, which they said denied their clients the right to individually make the case their children were not at risk.

The state filing says, "A review of the record indicates no attorney argued or urged a motion to sever during the adversary hearing" and argues it was unclear whether the attorneys' objections were about the split hearing rooms or the consolidated hearing.

Trying to hold individual hearings that met a statutory 14-day deadline would have been "an extraordinary waste of judicial resources" and a "logistical nightmare," the state argues. It also says attorneys for parents and children were given ample opportunity to question witnesses and present evidence before 51st District Judge Barbara Walther concluded the children were at risk.

The document recounts the history of the case, which began April 3 when investigators from Texas Child Protective Services entered the ranch in response to multiple calls from a 16-year-old named Sarah who claimed to have been abused.

Those calls are now being investigated in connection with a Colorado woman who has a history of making false abuse reports.

A CPS investigator said her team found two or three girls at the ranch who could have been "Sarah" but that the children would "switch their names, use a different last name than they had previously reported and falsely report that they had no middle names."

Ranch residents continued to provide "misinformation" throughout the investigation, the filing states. Despite that, the state uncovered facts that led to its conclusion that children at the ranch were being endangered by their parents' beliefs and practices.

Girls told them there was no age too young to be married. Girls as young as 16 were already mothers and lived in households with other wives. The state identified about 20 "girls" who had conceived or given birth younger than 16 or 17 - though some of the mother's ages are now disputed and the births occurred as long ago as 1993.

As for boys, the danger to them is a "belief system requires them to follow the prophet," the filing states. Removal of all the children was justified because the ranch was considered a single household, the filings said. And removing the men from the ranch so that children could stay there with their mothers was "untenable and impractical."

The "entire male and female population at the ranch had been enculturated into the belief that underage marriage was sacrosanct," the state argues.

Texas will immunize FLDS children
By Brooke Adams

The Salt Lake Tribune

Texas authorities have asked foster care providers to immunize every FLDS child - despite some parents' concerns about possible negative effects.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services sent letters to 16 group homes and shelters this week asking them to line up shots for the children.

"It appears to be a totally unimmunized population," said Patrick Crimmins, department spokesman. "We're the legal parents of the children and we would like for them to be immunized."

Crimmins said the state requires all children in custody to be immunized for their "health and safety." He said no one would be forced to get inoculations; older children specifically would have the opportunity to decline the shots.

A Dallas attorney called the demand "outrageous."

"The truth is [FLDS parents] don't know what to do," said Polly R. O'Toole, who represents one child. "They would prefer to make that decision. But they are afraid to exercise any options out of fear they will be perceived as uncooperative by CPS."

Rod Parker, a Salt Lake City attorney who has acted as a spokesman for the FLDS, said some children have been immunized but their health records are in Utah.

Willie Jessop, an FLDS member and spokesman, said some parents have immunized their children and some have not. "It's an individual decision," he said.

But the parents "oppose forced mandates of things happening to their children they don't even know don't even know about."

Drew Peterson pulled over for speeding on way to help 'friend'

Right: "I turn heads," Drew Peterson.
May 9, 2008
Sun-Times News Group

Drew Peterson was in such a hurry to pick up a 22-year-old female friend who needed a ride May 3 that he got stopped for speeding by Naperville police.

But the former Bolingbrook Police officer avoided a ticket, instead receiving a warning after being curbed about 2:30 a.m. May 3 in Naperville.

Peterson, 54, said he was stopped on his way to pick up a friend who called him for a lift after the driver of the car in which she was riding was taken into custody by Naperville police.

I was just being a good Samaritan," he said, declining to identify the woman, but insisting she wasn't a girlfriend. "Let's call her a friend," said Peterson, whom police have labeled a suspect in the Oct. 28 disappearance of his wife, Stacy Peterson, 23.

Naperville police confirmed that Drew Peterson had been stopped.

A source said Peterson was travelling less than 10 miles over the posted speed when he was stopped.

Peterson was simply helping a young woman who works at a tanning salon he sometimes visits, Peterson's attorney said.

"That's just the type of guy he is," said attorney Joel Brodsky...

Yeah, Joel, we know...Funny thing about this, I don't believe it. He was stopped ON THE WAY to pick up some unidentified woman. Did the police check to see if that woman did exist and was indeed waiting for a ride? I don't believe there was a woman. He went out cruising.

My thought is that law enforcement was notified when the hidden GPS device on Drews vehicle went off at two in the morning. The police pulled him over once they found him. He was testing the system.

What if he is a serial killer? There are plenty of bodies found in the Chicago area. He is up to no good. Now that he has been in the national spotlight, he won't be able to slip back into obscurity. He will start to self-destruct. My opinion--Prairie Chicken.

And in the Cales/Bychowski Camp:

A group dedicated finding missing mom Stacy Peterson will raise money on Mother's Day weekend to search for her.

"We're doing it on the weekend of Mother's Day to honor Stacy and all the other great mothers just like her," said Sharon Bychowski, Stacy's best friend and next-door neighbor.
May 10's "FUN-Raiser" at Ditka's Sports Dome & 46 Zone Bar and Grill will feature contests, tournaments, various auctions and raffles, and music.

Tickets for the event at the 730 N. Bolingbrook Drive entertainment and recreation facility are $25 for adults and $10 for children. A two-adult, two-child "family fun pack" costs $65.

Proceeds from the event will help pay for the volunteer search effort for Stacy Peterson, the young mother who vanished Oct. 28. The state police have named Stacy's husband, former police Sgt. Drew Peterson, their sole suspect in the case, which they have classified a "potential homicide."

For more information on the event, or to sponsor it, visit the Web site http://www.findstacypeterson.com/.

Bychowski said Advantage Chevrolet of Bolingbrook has stepped up to contribute $1,000 to the event and to chip in with $50 worth of gasoline cards and four $25 gift cards for Woodlands restaurant at the Promenade.

"We're doing it because it needs to be done," said Jim Galbraith of Advantage Chevrolet.
Galbraith said the dealership is trying to do its part in the community.

"We're actually not doing it for the publicity as much as because it needs to be done," he said. "Sometimes the unsung heroes are the best heroes, and if people just did good things, we'd have a lot less problems."
I do have to ask at this point, what exactly ARE the costs for volunteers?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Archives of Kingston Troubles 1998

Left: Baby Daddy

Did Teen Mom Die Harboring a Secret?;Authorities may reopen case involving polygamous clan, allegations of incest; Young Mother: Illness Long Went Untreated

Andrea Johnson was almost five months pregnant when her kidneys stopped working properly, her blood pressure shot up and her 15-year-old body swelled like a blown-up surgical glove.

Doctors performed an emergency Caesarean section that summer of 1992, and her little boy came into the world as light as a loaf of bread, just 1 pound 11 ounces.

Andrea's symptoms were familiar to her sister. Connie Rugg had developed the common condition known as pre-eclampsia, which is easily treatable with proper prenatal care. Another of Andrea's sisters also contracted pre-eclampsia during pregnancy.
The difference was Andrea died.

Rugg said there was another significant difference: Andrea was married in a secret wedding to her half brother Jason Kingston, and the polygamous clan's desire to keep the incestuous relationship quiet prevented her younger sister from receiving the prenatal care that might have saved her life.

James B. Burns, the doctor who signed Andrea's death certificate, wrote that the girl must have exhibited signs of hypertension for "at least two weeks'' before her death at University Hospital in Salt Lake City. He noted that the underlying cause of death, eclampsia, had persisted for an "unknown duration.''
When the girl finally died, on June 11, 1992, Burns wrote that the immediate cause of death was a brain hemorrhage that had been developing for 12 days. Rugg said her mother, Isabell Johnson, was well aware of pre-eclampsia's symptoms because her other daughters endured similar symptoms.
"My mother had told me at least a month before [Andrea] died that she was afraid of the swelling,'' said Rugg, a 38-year-old postal worker who lives in Salt Lake City. Isabell Johnson denies telling Rugg any such thing. She said she thought Andrea had the flu, but refused to go into more detail. "What does it matter?'' Johnson asked. "It has been six years.''
Investigators with the state Human Services Department and the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office initiated a probe even before Andrea died, said sheriff's Lt. Leslee Collins. "I was able to get enough information to get an investigative subpoena for the medical records,'' said Collins, who was a detective in the sheriff's juvenile division at the time.
The investigation slammed shut, however, when University Hospital claimed Andrea's medical records had vanished.
"That struck me as odd,'' Collins said, "because that was a pretty powerful subpoena. Everything in that case pretty much hinged on the medical records.''

Yet, with lingering doubts about the adequacy of Andrea's at-home care -- and a hint that the records may still exist -- the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office said it would reopen its investigation.
"There is no statute of limitation on a homicide, and a death due to neglect would be at the very least manslaughter,'' sheriff's spokeswoman Peggy Faulkner said Friday. "We are going to do the best we can to find our case report and those records would just have to be resubpoenaed.''

Last week, University Hospital spokesman John Dwan said officials could not release Andrea's medical file because of patient confidentiality. He added that the girl's mother called more than a week ago and wanted assurance the file would remain confidential.
Because investigators were told six years ago that the medical file was lost, The Salt Lake Tribune asked Dwan to confirm whether the hospital had the records or if they were indeed missing. A day later, Dwan said: "Our lawyers said we can't tell you anything, that we can't confirm or deny that she was here because of a patient's right to privacy.''
The girl's $48,000 bill at University Hospital was picked up by Medicaid, a taxpayer-funded medical assistance program for the poor.
Andrea L. Johnson was born on July 19, 1976, the 11th child of Isabell Johnson and a fictional truck-driving father named Steven Joseph Johnson, whose name turned up on her June 13, 1992, funeral notice and her death certificate.
But according to her sister and the findings of a state investigation in 1983, all of Isabell's 13 children are the offspring of John Ortell Kingston -- the late enigmatic leader and church prophet who built the 1,500-member
Kingston clan into a multimillion-dollar business empire while allowing many of his purported 13 wives and dozens of children to survive on government assistance.
Andrea grew up in a small two-bedroom home in a Kingston-owned coal yard at 197 W. 3900 South in Salt Lake County. Her mom, brothers and sisters shared the tiny quarters with another of John Ortell's wives and her children, Rugg said.
"There were a few fun times, but mostly it was crowded, noisy and there were lots of babies that needed caring for,'' said Rugg, who was 16 when Andrea was born.
Rugg rebelled when she was 17, running off with a boy who was from the group. The two married and later divorced, and Rugg lost contact with most of the Kingston sect.
But she kept in touch with her mother and some of her brothers and sisters. It was through them that she discovered Andrea had married her teen-age half brother, Jason Kingston, in a secret ceremony.
A former member of the clan, Elaine Jenkins, also confirmed that the so-called celestial marriage between Andrea and Jason took place. As is custom in the polygamous community, the "spiritual'' ceremony was not recorded by a government office.
Jason Ortell Kingston is the youngest brother of Paul Kingston, the spiritual leader of the polygamous Latter Day Church of Christ based in Salt Lake City, which appears to hold services in Standard Restaurant Supply, a Kingston-owned business.
Jason, his mother, LaDonna Kingston, and his new bride Andrea lived in a one-story home set back from the street at 1760 S. 500 East in Salt Lake City, Rugg said. Andrea became pregnant while Jason worked on his undergraduate degree at the University of Utah.
Andrea grew sicker and sicker, but neither her "husband'' nor her polygamous mother-in-law would take her to the hospital, Rugg claimed.
They hesitated, Rugg said, out of fear that hospital staff would want to determine the father of Andrea's baby, and his relationship to the mother.
That fear stemmed from the state suing Jason's father in 1983 for massive welfare fraud -- linking John Ortell to four polygamous wives who claimed they were single mothers needing state assistance for their 29 children. Isabell Johnson was one of those wives.
Rugg contends the family worried about leaving a similar trail of evidence that might have led to incest charges -- a third-degree felony -- against Jason Kingston. Now 23 with an MBA under his belt, Jason is employed by the state auditor's office. He declined repeated requests for interviews. Ultimately it was Isabell Johnson who took Andrea to the hospital.

According to Rugg, LaDonna Kingston phoned Isabell Johnson -- who lives on a Kingston-owned ranch in Ibapah in Utah's west desert -- and told her Andrea needed medical attention. Johnson sped the 170 miles to LaDonna's home in Salt Lake City. "When they got there she was swollen beyond recognition,'' Rugg said. "She was in bed screaming, 'Why won't anybody help me?' ''
Three days after arriving at University Hospital, doctors performed a Caesarean section. The baby survived, but 11 days later, while still in the hospital, Andrea died. The child's whereabouts now are unknown.
"My daughter was well and happy, then she got sick all of a sudden one day,'' said Isabell Johnson. "We just thought it was the flu because a lot of people were getting it. So I came in from Ibapah to see what was wrong and I took her to the hospital that day.''
Johnson claimed Andrea was not swollen when she arrived, a contention Collins refutes. ``I remember she had severe edema [swelling],'' said the sheriff's lieutenant. ``She swelled up a lot.''
Rugg said the swelling affected Andrea's brain, causing it to crush against the skull and her retinal nerves. "She was blind by the time they took her to the hospital,'' Rugg said.
Asked why another family member couldn't have taken Andrea to the hospital before Johnson made the three-hour drive to get her, Johnson said: "I'm not going to talk about that.''
Andrea Johnson was buried on June 13, 1992, at the Bountiful Memorial Park. Church leader Paul Kingston conducted the service and his brothers John Daniel and David were speakers.
Jason Kingston served as pallbearer, helping to carry Andrea's coffin.
Hospital records and her death certificate do not list her as having a husband. In death, her only official link to the Kingstons is the name listed on cemetery records as owner of her burial plot, "J.O. Kingston.''
Jason is the youngest child of John Ortell and LaDonna Kingston. He also is the youngest brother of John Daniel Kingston, 43, who is awaiting trial in Box Elder County on charges that he belt-whipped his 16-year-old daughter for rebelling against an arranged marriage to yet another of John Ortell's sons, 32-year-old David O. Kingston.
The 16-year-old girl told police she had become David's 15th wife last October -- and came to live at the same coal yard on 3900 South where Andrea and Connie had grown up. David has been charged with incest. The girl also told police that her father, John Daniel, and mother are half brother and sister.

Affidavits Give Peek Into Secretive and Incestuous Polygamist Clan;
Incest Prominent Feature of Kingston PolygamistsTribune Archive August 1998
Like other women and children born to the polygamist Kingston clan, the eldest daughter of John Daniel Kingston was doe-eyed and obedient. She went to school when asked and dropped out when told.

She lived in a dilapidated white shack in a Salt Lake County coal yard even though her father and uncle are heirs to a $70 million communal empire.

And at 16, she secretly married and, investigators believe, had sex with her 32-year-old uncle.

On Monday, in a groundbreaking move, detectives will give police in Salt Lake and Davis counties affidavits alleging incest and unlawful sexual contact between the girl and her uncle, launching one of the first open examinations of incest within a secretive polygamist clan of about 1,500 members.

On the same day, John Daniel Kingston's daughter will turn 17.

With the Kingstons, the pattern of couplings is intricate and sometimes bizarre. John Daniel Kingston and the mother of the 16-year-old girl at the center of the incest investigation were themselves fathered by the same man. Besides the 16-year-old, John Daniel and Susan Nelson, his wife and half-sister, have nine other children.

In most cases where incest is brought to light, friends or close confidants are the catalysts for prosecution.

"But in the polygamist clans, they don't have friends outside, they have no contacts, no way to get the word out -- we never, ever hear a word about incest within these groups because the children are sheltered,'' says Sgt. Don Bell, who heads the sex-crimes unit for Salt Lake City police.
But when John Daniel Kingston's 16-year-old daughter fled her arranged marriage -- twice -- she was belt-whipped, allegedly by her father, and dumped semiconscious near a turn-of-the-century barn in Box Elder County owned by the Kingstons.
Alone and severely bruised, she walked several miles to a gas station, called police and opened the closet door of the Kingston clan -- where investigators say they have found evidence of child abuse and incest.
"We believe there is enough to go on -- the sexual crimes did not happen here, but in other jurisdictions,'' says Lynn Yeates, chief deputy of the Box Elder County Sheriff's department.
"And we are going to send those jurisdictions a copy of the reports and they can decide from those how to proceed.''
The affidavits gathered by investigators alleging incest between David Ortell Kingston and his niece -- which grew from the child-abuse case against John David Kingston -- will be delivered to police in Bountiful, Salt Lake City and Sandy.
Those three municipalities are common to Kingston land holdings, dwellings, businesses and, ex-members say, courtship and consummation between the Kingston brothers and their many wives -- who often are close relatives of theirs.
The ultimate decision to pursue charges falls to prosecutors in Salt Lake and Davis counties.
Salt Lake County prosecutor Neal Gunnarson did not immediately return phone calls, but deputy county prosecutor Walter "Bud'' Ellett says the incest case is weak if it is based solely on the girl's testimony...
But the fact the alleged sexual activity took place months ago does not preclude the possibility of physical evidence. If the girl had not had sexual intercourse prior to privately "marrying'' her uncle, or since, a medical examination could prove intercourse took place.
Sex crimes involving close relatives are not uncommon and are commonly prosecuted.
In 1901, 56-year-old Wayne County farmer Jonathan Hunt was convicted of incest with his daughter and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He had three polygamous wives who died after delivering 23 children.
In 1996, when Gary Morris, a 58-year-old Michigan man, was sentenced to as many as 40 years for repeatedly raping his granddaughter -- who investigators believe was also his daughter -- Michigan and New Jersey were the only two states without a criminal incest law on the books.
Utah's statute defines incest as intercourse with an ancestor, descendant, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece or first cousin; or sex with a stepchild while the marriage is in force, or sex between a half-sister and half-brother.
Of an average 150 sex crimes investigated each month in Utah, about 60 percent involve close relatives, according to statistics from the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS).
"A majority of the cases the division investigates involve someone that is either a caretaker or sibling or extended relative,'' says Katy Larsen, regional director of DCFS's northern division, where John David Kingston's 16-year-old daughter has been sheltered since her May escape.
"The reason we get involved is protection issues,'' Larsen says. "Incest is a prevalent problem, one that doesn't get the exposure because investigators and the media, out of kindness, want to protect the parties involved.'' (The Salt Lake Tribune does not publish a sex abuser's name if it identifies the victim, and in cases of incest, will only say a "relative'' was victimized.)
Unfortunately, Larsen adds, the choice not to publicize the crime shields the extent of the problem. And there are many problems for children of incestuous couplings.
Former clan prophet John Ortell Kingston, who died in 1987, paid the Medicaid bills for a child born with severe birth defects after Utah investigators linked the wealthy father of more than 65 children to the baby.
While he never admitted paternity with any of his children who received federal or state assistance, in 1983 Utah collected $200,000 in welfare-fraud damages from him. This includes an estimated $60,000 hospital charge for the deformed baby, who investigators said John Ortell Kingston likely conceived with a close relative.
At least two of his children, in turn, secretly "married,'' and conceived the 16-year-old girl who told police she had been given in marriage to David Ortell Kingston, her uncle.
David is also John Ortell Kingston's son.
Children born from brother-sister, uncle-niece matings come from a closely shared and, consequently, less diverse gene pool than children from unrelated parents.
Because of more easily paired negative, recessive genes, inbred children have far higher rates of birth defects and low intelligence, including mental retardation, impaired fertility, congenital birth defects and weakened immune systems.
"For, say, parent-offspring or brother-sister matings, they share half their genes so half their genes are identical,'' said Lynn Jorde, a professor of human genetics at the University of Utah School of Medicine who researches genetic causes of birth defects. "So if you have any recessive disease gene, you have a higher probability of getting two of them.''
"There have only been a few studies done on the biological effects of incest, it's obviously hard to get subjects,'' he continued. "But the studies that have been done generally show that a fourth to half of those children have problems.''

Dead Girl's File Exists; Death of Andrea Johnson
Probe involving polygamists now may ensnare U. Hospital
Medical File Has Been There All Along

originally published in 1998

[Andrea Johnson Corrections: A sworn deposition given by Jason Ortell Kingston's sister, Ruth Kingston Brown, says that he is married to his niece. The Tribune on Tuesday incorrectly reported the blood relationship of the couple.]

The medical file of a pregnant 15-year-old girl who died at University Hospital has resurfaced -- six years after detectives were told it had vanished.

Andrea Johnson, a member of the polygamous Kingston clan based in Salt Lake County, died on June 11, 1992, after allegedly suffering weeks at home with a condition known as pre-eclampsia, which affects multiple organs and the blood system.

The girl's sister contends the clan refused to get Andrea medical help for the easily treatable condition until it was too late. Connie Rugg believes clan members hesitated out of fear that hospital authorities would learn Andrea had been impregnated by her half brother, Jason Ortell Kingston.

On Sunday, The Salt Lake Tribune reported that investigators with the state Human Services Department and the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office, alarmed at Andrea's condition, initiated a probe even before she died.

Lt. Leslee Collins, who was a detective in the sheriff's juvenile division at the time, said she personally delivered a subpoena to University Hospital six years ago and was told by records personnel that the file had disappeared. Without the records, the investigation slammed shut.
Now the hospital is saying the file was there all along.

The Sheriff's Office, which has reopened its investigation into Andrea's death, has not ruled out the possibility that the hospital could be investigated for obstruction of justice, said sheriff's spokeswoman Deputy Peggy Faulkner.

Hospital spokeswoman Anne Brillinger said Monday that the files were not intentionally kept from investigators.

"I can't go back to 1992 and remember what was said to whom and with what effect, but I can tell you we do have the medical record, we have always had it and we want to cooperate with the law-enforcement investigation,'' Brillinger said. "I'm sure Miss Collins is accurate in her memory but we have no memory of what happened in 1992.''

Record keepers may have refused to turn over the file because it might not have been complete, Brillinger said. For example, it might have lacked an autopsy report or a relevant doctor's report.

"If the record was not complete at that time, we would have said, 'No, you have to wait until it is complete and then you can subpoena the record,'' Brillinger said. "It would not have been representative of a patient's total care.''

But Collins on Monday insisted hospital record keepers never told her to come back for the complete file. "What I was told was that the files were missing.''

Without reviewing her records, Collins could not recall what follow-up she did with the hospital officials, but added, ``I'm sure we made some calls. I'm sure I didn't just say, `OK, bye, see you later.' ''

Last week, a hospital representative refused to acknowledge whether Johnson was ever even a patient. But aware of the publicity surrounding the death, Brillinger said she called sheriff's investigators Monday afternoon to say the file existed -- and investigators were welcome to see it. She made the call despite a request from the girl's mother, Isabell Johnson, asking that her daughter's records not be released.

"It is my impression law enforcement can get the file with just an ordinary subpoena, despite the mother's wishes,'' she said.

Faulkner said detectives have retrieved the sheriff's case file from archives. Collins, who is now a watch commander, will assist Det. Marianne Suarez in the investigation.

"She [Collins] has always had a lot of heartburn over how this case wound up back then,'' Faulkner said. She asked to be included.''
Suarez also is investigating an incest and child-sex-abuse case filed against David Ortell Kingston, a clan member accused of having sex with his 16-year-old niece, who police say was his 15th wife.

That same 16-year-old girl is at the center of a Box Elder County case in which her father, John Daniel Kingston, has been charged with child abuse after allegedly belt-whipping her for rebelling against an arranged marriage to David.

The two cases have reignited a statewide debate on polygamy, a practice that was outlawed by the Utah Constitution and banned by the Mormon Church more than a century ago.

Andrea Johnson was a daughter of John Ortell Kingston, the late leader and church prophet of the Kingston group, otherwise known as the Latter Day Church of Christ, a state investigation in 1983 found.

Andrea was the half sister of John Daniel and David O. Kingston.

[Andrea Johnson Corrections: A sworn deposition given by Jason Ortell Kingston's sister, Ruth Kingston Brown, says that he is married to his niece. The Tribune on Tuesday incorrectly reported the blood relationship of the couple.]

According to her sister, Rugg, Andrea was married in a secret ceremony to another half brother, Jason Ortell Kingston, who was 17 at the time. She became pregnant soon after.

The doctor who signed the death certificate wrote that the girl would have displayed symptoms of pre-eclampsia -- including severe swelling -- for at least two weeks before her death.

But Isabell Johnson told The Tribune her daughter was not sick until the day Isabell rushed 170 miles from Ibapah, in Utah's west desert, to Salt Lake City to take her to the hospital. Johnson believed Andrea suffered only from the flu, she said.

Three days after Andrea arrived at the hospital, doctors performed an emergency Caesarian section, delivering a 1 pound, 11 ounce boy. The boy survived, but 11 days later Andrea died.
The whereabouts of the boy are unknown. His father, Jason, now 23, works for the state auditor's office.

A sworn deposition given by Jason's sister, Ruth Kingston Brown, to the state Attorney General's Office in 1994 indicates he is now married to his niece. Jason has ignored repeated requests for interviews.